FIRST AFRICAN PASSPORTS GO TO PRESIDENTS OF RWANDA AND CHAD
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments
The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.
GHANA ALLOWS VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR AFRICANS IN STEP TOWARDS CONTINENTAL PASSPORT
July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.
The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.
It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”
But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.
The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Anne Frugé*
On June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.
But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.
The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent
The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.
The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.
Why is the single African passport important?
The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.
An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.
Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.
Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.
In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.
Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.
None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.
What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?
Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.
Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.
Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.
The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example
The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.
Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.
An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.
For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.
Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.
And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.
In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.
*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.
Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.
But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.
The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.
What happens now?
The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.
But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.
AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.
Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.
Who pays the piper
The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”
The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.
At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.
It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.
“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”
According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.
First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.
The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.
Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.
The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.
“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.
Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.
In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.
The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.
It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.
But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”
Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.
A Trip to Nairobi Inspired This One-of-a-Kind Company
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
I majored in biology in college and thought I’d become a doctor. But I also wanted to travel. So as a way to do both, I spent years with international humanitarian organizations. The work was satisfying, but the social life was challenging: My colleagues would go back to their hotel at night — in part because they were almost all older than me, but also because they were fearful of the potentially unsafe, unfamiliar cities we were in. I didn’t want to be this far from home and not experience a place fully, so I often went out. And I discovered amazing things.
From a rooftop party at an advertising agency to road-tripping across the country for a DJ set, I was exposed to a side of Africa I’d never seen before. These were cosmopolitan movers and shakers, but distinctly African. In 2011, I met up with a photographer in Johannesburg; through her lens, I met entertainers, artists and other influencers. A year later, I connected with a sorority sister in Nairobi, Kenya, who was working on MTV’s African youth culture series Shuga. The show’s producer, fashion designer and filmmaker took me out to restaurants and nightclubs, and I had the time of my life.
That’s when the lightbulb went off. People weren’t exposed to this Africa, and I wanted to connect visitors to it — not just by talking about these amazing things, but by directing people to them.
I spent the next year or so developing Tastemakers Africa, a company to book epic experiences, with epic people, in every African city. In February 2014, I went to Lagos for Social Media Week to show off my early-stage mockup. My session was packed, which confirmed that I was really onto something. I was working for another NGO at the time but quit and joined MediKidz, a VC-backed healthcare startup, to learn more about building a company. The cofounder, Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, was a sales genius. She was super-transparent with me about her funding process, and I saw a lot of her documents and pitch decks, and heard about the screwups. But the biggest thing I learned from Kim was to work harder than hard. Things need to get done in the NGO world, but there isn’t a sense of urgency; Kim always had a sense of urgency.
By that summer, I had fleshed out a prototype. As a proof of concept, we promoted a “Tastemakers Tour of Ghana” on my Facebook page, and it sold out in weeks. I still wasn’t ready to make it my full-time job, but then MediKidz was bought and I was laid off — so I slammed the gas on the startup. My boyfriend and I closed out our 401(k)s, and I entered an accelerator that gave us $20,000 and then raised another $100,000 from angel investors. I also won first place in a Lagos competition called She Leads Africa, which got me $10,000 and a mentoring network.
We launched our website in December 2014 and ended 2015 with more than $200,000 in experience and concierge bookings. Our app, Tstmkrs, launched in beta in December of last year, and we did $100,000 in Q1 bookings for 2016. We’re still figuring out who and where our audience is and what they’re willing to pay, but we’re learning and growing fast. In five years, we expect to be in at least 40 countries on the continent. We will be the brand, and our connections, support and infrastructure will make us important to many others who come here as well. We’ve already built partnerships with Uber, South African Airways and Radisson Blu (that one’s for a pan-African travel contest in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), and have gotten interest in an acquisition from a large hospitality company. But no matter what happens, I know we’ll have played a huge role in not just how people think about traveling in Africa, but what people think of Africa itself.
