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West African States Threaten Military Action in Gambia
December 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife Zineb during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016.

FILE – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife Zineb during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016.

West Africa’s regional bloc has threatened to use force in Gambia if the country’s longtime leader does not step down in January as scheduled, following his loss in presidential elections.

The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza, told reporters Friday that the bloc has a standby force.

“The deadline is January 19, when the mandate of [President Yahya] Jammeh expires,” de Souza said. “If he doesn’t go, we have a standby force, which is already on alert.” He said the force should be able to intervene “to restore the will of the people.”

De Souza said ECOWAS had chosen Senegal to lead any military operation. Senegal, which geographically surrounds Gambia on three sides, had previously said that military action would be a last resort.

The regional group has been leading diplomatic efforts to try to persuade Jammeh to step down.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted defeat after December’s presidential election, but a week later he changed his mind. He said voting irregularities made him question the win by opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

The president has said ECOWAS has no authority to meddle in Gambia’s internal affairs.

Took power in coup

Jammeh, 51, has ruled the tiny West African nation since taking power in a military coup in 1994. He won four subsequent elections that critics said were neither free nor fair and supported a 2002 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. He once said he could rule Gambia for “a billion years.”

Rights groups have often accused Jammeh of having political opponents and journalists either arrested or killed.

Barrow, also 51, represented a coalition of seven opposition parties that challenged Jammeh in December’s election. Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission said that Barrow won 263,000 votes, or 45 percent of the total, while Jammeh took 212,000 votes, about 36 percent. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17 percent.

Gambia’s Supreme Court will hear a case next month, brought by Jammeh, that seeks to cancel results of the December election.

Gambia, a former British colony, occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal. About 880,000 Gambians were eligible to vote in the December 1 poll, which took place under a complete communications blackout, including social media platforms.


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Female Parliamentarians from across Africa meet in Nairobi to discuss new policies on property rights
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) hosting the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment in Kenya


Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Nairobi, Kenya 20 December 2016 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) convened female Parliamentarians from 12 African countries in Nairobi, Kenya, to share perspectives on strategies for female MPs to promote legal reforms which ensure that women’s property rights are included in all African legal frameworks. The meeting provided an occasion to discuss and address the current African property rights landscape with special attention given to the role of MPs in advancing property and inheritance laws for women across Africa.

The major recommendations from the meeting were, among others:


–              Ensuring the Harmonization of laws and reviewing and repealing discriminatory laws, by working on amending, passing or repealing necessary laws. Lack of staffing was identified as a major constraints and MPs requested the support of the Bank to develop capacity building program on research; analysis and training on the content of current laws and the types of reforms that would be considered best practices;


–              Funding legislation on women and agriculture at the regional and national level;

–              Promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries and ensure that Governments collect systemic sex-disaggregated data, particularly related to land and property rights. The meeting underscored the need for the African Development Bank to support collection of gender specific data;

–              Highlighting specific gender targets in Ministry of agriculture strategy;

–              Financing entrepreneurship in Agriculture;

–              Zimbabwe is establishing a women’s bank and wants AfDB’s support in making sure it is a success;

–              MPs identified the need to mechanize agriculture so that women can do a better job of feeding their families and realizing better yields;

–              Information sharing and sensitization;

–              Access to Justice/Legal aid: When women’s rights are violated, they are too poor and don’t have the means to go through extended litigation. MPs should fight for legal aid provisions through the parliament.  Other support networks of women lawyers should be explored and capacitated.

The Bank and WIP will carefully consider the points raised and identify that will inform an action plan that will be ready by January 2017. The outcome of the meeting in Nairobi will lead up to the discussion during the WIP Global Summit 2017. Members of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment from all regions of the world are expected to attend this high-level Summit.

This event was the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment and brought together active female Parliamentarians from the WIP network in Africa, academia and other research institutions, government officials, business leaders and members of CSOs to discuss and provide innovative solutions to the challenges related to women’s property rights, in order to achieve women’s economic development. The purpose of the WIP Council is to address issues (legal and institutional), share best practices, stimulate dialogue, shape agendas, advocate and drive legislative reforms at the national and regional level. Council Members will meet annually at WIP Summits, targeted African Development Bank Annual Meetings as well as during targeted regional meetings.

Gabriel Negatu, Director General of the AfDB’s Eastern Africa Regional Center (EARC) provided welcoming remarks, highlighting that “Africa has witnessed significant progress on gender equality. Despite this progress, there are still areas such as the legal status and land and property rights, where more is yet to be done”. The AfDB believes that the continent’s long-term competitiveness depends on how well Africa empowers its women. In many African countries, however, unequal access to property, discriminatory laws including land and tenure rights, and discrimination in the labor market, and business-related obstacles hinder women from contributing even more to their countries’ growth and well-being. According to the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) of the OECD, which classifies countries around the world according to their level of discrimination, only 20% of all countries in the low discrimination category are African; while an overwhelming 82% are found in the very high discrimination category. We should also recognize that Africa is doing better in using the potential of women in politics with 16 of the 46 countries with 30 or more women in parliament being African, including apart from the world champion Rwanda, countries like Sudan (30%), Tunisia and Algeria (31%); Ethiopia (39%); Mozambique (40%) and Senegal (43%). The Bank is very active in moving the agenda of women’s economic empowerment and today, we will speak about some of the initiatives we have put in place to advance this agenda. We must take advantage of partnerships to ensure we remove these obstacles and invest in gender equality, hence the critical importance of partnering with MPs given their unique role in passing/advancing laws that ensure gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.


Florence Mutua, member of the Kenyan parliament pointed out that: ”We cannot talk about creating the necessary legislations and policies to grant women their rights without also discussing structures that empower women access to resources and more importantly, property. The unequal ratio of ownership between men and women contributes substantially to this condition. Lack of rights to tenure or ownership render many women unable to protect themselves, and this in turn prevent access to credit through lack of collateral, thus reinforcing the control that men traditionally have over the household and its dependents. These underlying issues are the main reason that we need laws that specifically speak to access to and ownership of property.  In Africa, only a handful of countries including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and more recently Kenya have laws that speak to women’s access to property. It took Kenya more than 50 years to come up with the Matrimonial Property law that gives women rights to property ownership in marriage, this even against the backdrop of one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world with regards to gender equality”.


The Special Envoy on Gender and Vice-President of the African Development Bank, Geraldine J Fraser Moleketi, explained that: It is widely acknowledged that property rights and inheritance laws directly impact women’s economic livelihoods. This is particularly true for women in agriculture, where land is a central asset for crop production, animal rearing, and other income generating activities. Secure land rights allow women to realize food security for themselves and their families, to leverage land assets as capital for forward looking investments, and to generate wealth. Strengthening women’s property and inheritance rights is critical to empowering their full economic and social potential.  Lack of property ownership and asset control prevents women from realizing their full potential in the agricultural sector. Studies have shown that women’s rights over land are inferior to those of men. The strength of one’s property rights defines the incentives to invest time, energy, and other resources into any business venture. Absent land title or other assets, banks will not lend to female famers who seek to grow their agricultural business. As indicated in a study conducted by the Bank entitled: ‘Legal Frameworks and Women’s Voice and Agency in Africa’. The study suggests that 16 countries still create barriers to women’s access to financial services, be it in opening bank accounts, or applying for national identity cards; 17 countries still do not have legislation to protect women from domestic violence, leaving them vulnerable and restricting their voice and agency.

The Special Envoy incites Parliamentarians to be bolder as they have the responsibility and the ability to accomplish much for women in economic sectors (i.e. agriculture), through a variety of mechanisms. These mechanisms include: (1) review and repeal of discriminatory laws; (2) promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries; (3) insistence on specific gender targets; (4) financing entrepreneurship in agriculture; (5) information dissemination and legal aid.

The AfDB strongly believes in the critical role of Members of Parliament particularly in advocating for the legal reforms that will benefit women, including in their quest to access finance. The Bank is also working with a number of parliamentary networks such as WIP to ensure MPs receive the support required to tackle some of the identified challenges. The Special Envoy concludes by appealing to all the legislator to help Governments to push to push and reform discriminatory legislations and help effect legal and policy reforms for gender equality. Only when women are able to follow their dreams freely, Africa reach its full potential.




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Gambia: Buhari, other West African leaders cannot intimidate me – Jammeh
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, has hit out at regional mediators urging him to step down, saying he will not be intimidated.

President Jammeh had earlier conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year-rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission.”

His decision not to accept the result has drawn condemnation worldwide including from the UN, ECOWAS, and the U.S.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Presidents Ernest Koroma, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and John Mahama of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana respectively led an ECOWAS delegation to visit Mr. Jammeh last week Tuesday.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, had called on him to honour his initial pledge to accept electoral defeat.

The leaders are not expected to reveal the details of the of the mediation until all talks are concluded. However, observers believe apart from asking Mr. Jammeh to leave office, the West African leaders are also trying to save him and his loyalists from prosecution after leaving office.

ECOWAS had said military intervention might be a possibility if diplomatic efforts failed to persuade Mr. Jammeh to leave office.

Mr. Jammeh has launched a court action to annul the vote after the electoral commission changed some results.

In a 45-minute speech at the African Bar Association on Tuesday night, Mr. Jammeh defended his position, saying West African leaders had violated the ECOWAS principle of non-interference.

“Who are they to tell me to leave my country?” he said during his televised speech.

“I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure justice is done.

“I’m a man of peace, but I cannot also be a coward. I am a man of peace but that does not also mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country and defend my country courageously, patriotically and win.”

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, says it was Mr. Jammeh’s first public reaction to last week’s intervention by ECOWAS leaders. The Gambian leader used the opportunity to reiterate his call for fresh elections as the only way to resolve the impasse.

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

Some analysts have suggested that reports that Mr. Jammeh could face prosecution were behind his refusal to leave office

Human rights groups have accused the Gambian leader of committing serious abuses against opponents during his 22-year rule.

The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

*Premium Times

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How Cummings will Transform Liberia, Africa If Elected President –
December 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

alex-cummings-450x450ALEXANDER B. Cummings, Jr. is a Liberian politician, philanthropist and a proven business leader. Born at the Liberian Government Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, Cummings is a man of humble background from Maryland County. He started his elementary education at Monrovia Demonstration Elementary School and attended high school at the College of West Africa, where he participated in various social and intellectual clubs. He served yearly as a class officer including first as class senator, then treasurer and eventually senior class president.

After graduation from high school, Cummings attended the Cuttington University College for two years before leaving for the United States to further his studies at the Northern Illiis University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Economics. Dedicated to his roots, he returned to Liberia and worked at Liberian Bank for Development and Investment, LBDI, as an analyst.

He later returned to the US to further his studies and earned an MBA in Finance from Atlanta University (currently Clark-Atlanta University). After his MBA, he joined The Pillsbury Company in the US where he climbed through the ranks, eventually becoming Vice President of Finance for Pillsbury International. There, he had financial responsibility for a growing $1.2 billion international branded food business with operating companies in 16 countries.

Cummings joined The Coca-Cola Company, the world’s largest beverage manufacturer, in 1997 as region manager, Nigeria. In 2000, he was named president of the company’s North & West Africa Division.

In March 2001, he became president and chief operating officer of the Africa group, responsible for the company’s operations in Africa, encompassing a total of 56 countries and territories across the continent. In 2008, he was appointed executive vice president and chief administrative officer, CAO, of The Coca-Cola Company and has served in that capacity since that time. As CAO, he leads a structure that consolidates key global corporate functions to effectively support the business operations of The Coca-Cola Company’s five operating groups across over 200 countries.

Cummings has a long history of philanthropy and supporting Liberia globally; supporting funding for water projects and providing students scholarships in Liberia, and donating to various causes including the African Methodist Episcopal University’s Innovation Centre named in his honour.

In 2011, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conferred on Cummings the distinction of Knight Great Band – Humane Order of African Redemption; the medal is one of the highest honours in Liberia and is awarded for humanitarian work in Liberia, for acts supporting and assisting the Liberian nation. He recently launched the Cummings Africa Foundation, and facilitated the construction and dedication of a self-named STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, academic institution, the first of its kind in Liberia.

Cummings currently serves on the boards of Chevron, C.A.R.E. and Clark Atlanta University. He also is a board member of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, a publicly traded bottler of The Coca-Cola Company, NASDAQ. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council. He has previously served on several international boards. His interest in the Liberian political development has been welcomed and hailed by the generality of the country.

cummings-300x300Cummings is happily married to Teresa Cummings and they have been together for 34 years. Together they have two children – Ayo and Boikai Cummings and a loving granddaughter, Nyah.

Cummings, who is also a presidential aspirant, was inducted into the prestigious Realnews Hall Fame at the Fourth Anniversary Lecture of the organisation, which held in Abuja, November 17, for  being a discussant at the Lecture on “Security and National Development in a Plural Democratic Society” delivered by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations’ Secretary General for West Africa and Sahel. In this exclusive interview with Anayo Ezugwu, staff writer, Realnews magazine, Cummings speaks about  his ambition, security and leadership in Africa and why Africa needs open market. Excerpts:

Realnews: Do you think you have the credentials to be the next president of Liberia?

Cummings: I have worked with multi-million dollar company like Coca-Cola and consistently delivering results, and consistently accomplishing goals and objectives. And I have done that very consistently in my career. It is something I’m very proud of and something I can bring to bear to help the people of Liberia. And it’s up to me to convince the Liberia people to give me the opportunity to serve them, work with them for our country.

Realnews: What are the key things you think Liberians need now?

Cummings: Liberia needs quite a few things. One is we need to come together as a people and work together to change the country. That means no Liberian can stay on the sideline. We all need to get engaged in our different ways to transform Liberia. We call it engaging the heart and mind of people in transformation of the country. And it is very important because no one person can build a country. We all have to do it together. There is a saying I always like to use that many Liberians want to move into a finished house and we need Liberians to build the house we all want. Because in Liberia, I don’t know if it happens in Nigeria, we build houses that all the rooms are very small but we need to build a comfortable house together. I think that is the first thing we need.

The second priority is that we need to find the revenue to do all the things we want to do. Without money nothing happens. So we can all have aspirations for Liberia and we all know what needs to be done but unless we can raise funds we will be unable to do those things. So we have specific ideas on what we need to do to raise revenues for the country to do all the things we need to do.

The third priority for us is job creation. You know, today, we are here to discuss national security and I believe the biggest national security risk in the contest of Liberia, and I will suggest Nigeria as well, is high level unemployment of young people. Unemployment is the biggest risk we have to national security because those people have nothing to lose and unless we provide them with economic means of living and supporting their families, support them with ideas, create jobs and provide trainings national security will continue to be a problem to us in Liberia and Nigeria.

Next priority for us is agriculture. These things are related because that would help in job creations as well. We live in a country in Liberia where we don’t feed ourselves. So I will invest in agriculture and prioritise agriculture so that we will create jobs and people will feed themselves. This is a very high priority for us.

Education is also a priority for us and again within all these sectors we have to make successes. But in education we have four priorities, vocational training for the young people, teachers training, adult education – Liberia is a country where a larger percent of her people fall in this category, and child education. These are our priorities in education.

Health, you know you cannot have all the things I mentioned without good health. It’s a problem. We must ensure that our health sector is privatised.

Finally and most important is infrastructure, which underpins everything we need to do. Without electricity you can’t run a hospital, schools, small businesses can’t thrive. Liberians talk about manufacturing with a cheap consistent electricity. We can’t talk of health without portable water to all Liberians. So infrastructure is very important. Without good roads you can’t get goods to the market. So those are the priorities that we have for our country.

Realnews: Looking at the wider West Africa, despite the ECOWAS free movement of goods and persons, integration is still lacking. What are we really missing and what do we need to do to get things right?

