Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Islamic Militants Stone Man To Death For Adultery In Somalia

The Mail
This barbaric scene belongs in the Dark Ages, but pictures emerged today of a group of Islamic militants who forced villagers to watch as they stoned a man to death for adultery.

Mohamed Abukar Ibrahim, a 48-year-old, was buried in a hole up to his chest and pelted with rocks until he died.

The group responsible, Hizbul Islam, also shot dead a man they claimed was a murderer.

But the verdict was so shocking that it prompted a gun battle between rivals within the group that left three militants dead, witnesses said.

The executions took place yesterday in Afgoye, some 20 miles south-west of the capital of Mogadishu.

Hizbul Islam fighters ordered hundreds of residents to a field, where a rebel judge announced that the two men had confessed to murder and adultery.

A woman who had confessed to fornication had been sentenced to 100 lashes, he added.

'This is their day of justice,' the judge, Osman Siidow Hasan, told the crowd. 'We investigated and they confessed.'

But when some Hizbul Islam fighters wanted to delay the executions, a bloody gun battle broke out between the two factions, shocked residents said.

The second condemned man is shot dead at point blank range by a relative of the man he was convicted of murdering

Under-Age Prostitution - South Africa

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Death Of The Nile?

Has global warming claimed its biggest victim yet? The Nile is home to a third of the population of Africa. Yet those who depend upon the river are noticing a change: The Nile shows signs of drying up.

We can make the dramatic statement that for 13,000 years the Nile itself was dry. Now experts fear that history may be about to repeat itself. According to recent reports from Sudan, the Nile is at one of its lowest levels in nearly a century. We see rivers drying up and massive environmental changes over short periods of time, says Dr Declan Conway.

The impact of climate change is already plain to see in the ten countries relying on the Nile. The coffee business in Uganda is crucial to the developing economy. Yet as temperatures rise, crops have been badly affected and life for the coffee growers has become very hard. Thanks to a lack of education and illiteracy many have no idea what climate change is.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Life On The Edge

With a one in thirteen chance of dying in childbirth, women in sub-Saharan Africa must feel they are in a combat zone. So when they are really caught-up in civil conflict its like being on the front line twice over. Dr. Grace Kodindo, one of Africas top doctors finds out what it is like to live in the front line in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recorded from BBC.
Part 1

Part 2

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Genocide of Whites in Africa

Is this really happening?

Warning:The video below contains footage of victims of violent murder and torture that some viewers may find distressing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day

This video illustrates the challenges of conquering the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa using the entertaining medium of drama, song and dance to educate the public on prevention, testing, counselling and treatment to live positive lives.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What Do You Know About Africa?

Leila Samara visits the Lincoln Memorial to find out what people know about Africa -- and gets some interesting answers.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alternative Policies to Address Poverty and Inequality in Africa

Dambiso Moyo spoke about Alternative Policies to Address Poverty and Inequality in Africa, at this event hosted by Idasa and ANSA - www.idasa.org. Dr Moyo is the author of the book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa. In her book she argues that aid does not work and is actually detrimental to Africas economic development. In her opinion, business and trade are better than aid dependency, and she posits alternative strategies for Africas economic development that governments, multinationals and bi-laterals should adopt to ensure thriving economies instead of aid.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Army Hunts Children

One of the world's most brutal rebel groups, Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), is on the move from the Congo, terrorizing civilians.

Return to Africa's Witch Children

A year ago, Dispatches told the story of how children in Africa's Niger Delta were being denounced by Christian pastors as witches and wizards, and then killed, tortured or abandoned by their own families. Following the introduction of the Child Rights legislation and an increase in financial support for a British charity providing a refuge for affected youngsters, the programme returns to find out what happened to some of the people featured in the first film.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fighting Malaria in Tanzania

Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. Most deaths occur in Africa. This short documentary from Ifakara, Tanzania, shows how difficult it is for people in rural areas to get access to malaria treatments. The video also offers solutions on how to overcome these obstacles to fight malaria more effectively. The ACCESS project is supported by the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, the Swiss Tropical Institute and the Ifakara Health Institute.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Golden Opportunity?

The effects of multinational gold mining on local communities in Tanzania. While Canadian and Australian mining companies reap the profits of record high gold prices, local residents suffer forced displacement, and remain destitute.

Drug Trafficking Leads to Addiction Problems in Africa

During the past three years, the tiny West African country of Guinea-Bissau has become a key transit point for cocaine traffickers shipping drugs to Europe. That has led to a rise in the number of crack-cocaine addicts in Guinea-Bissau. Those struggling to quit drugs face an uphill struggle in a country with few medical resources.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Muslim Slavery Still Exists

Muslim countries in the Middle East and north-central Africa lead the world in human trafficking, according to a new U.S. State Department report. Of the 17 countries that were given the "Tier 3" listing reserved for the worst offenders, nine were Muslim countries or countries with a large Muslim population from these two regions. Tier 3 countries are defined as those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards" of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and "are not making significant efforts to do so.

East African Community Trade agreement

New Legislation now allows all of the countries in the East African Community to negotiate trade agreements as a single bloc, but challenges may stunt some growth.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

China Pledges $10bn Africa Loans

China has pledged to give Africa $10bn (£6bn) in concessional loans over the next three years, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said at a summit in Egypt.

The Chinese leader is attending a two-day forum on China-Africa cooperation in Sharm el-Sheikh, attended by officials from 50 nations.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Zimbabwe Diamond Sales Ban Urged

Zimbabwe is facing calls to be suspended from the the international diamond trade, following allegations of brutality by its soldiers.

Rights groups are lobbying members of the Kimberly Process, the body which regulates the trade in rough diamonds, to halt exports from Zimbabwe.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Friday, October 30, 2009

DR Congo Villagers 'Slaughter 47 Cops'

Armed villagers killed at least 47 policemen trying to intervene in ethnic clashes in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, UN-sponsored radio has reported.

An unknown number of civilians also died in the violence, which erupted in the village of Dongo in Equateur province on Thursday, Radio Okapi said.

People from neighbouring villages representing two different ethnic groups have been involved in on-and-off fighting for months.

The violence is not linked to simmering tensions in Congo's east, which is the most unstable region of the country.

Several armed groups have been active there for more than a decade.

On Wednesday, an official said armed men beat up and robbed a group of about 100 people travelling in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.

The robbers were "dressed like troops of the FARDC (DR Congo armed forces), wearing balaclavas and carrying weapons", local civil society chairman Omar Kavota said.

But he was unable to confirm whether the attack reported to him by victims was carried out by regular soldiers or bandits.

The non-governmental organisation Mr Kavota heads has registered more than 30 such attacks on civilians since the start of this year.

Last weekend, at least six people were killed and several others injured in attacks blamed on Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guinea Forces 'planned crackdown'

A deadly crackdown on protesters in Guinea in September was "premeditated and pre-planned at the highest level", Human Rights Watch says.

Soldiers deployed at the sports stadium where protesters had gathered blocked the exits before systematically killing and raping protesters, the group says.

Activists say 157 people were killed but officials say far fewer died and claim most were trampled to death.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Africa Heading For 2009 Growth Due To China: Expert

By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters) - All African economies bar South Africa will grow this year because of China's demand for their raw materials, a leading South African analyst said on Monday.

Out of 53 African states only the continent's biggest economy, South Africa, will not grow this year, Martyn Davies, executive director of Stellenbosch University's Centre for Chinese Studies, told a conference.

"Chinese demand is underpinning African growth," he told the conference on China, organised by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).

Africa is already exporting 1 million barrels per day of oil to China, accounting for 25 percent of China's foreign energy supplies, said Davies, who is also chief executive of emerging market investment strategist Frontier Advisory.

These links are based on strong support by African leaders for Chinese investment in extractive industries -- in contrast to objections raised to Chinese investment in sensitive sectors in developed countries, he said.