Son of ex-Senegal president released early from prison
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Babacar Dione*DAKAR, Senegal — Authorities on Friday freed Karim Wade, the son of Senegal’s longtime former president, after he served half of his six-year sentence on charges of corruption and illegally accumulating a fortune of at least $200 million.
The former Cabinet minister has long been a divisive figure in Senegal. He became so powerful under his father, ex-President Abdoulaye Wade, that Senegalese derisively referred to him as “Minister of the Sky and the Earth” and critics feared he was being groomed as a possible successor.
Karim Wade’s arrest and prosecution in a special anti-corruption court was the most high-profile case in the crackdown on graft waged by current leader Macky Sall, who defeated Abdoulaye Wade in a 2012 election. Karim Wade’s supporters said his 2015 conviction was evidence of a personal vendetta against the family. The Wades have dismissed the charges as politically motivated.
Originally accused of amassing a fortune of more than $1.3 billion, Karim Wade was fined around $230 million as part of his sentence.
In a presidential decree, Sall said the financial sanctions and penalties against Wade remained in place, and Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba said the state would continue to confiscate assets.
Wade flew to Qatar immediately after being released. In a statement, he thanked the Gulf country’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “who out of friendship for me, never stopped intervening to put an end to the injustice I suffered for four years.”
Wade said the conditions of his release made it impossible for him to see supporters before leaving. He did not elaborate. Authorities had sought to avoid a repeat of the unrest that was unleashed the day of his conviction, when young supporters set tires ablaze in the streets.
Sall’s popularity has faltered amid complaints he hasn’t done enough to improve the lives of ordinary Senegalese. The next presidential election is set for 2019, and many of Karim Wade’s supporters hope he will be a candidate.
Corporate Citizens Need to Make a Real Impact on Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
The roll-out of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comes with a “leave no one behind” strategy that moves from reducing to ending poverty, and one that puts sustainability and growth at its core, believes Abey Tau, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship Manager for Samsung Electronics Africa.
Prepared to follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were unveiled with the aim of taking steps towards building a better world in the next 15 years.
This is no easy target. The UN has spent significant time analysing the successes and failings of the MDGs in order to apply the learnings to the SDGs. The MDGs did produce some good outcomes, such as contributing to decreasing the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 from 47% in 1990 to 14% in 2015. However, it is also acknowledged that progress has been limited, with many being left behind.
According to reports, the SDG strategy will require an annual outlay of $2.5 trillion for it to be implemented successfully, which will need to come from private investment. It’s certainly something the private sector wants to get involved with in an effort to show support for sustainable development.
The SDGs hone in on growth as the main solution to poverty, but we are still in a position where most of the global GDP growth remains in the upper echelons of society, rather than having an impact on the poor. The amount of growth needed to truly end poverty would also have a significant impact on environmental issues such as climate change.
So this leaves the corporate sector, called on to make the investment needed to achieve these goals, in a tricky situation. Where do we invest to ensure we aren’t encouraging one area of growth at the expense of another?
Corporate investors play such a central role in the roll-out of the SDGs, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done when it comes to our specific commitments and accountability mechanisms.
With this framework, Samsung’s aim is to make a positive contribution towards the SDGs by positively impacting the lives of people. The company continues to inspire the world and create the future through innovative technology that enriches people’s lives and contribute to social growth.
We see ourselves as an active participant in the global agenda to help promote positive change by using our global network of employees, suppliers and partners; which is why we have established solutions which help address the felt need of communities, particularly in education, health, skills and employability.
In 2015, we have established Digital Villages in various countries in Africa including Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Senegal to mention a few. Designed in collaboration with African communities, the Digital Village concept comprises of mobile, solar-powered facilities including a connected admin centre, solar powered internet school, solar powered generator and solar power mobile health centre, which can be configured to serve as the high-tech hub of rural and underserved communities.
In addition to delivering desperately-needed services to communities, the Digital Village also delivers WiFi access and power to the broader community, often for the first time. This access sparks small business development and information-sharing, e-government service delivery and agricultural progress in areas that have been sidelined in the information age for too long.
