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Africa Wants 10 Slots At the Expanded 2026 World Cup Competition
February 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Fred Obera

African nations want 10 places at the expanded 2026 World Cup competition from the current five representatives. The continent’s football association tabled a request proposal to the world soccer governing body FIFA, The recent expansion of the competition to a 48-team World Cup is an opportunity for less celebrated footballing nations across the continent to participate at the biggest stage.

African nations want 10 places at the expanded 2026 World Cup competition from the current five representatives. The continent’s football association tabled a request proposal to the world soccer governing body FIFA, whose mandate includes organizing and managing soccer worldwide.

The request for 10 slots featured during the meeting between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and more than 50 presidents of African Football Associations in South Africa.

The 2026 World Cup will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup. With 211 national football associations as members, the quadrennial international men’s football championship is contested by the national teams of the member associations of FIFA. The expansion to a 48-team World Cup was unanimously approved in Zurich by the FIFA Council in January 2017, and will come into effect at the 2026 tournament.

Read: Mahrez Crowned BBC african footballer of the year finishes 7th ballon dor standings

“All associations back an expanded World Cup and Africa hopes for 10 places,” South African FA president Danny Jordaan, told a Johannesburg radio station.

The new FIFA World Cup 2026 format will feature 16 first-round groups from which winners and runners-up qualify for the knockout phase.

“It has been a very good idea and a chance for the associations to also speak directly to the Fifa leadership about their issues and concerns,” said Ahmad Ahmad, president of Madagascar Football Federation.

 Ever since the World Cup started, no African country has gone further than the quarter-finals, and the expansion could be a great opportunity for African countries.

Even though the continent successfully hosted the 2010 World Cup, held in South Africa and many African footballers have dominated the European clubs, football development on the continent is still facing numerous challenges.

The story of disappointing performances of the national teams during the World Cup competitions has always been a big concern. The moribund leadership, from the continental mother body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), to the national administration has been identified as a key problem. Corruption, poor infrastructure and poverty are some of the issues affecting the game in Africa.

All these cross-cutting issues affecting African football need to be addressed urgently to bring trophies to Africa, otherwise teams from the continent could just be making up numbers.

History of FIFA World Cup changes

The FIFA World Cup tournament began in 1930 in Uruguay with 13 teams, with only one entrant each from Asia and Africa. The 2026 tournament will be the first to feature 48 teams. This is the largest expansion in the history in terms of percentage in the World Cup. In 1982, it went from 16 to 24 teams and later it increased to 32.

With this expansion, the less celebrated footballing nations across the continent have an opportunity to participate at the biggest stage.

In 2018, Russia will be the host of the FIFA World Cup and Qatar will host the competition in 2022.

*AllAfrica

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International election observation is decades out of date. I should know.
February 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By *

I helped design the first African election observation mission in 1980. The world’s transformed since then, but they’re still using the same old model.

How can election observation be changed to reflect the challenges faced today? Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.

How can election observation be changed to reflect the challenges faced today? Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.

In 1979, I was a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, an organisation that played a major role in the negotiations that led to Zimbabwe’s independence. One of the preconditions for majority rule agreed in the Lancaster House talks was that elections would be held and that they would be independently observed.

In January 1980, the month before these elections, the Commonwealth Secretariat sent a small party to what was then still Southern Rhodesia to establish a headquarters and work out whether and how this observation could be conducted.

We had no detailed instructions. Electoral observation had not been attempted before, certainly not on this scale. So two of us – Peter Snelson and I – conducted a rapid reconnaissance of the country in a single week. Our report formed the only field input for the plan then devised by Moni Malhoutra.

Both in this first week and in those that followed, we had no advanced idea of what we were doing. But our improvisation in hazardous conditions assumed a pattern and, ultimately, partly through luck, we were able to do an imperfect but respectable job given the circumstances and conditions.

Since then, I have witnessed several more African elections and seen how independent observers’ processes have become bureaucratically more robust (or fussy). However, it amazes me that despite all that’s changed in terms of how elections are conducted and fought, and how technologies have progressed, today’s observers are still essentially using the same semi-improvised, low-tech methods and models we devised in a hurry 37 years ago.

Changing observation

Of course, some things have changed since 1980, though not always with positive results.

One of the earliest decisions of the Commonwealth team in Zimbabwe was that observation had to be decentralised. Officials were rotated around different zones on a weekly basis, while a small secretariat remained in place in each area to prepare for the polls and liaise with the various political parties and security forces.

By and large, modern electoral observation still seeks to spread officials across the country being observed. But today, it does so without the rotation of observers, without the aim of being present for more than a month before Election Day, and without on-site secretariats. Moreover, it tends to avoid war zones or volatile areas.

In the 2010 South Sudan elections, for instance, UN peacekeeping bases were meant to provide accommodation for observers, but the Chinese and Kenyan camps did not comply. Although the Ukrainian and Canadian ones did, many regions were under curfew, so officials were discouraged from travelling to certain areas for fear of being stranded. It was often these regions that were most in need of scrutiny.

Another aspect of observation that has developed – and arguably progressed – since 1980 has been the use of bureaucratic check lists. These are indicators of good performance that can be easily tabulated to give ‘scores’ for different aspects of electoral conduct.