Cummings: I think integration is very important and it will help create skills and opportunities for all West Africans. I think the challenge is for us to be willing to team-up because in life you need to make choices and we all have to realise as individuals, as countries that we will not get everything we want. But if we make the right choices in the end we will benefit more than we will lose. And I think the challenge is in getting our leaders to understand that they need to do that and to recognise the benefits of having an open market. ECOWAS is a 320 million population market, which is about the size of United States.

And if we can open our borders and get rid of the official barriers and move goods and services and people freely across we can create a thriving sub-region in Africa. Of course, this is easier said than done but I believe if we understand the true benefits, if we understand the steps we need to take to get from where we are to where we need to be, we can certainly benefit from ECOWAS.

A country like Liberia can benefit more because we are about 4.2 million people and therefore we can benefit from the larger ECOWAS market of 320 million people. The incentives for the bigger countries like Nigeria but I’m not comparing because Nigeria is a larger market on its own. For smaller countries like Liberia would like to see ECOWAS work.

Realnews: Nigeria played a key role in helping Liberia come out of civil war. Nigeria has played this similar role across Africa but what it gets back in return is stab on the back. What do you think Nigeria should do instead of playing this big brother role?

Cummings: Well, I don’t know if Nigerians are regarded as enemies per say. I think Nigerians are being perhaps hard on themselves. But you know sometimes in life you don’t always get acknowledged in a moment for what you do. I think fortunately Nigerian leaders have taken a longer term perspectives and I think history will treat Nigeria well in terms of her role not just in the sub-region but in Africa.

Going back to Nigerian leadership in the fight against Apartheid, Nigeria was in the forefront in that fight in South Africa. And Nigeria continues to lead sub-region and play a leadership role across the continent. And so while the country might be appreciated by many today, I think it is high time Nigeria get recognised for her contributions to the continent.

Unfortunately, as I said Nigerian leaders have had their say for not necessarily being recognised today, I’m sure they will like it but I think they understand that history will treat Nigeria well in the sub-region. And you know in life that happens in families, relationships, organisations. In a moment you may not be recognised for your good deeds but overtime when people look back that acknowledgement will come. And I think Nigerians should understand that the acknowledgement will come overtime.

But there are some of us who recognise the role Nigeria played and will continue to recognise it even today.

Realnews: Today, many political officers in Africa don’t fulfil their manifestos. They promise a lot and the moment they get into office, they start doing the opposite. What will you do differently?

Cummings: The way I answer that question is that you have to look at the history of what the individuals have done in their career. The best predictor of future behaviour, future performance is past behaviour and past performance. This is undoubted facts. If a person is good in their entire life they will likely be good in future. If a person has been bad in his/her past life, it is unlikely he or she will be good in the future. If a person has consistently delivered results in the past it is likely they will do it in the future. If they haven’t done it in the past it’s unlikely they will do it in the future.

So what I say in the case of Liberia and the Liberian people is look at the person’s past, what have they actually and truly done in their lives. Of course, look over their professional lives and if they have been consistently delivering on commitments they will likely deliver for the country. If they haven’t, there is not going to be a miracle that will change them overtime. And so I will say to all voters in Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, having elections in December to look at past behaviour and they will be the best predictor of future behaviour because anyone of us can run around and win elections but we need sure proofs.

Realnews: With the rising insecurity across West Africa, what would you do if elected the president of Liberia in tackling internal security in Liberia?

Cummings: I think there are several things I need to do to tackle internal security. First, I think the underlining cause of security challenges are economic. When you have a people who are impoverished, people who do not have resources or do not believe they have a bright future or ownership of the government, they are very susceptible to violence, to external influence that may promise them those things either in life today or in the future unless we address the systemic economic issues that will be susceptible to security issues and challenges.

Of course, beyond that, we need to look at the issues of policing and we need collaboration across the sub-region to make sure that our military intelligence agencies are coordinating to provide protection. But I believe the fundamental is to address security true for the sub-region and true for Africa and certainly for Liberia by providing economic security for our people. If they have something to protect, if they believe in their future, they will not be susceptible to outside influence or to violence.

But if they have nothing to lose they will be much more prone to external and internal security threats. The other one which is smaller is that there have to be consequence for big and small misbehaviours and I think in many countries in Africa, certainly in Liberia there are no consequences for breaking the rules. People get away with it and they feel they can and smaller crimes turn to bigger crimes and bigger crimes turn to security issues, so we need to address it. But the economics for sure to me is the final solution.


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Merck partners with UNESCO and African Union to empower Women in Research with the focus on “Infectious Diseases and Women Health”
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation

  • Nine researchers from across Africa receive ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ and ‘Best Women Researchers Award.’
  • MARS 2016 contributes to Building Research Capacity in Africa to improve Women Health.
  • MARS 2016 addresses Research in Francophone Africa for the first time.
  • Merck On-line research community  launched to enable young researchers to share experience with their peers in Africa and beyond.
UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya receives her award from Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia as Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya receives her award from Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia as Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO

Merck , a leading science and technology company in partnership with UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge and Institute Pasteur International today announced the 2016 UNESCO – Merck Research Award winners. The nine winners under two categories, ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ and ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’, were announced during the 2nd UNESCO-MARS Summit 2016 being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“We are very happy to partner with UNESCO, African Union and Ethiopia Ministry of Health to achieve the important goals of improving women health and empowering women in research, as they are still under-represented in Africa,” Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG emphasized at the inauguration of the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit.

Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia, said: “We are very happy to partner with Merck, UNESCO and Africa Union to build research capacity in Africa with the focus on young researchers and women researchers and to define policies to enable high quality research in the continent”.

“This is the first time the UNESCO-MARS is launching the ‘Best African Woman Research Awards’ with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that has seen five women researchers from across Africa being recognised for the quality of their research. The awards are in line with this year’s UNESCO-MARS 2016 theme that supports empowering women in research and building research capacity in Francophone and Anglophone Africa to ultimately improve women health in the continent,” emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute was awarded the 1st Woman Researcher Award while Rogomenoma Ouedraogo from Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso received the 2nd Woman Researcher Award. The 3rd, 4th and 5th Woman Researcher Awards were granted to Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua from Gabon; Maria Nabaggala from Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda and Martha Zewdie of Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia respectively.

The three categories of the ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ were given to two female and two male researchers with the 1st Award going to Patricia Rantshabeng from University of Botswana and the 2nd Award to Constantine Asahngwa from Cameroon. The 3rd Award were given to both; Tinashe Nyazika of University of Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham from the National Aids Control Program, Gambia.

“The awardees who are final PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted which were very impressive and related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, which is the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016,” emphasized Rasha Kelej.

Summit addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa

UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

Of the 200 researchers attending the Summit, 60% are women. This is contributing to one of the main objectives of UNESCO-MARS, which is empowering women in research.

NESCO-MARS 2016 Ministerial panel on ‘Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,’ left to right: Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO

NESCO-MARS 2016 Ministerial panel on ‘Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,’ left to right: Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO

The Summit for the first time, is also addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa and has attracted researchers from 11 French speaking countries of Senegal, Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Niger, Burundi. Researchers from English speaking countries are drawn from Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Botswana and Ethiopia. In addition, researchers from Arab speaking and Portuguese speaking countries such as Egypt, Angola and Mozambique are in attendance.

Researchers benefit from diverse scientific sessions

The 2nd UNESCO MARS Summit is providing a unique opportunity for Africa’s young and talented scientists to share their research output and findings with the top echelon of scientists from Africa and abroad. It is also an opportunity for networking and career development. The Summit is presenting a platform where young scientists are able to discuss the enabling environment for better research among others.

“The researchers attending the two-day Summit are benefiting from diverse and rich scientific sessions that are focusing on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women; untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa; and participating in discussions to identify scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women health,” Rasha Kelej emphasized.

The Summit theme of “Infectious Diseases and Women Health is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities, and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognize and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health,” Uganda Minister of State of Health, Sarah Opendi emphasized.

Key African Ministers support building research capacity and policy development in the continent

Up to 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology and Gender & Social Development participated in two ministerial high level panels at the UNESCO-MARS 2016. The ministers in discussions committed to support the building of research capacity at country and regional level, and the development and enforcement of policies to guide and promote scientific research for the benefit of Africa. They also pledged to enhance efforts to empower women in research.

The first ministerial high level panel on “Defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa,” involved: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Liberia; Jesús Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.

The second ministerial panel on “Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,” included: Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO.

Knowledge exchange platform to boost research capacity launched

During the UNESCO-MARS 2016, the Merck on-line research community blog ( was launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.

The first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2015 was successfully organized and held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015 with the focus on Emergent Infectious Diseases such as Ebola. The third UNESCO- MARS is scheduled to be held in 2017 in Africa.

About 2016 MARS award winners
“Best African Woman Researcher Award”

  • 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
  • 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
  • 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
  • 5th Place: Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia

“Best Young African Researcher Award”

  • 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care, Cameroon
  • 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia



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Liberia’s Opposition Silent on Rumored Meeting With Charles Taylor
November 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James Butty*

FILE - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

FILE – Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

A senior member of Liberia’s largest opposition political party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), said the party cannot confirm nor deny an allegation made by Alan White, former chief of investigations for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, that party leader George Weah has had discussions with former Liberian President Charles Taylor in Britain and that the jailed Taylor may be trying to interfere with the 2017 presidential election in Liberia perhaps by having his former wife run on the opposition ticket.

Taylor is serving a 50-year prison sentence in Britain after having been found guilty by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in the Sierra Leone civil war.

In an interview with VOA’s Peter Clottey, White alleged that part of the discussions that Weah supposedly had with Taylor were to ensure that there is “never a war crimes special court for Liberia”.

Opposition party will not confirm meeting took place

Wilson Tarpeh, chief strategist for the CDC, said the party hopes White will provide evidence to substantiate the allegations.

“We cannot confirm nor deny that such a discussion (with Taylor) may have taken place. I’m sure Mr. White will have his evidence to prove that. It still remains an allegation that we cannot confirm nor deny. What we can say is that the Congress for Democratic Change has been in discussion with a number of opposition political parties to form an alliance or a coalition for the purpose of the ensuing 2017 election,” he said.

UN: Taylor is trying to interfere in election

Citing “allegations and the source information,” White told VOA that, “there are allegations that he’s (Taylor) been in discussion with Senator George Weah who has recently signed an agreement to join forces with Jewel Taylor, Taylor’s former wife, to support seeking the presidency and the vice presidency. George will be on top of the ticket…and part of those discussions is to ensure that there is never a war crimes special court for Liberia and Sierra Leone,” White said.

Tarpeh said the Congress for Democratic Change did not sign any agreement per se with Jewel Howard Taylor, a senator for Liberia’s Bong County.

He said his party and two other political parties — the National Patriotic Party and the Liberia People Democratic Party — signed an agreement earlier this month to work together for the 2017 election.

“According to an agreement signed, the Congress for Democratic Change, is supposed to produce the standard bearer and the standard bearer will have to pick his vice vice president standard bearer who will not come from the Congress for Democratic Change. So, there is no agreement we are aware of signed with Senator Jewel Howard Taylor as an individual,” Tarpeh said.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which looked into the causes of the country’s civil war, wants restorative and retributive justice for those who participated in the war.

For example, the commission recommended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 49 other Liberians be subject to public sanctions for their association with perpetrators of war crimes.

But since the publication of the TRC final report in 2008, there have been allegations of a lack of political will to implement the report.

In his interview with VOA, White said he knows of two people who have publicly been supportive of retributive and restorative justice – Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is running in the 2017 election to succeed President Sirleaf and businessman Benoni Urey, also a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.

Tarpeh said White’s comments back up the CDC belief that White is spreading information that is not true. Tarpeh his party has always been in favor of justice in Liberia.

He defended the CDC’s association with the party of former President Charles Taylor and that of former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex J. Tyler, who has been indicted for corruption.

“My answer to that is that we don’t see anything wrong with it. First the case of Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor was charged with a crime for which he is serving time. The institution he belongs to, which is the National Patriotic Party does not necessarily mean the NPP is involved in the criminal act. So you cannot ascribe evil or criminality in dealing with the National Patriotic Party. Again the same analogy. Mr. Alex Tyler is a member of the Liberia People Democratic Party, a former speaker who has been accused of a crime. Under our laws, if you are accused you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty,” Tarpeh said.


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New Strategies for Fighting Corruption in Africa
November 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Steve Feldstein*

Steven Feldstein

Steven Feldstein

Corruption violates the dignity of citizens and shatters the social compact between leaders and their populations. Across Africa, corruption is responsible for fueling wars, perpetuating violence, undermining democracies and empowering kleptocrats and dictators. Breaking the cycle of corruption is a long-term struggle that requires sustained political will, substantial political and economic reform, and a significant shift in attitudes. This will not happen quickly or easily. As the Panama Papers demonstrate, however, we are witnessing the emergence of a global grassroots movement focused on transparency and accountability that is constraining the ability of kleptocrats to siphon state assets, solicit large-scale bribes, and stash ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts.

I witnessed this firsthand during a trip in April to Burkina Faso. In that country, a movement of young artists, musicians and students fed up with the country’s corrupt autocracy broke the 27-year reign of President Blaise Compaore and forced him and his compatriots into exile. The Burkinabe then held their first democratic elections since 1978 and elected a technocratic government focused on financial transparency, accountability and rule of law. One of its first acts was to pass an anti-corruption law requiring political leaders to publicly declare all of their assets.

Despite progress in places like Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the overall scale of corruption remains staggering. Last month, Transparency International reported that Zimbabwe is losing at least $1 billion a year to corruption, largely through illicit payments to local government officials and the police. After just one year of independence, the Government of South Sudan acknowledged that $4 billion of public funds had been stolen by government officials. Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Global Witness reported earlier this month that the Congolese state mining company had signed over $880 million in royalties from its most lucrative mining project to a close friend of President Kabila’s. These funds could be used to purchase life-saving medicine, prepare for elections, or send kids to school; instead it is lining the pockets of the wealthy few.

Corruption is often endemic in economies dominated by natural resources, where complex extractive industries are often loosely regulated and lack transparency. The extractive industries, such as oil, gas, and mining, dominate many African economies. In 2010 African countries exported $333 billion worth of fuel and minerals, which was seven times greater than the total amount of donor funds that came to the continent. For some countries, the numbers are even more skewed. A staggering 97% of the value of exports from Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – comes from oil. Many of these countries have struggled to ensure accountability for large-scale extractive projects and institute sufficient transparency measures, providing opportunities for businesses and corrupt officials to skim off the top or engage in wholesale diversion of public resources.

U.S. efforts to combat corrupt practices form a key part of our foreign policy. Under Secretary John Kerry’s leadership, the State Department has elevated fighting corruption as a foreign policy priority and core part of our human rights agenda. In January, Secretary Kerry called for corruption to be treated as a “first order national security priority.” He echoed this message at the Global Anti-corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom in May. Our hope is that implementing anti-corruption commitments at the country level and as part of multilateral organizations will continue to be a priority.

Last month, I participated in a panel discussion at SXSW Eco in Austin with Brad Brooks-Rubin from the Enough Project, Varun Vira from C4ADS, and Stephanie Ostfeld from Global Witness to talk about innovative strategies that civil society groups, concerned citizens, the private sector and governments are adopting to fight corruption, enhance transparency, and bring accountability for billions of stolen assets. In the panel, I highlighted three areas that the State Department champions in the fight against corruption.

First is building greater transparency globally, especially within governments, so that spending and procurement decisions, contracting, and public services are easily accessible and can be tracked by citizens. For example, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), launched by President Obama in 2011 with seven other heads of state, is partnering with civil society to help countries advance transparency and accountability through national action plans for reform. Seventy countries, including 10 in Africa – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa – currently participate in OGP. Similarly, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which the United States has supported since its creation, has set a global standard designed to increase transparency and accountability in the extractives sector. EITI now includes 51 countries, including 27 in Africa, committed to strengthening disclosures of their oil, gas, and mining sector revenues, improving governance of these sectors, and combating corruption so citizens will obtain greater benefits from their country’s natural resources.

