Angolan Legal Reform Shows How Africa Can Use Oil and Gas as a Springboard Towards Job Creation
January 8, 2021 | 0 Comments
–But Only if It Looks Beyond the Obvious Options
By NJ Ayuk*
|Africa’s oil and gas resources have the potential to accomplish so much good for the continent’s people.|
For decades, many of Africa’s oil- and gas-producing states followed a predictable pattern. They treated their oil and gas primarily as raw materials that could be sold abroad for a quick profit, rather than as a means of supporting efforts to make more lasting changes in the economy of the nation as a whole.
This pattern has had unfortunate consequences. It discouraged investment in local capacity, and it fostered the development of arrangements under which most residents of the producing states could not see how the large amounts of money earned from oil and gas exports were improving their lives. In other words, it allowed most hydrocarbon revenues to flow back to the home offices of international oil companies (IOCs) or to go to national oil companies (NOCs) that transferred funds to local governments — and, in many cases, to individual government officials, along with their friends and family members.
Africans already know that focusing on oil exports doesn’t yield the best results. They already know that it ignores the need for long-term investment and fosters corruption.
But corruption isn’t the only issue. Africans also know that the old pattern of focusing on commodity exports doesn’t do enough to put their economies on track for long-term growth and keep them there.
They know, in other words, that the old habits don’t create jobs.
At least, maybe they don’t create large numbers of jobs. Or maybe they don’t create the kind of jobs that last long enough or have enough impact to lead to real change.
And why should it be that way? Africa’s oil and gas resources have the potential to accomplish so much good for the continent’s people – and that includes creating training and job opportunities across multiple sectors, which is one of the keys to sustainable economic growth. This can be accomplished by strategically harnessing oil and gas to monetize value chains and diversify economies. And to do that, we need to create an environment that enables new businesses to launch and thrive.
As the Chamber’s 2021 Africa Energy Outlook says, “Using the stimulus afforded by the natural resources to stimulate jobs in other economic sectors with higher labor intensity is where a significant amount of jobs can be created.”
So it’s time to broaden our view of Africa’s oil and gas resources. Instead of treating them only as a revenue source, we must approach them as a path towards a very important goal: empowering Africans to improve their own lives.
Local Content for Local Jobs
Africans understand the necessity of breaking free of old patterns, and they’ve tried to address the challenge with policy changes. In Angola’s case, they have sought to thwart old oil habits of the past by embarking on a fundamental reform of how the sector works. This entailed taking away regulatory powers for the sector from the national oil company Sonangol and giving those to the newly created National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG). The restructuring of the sector, that resulted in the creation of the ANPG and the reorientation of Sonangol, is arguably one of the greatest achievements of H.E. Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, Angola’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Petroleum who was brought in to reform the sector. This enabled Sonangol to embark on its own restructuring, at the core of which is the sale of non-core assets and a withdrawal of what Sonangol is expected to do; be a competent partner to foreign operators, and cost efficiently run its own operations. These changes, though very recent, have already stated bearing fruits. The newly created agency, under the chairmanship of a recognized industry expert Paulino Jeronimo, has moved swiftly, to usher in the implementation of new local content guidelines. They have also refocused their efforts on making new acreage in Angola attractive for investment, in an effort to stop the expected decline in output, mid to long-term.
In more general terms, though, they’ve also introduced policy initiatives that aim to create jobs. In Angola, the government recently rolled out a new legal regime for local content requirements after two years of concertation with the various stakeholders.
President João Lourenço, who introduced the new rules last month, has made the job-creation angle clear. He has described Presidential Decree 271/20 as a way to promote Angolan commercial entities’ participation in the development of the oil and gas sector. He has said he hopes the new measure will encourage IOCs to obtain goods and services (including raw materials) from local providers and to replace foreign experts with local workers.
Presidential Decree 271/20 also stresses the Angolan government’s desire to strengthen “national entrepreneurship.” It states that foreign technical assistance and management contracts must include provisions for the establishment of detailed training and professional development programs and the transfer of expertise and technology.
Training Across Sectors
This all sounds like a good idea — and a plan for concrete action as well. Presidential Decree 271/20 doesn’t just talk about increasing local content; it also replaces all the previous local content measures approved between 2003 and 2009. It offers a more detailed description of the factors that qualify an entity as an Angolan company and outlines the procedures that will allow the government to keep an up-to-date list of the parties that are pre-qualified to bid for contracts with IOCs
But does it really go far enough?
In some ways, it does. And by that, I mean that I’m glad to see that the decree talks about the need to make sure that Angolan workers have access to detailed, effective, and sophisticated training programs— and about the need to include provisions for such training in foreign management and technical assistance contracts.
In other ways, though, I’d like President Lourenço and his government to go further. I’d like them to think about exactly what kind of training might serve Angolans best. For example, what if they decided to prioritize training in information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) skills? Might they find that workers who learn how to operate the control systems used to maximize the efficiency of, say, gas pipelines also turn out to have the skills needed to operate similar equipment in manufacturing plants? And might such workers turn out to have something even more useful, such as the skills needed to set up and promote a new tech hub that could serve as another new source of jobs?
A More Expansive View of Oil and Gas
I also think there’s room for Angola to take a more expansive view of oil and gas. That is, I think the government ought to look further down the value chain so that its new policies don’t emphasize conventional upstream, midstream, and downstream operations (and the ways that Angolan companies can support them) while overlooking other opportunities. Oil and gas aren’t just raw materials to be exported. They can also serve as feedstock for the production of petrochemicals, fertilizers, and other value-added goods. They can be used to power energy-intensive industrial facilities such as manufacturing complexes. They can also fuel power plants that increase domestic electricity supplies to such an extent that life gets better for residential and business customers alike.
In turn, all of these new enterprises will have to hire people. They will need construction workers to build their physical plants, skilled and unskilled workers to keep their facilities running, IT and OT experts to operate and maintain the digital systems that help maximize efficiency, contractors to provide services such as food and transportation, and so on. In short, they will create jobs — and in so doing, they will show that oil and gas amount to something more than exportable raw materials.
Furthermore, if Angola can pull this feat off — if it can use its new policies to lay a foundation for job creation that both includes and transcends oil and gas — it will be in a position to show other countries in Africa how to do the same thing. It will be able to set an example capable of inspiring Africans who want to see the old patterns of hydrocarbon development broken.
Global impact and market stability
Finally, it is important to acknowledge the role that Angola and its current Minister of Mineral Resources, Petroleum and Gas, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo is playing as president of the conference of ministers of OPEC. Without market stability and a realistic price environment for crude globally, all potential benefits from the industry in Angola will be short-lived. OPEC Plus’s January 5th 2021 agreement to allow some of its members to cautiously increase production in February and March in a coordinated manner, is also due to Diamantino’s tact and experience. It is even more encouraging for the global oil markets, that Saudi Arabia is backing the current OPEC Plus deal with additional cuts of its own. This is good for Angola’s oil sector and Angolan jobs.
*SOURCE African Energy Chamber.NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of 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.
Opinion: Young people must play a role in political leadership and decision-making
November 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
Young people around the world are waking up to a growing list of new and harsh realities. Trapped in the shadow of a relentless pandemic, many are being robbed of the usual opportunities of youth and denied even the chance to socialise with friends and family.
Some are watching on helplessly as their dreams of entrepreneurship, employment and academic success edge further out of reach with every new headline. Others meanwhile are waking up to the horrors of conflict, afraid for their very lives.
The statistics are deeply concerning. An International Labour Organisation report shows the global youth population rose from 1 billion to 1.3 billion between 1999 and 2019. The same period saw young people engaged in the labour force drop by 71 million.
Other reports highlight the damaging and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on many aspects of young people’s lives. Their frustration and concern about their future are evident in the growing number of youth-led protests.
At their 2018 meeting, Commonwealth heads of government reiterated their commitment to including young people in decision making at all levels. As the world focuses on taming a raging pandemic, we must rally support from government and non-government institutions and groups to continue to make this pursuit a priority. Here is why.
In the Commonwealth, young people represent the bulk of our population. They are bright, innovative, tech-smart and have a unique perspective on our opportunities and challenges. We do a grave disservice to all in our communities when we fail to harness this exceptional talent and vitality.
Every year our Commonwealth Youth Awards unveil impressive feats and innovations, conceptualised and executed by exceptional young people. In our most recent cohort, a young Ugandan showed us how to deal with the global threat of plastic pollution. He found a way to turn plastic into eco-friendly energy. In the Pacific, a young woman showed us how to transform waste into furniture and empower girls and women in the process. Meanwhile, a young Pakistani found a way to bring clean water to poor communities.
Given the huge potential and ingenious proclivity of our young people, we simply cannot afford to exclude them from our decision-making. Or to equate their youthfulness with inexperience and ignorance. This dangerous and damaging discrimination will hold all of us back from achieving our full potential.
I believe it is just as important to ensure young people are part of decision-making as it is to fight for parity in the representation of minorities and genders in leadership.
Our youth are primed, ready and hungry for the opportunity to lead. This is explicit in their theme for the upcoming Commonwealth Youth Forum, to be held at the 2021 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). ‘Taking Charge of Our Future’ urges us to take action to ensure young people are truly represented in leadership and decision-making.
Most urgent is a stocktake. In this regard, we hope our Global Youth Development Index will inspire more data-collection initiatives to measure young people’s prospects and inform policy around education, employment, health and political participation.
Next, we need concerted action to tear down barriers. Nothing should stand in the way of a young person’s access to quality education and training. Despite commendable progress, in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, literacy levels are at 64 per cent and 71 per cent respectively. We are also in a situation where remoteness or socio-economic background are still too large a factor in education outcomes.
Furthermore, we need education and training specifically geared to preparing young people for leadership roles. This is why one of the planned outcomes of next year’s CHOGM is the launch of a Commonwealth Non-Formal Education Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership. We are inviting institutions and groups who work with young people to engage and support this alliance.