For example, there are now generally tick boxes for whether party agents are the right distance from the polling desks; whether special assistance was available for the disabled and elderly; whether all documents, ballots and ballot boxes were in place; whether voters’ rolls were accessible, and so on. The 1980 Zimbabwe observation sought to check similar indicators of good polling practice but without formal checklists.

However, one result of these two shifts – the rise of the tick-box, combined with a diluted version of decentralised observation – is that scrutiny of elections has become heavily focused around the day of voting itself.

Observers are dispersed to their stations just a few days prior to the vote, and governments and electoral commissions concentrate their energies on mounting an Election Day that conforms to international norms, precisely for the benefit of international officials.

This means that the preceding weeks of campaigning around the country get much less scrutiny. Yet it is in this period that systemic violence, widespread bribery and unjust infringements on freedoms of movement and expression can ensure that an election is far from “free and fair”, even if voting day itself is exemplary.

Changing elections

Despite some changes in practices though, the basic principles and models of election observation have changed relatively little in 37 years. However, in that same period, the nature of elections and of attempts to manipulate their results have changed quite dramatically. The age of dictators stuffing ballots and winning with an implausible 90% vote share is over. Today, when elections are stolen, much of the work is done after votes are cast and in sophisticated ways that deliberately mirror real voting patterns.

This new trend could be seen as early as a decade ago in Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections. At the time, the ruling ZANU-PF had never been less popular as the economy was tanking and hyper-inflation was running wild. Despite these problems, however, the party seemed so confident of victory that its campaign was half-hearted and shoddily executed.

It was caught unprepared then the day after the 29 March polls closed, when initial results from polling stations showed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai leading President Robert Mugabe by a factor of around 2 to 1.

Soon, the announcements slowed, then ceased altogether. The electoral commission called for patience and cited technical issues and the need for recounts.

What happened next is subject to many rumours and may never be known conclusively, but it was not until several weeks later that the official results were finally declared on 2 May. Despite the opposition’s projections and several earlier predictions of a first-round victory for Tsvangirai – some by a large margin – the electoral commissions declared him to have received just 47.9%. Short of a majority, a second round run-off would be required.

This was clearly no ordinary rigging. The time it took shows that painstaking efforts were taken to maintain a degree of credibility. The results had to be adjusted according to figures that had already been independently verified and they had to be manipulated to plausibly mirror the outcome of the parliamentary elections as well as previous voting patterns. A month to do all this was actually probably very good going.

This was one of the earlier examples of such sophisticated manipulation, but since then, it has become far more common for election results to be adjusted centrally in a subtle and somewhat believable manner, all beyond the gaze, remit and capacity of today’s observation missions.

Towards a new model

So how can election observation be made to match old and newer challenges in order to provide a genuine check on the conduct of elections?

Firstly, observation needs to be conceived of as a broader affair. It cannot be condensed into a short period of time, nor should it be seen as the exclusive activity of the accredited observer group. Civil society and other observer groups should be part of the process too.

An advance team of experts – or those briefed on the constitutional, electoral, and political affairs of the country – should be in place as a reconnaissance unit at least a month before polling day. And that team must be energetic and mobile, traversing the country. Observation is no country for old men, nor old women, the unfit, timorous or easily frightened.

In the 2010 Sudan elections, we took a simple executive decision: if we saw a European Union, African Union, or Carter Centre car, we weren’t out far enough. We kept going until there were no other observers for miles around, but then asked ‘why?’

Furthermore, officials need to know what they are looking for. For instance, subtle intimidation by means of cultural signs or local language may not be picked up by foreign observers, especially those veterans of the system who may be motivated more by the per diems than ensuring a fair ballot.

A youthful party militant rattling a box of matches – a silent promise that people’s property will be burnt if they vote against the government – can go unacknowledged. A euphemistic threat in a local language can slip under the radar. And the strategy behind targeted but seemingly low incidences of violence can easily fail to be fully appreciated.

Secondly, observation needs to adapt to current challenges. Insofar as African governments now prepare almost immaculate polling days – feats of organisation involving thousands of stations – election observation has accomplished something. But it needs a more extended and sophisticated presence during and after campaigning, including regarding the counting of votes and the testing of the count.

As Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections demonstrate, it is crucial to have officials present at all stages of the count as well as its verification. The process of counting needs to be carefully observed, but so does the moment that the electoral commission, party agents and accredited observers agree that the count reflects the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) – a methodology for independently verifying the results conducted concurrently – and when this agreement is transmitted.

Additionally, the official results should be tested against these PVTs as well as opinion polls and patterns from previous elections. The count at each stage must be tested against computer projections, calibrated according to results already submitted as well as a range of different conditions such as constituency type, electoral histories and voting patterns. This would give a measure of the plausibility and trustworthiness of the numbers being checked and announced.

This kind of number crunching is already done in many cases, not just by foreign “consultants” allegedly brought in by incumbents, but also by other interested parties and foreign embassies, though not for public release. It is time observer groups were given the same resources and capacity.

Having witnessed, or been involved in, election observation since 1980, seeing the state and effectiveness of observer missions in Africa today is highly dispiriting. Citizens depend on elections being free and fair to ensure their voices are heard, and observation therefore needs to be reflect the contemporary realities and challenges, not simply replicate a model cobbled together three decades ago.