It makes sense to get behind the SDGs because they are a mechanism to help end poverty and promote sustainability across the board. It may be Corporate Citizenship that kick starts the process, but it is essential that every individual is working towards a common goal.
There is no doubt that the SDGs will, in one way or another, shape the global agenda on economic, social and environmental development over the next 15 years. It is also true that global action is the best way to ensure accountability and inclusivity. Ultimately the call is for everyone from government, to the private sector and civil society to play their part in creating a sustainable future.
Abey Tau is the Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship Manager for Samsung Electronics Africa. With over 10 years’ experience in the local and global development arena, Abey was a South African finalist in the 2014 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) / Mandela Washington Fellow and was selected by the National Empowerment Fund as one of 56 young junior managers for a secondment in Paris in 2011. He continues to sit on the Board of AIESEC at Monash University.
Jumia Becomes the One Stop Online Destination in Africa
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
People can now find on Jumia all their needs
Africa Internet Group is today connecting its companies into Jumia’s ecosystem with a new vision, “Expand your horizons”. The new Jumia ecosystem will give access to products and services from its 8 leading platforms.
After 4 years of successfully establishing and growing its online services as leaders in their markets, Africa Internet Group, now Jumia, has become the N°1 E-commerce platform in Africa.
“We founded our companies with a very strong belief: Internet can improve people’s lives in Africa. Uniting all services allows us to better help our customers fulfill their daily aspirations. This is all possible because people connect to our platform to access those services and products in an environment that we have designed for them, addressing their needs and expectations on quality, choice, price, trust and convenience.” said Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, founders and co-CEOs of Jumia.
People can now find on Jumia all their needs ; branded products with Jumia, local sellers with Jumia Market (prev. Kaymu), hotel booking with Jumia Travel (Jovago), food delivery with Jumia Food (Hellofood), classifieds with Jumia Deals (Vendito), Jumia House (Lamudi) and Jumia Car (Carmudi), and lastly logistics services with Jumia Services (AIGX).
Furthermore, sellers will also benefit from this move, by getting access to more traffic and to a greater world of opportunities. Every day, Jumia helps and encourages restaurants, hotels, local sellers, brands, real estate agents, car dealers, large companies and logistic companies to become better, bigger, more performant, thus creating positive impact for Africa.
The founders reiterated that, “Operating under the same brand name reinforces the legitimacy of proposing other services to our customers and to our sellers. We want to have one strong brand that is trusted and loved by our customers across Africa”.
Jumia’s new vision, “Expand your horizons”, expresses the group’s ambition to transform people’s lives through internet, overcoming the ground market challenges of the continent and giving all Africans the opportunity to access high quality services and products everywhere.
Jumia aims at creating a connected digital Africa to improve people’s lives on the continent, thanks to the Internet. Therefore, Jumia’s mission is to connect African consumers and entrepreneurs to do better business together. Founded in 2012, with a presence all over Africa, the group has MTN, Rocket Internet, Millicom, Orange & Axa as investors. Jumia has been creating a sustainable ecosystem of digital services and infrastructures through online and mobile marketplaces and classifieds to expand your horizons.
Communism and Africa: A long flirtation
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Thomas Page*
A mural of an African proletariat breaking the chains of capitalism in Angola; an imposing, North Korean-built monument in Addis Ababa. Cold War relics dot the African continent from Ethiopia to Burkina Faso. One organization has now decided to take a closer look at the decades-old relationship between Africa and communism.
Imports from Pyongyang
West Africa: Crisis in Africa’s Sahel, Hotbed of Militancy, Overlooked By Donors
June 20, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Kieran Guilbert*
Dakar — The Sahel is a fertile soil for the rise of Islamist militancy with its loosely controlled desert expanses
Africa’s arid Sahel, a fertile breeding ground for militancy and organised crime, has been neglected by donors who must tackle the region’s displacement crisis to stem radicalisation and refugee flows, a leading aid agency said on Friday.
