Cameroon: Collective Efforts Needed For Efficient Results in COVID-19 Fight — Dr Martin Mokake
May 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Dr Martin Mokake, Director of the Buea Regional Hospital say for them (medical personnel) to put their lives in danger is not much of a problem, but putting their lives without the necessary protective equipment is uncalled for. The Director was speaking to PAV’s Cameroon Reporter in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
The Director has stated that it is impossible for you to suffocate to death while wearing a mask, while also detailing the psychological difficulties the health personnel go through taking care of COVID-19 patients.
” Together if we organize ourselves individually, and respect the measures put in place by the government, and the Ministry of Health we will be able to fight this deadly virus and win,” says Dr Mokake
PAV: Some Cameroonians still do not believe that coronavirus exists. What do you say to them?
Dr Martin Mokake: Coronavirus is here; it is ravaging the society, killing people, and making others very sick, and yet, I do not understand why someone would not believe it exists. Sometimes I have heard a lot of postulates; some people say it is a way for hospitals and governments to make money. The question I ask myself is that all governments will come together from Europe, Asia, America, Africa to formulate something that deceives the whole world, I think it is far fetched.
Coronavirus has come to kill us, to make our lives difficult, it has come to destroy economies of many countries, and I think the earlier we start believing and seeing that coronavirus is not our friend, then that is the first step to defeating coronavirus. If someone does not believe then he will not take the measures lay down by the government, and WHO. When they do not do that the infection rate climbs.
PAV: There is the call from the government for everyone to wear face masks, how long should an individual wear these masks, and what are the potential health risks of wearing the masks?
Dr Martin Mokake: Recently, I have read a lot about masks choking people to death, which is completely false. I will employ you to do a little exercise, cover your nose, and mouth tight and do not breath; you will found out that you cannot do that because your brain will not even allow you to do that. A mask cannot suffocate you to death, it is impossible.
Looking into wearing the masks, normally we can wear a surgical mask for approximately 3 hours, and it needs to be changed. However, surgical masks are not for everybody. First, they are rare to come by and definitely we cannot have that for everybody. What we use in the society are masks that are made up of fabrics, and sometimes people factually complain that they do not breath well with those masks, it is a possibility. I will advise that if you are not in a position, in an area where there are many people, or if you are alone, why would you want to wear a mask?
The standardized masks have been made in such a way there are filters (the air you are breathing goes through the masks, and the air you are breathing is not the air in the mask — air without the masks). I have heard theories of carbonmonoxide poisoning because of masks, and factually it is impossible. However, there is always a nasty feeling when you put on the masks for long hours; the air you exhale usually comes out with the body temperature and so, it is hot. Without the masks, you do not feel that but with it, you feel the hot air. We need to make a decision here, wear the masks and save lives with its inconveniences or not to wear the masks and be exposed.
PAV: As a doctor, you work with nurses, especially in the COVID ward, what are some challenges you and the nurses go through on a daily basis?
Dr Martin Mokake: Our challenges are enormous. I want to salute the medical personnel that are risking their lives to save human lives. We have been victims of slander, victims of molestation, people have beaten up medical personnel, people have spat on them, and people have abused them and accused them wrongly. Yet, those are people who never come to the media, or social media to justify themselves.
Many people think since we are medical personnel we do not have feelings, or we do not have, “heart” or we do not have families. Putting our lives in danger is not much of a problem, but putting our lives without the necessary protective equipment is uncalled for. We have been having a lot of challenges fighting against the COVID-19 with the limited resources we have, blaming nobody as we all know that no government was prepared to fight the virus. Fighting the coronavirus comes with various psychological difficulties; when you think how medical personnel are completely exposed. If you have a little fever or headache you think you are down as well. It is not a secret that we have had a lot of medical personnel with the South West Region tested positive for COVID-19. We are trying within the Regional Hospital in Buea to put mental health nurses and clinical psychologists at the disposition of our medical staff and our patients to make sure that we can boost their psychology.
PAV: Many people in the society have accused hospital staff of tagging anyone as COVID patients. Does the hospital do that?
Dr Martin Mokake: I think they may have a point, and they may also have to listen. Sometimes people want to see what they want to see. We in the hospital have advised that if you do not have something pertinent to do in the hospital please do not come. It does not mean if you come we will catch you and lock you up, it simply means the hospital is a high risks area where people can get infected. We do not have the logistics to keep people, so there is no point coming to the hospital and say you have flu, someone is going to quarantine you for any reason. Nobody tags anybody a COVID-19 patient.
Not every cough or flu or fever is COVID-19. How do we know it is not COVID-19, we have to examine you are take some simple steps. So do we assume that this flu is not COVID-19 and send you home to die? Our society is always about accusation, and yet, the reality needs to be handled. We are not going to tag anybody, we have strict rules in this hospital that do not disclose the identity of anybody’s test death or alive. Families have the results in their pocket, but they do not belief it is COVID-19 because they feel that it is a stigma. It is not and nobody goes to buy it in the market.
PAV: Does the hospital burry COVID-19 patients?
Dr Martin Mokake: We should know that the hospital does not burry patients. We have heard rumours that when people die the hospital takes them away and burry. It is unethical, and the hospital is never going to do anything that goes against medical ethics. It is responsibility of the council to do the burial. When a COVID patient dies in the hospital it is there the hospital’s responsibility ends, the council comes to the hospital, disinfect it for burial. We do not even disinfect graves, nobody does that. So if you slammed the hospital for not coming to disinfect the grave we will forgive you for ignorance but it is our responsibility to educate you on what it is supposed to be.
PAV: There is a situation now in Buea where people who may have symptoms to call instead for the call to be picked in Buea it is done so in Yaounde wasting so much time. What is being done to decentralize the call centres?
Dr Martin Mokake: Yes, the national numbers that have been given (1510) is still a centralized call system. This is one of the things we have been discussing in meetings, and they are working on, to decentralize. We understand that every society has its peculiarities. For example, a mother in Ekona wants to call because she has symptoms and knows how to speak just Pidgin English, and she calls and someone respond to her in English or French, and she cannot really understand they become frustrated. We have tabled this problem, and we have told them (Officials in Yaounde) that this is something that the population is not happy about. The national call centre should be decentralized why not even at the level of the sub divisional level that within Buea you have a call centre in Buea, Limbe, Tiko, and Muyuka and there we will be able to serve the population even better.
PAV: How equipped is the Buea Regional Hospital to take care of COVID-19 patients?
Dr Martin Mokake: It is equipped to a certain level; we do not have ventilators here to put people on artificial ventilation. We have been working with other partners to try to equip the ward (COVID ward). What we have is a 20 bed facility (refurbished with the help of MSF, and the government of Cameroon). We have 10 beds for the confirmed cases, and 10 for the suspected cases. We are working with the protocols from the WHO as stipulated from the time of the Ebola virus. We are also constructing a 24 VIP area whereby we are going to use for isolation as it is in the roofing stage. An ambulance has been set aside for the transportation of COVID patients. The hospital spends a lot to take care of its patients and staff.
PAV: How long should someone wait for the results of their test?
Dr Martin Mokake: Testing has evolved recently because we had a problem whereby we will send the tests to Yaounde it will take one week before we get the results and it caused a lot of psychological problems to the patients. Now, the testing centre in the University of Buea is fully functional, and we have our results 24 hours or 48 hours maximum. In this case it has help in the management of patients. The workers including myself have routines times when we see that we should be tested to make sure that we are ok and not also serving as a source of contamination to our patients who are not suspects.
PAV: Any Message to the Population?
Dr Martin Mokake: We just want to encourage the population and thank them for their understanding. If you have any symptoms please try to contact any health personnel around your vicinity, and they will advise you on what to do. Together if we organize ourselves individually, and respect the measures put in place by the government, and the Ministry of Health we will be able to fight this deadly virus and win. We will continue the fighting because even when we are tired we cannot stop fighting because our primary aim is the community, and our patients.
The picture now shows a rising level of infections within the South West Region. As at May 27, the South West Region has a total of 97 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Region. The major areas include: Mamfe, Kumba, Buea, and Limbe.
Cameroon:Law On Official Languages Will Yield Results If Embraced By All-George Ngwane
March 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Following the promulgation into law on the promotion of Official Languages (English and French) on the 24th December 2019 by the President of the Republic, the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism is heralding a nation-wide mission aimed at exchanging views with targeted professionals on the merits of this law on Bilingualism. The Sun newspaper’s Managing Editor Wasso Norbert Binde caught up with a scholar on Language Commissions, prolific writer and conflict management panAfricanist Mwalimu George Ngwane to shed some light in an interview on some of the black and white provisions found in the law.
Mwalimu, first of all thank you for accepting to grant us an interview on the law of Official Languages in Cameroon. As a scholar on Language Acts and Commissions,What is the novelty in this law?
Thanks for inviting me to engage your readers about this law. As you may know this is the first time in the life of our country to have a law on bilingualism. Granted that Article 1 sub 3 of our constitution stipulates that English and French are of equal status and granted as well that there exist a plethora of legal instruments that make bilingualism in Cameroon a state policy. I must also add here that barely in its two and a half years of existence the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism has been associated with the conception of such a law. So for me the added value is that this law now transforms our official languages from a state policy to a citizen policy action instrument. In other words the law on bilingualism can be seen as an important step on the journey to upscaling the language rights of Cameroonians especially those from the minority official language community. It is now the responsibility of all public entities to make bilingualism a more robust user-centered and citizen-friendly activity.
But certain sections of the law have come under criticism right from the time the bill was sent to Parliament
That is true and I am sure you are referring especially to Section 19 and Section 26 which on the surface are controversial with regard to those of us who come from the Anglophone regions of the North West and South West. Just to refresh the minds of your readers Section 19 says Official correspondences between public entities shall be written in either of the two languages while Section 26 says English and French shall be used indiscriminately in ordinary law and special courts. Now these two Sections can be examined through the Language Commission prism of Inference and Interpretation. By Inference we may jump into the conclusion that correspondences or court communication in the Anglophone region may be rendered in French even though the language community is predominantly English-speaking- something which the Anglophone lawyers fought against as from 2015. But by Interpretation, at least from the perspective of any language body it must be made clear that laws on Official Languages focus on the principles of proportionality and specificity. Proportionality means Official language used is reflected by the proportion of language users in that community while the principle of specificity is informed by the historical and linguistic specificity of the language community. More so Section 26 sub 2 says court decisions shall be done following the language choice of the litigant. One can replace the legal term “litigant” with the global term “user” to mean that oral or written communication in any situation must respect the language choice of the user. This is what is called the principle of active offer. However with regard to official written correspondences served in either of the two languages it would have also been ideal to write both languages side by side as it is the case between Welsh and English in the United Kingdom or one language above the other as it is with some other bilingual communities.
Let us take the case of our courts, what do you do if the Magistrate or Legal personnel does not speak or understand the language of the litigant?
I am told that the courts normally have Interpreters even though complaints have been made about some of them in relation to their mastery of oral translation. But this is an area to be examined seriously so that our courts and other public entities have Interpreters whose integrity and performance cannot be questioned. Secondly there is a need for public servants at a certain level and in this case Magistrates and others of their rank to be sufficiently bilingual. So the recommendation to your specific question is that bilingualism is something which all professional schools must henceforth take more seriously. Our government and I am sure this is within the purview of the Commission on Bilingualism should be working on what Canadians call the Public Service Official Languages Appointment Regulation or what we may simply call the Bilingualism Proficiency Appointment Charter. This is a Charter that places premium on appointment to certain positions in the public service based on the individual’s bilingual capacity. Third, team spirit is very important in the dispensation of bilingual communication so having less bilingual and more bilingual personnel or two from different language communities working side by side is an option to also consider. And this should be from the front desk workers like mail officers, secretaries, janitors, security guards etc to the highest working level.
You just talked of translation and we find poor translation in some of our official documents, billboards and public notices; what is the problem?
I am happy you said some of… because frankly the bulk of our translation is fantastic. Cameroon has about the most talented professional Translators and Interpreters in the world. They are found in most continental and world bodies, ample testimony that our Schools of Translators and Interpreters meet up with global standards. When the Commission on Bilingualism visited the various Ministries and parapublic institutions they discovered that most of them have Translation units. So the problem with some of the poor translation you are referring to cannot be due to a lack of professional Translators. Could it be that some of the Translators are not functionally empowered, could this arise from the erroneous notion that a minimum knowledge of the two languages can just qualify you as a Translator or could it just be a neglect of the fundamental role professional Translators play in our society? I am sure members of the Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters can best answer your question.
Now, let us come back again to the law proper, what do you consider as some of the strong sections in this law?
I am sorry I cannot quote all of the positive sections by heart. However I know of one that stipulates the right of every citizen to freely communicate in the language of their choice so expressions like “je ne comprend pas ton Anglais la” or “ you are even speaking Mbouda French” should now be stigmas or pejoratives of the past. Another section also talks of the state providing incentives for greater proficiency or what is called bilingualism bonus. I also have in mind I think it is Section 16 that encourages code switching which means using both languages alternately in the same official speech.
And which are the dark areas or sections?
I prefer to call them the grey areas because they are a little loose ended and open to subjective implementation. We have already talked of Sections 19 and 26 although I must add that other public entities like the health sector where diagnosis and prescriptions are made by the medical practitioner to a patient in a language the patient does not master. How about the notion of bilingual colleges today/ How about the monolingual medium of instruction in some professional schools including those in the Anglophone region? Yet and on a very personal assessment I feel much has been covered in our bilingualism journey from the time I was arrested and locked up in March 1990 just for writing and questioning the validity of our bilingualism state policy to today where state officials use both languages effortlessly. Thirty years after it is both a personal vindication for me and a linguistic paradigm shift for the government. Of course we have not yet arrived but we are on track.
Finally what sanctions are written in the law for those who violate these provisions?
