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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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Opinion: The ‘door of return’ is open for people of African descent
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kamil Olufowobi*

My school years in the US were marked by many heated debates between African and African-American students about who was guiltier for the transatlantic slave trade: whites or Africans?

Who should pay whom or who should apologize to whom? In retrospect, I should have advocated more for reconciliation among people of African descent rather than restitution or reparations by whites, which I had previously advocated mainly because every other group; Jewish or Japanese-Americans, received monies from the US government for historical wrongdoings.
This is still important but I believe less pressing than the healing that needs to happen between a people divided.

Change of heart

The diaspora in the context of Africa evokes in my mind a people who were, by force or by choice, estranged from their homeland, while the homeland of Africa evokes in my mind a diverse land (54 countries) of milk and honey with limited skills to distribute the wealth.
Like the story of two siblings, where one sold the other into slavery, Africa and its diaspora are sometimes deeply divided and each finding their way through the wilderness alone, forgetting that united we stand, divided we fall.
There are around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent who live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent. Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, we constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups.

Discrimination

In many cases, people of African descent still experience discrimination in recognition of our achievements, access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence and racial profiling. Casual racism has become commonplace in the United States and many attribute this to the election of President Trump and his anti-foreigner stance during the election campaign.
Furthermore, our degree of political participation is often low, both in voting and in occupying political positions. This racial discrimination lessens when inside Africa but problems of poverty, corruption and conflicts replaces it. The one thing we seem to have in common, that binds us regardless of where we find ourselves, inside or outside Africa, is the misery that’s become synonymous with the black experience.

The door of return

So, when I learned that the United Nations had proclaimed 2015 — 2024, the International Decade for People of African Descent, I saw an opportunity to reconnect the broken bridge between Africa and its diaspora, control the narrative about the black experience and help heal the pains and resentment between long lost siblings.
While our ancestors left Africa bound and chained through the doomed ‘doors of no return,’ I firmly believe that reconciliation and prosperity can offer a ‘door of return’ for people of African descent back to Africa.

Collective goal

This led me on journey to create the global civil society initiative: The Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), born out of the desire to bring together a progressive group to support the United Nations’ resolution declaring the years 2015 — 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance of Africa and its people worldwide.
MIPAD is a unique global list that identifies 200 high achievers, under the age of 40, of African descent in public and private sectors worldwide. Hundred of them live inside Africa, and 100 outside Africa in the diaspora. The idea is to connect them with their counterparts across the world. There are well known African names such as Senegalese musician Akon, British actor David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyongo but there are also those whose ancestors are from Africa such as golfer Tiger Woods and Beyonce among many others.
The truth is that not all people of African descent will move back to Africa, this is not the goal, instead it is to know that wherever we are, inside or outside Africa, our unifying and collective goal is the uplifting of Africa as a continent, knowing that making Africa great again is key to the dignity and respect we seek as a people.
*CNN.Kamil Olufowobi is Founder & CEO, Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) a global civil society initiative in support of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent. He is passionate about repairing the broken bridge between Africa and its diaspora in different parts of the world
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This is Why Africa Matters to the United States
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.

We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.

Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security.

This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.

Why Africa Matters to US National Security

Why does stability in Africa matter for security in the United States? Karen Attiah from the Washington Post discusses why Africa is important to US national security interests with Grant Harris, former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House. To learn more, read Harris’ new report: http://bit.ly/2qnK3oJ

Posted by Atlantic Council on Thursday, May 25, 2017

In order to stem the spread of transnational threats, from terrorism to pandemics, Africa must become stable, said Harris. However, achieving stability requires that the United States remain actively engaged, providing not only humanitarian assistance, but also promoting economic growth. “The budget cutbacks would hurt all of that,” he said.

Attiah noted that in the “new US political climate – it’s not just Africa—there’s a real sense that the US may be retreating from its role as a global leader.” This turn inward has opened the door for other nations, such as China, to strengthen their foothold in Africa.

 China is already actively engaged in providing funds to many African nations in desperate need of improved infrastructure. Attiah described how China’s influence in Africa is “visible,” down to details such as Chinese signs in airports throughout the continent. However, Harris said, while Chinese funding of infrastructure projects in many African countries is good for those countries, the projects have “no strings attached,” meaning there are no stipulations regarding labor regulations, human rights, or environmental concerns.