Second is supporting civil society-led investigations and strengthening capacity to expose abuses, track financial information across borders, and shed light on illicit activity. At the Global Anti-corruption Summit in May, U.S. government commitments included the establishment of a new global consortium support the critical work of investigative journalists and civil society networks in driving public demand for political will and action by law enforcement.

Third is supporting effective law enforcement. There is a limit to what non-governmental networks can achieve, in and of themselves. Civil society investigations must be accompanied by governments that are willing to prosecute corruption. Nigeria presents an interesting example, where the State Department is providing assistance to the government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and deepening our collaboration to investigate and prosecute corruption. We have many other opportunities to engage governments such as Mozambique and Burkina Faso in the months and years ahead. These are just a few of the many efforts being undertaken across the U.S. government to help African governments and citizens combat corruption.

At the same event, I was also grateful to hear about similar and complementary efforts my fellow panelists’ organizations are taking to fight corruption in Africa.

The Enough Project has released a series of reports describing the confluence of corruption, violence and impunity in the Congo and South Sudan. They have also published a revealing report on new financial tools to counter kleptocracy in war zones in Africa.

Global Witness has run corruption investigations for over 20 years. Its recent reportuncovering mining sector bribes by UK firm Sable to senior officials in Liberia and Guinea has caught the attention of both the Liberia and Guinean governments and hopefully set the stage for legitimate judicial investigations.

C4ADS is a newer NGO that uses data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting to tackle conflict financing and illicit finance. It is playing a leading role in The Sentry consortium – which has released hard-hitting reports on illicit finance and corruption in Sudan, South Sudan, the Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

Corruption supports and reinforces authoritarian regimes. Corruption is a disincentive for economies to diversify and is a drag on productivity and growth. Corruption undermines good governance and is linked to conflict, terrorism and extremism. I am convinced that if citizens continue to demand greater transparency and accountability from their governments, and if the United States and other governments continue to play a leadership role in complementing these efforts, the fight to root out corruption will advance in surprising and unexpected ways.

 *Huffington Post. Author is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
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Over 1,000 African skulls in Berlin are a reminder of Europe’s dark colonial history
November 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ishaan Tharoor*

Skulls of Ovaherero and Nama people are displayed during a service attended by representatives of the tribes from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Skulls of Ovaherero and Nama people are displayed during a service attended by representatives of the tribes from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

This week, the German public broadcaster ARD obtained information regarding the existence of thousands of human skulls and other remains of African people in the possession of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which presides over state museums in Berlin.

According to Deutsche Welle, ARD identified about 1,000 skulls that originated from what is now Rwanda and about 60 from Tanzania. Researchers and state officials will now work toward the repatriation of the remains; they were claimed at a time when both countries were part of the larger German East Africa colony, which existed from 1885 until the end of World War I.

The existence of such a collection in European museums is both disturbing and not at all surprising. In the late 19th century, as various competing colonial powers carved up large swaths of Africa and held sway over the islands of the Pacific Ocean, early anthropologists and Western collectors made a hobby of hoarding the remains of indigenous peoples.

In an era of scientific racism, such artifacts — if they can be considered that — were in high demand. European museums staged “human zoos,” where people from various indigenous communities in far-flung colonies would be put on display in invented habitats, like caged animals.


The bones and skulls and even embalmed heads of those from remote tribal cultures were objects of fascination and inquiry. A generation of eugenicist scientists developed theories of racial difference and superiority through the study of these objects. The hideous thinking behind such “scholarship” would find its most gruesome endpoint in the experiments of Nazi scientists during the Holocaust.

Some of the remains detailed in the Berlin collection are believed to belong to insurgents killed by German troops during various colonial wars. Their skulls, like those belonging to other Africans fighting other colonial forces, were sent back to the imperial capital for analysis. In many other incidents, unscrupulous bounty hunters would simply kill or exhume bodies of indigenous people to sell off to eager European collectors.

In recent decades, the discovery and tussle over the repatriation of such remains has led to diplomatic incidents and awkward concessions from Western governments and museums.

In 2000, a museum in Spain finally sent back to Botswana a whole, stuffed African man from the Kalahari Desert whose body had fallen into the hands of French taxidermists in the 1830s. In the past five years alone, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany has returned human remains found in its museums to former colony Namibia, and to Australia and Paraguay. In 2012, France finally sent back to New Zealand 20 mummified tattooed heads of Maori warriors, which European sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries coveted as valuable prizes to sell back home.

“We close a terrible chapter of colonial history and we open a new chapter of friendship and mutual respect,” declared then-French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand.

A popular arts blog offered a fairly thorough roundup last year, which include numerous American museums as well:

To sum up all the recent returns would be a harrowing litany. To cite a few: last year the Field Museum in Chicago returned the remains of three Tasmanian Aboriginal people; in 2011 the Natural History Museum in London returned the skeletal remains of 138 people to the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia; and in 2008, the remains of 180 people from a bulldozed ancient mound were returned to the Onondaga Nation by the New York State Museum. In 2013, the remains of Julia Pastrana, held at the University of Oslo, were finally buried. Pastrana was exhibited as a human freak in the 19th century due to her hypertrichosis terminalis condition that covered her face in hair; her mummified body was toured after her death and traded hands as an oddity. In 2002, the remains of Sarah Baartman were interred in South Africa after being on display for decades at the Museum of Man in Paris. Like Pastrana, Baatman had been exhibited as a 19th-century spectacle during her lifetime, labeled the “Hottentot Venus” for her reportedly round buttocks and elongated genitalia.

Following the ARD report, Rwanda’s ambassador to Germany called for the swift return of these remains to their country of origin. A Tanzanian commentator on Deutsche Welle’s Kiswahili website, spoke of the larger sense of grievance and outrage felt by many in the former colonial world.

“I am so hurt by what was done to our ancestors,” the commenter said.

*Washington Post

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China’s African population declines amid slowdown, crackdown
November 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Louise Watt*

In this Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, photo, Mouhamadou Moustapha Dieng pose for a photo during an interview in Guangzhou in southern China's Guangdong province. Dreams are fading in China for long-time African traders like Dieng, who in 2003 was among the first wave of Africans to set up home and companies in this port city and forge the trading links between China and the African continent. (AP Photo/Louise Watt)

In this Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, photo, Mouhamadou Moustapha Dieng pose for a photo during an interview in Guangzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province. Dreams are fading in China for long-time African traders like Dieng, who in 2003 was among the first wave of Africans to set up home and companies in this port city and forge the trading links between China and the African continent. (AP Photo/Louise Watt)

GUANGZHOU, China (AP) — Dreams are fading in China for African traders like Mouhamadou Moustapha Dieng, who in 2003 was among the first wave of Africans to set up homes and companies in this port city and forge trading links between China and the African continent.

Young African traders who want to follow in the footsteps of Dieng’s generation complain of difficulties getting visas, police crackdowns and prejudice, which come amid rising nationalism and slowing economic growth. Guangzhou is believed to have the largest African population in Asia, but many are leaving as long-time traders struggle against a slowdown in the Chinese economy and increased competition from Chinese traders and the internet.

“Now the trade is almost finished,” said Dieng, 54 and from Senegal. His profits are down 40 percent from a decade ago. In the absence of a Senegalese consulate in the city, newly arrived 20-somethings on tourist visas head directly to his office for advice on how to do business in China.

“They come with their bags, they sit down, they don’t have anywhere to sleep, they don’t have money,” said the father-of-four. “Most of them, after 10, 15 days they go back.”

Over recent decades, Chinese companies and entrepreneurs have spread out across Africa building stadiums, roads and other large projects, cultivating land, running hotels and opening restaurants. Less well-known are the thousands of Africans who live in or regularly visit the southern trading port of Guangzhou, which neighbors Hong Kong. Estimates of this population of residents and floating traders vary, and the police’s entry-exit administration declined to comment or offer data. The city’s vice mayor said in 2014 that there were approximately 16,000 Africans in Guangzhou, of which 4,000 were residents. Guangzhou’s population is 13.5 million.

The first African traders started arriving in Guangzhou in the late 1990s, attracted by its annual international trade fair, China’s economic boom and the ease of doing commerce in the city thanks to its wholesale markets, factories and low prices. Guangzhou had benefited from being one of the first Chinese cities allowed to open up to business in the 1980s, giving it a head start in attracting exporters.

Now that rosy picture has faded. Traders have to compete with online companies like Alibaba that allow customers to order from their offices rather than going to markets. They also have more competition from Chinese, like Dieng’s former employee who started her own business targeting his clients after picking up the Senegalese language Wolof.

The Associated Press spoke to 15 Africans in Guangzhou, both residents and traders who travel back and forth. Some long-timers reported that the city had become more welcoming over the years as mutual understanding increased between Chinese and Africans. But others spoke of hostility from locals and authorities, which comes amid a growing wariness of foreigners promoted by President Xi Jinping’s administration. Observers say the Communist Party is leaning on nationalism to distract from slowing economic growth.

Claudia Thaiya, 30, who sends electronics, furniture, clothes and shoes back home to Kenya, says when she went to look at an apartment recently, the advertised price went up when the landlord saw her. In some shops, she says, she hears derogatory comments about her skin color. “It shows that we’re seen as dirty,” said Thaiya, a former teacher.

Benjamin Stevens had a business selling liquor in Zambia before coming to study Chinese and civil engineering two years ago. He says he sees Africans being stopped by police to have their papers checked every day, and Chinese move away from him on the subway.

“Now what I plan is to get what I want and that’s the knowledge, about civil engineering, and go and put it into practice in my country,” he said.

Dieng, who lives close to the center of Xiaobei, an urban village nicknamed “Little Africa,” said that for the past year, he has had to register at the local police station every month, rather than annually as in the past.

“It seems they want the Africans to leave this area,” Dieng said. “Every month now, I have to go to the police station, every month. I feel like I’m in jail.”

An officer at the Jianshe police station, who did not identify himself, said that it “depends on different cases” as to how often foreigners should register.

Heidi Haugen, who researches Africans in China at the University of Oslo, said that the government wants to appear “in control to their local constituents — although they’re not elected, that’s an all-important part of legitimizing the government.”

“So if the immigrant population becomes too large and too visible, then that can become a political problem in itself,” she said.

City authorities are attempting to move foreigners out of Xiaobei. For years it has been filled with African traders, along with Middle Eastern and Chinese Muslim shops and restaurants, and is within walking distance of several provincial and city government offices.

Authorities are hoping African businesses will relocate to a development, Guangda Business City, a 40-minute drive away.

“Xiaobei is a very small and crowded downtown area, where so many African residents mingle with local Chinese, so there are some problems, if not conflicts, owing to their different cultures and lifestyles,” manager Deng Qiangguo said.

The city government declined to comment.

Africans in Guangzhou organize themselves into unofficial communities according to nationality. These communities, which offer members mutual support, report membership has declined over the past two years. The head of Guangzhou’s Tanzania community, John Rwehumbiza, said numbers had gone down “tremendously” this year from about 200.

“Many are going back,” said Rwehumbiza. “Number one because of the competition. Number two most of them feel they will do better back home than here.”

Chuka Jude Onwualu, of the Nigerian business group Association of Nigerian Representative Offices in China, or Anroc, said they had lost up to a quarter of their members since their peak of 80, and business visas were harder to get.

“If you haven’t been to China before there’s every likelihood you will be denied a visa, so for new people it’s really very difficult,” he said.

Dieng, who became a trader in China after a career as a pilot and engineer in the Senegalese army, has sold sports shoes, jeans, T-shirts, electronics and buildings materials during his 13 years here. He employs more than 20 Chinese and a handful of Africans. Now, he’s putting his last hopes into shipping, and, if that doesn’t work, his plan is to move back to Senegal and open a small factory.

“It’s near the end,” he says of his time in Guangzhou.


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WHO says funds secured for Africa pilots of world’s first malaria vaccine
November 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The vaccine is only partially effective and needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but is the first approved shot against the mosquito-borne disease.

By Kate Kelland*

hospitalLONDON, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Funding for phase one of pilot deployments of the world’s first malaria vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa has been secured and immunisation campaigns will begin in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The vaccine, known as RTS,S or Mosquirix and developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, is only partially effective and needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but is the first approved shot against the mosquito-borne disease.

The WHO said last year that while RTS,S was promising, it should be deployed only on a pilot basis before any wide-scale use, given its limited efficacy.

Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said on Thursday that securing funding and being able to trial the vaccine in Africa pilots would be a milestone in the fight against malaria.

“These pilot projects will provide the evidence we need from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale,” he said.

The go-ahead comes after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday approved $15 million for the malaria vaccine pilots, assuring full funding for the first phase of the programme.

Earlier this year, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID announced commitments of up to $27.5 million and $9.6 million respectively for the first four years of the programme.

Malaria infects around 200 million people a year worldwide and killed an estimated 440,000 in 2015. The vast majority of malaria deaths are among babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

RTS,S was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Donald Trump may push African countries away from America and closer to China
November 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Cobus van Staden*

A Donald Trump presidency might push Africa in the direction of China.

Forging friendships.

Forging friendships.

While China is a newer partner to Africa than the United States, it plays a powerful role as a counterexample. Many African governments see China as an model of a country that managed to develop without adopting American-style political systems. Until China came along, African countries were, (and still are,) prodded to follow Western ideas of democracy and civil society, as a gateway to modernity and development.

Chinese development presents a different narrative, one that some African governments interested in building centralized power, have eagerly embraced. The idea of the United States as the guardian of liberal values against powers like China, a story with echoes in the Cold War, might now be upended by the election of Trump to the US presidency. China’s counter-narrative of booming development guided by a strong centralized state is likely to become that much more appealing to politicians who want to believe in state power anyway.

 The idea of the US as the guardian of liberal values against powers like China might now be upended. We still don’t know what a Trump presidency will actually look like, especially as it relates to Africa. However, the president elect’s outspoken antipathy to traditional human rights principles—including his threats to prosecute his opponent Hillary Clinton after the election, his plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and his gleeful promises to ‘bomb the shit out of ISIS’— don’t fit the picture US public diplomacy has so far liked to present in Africa.

In this sense, the Trump presidency could herald the end of the binary pull between the US and China that we have seen in Africa over the last 15 years. The traditional narrative about the US and China’s role in Africa, presented by the US government, has been a choice between US-style development via liberal human rights and China-style authoritarianism.

In 2011, Clinton warned the continent against “new colonialism” in a not-so-veiled jab at China. Speaking in Ethiopia last year, President Obama said, “Economic relationships can’t simply be about building countries’ infrastructure with foreign labor or extracting Africa’s natural resources.” These coded statements weren’t only aimed at throwing shade at China. They were also meant to position the US as Africa’s only trustworthy partner.

Obama after remarks to the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2015.

Yet, America’s model of development and democracy has already suffered some setbacks on the continent, even before the election. When the US government talks about the US as a human rights champion in Africa, officials only seem to take into account official diplomatic messaging. Other realities, like the rapid militarization of the US presence in Africa, go unmentioned.

U.S. President Barack Obama applauds the assembly at the end of his remarks to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama applauds the assembly at the end of his remarks to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015

US diplomats also don’t seem to realize that Africans have access to the internet. When presenting itself as a human rights paragon, they don’t completely grasp how images of black Americans being targeted by the police play in Africa. Africans are keen consumers of African-American media, and they are well aware of debates about racism and what it means to be black in America.

 While Trump might alienate Africans, American citizens’ reaction to his actions might draw them back in. As part of a recent class on national image, I asked my students, all young black women, where they would take an all-expenses paid vacation. Not one out of the group of 10 said the US. When I asked why no one wanted to go to New York or Los Angeles, they all said that when they imagine themselves in the United States, they think of being hassled by racist American cops. “America just isn’t for us,” one said.

