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Angola seeks IMF help in wake of oil price falls
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Walker*

_89114599_89114598Oil exporting Angola has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial assistance.

A Finance Ministry statement said the government would work with the IMF to improve economic and financial stability.

The IMF said it is ready to work with Angola to tackle the country’s economic challenges.

Discussions are expected to begin next week during the IMF’s Spring meetings in Washington.

Angola’s economy is heavily dependent on oil. It accounts for more than 95% of export earnings and more than two-thirds of government revenue.

Major challenge

International crude oil prices are now less than half the level they reached in mid-2014. Inevitably countries such as Angola where the oil industry dominates the economy have been hit hard.

“The sharp decline in oil prices since mid-2014 represents a major challenge for oil exporters, especially for those economies that have yet to become more diversified,” said the IMF’s deputy managing director, Min Zhu.

Angola’s finance ministry suggests there has been significant diversification already. It says the share of oil in total economic activity has declined since the mid-1980s – markedly so according to its figures.

The non-oil sector has gone from 40% of the economy then to just below 70% now. But there is no question oil is still central and it dominates exports and the government finances.

In the short term, efforts to diversify the economy would focus on agriculture, fisheries and mining, the finance ministry said.

Fiscal reforms

The ministry’s statement emphasised the role of “fiscal reforms” in addressing its problems, which means tax reform and controlling public spending. The government did cut spending last year, a move described by the IMF as “timely”.

Even the biggest oil exporter of all, Saudi Arabia, is facing similar challenges as a result of the collapse in oil prices, though it has not sought financial help from the IMF.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to curb government spending and it wants to diversify the economy, making it less dependent on oil.

*Source BBC

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African Union chief Dlamini-Zuma to step down in July, linked to ANC leadership
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

d-zuma1ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is tipped to take over the leadership of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, will step down at the end of her four-year term in July, her spokesman said on Wednesday.

Dlamini-Zuma did not submit an application to remain as chairperson for a second term before the deadline for candidates closed last week, Jacob Enoh Eben said.

“She is not seeking a second term as chair of the African Union Commission,” he said.

The decision was personal, he said, without giving details.

Dlamini-Zuma’s is a leading candidate to succeed South African President Jacob Zuma, her ex-husband, as ANC leader.

She served as home affairs minister in Zuma’s cabinet before becoming the first female head of the Addis Ababa-based bloc’s executive arm in 2012. She had also previously served as minister of health and of foreign affairs.

Zuma, who is expected to stay president until an election in 2019 and is likely to be influential behind the scenes in picking a new ANC leader at a conference in 2017, is expected to support Dlamini-Zuma.

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa is seen as another strong candidate to replace Zuma as party head and has the support of powerful business lobbies.

The African Union is expected to name Dlamini-Zuma’s successor at a heads of state gathering in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July. The bloc is yet to disclose the names of contestants vying to replace her.

*Reuters/Yahoo

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Netanyahu looks to changing Africa for new Israeli allies
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Jonah Mandel*

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at his Jerusalem office during a recent visit .

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at his Jerusalem office during a recent visit .

Jerusalem (AFP) – Four decades after his brother was killed during a rescue operation in Uganda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embarking on an African mission of his own — but with very different aims.

Galvanised by a growing demand for Israeli security assistance and his government’s search for new allies, Netanyahu has put a fresh focus on improving ties with African nations.

Part of his push involves a planned visit to the continent around the 40th anniversary of the July 1976 hostage rescue operation that resulted in his brother’s death.

His itinerary has not yet been released, though Netanyahu said he has accepted an invitation to visit the continent from African leaders. Among them is the president of Kenya, with which Israel has strong ties, and a visit to that country seems likely.

“Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu recently told lawmakers and African ambassadors.

He noted his visit would be around the anniversary of the rescue operation, which he called “a very dramatic national experience” and “for me, obviously, one of great personal consequence.”

African nations that have survived colonialism and, more recently, the not-always-altruistic aims of Western nations and China certainly have reasons to be sceptical.

But economic progress in many African countries has begun to change the dynamics, while the threat of Islamic extremism in parts of the continent has left governments in search of advanced defence technology.

Certain countries would be especially keen to benefit from Israeli agricultural and water technology, said Na’eem Jeenah, head of the South Africa-based Afro-Middle East Centre research institute.

“The manner in which Israel has presented itself to these governments is in terms of huge opportunities,” Jeenah said, adding that he believed “many countries” would be interested.

Netanyahu’s planned trip, the first by an Israeli premier to Africa since Yitzhak Rabin visited Casablanca in 1994, is a culmination of years of rapprochement.

It is also an opportunity for Israel to further deepen business ties with the economically growing African states in fields in which it possesses expertise.

Israel hopes as well to gain more diplomatic support from African nations at the various UN bodies, where it faces harsh criticism over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

– Warming ties –

The Israeli-Arab conflict drove a wedge between African countries and the Jewish state in the 1960s.

Pressure from North African nations, accentuated by the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and its neighbours, led African states to drop their relations with the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan was killed in a July 1976 commando raid in Entebbe, Uganda, to free passengers aboard an Air France plane hijacked by Palestinians.

By the time the commandoes arrived, non-Israeli and non-Jewish passengers had been released by the hijackers, leaving about 100 hostages.

The hostages were freed in the raid but 20 Ugandan soldiers and seven hijackers were killed, along with several Ugandan citizens.

The lone casualty among the Israeli assault team was Netanyahu’s brother, who headed the operation.

Changes in diplomatic relations with parts of Africa began in the following decade, according to Aryeh Oded, who for years was an Israeli diplomat in African capitals and is now a researcher at the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute.

“Since 1982, the Africans realised they had made a mistake in cutting the ties,” he said. Israel, however, still feeling the sting of the snub, “didn’t have the desire to renew ties.”

But in recent years, Israel’s lack of progress in reaching peace with the Palestinians forced it to renew its African interests.

“Under Avigdor Lieberman, Israel renewed its interest in Africa, because there were difficulties with Europe and other places,” Oded said of the ultra-nationalist who as Netanyahu’s foreign minister between 2009-2015 visited Africa a number of times.

– Selling security –

At a recent conference on Africa-Israel ties, the foreign ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Yoram Elron, noted Israel’s need for support from African nations in international forums.

“Today relations with the African continent are high on our foreign policy agenda,” he told dozens of African dignitaries and diplomats.

Indeed in recent weeks Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ghana’s foreign minister and a delegation of African Muslim religious leaders visited Israel.

And Israeli foreign ministry director general and Netanyahu confidante Dore Gold recently paid a visit to his counterpart in South Africa.

While Israel’s trade with Africa constitutes only two percent of its foreign trade, the potential for growth exists.

“Africa, which has today one of the highest growth rates in the world, presents many business opportunities in areas Israel has extensive expertise, such as agriculture, telecommunications, alternative energy and infrastructure,” Elron said.

He also noted Israel’s intelligence and military expertise were valuable for African states dealing with groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Shebab and Al-Qaeda.

But even with the warming ties, Israel is still dismayed to see African states not vote in its favour in international forums.

“What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union,” Netanyahu said at the parliament session.

*AFP/Yahoo

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Eleven Congo women, girls say pregnant by Tanzania peacekeepers -U.N.
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Michelle Nichols

This Aug 31, 2013 file photo shows U.N. peacekeepers from Tanzania attending a special parade for a slain colleague outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

This Aug 31, 2013 file photo shows U.N. peacekeepers from Tanzania attending a special parade for a slain colleague outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 (Reuters) – Tanzania will investigate accusations that some of its peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo abused and exploited five women and six girls, leaving them all pregnant, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

“We can confirm that out of the 11 allegedly abused women six were minors. Seven of the alleged victims have already given birth and four women are still pregnant,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

The Tanzanian contingent is part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s Force Intervention Brigade, tasked with offensive operations. The mission said it received the allegations in the northeast Congolese village of Mavivi on March 23.

Haq said four of the allegations are linked to members of the current Tanzanian battalion, while the rest were related to the previous contingent. The accused peacekeepers have been detained, while the remaining troops were confined to base.

“Pending the results of an investigation all measures will be considered in terms of how we respond including potentially the repatriation of the unit and command accountability will also be sought,” Haq said.

He said Tanzania told the United Nations on Monday that it had appointed an investigation team, which would travel to Congo in the coming days. He said the United Nations had recommended that Tanzania conduct a joint investigation with the U.N. Office for Internal Oversight Services.

The women and girls had been referred to the U.N. Children’s Agency UNICEF, which has a team on the ground, Haq said.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which was initially put in place during a civil war that took place in 1998-2003, is the world body’s largest, with around 20,000 uniformed personnel.

The United Nations pledged to crack down on allegations of abuse to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.

The United Nations reported 99 allegations of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse involving U.N. staff members last year, a sharp increase from the 80 allegations in 2014. The majority, 69, involved personnel in 10 peacekeeping missions.

It has been dealing with dozens of accusations of sexual abuse and exploitation against the U.N. peacekeepers in neighboring Central African Republic, where the U.N. troops assumed authority from African Union troops in September 2014.

The United Nations currently has 106,000 troops and police serving in 16 peacekeeping missions. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)

*Source Reuters

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In central Africa, citizens are using social media to build democracy. Here’s how.
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Elie Smith*

Congolese displaced residents from the southern districts of Brazzaville take shelter in a church after fleeing intense clashes between security forces and unknown assailants on April 4. (AFP/Getty Images)

Congolese displaced residents from the southern districts of Brazzaville take shelter in a church after fleeing intense clashes between security forces and unknown assailants on April 4. (AFP/Getty Images)

Early Monday, heavy gunfire was reported in Brazzaville in Congo Republic, after disputed elections led President Denis Sassou Nguesso to declare he had been reelected to yet another term in his 32-year rule — continuing a story whose background I will explain in depth below. That fresh fighting reminds us again of the bad news from central Africa, a region that’s also known as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

But here’s the surprise: There’s some good news, too.

Why isn’t central Africa as democratic as neighboring West Africa?

The bad news is that compared with West Africa, where 13 out of 15 countriescan reasonably be described as democracies, central Africa has seen little progress in human rights, free speech or democracy. Central Africa is home to most of the continent’s longest-serving presidents, including not just Nguesso but also Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who has spent 37 years in power; Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, also 37 years; Cameroon’s Paul Biya, 33 years; and Chad’s Idriss Derby, 25 years.

That’s true in part because the region is rich in mineral deposits, forests, and other natural resources. Central African leaders know they can continue profiting from lucrative trade relationships, regardless of how undemocratic they are — because even when governments and corporations condemn those leaders’ undemocratic behaviors, they keep paying for those resources.

What’s more, central African states’ political opposition is fragmented, their civil society weak, and their news media fragile. Central African journalism struggles for funds and works under tough or even draconian press laws. Journalists are too often arrested, killed, or expelled when theyinvestigate those in power or report on corruption.

But social media offers some hope

But here’s the good news. Using social media — especially Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter — citizens are reviving moribund civil society organizations, energizing opposition movements, exposing human rights violations and electoral fraud, and rebuilding interest in elections among people who’ve become apathetic after decades of electoral fraud. That’s been true in Rwanda and in Burundi, where activists are using social media to expose state brutality, to support activists, and to exchange information. For instance, in Burundi, according to reporting by OkayAfrica, activists and independent journalists have been highly creative in spreading information via Twitter and online, reporting that:

… the best source for news on the ground is the Soundcloud account SOS Médias BURUNDI. Made up of independent journalists in Burundi now too frightened to work openly, the group posts radio clips to Soundcloud, distributing them viaTweets and Facebook posts.

A vibrant online community congregates around this news, analyzing and poking at it in real time. In August, the satirical hashtag #10millionpresidents became its popular rallying cry. The hashtag is a satirical take on Nkurunziza’s rushed third-term inauguration, proclaiming each and every Burundian a president with many participants posting their presidential platforms and images of themselves taking the oath of office.

Below are country vignettes that highlight how, specifically, social media is being used in particular ECCAS nations.

In Central African Republic, social media was central in pushing outPresident Francois Bozize in 2013. Journalists used their smartphones to film the abuses of the presidential guards, especially in their operations in the north. Those images were circulated via Facebook. It enabled citizens in the main cities of Bangui and Berberati, strongholds of Bozize, to see graphic images of torture carried out by the army and in particular the presidential guards.

Images circulated on Facebook are partly the reason why the Seleka rebels’ support increased in CAR. That also contributed to Bozize’s fall, because he no longer had popular support. When the Seleka rebels took over after Bozize, social media activists then used the same method against the Seleka. This time around, journalists and some politicians used both Whatsapp and Facebook to expose the new government’s abuses as well.

Through Whatsapp and Facebook, CAR citizens first discovered the mass graves of people who were killed by the Seleka rebels. That’s also how CAR citizens learned that foreign soldiers — in particular, from Sudan and Chad — had helped the Seleka rebels gain power and were now looting their country.

When the country held its first presidential elections after the conflict, watchdogs used social media to keep the outcome honest. In the first electoral round, Faustin-Archange Touadera finished second against Anicet-George Dologuele. Opposition candidates and social activists threw their support to Touadera for the second round.

And here’s how social media was key. Some pro-democracy activists, journalists and groups fighting corruption used Whatsapp and Facebook to circulate information on how Dologuele’s time as prime minister was marred by corruption. Before the electoral commission could declare a winner, local electoral observers used Facebook and Whatsapp to announce that the president-elect was Touadera, based on firsthand accounts from individual central Africans observing the votes being tallied locally. They used smartphones to film results slips — which made it far more difficult for the centralized elections commission to change the results.