Well, sanctions have not been implicitly built into the law. We all wish they were because implementation is a problem with especially state officials. But my take is that first those who do not implement the law expose themselves to self-sanctions because they limit their chances on career upward mobility. Second I think it must be Section 27 of this law that says the state shall ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the law through an Advisory body. That Advisory body I am certain is the Commission on Bilingualism which has the role of receiving complaints or petitions from the public on the violation of their linguistic freedom or abuse of their language rights. It has already been doing this through its webpage and telephone hotline 1518. Most language commissions prefer the tongue rather than the teeth approach to sanctions. By this they carry out investigations, send reports to other state bodies like Human Rights or Parliament, call the violator to order through oral or written means or sometimes do a kind of name and shame report on the violator.
Any final word Mwalimu?
No law is static and when it comes to law on languages it is always prone to revisions and amendments based on public feedback and contestations. The Welsh Language Act of 1993 has been revised so many times and already in 2015 they have a new language law called the Wales Measure. I was privileged thanks to the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship offered me in 2016 to have understudied the Welsh Language Commissioner in Wales. Other Official Language Acts in Northern Canada, Belgium, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to revisions and amendments after being tested on the field. It is therefore advisable for governments to be sensitive to citizen response to the law on languages. But before then let us give the language law a chance to be tested on the field for like it is said in French “le macon sera connu au pied du mur”.
My pleasure Sir
*Culled from The Sun Newspaper. Photo Illustrations by PAV
Living The Dream Life: Africa’s Next Top Model Bello Frasher On His Journey to the top and 2020 vision
January 15, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Amos Fofung
Impossible it is to walk downtown Washington DC, Paris, Canberra or some exotic destination in Europe and not catch billboards or posters adorned with Bello Frasher, a superb model who might just be the next big thing the fashion industry is bracing for.
The Cameroon-born international sensation has over the years groomed himself and is now taking the Fashion industry by storm.
A brand influencer with distinction, catalog model, brand ambassador and face of CONNAISSEUR PARIS,Bello Frasher squeezed time off his hectic schedule to talk about his career and plans for 2020 with Pan African Visions.
Why modelling and the fashion business?
My love for fashion started from childhood. I have always love to look good and I always stood out among my friends. I will wear something and my friends will want to know where I got it from hence that’s how I developed a passion for modeling and luckily for me, the camera loves me
What have your experiences been so far, may we know some of your challenges, success stories and deceptions?
Modeling is a very challenging field that I will say to get into you must be passionate about it. Especially being a male model, sometimes you got to change around strangers in an open space. Though things are getting better now, its still a very discriminatory field. As an African or black in New York trying to break into the fashion world which is predominantly white, I faced a lot of challenges ranging from my color & even my sexual orientation. But the fashion industry opens doors to a lot of fun opportunities, I get to travel around the world and mingle with high profile personalities.
You are the face of CONNAISSEUR PARIS , can you shed light on this fashion label and the nature of your collaboration?
CONNAISSEUR PARIS is a European men fashion brand that started about six years ago with our head office in Paris and branches in several states in America. As the global face, I represent the brand in and out of the States. I’m the poster boy you will see on billboard ads in Paris & other locations and even on the website. I speak on behalf of the brand & host fashion shows to showcase our products.
Why CONNAISSEUR PARIS when with the reputation you’ve built top players in the industry are after your business?
What most people don’t know is I did not start my fashion career with CONNAISSEUR Paris before Joining the team, I used to work for H&M as well as a catalog model for their summer look book and with top man.
I choose CONNAISSEUR Paris because they were not just offering me a job but they were bringing me on board as part of the team. Beside the brand is true to itself by always putting the customer first and providing them with the best quality & high fashionable Italian fabrics at an affordable price
How challenging was it for you to get a breakthrough in this line of business here in the West coming all the way from Africa?
The higher you climb up the fashion ladder be it as a model, designer or fashion brand it becomes more difficult because the industry is almost completely white. So, imagine
being a black-own fashion brand competing with some of the big fashion brands. They couldn’t have it and they tried everything to kick us out of business because they were scared of the high value of our products and its affordable price. Who won’t want to pay less for a high-quality suit!
In terms of remuneration, how lucrative has the modelling business been for you and is Bello Frasher comfortable telling us what income bracket he is on or what it takes to get his services?
I will tell others not to go into modeling for money. It has to be a passion and of course your passion will always bring you money if you channel it properly. It’s a passion for me, I love what I do. So, I will say it’s very lucrative if you are passionate it and it makes you happy. I can’t put a price to happiness and if anyone requires my service, hit my PR team up and you will find out that I’m very affordable.
You’ve inspired a lot of young people who some of whom are looking to emulate your path, what advise do you have for them, any tips for success?
Not everyone tends to discover their true potential or what they are passionate about. To the young ones out there, if you truly know what you are passionate about, don’t give up. Believe in yourself even if people around you say you can’t make. Be consistent & hard working and that passion of yours be it modeling or whatever will take you places.
Modeling requires staying fit and in shape, what is your own recipe for that?
Hahaha my recipe for staying fit is knowing your body well. I’m a pescatarian meaning I don’t eat meat. I don’t drink alcohol; I eat very healthy and I drink a gallon of water a day. You see! I didn’t talk about workout because it’s the last on my list. So, the secret of staying fit is what goes into your body then you can work out to torn the physique.
Exposure from your career certainly earns you lots of female admirers, how you cope with attention from female fans…
Hahaha who no like Better thing! Honestly this exposure and the fame has tamed me. I get a lot of attention especially private messages but I don’t get carry away by that. I have been handling it well with no pressure lol,
You are also into acting and a budding TV sensation. Should we expect any movies from you to hit the big screens soon?
My acting career is still very young but I’m grateful for the opportunities and the path fashion has open for me. I’m currently in negotiation with some movie directors in Nigeria in Nigeria and I’m working with the director of Fatal Attraction for a role on his show on TVone.
What other plans does Bello Frasher have for 2020 and his career, in what ways do you think you can improve and any other big dreams you will like to achieve?
I entered this 2020 with some big paid ads’ partnership. I will be doing a lot of paid collaboration with big lifestyle this year and I’m excited. I’m starting for this 2020 with a personal project to give back to less privileged kids, orphans and internally displaced people from the English party of Cameroon. I will be in Cameroon in March for this initiative called #bfgives2020 and I have a gofundme to raise $5,000 for this project.
I will be doing a media tour in Cameroon during this time. My desire is to work with big brands in Cameroon like MTN, Guinness, Camtel, orange and the rest. You will be seeing me a lot on the cover of fashion magazines this year. So many goals and dream to achieve this year and I’m excited because I see a clear path to success.
Q & A with Twiga Foods Co-founder & CEO, Peter Njonjo
December 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
AsTwiga Foods Takes Lead in Setting Standards for production and distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, PAV caught with its Co-Founder and CEO Peter Njonjo for a Q&A on important developments, and way forward for the Kenyan company.
Could we start by getting an introduction of Twiga Foods, and how its creation came about?
Peter Njonjo: Twiga Foods was created to address issues around food production and distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. When you consider that a disproportionately high percentage of disposable income is spent on food – 55 percent in Kenya and 60 percent in Nigeria. Compared to 8 percent in the UK – it made sense to explore ways to bring costs down.
Since we started Twiga in 2014, we have also come to realise that Africa’s food production challenges actually begin with fragmented consumer retail. The Continent is dependent on small farmers because the Continent’s retail is dependent on small informal vendors.
With current fragmentation, it makes no sense for a farmer to plant 50 acres of potatoes, or 30 acres of bananas, because they’d have no route to sell those volumes into a fragmented marketplace. However, staying small is extremely inefficient: a farmer with less than 3 acres achieves only 14 percent of the yield/acre of a farmer with more than 20 acres, ensuring the cost of food remains far too high.
Our approach is to “re-engineer” the agricultural value chain as an end to end tech-enabled market, rather than seeking to optimise existing fragmentation. By aggregating a fragmented retail space, we aim to enable the creation of an efficient domestic agricultural production industry, when before there was none, while generating incremental value for all market participants.
How are your services provided and how much of Kenya does it cover?
Peter Njonjo: Twiga’s m-commerce platform enables vendors to order fresh produce, as and when needed, from farmers across Kenya. As a result, farmers have guaranteed access to a fairly priced, transparent, mobile marketplace and vendors can consistently source high-quality produce, which is conveniently delivered for free to their doorstep within 18 hours of ordering.
At the moment, we are mainly working with vendors in Nairobi and farmers on the outskirts, but we are hoping to expand into Mombasa and Nakuru in the coming months
Twiga Foods was recently in the news for Securing $30M to digitize food distribution, can you shed some light on this?
Peter Njonjo : Our latest funding round was led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from existing investors including the International Finance Corporation, TLcom Capital and Creadev. An additional $6 million in debt was raised from OPIC and Alpha Mundi.
This new investment will fund the continued development of our proprietary technology and logistics assets to support the roll-out of its distribution system and lay the foundations for expansion into other cities on the continent.
Our aim is to bridge gaps in food and market security, and this funding will also help us to do that. Since launching in 2014, Twiga Foods has transformed the lives and businesses of more than 17,000 farmers and more than 8,000 vendors but there is still a long way to go.
With the financing, where does this lead Twiga Foods, any projections for the next five years for instance?
Peter Njonjo: We plan to expand into Mombasa, and possibly Nakuru, within the next year. After that, the next step would be to expand across the continent, starting with French-speaking West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Senegal etc) and then Nigeria.
We are also building a new distribution centre that will have state-of-the-art cold rooms, conveyors and sorting equipment, which will enable Twiga to offer supply chain services for both agricultural and FMCG products. The distribution centre should be ready by February 2020.
To other young aspiring entrepreneurs who will want to emulate the success of Peter Njonjo, what words of wisdom can you share with them based on your experiences?
Peter Njonjo: The first piece of advice I would offer aspiring entrepreneurs is that they should always seek to be part of the solution. In the early days of my career, I was so keen to identify problematic situations and things that didn’t work but didn’t always prioritise finding a solution to these problems I’d identified. On one occasion, my boss actually told me he would fire me if I brought him one more problem. Thankfully, that did not kill my curiosity. It was the trigger I needed to think differently which has been a great asset for me in my career.
The second thing would be to always stay curious. Curiosity is a state of mind that allows you to discover so many things. It will also lead you to ideas that will differentiate you from everyone else. As an entrepreneur, this differentiation is an invaluable asset to have. One that will be very useful for helping your consumers and customers see value in the product or service you have to offer
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is expected to go into effect next year, any strategy in the works for Twiga foods to benefit from the changes it will bring?
Peter Njonjo: One of our main objectives is to solve the problem of reliable access to food across Sub-Saharan Africa and the AfCFTA provides an effective framework for achieving that. At the moment, we are focusing on Kenya because it is the market we know. However, when the time is right for us to expand outside Kenya, we will be doing so with a nuanced approach that factors in all the peculiarities of each market. The AfCFTA makes it easier for African countries to trade goods and we are looking forward to exploring the opportunities that come with it.
Up to This Generation to Get it Right on Climate Change- Commonwealth SG Patricia Scotland
December 12, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
There is nowhere that the common wealth will not go, no one to whom the Commonwealth would not speak to, and no action that we are not prepared to take, if it will faithfully respond to the needs of our countries when it comes to fighting climate change , says Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland.
In Madrid where she is leading a delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, the Right Honorable Patricia Scotland says there is no barrier that the Commonwealth is not prepared to lawfully cross, in order to help member states, and others navigate the serious challenge that climate change is.
“Our generation is the first generation to really understand the enormity of the challenge that climate poses to us, the tragedy for us is we may be the first to understand it, but we will be, and we are the last generation on this planet who can do something about it,” the Secretary General said in a skype and phone interview with Pan African Visions.
With a membership of 53 independent countries, and home to a population of 2.4 billion people, living in advanced economies, and developing countries, the Commonwealth has taken a leadership role in the fight against climate change. Citing examples of some of the initiatives spearheaded by the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland spoke at length on the Commonwealth Finance Access Hub, the growing momentum of the Blue charter, and the CommonSensing project that that adds satellites to the tools available to fight climate change.
At the Commonwealth, it is not just about talk but been proactive in the quest and implementation of innovative solutions that meet specific and shared needs of its member states, said Patricia Scotland in the interview.
You are in Madrid for the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. How is the forum going?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, you know it is an incredibly important moment for the world. Right now, the IPCC responsible for writing the reports have been able to alert us to the emergency right now in our face,and are asking us for greater effort. they believe that we will have to go 5 times faster if we are are going to meet the needs of the world in terms of global warming, and keeping down the emissions to try and avoid some of the disasters that they anticipate would continue to happen if we don’t take collective global action to bring down the heat that is being generated by our planet.
What message is the Commonwealth bringing to the forum and what proposals are you bringing to the table to fight climate change?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, the consequences of inaction on climate change are now really clear, and it is not an issue for the distant future; this is an issue which is unfolding right before our eyes at this very moment. Just weeks ago, we witnessed the fateful disasters that took place in Kenya, when there were landslides. Indeed, in our Commonwealth, India and Bangladesh, there was Cyclone Bulbul and there was traumatic and drastic flooding in the United Kingdom, so this is global. And what we are seeing is the need to take new action, not just a need to take drastic action, on the emissions I spoke about just a moment ago, especially from the industrialized nations, but all Commonwealth countries really need to play their part in delivering the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.
But we in the Commonwealth have been listening really carefully to what our countries need. Many of our small and developing countries say, we have suffered the disasters, we have suffered the consequences of climate change, although we have made virtually no contribution to creating the disaster. And as you will know, the global community have come together to create the Green Climate Fund to enable such countries to make applications but many of them simply have not been able to do so.
And so listening to that need, the Commonwealth in 2015, at the Commonwealth executive meeting in Malta, decided that we would try to improve on more Commonwealth climate finance access help, that would basically [assist]Commonwealth states to device the support they need to make the applications, but also once they shape projects, it will help them to know how they get them delivered too, because change has to happen and it has to happen quickly.
