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Africa: How to Make Sure the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is on Positive Side of History

Photo: The White House Barack Obama (file photo). Photo: The White House
Barack Obama (file photo).

By Robin Renee Sanders

Washington, DC — In two weeks, we will witness a historic happening in Washington, DC, when for the first time, an American president will host African heads-of-state and government to discuss key issues impacting U.S. relations with that vibrant continent.

This event is a major step in the right direction for the United States. However, Africa hands and activists on both sides of the Atlantic and many African Leaders are asking why there will be no individual meetings with participating heads-of-states. China, France, and Japan have gotten this right. Their summits with African leaders include one-on-one meetings, even if they last only a few minutes.

I am not necessarily arguing for bilateral meetings, but what about five presidential sessions with the leaders of the west, central, east, south and north Africa regions? This option would not require an excessive amount of time (reportedly the reason for no one-on-ones). Considering the cost and time involved as these leaders travel to the United States with their (large) entourages and the respect-balance ratios at stake, shouldn’t we be able to manage five meetings?

Encouraging regional integration and cooperation has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy, and these sessions could advance the dialogue on key Summit agenda issues, including peace and security, governance, investment, and the Young Africa Leaders Initiative.

With Africa poised to become the most populous continent by 2050 and with the United States needing allies and partners on policy, business and counterterrorism, Africa is increasingly key to U.S. interests.

White House-level S. focus on Africa is welcome , and Summit themes are on target. Interactive dialogue, engagement, and partnership are the Summit’s stated goals. All good! Related events – starting with this month’s FEEEDS-Gallup-AllAfrica Forum – will address key related issues.

But we need to do something more to address Africa’s perception (not ours) of appropriateness. Thus, my suggestion to add regional meetings to the program. This could further concretize and synergize our positive rhetoric about raising the U.S.-Africa relationship in an unprecedented manner.

The meetings could each be tied to a theme – peace and security for west and/or central, given the challenges in Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Central African Republic and related terrorism threats to U.S. national interest. East Africa discussions could focus on economic issues and perhaps energy.

The last three U.S. presidents, inclusive of President Obama, have done a tremendous job of changing the post-Cold War paradigm — creating signature initiatives –AGOAPEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge CorporationFEED the Future and YALI. I am pleased to been involved as a former U.S. diplomat with at least four of these and am proud of all the successes.

I am also pleased that this Summit is taking place – more than a decade after something similar was suggested in the AGOA legislation of 2000. My hope is for this event to be remembered in a good light. We talk about stemming views that the United States is not as serious about Africa as China, India, and newcomer Brazil. The Summit offers an opportunity to really do this.

We don’t want the footnote to be that the United States couldn’t find time to hold bilateral meetings. As I write, I remember taking part in the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, which had about the same number of world leaders (49), where reports on the President’s schedule at that time listed 9-10 bilateral meetings, one of which I attended. However successfully the Summit plays out, the absence of heads-of-state meetings with the host president, even at the regional level, might be what is remembered most. And that would be a shame.

Calling the Summit historic should not be hyperbole! I am routing for the Summit to be remembered for all the things we did right, not for the one thing we left out. Let’s add regional meetings to the agenda to ensure that the event is a clear success.

Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders is CEO of FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and FE3DS, LLC. As a former distinguished career U.S diplomat, she served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. She is currently an Adjunct Professor & Public Service Scholar at Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris University, director of the U.S. Office of Songhai Farms, author of The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria, and global advisor for the AGOA CSO Network. Follow her on Twitter @rrsafrica.

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Akon Launches “Akon Lighting Africa” To Bring Electricity To One Million African Households

AKON-WITH-PRESIDENT-Blaise-Compaoré

Akon With President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso

Akon is stepping away from music to focus on supplying one million African households with electricity by the end of 2014.  Akon’s initiative “Akon Lighting Africa” aims to address the fact that more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity, as well as more than 85% of those living in rural areas lack access.

Akon’s company, Akon Corp., is working with GIVE1 Project and Solektra International, member of ADS Group (Africa Development Solutions Group), in order to create replicable, scalable and cost-effective energy solutions.

So far Akon has met with leaders from Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and the Ivory Coast and on February 10, 2014, Akon and his delegation, which included Samba Bathily, Solektra International, Thione Niang, Give 1 Project, Wang Lin, CJI, Khadidiatou Thiam, Akon Corp. and Dr. Julius W. Garvey, Akon Corp. began an ambitious tour of nine (9) African nations to engage in dialogue about the project.

“We are extremely pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response of government leaders to embrace a public-private partnership that aims to address access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. This initiative is given further validity and momentum based on the support of these nations and their executives and advisors,” said Akon.

Akon has partnered with Azuri Technologies to support the installation of solar equipment in households, which will in turn allow children to have access to electricity that will improve their quality of education.