CAR citizens believed that Touadera had been fairly elected, and the nation avoided post-election violence.

In Cameroon, social media activists and opposition parties have teamed up against President Biya’s plan to run for a seventh term in 2018. Using Whatsapp in particular, activists have helped expose severe failings in the country’s health system. Social media outrage prompted civil society organizations to turn out in massive numbers to demonstrate against the death of a pregnant woman who was not attended to at the hospital because she had no money. The government was forced to justify her death on television and radio, something that Cameroon’s government officials rarely do.

So what’s happening, in particular, in Congo-Brazzaville?

In that country, where we’ve just seen violence, democracy activists are relying mostly on Facebook pages to expose human rights abuses and electoral fraud and to revive the political opposition. Congo’s opposition had long denounced the government’s fraudulent election practices — as when, in an October referendum, the government declared that citizens had agreed to throw out constitutional term limits and allow President Nguesso to stand for a third term. But social media had not been widely used before this year’s presidential elections, so there was little evidence to support the fraud allegations.

However, the March 20 elections were different. In the run-up to the vote, activists used social media in two major ways.

First, they used Facebook postings to successfully unite opposition voters behind challengers to Nguesso, after Nguesso’s camp made strategic mistakes. For instance, on social media, citizens posted evidence that the government was systematically arresting people close to one opponent, Andre Okombi Salissa, and that police had beaten another declared opponent, Gen. Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, after beating and tear-gassing journalists who had turned out to cover him.

Second, after reporting on those attacks, pro-democracy activists successfully used social media to convince Congolese to register to vote. Congolese saw via Facebook postings that government-sponsored thugs had attacked opposition party candidates. Meant to intimidate, these attacks produced the contrary effect. Congolese concluded a government prone to vote-rigging might actually be able to be defeated at the ballot box. Otherwise, why would it fear opposition leaders?

That decision to go to the polls was a dramatic transformation in public attitudes, which hadn’t been accomplished before by the government or by such international organizations as the European Union and La Francophonie. Congolese had lost faith in free and fair elections. But as social media reported the government’s several attempts to arrest Mokoko, citizens became highly motivated to vote. They saw the government’s attempts to stop Mokoko as a sign that what had seemed to be an invincible, rigged system was actually vulnerable — and that their votes might actually be recorded.

Let’s look more closely into how Mokoko was created by social media. Unlike Congo’s more established opposition figures, Mokoko doesn’t have a political base or party. No one knows what he stands for, or whether he is a nationalist, leftist or conservative.
Here’s what we know: He is a soldier, a former chief of staff for Congo Republic’s armed forces, and a former U.N. staffer. In the 1990s, he helped Congo organize its first and only truly democratic presidential elections after independence. He announced his intentions first on Facebook and other social media applications, rather than in traditional press conferences or interviews with such French-language news media as Radio France International, Le Monde, or Le Figaro. As a result, he is supported primarily by young people born between 1991 and 1997 who are heavy Facebook and social media users.

Mokoko’s candidacy sparked hope in part because many Congolese were tired not only of President Nguesso but also of established opposition party leaders — and in part because, being a soldier, he could face down fellow soldier Nguesso.

Democracy activists on social media also launched an operation called “Je vote et je reste” or “I vote and I stay.” Voters cast their votes — and then stayed at their polling stations, watching the count and waiting to see the results, in person. After every result was read and signed, voters used their smartphones to film the polling station reports. They sent those results to a parallel electoral commission created by the opposition to monitor fraud and verify official results, headed by Charles Zacherie Bowao.

The parallel electoral commission succeeded — because most activists used the Firechat App, which creates a peer-to-peer network among smartphones via Bluetooth and therefore didn’t rely on the Internet, which the government had shut down. In addition, an Al Jazeera reporter who was in Brazzaville to cover the elections was able to communicate directly to the Internet via satellite — and so her reports on Twitter were broadcast around the world.

Congolese social media activists were thus able to discredit the government when it declared victory on state TV at 3:30 a.m. Why so late? Because the government feared that, since the population already had seen the real results via social media, a daytime announcement would spark riots.

But this attempt to hijack the results failed. When the minister of internal affairs announced that Nguesso had won, he was unable to produce evidence from local polling stations to support that. By contrast, social media activists published online detailed reports showing results by polling stations and regions, and showing that in most areas, the winners were from the opposition. In fact, according to this evidence, the first-round balloting winner was Mokoko, followed by Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas. And Nguesso had not even met the cut-off mark for entering the second round.

What happens now? According to the constitution, the second round of balloting should take place two weeks after the first-round results were known. But Nguesso’s government had already declared a first-round winner and reported no need for a second round. Hence the post-election violence, objecting to what most Congolese accept as outright fraud.

Central Africa has a new tool for democratic revival

Social media will not replace traditional methods for democracy and free speech activists. But in Congo and elsewhere in central Africa, social media is becoming an important tool for democratic revival. Voters can use their phones to document and circulate what they’ve observed. That’s a powerful testament and force for open and fair elections, making clear when a government is intervening through brute force. And in central Africa, it’s giving many renewed hope for change.

*Source Washington Post.Elie Smith, Cameroonian journalist, reporter and translator, is a  visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. He served most recently as director of the MNTV television station in Congo-Brazzaville.

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Health Care Boost For Cameroon as Lambe Foundation Steps Up Fight Against Diabetes
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The Lambe Foundation is planning on expanding its activities to other parts of Cameroon besides Buea

The Lambe Foundation is planning on expanding its activities to other parts of Cameroon besides Buea

The Lambe Cameroon Diabetic Foundation is taking its crusade against diabetes a notch higher with an awareness and fundraising gala to fund its activities in Cameroon. In existence for about a year  now, the Foundation has so far  provided free testing and education  to residents of Buea in the South West Region of Cameroon.

Plans are underway to extend the services to other parts of the country said Dr Oscar Lambe who heads the Foundation.Motivated by experiences in his own family, Dr Lambe sees in the Foundation an attempt to make basic services available to people who cannot afford them or are clueless about diabetes and its related ailments.

It is heartbreaking to see gory images of health related mishaps in Cameroon, says Dr Lambe who believes that the government could definitely do better. Cameroonians in the diaspora can be part of the solution to the healthcare woes of the country and one way of doing so is by working in synergy ,said Dr Lambe. There is a partnership in the works between the 12729109_1067376523327222_7226812987695426198_n (1)Lambe Foundation and the Patcha Foundation, Dr Lambe said as he urged other Cameroonian professionals and organizations to pool resources and expertise together to make a more relevant contribution towards improving health services in Cameroon.

The awareness and fundraising gala which takes place on April 16, at the Vikings Center in Burtonsville,Md, will have as guest speaker Dr Ata Atogho.Proceeds will also go towards supporting diabetic education and material supply programs.

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Cameroon: Joint forces arrest 300 Boko Haram fighters
April 6, 2016 | 0 Comments
Cameroonian soldiers patrol in Amchide, near the Nigerian border, in November. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Cameroonian soldiers patrol in Amchide, near the Nigerian border, in November. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Cameroon says multinational forces fighting Boko Haram have arrested over 300 Islamic extremists and freed at least 2,000 people from their strongholds along Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad borders.

Cameroon’s commander of the joint forces, Bouba Dobekreo, said Tuesday that during the three-day operation, forces also destroyed a Boko Haram training and logistic base about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the Nigerian town of Kumshe.

The governor of Cameroon’s Far North province, Midjiyawa Bakari, has asked that all displaced people be directed by the military to the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon to be better tracked.

Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Benin have contributed about 9,000 troops to fight the six-year insurgency launched by the Nigeria-based militants. More than 1,000 humanitarian workers have also been deployed.

*AP/Washington Post

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HOW TECHNOLOGY IS ACCELERATING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN AFRICA
April 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ahmed Mheta

tech-894x640Technology has helped many countries around the world achieve economic growth. It is evident to most of us that technology speeds up and makes things we want to do easy. Technology can help in achieving economic and physical success. This article will look at how technology is accelerating economic growth in Africa and how people are benefiting from technological presense. According to Rupert Keeley, general manager for PayPal’s business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the rapid adoption of mobile technology and the growth of online shopping by an emerging middle class makes Africa a fertile region for expansion.

Health

Technology has changed the way healthcare is being delivered globally allowing individuals easy access to health resources and services. The technological health resources include health text messaging projects, portable sensors and mobile apps that ensure effective service. For example, an international NGO named Malaria No More is curbing the spread of Malaria in Africa and internationally through the use of mobile technology. People are able to donate money to treat an individual with malaria using a smartphone. In Ghana, the MOTECH initiative allows women to register to receive local-language messages that provide advice for healthy pregnancy. In addition, the initiative allows health workers the ability to use mobile phones to record health services provided. Healthy citizens turn out to be active members of society and contribute to economic growth through effective participation. It is important for African countries to pay more attention to the health of people in society.

Agriculture and Farming

In most African countries, agriculture supports the well-being of about 70 percent of the continent’s population. Mobile technology has played a major role as a transformative tool for rural agriculture. For instance, the Kenyan text messaging platform Sokoni SMS allows  farmers to transfer concise information about wholesale retails of crops and enabling other farmers to negotiate deals on agricultural stock. Sokoni users get value for their fees and their earnings have doubled as a result of access to timely text message market information. Finally, the role played by mechanical technology encompassing many agricultural operations cannot be forgotten. The use of engine powered equipment and irrigation systems that control volume of water is an example.

Banking

Technology has played a major role in how people bank their money and take care of their finances globally. The impact of technology can be seen in how people are banking in Africa today. An example of banking technological evolution in Africa, is the establishment of Safaricom’s  M-Pesa , a service that makes it possible for users to store money on their mobile phones and then use it to pay their electricity bills or send money to their loved ones via text. The use of smartphones has clearly improved how people manage their finances online and personally. Most Africans can now use their mobile phones to monitor their money online and purchase goods and services.

Education

The importance of technology has led to the growth of education in African countries. For instance, over 200 children in Ghana learned how to use computers through the Volta Regional Library’s mobile service. The library initiative brought computers to rural areas and taught students ICT skills necessary to aid them in passing their exams. Some students would not have had the opportunity to use computers in class while learning and only learn theory. Students are now able to implement new skills acquired to find information about farming which would improve the livelihoods of many people in Africa.

Mining

In South Africa, mining has been a major economic driving force for over 150 years ago. South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of platinum and one of the leading producers of gold and diamonds. Technology has played a major role in the success of mining in Africa. For example, mechanized mining seeks to use machinery to drill and extract minerals and metals. In addition, technology assists South Africa’s competiveness by maximizing  productivity. Miners are trained to use and maintain highly specialized equipment. This technology allows miners greater access to reserves that would be too dangerous to explore. South Africa is setting global mining  industry standards by the use of mechanization and robotics.

References:

“Mobile Health: Transforming the Face of Health Service Delivery in the African Region.” African Health Observatory

“Agriculture and Development in Africa.” Agriculture and Development in Africa. Ed. Cutler J. Cleveland.2007

“Text Message Services Improve Agriculture in Kenya.” Commodities and Futures Trading Blog Articles. 2015

Mennell,Rick. “South Africa Info.” South African Innovation Sets Pace for Mining Industry.2015

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Galvanising African Agriculture Through Efficient Farm Mechanisation
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

Vision of the Future from Massey Ferguson: Lusaka, Zambia 8 April 2016; New Ideas, New Techniques, New Thinking

Massey Ferguson, a worldwide brand of AGCO (NYSE:AGCO) , is inviting farmers and agricultural dealers from across Africa to attend its exciting ‘Vision of the Future’ farm mechanisation event at the AGCO Future Farm in Lusaka, Zambia (8 April 2016).

The MF 5709 Working with the MFFD4-28 5 Furrow Disc Plough in Winterton, South Africa, March 2016

The MF 5709 Working with the MFFD4-28 5 Furrow Disc Plough in Winterton, South Africa, March 2016

“This major event is a catalyst for ideas focused on farm mechanisation as key a driver for growth in African agriculture,” says Thierry Lhotte, Massey Ferguson Vice President Marketing, Europe/Africa/Middle East (EAME). “With up to 100 machines on show, this will be the biggest spectacle of MF farm machinery and agricultural services staged in Africa for many years. Our emphasis is firmly on the new generation of farmers, farm workers and agribusinesses and their vital role in advancing the future of African farming. We have planned a really dynamic and thought-provoking experience with plenty to inform, inspire and entertain our guests.”

Reflecting Massey Ferguson’s mission to supply a comprehensive and progressive system of farm mechanisation for all types of farm enterprise, machines from its full-line catalogue will be showing their paces. A number of products will see their African debut at the event. MF tractors, harvesting machinery, implements, hay & forage tools, seeding & tillage and materials handling equipment plus some of the latest farming techniques to support African agriculture will be on demonstration and display. Alongside this will run a programme of workshop sessions and seminars.

This first-of-its-kind showcase event takes place at the AGCO Future Farm in Lusaka. The occasion will also see the official opening ceremony of AGCO’s state-of-the-art training facilities at the farm attended by Given Lubinda, Zambia’s Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Dr Rob Smith, AGCO Senior Vice President & General Manager EAME and Nuradin Osman, AGCO Director of Operations Africa and Middle East.  “As AGCO’s global brand, Massey Ferguson is spearheading the Company’s strategy to transform African agriculture through inclusive and sustainable mechanisation,” says Dr Rob Smith. “Vision of the Future will have broad appeal and plenty to interest farmers across the spectrum of agri-enterprises – from progressive emerging and smallholder operations through to established farmers and larger agricultural business including contractors and fleet owners.”

