Successful global epidemic responses put people at the centre
March 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 13, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The COVID-19 outbreak is rightly shining a light on international and national responses to health emergencies—exposing gaps in our systems, showing our strengths and drawing on the valuable experience of responding to other health threats, such as HIV. At UNAIDS, we know that people living with HIV will have some anxiety and questions about the emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19. One of the most important lessons to be drawn from the response to the HIV epidemic is to listen and learn from the people most affected. UNAIDS continues to do so.
It’s important to underline that there is currently no strong evidence that people living with HIV are at an especially increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or, that if they do contract it, they will experience a worse outcome. As in the general population, older people living with HIV or people living with HIV with heart or lung problems may be at a higher risk of getting the virus and of suffering more serious symptoms. As for the general population, people living with HIV should take all recommended preventive measures to minimize exposure and prevent infection. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, it will be important for ongoing research in settings with a high prevalence of HIV in the general population to shed more light on the biological and immunological interactions between HIV and the new coronavirus.
But legitimate measures to contain the virus may have unintended adverse effects on people living with HIV. When the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, UNAIDS conducted a survey of people living with HIV to listen to their needs. A follow-up study has shown that some people living with HIV are beginning to experience challenges in receiving medicine refills. This is leading to some anxiety. In response, UNAIDS has been working with networks of people living with HIV and government officials to support special deliveries of medicines to designated pick-up points. A hotline has been established in China so that people living with HIV can continue to express their concerns while the outbreak persists. With our partners, we will also be closely monitoring developments in global supply chains to ensure that essential medical supplies continue to reach the people who need them and that disruptions to the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients are kept to a minimum.
UNAIDS calls upon countries preparing their COVID-19 responses to ensure that people living with HIV have reliable access to their treatment medications. It’s now urgent that countries fully implement current HIV treatment guidelines from the World Health Organization for multimonth dispensing, ensuring that most people living with HIV are given three months or more of their medications. This will help to alleviate the burden on health facilities should COVID-19 arrive and allow people to maintain their treatment regimens uninterrupted without having to risk increased exposure to COVID-19 when retrieving their medicines.
A primary lesson from the AIDS response is that stigma and discrimination is not only wrong but counterproductive, both for an individual’s own health and for public health outcomes in general. That’s why UNAIDS has been supporting campaigns to reduce stigma and discrimination faced by people affected by COVID-19. We have never beaten a health threat through stigma and discrimination and our response to COVID-19 must be guided by lessons learned through the response to HIV. This includes listening to people affected by the outbreak and establishing trust and communication between people affected and health authorities, even before the disease burden rises.
Our biggest gains against HIV have come in countries that have reduced stigma and discrimination, encouraging people to test for the virus and to seek treatment if necessary. Using communication channels recommended by public health experts, let’s listen to people affected by COVID-19 and apply their lived experience so that we can strengthen our response to the virus.
The deaths caused by the COVID-19 outbreak are tragic and my thoughts go out to their families and loved ones. But if we are smart, the international community and individual countries will use this experience to further strengthen monitoring systems and make adequate investments in health infrastructure, both at the global and national levels. UNAIDS urges governments and health officials across the world not to delay in implementing public education programmes for all their citizens about the practical measures that should be taken to curtail the transmission and spread of the virus at the local level.
A people-centred approach is critical. Everyone must have the right to health—it’s our best defence against global epidemics.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the UNAIDS.
The U.S. is wronging Nigeria and the Energy Industry with Travel Ban
March 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards
By NJ Ayuk*
Including Nigeria in the U.S. travel ban is a political and economical mistake for Trump.
It is difficult to come to terms with the United States’ decision to include Nigeria in the extension he made a few weeks ago to the infamous “Muslim Travel Ban”, which already restricted movements of people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Alongside Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan were also added to the list of countries with entry restrictions. Effectively, with the struck of a pen, or a whim, President Trump barred a quarter of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa from applying for residence in the United States.
Officially, the extension made to these nations is based on security concerns. Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards. Further, Nigeria is singled out for fears that the country harbors terrorists that could pose risks if they entered the U.S.
Much and more of this is difficult to reconcile with the U.S.-Nigeria long-standing allied relations and particularly with recent programs designed to bring the two nations closer together, but before we go there, let’s look at what the reality shows.
Since 1975, not a single incidence of a Nigerian, or for that case Tanzanian or Eritrean, being involved in a terrorist attack on American soil has been recorded. Boko Haram, the extremist group that has terrorized parts of the North of Nigeria (a region from which few migrants come from) in recent years, has never shown any signs of wanting to expand its territory, much less to open remote branches in North America. In fact, the American and Nigerian forces have worked closely together to address that and other challenges, and the Trump administration itself has recognized Nigeria as an “important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism.”
Further, while Tanzanians and Eritreans have been excluded from what is known as the green card lottery system, Nigerians have been barred from applying for permanent residence visas in the United States. In 2018, 14 thousand such visas were issued to Nigerians, making it by far the most affected by the ban from all the new entrants to the list.
Beyond the sheer pain that fact must cause to the thousands of Nigerian families that have been waiting for years to be reunited in the U.S., from a security point of view, the decision makes no sense. Only permanent visas have been suspended. Tourist and work visas remain as usual. How does barring access to the most strict and difficult to obtain visas but maintaining the less restrictive short-term ones prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.? It is nonsensical. Even the fact that the announcement of the extension was made by the media before these countries’ authorities were even notified is telling of how lacking in protocol the process seems.
The whole thing is perplexing, but beyond the issues of principle, this decision has the potential to hurt the relations between these countries and the U.S., and when it comes to Nigeria, that risks hurting the U.S. too. Afterall, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is the U.S.’s second biggest trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa, is Nigeria’s second biggest export destination and is its the biggest source of foreign direct investment. American companies have extensive investments particularly in the energy and mining sectors in Nigeria, which risk being affected by a breakdown in bilateral relations. Some companies, like ExxonMobil, have been operating in the country for nearly 70 years, since even before the country became independent from colonial rule, and Chevron has also been an active and central participant in the country’s oil industry for over forty years. Both these companies are partners in Nigeria’s mid and long-term strategies to curb gas flaring, develop a gas economy, expand oil production, improve its infrastructure network, raise its people out of poverty, etc.
Nigeria and the U.S., under a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, sustain an annual two-way trade of nearly USD$9 billion. When the president of the U.S. makes a decision like this, it can affect the relations the country and these companies uphold with Nigeria. Further, it directly clashes with the U.S.’s strategy to counter Russia’s and China’s growing influence in Africa by expanding its relations with the continent.
How does closing the door to Africa’s biggest powerhouse accomplish that?