To learn more about the “Akon Lighting Africa” initiative please visit www.akonlightingafrica.com.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in African News

 

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Fighting African Energy Poverty Without Serious Harm to the Environment

 

designspiration.net

Romy Chevallier

There are 589 million Africans living without access to modern forms of power. Access to reliable energy is directly linked to economic development and improved livelihoods. In fact, the achievement of nearly all human development goals is dependent upon modern energy access. It powers schools, hospitals, businesses and livelihoods and the lack of it can also disproportionately impact women and girls. In many places in Africa, women and girls are forced to spend hours each day finding firewood, one of the main reasons for the absences of girls in schools, and the lack of evening lighting in certain areas puts women at greater risk of attack or rape.

There is no simple response to the development dilemma of providing increased energy access to the poorest, particularly in light of impending threats of climate change and increasing international pressure for all countries to reduce their overall global carbon emissions. However, climate change concerns must be equitably balanced with the need to address Africa’s immediate energy poverty needs.

The UN definition of ‘sustainable energy’ is energy that is produced and used in ways that will support long-term human development in all of its social, economic and environmental dimensions. Balancing these equally important objectives is the key to finding a long-term sustainable energy solution for Africa. There is a need to urgently reconcile both human development energy needs while maintaining and upholding the need for environmental integrity and climate change mitigation.

In Africa, responses will need to be defined by nationally appropriate commitments, aligned with national circumstances and capabilities. In the short-term, at least for the poorest and least emitting countries, this means responses will include a mixture of renewable and non-renewable solutions.

A call for the poorest African countries to refrain entirely from fossil fuel use in their immediate future is, in my perspective, unfair and divorced from the reality on the ground. It is important to recognize the need of African countries to access and make use of their own natural resources, to primarily focus on the growth and empowerment of their own populations first. For one thing, there are approximately 14 million additional sub-Saharan Africans entering the workforce every year who need jobs and government leaders face an increasing political imperative to address the energy-related constraints for their growing populations. Businesses in Africa cite unreliable power as their major growth constraint. It is therefore imperative that governments act using resources that are cost effective and readily available to address this important obstacle to private sector development — a key driver for job creation and sub-Saharan Africa’s inclusive growth.

Also, there is a need to take into account climate justice and equity. We all recognize there is a strong need to dramatically scale up renewables in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly for some of the larger more polluting countries. However it is also important to recognize that sub-Saharan Africa comprises 12.5 percent of the world’s population, but it is currently responsible for less than 3 percent of global emissions. Indeed the majority of sub-Saharan African countries have per capita CO2 emissions of less than 1 percent of a United States’ citizen. Even if the 589 million sub-Saharan Africans living without electricity got basic levels of access to modern energy, estimates show that it would only raise global emissions by 1 percent. From this it is clear that in the short-term the climate crisis is not going to be solved by unfairly impeding these poorest least emitting African nations from providing necessary power mixes as they see fit.

President Obama’s Power Africa and Congress’ Electrify Africa Act are two initiatives aimed at tackling energy poverty by empowering the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to mobilize private capital for energy projects. These U.S.-led proposals offer some solutions that can help bring power to millions of people without any significant harm to the environment.

In doing this, while these U.S.-led initiatives aim to positively increase renewable energy investments in Africa, it is important that this is also balanced with a scaling-up of traditional grid investment. As poverty-fighting groups like The ONE Campaign have pointed out, in the necessary scale-up of investment needed to address the African energy need, it is essential to ensure that OPIC has an appropriately flexible carbon cap for the poorest, least emitting nations. The agency’s current ‘one-size-fits-all’ limit on total fossil fuel emissions can have the unintended consequence of limiting development and harming poverty alleviation efforts in some of the world’s most impoverished and lowest emitting nations.

Africans need to make use of their own broad array of natural resources in order to unlock their economic growth potential and reduce their dependency on imported energy sources. Investment in energy infrastructure, both renewable and non-renewable, is urgently needed for the poorest countries to access these resources. This can be balanced with investments in an array of new technology to greatly improve energy efficiency and to capture and store carbon.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in African Diaspora News

 

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Mormon Church Grows In Africa Because Converts Don’t Know Racist History

 

The Mormon Church spreads in Africa
blackstarnews.com

Lee B. Baker

For several years now, every Tuesday evening I have had the great privilege of addressing the Christian and Mormon listeners of Worship FM 101.7 in Monrovia, the capital City of Liberia, West Africa.

I have come to know several of the station managers and a number of the more frequent callers to the weekly program.  Through their comments, questions and photographs, I have been genuinely moved to see the application of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the past few months the question of racist teachings in the Book of Mormon and from the past Leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on the minds of the Liberian converts to Mormonism and the many Christians who struggle to understand how such a Church can be growing in Africa.

I believe the answer is relatively simple; it has been the perfect merging of a sincere lack of knowledge on the part of the Mormon converts and a disturbing lack of accountability on the part of the Mormon leaders.  A near total lack of knowledge across Africa specific to some of the more explicit teachings found within the Mormon Scriptures, principally that Black Skin is a representation of wickedness and even less information concerning the racism and bigotry openly and officially taught by the early Leadership of the Mormon Church.

This combined with the current Church Leadership’s inability to clearly and specifically reject its own racist teachings both in print and from its past Senior Leadership, has left the Black Race with only a short irresponsible and offensively juvenile Official Statement that claims the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows very little about its own race-based policy that had lasted for well over 100 years:

“It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended.”  

