IMF should issue special drawing rights as grants to Africa
May 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Thomas Boni Yayi*
Since the start of the Covid-19 health crisis, the global economy has been grounded in one quarter with a likely annual growth forecast of -3% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In Europe, taboos are falling. On March 20, 2020, the European Commission announced an unprecedented suspension of budgetary discipline rules. Ongoing negotiations between heads of state and government over a new stimulus package to prevent economic disaster is estimated to be around €$1 trillion. The European Central Bank (ECB), for its part, in its will to do “everything necessary within the framework of its mandate to help the eurozone to overcome this crisis”, announced €$1 billion in massive assets buyouts in the financial markets throughout 2020.
The United States has responded to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus with the largest economic relief programme in its history, at $3 trillion. At the same time, the US Federal Reserve (The Fed) has indicated its willingness to buy an essentially unlimited amount of public debt – a very aggressive programme of financial instruments buybacks by the end of 2020 of nearly $3 billion.
With regards to economic solutions adapted to Africa, I think there are essentially two challenges which need to be separated: first, that of mobilizing new resources to finance the response to the virus crisis; then the cancellation of Africa’s debt as part of a strategic partnership without undermining the attractiveness of the continent.
Consequently, I suggest that the IMF, in addition to the first aid package already distributed to some African states, should issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), to the tune of €114 billion, which corresponds to the needs of the African continent according to indications provided by the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, to enable Africa – whose central banks do not have the same capacity to respond as those of China, the United States or the euro zone – address the negative impact of this health crisis as quickly as possible.
We will either triumph, or perish, together. Therefore, Africa cannot and should not be left on the margins of the various measures supported by central banks in Europe, the Americas or Asia. This IMF assistance, through the issuance of SDRs will be convertible with central banks such as the Fed, the ECB, the Central Bank of Japan and the Central Bank of China, determined to support African states to tackle this COVID-19 crisis. This support will allow the strengthening of the external assets of African central banks whose capacity in relation to their long-term commitment does not cover more than 4 to 5 months of imports.
The overall needs of the African continent can be assessed on the basis of regional economic communities and the use of resources must be done in strict compliance with the good governance prescribed by the African Peer Review Mechanism (MAEP).
These investment requirements relate to the modernisation of hospital infrastructure, precautionary measures, treatment, education and skills’ training of hospital staff, not to mention social protection for citizens, economic recovery, price stability and the reduction of unemployment.
With regards to the cancellation of Africa’s debt, the speed required to manage the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus cannot be hampered by issues that have always aroused the hesitation of the creditor states. While recognizing the correctness of this request and referring to the reluctance of the G20 to stick to the one-year moratoriums on the payment of debt service, I welcome the initiative of the African Union to set up a committee which, in addition to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, would give impetus to Africa’s request for debt cancellation.
In the 1990s, Africa already benefited from the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative with the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debt. This initiative cast doubt on the solvency of the continent. This second request for cancellation would probably merit negotiations at three levels: at the level of multilateral institutions, at the level of States and at the level of the private sector.
If this request were to be taken into account, would it not raise some questions at the level of multilateral banks? A cancellation of their receivables will have an impact on their creditworthiness. At the state level, negotiations are possible but it is the same creditors who feed multilateral institutions. The question is whether a country like China, a member of the G20, is prepared to cancel its debt on the continent, which is 40% of Africa’s debt – and about $360 billion. Finally, in the private sector, there is the question of who will reimburse them?
These are obstacles that will take a long time while the treatment of this virus requires speedy action to be taken to contain the human and economic devastation. We will certainly end up with treatment on a case-by-case basis.
In conclusion, I suggest an emergency issuance of Special Drawing Rights for Africa by the IMF, which already involves the main contributors to IMF resources. Only genuinely united and globally coordinated management of this health crisis can save humanity. We are no longer at the stage of making promises. We must stop the mass deaths we witness on a daily basis and revive economic activities.
*Courtesy of Daily Trust.Dr Yayi is former President of the Republic of Benin, former Chairman in Office of West African Economic and Monetary Union, and former President of the African Union-AU
Opinion: We must leverage the ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ to counter the economic fallout of COVID-19
April 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
The world is bracing for a massive hit to the global economy in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Experts have warned of a US$1-2 trillion shortfall in global income this year, while world trade could contract by between 13 and 32 per cent.