The protection of electoral democracy today and tomorrow requires tools that cannot simply be borrowed from yesterday.

This is an abridged version of an article originally published here at Democracy in Africa.

*African Arguments.Stephen Chan is Professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.

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US, UK Must Target Law Firms Facilitating African Corruption
February 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Alpha Conde*

Alpha Conde is President of Guinea

Alpha Conde is President of Guinea

A few weeks ago one of the world’s richest men was arrested for interrogation in Tel Aviv following an investigation in which the Israeli police drew on the support of criminal justice authorities in the U.S., France and Switzerland. The Republic of Guinea was proud to have played its own part in supporting Israel’s investigation.

While we should never forget a criminal defendant’s presumption of innocence in a case, this case highlights the complexity and global nature of modern corruption investigations. The police action in Israel was only made possible by the painstaking investigation and cooperation of law enforcement agencies around the world. It provided an example of how the anti-corruption mechanism of the OECD convention is supposed to work, but only rarely does.

The reason many of these cases are so difficult to investigate is that criminal activity thrives in the labyrinthine world of global finance and secretive accounting. It becomes more difficult still when its activities can hide behind the protection of highly paid lawyers, accountants and financiers, based in London, New York and Geneva and the protective gloss and embellishment of fancy public relations firms.

As president of a developing country, I have first-hand experience of what it’s like to confront well-resourced corruption. In many cases, the entities involved have more resources than the countries they target and exploit. And in particular, they are able to play major media with ease. As they portray it, corruption is endemic in the developing world, and their clients are just businessmen forced to accommodate a predatory local environment.

But this is deceptive. Unchallenged, corruption can impede economic growth, contribute to political and social instability and prevent progress. Before our first truly democratic election in 2010, corporate and governmental corruption was largely responsible for Guinea’s people being condemned to some of the harshest poverty on the planet, despite sitting on some of the world’s most valuable mining reserves.

Following what was to become a high-profile campaign to confront its past, I was invited by the leaders of the G8 to discuss what lessons could be learned for the wider international community.

I explained how we worked to normalize the environment for investors by focusing on transparency; how we refused to turn a blind eye to past misdeeds; how we introduced a new mining code, and insisted on re-examining the opaque deals signed between mining companies and the military government. What’s more, we published all these contracts online for the world to see and worked to see Guinea accepted as a full and compliant member of the international standard for extractive industry transparency.

But I also explained how fighting corruption was by no means the easy option for a developing-world country and how the odds are too often stacked against those governments trying to do the right thing. Those accused of corruption fight back bitterly, usually doing everything within their power to discredit and undermine any government that has the courage to raise corruption charges.

From the moment we announced we would re-examine contracts, Guinea was subjected to a whirlwind of legal challenges, smears and relentless attacks in the international press, all of which had been carefully prepared by some of the world’s best-known public relations firms, in the pay of companies under investigation. But it got worse. On November 9, 2012, Aissatou Boiro, the Treasury director appointed to impose integrity on flows of money, was tragically gunned down on her way home from work.

As we have learned to our cost, no one but the unscrupulous are winners when corruption is allowed to flourish—not the immediately exploited nations and their hard-pressed and very young populations, neither the genuine investor, their corporate shareholders, nor the markets they distort.

Following the G8 there was a commitment to doing more to collectively support the efforts of Guinea and resource-rich developing countries like us. The U.S. and the EU adopted the Dodd Frank regulations and the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives.

But Western countries need to go further. If developing countries are to stick their necks out in the fight against corruption, Western countries must find ways to make professional services providers as accountable as the corrupt businessmen they enable.

There will always be people determined to flout the law, but by working together the international community can make their activity more difficult and help level the playing field for those who play by the rules.

*Forbes.Mr. Conde became the Republic of Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010, running on a reform and anti-corruption agenda. He was re-elected in 2015 with 58% of the vote.

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African Immigrant Population on Rise in US
February 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

A candidate for citizenship holds the American flag against his chest during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a naturalization ceremony for 755 new United States citizens at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. The ceremony, in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, was the largest in Georgia this year and the 755 citizens sworn in marks the number of home runs hit by former Braves player Hank Aaron. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A candidate for citizenship holds the American flag against his chest during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a naturalization ceremony for 755 new United States citizens at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. The ceremony, in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, was the largest in Georgia this year and the 755 citizens sworn in marks the number of home runs hit by former Braves player Hank Aaron. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The United States is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for African immigrants, with their numbers more than doubling since 2000. Although many are coming from war-torn countries, the immigrants also include large numbers of highly educated professionals.

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, there were nearly 2.1 million people living in the U.S. who were born in Africa. That number is up from 880,000 in 2000 and only 80,000 in 1970.

Monica Anderson, a research associate and the author of the study, said the numbers are doubling approximately every decade and she sees that trend continuing.

“In 1980 only 1 percent of refugees admitted to the U.S. were from an African country and today that share is about 37 percent. That is one major factor that is driving the growth of African immigrants but it doesn’t tell the entire story,” she told VOA in an interview.

Anderson says various clusters of vibrant immigrant populations are reshaping places like Minnesota, which is home to 25,000 people of Somali origin, about one-fifth of the foreign-born population in the state.