Millions of people have been uprooted by violence or smuggled across borders by militant groups and criminal networks in a region long ignored by the humanitarian community, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
The United Nations last December appealed for a record $2 billion for the Sahel’s 2016 aid plan, but it has been less than a quarter funded to date.
The Sahel band, which stretches from Senegal to Eritrea and lies south of the Sahara desert, topped the NRC’s annual list of neglected displacement crises, followed by Yemen and Libya.
At least 4.5 million people in the Sahel have been forced from their homes by violence, a number which has tripled since 2014, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Preventing conflict and refugee flows, stopping terrorist groups from taking root and combating organised crime are all intertwined,” said NRC senior adviser Richard Skretteberg.
“You can’t fight terrorism without creating development, and can’t beat organised crime unless you solve the refugee crisis and create jobs,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The combination of poverty, increased drought and shrinking water resources, and a lack of work is leaving people prey to recruitment by militant groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Islamic State, Skretteberg said.
More people could be recruited as the Sahel’s population continues to boom, and militants and criminals smuggling people to Libya and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe feed off each other and exploit corruption and weak governance, he added.
Terror creates conflicts and refugees, and weakens state institutions, which criminals know how to exploit. Criminal activity helps ensure a constant flow of money to terrorists.”
Aid agencies in the Sahel must consider organised crime in their response as gangs often target the most vulnerable people, trafficking and abusing them for profit, Skretteberg said.
They should also prioritise protection and education to prevent children and young men from being recruited by militants and give them hope of finding work in the future, he added.
Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Elected First Female Chair of ECOWAS
June 6, 2016 | 0 Comments
By CHARLES AYITEY*
Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has once again broken the gender-ceiling by making history as the first female elected chairperson of the Economy of West African States (ECOWAS).
During the 49th ECOWAS Heads of State Meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Saturday, Madam Sirleaf was elected by her fellow presidents and is expected to succeed Senegalese president Macky Sall, whose term in office as head of ECOWAS 2015 draws to a close.
The summit was attended by all heads of state from member countries with the exception of Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, José Mário Vaz of Guinea Bissau, Muhammadou Buhari of Nigeria, and Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo.
The leaders discussed important issues such as the protracted cases of political insecurity, peace and security, pre and post election violence, the border dispute between Gambia and Senegal, and terrorism.
Meanwhile, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has pledged to work towards the achievement of the regional community’s Vision 2020, which among other things includes the achievement of a single currency policy for the sub-region.
The Liberian president takes the mantle following the declaration of her country free from the deadly outbreak of Ebola which ravaged the West African economy in 2014.
A woman of stature and power, Ellen Sirleaf is revered not just as one of the most powerful women in the world but also the “Iron Lady” or “Ma Ellen” of Liberia, considering the strides chalked in rebuilding a broken Liberia after 14 years of civil war and also placing value on the country’s falling economy through prudent fiscal policies.
Achieving Universal Access to Energy; Africa Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
May 31, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Friday Phiri* (Lusaka)
LUSAKA, May 30 (IPS) – “It is unacceptable that 138 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, hundreds of millions of people cannot have access to electricity to simply light up the bulb in Africa,” says Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, mourning the gloomy statistics showing that over 645 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, while over 700 million are without clean energy for cooking.
Adesina attributes Africa’s poverty and the perennial migration of youths to Europe in search of a good life, to lack of energy. “Even insects run from the dark to where there is light. Our youths are running away, hundreds of them drowning but the future of African’s youth does not lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,” he declared during the official opening of the just ended 51st AfDB annual meetings held in Lusaka, from 23-27 May under the theme, ‘Energy and Climate Change’.
It is for this reason that top on the list of the bank’s strategies for all—referred to as the High fives (5s), is Light Up and Power Africa, with the goal of achieving universal access to energy for Africa within ten years through expansion of grid power by 160 gigawatts to connect 130 million people, and 75 million people to off-grid systems.
“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” said Adesina, outlining AfDB’s strategy to achieve universal access to energy which he believes, would unlock Africa’s potential to feed itself, achieve industrialisation, integration and ultimately improve the quality of life for the people.