However, for these initiatives to translate into a real change we need political parties to clearly articulate their commitment to increasing the number of youth candidates and the level of real youth engagement, with a strategic and measurable set of actions and outcomes.
Finally, it will be impossible to take even one step on the journey towards youth empowerment without the mentors, coaches, advocates and counsellors who dedicate their lives to young people’s development.
So, this week, we are celebrating the achievements of our youth workers, recognising that they are critical to our youth development goals. Globally, we need to scale-up ongoing efforts to fill gaps in their support mechanisms and professionalise youth work through training and degree certification.
It is a strange, difficult and uncertain time for us all, but we cannot silence or ignore the voice and contributions of a population which represents our future and is, in many ways, disproportionately impacted by today’s global challenges.
A Free and Fair Election is the Solution to South Sudan’s Woes
October 21, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth
|In this election, and in true democratic fashion, the losers must congratulate the winners.|
The Republic of South Sudan was born – literally out of the ashes – on 9 July 2011 after decades of a debilitating and costly war. The people of South Sudan must be appreciated for their sustained commitment to sovereign independence, and to finally win their freedom, despite the grave costs that we paid in both life and treasure.
Since 2011, our nascent nation of 10 million people has continued to face strife and human misery. Indeed, with the republic secured, internal wars started again in December 2013. This conflict devastated the country and pushed many of our citizens to become internally displaced as well as refugees in neighboring countries.
Another peace agreement was reached in 2015, but the wars continued to flare – even before, it seems, the ink was dry upon the very papers our leaders signed.
Of course, those who have followed the fate of our country are likely familiar with The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/SPLA – IO) the main political group that has long opposed our central government. However, the SPLM is one of only a number of disparate and armed rebel movements that have sought to destabilize our country – and in turn, an already ravaged region that yearns for peace and stability.
Some of these groups, together with the SPLM, actually signed an historic 2018 peace agreement with the government – one that we all sides had hoped would finally bring this spiraling conflict to its ultimate conclusion. However, instead of working towards a lasting peace, once again opposition leaders thereafter rejected the agreement and formed yet another platform: the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA). Today, SSOMA – while already split into several factions – is negotiating in Rome with official government representatives to sign yet another peace agreement.
To be sure, the lack of a unified opposition voice – one that is collectively lifted in good faith – has made the work of the mediators increasingly difficult. Nevertheless, the government stands ready to make peace and to negotiate with any rebel faction to achieve it. Our country and our people have suffered for too long. Our salvation lies in looking ahead to the future, not picking fights with the ghosts of an ugly past.
His Excellency General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, and his government is committed to bring peace to the country at all costs.
When and how is this rebellion going to end? Today, this is the central question we must answer – we must answer it together, as one unified people.
In my estimation, a democratic election is the solution that will forge our fate. The last election South Sudan sought to hold took place in 2010, back when Sudan was one.
For the purposes of securing the peace in South Sudan, now that we have secured our republic, we must have an election that is free and fair and in line with both our regional and international conventions, including the African Charter on Democracy and Elections. For this to happen, we must first agree on a process to disarm and rehabilitate armed combatants; for they too have a right to participate in South Sudan’s future, so long as they commit to peace and to a democratic future. Second, we must complete a credible population census to ensure that every eligible voter is accounted for and duly given the right to cast their ballot. Third, we must undertake a comprehensive voter registration drive so that our voting population is properly accounted for. Only after these steps have been completed can we then organize a truly free and fair election – one that will make both our country and the world proud.
In this election, and in true democratic fashion, the losers must congratulate the winners. And the winners – thus equipped with a national mandate that is underwritten by the genuine will of the people – must begin the work of nation-building and uniting the people of South Sudan. Indeed, the winners of this election, regardless of who it may ultimately be, will lead and represent all of the people, not just those that voted for them.
It is in this spirit that I call upon the African Union, United Nations, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the broader international community to help South Sudan to make sure that this election is free and fair – that it is transparent and accountable to our people. Our people rightly deserve an election in which nobody feels cheated, and in which all factions prove their commitment to ending war and prospering in peace.
Put simply, this is the only viable path forward way to end the rebellion and truly win our freedom in South Sudan.
*Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth is Former Minister of Petroleum, South Sudan
Justice: Answers and Actions for Lasting Positive Change
August 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Brian Nkemnji*
I hope to uplift the lives of all who read this article.
Nowadays, technology exposes social injustices in previously impossible ways. Information in the form of videos, photos, and messages instantaneously disseminates worldwide. Ongoing and recent injustices are reminders of the mistreatment people face. Pain and struggle are heavy in society, especially for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC).
Society is in turmoil. The health and safety of marginalized people are at risk as abuse of power and coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths disproportionately affect BIPOC. Social disparities, police brutality, and COVID-19 case management reveal the systemic inequities and privileges granted to certain groups. As a nation, we should protect everyone’s human rights and ensure social justice and dignity.
The anguish and frustration manifesting in society emanate from centuries of race-based oppression. Disparities in policing, criminal justice, housing, employment, healthcare, and education, illustrate society’s institutionalized inequities. During the United States of America’s inception, people in power instilled and ingrained racism into the nation’s culture and systems. This plight is America’s past and present. Until society dismantles systemic oppression, it will be America’s future. Oppression destroys people and the nation. Humanity deserves better; let us create solutions.
As human beings, we owe one another humane interactions. The torment and systemic racism people endure is a relentless reality. People of goodwill, especially those in power, should denounce and act against injustice. However, words alone will not ensure social justice.
Education – in households, classrooms, and workplaces should confront systemic oppression. Everyone has a moral obligation to check their behavior and the behaviors of their relations. People can unlearn toxic mentalities and pass on humane ideologies. However, education alone will not ensure social justice.
Legislation at the Local, State, and Federal levels should diminish institutionalized oppression. The nation must enact and enforce laws that quell systemic injustice. Abuse of power plagues society. Perpetrators should face significant judicial and financial consequences. However, legislation alone will not ensure social justice.
Society needs fair play, oversight, and accountability to ensure social justice. The current systems allow perpetrators to cause injury and death and evade responsibility. Systems must remove perpetrators from authority, levy financial penalties, and pursue justice using special prosecutors.
People give life to nations, systems, and cultures; people also give life to injustices. Just as individuals created these ongoing systemic injustices, so can individuals stop them. The nation needs widespread, groundbreaking reflection, involvement, and action to dismantle unjust and oppressive systems.
I ask everyone reading this article to act against injustice and press those in power (elected officials, lawmakers, law enforcers, judicial authorities, and leaders in business, education, healthcare, and more) to help end systemic oppression and bring forth a more just society. Sustained collective action can end systemic oppression. Together, we can defeat the injustices entrenched in society.
*Brian Nkemnji is a social justice advocate who strives to uplift the lives of those in need.
Economic War: Understanding the Black Wall Street and Redirect Mall
August 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
|The Economic War is focused on fighting for Africa’s Economic Independence, Economic Emancipation.|
The leader of Africa’s first Economic War, Charles N Lambert, in a video released on Sunday, gave a detailed explanation of what the Black Wall Street and Redirect mall is all about.
In the video, Lambert gave a historical insight into the Black Wall Street and Redirect Mall as Economic Revolution.
And I must tell you that the video is a must watch for any African seeking understanding regarding the pursuit of Africa’s economic independence as it provides the very first ideological transfer from African Americans to Africans.
Lambert explains the opportunities that come from the Economic War for an African who will apply to Work as an Internal Army in the Economic War. This provides an opportunity for you to have a full-time job and this earns you $ 5,000 per month upon confirmation by the organization.
The Economic War is focused on fighting for Africa’s Economic Independence, Economic Emancipation and as its first kind, Lambert refers to it as Africa’s first economic revolution.
He explains revolution as an attempt to try and change the status quo.
Lambert further stated that if Africa can change its political status quo, gain political independence, we can also gain Economic independence, save the continent from being economically extremely poor and stop being dependent on foreign nations.
An Economic War, is a commerce-driven, orchestrated attempt, to balance altered trade deficit for a region. According to Lambert, this is done by simply ensuring that money leaving the continent is controlled, to avoid the haemorrhage of funds and capital flight.
Some African leaders have in the past attempted to save Africa from the haemorrhage of funds but failed due to the influence of the economic invaders that dominated African trade structure.
Now you can see that the Economic War movement is a revolution to lead Africans into economic independence and you must see yourself as a warrior that must win this economic battle for Africa by coming in as an Internal Army.
The Internal Army has five different roles and they involve over 600 people in Africa, and can be called the BWS600.
As an Internal Army, you will use the platforms that the Black Wall Street has put in place to strategize and fight the Economic War to help Africa recover and eradicate the deficit.
The Black Wall Street led by Lambert are a group of people who are dedicated to liberating Africa from poverty, they are the engine of capital generation for the industrialization of the African continent and leverages on capital flight to generate capital for funding of job, creating commercial undertaking for Africa which they’ve tagged ”The Economic War”.
A recipe has been tested and proven to be effective enough to help in the Economic War. This recipe is used to trap wealth inside of the community, you monitor the money, make sure it doesn’t leave the region to avoid capital flight.
The recipe was extracted from the backdrop of Economic Success of a group of people called “The Black Wall Street” who were racially and physically destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa race massacre in America.
In the summer of 1921, these worst episodes of racist violence in American history erupted in the heart of one of the most prosperous Black communities in the nation.
Dubbed “Black Wall Street” due to its affluent black residents, the Greenwood neighborhood of Oklahoma, where the Race Massacre took place, was a hub of Black success featuring Black-owned homes and establishments, including banks, restaurants, and hotels, in a community that included accomplished lawyers, doctors, and dentists. It was one of a few predominantly Black areas that thrived economically after the end of the Civil War and into the 20th century, when racial discrimination was the order of the day.
According to Lambert, this group of Africans who referred to themselves as the Black Wall Street became so prosperous and financially buoyant more than the whites who became upset with the success of the Africans.
History has it that the Black Wall Street community boasted more than 300 black-owned businesses, including two theatres, and even a pilot who owned his own private aeroplane.
