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Africa: Trump’s US Still Lacks an Africa Policy – but That Might Be About to Change
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Stephen Chan*

U.S. President Donald Trump poses with African leaders, from left, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the African Union Alpha Conde', President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Italy, Saturday, May 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

U.S. President Donald Trump poses with African leaders, from left, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the African Union Alpha Conde’, President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Italy, Saturday, May 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

When Donald Trump was elected, almost no one in the US was thinking about Africa. People knew the swingeing State Department and foreign aid cuts the new president promised would hit Africa the hardest, but whereas the US is too embedded in the woes of the Middle East to scale back its costly operations there, Africa simply can’t match it for strategic value or public profile.

On the sidelines, however, serious thinkers were contemplating the future of the US in Africa, and as always happens in the jostling for position that accompanies new presidents in the US, people began to lay out their wares in the hopes of earning an appointment. And at the end of 2016, one, in particular, stood out: J Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, a foreign affairs think tank, who published a paper widely taken as an Africa policy manifesto for the new administration.

Entitled A Measured US Strategy for the New Africa, it uses the sober language of deliberate realism. Examining both the US’s interests and global security, it affirms that the US still has a mission to undertake in Africa, but not the one it has embarked on previously. Judging by what I heard on a recent visit, the Washington rumour mill now seems convinced Pham will be nominated as the US’s assistant secretary of state for Africa, a vital state department post that’s gone unfilled since Trump took office. So what does Pham’s “manifesto” for American Africa policy say about him?

Old and new

As his choice of title implies, Pham is apparently determined to upend old American perceptions of Africa; the tired old “dark continent” is nowhere to be seen in his paper. But while Pham doesn’t exactly say what the “new Africa” looks like, he does emphatically suggest that the US rein in its dealings with African states that can’t act like states – that can’t or don’t build structures to benefit their citizens or earn proper legitimacy as both states and governments.

Pham also emphasises that the US should not look only to states, but to Africa’s rapidly developing private sector. The state, he says, cannot and should not do everything – a core Republican tenet of domestic policy transposed onto African affairs.

The paper is laden with such “selling points”. One, clearly calculated to appeal to an administration disinclined to rely on the state department is the open admission that that department needs “rationalisation” – in other words, cuts. How this is to be done is another question. So, it is being done by not nominating anyone to fill key posts, and by what the British courts would call “constructive dismissal”. But plenty of very real talent and experience is being lost.

And in a White House where the president’s son-in-law has become a high-level envoy to the Middle East with no obvious experience in anything but real estate, the state department needs every bit of countervailing expertise it can muster.

On this front, Pham’s paper is a worrying document. It implies that the US’s approach to African conflicts might best be left solely to the Pentagon, a move which would do terrible damage. Abandoning civilian oversight would hollow out the US’s understanding of these highly complex wars and insurgencies. The State Department needs conflict experts more than anything else. As anyone who’s witnessed US foreign policy since 9/11 knows, the causes of war are not addressed by dropping bombs.

The lie of the land

Perhaps this is purely academic. After all, when (more likely than if) Pham is appointed, he’ll have little political or budgetary heft to work with. But notwithstanding the diminishment of the State Department in which he may soon be serving, he is undeniably an impressive figure.

Of all the rumoured finalists for the position, he stands head and shoulders above the rest; a Vatican-trained theologian with immense historical knowledge, he worked for the Vatican’s diplomatic service in conflict zones in Africa. He speaks and writes knowledgeably about the crucial importance of northern Nigeria; he is very well connected and well travelled.

If he can use the assistant secretary position to its fullest, he might be better placed than the UK’s new minister of state for Africa, Rory Stewart, a young adventurer who wound up administering much of Iraq and who went on to philanthropic work in Afghanistan. Unlike his predecessor Tobias Ellwood, who was simultaneously minister for both Africa and the Middle East, Stewart will at least be devoted to Africa – but he will also be split between two ministries, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development.

It seems that on the British side of the Atlantic, Africa is too often still viewed as a single patient in need of foreign remedies rather than a cluster of very different emerging diplomatic and economic players. On that, chalk up at least one preliminary point for Pham in what might end up a sideways-glancing competition between two relatively young men who suddenly find themselves serious world players in the service of equally hapless governments.

*Allafrica/Democracy Works .Read this report on Democracy Works.