So, this climate finance access hub has already placed advisers in 3 of our African Commonwealth countries, that is, in Eswatini, Mauritius, and Namibia, but we are also looking very shortly to place climate finance advisers in Kenya, Lesotho and Seychelles.
At the moment, with a relatively small amount of money. We have already been able to deliver 28.9 million dollars to our member states, but we have almost 500 million dollars’ worth of projects in the pipeline. Now, these projects aren’t just something which is good to have. These are projects which will materially impact and help our countries to adapt, and to mitigate to the climate change to which they would have been subject to, without having had much opportunity to change what is happening, so it is incredibly important.
And in addition, we have created the Commonwealth Blue Charter to help us better manage, and to respond to the things we need to do to help keep our oceans alive and vibrant. You will know that 46 countries in the Commonwealth are ocean states, and 3 countries are faced with great lakes. Now, this is something which is incredibly important therefore for our Commonwealth, and since 1989, we have been working hard in the Commonwealth, to raise this issue of climate change, because in 1989, in Langkawi, in Malaysia, the Commonwealth 53 countries, there were 2.4 billion people in our Commonwealth, 60% of them are under the age of 30. And in 1989, we said, any delay in addressing this climate crisis would have a deleterious impact on our countries and for the small and many of the developing countries, it is an existential threat.
So many of our countries simply would not survive if it goes much more over the 1.1 that we now have. So, if you look at [the situation], even if we were to hit the global warming to 1.5 that would mean countries in the Caribbean, countries in the Pacific in particular, may no longer be with us. So, this is a real fight for our lives. The Commonwealth Blue Charter has set out an action plan for what it can do together, and this is already working, and that’s something that we launched at the Commonwealth meeting last year in April 2018. And this year, we are looking at the Commonwealth disaster risk finance portal, what that is all about is that, many of the countries who find themselves responding to disasters, some of which we alluded to earlier, don’t have the money, don’t have the skill and understanding available to them immediately to know where do I go? Where do I get the money? Who do I turn to? So, what we looked at, the need: we are now creating the Commonwealth risk portal, it is like a one-stop shop, many African countries only knew about what they could apply for when a disaster hits them, or when they feel a disaster is about to hit them. And some of our countries who are extremely vulnerable, but may be middle income countries, they may be high income countries, but their vulnerability because of their size, because of their geographical location, is great, and those countries would not be able to get access to ODA, that’s the development assistance that they need because they do not comply with the rules, or they are basically not sufficiently impoverished to take advantage of them. Yet they are so vulnerable, and they have a terrible future.
So, what we have done is we have worked together with all the international agencies, and we pulled all the resources anyone has available for countries and we put them into a one-stop shop so that when a country is in need, when they are afraid, when they don’t know where to go, when they don’t know whom to ask, they can come to look at the disaster risk finance portal and they will have in one-stop, an understanding of what may be available to them.
And the last thing we are doing is the CommonSensing Project and I say the last because it is the new thing that we are doing. We are continuing other things that we have done in terms of climate finance and mobilizing the management law, the use of sustainable economic development, renewable energy, alternative development, that’s all the normal things we are doing. But this new thing, is the CommonSensing project, and CommonSensing is an innovative project based on partnership between Fiji, Solomon Islands ,and Vanuatu and a consortium of international partners in the Commonwealth secretariat, and the objective of CommonSensing is to support our countries to build resilience by developing satellite-based information services to enhance climate actions, and we believe that this satellite technologies will save them and are really going to help us to tackle climate and support risk disaster management, especially when it is combined with the applications such as the geographic information system for detailed analysis, for example, we are looking at how we manage land, and you will know that in Africa, one of the really painful issues is desertification, drought and water management.
While many people talk about the storms and cyclones and damage caused by hurricanes, the silent killer, the one that doesn’t get mentioned often, that doesn’t get the headlines is what is happening on drought, what happens to lack of water, and what is happening to desertification. And in relation to that matter, Namibia has agreed to be our standard bearer on desertification. To lead this is something that we have to look at, and right now we will be talking about how we put together something equivalent to that which we put together for oceans in our Blue Charter. Now, we need to do something equivalent for land, for desertification, for water management and for holistic improvement and this CommonSensing is an opportunity to use satellite to see what’s happening globally and to move quickly before disaster strikes is going to be a really creative and important issue for us.
The project is funded by the UK space agencies, international partnership program and implemented in partnership with United Nations Institute for training and research ,and also ourselves at the Commonwealth secretariat and various other agencies, including the satellite applications catapult, the UK Met office, and some universities.
You can see that it is a consortium of people, institutions, nations that is coming together to see what we can do. So the Commonwealth is important in this area, because we are really listening to what our members are telling us and we are trying to come up with solutions to help us. Human genius got us into this mess and human genius will have to get us out again.
Thank you, Madam Secretary. Now, how do you strike a balance between the expectations, approach or positions of the Commonwealth as a body, and the challenges and priorities of your independent members when it comes to fighting climate change?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, I think one of the things that has really been so good about our Commonwealth family is that all of us, all 53 of us, with no exceptions, are committed to climate change. Now, we demonstrated this at CHOGM in 2015, in Malta, when we, the Commonwealth, were the first to say that we should have an international enforceable agreement. We were the first to say that we should try to keep emissions down to 2 degrees if we can, but that we should have an aspiration or target of at least 1.5 degrees, that we should not allow the Greenhouse emissions to get close to global warming to more than 2 degrees of the pre-industrialized standard.
But that is a challenge and we have been pushing, so the great thing about it is that that’s where we were in 2015, in November, and that’s what the rest of the world agreed to in Paris, in December; that was in 2015, 4 years ago. But what has happened in the last 4 years is we needed to not just talk, we have to act and deliver, we have to do, we have to commit and we have to bring changes, and the thing behind being lighted up are basically put in effort when it matters, and so moving forward, we are moving forward together on this agreement, we are making changes about how we do business, how we live, to make sure that we are moving towards a more sustainable path.
So, this is why as I described to you, we set up Commonwealth climate finance access in 2016 when I became secretary general of the Commonwealth and it is why we put so much energy into creating the hub which is in Mauritius and we are also grateful for the grants we have got from Australia ,the UK now, together they have only 1.5 million, but look at what we have done with 1.5 million to have 28.9 million already delivered, so you got a 30 fold increase as a result of the relatively small investment and the fact that we have got almost 500 million more projects in the pipeline, I think is really impressive.
But we need to do more, we need to do so much more if we are to go as fast as we need to go to meet the new targets, because nature is not waiting for us.
Countries, especially in Africa and some in Asia that you mentioned earlier, the complain is that they don’t have enough resources and they clearly lack the capacity to adequately respond to climate change issues, how far is the Commonwealth willing to go, to support these countries step up the fight?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: We are absolutely delighted to help our members, and that is why we have created the Commonwealth climate finance hub, that is why we are developing the disaster portal that I told you about, that is why we are doing the CommonSensing, and that is why we created the Blue Charter for action. And that is why we are now going to be looking at creating something similar to the Blue Charter for land, for land degradation, for desertification, for draught in order to help our countries better manage water, and also therefore, to respond to their needs, because a number of our countries have indicated that they are thrilled by what we have done in relation to the oceans, and how we are responding with the Blue Charter, but you know, quite naturally, they are saying, what about us? What about those of us who are dying? Not because of a side cliff, not because of a hurricane, not because of a tsunami, what about those of us who are dying from desertification? Getting poorer because our land is degenerating and being degraded and because our cattle have nowhere to graze, what about us?
So, we are listening to that, and right now, as we speak, we are putting together something which will respond to those issues in the same way as the Blue Charter is responding to oceans, the oceans are 70% of our whole planet, but land and oceans go together and we have to look at how we manage both if we are to regenerate our world, so there is nowhere that the common wealth will not go, no one to whom the Commonwealth would not speak, no action that we are not prepared to take if it will faithfully respond to the needs of our countries, we know this is urgent, there is no more time to waste, this generation; our generation are the first generation to really understand the enormity of the challenge the climate poses to us, the tragedy for us is we may be the first to understand it, but we will be, and we are the last generation on this planet who can do something about it.
That puts a heavy responsibility on us, and it actually puts a heavy responsibility on the industrialized North to help to make sure that the embattled South who have been the recipients of this trauma, but who have contributed to it least, it is now our time to make sure that all the help and assistance is given to our countries who are in need, and of course, Africa, in the South is suffering greatly and we are determined to respond.
Just to give you some of the data, drought and desertification threatens the livelihood of more than 1.2 billion people in 110 countries, but the problem is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southern Asia. So, out of the countries substantially affected by land degradation, 36 are situated in Africa and you have to know that there are only 19 African countries in our Commonwealth, maybe soon to be 20. So, this is a big issue for every single African country, so all of our Commonwealth African countries have submitted their national and voluntary land degradation neutrality target, the UNCCD land degradation neutrality are setting targets, setting programs, they have all set those baselines and developing targets, and support could be extended to achieve these targets and this is one of the things that the Commonwealth secretariat is looking at, how can we support member countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, develop the road map for achieving the national target set to the countries, and build institutional capacities and access climate finance through the Commonwealth finance access route.
Madam Secretary, in the course of the year, member countries of the Commonwealth in Africa like Malawi and Mozambique were severely battered by storm, by the cyclones, what specific support did the Commonwealth provide for them to help with recovery?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: The Commonwealth as an organization does not have a mandate or capacity to provide humanitarian assistance when such disasters occur. However, we are able to urge and rally support from those who can, and this is what we did. Our interventions happen in the preparedness stage, that is, in building resilience before a disaster strikes. We are working as I mentioned to you, on the disaster risk finance portal which will serve as a one-stop shop for streamlining access to the numerous financing tools already available. It includes guidance on navigating the complex funding processes and broad range providers, each with different eligibility and access criteria and challenging terms and conditions.
But in addition, we reached out to charities and other nations, and other countries. For example, as a result of our efforts, we teamed up with Team Rubicon, who are authorized to go the last mile, and they did an amazing job in Mozambique, rescuing people, helping set up hospitals, helping to change, and they met and managed thousands of people and helped them. So, that’s something that we can do, we are facilitators, we are procurers, we are able to network with our countries, so even if we do not have the resources, we try to find others who have and support them to deliver better support.
Critics say a lot of the large forums are often full of much talk and very little action. How would you define a successful participation for you .and the Commonwealth at the ongoing United Nation Climate Change Conference in Madrid?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, as you have seen through this discussion, we are all action and little talk, so when we come forward, we do a lot of listening to what our members say they need and what they want for themselves, and we then make contact with those who could network with us, to provide the solutions. So the negotiations on Cop25 are very important, they can be very technical where delegates seem to be talking about the same issues, but it is not easy, we have to get an agreement between 190 countries and we have to get them to agree, nobody believed that that was possible, but we did it, in Paris in 2015, and we are trying to do it now, to get to an agreement.
Now, there are few key issues of concern for Commonwealth countries at this Cop 25, and this Cop is the first Blue-Green Cop there has even been. Article 6 of the Paris agreement that is aimed at voluntary, cooperative approaches between parties in the implementation of their national commitments. This article of the Paris agreement remained a contentious issue at the previous Cop24 in Poland, and countries could not reach an agreement on its implementation. Here, we are going to try really hard this year to try and get to an agreement on article 6. That’s going to be high on the agenda at Cop25, this Cop, in Madrid. We also want higher climate ambitions, next year is the next round to accept the national determined contributions for climate change. We know that we have to do more. The current national determined contributions as they stand, do not put the world on track to limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. So, if we stay where we are now, we know we are doomed to failure. However, there is a need to agree on what type of information to be included, how are we going to account? What is the time frame and what are we going to do? So, that is the next issue.
The third issue is climate finance and we have spoken about that already. There have been some new pledges raising the replenishment total beyond 7.4 billion dollars, but there are problems about how that money is going to be distributed. Therefore, that’s why we are promoting our Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub as a vehicle for our countries to be able to tap into that money from the climate financing that is being made available.
And the last area is oceans. As I have mentioned, the ocean covers 70% of the earth, and absorbs 90% of the emission, but there is a critical blue gap between climate ambitions and ocean action. Less than 1% of all philanthropic funding goes towards marine conservation and sustainability, while large international funds established for climate action appear reluctant to support work on the ocean. So, the Commonwealth is seeking to address this through the Blue Charter action groups, but also what we are trying to do is to create a Blue Charter action fund to help with the implementation of these matters so that we won’t just be talking and talking, we actually will be doing and doing.
And we end with a the word on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting coming back to Africa in 2020, and specifically Rwanda, how are the preparations going and what are some of the broad themes expected to be in the discussion?
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, we are really excited about the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which is going to happen in Rwanda, in Kigali. The theme of the meeting is ‘Delivering a Common Future; Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’. And there are 5 sub-themes which have been identified for discussion, and that is governance and the rule of law, ICT and innovation, youth empowerment and trade. And we are building on the progress that we made in London, in 2018. Leaders are expected to discuss the contemporary Commonwealth and how we can transform our societies in accordance with Commonwealth values of democracy, multilateralism, sustainable development and empowerment of women and our youth.
So, these are very exciting topics, as I mentioned, this is going to be the second time that we are going to be in Africa in the last 10, 15 years. The last time was in Uganda. I think now we are going to go to Rwanda, and Rwanda is the youngest member of our family. So that is also innovative and new.
Madam Secretary, thank you so much for talking to Pan African Visions.
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Thank you very much for speaking with me and I hope you have a good and blessed Christmas.
A Recipe For African Success In NJ Ayuk’s Billions At Play
November 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Launched recently in South Africa at a heavily attended event, NJ Ayuk’s new book Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals has received rave reviews.
“Africans are more than capable of making our continent a success,” says NJ Ayuk in an interview with Pan African Visions to discuss the book. Past deals have not worked for a majority of African countries and Billions At Play is a road map to the future we Africans want to build for ourselves, says NJ Ayuk.