The policy established under the 2019 Prosper Africa initiative, that was designed to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa, seems difficult to reconcile with this latest decision. Over the last couple of years, president Trump has made several statements, at varying levels of political correctness, about how he would like to restrict immigration to the U.S. to highly-skilled highly educated-workers. If that is one of the reasons behind the inclusion of Nigeria, again, it fails completely.
Nigerians represent the biggest African community in the U.S., numbering around 350 thousand, and one of the communities with the highest level of education in the US globally. According to the American Migration Policy Institute, 59% of Nigerian immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree. That is higher than the South Korean community (56%), the Chinese community (51%), the British community (50%) or the German community (38%), and it is tremendously higher than the average for American born citizens (33%).
More than 50% of Nigerians working in the U.S. hold white color management positions, meaning they have access to considerable amounts of disposable income and contribute greatly to the American economy. Those are the immigrants the U.S. wants, the ones that built the American dream! Which only makes this decision ever harder to grasp, unless of course, if we consider that this might have nothing to do with security concerns, and all to do with a populist decision designed to please the president’s most conservative support base as we approach the presidential campaign. If that is the case, then American foreign policy has truly reached a dark age.
From his side, President Buhari’s government has done what is possible to appease the situation, setting up a committee to address the security concerns with U.S. officials and INTERPOL, and restating its commitment to “maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security”, Femi Adesina the Spokesman for the Nigerian Presidency said.
Last week, the Nigerian government requested the U.S. administration to remove the country from the travel ban, and also announced a reduction in visa application fees for visiting Americans from $180 to $160, in a symbolic gesture meant to reinforce relations between the two nations.
In the meantime, Nigeria’s and other economies risk suffering from this unexplainable decision, and immigrant Nigerians in the U.S. that had been waiting so patiently for the dream of being reunited with their families in the “land of the free” await a resolution for a problem they did not know existed until a month ago.
*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
#DecadeOfAction: a transformative shift in Zimbabwe’s development trajectory
February 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Georges van Montfort*
This week, representatives of African governments, United Nations Agencies, civil society organisations, private sector, women groups, youth groups and other stakeholders converge in Victoria Falls for the sixth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. Organised annually, the forum provides an opportunity for African countries to advance the implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 through progress reviews; identification of challenges and opportunities, as well as peer learning on transformative solutions for sustainable development.
Across the region, many countries, Zimbabwe included, are currently preparing Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) in the spirit of renewed partnership for the SDGs. These reviews, to be presented at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July, are useful, primarily, for national dialogue and policy formulation, peer learning and strategic positioning of individual African states and the region as a whole.
Here in Zimbabwe, UNDP, together with other members of the United Nations system, are supporting the preparation of the first-ever national SDG Progress Report and the second VNR, to accurately and comprehensively reflect the status of SDGs implementation, highlighting the challenges faced and prospects for the future.
The regional forum and the national review are timely for Zimbabwe as we begin the ‘Decade of Action’ – a decade to deliver a transformed and prosperous Africa. The forum comes at defining time in Zimbabwe’s development journey: at the tail end of the Transitional Stabilization Programme and the start of the preparation for the next National Development Strategy. There is, undoubtedly, a need to look back and learn useful lessons from the SDG implementation over the past five years, a period of difficult economic conditions but nonetheless un-matched resilience by Zimbabweans. It is important for the country to chart a new path for accelerating progress towards the SDGs.
At the continental level, there are great opportunities – Zimbabwe joining the Africa Peer Review Mechanism, and the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) to name a few. This latter holds much promise for the region and its people through promoting intra-regional commerce and boosting the region’s trading position on the global scene by strengthening the African voice within the multilateral trading system. However, Zimbabwe needs to ready itself for this trade openness and promote its export industries and import substitution to fully benefit from this progressive agreement.
The promise of the SDGs – similar to the ambition of Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 – requires a “business unusual” approach to development, a collective and concerted action of all and sundry. The goals are not about poverty reduction, they require poverty eradication, not about improving access to energy, but ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services etc. With only 10 years left to reach the goals, our ambition levels must exceed even that of our dreams. We may not reach all goals in all countries, but we should not fail for want of trying.
Zimbabwe is no exception to this: yes, we recognize the challenges, but those should not cloud our vision or dampen our ambition. This is what development is all about, and success will be possible when we all pull in the same direction to transform the opportunities into tangle benefits for the people, the economy and the environment. The #DecadeOfAction must be a period of concerted and tangible action. Development will not occur by happenstance, and nothing should be left to chance. It is for this reason that I welcome the opportunity that the forum will accord Zimbabwe, being the host, to guide the design of the development of transformative strategies for accelerating progress towards the SDGs and Agenda 2063 in the country and the region as a whole. It is also my hope that the transformative strategies will be translated into action at the national level in Zimbabwe.
Over the next few days, the country has an opportunity to engage with her neighbours and peers from across the region and evolve strategies that deliver the promise of the SDGs – a promise of prosperity for the people in a peaceful environment in harmony with mother nature. UNDP is committed to accompanying the country in its the journey towards the SDG promise – amongst others – by supporting the preparation and implementation of the SDG-based National Development Strategy.
*Mr Georges van Montfort is the UNDP Resident Representative for Zimbabwe
Leave Rwanda-Uganda matter to two Heads of State to decide
February 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Mohammed M. Mupenda*
There are dates you can hardly forget in the event which unfolded between the two countries, Rwanda-Uganda when their communique was made official, those are, an advisory note issued to advise Rwandans not to cross the border to Uganda, Luanda signing pact which never yielded the positive results and the release, deportation of Rwandans who were incarcerated in Uganda’s military cells.
These dates with their happening could always be abrupt to the citizens of both countries and some put a smile on them as they wait to see the outcomes of pact but of course free movement to both citizens is paramount and they would mostly wish to see pact signed in Luanda being implemented as peaceful and diplomatic solution to the row that paralysed business, took peoples’ lives, separated family and friends and made life a misery to both countries’ ordinary citizens.
In the move of having the row ended, Uganda made a surprise towards early this year and released nine detainees who were considered political and accused of espionage to Uganda. This political move ignited various reactions on twitter, Facebook and in the local media. Some activists in Uganda protested the move by calling on Uganda’s government to avail justice to those who believed these people had committed crimes against humanity such as involvement in killing many Rwandans who had fled from Rwanda.
Self worth initiative, the non profit organisation headed by Ms. Prossy Bonabana executive director was the first to protest and others brought it on facebook and twitter supporting the move of which Rwanda citizens and officials including Minister of East African affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe rebuffed the protest and called it off saying that Ms. Prossy Bonabana is serving Rwanda National Congress, the movement Rwanda calls a terrorist group headed by Former Rwanda chief of staff General Kayumba Nyamwasa who currently lives in South Africa.