 

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Zimbabwe working to align gender equality framework with SADC protocol
March 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Nyasha Chikwinya, Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development

Nyasha Chikwinya, Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community
Development

Zimbabwe has been facing a major hurdle of lack of appropriate
tools to track gender equality status and is in the process of
finalising the monitoring and evaluation framework for gender equality
and women empowerment.

Nyasha Chikwinya, Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community
Development said the framework will provide a monitoring and tracking
system for gender equality and women empowerment.

“This framework will be aligned to the monitoring, evaluation and
reporting framework of the SADC protocol on Gender and Development,”
Chikwinya said.

The government of Zimbabwe is also working on engendering the
realignment of laws to the constitution. The Alliance of Civil Society
Organisations produces the SADC Gender protocol barometer which has
acted as a yardstick allowing member states to track progress in the
implementation of the SADC protocol on Gender and Development.

The barometer indicates that Zimbabwe has recorded a 70% rating on
gender equality against the regional score of 69%.
The barometer also indicates that the region’s citizens rated
governments performance on gender equality at 69%, Zimbabwe scoring
71%.

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Africa Development Week opened in Dakar with clarion call for policies that cater for youth
March 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
Anthony Mogae Maruping, Economic Commissioner of the African Union welcomes Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa during day 3 of the African Development Week.

Anthony Mogae Maruping, Economic Commissioner of the African Union welcomes Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa during day 3 of the African Development Week.

DAKAR, Senegal, 28 March 2017,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- It is imperative for African governments to adopt coherent strategies and national development plans that address the continent’s challenges of growth, inequality and unemployment, Economic Commission for Africa’s deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanne Biha, said Thursday.

Ms. Biha said this in her opening speech to the Tenth Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

“The absence of decent jobs for young Africans has fuelled outward migration, both within and from Africa resulting in tragic loss of lives as young people attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search for greener pastures.”

Ms. Biha said since this year is the year of harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend through investment in the youth, more needs to be done by all stakeholders to promote investment in job creation and human capital development.

“It is the imperative for African countries to adopt coherent strategies and national development plans that promote structural transformation and address the challenges of growth, inequality and unemployment within the context of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she said.

Ms. Biha noted that discussions on unemployment in Africa were not new, adding it was now time for action on the ground.

African Union Commission’s Economic Affairs Commissioner, Anthony Mothae Maruping, said it was symbolic that the meeting was taking place in Senegal, where Africans were forcibly taken to work as slaves in America and Europe.

“We are in the right place to come up and work on strategies to make sure our young people don’t voluntarily and involuntarily leave the continent to look for opportunities elsewhere,” said Mr. Maruping, adding growth on the continent so far has not been inclusive.

“We need to grow Africa. The time to do so is now,” he said, adding Agenda 2063 is seeking to achieve accelerated, stable, inclusive and real economic job-creating growth in Africa. Mr. Maruping said no form of poverty was acceptable as he urged the continent to work hard to eradicate all inequalities.

He said Africa is clear on what needs to be done as it deals with challenges it is facing on the ground, in particular spurring economic growth that positively impacts everyone.

“Africa knows what to do, how to do it, with what and when to do it as we target this growth and inequality,” said Mr. Maruping. “We really want to transform our economies, raise our productivity, promote integration and trade and all.”

Senegal’s Budget Minister, Birima Mangara, in his welcome address to the meeting of experts said his country was doing all it can to structurally transform its economy for the benefit of every citizen.

Giovanne Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa in discussion with Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa

Giovanne Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa in discussion with Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa

He said inequalities and youth unemployment were being tackled as well as other related problems that lead to poverty, adding youth and women on the continent should be prioritized in job creation.

Mr. Mangara lauded the ECA, the AUC and their partners for convening a meeting to specifically tackle growth, inequalities and unemployment on the continent.

“It is these meetings which serve as outstanding platforms to discuss Africa’s problems,” he said. “I’m convinced that the debates will lead to very important recommendations that are important for the future development of our dear Africa.”
The Tenth Joint Annual Meetings will deliberate on the theme of “Growth, inequality and unemployment”.

The conference will explore measures for reducing inequality and extreme poverty on the continent in order to achieve the targets of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2013-2023) of Agenda 2063 and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, among other issues.

Among the high-level delegates present were the newly-elected African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the office of the committee of experts, Lizenga Maluleka, representatives of UN agencies, the African Union Commission, African Development Bank and civil society.