“Oil only becomes a curse when it is mismanaged, and when extraction is done without proper supervision and regulations, without pragmatic solutions that promise sustainability,” says Ayuk.
Described by OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo as a dreamer who has taken the time to develop a detailed roadmap for realizing that dream, Ayuk says he cherishes the battles he fights to get opportunities for fellow African to have a seat at the table.
“We are showing that we are not a helpless continent and we don’t want handouts – our future will not be based on aid,” says Ayuk in the interview which also discusses the role of the diaspora, women, alternative sources of energy ,and more.
Billions At Play is a roadmap to the future that we, Africans, can build for ourselves by getting a few things right. The biggest message that I seek to convey is that of our shared responsibility towards improving Africa and creating the Africa our future generations will thank us for. It goes beyond the African energy sector. I hope everyone can see how they can be part of the solution in a more practical, sustainable way. Africans are more than capable of making our continent a success.
In terms of doing deals, what is it that African countries have failed to understand, and what are some of the suggestions that you are offering?
It’s no secret that in the past deals have proven not to work for a majority of African countries – only benefiting a selected few. We see the repercussions of that daily, where African countries are rich in oil and gas, but their communities at large suffer from poverty and unemployment. My biggest recommendation? Better deal-making abilities and implementation of local content regulations. We need to learn how to negotiate better deals that benefit everyday Africans. We are getting smarter at building new models for managing petroleum revenue. Africans need to know the worth and value we bring into any oil and gas deals and be confident in that. Our laws must create an enabling environment for international investors who want to transfer technology and empower Africans, to be able to do business with us. As I write in Billions At Play, good deal-making is crucial. We need to negotiate deals that result in long-term benefits for the people, African companies need to negotiate deals that keep them on an equal playing field with their competition and empower them to grow, to create and sustain jobs, and to support the communities they are based in.
Looking at the continent we see some countries that have produced oil for decades unable to maintain a single functional refinery, in other countries the resources seem to benefit a few and not the broader interest of the people, how does Africa turn the resource curse to a blessing ?
Oil only becomes a curse when it is mismanaged, and when extraction is done without proper supervision and regulations, without pragmatic solutions that promise sustainability. Otherwise, it can be a true blessing. We need infrastructure – we need to build and own our own refineries, pipelines, urea, ammonia, and fertilizer plants, power plants etc. The same applies to setting up technology hubs! We have seen how some African countries have started taking steps in this direction, and that makes me really proud.
When we talk of energy, the immediate focus is on oil, could you talk on the potential of other forms of energy like wind and solar and how this could shape the future as well?
Africa will never fulfill its true potential until access to reliable power is widespread, and that can only be attained once we have functional, well-funded, transparent power utilities that make use of new technologies and solutions and that partner with the private sector to promote the continent’s ability to power itself in a sustainable manner.
Yes, most of Africa has solar exposure that is very adequate for power generation, not to mention wind, hydro, and other forms of clean power generation. The likes of Kenya, targeting a 100% clean energy mix is a good example.
“Africans are more than capable of making our continent successful,” you say in the book, looking at what is going on in the continent, what makes you so optimistic?
Take a look around you and across the globe and you will easily spot African brothers and sisters actively doing amazing things in their spheres of influence, each playing a role in transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans. Similarly, the biggest discoveries made in the world recently are in Africa. We are showing that we are not a helpless continent and we don’t want handouts – our future will not be based on aid. Good things really are happening across the continent, and the petroleum industry is a common denominator. You can find plenty of examples of natural resources contributing to meaningful changes for the better. I’ll forever be optimistic, and I know my hard work and optimism is contagious.
What role do you see for the African diaspora, especially those with the skills set that could make a difference on the energy future of the continent?
The diaspora can actively engage with foreign partners, which is essential to Africa’s growth, and contribute to spreading a more objective narrative on the promising future the continent has. Similarly, and as we seek to build better organizations and run better businesses, skills learned and acquired abroad can be highly beneficial to the continent.
“Africa needs companies that are willing to share knowledge, technology and best practices, and businesses that are willing to form positive relationships in areas where they work,” you say, what leverage do African countries have to compel companies from China, Europe, the US and other parts of the world to implement this?
We need foreign oil and gas companies to continue operating in African communities and to continue hiring African people, purchasing from African suppliers, and partnering with African companies. Like I said, foreign partners are essential to Africa’s growth, we need to push ahead, and we cannot live and prosper in isolation. We can also benefit from the companies working on the continent for investment collaborations and to build the infrastructure necessary for industrialization.
You also talk about the paucity of women in the energy sector, what accounts for this and how important is it for the trend to be reversed?
I sit in a lot of boardrooms, I speak at a lot of conferences, and I am always faced with how few and far in between women executives are in these spaces. It’s a fact that amongst African oil firms, women in leadership only account for only about 2-3%. So who is going to push the agenda for women, if not me? Not us? I know and work with a lot of amazingly hardworking, innovative, strong women that I believe need to take their spaces in executive roles. Women have a great deal to offer, and good jobs for women contribute to a more stable, more economically vital Africa. We have to do more to ensure that women and men receive equal compensation, whether it’s wages, community programs, or property royalties, etc. If I can do my part to put pressure, I’ll be happy.
Billions at Play is also hitting the stands at a time of great excitement and growing optimism with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, how does this factor in into the vision you share?
The AfCFTA like in every other industry or sector, can yield great results for the oil industry. I love unity! I love making money together! I have Centurion Law Group offices in South, West, and East Africa already – I’m glad the entire continent is catching up. I continue to embrace strong regional economy give the continent a competitive edge in the global economy and it will make a lot of pan-African work easier. Lets’ win together.
In his foreword, OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo describes you as a dreamer who has “taken the time to develop a detailed roadmap for realizing that dream,” how far is NJ Ayuk willing to go in rallying Africa and friends of Africa towards the fulfilment of this dream?
That’s what I live for every day. Opening opportunities for fellow African to come and have a seat at the table. It is an honor for me to be able to do that and call it my work. to open doors for other people, the same way as doors were open for me and knowledge imparted. That is what it is all about.
AU Trade Commissioner Muchanga on the Game Changing Prospects of the AfCFTA
October 26, 2019 | 0 Comments
–Unprecedented Political Will Across Africa To See AfCFTA Succeed
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The AU could not have sent a better person to the USA to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Agreement with the diaspora. The schedule was hectic, at every stop, and at each event, Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga had an infectious smile on his face. He listened attentively, addressed concerns, and responded to questions as best he could.
With its wealth of knowledge, networking, and finance, the African diaspora has a huge role to play in the African Continental Free Trade area, says Commissioner Muchanga. Speaking with confidence, Commissioner Muchanga indicated that things were on track for the market to go operational by July of 2020.
When reminded that the problem of Africa has never been in the treaties or projects but rather implementation, Mr. Muchanga said things are different this time around. The political will is so strong and the leaders, and people across Africa are keenly aware of the stakes, he said. The rapidity with which countries signed and ratified the AfCFTA gives every reason to hope for the best, Commissioner Muchanga said.
You attended the Making African Trade Easy event. How did the event go? And what message did you bring to the African Diaspora from the AU?
Commissioner Muchanga: The event went on very well. Basically, the key issues were on the emerging developments in the African continent and the diaspora are very happy because they see a role for themselves. We are saying that for us to implement the agreement we need all stakeholders to play their part – the African Diaspora needs to play their part, they are a source of knowledge, networking, and finance, so they can organize themselves to see how they can contribute to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It is the biggest and most ambitious development program so far. It lays the foundation for present and future generations to develop an Africa they want.
Specifically, with the Continental Free Trade Area, where are we at this point?
Commissioner Muchanga: Our target is to start trading on 1st July 2020, and we are going to hit that target. At the national level, countries are producing trading documents which are going to be distributed to all the corners where there will be trading. We are sensitizing the business communities in their respective countries to be ready for the market. At the level of the African Continental Free Trade Area as a target we are finalizing work on tariffs schedules, land tariffs monetary systems, and the African Trade Observatory. We are also engaging the regional economic communities so that we collaborate effectively on all matters on facilitating trade across all Africa. We are very confident that come 1st July 2020, the market will start operating.
Expectations are so high; it has been billed as a game changer. Can you tell us about the potential, and what it will take for this Free Trade Agreement to make the desired impact you want to see on the continent?
Commissioner Muchanga: First requirement is that each and every African country should become a state party to the agreement. 54 countries have signed, and we are left with one which is Eritrea and we are sure they will sign. 28 countries have already posted the instruments of ratification and we are remaining with 28 including Eritrea, and we are in discussion with all these 28 countries and we are confident that come July 1, 2020, all of them will sign and ratify the agreement. So, the first requirement is that we create one African market by having all the 55 African countries be part of it.
Secondly, it is a task involving many stakeholders, the African governments are involved (they are coming up with the legal frameworks, the legal documents and policies), the African private sector also has a role to play (we want investments from them so they can supply the huge market we are creating), the academia also have a role to play (they need to come up with educational materials at appropriate levels so that all Africans from kindergarten to Universities ,everybody is involved with the AfCFTA), the CSOs have a role to play. The AfCFTA must filter down to the lowest level.
You are confident that Africa will succeed but Africa has not had a shortage of ideas, or projects, but there seems to be a problem with implementation. What makes you confident that the Continental Free Trade Agreement will work?
Commissioner Muchanga: First and foremost, there is a huge political will for the AfCFTA. When we started negotiations a lot of people expected the negotiations to take a minimum of six years but we were able to complete negotiations within two years which shows the huge political will. When the agreement was opened for signature, we were told it takes another five years for an AU legal instrument to be ratified, but with the support of member states we did our work in advocating for early ratification – within a period of one year we were able to get a minimum of 22 ratifications. The governments said we cannot end here and let us open the operational phase and they agreed that it should be July 1, 2020. They have said on the day we launch the operational phase it will be called the African Integration Day which is 7 July each year.
We are also working on a Secretariat which will be given enough resources- human and financial to be able to capture the whole of Africa. That inspectorate will collaborate with the regional economic community. We are coming up with a framework of collaborations so that there is alignment of operations, transparency, and confidence with each other.
What mechanisms are there to make sure that smaller countries do not get swallowed up by big ones?
Commissioner Muchanga: The first one is political. We are bringing to the attention of leaders that as we build the AfCFTA there should be a shift in the mindset. The new domestic market for Africa is the AfCFTA, the national market is receding, and all of us should work around the AfCFTA. When the mindset is changed, the issue of working in isolation will no longer work. One of the earliest steps we took was to come up with a protocol which is undergoing signatures so that we create a common African identity so that we ensure that Africans move in the continent without any restrictions. We are also creating an adjustment facility. It will take some time to come up with a fully fledge functional institutional arrangement. We are also working with the Afreximbank – they have put aside $2.5 billion for five regions in Africa – East, Central, Southern, Western, and Northern. Each one of them is going to be allocated $500 million so that companies that want to scale up productions will be able to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. We are putting enough things to achieve win-win outcomes.
With the advent of the Continental Free Trade, what impact will it have on trade with external partners?
Commissioner Muchanga: We are going to transform African trading with external partners. Historically Africa has always been a trader of raw materials. Now we are going to add value to the ones already in Africa with the development of value added chains. When we do that, there are two things that will be involved – the products will have greater values and the companies that invest in value addition are going to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. With that huge scale, they will be in a better position to be able to export to the world, and Africa is going to emerge as an exporter of manufactured goods to the rest of the world.
When you look at AGOA, there are two key problems that are faced in Africa. One is the standard (but a lot of Africa countries have not been able to meet that standard) and the other is the scale (quite a number of producers in Africa have not been able to satisfied the big US market). All of these are going to be resolved by creating the AfCFTA.
You travel the continent regularly; do you really think that African leaders and Africans get it and are willing to put in their all to make AfCFTA work?
Commissioner Muchanga: They are willing to make it work. One of the biggest problems we have in Africa is youth unemployment and Africa has a young population and the minimum age is about 19 years. Each leader knows that for them to create credibility in the eyes of the young population they should deliver decent lives to the people. It is not just about creating jobs but engaging the youths to really be entrepreneurs in their own rights. The youths are very knowledgeable with ICTs and each and every country should come up with incentives and structures to bring foreign investment to the continent.
Your boss the AU chairman was giving a Diaspora award. How much support are you getting from him?
Commissioner Muchanga: I have a very positive relationship with the chairman. Whenever I need support, I go to him and he has never said no. when the award came, he said he won’t be able to make it but said I would be able to represent him. When I get back, I am going to his office to present the award to him not just in his honor but the AU commission he heads. It is recognition from the Diaspora that our African body is producing good results. We are a Commission with 10 elected officials, and I also have a good working relationship with the other officials. Trade is about creating industries, it is about agro processing. One of the first things I did before coming from Nigeria was producing a matrix of the functional relationship between the Secretariat of the AfCFTA and all the departments of the AU so that they are going to see how we work. So, we are working as a team.
What expectations do you have from Nigeria and South Africa which are supposed to be leaders of the continent, Nigeria joined the AfCFTA late, and recently South Africa had this wave of xenophobic attacks, are the two continental giants playing their role?
Commissioner Muchanga: Nigeria said they needed to take a very broad-based stakeholder consultation. They went to the federal states, businesspeople, academia, youths and several people so it took them a while to undertake the process. After that they were caught up with elections and when they were ready, they signed and hopefully they are going to ratify in no distant time. With the case of South Africa, I said authorities needed to arrest the perpetrators and prosecute them so people do not think they can do anything they want. The issue is not just about foreigners as even South Africans were attacked.
Looking at everything, at what point should the everyday Africans expect to start getting the benefits of the AfCFTA?