China's engagement in Africa -- where it is the biggest trading partner -- reflects both state enterprises benefiting from preferential capital from state banks, and private entrepreneurs, of whom around 1 million may now be in Africa, he said.

China's export prowess has so far failed to provoke much protectionism in Africa, except, again, in South Africa, where sensitive labour-intensive sectors such as textiles and light industry compete with Chinese firms.

Chinese imports from Africa come in at an average tariff of 0.64 percent -- almost the duty-free level sought by developing countries in rich markets -- because of China's eagerness to facilitate imports of African energy and commodities.

Conversely, China faces considerable protectionist sentiment outside Africa, said Simon Evenett co-director of St Gallen University's Centre for Economic Policy Research.

According to Global Trade Alert, a website run by academics that Evenett co-founded, China is now the most targeted country for trade measures such as anti-dumping duties and safeguards, a trend likely to increase as the global economy and international trade recover, Evenett told the conference.

"They can expect to be targeted even more. Now that world trade flows are increasing is perversely going to make it easier to demonstrate that Chinese imports are causing injury," he said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Atrocities Haunt DRC Child Soldiers

The abduction of children by militias which then force them to work as soldiers, porters and sex slaves has been a long-term and widespread problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But in the past few months, fighting between the DRC army and Rwandan Hutu rebels and other militias has intensified, deepening the crisis for the country's youth.

Aid agencies describe the present situation as "catastrophic", warning that child recruitment is on the rise.

Reporting from Goma in the eastern DRC, Mohammed Adow has found that the children are being put through terrifying ordeals; they are trained to kill almost as soon as they are recruited.

One tactic favoured by the militias is to force the child to kill a member of his own family.

Stolen innocence

Dede Amanor Wilks, Action Aid's international director for West and Central Africa, has spent time talking to child soldiers in the DRC.

She told Al Jazeera that even if a child soldier manages to escape or is rescued, their problems do not end there. They continue to be seen as "evil doers".

"Some of these young people say, because they are discriminated against in society, they have no choice but to go back to those rebel groups and find a place there," Wilks says.

"The danger is that people who have suffered abuse sometimes become the abusers themselves. That's why the issue of reintegration is so important.

"All societal norms have been broken down here. Rape and the recruitment of child soldiers has almost become a normal fact of life."

Thirty-thousand recruited

In a 2006 report, the UN children's agency, Unicef, listed DRC at the top of a list of countries where armed forces and militia fighters use children as soldiers.

It estimated that as many as 30,000 children may be fighting or living with armed groups.

An estimated 30 to 40 per cent of that number are girls, the report said.

Meanwhile, the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation, has said children are currently recruited and used in armed conflict in at least 15 countries and territories.

In the DRC, at least five parties in that country's armed conflict are known to use child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this year.

It listed the Congolese army (FARDC), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, pro-government Mai Mai groups, and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zimbabwe's Political Crisis

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's prime minister, has appealed for regional help in his stand-off in Zimbabwe's unity pact, as his ministers boycotted a meeting with Robert Mugabe, the president.

The suspension of ties has cast a shadow on the fragile partnership, as Mugabe chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday - without his Zanu-PF party's main government partners - as Tsvangirai's 13 cabinet ministers met separately.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader flew to Mozambique on Tuesday to ask southern African leaders to step in, after he cut ties with Mugabe's "dishonest and unreliable" camp four days ago.

Tsvangirai said he would resume unity relations only once unresolved issues are settled which include disputes over key posts and a crackdown against his supporters.

After years of economic freefall, Zimbabwe has seen an easing of international ties and rebuilding of shattered infrastructure and social services, but donors say they want to see more reforms before increasing aid.

Many people are taking this as a sign that the country is facing an economic crisis once again, as Haru Mutasu reports from Harare.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Prize For African Leadership

Sudanese magnate Mo Ibrahim will not be awarding any African ex-leader his $5m (£3m) annual prize for good governance.

Mr Ibrahim gave no reason for the decision, saying he had always intended for there to be years when no prize would be awarded.

Now in its third year, the prize is given to a democratically elected leader from sub-Saharan Africa who has served their term and then left office.

South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Ghana's John Kufuor had been the favourites.

The winners receive $5m over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year for life after that - the most valuable individual annual award in the world.

'No disrespect'

Mr Ibrahim said people could draw their own conclusions about why no prize was awarded this year.

But he said there was "no issue of disrespect" meant towards eligible candidates.

"The prize committee welcomed the progress made on governance in some African countries while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries," said a statement from the panel which made the decision.

"This year the prize committee has considered some credible candidates. However, after in-depth review, the prize committee could not select a winner."

Former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, one of the panel-members, said that if there had been a similar award for former European leaders this year, it might have been equally difficult to select a worthy winner.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says Mr Ibrahim established the prize because well-run African democracies are not thick on the ground.

Mr Ibrahim argues that the prize is needed because many African leaders come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.

But our analyst says recent evidence of the prize's effectiveness across Africa is not encouraging.

Uganda, Chad and Cameroon have all changed their constitutions so their leaders can retain their positions.

There have been coups in Guinea, Mauritania and Madagascar, as well as several elections that fell well short of international standards.

And the countries that have received most praise from Mo Ibrahim's foundation this year - Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles - are far from the continent's centres of power.

Botswana's former President Festus Mogae won the prize last year, after two terms at the helm of one of Africa's least corrupt and most prosperous nations.

The inaugural prize was given to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique's former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Commemorating Julius K. Nyerere -Ten Years On

Nyerere Debt Speech

Nyerere and Tanzania: No Regrets at Socialism

Wednesday, October 24, 1990

Julius K. Nyerere, who led Tanzania for the first-quarter century of its existence as an independent state, struck an unapologetic note as he said he had no regrets, despite the ramshackle condition in which he leaves his country.

"If I had my time over again, I would do it much the same way," said the 68-year-old founding father who is called Mwalimu -- Swahili for the teacher -- by Tanzanians. He made his comments in an interview while on a recent visit to the United Nations.

A thin, gray-haired man with a ready laugh, Mr. Nyerere has given up his last official position, stepping down in August as chairman of Tanzania's single, ruling party. Five years earlier, he became one of the handful of African leaders to leave office voluntarily, resigning as President, a post he held since 1962, a year after independence from Britain.

In the years that followed, Mr. Nyerere came to be revered throughout Africa as a nationalist who, along with men like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast and Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia, brought an end to colonial rule. They served as the first generation of leaders of independent Africa. Pulling Together

He was also a social engineer who brought his own vision of "African socialism" -- he called it "ujamaa," or pulling together -- to his country.

Peasants were regrouped into collective villages; factories and plantations were nationalized; state-run corporations were established; egalitarianism was encouraged; great investments were made in literacy, the accumulation of private wealth was discouraged.

At first, many Western aid donors, particularly in Scandinavia, gave enthusiastic backing to this socialist experiment, pouring an estimated $10 billion into Tanzania over 20 years.

Yet today, as Mr. Nyerere leaves the stage, the country's largely agricultural economy is in ruins, with its 26 million people eking out their living on a per-capita income of slightly more than $200 a year, one of the lowest in the world.

The World Bank reports that Tanzania's economy contracted on average by 0.5 percent a year between 1965 and 1988. It notes a 43 percent decline in average personal consumption since 1973 and reports that "food purchases have moved away from meat, dairy products and vegetables toward cheap starches and beans." A Number of Achievements

To be sure, despite the economic decline, Tanzania can claim some achievements, the work of its gentle and charismatic former leader, an admirer of Rousseau and an intellectual who loved to translate Shakespeare into Swahili.

The country enjoys one of the highest rates of literacy and primary-school enrollment on the continent. It has avoided the civil wars and tribal conflict that plague many other countries. "Tanzanians have more sense of national identity than many other Africans," Mr. Nyerere said.

But while the former President admits some errors, he argues that his inability to translate a relatively educated populace and a stable society into tangible economic progress is largely the fault of an unsympathetic industrial world.