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Africa has worst hunger crisis in 70 years amid budget cuts
March 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

By STUART GRAHAM*

In this photo taken Sunday, March 19, 2017, Rosa Lyo eats fruit at a camp for those who were previously displaced by fighting, near a church in Rajaf, South Sudan. As the world marks World Water Day on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 more than 5 million people in South Sudan do not have access to safe, clean water, compounding the problems of famine and civil war, according to UNICEF. (Matthieu Alexandre/Caritas Internationalis via AP)

In this photo taken Sunday, March 19, 2017, Rosa Lyo eats fruit at a camp for those who were previously displaced by fighting, near a church in Rajaf, South Sudan. As the world marks World Water Day on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 more than 5 million people in South Sudan do not have access to safe, clean water, compounding the problems of famine and civil war, according to UNICEF. (Matthieu Alexandre/Caritas Internationalis via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Africa faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation, and any cut in funding to humanitarian agencies working in famine-affected areas will cause untold suffering, a spokesman for the World Food Program said in Johannesburg Thursday, responding to questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $10 billion in foreign aid.

“Any cuts at this time are extremely significant, not just for us but for any U.N. agencies and any aid organization,” said David Orr, WFP’s Africa spokesman, at a media briefing in Johannesburg. “With the magnitude of needs at the moment is it vital that we continue with a high level of assistance.”

The current hunger crisis is in three African countries, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen.

The U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and was one of the organization’s founders. Last year it contributed more than $2 billion, representing about 24 percent of WFP’s total budget, Orr said.

U.N. operations in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria will require more than $5.6 billion this year, he said. At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a catastrophe, he said, but so far the U.N. has only received $90 million.

“The more dramatic cuts in any aid budgets, the more the number of debts, the more suffering there is going to be,” Orr said.

“We have a situation where famine has been declared in two counties in Unity state in South Sudan. That means there are already people dying in those places. This has been caused by a combination of factors including conflict, which prevents access. Humanitarian intervention is very difficult. Huge numbers of people are displaced,” Orr said. “Now famine is threatening in other parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.”

*AP/Yahoo

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“We Will Support Your Government To Succeed” – UBA To President Akufo-Addo
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, has assured the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, of his bank’s support for the growth and development of the critical sectors of Ghana’s economy, as government seeks to return the nation back onto the path of progress and prosperity.

According to Tonly Elumelu, investor confidence in Ghana is rising, following the pro-business and pro-private approach taking by the government of President Akufo-Addo. This, coupled with policy initiatives announced in the 2017 budget, is making Ghana the investment destination in the region.

“We are very happy about all of this, and we would like to associate ourselves with your government and support you to succeed, both in banking and in other sectors of the economy,” he said.

The UBA Chairman made these known on Monday, March 13, 2017, when he paid a courtesy call on President Akufo-Addo, at the Presidency, to congratulate him on his victory in the December 2016 elections.

With UBA engaged in other ventures such as real estate, hospitality, oil and gas, and the generation of power, and with 30 branches in Ghana, Tony Elumelu noted that the bank is the biggest generator of electricity in Nigeria today. He also recounted how, during the era of the Mahama administration, UBA supported government to the tune of $1.1 billion

On the government’s 1-District-1-Factory policy, the UBA Chair indicated that his bank was prepared to support government in the realization of this vision, as well as help in boosting the country’s revenue generation.

“Africa lacks economic independence, and people like you, Mr. President, can provide the new hope for Africa and we will stand by you. You have in us willing and capable partners who are proud and happy to identify themselves with you,” he added.

On his part, President Akufo-Addo expressed his gratitude for the visit of the UBA Chair, stating that “we are all in admiration of the work you’ve been doing, not just concentrating on Nigeria, but, looking beyond the borders to countries like Ghana and beyond.”

With UBA being the first Nigerian bank to set up in Ghana, during the era of President Kufuor, largely as a result of the positive business atmosphere created in the country, President Akufo-Addo noted that he was keen on recreating a pro-business climate in Ghana to spur on development.

“We came in because the economy of our country had taken a nose dive, and there was the need for a new direction. Our first task is to revive our economy, and put it on the road to growth and expansion. It is only by growing our economy that we can solve the problems of our economy, principally youth unemployment. We want to grow our industry and our agriculture, and have a solid financial system that will support the growth of these two sectors,” he said.