Commissioner Muchanga: My vision is very clear. Come day one which is July 1. 2020, I will like to see a very active market and when that market is very active people should be able to say I am buying a product from country X. When they buy those products there should be two things the price is lower and the quality is very high. I also expect the business community to respond heavily by ensuring that they invest to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. Without the investment of the private sector, we will achieve nothing. According to the International Chamber of Commerce, only 12 per cent of investment across Africa is accounted for by the African private sector. They need to scale up. Once we do that, we are on our way to creating the market that we want.
Any particular events surrounding the launch in 2020?
Commissioner Muchanga: I am meeting the Ministers this October where they are going to guide me on how the event will look like. I think there will be a symbolic launch.
Nigeria:Insight Into The Edewor Foundation
September 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Rollison Edewor has embarked on a lofty mission to transform lives in his local community in Nigeria. The Founder of the Edewor Foundation shares insight his work ,projects, and way forward in an interview with PAV.
Prof Rollison Edewor is Founder of the Edewor Foundation, can you introduce the Foundation and its mission?
The essence of life and true self is to help and love one another. And to better achieve this, one must go where it is most needed and appreciated. Together with my family, we set up this foundation to give back to the society where poverty and lack of funds to further education are at its peak. In general, we want to help reduce hunger, poverty and illiteracy among fellow Africans or those that relatively falls into this category.
The Foundation has been engaged in a number of Peace, Security & Investment initiatives, can you shed some light on this?
Delta state (Nigeria) is plagued with ethnic and violent unrest, as well as insecurity. Resulting to underdevelopment which is one reason why investors and citizens in diaspora refused to relocate or invest. But reality is now setting in as the world begins to advance towards technology, the aging of violence begins to give way to peace. Which is where we had to come in to unite them. For ethnic communities to come together to promote growth is something unheard of in decades. My goal was to bring all the ethnic groups together but my connection to all is limited. So, I started with where I grew up, SAPELE kingdom. The unity will warrant them to sign a peace and security agreement. This agreement is tendered to prospective investors for assurance.
At one of its recent meetings, representatives of over 30 communities of Okpe Kingdom indicated their willingness to give peace a chance by working out modalities of ensuring peace and security reign in their communities , where is the Okpe Kingdom , what has been going on there and why the need for peace?
The area is underdeveloped. Educational awareness is very low, and the youths are restless resulting to crime and unruly conducts. Thus, we created a literacy center in one of the villages. Where we currently have 5 standing and qualified teachers. We plan to open more. The purpose is to train their mind and prepare them for this peaceful atmosphere. They loved it and thus, the many villages coming out.
The meeting saw the presentation of the Edewor Peace, Security & Investment Agreement papers to all the communities, what is the content of these papers?
The content of the document is nothing but a promise and obligation to protect and maintain peaceful atmosphere with Investors, Investments and other citizens in diaspora. NOTE: Many Nigerians in diaspora are afraid to go back home for fear of harassment and insecurity.
The people of the Kingdom are enthused with prospects of investment, what are some of the opportunities that could be of interest to investors in that part of Nigeria?
The investment comes from fellow Nigerian citizens and any foreigner who wants to invest. Since most of us are afraid of investing at home due to embezzlement and scam. Seeing the action of the youth and community towards advocating for peace will motivate and compel others to relate about investing at home.
Looking broadly at Nigeria, we see to see either conflicts or potential for conflict everywhere, between different ethnic communities, between political parties, between Christians and Muslims, Fulani etc, what is your take on the situation in the country ?
To be honest, I do believe if jobs are created, these problems will either seize or decrease. All play without work makes Jack a dull boy. They must have something doing. Just take for example the literacy school we opened, hundreds of youths now attending. Imagine when you create jobs.
With the experience you have garnered, how recommendations do you have in mind for a more harmonious country, and does the Edewor Foundation plan to tackle state and nationwide issues or remain limited to your local community of Okpe?
This experience shows that people actually want peace and development. The quest to learn is proof to that. The Edewor Foundation is still in its infancy stage. Thus, our presence or activities are still limited. Sapele is my hometown, easier for us to relate, so I started with them first. If this is successful, we will extend to others.
On politics, President Buhari is into his second and last term, what are some of the priority areas that you think he must tackle?
Am not a politician and don’t do politics. So this question is not for me.
Your reaction to the recent arrest of Nigerians in the USA for diverse cybercrimes, how does Nigeria handle the stigma that comes with crimes of a few been labeled on the entire polity?
Kid you not. This issue affected my moral. Just imagine after building trust and support, such thing happened. Your spirit is dampened. Mind you, not just Nigerians only, but those who for years had trust in us. But am glad to hear that the Nigerian government partook in the operation to crack them down.
What else will the Edewor Foundation be working on for the rest of the year and beyond?
For now, we are working on opening more literacy and skill acquisition stations in interior villages.
Cameroon, Guinea, South Africa….NDI’s Dr Chris Fomunyoh On Africa’s Shrinking Democratic Space
September 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
While it may be heartening to see how much Africa has changed in the past three decades, the rate at which the successes of political transitions of the 90s are been rolled back should be of concern to everyone says Dr Christopher Senior Associate for Africa at the Washington, DC based National Democratic Institute.
A seasoned professional who has played a leading role in some of the most successful stories of democracies in Africa since the early 90s, Dr Fomunyoh says it is disappointing to see the prevalence of armed conflicts, opposition leaders been thrown in jail, elections being stolen, and constitutions amended by leaders who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
African democrats must not relent in their advocacy and must continue to fight for inclusive and accountable government, says Dr Fomunyoh in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L for Pan African Visions.
Speaking with passion about his native Cameroon, Dr Fomunyoh says the overall situation looks bleak, and the country’s future precarious. Describing the recent trial of Anglophone leaders as a travesty of justice, Fomunyoh says their sentencing further aggravates the Anglophone crisis and deepens the mistrust, and bitterness that exists between Anglophones and the government of President Paul Biya.
“We must maintain the pressure for dialogue because it is the only means through which this conflict could be brought to an end and the legitimate grievances of Anglophones addressed in Cameroon,” Dr Fomunyoh says.
For the dialogue announced by President Biya to be credible, the government must create an enabling environment in which participants feel that the dialogue would be open and broad based, allowing for different viewpoints to be heard, says Dr Fomunyoh.
“The government must also take confidence-building measures to show that the call for dialogue is sincere. Notably, the killings must stop, the arbitrary arrest and detention of young Anglophones must end, and people who are detained unjustly should be released immediately,” Dr Fomunyoh said.
Considering that many Anglophones have lost trust in the Biya government, Dr Domunyoh said the burden will be on the government to show that it will not steamroll participants to obtain a predetermined outcome.
Dr Fomunyoh, you have just returned from Guinea Conakry, an African country that has tremendous resources, but has experienced difficult political transitions in the past. What is your overall assessment of the situation there in the lead-up to national elections scheduled for 2020?
You are so right, Guinea is a country with so much potential given its mineral wealth that includes some of the world’s highest reserves of bauxite and iron ore, and timber and water resources. Unfortunately, the impact of past military and authoritarian rule is still being felt, and citizens still crave an improvement in their well-being in this age of democratic government. The overall political situation in Guinea is tense and polarized, as the country prepares for legislative and presidential elections which have to be conducted between now and December 2020. On top of that, there is speculation that the country could run into a major crisis over whether to adopt a new constitution or not. Political parties, civil society organizations, labor unions, academics and other opinion leaders are already taking sides on the airwaves and various social media platforms. Many Guineans remain hopeful that the day would come when a democratically elected president transfers power through the ballot box to his successor, something that has not happened since the country gained independence in 1958.
Recently in Cape Town, South Africa, as a guest speaker at the joint conference co-organized by the University of Cape Town and the Kofi Annan Foundation, you stated that “political space is shrinking across Africa.” What leads you to that conclusion?
First let me say how uplifting it was to be at the University of Cape Town for a conference in memory of two great sons of Africa — Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan — who as world leaders epitomized the best of humanity in terms of their vision and commitment to promoting human dignity, development and world peace. I was truly honored to be invited.
In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, it is heartening to see how much Africa has changed in the past three decades: political pluralism is now common practice in all African countries, independent media continues to grow, the continent’s youth are becoming politically engaged, and, increasingly, political power is being transferred through the ballot process. Who could have thought that in Sudan, by the sheer determination of citizens engaged in civil protest, a thirty-year autocracy under General Al-Bashir would collapse! At the same time, one must state the disappointment that in too many African countries some of the successes of political transitions of the 1990s are being rolled back. Armed conflicts are still prevalent, opposition leaders are being thrown in jail, injustice is being inflicted on ordinary citizens, elections are being stolen, and constitutions are being amended by leaders who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
So what should Africans do about the democratic backsliding?
African democrats must not relent in their advocacy and fight for inclusive and accountable government. We need more open political space to engage citizens across the board and harness the rich diversity of talent and expertise that our continent possesses. We must find ways to galvanize our human capital to best utilize the countries’ wealth to improve the wellbeing of our fellow citizens. For this to happen, we have to learn to aggregate our efforts as opposed to operating in silos, we have to build alliances across the continent so that the good guys can support each other and draw inspiration from each others’ successes. The next generation of Africans expect from us a better continent than we may have inherited from the generation before us.
You were in South Africa around the week of xenophobic attacks by South Africans against Africans of other nationalities. What do you make of these attacks and how was the mood like while you were there?
It is sad and despicable to watch Africans being killed by other Africans for no other reason than their countries of origin. Nelson Mandela and other founders of today’s democratic and free South Africa would be turning in their graves, because they would remember the contributions by other African countries to the liberation struggle. Without the frontline states that include countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Nigeria, perhaps we would not have South Africa as we know it today. Even if South African youth are exposed to many challenges such as high levels of unemployment, lack of opportunities and a sense of abandonment by the state, that still cannot explain why they would take out their grievances violently against fellow Africans. It is my hope that the government of South Africa would draw the appropriate lessons from this unfortunate incident and come out with well-crafted programs that can provide a safety net for the less fortunate of South African society, and a sense of safety and security for other Africans that choose to live in this beautiful country. That tragedy also exposes the failures of other governments across the continent whose citizens now feel obliged to flee their homeland to become refugees in foreign lands, because of political repression or because of lack of economic opportunity. What’s happening in South Africa today must prick our collective conscience as Africans.
Coming now to your home country of Cameroon, what is your assessment of the political situation there, in what shape is the country?
Cameroon is in bad shape. Thousands of Anglophones have been killed, others in their thousands are in detention centers spread across the country; members of security forces have lost their lives in hundreds; over two hundred villages have been burned; 40,000 Anglophones now live in refugee camps in Nigeria and 600,000 others are internally displaced, now living in other regions of the country. For three years running, schools have been unable to open in the Anglophone regions of the country. The United Nations estimates that close to 1.4 million Anglophones could be at risk of famine, all because of the ongoing crisis.
At the same time, the runner-up in the last presidential election, Professor Maurice Kamto, and hundreds of his supporters — many of whom are lawyers, economists and other professionals — are being detained in Yaoundé, with some charged to appear before a military tribunal.
The country also continues to battle Boko Haram extremists in its extreme north region that borders north-eastern Nigeria and Chad. The overall situation looks bleak, and the country’s future precarious. There is reason to be alarmed.
Getting into more recent developments, what is your take on the heavy jail sentence slammed on the Anglophone leader Julius Ayuk Tabe and others?
In my opinion, the sentencing of Ayuk Tabe and 9 others to life imprisonment by a military tribunal in Yaoundé is a travesty of justice on multiple fronts, notably the conditions of their arrest and extradition from Nigeria; their detention incommunicado for an extended period of over 9 months; their trial before a military tribunal constituted only of French speaking military judges; and the all-night trial that ended with a ruling at about 5 am in the morning. There is no doubt in my mind that this sentencing further aggravates the Anglophone crisis and deepens the mistrust and bitterness that exists between Anglophones and the government of President Paul Biya.
The heavy sentence came at a time when there are increasing calls for dialogue, what impact do you think this could have on prospects of dialogue?
This life imprisonment goes contrary to the vein of recent pronouncements in favor of dialogue by the government, multiple opinion leaders, the African Union and the international community. We must maintain the pressure for dialogue because it is the only means through which this conflict could be brought to an end and the legitimate grievances of Anglophones addressed in Cameroon.
As a seasoned professional on governance and conflict resolution, what proposals do you have for a way out of the present crisis?
I have been consistent in advocating for dialogue and in putting forward ideas that could help the country resolve this crisis. As recently as November 2018, I presented a 10-point agenda on concrete steps that could have been taken at the time to bring an end to the conflict. Since then, the situation has gotten worse, more lives have been lost, and the increasing number of victims only reinforces the urgency of concrete actions that must be taken to end the massacres and conflict. As I’ve stated over the years, I’m willing to put on the table how that roadmap could be implemented, were there to be an open platform and a genuine effort to end this crisis and get the country out of the mess in which it currently finds itself.
On Tuesday, September 10, President Biya addressed Cameroonians and, for the first time in three years, he discussed the crisis in the North West and South West regions in some detail. What is your reaction to the speech?
Modern day governance and crisis management demand that leaders be more proactive in communicating with citizens when countries face crises of the magnitude of what Cameroon has gone through over the past three years. It is good that President Paul Biya finally spoke directly to this crisis. The promise of a national dialogue is commendable, although I wish that the rest of the speech was less accusatory and provocative, so as to create an environment in which the dialogue could actually begin.
You have always called for dialogue, and now President Biya says there will be one starting by the end of September. What are some of the necessary ingredients for successful dialogue and a lasting solution?
First, for the dialogue to be credible, the government must create an enabling environment in which participants feel that the dialogue would be open and broad based, allowing for different viewpoints to be heard. The government must also take confidence-building measures to show that the call for dialogue is sincere. Notably, the killings must stop, the arbitrary arrest and detention of young Anglophones must end, and people who are detained unjustly should be released immediately. Cameroonians still remember that a similar national dialogue in the early 90s came up with recommendations, most of which were ignored by the government. It is therefore important to send strong signals that the underlying grievances of Anglophones would be addressed, so they feel that the outcome of the dialogue would restore their dignity and what they have lost during this crisis. Given that many Anglophones have lost trust in the Biya government, the burden is on the government to show that it will not steamroll participants to obtain a predetermined outcome.