If president Trump follows through on some of the promises made during his campaign, Africans will find the ideal of American democracy a lot harder to share. This would further muddy the idea that in terms of both an ally and a development model, Africa has to choose between a democratic superpower and an authoritarian one. If both superpowers come to seem equally iffy on human rights, governance and civil society, then Africa’s choice of a development model will be more driven by these powers’ recent track records on economic development.

On these terms China is far more appealing. China’s growth still outstrips that of the US, and it has been funding infrastructure left and right in Africa. Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s Africa initiatives have been few and far between. It remains unclear how much of his biggest projects, such as Power Africa, have actually been implemented.

However, much of America’s global power lies in its grip on our collective imagination. This means that while president Trump might alienate Africans, American citizens’ reaction to his actions might draw them back in. Popular resistance in America against racism and mis-administration won’t go unnoticed in Africa. Remember, Africans know a thing or two about living under corrupt leaders. How Americans resist, or not, will be keenly watched.

*Quartz/Yahoo.This article was written as part of the China Africa Project, a multimedia online resource dedicated to exploring China’s growing engagement with Africa.

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Is Africa on Donald Trump’s radar?
November 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Alastair Leithead*

President elect Trump with President Obama at a press appearance after post election meeting

President elect Trump with President Obama at a press appearance after post election meeting

Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election means an uncertain future for Africa.

His rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a landslide – at least among those in Barack Obama’s ancestral village in western Kenya.

The mock poll in Kogelo gave Mr Trump just a quarter of the votes in a place he might not have heard of, were it not for his accusations that it was the outgoing president’s birthplace.

“The people of Kogelo are very much annoyed,” said one resident.

“Being a woman of great substance and Donald Trump being a reality show personality… Clinton should have won,” said one another.

But they would say that – President-elect Trump won’t get anything like the reception President Obama received last year when he came to Kenya.

He had strong connections here – his father was Kenyan – and he launched his Power Africa project, which aims to double the number of people with electricity across the continent.

Comedians stage a mock election in the village of Kogelo, the home town of Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, in western Kenya, Tuesday 8 November 2016Image copyrightAP
Image captionMrs Clinton won the mock election in Mr Obama’s ancestral village

President George W Bush brought the continent the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) – which provided millions of people with the drugs to help them fight HIV.

The US spends billions in Africa through aid and investment, but there is uncertainty over what Mr Trump will do, or even how much he knows about the continent.

“Trump has said very little about Africa – I don’t think he knows much about Africa,” said Jakkie Cilliers, chairman of the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), a think tank in South Africa.

“It is just not on his radar – it seems like he will be an insular president focused on US interests – in some sense, isolationist.”

He questioned what it might mean for Pepfar or the African Growth and Opportunities Act (known as Agoa – a hugely valuable American free trade deal with African countries), and efforts to tackle malaria.

“The fact he doesn’t know that much is perhaps our best protection,” said Mr Cilliers, only half joking.

Trump’s bulging in-box

The other key pillar of America’s involvement in Africa is security.

The US military footprint has slowly and secretly been spreading across the continent in reaction to radical Islamist militants.

American trainers and Chadian soldiers next to a military plane
Image captionThe US military trains soldiers in Africa as part of its anti-terror tactics

There are drone bases and special forces troops watching, and acting against so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda linked groups across the continent.

The key things that need to be in the new President Trump’s Africa in-box include:

How America manages its approach to Africa could have a major impact on stability across the continent.

“Obama has done the US proud with his strategic approach,” said Mr Cilliers.

The ISS put out what he called a “tongue-in-cheek” article a day before the vote, asking what would a Trump presidency would mean for Africa.

“About a third of American foreign aid is directed at health programmes, and much of that at Africa,” ISS researcher Zachary Donnenfeld wrote.

“This means that any reduction in American foreign aid will have far-reaching effects on health outcomes on the continent.

“If Donald Trump were elected and implemented the foreign policy he campaigned on, he could become the single most-effective recruiting tool for terrorist organisations across the globe,” he added.

But with a shift from aid to investment, isn’t a businessman a good man to have at the helm?

Kenyan tech entrepreneur Mark Kamalu is not convinced.

“We have investments in US dollars and the first direct impact is the markets tank and that’s a worry from a business perspective,” he said.

“The rhetoric we have heard, the hard-line stance, the America first nationalism, the volatile and lose language makes everyone who is not white and American wonder where they stand.”

Some will welcome his conservative values on homosexuality and abortion, but there is a lot of uncertainty over what President Trump will mean to Africa.

Elected with little by way of policy, the continent will have to wait and see how much of what he said on the campaign trail will translate into action.


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Hack attacks cut internet access in Liberia
November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
Net access in Liberia comes via a single cable that is shared with 20 other nations

Net access in Liberia comes via a single cable that is shared with 20 other nations

Liberia has been repeatedly cut off from the internet by hackers targeting its only link to the global network.

Recurrent attacks up to 3 November flooded the cable link with data, making net access intermittent.

Researchers said the attacks showed hackers trying different ways to use massive networks of hijacked machines to overwhelm high-value targets.

Experts said Liberia was attacked by the same group that caused web-wide disruption on 21 October.

Those attacks were among the biggest ever seen and made it hard to reach big web firms such as Twitter, Spotify and Reddit.

Short bursts

The attacks were the first to send overwhelming amounts of data from weakly protected devices, such as webcams and digital video recorders, that had been enrolled into what is known as a botnet.

A botnet variant called Mirai was identified by security firms as being the tool used to find and compromise the insecure devices.

The source code for Mirai has been widely shared and many malicious hacker groups have used it to seek out vulnerable devices they can take over and use to mount what are known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

“There’re multiple different botnets, each with a different owner,” security researcher Kevin Beaumont told the BBC. “Many are very low-skilled. Some are much better.”

‘This feels serious’ – BBC Africa’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Liberia

For more than two weeks, my internet has not been working properly. At first I thought it was a problem with my internet provider, which often suffers from slow speeds. But this feels more serious.

Even when you do get online, the connection repeatedly cuts out. I’ve spent the past week trying to upload some photos and audio to send to London, without success.

A woman who runs a computer club for young people in the capital, Monrovia, tells me that they have been having trouble getting on to Facebook and that their connection has slowed in recent weeks.

The hotel I am staying at in the north-eastern town of Ganta is right next to the network tower of a company that provides my internet service, but the connection is still coming in and out.

The hackers behind the “huge” network that attacked Liberia, dubbed botnet#14, were “much more skilled”, Mr Beaumont said.

“The attacks are extremely worrying because they suggest a Mirai operator who has enough capacity to seriously impact systems in a nation state,” he wrote in a blogpost.

Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

Network firm Level 3 confirmed to tech news site ZDNet that it had seen attacks on telecoms firms in Liberia making access to the web spotty. Other reports suggested mobile net access was affected too.

The attacks varied in length with some lasting only 30 seconds and the longest being sustained for a few minutes. At times the amount of data being funnelled towards Liberia exceeded 600 gigabits per second.

Net access in Liberia comes via an undersea cable whose capacity is shared with many other nations in West Africa.

“They’re trying a number of different techniques for short bursts, against the companies who own the submarine cable to Liberia,” said Mr Beaumont, adding that commands to botnet#14 seemed to originate in the Ukraine.

Mr Beaumont said the controllers of botnet#14 were refining their control of the attack system but it was not yet clear who it would be turned against next.

A Twitter account, called #Miraiattacks has been set up by a security company to monitor the many different attack targets hit by Mirai botnets. Earlier targets included computer security firms, schools, food-ordering services and gaming sites.


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ICC gets support after 3 withdrawals, but Kenya is critical
November 1, 2016 | 0 Comments


FILE - Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, second right, talks to his defense team when appearing before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, Oct. 8, 2014.

FILE – Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, second right, talks to his defense team when appearing before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, Oct. 8, 2014.

Many countries pledged support for the International Criminal Court on Monday following the announced withdrawal by three African nations, but Kenya, which the tribunal is investigating, was sharply critical and questioned its long-term survival.

Many in the General Assembly called for talks between the ICC and the African Union in hopes of addressing the continent’s concerns and reversing the decisions to leave by Burundi, South Africa and Gambia.

Kenyan Ambassador Tom Amolo didn’t say whether his country would also leave, but he told the 193-member world body that his country was monitoring the withdrawals “with very keen interest.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, as well as Senegal, the first country to ratify the Rome Statute that established the court, and Tanzania reiterated their support for the ICC, stressing the court’s importance in combatting impunity for the world’s most atrocious crimes, including genocide.

The ICC has been accused of bias by some African leaders because since the Rome treaty came into force in 2002, only four people have been convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Three were from Congo and one from Mali. So far, it has indicted only suspects from Africa, and of the 10 full-scale investigations currently underway, nine are in Africa and only one elsewhere — in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

But the ICC is expanding its global reach. It is currently conducting 10 so-called preliminary examinations — probes to establish whether to open a full investigation — in countries including Afghanistan, Ukraine and Colombia, as well as the Palestinian territories and alleged crimes by British forces in Iraq.

ICC President Judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, presenting the court’s annual report to the assembly, said two trials are under way and another is set to start soon. And following convictions, she said, proceedings for reparations for victims are under way in four cases.

But Kenya’s Amolo called the ICC’s “dismal output of tangible results … disheartening and simply confounding.”

He accused the court of having lower standards than national courts and warned that “something radical and urgent must be done if this court is to stand any chance of long-term survival as a viable and credible international institution.”

The ICC indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The case collapsed because of what the ICC prosecutor called threats to witnesses, bribery and lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government, but it remains open.

Amolo said African countries “have tried to engage constructively” with the ICC with little success.

Tanzania’s U.N. Ambassador Tuvako Manongi said the court’s “particularly tumultuous relationship with Africa … has engendered fear of an African exodus from the court.”

But he said “that need not be the case,” pointing to the African Union’s commitment to justice and the rule of law.

Manongi called for “confidence building measures” on how the ICC functions and interacts with the 124 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute.

“All too often avoidable misunderstandings, when left unattended or dismissed as inconsequential, grow into regrettable outcomes,” he said. “Lectures and claims of high moral ground from outside the continent are unhelpful.”

Senegal’s Minister Counsellor Abdoulaye Barro called for dialogue and expressed hope “that a consensus can be found so that Africa will continue to play a major role in the fight against impunity.”

New Zealand’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard von Bohemen said “better engagement” with the AU and African nations is needed. And he expressed hope that in the coming year, before the withdrawals take effect, “there is room for meaningful dialogue on a potential resolution and to provide for a pathway back to the court.”

“At the same time, we must not panic,” von Bohemen said. “We need to take the challenges seriously and recognize the political realities in which the court operates … and we will need a diplomatic process to address the challenges it is now facing.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, the European Union’s U.N. envoy, put the challenge succinctly: “The world needs the ICC, and the ICC needs all countries to support it.”

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Reporting Africa conference to explore how African media portrays continent
October 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire


Eric Chinje

Eric Chinje

The African Media Initiative (AMI) will on 10 to 11 November 2016 host the Reporting Africa conference 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya in a bid to explore how  African media covers the continent beyond national borders.

According to Eric Chinje, AMI CEO, the conference will also explore how international media portrays the continent.

The conference will also focus on findings of a research that AMI has carried out on coverage of issues affecting the African continent.

Chinje said that his organisation has made plans for the forthcoming discussion to be graced by some of the top editors from all the 54 African countries.

This is also expected to facilitate wide ranging debate and deliberations on issues related to media coverage of the continent.

This is also expected to chart a new way forward for media organisations in Africa to play a more positive role in the continent’s development agenda.

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Agriculture investment yields growth and nutrition gains for Africa
September 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

Growth in agriculture has pushed down poverty in Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, report says

By Isaiah Esipisu*


farming-2NAIROBI, Sept 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – African countries that took early action in the past decade to invest in agriculture have reaped the rewards, enjoying higher economic growth and a bigger drop in malnutrition, a major farming development organisation said on Tuesday.

In a report, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said: “After decades of stagnation, much of Africa has enjoyed sustained agricultural productivity growth since 2005.”

That has helped push down poverty rates in places like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, it added.

Countries that adopted the policies promoted by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) not long after it was created by African Union governments in 2003 saw productivity on existing farmlands rise by 5.9 to 6.7 percent per year, the report said.

That helped spur a 4.3 percent average annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP).

By contrast, states that sat on the sidelines saw farm productivity rise by less than 3 percent a year and GDP by only 2.2 percent, said the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2016.

“The last ten years have made a strong case for agriculture as the surest path to producing sustainable economic growth that is felt in all sectors of society – and particularly among poor Africans,” AGRA President Agnes Kalibata said in a statement.

Growth in agriculture is more effective at cutting poverty than growth in other sectors in sub-Saharan Africa because farming is a main source of income for more than 60 percent of the labour force, and will continue to be a major employer in most countries for a decade or more, the report noted.

On malnutrition, countries that were quick to put the CAADP into practice experienced an annual average decline of 3.1 percent, while those that did not sign up saw a drop of only 1.2 percent.

The countries adopting the programme early – between 2007 and 2009 – were Benin, Burundi, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Togo, according to the report.


“Africa is no longer in the dark. It has done a lot towards agricultural transformation in the past decade,” said David Ameyaw, AGRA’s head of monitoring and evaluation and a lead author of the report.

“But there is a need to double the effort by 2030 for a meaningful agricultural transformation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The report, released to inform discussions at the African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi this week, noted that gains were made in early-moving African countries even if their governments did not hit a target set by the CAADP to allocate 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture.

Only 13 African countries have met or surpassed that goal, the report noted. If others followed suit, public funding for agriculture across Africa would rise from $12 billion – the amount allocated in 2014 – to $40 billion, it added.

Agriculture in Africa is still threatened by low productivity due to limited use of inputs like improved seeds and fertilisers, rising water stress, and climate-related disasters such as floods and droughts that are affecting crop, livestock and fish production, according to the report.

A 2014 World Bank study found that around two-thirds of small-scale farmers surveyed in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda did not use chemical fertilisers.

There is a need for such farmers to invest further in irrigation, both studies said, with the World Bank estimating that only 1 to 3 percent of land cultivated by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated.

Ameyaw said further agricultural progress in the region would require political will, the right policies and technology transfer to improve productivity and reduce post-harvest losses.

Linking small-scale farmers to markets and giving them access to finance are also key, he said.

Reforming the land tenure system is important in countries where arable land is inherited by siblings, the scientist added.

“When agricultural land is subdivided from generation to generation, it shrinks (and) thus becomes meaningless for agricultural production,” Ameyaw said.


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Kenya to host 6th African Green Revolution forum
August 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

C-63-780x439African leaders are set to meet in Nairobi, Kenya at the African Green Revolution (AGRF) forum to be held on September 5 to 9 with an ambition of transforming agriculture into an engine for inclusive socio-economic growth and development.

According to a statement released by Waiganjo Njoroge, AGRA, Global Media Lead, the historic gathering will  include hundreds of influential leaders and CEOs and is also expected to award the newly established Africa Food prize.

Njoroge adds that the sixth African Green Revolution forum or AGRF 2016 is Africa’s largest agricultural event.

“This year’s forum arrives at a time when an unprecedented number of leaders in both African and donor countries are signalling that agriculture development is essential to Africa’s long term economic growth,” Njoroge said.

It is also reported that the emergence of agriculture as the sector that will determine Africa’s future is reflected in the theme of the 2016 forum titled: Seize the moment: Africa rising through agricultural transformation.

Organisers say that the forum will feature a strong slate of influential leaders and CEOs from the public and private sector.

They add that a major highlight of the forum will be the inaugural award of the new Africa Food prize which was created to call attention to individuals and institutions that are inspiring and driving agriculture innovations that can be replicated throughout Africa.

Also the landmark annual African Agriculture Status Report, which this year will chronicle agricultural progress on the continent over the last decade and suggest strategies towards accelerated economic growth and development through agricultural transformation will also be launched.