The success of this black community, however, caused some white people in Tulsa to become envious and angry, according to Mechelle Brown, director of programs at the Greenwood Cultural Center.
The worst of it happened after an elevator incident between a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page and a 19-year-old black man named Dick Rowland.
Page worked as an elevator operator and Rowland would use the elevator almost every day.
On a particular day after the elevator doors closed and Sarah Page and Dick Rowland were alone in the elevator a few moments, there was a scream.
After the elevator doors opened, Roland ran and was later arrested. Page initially claimed that she was assaulted. The encounter sparked widespread outrage among white people, who rioted through Black Wall Street, burnt buildings owned by the blacks and killed over 300 black people.
It is on this backdrop that Charles N Lambert is championing the recipe of the Black Wall Street to be applied in Africa’s first Economic War.
Lambert believes that if these group of people were not killed and their businesses destroyed, they would have come down to Africa to industrialize the continent. And if the recipe they used 99 years ago could be applied in Africa’s first Economic War, Africa will be industrialized and restored economically.
Their desires, goals, objectives, passion, commitment, dedication, zeal, the height of their dreams would have been to implement the principles of the Black Wall Street for the entire Africa.
However, in applying the recipe to win the Economic war, to make sure excess money does not leave Africa, the Black Wall Street led by Lambert designed a platform called the “redirect mall” to sell African products to save the continent from losing over $203 billion on capital flights annually.
The Redirect Mall is an online Mall dedicated to fighting the Economic War. It is a place where Africans can buy African products in bulk as this will help retain the movement of money within Africa.
The Redirect Mall is to make sure Africans have easy access to goods produced by manufacturing companies in the continent. With the redirect mall, Africans can trap the resources and invest in African corporations to create more jobs for the people, thereby bringing industrialization to our doorsteps.
*SOURCE Black Wall Street courtesy of APO
Covid-19, Telecommuting and Africa’s Digital Space
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Opeoluwa Runsewe
|The workplace and the education sector can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative|
It is no news that the outbreak and proliferation of Covid-19 have had some of the most acute implications on global economies in recent times; the vast majority of private and public institutions have been put on edge and are being forced to mitigate these unforeseen contingencies by adopting the swiftest and most dynamic mechanisms.
Gradually, the virus has spread to 188 countries, with it’s ramifications cutting across all demographics. According to verified data by John Hopkins University in the United States, as at July 16th 2020, more than 13.5 million cases and 584,000 deaths had been reported; Schools, businesses and airports have been closed, restrictions on movement and large gatherings have been enforced, and one too many businesses have been obligated to urgently close shop regardless of the concerted effort by governments and health care professionals to curtail the rate of infection. However, it remains largely uncertain and highly debatable as to whether the recently imposed restrictive measures will be totally terminated in a bid to ensure that economic activities can imminently reach full potential. According to the IMF, the global economy will shrink by 3% this year; in what is described as the worst decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The effects of restrictions on countries expectedly differ. The availability of universal healthcare, digital devices, access to data, digitalization of systems and processes, good and affordable broadband internet service, financial inclusion, social prosperity and other proactive measures have been consequential in countries that appear to attenuate the enormous economic impact. For instance, the central banks of several countries have successfully slashed interest rates alongside other Fiscal and monetary policies, all in an effort to encourage borrowing and spending. These measures have however proven to be some of the most feasible ways to theoretically boost their respective economies. The UK, Germany, Italy and France are some of the countries that have furloughed government-supported job retention schemes extended to the millions of people that constitute their work-forces.
However, the impacts of Covid-19 join a long list of factors that expose Africa’s perceived economic backwardness; evidently prompted by some of the earlier mentioned infrastructure either lying in poor state, being totally dormant, lagging behind on up-to-date trends or being summarily unavailable to majority of the working population. In turn, this constricts the capacity to remain productive, keep businesses running and ensure optimal revenue generation.
With more than 590,000 confirmed cases in all African countries as at July 17th 2020, the pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant social and economic disruption. African countries have been propelled to impose various preventive and containment measures; South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo constitute some of the countries that announced complete lockdowns. Governments, through their machineries and the media, have urged residents to stay home and distant, all in order to limit person-to-person transmission.
Many employers across the continent have therefore transitioned to telecommuting; permitting employees to work from home or outside their traditional workspaces, and using video conferencing platforms to conduct staff and client meetings. These employers are also adopting technological solutions that enable them shift the bulk of their operations online.
With the exemption of a few essential service providers, most organizations swiftly directed members of staff in various locations to work from home. Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM), a media company with operations in eight Sub-Saharan African countries is one of those organizations. On 24th March 2020, it signaled its readiness to adjust by announcing that it required its 400 employees to work remotely, as part of its efforts to protect them from the widespread of the virus.
Organizations are also taking advantage of Africa’s booming digital space to convene virtual management and shareholder meetings, in order to maintain the standard procedures required for effective decision-making and corporate governance. United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) is a Pan-African financial institution offering bank services to more than twenty million customers, across 1,000 business offices and customer touchpoints, in 20 African countries. On April 29th 2020, UBA held its first virtual Annual General Meeting. In attendance were representatives of relevant regulatory bodies, shareholders, management and staff of the organization. Similar industry leaders like Zenith Bank and Standard Bank Group Plc have since followed suit.
Finally, businesses have adopted strategies that have allowed both staff and customers to smoothly transition from routine cash payments to online transactions. Paga, a mobile money organization with 500 employees and a presence in two African countries is one of such. On 24th March 2020, it announced strategies to reduce cash handling, in order to slow the spread of Covid-19 and adjusted its fees in such a way that merchants can accept payment with its platform without incurring any charges.
Covid-19 has also had its enormous implications in the education sector. UNESCO says that 9.8 million African students are experiencing acute interruptions in their education, and this undoubtedly raises pressing concern.
In Nigeria, a few state governments (e.g. Ogun, Kwara and Lagos) have made provisions for continued learning via local television and radio. That is, following the indefinite closure of schools, as declared on 19th March 2020 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is also the case in Ivory Coast and Botswana, with both operating similar models all aimed at bridging this threatening gap. In Ghana, the University of Ghana conducts online classes and has since negotiated free internet data with indigenous telecom companies.
In Rwanda, South Africa, and Tunisia, universities have partnered with governments and internet service providers to avail students across the various institutions free access to select educational websites. In March, Eneza education partnered with Safaricom Plc to deliver free revision material to Kenyan students for 60 days; OJAR foundation, an NGO committed to the capacity development of young innovators, and African digital education leaders, Sapphital partnered to deliver an initiative dubbed ‘E-learning4impact’ which provides free access to an impressive catalogue of specially curated courses for young African across different disciplines. Private organizations and NGOs have adopted similar strategies in Egypt, Libya, Liberia, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
While ‘Work From Home’ (WFH) and ‘Learning Never Stops’ strategies are admirable, their plausibility raises important questions. That is, against a backdrop of twin challenges – power supply and internet access. In Africa, these are effectively crippling the digital solutions and other digitalized measures aimed at taking the edge of the effects of the virus.
While the rate of global access to electricity is 87 percent, the rate in Africa is a sultry 43 percent. Residents in African countries like Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda suffer epileptic power supplies. In addition, going online presents complications in an Africa where only 24% of the population have access to internet. Related problems include poor connectivity and exorbitant costs. Getting online is expensive for majority of the populace, reports suggest that purchasing a mobile phone and 500MB worth of internet data cost an average 10 percent of monthly income.
Notably, Transsion Holdings, an Asian company, produces mobile phone brands like Techno, Infinix and Itel, specifically tailored to be hybrid option; providing top-notch features and at the same time, relatively low-cost. Africans also purchase previously owned phones flooding the markets from various parts of the world hence considerably reducing the cost of mobile phone purchase amid the barely existent credit or installment payment options. Yet, a vast majority of African telecom service providers do not offer the high-speed internet access and affordable data packages to facilitate the necessary adoption of telecommuting, easy digital transactions, etc.
In usual African fashion; thriving amid long-existing turbulence, Africa is experiencing fast growth in it’s digital space. There is visible increase in tech-enabled businesses in Africa. Notably, mobile technology in Africa is its fastest growing market. 70% of the world is already connected via mobile with Africa experiencing the fastest growth in this respect. PwC reports that between 2007 – 2016, mobile phone usage in Africa increased by 344%. Mobile broadband is accessible to two-third of the population and has hugely contributed to the continent’s socio-economic development by affording digital and financial inclusion.
Importantly, mobile phones have afforded small businesses the means to participate in e-commerce. Nigeria’s e-commerce sector is Africa’s largest, valued at $13 billion. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is a free mobile app used by millions of Nigerians. Small businesses have become smart; using WhatsApp to build strong consumer relationships, increase market share and, to boost revenue generation.
The challenges in Africa’s digital space, as unveiled by the pandemic, have been percieved to be slowing down the expected utilization of technology on the continent. However, the present awareness of these problems present endless opportunities, and should become an important launch pad for innovation in infrastructure and the digital marketplace. The workplace and the education sector, for instance, can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative.
Tribalism and the Church in Anglophone Cameroon
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rev Fr Joseph Awoh*
A tribe is basically a group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs, and beliefs. Cameroon has over two hundred tribes and tribe is one of our strongest markers as Cameroonians. There is nothing wrong with belonging to a tribe and no one chooses the tribe into which they are born. Over time, however, the word has taken on other meanings and, today, can also refer to an interest group united around a leader and an idea. In this way each of us belongs to a number of tribes including – in Cameroon and most of Africa – the one into which we were born. Again, this is good and beneficial. Human beings are not built to survive without group support. For a long time in human history this group support has been crucial for identity, for a sense of belonging and for survival.
It is from the word tribe that tribalism is derived. Up until the mid-20th century, tribalism was exclusively used to describe aspects of living in a traditional tribe. However, like the word tribe, tribalism also evolved and took on a more derogatory meaning. Today, tribalism is often seen as putting one’s own group above every other consideration, including justice. It is used to describe people who are overly loyal to their tribal group and exalt it above all others, whether these are ethnic, religious, professional or just interest groups. It is the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or interest group and leads one to support them whatever they do.