Given that President Paul Biya is 86 years old and his legitimacy is questioned in some quarters, do you think Biya is in a position to resolve the crisis in Cameroon?
I have serious doubts that a president who is 86 years old, has been in power for 37 years, and has always been aloof and distant from the population can all of a sudden change his governance style and put in the energy and effort required to resolve the crisis. In the past three years, the magnitude of the crisis has grown exponentially, and it now has ramifications both across the country and internationally; I have strong doubts that the Biya government alone can find a way out. Other actors of good will, nationally and internationally, must step in given that trust has been severely broken between the Biya government and a sizeable chunk of the Anglophone population.
What do you think accounts for the levity with which the rest of Africa, and the broader international institutions like the African Union and the UN have treated the crisis in Cameroon?
I agree that the international community has been slow to respond to the crisis, and so far there have been more declarations than concrete actions. At least, some countries and organizations such as the United States, Germany, the European Union and recently the French Foreign Ministry, have been calling on President Biya to change his approach to the crisis and to engage in genuine dialogue. The United Nations recently expressed its support for a Swiss-led effort to mediate between the government and Anglophone secessionist movements, and the Security Council even held an informal debate on Cameroon in May. However, these measures are insufficient as the conflict continues unabated. One would have thought that after the Genocide in Rwanda in 1994, declarations such as “Never again” would prick the conscience of the international community so as not to allow crises like the one in Cameroon to fester. I truly hope that the African Union and the international community can step up their engagement to bring peace to the country.
You are familiar with the way Washington works; can you help us better understand the different Congressional resolutions that have come up of recent on Cameroon?
I am heartened by the interest shown in the Cameroon crisis by the United States Congress, and I urge Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon to continue to educate members of Congress as well as the international community at large on the devastating nature of this crisis and its negative impact on millions of Cameroonians. Recently, Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is the Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, led a congressional delegation to Cameroon to hear firsthand from Cameroonians and victims of the crisis. Congressional resolutions, especially when passed on a bipartisan basis as we’ve seen in the case of Cameroon, carry a lot of weight. They capture the voice of the US Congress on an issue, and also have the capability of influencing the executive branch of government in its foreign policy approach. The European parliament, the German Bundestag and other important bodies have made similar pronouncements which help raise the level of awareness of the magnitude of the crisis, both within Cameroon and internationally. Hopefully, more concrete actions will follow.
One of the Congressional resolutions called for a return to the Federation that existed between 1961 and 1972. Do you think that could work?
At a minimum, such a concession could create the space for rebuilding trust, given that the government in power was part of the team that dismantled the first Federation in 1972. Moreover, when the current crisis broke in 2016, the Biya government would not entertain proposals for federalism, and even went as far as banning public discussions on the subject. For peace to prevail, Cameroonians will have to sit around the table and agree on a structure that can guarantee for every citizen his or her liberties and the preservation of their culture and dignity. It is inconceivable that Cameroon could rebuild without acknowledging the specificities of its English speaking population.
What is your take on the issue of school resumption?
As you may be aware, The Fomunyoh Foundation which has been active since 1999 has as one of its priorities to promote and support education in Cameroon. The Foundation has over the years distributed books and other school materials and organized public speaking events in academic institutions in all regions of the country. This underscores my personal commitment to the education of the younger generation. In the context of the ongoing crisis, education entails more than just having kids in a classroom. The back-to-school campaign to be successful, has to be part of a comprehensive package that includes among others, overall peace in the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country; reassurances from both the military and armed groups that neither students, nor teachers, nor parents would be shot at or harassed; that the curriculum is relevant; and that the kids can ultimately be guaranteed a future. This requires a deep analysis and proper preparations to make it meaningful. I am saddened that some people are treating this matter as mere sloganeering for political advantage.
If the government calls on the expertise of the seasoned professional that you are, will you be willing to provide it?
For the past two decades, I have been consistent in raising concerns about how the country was being governed. I have been pained and truly aggrieved by what has happened to the Anglophone community in the past three years. It has been disappointing to see how legitimate grievances by lawyers and teachers were summarily dismissed by the authorities, and subsequently how other socio-political grievances that were brought to the fore were violently repressed. Here we are, with thousands of fellow compatriots killed, others in detention, in refugee camps and internally displaced – all of which could have been avoided. Under those circumstances, one has an obligation, if called upon, to contribute ideas and recommendations on how to stop the killings and get out of this mess.
Some people have mooted ideas for a transitional government led by someone neutral that could help the country wade through the myriad of crises it is facing. First, what do you think of the idea and secondly were this to happen and you were asked to preside over a transition, is this something you could consider?
With each passing day, as these multiple — Anglophone, political, and security — crises we just discussed endure, my faith in this government’s ability to resolve all of them diminishes. At the same time, the current constitution of the country doesn’t allow for a transitional government as you allude to, and so I do not see how this could come about.
What lessons will a future Cameroon and the rest of Africa learn from this crisis?
Many. For example, that a people would rise up if their dignity is trampled upon; that truth, honesty and other democratic values matter for people’s trust in their government; that preventive diplomacy would save us and our continent a waste of human capital and human resources; and that it is incumbent on our generation to shape and give meaning to institutions that should improve the wellbeing of our fellow citizens.
So, what’s ahead for you and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) over the next year?
In the coming year we will be paying very close attention to the transition process in Sudan, as well as political developments across the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region. We will also be paying close attention to upcoming competitive elections in countries such as Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique and Niger Republic. The beauty of this all is the partnerships that NDI has with civic and political organizations across the board in all of the countries in which we work. They are the true champions of democratic development in their respective countries, and our role is to give them the support and solidarity that they need to succeed.
* Full Interview Will feature in September Issue of Pan African Visions Magazine
Nigeria has become another theater to be fought over -Prof Bolaji Akinyemi
August 26, 2019 | 0 Comments
‘There are two files in the British secret archives affecting Nigeria
*Government does not do what is right unless it is pushed
* 20 thousand people can paralyze the work of the national Assembly
* Those afraid are those benefiting from the overwhelming power attached to the centre
* There is need to criminalize acts that demonized any religion in the country
* Nigeria has become another theater to be fought over
By Olumide Samuel
Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi’s involvement in Nigeria’s statecraft spans over 43 years. The former Minister of External Affairs in a chat with newsmen, maintained issues he believes are affecting the Nation which he said is in the British secret archive in two files re-embargoed by the British government for another 50 years and other issues that resulted to religious and ethnic intolerance, Youths unemployment, banditry, kidnapping, killings among others. Excerpts:
What in your estimation is state of insecurity in Nigeria?
There is very little I can add to what everyone has been saying. The likes of Sheikh Gunmi, the Sultan, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Baba Ayo Adebanjo and General Obasanjo (Rtd), even the President himself and the governors. I can’t add to their list of dissatisfaction on the state of the nation. So insecurity, Youths unemployment, hate and unguarded speech by people who should know better.
What now looks like religious conflicts, when I was growing up, there was religious tolerance. At least I come from a culture where you could hardly have a family that does not have Christians, Muslims and Traditional worshipers among them and they coexist happily. All of a sudden to be confronted by intolerance, murder, mayhem targeting people of other religion. I find it very very disturbing indeed. My grandfather once told me a story to illustrate the tolerance towards various religious groups in ancient times. He said an Oba of a neighbouring town sent a delegation to the Oba of our town, asked the Oba of our town to send a delegation to join them in a celebration. So the Oba of our town then asked the delegation what they wanted celebrate, and they said they want to welcome one of theirs whom had gone on a pilgrimage. So the Oba of our town sent a delegation to rejoice with them and take part in their celebration. When the delegation came back and they briefed our Oba the story of the celebration. He called a meeting of the heads of the quarters in the town and to them, that the other town now has an Alhaji, while our town don’t. What he did was to levy every quarters, every religious institutions in the town including Anglican, Methodist and Aladura. So that we can send somebody from our town to Mecca the following year and we also can claim we have an Alhaji. And that was what happened. How did we come to a situation where even among Yoruba we are starting to talk about religious intolerance? You have governors in the South-west who for political reasons are exhibiting religious intolerance not to talk about the whole country. It’s very disturbing and very unnerving.
But some are of the view that religious intolerance had been before independence….
We had four sources through which religion penetrated into Nigeria before the Europeans came. The first was through traders from Mali. Then, we had Islamic religion that came through Turkey to the Southern part of Nigeria. That’s why you have titles like Shita Bay in Lagos and then you also have Christian missionary who came into the Southern part of Nigeria. The last was the Jihad which came from the Futa Jalon that led to the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate. However, the penetration of Islam from Mali, Turkey and the Christian missionaries were peaceful but the Jihad was not. So that was where problems of intolerance started. The moment you decide to establish a religion by force then you talk about intolerance. Intolerance was evident when the British came but they were able to sustained it but it has never left. It’s just that organization and movements respond to external factors. For instance; what is going on in other part of the world in term of conflicts: ISIS, the Taliban ,the problem between the Shiites and the Sunnis Muslim. All these are world phenomenon and Nigeria is not immune to these phenomenal. Nigeria has just become another Futa Jalon. be fought over by all these phenomenon.
The Northern Christian Elders Forum recently argued that the nation’s democracy battles with Islamism as a form of government, what your thought on this?
They made a good point and I think we shouldn’t loose sight of that point. And that is the point I also try to make. They said the problem is not with Islam as a religion, this is what I meant when I said we had Islam from Mali, from Turkey there was no problem. They said the problem started when those advocating that Islam should not be more than a religion but a political religion. It meant that you put your religion in competition with other religions. There is a problem with Islamic Jihad and Christianity. The Jihad embodies competition, conflicts, imposition and violence. The way forward is to separate Islam as religion from Islam as a political weapon.
So how do we separate Islam as a religion while some forces within the system are using it as political weapon?
Laws should be enforced to protect each religion from intolerant acts by another religion. We all have to be accept that Nigeria is a multi religious nation. Both Muslims and Christians have a right to exist in Nigeria. And to also there is need to criminalised speeches and acts that demonized any religion in the country.
What is your thought on ‘REVOLUTION’ that have been misconstrued by some quarters?
The Constitution provide as a right for peaceful protest. The moment you go beyond the margin of a peaceful protest, then you are asking for a push-back by the institutions of governance. You could see it in Hong Kong, when the protest by the activists are peaceful, the push-back by the police is peaceful. When the the protest by the activists crossed the red line into violence, then the push-back by the police is violent. People who are dissatisfied with the way things are in Nigeria are entitle to a peaceful advocacy. What they are not entitled to is violent advocacy because the push-back from the system is then likely to be violent.
But we observed the push by DSS even before the protest commenced ….
Peaceful protest is a right and entitlement by people who are dissatisfied with what is happening. What is not an entitlement is violent protest. Whether that violent is by language or activities. Language could be violent. If I am planning a Revolution, I will not go on the pages of News paper or radio to argue and advocate for a Revolution. I will plan under ground. That is the way you do it if you are planning a Revolution. You do it underground, hold secret meetings because the moment you broadcast that you are planning a revolution, the push-back by the system is also likely to be revolutionary in terms of being violent and that what you got in this case you’re referring to. However, to have progress in any country, it is either the government itself takes care of the interest of the people or there would always be elements within the country that would always fight for the people. Anthropologist will tell you that that is how progress comes about. Progress doesn’t come from people laying back hoping that government would do something that is right. Yes, there may be times when government do what is right but most often than not, government does not do what is right unless it is pushed. Look at the United States, in the 60s. How many times did Martin Luther King go to jail? he kept protesting and kept pricking the conscience of the American people until it became a movement for change that could not be ignored by the government. But they paid dearly. He was eventually assassinated. I was in the United States at that time, the brutality of the police towards civil rights activists was severe, they killed a lots of them. Secondly, look at what is happening globally on the environment, demonstration are being held, things are being paralyze because people feel they are fighting for the future of the planet. There are government who are in self denial about environmental degradation in the world. So there are demonstration going on and people haven’t gone to sleep. If there is dissatisfaction with what is going on in Nigeria, expect the youth to rise up and say this is our future we are fighting for. Because unless things change, Nigeria is in trouble. The economy is not growing, Youths unemployment have been described as a time bomb. Elections were rigged mercilessly. Elections have always been rigged in Nigeria, but I don’t even see a mass movements for electoral change . I served on Justice Muhammed Uwias committee for electoral reform, we wrote a report that we felt addressed the issue but that report was buried by the government of the day. No reaction but the law of karma had actually set in that the government of the day is now the opposition, they’re now screaming their head of about how elections were rigged. When we submitted the report to them, they did nothing about it. Now they are screaming.
Former Governor of old Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa once referred to the calling for restructuring as a Separatists agenda, what is your thought on this?
I am always scared to react to statement by people because sometimes you always confer too much weights on what is been said especially when it doesn’t make sense. How can the call for restructuring be equated to separatism? People who are calling for restructuring say look at the the Constitution at Independence or if you like look at the Constitution of 1963 compare it the Constitution we have now and you will see that there is too much power vested in the centre and very little power at the State and local government level. It was not like this at independence, at the eve of the coup. It was the military that changed it. Now that the civilian are in charge let us go back to 1963 so that local government can manage affairs at the local government level, State government can manage affairs within the State environment and that the Federal government would then manage very limited issues like foreign affairs, defense among others. Bring out the 1963 Constitution, bring out the 1999 Constitution and look at the subject listed under State government and look at what is listed out for the Federal government, you will see, the blind will see the deaf will hear the difference. Let us go back to what functioned for Nigeria. That is all restructuring is all about. So what has it got to do with separatism? I was the deputy chairman of the national conference, all these issues came up with 600 recommendations. And each recommendation was adopted unanimously. The report is there, if you don’t like the report, set up a committee to take a look at all the reports on structural changes in the country that have been advocated and take the one addressing the problem of the day. I don’t see how that amount to separatism unless you want to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. In any case has the El-Rufai committee not also called for restructuring?