“The US holds itself to different standards, and it should,” said Harris. He insisted that principled engagement bolsters not only US influence, but strengthens relationships with African partners, who are becoming increasingly significant voices on the world stage. African votes make up more than a quarter of the votes in the United Nations, therefore, “we need African partners to advance [US] priorities,” said Harris.

Africa is vital not only to US national security interests, but to the United States’ European allies as well, Harris claimed, citing the migration crisis as a major concern.

Harris said that while his report stresses Africa’s importance to US national security, “even if you’re skeptical of what I’m saying, you’ve got to believe that European allies are important to national security.” Consequently, he said, while Europe seeks to promote stability in Africa in order to stem migration, the United States should engage as well, if not for its own interests, to promote the interest of its allies. “If the US retrenches and we pull back on our assistance… then we’re going to be part of the problem,” according to Harris.

Previous US administrations have promoted deep bipartisan engagement in Africa. Harris called for the Trump administration to follow suit, emphasizing the importance of a much-overlooked, but increasingly important part of the world.

*Allafrica.Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

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Africa is Not Poor, We Are Stealing Its Wealth
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ANALYSIS

By Nick Dearden*

Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.

It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.

Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.

That’s the essence of a report (pdf) from several campaign groups released today. Based on a set of new figures, it finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.

But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 per cent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.

Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.

There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife. $36bn is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to their societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.

In fact, even this assessment is enormously generous, because it assumes that all of the wealth flowing into Africa is benefitting the people of that continent. But loans to governments and the private sector (at more than $50bn) can turn into unpayable and odious debt.

 Ghana is losing 30 per cent of its government revenue to debt repayments, paying loans which were often made speculatively, based on high commodity prices, and carrying whopping rates of interest. One particularly odious aluminium smelter in Mozambique, built with loans and aid money, is currently costing the country £21 for every £1 that the Mozambique government received. British aid, which is used to set up private schools and health centres, can undermine the creation of decent public services, which is why such private schools are being closed down in Uganda and Kenya. Of course, some Africans have benefitted from this economy. There are now around 165,000 very rich Africans, with combined holdings of $860bn. But, given the way the economy works, where do these people mainly keep their wealth? In tax havens. A 2014 estimate suggests that rich Africans were holding a massive $500bn in tax havens. Africa’s people are effectively robbed of wealth by an economy that enables a tiny minority of Africans to get rich by allowing wealth to flow out of Africa.

So what is the answer? Western governments would like to be seen as generous beneficiaries, doing what they can to “help those unable to help themselves”. But the first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. Governments need to stop forcing African governments to open up their economy to privatisation, and their markets to unfair competition.

If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it. And they might want to think about not putting their faith in the extractives sector. With few exceptions, countries with abundant mineral wealth experience poorer democracy, weaker economic growth, and worse development. To prevent tax dodging, governments must stop prevaricating on action to address tax havens. No country should tolerate companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens operating in their country.

Aid is tiny, and the very least it can do, if spent well, is to return some of Africa’s looted wealth. We should see it both as a form of reparations and redistribution, just as the tax system allows us to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest within individual societies. The same should be expected from the global “society”.

To even begin to embark on such an ambitious programme, we must change the way we talk and think about Africa. It’s not about making people feel guilty, but correctly diagnosing a problem in order to provide a solution. We are not, currently, “helping” Africa. Africa is rich. Let’s stop making it poorer.

*Allafrica/Al Jazeera.Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

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Closing Remarks By Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, At the Official Closing Ceremony of the 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank, May 25, 2017
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Chief Minister of Gujarat,

Honorable Ministers, Governors of the Bank, Distinguished Guests, Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen.

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

Mr. Chairman, Minister Arun Jaitley, congratulations on successfully shepherding this 52nd Annual Meetings. The way you efficiently chaired all our statutory meetings has been impressive. We are grateful to you and your staff in the Ministry of Finance of India for a job well done!

From the Communiqué it is clear that you have all worked so hard. It is amazing how fast time has gone by. Four days ago we arrived here in Ahmedabad for our 52nd Annual Meetings. It has been a marathon of meetings and deliberations: we have run well, discussed well, and interacted well. From the opening ceremony, the tone was set: we should think big, act bold, and deliver faster development for Africa. Prime Minister Modi showed us in his speech that there’s nothing that can be called impossible.