As countries take drastic measures to fight the spread of the disease, we are seeing borders and businesses closed, domestic and international travel scaled back, and a totally transformed way of life due to social distancing. Currently, 2.6 billion people across the world are affected by their workplace closing.
The result is a sweeping drop in economic activity, a much less active workforce, on top of growing global insecurity for the future. Without ample government bailouts, poor developing countries and small states remain the most vulnerable in the face of the pandemic.
However, history has shown that with the right policies and support measures in place, the Commonwealth as a whole will eventually be able to overcome the economic fallout – though extremely bleak times lie ahead.
In particular, gradually reviving trade flows amongst 54 member countries – worth more than an estimated US$700 billion in 2019 – can play a fundamental role in boosting economic recovery, while harnessing the benefits of Commonwealth ties.
Recovering from the crisis
Given the unprecedented nature of current pandemic, I am cautious in comparing economic-induced and biological-induced crises. However, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis can offer some insights about the Commonwealth’s possible performance.
Over the years following the global financial crisis, the Commonwealth’s overall exports of both goods and services grew at a faster rate than the world average.
From 2010 to 2018, the Commonwealth’s exports in goods, which make up 70 per cent of its trade, grew by around 8 per cent, compared to only 5.5 per cent for the world.
In fact, during the global trade slowdown of 2012 to 2016, the Commonwealth’s services exports were especially resilient, expanding by 7 per cent, on average – more than twice the growth rate for the rest of the world.
Rapid population and per capita income growth (especially in Asia) are part of the driving forces behind the Commonwealth’s buoyancy. With 2.4 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, these drivers are unlikely to slow anytime soon – with or without coronavirus.
Moreover, Commonwealth countries share historical ties, familiar legal and administrative systems, a common language of operation (English) and large dynamic diasporas, which help make trade and investment more convenient and efficient.
While not a formal trading bloc, this ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ enables member states to trade up to 20 per cent more with each other than with non-members, at a 21 per cent lower cost, on average. Our research also shows that these countries invest up to 27 per cent more within the Commonwealth than outside of it – almost tripling investment levels five years ago, which stood at 10 per cent.
The potential benefits have not been lost on countries, even as we prepare to face a severe slowdown of the global economy brought on by COVID-19.
The slowing of the Chinese economy (a major trading partner), the decline in tourism and travel, as well as plunging oil prices will certainly cause economic strain to members. However, investment flows to sectors such as e-commerce, digital technologies, cybersecurity, healthcare and biotechnologies could shore up, as business migrates online, and countries race to find a vaccine and other medical treatments.
Strengthening the connectivity among our countries is therefore critical, so that trade flows remain resilient during times of crisis. Digital connectivity will be especially key, as the need to interact virtually now will transform the way people trade and do business. It is already a major area of focus for the Commonwealth, under its flagship Connectivity Agenda.
While being extremely watchful of the pandemic’s economic impacts, I am cautiously hopeful about the potential for intra-Commonwealth trade to act as a lifeline during the darkest of times. By leveraging the Commonwealth Advantage and robust policy responses, countries can bolster vital trade and investment flows, to eventually emerge at the end of the tunnel.
* Patricia Scotland is Commonwealth Secretary-General
THE VACCINE OF PEACE; RETHINKING THE PANDEMIC OF VIOLENT CONFLICT
April 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D*
Without any military power, lobbying strategy, international diplomacy, disobedience to border crossing rules, or any form of coercion, COVID-19 has taken over the world stage in the last three months. From the local communities to the international stage, individuals, families, state and non-state actors are scrambling to contain, mitigate and confront a virus that disregards socioeconomic status, atomic and nuclear weapons of war as well as racial differential.