Over 1000 leaders from politics, business and civil society from across Africa and beyond are expected to grace the event.

Some of the key speakers at the forum will include President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, Strive Masiyiwa, Chair and Founder of Econet Wireless who is also Board Chair of the AGRA, just to mention a few.

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For The People Of Africa: Quality And Empowerment
August 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Shinzō Abe*

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

On August 27th and 28th, Japan will co-host the Sixth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, together with Kenya and major international organizations. TICAD VI represents the latest milestone in Japan’s deep and longstanding commitment to Africa.

Following TICAD V held in Yokohama three years ago, this year’s TICAD VI will be held for the first time on African soil, really historic.

When do you guess Japan started its cooperation with Africa? Some may assume in the 1970s, when the Japanese economy achieved full postwar recovery? No. Then around the 1960s, when many African nations gained independence? Not really. It was in 1927, almost 90 years ago. That was when Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, a Japanese physician who dedicated his life to the cause of medicine, departed for Accra in Ghana, pledging “I shall not return home without achieving my objective.”

Dr. Noguchi tasked himself with finding a cure for yellow fever, a disease that was causing hundreds of thousands of deaths in Africa. He did so despite partial impairment to his hand resulting from burns he had suffered in his childhood. Dr. Noguchi himself eventually succumbed to yellow fever, which cost him his life a year after moving to Accra.

“For the people of Africa.” This firmly remains the guiding principle of our engagement with Africa and drives Japan’s involvement in TICAD.

Africa has tremendous potential for sustainable growth. Yet daunting challenges remain in areas fundamental to development. Water supply. Food production. Healthcare. Lack of quality infrastructure. Lagging education and technical training. Political instability. All these challenges have hindered Africa’s progress.

Africa’s growth not only benefits Africa, but the world as a whole. Under this belief, Japanese government and businesses, as well as individual citizens, have all made contributions to the development of Africa.

Exactly 50 years ago, three young men, Mr. Hideo Rikitake, Mr. Takeshi Inada, and Mr. Goro Furuya, became the first volunteers to go to Africa as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. They were tasked with the transfer of technology for electrical facilities and construction machinery to Kenya. These pioneering spirits were only the first of many. Since then, more than 15,000 Japanese young people in 31 countries across Africa have committed their time and skills under this program.

Our approach is to help African nations cultivate industries and to focus on each individual in Africa. This is why our economic development initiatives have initially focused on agriculture and light industries that are closely tied to people’s lives. These are the areas where the technology required is relatively easy to acquire and simultaneously result in products that directly improve the wellbeing of individual Africans. In short, we support the formation of “homegrown industries.” They will put Africa on a path to sustainable prosperity and self-sufficient growth.

Typically, African countries with abundant natural resources experience rapid economic growth when commodity prices are high, but this does not necessarily last. A downturn in prices negatively affects Africans by depressing wages. And sometimes this happens very quickly. The pace of development is therefore at the mercy of price movements in volatile commodities markets.

This is why I believe in the formation of “homegrown industries” throughout Africa.

To achieve the development of “homegrown industries” in Africa, building human resource capacity is vital. In Ethiopia, people are embracing the Japanese KAIZEN initiative that empowers all the workers to continuously improve their current working methods to increase productivity. The Toyota Kenya Academy equips African trainees with expertise in car maintenance, construction equipment and agricultural machinery. The Kenya Nut Company, launched by a Japanese entrepreneur, has developed into a world-class supplier of nuts with its popular “Out of Africa” brand. And in Tanzania, Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical transferred production technology for Japanese-style mosquito nets, creating a local mosquito net industry and contributing to the prevention of malarial infection.

At TICAD V in 2013, I announced the African Business Education (ABE) Initiative for Youth to emphasize our commitment to human resources development. The initiative invites young Africans from across the continent to Japan in order for them to receive master’s degrees at universities and participate in internships to groom future business leaders. African young people studying under this program will soon hit 1,000.

As Africa’s human resources expand, our relationship with Africa continues to deepen with the public and private sectors working hand in hand. Going beyond a sell-and-buy relationship, we help African businesses develop by providing investment and technology as well as expertise in production processes.

Japan’s businesses and universities are at the forefront of these efforts. In fact, a business mission with 77 leaders from Japanese businesses and universities will accompany me to Nairobi this time. More than 200 companies will also come to Nairobi to participate in a wide range of events, and as many as 72 MOUs with African nations are set to be signed. At TICAD VI, I will establish the Japan-Africa Public and Private Economic Forum, bringing together top business leaders from Japan and all over Africa to deepen economic ties.

We will provide US$ 200 billion in investment funds for infrastructure that will be highly sustainable and remain cost-competitive factoring in maintenance and repair over the mid- to long-term. These funds will further boost economic development in Africa.

Let me return to healthcare, another important cause in Africa. The deep conviction that drove Dr. Noguchi 90 years ago continues to be a source of inspiration in Japan today.

Dr. Satoshi Omura, who received the Nobel Prize last year, developed Avermectin, a therapeutic drug for endemic diseases caused by parasitic worms. The medicine has been provided for free to countries in Africa, in cooperation with Merck & Co., saving 300 million people each year from blindness. During the Ebola virus outbreak, Japan also provided financial assistance for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, dispatching experts and delivering medicine and medical equipment, as part of a $184 million assistance package. Additionally, we are supplying diagnostic equipment and mobile testing units for cancers affecting women.

This year, Japan unveiled a new vision to advance global healthcare. We will promote Universal Health Coverage to prevent and prepare for public health crises in Africa and across the world, and enhance emergency response capabilities. To support this drive, I announced an assistance package of $1.1 billion for the health sector.

Africa’s enormous potential is fast becoming a reality. The African continent is now home to 1.2 billion people, and its economy is growing at a higher rate than the global average. I believe there can be no global development without African development. We are fully committed to our partnership with Africa. I very much look forward to renewing my friendship with African leaders again and advancing our collective efforts at TICAD VI in Nairobi.

* Source Huffpost. Author is the 96th Prime Minister of Japan, President of the Liberal Democratic Party

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Obama’s Greatest Legacy Empowers Next Generation Of African Leaders
August 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

MANDELAAs the Obama presidency is near its end and historians are set to reflect on the legacy of America’s first black president, I can’t help but look favourably on the impact he has had on the continent of Africa.

His legacy is not one founded on the principles of charity, but that of an ever-expanding citizenry that has empowered the next generation of African leadership by way of a White House fellowship program.

The Mandela Washington fellowship, named after the iconic South African leader upon his death in 2014, was started to help empower the next generation of African leadership by president Obama.

Upon its foundation, the president reflected on how the next generation of African leadership will “leave behind for the next generation — and the generation after that — an Africa that is strong and vibrant and prosperous, and is ascendant on the world stage.” Amen to that.

Every year, the program brings its participants to the United States and gives them the tools they need to succeed by way of exclusive leadership training and rich networking opportunities with accomplished leaders from many sectors. Open to those who have looked at the challenges of Africa from youthful and unique perspectives, it aims to change the perception of a continent the Economist magazine once dubbed “the dark continent.”

In 2015 — Marta Tsehay Sewasew, a now 28-year-old Ethiopian social activist and social entrepreneur was among the 500 participants.

She was an attractive candidate with a hefty resume to her credit. Involved in a slew of developmental programs on girls’ education, women and youth economic empowerment, youth leadership, empowerment of young people with disabilities, and adolescent youth reproductive health — she was a posterchild of exemplary citizenship.

For six weeks, she lived in Wagner College, in New York and gained valuable skills. For her, “The six-week leadership program enabled me to enhance my knowledge on civic leadership and civic engagements.” After the conclusion of the training, she was invited to attend a three-day presidential summit hosted by President Obama involving leaders from many sectors.

At the summit, she co-moderated a panel discussion on girls’ education in Africa.

marta tsehay sewasew
Mandela Washington Fellowship recipient Marta Tsehay Sewasew. (Photo: Marta Tsehay Sewasew)

Currently serving as the Ethiopian National Project Coordinator with theInternational Labour Organization (ILO), she volunteers as a board member for Eastern Africa Regional Advisory Board (RAB) for Young African Leader Initiative Program, which plays an advisory role in providing inputs for USAID, IREX (the International Research & Exchange Board) and the U.S. Department of State.

I asked her what the legacy of the fellowship program has been for her. “As a young professional, the fellowship enhanced my knowledge, experience and created a networking opportunity with young, like-minded Africans engaged in developmental activities,” she replied, adding that “the fellowship created an opportunity to learn from the best practices of other Africa countries and U.S. in the area of education, health, environmental protection and civic engagement that can implemented in Africa.”

The formidable leader has initiated an intervention entitled “Mobile for Students Reproductive Health (M4RH).” The intervention provides monthly informative, confidential and youth-friendly text messages on reproductive health for Addis Ababa university students.

The PhD aspirant student in international relations wants to expand her initiative nationally, while looking at ways to create income generation and economic empowerment for young people in her country.

Last year at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, president Obama spokeof an ever-changing continent, where many envisioned a continent where trade, not aid, is the new approach, partnership instead of patrons is the new way and where liberty to choose one’s destiny instead of being dependent should be the future direction of their society.

That is why the Mandela Washington fellowship program is the roadmap to that vision and it may be one of president Obama’s greatest legacies from an international perspective.

*Huffington Post

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The Inside Story of How Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Rescued Liberia
August 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Randall Lane*

Riva Levinson and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Riva Levinson and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few years, Forbes has taken an interest in Liberia, one of the world’s poorest countries, but also one with promise (under the leadership of of the first democratically-elected woman president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) and one which the U.S. holds historical obligations. We’ve traveled there with a delegation of philanthropists, and supported world-class social entrepreneurs likeKatie Meyler and Dr. Raj Panjabi, who have since been globally recognized for their efforts to stem the Ebola crisis, and reform the country’s education and health systems, respectively.

One of the quiet drivers in Liberia’s progress over the past decade, D.C.-based international strategist K. Riva Levinson, an advisor to President Sirleaf, recently published an excellent behind-the-scenes book, Choosing the Hero, chronicling the country’s journey (and hers) over the past decade. It was an opportune time to catch up with Riva and a country full of pain — and opportunity.

How did you first get interested in Liberia? My interest in Liberia began with my first encounter with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It was July of 1996, and she was working at the United Nations, in-exile from her native Liberia, waiting for the political space to open up so she could return home. I was barely 30, but already weary and jaded with my work as an international lobbyist, burdened with meaningless client assignments, and uncertain of my ability to make a difference.  And then I met Ellen, and saw a fierce determination – a commitment to democracy and human rights without compromise. I saw in her the possibility of what Africa could be if there were capable leaders. And she saw something in me that I didn’t yet recognize in myself.  This was 20 years ago!

What has changed over the years you’ve been there? Everything has changed. When I started working in Liberia there was war, fear and deprivation. Charles Taylor, a brutal warlord, was in control of the country. He is now at The Hague, indicted for crimes against humanity.  A generation of young people had been lost to war. Teenagers, young men and women, never given the chance to study, to learn to read or write. And then in 2005, Ellen made history as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, and peace has prevailed.

Today, Liberia has made great progress in rebuilding its infrastructure, opening schools, providing healthcare and other social services, and re-building the country’s democratic institutions. Liberia in 2016 has a vibrant press and civil society. But all that being said, progress comes slow, and not without its setbacks, like Ebola, and there will always be the challenge of keeping up with the expectations of a young and restless population.

Did the Ebola crisis shake your faith in what you were going?  The Ebola crisis did not shake my faith in Liberia’s future, or in the Liberian people. But it was frightening to the marrow of your bones, and the fear sat with you, every moment of every day, an enemy that you cannot see, where a single microscopic trace of the virus can fall a healthy person in an excruciating death in a week. Liberians would tell me that they much preferred the risks of living in war, because at least then, you could run from the enemy. In the summer of 2014, when the rate of infection was increasing exponentially, there was definitely a moment in time when all of us who cared about Liberia wondered if it could beat back the disease. The US CDC was predicting 1.4 million infections within six months if the chain of transmission was not broken. But as our mutual friend, Raj Panjabi said at the time, “Liberians will not be defined by the challenges they face, but how they rise to the challenge.” And that’s what Liberians did. That’s what President Sirleaf did, and ultimately, that’s what the international community did.

How did the fact that you and President Sirleaf are women in a continent that still has a long way to go to gender equality shape your experience? President Sirleaf succeeded despite being a woman. As I explain in Choosing the Hero, everything was lined up against her when she ran for presidency in 2005 –traditional cultural beliefs about the role of women in society, bias of the regional African leaders, all men. Even the American government wrote off her candidacy. But what people did not see, and what our polling showed at the time, was that the Liberian people were tired of war. They wanted a better life for their children and they saw in Ellen, in this woman, someone who could deliver that. While there has been great progress for women’s participation in politics, Ellen remains one of only two elected women presidents on the continent of Africa. Truth is, access to money, party loyalties and party infrastructure remains largely a man’s game, and even today ambitious political women are more often scorned than celebrated.

As for me, I think being a woman gives me a level of empathy that maybe a man would not have, it makes it impossible to turn away, it drives me to work harder, to care too much. And when you are part of a struggle bigger than yourself, it is that passion to make a difference that makes all the difference.

What did you think your legacy will be? And how stable is it after President Sirleaf leaves office? I think that President Sirleaf’s legacy for Liberia will be the democratic institutions that she has built. Maintaining the peace. Giving the country hope. Liberia may have its ups and downs, but its path forward is irreversible and I believe the Liberian people will demand the best of their leaders. In the end, that is the country’s safeguard.

For me, I think my legacy will have been to help cement the powerful bond between the US and Liberia through advocacy, and to have supported the remarkable woman that is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – someone who put everything on the line for what she believed in, brought a country from war to peace, and gave inspiration to a new generation of women and girls to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.


*Forbes. Twitter: @RandallLane

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Governance, Corruption & Democratic Development Questions will guide Clinton’s African Policy-Snr Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan
July 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

Hillary Clinton views Africa not just as a place with challenges to address but also opportunities says Jake Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor for Hillary for America. Speaking at the Foreign Policy Center briefing center at the Democratic Convention, Sullivan said to Hillary Clinton, Africa is not just made up of countries which need development aid and assistance but also partners who can work with the USA in addressing a range of global issues.

Issues of governance, corruption, and democratic development have been central to Secretary Clinton’s policy towards Africa and will continue to be, said Jake Sullivan in response to a question from Ben Bangoura of Allo on what Africa should expect a Clinton Administration.

The policy will be in the mold of the work the democratic flag bearer did as first lady and later Secretary of State, Sullivan said. From her multiple trips to the continent, Hillary Clinton has shown commitment to pillars like fostering economic growth, peace keeping, security, human rights, and democratic development said Sullivan.

“She is fond of reminding us on her team many of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are African economies.  How we think about where the future growth is going to come from in the world is bound up in how we approach our policy towards Africa,”  Sullivan said.

In contrast to the recent Republican Convention in Ohio, the Democratic Convention seems to have more African faces present. Executive Women for Hillary ,a powerful coalition of executive, entrepreneur and professional women backing Mrs. Clinton has two African diaspora leaders Sarian Bouma and Angelle Kwemo of Believe in Africa  as State Co-Chairs for the DMV area.

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Why I Keep Running For President of Liberia – Winston Tubman
July 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Winston Tubman is again running for the highest public office in Liberia after two failed attempts.  He explains why, at the ripe age of 75 when most people have retired, or are retiring, from active politics, he still believes he’s the man to lead Liberia’s youthful population into the future. He also speaks about his stint in the late President Samuel Doe’s ignoble regime and lots more.

You are 75, three years younger than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is 78, but if you become president next year, you will be 76 at that time. Of course, you will be among the 10 oldest African presidents at that time. You’ve attempted this before, in 2005 and 2011, why do you want to do this again?

