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Gambia Searches Jammeh’s Palaces for Missing Millions
July 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Cattle amble toward an archway at the entrance of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Cattle amble toward an archway at the entrance of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

In a warehouse on the sprawling country estate of Gambia’s exiled former leader, Yahya Jammeh, silver platters pile up beside dusty crates of empty champagne bottles with labels commemorating his 1994 coup.

A bailiff picks through the boxes and scribbles down notes — the start of what the new government says is a search for tens of millions of dollars of looted assets, an investigation that Jammeh’s supporters have dismissed as a witch hunt.

A U.S. official in Banjul said Washington was planning to help, and government staff say they are counting on World Bank assistance. The size of the Kanilai estate — just a small fraction of Jammeh’s holdings, according to the government official leading the tour — shows the scale of the task ahead.

Moluccan cockatoos peer out of a cage in former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Moluccan cockatoos peer out of a cage in former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

“We suspect most of the things were taken away before he left — the treasure, possibly weapons and most of the vehicles,” said the bailiff from Gambia’s high court, Modou Moussa Ceesay, taking an inventory of Jammeh’s possessions.

The former president, accused by opponents and rights groups of widespread violations and corruption, fled Gambia in January as regional forces descended on the capital, Banjul, to enforce the results of an election he lost.

He has not commented on the investigation from his new base in Equatorial Guinea. His still strong band of supporters left behind in the tiny West African state have called the plunder hunt a case of victor’s justice.

Tanks, zebras, camels

Soldiers pull open the doors to a warehouse inside former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's personal estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Soldiers pull open the doors to a warehouse inside former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s personal estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Kanilai was Jammeh’s birthplace and is now his most elaborate estate — complete with farm, mosque, tanks, multiple residences, jungle warfare training camp and vast private safari park housing exotic parrots, zebras, hyenas and camels.

Building materials lie next to an unfinished new palace, near a billboard of a smiling Jammeh embracing his family.

The justice ministry team inspected it all under the gaze of a group of Jammeh’s relatives and supporters, all wearing the green T-shirts of his APRC party. One of them stuck up his middle finger at the visiting delegation.

A dusty champagne bottle from an edition commemorating the day former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh came to power is seen in his estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

A dusty champagne bottle from an edition commemorating the day former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh came to power is seen in his estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

APRC leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta later told Reuters he had no knowledge of any embezzlement of state funds or foreign assets owned by Jammeh.

“These people just want anything with any link to Jammeh, and that’s not fair,” he said, calling the investigation “witch-hunting.”

New President Adama Barrow took office in January and set up a task force to track down Jammeh’s assets in May. “Most of the paper trails are available,” Gambian Solicitor General Cherno Marenah said.

But following those paper trails is proving time-consuming. Investigators made their first visit to the heavily fortified estate just this month.

Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh last month said $100 million — more than a third of the annual budget — had been siphoned from state firms in the riverside nation, nearly half of whose 1.8 million people live in poverty.

 A list of Jammeh assets temporarily seized by the government pending a court order showed 14 businesses in such fields as media, insurance and farming.Sanneh said the government planned to sell four of Jammeh’s presidential planes.

‘Too much for one man’

Marenah said investigators were also looking into assets in Morocco and the United States, where one U.S. official told Reuters that Jammeh owned property in Potomac, Maryland, a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C.

An official in the U.S. Embassy in Banjul confirmed that they were collaborating with the Gambian government on how to assist with the recovery efforts.

The World Bank is to help Gambia through its Stolen Assets Recovery Program, Marenah said, though the bank declined to comment.

Gambian Major YMS Darboe stands in front of a pile of empty cardboard boxes stored in a warehouse in former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's personal estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Gambian Major YMS Darboe stands in front of a pile of empty cardboard boxes stored in a warehouse in former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s personal estate in Kanilai, Gambia, July 1, 2017.

Back at Kanilai, once a small village near the border with Senegal, soldiers lead a tour of Jammeh’s main residences. The screeches of three of his abandoned parrots echo inside an empty ballroom hanging with crystal chandeliers.

One of the pictures hanging on the wall shows a young Jammeh holding a staff some Gambians thought gave him mystical powers — he long said he had developed a secret cure for AIDS.

A pile of paperwork, including an old business document from a visiting Royal Dutch Shell delegation, sits near a bookshelf holding Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s memoir The Downing Street Years.

At the entrance to another residence, soldiers swap jokes and take turns playing on a grand piano and shooting pool next to a fake Christmas tree.

“It’s too much for one man,” mutters one of them as the delegation tours the rooms.

*VOA/Reuters

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The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa
July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ndongo Samba Sylla*
A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that the CFA franc – officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle – used across much of Africa today is a colonial relic. For those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from imperialist control, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

On 11 August 2015, speaking at the celebrations marking the 55th anniversary of the independence of Chad, President Idriss Deby declared, ‘we must have the courage to say there is a cord preventing development in Africa that must be severed.’ The ‘cord’ he was referring to is now over 71 years old. It is known by the acronym ‘CFA franc’.

The pillars of the CFA franc

Like other colonial empires – the UK, with its sterling zone; or Portugal, with its escudo zone, France had its franc zone. The CFA franc – orginally the French African Colonial franc – was officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle. It is a colonial currency, born of France’s need to foster economic integration among the colonies under its administration, and thus control their resources, economic structures and political systems.

Post-independence the CFA franc was redesignated: for the eight members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – it became the African Financial Community franc; for the six members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CAEMC) – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad – the Central African Financial Cooperation franc. The two zones possess economies of equal size (each representing 11 per cent of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa). The two currencies, however, are not inter-convertible.

As established by the monetary accords between African nations and France, the CFA franc has four main pillars:

Firstly, a fixed rate of exchange with the euro (and previously the French franc) set at 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs. Secondly, a French guarantee of the unlimited convertibility of CFA francs into euros. Thirdly, a centralisation of foreign exchange reserves. Since 2005, the two central banks – the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) – have been required to deposit 50 per cent of their foreign exchange reserves in a special French Treasury ‘operating account’. Immediately following independence, this figure stood at 100 per cent (and from 1973 to 2005, at 65 per cent).

This arrangement is a quid pro quo for the French ‘guarantee’ of convertibility. The accords stipulate that foreign exchange reserves must exceed money in circulation by a margin of 20 per cent. Before the fall in oil prices, the money supply coverage rate (the ratio of foreign exchange reserves to money in circulation) consistently approached 100 per cent, implying in theory that Africans could dispense with the French ‘guarantee’. The final pillar of the CFA franc, is the principle of free capital transfer within the franc zone.

The CFA franc: for and against

Despite its exceptional longevity, the CFA franc by no means enjoys unanimous support among African economists and intellectuals. Its critics base their analysis on three separate arguments. Firstly, they condemn the absence of monetary sovereignty. France holds a de facto veto on the boards of the two central banks within the CFA franc zone. Since the reform of the BCEAO in 2010, the conduct of monetary policy has been assigned to a monetary policy committee. The French representative is a voting member of this committee, while the president of the WAEMU Commission attends only in an advisory capacity. Given the fixed rate of exchange between the CFA franc and the euro, the monetary and exchange rate policies of the franc zone nations are also dictated by the European Central Bank, whose monetary orthodoxy entails an anti-inflation bias detrimental to growth.

Secondly, they focus on the economic impact of the CFA franc, construed as a neocolonial device that continues to destroy any prospect of economic development in user nations. According to this perspective, the CFA franc is a barrier to industrialisation and structural transformation, serving neither to stimulate trade integration between user nations, nor boost bank lending to their economies. The credit-to-GDP ratio stands around 25% for the WAEMU zone, and 13% for the CAEMC zone, but averages 60%+ for sub-Saharan Africa, and 100%+ for South Africa etc. The CFA franc also encourages massive capital outflows. In brief, membership of the franc zone is synonymous with poverty and under-employment, as evidenced by the fact that 11 of its 15 adherents are classed as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), while the remainder (Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon) have all experienced real-term economic decline.

Finally, they maintain that membership of the franc zone is inimical to the advance of democracy. To uphold the CFA franc, it is argued, France has never hesitated to jettison heads of state tempted to withdraw from the system. Most were removed from office or killed in favour of more compliant leaders who cling to power come hell or high water, as shown by the CAEMC nations and Togo. Economic development is impossible in such circumstances, as is the creation of a political system that meets the preoccupations of the majority of citizens.

For its partisans, in contrast, the underlying logic of the CFA franc lies not in neocolonialism, but in monetary cooperation. The under-development of the franc zone nations is attributed to factors independent of their monetary and exchange policies, in particular to their political instability and the poor economic policies of their leaders.

The CFA franc is characterised as a credible and stable currency, a significant virtue given the experience of most currency-issuing African nations. This counter-argument is, however, flawed: experience shows that nations like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, which post independence withdrew from the franc zone and mint their own currency, are stronger economically than any user of the CFA franc.

It is also claimed that the CFA franc has allowed inflation to be pegged at a rate considerably lower than the African average. For its critics, however, the counterpart of this low inflation rate is weak economic growth and the creation of fewer jobs. Not to mention that this low average inflation rate does not prevent cities like Dakar from ranking among the most ‘expensive’ in the world.

In fact, the terms of the debate are quite simple. The CFA franc is a good currency for those who benefit from it: the major French and overseas corporations, the executives of the zone’s central banks, the elites wishing to repatriate wealth acquired legally or otherwise, heads of state unwilling to upset France etc. But for those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, find work, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from colonial relics, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

From forbidden topic to emerging social movement

In October 2016, a group of African and European economists published a book entitled [in translation] Liberate Africa from Monetary Slavery: Who Profits from the CFA Franc? The date was not selected at random; it coincided with a meeting of the franc zone’s finance ministers, central bank governors and regional institutions. In the wake of the public debate sparked by the book, people are beginning to speak out.

France maintains the position that the CFA franc is an ‘African currency’, existing only as a support to Africans, who retain their ‘sovereignty’. Some heads of state, like Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire and Macky Sall in Senegal take the same line. Unlike Idriss Déby, Macky Sall describes the CFA franc as ‘a currency worth keeping’. Ouattara goes further, insisting that the currency is a matter for experts and thus not a subject for democratic debate. From this standpoint, any critic of the CFA franc must by definition know nothing about it.

Yet, alongside radical economists and intellectuals, the critics of the CFA franc also include former international officials like Togo’s Kako Nubukpo (ex-BCEAO), Senegal’s Sanou Mbaye (ex-African Development Bank, and Guinea-Bissau’s Carlos Lopez (ex-UN Economic Commission for Africa), as well as African bankers like Henri-Claude Oyima (President-Director General of BGFI Bank).

From a taboo subject raised only by a handful of African intellectuals and politicians, the CFA franc debate is starting to enter day-to-day conversation and to attract the attention of activists. A social movement is developing to demand the joint withdrawal of African nations from the CFA franc. On 7 January 2017, on the initiative of ‘SOS Pan-Africa’ (‘Urgences Panafricanistes’), an NGO set up and run by the activist Kemi Séba, anti-CFA demonstrations were organised in several African and European cities, and in Haïti. The mobilisations varied in size according to country, bringing together intellectuals, pan-Africanist and anti-globalisation activists and others. SOS Pan-Africa has since issued a symbolic appeal for Africans to boycott French products.

The current alternative to the CFA franc in West Africa is the joint currency planned for members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The new currency was due to enter circulation in 2015, but this has since been deferred until 2020. The new deadline may or may not be met, but one thing seems increasingly clear: the CFA franc no longer has a future.

*Ndongo Samba Sylla (@nssylla) is  Research and Programme Manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is the editor and author of a number of books including The Fair Trade Scandal.This article was first published on the Review of the African Political Economy (ROAPE) blog
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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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Macron Got A Lot Wrong About Africa … But Made One Good Point
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Viviane Rutabingwa*


French President Emmanuel Macron speaks a Press conference after a meeting of European Union leaders at the Chancellery on June 29, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

At a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, French President Emmanuel Macron answered a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist.

The reporter asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa.

Macron’s response included these comments: “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilizational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition.” He later said, “One of the essential challenges of Africa … is that in some countries today seven or eight children [are] born to each woman.”

Many commentators have called these statements racist, problematic and arrogant. And many of us Africans agree.

The Audacity Of Macron

The French colonial empire ruled over much of North, West and Central Africa from around 1830 until 1960. During this time, African peoples were labeled “French subjects” but as a rule could not own property or vote.

By the time the last French colonial country — Gabon — fully gained its “independence” in 1960, France had left behind a legacy of colonization, slavery and pillage.

President Macron, as the leader of France, speaks on the status of Africa with this backdrop looming behind him. In 1884, a French statesman and leading proponent of colonialism, Jules François Camille Ferry, stated: “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.” He called it France’s “mission civilisatrice” or “civilizing mission.” That idea was at the core of French colonial ideology. And now in 2017, President Macron declares the problems in Africa “civilizational.”

It is concerning to see the casual manner in which a head of state can play into racist stereotypes of the African continent and African women. Africa is a continent of 54 dynamically different countries. Each of them — like any other country on earth — has strikingly different needs and issues to face — and a conglomerate of local individuals and organizations working hard to address them.

When Macron in his comments refers to “failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism….,” he plays into the tiresome trope that “Africa is a country, everyone is poor and can’t help themselves.”

Which country is he speaking of? Could it be Rwanda, one of the fastest growing economies globally and a country that is always high up on the list of gender equality: almost 64 percent of parliamentarians are women compared to just 22 percent worldwide? Or perhaps is he referring to Botswana, which has demonstrated remarkable economic progress by jumping from a low-income to a middle-income country within a few decades.

It has been discussed ad nauseum why the rhetoric that there’s one story for all of Africa is damaging to the progress of African countries and the dignity of African people.

Birth Rate Misinformation

And then there is the matter of children.