"What would I have changed if I had my time over again?" he mused. "Not much."

Mr. Nyerere said socialism did allow the Tanzanian economy to develop in the 1960's and 70's. "There was growth and wealth distribution," he said, and statistics generally support this view.

What knocked Tanzania off course, he said, was "the hostile international environment" of the 1970's and 80's, including rising oil prices that "absorbed 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings" and falling revenues from the sale of sisal hemp and coffee, major Tanzanian exports.

Sisal, once the raw material of ropes and mats, was increasingly replaced by synthetics, and the international commodity price of coffee plummeted.

"We used to sell our coffee in London for $:3,000 a ton, now we get $:600," he said. "How do you fight that?"

Mr. Nyerere rails against the austerity programs that the West is imposing on developing countries these days through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for loans. As budget deficits are cut in an effort to reduce inflation, he complains that social progress is being reversed and poverty increased as the promised speed-up in economic growth fails to materialize. Not Just in Tanzania

Many of Tanzania's problems are widespread in Africa, where living standards have fallen for a decade. But some countries, like Kenya or the Ivory Coast, partly bucked the trend with the free-enterprise approach that Mr. Nyerere rejects.

Even this was insufficent to shield them from the pervasive recession on the continent. And today, Mr. Nyerere almost gloats at their discomfort. "Houphouet-Boigny is really bitter with the West," he said. "He feels capitalism has betrayed him."

Mr. Nyerere's sucessor as President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, signed an agreemeent with the International Monetary Fund, something that Mr. Nyerere could not bring himself to do, and in 1987 began an Economic Recovery Program that is slowly reversing many of Mr. Nyerere's cherished achievements. Government spending is being cut, the Tanzanian shilling devalued, price controls lifted and foreign investment encouraged. Modest growth has resumed.

Mr. Nyerere remains skeptical. "We're not earning any more foreign exchange with the World Bank and the I.M.F. running the economy," he said. "In my day, inflation was 28-30 percent a year. Now it's 22 percent. I don't see much success.

"They keep saying you've failed. But what's wrong with urging people to pull together? Did Christianity fail because the world isn't all Christian?"

Monday, October 12, 2009

China Praised For African Links

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has praised the way China does business in Africa, criticising the West for basing relations with the continent on aid.

Huge Chinese investment in African companies and infrastructure is helping Africa develop, Mr Kagame said.

Annual trade between China and Africa is now worth more than $100bn (£63bn).

Chinese companies are active across Africa, but have been criticised by some in the West, who accuse Beijing of failing to promote good governance.

Chinese firms, many of them state-owned, regularly bid for major construction projects at costs which Western firms cannot match.

In addition, Beijing also operates a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs.

That has allowed China to do business in areas of Africa, such as Sudan, where Western firms are constrained by human rights concerns.

Old problems

Speaking to a German newspaper, Mr Kagame - seen in the West as one of Africa's more dynamic leaders - was as critical of the West as he was generous in praise of China.

"The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies," he told business newspaper Handelsblatt.

"China is investing in infrastructure and building roads," he said, adding that European and American involvement "has not brought Africa forward".

"Western firms have to a large extent polluted Africa and they are still doing it," Mr Kagame said.

"Think of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Ivory Coast or the fact that Somalia is being used as a rubbish bin by European firms."

Although Rwanda received substantial international aid in the wake of the 1994 genocide, which left more than 800,000 dead, Mr Kagame told Handelsblatt that relations based more on trade than aid were now the most useful to Africa.

"I would prefer the Western world to invest in Africa rather than handing out development aid," he said.

"There is a need for help - but it should be implemented in such a way as to enable trade and build up companies."

The Rwandan leader also said that high trade tariffs prevented African producers from gaining equitable access to global markets.

"It would help Africa much more if industrialised countries allowed us the same trade rights as they give to each other," Mr Kagame said.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Colonialism Blights Africa- Pope

Opening a three-week synod of African bishops, pope Benedict has warned that the developed world continues to export materialism and lack of moral values which he called ''toxic spiritual waste'' to the African continent.

He praised Africa's rich cultural and spiritual treasure, calling them spiritual lungs for the world but the continent was afflicted by an export of the so called ''first world.''

In this sense colonialism, which is over at a political level, has never really come to an end.

The pope went on to denounce religious fundamentalism, which he warned was mixed with political and economical interests.

''These groups do not teach love and respect for freedom, but intolerance and violence'', he said.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Why Millions Of Rural Africans Are Poor

By Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga

Each year, millions of rural Africans find that they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs despite the fact that there are signs of money around them. Sometimes the problem is caused by conditions over which they have no control –illness, old age, discrimination, big business, unions, and economic trends such as inflation; if they could they would vote the culprits out of power.

At other times, however, their own choices are directly responsible –low level of education and career selection are two such areas of choice.

If you take a close look at schools in most African countries, the picture that emerges is that they have become “institutional props for the privileged” yet at the same time they are supposed to be instruments of social mobility.

Clearly, we need to consider alternative in education –alternative content and organization. Above all, we urgently need alternative views on education itself, its nature and possible function in society. Alternative education under the concept of life-long learning is an essential philosophy particularly in this era of rapid scientific and technological information advancement. It ‘s also important to provide ammunition to fight the socio-economic forces, create cultural and demographic awareness in the people and the need to continue learning throughout life. Through this, rural Africans will be equipped and enabled to respond effectively to the changes around them.

According to a recent report of inquiry into education system in Africa, marginalization from the global business due to our low capacity of information use makes us vulnerable to all manner of exploitation by the advanced nations.

This marginalisation occurs not only as a result of our economic poverty but much more so due to our limited knowledge base.

Since the quest for knowledge and its utility are the current measure of human progress across the globe, our survival hangs very much on the extent to which we give due emphasis to education.

Education should be viewed as a process that is not limited to formal or institutional learning only. Rather, it should go beyond the classroom to include cultural and creative activities. The emphasis here in my considered opinion should be to motivate people of all ages and background to continue learning for the sake of acquiring knowledge.

Concerted efforts should also be made to expand and strengthen the campaign for the reduction of illiteracy through the development of reading material couched in local language (i.e. Kiswahili).

Learning materials that would help the youth cope with the society and understand the rest of the world should also be produced in local language (i.e Kiswahili) and made available to them.

The number of teachers for these literacy programmes can be increased through recruitment and in- service training and the use of retired teachers. We have behaved hypocritically by allowing our retired teachers languish in abject poverty instead of utilizing them.

To ensure the efficiency of civic education programmes, there is need for a close collaboration between the government, NGOs and the private sector so that areas of greater need can be identified, prioritized and addressed in a timely manner.

As I had mentioned earlier, school should not be the only place for teaching. And in Africa as we all know, the radio, above all transistor sets, allows the great world news to be instantly known in the most remote corners of the earth. Sometimes when you visit the rural villages of Africa, you hear over the radio “This is Washington DC, “This is BBC London,” “This is Moscow,” and so on. This clearly shows that the entire world is known to the entire world.

Clearly, we need a general civic education. We must foster a more rational scientific outlook toward life. We must understand our true history, our environment –natural and social. We must confront age –old discrimination against certain groups in our society –including women.

Civic education in my opinion should also deal with the evils in society, economic as well as moral.

Civic education should cultivate in the people a sense of self – reflection and the ability to manipulate nature for survival.

And the question we must seek at answer is: What is it that schooling actually does if its education function is laden with archaic administrative philosophies that lead it to rapidly lose touch with the very people it is meant to serve?

Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga is executive director Volunteer network Africa,
a volunteer organization committed to social and economic change across the globe,
Email: orutev@yahoo.com or orute_obiro@hotmail.comor Vincent.orute@gmail.com

Africa Joins The Space Race

By Louise Greenwood
Africa Business Report, BBC World

Developed by students at South Africa's Stellenbosch University and local space technology firm SunSpace, the "SumbandilaSat" micro-satellite, took off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on 17 September.