From Wuhan to Berlin, Washington DC to Paris, from Dublin to Abuja, Madrid to Soul, and from Rome to Cape Town, it is a similar story of deafening silence, pain, and confusion. We see a puzzling world that is now frozen and standstill because of a blind virus that doesn’t see the social status of who it visits. We must acknowledge that this invisible enemy has demonstrated that territorial and national borders are critical but cannot exclusively protect us. It has pressed on us that the logic of exclusion and disregard for human dignity as most proponents of nationalism and populism argue cannot secure the future we desire. It has shown us that guns and bombs are not able to protect as we have always thought.
COVID-19 has pushed peoples and nations to the edge, instilled fear, shaken the core of our position of strength. It has exposed our vulnerabilities and the emptiness of the powers we arrogate to ourselves as individuals, peoples, and nations. The virus calls us to rethink global peace and to flatten the curve of violent conflict that plagues the human family. The heroic action of healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the frontline who put their lives on the line across the World to save lives invite us to the basics of “humanity” and “humanness” as we face the present challenges. Without the grocery-store stockers, the healthcare workers, the farmworkers, the first responders, we would be in a more precarious situation by now. The virus has shredded what we call power and might literarily as kings and princes struggle for ventilators with the common man as 1, 475, 676 people are fighting for their lives today with 87, 469 recorded deaths globally.. The mighty now depend on poor farmworkers to have food on their table. We see nature’s comedy play out before us.
The impact of COVID-19 on the collective life of the global community without respecting the territorial integrity of sovereignties and total disregard of border closures remind us of our shared humanity. It reminds us in an unusual way though, that we are ‘one family under God’ irrespective of socially constructed notions of human differential which individuals and groups have used to perpetuate oppression, exploitation and divide over the centuries. The virus is challenging the ideologies of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism as it crosses all the lines they drew and have tenaciously protected.
The global pain of the moment is a clarion call to act in solidarity and return to the power of the common good. It calls for the promotion of the underlying human security for all, and to eschew outright reductionist approach to national security to achieve real goals of solidarity and the common good. These times call for the application of the basic human security and solidarity that recognizes that the life of the child in the slums of Yemen is as important as that of the every other person across the globe. The lives of the persecuted Rohingya minority cannot be treated as tools for diplomatic gain.
Mahbub ul Haq (1995) once said that the primary concern of human security is not to stockpile weapons. Instead, it is concerned with human dignity and how it is safeguarded and promoted. In the final analysis, it is about the child who did not die, diseases that did not go around, a strained ethnic relationship that did not erupt, another revolutionary and agitator who was not stopped, a human spirit that was not silenced. Provoked by the ethical concern for the use of resources in development, Mahbub ul Haq questioned governments giving priority of place to armament above the provision of milk for children. He points to the fact that human security issues in a most comprehensive manner are vital to achieving peace and human development as these issues fundamentally pose threats to the dignity of millions of people across the globe. Taylor notes that the above position has put human security at the center of the global discourse on peace. Safeguarding human dignity through solidarity and social security has become more imperative than ever. The global relationship should be guided by human dignity principles as dignity is the bright reflection and expression of every person.
Last month, the UN Secretary-General said, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”(Guterres, 2020) as he called for a ceasefire in the face of the pandemic. Many member states member states, as well as non-state actors and individuals, including Pope Francis, have endorsed his call for a cease-fire within this period. Parties to the conflict in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have all accepted his appeal.
The cease-fire ought to continue beyond the pandemic, and a new paradigm of the ‘vaccine of peace’ should be applied to deal with the epidemic of ‘violent conflict’ across the globe going forward. The desire to amass weapons of war and the investment of commonwealth on military capabilities has grown among the governments of the global community. Military expenditure is given priority over fundamental human security issues in many countries of the world today. We seem to be more prepared for war than for peace, more willing to destroy life than to protect as many countries show a chaotic posture of unpreparedness in the face of coronavirus with stockpiled arms and weapons of war in place.
After World War 1(1914-1918), the global community lost more than 18 million lives. At least about 56 million people died during and immediately after World War 11(1939-1945). The theatrical flexing of muscle and senseless power-rivalry at the inter and intra-state levels has led to millions of deaths in post-World War 11 regions of the globe even after the Nuremberg Tribunal with the concept of ‘never again.’ We continue to see the monstrous genocide and brutal destruction of human life ravaging communities of the World with the superpowers who championed never again supplying the arms and weapons of human destruction for economic gain. We destroy what we ought to protect, and we all become losers.