Nigerians make up the largest African diaspora population in the U.S. at 327,000, followed by Ethiopians at 222,000 and Egyptians at 192,000, Pew found. The top destinations for African immigrants to the U.S. are Texas, New York, California and Maryland.

“Many of these places in the U.S. are …having a larger share of African immigrants than they had before,” Anderson said. “In different clusters in the U.S., African immigrants are really reshaping the immigrant population there.”

Still small portion of immigrant population

Despite the increases, African immigrants still make up a relatively low percentage of the total immigrant population. Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said there are both historical and geographic reasons for that.

“It’s a long distance from Africa and the number of people in Africa with sufficient incomes to migrate that far has been relatively small,” he said. “And secondly we didn’t really open up channels for legal African migration to the U.S. substantially until the 1965 Immigration Act and so, like Asian immigrants, there just weren’t very many African immigrants here until starting at that time.”

The Immigration and Nationality Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, ensured that quota systems based on national identity were eliminated and allowed the acceptance of immigrants of all nationalities equally. Immigrant families were able to reunite due to this act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, and skilled immigrants were encouraged to migrate easily.

Today’s African immigrants include tens of thousands of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea. But it also includes highly-educated doctors, engineers and others immigrating to the country in search of a better life.

Capps said that, as of 2013, 38 percent of sub-Saharan African immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 28 percent of all U.S. immigrants and 30 percent of the U.S.-born population.

Will Trump Stop the Flow?

It remains to be seen how changes in U.S. immigration policy could affect the flow of immigrants from Africa. An executive order signed by President Donald Trump halted immigration from three African countries and paused the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

That executive order was halted by a federal court, but the Trump administration has promised a revision.

Another proposal by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would reduce the number of green cards issued by the U.S. from 1 million to 500,000.

“I see it as more of an open question as to whether fewer students will come, fewer visitors will come, or whether it will be harder for people to sponsor their relatives. I think it’s just too soon into the Trump administration to know if that’s going to be the case,” said Capps.

But barring a major change, African immigration is likely to continue to rise since the U.S. continues to have a strong economy offering opportunities to immigrants.

“The U.S. has a pretty open job market, a strong job market now,” says Capps. “It’s a large job market relative to a lot of other countries that African immigrants might go to and a lot of the African immigrants here are doing quite well. So I think without something more drastic, a bigger change in U.S. immigration policy, there are still going to be very strong pull factors to come to the United States.”

*VOA

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Research Calls for New Approach to Youth Employment Training Strategies in Africa
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Youth Livelihood Diaries Shed New Light on Working Lives of African Youth

 

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Kigali, Rwanda, February 17, 2017 Innovative research released today by The MasterCard Foundation is making the case for a new approach to youth employment training strategies in Africa. Invisible Lives: Understanding Youth Livelihoods in Ghana and Uganda, released today at the Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, sheds light on the working lives of African youth. The report, produced in collaboration with Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), argues that international development programs favour skills training for formal sector careers over training that can be applied to multiple jobs in the informal sector. The result is that their efforts fall short of reaching the millions of unreached youth on the continent who engage in mixed livelihoods.

“To reach a critical mass of young people, fundamental shifts in our approach to skills-building, access to finance and entrepreneurship support are necessary,” says Lindsay Wallace, Director of Learning and Strategy, The MasterCard Foundation. “Development efforts must strengthen social, education and economic systems, and promote inclusive growth that will provide the most vulnerable and marginalized young people with opportunities to improve their lives.”

Invisible Lives set out to explore how young people integrate mixed livelihoods into their working lives, what challenges this approach poses, and how best to design interventions for young people in the informal sector. The research used a diaries methodology to document the working lives of 246 youth ages 18-24 from Ghana and Uganda over a one-year period, honing in on questions around behaviour, income, economic activities, and time management. While these data speak to the realities of employment in Ghana and Uganda, the research suggests that these also reflect emerging trends across Africa.

 

Invisible Lives highlights the extraordinary lengths that young people go to in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Findings of the Invisible Lives research indicate that:

 

  • Young people in Africa diversify their livelihoods, undertaking a mix of informal sector employment, self-employment, and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihood.
  • Agricultural production is central to young people’s livelihoods, but agricultural incomes were meagre. Many young people run small enterprises that can be easily started, stopped, and restarted as needed. The most successful young people in both Ghana and Uganda diversified their income and risk by growing multiple crops, raising a variety of livestock, and pursuing a wide range of additional activities.
  • Both formal and informal wage employment is rare and sporadic, or elusive. While the informal sector, which constitutes about 80 percent of Africa’s labour force, provided more wage employment opportunities for young people, they were by no means abundant.
  • Support networks are critical for young people and they play an extensive role in their lives, not only providing support in the form of advice regarding where to look for and how to find employment, skills development, and business guidance, but also proving instrumental in accessing financial resources needed.
Anne Marie van Swinderen

Anne Marie van Swinderen

“Respondents who participated in this study generously shared experiences from their lives over the course of a full year,” explains Anne Marie van Swinderen, lead researcher on Invisible Lives from Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT). “Data from the study shows us that these young people readily take up all opportunities that come their way, with enormous energy and positive spirit. Through the L-IFT diaries methodology, these young respondents and the young researchers who interviewed them, also grew a great deal, simply through the act of asking and answering questions about their diversified livelihoods.”