Visitors to Vision of the Future will be able to drive the latest range of Massey Ferguson machines, gain an insight into product engineering and connected technological services, spend time with field service teams and technicians on how to get the best from machinery and have conversations with key players who are shaping the future of the agricultural sector. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to interact personally with Massey Ferguson design engineers and share their own vision and ideas for future tractors through a Virtual Reality engineering experience.

Like-minded companies from the agricultural sector are supporting Massey Ferguson at the event. For example, Michelin will be presenting a practical demonstration of tyre performance. Also participating are partners from the AGCO family of brands including GSI (grain storage solutions) Fuse Technologies (precision agriculture) and AGCO Parts (distribution of MF genuine parts).

“This is a unique opportunity for visitors to see MF’s credentials as an innovator, encouraging positive change within the agricultural industry and providing mechanisation solutions for farms big and small,” says, Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson, Director Marketing Services. “Massey Ferguson is an integral part of the African agricultural landscape and our machines have been contributing to farm output here for over 130 years. We have shipped over half a million tractors to Africa, and today we are active in every country on the continent. Our experience is second to none.”

“The principal tenets of our design philosophy that machines should be tough, straightforward and dependable are particularly applicable to African conditions,” he continues. “Furthermore, Massey Ferguson supplies a full mechanisation programme which covers all bases, embracing top-performing equipment, technology, expertise, knowledge, back-up and customer support. Our comprehensive range of products satisfies the needs of the complete farming season – from planting to harvest. Our fully-trained and extensive network of distributors and dealers takes care of sales, service and parts supply.”

A major exhibit is a new Mechanisation Package aimed at farmers making their first move into mechanised farming. Based on a Massey Ferguson tractor and a line of accompanying implements, this is aimed specifically at giving emerging farmers access to modern farm equipment at an affordable price. The package provides the opportunity for a vital step-up on the ladder of mechanisation for the millions of smallholder farmer families who are crucial to improving food security in Africa.

The very latest MF sub-130hp tractors have been designed with Africa in mind. The 100-110hp MF 5700 from this range will be making its first appearance on African soil at Vision of the Future, while the 112-132hp MF 6700 will see its first public showing in Africa at the event. These join the 75-95hp MF 4700 which had its world premiere in Africa in 2014. Among the tractors flying the flag for Massey Ferguson’s high-specification, high-horsepower machines will be the award-wining 140-255hp MF 7600 and 270-370hp MF 8600 Series.

A brand-new combine for the Africa Middle East region headlines the harvesting machinery exhibits at Vision of the Future. The versatile 200hp MF 32 Advanced features a straw-walker design, 5,500 litre grain tank and is capable of harvesting cereal grains, maize, rice, beans. Other highlights include a 175hp MF 7240 combine, 88hp MF 2168 rice harvester and MF 1840 small square baler.  A wide range of seeding and tillage implements on show will include planters, drills, rippers and land finishers. From Massey Ferguson’s new hay & forage tool line-up, visitors will be able to see a selection of mowers, rakes and tedders.

“This is truly a festival of MF farm machinery and services, demonstrating just what can be achieved to boost efficiency and productivity with the right equipment, technology and know-how,” explains Thierry Lhotte. “We are looking forward to working with our customers to help meet the challenges ahead and maximise the opportunities for a new generation of farmers.  Vision of the Future from Massey Ferguson is the perfect forum to exchange ideas, learn from each other and think ahead for the development of sustainable and prosperous agriculture.”

Attendance at Vision of the Future is by invitation only from a Massey Ferguson Dealer. Contact your local Dealer direct to find out more.

*APO

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African Ministers of Energy to discuss opportunities for power sector investment this June
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

Over 130 speakers to date have confirmed to attend the 18th annual Africa Energy Forum (AEF), taking place in London this year from 22-24th June.

Ministers officially open the 2015 Forum: Hon. Dr Kwabena Donkor, Minister of Power Ghana; Hon. Mr. Mamadou Frankaly Keita, Minister of Energy and Water Mali; Hon. Mr. James Musoni, Minister of Infrastructure, Rwanda; Hon. Mr. Simon Dujanga, State Minister of Energy, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Uganda; Hon. Amb. Henry Macauley, Minister of Energy, Sierra Leone; Hon. Mr Charles Zulu, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development Zambia

Ministers officially open the 2015 Forum: Hon. Dr Kwabena Donkor, Minister of Power Ghana; Hon. Mr. Mamadou Frankaly Keita, Minister of Energy and Water Mali; Hon. Mr. James Musoni, Minister of Infrastructure, Rwanda; Hon. Mr. Simon Dujanga, State Minister of Energy, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Uganda; Hon. Amb. Henry Macauley, Minister of Energy, Sierra Leone; Hon. Mr Charles Zulu, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development Zambia

LONDON, United Kingdom, April 4, 2016/ — Over 130 speakers to date have confirmed to attend the 18th annual Africa Energy Forum (AEF) , taking place in London this year from 22-24th June. Widely considered the meeting place for Africa’s power sector professionals to discuss opportunities for investment into the power sector, 56% of the African continent was represented at the Forum in 2015.

Recent decision-makers confirmed include Honourable John Abdulai Jinapor, Acting Minister of Power, Republic of Ghana, H.E. Honourable Spéro Mensah, Minister of Energy, Petroleum and Mining Research, Water and Renewable Energy Development, Republic of Bénin, H.E. Honourable Mamadou Frankaly Keita, Minister of Energy and Water, Republic of Mali, Nick Hurd, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, Government of the United Kingdom, Brigadier General Emeldah Chola, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Water Development, Zambia and Karén Breytenbach, Head of IPP Projects, IPP Office, South Africa.

The agenda includes government keynote addresses, targeted industry seminars and plenary sessions, discussing topics such as how to accelerate renewable energy uptake, increase the bankability of projects, and encourage partnerships between the public and private sector. An exhibition of 80 solution providers enables attendees to network throughout the three days of the conference.

250New for 2016, North and East Africa regional panel discussions will bring together the regions’ governments to discuss how they can collaborate to support cross-border power developments and energy infrastructure. More specific country-focused sessions will also explore the investment landscapes in countries such as Mozambique, Nigeria and Ghana.

Sponsor of the Forum Access Power will host the ACF competition for local clean power entrepreneurs in Africa, allowing developers to pitch their projects to a panel of specialists for the opportunity to win US$7million in prize funding.

Organisers EnergyNet will host a ‘Festival of Energy’ evening concert on the evening of 23rd June to bring together high profile bands in the UK with African musicians from across the continent. The Festival will highlight the role of commercial trade in delivering energy access to millions living beyond the grid.

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South African ruling party in crisis talks over Zuma scandal
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Stella Mapenzauswa*

South Africa's President and ANC president Jacob Zuma attends the party's three-day National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Pretoria, in this March 18, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files

South Africa’s President and ANC president Jacob Zuma attends the party’s three-day National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Pretoria, in this March 18, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party held crisis talks on Monday to discuss the fallout from a court ruling last week that President Jacob Zuma flouted the Constitution, triggering calls for him to resign.

The ANC backed Zuma, 73, after the Constitutional Court rebuked him for ignoring Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s order that he pay back some of the $16 million spent on upgrading his private Nkandla home.

But the scandal, one of several which have dogged Zuma over the past decade, could strain relations between the ANC and its allies the South African Communist Party (SACP) and labour federation COSATU, which have helped it to retain power since the fall of apartheid in 1994.

ANC officials declined to give details of Monday’s meeting by the party’s national working committee, which follows that of the ANC’s top six leaders on Friday. The ANC could issue a statement later on Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Analysts say the Constitutional Court ruling is a blow to Zuma’s credibility and could harm the ANC ahead of municipal elections due between May and August.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also the ruling party’s chairperson, said on Sunday parliament would on Tuesday debate a motion by the opposition to impeach Zuma.

The motion is, however, likely to fail in the house where the ANC, in power since Nelson Mandela became the first black president at the end of white minority rule, still enjoys a comfortable majority, with 62 percent of the 400-seat assembly.

“Zuma remains in control of his party (even if slightly weakened) and with a significant degree of electoral popularity, especially in rural areas and KwaZulu-Natal,” BNP Paribus Securities South Africa political analyst Nic Borain said.

In a televised address to the nation on Friday evening, Zuma apologised and said he would pay back some of the money spent on the updgrades at Nkandla, but denied acting dishonestly.

On Sunday, a jocular Zuma told a cheering crowd in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal that he was still youthful and remained South Africa’s leader, making no specific mention of the Nkandla issue. Support for Zuma from ANC allies has been somewhat restrained.

In a statement, the SACP applauded Zuma for publicly apologising on Friday for the debacle. But it warned that the Constitutional Court ruling was a signal to the alliance that “decisive action is now imperative, otherwise the continuing loss of moral authority, political paralysis and fragmentation of our movement will continue”.

The party said it was seeking an urgent meeting with ANC officials.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo

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Senegal takes in 2 Libyan prisoners from Guantanamo
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By BEN FOX and KRISTA LARSON*

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Senegalese President Macky Sall toast during an official dinner at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Dakar,

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Senegalese President Macky Sall toast during an official dinner at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Dakar, Senegal. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal has agreed to take in two Libyans who spent nearly 14 years in custody at the U.S. base in Cuba without charge, becoming the second country in West Africa to accept former detainees, officials said Monday.

Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby, 55, and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour, who records show is about 44, were both members of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group, an organization that sought the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and had been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. since 2004.

Khalif’s lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, said his client is looking forward to “receiving proper medical care” as he is missing his right leg below the knee after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan in 1998. He is also blind in one eye, and has shrapnel in his leg and arm.

“This is a bittersweet moment. I’m unsure why a half-blind, one-legged man with only one fully-functioning arm, and whose only supposed crime was to object to the Gadhafi dictatorship in his native Libya, was not freed years ago,” said Kassem, a professor at City University of New York School of Law.

Ghereby had dropped a legal challenge to his detention after he was cleared for transfer from Guantanamo by U.S. authorities in 2010. He is hoping that his wife and three children, including a daughter born after he was taken into custody, will be able to join him in Senegal, according to his lawyer, Richard Wilson, a retired law professor from American University in Washington.

“He was thrilled when he heard that Senegal was receptive to family reunification,” Wilson said.

Their departure comes amid an effort by President Barack Obama to release Guantanamo prisoners who are no longer deemed a threat and to eventually close the detention center, a prospect that faces strong opposition in U.S. Congress. With the release of the two Libyans, there are 89 men left, including 35 cleared for release who are expected to be gone within months.

Neither of the two Libyans could be sent back to the homeland they fled in the 1990s because of the instability there unleashed by the violent overthrow of Gadhafi. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed thanks that Senegal agreed to take the men.

“The United States appreciates the generous assistance of the government of Senegal as the United States continues its efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” Kerry said. “This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Senegal’s leadership on the global stage.”

Senegal’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed they would be receiving the former detainees in a statement released Monday on the country’s independence day. It cited the “Senegalese tradition of hospitality” and Islamic solidarity.

Khalif, who had been cleared by a U.S. government review board last year, was described in a profile issued by the Pentagon as having worked for a company owned by Osama bin Laden in Sudan after he fled Libya in the 1990s.

He later moved to Afghanistan, where he allegedly fought against the Northern Alliance in its war with the Taliban. Kassem, his lawyer, said that a U.S. federal court judge found there was no evidence that he was ever involved in any attacks on the U.S. or its allies. Both men relocating to Senegal were captured in Pakistan.

More than two dozen countries have now taken nearly 100 former Guantanamo prisoners since 2009. These are the first to go to Senegal, though the West African nation of Ghana also has accepted two former detainees.

Their arrival comes amid growing concern about Islamic extremism in Senegal.

Officials in the moderate, predominantly Muslim country on West Africa’s coastline have grown increasingly concerned about the threat of jihadis in recent months. Al-Qaida’s North Africa branch has carried out a series of deadly attacks on places popular with foreigners, including hotels, a restaurant and a beach in the region.

Senegal is now widely considered a possible next target after the attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. As a result, security has been significantly enhanced at upscale international hotels, along with French-owned grocery stores and restaurants in the normally peaceful capital. Armed police officers in flak jackets search the contents of all vehicles entering the parking lot of Dakar’s sole upscale shopping center.

*Source AP/Yahoo

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Somali Journal Launches Without any Somali Voices, Highlighting Another Case of White Privilege in Academia
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Huda Hassan*

White academics celebrating their African studies journal. Photo via Facebook

White academics celebrating their African studies journal. Photo via Facebook

On the evening of March 25, the hashtag #CadaanStudies (“cadaan” meaning “white” in Somali) emerged amongst Twitter timelines as a small collective of Somali academics and writers spoke out, 140 characters (or less) at a time. Initiated by Safia Aidid, a Canadian Harvard PhD candidate, the hashtag gradually became a commentary on the whiteness and privileges prominent within academia. More specifically, the online conversation served as a direct response to the launch of the Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS), a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that claims a particular focus on East Africa—the absence of a single Somali editor, advisory board member, or contributor left many pointing out that the only thing Somali about this journal is its title.

Founded by Rodrigo Vaz, a white male MSc candidate for The School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, the journal was made in collaboration with University of Hargeysa’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Yet somehow, it lacks any Somali involvement. This fundamental error is one often repeated in academia or any platforms that narrate the black or African experience.