Ms. Boonabana argued that some of these victims have their husbands, sons and relatives still incarcerated in Kigali safe houses without trial or prisons serving life sentences on politically motivated charges adding that many Rwandan refugees in Uganda have been living in fear.
“It was at the height of cries and quest for justice in 2017 that the relatives of victims took a leading role to voice out and condemn these aggressive activities by the Rwandan security agencies. These Rwandan agents had claimed the lives of many people and had pushed several others to live in constant fear,” she stressed.
Since 2017, the victims have eagerly waited for justice to finally prevail through court systems, only this week to receive a shock of their lives that the government was withdrawing criminal charges against the seven hardcore Rwandan intelligence agents. This, we strongly condemn as miscarriage of justice,” she said.
Despite of the move igniting mixed reactions, most of us, friends, analysts applauded it. And this is because, we were waiting to see the row that has put people’s lives at risk get to an end.
According to Dr. Frederick Goloba-Mutebi, political scientist and an anthropologist, the decision to release them was political, in the interest of repairing relations. On those grounds alone, it was right. The tensions are not good for either country.
But also we have to establish whether the Government of Uganda withdrew charges or lost interest in the case. Whatever it did, however, raises questions about whether it had prima facie evidence against them or not, given they were in custody for 2 years or more.
They can sue, and that will be good, if they have grounds for doing so. It’s their right, if their rights were violated.
Rwanda Ambassador Frank Mugambage said it was (only) a step in the right direction. That suggests it is not enough.
While exchanging chats with friends and family advising them to go ahead to visit families, friends and transact business with Uganda since I knew the borders were opened, to many people, this was a dream which never came true when Rwanda’s Head of State told the diplomats that he is not about to tell his citizens to return to uganda, because he has no control over their safety while there.
Addressing more than 60 diplomats at the Presidency in Kigali on Wednesday evening, Kagame said there were still hundreds of Rwandans in Ugandan jails and that telling his people they were safe in Kampala would be a lie.
This perhaps gave the clearest hint on the progress of the efforts to resolve the dispute between Rwanda and Uganda, indicating the two countries are far from reaching a resolution.
Kagame told Rwandans “just stop going there because if you go there, I have no control. They may arrest you, and your families will come to me and say you have been arrested. And there is nothing I can do about it.”
He revealed that he and Museveni will be going back to Luanda, Angola soon to review the progress in implementing what was agreed in the first meeting in August last year clarifying that the issue is between him and Museveni.
Note that ad hoc commissions failed to reach a solution after meeting in Kigali and Kampala and resolved to consult presidents
It is also said that what’s happening between the two countries is an issue between their two first families
The disappearance of ordinary citizens has not ceased to happen as Uganda citizens keep asking Uganda government about the citizens being killed while trying to cross the border and one of the Ugandan, Kigali based engineer who went missing end of last year.
It is a year now since Rwanda decided to close the Gatuna border with Uganda.
Second Luanda meeting resolutions which set 21st February for next meeting at Gatuna, and this gives hope to many that the border would be opened right away.
*Mohammed M. Mupenda is a news correspondent and freelance reporter, who has written for publications in the United States and abroad. He is also a French and East African language interpreter.
Thanks President Trump for the Travel Ban on African Nations of Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Nigeria and Chad
February 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ben Kazora*
Questions to Ponder Upon
The origin of the name “Africa” stems from the words used by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. Key words include the Egyptian word, “Afru-ika” meaning motherland, the Greek word “aphrike meaning “without cold” as well as “aprica” a Latin word meaning Sunny. Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania holds evidence of the earliest human ancestors. One would venture to say that by extension we are all Tanzanians. Africa as you can already tell is a continent with a rich history, most beautiful cultures, highly educated populous just to mention a few. 25% of all the languages in the entire universe are spoken on this one continent as noted Jared Diamond in his 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Guns, Germs and Steel”.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here” -Trump in January 2018. These remarks included some African countries. On January 31st, 2020 President Trump extended his travel ban to include Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. It’s with this backdrop that I was tempted to delve a little deeper into what Africa’s potential really is and what it takes for her to realize it. Several questions come to mind; With a population of 1.3 billion why is Africa’s GDP merely $2.19 trillion while that of the USA is at a staggering $21.44 trillion? France, United Kingdom, India, Germany and Japan all have higher GDP than all of Africa. Why is Norway’s GDP per capita is $81,485 while that of Burundi’s is $310? Why is Norway 262 times richer than Burundi? Why does it take 24 African nations to aggregate $1 trillion in GDP, far more than any other region in the world? Why does it take 24 African nations to cumulative $1 trillion in GDP—far more than any other region of the world? Why does most of Europe has a single trade zone, the European Union while Africa has 16 trade zone? How come it takes 3 hours or less to reach European countries aggregating 70% of Europe’s GDP and 8 hours for Latin America but 15 hours for a comparable trip in Africa? Why does it cost less to ship a car from Paris to Lagos than from Accra to Lagos? I will proceed to explain my thoughts on how we got here and examine the best means to fully realize our potential. Acha Leke Saf and Yeboah-Amankwah in their Harvard Business Review article titled “ Africa: A Crucible of Creativity” highlighted that Africa has more than 400 companies whose revenue exceeds $1 billion dollars. Surely, Africa has all the precursors to be the world’s largest economy attain her deserving dignity.
A National Geographic report suggested that in by 1850 Africa’s population would have been 50 million instead of 25 million, thanks to slavery. The report goes further to suggest that slavery contributed to the colonization and exploration of the continent. Furthermore, it’s suggested that as a result infrastructure and communities were damaged, and this made Africa vulnerable to colonialism. What was a huge loss to the continent the slaves actually provided a head start the slave traders. Had it not been for the slaves in America, the cost of building industry and agriculture would have been much higher therefore the standard of living would be much lower. Today’s western culture is a hybrid of that of Africa and the local customs. This ranges from food to music. While acknowledging impact of slavery on the continent it’s fair to highlight that the westerners didn’t settle in large numbers. However, they were successful in extracting the continents wealth first the human capital (through slavery) then diamonds, copper and rubber just to mention a few.
Today we see Africa hosting 60% of the world’s arable land that hasn’t been cultivated but still imports $35B worth f food annually. This figure is projected to increase to $110 billion by 2025 if nothing is done. Even more mind boggling is the fact that Africa export raw material out of the continent and turn around to import the same products processed. Africa is essentially contributing to her own poverty by exporting jobs in the process. A 2018 Africa Development Bank report noted that Brazil transformed it tropical Cerrados into a $54 billion food industry in just two decades. Certainly, this feat required innovative soil and crop management programs, new agriculture technologies just to mention a few. Africa’s Savannah is more than double that of Brazil and employing a few of the mentioned techniques will certainly make the continent a net exporter of agricultural products.