For this reason, President Akufo-Addo noted that “UBA is the kind of partner that we are looking for to assist us in the delivery of our vision and mandate.”

He assured that neither his government nor his appointees are in office to compete with business men, reiterating that “they are in office to facilitate and increase business confidence in Ghana, and, by that way, develop the country rapidly.”

The President continued, “The Ghanaian private sector is the way forward for us. Our first budget has pointed the way we are going to handle the private sector. We have removed the many impediments there are for businesses. We want to signal to the private sector that we mean business. We are counting on UBA to have a good understanding of where we are going, and be in a good position to fund some of these critical developments in industry and agriculture.”

Sounding optimistic about the Ghana’s future, President Akufo-Addo told the UBA Chair that “we want to build a Ghana beyond aid. We are tired of being beneficiaries of handouts and charity. We want to be able to stand on our own two feet and deal with our issues ourselves.”
*Presidency Ghana

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Gambia: Barrow Leaves for France
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

President Adama Barrow, accompanied by a high-powered delegation, this morning left for Paris, France, on a state visit upon the invitation of his French counterpart, President Franchois Hollande, the Office of the President has announced.

During the two-day visit, the Gambian leader is expected to discuss with his French counterpart areas of cooperation such as in the field of telecommunications, trade, energy and education.

With the new Gambia, the government can seek support and financial assistance to promote human rights and good governance in The Gambia.

From Paris, President Barrow will be going to Belgium, on 16 March, for a daylong visit, where he will discuss with members of the European Union financial support to boost The Gambia’s economy since he inherited “empty government coffers”.

 President Barrow would also discuss the reactivation of all the projects of the EU in The Gambia. During Jammeh’s 22-year rule, the relations between The Gambia and the EU was fragile.

New State House

Meanwhile, before travelling to France, yesterday he moved from Kairaba Hotel to the vice president’s residence in Fajara which he would be using as an office.

His Excellency the President and delegation departed Banjul International Airport at 3:00a.m in the early hours of today Tuesday, 14 March 2017, and those invited to see him off were requested to be at the airport half an hour before departure for the usual ceremonies.

*All Africa/The Point

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Africa gets its own web address with launch of .africa
March 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
The African Union hopes .africa will create a unique online identity for the continent

The African Union hopes .africa will create a unique online identity for the continent

Africa now has the unique web address .africa, equivalent to the more familiar .com, following its official launch by the African Union.

AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma hailed its creation as the moment when Africa “got [its] own digital identity”.

The AU says the .africa domain name will “bring the continent together as an internet community”.

Addresses can now reflect a company’s interest in the whole of Africa.

For example, a mobile phone company could create mobile.africa to show its Africa-wide presence, or a travel company could set up travel.africa.

Icann, the body that establishes these addresses known as generic Top-Level Domains, approved the move, after lobbying by the AU.

The campaign was spearheaded by a South African company ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which will now be responsible for registering .africa names.

ZACR’s boss Lucky Masilela said that .africa addresses could cost as little as $18 (£15), AFP news agency quotes him as saying, and registration will start in July.

Other domain names recently created by Icann, include .fun, .phone and .hair.

*BBC

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Nigeria signals normality by putting Buhari’s deputy in charge
February 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

Uncertainty over health of President Buhari

* Vice President Osinbajo running the country

* Investors hope he will enforce economic reforms

By Ulf Laessing*

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been running affairs in the absence of President Buhari

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been running affairs in the absence of President Buhari

LAGOS, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s deputy leader is making wide use of powers granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on extended sick leave abroad, as the country seeks to avoid a debilitating power vacuum while it confronts its first recession in 25 years.

The West African oil-producing nation was gripped by instability in 2010 when then President Umaru Yar’Adua spent three months in a Saudi hospital while his aides shrouded his illness in secrecy. His deputy Goodluck Jonathan only took over after he died in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

The Nigerian stock exchange, already hit by recession, has fallen to a nine-month low on the uncertainty over Buhari. But officials are keen to avoid the mistakes of the past and drive home the message that government work will continue whatever happens.

Before Buhari left home almost a month ago to be treated in Britain for an undisclosed illness, the 74-year-old appointed his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President.

“The nation came to a political standstill because of the failure of Yar’Adua to submit a letter transferring power to Vice President Jonathan,” a government official said, asking not to be named.