“The content of [our] first issue had, unfortunately, no papers on Somalia…or by Somalis for a simple reason: we received none,” says Vaz on the public criticism SJAS has received. “I take the blame for that. This happened likely because the call for papers didn’t reach as many students and scholars as we would like to. That is something we are working on.”

The content featured in SJAS‘s first issue involves no representation or inclusion of Somalia and its people, but rather material regarding the ECOWAS mission in Sierre Leone, migrant domestic work in South Africa, and the relationship between ethnicity and violence in Kenya elections. (They are currently in the midst of preparing the second issue.) But its description stating that SJAS is dedicated to “covering an academic research area in clear expansion” led many to wonder if this journal was simply created by an aspiring young, white academic hoping to attain credit in an area with growing scholarship that’s still garnering little attention.

“The Horn of Africa and the Somali diaspora are ‘hot’ topics of academic and policy interest, and concern to many states, institutions and organizations for a number of reasons: states and their collapse, civil war and post-conflict society and restructuring, religion, radicalism and terrorism, gender, migration/diaspora, assimilation,” said Aidid, a few days after #CadaanStudies attracted the attention of Somali academics and activists globally. (With 44,995 Somalis reportedly situated in Canada as of 2011, it is currently the country’s largest African diaspora.)

Twitter activism is nothing new. In the case of #CadaanStudies, people used social media to deconstruct the privilege within academia while connecting communities internationally, strengthening the message that black voices will no longer be undervalued in African and Black studies. “The #CadaanStudies hashtag, Safia, and many others are completely right on this… reversing that is our top priority right now,” said Vaz.

#CadaanStudies assembled 1,500 tweets in its first few days of inception and its Storifyhas been viewed around 1,200 times. “It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that is information and debate [that has reached] more people than [those that] have downloaded most academic articles,” said Aidid on the outreach of her hashtag.

This is a larger conversation about challenging the right for white scholars to frame Somali and African narratives.

Vaz, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of SJAS, has yet to take to Twitter to respond to any of the hundreds of tweets directed to him: “My team and I want to show results attached to our words. Replying to the comments about SJAS without concrete measures would be empty talk. Once we have results to show, which should happen very soon—this week—we will upload them on the website and social media platforms. Until then, 140 characters won’t do,” said Vaz.

There is, of course, a long history of white people finding something untapped outside of their own peripheries and attempting to claim full ownership of it. Somali Studies as a field has formal origins in the 18th and 19th centuries, and during its time as an existing scholarly field, it has had an overwhelming presence of white academics who have intellectualized what has always been common knowledge to Somalis themselves. ”

Abdul-Rahman Jama, a blogger and Oxford University student, believes that Somali Studies still maintains a “colonial flavour” in its production of knowledge on account of white academics: “The technique is simple; collect local stories, publish them as exciting new research, publish them, get further funding [and] repeat,” he said. The knowledge that is produced becomes groundbreaking information despite it already being common knowledge to its “subjects.”

“There has been certainly, and unfortunately—for colonialist reasons and legacies—a disproportion of white scholars on many levels of study fields, African studies included. That should change and if SJAS can contribute to that, then I can only be glad,” said Vaz when asked if he recognized the ways in which the mistakes of SJAS thus far were reminiscent of a history of white monopolization in academia.

The conversation revolving around #CadaanStudies went far beyond these fundamental questions, however, when Markus Hoehne, a white German anthropologist and a co-editor of SJAS, discovered Aidid’s initial announcement of her intended Twitter debate via her personal Facebook page. In one of his many responses to the growing concern of SJAS‘s lack of Somali presence, Hoehne insisted that there is a general absence of Somalis in academia because they don’t seem to value scholarship. He went further to claim that this issue would subside if Somalis were willing to do the work.

“To add insult to injury, he suggested the reason none of us could grasp this is because we are Somali, and could benefit from looking ‘beyond your Somali navel.’ So not only was he wrong, he was wrong in the most patronizing and insulting way possible,” said Aidid. She has since then published an open letter, A Collective Response to Dr. Markus Hoehne and the Somaliland Journal of African Studies, which has gathered signatures from over 200 academics, writers, and activists, primarily of Somali or African descent.

Screenshot

“I completely disagree with Markus Hoehne’s remarks. Not only they are disrespectful to all Somali academics in Somalia and Somaliland… they were unnecessary and needlessly provocative,” said Vaz on whether Hoehne’s comments were reflective of the journal. “SJAS doesn’t subscribe to statements made by its advisory board members, whose responsibility and accountability for what they say or do starts and ends with them.”

Hoehne’s comments ignited a further firestorm of debate, including responses from Somali activists, academics and writers, which led to his public response in the Sahan Journal that ran a few days after the same publication ran Somali writer Hawa Y. Mire’s essay: “#CadaanStudies, Somali thought leaders and the inadequacy of white colonial scholarship.”

“It is not just that Somalis are absent from academia. Why are they absent? Who benefits from this absence? Because we know who it benefits and it is not us,” asks Illyas Abukar, a PhD candidate of University of Maryland College Park.

The online conversation has shed light on the continuous and prominent issues that lay within the production of knowledge about Africans and black people. #CadaanStudies challenges us to continuously ask the question: Who is granted the privilege of telling these narratives and why?

*Source Vice.com.Huda Hassan is a Somali-Canadian writer based in Toronto. You can follow her onTwitter.

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To break or to build: The choice now facing Uganda’s opposition
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

by *

With the Supreme Court upholding President Museveni’s election victory, which way will Uganda’s opposition turn?

When the going gets tough, the tough must get going

Especially when leaders become misleaders and mentors become tormentors

When freedom of expression becomes a target of suppression

Opposition becomes our position’

– Bobi Wine, Situka (Rise up)

Kizza Besigye has now run for the presidency four times. What now? Credit: Liam Taylor.

Kizza Besigye has now run for the presidency four times. What now? Credit: Liam Taylor.

Last Thursday afternoon, in downtown Kampala, a crowd of a hundred boda-boda(motorbike taxi) drivers gathered for a victory parade. To the front of their bikes they attached posters of Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s long-time president, who was declared the winner of disputed elections in February. The Supreme Court had just announced that it would uphold his re-election, removing the last legal obstacle to Museveni being sworn in for a seventh time – and the boda-boda men were ready to celebrate.

Or so it appeared. “I’m going to celebrate Museveni, but I like [Kizza] Besigye,” said one man, referring to the main opposition leader who officially garnered 36% of the presidential vote to the incumbent’s 61%. He had been offered a full tank of fuel to join the rally – enough, he reasoned, to masquerade as a Museveni supporter for a couple of hours.

So it was with the election, say the opposition: a “sham”, greased with bribes, scented with tear gas, and sealed with outright vote-rigging. Besigye has described the process as a “creeping military coup”; his supporters call him the People’s President, the real winner. There is some truth in that, and some exaggeration too: Museveni retains genuine support, and nobody knows what the outcome of a free and fair election would be. But Besigye’s rhetoric and passionate following frighten the regime. He was held under house arrest for 43 days after voting (police finally left his home on Friday) amid heavy security deployment nationwide.

Besigye’s strength is his tenacity in the face of repeated arrest, pepper-spray and, in 2006, false charges of treason and rape. His party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has been holding weekly ‘Free My Vote’ prayer meetings, and there is something of a revivalist fervour to Besigye’s support: a sense that courage alone is enough, and righteousness will prevail.

But the opposition has now lost four times with Besigye as its candidate. And in Museveni, they face a masterful political operator, a former guerilla leader who has fashioned the state and military in his own image. The Ugandan opposition need more than faith. They need a strategy.

Let’s walk together

“Besigye is within the hearts of the people,” says Moses, standing in his overalls in Kisekka Market. The market, in central Kampala, is known for spare parts and unruly protest. There have been clashes here in recent years over the market’s redevelopment, kindling the combustible politics of urban space.

Kampala, overwhelmingly, supports Besigye: even on official results, he won two-thirds of the vote in the capital. He has powerful allies here, including the Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, an outspoken lawyer with the ear of the urban poor. Lukwago was impeached in 2013 by Museveni appointees on the city authority, but handsomely re-elected this year.

The people in Kisekka Market are frustrated. “The youth now are starving”, says Brian, 26, complaining about the cost of living. He is a graduate, but could not find work elsewhere. There are many others like him. The formal sector absorbs a tiny fraction of young jobseekers in a country where 75% of the population is under thirty.

Jobless youth are the footsoldiers of “defiance”, the strategy of mobilising popular protest in urban centres. Rhetorically, at least, this is Besigye’s preferred approach. Nobody knows if such protests are possible, or where they could lead. An FDC organizer in Kisekka says he could put a thousand people on the streets, and is ready to “take things to the next level”. Some in the party talk ambitiously of Tunisia and Egypt.

Others are sceptical. “If people did not work for a week, they would starve,” says Sabiti Makara, a professor of politics at Makerere University. “That kind of situation cannot sustain a prolonged uprising.”

Additionally, in 2011, ‘Walk to Work’ protests over inflation soon petered out, after at least nine people were killed and hundreds arrested. Any new campaign would doubtless meet similar repression, aided by the draconian Public Order Management Act, passed in 2013.

Topowa tutambule,” sings popular musician Bobi Wine: “don’t give up, let’s walk together”. But the traders in Kisekka are fearful. A temporary army camp was established next to the market for six weeks after the election, and there are regular patrols by soldiers and armed police. One man shrugs. “It would be better if it were like South Africa, where even the low-down people can get guns. Then at least we could fight.”

Reform agenda

According to political commentator Bernard Tabaire, a better model would in fact be Kenya in the last days of Daniel arap Moi. There, a broad alliance of Kenyan opposition – including civil society groups, churches and academics – made it politically impossible for the old dictator to remove constitutional term limits. Kenyan democracy has had its problems since, but at least power was transferred.

In Uganda, the opposition could follow this example and organise to defend the constitutional age limit of 75 for presidential candidates, which Museveni will have to remove if he is to run again in 2021. They could also campaign for the reintroduction of term limits (scrapped in 2005), or get behind a package of electoral reforms being pushed by an increasingly assertive civil society.

It won’t be easy. Museveni may respond by rolling reforms together, trading concessions on term limits for the lifting of the age restriction for example. He has a large parliamentary majority, and can use patronage to buy support for constitutional amendments. And, even if he does retire, it would only be the first step to dismantling the system he built.

But Museveni’s own position may be weaker than it appears. Though he dominates his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), he must tread carefully. In one 2015 survey by polling company Research World International, 38% of NRM members said it was time for a new leader. Moreover, younger NRM politicians showed more independence in the last parliament. The fracturing of elites is often a precursor to transition, and the opposition will hope to catalyse more defections to follow Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister turned anti-Museveni candidate in the February elections.

Coalition-building would also force the FDC to address its own weaknesses. State interference has impeded its organisation in rural areas, and it has tended to fall back on Besigye’s charisma rather than build party structures. In the recent election, it fielded parliamentary candidates in only 201 of 290 constituencies, and competed for chairperson in only 43 of 112 districts. The party scarcely has a presence in much of the countryside.

Breaking or building?

The opposition therefore faces a choice: to try and precipitate an immediate crisis, perhaps through street protest, or to organise a reforming coalition. It will be hard to do both. Museveni’s oldest trick is the mobilisation of memory, recalling the chaos which preceded his rule. For all Besigye’s avowals of non-violence, protests will inevitably be portrayed as a threat to stability, alienating moderates and middle-class voters with something to lose.

It’s the choice between “breaking” and “building”, says Daniel Kalinaki, author of Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution. “If you’re breaking, it’s violent and messy. If you’re building, you may not be successful but it’s progressive.”

Which will the opposition choose? At present, their language points towards confrontation: FDC party president Mugisha Muntu today promised a “sustained non-violent effort to reclaim our victory’”, while Besigye has called for “defiance” and an independent election audit – something he is unlikely to get. But that could be a tactic to make space for negotiation later on. Much is unpredictable, and outside the opposition’s control: the internal dynamics of the NRM, the shifting priorities of international donors, and potential economic turbulence (the fiscal deficit is 6.4%, exacerbated by pre-election spending, and an expected oil bonanza may not materialise).

One thing no-one doubts though is the scale of the challenge. And some simply despair that the regime cannot be removed regardless of the strategy chosen. As Justine, a shopworker, sighs: “They have the power, they have the tear gas, they have the guns.”

*Source African Arguments.Liam Taylor is a freelance journalist based in Kampala. He blogs regularly atwww.liamtaylor.org.Photographs by Liam Taylor.

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Meet The Nigerian Woman Who Is Building The Fashion Amazon Of Africa
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Mfonobong Nsehe*

IMG0119Olatorera Oniru is one of Nigeria’s most assiduous and ambitious young entrepreneurs. The 29 year-old lady is the founder of Dressmeoutlet.com, a Lagos-based e-commerce startup that retails fashion products sourced from across the globe. Dressmeoutlet.com strongly promotes made in Africa goods with the goal of retailing only the best 20% African designers. Olatorera continues to travel across Africa and beyond in search of unique treasures and creative manufacturers to retail on Dressmeoutlet.com and will be visiting China, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia and Tanzania within the next coming months. She enjoys going into the most rural of areas – learning, mingling and discovering unique treasures and natural resources that can be converted into luxury fashion apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories.