The challenge remains on of extractive nature of Africa’s political and economic systems. The World Economic Forum reports this is part of the reasons why the impact of foreign aid is never seen trickling down to most citizens. The aide in turn ends up being a tool to continue enslaving the citizens and at times eroding the continents culture and identity with the attached strings. In his book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” elucidated the tricks that are behind the so-called loans. Karen McVeigh’s article in The Guardian shared a sad finding that in 2015 Africa received $32 billion in loans but paid $18 billion in debt interest alone. As Perkins highlighted such loans aren’t structured with Africa’s interest in mind. This coupled with poor leadership means Africa finds herself in a perpetual race to end poverty. Political evolution is what is believed to differentiate the Africa from the West. The West has proven to host economic and political systems that allow for inclusion and equal opportunities. Botswana is a perfect example of effects of good governance. 50 years ago, Botswana was a very poor African country, today with a GDP per capita of $8,258 this African nation is richer than European nations of Bulgaria, Serbia Albania and Ukraine. This is primarily due to good governance and its handling of the natural resource (diamond) wealth. A good economic institution protects private property right, enforcements of contracts is predictable and controlled inflation.
Thabo Mbeki’s Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa reports that for the past 50 years Africa lost over $1.2 to 1.4trillion dollars to illicit flows. This was equal to the financial assistance given to the continent in the same period. While these transactions are usually dismissed as a result of pure corruption, Mbeki’s report showed that 65% of these illicit flows were commercial transactions. Some of the means by which this is achieved is through trade mis-invoicing. Multinational corporations have used technics referred to as base erosion and profit shifting which are essentially forms tax evasion from high tax countries to low tax locations. Basically, multinationals decide how much profit to allocate to different parts of the same company operating in different countries, and then determine how much tax to pay to each government. Meanwhile, embezzlement and bribery constitute of only 3% of these illicit outflows.
African countries have done a wonderful job building out modern road systems. However, only 33% of Africans live within 2 kilometers of a paved road that is usable all year round. The cost of travel within the continent is ungodly. Travel cost in Africa between five and eight times that of Brazil of Vietnam. The Economist reported that despite Africa being home to a fifth of the world’s population, the continent accounts for only 4% of the global electric use. About 70 percent of the population has no access to electricity.
Urbanization, a challenge and opportunities
McKinsey & Company notes that Africa’s development is directly correlated with urbanization. While this introduces infrastructural challenges in major cities, it also implies a growing consumer market. Between 2010 and 2020 there was a bigger growth in sales of food and beverages in Cairo than Brasilia and Delhi. This can be best captured in the facts that today; Nairobi’s per capita income is three times that of Kenya. Those who live in Lagos are now earning twice the amount of the nations average. In the oil rich nation of Angola, Luanda the capital city accounts for 45 percent of the nation’s consumption. While this is exciting for the consumer market, I am deeply concerned about the disincentives to grow new cities and in turn new economic frontiers. The right development policies need to be put in place so growth can be equally dispersed.
The Way Forward- the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA)
Africa is NOT resource poor by any means. As a matter of fact, Africa is the richest continent on earth. South Africa potential mineral wealth is estimated at about $2.5 trillion. If fully realized this would put South Africa ahead of Italy and Brazil as the 8th largest economy in the world right behind France. Simultaneously, Democratic Republic of the Congo’s mineral wealth is estimated to be worth $24 trillion. Congo doesn’t only have the potential to be the richest nation on the planet but richer than the European Union. Numerous other stunning finds exist about the potential of the continent. However, Africa must trade her way to her fullest potential. With a staggering population of 1.3 billion people, Africa is already her own market. So, Africa’s intra-trade is paramount.
The share of intra-Africa exports have increased over the years to about 17% presently. However, this is still very low compared to other regions. Europe is at 69% and Asia at 59%. The AfCFTA is believed to be the answer to most intra-Africa trade related issues. This agreement will certainly unlock the continent’s economic potential if properly executed. The mere removal of tariffs is expected to boost the continental intra-trade by $50 billion to $70 billion by the year 2040.
To enhance intra-trade a key impediment that needs to be removed is the tariff related costs. According to the Abuja treaty, all regional economic communities should have established a common external tariff within customs unions and fully functional free trade agreements by end of 2017. Clearly, this is yet to take place. The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) has the lowest intra-regional trade. This region posts the lowest intra-regional trade in the continent and for this to change tariff should essentially be wiped away.
None tariff barriers also pose an equally challenging obstacle to intra-trading. These broadly include policies that reduce cost of transactions that stem from custom administrations, documents required, enhanced transport infrastructure. These policies are needed to reduce transaction costs as well as those that create an enabling environment for trade which include reduced bureaucracy and corruption.
Efforts Being Made
International companies such as Maersk, Imperial Logistics and a few others have played a key role in facilitating intercontinental trade. Between 2005 and 2016 the mentioned companies helped increase intra-Africa trade from $30billion to $64 billion.
Another industry that is playing a key role in connecting the continent is the airline industry. As of 2019 Ethiopia Airlines flies to 37 countries in Africa alone, leading the way. Royal Air Maroc, Air Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda Air are leading the continent in the economic integration efforts.
Africa may be lacking in hard power, but the continent should take control of her soft power. Very few countries have leveraged the power of impact of branding. Rarely do you hear that Mauritius GDP per capital is more than that of Bulgaria or that Equatorial Guinea is richer than Mexico. Yes, there is work to be done on the continent but it’s come a point where she must take control of her own narrative. Talent and capital are increasingly mobile and can have a huge impact on the economy. America isn’t just a nation but an idea. In 2018 about 23 million people applied for the green card lottery which is given to only 55,000 people a year. Very few of these millions try to make it to the US not because they have done a cost-benefit analysis of the key factors. The power of the American dream and the iconography of the Statue of Liberty mean something. They have value far beyond feel-good expressions of patriotism. They represent America as something for which to strive, as an expression of hopes and dreams for a better life, as a fulfillment of a quest for ultimate safety and prosperity and liberty. African nations need rebranding. I have seen images of Africa on CNN and Fox to almost always be of starving children begging for food. Rarely do we see CNN covering stories such as; the Ugandan inventor Brian Turyabagye has created a biomedical smart jacket that can diagnose pneumonia that is responsible for 16% of deaths of children under the age of 5. Square Kilometer Array (SKA) in South Africa which, once completed, is set to be world’s largest telescope that will allow us to see many times deeper into space. Nigeria’s Osh Agabi, has created a device that fuses live neurons from mice stem cells into a silicon chip-for the first time. The device can be used to detect explosives and cancer cells. These examples are endless.