Niger is the country with the world’s highest fertility rate — 7.6 children per mother, according to World Bank data. But the number of children per African woman in many African countries is lower and is generally declining. The data in 2015 shows 3.5 in Namibia, 5.6 in Nigeria, 4.3 in Kenya (down from 7.9 in 1960).

In 2015, on average, according to World Bank data, a Sub-Saharan African mother gives birth to 4.9 children.

I’m distressed by the ease at which this president throws out an extreme number to paint an inaccurate and stereotypical picture of African mothers.

Moment Of Clarity

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

Despite my criticisms of Macron’s comments, I do believe he made a pertinent point when he said: “If we want a coherent response to Africa, then Africans must develop a series of policies that are far more sophisticated than a simple Marshall plan.”

That observation mirrors statements made by African heads of states as well as many researchers and academics who have been pushing for alternative models to help the countries of Africa grow.

In her book Dead Aid, the acclaimed author and International economist Dambisa Moyo observes that African peoples — for decades — have been pointing to the inherently ineffective and actually destructive nature of Western aid programs. Too often these programs bring in foreign personnel and do not invest in grassroots efforts. And they fail to recognize that one size does not fit all.

Despite this bit of clarity, Macron’s comments dig up the ever hidden stems of old imperial notions. His words remind many of us Africans of the terror our ancestors and elders went through during the years of imperial rule.

And yet I’m not entirely sorry that Macron said what he said. His comments were a much-needed reminder that we must keep demanding accountability from imperial nations — a goal that president Macron himself seems to agree with. In a speech in Algeria in February, he called colonization “a crime against humanity.”

Well said!

*NPR Viviane Rutabingwa was born in Nairobi, Kenya, at the twilight of the Ugandan civil war to Ugandan parents and grew up in Kenya, Burundi and Uganda. She now divides her time between Uganda and Canada. She is a public health professional with a focus on the uninsured and refugees. a Global Health Corps alumni and a founding member of A Place For Books. She tweets @Rootsi

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Which Way Nigeria: Restructuring or Referendum?
July 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Most Nigerians believe that the present structure of the country is not working well hence the clamour for restructuring. But some agitators opt for self-determination requesting the federal government to conduct a referendum. Which way should Nigeria turn to achieve the best for its people is question hovering in the minds of citizens.

By Olu Ojewale*

File Picture former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; former Military President Ibrahim Babangida; former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former president Goodluck Jonathan; former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; President Muhammadu Buhari and former head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.Credit Vanguard

File Picture former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; former Military President Ibrahim Babangida; former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former president Goodluck Jonathan; former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; President Muhammadu Buhari and former head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.Credit Vanguard

FOR now, the debate appears to be unending. Since the Arewa Youths Council on June 6, served a quit notice to Nigerians of the South East origin to leave the Northern part of the country on or before October 1, or be forced out, Nigerians from all walks of life have engaged in a nationwide debate on how to restructure Nigeria to promote, peace, unity and development of the country.

Invariably, there have been various suggestions across the country on what needs to be done. As, perhaps, should be expected, there has been no consensus on how the country should be structured, but it has been generally agreed  that the federal government is too powerful and needs to devolve more powers to the federating states. Even then, the question has remained on the aspect of the Nigerian life that should be restructured to meet the yearning of the Nigerian public; could it be the social, political, physical or even, religious?

In any case, while some would want the six geo-political zones to become the federating units, some said the states should remain the federating units with more responsibilities and funds given to them.

There are those who would like Nigeria to go back to regionalism or a return to what Nigeria used to be in the First Republic when the centre was weak, while the regions were very strong. Then, the regions had their respective constitutions, police, controlled their resources of which they kept 50 percent and contributed the rest to the central pool, which was further shared.

Supporting restructuring are the likes of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum, all socio-cultural organisations who aired their opinions at various times and on different occasions.

In its submission, Ohanaeze Ndigbo reiterated its support for the restructuring of Nigeria to benefit every tribe and geo-political zone.

Chukwudi Ibegbu, deputy national publicity secretary, Ohanaeze, said a situation where other geo-political zones have six states while South East has only five and 95 local government areas was not acceptable. It stated: “A state like Kano alone has 44 local governments while the entire South-East has 95 despite the huge population of Ndigbo in Nigeria.”

Besides, Ohanaeze lamented that there has not been credible census in Nigeria since the 1963 headcount. His words: “Igbo are the second in population in Nigeria. Igbo are everywhere. Nigeria needs a credible census that will factor in religion and ethnicity for proper and equitable distribution of resources. There has not been any credible census in Nigeria. The South-East has only five states and many have said that is equivalent to its population but we know that is not true.

“We want fiscal and structural restructuring. We want implementation of the 2014 confab reports and more states and more local government areas in the South-East. We want equity, justice and fair-play. We want issues that lead to agitation to be addressed. We want the killing of our people in the North to be stopped.”

Similarly, the Afenifere, in a statement issued in Akure, Ondo State, on Thursday, July 6, and signed by Yinka Odumakin, its national publicity secretary, reiterated its support for restructuring. It warned: “Without equivocation, Nigeria has entered a terminal crisis and clearly withering away and can only manage to be pulled back from the brink if we commence the processes of restructuring or restoring the country back to its independence constitutional status before the coup of January 1966. Failure to do this will make demands for self-determination to become more strident.

“We call on the APC-led Federal Government to rise to its avowed commitment in its manifesto to initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit” before it is too late.”
The MBF further urged the federal government to look into the recommendations contained in the 2014 conference report to tame growing agitations for secession by some ethnic nationalities, arguing that the confab report if implemented, would douse tensions currently prevailing in the land, “promote peace, harmony and greater security, thereby giving Nigeria a new lease of life.”Similarly, the clamour for restructuring found favour with the Middle Belt Forum, MBF.  On Wednesday, June 21, on behalf of the MBF, Jerry Gana, its national president and a former Information minister, said leaders of the Middle Belt region had taken a cursory look at the existing federal system, and consequently called for restructuring that would ultimately culminate in the devolution of more powers to the federating units to enthrone a sense of balance and stability. “We are resolutely of the view that the current federal structure is unbalanced, unfair, over-centralised and, therefore, unstable. Accordingly, we firmly support the demand to restructure the federation, together with appropriate devolution of powers to the federating units, and a commensurate revenue allocation formula,” Gana said.

But the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, want none of it, saying what the country needed was competent leadership at all levels of government and not doing anything that would weaken the centre. Anthony Sani, secretary general of the ACF, in a newspaper interview said the northern group would not support the call for restructuring because it could not understand the vision behind it and what it was meant to achieve.

Sani claimed that if restructuring was in the manifesto of the governing All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would not have been indifferent to the agitation for it. “I doubt it because the vice president once raised issues about what is meant by the term ‘restructuring’, considering the fact that some people talk of ‘true federalism’; some talk of ‘fiscal federalism’. Others talk of ‘resource control’ and still others talk about ‘resource ownership’. ACF is not for restructuring. ACF cannot be for a restructuring whose definition is not clear,” Sani said.

Besides, he disclosed that the ACF had not given restructuring any serious thought, not for lack of ideas, but because it does not believe the problems of Nigeria has anything to do with its structure or form of government, “but due more to collapse of national ideals and core values of humanity which have affected the way we do things substantially. By that, I mean our shared values of justice, liberty, common decency and prosperity for all.”

The ACF secretary noted that the country had had a “confederation with a weak centre which the first military coup supplanted with the unitary system before the current federalism that is compromised between the two extremes.”

Some observers would be convinced that, perhaps, Sani got his brief from Tanko Yakasai, an elder statesman and prominent Northerner, who is vehemently opposed to restructuring. Yakasai recently argued in an interview that the clamour for restructuring was to whittle down the population advantage of the North over the South. He said the current system was okay and could not understand the clamour for a change.

Besides, he said those advocating for restructuring were selfish and their aim was to put the North out of power. Rather than restructure, he said the nation could adopt France system where there president and prime minister are elected, while cabinet ministers actually come from the legislature. He said: “Apart from saving us money, Nigerians can also make the ministers accountable to them.”

That notwithstanding, there are also eminent Nigerians, across the country, who have also joined the vanguard of the restructuring crusade. They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who wants the six geo-political zones to become the federating units; Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, who has canvassed true federalism and urged the federal government to devolve power to the federating units and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, a retired general and former military president who has joined the chorus.

Indeed, Babangida is the latest pro-restructuring voice from the North. In his support for restructuring, he said: “If we have repeatedly done certain things and not getting the desired results, we need to change tactics and approach, and renew our commitment… I will strongly advocate for devolution of powers to the extent that more responsibilities be given to the states while the federal government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defence, and economy.”

In advocating restructuring, Babangida said he was mindful of the fact that restructuring and devolution of powers would not address all the problems facing the country, but “it will help to reposition our mindset as we generate new ideas and initiatives that would make our union worthwhile.”

The former maximum ruler, who also advocated state Police, said the first step should be an agreement among the federating units that the country be restructured to promote the nation’s unity in diversity.

Similarly, Udoka Udeogaranya, a prominent leader of the APC, is convinced that what the nation needs now are three basic things, “constitution amendment, good leadership with a human face, enthronement of meritocracy and reorientation of our citizenry. I am particularly against big governments and the idea of states/local councils being funded from the centre. A constitution amendment that will allow states to fend for themselves, develop at their own pace or be proscribed is the solution.”

But the IPOB whose agitation for a Biafran State brought out the issue of restructuring to the front burner appears vehemently opposed to such arrangement. Baring his mind on the calls for restructuring, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the IPOB, said he does not believe in the restructuring of Nigeria, saying that Nigerian government would not keep any agreement reached in the restructuring exercise.
On whether the IPOB has formally written to the United Nations demanding referendum, Kanu said the best letter was the continuous civil disobedience, which he said should serve as “handwriting on the wall for the government. They wake up to see it every day.”According to him, it is referendum or nothing. He also made a reference to the Aburi agreement, which was reneged on by Nigerian government and  the 2014 National Conference which was dumped where it was coated by dust until the Biafra agitation became intense and it was remembered.

Similarly, Sunday Okereafor, national director of information, the Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, has declared that South-East governors, National Assembly members, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other leaders that met in Enugu recently to declare their support for restructuring are on their own. Okereafor, who spoke to newsmen, said the clamour for the state of Biafra was already beyond those clamouring for restructuring. He said: “BIM is saying that restructuring is not in the interest of Igbo nation. All we are saying is that the federal government should give room for the conduct of a referendum, then we will know if our political leaders were right in their support for restructuring or the people’s demand for Biafra is more popular.”

The IPOB and BIM stance seems to enjoy the support of the likes of Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, a prominent Igbo lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. On Tuesday, July 4, Agbakoba condemned the call for the country’s restructuring, describing it as a political calculation by the elite to grab power in 2019. Instead, Agbakoba justified the demand for self-determination as championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra, which is seeking a referendum to achieve its objective.
Consequently, he said the federal government must immediately initiate a process to put the continued existence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity to a debate, insisting that restructuring was not the road map to federalism.Agbakoba, who rejected the declaration by acting President Yemi Osinbajo that Nigeria’s sovereignty was not negotiable, said the IPOB’s quest for self-determination was lawful and found justification in Article 1 (2) of the United Nations Charter and Article 20 (1) of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, to which Nigeria was a signatory.

The senior lawyer who addressed journalists in Lagos, on Tuesday, July 4, at his Ikoyi office, said: “I see every politician now says restructure but I disagree. I also think the acting President was wrong to say that Nigeria is insoluble. There is nothing sacrosanct about Nigeria. It can blow up anytime. It’s an artificial creation, which was made in 1914 and when it was amalgamated we were not there. It was amalgamated in the interest of the colonialists.”

He said it was unfortunate that since 1914 when amalgamation was imposed on the people, there had not been any home-grown process to resolve the will of the people to co-exist.

Agbakoba, who had once sued the federal government for neglecting the South-East, argued that the it was wrong to have charged Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the IPOB with treasonable felony for seeking self-determination. Rather, he said: “For me, the best that he can be charged with is unlawful assembly and an act capable of breaching public peace. Those are the things he can be charged with, but not treason; because Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations’ Charter, which recognises the right for self-determination.”

Asked whether he supported the IPOB’s call for a referendum for self-determination, Agbakoba said: “Absolutely!  What is sacrosanct about Nigeria? Nothing. What is sacrosanct about Nigeria is our agreement to be part of Nigeria. I’m not suggesting that Nigeria should not exist but to say that Nigeria’s sovereignty is not negotiable, nobody should talk about it.”

The senior lawyer, who was a delegate at the 2014 National Conference, also said that implementing the resolutions of the conference would not quell the various secessionist agitations in the country.

Nevertheless, the debate on the need for the restructuring of the country is also getting attention from the National Assembly. The Nigerian Senate has also moved to consider the report of the 2014 National Conference which addressed most of the agitations for a reviewed federal structure.

Besides, Femi Gbajiabiamila, a member of the House Representatives from Lagos, and majority leader, has said the House would address the calls for the restructuring of the country.

In an interview the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja, on Wednesday July 5, Gbajabiamila, who frowned at the approach adopted by some groups to press home their demands, said the unity and stability of the country could not be compromised. “This is a matter the House will address very soon and we are all concerned and we cannot bury our heads in the sand (and pretend nothing is going on around us) like the proverbial ostrich (would do). “The National Assembly as an institution has a role to play on the issue of whether you want to call it restructuring or re-engineering – however you want to describe it. And very soon National Assembly will come up with a position. We are discussing it, we are talking with stakeholders behind the scenes and it will be tabled at some point hopefully before we go for another break,’’ he said.

Whatever the National Assembly can do to douse the current tension caused by the new clamour for restructuring of the country would be a welcome development. But the stakeholders must also realise that there is a deep set suspicion that the President Muhammadu Buhari government is not favourably disposed to restructuring, more so, as his promise to work for devolution of power once he took office is yet to be honoured.