In our Cameroonian context, some persons have come to view their own tribe and culture as inherently superior to that of others and this has led to deep distrust between tribes. This distrust manifests itself in relations between Anglophones and Francophones, between north westerners and south westerners, between northerners and southerners, between Bangwa and Bayangi, between Mbessa and Oku, and so on. You only need to look at the political scene in Cameroon to see how we have been splintered along tribal and regional lines. And this is basically why the government has come up with the doctrine of living together. At its very worst, tribalism can lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide as we have seen it happen elsewhere. In fact, those words have been used recently in Cameroon (rightly or wrongly) to describe the socio-political crisis which we are going through in the northwest and southwest regions.
Elizabeth Segal holds that we are built to be tribal but sometimes tribalism goes too far. It becomes “bad tribalism”, a group identity that fosters the bullying and scapegoating of people who are different to us. We see this everyday in sports and social life but, in the last two weeks, the death of George Floyd, a black man choked to death by a white police officer kneeling on his windpipe for close to nine minutes, has shone a light on racism in America like nothing else has since the 1960s. The phenomenon in sports when fans make monkey chants and throw bananas at black players and athletes and the unequal treatment of blacks in the United States of America and elsewhere is called racism. While we all understand that bad tribalism in Cameroon is not the exact equivalent of racism, it is indicative of the way most people feel the effects of tribalism. Victims of tribalism feel the same way black Americans are feeling right now.
And that is why, as a Catholic priest, I feel really sick when bad tribalism rears its ugly head in the Church. For a long time our priests and fellow Christians on the other side of the Moungo did not want bishops appointed to them from other ethnic groups. Recent examples where tribal sentiments have superseded reason and faith and turned the church into the laughing stock of society include the Archdioceses of Yaounde and Douala. As Anglophones we prided ourselves of a different tradition and argued that this should not happen in the Church. But, as most of Anglophone society has swapped Anglo-Saxon traditions for those of our brothers and sisters east of the Moungo, the Anglophone Church has followed suit. Instead of leading society in the spiritual and moral domains, society is leading us. We have begun to agitate for priests and bishops to be appointed along tribal and ethnic lines and for a regional balance in these appointments, even as we witness how regional balance and tribal and ethnic considerations in politics has trumped professionalism and fostered incompetence in high places and wreaked havoc in an otherwise truly blessed country. As north westerners and south westerners what benefit has the appointment of Prime Ministers from our regions brought to us and to our communities? Nothing at all, except to those who belong to the tribe of their families and cronies. How will the appointment of a Bishop from my tribe, my interest group or region benefit me? Will it make me a better Christian, a holier person or will it bring me and the members of my interest group closer to the centre of Church power and give me advantages over others? How will the appointment of a priest to a particular post of responsibility benefit me as a Catholic Christian? Will this benefit be material or spiritual?
In Living the Priesthood, I listed the criteria which the Diocesan Pastoral Council of Portsmouth Diocese produced when they were searching for a replacement for Bishop Crispian Hollis who was retiring. Among these criteria was one that specifically asked that the prospective bishop should not come from Portsmouth Diocese. It said: Not a priest of this diocese, a man new to us all. The good of the diocese and the Church came before their personal interests and tribal considerations, and Rome appointed Bishop Philip Egan, a priest of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. How did we come to this point in this country where appointment committees and placement boards have to look over their shoulders all the time before appointing priests to positions of responsibility in their dioceses and in the Church to ensure that every tribe and ethnic group has a fair share of the ecclesiastical cake?
We are walking a very slippery slope as Christians and the option to follow the failed political model of regional and tribal balance is outright wrong and unchristian. And why is this wrong? First, we are all human beings and Christians. We cannot condemn bad tribalism in sports and in political and social life in America and elsewhere and encourage it in the Church of God. St. Paul tells us that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Second, the mission which Christ gave us before ascending to the Father was to go make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). The mission of the Church is not to grow our tribes, advance our agendas, increase our platforms and enlarge our visibility. Third, when we are tribal in the Church, we destroy the unity for which Christ himself prayed in John 17:21 – May they all be one! Fourth, we are taking over control of the Church from the Holy Spirit who guides her and enthroning ourselves in His place. In other words, we are saying the Holy Spirit has not been able to do His work and we are replacing Him. This is an abomination. Finally, tribalism as behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group and leads one to support the tribe whatever they do is simply devilish. It chokes its victims in the same way racism is choking our brothers and sisters elsewhere and it chokes the entire Church.
I am not unaware that in the history of the Church, nepotism and similar evils have been practiced, even in the highest of offices, but I do not think that we are here to propagate evils which the Church herself has condemned in the past. To point to those practices as an excuse for our tribal behaviour would be tantamount to justifying the evil which we are doing by showing that others before us had engaged in similar evil behaviour. As Church and as individual members of the Church we must all confront the evil of tribalism and not copy what we know to be wrong, no matter who is doing it. For my part I shall pray that my tribal instincts may not hamper the work of the Holy Spirit who leads the Church (and who is blind to tribe, ethnicity and interest group) and that competence and suitability of candidates will be the only criteria for my recommendations to positions of responsibility in the Church. This is what we learn from the selection of the seven deacons in the Acts of the Apostles: non-tribal criteria were set and the selection was done and then the seven were ‘consecrated’ for service. And what was the result? …and the word of God continued to spread (6:1-7).
 Elizabeth A. Segal, When Tribalism goes Bad, Psychology Today, March 30, 2019 online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/social-empathy/201903/when-tribalism-goes-bad
 Joseph Awoh (2016) Living the Priesthood, page 23
*Rev Fr Joseph Awoh is Vice Chancellor of Catholic University of Cameroon,Bamenda
Opinion: Racism seeks to drive us apart but there are rays of hope
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
| By Patricia Scotland*|
Today I received a message from a parent. Her nine-year-old son, Oscar, had been sitting in his living room during the Covid-19 lockdown, watching coverage of protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the United States.
He was perplexed and sat glued to his television as he watched images beamed from America, Canada, Australia and from the United Kingdom of masses of people of all races chanting ‘I can’t breathe’ and demanding an end to racism.
This fiercely intelligent mixed-race child had been raised to be proud of his blended heritage. So he was desperate to understand the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death, and the raw wounds it had opened up in communities across the world.
Oscar turned to his mother and fired a series of profound and deeply disconcerting questions, which she shared with me. He wanted to know why black people were being treated in this appalling way, and why some people did not understand the concept of equality. As his mother tried to respond to these difficult questions, the discussion led to the institution of the Commonwealth. Oscar wanted to know why countries who were former colonies of the British empire had willingly decided to create a union based on equality and friendship.
His questions deeply affected me, because they were the same questions I had asked my father when I was nine. I had been watching the painful and frightening saga of apartheid play out on TV, and I had already experienced the reality of being a child of the Windrush generation.
So it is deeply distressing to see that after decades of civil rights movements, race riots, powerful ‘I-have-a-dream’ speeches, and the establishment of equality laws, that we have somehow managed to come back full circle.
Here I am in 2020 witnessing the horrific manifestation of this still festering wound – a white policeman, undeterred by onlookers, nonchalantly kneeling on the neck of a black man who is begging for mercy, pleading for his life, until he is forced into permanent silence.
More and more these incidents of savagery, evil and of a lack of humanity are being caught on camera in real time – so there can be no claims of exaggeration or distortion. But it also means that children of all races around our Commonwealth are being exposed to a trauma and their parents are facing difficult questions.
I believe that our young people, like Oscar, who represent 60 per cent of our population in the Commonwealth, deserve to know why they are still having to ask these questions. More importantly, they need to have hope that we can build on the progress we have made and create a future in which their children and grandchildren are not asking the same questions. My response is to point to the model of the Commonwealth.
In 1949, the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, explaining why his country had decided to join the Commonwealth, spoke about its “desirable method” which “brings a touch of healing” to our sick world.
These sentiments were later echoed by Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 when she described the Commonwealth as, “an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace”.
It is true that our Commonwealth story is one of a family at times scarred by old hurts and resentments, and of a relationship sometimes strained and afflicted by fissures such as racism. But I point to the Commonwealth because our history also shows that, standing on the strong foundation of our friendship, our shared values, our common aspirations, and our spirit of collaboration, we have always been brave enough to look evil straight in the face and call it for what it is.
Our collective refusal to turn a blind eye to apartheid, and our tireless fight for the small, the vulnerable and the marginalised has made us as an enigma of diversity and equality.
Today, the Commonwealth is 54 countries, small and large, from five different regions representing one third of humanity, of all races, cultures, creeds, religions and economic positions, bound by the same language, the same common law, parliamentary and institutional framework, and values. And their leaders can sit together, all with equal say, making joint decisions on some of the worlds’ greatest challenges.
I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, but Floyd’s final silence was a deafening reminder of the challenges we still face. And Oscar’s questions, posed in the midst of a global pandemic and worsening economic and environmental crisis, presents a new set of challenges.
I am encouraged by the rays of hope I see shining through in the peaceful marches led by people of all races and cultures, and by police joining protests, not to stand against peaceful protesters, but to kneel with them in solidarity.
So I have hope that we are able to beat this, but we can only do so if we can see the bitter racism which has managed to poison minds and institutions and all of us resolve to eradicate it. We must also understand that the only antidote is to contradict this flawed ideology with the strong values of equality.
Often, when people ask me about the Commonwealth’s impact and I tell them about the importance of our Charter of values, they look at me strangely. But recent events and Oscar’s questions have made it clear that we must have solid strategies to integrate these values into every part of our society, including our education systems.