Africa indeed should take the travel bans as an opportunity to look inward and seek out her deep inner capabilities. The above issues highlighted aren’t difficult to resolve if African leaders place their hearts in the right place. With Africa’s median age of 19 the continent has the energy, human capital and vigor to allow the continent to realize her fullest potential of the biggest economy in the word. All precursors are present.
As we strive to realize Africa’s dream let’s not lose sight of the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. Let’s world know of the beauty of her poetry or the intelligence of our vibrant and rich public debates. The world ought to know more about the wit, courage, wisdom and compassion of Africans.
We must choose to make this goal our solemn mission. This decision should be made not because it’s easy but rather because it’s hard. It’s the continental collective effort that will organize her citizens and bring forth the best of her skills and energy. This is a challenge the continent must accept now and must be unwilling to postpone and one the continent must achieve. If now us, who? If not now, when?
* The author is co-founder of Limitless Software Solutions and can be reached via emails email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. The views are his.Follow him on Facebook and LinkedIn , email@example.com
Belligerents in Cameroon and all other countries of the world should treat children as children-Barrister Felix Agbor NKONGHO on the plight of child soldiers*
February 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
Imagine that one day, soldiers appear in your village. They are hunting members of a local separatist militia. When villagers cannot say where the militia may be hiding, the angry soldiers begin burning down the village market and several homes, including yours. As you and your family run into the bush at the edge of the village to hide, you hear gunfire. Turning, you see your mother collapsed on the ground, shot dead by soldiers of her own country. You are 12 years old, your father died of poor health the year before, and you watch your junior sister crying over your mother’s corpse.
You live in Cameroon, a French-English bilingual country in Central Africa. You and your sister and 800,000 other kids have not attended school for the past three years due to the conflict between separatist militias and the government soldiers. The militias, who want a separate English-speaking country, forbid children to attend school. The government has not restored order, choosing increased force rather than negotiations. The Major National Dialogue held by the government in fall 2019, due to its restricted agenda and a boycott by separatist leaders, failed to produce a sufficient solution.
Today, there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis in the two Anglophone regions. The eight Francophone regions of Cameroon are also suffering, as hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Anglophones have fled there, and over fifty thousand have become refugees next door in Nigeria and beyond. More than three thousand are dead, including one thousand soldiers, and one million are hungry—many barely surviving in makeshift shelters.
You and your sister are alone in the bush. What choices do you have? How will you express your grief, abandonment, fury, and hatred toward your government and the world? Will you choose, or be coerced, to take up arms?
No one knows how many child soldiers there are in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions or other trouble spots in the country, such as the Far North, where Boko Haram terrorizes inhabitants. Videos from the Anglophone regions show children learning to use guns, children talking about killing, children standing with a self-proclaimed leader of an armed separatist group. Stories from hospitals describe lost, orphaned children who wander for days, looking for a home. The trauma is immense, and it is possible that the pain or need for survival drives some children to join a militia that is fighting against the government.
With no school lessons to keep children busy, and the loss of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, some have chosen guns in place of books and family, while others have become pregnant. Militias have burned schools, kidnapped students, harmed teachers and headmasters, and worse.
Although the Cameroonian government has signed the UN Safe Schools Declaration, its military has not kept schools safe, and even burned down a school in Eka, verified by University of California-Berkeley’s Human Rights Centre (https://dataverse.scholarsportal.info/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.5683/SP2/QF5HP7).
The uneducated generation of Anglophone youth taking shape may cause child soldiers and others to become permanent fighters or criminals bereft of other economic survival skills.
Use of child soldiers constitutes a war crime under International Humanitarian Law. Currently this law pertains to those under 15 years, but a universal change to under 18 is underway. Use of child soldiers encompasses more than fighting—it includes using children as spies, shields, porters, and so on. Last month, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa published a pamphlet to educate both military and separatist fighters about humanitarian law, which includes a scenario about child soldiers (https://www.chrda.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/EDUCATION-Three.pdf).
In the age of ‘never again,’ the world must stand together to protect children, because using them as weapons of war is not normal and, in fact, is unconscionable. Indeed, the term ‘child soldier’ is an embarrassment for the world of today. A true and proud soldier, whether in Cameroon or elsewhere, will always protect and never intentionally harm civilians, and will always protect and never intentionally recruit or harm children.
It is the responsibility of the Cameroon government to urgently seek a peaceful resolution to the Anglophone Crisis so that children may become children again.
It is the responsibility of non-state armed separatist militias to neither accept nor coerce fighters under the age of 18, to lift the ban on schools, and enter negotiations for peace.
The United Nations (UN) and the African Union Commission (AU), among other world bodies, should be actively assisting Cameroon in the Anglophone regions to “silence the guns,” which is the AU’s theme for 2020. Guns and other weapons have no place in the hands of children.
On this International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, we call on the belligerents in Cameroon and all other countries of the world to treat children as children.
*Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho is President of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, based in Cameroon.
How Africa is increasingly looking to hydropower as a solution to growing energy demands
February 7, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jamie MacDonald*
According to the International Energy Agency, there are currently around 600 million Africans across the continent who don’t have access to electricity. There is thus a widely recognised energy deficit in Africa which must be addressed – as a lack of access to power is a major inhibitor of economic growth and sustainable development for many African countries.
It should be taken as read that many of the power supply challenges facing Africa at the moment can be sufficiently addressed with renewable energy. With that in mind, in recent years much of the discussion around renewable energy has been centered around the generation of power from resources seen (either rightly or wrongly) as being the more accessible options for adding generation capacity – namely, solar and wind. One often overlooked resource among the options available to the continent (particularly in Southern and East Africa) – is hydropower.
The second iteration of DLA Piper’s Renewable Energy in Africa, which summarises the regulatory environment for renewable energy in Africa, highlights the key policy objectives for national governments and provides insight into the projects which are expected to deliver these goals. DLA Piper has noted that certain African policy makers and governments are increasingly looking to hydropower as a viable solution to the electricity supply problem. In fact, it is estimated that in Southern and East Africa alone, hydropower could notionally contribute an extra 31GW of power by 2030 – which would effectively double existing capacity in the region.
Angola’s hydropower potential is among the highest in Africa and is estimated at 18,200 MW. The country’s current hydropower capacity, however, sits at around just 1,200 MW. The Angolan government has recognized the gap and has set itself the target of growing its hydropower generation capacity to 9,000 MW by 2025.
Burundi has significant hydropower potential and, of the 150 potential hydropower sites identified, 29 are currently under construction. By 2020, hydropower projects are expected to increase overall capacity by 300MW, which the government hopes will give the current levels of access (which are among the lowest in the world) a much-needed boost.