Pictures of the momentous event were streamed live over the internet and South Africa's Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor, was in Kazakhstan for the launch.

Taking its name from the Venda word meaning "pioneer", the SumbandilaSat will gather crucial information about weather patterns and how climate change is affecting Africa.

It heralds a huge milestone in Africa's space ambitions. Experts predict that before too long similar projects will be underway, at the cutting edge of communications and even defence.


While the SumbandilaSat was funded by the South African government, it was developed by the Sunspace lab, a commercial firm on the Western Cape that develops satellite technology, mostly for the telecoms and agriculture industries.

"We take off the shelf, technologies, putting them together cheaply efficiently, quickly and in such a way that our customers are able, with a small product, to outperform... the traditional space models," explains Ron Oliver, managing director of Sunspace.

But despite the huge strides Africa's space technology industry has made in recent years, it faces big problems.

As well as lack of infrastructure and funding, employers complain of a desperate shortage of trained staff.

Until the end of apartheid, university courses in science subjects were open to whites only.

Sunspace has begun a programme of positive discrimination to address the skills gap.

Jessie Ndaba, an engineering graduate, is one of the first to benefit.
"I've always wanted to be a rocket engine designer," she says.

"But growing up in Soweto, I didn't think that was possible because I didn't know if there were any space activities going on in South Africa, so I ended up doing electrical engineering.

"If I had been exposed to what is happening I would have taken a different path".


However, Africa's bid to join the space race has attracted criticism.
The SumbandilaSat alone cost $3.5bn (£2.2bn) to develop, and had to piggyback onto a Russian rocket to enter orbit.

With the South African economy in deep recession, unemployment at 22% and millions still living in shanty towns, opposition politicians claim that money could be better spent elsewhere.

But the ruling ANC believes sustained investment in a space satellite programme is a calculated risk, which, if it pays off, could benefit millions of Africans, both in terms of jobs and getting the information the continent needs to plan for a more stable and prosperous future.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Should Africa Ban Bride Prices?

Uganda's highest court will next month rule whether the giving of bride price is unconstitutional. Is it time to ban dowries?

Known as 'lobola' in the south, 'mahari' in the east and 'wine-carrying' in the west, a prospective husband is expected to give a certain amount of money and goods such as cattle, goats, or blankets before a marriage is agreed.

But women's rights activists in Uganda have asked the Constitutional Court to ban it, arguing that the age-old traditional practice reduces wives to being the property of their husband.

Do bride prices infringe human rights or symbolise love and good faith between families? If you're a woman, does a dowry make you feel objectified or appreciated? Did the failure to pay a bride price stop you from getting married? If you're a man, do you feel bride price is a burden? Should states legislate on such cultural issues?

If you would like to join Africa Have Your Say to debate this topic LIVE on air on Wednesday 23 September at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/africahys or follow us on Twitter @bbcafricahys. You can also send an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good African Leaders: Who are they and how do we get them?

For forty years or so, African leaders have played a pivotal role in derailing the economic and political stability of the countries under their stewardships. In half the period of colonial rule, they have indulged in a reckless game of financial profligacy and violated human rights with impunity. It has now been universally acknowledged that bad leadership has a direct correlation to development of a nation. The root cause of Africa’s endemic problems has partly been traced to the continent’s coterie of bad leaders. African leaders are generally known to have created intractable conflicts, misused and abused of power, violated human rights abuse and driven their people further into the bowels of poverty. It is now generally believed that for Africa to reclaim its rightful position in the international system it must do something about its “bad leaders.”

But who exactly is a “good leader” and how do we get one? If use of patterns and trends could provide a useful guide in determining good African leaders we could simply pick Mandela, Nkrumah and Nyerere as the most respected African leaders and then anoint anyone with names starting letters ‘M’ and ‘N’ as good leaders. Unfortunately, this is not possible since these great African leaders also share the first letters of their names with some of Africa’s most despicable dictators: Moi, Mobutu, Mengistu, Mugabe, Nguema, Numeiri, and many others.

A distinguishing characteristic of almost all African countries is that they have been or are still being ruled by thug-like leaders. Their despicable behavior notwithstanding, the present crop of bad African leaders will have to be replaced one day whether they like it or not. When their time comes, the most important task will not be simply replacing these bad leaders but finding the right people to replace them. It is in view of this gigantic task lying ahead that the Congolese, Kenyans, Liberians, Zimbabweans, Malawians and other Africans must now focus their keen attention on picking replacements of the bad leaders who are running down their countries.

Before defining who a “leader” is and is not, we should first establish the fact that politicians usually do not make “good leaders.” As the British scientific journal Nature Today once pointed out in a study on leadership, politicians are uniquely simple personalities. In layman’s terms, that would mean they lack personality. The question then is: if we are to look for leadership qualities or inculcate them, what will they be? We often hear that leaders are born, not made. Although this opinion has been widely accepted for centuries, many experts are now rethinking this assumption. Most experts now believe that the ability to lead is not limited to the few born with exceptional talent. Even though an inborn potential doesn’t hurt, leadership is now viewed as a set of skills that, with proper training, can be learned. But what is leadership?

Leadership is getting other people to follow you towards a common goal. A leader feels that he or she has something to offer or that he or she can make an existing situation better. Initiative and vision are the pillars to leadership. The desire to lead, though essential, is not enough to make a dynamic leader. One has to have a firm grasp on knowledge, a well-horned and appropriate skills, and relevant experience that makes one almost a “philosopher-king.” Having the skills and know-how in a particular field makes one an obvious candidate for leadership. But this is not enough, particularly in the African context. For instance, someone may be a successful guerrilla leader, but a sadistic head of state once in power. Having knowledge is one thing, but putting it to use in the interest of the people is another. One’s knowledge is then only useful if it is used to enhance a common goal.

There are many other qualities of leadership. Inner qualities include fairness, impartiality, character, strength, and ability to recognize one’s limitations. Additionally, a leader is also one who is peace loving, faithful, kind, obedient to God, and serves his or her people. Other qualities include outspokenness, decisiveness, proactive, wisdom, strength, love for the people and the work, and honesty. Today people have also picked their leaders on the basis of their good looks, wealth, popularity, and the willingness to do anything to get on top and stay there.

According to the Book of Proverbs, the qualities of good leadership are hard work, reliable communication, openness to new ideas, capability of listening to both sides of the story, wise planning and common sense, ability to stand under adversity, standing well under praise, knowing the facts before making decisions, and not penalizing people for good behavior or rewarding evil people. In other words, leadership skills can be used for the great good or great evil. Unfortunately, most of our African leaders have chosen the later.

There are many African leaders who possess leadership personality traits but lack the spiritual character. Many of them have ignored the importance of a spiritual character to effective leadership. Moral and spiritual character takes years to build, and it requires continual attention and patient discipline. Many African leaders think that they are spiritual by merely proclaiming their faith or making appearances at places of worship or being in the company of opportunistic religious leaders.

Intemperate events in Africa have provided its leaders with golden opportunities to exercise their leadership skills. Unfortunately, many of them have chosen to use them against their people’s interests. Even those who have recognized their mistakes have been unwilling to admit them. None of them wants to bear the blame when confronted. It is a wonder that even those who claim to read the Bible have never learned from Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, that, it is not wise to wait until our errors force us to admit wrongdoing. And that it is far much better to openly admit our mistakes, shoulder the blame and seek forgiveness. It is a rarity in Africa for leaders to ever own up to their mistakes, leave alone take the blame and seek forgiveness.

Like King David, many African leaders have abused their positions of authority to get what they want. There is rampant abuse of power in Africa. These leaders are verse to exploiting, manipulating and compromising those under their authority. Africa has many Absaloms: these are leaders who use their charisma as a mask to cover craft, deception, and hunger for power. Underneath their style and charm, these leaders have been unable to make good decisions and handle the affairs of their nations wisely.