*Real News Magazine Nigeria

 

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Africa: Crafting an African Victory for the World
July 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Carl Manlan*

Photo: VOA News

Photo: VOA News
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking at a press conference in Geneva launching his candidacy to head the World Health Organization (WHO).

On May 25, 1963,  Africans gathered in Addis Ababa to create the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to today’s African Union. It stood tall in the minds of Africans who decided to unite for a common cause. It demonstrated our ability to set aside differences in order to make the world a better place.

Now, on 1 July 2017, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia will stand at the helm of the the World Health Organisation with the ambition to reform, transform and make global health and agile partner of economic transformation for the world.

Dr. Tedros’ historical election marks a turning point in Africa’s ability to speak with one voice. Fourteen years ago, in 2003, Africa put forward four candidates for the same position. In disunity, we failed. But just like Washington, Brussels and New York, we turned Addis Ababa into the centre of African political and economic decision-making. The emergence of Dr. Tedros and his victory a WHO are telling tales of an Africa that is taking centre stage strategically by building consensus in Addis Ababa.

For example, Africans defined a strategy for the Sustainable Development Goals’ negotiation through  the Common African Position. We shifted the paradigm and the world took notice that Africa, in the midst of the challenges, has public sector leaders and diplomats that are harnessing data to inform policies.

 WHO

WHO
The new head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Furthermore, the African private sector is partnering in the transformation as it made clear during the Ebola outbreak. Ultimately, Africa is becoming a stronger partner to the world because it has developed an internally agreed framework for the negotiations with the world. It is in this context that I see Dr. Tedros’ victory as an African victory. The seeds of 1963 germinated,  but the first real bloom will appear on July 1 when Dr. Tedros formally assumes office at the WHO headquarters.

I feel confident that Dr. Tedros is the right person at the right time to lead the transformation of the WHO. He has experience beyond health leadership and understands that health permeates all levels and areas of governance in Africa and beyond. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan broke a glass ceiling  for Africans in international organizations. But Dr. Tedros is the first African politician to be succeed from outside UN the system. This is a big step forward.

 In crafting an African victory, Ethiopia learnt from the challenges of previous African ministers of health. As a former Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tedros wove his narrative into local, continental and global health diplomacy. Not only did he lead the transformation of community health delivery in Ethiopia, he was instrumental in leading public private partnerships as Chair of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. His victory with 133 votes, beyond his personal achievements is an expression of the changing nature of intra-African political relations. We are making progress and we should acknowledge the work of African public servants in spearheading transformation in Addis Ababa and in 55 African capitals.

Furthermore, given Dr. Tedros’ central role in key negotiations – such as the third international conference on financing for development (FfD) – he has the critical understanding of issues beyond health to draw new human and financial resources to make his mandate (better health for all) successful. He has the leverage to make health a priority in countries where diseases continue to arrest economic development or in places where viral threat create global issues as we saw with Ebola in 2014.

The achilles’ heel in this African victory is African’s ability to provide new resources for WHO under Dr. Tedros to show that we can solve African and global health problems with African resources. With his election, he just reached the beginning of the road, the farthest any African had ever reached, by embracing diversity and taking others along. Dr. Tedros will need cash and competency as member countries contribute less than third of its $2.2 billion budget. Dr. Tedros will require African resources to transform aspirations into tangible achievements so that we fund our unity and strengthen our forefathers’ foundation. Ultimately, it is the moment for Africa’s middle class to step forward and we cannot blink, even when our tax reforms are delayed, limiting our ability to contribute like those in the middle class in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

In 1963, the search for unity prevailed. In 2017 an African backed by an entire continent convinced the world of a victory that appeared, at first, impossible. Dr. Tedros’ success is for the world. He neither went fast nor went alone. Once the dust settles, African’s ability to shift the burden of responsibility from Overseas Development Assistance will be what makes Dr. Tedros’ victory a historic moment.

*Aspen Instutute/Allafrica.Carl Manlan is an economist and Chief Operating Officer of the Ecobank Foundation. He is a 2016 Aspen New Voices Fellow.

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Better connecting Africa to the US should be a priority
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY JOHN WILLIAM TEMPLETON*

The new Ambassador of the African Union to the United States has a distinctive viewpoint for her task.

Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao has practiced medicine in middle Tennessee for the past 25 years, operating four clinics.

A new generation of African leaders versed in science and finance are changing the image of the continent.

Chihombori, known in Tennessee simply as “The African Queen,” has been part of that transition since the ascension of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa.

The Zimbabwe native launched the African Diaspora Healthcare Initiative 20 years ago to bring about a vision of world-class medical centers on the continent, fueled by doctors from around the world who make time in Africa an important part of their experience, and train practitioners while there.

 

She joined us in Los Angeles for the launch of a tourism initiative to spotlight the black experience in Southern California, where 1.5 million African-Americans are among the 50 million yearly visitors to Los Angeles.

However, they rarely learn about the significant role of blacks in the city’s history or the extensive cultural amenities which the 1 million African-American residents have created.

Along with her was Richard Patterson, CEO of Trion Supercars, the first African-American automaker in a century.

The previous week, I had been in lower Manhattan where 25 years ago, the black community of New York City insisted that the bones of 15,000 17th century Africans be properly respected with the African Burial Ground National Monument.

The new Visitor Center is as moving as the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, with a 20 minute film that captures the feelings of the people who worked so hard to build what became the world’s greatest city.

Chihombori understands the mandate of that history as she discusses the “Joseph generation” in the Biblical analogy which was separated in order to save their home in the future. The continent’s leaders have charged her with being the catalyst for invigorating ties between the Sixth Region of the African Union-the Africans who migrated around the world–and its nations.

Changing old stereotypes takes direct personal engagement. On a suggestion from a patient, she visited the auction of Chapman Clearing, a plantation dating back to 1799 and unexpectedly won the property, which had practiced slavery during the 19th century. In an act of grace, she told the Chapmans that they could stay in the property while she decided what to do with the investment.

Later on, Chapman confided with her that it had completely changed the way he thought about black people.

She and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao, then turned the former slave plantation into Africa House, using the 15,000 square foot mansion and the surrounding 30 acres for tourists, events and conferences on the transformation of the African continent.

She also bought a hotel in Durban, South Africa which is also a place for cultural heritage tourism and intellectual engagement.

The graduate of Fisk University and Meharry Medical College is returning the grace that former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher extended during her medical studies. She had almost turned down her acceptance to Meharry because she lacked the funds for medical school, but her husband insisted that she accept.

Although the money didn’t materialize, every year, the financial aid office sent her to meet with Dr. Satcher, then the president of the college, for a long conversation about her goals and African culture. Every year, he would sign papers to allow her to continue her studies. Eventually, she completely repaid all the tuition and fees.

Satcher’s insight channelled the voices of those unknown Africans buried in the African Burial Ground and at Chapman Clearing who endured suffering so that future generations would learn about the proud heritage that they inherit.

Africa’s new spokesperson in the U.S. knows America from the inside out.

Both sides of the Atlantic are certain to benefit.

*The Hill.John William Templeton is co-founder of the 14th annual National Black Business Month and creator of the California African-American Freedom Trail. He leads African Free School summer institutes in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Miami in July and August.

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What you need to know about Gambia Government`s austerity measures
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

By *

PRESIDENT ADAMA BARROW

PRESIDENT ADAMA BARROW

The Gambia`s Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Amadou Sanneh on Thursday 29th June 2017 presented a revised budget of government revenue and expenditure estimates for the 2017 financial year, before the country`s legislators at the National Assembly building in Banjul.

The revised revenue, recurrent and development expenditure estimates is designed to reduce the budget deficit of about 4.7 billion dalasis.

According to Sanneh, the austerity measures to be taken include debt management, sale of vehicles and planes, the gateway project, mining and fuel for NAWEC.

Sanneh claimed that the former APRC regime has contributed to the deterioration of the economy by mismanagement of public funds and abuse of public institutions.

He said the Coalition Government inherited a ‘dire macro-economic situation’, with a public debt equivalent to 83.3% of the country`s GDP in 2013, which rose to 120.3 % in 2016. He added that domestic foreign reserves depleted to less than 2 months of future imports.

Sanneh said the APRC administration “abused State-owned enterprises such as GAMTEL, SSHFC, and NAWEC.” He claimed that D4.7 billion was embezzled within a period of 3 years.

According to the Finance Minister, the previous regime`s poor agricultural policy, siphoning of royalties from the sub mining sector, and the purchase of 44 pickup vehicles in 2011 contributed to the huge deficit.

He said the Barrow administration, will prioritize ‘macroeconomic stability’ and address the burgeoning debt situation, through fiscal discipline.

He said:  “This revised budget has a total financing gap of D955 million, compared to the D4.7 billion budget that was previously approved in December 2016.”

Measures taken by the government includes all outstanding CBG lending to the budget, through various facilities were consolidated into a 30-year bond at an interest rate of  5.5%  at the end of 2016, with  projected  interest savings  of D330 million per annum.

He said curtailing expenditure considerably which has further supported the  decline  in  T-bill  rates,  with  an  average  reaching  11.5 %  in  early  April  2017 compared  to  an  average  of  17 percent in 2016 is expected to reduce domestic interest payments in 2017 by D377 million.

There will be cuts of D475 million mainly in goods and services, including from the budget of the Office of The President and staff audits of the civil service.

Adding that for the first time in the uniformed services (which has expanded strongly in recent years) have been launched recently and are expected to be completed June 2017, while the elimination of ghost-workers from the payroll could deliver savings and the staff audit could also lay a foundation for a more comprehensive civil service reform.

Policies governing the bloated vehicle fleet and its cost he revealed will be reformed with the expected savings in spending on goods and services in the tune of D942 million.

“Asset sales are expected to yield D471 million in 2017 including four Presidential planes, and sale of land in prime tourist areas, which could generate investment”, said Sanneh.

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Amadou Sanneh

The Minister said previously diverted non-tax revenue from the international telecommunication voice gateway, sand and heavy metal mining concessions, and other fees, are expected to yield D566 million.

He announced that plans are underway to vigorously pursue recovery of purported stolen assets of the government through all available channels, including the assistance of the World Bank Stolen Assets Recovery Unit.

He also indicated that apart from cutting down expenditure, government has reduced the price of fertilizer for farmers to boost production.

Sanneh said: “Government has reduced the sale of fertilizer from D950 per bag to D700 per bag.

“Efforts are being made to reduce the price of seed nuts from D2, 500.00 per bag to D2, 000 per bag to increasing production remarkably from 3,000 MT to 200,000 MT.”

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Amadou Sanneh

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Amadou Sanneh

In addition, he said they have extensively engaged development partners like the IMF, World Bank, European Union, and the African Development Bank, to work closely to bring about macro-economic stability and jointly agree on implementing certain reforms to speed up the economic recovery process.

The revision of the 2017 approved budget, he said, is to further reduce non-priority expenditure, which is one of the prior actions agreed upon in order to receive budgetary support.

In the revised budget for 2017,  he revealed that total revenue and grants for  the 2017 Revised Budget is now projected at Dl2.242 billion, which represents a reduction of 5.7 per cent over 20I6 figure of Dl2.994 billion decrease mainly attributed to the loss of revenue during the political impasse.

He added that most businesses were closed, coupled with the negative impact the impasse had on the tourism sector with flights and bookings cancellations.

Projected  grants,  he said, are  estimated  to  decrease  significantly  from  D4.396 billion in 2016 to D782 million in 2017, representing a decline of 82%  primarily as a result of the end cycle of various projects in the country, and a more realistic methodology in the capturing  of project grants within the budget.

However,  unlike  the  previously  approved  budget,  which  did  not earmark  any  budget  support  for  the  year,  this  revised   budget, the minister highlights,  is projecting a budget support to the tune of D2.4 billion most of which support will come from the IMF, World Bank, EU, and  the  African Development Bank.

Total  expenditure  and  Net-lending Sanneh announced is projected to decline  from D16.911 billion in 2016 to D13.198 billion in the revised 2017 budget, representing a decrease of 22 % of the bulk attributed to Domestic Interest Payments, which declined by 30% or over Dl billion, and Other Current (OC) expenditure, which declined by 37% or over D3 billion.

The debt Interest  payment is projected to consume around 34 % of government Tax revenues in 2017 that is 9% less than what it consumed in2016, moving from D3.720 billion in 2016 to D2.768 billion .

In terms of financing the deficit, Net Domestic Borrowing (NDB) he highlighted, is projected to decrease significantly to Dl.18 billion in 2017 from a budgeted amount of D3.39 billion in 2016.

He concluded that if the revised budget is approved, it will be useful tool in the drive to achieve sustainable macroeconomic stability.

*Source sbngambia.com

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Bushra al-Fadil wins 18th Caine Prize for African Writing
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Bushra al-Fadil

Bushra al-Fadil

Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookkler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction(Comma Press, UK. 2016). The Chair of Judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced Bushra al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner this evening (Monday, 3 July) held for the first time in Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS as part of their centenary celebrations. As a translated story, the prize money will be split – with £7,000 going to Bushra and £3,000 to the translator, Max Shmookler.

“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator, who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying, “the winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”

Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection Above a City’s Sky was published in 2012, the same year Bushra won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award. Bushra holds a PhD in Russian language and literature.

Bushra was joined on the 2017 shortlist by:

  • Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for ‘Bush Baby’ published in African Monsters, eds. Margarét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas (Fox Spirit Books, UK. 2015)
  • Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’ published in A Public Space 24 (A Public Space Literary Projects Inc., USA. 2016)
  • Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) for ‘The Virus’  published in The Harvard Review 49 (Houghton Library Harvard University, USA. 2016)

The panel of judges was chaired by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – member of the Caine Prize Council and Director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at the African University College of Communications in Accra, the first of its kind in West Africa. He is the author of the novel Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape, UK. 2009) which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2010.

Alongside Nii on the panel of judges are: Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; distinguished African literary scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac; and 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko.