Hydropower already represents 90% of Ethiopia’s installed generation capacity. Notwithstanding this dominant position in the country’s energy mix, significant hydropower investments are still being made. Once completed, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – which is currently still under construction – will be one of the largest hydropower dams in Africa (and indeed the world) and is expected to generate 6,450MW of additional capacity.
The government-owned Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) operates Mozambique’s largest power generation plant on the Cahora Bassa hydro dam and sells 65% of its existing generation to South Africa, with the remaining 35% being distributed to the northern regions of Mozambique and sold to Zimbabwe. As of 2013, the country had 11 drainage basins with high hydrographic potential. A total of 1,446 new possible hydropower projects, with a combined estimated potential of 19GW, have been identified (which includes 351 priority projects with a combined estimated potential of 5.6GW).
The soon to be completed Baynes Hydropower station has the potential to supply both Namibia and Angola with reliable, clean electricity. The plant’s expected capacity of 600MW will be shared between both countries, with the dam functioning as a mid-merit peaking station, so that Namibia’s national power utility, NamPower, can avoid buying imported power during peak hours.
Historically, hydropower has played a key role in Tanzania’s power generation and the country aims to further increase production through both large and small-scale schemes. The government has 16 potential large-scale schemes with a combined generation capacity of 3,000MW as well as a number of small-scale schemes with a capacity of 480MW.
Zimbabwe’s strong potential for hydro schemes has been identified as a key factor in addressing the country’s electricity supply challenges related to aging generation infrastructure and increasing demand. As such, it is hoped that hydropower will be central to the successful development of a diversified electricity generation system which enables Zimbabwe to meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 33% by 2030.
While hydropower does have its detractors, we believe there is a compelling argument for the inclusion of hydropower in the energy mix of many African nations, given its potential, to address the energy deficit in Africa.
*DLA Piper South Africa Finance & Projects Director
US Senate Impeachment Trial of Trump and Nigeria’s Legislative Conduct: An Assessment
February 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
In Athens, 510 BC, Cleisthenes instituted democracy to foster greater: accountability of institutions and leaders to citizens and the law. Today, the tenet is being flouted with impunity, especially in developing nations, where most of the heads of parliament are puppets of the president. Nigeria tops the list. While her legislature is failing in oversight and overlooking misconducts, that of the United States (US) prosecuted President Donald Trump and almost removed him from office. This piece evaluates the two countries legislative conduct, based on the proceedings of Trump’s impeachment trial.
Process and History of US and Nigerian President Impeachment
Article II, section 4 of the US Constitution empowers Congress – comprising the House of Representatives and Senate – to remove the president from office for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The House and Senate gets to remove the president in two separate trials. First, the House would deliberate and approve the articles of impeachment through a simple majority vote. The second trial occurs in the Senate, where conviction on any of the articles requires a two-third majority vote, which if gotten, results in the president’s removal from office. Trump’s impeachment succeeded in the House, but failed in the Senate, denoting he remains president.
Only three presidents has been impeached throughout US over 230 year old democracy. First, Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act. Then, Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury, obstruction of justice and having an inappropriate relationship with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Lastly, Donald Trump was impeached December 2019. Each of the three – Johnson, Clinton and Trump – escaped removal from office through Senate’s acquittal.
Impeaching Nigeria’s president is a difficult, almost impossible task. The lengthy, extremely cumbersome process is contained in Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution. No Nigerian president has been impeached, despite their gross incompetence and serial abuse of power.
Allegations against Trump and the Buhari Comparison
Trump’s impeachment trial was a straight confrontation between the ruling Republican, and opposition Democratic Party. The president was tried on two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The abuse of power bothers on alleged solicitation of foreign interference in the 2020 US presidential election. Trump allegedly withheld $391million aid to Ukraine; upon which he secretly pressurized President Volodymyr Zelensky (of Ukraine) to start investigating former US vice-president Joe Biden for Corruption. Trump only released the aid to Ukraine after a whistle-blower complaint.
Biden was ex-president Barrack Obama’s deputy and currently one of the Democratic Party’s presidential aspirant. Trump wants Biden and son, Hunter investigated for alleged corrupt practices during the Obama presidency’s (2009-2017) aid supply to Ukraine. The US president allegedly pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden, despite being aware that the US Prosecutor General had cleared him and his son of corruption in May 2019.
To ensure Biden is investigated, Trump allegedly refused to allow Zelensky visit the White House at a time Ukraine urgently needs the meeting to send fears to its aggressors – particularly Russia – that it has US backing. The Democrats insist Trump undermined US interests by his action, and must be removed for conditioning congressionally mandated aid on ‘quid pro quo’ – meaning ‘favor for favor.’
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is an adherent of ‘quid pro quo.’ His declaration that the Northern region, which gave him 95% votes would be favored than the Southeast that gave him 5% is ‘quid pro quo’ – conditioning governance favoritism on votes; favor for favor. Presidents are expected to govern with equity and fairness, but Buhari promised sectionalism and delivered as pledged. The proscription of IPOB, while killer herdsmen are operating unchecked, apparently because they’re among the 95% is a dangerous ‘quid pro quo’ adherence that can lead Nigeria into another civil war.
Aside Trump’s hold on aid, the second article of impeachment – obstruction of Congress – bothers on the president’s deliberate blockage of formal legislative inquiries. Trump allegedly instructed all government officials to ignore House subpoenas for testimonies and documents. He ensured no piece of paper or email was turned over to the House. Certainly Trump would have done worse if he’s a Nigerian.
If Trump is a Nigerian president, he would have ordered the police to lay siege on US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s residence as President Buhari repeatedly did to former Senate President Bukola Saraki. Pelosi would have been distracted with false asset declaration charges till she’s acquitted by the Supreme Court. The Dino Melaye’s in her camp would have been hounded and arraigned on several trumped-up charges. If Trump is a Nigerian president, masked, heavily-armed State Security Service (SSS) operatives would have obstructed the legislators from entering the chambers to carry out impeachment.
The Democrats resolve to impeach Trump is perhaps comeuppance, but certainly an insult to Nigerians. The same legislators rebuking Trump supported Obama’s interference in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election. The poll, as Obama desired, resulted in the first-in-history defeat of then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan. It is at best surprising, and at worst annoying that the same Democrats who backed Obama’s action on Nigeria are scolding Trump for trying to aid his win through foreign interference. How miserable for them to live with their own nemesis!
Unlike the US, foreign interference in Nigerian elections attracts no legislative criticism, let alone impeachment. Nigerian legislators took no action when two state governors from Niger Republic crossed into Nigeria to join Buhari’s 2019 reelection campaign in Kano State.