The folly, agony, and trauma of war extend to women and girls who are raped and sexually violated during conflicts. These women live with the emotional pain of sexual violation for the rest of their lives. Displacements, as we see across the globe today, come with the folly of war. Many children across the world have never experienced a peaceful childhood because every day, the noise of guns and bombs feel their ears, and some have been forced to be child soldiers with adverse effects that will stay very long with them. In different regions of the globe, people are maimed for life as a result of wars while others live in fear and insecurity with attendant hunger and starvation. Different countries are struggling to take care of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder from war experiences. The folly of war is shown at the level of infrastructural destructions that will take decades to rebuild in many communities across the globe.
All our attention is on the common enemy “COVID-19” .It is the common enemy for Israeli and Palestinian; for Moslems and Christians in Nigeria; for the Buddhists and Muslims in India, etc. and I agree but are we able to learn the lessons the moment is offering us. I argue that a look at the human, economic, social, and environmental destruction caused by the act of war in the last two centuries will show that we are more dangerous enemies to ourselves than COVID-19.
Across the globe, healthcare workers and scientists are working hard to save lives and to find the vaccine for the cure of COVID-19. They are living and renewing the globalization of compassion and seeing everyone in the World as our brothers and sisters. It is the soul of solidarity and commitment to the common good. We have seen a great show of social solidarity and connection in our different communities across the world. COVID-19 which I think is an invitation to use the vaccine of peace to remedy the pandemic of violent conflict in our communities. It invites us to dialogue and proper allocation of resources.
We must remember that, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people”(Eisenhower, 1953). The above words speak us in these times and call for reexamination the use of global resources and the way we manage conflicts. Those words call for a change of paradigm. The paradigm shift ought to focus on engaging the human spirit and time honored values that can secure a peaceful and sustainable human family. It challenges us to properly place our priorities as a global community.
War is the defeat of humanity and it degrades all of us. The vaccine of peace returns us to the infinite dignity of each human person and the recognition that we are embedded in webs of mutual obligation. It is time for world leaders to channel just a fraction of the resources spent on war and military arms towards peacebuilding. Guns and bombs have always failed humanity. It is contradictory and I should say not acceptable that we put all our resources to fight COVID-19 from killing people only to turn around tomorrow and kill ourselves at the battle field. The act of war is the real pandemic and it makes man wolf to man. It is time to commit to applying the ‘vaccine of peace’ to cure the pandemics of violent conflict because “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as the mainstay for a false civil order” (Paul VI, 1968).we are ‘one family under God’ and the path of peace is not impossible.
*Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D. is Program Development Specialist, Interfaith/Community Outreach at the Global Peace Foundation
Africa’s COVID-19 solution lies in information and not isolation-A look at Hubei vs New York
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ben Kazora*
- The black death pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
- Today a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions
- In Taiwan, when an infected person leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes
- The Co-100 app shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19
Interesting to note how the richer nations have been first to succumb to COVID-19 scourge. I believe this is primarily owed to the business and tourism between China and the west. Africa is benefited from late infections and has the advantage of lessons learned from the earlier victims and how the nations have dealt with it. Examining the Asian and European reactions to this pandemic Africa is primed to implement the best of both worlds. To this end, I firmly believe the critical soldiers in this unique battle against the pathogens, are the data scientists in concert with the healthcare workers armed with data. This approach in my view will save the continent millions of lives, jobs and the continents vulnerable economy.
Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York
With only 404 COVID-19 (0.07% of the population) cases Singapore has proven more adept at handling this pandemic than New York. Despite a greater distance from the epicenter (Hubei Province), New York has 2.3 times more cases compared to Singapore, relative to the population. With 81,281 cases out of 1.4 billion people it’s hard to deny that China got it right.
Hubei province with 60M people had 67,801 cases. This infection rate of 0.1% remain less than New York. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter had about two-thirds of all China’s cases is about to lift the lead and resume life as normal. While the western world is grappling with this pandemic, it seems there are many lessons to learn from the east. Given the technological advancements of the west and advances in medicine I couldn’t help but wonder. First off let’s examine previous pandemics.