As in previous years, the winner of the Caine Prize will be given an opportunity to take up residence at Georgetown University at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The winner will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress. Each shortlisted writer receives £500, and Max Shmookler, translator of Bushra al-Fadil’s shortlisted story (originally written in Arabic) receives £250. The winner is invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by South African writer Lidudumalingani for his story “Memories We Lost” from Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa. 2015). Lidudumalingani has since gone on to win a Miles Morland Scholarship and is currently writing his debut novel, Let Your Children Name Themselves.

The New Internationalist 2017 anthology, The Goddess of Mtwara and other stories, is now published and it includes all of the shortlisted stories along with 11 other short stories written at the Caine Prize 2017 workshop in Tanzania. You can buy the anthology at https://newint.org/books/fiction/caine-prize-2017/. The anthology is also available from 11 African co-publishers who receive the print ready PDF free of charge.

The Caine Prize, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years.

The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.

The African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka and J M Coetzee, are Patrons of The Caine Prize. Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is President of the Council, Ben Okri OBE is Vice President, Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley is the Chair, Adam Freudenheim is the Deputy Chairperson and Dr Lizzy Attree is the Director.

Full biographies of the shortlistees are available at http://caineprize.com/2017-shortlist/.

Full biographies of the 2017 judges are available at http://caineprize.com/2017-judges/.

This year 148 short stories from writers representing 22 African countries were received and entered into the 2017 Caine Prize before they were whittled down to the final 5. The judges made their final decision on the winner today.

Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013), Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2014), Zambian Namwali Serpell (2015), and South African Lidudumalingani (2016).

The five shortlisted stories, alongside stories written at Caine Prize workshop held in Tanzania in March 2017, are published annually by New Internationalist (UK), Interlink Publishing (USA), Jacana Media (South Africa), LanternBooks (United States), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe), Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania), Redsea Cultural Foundation (Somalia and Somaliland), Gadsen Publishers (Zambia), Huza Press (Rwanda),  Books are available from the publishers or from the Africa Book Centre, African Books Collective or Amazon.

The Caine Prize is principally supported by The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, The Miles Morland Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Booker Prize Foundation, Sigrid Rausing & Eric Abraham, The Wyfold Charitable Trust, the Royal Over-Seas League and John and Judy Niepold.  Other funders and partners include, The British Council, Georgetown University (USA), The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, The van Agtmael Family Charitable Fund, Rupert and Clare McCammon, Adam and Victoria Freudenheim, Arindam Bhattacherjee, Phillip Ihenacho and other generous donors.

Special thanks also go to the Centre of African Studies and SOAS, University of London, for supporting this year’s award dinner, held for the first time in London.

*The Caine Prize

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Mugabe donates $1 million to African Union
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Monday he was donating $1 million to the African Union (AU), hoping to set an example for African countries to finance AU programmes and wean it off funding from outside donors.

For years, about 60 percent of AU spending has been financed by donors including the European Union, World Bank and governments of wealthy non-African countries.

Mugabe, who has held power in Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, has said reliance on foreign funds allows big powers to interfere in the work of the AU.

The 93-year-old Mugabe told an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he had auctioned 300 cattle from his personal herd in May to fulfil a promise made to the continental body two years ago.

“Africa needs to finance its own programmes. Institutions like the AU cannot rely on donor funding as the model is not sustainable,” Mugabe said in comments broadcast on Zimbabwe’s state television.

“This humble gesture on Zimbabwe’s part has no universal application but it demonstrates what is possible when people apply their minds to tasks before them.”

The African Union’s 2017 budget is $782 million, increasing from $416.8 million last year. African leaders in July 2016 agreed in principle to charge a 0.2 percent levy on some exports to help finance AU operations.

Zimbabwe, whose economy was devastated by a drought last year, does not disclose its contributions to the AU. The top five African contributors are Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa.

*Reuters.(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)

 

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Africa: Don’t Abandon Patriotism, KK Reminds Africa
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kenneth Kaunda

Kenneth Kaunda

First Republican president Kenneth Kaunda has reminded Africa not to abandon the patriotism that its founding fathers exhibited when they stood by each other to liberate the continent from colonial bondage despite geographic locations.

Dr Kaunda said good neighbourliness was the cornerstone that the founding fathers built on Africa and liberated it from colonial bondage, and it was important that the current generation did not forget this component of history.

The former head of State said it was important that Africans worked together in love because where there was love, people could overcome any challenges.

Dr Kaunda said this yesterday when visiting Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo paid him a visit at his residence in Lusaka’s State Lodge area.

“Our neighbours may be from another region or origin. They may even be from another political party. We are all brothers and sisters. We work together to do our part in God’s work. With love we can overcome great challenges,” Dr Kaunda said.

He said Africans should not allow themselves to be divided on account of colour, ethnicity, language or religion.

Dr Kaunda said African countries had in the past helped one another attain independence from the colonial masters, and this mutual support should be sustained in the interest of good neighbourliness.

 He hailed the Ghanaian leader for his election to the presidency, which coincided with Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary.

Dr Kaunda said Mr Akufo-Addo’s visit would nourish the deep relations between Zambia and Ghana, which dated many years back when Kwame Nkrumah worked to liberate the continent.

President Akufo-Addo said the warm relations that existed between Zambia and Ghana symbolised love and solidarity.

He said Ghana under his administration would continue to work closely with Zambia to improve existing relations for the betterment of people in the two states.

Mr Akufo-Addo said this was living up to the relationship that existed from the days before independence foe the two countries.

He said Dr Kaunda was an icon of this generation, and that Africa was one people and that he would work with his counterparts to defend the rights of the people on the continent.

*Culled from Times of Zambia

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Continental Free Trade Area Is Africa’s Path To Self-Reliance & Prosperity” – President Akufo-Addo
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged African leaders to hasten the coming into being of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

According to President Akufo-Addo, “if we remain resolute and see to its realisation, we will obtain a major boost to the development of our economies, and a considerable reduction on our dependence on foreign goods and services. It is the path to collective self-reliance and prosperity.”

It will be recalled that Heads of State and Governments who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, in January this year, signed up to the implementation of the CFTA.

The purpose of the free-trade area is to ensure significant growth of Intra-Africa trade, as well as assisting countries on the continent use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and for sustainable development.

The CFTA will also reduce the vulnerability of the continent to external shocks, and will also enhance the participation of Africa in global trade as a respectable partner, thereby reducing the continent’s dependence on foreign aid and external borrowing.

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, when he made this known.

He noted that for a continent that has made the choice of pursuing integration, Africa has not done much in liberalizing and promoting trade amongst member countries.

“Research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world,” he lamented.

In 2000, intra-continental trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015. Intra-African trade is still estimated at less than two percent (2%) of global trade.

“With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures aimed at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples,” he added.

The coming into effect of the CFTA, the President was confident, would bring progress and prosperity to the African peoples.

With Africa’s population of 1.2 billion set to expand to 2 billion people in 20 years, the President stressed that “this means that a genuine continental market in Africa should be in our economic interest, for it will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise.”

It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo noted that “we should no longer delay the process of African integration. A functioning, common continental market has to be a very fundamental objective of all the peoples and governments on the continent, an objective that will consolidate the process of structural transformation of our national economies on which we must be engaged.”

Intensify Ghana & Zambia links

President Akufo-Addo, in his remarks, also called for the intensification of the links between Ghanaian and Zambian enterprises.

With Zambia and Ghana recording similar GDP growth rates in 2016, i.e., 3.3% and 3.6% respectively, as a result of high fiscal deficits, low investor confidence, falling commodity prices and low agricultural productivity, President Akufo-Addo explained that the time has come for the two countries to move away from being mere producers and exporters of raw materials.

“There can be no future prosperity for our peoples in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures dependent on the production and export of raw materials. Unless we industrialise, with the goal of adding significant value to our primary products, we cannot create the necessary numbers of good-paying jobs that will enhance the living standards of the masses of our country,” he said.

To this end, President Akufo-Addo outlined a number of policies he has initiated since assuming office in January 2017, which has shifted the focus of Ghana’s economy from taxation to production.

He also applauded his Zambian counterpart for his recently approved National Development Plan, on the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”.

The Zambian programme is hinged on the pillars of economic diversification and job creation, reduced poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhancing human development, and conducive governance environment for economic diversification, to create a diversified economy for sustained growth and economic development is highly commendable.

“The transformation of our two economies we seek through these measures should make our enterprises and businesses very competitive in Africa, and beyond,” he added.

*Presidency Ghana

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Quett Masire (1925-2017), the great African leader you’ve never heard of
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
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El Hadji Diouf: I am not a bad guy, says controversial Senegal great
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Stanley Kwenda*

President Macky Sall employs Diouf as a sports adviser

President Macky Sall employs Diouf as a sports adviser

El Hadji Diouf is a hero in Senegal. Everywhere he goes, he is mobbed by fans both young and old. His countrymen are still grateful for the stellar role he played during the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

But in England, he is remembered more for his controversial antics than for his football talent.

It is a trait that followed him in the English league clubs he played for – from Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers to Bolton Wanderers, with a spell for Rangers in Scotland as well.

Diouf was aggressive, spat at opponents and confronted match officials as well as opponents.

But now in his retirement, he is telling his story.

‘I am a bad loser’

“I am a lion, I am a bad loser and it’s not wrong to be a bad loser,” said Diouf of his often combative mood during his playing days.

“I have got character and I want people to respect me.”

Diouf, who has moved back to the Senegalese capital Dakar, says he was often misunderstood during his playing days in England.

He said: “I am an easy target. It’s easy to talk about El Hadji Diouf and I let them talk but I know in my heart I am a good guy. My family know, my population knows, my continent knows I am a good guy and that’s the best thing. The rest is not my problem.”

Despite this defence, Diouf admits he has done some bad things.

When asked why, for example, he used to spit at opponents, he said: “Maybe they used to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. I did that, I paid and now it’s finished.”

‘Gerrard never did anything for his country’

The Senegalese legend had a drawn-out row with former Liverpool team-mates such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard.

Even today, Diouf and Gerrard continue their feud through the media. So what exactly is the problem?

“I have no problem with him,” Diouf said. “He [Gerrard] is a strong character and I am a strong character.

“‘Stevie G’ was a very good player. People like him in Liverpool but he never did anything for his country. I am Mr El Hadji Diouf, Mr Senegal but he is Mr Liverpool and Senegal is bigger than Liverpool and he has to know that.”

The 2002 World Cup gave El Hadj Diouf (centre) his greatest sense of achievement

The 2002 World Cup gave El Hadj Diouf (centre) his greatest sense of achievement

Diouf is working in Senegal as a government goodwill ambassador. He is President Macky Sall’s adviser on sport as well as running his own sports newspaper business in Dakar – and is often mobbed by young people when he visits his gym in the city.

“My life is about sport but the government cannot do everything alone, they need help from people like me,” Diouf said.

“The president believes in me and that’s why when I finished playing football, he called me and told me he wants me to help because the young generation believe in me. I am an example to them.”

Asked if he would consider a role in politics, Diouf said he was concentrating on helping to develop his country – but could not rule out entering politics in future.

He said: “I am interested because we have to make things change. People like me can make things change.

“We have a country to build, a continent to build and why not be involved in politics tomorrow?”

‘We put Senegal on the world map’

Twice presented with the African Footballer of the Year award by the Confederation of African football (Caf), Diouf was part of the Senegal side which reached the last eight at the 2002 World Cup, beating defending champions France along the way.

He describes that period as the greatest achievement of his career – putting it on a par with Diego Maradona’s World Cup-winning achievements with Argentina.

“We put Senegal on the world map,” he said. “Before the World Cup nobody knew Senegal, but after the World Cup everybody wanted to know where Senegal was.

“What Maradona did for his country is what I did for Senegal. I was one of the biggest men at the 2002 World Cup.

“We were colonised by France. Most of the businesses are run by French people here and to beat them was a big thing for us.

“Before the game, they used to say, ‘The reserve team is going to play against the first team’ – because most of the players used to play in the French league.

“I used to be at Lens, Salif Diao [was at Sedan], Khalilou Fadiga [was at Auxerre], most of the players played in the French league but we used to say: ‘Be careful before you kill the lion.'”

Diouf says he would like to do more to help develop football on the African continent, but feels structural changes need to take place.

“Fifa has changed and now it’s time for African football federations to change too,” he said.

This is the first in this week’s Where Are They Now? series by Stanley Kwenda, looking at what some of Africa’s ex-football stars are doing after hanging up their boots. He will also speak to Salif Diao, Peter Ndlovu, Benni McCarthy and Nwankwo Kanu.

*BBC

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World Food Prize goes to African Development Bank president •June 26, 2017
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By DAVID PITT*

Dr Akinwunmi Adesina

Dr Akinwunmi Adesina

The son of a Nigerian farm laborer who rose out of poverty to earn graduate degrees in agricultural economics and spent his career improving the availability of seed, fertilizer and financing for African farmers is the winner of this year’s World Food Prize announced Monday.

Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, says the future of global food security relies on making farming in Africa a profitable business and developing local food processing that adds value to agricultural products to help move farmers out of poverty.

“I believe that what Africa does with agriculture and how it does it is not only important for Africa but it’s important for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050 because 65 percent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world is in Africa,” he said. “To help Africa get it right in agriculture is also going to be a key part of securing food for the world.”

World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said those goals are one reason the organization’s board chose Adesina this year for the $250,000 prize.

An official announcement for the World Food Prize came in a ceremony Monday at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue hosting the event. Adesina, 57, works in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where the African Development Bank is based. He will receive the prize in a ceremony Oct. 19 at the Iowa Capitol.

“Dr. Adesina knows that our work is not done. The challenge of feeding 9 billion people in just a short time will continue as we address the hunger issue,” Perdue said. “At USDA we keep that in mind as the world population grows and we want to be a huge contributor in providing the food needed to resolve and to supply the global demand for that vital noble resource.”