The abuse of power charges against Trump can’t fly for impeachment in Nigeria. Successive presidents have committed greater offenses without reprimand. Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo spent heavily on electricity provision without result and ordered the Odi massacre. The legislature never summoned him. President Buhari has more than once repressed free speech, disobeyed court orders and spent without legislative approval. Yet the Senate has never cautioned him. Indeed, what the US lawmakers see as ‘abuse of office’ is what their Nigerian counterpart rank as ‘executive grace.’
US often punishes, but Nigeria rewards wrongdoing. The former’s first citizen, arguably the strongest man in the world was made to face a tough trial for abuse of office. His record is tainted even though he’s acquitted. Nigeria works the other way round. In the 8th Senate, suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege invade plenary with thugs, who took away the mace right before the cameras. Rather than prosecute him to serve as a deterrent, the ruling party rewards him with the exalted position of deputy-senate president in the subsequent, current 9th Senate. Omo-Agege is currently leading the same chamber he desecrated. Such can’t occur in the US.
Trial Debate: Democrat vs. Republican
The US senate impeachment trial of Trump was a pure intellectual, thrilling and rigorous debate. The House Managers, comprising mainly the Democrats argued that Trump deserves to be sacked for obstructing Congress investigation; promoting foreign interference in US election; and withholding economic, diplomatic and military aid to a strategic US ally (Ukraine) in need.
Defending the allegation, Trump’s defense team, comprising the Republicans, contend that the Democrats are trying to upturn Trump’s mandate in order to prevent him from contesting the next election. They argued that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine because 1) he wants a burden sharing agreement with Europe; and 2) he was unsure of its efficient use, due to the high level of corruption in Ukraine.
Opposing the submission, the Democrats argued that Trump showed no interest in Ukraine’s corruption before Biden announced his presidential ambition. The Republicans disagreed, and accused the Democrat caucus of using impeachment to shield Biden from corruption investigation. They insist Biden has a case to answer over his actions on Ukraine when he was vice-president.
Contesting the obstruction of Congress article, Trump’s team argued that the president has the power to assert immunity on his top aides, and he did so against Congress to protect the sensitive operations of government from getting to the public. Citing former presidents that have used such privilege, the Republicans argued that the Democrat-sponsored articles of impeachment is wholly based on presumptions, assumptions and unsupported conclusions. The Democrats, however refused to back down; they insist they have a “mountain of evidence” to prove Trump is guilty.
To support their arguments, both the House Managers and Trump’s defense team went deep into the archives; they went as far as referencing what happened in 1796, during the administration of the first US President George Washington. Several Supreme Court judgments, dating back to 1893 were cited. Both parties showed resourcefulness as they used historical, legal and rational arguments to establish their case. Their knowledge of history, politics and law in astounding.
Sadly, majority of Nigerian legislators lack such proficiency. Their contribution to motions are often based on partisan, personal interests and their arguments are often shallow, uninformative and irrational. While watching the trial, I couldn’t help but crave for power to order Nigerian legislators into the US Senate to learn functional legislative practice.
Plenary Session: Nigeria-US Comparison
Both the US House and Senate displayed exceptional commitment to public involvement. Many nations won’t permit the live airing of a sensitive issue such as the impeachment trial of a president. But the US stands out. Every minute of the trial was aired live to the local and global population. Nigerian House and Senate are not doing badly in this regard. Most of their sessions are aired live, including the election of principal officers. However, as being done in the US, the Nigerian legislature needs to make public the details of her income, constituency projects and budgetary allocations.
US senators are more open than their Nigerian counterpart. They boldly reveal their planned vote and the reasons for their decision. Many disclosed that they would vote on the impeachment based on personal conviction and desired legacy. Nigerian senators understandably can’t be that outspoken out of the fear of being hounded. This doesn’t however rob off the fact majority of them vote ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ based on financial gain, ethnic and religious sentiments, party instruction, and ‘quid pro quo.’
Public interest is not always primary to politicians, including the US senators. Most of the Republican senators were more interested in acquitting Trump than ensuring a fair trial. They denied the public access to crucial information by voting against the admission of additional witnesses and documents. Voting in favor of the motion would have made the Senate evaluate the leaked indicting videos and testimonies of crucial anti-Trump witnesses such as John Bolton, the ex-national security adviser. Without a doubt, Nigerian progressive senators would have done same to save Buhari.
The US legislators conduct at plenary and commitment to national service need to be emulated by the Nigerian Senate. The US Senate leaders and the Chief Justice, John Roberts coordinated the sessions impartially. They, unlike their Nigerian counterpart, acted neutral, even though they too (as humans) have their own viewpoint and desires. They set rules that would make everyone listen and participate such as prohibiting the use of phones.
Rather than deploy speech interjection, shout-match and walk-out as commonly done in Nigerian chambers, the US legislators acted responsibly. No one spoke without being recognized and they yield back time promptly. More than once they sat for about twelve hours on the impeachment and everyone stayed on strong. If the impeachment trial took place in Nigeria, the senate president would have hurriedly adjourn sitting or ‘dabaru’ the process in favor of his party. Moreover, the senators, many of whom are old and lazy, would have yelled for adjournment or sleep off.
Trump’s acquittal by the US senate sets a bad precedence for succeeding presidents to solicit foreign interference in US election and obstruct the investigation of Congress. Conversely, conviction would have opened the door for future sharply partisan, malicious impeachments.
Both the United States and Nigeria need more executive-legislature synergy. The frosty relationship between Trump and Pelosi has worsened over the impeachment trial. They must be reconciled for the benefit of the American people. It’s difficult, but not impossible to have intergovernmental synergy and a vibrant legislature under the Buhari administration. Perhaps Senate President Ahmed Lawan and House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila need to attend classes on ‘how to function without being a puppet.’
US democracy is not perfect, but Nigeria has a lot to learn from it. The latter must adopt the former’s positive deeds and embrace attitudinal change. One may blame the large efficiency gap between US and Nigeria’s democracy on the year of adoption. US democracy is over 230 years old, while Nigeria’s current democratic experiment is only 20 years old. But then, if Nigeria’s systemic failure is anything to go by, it will take us over a thousand years to achieve the progress US made in 230 years. The reason is not far-fetch. US has what Nigeria lacks: Transparency, accountability and leadership commitment to growth and development.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
Benin President Patrice Talon’s Visit To Washington, DC: An Opportunity for a Teaching Moment on Core Democratic Values and Basic Human Rights
January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th 2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.
In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.
It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:
- a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
- a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
- a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
- a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
- a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
- a country where journalists are silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
- a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
- a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
- a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
- a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
- a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
- a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.
To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, “This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”
We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism.
We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S Congress and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.