In addition to providing new information on the employment and risk-mitigation strategies of young working Africans, the research maintains that youth who participated in this study were largely invisible to both development organizations and their own governments, and did not have any access to support services, training or finance capital.

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training, and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

The Youth Livelihoods Program seeks to improve the capacity of young men and women to transition to jobs or create businesses through a holistic approach which combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and appropriate financial services. Through our partnerships, our program is supporting innovative models that help young people transition out of poverty and into stable livelihoods. Since 2010, the Foundation has committed $US402 million to 37 multi-year projects across 19 countries in Africa. More than 1.8 million young people have been reached through the Youth Livelihoods program

 

 

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Africa: The Strong Breed – the Rise and Fall of Africa’s Great Literary Leaders
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Rwanda Government Many of Africa’s leaders at independence were acclaimed writers, but this is no longer the case.

Photo: Rwanda Government
Many of Africa’s leaders at independence were acclaimed writers, but this is no longer the case.

In Uganda and beyond, the political influence of writers has greatly diminished, with different kinds of artists starting to take their place.

In an essay published after his death in 1982, the Ugandan poet, philosopher, lawyer, footballer and novelist Okot P’Bitek wrote:

“If there are two types of rulers in every society, that is, those who use physical force to subdue men, and those that employ beautiful things, sweet songs and funny stories, rhythm, shape and colour, to keep individuals and society sane and flourishing, then in my view, it is the artist who is the greater ruler.”

In P’Bitek’s generation, Africa’s great artists and leaders often overlapped. Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Agostinho Neto of Angola, for example, were all poets and writers as well as founding presidents.

Similarly, the novelist Chinua Achebe led Biafra’s diplomatic front in the war in the late-1960s. The playwright and poet Wole Soyinka has been one of successive Nigerian governments’ most vocal critics and once founded a new political party. Ama Ata Aidoo served as Education Minister in Ghana. Ken Saro-Wiwa led the Ogoni struggle in the 1990s in the Niger Delta. And Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s outspoken political activism led to him being jailed in 1970s Kenya.

Many of Africa’s best known writers have been celebrated for their political leadership as much as their creative works.

On this front, Uganda is no different. In the 1970s, for example, playwright Robert Serumaga joined anti-Idi Amin political activities and later served as Minister of Commerce. Novelist and poet John Nagenda was appointed to the Truth Commission into human rights violations set up in 1986 and is now a senior adviser to President Museveni.

Renowned author Timothy Wangusa was an MP, Education Minister, and is now a presidential adviser. And Mary Busingye Karooro, who founded the Association of Uganda Women Writers (FEMRITE) in 1995, has been a member of parliament since 2004 and served in several senior cabinet positions.

The illustrious list is long. But looking across it, it’s quickly apparent that all these individuals are either fast-approaching retirement or have passed away. It is difficult to find any of today’s generation of writers with nearly the same political influence as their forbearers.

This is not for lack of international acclaim. Within Uganda’s FEMRITE community alone, for example, the country boasts of Commonwealth prize winners Jackee Batanda and Doreen Baingana, MacMillan prize winner Glaydah Namukasa, Caine Prize winner Monica Arac de Nyeko, Jalada prize winner Aujo Lillian, and Caine Prize and PEN/Studzinski Literary Award nominee Beatrice Lamwaka, among others.

 But none of these celebrated writers has political influence comparable to the equivalent generation a few decades ago. Even Atukunda Victoria Abigail, one writer who has actively sought to follow in Karooro’s footsteps in aspiring to become an MP, has yet to make it very far.

How did creative writers lose political influence?

In the 1960s and 1970s, state publishing was thriving thanks to the East African Literature Bureau, which ensured audiences were served by local writers in both English and indigenous languages. This was complemented by the African Writers Series of Heinemann Educational Publishers, which, besides their main target market of schools and universities, also produced work for the general public.

Over time, however, the state publishing model has disappeared and publishing has fallen into the hands of the market. This has meant that today, contemporary Ugandan writers are mostly published by foreign presses, which do not see African markets as their main target.

 There are a few small non-profit presses in Uganda such as FEMRITE, the African Writers Trust, and the Lantern Meet Foundation. Meanwhile, a few independent presses such as Sooo Many Stories and Mattville Publishing have emerged, and many Ugandan writers have self-published. But according to FEMRITE, to qualify as a Ugandan bestseller these days, one only needs to sell a mere 1,000 copies.

This situation has particularly affected indigenous language publishing, which has greatly declined. Whereas the likes of P’Bitek made sure to publish in their local languages, many contemporary Ugandan writers publish exclusively in English. The literary and cultural infrastructure that produces the critical acclaim today is also decidedly Anglophone and typically controlled from outside the country’s borders. The many prizes that have been lauded on Uganda’s authors, for instance, are mostly limited to works composed in English.

While there may be advantages to writing in a language spoken so widely across the world, English is not Uganda’s lingua franca. It may be the official language and the one used in the education system, but it is not the language in which business is conducted or through which voters interact with their leaders.

Political influence is about followership, and followers will not be attracted to people they do not know or to artists whose work they cannot access or consume.

Send in the clowns

While writers have declined in their domestic readership and political influence, however, there may be other kinds of artists that have stepped up to take their place. In Uganda’s 2016 parliamentary polls, for example, the popular gospel musician Judith Babirye and comedian Kato Lubwama both notably became MPs (though the latter’s election is facing a legal challenge).