The truth is that we are at a defining moment in our history, and the choices we make matter, perhaps more than at any other time for a generation. We cannot afford to allow racism to divide us and drive us into social unrest. We all inhabit the same planet, together we are all battling the same pandemic. And it is only if we join together, in the face of our competing viewpoints and ambitions, that we can hope to defeat this pandemic, regenerate our communities and take on the economic and environmental challenges that this planet faces and defeat the corrosive stain of racism which would seek to tear us apart.
*This article first appeared on Monday 8 June 2020 on the Thompson Reuters News wire. Patricia Scotland is Commonwealth Secretary-General
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The views are his.Follow him on Facebook and LinkedIn , firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Benin President Patrice Talon’s Visit To Washington, DC: An Opportunity for a Teaching Moment on Core Democratic Values and Basic Human Rights
January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th 2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.
In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.
It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:
- a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
- a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
- a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
- a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
- a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
- a country where journalists are silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
- a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
- a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
- a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
- a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
- a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
- a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.
To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, “This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”
We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism.
We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S Congress and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.
*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S
Opinion: Extreme events are reversing development goals
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
Cyclones in the Caribbean and Pacific, devastating bushfires in Australia, recurrent floods and droughts in Asia and Africa, increasingly bring tragic loss of life to our nations and communities, inflicting physical and mental trauma on survivors, and causing irreparable damage to centuries old ways of life and undermining prospects for future prosperity and growth.
The current bushfires in Australia have been among the most distressing manifestations, leading the government to declare a state of emergency. The total cost to the economy of the bushfires with which Australia is grappling seems likely to run into billions of dollars. Continuous drying of undergrowth creates optimal conditions for bushfires, leading to tragic loss of human lives and destruction of infrastructure. There is devastating impact on the precious biodiversity of flora and fauna, threatening drastically to affect the ecology of the region. Heightened levels of air pollution in the affected and adjoining regions are having adverse impacts on the respiratory health of scores of people.
Such extreme events are occurring with rising frequency, destroying the means of livelihood for millions people in Commonwealth countries, increasing vulnerability and reducing resilience. The Commonwealth collectively recognises that without well-planned and integrated national and international action, natural disasters and extreme events will continue to challenge the resilience of affected communities and smaller countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside member nations to protect the environmental health of fragile and susceptible ecosystems, including through increased national preparedness for tackling natural disasters and mobilising resources.
For the arid and drought-prone member countries, which are highly vulnerable to dryness and bushfires, the Commonwealth provides support for governments to develop projects on sustainable and resilient landscape management, with the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH) helping to unlock necessary financial resources. Similarly, by pooling information into a streamlined platform for better and more convenient access to information, the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Finance Portal currently in development will help countries find suitable sources of finance and support to deal with disasters.
On behalf of citizens of all Commonwealth countries, I express my heartfelt condolences to all families and communities who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of recent days. I commend the courage and commitment of firefighters, emergency service personnel and all others who are battling to rescue and protect people and property, wildlife and natural resources, or human infrastructure. In these testing times, the wider Commonwealth family stands in solidarity alongside the Government and people of Australia.
* The Rht Hon Patricia Scotland is the Commonwealth Secretary-General
Rays of Hope From Guinea Bissau
January 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
It has been easy to overlook the recent election cycle in Guinea-Bissau. The initial round occurred on November 24th 2019. The results determined that a runoff would be needed and then incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz who finished in fourth would not participate.
This meant that the potential of a peaceful transition would take place in a country where most transfers were the results of coups. The runoff on December 29th 2019 would be a contest among the opposition parties. The contenders for the second round were former prime ministers as well. One was Umaro Sissoco Embalo of the Madem G15 party and Domingos Simoes Pereira of PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde).
The results from the runoff would show that the next President of Guinea-Bissau will be Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Although it appears that the results may be contested the fact remains that Jose Mario Vaz will be the first President of the West African Nation to fully complete a full term of office and transfer the position to a successor without involving Bloodshed. This is a feat in the history of the country which gained Independence from Portugal in 1974.
Some of the comments made by voters stated that it was time to “move the country forward”. This is a term that has been used often in elections where there has been change that one segment of the population has sought.
The Country has had its down points. A former head of the Military was indicted by the United States for Drug Trafficking, Several Cartels from South America used the country as a transit point in shipping narcotics to Europe and other parts of Africa and at one point was seen as being under the thumb of former Gambian President Yaya Jammeh.
The UN Representative for West Africa also commended the people of Guinea-Bissau for the role in the voting but also took the time to highlight the activities of the Political Candidates for their rhetoric and allowing for the process at play to move forward in a positive manner.
Having both candidates with experience as Prime Minister did help some (even though both were fired by the outgoing President.) One can wonder just how much of a role the tug of war between President and Prime Minister had in this election as a whole and is the potential power struggle between these two positions could lead to future crisis situations within the
* *The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.The views are his.
Staying Off Social Media Will Not Kill You
January 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jojo Amiegbe *
Ever find yourself constantly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, purely out of boredom?
If you took the time to analyze the situation, you realize you spend a ‘good chunk’ of your day scrolling past feeds that you honestly could have gone about your day not knowing or seeing. I’m not here to judge anyone who is very active or interactive on social media.
Granted, it’s a place to stay engaged with people, catch up on what’s trending, even see first hand what your favorite celebrity/public figure said, wore, bought, went, ate, and so on. But there’s a reason why the saying goes, ‘too much of a good thing, ain’t good’
Social media (depending on how you use it) can make one feel insecure and unaccomplished. You see your peers, or just any random famous face put up a post of an expensive ride they got, a new house they just acquired, maybe your friend from school got engaged, or they’re letting you in on how they’re spending their vacation. And you’re there with your phone, sipping on your pure water, fanning yourself because ‘down NEPA’, thinking ‘ah, these people are living the life o, chai…’, but deep down, you wish your life was half as glamorous as they have depicted theirs to be, maybe you end up dealing with a pang of envy, ready to say something spiteful when you come across someone with whom you can gossip with about what you read/saw.
They say ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’, and instead of spending most of my time looking down at my phone every 5 seconds to catch just about everything that’s going on on social media, I’d rather ‘face my front’ and set my sights on achieving the goals I have set for myself while watching/reading content online that brings me closer to greatness.
Do you spend your time trolling or responding in just about every comment section available, how much you hate what someone said/did, wishing them the worst thing imaginable? Are you one of those who have social media accounts, just so you can stalk and troll (maybe anonymously), or write the most hurtful things to a person, forgetting they are people too, with actual feelings?
Someone once said, ‘social media is where we put up the best version of ourselves’
Let’s say you have specific skills you want the world to know. Do your accounts show off your work, how have you used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the other platforms to ‘sell yourself’?
Basically, what exactly are you gaining from social media? Are you better or worse off because of it? Why are you there in the 1st place?
That FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’) mentality can keep one glued to the computer/phone screen for hours when that time could be allocated to more meaningful and productive work away from the refresh button.
Social media does not have to be the 1st thing you see when you wake up in the morning, or last thing before you go to bed.
I would honestly recommend you consider logging out if you can afford to, or at least take a critical look at how you engage on social media and see if it has affected your time management towards the productive pursuit of other endeavors, as well as overall peace of mind.
*Josephine Odion Amiegbe or Jojo as she is simply called by everyone is from Esan South East local government area Edo State but was born and bred in Lagos State.Currently a radio personality at The Beat 97.9 FM Ibadan, hosting the Morning Rush weekdays from 6 am to 11 am. Josephine loves to write and her work as a contributive writer has been featured in the Dining Out section of Ibadan City Info magazine. She also has several articles published in some online blogs and presently contributes to Opera News Hub as a Health & Fitness writer.
CONNECT WITH JOJO:TWITTER/INSTAGRAM: @jojoamiegbe, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gambia: NPP Manifests Betrayal of the Republic by Both Barrow and Coalition Leaders!
January 3, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Madi Jobarteh*
The Gambia is a Republic hence it must be clear to all and sundry that each and every citizen is equal in sovereignty, rights and dignity. There are no first and second class citizens or majority and minority citizens. All are equal before the law. Hence no single individual should be allowed to toy with the Republic just to suit one’s whims and caprices.
The creation of the National Peoples Party (NPP) by Pres. Adama Barrow cannot and must not be taken as the formation of any political party in this country. This is because the circumstances of the Republic since 2016 leading to his presidency were not ordinary. It was the creation of a Grand Coalition of all seven political parties and an Independent Presidential Candidate in response to a generation of dictatorship that brought Adama Barrow as President. In fact, in the December 1 polls the electorates did not primarily vote for Candidate Adama Barrow. His election was a response to oust the Tyrant Yaya Jammeh such that anyone in Barrow’s position would have won that election.
The striking objectives of that Coalition was to end self-perpetuating rule, reform the State and transform the polity into a true democracy that will usher in an era of good governance in the country. Hence the Coalition Agreement was to institute a transitional government of three years to do a set of constitutional, legal and institutional reforms. The president of that transitional government was to conduct elections in which he or she will not seek re-election but to ensure there is a level playing field. In fact, that candidate was to resign from his or her party just to stand as an independent presidential candidate. This is why and how Adama Barrow became the third president of the Republic of the Gambia.
The mandate and the position that Adama Barrow acquires is the property of the people. In other words, the Presidency belongs to the Republic, i.e. the People of the Gambia who are the only legitimate power and source to deliver that Presidency to whoever they so wish. Therefore, whosoever intends to acquire that Presidency must do so through means that are both legitimate and legal.
Hence by creating the NPP it means Adama Barrow intends to flout the Coalition Agreement by holding onto power beyond three years. NPP means Mr. Barrow is usurping the 2016 mandate of the people to use as a means to further stay onto to power beyond five years. This further means that Barrow was not honest to Gambians when he claimed to accept the terms of the Coalition and to serve as their presidential candidate in 2016. Now that he won that election and assumed the presidency only to abandon that Agreement therefore means Adama Barrow wishes to acquire and keep people’s mandate through illegitimate means. Indeed, if Gambians had known that this would be the outcome of electing Adama Barrow as President there would have been lot of apprehension to vote for him back then.