*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S
Opinion: Extreme events are reversing development goals
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
Cyclones in the Caribbean and Pacific, devastating bushfires in Australia, recurrent floods and droughts in Asia and Africa, increasingly bring tragic loss of life to our nations and communities, inflicting physical and mental trauma on survivors, and causing irreparable damage to centuries old ways of life and undermining prospects for future prosperity and growth.
The current bushfires in Australia have been among the most distressing manifestations, leading the government to declare a state of emergency. The total cost to the economy of the bushfires with which Australia is grappling seems likely to run into billions of dollars. Continuous drying of undergrowth creates optimal conditions for bushfires, leading to tragic loss of human lives and destruction of infrastructure. There is devastating impact on the precious biodiversity of flora and fauna, threatening drastically to affect the ecology of the region. Heightened levels of air pollution in the affected and adjoining regions are having adverse impacts on the respiratory health of scores of people.
Such extreme events are occurring with rising frequency, destroying the means of livelihood for millions people in Commonwealth countries, increasing vulnerability and reducing resilience. The Commonwealth collectively recognises that without well-planned and integrated national and international action, natural disasters and extreme events will continue to challenge the resilience of affected communities and smaller countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside member nations to protect the environmental health of fragile and susceptible ecosystems, including through increased national preparedness for tackling natural disasters and mobilising resources.
For the arid and drought-prone member countries, which are highly vulnerable to dryness and bushfires, the Commonwealth provides support for governments to develop projects on sustainable and resilient landscape management, with the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH) helping to unlock necessary financial resources. Similarly, by pooling information into a streamlined platform for better and more convenient access to information, the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Finance Portal currently in development will help countries find suitable sources of finance and support to deal with disasters.
On behalf of citizens of all Commonwealth countries, I express my heartfelt condolences to all families and communities who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of recent days. I commend the courage and commitment of firefighters, emergency service personnel and all others who are battling to rescue and protect people and property, wildlife and natural resources, or human infrastructure. In these testing times, the wider Commonwealth family stands in solidarity alongside the Government and people of Australia.
* The Rht Hon Patricia Scotland is the Commonwealth Secretary-General
Rays of Hope From Guinea Bissau
January 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
It has been easy to overlook the recent election cycle in Guinea-Bissau. The initial round occurred on November 24th 2019. The results determined that a runoff would be needed and then incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz who finished in fourth would not participate.
This meant that the potential of a peaceful transition would take place in a country where most transfers were the results of coups. The runoff on December 29th 2019 would be a contest among the opposition parties. The contenders for the second round were former prime ministers as well. One was Umaro Sissoco Embalo of the Madem G15 party and Domingos Simoes Pereira of PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde).
The results from the runoff would show that the next President of Guinea-Bissau will be Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Although it appears that the results may be contested the fact remains that Jose Mario Vaz will be the first President of the West African Nation to fully complete a full term of office and transfer the position to a successor without involving Bloodshed. This is a feat in the history of the country which gained Independence from Portugal in 1974.
Some of the comments made by voters stated that it was time to “move the country forward”. This is a term that has been used often in elections where there has been change that one segment of the population has sought.
The Country has had its down points. A former head of the Military was indicted by the United States for Drug Trafficking, Several Cartels from South America used the country as a transit point in shipping narcotics to Europe and other parts of Africa and at one point was seen as being under the thumb of former Gambian President Yaya Jammeh.
The UN Representative for West Africa also commended the people of Guinea-Bissau for the role in the voting but also took the time to highlight the activities of the Political Candidates for their rhetoric and allowing for the process at play to move forward in a positive manner.
Having both candidates with experience as Prime Minister did help some (even though both were fired by the outgoing President.) One can wonder just how much of a role the tug of war between President and Prime Minister had in this election as a whole and is the potential power struggle between these two positions could lead to future crisis situations within the
* *The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.The views are his.
Staying Off Social Media Will Not Kill You
January 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jojo Amiegbe *
Ever find yourself constantly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, purely out of boredom?
If you took the time to analyze the situation, you realize you spend a ‘good chunk’ of your day scrolling past feeds that you honestly could have gone about your day not knowing or seeing. I’m not here to judge anyone who is very active or interactive on social media.
Granted, it’s a place to stay engaged with people, catch up on what’s trending, even see first hand what your favorite celebrity/public figure said, wore, bought, went, ate, and so on. But there’s a reason why the saying goes, ‘too much of a good thing, ain’t good’
Social media (depending on how you use it) can make one feel insecure and unaccomplished. You see your peers, or just any random famous face put up a post of an expensive ride they got, a new house they just acquired, maybe your friend from school got engaged, or they’re letting you in on how they’re spending their vacation. And you’re there with your phone, sipping on your pure water, fanning yourself because ‘down NEPA’, thinking ‘ah, these people are living the life o, chai…’, but deep down, you wish your life was half as glamorous as they have depicted theirs to be, maybe you end up dealing with a pang of envy, ready to say something spiteful when you come across someone with whom you can gossip with about what you read/saw.
They say ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’, and instead of spending most of my time looking down at my phone every 5 seconds to catch just about everything that’s going on on social media, I’d rather ‘face my front’ and set my sights on achieving the goals I have set for myself while watching/reading content online that brings me closer to greatness.
Do you spend your time trolling or responding in just about every comment section available, how much you hate what someone said/did, wishing them the worst thing imaginable? Are you one of those who have social media accounts, just so you can stalk and troll (maybe anonymously), or write the most hurtful things to a person, forgetting they are people too, with actual feelings?
Someone once said, ‘social media is where we put up the best version of ourselves’
Let’s say you have specific skills you want the world to know. Do your accounts show off your work, how have you used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the other platforms to ‘sell yourself’?
Basically, what exactly are you gaining from social media? Are you better or worse off because of it? Why are you there in the 1st place?
That FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’) mentality can keep one glued to the computer/phone screen for hours when that time could be allocated to more meaningful and productive work away from the refresh button.
Social media does not have to be the 1st thing you see when you wake up in the morning, or last thing before you go to bed.
I would honestly recommend you consider logging out if you can afford to, or at least take a critical look at how you engage on social media and see if it has affected your time management towards the productive pursuit of other endeavors, as well as overall peace of mind.
*Josephine Odion Amiegbe or Jojo as she is simply called by everyone is from Esan South East local government area Edo State but was born and bred in Lagos State.Currently a radio personality at The Beat 97.9 FM Ibadan, hosting the Morning Rush weekdays from 6 am to 11 am. Josephine loves to write and her work as a contributive writer has been featured in the Dining Out section of Ibadan City Info magazine. She also has several articles published in some online blogs and presently contributes to Opera News Hub as a Health & Fitness writer.
CONNECT WITH JOJO:TWITTER/INSTAGRAM: @jojoamiegbe, email: email@example.com