Who then is afraid of Restructuring?
I don’t know. Maybe Balarabe Musa. People who don’t like restructuring, are the people benefiting from the overwhelming power attached to the centre.
What is your take on the call by Professor Wole Soyinka for State of emergency on security in South-west?
What would be achieved by the call because all the element on security are under the control of the Federal government . Without changing the Constitution, you cannot transfer some of those powers to the States. You cannot transfer by just declaring a state of security emergency. Declaring a state of emergency will not give governors power over the Nigerian army within the South-west region . Prof. Soyinka means well as himself is fed up with the state of insecurity. He’s angry about it and he came up with what he think is solution to it but if we think is not going to yield the desired result, let us think about other alternatives.
How can Nigeria live in peace and unity?
The totality of what we desire is to allow local government to handle what should be handled at the local government level, State government to handle what needs to be handled at the State level. That’s the sum total of what will work. At the local government level they know the criminals among them. If there is synergy between the authorities at the local government and the local government police, if there is trust, people themselves will inform the local police where bad group hang out and the local police will investigate because they know the nooks and cranny of the village. But when the security in the village is depended on decisions taken in Abuja, it won’t work. Secondly, the decision that affect unemployment cannot be taken in Abuja for the whole country. Panadol doesn’t cure every headache. But, the State government has the power and the resources to fix the roads under there jurisdiction, that would provide employment if the state have control over whatever it is that is localized in there area, they can address a lot of these issues. Finally, policies that are then made by the local government or the State government cannot violet the custom and culture of that particular area . It cannot because they are aware of the peculiarity culture over land. I cannot go to my village and want to build on a plot of land. But if I come from an area where the policies are different. In other words, let the local government do what can efficiently be done by them rather than some colossus called federal government. Restructuring was advocated even when Obasanjo was President, it was advocated when Jonathan was President. After-all Jonathan was in power when the 2014 national Conference was flagged off and we created the blue print for decentralization of the country. All I am saying is not targeting Buhari but targeting a bad constitution which need to be rewritten.
But its the responsibility of the National Assembly to determine better constitution?
The National Assembly will not do it if the NGOs and civil society groups seat on their behind and not put pressure on the nation’s Assembly.
Is the 9th Assembly a rubber-stamp?
I don’t know if they are rubber-stamped or Guguru stamped or Epa stamped. All I am saying is it has to be a synergy between the people. It’s easy to blame the the government but what are the NGOs and the civil society organisations doing? There are so many case that should go to court. You know the Court can amend the constitution through interpretation. But if you don’t take a case to court, how can the court help to amend the constitution. If cases are not taken to court? Unfortunately civil society organisations, NGOs are busy fighting other big battles maybe because where they get their money from they have their own agenda different from the agenda at home. How will the national assembly feel the heat from the people if there are no demonstration. When I say demonstration, I don’t mean a one million match. 20 thousand people can paralyse the work of the national Assembly. Demonstrations everyday with focus on what they want. When the National Assembly feels the heat, they will start to respond but if they don’t feel the heat from the people, they feel the people are not ready for change. But in fairness there have been silent changes in the nation’s Asssembly from 1979 up till now. Not enough changes but they have amended the constitution not enough but they have made changes.
What is your thought on the issue of presidential zoning ?
That is not the major problem facing Nigeria. There are many more critical issues affecting the existence of Nigeria than talking about zoning ahead of 2023.
What is more existential in Nigeria than the controversial Presidential zoning ahead of 2023?
We have the issue of Ruga. We have youth unemployment. We have the issue of an over burdened federal government as against decentralization we have been talking about. We have the issue of State police, local government police, are these not issues that have an immediate impact on the existence of Nigeria? After all from 1979 up till now, we have rotated offices, what good has it done this generation in providing employment for the youths? What good has it done the standard of education in our universities? It hasn’t raise the status of our universities to being among the first 100 in the world. Instead we clap for being among 20 in Africa. In the 60s, I grew up at a time when Nigerian university is rated among the best in the world. We keep going down. There was a time a coup took place and they announced that one of the reasons was because our University teaching hospitals are mere consulting clinics, has it gotten any better since then? And we are talking about zoning presidency. Please!
How did we get here ?
We got here because we have never been allowed to have free, fair and transparent election in Nigeria. Even the British rigged elections in Nigeria. I was reading how the British rigged election in Nigeria. There are two Nigerian files in the British secret archives affecting Nigeria history. These files are suppose to have been declassified so scholars could have access to it. The British two years ago re-embargoed it for another 50 years. What is in those two files that the British don’t want us to know? What exactly are there? They want this present generation to die off before the declassify those files. We have never been allowed to choose our leaders, maybe that’s how we got to where we are. Because they are going to rig elections, do programmes matter, do party manifestos matter, even if they allow you to vote, they won’t count your vote. This means you cannot pick your leader and you cannot punish leader who don’t deliver, you can not show preference of leaders with better appreciation of the problems and you cannot change leaders when they are failures. That how we got to where we are.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
It maybe the light of the train that is going to crush all of us. But I don’t see any light at the end of any tunnel. I don’t even see the end of the tunnel not to talk about seeing a light.
Do you agree with Prof. Soyinka that Nigeria is heading toward extinction?
It heading that way but It doesn’t mean it will get there because of that indomitable spirit in people to fight back. Maybe when we actually see the edge, all of us would say no, we are not going to allow this. Never give up hope. Keep hope alive. Human history is not made by people giving up hope. It has never been and it will never be. We just haven’t got to our own stage of fighting back. We will get there. We will eventually fight back.
Cameroon: Serious Fair Trial Violations In Such A Rushed Process- ICC’s Charles Taku on Life Sentence for Ayuk Tabe & Others
August 21, 2019 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Chief Charles Taku, immediate past President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association- ICCBA, says the trial and life sentence slammed on Julius Ayuk Tabe and others does little to foster the peaceful settlement of the current dispute as articulated by the international community. In an interview with Pan African Visions, the legal luminary says there were serious fair trial violations in the rushed process that culminated in the sentence for Ayuk and others arrested in Nigeria and brought to Cameroon .
To Chief Taku, the prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite no matter what to confront this and other challenges on the way towards attaining their defined objectives
“International justice may never entirely look away from impunity and atrocity crimes;” Chief Taku said in warning to those excelling in gross human rights abuses.
Chief Taku, what is your reaction to the jail sentences to Julius Ayuk Tabe and his co-detainees abducted from Nigeria?
The trial and its outcome do not advance the objectives of a peaceful settlement of the dispute favoured by the International Community.
From what you have learned, on what grounds did the court based its arguments in giving its verdict?
The information that I have about the judgment is incomplete. However, I have learnt that the trial, conviction and judgment took place in one day, underscoring the fact that the trial might have been rushed. I cannot second guess the reasons for the rush to convict and sentence them to life imprisonment. There must be serious fair trial violations in such a rushed process.
Is there any legal precedent for this kind of cases in Cameroon?
Precedents exist within the legal framework that existed in the past. Since the enactment of a new Criminal Procedure Code a few years back, it is no longer possible to conduct a trial of this magnitude in a single day, deliberate, convict and enter judgment. Each process in a trial requires procedural fair trial imperatives that may give rise to interlocutory appeals. Without a copy of the judgment before me, I am unable to ascertain the fair trial hurdles the tribunal panel surmounted to attain this feat.
What options are available for Ayuk and others, could the judgement be appealed?
This is one case where the integrity of the trial will be tested on appeal. Fair trials and the due process of the law has taken central stage in the international human rights regime. This appellate outcome of this trial and judgment will surely define the extent to which Cameroun is compliant with international human rights treaty obligations.
Looking at the whole conduct of the case, what does this tell the world about justice in Cameroon?
The world will surely not make an informed determination about the quality of justice in Cameroon and Cameroon’s commitment to its international human rights multilateral treaty obligations based on an informed evaluation of this and other judgments. What I am certain is that, international human rights bodies have expressed strong reservations about submitting civilians to court-martials and military justice. This type of justice is unconstitutional even under the operating Cameroun’s constitutional arrangement.
Just a hypothetical question Chief Taku, if this case was on trial in the kind of common law system that Anglophones Cameroonians clamor for, how different would the process have been?
A fundamental attribute of justice is fundamental fairness. Through fair trials, the standards and precedents for future trials are established, including trials in which the judges themselves may be defendants some time along the line. This is the threshold on which the common law system that Southern Cameroonians once upon a time enjoyed and are clamoring for. To underscore the rationale for this quest for a credible system of justice where rule of law and fair trials are well-founded, permit me to quote the memorable submissions of the Hon. Justice Robert H. Jackson of Counsel for the United States before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg established to hold Nazi war criminals accountable for the crimes that shocked the conscience humanity on November 21, 1945, reminded the Military Tribunal and the world at large that: “Fairness is not a weakness but an attribute of our strength. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice”
At a time when people are calling for dialogue, what impact do you think the sentencing of Ayuk, and others could have on the present crisis?
The trial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others may complicate the much sought after but so far elusive dialogue to examine the root causes of the crisis. I strongly call for the vacation of these sentences and their release to facilitate the dialogue and the peace process.
Some people have mooted the idea of a Presidential pardon or the kind of amnesty that was granted to people like Issa Tchiroma, and others accused of plotting the 1984 coup d’état, do you see this as an option?
I cannot second-guess the political calculations of the government of Cameroon in pursuing this route when the international community is insistently calling for an all-inclusive dialogue with no preconditions to tackle the root causes of the conflict. Most people believe that these sentences and others before and perhaps after, will not bring about an acceptable solution to the crisis that is claiming the lives and property of millions of civilians. The sentences will complicate and aggravate the peace and security situation. Will an amnesty or pardon attenuate the situation? I sincerely cannot tell. What I believe is that a prompt vacation of the sentences no matter how, may be a palliative to calming the storm in attempts to averting an escalation in times when the mode of the international community is for a negotiated settlement.
There has been near unanimity from all segments of the fractured leadership in condemning the verdict, could this move have the unwitting effect of uniting the various leadership factions of the Southern Cameroons struggle?
Indeed, there were clear indications that the various components of the leadership were pussyfooting towards some form of unity towards the prosecution of the struggle and the proposed peace process. This move towards unity might have been fast tracked had some activists not kept the fuel of disunity, needless rancor and misdirected antagonism alive. Activists have played a critical role in this struggle and may continue to do so. However, they must be alive to the fact that their intended audience is more sophisticated that some of them can image. They must finetune their language of delivery of their ideas or commentary to meet acceptable degrees of decency, respect and humility. The prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite no matter what to confront this and other challenges on the way towards attaining their defined objectives.
And for all those perpetrating gross human rights abuses, could the ICC that you are part of hold them accountable someday?
I am just a lawyer at the international criminal court and other international criminal tribunals but I may venture to state that International justice may never entirely look away from impunity and atrocity crimes.
The AFCFTA Will Have A Game Changing Impact On The Whole Continent-Dr. Joy Kategekwa Head, UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa
June 30, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
“I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Dr Joy Kategekwa , Head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Regional Office for Africa in Addis Ababa .
Responding to questions from Pan African Visions on the AFCFTA, Dr Kategekwa says its impact on the continent could be profound. Dr Kategekwa pointed to projections from the UNCTAD which indicated that should the AfCFTA lead to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit.
“An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) taken a little over two years is demonstration of strong political will,” says Dr Kategekwa whose office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is now set to go into effect after ratification by the requisite number of countries, what is your take on this?
My take is one of optimism – about the game changing impact of a whole continent that dismantles barriers to intra-African trade. For way too long have analysts decried the low levels of intra-African trade. These low levels are worrisome especially from the perspective of Africa losing out on the benefits of international trade changing ordinary lives through economic empowerment. The AfCFTA promises to set in motion the application of a new body of law that will require States Parties to eliminate restrictions – laws, regulations, administrative processes, that discriminate against the products originating from other AfCFTA States Parties. This will make African products more competitive in African markets – once the hoop of high tariffs has been jumped through the AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA will also open markets for intra-African trade in services, a sector that plays a leading role in all African economies – evidenced in gross domestic product contributions, as well as the growing amount of services exports from Africa.
The AfCFTA has teeth – a regime on dispute resolution – which will strengthen trade governance and accountability in Africa. The AfCFTA will be overseen by a secretariat dedicated to it, which should help keep an eye on effective implementation.
More so, the AfCFTA is not only about goods and services. It foresees a second phase of negotiations to tackle regulatory barriers that are key determinants to how markets can effectively function. These include competition, investment and intellectual property rights. The sum total is a scope that is comprehensive and suitable to the quest for boosting intra-African trade and strengthening African integration.
Overall, I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With the ratification, what next, and in concrete terms, what is expected to change for Trade in the continent with the AFCFTA?
What next is that countries will complete the unfinished business of market access negotiations on trade in goods and services according to the agreed AfCFTA negotiating modalities in order to come up with each country’s respective schedule of tariff concessions and specific commitments on trade in services. Such schedules of commitments, as well as finalization of the rules of origin, are indispensable for operationalizing trade liberalization processes under the AfCFTA.
In terms of what is expected to change for trade in Africa, once AfCFTA liberalization has become operational, it is a matter of volumes, value, and diversity in the export basket – which translate into diversity in production.
The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area of our time. It brings together 55 African countries with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion. It is expected that the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. These numbers are results of simulations by senior experts at the United Nations – both at UNCTAD and at the UN Regional Economic Commission for Africa. At UNCTAD, we have estimated that if the AfCFTA leads to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit. This is the scenario for goods trade.