This appears to be following in a broader trend across the continent in which other creative forms are gaining in political traction. For instance, musicians have been central to several popular protest movements in Africa recently, such as Y’en a Marre in Senegal and Le Balai Citoyen in Burkina Faso, while in 2009, music DJ Andry Rajoelina ascended to the presidency of Madagascar and ruled until 2014.

It makes sense that these kinds of artists may be filling the gap left by their literary counterparts. For example, in Uganda, musicians today have much larger audiences than writers due to the growth of FM stations across the country, many of which also have comedy in their programming too.

Most of these radio stations broadcast in indigenous languages, in which most musicians and comedians also ply their trade. Babirye and Lubwama primarily work in Luganda, Uganda’s most widely spoken indigenous language.

Not all musicians working in Luganda have been able to translate influence and popularity into electoral success – Daniel Kazibwe (alias Ragga Dee), for instance, lost the Kampala mayoral race despite his pedigree as a veteran singer – but musicians and comedians working in local languages seem to have been considerably more successful in electoral politics than writers in recent years.

While free market economics led to the collapse of the 1960s-70s indigenous publishing infrastructure, thereby degrading the production and circulation of Ugandan literature and the influence of writers, the same policies have had a different effect on music and comedy, facilitating growth in those now highly popular artistic industries.

This means that whereas the age of the great writer-leader may have passed, the political influence of musicians and comedians is on the up. How the shift from writers to musicians will affect the quality of Ugandan leadership remains to be seen.

*Allafrica/African Arguments.Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire is an African Leadership Centre Fellow attached to the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town. He is the co-founder of the Kampala based Centre for African Cultural Excellence. Follow him on twitter at @bwesigye.

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Disadvantaged Young Africans Find A Lifeline In The MasterCard Foundation
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

-$2.1 Billion has been made in total commitments by the Foundation

By Ajong Mbapndah L

 

Kenyan vegetable farmer harvesting spinach with her wheelbarrow.Photo Jennifer Huxta, MasterCard Foundation

Kenyan vegetable farmer harvesting spinach with her wheelbarrow.Photo Jennifer Huxta, MasterCard Foundation

With its financial inclusion, education and learning, and youth Livelihood programs, the MasterCard Foundation is emerging as a leading partner in pushing through a development agenda that favors disadvantaged youth across Africa.

About ten million young people have been engaged by the Foundation through its work in diverse sectors across Africa, said Ann Miles Director of Financial Inclusions at the MasterCard Foundation. Speaking from Canada in a skype interview to discuss the second annual Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali Rwanda, Ann Miles said the Foundation was shifting discussion from how to engage youth in agriculture to how young people can be the drivers of agricultural transformation.

Taking place on February 16 and 17, the second annual Young Africa Works Summit will be a gathering of some 300 thought leaders from the NGO’s, government, funders and the private sector committed to developing sustainable youth employment strategies in Africa. The MasterCard Foundation has had a significant impact in working with youth especially those who are out of school or seeking transition to jobs, Anne Miles said.

Miles disclosed that Of the $2.1 billion in total commitments, circa $ 1 billion has already been disbursed. At the Summit, there will be 34 nationalities represented (total), of which 20 nationalities are African. The summit will have people from Cameroon to Congo, Kenya to Senegal, Zimbabwean to Malagasy, and from other countries like Bangladesh, Paraguay, India, and Poland

some 10 million young people have benefited from programs of the Foundation said Ann Miles.Photo Jennifer Huxta , The MasterCard Foundation

some 10 million young people have benefited from programs of the Foundation said Ann Miles.Photo Jennifer Huxta , The MasterCard Foundation

Working in about 25 countries, the Foundation has had a strong impact on the livelihood of young people through tertiary education, financial opportunity, and scholarship and entrepreneurship opportunities. Those who have studied through scholarships have returned to their home countries to share valuable knowledge and experiences acquired elsewhere, said Miles.

As one of the countries where the activities of the Foundation have taken strong root, Rwanda was not a hard choice to make to host the second annual summit. Agriculture is a very important topic, Miles said, and went on to explain that the Summit will focus on the inter-related themes of agricultural transformation, gender technology and climate smart agriculture.

On how the Foundation keeps track or stays engaged with beneficiaries of its programs, Miles said  evaluations and surveys are usually done ahead of each summit. The Foundation remains committed to its work in Africa in the hope that it will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and the overall development of the continent ,Miles said.

 

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GE Announces Partnership With Transnet To Digitise African Transport
February 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama (left) and GE Global CEO Jeff Immelt in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Courtesy GE

Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama (left) and GE Global CEO Jeff Immelt in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Courtesy GE

GE Transport and Transnet, South African-based freight logistics chain have entered a digital  partnership to seamlessly connect shippers and transport operators in streamlining pricing and capacity on the network, shipment planning, fuel costs savings and delivering goods to the market more effectively.

GE Global Chairman and CEO, Jeff  Immelt said: “The digital partnership we’re embarking on with Transnet will not only improve Africa’s transport sector, but unlock enormous opportunities for the supply chain fuelling Africa’s economy.”