When it comes to serving the people, many Africa leaders forget that there is plenty of room for everyone. Yet African leaders are unhappy when others show leadership abilities. They eschew other leaders, particularly up and coming ones, and transform themselves into the nation, consequently making a challenge to them as tantamount to challenging national interests. They then create personality cults and become omnipotent. In feats to simplify their country’s maps, they name streets and public facilities such as airports, schools, stadia and hospitals after themselves. Many have not only acquired monarchical tendencies such as printing their images on currencies while they are still alive but they have also turned themselves into deities that must be worshipped and glorified.

While one of the greatest challenges facing a leader is training others to become leaders, one of the best tests for good leadership is its willingness and ability to train another person for the position occupied by the incumbent. Many African leaders not only fail to follow Moses’ example of appointing successors who are capable of delivering the people to the Promised Land but the few who do seem to deliberately appoint those they think will protect their interests and people once Providence has recalled them.

Many could again learn from Moses who commissioned Joshua to replace him and encouraged him in his new role. Good leaders prepare their people to continue the journey to the Promised Land without them by identifying those with leadership potential, providing them with the training they need, and seeking ways to encourage them. After assisting Moses for many years, Joshua was well prepared to take over the leadership of the nation. Smooth leadership transitions are essential for the establishment of new administrations. This does not happen unless new leaders are trained. African leaders should begin preparing others to take their places so that when they leave, although many do not think they will ever do so, their countries can continue functioning normally. Unfortunately, many African leaders prepare others to create chaos instead of taking over political power in the interest of the nation.

Good leaders are not always national leaders. Take the example of Charles Taylor, who might have been a good guerrilla leader but after taking over the reigns of power in Liberia he has proven to be one of the worst leaders in the country’s history. Some ideas by some leaders may prove to be attractive but they must be judged by whether or not they are consistent with the nation’s interests. When some people claim to speak for the nation, we must judge them by asking a series of questions: Are they telling the truth? Is their focus on the nation? Are their words consistent with what is already known to be true? Do they speak the truth while directing the people towards the Promised Land, or do they speak persuasively while directing the people toward themselves?

There are many African leaders who have said the right things but still led their nations in wrong directions. Africa, unlike any other region in the world, has had the most colorful and romanticized ideologies ranging from pan-Africanism to negritude, authenticity, humanism, nyayoism, African socialism and God knows what else. In the end these “political ideologies” have turned out to be bankrupt ideas, or at best empty slogans. With leadership comes responsibility. When a leader makes a mistake, it is the nation that suffers. Many take decision without counsel and input from the people, or after soliciting only for advice that will support their decision. African leaders have surrounded themselves with incompetent subordinates because they feel threatened by competent ones. They also have a penchant for taking highly educated individuals, lobotomizing them, and then turning them into cheerleaders and court jesters. A good leader, as the Book of Proverbs (11:14), needs and uses wise counselors.

Many African leaders usually overlook the fact that they cannot lead the nation single-handedly. Rather than handle larger responsibilities alone, African leaders should look for ways of sharing the loads of the nation so that others may exercise their God-given gifts and abilities. Modern African States have become complex. As their needs have increased so have been conflicts and disagreements. Due to this complex reality, African leaders can no longer make decisions alone. Many seem to be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. This may be due to their arrogance that they know all or asking for advice may imply they are bankrupt of ideas. Those who pretend to ask for advice later overlook it even when honestly given. The ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates once said that the greatest loyalty an adviser could give a leader is by being frank and candid. It is more helpful to the leader, Isocrates averred, to surround him - or her-self with those who disagree with him or her than it is to rely on those who mimic his or her point of view. Isocrates noted that: “frankness is a virtue in a counselor who must risk the ire of the (leader) foolish enough to be offended when contradicted.”

By being receptive to the ideas of others and by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect a leader will help ensure the happiness, and success of the people. African leaders have yet to learn that criticism is always directed at leaders, no matter how good they are. However, what distinguishes a good from a bad leader is the ability to listen and take constructive criticism without spending valuable time and energy worrying about those who may oppose their leadership. A good leader must always focus attention on those who are ready and willing to help. Some criticisms are due to love for the nation and should not be misconstrued as unpatriotic, treasonable or seditious. African leaders always place a premium on blind loyalty, as though they are royal dynasties that value their own preservation and power above all else.

It is this unquenchable thirst for fidelity that has imperiled democracy and botched development in Africa. Instead of cultivating loyalty and trust in democracy, African leaders have demanded that loyalty of public servants and the masses should be expressed to the people who determine whether or not food gets on their plates. In Africa, civil servants serve at the pleasure of the presidents, who appointed them, and not the people, who pay their salaries. To get a key position in the government one has to be the fiercest loyalist rather than most competent and best qualified. In Africa, it is better for a civil servant to be loyal and wrong than correct and disloyal.

There is a fairly simple explanation for this obsession with loyalty: the insecurity of the African leaders. The more secure a leader is - both intellectually and psychologically - the more he or she will value disagreements. The best example of such a leader is Nelson Mandela who was constantly challenged by his colleagues in government and warmly welcomed dissenting opinions. Mandela was able to do this, unlike other African leaders, because he always went out of his way to court opinions, and knew that was how he would get the best advice. This is essentially what made him the most secure leader in the world.

Most African nations have now been transmogrified to reflect the lifestyles of their evil leaders. Occasional wrongdoing has gradually been turned into wrongdoing as a way of life. In my frequent travels around Africa, I have continually noted the deteriorating attitudes, habits and conducts of the people. It seems like every time I revisit an African country I notice that its people have become ruder, meaner and brasher. One time when I left Africa I went on a soul-searching trip to understand why Africans are being turned into spiteful, misogynic and egoistical people.

I now have an answer: African leaders have traumatized their people to the point where they are in desperate states and on self-destruct courses. By using brutal means to rule and senselessly looting the public resources, African leaders have left the people in a state of shock and despair. In view of this reality, it comes as no shock that Africans are now imitating their leaders in various ways - they are abrasive, kleptomaniac, debauched, deceitful and contumacious. The book of Proverbs says that where there is no good leadership people will have only pain, there will also be wickedness, wicked rulers, wicked aides and wicked people.

African leaders have no compassion for those they are supposed to serve. Examples of such leaders are Taylor, who used children to terrorize the Liberian people and acquire power; Moi, who contemplated chopping off fingers of opposition sympathizers; and Mobutu, who looted his country into a basket case. Others are Kabila, who instigated ethnic chauvinism; Amin, who feasted on cadavers of his victims; and Abacha, who almost brought Nigerians down on their knees. These African leaders have treated the African people miserably in order to satisfy their own desires and then insolently claimed later that God had sanctioned their actions.

A real leader has a servant’s heart. Instead of using people leaders should serve them. Sadly, many African leaders prefer to lead through false promises and chaos. African leaders are often selfish and arrogant as they claw themselves to the top and stick there by hook or crook. None of them, except Botswana’s, take the time to consult the people on how they can best be served.

How a leader interacts with the people carries a lot of weight. By getting in tune with people’s emotions, needs, obstacles, and strong points a leader can effectively mobilize the forces towards national goals. For optimum results, the people must understand the national goals and be enlightened to alternative strategies and ways of attaining them. And a good leader is the teacher that inculcates this information! The ability to keep people focused on the national goals and tactfully steer them in the attainment of those goals is what leadership is all about.

Unfortunately, even those African leaders who had suffered tremendously before coming to power have not reached out with sensitivity to their hurting people. Quite a number of them either have been responsible for hurting the people or forgot how pain feels as they inflict it on others to stick to power. Examples of such leaders are Jomo Kenyatta and Robert Mugabe who despite spending years in colonial incarceration used methods worse than those used by the colonizers to silence their critics.