But as we know – the level of trade in services in Africa is growing. According to UNCTADstat, Africa’s services exports grew by up to 14% in 2017, with figures ranging from South Africa’s almost 16 billion US dollars to Lesotho’s 2 million US dollars. The services sector plays a critical role in strengthening the continent’s leapfrogging potential to attain the objectives of structural transformation. Services sector growth is inescapable in raising productivity and value addition in agriculture (a mainstay of the African economy) and industry. A trade agreement that creates new opportunities by removing discriminatory regulations and operational conditions for market access is an urgent intervention that will set the continent on a better path to diversification and sustainable development.
What this translates to – is bigger volumes of trade – a first generation spill over of reduced tariffs/discriminatory regulations.
But there is also the value proposition. Colleagues at the UNECA have consistently tracked the level of intra-African trade. In the period prior to 2012 (when African presidents took the decision to fast track the continental free trade area and adopted the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade); numbers floated at about 10-12 percent. In more recent studies, they range from about 16 (UNECA) even going up to about 18% (UNCTAD). And so, there is already an important improvement – on which the AfCFTA is expected to at least double. In this trade is an even more interesting trend. That in these higher levels of intra-African trade, the largest composition therein is of trade in manufactures – going as high as 46% (UNECA). This tells us two important points: One that intra-African trade is already happening at encouraging levels (vis a vis the base period of 2012) and two: that within intra-African trade is the first evidence of Africa’s diversification. Evidence of breaking away from the age-old pattern of low value, low volume products – mostly agricultural commodities of little, if any, value addition – as the proposition that Africa consistently brings to the global stage. This is very important, because a 46% intra-African trade in manufactures tells us that manufacturing is happening (albeit at the lower end); and that the promise of the AfCFTA can be a reality – if there is attendant investment in the enabling environment side of issues. Further, UNCTAD has indicated that intra-African trade has a higher technological content than extra-African trade. The share of products traded among African countries with medium and high technological content is about 27% as compared to a share of 15% for Africa’s exports to the rest of the world.
Finally, there is a question of a diversified intra-African trade export basket – with the inclusion of services – which can only strengthen Africa’s economy, and in that, its women, men, youth, SMEs, etc.
Building on advances in the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) – the AfCFTA will deepen economic integration in Africa, creating a deeper integrated African market. This is particularly important when we bear in mind the fact that much of the existing intra-African trade takes place within these RECs. A new legal order that locks this in, not only vis a vis regional groupings but between and amongst them, is exactly where the first dividends of the AfCFTA may be visible – in creating opportunities for countries in Africa that currently do not have any arrangements, outside of the multilateral framework, to grant each other preferential tariff and regulatory treatment for goods and services.
Countries of the continent are in all shapes and sizes from population, to economic potential, infrastructure development, and so on, what mechanisms does the Agreement have to ensure a level playing field for all countries?
The AfCFTA is designed in what we, at UNCTAD and within the UN system – call “developmental regionalism”. Simplified – it is an approach to designing regional trade integration agreements in a manner that meets the twin objective of opening markets while ensuring industrialization, more jobs, incomes and the attainment of sustainable development. In a continent of Africa’s realities, there is no shortcut to adapting what is known as global good practices to a workable outcome in context. And so, in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services for example, the calculus was less about how to liberalize trade in services for the sake of opening markets alone, but more about creating a pro-development loop in which the opening of services sectors was done in a manner that would provide real valuable and utilizable opportunities to SMEs, women and youth. It was about allowing countries to exercise their right to regulate and introduce new regulations (a right that often deals with seemingly conflicting objectives such as business opportunities on the one hand and consumer protection on the other). It was about a choice of initial priority sectors that can unlock bottlenecks related to connectivity and infrastructure readiness – so that the nexus between agriculture and industry can be fully harnessed. And yet it is also about allowing AfCFTA states parties to pace their contributions; within those selected sectors – to determine how, when and on what conditions, such access is granted. It is about creating a one Africa by seeking to frontload some of the political momentum around mobility for Africans within Africa – it being well understood that there is no regional integration without effective free movement of Africans – traders, investors, service suppliers, industrialists.
Similarly in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, it was about shooting for as high an ambition of liberalization as possible (90% in this case) – going zero for zero as soon as possible from the start of implementation such as in 5 years while accepting that there are sensitive sectors in which certain countries/regions require flexibility (allowing them to phase in their commitments slower). The so-called sensitive products – will have a slower pace of liberalization (or a longer transition period). The additional category of “the exclusion list products” (3% of tariff lines) is one in which countries cannot accept to liberalize at this stage.
Also within the Agreements consisting of the overarching umbrella treaty, the protocol on trade in goods and the Protocol on trade in services – is a variation of special and differential treatment – ranging from longer transition periods, provisions for capacity development for the least developed among the states parties, provisions leaving room for African governments to support industrial development (part of the rationale for the sensitive and excluded products list).
This menu of options is the AfCFTA’s approach to meeting each country, or group thereof, where it is –in terms of its development concerns. Naturally, the benefits of this approach, itself not novel in trade agreements that respond to development challenges, will go to those countries that get themselves ready – utilizing the space granted to create and strengthen productive capacities for utilization.
For the trade professional that you are, how much of a game changer could this be for the continent?
This is a dream come true for all trade and development professionals. Having spent all of my career seeking trade deals for Africa, supporting Africa to shape strategies and policies for utilization and building capacities for knowledge and sector development – I am honored to have been part of the process of shaping the AfCFTA. For us as African professionals in trade, it is greatly symbolic to see that Africa has attained that which continues to elude the world: a large scale trade agreement that aims for deep liberalization – one which will call for important domestic reforms. One which will have costs in transition and implementation – yet one which enjoys the highest level political support across Africa. Its’ timeframe for entry into force is, arguably a world record, judged by the pace of ratifications, for an agreement of this scale. This speaks to Africa’s determination to get the promise of trade for its people.
It could be the start of creation of industries of all sizes, a rising and conscious African market that gets confidence in continental products and one that gets an empowered and independent path to development. The benefits will out pass economic gain. We are on the edge of a social and cultural transformation that will promote brands such as make in Africa (for investment attraction); made in Africa (for origin qualification) pride in African products; and ultimately, what, in the words of the AU’s own development blueprint, is aptly termed: “The Africa We Want”. A final point on my assessment as a professional in the field is that implementing the AfCFTA will create a new market for African Think Tanks – to support evidence-based policies and strategies for implementation. It will create a new generation of African trade law specialists – who can support treaty implementation proper as well as the resolution of disputes. Linked to the latter is the need for a crop of jurists who will need to support the resolution process. It will have also created and strengthened the cadre of trade negotiators, skilled in the arcane field of negotiating tariffs, non-tariff measures and trade regulations, and being prepared for continued negotiations in the continent or outside in the international trade arena. Finally on the knowledge point, there will be need for more teachers to share knowledge in our institutions on the opportunities created in the AfCFTA and raise awareness. Curriculum development, training and capacity building on trade law, economics and development is now to be a hot career choice for professionals in Africa. This makes me particularly proud to see.
We noticed that there are a still a number of countries notable Nigeria that have not yet signed it, considered that this is the economic powerhouse of Africa, how does the absence of Nigeria impact the enforcement and effectiveness of the agreement?
Nigeria is yet to sign onto the AfCFTA and deposit its instrument of ratification. For reasons of effectiveness, it is desirable that Nigeria joins the AfCFTA – still hopefully as a Founding Member, not least because it is the economic powerhouse in Africa. This would allow it to take advantage of the large opportunities to be created, yet also provide a market for African exports. The domestic consultations, we are informed, are ongoing and there have been pronouncements, including at the highest level, of support for the AfCFTA. After 16 years in the business of trade negotiations, I am more convinced than ever – that strong preparatory work determines a steady and effective path to implementation. In this line of argumentation, the delay of Nigeria, if hinged on getting the domestic consultations finalized as well as the reform agenda needed to faithfully implement the Agreement, is positive. It is true though that there has to be a price for accession – which will be difficult to avoid when countries are not ‘Founding Members”. Like others, the call from UNCTAD, is for all African countries to take the opportunity of the AfCFTA by joining – and use all of the available tools to support implementation.
There has been no shortage of lofty agreements in Africa, but a missing ingredient has been the political will, how committed do you think African countries are to the effective implementation of the AFCFTA?
An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) – taken a little over two years – is demonstration of strong political will. The fact that the approaches adopted for the design of the AfCFTA relied heavily on REC developments and dynamics is a vote of confidence (read political will) in integration in Africa. The pace at which ratifications have trickled in – is also unprecedented. Moreover, an extraordinary Summit of African Union Heads of States and Governments is scheduled for July 2019 to officially launch the operational phase of the AfCFTA with key support initiatives to be unveiled during the event.
The commitment of African leaders – from the top through to technocrats that shape the day to day work on the AfCFTA, is strong. Business and Civil Society have also been engaged. Across the board, you do get a sense of a great dose of political will – which will be central to ensuring that needed reforms are prioritized at country and regional level – for effective implementation.
Still on the level of implementation, let’s take the example of Rwanda where its border with Uganda has been shut with unfortunate economic consequences for months now, how could situations like this impact the implementation of the AFCFTA?
The AfCFTA will create the needed momentum to remove obstacles to trade across Africa. At the forthcoming AU Summit, the AU will launch an Online Platform to report non-tariff barriers in the AfCFTA, that it has developed with the support of UNCTAD. This will allow private sector and policy makers to identify and resolve such barriers in the implementation structures of the AfCFTA. The online tool will be accompanied by national institutions that would be geared to address the complaints raised and remove them, so trade is not unnecessarily hinder or obstructed by non-tariff barriers.
What impact do you think the agreement could have on trade with countries like China, Europe, the USA and other foreign countries seeking to bolster trade ties with Africa?
The purpose of the AfCFTA is to increase intra-African trade. New opportunities in intra-African trade will do for Africa what closer regional integration did for Europe and other large powers. African producers will establish channels of production to utilize these opportunities. These products will be of higher value, more diversified and in bigger volumes. Naturally, the focus on intra-African trade may be seen as an inward strategy. But the fundamentals of this being the approach that will support industrial development and structural transformation, are solid.
The AfCFTA gives countries like China, Europe, the US what they have asked for a while – clear, rules based environments of policy and legal predictability in Africa. Their support will be important in getting the capacity development agenda off the ground – to build productive capacity for intra-African trade in Africa. It is important to note though, that it is not only countries but also global firms, that could be attracted to Africa.
Africa will be better positioned to engage with “third countries” – thanks to the AfCFTA – whose rules have particular provisions on how to manage such relations. In the case of the multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO, it is unquestionable that all of the important successes that have been registered for Africa within the work of the WTO have been achieved thanks to a united Africa – the so called WTO Africa Group. The AfCFTA stands to build on that progress by creating clarity to the African position on complex issues across trade and development. And this is important especially because much of the engagement of Africa in the MTS has been positioned around the call for flexibility, special and differential treatment. In the period of WTO reform, having a unified African position on tariffs and industry, on services regulation, on non-tariff barriers – (the core of trade policy etc.) will allow for the articulation of a stronger voice from Africa to the world. This will play a positive role in the beneficial integration of Africa into the multilateral trading system.
There seems to be a lot of optimism about the AFCTA, at what point should everyday ordinary Africans expect to feel its impact in their lives?
The Agreement has entered into force and in the coming weeks, the African Union Heads of State will launch its operational phase. Ordinary Africans should not wait to feel the impact on their lines – rather, they should create this impact– by engaging in production for export. Once the tariff books (or services sectoral regulations) are changed to reflect AfCFTA preferential treatment for its states parties – it will be visible. And yet it can only be visible for those who are ready to utilize. So, there will be no manna from heaven. For those that engage in production or have services to export, the treatment received thanks to the AfCFTA – will be the occasion to feel the impact. And one can imagine that such an impact would cascade down to communities, families, people – improving their lives with the dividend of new markets.
There will be revenue losses from implementing the AfCFTA. These, according to UNCTAD studies, will be in the short term. However, the long-term gains outweigh the losses. Moreover, there are in-built flexibilities to deal with tariff revenue and welfare losses. Some of these include compensatory measures, flanking policies and adjustment measures. It is also worth recalling that the loss of revenue and its magnitude would need to be calibrated to the reality of the still low levels of intra-Africa trade.
UNCTAD’s relationship of support for trade capacity development predates the AfCFTA. We have been involved, from the times of translating the political decision into modalities for negotiations. We have provided technical studies and options for negotiations, working with the technical teams in the AU to prepare data, analysis and propose options for outcomes that support developmental regionalism. The Secretary General of UNCTAD took a decision to establish the UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa – which I have the privilege to head. The Office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA –bringing some of the world’s best minds on various complex trade topics, from headquarters, to advise the AUC Department on Trade and Industry – and to be available in negotiating institutions to provide study findings, data and analysis and overall technical support to AU Members. The AU designated UNCTAD a Technical Partner to the negotiations – and this has allowed for a seamless flow of support – much to the appreciation of African Union Member States – who are on record in awarding UNCTAD a certificate of appreciation for the technical support in the AfCFTA negotiations.
As we move to Niamey, the Secretary General of UNCTAD and the President of Niger are poised to launch the continental non-tariff barrier reporting and eliminating online mechanism before Heads of State. For as any trade negotiations professional will tell you – there is one thing that is for sure – as tariffs go down, non-tariff barriers rise…
Looking ahead towards implementation, UNCTAD as the lead agency within the United Nations supporting countries in developing policies for trade-led growth, will continue to support the African Union Commission, and the institutional structures in place for implementation. UNCTAD’s Divisions – all of which have played a key role in supporting the negotiations – in particular the Division on Trade in Goods and Commodities, the Investment Division, the Statistics Branch, and the Africa and Least Developed Countries Division – will continue to support implementation – particularly as we get not only into phase II of the negotiations on which we are already working with the AU – but also as we shift focus to the pressing question of building productive capacities…In a sense therefore, we are very much at the early stages of a long road ahead…
 The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018