The World Food Prize was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. The foundation that awards the prize is based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The award recognizes several of Adesina’s accomplishments including:

—Negotiating a partnership between commercial banks and development organizations to provide loans to tens of thousands of farmers and agribusinesses in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique.

— Creating programs to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and to help cassava become a major cash crop while serving as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture from 2011 to 2015.

—Helping to end more than 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors in Nigeria by launching an electronic wallet system that directly provides farmers with vouchers redeemable for inputs using mobile phones. The resulting increased farm yields have led to the improvement of food security for 40 million people in rural farm households.

Adesina said it’s vitally important to show young people in rural regions of Africa that farming can be profitable and can improve their lives as a way to stem terrorist recruitment efforts. He said high unemployment among young people, high or extreme poverty, and climate and environmental degradation all contribute to conditions in which terrorists thrive. He said these factors make up “the disaster triangle.”

“Anywhere you find those you find terrorists operating. It never fails,” he said.

Adesina grew up in poverty in a rural area of Nigeria and said his father and grandfather walked fields as laborers. After his father was chosen for a government job, Adesina was able to go to college. He earned agriculture economics degrees — both a master’s and a doctorate — from Purdue University in Indiana.

As a student, he said he saw that classmates were able to attend school when agriculture afforded them the opportunity, but they dropped out when it didn’t. He said from that experience he learned making agriculture profitable so families can provide their children with an education was a key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

He said he often thinks of the hundreds of millions of young, rural African people whose opportunities are limited because of what is happening with agriculture.

“So in a way for me this is not a job,” Adesina said. “This is a mission. And I believe that in getting agriculture to be a business — turning our rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic opportunity — therein lies the future of Africa’s youth, especially those rural youths.”

*AP/ABC News

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International Trademark Association CEO visits Africa to cement collaboration on trademarks and Intellectual Property rights systems
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The International Trademark Association (INTA) CEO, Mr. Etienne Sanz
de Acedo who is visiting Africa and Zimbabwe in particular for the
first time has convened meetings with key stakeholders especially in
the Intellectual Property (IP)rights sector to cement collaboration
and support trademarks and related rights systems with the continent.

According to Susan Mwiti, Documentations and Communications Officer
for the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)
Acedo’s mission is to understand how to better serve and increase INTA
membership in Africa as well as strengthen ties and cooperation with
ARIPO, government departments, the Judiciary and academic institutions
responsible for or who have a stake in the effective use of trademarks
for development.

INTA is the global association of trademark owners and professionals
dedicated to supporting trademarks and related intellectual property
in order to protect consumers and to promote fair and effective
commerce. Recently, INTA has been paying more attention to Africa.
INTA CEO, Mr. De Acedo, says his priorities are “to becoming truly
global” and “engaging as many constituencies as possible.”

INTA undertakes advocacy work throughout the world to advance
trademarks and offers educational programs and informational and legal
resources of global interest.

At ARIPO, the CEO met with the agents, attorneys and brand owners
based in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Acedo, accompanied by the ARIPO Director General, Mr. Fernando dos
Santos, is also expected to meet with the Zimbabwean Chief Justice,
Justice Luke Malaba and Vice President, Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa.

INTA has seven member organizations in Zimbabwe and in Africa 248
members from 37 countries. Globally, it has more than 7,000
organizations from 190 countries. INTA members collectively contribute
almost $12 trillion to global GDP annually. For comparison, the 2015
annual GDP of the top three markets was $10.9 trillion (China), $16.2
trillion (European Union) and $17.9 trillion (United States).

The Association’s member organizations represent some 30,000 trademark
professionals and include brand owners from major corporations as well
as small- and medium-sized enterprises, law firms and nonprofits.
There are also government agency members as well as individual
professor and student members.

The not-for-profit Association was founded in 1878 by 17 merchants and
manufacturers who saw a need for an organization “to protect and
promote the rights of trademark owners, to secure useful legislation
and to give aid and encouragement to all efforts for the advancement
and observance of trademark rights.”

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is
an Inter-governmental organization (IGO). It was created under the
Lusaka Agreement that was concluded and signed in Lusaka, Zambia on
December 9 1976. Membership of the Organization is open to all
African States members of the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (ECA) or the African Union (AU).

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The Race to Solar-Power Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

Bill McKibben*

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

In eighteen months, entrepreneurs brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in places that the grid failed to reach.
Illustration by Oliver Munday / Photographs courtesy Mathieu Young / Off-Grid Electric

The cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.

I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.

In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.

There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”

Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”

Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.

President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.

Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said.

When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.

Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.

Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”

In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”

Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”

There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”

Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.

Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.

In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”

Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.

Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.

This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”

Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.

This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.

Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.

One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.

“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.

“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”

The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”

“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”

Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”

“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”

The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.

The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”

“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”

In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”

A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”
“I don’t know what that is, either—it could be the Olsen twins.”

The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”

Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.

“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.

Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.

Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”

For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.

Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.

For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”

*The New Yorker

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CCA U.S.-Africa Business Summit Spotlights African Business in Washington DC
June 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

-Business Summit hosted in Washington DC from June 13-16, 2017.

The 2017 Summit focused on the “U.S. Stake in Africa” and aimed to shape and promote effective U.S.-Africa trade and investment policies under the Trump Administration. Honorable Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) were some of the high-level public sector participants who advocated for greater U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

CCA hosted a prelude to the 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC on June 13 on Capitol Hill with a Congressional Dialogue on Africa which featured House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Karen Bass.

Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, CCA’s Chairman of the Board and CEO of Rabin Martin, officially opened and welcomed participants to the Summit on June 14. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross delivered the keynote address encouraging U.S.-Africa bilateral trade agreements. “The critical question that decision makers in Africa, including many of you, must ask is this: As these upward growth trends continue, with what types of partners do you want to collaborate?” said Sec. Ross during his keynote remarks, “I believe that, the more African nations partner with U.S. businesses, the better off both the United States and Africa will be.” Sec. Ross stressed the importance of bilateral trade agreements over larger multilateral agreements and the Trump administration’s stance on compliance with eligibility requirements for agreements such as AGOA.

Other speakers including President Filipe Nyusi called for greater U.S. investment and partnership in and with Africa, but President Nyusi stressed the need for diverse investors in industries such as tourism and agribusiness. “It easier to enumerate what is not grown in my country rather than list what is produced. Mozambique can almost grow everything,” said President Nyusi. “We urge and encourage the American business people to take advantage of the enabling business environment, and investment opportunities and potential that exist in Mozambique to diversify their interventions.”

The AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina also emphasized the importance of U.S.-Africa partnerships. Dr. Adesina pushed for the U.S.-Africa business relationship to go beyond trade, to investment. “Africa offers you all ‘The Deal of the Century’, and America should not be left behind,” said Dr. Adesina. “Think of a continent where household expenditures will rise to $1.4 trillion in the next three years. Think of the continent where business to business investments will rise to $3.5 trillion in the next eight years. Think of the continent where the population by 2050 will be the same as India and China taken together today. Think of the continent that will brim with huge demand from a rising youth population that will reach 840 million by 2050, all buying and owning consumer products.”

As the leading U.S. business association solely focused on U.S.-Africa trade and investment, the sessions at CCA’s biennial signature event – the U.S.-Africa Business Summit – primarily featured private sector solutions and how public sector actors could support business through an enabling environment. More than 140 speakers including leading private sector executives across CCA’s core sectors discussed challenges and opportunities related to the theme of the conference.”The Summit provided one of the first opportunities and an excellent platform for African leaders, U.S. and African CEOs and other stakeholders to engage with the Trump Administration on the important issues impacting the U.S.-Africa economic relationship” said Florie Liser, CCA’s President and CEO.

Regional integration on the continent was also a strong underlying theme throughout the Summit. ECOWAS President H.E. Marcel de Souza and Liser signed an MoU to facilitate business in the West African region. ECOWAS, which covers 15 countries and includes some 340 million people, is an excellent partner for CCA and its many member companies interested in expanding business ventures in West Africa, said ECOWAS President De Souza. CCA President and CEO Florie Liser noted that “under this MOU, CCA and the ECOWAS Secretariat will be working together to help both U.S. and African companies operating in ECOWAS countries by improving the doing business environment and, among other things, organizing trade and reverse trade missions.

The 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit was proudly sponsored by leading American and African businesses and organizations including: Chevron Corporation; ExxonMobil Corporation; Zenith Bank; Acrow Bridge; General Electric; AGCO Corporation; AllAfrica Global Media; Petrolin Group; Procter & Gamble; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; The Boeing Company; Caterpillar, Inc.; DAI; Development Finance International, Inc.; Fairfax Africa Fund; Philip Morris International; Varian Medical Systems; Visa, Inc.; East Africa Trade Hub; South African Airways; Covington and Burling LLP; and Manchester Trade Limited.

About Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
Corporate Council on Africa is the leading U.S business association focused solely on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa. CCA uniquely represents a broad cross section of member companies from small and medium size businesses to multinationals as well as U.S and African firms. Learn more at www.corporatecouncilonafrica.com

Media Contact:
Michaela Ehimika
mehimika@corporatecouncilonafrica.com
202-263-3531

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanish
June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Ouagadougou — The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.

Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

 According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

*IPS/Allafrica

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Why do opposition coalitions succeed or fail?
June 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Some sweep to power. Many more crumble. Why? And which way will Zimbabwe’s 2018 coalition go?

BY NICOLE BEARDSWORTH*

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru join hands in a bid to win the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru join hands in a bid to win the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe.

For the past two decades, the phenomenon of the opposition coalition has gained growing traction and interest across Africa.

In 2000, a group of opposition parties in Senegal joined forces as the Sopi (or “Change”) alliance. Together, they defeated the incumbent president and ended 40 years of one-party dominance.

In 2002, Kenya’s opposition repeated the trick. In the 1992 and 1997 elections, losing parties had cumulatively gained over 60% of the vote. But this time around, they grouped together as the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). This united opposition swept to power, removing the party that had governed Kenya since 1963.

Since then, pre-electoral coalitions have changed governments again in Senegal, as well as in Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria and The Gambia.

When elections are held in 2018, Zimbabwe hopes to join this growing list.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP) have agreed – in principle – to team up. A host of other opposition parties have also provisionally joined, including: Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD), Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Elton Mangoma’s Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ).

This would be a broad and impressive coalition, bringing together many well-known faces and politicians who have electoral support outside of traditional opposition strongholds. But for every successful opposition alliance Africa has seen, there have been several more that have crumbled after early optimism or fallen flat at the ballot box.

Why do coalitions sometimes become more than the sum of their parts and generate a huge surge of support? Why do they often fragment and collapse?

Fighting each other vs. fighting together

One crucial indicator of whether an opposition coalition will succeed is how polarised the political landscape is. This can determine the degree to which parties are able to join forces coherently and without undermining their own reputation and principles.

According to political scientist Nicolas Van de Walle, opposition coalitions only work when they appear capable of winning and thus prompt members of the ruling party to defect. These defectors not only bolster the ranks of the opposition, but can bring supporters with them and sway undecided voters.

Ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 elections, for example, the All Progressives Congress was significantly strengthened by mass defections from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Similarly, in Zambia in 2016, dozens of defectors from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) drastically improved the electoral fortunes of the United Party for National Development (UPND).

However, this strategy is not straightforward. To begin with, it can be difficult to encourage members of the ruling party to cross the aisle. And when they do, it can be tough to persuade opposition supporters to vote for someone who was, until recently, part of the government.

The more deeply polarised the political landscape, the harder this is.

Uganda, for example, is at the other end of the spectrum to Nigeria or Zambia where defections are not particularly costly. In Uganda, the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has long defined itself in stark contrast to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). It emphasises the persecution it has experienced at the hands of the ruling party, which it characterises as illegitimate and unjust.

This makes it hard for the FDC to encourage defections from the NRM, which it consistently attacks in no uncertain terms. Moreover, when figures within the ruling party do defect, it can be risky for the FDC to bring them into the fold without undermining its own image.

In 2016, the FDC faced a dilemma when the opposition alliance it was part of voted for the recently-expelled former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to be its flag-bearer. The FDC was confronted with the prospect of backing a former insider in the very government it had long denounced. Afraid of alienating its base and diluting its anti-regime brand, the FDC decided to leave the coalition.

When it comes to Zimbabwe, the environment looks similarly polarised, especially between the main opposition MDC-T and the ruling ZANU-PF. The MDC-T claims to be the democratic saviour to the ZANU-PF’s illegitimate authoritarianism; ZANU-PF presents itself as the liberator hero to the MDC-T’s foreign subservience.

But unlike the FDC in Uganda, the MDC-T seems to be – at least in principle – less averse to allying with the long-standing government insider, Joice Mujuru. Nevertheless, the fundamental irreconcilability between the images of the MDC-T and ZANU-PF brings a certain riskiness to this decision. What does it say about the vociferous opposition party that it now says it is prepared to stand alongside a former ZANU-PF stalwart and vice-president? How will its supporters react?

In Zimbabwe, however, there are added complications arising from the fact that the hostile political climate also stretches to relations between some opposition parties. The MDC-T, for example, has used polarising rhetoric not just to condemn the ruling party, but also to criticise the opposition groups that emerged from a split in 2005. Tsvangirai’s faction branded this MDC breakaway as “sell outs” and “traitors”.

This rhetoric made attempts at a rapprochement in 2008 and 2013 more difficult. It will also make joining forces trickier ahead of 2018, especially given that many opposition groups have splintered even further since then. The PDP, for example, is the result another split in the MDC-T from when Tendai Biti walked out in 2014. And the ZRD is the result of fissure in the PDP.

It can be difficult to build stable and effective structures when so many bridges have been burned.

Who will lead the coalition?

The main hurdle at which most opposition coalitions fall is in picking its leader. This contest is often keenly fought, particularly since the benefits of the presidency are so great in most African countries.