Finally, a good leader does not neglect the self. A solid self-awareness and steady confidence is certainly helpful. Tenacity, pluck, and curiosity are beneficial attributes that will convince others to follow a leader. Also the intelligence to accept feedback and learn from it and the flexibility to alter ineffective habits will ensure one’s s success as a leader. A leader who has inspiration to do good and passion for the nation will quickly discover that his or her ways are contagious and will quickly infect the people.

To be an effective leader is not an easy task as it takes vision, flexibility, knowledge, communication, and hard work. But those who have the desire and the determination to sharpen their wits, hone their skills, and accentuate their virtues can pull away and deftly lead the herd to success. Africans need leaders who will show them where to start and what direction to take in reconstructing their shattered nations. Africans are longing for plain-spoken leaders with charisma and visions to create new, politically and economically vibrant nations that are just and independent.

May those who want to lead Africa please stand up now!

By Wafula Okumu
© The Perspective

Friday, September 18, 2009

AFRICA- "Why Surrender Market to Subsidised European Goods?"

By Nasseem Ackbarally

"Why should we surrender ourselves to the invasion of highly subsidised European goods? What will be the impact of capital outflows because of strategic services such as telecommunication, port, energy and water services being liberalised and privatised in the interest of European companies?"

These are the questions that Rezistans ek Alternativ, a Mauritian political movement, wants answers to after their country’s government, along with Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe, signed an interim economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Community (EC) at the end of last month.

They appealed for an urgent session of the parliament to be held to debate the agreement.

"Those who will benefit substantially from this agreement are not those who will shoulder its consequences," Roody Muneean and Ashok Subron, members of the movement, told IPS.

They argued that technocrats and politicians have not learnt past lessons, referring to World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements that were signed "hastily" with detrimental results for many developing countries’ peoples.

They further deplored the exclusion of the trade union movement, small-scale producers and industries, fishers, consumer organisations and other citizen movements from the negotiating process.

"The market access given to ESA (eastern and southern Africa) countries is nothing more than the further locking of African economies into the neo-colonial export-led strategy, based on cheap labour and degrading working conditions for our people," according to Rezistans ek Alternativ.

Muneean and Subron see the EPA not as a development tool for Africa but as a profit-generating mechanism for EC companies and some local interests.

But those that signed the deal put a different spin on it. Foreign affairs and international trade minister Arvin Boolell of Mauritius, one of the main promoters of the deal, told IPS that the island state wants to use the trade deal to increase trade, promote diversification, attract EC investments and encourage technology transfer.

"We have to constantly wage war against poverty. Improving the lives of our populations expands the circle of opportunities for everybody," he declared.

Sindiso Ngwenya, secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), justified the EPA by indicating that the latter collectively represents 27 countries.

"These countries are not only the most important trading partners for the COMESA region, accounting for between 20-40 percent of trade turnover, but they are also very important partners to the region, providing essential development finance in the form of loans and grants through various channels," he observed.

Zambia’s industry and commerce minister, Felix Mutati, insisted that there should be "no debate on words, please. The challenge for the sugar farmers in Mauritius, the vegetable growers in Zimbabwe and the honey hunters in Zambia, being bitten by bees but continuing to harvest honey – who all need to put food on the table -- is to know how they can connect to the EPA.

"If we can provide some relief to these people in the field whose lives are only about pure survival, the EPA would have achieved something," he observed. However, his country did not sign the deal despite leading the ESA group of 16 African countries.

Quizzed by IPS, Mutati replied: "In the African tradition, the father does not eat first." Later he added that Zambia will sign the full EPA scheduled for October 2009. The Zambian minister is all set to canvass the other ESA states that have remained outside of the process to get inside the tent.

He appealed to EC companies to come to Africa as the continent has "abandoned" bad governance, including instability in economic management and dysfunctional institutions.

The EPA replaces all previous trade agreements between the EC and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and was ostensibly meant to support their development, strengthens regional integration, and provide for special and differential protection of vulnerable ACP markets.

Under the deal, signatory states export all goods except sugar and rice to the EC duty and quota free. For textile and clothing, the EC now offers the single transformation rule of origin, thereby allowing enterprises in ESA signatory states to source fabrics from anywhere in the world, transform them and export to its markets duty-free and quota-free.

This new agreement moves away from the traditional, non-preferential trade relationship between ACP group of 77 developing countries and the EC as it is based on reciprocity. Thus, ESA states will gradually liberalise 80 percent of imports from the EC over a period of 15 years with an initial five year preparatory period.

After this period, 20 percent of trade, mainly agricultural and final products which countries have deemed too sensitive, will remain completely excluded from any liberalisation.

Sunil Boodhoo, deputy director at the non-governmental Trade Policy Unit in Mauritius, told the press that there was "no compulsion" to sign the EPA. "Any country is free to sign or not but one should measure the consequences for an island like Mauritius that is not a least developed country (LDC) and does not benefit from the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade initiative (for LDCs)," he said.

He further stressed that, if tomorrow, one of the local industries is detrimentally affected by imports from EC countries, Mauritius can always put safeguards in place. "This is the case for any African country," he observed.

The EPAs are being signed with the EC in seven regions of the world. So far, 26 out of the 36 countries have already signed this trade agreement that will change the trade, economic and investment relationship between the European Union and the ACP countries.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We Lived To Tell -The Nyayo House Story (click here to read the book)

We lived to Tell is a book by the Citizens For Justice, which documents experiences of Kenyans
who went through the infamous Nyayo House Torture Chambers.

They tell harrowing stories of
scary hounding by security agents, arrests, torture, jail and detention. Their experiences reveal an
intolerant, oppressive and paranoid government that could not stand criticism.

Surprisingly, the government’s flagrant disregard for the law and the blatant violation of the
survivors’ and victims’ human rights happened in the glare and watchful eyes of the donor and
international community.

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) supported the development and publication of We Lived to Tell.
The Foundation supports initiatives that promote democracy and the rule of law. We support the
promotion of a tolerant culture where dialogue is encouraged as one of the ways of resolving
thorny issues.

We share in the declaration of the survivors that what they went through “should
never happen again in Kenya!” However, the contents and opinions expressed in this book are
those of the Citizens For Justice and not of FES.


Monday, August 17, 2009

As an Atheist, I truly Believe Africa Needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset:

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

By Matthew Parris

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Can a Team of (Bitter) Rivals Heal Zimbabwe?

Alex Perry/Harare

My neighbor on the flight is chatty. When I ask why he's going to Harare, he tells me he is an investor. I'm curious. Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed. The government of President Robert Mugabe has destroyed the country's currency. Several million people need food aid, millions more have fled, and an outbreak of cholera — that sure mark of destitution — has killed close to 5,000 and infected 20 times that number in the past year. What's to buy in Zimbabwe? "Graves," my neighbor replies. "Private cemeteries. Other places, I'll do minerals, farms, forests. In Zim, I'm in death."

In the past decade, Zimbabwe has become a repository of stories of the nightmarish and grotesque. The southern African nation is (or should be) a place of plenty, a former food exporter that was ruined, beaten and starved by the ineptitude, corruption and paranoia of its aging dictator, a liberation hero who led Zimbabwe to independence but — in a familiar African refrain — came to personify all the tragedy and broken promise of a continent. I'd had my own brief disaster there in April 2007, when, the day after I arrived, the subject of my very first interview asked me to wait while he ran to do a quick errand, returning minutes later with two policemen. I spent five days in jail before I was tried and fined for reporting without accreditation. Now, on my first trip back, my companion seemed to be confirming that Zimbabwe's long night endured.

That was certainly my expectation. Zimbabwe's history has been marked by turbulence since 1965, when the white minority government of the country, then called Rhodesia, unilaterally declared independence from Britain. After a long and bloody guerrilla war, the black majority finally took power in 1980, with Mugabe as independent Zimbabwe's first leader. He has ruthlessly held on to the position ever since. In March of last year, his Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) lost a general election to Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Refusing to accept the result, Mugabe turned his security forces on his own people, killing more than 100, arresting thousands and displacing tens of thousands. But this February, with the economy in free fall, Mugabe agreed to share power with Tsvangirai. Mugabe would remain President, Tsvangirai would be Prime Minister, and their parties would split the ministries and Cabinet.