Dressmeoutlet.com ships worldwide and currently has customers in different states across Nigeria, Uganda and the United States of America. The company now employs more than 20 full-time employees and will officially launch with a sales and exhibition event in Lagos, Nigeria on May 22nd, 2016. With years of experience from top companies including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Ericsson, Central Bank of Nigeria and General Electric, Olatorera Oniru is successfully building Dressmeoutlet.com into a fashion e-commerce powerhouse and currently has funding offers from notable investors including Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu.

I recently had a chat with Olatorera to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and what she is doing to ensure Dressmeoutlet.com grows into one of Africa’s most successful online retailers.

Tell me about your personal, educational and professional background?

I grew up partly in Nigeria and the United States of America. I attended primary school at Maryhill Oyo, middle school at Queens College Lagos and high school at Leesville High North Carolina.

In 2008, I graduated Cum Laude Honors with a degree in Business Administration/ Management and Entrepreneurship from NC A&T State University where I had served as a Senator for Academic Affairs, Founder and President of the Association of African Students, Tutor for Disability and Support Services, Campus Lead for Monster’s Diversity Leadership Program and during a time when I had also worked for General Electric under the Financial Management Program Internship.

Upon graduation, I accepted an excellent opportunity to work for Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Senior Analyst for the Global Markets and Investment Banking group attaining my 2nd Fortune 5 company work experience. Working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch sums up one of the absolute best times of my life – working on Wall Street in the world’s greatest city that never sleeps – New York City, while leading million dollar initiatives supporting the optimization of revenue by investment bankers. I was one of the analysts at Merrill Lynch that led the 2009 Global Asset Services Initiative to integrate Merrill Lynch systems with Bank of America’s after the industry buyout and consolidation during the 2008 financial Industry crisis. During my employed years at Merrill Lynch, I also served as co-founder and president of Network of African Professionals in New York and as a Junior Board Member of CASA-NY (Court Appointed Special Advocates New York).

After 2 years at Merrill Lynch, I accepted an opportunity to work for the Central Bank of Nigeria as a Senior Supervisor which I did for a year and then proceeded to obtain my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) Degree from Emory University where I focused on Finance, Leadership and Entrepreneurship. While at Emory University, I received scholarships from the National Black MBA Association and The Executive Leadership Council and was a finalist for the Emory Goizueta Business School Entrepreneurship Scholarship. I was also elected Vice President of Multi-cultural and served as Continent of Africa Captain. During my MBA days, I was keenly learning and strategizing on how to innovate, build, grow and lead a large company and thus my goal as an MBA candidate was to learn, learn, learn, plan, plan, plan. A good percentage of the business plan for Dressmeoutlet.com was written during my MBA days.

Upon graduating with my MBA degree, I accepted an offer with Lars Magnus Ericsson Corporation that provided me the most amazing 3 years of work experience as a global consultant and subsequently as Head of Sales Governance for the MTN Nigeria account, an account that generated over 300 million dollars in annual revenue for Ericsson. While at Ericsson, I obtained two Executive Leadership Certificates from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland and from Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden.

Over the course of my employed years, I travelled to over 50 cities in over 10 countries in 4 continents. My entire career has been whole-heartedly rewarding and now I am more than ready for the ups, downs, thrills and joys of the entrepreneurial world.

So what made you delve into entrepreneurship? Seeing that you had built a very successful career working for multi-national conglomerates.

I was ready for the leap. I believe I have leadership capabilities to create, establish and innovate; and now I want to create global visibility for African products, create jobs for people, and generally do my part in making the world a better place and I would not have 100% of the freedom I need to grow if I remain employed. I have dreams and I want to make all my dreams come true and this requires me investing as much of my time as possible into my dreams. I want to express my love and care for people in my own way. More importantly, as comfortable as I was, earning way above average with the conglomerates I worked for, I just could not be too comfortable knowing that the poverty rate in Nigeria is 65% and even worse in other African countries. And I know we need more leaders in Africa coming out of our comfort zones to change the status quo. If we have the capabilities and opportunities to do something and do it well, we must utilize it, we must go out there and make a difference. I am ready to do whatever it takes to build the fashion industry in Africa, create more jobs, contribute to the economy, increase the standard of living and witness Africa blossom. With Dressmeoutlet.com, I aim to witness Africans innovating more with natural resources and capabilities, exporting more finished products and catching up with the giants of the world.

Access to financing is always a challenge for many entrepreneurs. How have you been able to fund Dressmeoutlet.com?

Dressmeoutlet is being funded from personal savings. I think it is safe to say that we are reasonably financially prepared for the next 3-5 years of running and growing Dressmeoutlet.com. Notwithstanding the fact that we are open to considering outside investors who buy into the company’s mission and vision 100%. We have been approached by companies that want to buy Dressmeoutlet.com and companies that want to invest in Dressmeoutlet.com. Selling Dressmeoutlet.com is not an option. Right now, the team and I are very focused on growing and increasing the valuation of Dressmeoutlet.com.

What does success mean to you?

Success means doing everything I can to push my dreams beyond my biggest imagination. Success means providing for others, creating jobs, employing people. Success means witnessing a reduction in poverty across Africa, witnessing a worldwide increase in the appreciation of human creativity. Success means stronger leaders in politics, success means more entrepreneurs across Africa, and success means a strong boom in the retail industry across Africa. Success means the smile on employees’ faces when they get a raise, success means the smile on the face of the graduate from Mushin when I tell him you’re hired. Success means greater partnerships between Africa and America and between Africa and the rest of the world. Success means the rise of Africa. Success means Africa catching up with the rest of the world’s developed nations. Success means dispatching the very best products out of Africa to homes worldwide. Success means: Greatness. For Nigeria. For Africa. For the world.

What’s next for Olatorera Oniru and Dressmeoutlet.com?

I am strongly and whole-heartedly dedicated to Dressmeoutlet.com. What’s next is continuing to provide the absolute best fashion and beauty products to the world and satisfying customers 100% of the time. We want to grow on a daily basis and are constantly super excited when new customers sign-up on the platform and find amazing products that they truly love. What’s next is entering new territories, increasing our supplier database and multiplying our customer database in hundred folds. We have plans to double the size of our photography studio, our warehouse, and our manufacturing unit within the next 12 months. We are also increasing advertising and marketing efforts. More importantly, we are constantly looking for the very best products across Africa and worldwide and thus constantly increasing the variety of great items on Dressmeoutlet.com. We always have new products on the website every week thus don’t miss out on items you would love, visit Dressmeoutlet.com often.

Any words of wisdom for young African entrepreneurs that are afraid of starting something?

Please do it. Go out there and do it, one step at a time, one day at a time, one handshake at a time, one clap at a time, one achievement at a time. Africa now more than ever before, needs more entrepreneurs springing up and booming industries. Africa needs you, I need you, and the world needs you to succeed in whatever your passion is as an entrepreneur. Utilize any and every resource that comes your way. Speak to professors, attend conferences, and apply to opportunities. Push your dreams; don’t let anything stop you from doing anything great for the world. Simply do well, live well and work hard.

*Source Forbes, twitter @MfonobongNsehe

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South Sudanese Rebel Machar to Become Vice President This Month
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

Riek Machar Photographer: Isaac Kasamani/AFPGetty Images

Riek Machar Photographer: Isaac Kasamani/AFPGetty Images

South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar plans to travel to the capital, Juba, this month to become vice president in a transitional government aimed at ending more than two years of conflict, his deputy spokesman said.

The return of Machar, the head of the main insurgent group, to the country’s leadership has been planned since he and President Salva Kiir signed a power-sharing agreement in August. Civil war that broke out in December 2013 in the oil-producing country has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced more than 2 million to flee their homes.

Kiir tested the delayed peace process in December when he decreed that the number of regional states would be increased from 10 to 28. That issue will be discussed after the transitional government is formed, Machar’s deputy spokesman, Nyarji Jermlili Roman, said by text message on Monday in response to questions.

Clashes took place last month in three regions of South Sudan, according to the internationally-backed monitors of the peace deal. The nation seceded from Sudan in 2011 and has Africa’s third-largest crude reserves.

*Source Bloomberg

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AfDB scouts for viable energy models for power-starved Africa
April 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

Kenya-wind-energyAbidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, April 1, 2016 – A major preoccupation of the just-concluded visit to Asia by an African Development Bank team led by its President, Akinwumi Adesina, was the search for an efficient energy system that can be easily adapted in some of the most energy-starved African countries.

Energy is at the top of the Bank’s High 5 priorities – Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa and Improve the quality of life for Africans. It seeks to tackle one of the most daunting challenges to the continent’s development – energy poverty among its 640 million people. More than half of the continent’s population do not have access to electricity.

To reverse this situation, the Bank unveiled its New Deal on Energy for Africa, and launched a Transformative Partnership on Energy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2016.

In this regard, the Bank has since begun to identify reliable partners and businesses that can help to achieve universal access to electricity in Africa by 2025.

Two important entities visited during the Bank mission to Asia were the Isogo Power Station in Yokohama, Japan, and Seoul Thermal Power in Korea. Both plants are among the world’s best examples of the use of clean coal technology to produce electricity.

Isogo, for instance, demonstrates that it is possible to build a 600 MW coal-powered electricity plant over a 12-hectare piece of land in four years that can provide almost the same amount of power currently consumed in Nigeria. Such a development would be transformative in those parts of Africa that enjoy only the rare glow of an occasional lightbulb amidst a sea of darkness.

It also serves as a viable proposition for the use of omnipresent but despised coal that can enable poor nations to deliver affordable energy to millions of people with funding from multilateral development institutions that are averse to funding power generation from fossil fuels.

The Isogo thermal power station comprises two 600-MW plants upgraded in 2002 and 2009, respectively, replacing their predecessors built in the 1960s, and doubling power generation and efficiency.

The plants were built by J-POWER, a wholesale power generator and wire company established by the Japanese government in 1952 and privatized in 2004. Owned by Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. (EPDC), J-POWER and distributes wholesale energy from principally hydroelectric and fossil-fueled plants to 10 utilities located across Japan.

Its attractiveness for some African countries derives from the “build, scrap, build” approach, which makes it possible to replace existing plants without disruption of electricity provision; effective territorial space management and efficient delivery of clean energy.

According to J-POWER officials, inside space-saving tower-type boilers, the compact plant burns pulverized coal to heat water flowing through thousands of narrow pipes, which channel the steam to turbines. In the more advanced Unit 2, this generates a main steam pressure of 25 mega pascals at a temperature of 600 °C, after which the steam is then recycled and reheated to 620 °C. (The steam in Unit 1 runs at 600 °C and is recycled and reheated to 610 °C.)

This high-temperature, high-pressure process is called ultra-supercritical (USC) steam generation. The critical point is the temperature and pressure at which water and steam become indistinguishable, and USC steam is well past this point. The higher temperature and pressure make the plant’s operation more efficient at converting heat to electricity.

Thus the plant can achieve a gross thermal efficiency as high as 45%, resulting in 17% reduction in carbon dioxide.

For their part, the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and Korea Midland Power Corporation pride themselves on state-of-the-art power generation and distribution technologies at home and abroad.

For instance, KEPCO’s 1.5% and 2.03% transmission and distribution loss rates, respectively, and 10.26 minutes per year household blackout rate would be a welcome change for those energy impoverished regions in Africa.

*AFDB

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The ‘next Einstein’? She’s from Africa
April 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Julian Siddle*

The Next Einstein Forum was held in Senegal last month

The Next Einstein Forum was held in Senegal last month

Back in 2008, South African physicist Neil Turok gave a speech in which he declared his wish that the next Einstein would be from Africa.

It was a rallying call for investment in maths and physics research in Africa. The “Next Einstein” slogan became a mission for the organisation Neil Turok had founded to bring Africa into the global scientific community: the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).

That search for an African Einstein now has some results, with 15 “Next Einstein Fellows” and 54 “Next Einstein Ambassadors” announced at an event last month.

These are young African scientists, often leaders in their fields, working and studying in Africa.

‘Revolutionary and fearless’

“Einstein is a natural, easy role model for people to look at – not just because he was a spectacular scientist, but also he thought about the way we should care for social justice as well as science,” says the 36-year-old South African cosmologist Amanda Weltman, speaking to the BBC Discovery programme.

Her work on the Chameleon field, a way to explain the accelerated expansion of the universe, is seen as a continuation of Einstein’s work.

“Where Einstein triggered all these completely new ideas and brought about revolution, that’s what we want to do. It’s not necessarily to be that person, but to be revolutionary and fearless,” Dr Weltman adds.

NEF's March 2016 "Global Gathering" made the case for science investment in Africa

NEF’s March 2016 “Global Gathering” made the case for science investment in Africa

When Neil Turok made his declaration, he wasn’t thinking so much of a literal African Einstein, but of creating opportunities to nurture young scientific leaders who would challenge the stereotypes of Africa and champion its development through science.

“There is a huge youth demographic in Africa and this will get bigger; 40% of the world’s youth will be African by 2050,” he says.

“Many scientists around the world are more than happy to come to Africa for a few weeks a year and share their knowledge and insights with the most able young Africans.”

The apparent gap between studying maths or physics and Africa’s needs – in public health and disease control, for example – might seem huge. But one branch of science can inform another.

Changing thinking

Thierry Zomahoun, the CEO of AIMS, cites the example of the west African Ebola outbreak, where local work on mathematical modelling of the virus might have slowed the spread of the disease at an earlier stage.

“It’s urgent for mathematical epidemiologists to be trained on the continent, for lab technicians to be trained so that we don’t have to invest billions of dollars paying expatriate technicians from France or the US to do the work that we could have done here,” he said.