The creation of NPP therefore is the final thread on the cloak of betrayal with which Mr. Barrow has wrapped himself since he took public office. Yes, Adama Barrow like any other citizen has a right to seek election into public office. But no Gambian has a right to use subterfuge to acquire and stay on in public office. That will tantamount to theft which is inimical to the norms of democracy. As a Republic, citizens must not allow any individual to toy with the mandate of the people expressed in elections.
What the creation of the NPP also demonstrates is the disgraceful failure of leadership of the parties and their leaders who created the Coalition. Political parties are primary governance structures whose mandate is to hold the Government and each other accountable. Hence the political parties must not stay as bystanders or flip-flopping on issues that carry the destiny of the country. Unfortunately, this is what the Coalition parties did exactly.
For example, just as Adama Barrow reneged on his own word we saw how UDPs’ Ousainou Darboe and his entire party also flip-flopped on the Agreement by standing with Barrow for five years until they fell out. It was utterly wrong for Mr. Darboe to dismiss that Agreement on the basis that it was not signed when in fact he knows that it was on the basis of that Coalition Agreement that Adama Barrow campaigned and got elected. As the largest party in the Coalition as well as the biggest beneficiary of the regime change brought about by the Coalition UDP had both moral and political obligation to ensure that the Coalition Agreement stands to the letter!
Similarly, we also saw how PPP’s OJ Jallow jumped back and forth between the three and five years’ agenda only for his entire party to finally side with Barrow in disregard of the Coalition Agreement. As a leading senior political figure who had earned the respect and admiration of many Gambians for his consistent and brave stance against tyranny, OJ should have remained as that voice of conscience to defend the Coalition Agreement and not to betray it. The rest of the Coalition members – GPDP, NRP and NCP – remained indifferent therefore betraying the Coalition Agreement just because they hold positions in the Government. Meantime GMC only came to reject Barrow because their party leader ‘left’ the Government. Until then they knew very well that Barrow has already betrayed the Agreement but never said anything. While PDOIS leaders spared no opportunity to eloquently explain the rationale and processes of the Coalition yet they also washed off their hands thus leaving Adama to decide as he wishes. For Mrs. Fatoumatta Tambajang and Dr. Isatou Touray, one wonders whether they ever knew if there exists something called ‘Conscience’?
The Coalition MoU and Manifesto have clear objectives and actions to execute. These are mainly constitutional and legal reforms. Yet since assuming power at both the Executive and Legislature, neither Barrow nor the Coalition parties embarked on these necessary reforms. The only time Barrow proposed constitutional changes was to enable him to appoint Tambajang the Vice President. The other constitutional reform was to protect NAMs from losing their seat through a private member’s bill put forward by NRP’s Samba Jallow. The only legal reform was the Elections Act to reduce nomination costs. Why did they fail to amend the Public Order Act and many others which were stated in the MoU and the Manifesto?
Why should these parties and leaders behave this way? Why is it that none of them stood up vigorously from the very beginning to demand that the President honours the Agreement in practice? Why is it that none of them stood up to loudly put it to Adama Barrow that he was diverting from the Coalition Agreement from the first day he took office? The way and manner Barrow formed his Cabinet was against the terms of the MoU yet no party or leader came out publicly to put it to him that he was betraying the MoU? Even when Darboe said the Agreement or MoU was not signed how come no other Coalition leader produced the signed copy to provide him wrong? Who is keeping the signed copy and refusing to show it to the people? Indeed, these parties have more than enough means and resources to make sure that Pres. Barrow respect the Agreement.
In the first place these parties are in control of the National Assembly where they could have passed various laws or amend the Constitution to ensure that system change indeed takes place that will make Barrow honour his word. But none ever put up a proposal to that effect before the parliament! Secondly these parties could ask their supporters and citizens in general to get ready to demonstrate against any illegitimate aims of the President. They failed to do that too. They could as well go back to the international community to re-engage given the role ECOWAS, AU and UN played in the change we have now. They failed on that score as well. Rather all of the parties said either of two things; first, at best they can only remind the President to honour his word and leave it there or second, at worst to prepare for 2021 elections to challenge him at the polls. That is indeed a very unfortunate positon for political parties to take in the circumstances.
Clearly the response from the Coalition parties is nothing but an abdication of duty, i.e. to merely claim that the choice is with Barrow to respect the Agreement or go along with the Constitution. Indeed, these parties including Adama Barrow were well aware of the presidential term in the Constitution but they opted for three years. Therefore, they bear responsibility for the election of Adama Barrow and therefore they cannot just wash off their hands at the very end by claiming it is a matter of choice for the President to take. No. Rather the political parties have a duty to defend their Agreement to ensure that it stands. By so doing they would have been defending the sanctity and the dignity of the Republic that no one will assume people’s power through illegitimate means by subverting the mandate of the people.
The parties should have stayed resolved that they will not allow any betrayal of the people. We saw in 1996 how Yaya Jammeh also reneged on the agreement to serve only two years and then go back to the barracks. But just like Yaya back then, Barrow also claims today that he would rather stay on in response to popular demand! I wish to put it to the Coalition leaders that the issue of the Coalition Agreement is not an individual matter that could be left with only the President or any single party leader. Rather it is the individual and collective responsibility of each and every political party to make sure that this Agreement stands. Otherwise what the formation of NPP manifests is the gross failure of leadership by the political parties as they stand by to allow the bastardization of the Republic by one person just because that person is the President. Public office must not be left in the hands of one person to play with anyhow.
For the Gambia Our Homeland
* Madi Jobarteh, is a human rights actvist and outspoken political commentator former program manager of Gambia’s Association of Non Governmental Organisations. He is currently the country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Gambia. The views are his.
Djibouti:The Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters
December 29, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Kadar Abdi Ibrahim
“Nothing is more dangerous than authority in the hands of those who don’t know how to use it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thoughts of a right mind.
One could not talk politics without understanding it. Practicing it has never been easy. Even less so in a country where an iron-fisted dictator reigns. Because, simply put, politics is contingent. Ever changing. Because leaders, whether real or fake, perpetually find themselves facing new situations that are, at least partly, unpredictable. Who would have imagined that Djibouti would find itself isolated in the Horn of Africa, amidst this upheaval where deep forces are at play? Clearly, it is unstable. Manifestly, cruel. Assuredly, incredulous.
Within this context, Djibouti cannot be run by men who lack strong convictions and who, from the outset, don’t have the stature of charismatic leaders, men who have been driven, in the “statepartisan-clan-like” structurization of current political life, to make arcane decisions for the nation. This is what the German Sociologist, Max Weber, described perfectly, using a German expression that has since become famous, “the rise of the BERUFSPOLITIKER OHNE BERUF”, illustrating the arrival of “professional politicians, with neither vocation, nor conviction,” in his founding work of modern sociology, “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”
This, in large part, explains the composition of Djibouti’s current government, in which it has become possible for people to take advantage of their situation, by virtue of their political control and impunity, each in their own way, with their own 15 minutes of fame. This also explains the composition of the National Assembly, where people are chosen based on their servility and obedience, in sum, their ability to not rankle the volition of those above. Finally, this explains that, for some, pedigree alone is enough to take on senior roles that are far above their level of competence.
This is why this country needs men that will take it out of its conventional paths, who are capable of shaking up established order to understand the reality of the conditions that surround them and to feel the corresponding impulses in a great moment of unity. In other words, men of character, instinct and unity.
All politicians provoke controversies. The demands on them are heterogenous. Some, tribal. Or communitarian. Others national or financial. The charismatic leader must incorporate them and transform them into a collective demand – a shared passion – embodying this as his identity. He will be, in empirical terms, the representation. Starting from there, a double vertical movement begins, which he must make endure: “From the represented to representation and from representation to the represented”. Unifying is he.
The little dictator entertains. He upholds splits and divisions. He ensures instability. His irresponsibility is too often glaring. Blocking anything time sensitive, he can’t stop wavering between projects, constantly being tugged this way or that. His signature, changing sides. The little dictator rules by tricks and by force. By lying and by falsehoods. Lacking a homogeneous perception of the population, he cannot reign over a population that grows larger and more diverse. Sectarian is he.
Effusion, the true leader doesn’t know it. Nor narcissistic fever. The same with ostentatious rewards. Controversy and its hype, he confronts them: “Difficulty attracts the man of character, because it is through his embrace of it that he fulfills his true potential,” Charles de Gaulle taught us in “War Memoirs.” In the face of events, the man of character leaves his trace. The leader navigates between dreams and reality. Between meticulous logic and sheer madness. Obeyed and followed is he.
The little dictator, lacking confidence, needs to surround himself by a press and a group of people who laud him, who devote themselves to his personality cult and who build his hagiography. With a desire to please, he grants them everything they want. His integrity. His honor. Unable to answer to his responsibilities, more often than not, he runs off. Taking risks is never his business. Nor taking initiatives. In the little that he undertakes, he mixes indecency and buffoonery. Through restlessness, he makes it appear to himself and to others that he has influence on events. Without prestige and without resiliency is he.
Instinct, a natural strength in a true leader, gives him illuminated judgements, the logical series of next steps to be taken. It precedes, as part of its conception, each decision. It is thanks to instinct that he firmly grasps the deep reality surrounding him. He senses everything. This intuition, which bestows command upon the leader, is it not what Gustave Flaubert talk about in “Salammbô,” when he described Hannibal as a teenager, already carrying the traces of “the indefinable splendour of those who are destined to great enterprises”? All the great men who have marked history are endowed with this. Is it not what Alexander the Great called, more commonly, “his hope”? Caesar, “his fortune”? Napoleon, “his star”?
The leader who is thus carried by these three (3) personal qualities: character, instinct and the ability to unify, has in his possession a certain voice quality. Words that are capable of moving, of carrying, of galvanizing and of convincing, not simply with rhetorical and communicational methods, as we often see on Facebook, but because through it we hear a voice lifted by the spirit, something that one can barely make out, only through the eyes of authenticity and the angle of conviction. Thus, does this voice not phenomenalize these three ferments and does it not produce persuasion ?