On a continent where democracy is taking root more firmly each year, the deal was welcomed as an important step away from the habits of the past. Ever since, however, Mugabe and ZANU have blocked and delayed Tsvangirai and the MDC. When I caught my plane to Harare, the new state was still only partly formed and Mugabe was deriding the MDC as "insolent." Worse for Tsvangirai's supporters was the sight of their leader smiling and shaking hands with a man whose forces had repeatedly tried to kill him — and them. For years, Tsvangirai had told them that a new era awaited one thing: Mugabe's departure. If Zimbabwe really was a nation in transition, as Tsvangirai insisted, how come the old tyrant was still in charge?

A Prayer for Deliverance

My journey to seek an answer to that question started with a surprise. The former driver of some √©migr√© friends of mine met me at the airport, and soon we hit a traffic jam. Two years earlier, traveling in Zimbabwe had been a logistical feat that involved prearranging fuel stops. Now I was stuck in a line of cars outside — another surprise — a packed mall, complete with restaurants, furniture stores and a buzzing supermarket.

The Failure Of African Aid

Michael C. Moynihan

Western aid to Africa has made desperately poor countries poorer, retarded their economic growth, and entrenched despotic regimes, argues the Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo. In her new book Dead Aid (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), Moyo, an Oxford Ph.D. who has worked at Goldman Sachs and consulted for the World Bank, takes on the “pop culture of aid” promoted by Bono, Bob Geldof, and other celebrity activists. The book instead offers marketbased solutions for Africa. Senior Editor Michael C. Moynihan spoke with Moyo by phone in May.

Q: Africa has received approximately $1 trillion in development aid in the last 50 years, yet most of its recipients are worse off than before.

A: Let’s remember what the original goal of aid was. It was supposed to increase growth and reduce poverty. On those two metrics alone, it definitely hasn’t worked. We can argue that the goalposts have moved over the years. People now argue that aid is supposed to save lives with HIV drugs and so on. But fundamentally, aid isn’t contributing to job creation or growth in Africa. If anything, it is actually impeding growth and economic development by promoting corruption, civil wars, the growth of bureaucracy—all while encouraging inflation and huge debt burdens.

Q: To clarify, you are specifically criticizing government-to-government aid.

A: Yes. I’m not talking about humanitarian or emergency aid, nor am I talking about nongovernmental organizations or charitable aid. That is not the premise of my book, which is only about government-to-government aid flows. But let’s not delude ourselves. These other types of aid are not going to make Africa grow by 10 percent a year or meaningfully reduce poverty. My critics aren’t addressing the fundamental problem of job creation in Africa but rather providing band-aid solutions.

Q: You mention some moderate success stories in Africa, like Ghana and Botswana. What are they doing right?

A: The most obvious answer is that these countries are not dependent on aid. South Africa and Botswana, in particular, do not rely on aid as much as the rest of the African continent does. But even the newcomers like Ghana who are showing positive signs of economic growth and reduction in poverty, those countries are making meaningful strides toward a more private-sector-oriented development agenda. For example, Ghana issued a bond in the capital market, which is one of the recommendations that I outline in the book.

Q: Some of your critics argue that if aid is eliminated, the market alternatives suggested in Dead Aid aren’t realistic in addressing the problems of poverty in Africa.

A: It’s completely realistic. We have seen it in places like South Africa and Botswana and in other places around the world, like India, China, and Russia. It basically boils down to “no taxation without representation.” It’s a very simple concept. If African governments didn’t have to rely on a tax base which isn’t African—aid funded by the American and European taxpayer—then Africans could hold their governments accountable. African governments would then shift their attitudes toward courting the African populace. Right now, they spend the vast amount of time courting and catering to donors because they are the ones that determine whether they live or die.

Q: Are there African leaders who are sympathetic to the thesis of Dead Aid?

A: Rwandan President Kagame is very much against a long-term aid model. Like me, he thinks it won’t deliver growth. Many people think that this is a continuation of the liberation struggle. Many believe that African countries have been decolonized, but they are not yet independent. We might not be de jure colonies, but we are de facto colonies because of our heavy reliance on the European taxpayer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tanzania Launches Bank For Women

Tanzania has launched a bank aimed specifically at women in what officials say will be an empowering move.

The bank says women need only an ID card or passport to open an account, unlike other banks which require title deeds or other proofs of wealth.

And applicants need only 3,000 Tanzanian shillings ($2) in savings - much less than other banks.

Although the bank, which is based in Dar es Salaam, targets women with its services, men can also open accounts.

The bank's management says it will give women expert help and advice.

'Too shy'

Margareth Mattaba Chacha, the managing director, said: "We know some women hesitate to come forward - they are too shy and think they don't know anything.

"But here we're going to have a big group of professionals to take women through step-by-step until we really reach our women."

The BBC's Zuhura Yunus, in Dar es Salaam, says 110 people had opened accounts at the Tanzania Women's Bank by the end of the morning.

Officials hope there will be 200 more people coming in every day and say the Dar es Salaam branch is just the beginning of a countrywide network.

Margaret Sitta, Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children, said the bank would empower women, but stressed that the accounts were open to all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

HEALTH-AFRICA: Phoney Choice Between Life and Death

By Kristin Palitza

Failure to sustain funding for HIV/AIDS treatment programmes could lead to a rising number of deaths, particularly in Africa.

"We need 17 to 18 billion dollars per year, or a total of 123 billion dollars over the next seven years (to fund HIV programmes worldwide), but all we have is $20 billion, leaving us with a funding gap of $103 billion," warned Eric Goemaere, head of Doctors Without Borders in South Africa.

Goemaere was among thousands of researchers, clinicians, policy-makers and community activists attending the Fifth International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town which ends Wednesday.

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which contributes more than $3.7 billion to HIV prevention and care globally, has not increased its budget this year, despite president Barack Obama's promise of an annual increase of $1 billion.

Another key global donor, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has announced it is facing a budget shortfall of between three and four billion dollars.

Goemaere said the funding shortfall was particularly tragic because with seven million people in need of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment worldwide, "the need is still increasing, and we promised universal access. It is unacceptable for us to say there is no money internationally."

According to Goemaere, the threat to HIV funding has less to do with the global financial crisis than with a general lack of commitment from some rich nations, such as France and Italy, who provide 0.4 percent and 0.1 percent of all global HIV/AIDS resources, despite the size of their economies.

In Southern Africa, one of the regions hardest hit by the pandemic, the results of the funding cuts from major international donors have already hit home. The Tanzanian government, for example, had to reduce its HIV budget by a quarter, while Swaziland lowered its 2011 treatment coverage target from 60 percent to 50 percent, which will affect about 40,000 HIV-positive people.

Uganda was instructed to stop enrolment in treatment by some PEPFAR-funded non-governmental organisations, and Malawi is expecting national drug shortages and in the process of putting into place an emergency plan.

Hoosen Coovadia, Victor Daitz Professor for HIV/AIDS research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal summed up the situation succinctly: "You can't make phoney choices between life and death. You have to find money."

Coovadia believes that there would be enough money available worldwide to fight the pandemic if governments were implementing health programmes more efficiently. "We have wasted money by not planning and targeting properly. As a result, our services are collapsing. We need real leadership and cost-effective interventions."

Vuyiseka Dubula, general secretary of South African HIV advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), agreed with Coovadia that lack of political will in Sub-Saharan Africa is a major stumbling block to treatment access.

"Health budgets are not prioritised. There is poor health planning and spending, combined with poor accountability," she lamented. "Our leadership could do more."

Goemaere called for renewed commitment from international leaders. "We need national and international funding security through five-year plans to create sustainability and ongoing pressure to sustain political will (to support HIV funding)," he said.