“In this present scenario this is not the case. No vacuum was left because President Buhari sent a letter to the National Assembly,” he said.

Osinbajo has thrown himself into his work, holding cabinet meetings and travelling to the Niger Delta in an attempt to end militant attacks on oil facilities which cost up to $100 billion in lost revenues in 2016.

Investors welcome the fact that the government will not postpone a long-awaited reform plan intended to stimulate an economy hit by low oil prices.

“Obviously the fact that the president is away creates uncertainty, but we believe Vice President Osinbajo is capable of running things in the meantime,” said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa’s NKC African Economics.

Officials refuse to disclose what is ailing Buhari, saying only that he has been having tests and is not in a serious condition.

Diplomats say Buhari has made several visits to Britain to see his doctor, routing official trips even to destinations as far afield as Asia via London so as not to have to declare medical leave all the time.

In contrast to Yar’Adua, whom officials cut off from the world on his sickbed in Saudi Arabia, the presidency publishes almost daily pictures of Buhari receiving visitors in his London drawing room. He took a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, both administrations say.

Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo been received by the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa on a visit to Delta state

Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo been received by the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa on a visit to Delta state

In an indication that his British stay might drag on, the speakers of both of Nigeria’s chambers of parliament flew to meet Buhari at Abuja House, a Nigerian government residence in west London, according to an official picture.

“I thanked them for visiting. I am also grateful to Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health,” a smiling but thinner-looking Buhari said, according to an official tweet late on Wednesday.

UNCERTAINTY

Some Nigerians have been getting worried.

“Nigerians are supposed to know the health condition of the president, just like the head of the family is sick and the doctor is holding back the health condition from his family,” said Olugbolahan, an engineer from Lagos.

The arrangement with Osinbajo ensures the day-to-day running of government business. But the long-term risk is that the Muslim north, where Buhari hails from, might not accept Osinbajo as a permanent solution if the president became incapacitated at some point.

Osinbajo is a Christian lawyer from the commercial capital Lagos in the south. He has shown conspicuous loyalty to Buhari and given no sign that he plans to run for president himself.

Traditionally in Nigeria, the leadership rotates between north and south to ensure a balance in a country evenly split between Muslims and Christians. The capital, Abuja, is placed right in the centre as symbol of unity.

Jonathan, a Christian from the south, upset many northerners by refusing to give way to a northern candidate. Northerners felt there should have been another northern presidential term after Yar’Adua’s death. Hundreds were killed in riots after Jonathan’s election in 2011.

 “The politics of rotation is always delicate in Nigeria,” said Anthony Goldman of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting. “But Nigeria has quite a good record of managing the worst crises in leadership.”

REFORMS

For now investors and Nigerian firms hope Osinbajo will enforce reforms to drum up badly needed investment.

He took advantage of Buhari’s absence abroad last year to float the idea of a more flexible foreign exchange policy, which paved the way for an overdue devaluation of the naira.

Osinbajo has been always been in charge of the economy but Buhari has left him little space, subscribing to the view that a strong country needs a strong currency.

Keeping the naira artificially high has deterred investors, who assume Nigeria will have to devalue again. This week, the naira hit a new low at 516 to the dollar on the black market, where importing firms need to go for their dollars, in contrast to the official rate of around 305.

“Some of his (Osinbajo’s) statements have conveyed a more liberal approach to economic policy, which is a good sign,” said de Hart.

Over the past few weeks, Osinbajo, 59, has been pursuing the economic recovery plan required if Nigeria is to obtain a World Bank loan to fund its record deficit.

“We are doing some fine-tuning and during this period we also do some final consultation before the president launches the plan,” budget minister Udoma Udo Udoma said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Osinbajo on Wednesday.

Osinbajo this week also proposed legalizing illicit oil refineries in the Delta, where an army campaign against them has been fuelling tensions. Makeshift facilities refining stolen crude oil are often the only places young men can find work in the impoverished region.

“Within that week he (Buhari) left, there have been a lot of meetings, a lot of committees were being formed by the vice president,” said Oloyede Kamoru, a Lagos businessman. “So why are we complaining that we want to see the man (Buhari)? His absence is not having any impact on the economic issue.”