Until today, this country has only had little dictators, not applying themselves to prescribe what has not been prescribed by higher authority. As much in the majority, as in the opposition. With the exception of the rare personalities who never had the opportunity to do their work. Namely, the regrettable Ahmed Dini. In this vein, Raymond Aron, in his “Introduction to Weber,” summarizes in a striking formula the great distinctive traits of a leader in writing: “Man obeys leaders that custom sanctions, that reason shows, that enthusiasm lifts above all others.” In other words: tradition, rationality and charisma.
Over 41 years after our independence, the Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters!
* Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is a freelance Journalist, former University Professor, human rights defender and currently Secretary General of the MoDeL party.
Africa: Addressing the Soaring Refugee Crisis
December 27, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Jude Mutah *
Over the years, Africa has witnessed a surge in refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) caused primarily by increased conflicts and persecution by dictatorial regimes. According to UNHCR, over 18 million people on the African continent have vacated their homes either due to conflict or persecution by brutal governments. This is exclusive of the about 50% that seek refuge with family members in the communities. In recent times, the number of fleeing Africans have soared in part because of the crisis in Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Burundi, and DR Congo. It is also crucial to mention the ongoing armed separatist conflict in Cameroon that has displaced millions and exiled hundreds of thousands across the continent and beyond. The refugee crisis in Africa is critical, and warranted the African Union to designate 2019 as the year of the refugee, IDP, and returnees with the ultimate goal to encourage durable solutions to involuntary displacement in Africa.
The 1951 refugee convention:
The 1951 refugee convention is a revered instrument signed by over 140 countries. Its core principle of non-refoulment proclaims that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they fear severe threats to their life or freedom based on factors such as “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Except for Libya, all African countries are signatories to the convention and its 1967 protocol. The uniqueness of the 1951 agreement lies in the fact that it guarantees, in principle, that refugees are not repatriated to the countries from which they fled. While this is stupendous, refugees in Africa continually confront daunting challenges in destination countries.
There are well-documented cases or instances in Africa, whereby the terminus countries have repatriated refugees. In cases in which they are not returned, the refugees are either mistreated or face severe reintegration challenges in the destination countries. For example, in January 2019, Cameroonian authorities compulsorily repatriated some 9,000 Nigerian refugees who fled attacks by militants in Nigeria. In the same vein, the Nigerian government, in January 2018, repatriated to Cameroon, ten separatist leaders who had sought asylum in Nigeria. In 2017, CNN released a groundbreaking report of migrant slave auctions in Libya, and according to a 2007 report by the Human Rights Watch, South African officials have not only arrested and deported undocumented migrant workers, but often assaulted and extorted money from them, and commercial agriculturalists, for example, that employs them regularly violated their fundamental work rights. In June 2019, UNHCR secured the release of about 100 refugees held under deplorable human conditions in the Zintan detention center in Tripoli, Libya. Refugees mostly lack access to healthcare, water, food, education, employment, and live in crowded refugee camps. Despite these challenges and with meager resources, a few countries in Africa continue to welcome, accommodate, and reintegrate refugees from across the continent.
Efforts by African countries to support their refugees:
There are a few African countries that have welcomed refugees from across the continent. For example, Ethiopia has an open-door policy that embraces and permits humanitarian admittance and protection for refugees. It is home to nearly 740,000 refugees fleeing crisis primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan. That figure is the most massive refugee populace in a single African nation. Uganda, on the other hand, has a generous refugee law that not only welcomes refugees but provides them with opportunities to start anew. Refugees in Uganda and Tanzania enjoy free movement, employment opportunities, and land to build a new home or begin farming activities. Over 500,000 refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have happily settled in Uganda. In 2018 alone, about 815,000 Congolese fled the country and some found refuge in these countries. Zambia and Guinea Bissau, offer naturalization status to long-term refugees. However, these countries represent less than 1% of the 54 countries in Africa. To address the refugee crisis on the continent, more must be done.
The way forward:
To adequately address the refugee crisis, more African countries must initiate policies that welcome and reintegrate refugees from across the continent. In conformity with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, refugees are skillful, with great ideas, aspirations, and dreams for a better future. These fleeing individuals are also resilient and imaginative, with robust energy and drive to shape their destinies. They should be given a chance in terms of education, employment opportunities, and safety, among others. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon posits, “Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.” It is incumbent for the African Union to ensure that African refugees don’t get deprived of their future.
Also, there should be adequate coordination between the source and the destination countries. It may be fair to say that policies be initiated and implemented that mandates the source country to contribute to the wellbeing of the refugees in the destination. Perhaps, this will go along way to compel the source countries to address the underlying factors that generate refugees and IDPs such as poor governance, which the Kampala Convention strives to address. It is incumbent on African countries to sign, ratify, and ensure the adequate implementation of the agreement which this far been signed by 40 and approved by only 25 of the 54 member states of the African Union. Echoing former US President Barack Obama, “refugee crisis is a test of our common humanity,” and we must work together to prevent or mitigate its effects on involuntary migrants.
*Jude Mutah works for the United States Institute of Peace’s Africa Program in Washington, DC. He is a Ph.D. student of Global Affairs and Human Security, University of Baltimore. The views expressed are his.
Shifting Battlefronts In Africa
November 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
The current struggle against the Islamic State (IS) is shifting fronts. No longer will the major campaign take place against the former concentration of power in Syria and Iraq but it will shift to the Sahel.
During a Ministerial Level meeting that took place at the State Department on November 14th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to his counterparts that change in strategy would in fact be taking place soon. What would this actually look like is a question that is certain to be bandied around by analysts across the CT spectrum.
If we are to assess what the struggle in the Sahel will look like we should look at the operations in Iraq and Syria for some guidance. We saw a group that took advantage of a vacuum that had a space that needed to be occupied. In the Middle East the voids were provided by a long standing civil war in Syria and poor governance originating from Baghdad. These actions created the situation where IS were able to find willing recruits to join their crusades.
Switching focus to the Sahel we do see several areas where a very similar scenario has been unfolding. One area of concern we should have is this area has had this issue that actually predates the rise of the IS. Weak governments which have porous borders with their neighbors actually provides a context where cross border operations can be conducted with ease by a non-state actor. This is a key fact when the actors are native to the region as well. So should it really be a surprise to learn that some of the routes being used by the terrorists date back to the days of the Mali and Songhai empires?
Another point that is often overlooked is the rise of Al-Aqaeda in the Maghreb. The group rose to prominence after the controversial 1992 elections in Algeria. Back then it was better known as the GPSC (Salfaist Group for Preaching and Combat). It later played a prominent role in the ouster and demise of Qadaffi in Libya and in the collapse of the central Government in Mali before the French led intervention known as Operation Barkhane.
Speaking of Libya one has to consider that the offensive by General Haftar and his international partners have to be considered as a factor in the rise in the spread of Jihadist acts in the region. His drive southward at first then west and finally north towards Tripoli has forced some fighters to seek a new place for sanctuary.
Currently where do we stand regarding the Sahel? Despite the French led intervention and a United Nations Peacekeeping Force which has allowed for both a tentative peace deal and several elections in Mail the situation is still in flux. There are still attacks in the Central part of Mali that have the potential to unravel the work that has been accomplished.
Another country that currently fits the profile of a potential front is Burkina Faso. It was earlier in the year when the late IS leader Al-Baghdadi called upon attacks on French and Crusader interests in the region. After the release of his statement for a month a Catholic Church in the northern part of the country was destroyed per week. Mosques have also been targeted as well as well as the extractive Gold Industry.
Niger which has seen its share of attacks by Boko Haram over the years is now the home base to a US facility that will be flying UAVs. With the presence of US Special Forces in Mali as well indicate that the US is concerned with events in the region and will do what it can to support France.
This action is being taken now so that the West doesn’t wake up one day and realize that the Jihadists have taken over parts of Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin. These Governments are already warning that IS is already in their countries.
*The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.
When the Anglophone Crisis meets Elections: advice from a Constitutionalist
November 12, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Barrister Paul Simo, Esq*
Cameroon’s political firmament is at present gripped by two major quandaries: that of resolving the first major crisis bordering on armed conflict to have affected the country in close to 50 years (the Anglophone crisis), and renewing the 5-year electoral mandates of the members of its Lower House of Parliament (the National Assembly), as well as elected Municipal Councilors (who in turn vote local government Mayors). The said mandates have already been extended for one (1) year. Both are indisputably national priorities, and both affect the NW/SW Regions in a particular manner. However, as every manager knows, there is a distinction between what is important, and what is urgent. All important tasks are not urgent, but an urgent task (even if unimportant) left unattended to, may dramatically increase its importance.
In the coming days, we will be releasing a major, longitudinal study of Special Status, Special Regional Autonomy, and Special Administrative Regions in countries around the world, informed by the crisis affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The said 40-page study contains proposals for a Legislative Whitepaper on the Special Status framework for Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. One of the fundamental pre-requisites we observe in Special Status regions around the world, is that for them to be created, and for their attributes to be modified, legislation adopted by the national Parliament is not enough. Due to the fact that they create a unique type of relationship between a region of the country and its central State, Special Status arrangements need to be ratified through a democratic vote by a constituent assembly or by the elected representative body (legislature) of the Regions in question.
Presently, the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon do not have elected Regional Councils (same with the country’s other Regions). Therefore, any crafter of Special Status arrangements for both regions needs to scan keenly for which elected, representative body will stand in their stead, to validate the Special Status law once it is enacted by the National Legislature. It does not take particular constitutional genius to discern that the only democratically-elected alternative in place is to have recourse to a sui generis (specially-constituted) group of elected representatives from both regions, namely their Senators, Members of the Lower House (National Assembly), and Municipal Councilors. The current composition of those representatives from the Northwest and Southwest regions, elected in 2013, hold a popular elected mandate.