Mr Zomahoun is also the chair of the Next Einstein Forum – an AIMS initiative which held a gathering in March in Dakar, Senegal, both to celebrate the Next Einstein Fellows and to raise the political profile of the need for investment in scientific research in Africa.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was one of the speakers.

“We cannot be satisfied with just ending extreme poverty. Our aim is shared and sustainable prosperity and the key to that is science and innovation,” he told the conference.

Dr Gitau is working to develop cheap point-of-care diagnostic tools

Dr Gitau is working to develop cheap point-of-care diagnostic tools

Foreign donors, especially former colonial powers, have played a big part historically in developing African education – particularly in science – but have also dictated what kind of research is done.

That model is changing, says Evelyn Gitau, adding that her Kenya-based research into cellular immunology and malaria is only possible because of large-scale funding and a hands-off approach from the UK’s Wellcome Trust.

In order to own scientific progress, Dr Gitau says, African governments must get more involved.

“African governments have to change how they think. Travel grants are great, but $10 to $20,000 is not going to fund research at the cutting-edge level.”

From the beginning, AIMS had a funding policy which compelled African governments to step up to the plate. Its institutes get half their funding from the governments of the countries in which they are based – South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon – and the rest from foreign governments and private foundations.

New AIMS institutes are planned for Morocco and also Rwanda.

Unique advantages

Rwanda styles itself as the place to do business in Africa, making it easy to set up there, especially for entrepreneurs from other African countries.

It sits, however, in a region with a history of instability and autocratic government. That doesn’t sound like a place for free-thinking scientists to thrive.

This is an issue Neil Turok is only too aware of.

“This does not mean we are an instrument of the Rwandan government. AIMS is all about freedom – it’s about freedom to learn, freedom to express opinions… Science is all about critical thinking. Nothing we do will compromise that,” he says.

“We feel by getting involved in Rwanda now, we can be on the side of progress.”

Africa might seem an unlikely destination for high-end scientific research, but this is becoming a reality and the continent has some natural scientific advantages.

The Square Kilometre Array, shown in part in this artist's impression, would not work in Europe

The Square Kilometre Array, shown in part in this artist’s impression, would not work in Europe

Amada Weltman cites the example of the Square Kilometre Array – the world’s largest radio telescope, currently under construction. This “south south” project (the second section of it is in Australia) could not have been built in more densely industrialised countries, due to the amount of radio-wave pollution in their skies.

“We didn’t get that project just because of some sort of sympathy towards Africa. We consider the night sky as a resource, where Africa is perhaps more empowered than the global north, which is already overly polluted with radio waves. So this gives us a fresh angle to how we think about the universe.”

There are advantages in other fields, too. For scientists using bioinformatics to explore the origins of genetic disease, Africa holds a unique place as the cradle of humanity – and therefore the repository of our oldest genetic information.

The continent’s future scientific development could have a profound impact on the future of mankind.

*Source BBC

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Uganda Supreme Court Confirms President’s Re-election
April 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James Butty*

FILE - An armed Ugandan riot policeman is seen on patrol against the backdrop of campaign posters for long-time President Yoweri Museveni, as well as local members of Parliament, on a street in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 17, 2016.

FILE – An armed Ugandan riot policeman is seen on patrol against the backdrop of campaign posters for long-time President Yoweri Museveni, as well as local members of Parliament, on a street in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 17, 2016.

Uganda’s Supreme Court Thursday upheld the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni in the February 18 national poll. The court rejected a petition brought by former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi.

The electoral commission announced on February 20 that Museveni had won 60 percent of the vote to opposition challenger Kizza Besigye’s 30.5 percent.

Mbabazi had asked the court to nullify the results on the grounds the electoral commission did not adhere to the country’s electoral laws. But the court noted that while there were some irregularities, they did not affect the final results of the election to justify annulment.

Retired major general Jim Muhwezi, Uganda’s minister of information and national guidance, said the Supreme Court ruling confirms the choice of Ugandans when they re-elected President Museveni. “The government, of course, is very happy because it has confirmed what we knew very well, that the people of Uganda had expressed their choice and President Museveni won the election by over 50 percent. So the Supreme Court has confirmed what we believe,” Muhwezi said.

Muhwezi said it is up to Museveni and the opposition to heal and reunite the country now that the courts have spoken.

“That is true that the responsibility is with the president and the government as it was when he took up arms and liberated this country and has done everything to bring to what it is today. It still remains his responsibility to bring everybody together. But it’s also the responsibility of anybody who takes upon himself to lead the people. The leader of the biggest opposition group also has the responsibility to make sure that he contributes to that process of unifying the country,” Muhwezi said.

Uganda’s main opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, said no process can legitimize Museveni’s re-election. Besigye, who has been under house arrest for than more 40 days since the election, said the Ugandan judiciary could not have delivered an impartial ruling because its independence has been compromised.

“Pretty much what I had expected and that is because of a number of reasons. First and foremost, every petition, even in the best of circumstances is faced with very many obstacles against a petitioner because a petitioner in an election has only 10 days to prepare and present a petition in court. But these are not the best circumstances. We are talking about a situation where there is heavy intimidation of the citizenry, and anybody who purports to be a witness. But over and beyond that, we have the challenge of our institutions including the courts,” Besigye said.

Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, center, is arrested by police and thrown into the back of a blacked-out police van which whisked him away and was later seen at a rural police station, outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016.

Uganda’s main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, center, is arrested by police and thrown into the back of a blacked-out police van which whisked him away and was later seen at a rural police station, outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016.

Mbabazi, who brought the petition, told journalists after the court ruling that the struggle for democracy in Uganda will continue. The former prime minister said he will “continue to pursue the idea of reforming the law so that the petitioner is given enough time to gather and present enough evidence in court.”

Besigye said as a second runner up in the February 18 election, he would have been the right person to challenge the results. But he said he couldn’t because Ugandan police have held him under house arrest for more than 40 days since the election.

But information Minister Muhwezi denied Besigye is under house arrest. He said the police have been constructively engaging Besigye at his home in line with Uganda’s Public Order Management Act because Besigye has said he wants to defy the laws and march on Kampala city to cause violence.

“If you’ve been following the events both before and after the election, Dr. Besigye has been declaring and saying openly that he is going to defy the laws of the country. So all the police have been doing is just keeping under surveillance because of what the police know that when Dr. Besigye moves, he wants to create crowd and cause public disorder. That is all, but he’s not under house arrest. His movements are being monitored and regulated by the police,” Muhwezi said.

*Source VOA

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AfDB Group announces US $549-million drought response package for Eastern and Southern Africa
April 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

FEWS_Eastern_Africa_July-September_projectionAbidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, April 1, 2016 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, announced Friday a relief package of US $549 million in support of 14 countries most affected by the ongoing drought in Eastern and Southern Africa. The AfDB acknowledged the severe impact of the El Niño weather pattern that is associated with abnormally high temperatures and the worst drought the region has seen in decades, leaving almost 36 million people in need of food assistance.

The drought response package announced by the AfDB Group consists of US $5 million in emergency relief and US $361 million in short-to-long term support from various windows of the Bank’s financial instruments. This amount represents new financial resources. Also, the AfDB will put in place a mechanism that would ensure faster disbursements of funds in ongoing projects, which were designed to build the affected countries’ resilience to drought. This will make available an additional amount of US $183 million in 2016.

The AfDB Group President also noted that cycles of drought and floods are natural phenomena integral to tropical weather and climate systems. However, in recent years, droughts and floods have been occurring with increased severity, frequency and variability in many parts of the Africa. Currently, Eastern and Southern Africa are experiencing severe droughts that have disrupted crop and livestock production systems in about 14 countries. The increased frequency and severity of droughts is linked to global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. Adesina also said that African agriculture is nearly 95 percent rain-fed – thus highly vulnerable to fluctuations in rainfall patterns.

Noting the urgency for this response, President Adesina emphasized that there will be greater flexibility in the use of AfDB’s financial instruments, speeding up disbursements.

The President travels to Mozambique and Malawi, two countries affected by extreme droughts, on April 4-5.

*AFDB

 

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Why should anyone listen to the hypocritical whitewashing of Congo-Brazzaville?
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

by *

Former politicians need to keep busy, but are there not more edifying ways to pass the time than laundering the reputation of one of Africa’s most venal autocrats?

President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been described as a “a caricature of kleptocracy, of a rich head of state that leads a poor country”. Credit: GCIS.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been described as a “a caricature of kleptocracy, of a rich head of state that leads a poor country”. Credit: GCIS.

In the last 10 days, the former British MP Eric Joyce has written two similar articles published by The Guardian and New Statesmen, the former entitled ‘Why should Africa listen to the hypocritical criticism of its three-term leaders?’ and the latter ‘We trust British politicians with third terms. So why not African ones?’

In these articles, Joyce – who took a keen interest in African affairs, the extractives industries and fighting corruption while in office – has two clear objectives. One of these is reasonable, the other irredeemably not.

The more general argument is that there are too many double standards in the way Western governments interact with their African counterparts. In particular, Joyce says it’s unfair to insist on term limits in Africa while in Europe the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely be elected for a fourth term in 2017.

At a time when several long-serving African presidents have recently organised referenda to change constitutions to help them stay in power, Joyce asks: if the population of Rwanda wants Paul Kagame to carry on as head of state until 2034, who are we to criticise? “Millions of voting Africans want to re-elect leaders whom they believe have kept them safe and brought economic growth,” he says.

This is an argument that has been discussed elsewhere and has numerous proponents and detractors, but it is the second purpose of Joyce’s articles that is much weirder and more unnerving: he sets out to paint a disturbingly inaccurate picture of Congo-Brazzaville.

On 20 March, while Joyce was visiting the country, a presidential election took place and returned to power President Denis Sassou Nguesso with 60% of the vote. The incumbent’s victory came as no surprise, but the lengths he had gone to previously in order to be eligible to run in the first place have raised eyebrows.

[See: President Sassou Nguesso prepares for final stage of his constitutional coup: elections in the Republic of Congo]

According to the Republic of Congo’s 2002 constitution, presidents can only have two consecutive terms in office and candidates can be no older than 70. At 72 and approaching the end of his second term, Sassou Nguesso’s race seemed to be run, but last October he organised a referendum that would remove both of those pesky prohibitions. According to the electoral commission, over 90% of voters approved the amended constitution, paving the way for him to run again.

Joyce may well be right that Western governments’ preoccupation with term limits strikes Africans as bizarre or brazen. And he might also be correct in implying Sassou Nguesso would win a free and fair election, asserting that the president “is as popular as the Congo’s progress under his leadership would seem to justify”. However, what are inexcusable are the liberties he takes in his description of Congo-Brazzaville, its government and recent election.

“A broadly functioning democracy”?

To begin with, Joyce claims that Congo-B “is a broadly functioning democracy”. However, this description fails to inform the reader that, apart from a five-year hiatus in the 1990s, Sassou Nguesso has ruled Congo-B since 1979. In fact, for more than a decade, the president ran the country as a Marxist-Leninist one-party state and only held multiparty elections in 1992 as the result of domestic and international pressure. Sassou Nguesso lost that election to Patrice Lissouba whom he then ousted in 1997 in the second of two civil wars fought by the two men.

After introducing a new constitution, Sassou Nguesso was elected as president in 2002 and 2009. Yet both these elections were heavily contested by opposition parties and, in reference to National Assembly elections in 2012, Freedom House reported that the elections “were marred by accusations of fraud, low voter turnout, and post-election violence”.

However, we don’t need to even go that far back to doubt the quality of Congo-B’s “democracy”. In the run-up to Sassou Nguesso’s move to alter the constitution last year, the opposition refused to participate in the ‘national dialogue’ that would smooth the way for the constitutional referendum and called on its supporters to boycott the vote. Before the polls, demonstrations turned violent and, according to Amnesty International, the Congolese security forces killed at least 16 protesters.

Then, after the vote, authorities reported that 92% of voters had approved the amendments on a turnout of around 72%. By contrast, a spokesman for the main opposition platform claimed that only about 3% took part. Both sides likely exaggerated, but the key point is that it was indisputably not a fair fight. As Paul Melly of Chatham House said at the time: “The government controls the electoral process very strongly. Most opponents know they are fighting a very unequal battle, and very many voters cannot see any point in participating at all…Anecdotal, on the ground evidence suggests that the turnout was very low in many places.”

Nevertheless, for good measure, security forces surrounded the house of opposition leader Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas a couple of days before the election and kept him and 25 supporters under house arrest for nearly two weeks. Meanwhile, according to Amnesty International, “From July to October, there was a wave of arrests of political opponents protesting against the constitutional review”.

The organisation of the March presidential election while Joyce was in the country was equally one-sided. To begin with, the European Union decided in February that it wouldnot be sending a team of electoral observers at all after it claimed reforms introduced in January were insufficient to guarantee a transparent vote.

Then, once polling booths had closed, Congolese police arrested a candidate’s campaign manager and fired teargas at opposition supporters on several occasions, including ahead of a news conference planned to denounce the election. Policemen also beat up three foreign reporters and confiscated their equipment. Five defeated candidates, including those who came second and third, said the polling was characterised by “massive fraud”.

The day after the vote, a US official issued a statement echoing these concerns, referring to the “numerous reports of irregularities that have raised concerns about the credibility of the process, including the media blackout during the polls, an imbalanced and restrictive media environment, significant disparity in access to state resources, a short timeframe for electoral preparations, and restrictions on freedoms of expression, communication, and association in the pre-election period”.