Well, the short answer is – because I haven’t done it yet. I want to succeed; I don’t just want to try. And having tried

Winston Tubman

Winston Tubman

twice as you point out, I have the compulsion to do it the third time because I believe that this time I will succeed. And about my age, I have the age that gives me the energy to do what is required.

Often, Africans say, ‘Oh! He’s too old or he’s not young enough.’ In my country today, there are many young people that want to be president, and which of them do you think will agree that another of them is better equipped and ready to be president. They all think that they should be. We are a society of many years and, therefore, we have an accumulation of wisdom, interest and experience. We should be able to bring those together so that the nation benefits.

I believe that my years give me that. But because I don’t have the age factor in my favour, I will not be like the typical African leader who thinks it has to be a one-man show, the guy who does everything. He’s all day running. He is there in this country today, in that country tomorrow. He comes in for a change of wardrobe and goes out again, and when people say what is the country gaining from all these? he says, ‘Oh yes, I am bringing this; I am bringing that,’ but if you were to do an audit of what really accrues from all that effort, it’s hard to point out where the success is. What our country needs is somebody that can make them cohesive, people working together, systems involving people of various ages so that there will be division of labour – people doing things, making the country work, and I believe someone who is able to do that is someone that has some years behind him, some experience in him or her. So I don’t think age in this case is a disadvantage; it’s an advantage our country needs at this time and that is why I believe that since I haven’t yet achieved the leadership that I have been seeking, I must continue and I believe, this time, I will succeed.

 Talking about age, Liberia has quite a number of young people. The statistics says that about 44 per cent of the population is below 15 years. I am wondering, how do you think these young people will react to having such an old president. By the time you become president, you will be 76 and you have all these young people, what do you think will be their reaction?

I think they will react with respect. They will follow experience and leadership because the alternative is, which of them will agree for this country to be led by one of them? It will be harder for them to do that and they will be quarrelling. Each will think he is better than the other or more qualified than the other, and the cohesion that we are seeking for the country will not come about through that. But if we work together as a team at this point, we will work towards the transition, so that, in the process, the next generation that will be in leadership will evolve. But if we were to leave it to them now, they will have a squabble to determine who will go forward. It will cause us more setbacks.

You’ve talked about cohesion and you have used that word twice; what about connection – because it’s real generational gap? How are you going to be able to connect before that cohesion can happen?

Well, that’s what we tried the last time. I was the standard bearer to be president, and George Weah, who is quite young, was my vice president, so the connection was already there. The reason why we were trying to walk that way was because I believed – and he agreed – that we will bring the young people on board; he will be there with me sitting together to make the policies and the decisions; but the young people, a lot of them will not understand what is going on.  People often ask me, why do you think you need this man (Weah)? He is not as educated as he should be. What is he bringing to the table? My answer is that he brings himself. By coming to the table, the people out there who know him, love him, respect him, will say, ‘I can’t sit at the table myself but he’s sitting there and when he says things and things are being decided,  he takes into account our interests and we will be protected’.

Looking at your age, would you be willing to make your medical records public. At your age, there might one or two things probably wrong with your health. Will you be prepared to follow the Bernie Sanders’ example of voluntarily making your medical record public?

Yes, I have no problem with that. I have diabetes and I try to take care of it. But other than that, I don’t think I have any life-threatening disease. I will be willing to let my medical records be shown.



It was said that George Weah helped put you over the line in the first round of elections in 2011 when paired with Weah as your running mate?

Well it is true but it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because I sought him out and got him to become my vice presidential candidate. I wasn’t the only one that had the wisdom to seek that. Even Madam Sirleaf did; all the senior candidates did but he wouldn’t go with any of them except with me. Yes, I needed him, I realised that and I sought him out to bring to the table what he did bring.

Are you going back to the National Democratic Party?

I never left it.

You are still there?

What happened was, as we got to the end of the campaign, there was a lot of confusion in the party, so I decided that I would go into retirement. I did not resign from the party. I said I would not be politically active, but I would sit back and watch and see what the country’s needs were and when the time came I would come out from that retirement, which is what I am in the process of doing. I am proposing to my vice president at that time that we repeat the ticket because I believe we won at that time but there were things that made it difficult to implement that victory. Now, I don’t think those things would be there. So, we should take that ticket to the Liberian people again and convince them that we would succeed.

But George Weah has already declared his interest to run.

Yes, he has declared his interest but the election won’t be till next year October and there are many formations going on. There are about 24 candidates and we don’t think we can make much progress unless we consolidate the best possible ticket that Liberian people can respond to. And I think because they saw us last time, because they know both names now and because we have both the experience and the youth advantage on our side, when we come up with this ticket, it will be the most appealing one.

So you think George Weah will be willing to step down to run as your vice president?

Under the constitution of the party, the standard bearer will be chosen in the Spring of next year; that would April. Whether by that time there will room for contest in the party; whether there will be discussions between aspirants that have come up on how we can present ourselves for the party, all that have to happen in the near future.

Weah has declared his intention to run again. Sirleaf Johnson’s deputy, Joseph Boakai, has also declared his intention to run. How do you rate your chances against both candidates?

Well, I think Madam Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai will have had 12 years by the time they are up ruling the country. The Liberian people will have to ask themselves: are they satisfied with what has happened in the 12 years so as to want to continue it. And there is a lot of feeling that the country is not going in the right direction; therefore, we need a new direction. And you will not get new direction by taking the vice president who has already been there for 12 years, to continue. They will feel that it will not be the change that they are seeking and you will see that our ticket in these circumstances will be the right one.

Do you have confidence in the electoral system?

Not as much as I would like. But you know, this is a problem all over Africa, in many places where elections are held. But I think if we got the ticket, the support it would attract would be so  overwhelming it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to cheat, so that we’ll have such a massive following that our victory will be so apparent, and then we have to recognised.

What specific weaknesses in the electoral system would you like to see addressed before the coming election.

For instance, a system where the incumbent appoints the committee that controls the election and also controls the appointments to the Supreme Court so that if there is a dispute, with her chosen people making decisions in the first instance and we going on appeal to the Supreme Court that she has basically appointed, I think it gives too much advantage to the incumbent. I would like to see changes in that area so that something more neutral, more balanced will take place in helping to determine who has won.

We have these people coming from the various international groups to observe the election but I am sure you have seen – as I have – that they never come to say ‘things were not right; there was cheating’. Rather they would say the election ‘more or less reflected the will of the Nigerian or Liberian people’. So, the answer has to come from inside. We should have mechanisms inside that the people will trust. But ultimately, it is the result that people will be swayed by. If we produce a leadership that people have trust in and respect and believe will take care of their interests, that will make it work.

You have been around government for over three decades; what new lessons does Liberia stand to learn from you?

I am a reconciler; I try to bring people together. Much of my years were with the United Nations, I was with the UN in Somalia. I was the special representative of the secretary-general there. I worked in the Balkans. I dealt with people like (Slobodan) Milosevic, people in Croatia. I dealt with people in the Middle East where I worked in Kuwait and Iraq, so I have gained a lot of global experience and a lot of that, I think, can be brought to bear on our problems. I remember when I was running the first time, one of the candidates said to me, ‘Tubman, maybe you should run for the president of Somalia because you don’t know anything that is happening (at home). I said, ‘No, you can’t say that because things happening in Somalia are things that we can learn from. When I was determined to leave Somalia, my Somali friends told me to stay and help them put the country together because left to we ourselves, it will take us years to be able to do that. I told them that no matter how many years I stayed there, I would not be able to help them do it. The best way to help them to do it is to go back to my country where we have similar problems, and if I can succeed in putting things in order there, our example will provide the help they need to put their own house in order.

We in our various countries have to solve our problems ourselves. We can’t have people coming in from abroad to fix it; that’s part of the problem we have in Africa – people coming to fix everything. Everyday a problem arises and you waiting for the World Bank to say this and IMF to say that, and they come strutting around, giving you instructions and then they go back leaving you. And when you look around, you don’t see all the benefits that we are gaining from all this. We have to have a situation where we ourselves are able to tackle our problems, working together.

What are those specific lessons you gained from countries like Somalia?

I learnt how to deal with the various groups, how to gain their trust. Leaders are not taught. Leaders are ordained; God appoint leaders. He brings leaders in circumstances where he gives them the opportunity and the wisdom to do what is needed. If I am able to emerge as the leader of Liberia, I will have the wherewithal to present to the people recipes that will bring them together and enable us to move forward in greater unity that we have done before, and that is what I think will produce the leadership that we need.

When you say leaders are ordained I get a monarchical view of leadership..

No, I am taking about the role of God in the events and affairs of men

How strong is the “Americo-Liberia” sentiment a factor in Liberian politics these days?

You know, foreigners still make a lot of that than is the case in Liberia. We have moved on. The role that someone like George Weah has to play in Liberia has nothing to do with Americo-Liberia domination. For many years that was the case. For instance, my name – Tubman, when I say I am a Liberian, they say ‘he is Americo-Liberian’ but I am a Liberian because although my father was an Americo–Liberian, my mother is a Grebo woman, so I am a mixture of the reality of our country. And I have an appeal that is responded to by Americo-Liberians and non-Americo-Liberians. I have always felt – and I believe it – that the strength of our country will come to the fore if we bring the elements together.

In 2011, you pulled out of the run-off, but the Carter Centre and the African observers said your claims of rigging were not substantiated. Do you regret pulling out?

I was not afraid that I was going to lose. We were cheated in the first round and we said so.  The people who had done the cheating were the same people we were being called upon to prove to them that what we were saying was true. And because we couldn’t do that, they said we didn’t want to go forward because we knew we were going to lose. But that was not true. Every time we say something to our people, for example, just before there was a referendum, Mrs. Sirleaf and her people were proposing various changes to the constitution which we felt were not warranted and asked for the process to be boycotted. It was a total failure. When we came to the elections, they came up with a result that we felt did not reflect what we had done and it came in the way they had announced it. One moment they said Mrs. Sirleaf’s side had won, then they came up with a finding that we had won.

And both were made public?

Yes, both were public and in the end they said they made a mistake in the second round; that it was a slip of reporting. But we knew that we had done better than they were saying we had done. So, we said it was not acceptable. When we came to the second round, we said we would not go to the second round because they did not cheat us in the first to let us win in the second round, and so we said we would boycott the second round, which we did.

Why didn’t you challenge this anomaly in court?

Well, I couldn’t challenge for the fact that I said we would boycott. It was a decision we had made. So we did not go down that route of challenging it in the court.

Do you regret boycotting the run-off?

No, I don’t regret that decision. I believe all that is happening now has put us in the position where we are now. And if we can come up with our ticket and put before the Liberian people again, we would have the strength that we will not otherwise have. This is the time for us to come forward, unite the nation and lead it.

Between then and now, what has changed?

A lot has changed in the sense that the government that has now ruled our country for 12 years by the time it ends has not produced what they have promised. For example, the president said that the fight against corruption would be priority but we all agree today that corruption is worse than it had ever been.  Nepotism is flourishing. When President was attacking the Tubman regime, she said nepotism was a bad thing. Now when she talks about nepotism, she says ‘Tubman has more people to choose from and she has fewer, and so she chooses her people because they have her values’. That is a redefinition of nepotism. So we think that the Liberian people have seen all of these and that they are not satisfied.  Because she was the first woman leader in Africa, she gained a lot international support, respect and influence; she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  She has travelled around the world where she is recognised. I don’t decry that because it brought our country to the fore of international attention which it never had.  For instance, when Ebola came along, because of that international prestige she had, she was able to make appeals and we were able to get all kinds of attention that we otherwise might not have had. But even at that, a lot of monies that came went down due to corruption.  People ask me, ‘how will you manage to stop corruption?’  But I tell them, ‘I won’t say I will stop corruption but I will use people who are not known to be corrupt; people who have the yearning to stop corruption. In Nigeria, people have a yearning to stop corruption but how do you stop it? So many people are involved. In Liberia, we say if you pull a rope, the rope will pull bush and maybe the whole forest down; that will be very difficult. But if you start using the young people, because they haven’t had all this baggage, because they haven’t been contaminated, they will feel a sense that they too must bring something to the table so they can make a difference on how the country is governed.

But young people are learning from the much older ones; they are Liberians; they have been in the system during this period of corruption. What’s the redemption in the young people?

The redemption is that they will now be playing a role, calling the shots and not just taking orders. Their views will be brought to the fore, benefitting me and the country. One of the things I find in our politics right now is people who are claiming that they are the best to lead the country because they have big businesses and have employed many people. When you pay them, you pay them for their work, you don’t buy their votes. Their votes must be used for their interests and the interest of the country.  But we don’t make that claim; we don’t want people to vote for us because we have a big plantation. The great leaders of this world like Winston Churchill did not have any big business but when the time came and his country was in peril of destruction, he stepped out to the fore and did what was needed to provide what was needed to lead that victory. Also Franklin Roosevelt was an invalid in a wheelchair. He wasn’t going to schools around, helping people and doing charity, but he was able to bring the country together and face the depression and bring new hope to the republic. He was able to be the kind of leader that led the country until he died. So, leadership depends on people who can bring forth ideas that people in the country can recognize, and this is what we believe we will be to bring.

In 2010, Liberia had one of the fastest population growths (over 4%) in the world. Do you think this is a problem especially in the face of dwindling resources?

Why do you speak of dwindling resources? This administration has had more resources to work with than any previous administration because of the international prestige we enjoy. We have had a lot of input from international sources. We have attracted more investment into our natural resources and if we had good government in the country, we would be able to use our resources better.

Would you then say that at the rate the population is growing, the economy will be able to support it?

I think our limitations have been caused by poor leadership. The resources are there. If you organise the country, put corruption down, utilise people who are more committed and not those seeking benefits for themselves, we would be able to move the country forward.

Some would say Sirleaf Johnson’s leadership has helped to stabilise Liberia. But in an interview with BBC’s Focus Africa, you called her a warmonger undeserving of the Noble Peace Prize. Do you regret saying that or do you still feel so?

You know, that day when the news came, I hadn’t heard it. So when I was asked that question, the interviewer was the person telling me that this had happened, so my response was spontaneous, and more fact and less politically correct than it should have been, but I was speaking what I felt. I have not had cause to change that position. Mrs. Sirleaf was known to have called for burning down the executive mansion, that she would rebuild it. Luckily (for I don’t know who) within a few months after she became president, there was a big fire at the executive mansion and she has not been able to fix it back. All these years she has been making her office in the foreign ministry and she hasn’t been living in the presidential mansion. I don’t think I was totally wrong and, in any case, I expressed those views at that time in that manner because of how it came to me and that was my spontaneous reaction to what happened.

In 1990, you travelled to the US to canvass the support of the United States for the Doe regime at that time. If in retrospect you still feel strongly as you said at that time that Johnson Sirleaf was a warmonger, now there are people who would also say that they are appalled that you supported a despicable and unwanted government like that to remain in power; what do you think about that?

I didn’t want his government to remain in power. The war was escalating, spreading throughout the country. People were being killed in their thousands, fleeing the country, and I felt that we needed a way of ending it. And I knew of the importance of America’s involvement in our country and that they, more than anybody else, could help us bring that problem under control.