The decision of who should be the figurehead is least contentious when there are recent and reliable indicators of party strength, such as the results of parliamentary by-elections. With this data, it is more straightforward to work out which candidate has the most recognition and support.

However, this kind of information doesn’t guarantee an easy process. In Zambia, for example, the opposition UPND won a series of unexpected by-elections victories between 2011 and 2016. Its candidate Hakainde Hichilema also garnered 46.7% of the vote in the 2015 presidential by-election, losing by just 27 000 votes.

Nevertheless in 2016, when the UPND tried to form a coalition with opposition leader Edith Nawakwi – who got 0.9% in 2015 – Nawakwi insisted that she should lead the alliance. She said that she had supported Hichilema in a 2006 coalition and that now it was his turn to support her. The parties went their separate ways.

In Uganda 2016, the choice of who should head up the coalition was also a source of disagreement and ended up breaking apart the alliance. In this instance, the uncertainty over the relative popularity of the two potential candidates made it harder to judge who would be the best-placed candidate.

The FDC’s Kizza Besigye had the broadest national reach and most organised structures, but had not surpassed 37% in three previous presidential runs. Meanwhile, former PM Mbabazi was an unknown quantity as an opposition figure, but was well-known nationally and had insider knowledge about the ruling party’s election strategies. When Mbabazi was chosen, the FDC refused to back him and left, leading to the breakdown of the coalition.

Zimbabwe’s nascent coalition is now in a similar situation. Tsvangirai is a veteran opposition figure with a proven track record of mobilising supporters, while Mujuru is an untested but well-known former ruling party insider with support in ruling party strongholds and close contacts in the intelligence services and police. It is uncertain which figure would draw the most voters and which will prevail in the contest to lead the coalition.

In terms of measuring the MDC-T’s support, the series of splits and a three-year electoral boycott make it difficult to judge. But the 2017 Afrobarometer survey suggests that the opposition has lost ground since the 2013 elections, when Tsvangirai got just 34% of the vote. According to the study, the opposition is trusted by just 32% of the population, compared to 65% who trust the president and 56% the ruling party.

This may give more ammunition to those who’d prefer to see Mujuru as the flag-bearer. But it remains to be seen if the MDC-T would accept this outcome, or make the same decision as the FDC in Uganda.

Keeping the lower ranks happy

However, it is not just the leader of the coalition that matters. Political parties are comprised of hundreds of functionaries with their own ambitions and goals, and alliances frequently collapse as a result of vested interests at lower party echelons.

Ahead of Zambia’s 2011 elections, for example, a pact between the two largest opposition parties at the time – the UPND and the Patriotic Front (PF) – was apparently scuppered by PF Secretary-General Wynter Kabimba. Kabimba had his own presidential ambitions and knew that he would be pushed down the pecking order under a coalition.

A similar thing happened in Zimbabwe in 2013. In that situation, two of Tsvangirai’s inner circle that reportedly opposed a coalition with the breakaway MDC due to fears of losing their own positions in the hierarchy.

These concerns also arise around parliamentary races. Opposition parties that typically compete for the same seats face much more internal resistance to coalitions than those with different, complimentary constituencies.

In Kenya, for example, coalitions are frequently formed between relatively geographically contained, ethnic-based parties. Because the parties within these groupings – such as the recently formed National Super Alliance – rarely compete for the same seats, coalitions in Kenya face relatively little resistance from the lower ranks.

By contrast, negotiations between the two MDC factions in Zimbabwe in 2007 ultimately failed, partly because the MDC-T insisted on contesting two seats held by the other party in the opposition’s shared stronghold in Matabeleland. Both sides refused to back down.

Ahead of 2018, Zimbabwe’s opposition groups will face these discussions once again. But it is possible that they will be easier this time around. Because of repeated fragmentation, many of the resulting parties looking to form a coalition are smaller and newer.

This may mean that they are less able to make strong demands. It may also mean that negotiations are more about bringing party leaders on board than appeasing each grouping’s structures. Because of this, the talks may bypass complex internal party dynamics and side-step vested interests lower down the party chain.

Zimbabwe 2018: Can a coalition win?

While 45% of Zimbabweans polled by Afrobarometer expressed support for the idea of an opposition coalition, there are still many answered questions and tricky challenges facing the nascent coalition in the run up to 2018.

Can the animosity between different factions be put aside? Will opposition supporters accept the inclusion of Mujuru, a decades-long ZANU-PF insider?

How will the presidential candidate be picked, based on what calculations and agreements? And how will those less pleased by the choice react?

Will a coalition deal involve running joint candidates in each constituency? And if so, how will those asked to shelve their ambitions respond?

These are tricky questions. But in many ways, they are just the start. Even once these dilemmas are resolved, there is still the ultimate question of whether even a perfectly-coherent and functional opposition coalition has much chance of winning. Bringing together a range of opposition parties is the first step in defeating the ruling party, not the final blow.

On this front, the prospects for the opposition in Zimbabwe do not look particularly rosy.

Trust in the opposition is low. Old methods of party mobilisation using organised labour are no longer an option given skyrocketing unemployment and informal livelihoods. And the impact of new social movements – such as #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka – is likely limited given that they are predominantly urban-based.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF has shifted into election mode, doling out urban land in an effort to shore up support and turning the screws on vocal opponents. The ruling party may be riven with internal factionalism, but it’s unclear if the opposition can turn this to their advantage.

The MDC-T remains the most organised opposition party with the largest organisational reach. If it could make it work, a broad coalition would bolster its ranks and could give it further appeal. But there remain serious concerns in the opposition including poor strategic thinking, complacency, a tendency towards authoritarianism and internal fractionalisation.

Even if the 2018 vote is a straightforward contest between a ruling party and a truly united opposition, the election is still likely to be one of fairly poor choices.

*African Arguments

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Multinationals Leading Quest To Adopt Continent’s web address Dot Africa
June 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Jean –Pierre Afadhali

Lucky Masilela

Lucky Masilela

Multinationals are leading the quest to adopt Dot Africa, the continent’s web address that was recently delegated to a South African company.

Africa’s web address was unveiled early this year to give the continent an online identity, following the delegation by the worldwide web administrator, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN).

In an exclusive interview with PanafricanVisions at Africa Internet Summit held recently in Nairobi,Kenya ;Mr. Lucky Masilela ,CEO of ZA Central Registry NPC (ZACR), the company that manages the web address; revealed over 760 multinationals have applied for Africa’s cyberspace name as of 29 May.

“We are quite happy, this is the highest of domain names sold during sunrise in the world,” said Mr. Masilela

The “record” was not independently verified, but the launch phase of domain registration known as’ sunrise’ allows companies that hold intellectual properties of their brand names to pre-register names that are the same to their trademark in order to avoid Internet names’ theft.

The period that ended on the 2nd June saw international brands including names such as BMW and Apple register the Africa’s web name to show their presence on the continent market.

According to Masilela, South African companies followed in acquiring DotAfrica.

The current phase known as ‘Landrush’ is meant for premium high value names, meaning names that can be commercialized.

“For instance ‘Banks.Africa’ can be applied to get all banks under that domain names,” explained the CEO of ZACR ,the company that runs Africa’s web address through its subsidiary called Registry Africa Ltd, adding that other high value names includes domain names with short characters.

ZACR said the price for a domain name for a year will be less than 20 dollars the wholesale.

“Your registrar will put some other services like hosting and it goes to 25-30 dollars but for us we are selling to registrars at a wholesale price,” he noted

While getting more organizations to register their brand under the recently launched Africa’s web name is a milestone; it appears there is still a long way to go to convince more African companies and others organizations that operate on the continent to adopt the internet name.

“For us it is a journey,” said Masilela “It is going to take a lot to convince them (businesses)”

“We need to provision this name to the African community that they need to trust this name,”

According to internet marketing experts, the Africa’s domain name will help companies operating in Africa to market their business online, allowing them to brand their pan African market presence.

“We are going to be visiting different countries and work with local registrars to ensure that there is uptake of the name,” revealed the CEO who was attending Africa Internet Summit.

General Availability will commence on 4 July 2017, and this is when the general public can apply for their .Africa domain names.

During this phase any organization or business can apply Africa’s Internet name.

“It is the market open for anybody including myself, I can go and apply the name,” Mr Masilela explained, adding it is first come and first served stage!

According to the South African Internet Company, all these phases are meant to avoid Intellectual properties rights conflicts, amid increasing domain names theft in the cyberspace.

The South Africa Company has signed an agreement with African Union to use undisclosed amount of revenues generated from the commercialization of DotAfrica, in financing the continent ICT development projects.

 

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Google to Train 6000 African Journalists Free on digital Journalism
June 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

THE Google has said that it will train 6000 African journalists on Digital Journalism  to improve their knowledge and skills on data journalism by the end of February 2018.

Google News Lab and the World Bank collaborate with Code For Africa to empower journalists in Africa by giving them the necessary support to better understand the Web and how to use the tools available to them online.

The programme will take place over the next nine months to train journalists in 12 major African cities – Abuja, Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Casablanca, Dakar, Freetown, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, and Yaounde.

Code for Africa is a data journalism and civic technology initiative operating across Africa that trains and supports journalists and civic activists to better understand and use web tools for news reporting and storytelling.

Beginning June 15, in-person training sessions will be held in the cities mentioned above. In each city, training will be conducted in three newsrooms and training will be held twice a month for the duration of the initiative.

Beginning August, a massive open online course, MOOC, will be made freely available online, covering a range of web concepts and practices for digital journalists.

“We will also hold monthly study group meet-ups in collaboration with Hacks/Hackers to provide more focused, in-person instruction. Monthly meetings will take place in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda,” Google said in a statement.

Daniel Sieberg, head of Training and Development at Google News Lab, said “The web and digital tools present an interesting array of options for journalists, but learning how to use these tools can be a daunting task for many media people.

“While the global news industry faces a knowledge challenge with regards to digital tools, Africa, by virtue of its non-digital education systems, faces even greater odds in the battle for digital integration in news and storytelling.

“In Nigeria, for instance, only a few of the journalism institutions offer training programmes that focus on Web tools, and many top news organisations lose out on stories due to their inability to utilise newer and more engaging digital techniques.”

In 2016, Google announced its commitment to train one million African youth within one year to help them create and find jobs via the Web.

“With the Digital Journalism initiative we want to contribute to the growth of Africa’s news and media ecosystem by training present and future practitioners on how to employ existing tools to tell stories, and support them to create locally-relevant tools that will reshape how Africans consume news,” he added.

*Real News

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Former winners Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia lose at home
June 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Oluwashina Okeleji*

Tokelo Rantie put South Africa 1-0 up against Nigeria in Uyo

Tokelo Rantie put South Africa 1-0 up against Nigeria in Uyo

Former African champions Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia all suffered home defeats on Saturday in their first group qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Nigeria, who failed to qualify for the last two editions of the tournament, fell to their first competitive defeat to South Africa, losing 2-0 in Uyo in the Group E match.

Second-half goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau sealed a deserved win for Bafana Bafana against three-time African champions Nigeria.

Rantie opened the scoring with a brilliant close-range header in the 54th minute.

Tau broke free in a swift counter-attack, putting the ball around goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi before slotting home in the 81st minute.

Nigeria fluffed chances in the first half as Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Simon Moses failed to score.

It was second time lucky for coach Stuart Baxter who was in charge when Bafana beat Nigeria 2-1 in the 2004 Nelson Mandela challenge at home.

Friday: Grp L: Cape Verde v Uganda (postponed to Sunday)
Grp A: Sudan 1-3 Madagascar Grp G: DR Congo 3-1 Congo
Grp E: Libya 5-1 Seychelles Grp I: Burkina Faso v Angola (1800)
Saturday: Grp C: Mali v Gabon (1900)
Grp B: Malawi 1-0 Comoros Grp A: Senegal v Equatorial Guinea (2000)
Grp C: Burundi 3-0 South Sudan Grp H: Ivory Coast 2-3 Guinea
Grp K: Zambia 0-1 Mozambique Sunday:
Grp I: Botswana 0-1 Mauritania Grp G: Zimbabwe v Liberia (1300)
Grp B: Cameroon 1-0 Morocco Grp H: CAR v Rwanda (1400)
Grp J: Niger 0-0 Swaziland Grp D: Benin v The Gambia (1500)
Grp K: Guinea-Bissau 1-0 Namibia Grp F: Ghana v Ethiopia (1530)
Grp E: Nigeria 0-2 South Africa Grp D: Algeria v Togo (2100)
Grp F: Sierra Leone 2-1 Kenya Grp J: Tunisia v Egypt (2200)
Grp L: Tanzania 1-1 Lesotho

The twelve group winners plus the best three group runners-up will qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations along with the hosts Cameroon.

Seydou Doumbia’s brace was not enough for Ivory Coast as the Elephants were beaten 3-2 at home by Guinea in Group H.

Doumbia gave the home side a 15th minute lead, before Guinea equalised in the 32nd minute.

Naby Keita’s shot was spilled by goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo and Abdoulaye Sadio Diallo pounced on the rebound to put the visitors level.

Doumbia grabbed his second goal in the 62nd minute, but four minutes later France-based Francois Kamano made it 2-2.

However, the impressive Naby Keita sealed the stunning win for Guinea in the 79th minute to complete a bad start for new Ivory Coast manager Marc Wilmots.

The defeat for Ivory Coast in Bouake came just five days after the death of former Ivorian international Cheick Tiote.

In Ndola, former winners Zambia were left stunned by a late goal as they lost 1-0 to Mozambique at home in Group K.

Mozambique left it until the 89th minute to earn their first ever win over Chipolopolo with Germany-based Stanley Ratifo scoring the goal.

2012 African champions Zambia dominated the encounter for long spells but failed to turn their superiority into goals.

The Mambas made them pay for their profligacy when Ratifo finished brilliantly from a cut-back to stun the home side.

Elias Pelembe should have doubled the lead in added time but goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene rushed out of his box to stop the Bidvest Wits winger.