Not every allegation of an abuse of power by Sassou Nguesso will necessarily withstand examination, but the sheer accumulation of such criticism, from domestic and international sources, surely merits recognition. Not for Joyce, it seems.

An “exemplary member” of the EITI?

Another assertion Joyce makes is that: “Oil has helped fuel economic growth over the democratic, post-Marxist period since early this century”. Let’s address this claim next.

It is true that Congo-B is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers, pumping nearly 300,000 barrels per day, and that the economy has grown; the IMF notes that GDP grew at an average of 5.2% annually between 2010 and 2014. However, what Joyce obscures in his rosy description is the fact that the oil-driven growth has not positively impacted the lives of ordinary Congolese and that it has overwhelmingly benefitted a tiny sliver of the population, in particular the president’s family and friends.

Oil prices soared in the 2000s and remained persistently high until a precipitous crash in 2014. During this time, billions of dollars poured into the Congolese treasury. Yet despite consistent GDP growth, the IMF states that Congo-B “continues to suffer from high rates of poverty and inequality”. It claims that the government has made “slow progress” improving its human development indicators which “is reflected in the national poverty headcount ratio which declined by only 4.2 percentage points from 2005 to stand at 46.5 percent in 2011”. Rural poverty even increased in that period to nearly 75%.

Congo-B’s population can justifiably ask what, if anything, they got out of the boom, but some certainly did profit. And at the front of this queue are Sassou-Nguesso, his family and their chums, a fact that makes Joyce’s portrayal of benign economic management even harder to fathom.

After all, in 2011 and 2012, Joyce used his status as an elected British politician to draw attention to flagrant misuse of natural wealth by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, just across the river from Congo-B. Ahead of the re-election of President Joseph Kabila, his government signed a raft of deals with offshore companiesgiving them control of significant mining concessions that previously belonged to the state. The anonymous shells were allegedly controlled by Dan Gertler, an Israeli businessman who is friends with Kabila and has a track record of securing lucrative assets from his pal’s governments at prices generally deemed well below market value. Joyce dedicated significant time to investigating the DRC’s dealings and concluded that the country’s “natural resources…are not being used as a legitimate source of revenue for the people”.

If only Joyce was equally concerned about similarly shading dealing across the border! For in Congo-B, the presidential family is currently being targeted by French investigators following a complaint filed by an anti-corruption NGO in 2007. According to press coverage from late-2013, the Sassou Nguessos had brought €60 million ($68 million) into France and had bought at least 20 luxury properties in Paris. The president reportedly spent €1.18 million ($1.3 million) on shirts and suits between 2005 and 2011, while his son, Denis-Christel, dropped half a million Euros on shirts in the same period. William Bourdain, a lawyer for Transparency International, has characterised Sassou-Nguesso as “a caricature of kleptocracy, of a rich head of state that leads a poor country”.

Denis-Christel is often described as his father’s apparent dauphin and holds a senior director position at the national oil company, the SNPC. He is the kind of high roller who reportedly spent millions of Euros renovating a Parisian mansion in the style of ‘Napoleon Empire’. In 2007, Denis-Christel lost a high profile court case in the UK during which he attempted to prevent anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness publishing company records and credit card statements indicating he had paid for goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with money deriving from the sale of state oil.

More recently, in 2015, a Swiss anti-corruption NGO published a report accusing Denis-Christel of abusing his position at the SNPC and giving an unknown Swiss trader run by a friend “an exclusive contract to export petroleum products with no public tender process and under highly questionable conditions”. It found that the trader had immediately sold the oil on to third parties and “pocketed substantial profits for zero logistical effort”, adding that the favourable deal was “granted at the Congolese population’s expense”.

There is also Denis Gokana, a man who could be seen to hold a position analogous to that of Gertler in the DRC. A confidante of Sassou Nguesso, Gokana is simultaneously chairman of the SNPC’s board and founder of Africa Oil & Gas Corporation (AOGC), a private company. In 2005, Global Witness determined that Gokana had “been secretly selling hundreds of millions of dollars in cut-price oil to private companies he himself owns”. The NGO calculated that by selling under-priced oil this way Gokana had denied the treasury of around $20million. As Rachel Owens, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, explains, “much more transparency is needed around who is really benefiting from Congo’s oil sector”.

Yet immune to the evidence, Joyce writes positively of Congo-B’s oil-fuelled growth and, in the New Statesman, claims the country is an “exemplary member” of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), “the leading world body that works to assure transparency in the extractives sectors”.

That Joyce is no neophyte in African matters makes his outlandish falsifications of the Congolese reality all the more bizarre. He should not be susceptible to the kind of slick whitewashing and apologetics in which a global industry of autocrat-friendly lobbyists excel. I have read and re-read the articles – and then read them again. Thoughts collected, it remains difficult to avoid the conclusion that, for whatever reason, Joyce has opted for a post-parliamentary life as the propagandist of a corrupt despot.

*African Arguments.William Clowes is a journalist based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Follow him on Twitter at @WTBClowes.

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Zimbabwe deadline for firms to be black-owned passes
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
Zimbabwe hosts some of the world's best-known banks and mining companies

Zimbabwe hosts some of the world’s best-known banks and mining companies

A Zimbabwe deadline for all firms to transfer most of their shares to black Zimbabweans has passed, but it is not clear how many have complied.

The government had said that companies should meet the requirements of a 2008 indigenisation law by the end of March.

Theoretically, non-compliance could lead to a company losing its license.

This was a key part of Robert Mugabe’s 2013 election campaign – on the basis that black people were discriminated against during the colonial era.

But it has proved controversial, with detractors saying that it could discourage much-needed foreign direct investment.

The Reuters news agency quotes the minister responsible, Patrick Zhuwao, as saying that most of the country’s foreign-owned banks and mining companies have not submitted their indigenisation plans, adding that he thought they would do soon.

But Mr Zhuwao told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that his ministry was currently “going through submissions made by companies [and] we don’t have statistics yet” on who has complied.

He dismissed concerns that the measures would scare off foreign investors.

“Those statements come from voodoo economists,” he said, “and these statements are really very far removed from reality.”

He added that the “law is attempting to negate the imbalances that were created by racism as a result of our colonial history”.

Standard Chartered and Barclays are among the banks operating in the country, and Zimbabwe also hosts the mining firms Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum.

BBC Africa Business Report editor Matthew Davies says that an attempt to implement the law two years ago was largely ignored, but this time the government is promising action.

The indigenisation plan for businesses echoes the country’s land reform programme that started in 2000.

At that time, the process of transferring around 4,500 farms held by white commercial farmers distributed to nearly 170,000 black Zimbabwean families began.

This has been widely blamed for causing Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, but a 2010 study by Sussex University found that the programme had had some positive effects, and that the idea that it was a complete failure was a myth.

Zimbabwe is currently coping with the impacts of a severe drought.

*Source BBC

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South Africa’s Jacob Zuma ‘sorry’ over Nkandla scandal
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

President Jacob Zuma has apologised to South Africans in an effort to end to a long-running scandal over improper state spending at his private home.

“The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion, for which I apologise,” he said in a TV address.

The Nkandla residence has become a political headache for President Zuma

The Nkandla residence has become a political headache for President Zuma

He said he would abide by a court ruling that he must repay government money spent on upgrading his rural home with a swimming pool and amphitheatre.

The case was brought by the opposition, which urged him to stand down.

The public protector, an anti-corruption body, ruled in 2014 that $23m (£15m) of public money had been improperly spent on Mr Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province, and ordered him to reimburse part of the expense.

In Thursday’s unanimous judgement, the Constitutional Court ruled that Mr Zuma’s failure to repay the money violated the constitution.

In his live address on Friday, Mr Zuma said: “I respect the judgement and will abide by it.”

The president added that he had acted “in good faith” and “never knowingly and deliberately set out to violate the constitution”.

“Any action that has been found not to be in keeping with the constitution happened because of a different approach and different legal advice,” he said, before issuing an apology for the “frustration” caused.


Analysis: Pumza Fihlani, BBC News, Johannesburg

He has been described as the quintessential escape artist, and he has done it again. South Africans were glued to their TV screens awaiting an address. Speculation was rife that the president would resign. Instead people got an apology, the first since the Nkandla saga erupted six years ago.

The immediate reaction for many is disappointment. Remember though that Mr Zuma is a master tactician who rose to the highest office against all odds. He is not about to let that go without a fight.

True to his smoothness, Mr Zuma peppered his address with denials and promises to never allow this to happen again. He even spoke about how this could only make the country stronger.

The man that has been the cause of anger for many presented himself as a victim of unclear rules, but said that he now knows better and that the country should forgive him and move on. It takes a lot of charm and confidence to display such boldness, and the president lives to fight another day.


Mr Zuma has been in office since 2009, and his government has been widely accused of corruption and cronyism.

The case had been brought by two opposition parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The EFF urged Mr Zuma to step down and the DA called for his impeachment.

Following the president’s address, Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of Mr Zuma’s ANC party, described the calls as an “overreaction” by the opposition.

*Source BBC

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One year ago, Buhari promised to change Nigeria
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

No Nigerian leader, democratic or dictatorial, has ever succeeded in delivering socioeconomic prosperity to the masses
By Fisayo Soyombo*

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari [Reuters]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari [Reuters]

When Nigerians rouse from sleep on April 1, they will again head for filling stations to join the now de rigueur queues for Premium Motor Spirit.

This is no big news; queueing for hours at petrol stations has been the most recurring item on the itinerary of Nigerians not only for the past month, but also for the third spell in the past three months.

What is news is that when these same people woke up exactly one year ago, the majority of them trooped to the streets in jubilation. Three hours and 47 minutes into that day, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari was declared president-elect.

But while Nigerians hailed Buhari as a Messiah of sorts, they forgot to remind themselves that no Nigerian leader, democratic or dictatorial, had ever succeeded in delivering socioeconomic prosperity to the masses.

Joy so often short-lived

There was something familiar about the sheer joy that was unleashed on the streets of Nigeria on April 1, 2015.

More than five decades ago, on October 1, 1960, when Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa accepted the symbols of Independence from the Queen of England and cheerily declared that he was “opening a new chapter in the history of Nigeria”, it was to the delight of millions of citizens.

Elites clutched at their radios as devout Catholics would the Rosary, listening as the sonorous voice of Emmanuel Omatsola blared from Race Course, Lagos: Nigeria is a free, sovereign nation. Pupils holidayed; and when they returned to school, they were served unusual rounds of sumptuous meals and handed lovingly petite green-white-green flags.

But for all of Balewa’s education and popularity in international circles, his reputation for championing northern interests did little to foster unity and stability in Nigeria’s delicate multiethnic set-up. Both power and life were taken away from him in a coup six years later.

When Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, after decades of torture at the hands of the military, the scenarios were repeated. Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired soldier who was on the throes of death in prison, was suddenly, miraculously handed democratic power.

Obasanjo had admitted that “the entire Nigerian scene is very bleak indeed, so bleak people ask me: where do we begin?” But he also promised to fight corruption, restore public confidence in governance, build infrastructure. Millions of overjoyed Nigerians believed him – the worst civilian government is better than the best military regime was the popular reasoning at the time.

In his book, This House Has Fallen, published a year into Obasanjo’s presidency, British journalist Karl Maier had written: “The government spends up to half its annual budget on salaries of an estimated two million workers… yet the civil service remains paralysed, with connections and corruption still the fastest way to get anything done. Up to 75 percent of the army’s equipment is broken or missing vital spare parts. The Navy’s 52 admirals and commodores outnumber serviceable ships by a ratio of six to one. The Air Force has 10,000 men but fewer than 20 functioning aircraft.”

Sixteen long years later, it is heartbreaking to see that these are still some of the issues dominating Nigerian political discourse.

Gloom of Buhari’s victory

Caveat: this is not an appraisal of Buhari’s reign – not yet. But some of his first words as president-elect back in 2015 were: “You voted for change and now change has come.”

Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency ended with a biting fuel scarcity that suffering masses felt would accompany Jonathan out of office. On the anniversary of Buhari’s victory, that scarcity they so despised is exactly what they’re grappling with. There are no noticeable improvements in erratic power supply, the unhealthy economy, the dearth of jobs. No “change”, really.

Buhari still has adequate time to turn his fortunes around, but he must be wary of the kind of executive arrogance that undid Jonathan’s party and government.

It is the same type of arrogance that made Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, declare in the face of the ongoing petrol scarcity: “One of the trainings I did not receive was that of a magician.” Only to tell prospective protesters days later: “Save your fuel, I am not going to resign” is dangerous.

That Femi Adesina, Buhari’s spokesman, told Nigerians a day earlier that: “If some people are crying that they are in darkness, they should go and hold those who vandalise the installations” betrays Buhari’s administration’s intolerance of criticism and suggests possible abdication of leadership.

Just in case Buhari has forgotten, in May, when he will have completed a quarter of his term in office, Nigerians will not only be carefully assessing the state of his “change” agenda, they will also be wondering if his party deserves to be retained in 2019.

*Source Al Jazeera.Fisayo Soyombo edits the Nigerian online newspaper TheCable.

 

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Zambia’s Former Interim President to Support Opposition in August Election
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James Butty*

FILE - Zambia's former interim president Guy Scott.

FILE – Zambia’s former interim president Guy Scott.

Zambia’s former interim president has declared his support for opposition presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in the country’s August 11 presidential election.