Siyabonga Gama, Transnet’s Group Chief Executive said:  “Disruptive innovation has become the new buzzword for good reason. Innovation creates new markets and fundamentally changes the way we live and work. The partnership with GE Transport is helping us to create a new industry and develop new skills that have the potential to transform the world as we know it.”

As a global digital industrial leader and supplier of  equipment, services and solutions to the rail, mining, marine, power and drilling industries, GE Transport will assist Transnet to deliver goods and services with greater speed and efficiency through the provision of essential data required through Predix – GE’s cloud-based operating system for the Industrial Internet of Things.

 The timing of this initiative falls in line with the robust growth taking place across Africa. Since 1995, Africa’s trade has nearly doubled, placing immense logistical pressure on existing transport infrastructure. As it stands, managing the various transport routes and developing new infrastructure is laborious. GE’s innovative solution will bring simplicity to payment processes, goods management, customs inspections and reduce the burden of a paper-based environment.

GE is encouraging development across the sectors of aviation, healthcare, transport and power as sectors that are increasingly  being inhabited by software companies, technology companies and industrial  companies. “This partnership is GE’s opportunity to take the new technology that we will develop in South Africa and introduce it to the rest of Africa,” said Immelt.

Digitalisation in Africa is essential to driving growth on the continent. It plays a significant role in stimulating inter-Africa trade. This isn’t the first time GE and Transnet have worked together. The two entities have partnered since 2009 to manufacture and deliver more than 230 Evolution Series diesel electric locomotives, including the “most African” locomotive, which featured 55% locally produced content.

“We have a rich history of partnership with Transnet, and are excited to continue working with them to unlock game-changing potential for the local supply chain that is at the heart of Africa’s global economy,” said Immelt.

*GE Reports

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New-look Champions League set to begin
February 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Up to 18 players who competed at the Africa Cup of Nations could be involved in the new-look Champions League when it kicks off this weekend.

Among them is Georges Bokwe, one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final last Sunday in Gabon.

Bokwe was kept out of the starting line-up by the consistent brilliance of Spain-based Fabrice Ondoa, who was included in the team of the tournament.

But Bokwe is the first choice for regular Champions League entrants Coton Sport from northern Cameroon cotton town Garoua.

Coton qualified for the 2008 final, losing to Al Ahly of Egypt, but have fared poorly recently with first round exits in the past two seasons.

Drawn against Atlabara of South Sudan in the two-leg preliminary round this year, the Cameroon outfit are favoured to secure a last-32 place.

While Coton have the experience of 15 previous Champions League campaigns behind them, Atlabara suffered a preliminary-round loss in a lone previous challenge.

Coton and Atlabara are among 46 clubs in action this weekend as an exciting new chapter in the Champions League unfolds.

Total prize money has soared from $5.7m (£4.6m) to $10m, a 119.30% increase.

Significant prize fund

The group phase – where the cash kicks in – has been expanded from eight to 16 clubs with participants guaranteed at least $550,000 (£440,000) each.

For clubs dreaming of going all the way and succeeding where Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa did last year, the “carrot” is a $2.5m (£2m) first prize.

Sundowns are among nine clubs given byes on merit into the round of 32, with record eight-time champions Al Ahly another.

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Preliminary participants include V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1973 winners of the African Cup of Champions Clubs, forerunner to the Champions League.

The Kinshasa outfit face Royal Leopard of Swaziland and can call on Joyce Lomalisa Mutambala, a defender with unhappy memories of the 2017 Cup of Nations.

He was the only player sent off in the 32-match tournament, having come off the bench in a win over Morocco and been yellow-carded twice within 17 minutes.

Former title-holders in the second-tier Confederation Cup, Stade Malien of Mali, FUS Rabat of Morocco and AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, play this weekend.

Stade face Barrack Young Controllers II of Liberia, FUS meet Johansen of Sierra Leone and Leopards play UMS Loum of Cameroon.

Others in action include three clubs who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, Horoya of Guinea and Al Merrikh of Sudan.

Enugu tackle JS Saoura of Algeria, Horoya confront Goree of Senegal and Merrikh challenge Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

*BBC

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AFC makes maiden $205m mining investment in Guinea-Conakry
February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

One of the largest foreign investments in Guinea post the Ebola crisis.

Oliver Andrews, Chief Investment Officer of AFC

Oliver Andrews, Chief Investment Officer of AFC

An international consortium including Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) is set to invest in Alufer Mining Limited to fund the development of Guinea-Conakry’s high grade bauxite reserves. The US$205 million deal will be one of the largest foreign investments in the country since the 2014 Ebola crisis.

Once complete, the project will increase production levels in line with global demand, which at present outpaces supply. Currently, there is a greater than 6% per annum 5-year growth forecast for aluminium consumption, primarily driven by Chinese demand.

These shifts in supply and demand dynamics create an opportunity to ship high grade bauxite ore from Guinea to markets such as China on economically attractive terms, thereby boosting Guinea’s GDP. At present, Guinea has a trade deficit ratio of c.20:1 with China.

Oliver Andrews, Chief Investment Officer of AFC, commented on the announcement: “Mining exports have historically played a crucial role in Guinea’s economy, accounting for up to a quarter of Guinea’s exports.