Coach Abel Xavier and the Mambas held on to celebrate a first triumph over Zambia in 18 attempts.

In the other Group K game, Guinea-Bissau beat visitors Namibia 1-0 thanks to a powerful header from Jerson in the 24th minute.

Veteran striker Aristide Bance scored twice as Burkina Faso beat Angola 3-1 in Group I.

 

Aristide Bance
Aristide Bance struck twice for Burkina Faso in their win over Angola.

Bance’s opening goal in the 22nd minute was quickly cancelled out by Gelson Dala a minute later.

Bance then restored the lead from the penalty spot just before half-time with Chelsea winger Betrand Traore scoring the third in the 79th minute.

Also in Group I, Mohamed Abdellahi Soudani’s second-half strike sealed a famous 1-0 win for Mauritania away to Botswana.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Gerald Phiri Junior scored the only goal as Malawi began their Group B campaign with a 1-0 home win over Comoros in Blantyre.

The South Africa-based winger hit a free-kick from outside the 18 yard box which flew over the wall and into the right corner on 31 minutes .

The flames had several chances but failed to punish a resolute Comoros.

It is a first competitive win for Malawi’s coach Ronny Van Geneugden who took over in April.

Malawi have taken an early advantage in the group after hosts Cameroon beat Herve Renard’s Morocco 1-0 in Yaounde.

Vincent Aboubakar
Vincent Aboubakar scored Cameroon’s only goal in their 1-0 win over Morocco

A 29th minute goal from Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions the victory which puts Morocco bottom of Group B after the opening round of matches.

Cameroon qualify automatically as hosts for the 2019 Nations Cup, but their group matches still count as qualifiers for their opponents.

After the victory, Cameroon’s coach Hugo Broos confirmed that defender Oyongo Bitolo would definitely miss the Fifa Confederations Cup later this month.

The player was stretchered off the pitch after suffering a knee ligament injury which Broos said would keep him out of the game for seven months.

Burundi began their 2019 Nations Cup campaign in triumphant fashion by beating South Sudan 3-0 in Group C on Saturday.

The Swallows secured all three points with first half goals.

Cedric Amissi set the tone with the opening goal in the 15th minute.

Gael Duhayinnavyi added the second ten minutes later before Fiston Abdul Razak made it three in the 30th minute.

Mali face Gabon later on Saturday in the other Group C match.

In Freetown, goals from Julius Woobay and and Umaru Bangura penalty helped Sierra Leone make a winning start to their Group F campaign as they beat Kenya 2-1.

Kenya had Brian Mandela sent off but they did get a consolation goal through Michael Olunga. Ghana take on Ethiopia in that group on Sunday.

Spain-based Cedric Bakambu grabbed a brace as DR Congo beat neighbours Congo Brazzaville 3-1 in Group G.

Bakambu scored opened the scoring in the 20th minute.

Thievy Bifouma equalised for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Bakambu grabbed his second after 56th minute before Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba ensured victory in the 90th minute.

The Group L match between Cape Verde and Uganda – scheduled for Saturday – had to be postponed to Sunday after some members of Uganda’s squad were delayed in Dakar en route to Praia.

In the other Group L game Tanzania drew 1-1 with Lesotho in Dar es Salaam.

Mbwana Samata put Tanzania ahead with Thapelo Tale hitting the equaliser for the visitors.

On Friday, Libya and Madagascar opened the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with impressive victories.

Libya beat Seychelles 5-1 in Group A and in the first qualifier for Cameroon 2019, Madagascar were 3-1 winners away to Sudan in Al-Obeid in Group E.

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Next Einstein Forum launches first-ever Africa Science Week
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Event Will Take Place in 13 African Countries during this month 
 KIGALI, Rwanda, 6 June 2017,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Next Einstein Forum (NEF), an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, today announces the launch of NEF Africa Science Week in 13 African countries throughout June 2017. NEF Ambassadors, local science and technology champions, together with support of local academic, public and private sector stakeholders and sponsors, will lead the three to five days of events in their countries.

“The NEF Africa Science Week is the first coordinated science week across Africa. Our primary objective is to develop tomorrow’s scientists and technologists by engaging children and young people in scientific activities like science caravans and hackathons. Our activities will also demonstrate the critical impact of science to daily life. In the long term, we hope to catalyse investment in research and development and popularize science,” said Thierry Zomahoun, AIMS President and CEO and NEF Chair.

June 2017 will witness exciting sessions in Sudan, Rwanda, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania. Each country will have specific activities, designed to enable citizens to engage with everyday science and scientists. In the line-up are exciting events like hackathons, technology discovery through coding, focus on entrepreneurship through the lens of science and mathematics, science knowledge street trivia, a caravan of science and events which focus on women scientists.

“The weeklong signature event will highlight best practices for attracting and retaining young people, especially girls and women, in the sciences, and on the academic side, strengthen research networks and communities of scientists across Africa. We expect that the next few editions will see technology facilitate coordinated regional activities. We would like to thank our partners in the public, academic and private sector for supporting this initiative. Africa will only compete globally if there are coordinated sustainable investments in building the pipeline of researchers and innovators,” said Mr. Zomahoun.

NEF Ambassadors and Judges at the NEF Global Gatherings 2016

Looking to the future, the NEF will expand the reach of its Africa Science Week to 30 countries in 2018 and all 54 by 2020. Beyond numbers, the NEF hopes that Africa Science Week will grow to include major activities in schools and universities, and result in concrete collaboration between the research community and private sector.

In line with the NEF’s Dakar Declaration, issued at the first biennial NEF Global Gathering 2016, held in in Dakar, Senegal, Africa Science Week will place public engagement at the heart of advancing Africa’s scientific agenda. The next edition of the NEF Global Gathering will be held in Kigali in March 2018 under the patronage of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.

Africa Science Week is made possible by support from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Google and local sponsors in the each country. Find out how to participate and support Africa Science Week at www.nef.org/asw

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the Next Einstein Forum.

 

For more information, download the media kit here

About the Next Einstein Forum
Launched in 2013, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung. The NEF is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world – with the goal to leverage science for human development globally. The NEF believes that Africa’s contributions to the global scientific community are critical for global progress. At the centre of NEF efforts are Africa’s young people, the driving force for Africa’s scientific renaissance. The NEF is a unique youth-driven forum. Our headline biennial scientific events, NEF Global Gatherings‘ participants are 42 or younger. Far from an ordinary science forum, the NEF Global Gatherings position science at the centre of global development efforts. The next NEF Global Gathering will be held in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, through our Communities of Scientists, we showcase the contributions of Africa’s brilliant youth to Africa’s scientific emergence through its class of NEF Fellows who are Africa’s top scientists and technologists, all under the age of 42 and NEF Ambassadors who are the NEF’s 54 science and technology Ambassadors on the ground.

The NEF is also working, together with partners such as the African Academy of Sciences, Ministers’ of Education, Science and Research across Africa and other global scientific and private sector companies, to build an African scientific identity. By bringing together key stakeholders, the NEF hopes to drive the discussion from policy to implementation by leveraging buy in and best practice results from Africa and the world. Have a look at our benchmark Dakar Declaration.

Finally, the NEF is telling untold stories of scientific research and innovation across the continent through our various platforms. We want to recalibrate what ‘innovation’ means in Africa. We want to make the link between science and technology, even basic sciences, to everyday life. We believe the next Einstein will be African.

The NEF has been endorsed by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Governments of Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and a growing number of private sector and civil society partners from across the world who are passionate about positioning Africa’s scientific community as an influential member in the global scientific community, which will ensure sustainable human development in Africa and other parts of the world.

More at nef.org Twitter: @NextEinsteinFor Facebook: NextEinsteinForum

Media contacts

Nathalie Munyampenda
NEF Associate Director of Public Engagement
nmunyampenda@nef.org

Eloïne Barry
African Media Agency
Eloine.barry@amediaagency.com

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Montreal: the latest hotspot for Africa’s rulers to keep their wealth?
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
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Ecowas agrees to admit Morocco to West African body
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
Morocco's King Mohammed VI is strengthening his country's ties with the rest of Africa

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is strengthening his country’s ties with the rest of Africa

West African regional group Ecowas has in principle approved Morocco’s membership application despite the country being in North Africa.

But Ecowas leaders meeting in Liberia said the implications of its membership still needed to be considered before Morocco could formally join.

King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited.

Morocco’s application comes after it rejoined the African Union in January.

Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.

Ivory Coast President Alasanne Ouattara has confirmed that the decision had been agreed in principle but the details still had to be worked out.

Morocco, along with Tunisia which is seeking observer status with the organisation and Mauritania, which wants to return to the body, will be invited to the next meeting of heads of state in Togo in December, a senior Ecowas source told the BBC.

Rival bodyguards ‘clash’

Ecowas is made up of 15 West African nations, none of which shares a border with Morocco.

Members enjoy free trade and movement of people.

King Mohammed VI last week announced he would not be attending the summit in Liberia, because of the presence of Israel’s prime minister.

Morocco does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu addressed West African leaders on Sunday saying: “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel.

“I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise.”

While in Liberia for the summit, his bodyguards scuffled with those of Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, according to reports in the Israeli media.

This trip comes nearly a year after Mr Netanyahu was in East Africa as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the continent and Israel.

*BBC

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The little shrub making a big difference in rural Senegal
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Cissokho Lassana*

 A woman in the commune of Kaymor shows leaves of the leydour plant. Cissokho Lassana/IRIN)

A woman in the commune of Kaymor shows leaves of the leydour plant. Cissokho Lassana/IRIN)

In India, its dried leaves are used as a hair conditioner; in east Africa it’s fed to livestock; Mauritanians smoke its seeds; and in rural Senegal, where it goes by the name of leydour, its medicinal uses are helping many make up for the agricultural losses brought about by climate change.

Senna (or Cassia) italica is a deciduous perennial herb that can be harvested year-round – one of the reasons its cultivation is catching on in parts of Senegal.

Farmers in Nioro du Rip, a department in the central Kaolack region, have traditionally grown groundnuts, millet, and maize, but recent years have seen revenue from these crops fall.

More than 300 women in three villages in the commune of Kaymor are compensating by growing the shrub on a large scale.

Bocar Dioum, the former head of the commune’s health department, now runs agricultural training activities in the Kaymor area.

“Leydour, which plays a part in social mobility, has radically changed the economic and health conditions of women in Kaymor,” he told IRIN.

“Faced with the drop in agricultural revenue due to climate change, and the high number of consultations at the health centre, we have found an answer in the revival of medicinal plants, specifically, leydour.”

Many uses

In Senegalese traditional medicine, the leaves, pods, and mature seeds of leydour are used to cure stomach complaints, fever, jaundice, venereal diseases, and biliousness. The plant is also prescribed as a cure for intestinal worms, while its leaves are used as a dressing for skin problems such as burns and ulcers.

“Half a hectare of leydour brings in much more money than two hectares of millet or groundnuts, with much less financial investment or physical effort,” explained Cheikh Ndiaye, a local village chief.

“Leydour leaves can be harvested every two months, whereas millet and groundnuts are seasonal,” he said. “A kilo of leydour sells for much more (1,500 CFA francs/$2.6) than all the other crops here.”

Fatou Deme heads an association of 115 women growers in Keur Samba Die and two other villages in the Kaymor commune.

“The consumption of this plant has noticeably improved the health of the villagers,” she explained. “We go ever less frequently to the health centre in Kaymor. The other advantage is that we sell it, and the revenue helps us meet certain needs.”

Impact of climate change

Agriculture, which forms the backbone of the rural economy in Senegal, has been severely affected by climate change and the situation is only expected to get worse.

According to Ibrahima Hathie, research director at the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale, a Dakar-based institute that conducts research and training in agriculture, temperatures in central Senegal are set to rise by between 1.5 and 1.75 degrees by 2050, while rainfall will decline by 20 to 30 percent.

“Inhabitants of the Sahel region feel the effects of climate change on a daily basis. They impact food security and access to water, and degrade ecosystems,” said Souleymane Diallo, chief of staff in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. “So it’s important to take steps that limit the effect of climate change on agriculture and its consequences for food and nutritional security.”

Eying new markets

Deme told IRIN that the Keur Samba Die collective, which has 25 members, had brought in 215,000 CFA francs ($450) this year through leydour cultivation.

“Some of this is saved in a bank account and we share out the rest among members,” she explained. “It really does provide financial help and we have an interest in keeping up the cultivation of leydour in our village,” she said, adding that she hoped to find new markets with the help of government bodies and the private sector.

Deme’s marketing ideas include better labelling to indicate the plant’s geographical origin as well as its various benefits.

The potential market extends well beyond Senegal: In many parts of the world, the crushed, dried leaves of the leydour plant are sold, including on major online trading platforms, as a hair-conditioning product called “natural henna”.

And the production process doesn’t take long: Two months after planting a leydour seed, one can begin harvesting its leaves, dry them, and sell them.

Going organic

“We don’t use any fertiliser or chemical pesticides. Everything is organic,” said Deme, adding that oil from the neem tree is used to stop parasites attacking the shrubs.

Growing leydour benifits the whole village, added another member of the association, Aissatou Toure. “We use it as a medicine and treat our animals with it. Now, other villages are following in our footsteps.”

Ndeye Ndiaye Toure, who heads a growers’ association of 70 women in the village of Passy Kaymor, said cultivating the shrub had turned their lives around.

“Of course we grew vegetables,” she said. “But we needed money to buy seeds and other inputs. But leydour requires no real financial investment. We use it as medicine and make more money. We grow it together with totally organic market garden produce. It’s a real plus for us women.”

The dried and powdered leaves of the leydour plant are sold to herbalists for 1,500 CFA francs per kilo, of which the collective lodges 375 francs in a common kitty.

“We manage to save 500,000 CFA francs after each harvest that we use to support the needs of our members, for religious festivals for example, or when someone has an occasional need for money,” said Toure. “What’s more, we’re able to buy groundnut seeds for our husbands who reimburse us after their harvests.”