If elections were to be held in the Northwest and Southwest regions in February 2020, it must be assumed either that the current group of regional representatives will approve the Special Status content before the election, or that the February 2020 election will produce a democratically representative group of elected officials. And furthermore, that there will prevail a climate of sufficient calm and security in both regions, to allow a meaningful exercise of the most fundamental civic duty. None of the above assumptions sound feasible, let alone likely.
It must also be borne in mind that Special Status or Regional Autonomy arrangements, where undertaken to resolve a political crisis bordering on an armed conflict, must be embedded in a peace agreement which reaches out to, entices, and involves the belligerent armed groups. The August 2005 agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, and brokered by the renowned Finnish Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Martti Ahtisaari, which brought to and end the separatist conflict in the Indonesian Island province of Aceh (fought for three decades between 1976 and 2005) is a shining example in this regard.
That peace agreement contained the prospect of regional autonomy, and succeeded to wean off the Free Aceh Movement (an armed insurrection that had received support for armed struggle from as far away as Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya), to renounce its separatist project and aspire for regional autonomy within a Unitary State of Indonesia. That peace agreement continues to hold to this day, 14 years later. The Peace Agreement (2005) was then reflected in a Special Status Law on the Governance of Aceh (2006). Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement went hand in hand, whereas in Cameroon’s context, the Special Status process at national level, and the existing and undeniable early-stage peace process with armed groups are operating in silos, heightening the risk that the latter will later fundamentally revise the former.
To return to the timing of elections in the Northwest and Southwest regions, the most likely prospect, given current incidents, is that elections convened in February 2020 (even assuming a Special Status law has been passed) will meet hostile terrain. It is not the civic, traditional, and political Anglophone elites who met in Yaoundé from 30 September to 4 October (and endorsed the regional Special Status proposal) who are wreaking havoc in the two Regions, nor is it they who will disrupt an election therein. There is therefore the risk that an election held in the two Regions will have extraordinarily low levels of voter participation (anywhere from 1 to 2 % of the registered voters), casting a major doubt on the democratic, electoral legitimacy of the resulting Municipal Councilors and elected Lower House Representatives. To give such an unrepresentative group (since Regional Council elections are not also yet foreseen) the onus of endorsing and granting Regional imprimatur to the Special Status arrangements, is a way of killing this important prospect for peace in the two Regions.
It is therefore perennial that no-one who means well for resolution of the crisis should argue for elections to take place within those Regions without considering the dynamics above. Putting in place unrepresentative electoral “representatives” of both Regions, knowing fully well that those Regions’ representatives need to validate and endorse regional Special Status legislation to give it legitimacy, is culpable.
In order to address the counterargument that the entire country’s elected institutions cannot be left indefinitely in a limbo, the best approach for Cameroon will be to proceed with a split election. Hold the Legislative and Municipal elections in the other eight (8) regions of the country and defer the elections in the NW/SW for another year or so, pending the Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement. (By the way, if deep insecurity blights parts of the Far North and renders elections materially impossible, they can be deferred, and by-elections conducted when security conditions improve). The practice of conducting by-elections is not anathema to democracies around the world – those are also convened when a local or regional election result is overturned in postelectoral litigation.
The argument that Cameroon is one unique national “constituency” and no citizen should be disenfranchised, falls on its face: Article 9 of Cameroon’s Constitution envisages both a State of emergency and a State of war, which can adequately, legally justify deferring elections. And it is questionable what “enfranchisement” of their residents occurs when those Regions have to hold “elections” amidst violence, impracticability of road transport, and massive internal displacement of their citizens across the country.
* The author specializes in the areas of constitutional, public, and international law. For 20 years (1999 to 2018) he worked on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions in East, Central, and West Africa. Between 2007 and 2018, he served the United Nations at Headquarters, and in multi-dimensional peace operations in Africa. He advised senior UN diplomats working on the following countries’ peace/reconstruction processes: Uganda (LRA conflict), DR Congo (regional conflagration in the 2000s), Burundi (2000s peace process), Sierra Leone and Liberia (Mano River region conflicts in the early 2000s), and the Central African Republic (escalation of politico-religious violence since 2013). He was Law valedictorian of the first graduating cohort of the University of Buea, Cameroon (LL.B. 1996) and holds a graduate law degree, summa cum laude, from the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is an Attorney at the Bar of New York (2001) and a Barrister in Cameroon (2010). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. He is based in Douala and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Email: email@example.com.
How Europe’s Greedy Lending to Africa Is Driving the Migration Wave That Fuels the EU’s Xenophobic Politics
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Vijay Prashad*
If you ask an African migrant in Europe who came across the Mediterranean Sea in a boat if they would make the journey again, most of them would say “yes.” Many of them had been on vans and trucks that took them across the dangerous Sahara Desert, and many of them had beenon board vessels that struggled to get across the choppy waters. They might have seen their fellow migrants die of thirst or of drowning, but none of that halts their conviction that they’d cross the sands and the seas again.
Harsh treatment by European border guards and an overwhelming experience of racism inside European society do not bring regret or suggest that they would not do it again.
“It was all to earn money,” said Drissa from Mali. “Thinking of my mom and my dad. My big sister. My little sister. To help them. That was my pressure. That’s why Europe.”
Myths About African Migrants
A UN Development Program report, released on October 17, shows that 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 African migrants in Europe interviewed would take the same risks to come to Europe again knowing what they know now about the danger of the journey or what life in Europe would be like. What is powerful about this UN report is that it dispels the many myths about African migration.
There is a terrible view that Africans are somehow “invading” Europe, even worse “swarming” into Europe. Anti-immigration rhetoric speaks of building fences and creating a Fortress Europe. It is as if there is a war, and Europeans must arm themselves against invaders. A year ago, the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned that European politicians fan the flames with hateful rhetoric that “is legitimizing hatred, racism and violence. While extremists spread inflammatory language in mainstream political discourse under the guise of ‘populism,’ hate crimes and hate speech continue to rise. Hate crimes constitute one of the clearest early-warning signs for atrocity crimes.” At the UN in Geneva this May, Dieng—a Senegalese lawyer—said, “Big massacres start always with small actions and language.”
The UN report shows that the hatefulness around the African migrant is misplaced. The reasons for major flows of migration to Europe actually come from within Europe itself. Those leaving war zones—Syria and Afghanistan in West Asia, but also Eritrea and Libya—come in expected numbers as they flee bombs that are often produced inside Europe. These numbers are much higher than for those Africans who come to Europe for work.
In fact, more than 80 percent of African migrants stay on the continent. The proportion of African emigration out of the continent compared to Africa’s population “is one of the lowest in the world,” says the United Nations. Most of the migrants who go to Europe, according to European data, come by regular channels—with a visit to the embassy, an application for a visa, the granting of the visa, and then a flight into the country; irregular arrivals, many of whom might come by boat, are far fewer than those who come with a valid visa. It is racism that fails to acknowledge this reality.
If you dig into the numbers from the UNDP report, you find that 58 percent of the African migrants in Europe were either employed at home or in school when they decided to leave; most of the migrants had jobs and earned competitive wages. What drove them is the insecurity in their countries, and the fact that they felt they could earn more elsewhere. More than half of the migrants had been supported financially by their families to make the journey, and 78 percent sent back money to their families.
World Bank statistics show that remittances to African countries are growing. In line with the global trend, sub-Saharan Africa received more foreign exchange from remittances than from foreign direct investment (FDI).
In 2018, according to the World Bank, remittances to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $46 billion—almost 10 percent more than in 2017. The countries that received high remittances were Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The total FDI flow into sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was $32 billion, up by 13 percent from 2017, but a significant amount less than the remittance flows.
Migrants who send money home are more important than the corporations and banks that bring investment dollars into these countries. It’s too bad the bankers are treated better than the migrants.
African Debt Crisis 2.0
Africa is on the threshold of a major debt crisis.
The last debt crisis was in the 1980s, as part of the broader Third World debt crisis. In the decolonization period, Africa—looted of its wealth by colonialism—had to borrow money for development; these funds were large, but worse was the manipulation of dollar-denominated debt by the London Interbank Borrowing Rate (LIBOR) and by the U.S. Treasury’s interest rates. Skyrocketing debt in the 1980s produced a long period of austerity and suffering. That debt simply could not be paid as long as multinational corporations effectively stole Africa’s resources and refused to pay taxes on that drain of wealth. This was the reason why initiatives such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) were created by the World Bank and the IMF in 1996 and 2005, respectively. By 2017, these initiatives provided $99 billion to reduce Africa’s debts from a debt-to-GNI (Gross National Income) ratio of 119 percent to 45 percent.
No change in the structure was made—no assault on transfer mispricing and base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), mechanisms used by Western-based multinationals to continue their plunder of the African continent. When the 2014 commodity price shock came, many African countries slipped gradually toward a new debt crisis. The new debts are not all government debt, but they include very high proportions of private sector debt, which has tripled from $35 billion (2006) to $110 billion (2017) according to World Bank figures. Debt repayments have risen dramatically, which means that investments in health and education have declined, as has access to capital for small-scale private sector businesses.
Currently, according to World Bank numbers, half of the 54 states in Africa struggle with high debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product)—with many of these over the 60 percent threshold that signals a crisis. The rate of increase of this debt has set off alarms across the continent.
What does this mean?
It means that if there is any financial crisis in the West, it will draw away financing from Africa, plunge the region into another major debt crisis, and set millions of people in search of better earning opportunities. Families and countries in Africa have come to rely upon these remittances. They are part of the structural fabric of finances.
Racism against the migrant is an enormous problem, and it must be tackled in itself.
But deeper than that is another problem that has grown as a result of no effective post-colonial policy—the structural problem of the ongoing theft of resources from Africa, and of the lack of financing for the continent to develop its own potential. Allowing multinational firms to steal African resources, and allowing foreign banks to lend to Africa at virtually usurious conditions, simply creates a cycle of crisis that results in migration and remittances as the band-aids.
Europe does not have a refugee or migration crisis. The real crisis is in Africa, where the thief—often a European firm—continues to undermine the continent’s ability to breathe.
*This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.