However, ambition alone is not enough—it requires a realistic roadmap. And for the bank, the plan is to increase investment into the energy sector. “To deliver on the New Deal on Energy for Africa, the African Development Bank will invest $12 billion in the energy sector over the next five years,” he said, adding that, with this investment, the bank expects to leverage $45-50 billion.
But with the 2015 Paris climate agreement centred on a transition to renewable energy, Africa may have to re-think its strategies on how to achieve its ambitious dream. And this was one key question that divided opinion at the 2016 AfDB annual meetings—Should Africa lead the way on Green growth or follow a carbon intensive path that the developed countries took to achieve industrialisation?
Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo argued for Africa’s right to do so. “We in Africa must use what we have to get what we need. The West used coal to develop and I think we should also be allowed to pollute a bit and then, we will all join in cleaning up,” said Obasanjo during a panel discussion on Africa’s New Deal on Energy, one of the bank’s initiatives launched during the annual meetings.
While Obasanjo’s line of thought seemed out of place considering the world’s renewable energy push, there was a sense of support for the continent’s right to develop as it pleases, especially that big polluters are seemingly elusive on financial support and emission cuts.
“We first have to get access to energy for us to know which one is clean and which one is dirty,” said Chadian President, Idris Derby, the current African Union Chairman, before the host President, Edgar Lungu summarised Africa’s dilemma.
“It is always challenging to make a choice when you don’t have what to choose from…while we need to provide universal access to energy, climate change hinders our efforts, as some approaches are considered dirty,” said Lungu, highlighting his own country’s energy challenges emanating from poor rainfall in two consecutive seasons leading to low water levels for electricity generation at its main hydro power stations.
Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, were more concerned as to whether renewable energy is a realistic option in relation to the industrialisation agenda on the continent.
“For us, we think renewable energy and climate change are serious but development of our people is a priority. Africa’s situation is unique, for example, we have been talking about industry here which requires base load power and this might require countries to put up hundreds of hectares of solar plants to achieve the needed power,” said Osinbajo, whose sentiments seemed to sum up those of Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta as expressed during a televised panel discussion.
The underlying tone of African leaders in these discussions pointed to inconsistent flow of climate finance and technology transfer—a subject of debate at the core of the continent’s development, in relation to climate change.
Climate change is real and it is unanimously agreed by both the North and the South that Africa is at the receiving end. This therefore entails climate justice through finance for the continent which has been short changed by climate change.
The argument is that Africa must be supported financially to adapt to negative effects of climate change ravaging its people, but at the same time play a key role in mitigation efforts. However, the much debated climate finance has not been forthcoming.
“Very little money is flowing into adaptation and the bank is concerned with this trend…wants to see more resources also being channeled to adaptation as the case is with mitigation where a huge chunk of resources is being invested,” observes Kurt Lonsway, the AfDB Manager of the Environment and Climate Change division.
The inconsistent flow of financial resources, coupled with lukewarm emission cut commitments by the developed world, could be the cause for African leaders’ defying tone to take a lead on renewable energy despite being fully in support of the Paris climate deal.
Mary Robinson making a point during a round table discussion of African Presidents.And former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson is alive to this state of affairs. However, she wants African leaders to use their collective voice to demand for climate justice.
“Climate finance is no longer about aid to Africa but the means by which to serve the world from catastrophic climate change. I therefore plead with you, African leaders to use your collective voice to get what you want,” stressed the former Irish President who now heads the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.
But former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s concern is African leaders’ political will. “The transformation we seek also requires decisive action on the part of Africa’s leaders in reforming inefficient, inequitable and often corrupt utilities that have failed to provide firms with a reliable power supply and people with access to electricity,” said the former top UN diplomat, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel.
Whichever route Africa takes to achieve its ambition of universal access to energy, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopez wants Africa to do it with its own money because “donor money has been a disappointment, slow and not reliable.”
For Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, African countries will have to choose an energy mix that suits them because “we cannot certainly expect Africa just to drop from fossil fuels while there are other countries at the top polluting the world.”