*Reuters/Yahoo

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Gambia First:On the promises and dangers of the New Gambia’s new and improved relationships with donors.
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Marika Tsolakis/Afican Arguments Boris Johnson enjoyed a presentation of traditional Gambian wrestling on his first visit to the continent. This was also the first time a UK Foreign Secretary visited The Gambia.

Photo: Marika Tsolakis/Afican Arguments
Boris Johnson enjoyed a presentation of traditional Gambian wrestling on his first visit to the continent. This was also the first time a UK Foreign Secretary visited The Gambia.

On the promises and dangers of the New Gambia’s new and improved relationships with donors.

Yesterday, UK foreign minister Boris Johnson visited The Gambia, marking another example of the country’s improved relationships with international partners under the new administration of President Adama Barrow.

Johnson’s visit follows that of EU commissioner Neven Mimica last week, who announced a €225 million ($237 million) aid package for the West African country with a population of just 2 million.

High-profile visits like these signal that democratic transitions in West Africa are rewarded quickly and generously. And after years of external isolation and internal mismanagement, The Gambia requires strong partnerships to find its footing as West Africa’s newest democracy.

Nonetheless, discourses and motives of renewed partnerships should be subject to scrutiny by The Gambia’s new leadership. For the good of the country, it is imperative that equality and respect are at the heart of these aid deals and cooperation agreements.

Exclusionary undertones

For example, in 2016, The Gambia received €14.9 million ($15.7 million) from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, a resource set up to curb “ongoing unprecedented levels of irregular migration” into Europe.

Of this package, €11 million ($11.6 million) went to a youth employment project and €3.9 million ($4.1 million) towards the “return and reintegration” of Gambian migrants to the EU.

Funding from the Emergency Trust Fund primarily intends to halt the influx of Gambians crossing into Europe, and such a partnership is potentially marred by an exclusionary undertone – namely that Gambian migrants are undesirable within Europe’s borders and that pumping money to keep them at home is the solution.

Though Gambia’s new EU aid package will not necessarily be drawn from the same migration trust fund, similar ideological underpinnings could exist in future projects and should be scrutinised by Gambian counterparts.

Who holds the power?

In terms of the UK, Johnson’s pronouncement of re-entry into the Commonwealth of Nations is well received by the local population, many of whom still mourn the country’s exit in 2013. “Without the Commonwealth, who else do we have?” asked an administrator at a British school in Fajara.

 This optimism is understandable. Unlike aid packages, Commonwealth membership creates opportunities for Gambians to live, work and study in the UK and enhances the rights of Gambians abroad. For instance, Commonwealth citizens residing in the UK can vote, while Chevening Scholarships, among other funding sources, will once again enable bright young Gambians to study in world-class universities.

During his visit, Johnson also confirmed that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funds, whose bilateral aid programme has been halted since 2011, would soon restart. He suggested that education would be key point of focus.

However, echoing the EU Trust Fund’s mandate, Johnson also underscored the importance of security for UK-Gambia relations, noting that “tackling the migration crisis is absolutely vital for Europe as well as for Africa”.

While Johnson’s press conference had a light-hearted tone, at one point referring to the former president as a “Jammeh Dodger”, the underlying messages regarding security and migration should be taken seriously.

A broad swath of the Gambian population embraces Commonwealth membership and foreign partnerships as a symbolic undoing of damage accrued during Yahya Jammeh’s rule. However, taking a careful and critical stance on membership in what Jammeh once called a “neo-colonial” institution may not be entirely misguided.

Such partnerships are almost always accompanied by politics, pressures and strings attached. And in a very small and very poor country like The Gambia, power imbalances have the potential to become magnified. As such, the new government must ensure that the nation’s trajectory follows its own vision and objectives, and not those of international donors.

As a new democracy, such independence is even more important in establishing a homegrown national agenda. Furthermore, it will ensure candidates of the new ruling coalition remain legitimate and avoid accusations of serving as a puppet of international interests. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara still grapples with accusations of illegitimacy due to his relationship with France before and after the 2010 elections and his continuation of neoliberal policies that benefit the country’s former colonial power.

Gambia First

Aid and development work can improve the lives of people in The Gambia. The danger, however, is in viewing this cash influx as a magic bullet. The reality is that The Gambia has its work set out and it will take years to rebuild and create new institutions and capacities. No amount of money or memberships in international organisations will accomplish this.