I was not a minister in that government at that point in time, but because I wanted to be able to go to America and speak for Liberia, I felt that I should become a member of his government in other that he might entrust me with that responsibility. And within a week after I decided to become a member of his government, he sent me to the United States as the head of a delegation of his ministers, the head of his party to bring our case to the Americans. And I went to the American government and I said, ‘Look, Liberia is on the brink of being destroyed. This is a country that you’ve had historic relations with from the very start. Only you can now step in to help us stop and end this war, because if it doesn’t stop, it would destroy Liberia. And the Americans said to me, ‘Tamar, what you are saying to us is like music to our ears. Are you sure you are speaking here for something that Doe is involved with?’ I said ‘yes I’m sure’.  They said ‘OK,  go back and tell him, if he would stop the war and call for early elections, we would go to the Congress and get the resources to come and intervene to help. But as it is now, we cannot come in because the Liberians would say, “this Samuel Doe man is not a new phenomenon; he brought problems before, you supported him, you said it was a start of democracy. If we come now when the Liberians have given their blood – died for it – they would say we are doing the same thing again. So you go home and tell him that.” And I went home. I sat in front of Doe with the delegation I had taken to Washington. He had members of the crew who were his lieutenants and they were telling him what I wasn’t telling him. They were telling him everything that was happening. So he said, ‘Tubman, you are a lawyer, you wrote our constitution (you were the lawyer there), where in our constitution does it say that we can have early elections? Why do you think I will sit here and allow the Americans make a fool of us?’ I said ‘No, you are right. We don’t have in our constitution any provision for early election. But you remember, some years ago, you said the Supreme Court was corrupt and you asked the members to resign and when they all resigned, you were able to appoint people who you felt would end this problem of corruption. Now you have the same thing. If you would resign because of the problems, the vice president would step up and we would be able to have a change without violating the constitution…’

(Cuts in) You were taking huge risk…

A huge risk, but it was spontaneous, just like my answer to the question of Mrs.  Johnson Sirleaf. If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have said those things that I said. But they came spontaneously and so it was really my true feelings coming out, and Samuel Doe sat there behind his presidential desk. For one full minute he could not say a word. Until one of the people who he had planted on the delegation said, ‘Oh no Mr. President, you cannot resign. Liberia people expect you to stay and to support them. We have to stop Charles Taylor from coming down to our country,’ and that was my last encounter with Samuel Doe. I took a risk, but I wasn’t aware why I took such risk and then I said, ‘Mr President, I’m very sorry I have to leave the country. My daughter is graduating from Harvard; I have to go to her graduation. I will leave tomorrow. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve our country’.

You were running for your life…

No. I was genuinely going to my daughter’s graduation (laughs).

How do you remember Doe now?

Doe was somebody who was influenced by President Tubman’s effort to unite the country. I remember I made a commencement speech one year, and I said, all the effort to change the country, to do this, to unite the country, things are worse now than they ever were. And the people said to Doe, ‘how can you allow this man to speak this way?! Arrest him! Put him in jail!’ And he didn’t. And when I saw President Doe subsequently, he said, ‘You know what? People told me to do this, but if you are a Tubman, whether you like me or you don’t like me, I would do nothing to you because Tubman was a good force for unifying this country, and I respect that’. So, I had good relations with Doe, the Tubmans were respected. We are enjoying that because of what President Tubman, in his way, had tried to do. I have seen myself as somebody who can build on that. In his case, he was a total American-Liberian, in my case I am not a total American-Liberian. I can see that the country will move forward better if we have our people more united. And because of what he did, more people know the name now, so that, for instance, I came into the political fore from being in the CDC. When I went up country, people recongnised me because I was Tubman. They did not have a negative reaction to that name.

Some would say President Johnson’s leadership helped to avert the Ebola outbreak crisis in Liberia, what would you say about that?

Well, I have already said. I said that because of her fame, the fact that she was internationally renowned and respected, she was able to make appeals for help which was responded to. That probably would not have been responded to so overwhelmingly had it been someone else less well known. So she did help us in that regard.

So you think she performed very well during that great crisis?

She did that. Because of who she was, she was able to attract attention.  As I also said, a lot of aid that were given to us were stolen by various people in her government.

Do you have proof of that?

I don’t have a proof of that.

So why did you say it?

Because I have heard it.  And it’s not for me to prove it. If they haven’t done it, let them come out and say it. Many of the ministers have been involved. I was at a programme here in Lagos where the question of corruption was talked about. Under your system and ours, he who alleges must prove, but one of the things the speaker said was that in corruption cases, it should be turned around. I mean, if you see someone with $50 million or pounds in his possession and you have to prove where he got it from, it won’t be easy. But, you don’t have that income, you have $50 million, explain where you got it from. And if he couldn’t explain it, then you already have a way of getting xx. And I thought that was a good thing and I said, ‘Have you done that successfully in Nigeria?’ He said, ‘Well, we will like to try it. And I think that for us, in Liberia, too, the fight against corruption is a real necessity; maybe this is something we could try to try and to get at these stolen funds that so many people have.

What do you think Liberia needs most at this time?

What Liberia needs most at this time is the involvement of more people in what goes on in the country; let them understand and participate in it. We don’t need saviours coming from outside or inside to turn things around. We need people who can inspire the people themselves – especially the young people – to become participants in making a change in their lives and the life of the country. That’s what we need most. We have a lot of goodwill abroad; Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has been able to bring more. Once stability comes back to the country, good government comes back to the country, the natural resources we have, including the energy and intelligence of our people, will enable us to provide the things that we need most to move the country forward.

People sometimes accuse you of feeding off the legacy of your uncle, William Tubman, doing so conveniently; do think that that is correct?

Well, I have never disowned him. I have the connection that I have, not that I went into the super market and got it.  It’s something that I have. If it’s beneficial, I shouldn’t reject it for that reason. Yes, it benefits me, but as I have said earlier, it’s not what I am running on; it’s not what I’m trying to exploit.

In 2009, former President Charles Taylor accused President Obasanjo of setting him up for arrest; was that the widely held sentiment in Liberia at the time?

I wasn’t in the country at the time, so I don’t know how people felt. I know that’s how Charles Taylor felt.

He actually said that in 2009…

He knew what he was talking about, but I’m not in the position to say if that is true or not.

What’s your relationship with Obasanjo?

Good. He’s a friend of mine.

Did you ever meet President Goodluck Jonathan?

Yes, during the campaign. He played the role that Nigeria always plays in our politics. He wanted to make sure that things went forward smoothly. He sent his jet to bring me here to Abuja and I came and met him. And he said, ‘Don’t boycott the second round.’ I said, ‘Well, we don’t think after what happened this is what we should do? He said, ‘You can never tell, you could wait six months and you may do badly or you go now you could do well. I would say to you, go and do it.’ But when I went back, I didn’t do it.  I stuck to what we had already decided – that we would boycott the second round. I don’t think he would have peace with me for that. But that was how I felt. And then, on the eve of the election, the government sent security people to confront us and they shot at us. I myself was in the line of fire and somebody, one of the security guards guarding me, stood where I would have been standing and he was shot dead. So, it was a very bloody day…

That was close…

Yes, very close. Yes, I had that relationship with President Goodluck. He tried to help us in that way.

You should have taken some of his good luck away…

Maybe I took it. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t hit by the bullet.

What do you think about his leadership?

Goodluck? I thought that, at the end of it, when people thought that Nigeria might implode, he conceded. And that was a great contribution. I remember at a time, lots of people were saying he was a bad man, he was a corrupt man… but I said that he prevented bloodshed in Nigeria, maybe he should win the prize that is given for leadership in Africa, because if he saved Nigeria from what should have been a bloodbath, that should be recognised. And I was reading the papers since I’ve been here that he said he gave that as one of his best service in Nigeria, and I think Buhari doesn’t disagree.

Back to Obasanjo, we know that Obasanjo is also a very good friend of Mrs. Sirleaf Johnson and she would like her deputy to take over from her , and you have described Obasanjo as a very good friend.

Well, he was my friend before we got to this.

Have you shared your thoughts with him? Does he support your candidacy?

I haven’t shared my thoughts with him to that extent, but he was my friend before. I hope he still is.

You think he would back you instead of Johnson’s candidate?

Well, I don’t know how he would react but Mrs. Sirleaf herself is not a candidate anymore.

But she has a candidate…

And I’m telling you that Liberia people are looking for change rather than for continuity. I think President Obasanjo would recognise and see that point.

What one big lesson have you learnt in politics?

Nothing is achieved until it is achieved. And you can never assume that you have the answer; you don’t. And no one person has the answer. You have to go out there, meet the people, hear their views and only after that would you be in the position to really think how to solve their problems. All these people who see themselves as messiahs are wrong; they don’t lead the country well.  The country would be safe by itself, by the people themselves becoming involved and helping find the solutions that are needed.

Have you met President Sirleaf Johnson recently?

I meet her often.

Your last meeting with her, was it friendly?

I wouldn’t think that she would see me as a best friend, because during the campaign, I think she saw me as the person who attacked her most. If I said she didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, I don’t think she would see that as a friendly response. But that apart, I have been able to live successful in Liberia. I haven’t been forced out as she had been forced previously to leave the country. I can live there, I run my law firm, I don’t get the best response from the client base that’s there, but at least I’m here, and I don’t feel molested by her government.

Finally, share with us your vision of Liberia; where do you see Liberia in the next 5, 10, 20 years?

I think a lot would depend on the elections that are coming up. Of course, it will be easy to say that we want that to be a great thing. But as for what I am saying, it should be smooth, it should be free and fair, it should be peaceful. If we can have that transition from this government to the government that people would freely choose, I think we would be able to put the country on the base whereby we move forward to a more prosperous future. The country is well endowed with resources; we have a good international standing; we are connected to the United States in a way that no other African country is connected because of our historical links; we have good relations with Nigeria. You mentioned the role that Obasanjo has played; it’s not something personal. He’s done it as Nigeria’s leader and this would continue to be the case, like we had with previous Nigerian leaders. And I am sure if we respond to it the same way as historically, we would continue to have good relations with Nigeria.

What inspires you?

Largely, President Tubman did, just like in the family you are inspired by your father or mother. In this case you could smell his cigar smoke, the air-condition coolness and the confidence he exuded, and I felt that I would like to be like that when I grow up. That’s what inspired me.

*Source The Interview

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July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.

It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.


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Is AFRICOM all that bad?
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Laura Seay*

Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of Operation Flintlock in an army base in N’djamena, Chad, on Monday March 9, 2015. The U.S. military and its Western partners conduct this training annually. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of Operation Flintlock in an army base in N’djamena, Chad, on Monday March 9, 2015. The U.S. military and its Western partners conduct this training annually. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Founded in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has a public relations problem. Before 2007, the U.S. military had interests and involvement in Africa, but these occurred under three separate regional commands which each had responsibility for different parts of the continent. AFRICOM ended that rather arbitrary distinction, bringing all of Africa’s 54 independent states under the same umbrella. But the largely bureaucratic move, which was meant to better centralize and coordinate American security activities on the continent, produced at best suspicious reactions, and, at worst, elaborate conspiracy theories bearing no relationship to fact that, nonetheless, can have a profound impact on the way African militaries and individuals perceive and interact with American military personnel and policy makers.

It’s not hard to see why. The history of United States policy in Africa is largely its Cold War history, and for Africans in particular, memories of those engagements are not often happy ones. Whether propping up dictators in the name of containment or turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by anti-communist forces, the United States earned a reputation for meddling and causing problems for Africa and its people throughout the Cold War. For many observers, it is hard to see how AFRICOM could be anything other than simply the latest iteration of neo-imperialist engagement by yet another bunch of shady, secretive white men sporting khakis, polo shirts, and crew cuts.

The world has changed, though, and the environment in which AFRICOM and other U.S. security engagement occurs in Africa is vastly different from the one America’s Cold Warriors imagined. The global War on Terror has driven American involvement in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, while advocates successfully lobbied for and got the placement of 100 American special operations forces in the Central African Republic, where they advise Ugandan troops searching for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony. The American military also engaged in perhaps its most purely humanitarian effort in Liberia in 2014 in an effort to halt the Ebola epidemic. This approach to Africa is far more diverse and complex than that the United States faced in the Cold War.

It’s into this environment that the 12 academic and practitioner authors featured in an engaging new volume, “The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development?,” step. Edited by Jessica Piombo, a civilian, associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, the volume aptly shows that simplistic, conspiracy-minded ideas about what AFRICOM is “really” up to ignore the very real purposes of U.S. engagement in Africa as well as the complicated nature of that engagement. “The US Military in Africa” shows that the relationship between U.S. security assistance to the continent and other American foreign policy goals are sometimes poorly coordinated and do not always fit traditional conceptions of the ways that security and development assistance ought to interact.

As Piombo notes, the volume operates under the assumption that “security, governance, and development are inextricably linked,” in U.S. Africa policy. Poorly governed — and thus poorly developed — states are ripe for insecurity. “Given this,” she writes, “the US military has attempted to create new programs that involve a range of government and nongovernment actors in new security programs that focus on more than just training and equipping African militaries.” This approach constitutes a new approach to security in Africa, one that requires a higher level of integration between civil servants, military personnel on the ground, and interagency communication.

As the authors detail in a wide variety of case studies, this isn’t easy. Bureaucrats in the State Department and at USAID may not want to work with military actors given the need to ensure that aid workers and diplomats are not equated with military actors in the eyes of local civilians. Moreover, as Andrea Talentino argues, AFRICOM’s tendency to focus on formulaic benchmarks as signs of “successful democratization” or other forms of development rather than the slow process of building the institutions of democracy that takes time and considerably more effort is problematic. Clarence Bouchet’s chapter shows that American military engagement as it currently exists in Africa is too shallow and piecemeal to actually achieve American security goals in the region.

Why? G. William Anderson points out that U.S. Africa policy still focuses more on response to crisis than preventing those crises in the first place. Teresa Crawford and Trina Zwicker show that military coordination with nongovernmental organizations and other civil society organizations in crisis situations is a complicated matter, even when the intentions of all involved are to help serve humanitarian needs. Fundamentally, military and humanitarian actors have different modes of operation, ideas about hierarchies, and bases of knowledge. Even if they share the same goal, working together can be nearly impossible as a result of these differing norms.

In short, it’s complicated. Determining what should and should not be U.S. policy aims in Africa and what the relationship between security and development actors should look like (if it should exist at all) is no easy task. The authors do not gloss over these challenges, nor do they offer an unquestioning defense of American Africa policy. Those looking to explore these questions — and to debunk myths about AFRICOM’s capabilities and aims in Africa — would do well to read “The US Military in Africa” and to keep its critical reflections in mind.

*Washington Post

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Visa Free by 2018? Africa’s Open Visa Policy
June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Michelle DeFreese*

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

African citizens currently face some of the most stringent visa restrictions in the world. According to the Africa Visa Openness Index Report launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB), citizens of African countries require visas to travel to 55% of countries within the continent. Within the next two years, however, the implementation of a proposed common visa policy under the African Union’s (AU) 2063 Agenda, a strategic document outlining the vision for African development, could profoundly impact the continent in terms of intra-regional trade, economic development, and regional integration.

While the AU’s visa-free travel proposal represents both challenges and opportunities for the security and economy of Africa, previous examples by regional communities and individual countries suggest that the benefits will outweigh the risks. As the plan moves from policy to implementation, the African common visa policy has the potential to impart substantial economic incentives through the removal of trade barriers, increased tourism and investment opportunities, and job creation.

The AU’s 2063 Agenda contains plans for a common visa policy with three primary components: visa-on-arrival for all African nationals, mandatory granting of a minimum 30-day visa for African citizens visiting any African country by 2018, and the ambitious goal of a single, continental passport by 2020. Challenges of implementing the plan include associated risks of widespread economic migration, the movement of illegal goods, cross-border terrorism, and the issue of stateless individuals. Nevertheless, significant progress has been made – regionally and nationally – with benefits that demonstrate the effectiveness of the policy in terms of stimulating economic growth.

The importance of regional integration was also discussed during the 2013 AfDB Annual Meeting, during which Professor Mthuli Ncube, AfDB Vice President and Chief Economist, stated, “Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest visa requirements. Visa restrictions imply missed economic opportunities for intra-regional trade and for the local service economy such as tourism, cross-country medical services or education.”