“As global demand for aluminium increases, AFC is proud to be the sole private sector African investor in the Bel Air Mine, developing a world class mine that adheres to best practise environmental principles. We are also encouraged to see that Alufer has been working with the local community to develop sustainable projects which assist in the provision of drinking water, as well as development of local infrastructure and job creation”.

AFC is experienced in building and developing African economies that have suffered conflict and crisis. For example, AFC has been instrumental in the re-construction of Cote d’Ivoire following the country’s civil war through investments such as the Henri Konan Bridge and in Liberia AFC financed the post Ebola rebuilding of certain fuel import and storage facilities damaged by the country’s long running civil conflicts. Equally, investment in Guinea’s infrastructure will help to rebuild and diversify the economy following the Ebola crisis.

Alufer currently holds a ratified mining convention in the Bel Air Project of western Guinea, as well as licenses linked to the Labé Project in central Guinea.

Alufer has declared over 3 billion tonnes of mineral resource in terms of the JORC Code at the Bel Air and Labé projects, and expects to produce 5.5 metric tonnes per annum (Mpta) of bauxite from Bel Air within 18 to 24 months.

AFC’s high calibre consortium partners include Orion Mine Finance, a specialist mining investor, with over US$2.5 billion of assets under management, and Resource Capital Funds, a mining focused private equity firm with over US$2.5 billion under management, as well as existing shareholders.

AFC is a dynamic, international investment grade multilateral finance institution whose mission it is to help bridge Africa’s significant infrastructure gap whilst delivering competitive financial returns, robust economic growth and positive social impact.

Established in 2007 to be the catalyst for private sector infrastructure investment across Africa, AFC is now the second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution in Africa with an A3/P2 (Stable outlook) rating from Moody’s Investors Service. A successful borrowing programme has raised more than US$3.5 billion for AFC’s activities, including the Corporation’s debut US$750 million Eurobond issue which was over 6 times oversubscribed. In terms of impact, AFC has invested more than US$ 4 billion in projects across 26 African countries to date.

AFC’s investment approach combines specialist industry expertise with a focus on financial and technical advisory, project structuring, project development and risk capital tailored to addressing Africa’s unique infrastructure development needs in the core sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport, and telecommunications.

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African Union Commission Begins Transition to New Administration
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

FILE - Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

FILE – Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

The transition process at the African Union Commission has begun, following a meeting between newly elected chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat — Chad’s foreign minister — and outgoing chairperson of the commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

In addtion, the outgoing chairman of the African Union, Chadian President Idris Debby, met Guinean President Alpha Conde — the incoming chairman — at the African Union’s headquarters at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, according to Jacob Enoh Eben, spokesperson for the former chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The new African Union Commission head would have about three months to set up his cabinet.

“In the case of this current transition … the three months would be April, so they can go as fast as they want, but they would have a maximum of three months,” Eben said.

Eben expressed confidence that the newly elected head of the commission would move swiftly to assemble his cabinet.

“Probably, within a month’s period, you would hear them appointing the key staff, the chief of staff, key advisers with whom they would be working with, and even including members of the secretariat,” Eben said.

Africa and the ICC

FILE - African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

FILE – African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

At the just-ended African Union summit of heads of state and government in Ethiopia, the leaders resolved to pull out of the United Nations-backed Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) unless the court undergoes some changes.

The African Union previously had urged members not to cooperate with the ICC, after accusing the court of targeting Africans. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto had cases against them dropped by the ICC, while Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under indictment for alleged human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

Botswana is among the few countries in Africa to defy the continental body’s call for member countries not to cooperate with the ICC.

*VOA

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UN Chief Hails Improved Cooperation With AU
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Margaret Besheer*

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2017, at U.N. headquarters in New York.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2017, at U.N. headquarters in New York.

New U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the organization is working to “avoid the worst” for South Sudan. He also praised the international and regional cooperation that prevented large-scale violence in Gambia during its recent post-election crisis.

Guterres spoke to reporters at the U.N. after his return from the African Union summit in Ethiopia.

The new U.N. chief said the situation in conflict-torn South Sudan is “dramatic” and could worsen.

Guterres said it was agreed at a meeting involving himself, leaders of the AU and East African bloc IGAD that they would cooperate to make sure South Sudan’s national dialogue is genuinely inclusive going forward.

He also met with South Sudan’s president.

“In a meeting with Salva Kiir, it was agreed that we will have better cooperation both for the U.N. mission to operate more freely inside South Sudan and for the Regional Protection Force to be put in place,” Guterres said.

African nations have proposed deploying 4,000 troops to South Sudan to help stabilize the country, where three years of conflict have displaced more than two million people.

Guterres said it was agreed that Kenya would contribute troops to the force.

Turning to the recent post-election crisis in Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh initially refused to step down in favor of his democratically-elected opponent, Adama Barrow, Guterres said the episode demonstrated what is possible when there is regional unity.

“It is possible for action to be taken and it is possible for democracy, human rights and the freedom of peoples to be defended. When there is division in the region, it is much more difficult for the U.N. to be able to act accordingly,” the U.N. chief said.

The secretary-general said the narrative about Africa must not be based on the crises, but on the continent’s potential.

He said Africa has grown economically and has great success stories that must be built on to achieve widespread and inclusive sustainable development. Guterres said that is the best way to prevent further conflicts.

*VOA

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