"In 2000, [Ugandan HIV specialist Peter] Mugyenyi said treatment exists, but not where the disease is, and unfortunately that’s still true," Goemaere added.

Shortfalls in funding will directly affect HIV disease and mortality rates in developing countries. "We can’t afford to backslide. If we don’t keep up existing programmes and increase coverage (of ARV treatment), we will see tremendous mortality," warned Professor Robin Wood, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town.

"Funding may not dry up. Otherwise we will see drug stock outs, which will lead to viral suppression and we will lose the viability of first-line treatment," he said.

First-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are a set of three, highly efficient drugs to treat HIV. If patients default from their treatment regimen due to drug shortages, they may become immune to some of the first-line drugs and have to rely on a second-line treatment, made up of different drugs, which are less effective, have more side effects and are six times more expensive than first-line ARVs.

"Delays of putting patients onto treatment has dire consequences. Almost a quarter will not come back [once ARVs are available], 22 percent will die and the cost of health services will increase because they will fall ill," warned Wood. "That’s a disaster."

This year, temporary ARV stock-outs have already occurred in numerous Sub-Saharan countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria.

"Stock-outs are a management failure and a human rights violation that is unacceptable," said Anglo American chief medical officer Brian Brink.

"The economic recession cannot be an excuse to slow down on treatment. If we don’t continue to provide treatment, it's going to cost a whole lot more in the long-term."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why US Businesses Are Not Investing In Africa As They Should - Report

American businesses are not investing in Africa as they should due to a number of reasons including corruption, lawlessness unstable governments and inadequate infrastructure.

They are also hesitant to put their money in African countries because of the apparent lack of political will by African governments to curb corruption, a report released Wednesday May 20, 2009 by Baird’s CMC, a communications marketing consultancy together with the US Chamber of Commerce.

The report a copy of which was made available to ghanabusinessnews.com indicates that, overall, US businesses do not view Africa as an attractive place to invest.

The businesses take into consideration, the image of lawlessness, corruption, unstable governments, an inadequate infrastructure, uneducated or untrained people, and an unwelcoming government attitude toward business.

The businesses believe that these practices handicap those who will not or cannot “play the game” by these rules.

In addition, returns are not reasonably ensured or sustainable because costs can often escalate for reasons unrelated to business operations and the rules can change unexpectedly. This means that the time and resources already invested could be lost, the report said.

The report which is titled ‘The conversation behind closed doors: Inside the Boardroom: How Coporate America Really views Africa’ is in two parts, the study for the second part is ongoing.

The US Chamber of Commerce which is the world’s largest business federation has a membership of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region as well as 112 affiliates in 99 countries around the world.

One of the objectives of the qualitative survey was to examine why US companies hesitate to invest in Africa. It also looked at what American businesses and African countries can do to increase US investments across the continent.

Ten industries were looked at in the survey and these are, aerospace/defense, agribusiness, consumer goods, health care and information and communications technology.

The others are, infrastructure, media, petrochemical/extractive, pharmaceutical and transportation.

Top management decision makers in 30 leading U.S. multinational corporations participated and majority were executives of U.S. Fortune 100 corporations.

The executives who were interviewed, the report indicated, do not yet believe that they are at a competitive disadvantage because they are not investing in African countries.

According to the report, with no competitive traction, there is no sense of an opportunity being missed. Furthermore, since Africa is not selling itself overtly by asking for investment, the continent does not attract enough attention amidst competition for investment from other developing countries or regions. The only exceptions to this are China and India.

While the report recognized the fact that African countries are marketing themselves and creating the environment to attract investments, the lack of the following is a disincentive:

The fact that the rule of law does not prevail to the degree required to make Africa an attractive investment destination. This applies to corporate, societal, and criminal law.

Africa, the businesses observed, does not offer a sufficiently large middle class of consumers or show consistent economic growth that could promise a future market. Most African countries are small and have poor markets, and there are barriers to regional markets—such as taxes and the freedom of movement of people and goods.

According to the report however, if African countries want to position themselves, to attract a lot more foreign direct investment (FDI), from America, then they should do several things including the following:

• Invest in the health and education of the African people to create a large pool of skilled and productive human resources.

• Invest in and maintain infrastructure—transportation, communications, electricity, and security—so that there will be a reliable society in which to operate.

• Build a functioning legal system to ensure the rule of law, transparency, and fair play.

• Create a positive climate for foreign investments by reducing bureaucratic processes, eliminating corruption, and reforming tax systems, irrespective of country of origin.

• Ensure stable political environments—that may or may not be based on western democratic principles—that work toward the common good of all stakeholders in society.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama's Trash Talk


On his recent visit to Ghana, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned war, corruption, tribalism, and all the other ills that have bedeviled our continent. Many Africans in Africa and the diaspora were moved by the speech, as were many Africa observers in the West. The speech captivated imaginations because it appealed to people's basic common sense.
That is where its positive contribution ends.

Rather inconveniently, all the attention Obama's speech has gotten disproves his opening remark: "We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans." It is not the speech of an African leader on the future of the continent that is exciting debate in the media and finding space on the blogs; it is a speech by the U.S. president. This very simple contradiction reveals the world's collective tendency to seek Africa's solutions from the West.

Beyond its many good phrases and populist appeals, Obama's speech did not deviate fundamentally from the views of other Western leaders I have read throughout my lifetime -- on aid, on civil wars, on corruption, or on democracy. Obama repackaged the same old views in less diplomatic language. He had the courage to be more explicit on Africa's ills because, due to his African heritage, Obama can say as he wishes without sounding racist -- a fear that constrains other Western leaders when talking about Africa.

Even so, Obama said nothing new. He assumes that African countries have been mismanaged because leaders on the continent are bad men who make cold hearted choices. His solution is thus to extend moral pleas for them to rule better. Yet it is not the individual behavior of Africa's rulers that demands our closest attention, destructive as that behavior may be. It is the structure of incentives those leaders confront -- incentives that help determine the choices they make.

Using this logic, we can start to ask more-useful questions. If the choices made by Africa's rulers have destroyed their economies, under what conditions can they develop a vested interest in growth-promoting policies? If Africans are going to war much more often than other human beings on the planet, what causes them to do so? When is peace more attractive than military combat?

Governing is not about making simplistic choices on who is right and who is wrong. It requires making complicated trade-offs, some of which might be costly in the short term. Take negotiated conflict settlements, for example, a policy that has stabilized Liberia and Sierra Leone after the two countries' brutal civil wars. That same policy wouldn't have worked in 1994 in Rwanda, where it would have produced an unstable power-sharing arrangement between victims of genocide and their executioners. The lesson: We cannot have one blueprint for all of Africa's problems. Even "good" moral decisions, such as those so often urged upon us by the West, can be bad sometimes.

Obama assumes that the fundamental challenge facing Africa is the lack of democracy and the checks and balances that come with it. But how does he explain why authoritarian Rwanda fights corruption and delivers public services to its citizens much better than its democratic neighbor, Uganda? In fact, the Ugandan brand of democracy has spawned corruption and incompetence more than it has helped combat them. The country's ethnic politics makes patronage and corruption more electorally profitable than delivering services.

Obama's preferred models of successful development, Singapore and South Korea, were not democratic when they rose to prominence. His proposals on ending corruption -- "forensic accounting, automating services strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers" -- are technocratic in nature. But the real challenge is how to give Africa's rulers a vested interest in fighting corruption. In most of Africa today, corruption is the way the system works -- not the way it fails.

The lesson for Obama is that Africa is likely to get better with less meddling in its affairs by the West, not more -- whether that meddling is through aid, peacekeeping, or well-written speeches. Africa needs space to make mistakes and learn from them. The solutions for Africa have to be shaped and articulated by Africans, not outsiders. Obama needs to listen to Africans much more, not lecture them using the same old teleprompter.

Andrew M. Mwenda is managing editor of The Independent, a newsmagazine based in Kampala, Uganda.

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