Thus far, regional communities within Africa have made variable progress towards the goal of a pan-African, visa-free policy with largely positive results and spillover effects: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) introducedfree movement between member states in 1979; a single visa is in place enabling nationals of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) free movement; a common visa policy unites Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the East African Community (EAC) now has a single tourist visa available for visitors to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda coupled with an East African passport that allows citizens freedom of movement within the trading bloc. Following the adoption of the EAC common visa policy, both Uganda and Rwanda benefited from increased tourism revenues by 12% and 8% respectively. According to the AfDB’s Africa Tourism Monitoring Report, comparable visa liberalization schemes could increase tourism by 5-25%.

Individual countries, including the Seychelles, Ghana, and Rwanda, have also made significant efforts to ease visa restrictions on travelers. The Seychelles is one of the few visa-free countries that does not require a visa for citizens of any country upon arrival. After adopting the policy, international tourism arrivals to the country increased by an average of 7% per year between 2009 and 2014. Ghana has adopted the 2063 Agenda’s visa-free policy, which will be formally introduced in July 2016. Rwanda in particular has made significant strides to ease visa restrictions for African nationals, and provides an important example of the potential for the adoption of the visa-free policy in other countries. According to the AfDB, Rwanda’s 2013 visa-free policy for African nationals resulted in several positivebenefits in terms of economic development; these include an estimated 24% increase in tourism arrivals from African countries and a 50% increase in intra-African trade. Trade with the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone increased by 73% since the implementation of the policy.

Beyond the implications for the continent, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, has suggested that visa-free travel within Africa could potentially reduce emigration to other continents. At the same time, reduced visa restrictions will necessitate advances in electronic border management systems and improved interoperability of security architecture to address the increased risks of trafficking and cross-border crime.

Examples of the successful implementation of visa-free policies by regional communities and individual countries – and the benefits that have followed – are compelling arguments for the implementation of the AU’s common visa policy for the continent. For a continent that is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and a burgeoning middle class, the dissolution of barriers to trade, increased free movement, and bolstered tourism will foster an unprecedented growth of untapped markets critical for the realization of thecontinued rise of Africa.

*HuffPost.Michelle DeFreese is a consultant with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) based in Tanzania. She completed her Master’s degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and is an Africa Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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African Agriculture Can Help Tackle Refugee Crisis
June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ray Jordan*

2016-06-21-1466539044-1639912-9402394820-thumbFigures released on World Refugee Day this week showed there are currently an estimated 65 million displaced people in the world – more than at any time in history.

As the head of an international agricultural development organisation working in Africa, I am often asked why we don’t work to address the current migrant crisis from Africa that has overwhelmed Europe.

The question directed to me is usually a sincere one, not borne of xenophobia or racism, but rather from a deep frustration that in our advanced and sophisticated 21st century society we should not be witnessing such scenes, night after night on our television screens.

My answer to such questions is a short one. We are.

For it is only by improving the economic circumstances of rural poor people in Africa that we will ultimately provide them with an acceptable alternative to the hugely risky, life-threatening and demeaning choices currently being taken by millions, as they uproot from their communities and take their lives into their own hands in search of ‘a better life’ somewhere else.

Noone who has ever visited a refugee camp, which I have done many times during a 30-years career that included many years in humanitarian relief, would ever describe these places as anything other than a stopgap. As the name itself suggests it is a place of refuge from something terrible that is occurring elsewhere. It is not the ‘better life’ that millions are taking huge risks to seek out.

EU plan, announced this month, sets out a framework that the Union believe can tackle some of the root causes of migration from Africa.

While the ‘carrot and stick’ approach in these proposals – which include a combination of aid and trade incentives – has been criticized by some African countries, and by aid organisations, it should be viewed as a step towards addressing the underlying cause of much of the current crisis, poverty.

Only by boosting growth in economies, creating jobs, and ensuring that countries can provide a future for their populations will the current flood of migration be resolved.

Building walls, Brexit opt-out campaigns or any number of breaches by Euro states of the Schengen freedom of movement charter are reactions, rather than solutions, to a problem that has been with us for generations. 2016-06-21-1466539089-2782849-308662801.png

For too long we have failed to properly solve the problem of extreme poverty that continues to cast an enormous shadow across developing countries of the world. That there are almost 800 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty – that’s one in nine of our global population – is proof enough that we are continuing to fail the poorest, and the most vulnerable.

In the current clamour over immigration to Europe it is often overlooked that such mass movement of people is placing a huge burden on the fabric of society across Africa, as well.

Figures released in 2015 showed that the top six destinations for African refugees and migrants were within the continent of Africa itself. The figures were: Ethiopia (659,524), Kenya (551,352), Chad (452,897), Uganda (385,513), Cameroon (264,126) and South Sudan (248,152), who collectively were accommodating 2,561,564 people of foreign origin in camps within their countries.

Interviews that have been given by refugees themselves – whether in Kenya or in Calais – tell us that if given the choice, the vast majority of those who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe would not do so, if their futures at home were not so bleak. 2016-06-21-1466539145-4152959-3404324560.png

People aren’t only moving across international borders in search of a better life either. There is also an accelerating pattern of rural to urban migration taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that is placing a huge burden on national services.

Africa will become the most rapidly urbanized region on the planet in the coming 25 years, as the number of people living in its cities is projected to soar to 56% of the population, according to UN estimates. That means that many more shantytowns like Kiberi, an urban slum of one million people outside Nairobi, Kenya, will spring up across Africa in the years to come.

At Self Help Africa our focus is on supporting rural poor communities to support their populations through an innovative mix of agricultural and enterprise development activities.

By supporting rural poor households to grow more, and access profitable markets for their produce, Africa’s small-scale farming families can realise the better future that they desire for themselves and their communities.

There is no quick fix to the problems of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, just as there is no quick fix to the current migrant crisis in Europe. But there are many steps that can be taken to move us in the right direction.

Self Help Africa believes that by contributing to the creation of an economically vibrant African agricultural sector, we can play our part in tackling this challenge.

And in the same way, the announcement by the European Union of a combination of new aid and trade deals with Africa to support economic growth, has to be regarded as a positive approach to a crisis that has been going on for too long.

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June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments
USAID announces dedication of up to $27 million in funding to directly support Let Girls Learn; Peace Corps expands Let Girls Learn Liberia with 51 new Peace Corps Trainees and 23 Peace Corps Response Volunteers


Michelle Obama arrives at Robert International Airport near Harbel, Liberia, on Monday, with her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson. (Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters)

Michelle Obama arrives at Robert International Airport near Harbel, Liberia, on Monday, with her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson. (Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters)

In March 2015, the President and First Lady launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. Government initiative aimed at ensuring adolescent girls across the world attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The initiative brings together the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and other agencies to address the range of challenges – both in and out of the classroom – that make it difficult for over 62 million girls to get the educations they deserve. Building on U.S. Government investments and expertise, Let Girls Learn develops new programs, elevates existing programs, leverages public-private partnerships, and engages non-governmental organizations, governments, and private sector partners to commit to improving the lives of adolescent girls worldwide.

Today, the U.S. Government announces new programming in Liberia to help address the barriers that prevent girls from attaining an education. Through these programs, the U.S. Government hopes to help improve the future for adolescent girls in Liberia. The new commitments announced today build on more than $20 million in existing contributions made by a variety of organizations to the Let Girls Learn initiative and announced by the First Lady earlier this month as part of the United State of Women Summit. 
“I am thrilled that we are making these new investments in adolescent girls’ education and deepening our partnership with the Government of Liberia,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “These girls are so bright and so eager to learn, and these investments will help them build the knowledge and skills they need to provide for themselves and their families and contribute fully to their communities and their country.”
Last week, in an effort to encourage people around the world – especially young people – to follow her trip and engage on the issue of adolescent girls’ education, the First Lady launched her Snapchat account with the help of Ellen DeGeneres, The Late Late Show with James Corden,, and Netflix’s Gilmore Girls. To follow the First Lady’s trip, add her on Snapchat: MichelleObama.
New Commitments to Let Girls Learn
USAID is dedicating up to $27 million in funding to directly support Let Girls Learn through several new programs in Liberia, including:
●     New Accelerated Quality Education (AQE) Activity:  This new program focuses on increasing enrollment and safe access to education. It will include: training teachers, administrators and policymakers to prevent gender-based violence (GBV); assisting Parent Teacher Associations to reduce GBV; ensuring the policies, systems, and resources are available to the Liberian Ministry of Education to address school-related GBV; and designing curricula to ensure gender-sensitive content.
●     Launching the “Let Girls Learn Challenge” for Liberia: In partnership with Liberia’s Ministry of Education, USAID is launching a “Let Girls Learn Challenge” that invites external partners to participate in a process to co-create, co-design, and co-invest in the research, development, piloting, and testing of innovative, practical and cost-effective interventions to advance adolescent girls’ education.
●     Increasing Support for Out-of-School Girls and Youth: Over the next five years, USAID will expand its work to provide out-of-school adolescent girls and other youth with improved access to basic education and training in work readiness, technical skills and leadership development.
●     Providing Support for the Education of Girls with Disabilities: USAID will advance a public-private partnership to support Liberia’s Ministry of Education and other partners in expanding the Liberia School for the Blind to include a separate dormitory and Water and Sanitation for Health (WASH) facility for adolescent girls.
The Peace Corps is proud to expand its Let Girls Learn program in Liberia with 51 new Peace Corps Trainees and 23 Peace Corps Response Volunteers working primarily in the education sector.
●     Returning Volunteers: These volunteers will be placed in all 15 counties in Liberia, and represent the return of Peace Corps volunteers following a 10 month suspension of the program due to the outbreak of Ebola.
●     Expanding Curriculum: As a Let Girls Learn country, Peace Corps Liberia is expanding adolescent girl-focused activities, such as promoting self-esteem and leadership skills, as well as improving menstrual hygiene management through camps and clubs.
●     Girl-Centered Programming: Peace Corps Liberia operates Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camps, funded by USAID’s Small Projects Assistance Fund, where 35 Liberian girls (age 16-25) work together to become role models to others in their schools and communities.  The overarching goal of the program is to empower girls by providing them with the tools to gain knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become successful, strong, confident women and to promote safe, healthy, inclusive, and resilient communities.
●     Working with Local Leaders: Partnering with the Ministry of Education, Peace Corps Liberia conducts Student Friendly Schools workshops with Principals and educators on the importance of providing a safe place for girls to learn, lesson planning and other professional development opportunities.
●     Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund: Peace Corps’ community-based approach entails volunteers working with communities to identify the barriers facing adolescent girls who want to attend and stay in school.  Through the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund, volunteers work with communities to implement projects ranging from creating safe schools, to providing basic needs such as bathrooms, to supporting libraries and workshops such as “Girls Leading Our World” — or GLOW Camps — which encourage self-confidence and leadership among adolescent girls. To date, the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn fund has supported over 200 projects, with more than 200 in the pipeline.
Ongoing United States initiatives to overcome barriers to adolescent girls’ education in Liberia:
USAID has a long history of partnership with Liberia and others to reduce barriers to adolescent girls’ education, including the following ongoing programs:
●     The Education Crisis Response Program works to keep adolescent girls in school by partnering with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund to rehabilitate bathrooms and wells in 120 primary schools, reaching approximately 8,000 adolescent girls in counties hardest hit by the 2014/2015 Ebola outbreak.
●     The Advancing Youth Program (AYP) provides increased access to quality basic education services, social and leadership development, and livelihoods for approximately 2,800 adolescent girls who are unschooled or out of school, and who have no or marginal literacy and numeracy skills.
Through the Education Quality and Access In Liberia (EQUAL) initiative,USAID promotes safe, child-friendly school environments for approximately 3,864 adolescent girls in Grand Bassa by preparing Parent Teacher Associations, school principals, and community ‘change makers’ to improve gender equality in education and respond to and prevent school-related GBV; and piloting safe school initiatives in 10 communities across Liberia.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s investment of $6.2 million in its Actions to Reduce Child Labor (ARCH) projecthelps adolescent girls engaged in or at-risk of entering exploitative child labor in rubber growing areas. In response to food insecurity as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease, ARCH is also implementing a school feeding and garden program, ensuring better nutrition for children, including adolescent girls, attending school.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole International Food For Education and Child Nutrition Program operates a $20 million, four-year award program in 10 Liberian counties that helps to ensure adolescent girls, grades 4-6, remain in school by providing a monthly take-home ration if they maintain an 80 percent or higher attendance rate.
*Source White House Office of First Lady
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Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Obi Anyadike*

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 - Obi Anyadike/IRIN

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 – Obi Anyadike/IRIN

The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.

Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.

But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.

The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.

What happens now?

The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.

Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces

But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.

AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.

Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.

Who pays the piper

The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”

The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.

Ugandan soldier AMISOM
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Ugandan soldier AMISOM

At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.

“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”

Tricky two-step

According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.

First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.

The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.

Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.


The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.

Ugandan AMISOM APCs Mogadishu
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
AMISOM staging area, Mogadishu

“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.

Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.

In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.

The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.

It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.

But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”

Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.


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A Trip to Nairobi Inspired This One-of-a-Kind Company
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

I majored in biology in college and thought I’d become a doctor. But I also wanted to travel. So as a way to do both, I spent years with international humanitarian organizations. The work was satisfying, but the social life was challenging: My colleagues would go back to their hotel at night — in part because they were almost all older than me, but also because they were fearful of the potentially unsafe, unfamiliar cities we were in. I didn’t want to be this far from home and not experience a place fully, so I often went out. And I discovered amazing things.

From a rooftop party at an advertising agency to road-tripping across the country for a DJ set, I was exposed to a side of Africa I’d never seen before. These were cosmopolitan movers and shakers, but distinctly African. In 2011, I met up with a photographer in Johannesburg; through her lens, I met entertainers, artists and other influencers. A year later, I connected with a sorority sister in Nairobi, Kenya, who was working on MTV’s African youth culture series Shuga. The show’s producer, fashion designer and filmmaker took me out to restaurants and nightclubs, and I had the time of my life.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. People weren’t exposed to this Africa, and I wanted to connect visitors to it — not just by talking about these amazing things, but by directing people to them.

I spent the next year or so developing Tastemakers Africa, a company to book epic experiences, with epic people, in every African city. In February 2014, I went to Lagos for Social Media Week to show off my early-stage mockup. My session was packed, which confirmed that I was really onto something. I was working for another NGO at the time but quit and joined MediKidz, a VC-backed healthcare startup, to learn more about building a company. The cofounder, Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, was a sales genius. She was super-transparent with me about her funding process, and I saw a lot of her documents and pitch decks, and heard about the screwups. But the biggest thing I learned from Kim was to work harder than hard. Things need to get done in the NGO world, but there isn’t a sense of urgency; Kim always had a sense of urgency.

simien-mountians-e1461450685817By that summer, I had fleshed out a prototype. As a proof of concept, we promoted a “Tastemakers Tour of Ghana” on my Facebook page, and it sold out in weeks. I still wasn’t ready to make it my full-time job, but then MediKidz was bought and I was laid off — so I slammed the gas on the startup. My boyfriend and I closed out our 401(k)s, and I entered an accelerator that gave us $20,000 and then raised another $100,000 from angel investors. I also won first place in a Lagos competition called She Leads Africa, which got me $10,000 and a mentoring network.

We launched our website in December 2014 and ended 2015 with more than $200,000 in experience and concierge bookings. Our app, Tstmkrs, launched in beta in December of last year, and we did $100,000 in Q1 bookings for 2016. We’re still figuring out who and where our audience is and what they’re willing to pay, but we’re learning and growing fast. In five years, we expect to be in at least 40 countries on the continent. We will be the brand, and our connections, support and infrastructure will make us important to many others who come here as well. We’ve already built partnerships with Uber, South African Airways and Radisson Blu (that one’s for a pan-African travel contest in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), and have gotten interest in an acquisition from a large hospitality company. But no matter what happens, I know we’ll have played a huge role in not just how people think about traveling in Africa, but what people think of Africa itself.


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