Impressive yields

The men of Passy Kaymor were initially sceptical of the leydour project, recalled Kany Toure, who said that it didn’t take long for the village’s women to show they could harvest the plant’s leaves in significant quantities, even if the very first harvests only amounted to about 10 kilos.

Yields began to take off after communal land in the village was divided into individual plots for each member of the cooperative.

Kany Toure pointed to an added benefit: “Leydour put an end to the cutting of trees, which we used to sell to feed ourselves. Nowadays, we are standing on our own two feet.”

She added that the annual production of dried leydour leaves could soon reach a record quantity of around 500 kilos in Passy Kaymor alone.

The success of leydour in the area has spread to other parts of the department, and even beyond the Kaolack region, as its pioneers have lent their know-how to other parts of Senegal.

*IRIN

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Zimbabwe to host 2017 Pan African shelter Afrique symposium
May 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire*

Zimbabwe is set to host the 36th Shelter Afrique Annual General Meeting
(AGM) and symposium on 4 to 8 July 2017 in the resort town of Victoria
Falls, according to Engineer George Mlilo, Secretary for the Local
Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry.

According to Mlilo, Shelter Afrique is a Pan African housing finance
institution collectively owned by 44 African states including Zimbabwe and
other non-state entities like the African Development Bank (ADB) and the
African Renaissance Corporation, just to mention a few.

The organisation offers housing finance and proffers technical assistance
to housing financiers and land developers amongst its member states
shareholders.

It is reported that at the 35th AGM of Shelter Afrique held last year in
Abuja, Nigeria, Zimbabwe was appointed the 1st Vice Chair for the Pan
African Financing Grouping and by extension, official host for the 36th AGM.

“There will be housing related exhibitions running concurrently with the
AGM and symposium. Over 300 delegates from within and outside Zimbabwe are
expected to grace the event,” Engineer Mlilo said.

Attendance is expected from stakeholders in the housing and construction
industry who will include local authorities, housing finance institutions,
land developers, construction professional bodies, suppliers of building
materials, contractors and consultancy organizations in the construction
sector including academic institutions and researchers.

The symposium will offer opportunity for pre-arranged meetings with
Shelter Afrique officials, opportunities to clinch deals with Shelter
Afrique and other African states and development partners, opportunities to
unlock value in low cost housing delivery through joint venture schemes,
knowledge sharing with other African countries on effective low cost
housing deliver and networking opportunities with fellow housing
practitioners from the continent.

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Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’
May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Green*

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

BERLIN, Germany — A proposal from Germany’s development ministry stands to rewrite the country’s — and possibly the G-20’s — aid relationship with Africa. The so-called Marshall Plan with Africa would prioritize encouraging private investment on the continent, possibly while reducing or shifting official development assistance.

The plan is part of a broader German focus on Africa in 2017, in an effort to play a stronger role leading donor policy within Europe and the G-20.

Analysts and advocates working in Africa say the plan puts into writing some of the trends already underway in aid, including a shift toward the private sector. They warn, however, that moving away from ODA entirely could leave gaps in need. Others, meanwhile, are looking to the German government to use the plan to engage a wider range of actors, including other donors and multilateral banks, to introduce a range of initiatives that could truly have a long-term impact.

For now, though, the debate is largely hypothetical. The plan is still only a proposal, and Germany’s position on Africa is set to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks. The finance ministry is currently constructing a separate “Compact with Africa,” and the country is set to host the G-20 summit in July, where relations with Africa will feature heavily on the agenda. German elections in September could also impact the development agenda, particularly if Chancellor Angela Merkel loses her bid for a fourth term.

Amid the uncertainty, experts are cautious not to either under or overstate the Marshall’s Plan potential impact. German aid and implementing partners are equally unsure how to react. The ministry declined to answer specific questions about whether development partners should read the document as a broader shift in priorities, or consider realigning their programs to match the interventions highlighted in the document.

But one indicator of the proposal’s impact could come in June, as Berlin hosts a G-20 African Partnership Conference, ahead of the broader G-20 meeting in July. The agenda for that meeting, which is focused on improving the investment climate in African countries, dovetails with the emphasis in the plan and could indicate how much influence it will ultimately have on German aid.

What does this Marshall Plan entail?

The Marshall Plan with Africa, released earlier this year, is effectively a blueprint for tackling a range of challenges on the continent — chief among them the problems that could result from Africa’s likely population explosion by 2050.

The proposal aims to be an “integrated overall approach” to address issues ranging from food security, good governance to social concerns, Gerd Müller, the federal minister for economic cooperation and development, explained during a business summit in Nairobi in February.

The plan positions Germany to help African governments with more than 100 different reform ideas that fall under three broad pillars: Economic activity, trade and employment; peace and security; and democracy and the rule of law. Each pillar includes recommendations for African country governments, the German government and the larger international community. Some are quite specific, for example a call on African countries to support a continental human rights court. Others offer more vague guidance, as in the call for international partners to “promote local value chains.”

Throughout, the plan emphasizes improving the investment climate. Among the proposed initiatives are plans to help create incentive packages for businesses. It also floats the idea of using ODA funds to secure private investments.

“It’s not the governments that will create all the long-term employment opportunities that are needed, it’s the private sector,” the plan reads. “So it’s not subsidies that Africa needs so much as more private investment.”

The plan also looks to directly seed the ground for investors. It would support programs that promote peace, security and anti-corruption efforts, in order to better protect investment. It would also look to boost job and vocational training initiatives to prepare young people for the workforce. Traditional development initiatives, including improving health, education systems and infrastructure, would also likely continue.

“We need more ODA funds to meet the current challenges,” the plan says, without specifying an ideal amount. In 2015, the German government spent about 16 billion euros ($17.8 billion) on ODA — the third highest amount in the world behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

Still, “it’s definitely a pro-private investment shift and a bit away from ODA,” said Manfred Öhm, the head of the Africa department at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The German political foundation, which draws some financial support from the government, runs a range of development programs in Africa.

Implications for the G-20 relationship with Africa

If expanded, some advocates say the plan could have a significant impact, in part because Germany looks to be positioning itself as a policy-leading donor on the continent. The draft was released in a year when Germany is hosting the G-20, and has made re-evaluating its relationship with Africa a priority. Already, German officials appear to be reframing the plan, which is the vision of one ministry, as part of the larger discussion of the G-20’s relationship with Africa.

Speaking to the African Union last October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to “make the issues that concern you in Africa one of the priorities of the G-20 agenda, and also launch a large-scale initiative with Africa to this end.” The first step, the G-20 African Partnership Conference, will be designed to encourage private investment, sustainable infrastructure and employment in Africa.

The plan could form a significant part of the broader global discussion about the international community’s relationship with Africa, according to Jamie Drummond, the co-founder and executive director of ONE, a grassroots organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.

“This G-20 could and must herald a more coordinated push with Africa than we’ve seen since 2005 and Gleneagles,” Drummond said, referring to the U.K.-hosted G-8 summit that agreed to double aid to Africa, and eliminate the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries.

Drummond is looking for something equally bold to emerge — or at least begin — in Hamburg, where Germany is hosting its G-20. He would like to see momentum towards improving the quality and quantity of funding for education, increasing funds for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship and an emphasis on good governance, alongside any focus on improving the climate for private investment.

“The private sector approach is incredibly important,” he said. “But if it was the only thing that was being proposed, that would not be enough.”

With Africa’s population set to more than double by 2050, from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion, according to the Population Reference Bureau, “African development is now clearly central to European and G-20 security into the twenty-first century,” he said. “That’s what this G-20 acknowledges and now we must urgently act on that.”

Domestic support for the plan

The Marshall Plan proposal will need to pull in new elements and some more collaborators — including from within the German government — if it is to be relevant, some analysts warn.

Given what it hopes to achieve, the proposal doesn’t yet include enough partners, said Stefan Brüne, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. The federal ministry for economic cooperation and development may not be the best body to strengthen democracy, for example, he said.

“They are not in a position to really address these problems,” he said, compared to their counterparts in the ministry of foreign affairs, for instance, who can exert more political pressure.

Domestic politics could also impact the roll out. Though Müller comes from the ruling party coalition, it is still not clear how popular his plan is within his own government. Experts are looking for input from the ministry of defense, and greater cooperation with the ministry of finance, as it puts together its own compact with Africa. They are also watching to see if Merkel will more publicly embrace the plan or introduce her own strategy that might borrow elements from it.

If it is to truly jumpstart a broader conversation, it would also need to draw in officials from other G-20 nations, the World Bank and other international institutions — something its architects are clearly already aware of and which its advocates are prepared to push for.

Öhm said one of the ministry’s priorities should be providing more clarity, including about the future of ODA, programs the government plans to support and which governments the ministry is specifically hoping to assist. Some African countries are interested in reforms to improve the investment climate, and some are interested in transparency and democratic promotion, but the two groups are not necessarily the same.

At best, he and some other analysts see the plan as a potential starting point for conversations about the balance between ODA and private investment, for instance.

Truly rethinking Germany’s — or the G-20’s — relationship with Africa in the terms that the plan lays out would require a significant generational commitment, experts said. The question is whether the Marshall Plan actually represents that.

*DEVEX

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What Macron heralds for Africa
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Yoletta Nyange*

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) talks with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (R

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) talks with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (R

A former banker and economy minister, President Emmanuel Macron is now at the head of En Marche, a manifesto turned into a political start-up, launched barely a year ago. En Marche promotes a technocratic perspective and is marketed by a handful of French brains of African descent moulded into the country’s elite universities.

For many, Macron’s recurring contradictory statements suggest a desire to appeal to everyone, while hiding his true colours and concealing the obvious – that he has no policy for Africa.

Beyond the spellbinding eloquence that coined slogans such as “France needs Africa to build its future,” or “I will act with transparency in Africa, away from conniving networks,” Macron’s vision for Africa is reduced to the thinness of “supporting local small and medium entrepreneurship.”

Macron must have missed the memo, for “African SMEs need an integrated banking system rather than a French president who has not secured the Senate control” argued Mamadou Diallo, the political analyst and member of the West African think-tank WATHI. For Diallo “The Macron campaign’s loudest feat was in using the colonial question and the crime against humanity committed in Algeria”, only for it to be reduced to a storm in a teacup. “The colonial debate appeal to voters of the African diaspora for it gives them an emotional acknowledgment in lieu of a real economic recognition. A father of four in Kinshasa couldn’t care less about a moral recognition of colonialism. He wants to know how to pay for his children school fees,” further clarifies the Guinean analyst.

There is a palpable fear that Macron’s presidency is a continuation of Hollande’s, who had voted for him during the first round. Using the historical representations of colonialism and slavery has undeniably set Macron apart from other candidates. However, his lauded anti-colonial statement quickly tempered by “but one has to assume its positive elements” brought Gaddafi’s ghost back in the conversation.

Africans have not forgotten the savage pulverisation that former French president Sarkozy inflicted upon the Libyan people. How can it be omitted that Macron has inherited from the horrific Mali military invasion? Did Africa really need France’s intervention if it meant that the mediator would become a party to the conflict? En Marche only reaffirmed France’s militaristic endorsement of European, EU and NATO’s interference to protect their interests, all of which can only signal more wahala for the African continent.

Macron’s key job is to redress French prosperity by facilitating the movement of entrepreneurs and researchers, in other words, the movement of capital, a large percentage of it originating from Africa and through a wheeler-dealer diplomacy that in Macron’s own words is also “erratic”.

With Africa’s trade balance growing eastwards and inwards, how would a former banker restore France’s relations with Africa at a time when a viral grassroots campaign for the abolition of the CFA (French African Colony) money is raging in fourteen countries? After all, why do 22-year-old graduates on the Quai d’Orsay payroll staff presidential entourages of the CFA countries afflicted by brain drain and youth unemployment? Surely Macron would concede that liberating fourteen countries from the bondage of pumping France’s economy up would appear to be a sensible step towards fair reparations for the crime against humanity that colonialism is. The trouble is that pegged to the French treasury, the abolition of the CFA currency would in a blink bring Molière’s country on its knees.

As for En Marche’s views on integration and immigration, put it simply, they are two sides of the same coin, that of racism and exclusion which carry significant economic costs. For a country in dire need to repopulate to keep the state apparel afloat, France holds a distorted discourse by single-handedly targeting its populations of Afro-descendents. France’s migrant population accounts for a mere ten percent of the population, a third of which is made of international students integrated into the relatively lifeless economy. Why else would 2.5 million of French citizen not racially profiled choose to live outside of France?

Actually, integration and immigration are coded words for Europe’s all time greatest fear dating back to eight centuries of an Afro-Moorish rule: Islam with its political, cultural and security translation. Again, in the European conflicted representation, Islam is no longer located in the Arab-Muslim heart but in the Arab-Turkish-Persian world. But most of the illegal migrants into Europe do not originate from the Syrian conflict or the Afghan convulsions, but from supra-Saharan or sub-Saharan African countries not at war and with a sizeable Muslim population.

“What we’re seeing across Europe is that domestic politicians – whether in Germany, France, or even Greece – are increasingly asking the EU to do their dirty work” cautions Loren Landau, the Chair of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Hence Macron’s a continuation of Europe’s forked tongue discourse. “It allows them to show that politicians are doing something about stopping Africans from coming, without themselves being implicated in the nefarious deals the EU is promoting” added Landau.

It is high time Africa cures her post-colonial syndrome and stops giving a disproportionate importance to the French political game, according to the Cameroonian political scientist Achille Mbembe.

All things considered, could it be agreed that France’s views on Africa are of no interest to Africans? Africa matters more to France’s seventy million than the other way around, if only because Africa hosts two hundred million French speakers, or a fifth of its billion population.

* Source IOL .Yoletta Nyange is a Visiting Scholar at the African Centre for Migration and Society of the University of the Witwatersrand

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