From this same ground that honors the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, we must take with us his words “be the change you want to see”. For the change we want to see in Africa lies with us. Upon us lies the responsibility to rise to the occasion of giving Africa a new history: by lighting up Africa, feeding Africa, industrializing Africa, integrating Africa, and improving the quality of life of the people of Africa.

The Annual Meetings’ focus on transforming agriculture to create wealth has sparked political leaders, young people, researchers, private sector, bankers, and of course you, the Ministers of Finance, and Governors of the Bank, as well as the Central Bank Governors who came, to take agriculture as a business.

This Annual Meeting has also been a huge success in several other ways. We were not bothered by the heat, we simply generated cool ideas. We have not just focused on economics and finance, we brought in other voices.

I was excited at the cultural night yesterday to meet Nollywood and Bollywood actors and actresses who told me they will now focus on movies that will help change the perception of agriculture, for young people. That is one of the successes I am taking home.

And the coolest person around was Prime Minister Modi. His presence, participation and support for these Annual Meetings in Ahmedabad made it such a great success. We had two African Heads of State, from the Republics of Benin, and Senegal, a Former Head of State of Ghana, and the Vice-President of Côte d’Ivoire. Their presence sent a very strong signal that African leaders back the African Development Bank. And that is because the African Development Bank is Africa’s trusted Bank of choice.

You, the Governors of the Bank made all the difference. The Meetings are your Meetings: for you to see the African Development Bank at work, working for the greater good and benefits of the people of Africa. You saw the impacts of our High 5s in Africa. Not just in terms of money we lent to countries or the private sector, but in terms of real people-level impacts.

We measured those impacts, not as numbers, but as lives transformed. You saw some of those stories yesterday as we celebrated countries and governors from Morocco, Mauritania, Ghana, Somalia and Tanzania at the “Africa Development Impact Awards” – our own Oscars for development.

But the best awards go to you all for coming to our Annual Meetings. Your contributions, engagements, ideas, and suggestions will help us to become even better in what we do.

The Government of India deserves a big High 5: the organizations of the events were excellent. We are grateful for the great work of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and members of the Government of the State of Gujarat. The people who did the setting up; the electrical folks who worked late nights; the protocols and security who ensured our safety at all times, even late at nights; the media who told our stories; the wonderful cooks who fed us so well.

To Prime Minister Modi, a very big thank you for hosting us and honoring us with your presence and for your very warm words: let us make history together for Africa.

To all my staff at the African Development Bank, who worked tirelessly, thank you so much. To Nnenna Nwabufo, Célestin Monga and Vincent Nmehielle, you made it all happen and thank you so much. To the translators, who worked tirelessly, sitting unseen in their cubicles, you made it so seamless for us to conduct our business, and understand each other – thank you.

Above all, I am thankful to you, our Governors and Executive Directors who continue to give us support in our work and for our mission. In my town hall discussion with you, our Governors, yesterday, you voted an overwhelming 97% that there is need for urgent actions to finance the High 5s. No doubt, boosting the Bank’s general capital along with all other measures to optimize our balance sheet, will help us with more equity to leverage more to get the job done. We work so hard to earn your trust and you can trust us that we will continue to deliver more, better, and faster for Africa, with additional capital resources.

As a Bank let me assure you we will continue to be fit for purpose. The achievements we have had so far, in just under two years, on the High 5s and our reforms, show that we are moving in the right direction and solidifying the income, efficiency, effectiveness and development impacts of the Bank. Yet the road is still long to achieve our goals, but we are determined, with your support, to stay for the long haul. We hope you are leaving more inspired about the Bank; and ask that you, as Governors, be our strong advocates and champions for accelerating financing for the High 5s.

Let us continue to be optimistic for Africa and let us continue to be optimistic about the capacity of this Bank to deliver. At the Bank, we believe Africa can and will achieve the High 5s. But we must always be forward looking and raise the bar on our ambitions for financing Africa to address its challenges and unlock its opportunities.

What we need is “bold optimism”: optimism backed by greater financial resources. That is the kind of optimism that made Warren Buffet give $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, to do more for the world. Melinda Gates, writing ten years later to Warren Buffet, said: “optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better, it is a conviction that we can make things better….Your success didn’t create your optimism. Your optimism led to your success”.

So, let “bold optimism” from this Annual Meeting in India bubble and inspire us to accelerate financing, urgently, for the High 5s for Africa.