Johnson’s visit to The Gambia marks the end of a long period of economic stagnation and seclusion and the beginning of what locals are calling “The New Gambia”. As these streams of money flow in, international partners should carefully consider the underlying aims of their agendas and avenues of their enactment.

But more importantly, the Gambian government and local organisations that receive international aid must remain strong and predefine where, how and to what ends they require support for the country’s own vision and agenda.

Dr Marika Tsolakis is a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCL Institute of Education and SOAS, funded through the ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund. Her research focuses on youth, non-formal learning and political discussion in West Africa. She is currently based in Fajara, The Gambia.

*Allafrica/African Arguments

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Ramaphosa Makes His Play in South Africa’s Succession Race
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Deputy President say ruling ANC under ‘severe strain’

  • Dlamini-Zuma seen as Ramaphosa’s main challenger to lead party

 

Ramaphosa may have Dlamini Zuma as main challenger

Ramaphosa may have Dlamini Zuma as main challenger

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have hit the campaign trail for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress, criticizing the way it’s being run.

“Our movement is currently under severe strain,” Ramaphosa, 64, said in a speech Monday in the southern coast town of George. “Disunity, mistrust and organizational weakness is undermining our ability to address the challenges that confront our people.”

While the ANC prevents contenders from declaring their candidacy now for the new leadership that will be elected at a Dec. 16-20 conference, lobbying is already under way. The winner of the contest will take a lead role in directing government policy and will likely become the nation’s president in 2019.

President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the 68-year-old former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, has received the public support of the ANC’s Women’s League. Ramaphosa is backed by the main labor federation.

“Ramaphosa seems to be making his play,” Zwelethu Jolobe, a politics lecturer at the University of Cape Town, said by phone. “There is a general consensus that the Zuma legacy is not a good one. Ramaphosa is presenting himself as an alternative.”

Zuma’s Scandals

Zuma, 74, has been embroiled in a succession of scandals since he took office in May 2009, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office when he failed to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home. The nation’s graft ombudsman implied in a report last year that Zuma allowed the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

In his Monday speech, Ramaphosa said the ANC had at times been “infiltrated by individuals and companies seeking preferential access to state business.” Earlier this month, he said that “much of the factionalism in our movement is rooted in a competition for access to resources.”

Zuma’s travails have helped loosen the stranglehold the ANC had held over South African politics since it took power under Nelson Mandela in the nation’s first multiracial elections almost 23 years ago. In a municipal vote last year, it lost control of Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg to opposition-party alliances.

Constitutional Negotiator

A lawyer who co-founded the National Union of Mineworkers, Ramaphosa helped negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid and draft South Africa’s first democratic constitution. He lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the contest to succeed Nelson Mandela as president in 1999 and went into business, securing control of the McDonald’s franchise in South Africa and amassing a fortune before returning to full-time politics in 2012 as the ANC’s deputy president.

While Zuma hasn’t publicly supported Dlamini-Zuma, he told state-owned Motsweding FM radio on Jan. 12 the ANC is ready for a female leader and the job won’t automatically go to Ramaphosa. Zuma may be considering appointing Dlamini-Zuma to his cabinet to ease her path to succeed him, government officials have said.

“Everybody is looking toward the post-Zuma era,” Jolobe said. “Either you are in the camp that seeks to affirm his legacy or you are distancing yourself from it. That is what Ramaphosa appears to be doing.”

*Bloomberg

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UN Security Council Rejects Arms Embargo on South Sudan
December 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
FILE - A man walks past the remains of a tank destroyed during fighting between government and rebel forces on July 10, 2016, in the Jebel area of the capital Juba, South Sudan, July 16, 2016.

FILE – A man walks past the remains of a tank destroyed during fighting between government and rebel forces on July 10, 2016, in the Jebel area of the capital Juba, South Sudan, July 16, 2016.

The United Nations Security Council has rejected a U.S.-drafted resolution to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan.

The measure received seven votes in favor, while eight countries abstained. The resolution needed nine votes to pass, as well as no vetoes by permanent council members.

Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Venezuela and three African council members — Angola, Egypt and Senegal — all abstained.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the United States is “extremely disappointed” by the outcome of the vote, but not surprised.

“We are very, very worried about what lies ahead and we think it’s very important that peoples’ votes are now on the record. When the U.N. is warning genocide, eight countries chose not to be counted when it mattered for the people of South Sudan,” she said.