We have been down this road before
During the 14th to 19th century the world was dealt with the Black Death. This disease that was spread by body lice started in Italy and spread across Europe to France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and Scandinavia among others. This pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
Like COVID-19 today, the smallpox pandemic was equally class-blind killing the rich and poor alike. This plague is estimated to have decimated close to 30 million Mexicans by 1568 which was way before the arrival of Hernan Cortes. Despite the Spaniards having a superior army, the microscopic ally (smallpox) that Cortes army unwillingly brought from Europe helped take down the Aztec empire. This disease spread along trade routes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, eventually reaching the Americas. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. It’s also estimate that fatality rate was 30% of those infected.
Wherever it began, the 1918 flu pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. The effect of the flu pandemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.
It’s information not isolation
Clearly, without airplanes or cruise ships we have seen diseases spreading from east to west Europe and across continents. This means that closing our boarders isn’t the permanent solution. Germany took in about 50 Italian COVID-19 patients to help with the treatment. German’s gesture speaks to the power of collaboration and sharing of information that has proven to be the best weapon against these pathogen. Sweden has not closed its borders or its schools. Neither has it closed non-essential businesses or banned gatherings of more than two people, like the U.K. and Germany. Sweden has taken the unorthodox approach of simply informing and trusting the citizens.
Sweden’s 10 million strong population has reported 3,700 cases and only 110 deaths, while New York reports about ten times the rates of death and infections while population difference is only double. This phenomenon further shows that isolation isn’t the true solution.
Over the years we have seen doctors win the battle against the pathogens one time too many. The secret lies in the fact that while pathogens rely on blind mutations, the doctors have been armed with the powerful scientific analysis born of information. Third world countries have always struggled to deal with the likes of Ebola due to the non-data driven approach. This present danger posed by COVID-19 presents the third world a chance to examine novel ways of fighting pandemics and epidemics. I will term the information driven approach as the Asia approach.
We have seen time and again that the Asian nations of China, Singapore and Taiwan and others have proven more efficient at handling the pandemic. Africa political philosophies happen to be more aligned with those of Asia than those of the west. In a world where a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions, information becomes the only tool available to combat this. The US strongly adheres to privacy laws and that makes collection of pertinent data much more difficult. Perhaps, it’s time to examine the modification of these laws during such gruesome times. I imagine people are willing to temporarily trade privacy for life.
Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war
In Beijing, “Beijing Cares” app has been integrated into the permeating WeChat app. People under quarantine are made to input their daily temperature and health status into the app. When the isolation period is over, a “healthy status” page is generated, which users can flash at buildings and malls to gain entry. The Chinese government also releases details about patients’ travel history – via text messages on the mobile phone and state-managed websites – so the public can avoid places where the virus was once active.
South Korea took more aggressive steps by deploying a innovative system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their movements. Max Kim of the MIT Technology review reported that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety using their Corona-100m (Co100) app, that allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. The app will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Additionally, the app allows users to see how close they are to places that COVID-19 patients have visited before testing positive. As if that’s not enough, the app also shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Taiwan went further to implement mobile phone electronic fencing. This location tracking platform ensures that those quarantined remain at home. The primary intent here is to ensure those infected aren’t running around spreading the virus. When one leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes. Officials also call twice a day to ensure the phone isn’t left at home by the infected person. Fact remains that the virus doesn’t travel from place to place but humans take the virus from one place to another.
Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?
I know the mentioned slants would run afoul of privacy laws in the west. However, this is perhaps the most ideal time for African countries to come up with the Infection Protection Act akin to the German version being modified to deal with COVID-19. MTN group has close to 244 million subscribers while Vodacom has over 110 million. All together close to 750 million people in Africa have cellphones. The solution to the war with COVID-19 and future pandemics hinges on leveraging data and technology to complement the doctor’s efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter were a good way of stopping its spread.” African must act fast and swiftly. This is ultimately a sprint and not a marathon.
Remember that worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Instead adhere to the known protocols such as social distancing, washing hands often, cough into your elbows,stay home
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