And let that “bold optimism” be fully concretized and solidified by the time we meet in Korea next year for the 2018 Annual Meetings.

I congratulate Korea for being the host country for next year’s Annual Meetings. I look forward to seeing you all next year in the beautiful city of Busan for our 53rd Annual Meetings.

Until then, safe travels back home – and, as you go, here is a High 5 for you all!

Thank you very much.

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West Africa: Ecowas Free Movement and Migration Project Launched in Accra
May 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid

Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid

All citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) can leave and enter any ECOWAS country and reside in it without any hindrance, Minister for Information, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, has disclosed.

Mr Abdul-Hamid explained that the promotion of intra-regional migration for West African countries was part of a political and economic arrangement.

Addressing the media at the launch of the ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration Project in Accra on Wednesday, the Information Minister noted that when it came to migration issues, the focus of the Ghanaian media had largely dwelt on its negative consequences such as the involvement of migrants in unlawful activities that resulted in the destruction of the environment, including illegal mining, nomadic grazing, fake trading markets and human trafficking.

The media, the Minister said, therefore, had a crucial role to play in the promotion of a safe and secure intra-regional migration and cautioned it to be circumspect in their reportage.

He said giving the magnitude of the challenges of migration, there was the need to create a critical mass of advocates in the media who were willing to provide fair and objective coverage on issues of migration.

 He urged all media personnel and other relevant stakeholders to fully participate in the project in order to acquire the requisite skills and the solid foundation required to enable them to contribute to the promotion of safer migration practices.

Mr Abdul-Hamid expressed the appreciation of the Ministry of Information for the media response and its collaborating partners for supporting the project and commended the European Union and the International Organization of Migration for funding the project.

The ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration Project is a one-year project which will target the Greater Accra, Western, Ashanti and Northern Regions to promote free movement and migrant rights in West Africa.

The project’s activities include the organization of training workshops on investigative journalism on free movement and migration, establishment of a network of journalists for migrant rights and the implementation of a public radio campaign on free movement.

*Source :Allafrica/ISD (Edem Agblevor & Faith Eddison)

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Ethiopian Airlines opens new air route to south west China
May 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

A direct flight has opened between Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Operated by Ethiopian Airlines, it will depart from Chengdu every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with a travel time of 9.5 hours.

It is the second direct air route from Chengdu to Africa, also the 100th international and regional air route to operate at Chengdu airport.

Ethiopian Airlines has direct air routes to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

The airline now serves 13 airports in Asia on 100 weekly flights.

*Reuters/Africanews

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Ethiopia’s Tedros wins WHO race, first African to get top job
May 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister, received more than half the votes in the third round.

Ethiopia’s Tedros wins on third ballot

* Offers more geographical representation of WHO jobs

By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles*

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won the race to be the next head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the first African to lead the United Nations agency.

The former health minister and foreign minister received more than half the votes in the first round and eventually won a decisive third-round election to beat Britain’s David Nabarro to the job.

“It’s a victory day for Ethiopia and for Africa,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Negash Kebret Botora told Reuters before Tedros, as he is widely known, was to take the floor at the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly.

Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the WHO, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases.

The job has never before been earned through a competitive election and health officials from all over the globe thronged the assembly hall in the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters where voting took place behind closed doors.

Tedros will begin his five-year term after Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health director, steps down after 10 years on June 30. Chan leaves a mixed legacy, after WHO’s slow response to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in 2013-2016, which killed 11,300 people.

In a last pitch before voting began, Tedros had appealed to ministers by promising to represent their interests and to ensure more countries got top jobs at the Geneva-based WHO.

“I will listen to you. I was one of you. I was in your shoes and I can understand you better,” Tedros told the ministers. “I know what it takes to strengthen the frontlines of healthcare and innovate around the constraints.”

Tedros was widely seen as having the support of about 50 African votes, but questions about his role in restricting human rights and Ethiopia’s cover-up of a cholera outbreak surfaced late in the race, threatening to tarnish his appeal.

Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in international public health, had pitched himself as a “global candidate”.

Chan, in a speech on Monday, urged ministers to tackle inequalities as a “guiding ethical principle”.

“Scientific evidence is the bedrock of policy. Protect it. No one knows whether evidence will retain its persuasive power in what many now describe as a post-truth world,” she said.

*Reuters

 

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