‘Deeply disappointed’

The United States, backed by Britain and France, had argued that the resolution would have helped to cut arms sales to South Sudan and was a necessary step to take in light of U.N. warnings of mass atrocities.

The U.N. says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has warned that South Sudan is on the verge of genocide, was “deeply disappointed” in the vote. A U.N. spokesman said the secretary-general was disappointed that “the council would not take this obvious and necessary step to help avert such a situation.”

Opponents of the sanctions said the United States was ignoring South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s recent speech to parliament calling for a national dialogue to restore peace, and said his initiative should be given a chance.

Japan, which has 350 troops serving in the U.N. mission in South Sudan, also argued that the resolution would have antagonized Kiir’s administration and could have put peacekeepers at risk.

Human Rights Watch criticized the move to defeat the resolution. “The Security Council had an opportunity to show that it stands with the civilian victims of this conflict,” said Akshaya Kumar, deputy United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, this failure gives the warring parties in South Sudan a green light to buy more weapons and material that will end up being used against civilians.”

U.N. peacekeepers

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Oct. 26, 2016.

FILE – U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Oct. 26, 2016.

The Security Council unanimously extended its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for another year a few days ago. The mission covers a new regional force of 4,000 troops, which the council approved in August but have yet to be deployed, in addition to the approximately 13,000 peacekeepers already there.

The relationship between South Sudan’s government and the U.N. mission has been tense. South Sudan initially rejected a U.S. proposal to deploy an additional 4,000 peacekeepers in the wake of the fighting in July, but now has agreed to allow them, even though the technicalities are still being worked out.

South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation in 2011 when it gained independence from Sudan. Hopes were high that South Sudan could leave behind decades of civil war with Sudan. In 2013, however, South Sudan descended into a new war stemming from political rivalry between Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.

*VOA

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Carlos Lopes to Step Down from ECA End of October
September 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Carlos Lopes

Carlos Lopes

Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes, of the Economic Commission for Africa officially told ECA staff Thursday that he was stepping down from the organization he has led for the past four years.

Speaking at a town hall meeting, Mr. Lopes, who joined the ECA as its eighth Executive Secretary in September 2012, said he was proud of what the ECA had collectively achieved during the last four years, in particular the production of quality and credible products like the Economic Report on Africa, Country Profiles and others, that are increasingly being used by Member States in policy formulation, among other things.

He commended the ECA staff for what he said were their tremendous efforts in supporting and working with him in his vision to make sure the ECA became a think tank of repute on the continent, making a difference in the lives of Africans through various products that are and will continue to make a positive impact long after his departure.

“ECA has gone up quite considerably in terms of image and credibility in terms of its work and I’m sure people feel it in their interactions everyday with our interlocutors,” Mr. Lopes said, adding the ECA did indeed live by the model of Africa First in all its work in pushing for the development of the continent through structural transformation, industrialization and regional integration, among others.

“We have done it because of Africa. There’s a lot to be proud of and I’m very proud of what we have been able to achieve together and this is the reason why I have confidence that the ECA will continue to shine. My wish, hope and conviction is that the ECA will continue to shine,” he told the ECA employees.

Mr. Lopes, who was flanked by his two deputies, Abdalla Hamdok, Chief Economist and Deputy Executive Secretary, Knowledge Generation Pillar, and Giovanie Biha Deputy Executive Secretary for Knowledge Delivery, said he had no doubt that from what the ECA has been able to deliver during his tenure, the organization will collectively continue to work together with its strategic partners like the African Union and the African Development Bank to promote Africa’s economic development.

 “I’m just one person. With or without me the work has to continue. I was certainly your leader during these four years but all things have to come to a close,” he said. “It is very important for us to realise that leaders are always transitional leaders if they are supposed to be good leaders. To be a good leader you have to be capable of leaving when you think the time is appropriate not when you are being pushed so that’s why this decision was on my terms and my timing.”

Speaker after speaker praised Mr. Lopes for, among other things, the role he played in reforming the ECA and taking the relationship between the organization, its partners and member states to a higher level, beautifying the ECA compound, leading the organization to host big conferences impacting on Africa’s development and empowering employees across the shop floor, mostly ensuring there was gender parity in the organization.

He leaves the organization on the 30 th  of October.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
Tel: +251 11 551 5826
E-mail: ecainfo@uneca.org

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