Guy Scott, a member of the ruling Patriotic Front party, said he is not leaving the party, but felt compelled to support Hichilema because the Zambian political climate was becoming so polarized. “We said that we will be working together, and the likely implication of that is that we will support their presidential candidate. But there are still details to be worked out,” he said.

Scott reluctantly campaigned for incumbent President Edgar Lungu in the January 2015 presidential by-election held because of the death of then-President Michael Sata.  Scott made clear that he was not doing it for the candidate but the party. Lungu narrowly defeated Hichilema.

This time around, Scott said, Hichilema could get about 60 percent of the vote in August to Lungu’s 40 percent.

Scott accused Lungu of allowing the ruling PF party to be taken over by the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) of former President Rupiah Banda, thus marginalizing members of the PF party. “What has happened since then when Michael Sata died, and the MMD came to us and said we want to help win this by-election, this unexpected election, and we said that’s fine. But since that time, the MMD has be getting stronger and people like me have squeezed into a corner,” he said.

Zambia’s political climate has been punctuated pre-election violence, prompting the Episcopal Conference of Zambia to this week call on all political parties and their presidential candidates to take steps to curb politically motivated violence.

Since his ascension to power, Lungu has presided over a deteriorating economy beset by falling copper prices and a crippling energy crisis that has badly affected production.  The country has lost about 8,000 mining jobs in the country’s influential Copper belt.

Lungu has also been criticized by some for accepting a salary increase along with the country’s civil servants.

A presidential Emoluments Act signed this month by finance minister Alexander Chikwanda put President Lungu’s 2016 annual salary at nearly $40,000, plus an annual allowance of nearly $11,000.

But Information Minister Chishimba Kambwili told VOA this week the salary increment is an annual thing that began with the administration of founding President Kenneth Kaunda.

*Source VOA

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Africa, The Continent Of Economic Misperceptions
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Harry G. Broadman *

960x0Africa seems to be the only continent today that is regularly referred to as a “country”. It bristles me every time I hear it said.  It’s reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s chatter with the press aboard Air Force One in late 1982 on his way back to the US from a Presidential visit to Latin America: “I learned a lot down there…You’d be surprised, because, you know, they’re all individual countries.”

As a relatively freshly minted PhD in international business economics at the time, I thought a statement like that coming from the President of the United States was more than odd.  Just as such an utterance was, of course, grossly naïve, if not insulting, to Latin Americans, so too is the expression of the same sort to Africans.

Critically, from a business perspective, Africa is not a monolith, African countries are not homogeneous, and focusing on “Africa” as a unit of analysis is, simply put, not terribly meaningful.  By painting Africa with a broad brush, perceptions about the real market opportunities and risks are extraordinarily distorted. In many cases–though not all—the perceived risks are either understated or overstated, and the same goes for the perceived returns.

Based on the United Nations’ nomenclature of a ‘sovereign state’, the African continent is currently comprised of 54 countries, 48 of which constitute sub-Saharan Africa.  Needless to say, Africa’s countries all differ from one another—many starkly so—along a variety of dimensions: location, square area, topography, coastal vs. landlocked, population size, resource endowment, ethnic composition, diversity of religious practices, languages spoken, colonial heritage, political make-up, and so on.  And, of course, each country’s economy has a unique character, making it wholly a misnomer to refer to the “African economy.”

I think it is fair to say that the commonly held view is that the vast majority, if not all, African markets are seen as utterly fraught with excessive risk, while exhibiting comparatively few substantial opportunities. To be sure, there are appreciable risks of doing business in many African countries, and I am not playing them down at all.  But so is it the case in most emerging markets around the globe, whether in Latin America; in the Middle East; in the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Balkans; in South Asia, including India, and in East Asia, including–make that, especially–China.

Indeed, when I hear sweeping references made about one emerging market in the world as being more or less risky, or being a better investment opportunity, than another, I have to chuckle—and frankly not in a good way. Regrettably that is commonplace, even among some of the most astute—and well-known—corporate leaders, investors and bankers, especially in the advanced countries.  Ultimately, to paraphrase former US House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s quip about politics: ‘all investment risks and opportunities are local.’

Sure, global, regional and national factors influence the opportunity-risk tradeoffs of any particular commercial transaction or investment project.  And, assessing such tradeoffs in an emerging market is usually a very tricky enterprise. But reliance on qualitative perceptions, especially at the aggregate level, let alone hearsay, is a very poor substitute for systematic, data-driven, field-level analysis.  So much so that I cannot tell you how many colossal investment mistakes I’ve seen or heard about being made in African countries—whether on the upside or the downside.

So what are some of the most critical economic misperceptions about countries on the Africa continent?  Here are three.

Growth in Africa is an Illusion. From an historical perspective, the economic performance of the bulk of Africa—the 48 countries comprising sub-Saharan Africa—has been far stronger than popularly believed.  Over the past decade and a half—from 2000 through 2015—the average annual growth rate of ‘real’ GDP (that is, GDP adjusted for inflation) was 5.5% for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Over the same period, average annual real GDP for all emerging markets taken together (including the globe’s fastest growing countries, such as China and India, among others) grew at only a slightly higher rate: 5.9%.  By comparison, the corresponding average growth rate among the world’s advanced countries was just 1.8%–about one-third as fast as sub-Saharan Africa.

*Source Forbes

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THE ‘WIVES’ OF BOKO HARAM
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

Taken from their homes by Boko Haram fighters, these Nigerian women were held captive for months — some even longer. They escaped. But going home is another matter.

BY ANDY SPYRA*

spyra_bh_yola_066-e1458583658307Laraba Bitrus was working in a small grocer’s shop in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza when Boko Haram militants invaded. With nowhere to run, the armed men took her captive, beat her with a whip, and forced her to watch as they sawed off her uncle’s head. After 11 days, she fled on foot, traveling through the bush to Madagali, where she stayed until the extremists took over that small town as well, forcing her to flee again: this time further south to Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, where she now lives in the catholic St. Theresa’s refugee camp.

She was one of the lucky ones.

More than six years into their bloody campaign in northern Nigeria and the surrounding Lake Chad region, Boko Haram extremists have killed around 20,000 people. Entire villages have been razed to the ground; men and boys executed or forcibly recruited to join the militants’ ranks; and women and girls taken against their will as wives and household slaves. As part of the group’s brutal effort to establish an Islamic caliphate ruled under a strict interpretation of sharia, its militants have conducted mass rape.

And though Yola is safer than the most besieged areas of the country farther north, it is not free from the fear imposed by the group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015. Thousands of displaced people are still seeking shelter in the city of 350,000 residents. Despite some critical military successes on the part of the Nigerian government, and a regional taskforce supported by Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin, which have caused the group to lose control of much of its territory (an area once estimated as the size of Belgium), Boko Haram continues to terrorize parts of Nigeria.

Women are especially vulnerable.

These photographs were taken in a safe location in Yola, away from the St. Theresa’s refugee camp on a hot day in January. There was a single room set aside, where these portraits — of some 40 women — could be taken in relative quiet from the morning through the afternoon. Apart from the bits of conversation and interview, the only noise was the audible click of the camera’s shutter. The only source of light came from the room’s one window.

As these women — the ones who chose to speak of their captivity — shared pieces of their stories, an air of defiance permeated the room. It varied from woman to woman in its intensity, but it never entirely disappeared.

Mary John Ibrahim, a Christian woman in her early 50s, was working in the government hospital in Gwoza when Boko Haram overran the area and burned down the hospital.

With many other residents, she fled in panic to the bush, only to be later captured by Boko Haram and brought back to Gwoza, where she was held for two weeks. During that time, she was forced to convert to Islam; when she refused, she was beaten severely and starved as punishment. One night, she was able to flee and hide in the mountains along the Cameroonian border, where, for one month, she was hidden and fed by local Muslims, who later on helped her cross the border to Cameroon.

During the takeover of Gwoza, 60-year-old Tani Bitrus was captured alongside 50 other women by Boko Haram. Her husband was executed by fighters.

During her monthlong captivity, she and the other women were compelled at gunpoint to learn Islamic teachings; when they confessed to being unable to read the Quran, the women were beaten. One day, while on the way to the market, Tani and three other women escaped, helped by Muslim women of the same Salidva tribe. Eventually, they escaped to Cameroon and, after that, to the St. Theresa’s camp in Yola.

But oftentimes, instead of returning to supportive communities, those women who manage to escape Boko Haram return to an unexpected stigma. According to a February report published by UNICEF and International Alert, these women are often referred to as “Boko Haram wives.” And for those who become pregnant after being raped in captivity, their children are thought tainted because they have “bad blood.”

Many of the women from Gwoza — like Laraba, Mary John, and Tani, who now live in the St. Theresa’s camp — are afraid to go home.

*Source Foreign Policy

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Nigeria’s Buhari Asks US for Help in Returning Stolen Assets
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, March 31, 2016.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, March 31, 2016.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the United States for help in returning stolen Nigerian assets stashed in U.S. banks as part of his efforts to crack down on corruption, according to a statement from his office Thursday.

Buhari made the request during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of a two-day nuclear security summit in Washington.

“President Buhari sought and received an assurance from Mr. Kerry that the United States government will facilitate the repatriation of all stolen Nigerian funds found within the American banking system,” his office said.

Buhari told Kerry it would “greatly help our country if you assist us to recover all our stolen funds which we can establish to be within your financial system,” according to the statement.

It said Kerry assured Buhari the United States would help and said U.S. officials would meet with the head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to discuss further cooperation.

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that Kerry had offered “continued U.S. support to locate and help with tracing and investigating looted funds, as we have done for Nigeria in the past.”

In 2014, the United States took control of more than $480 million that former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates had siphoned away into banks around the world.

Washington has broad powers to track suspicious funds and enforce sanctions against individuals.

*Source VOA/Reuters

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OFFICIAL: Jose Mourinho named as new Nigeria coach
April 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
The ex-Chelsea man has been named the new Super Eagles’ handler, as he affirmed he was pleased to coach the three-time African champions

The ex-Chelsea man has been named the new Super Eagles’ handler, as he affirmed he was pleased to coach the three-time African champions

Jose Mourinho has been named the new head coach of Nigeria following the departure of interim Samson Siasia.

Mourinho signed a four-year contract to take charge of the Super Eagles, while Mutiu Adepoju, Kanu Nwankwo and Peter Rufai join him as his backroom staff.

The former Chelsea coach will be tasked with qualifying Nigeria for the 2018 World Cup having missed out of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations billed for Gabon.

The 53-year-old had been linked with Manchester United job but has agreed a deal with Nigeria which is due to last until 2020, after Sunday Oliseh quit his post on February 25, 2016.

“I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary African side, with the massive challenge of qualifying for the Russia 2018 World Cup,” Mourinho told Goal.

“I am lucky because for years I had the fortune to coach big teams like Chelsea, Inter Milan andReal Madrid, and now I have the opportunity to coach another big team like Nigeria. It is an honour and I want to keep winning.

“We have a duty to prove we are the best team in Africa and also do well at the 2018 World Cup.

“I’d like to thank the Nigeria Football Federation for believing in me and with their backing, I am confident that we can build a stronger Super Eagles,” he concluded.

Mourinho will be presented at a media conference on Friday at the Abuja National Stadium.

Happy April 1st!

*Goal

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Kenyan MPs whistle to stop President Kenyatta’s state-of-the-nation address
March 31, 2016 | 0 Comments
President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Loud whistling interrupted the Kenyan president as he tried to make his annual state of the nation address to parliament, which was broadcast live.

Opposition MPs began blowing on whistles a few seconds into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech.

They had earlier vowed to disrupt proceedings to protest at the government’s failure to address “deep-rooted corruption” in Kenya.

Seven MPs were removed and the address was delayed by half an hour.

The speaker of the house, Justin Muturi, described the commotion as a “gross disorder” and ordered that the troublemakers be forcefully ejected as they were ignoring his commands to stop whistling.

The speaker of the house, Justin Muturi, described the commotion as a “gross disorder” and ordered that the troublemakers be forcefully ejected as they were ignoring his commands to stop whistling.

The BBC’s Wanyama wa Chebusiri in the capital, Nairobi, says the annual address to parliament is an important state occasion and is a chance to set out the government’s plans for the next year.

The whistling affair is a big embarrassment for the president as diplomats also attend the event, our correspondent says.

Corruption is the biggest socio-economic headache currently facing Mr Kenyatta administration, he says.

On a recent visit to Israel, President Kenyatta himself acknowledged the problem, saying Kenyans were “experienced in stealing”.

The annual state of the nation address to parliament is an important occasion for the president

The annual state of the nation address to parliament is an important occasion for the president

When he was able to start his speech, the president spoke of his government’s commitment to fight graft, saying he had taken an “unprecedented step”.

“The decision to fire a third of my cabinet due to corruption was a very painful but necessary step,” he said.

He added that he expected economic growth to hit the 6% mark this year and security would be beefed up given the threats Kenya faced from the Somalia-based al-Shabab group, which has launched several deadly attacks on the East Africa nation.

Kenyans are very active on Twitter and the hashtag #SON2016 is trending, debating rights and wrongs of the incident.

Using the same hashtag, the president’s official account tweeted: “Criticism without alternative is reckless sport”.

Kenya was ranked joint 139th out of 168 countries last year on Transparency International’s global corruption perceptions index – where first place is perceived to be the least corrupt nation.

A recent survey by Kenya’s anti-corruption commission suggested that nearly 75% of the population thought there was a very high level of corruption in the country.

*Source BBC

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