Maintaining a detailed and comprehensive history of every aspect and teaching of the Church has been both one of the hallmarks and one of the downfalls of Mormon Church.  Within the relatively young Church, authoritative documentation, however corrupt it may have been, has never been in short supply.  Each of the Senior Leaders of the Mormon Church has had several official biographers as well as an army of Church authorized historians to record for the faithful Mormon all facets of the History of the Church.  In fact, one of my first of many “Callings” in the Mormon Church was that of a Ward (Congregational) Historian, long before I became a Bishop.

The peculiar assertion that the Mormon Church itself does not know the details of its very own race-based policy of restricting the Blacks from holding the Priesthood is tremendously embarrassing for all Mormons and exceptionally degrading for anyone who actually believes it.

As a former local leader of the Mormon Church, I have repeatedly assured the African members of the Mormon Church that the documents and “Scriptures” I have read to them over the air are both Authorized and Official for the time period they are relevant to.  I clearly state the current position of total acceptance of all Races by the Church, but I must highlight the fact that the Book of Mormon still carries it’s obviously racist message that dark skin was a curse and Jesus was white.

I have said many times on-air that like the Mormon Missionaries, I too believe that every African should have a copy of the Book of Mormon, if only to learn the truly racist teaching of the Mormons.

I have and will continue to teach the African Nations from the authentic Mormon Scriptures and the Church History documents, which I had purchased from the Mormon Church to know my past responsibilities as a Mormon Bishop. The official records of the Mormon Church include many jokes and sermons given within the Official Semi-Annual General Conference of the faithful Mormons, using the “N-word”, Darky and Sambo.  Additionally, these Church published books record nearly 100 graphic sermons and lessons that clearly teach the principle, practice and policy that Black Skin was, is and will remain forever the Curse of Cain.

Only in the recent past has the “Complete History” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come to the attention of its own membership, much less to the under developed regions of the world.  As this information is discovered, an ever increasing number of members of the Mormon Church have come into a personal crisis of faith, most notably Elder Hans Mattsson[3] of Sweden, a General Authority of the Mormon Church who has gone public with his doubts and questions.

Not unique to Africa, has been the Mormon Church’s training of young Missionaries to strictly avoid any discussion of several of the more embarrassing, yet true, teachings of the 183 year old Church. Chief among these subjects has been Polygamy and Blacks and the Priesthood.

With the smooth talent of a skilled politician, the Mormon Church has ended its Official Statement with the following hypocritical and deceitful, but technically accurate quote:

“The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear.  Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications.  These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

As a former Mormon Bishop and member of the Mormon Church for over 32 years, let me be of some help with the translation of this very carefully crafted message. The two key noteworthy phrases are: “in the absence of direct revelation” and “These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

I will address the most obvious first, clearly the “previous statements” from the Church and its Leadership “do not” represent the Church doctrine today.  The policy was reversed in 1978 and there is no question as to the policy today. The hypocritical deception is that between 1845 and 1978 those “statements” did, very much “DID” not “DO” represent past Church doctrine.  Yet, I do give full credit to the clever Mormon authors and editors for their most skillful use of the English language.

And finally, the most revealing and enlightening statement from the Mormon Church is: “in the absence of direct revelation”.  So then, it is incredibly true and accurate that without any mockery or sarcasm; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had for nearly 100 years, restricted a significant portion of the human race, millions and millions from God’s intended blessings of Eternal Marriage, Salvation and even Godhood, without knowing why they did it, all without “direct revelation”?

This Official Statement of religious shame and embarrassment comes from the Headquarters of a Church that claims to be guided in all things by “direct revelation”.  How then, did such an exclusive doctrine based on prejudice, bigotry and racism become so accepted, so authoritative, so convincing and so commanding for so long, without “direct revelation”?

As a former Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I give testimony that what they have stated is true, in that, they are racist and do not hide the History of the Church from its members or the public, this, their Official Statement on Race and the Church demonstrates that fact.

I believe that the truly wicked teachings as well as the repulsive history of the Mormon Church concerning Polygamy, Polyandry, Blood Atonement, and Blacks and the Priesthood is available for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It is my prayer that all Mormons and non-Mormons will come to know the true history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That every man, woman and young adult on the earth today will find the time to read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover to see the deception they hold, and then read the Word of God with the eyes of a child, and follow the true Jesus, the true Christ found only in the Bible.

 

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In Africa, a Renewed Sense of Potential

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama (right) waves to the crowd with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. (AFP)

Your Take: The African Union is finally living up to its promise, 50 years later, writes the president of Ghana.

by John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama (right) waves to the crowd with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. (AFP)

 When the African Union (known then as the Organization of African Unity) was founded, the leaders of that era understood that the success of their individual countries hinged on the success of the entire continent. Now, as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary, we understand more than ever the key role that unity has played in Africa’s past and must continue to play as the continent embraces this new wave of economic prosperity and international attention.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, founding father of Ghana, the first sub-Saharan nation to gain its independence from colonial rule, famously said, “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.” This sense of solidarity was one of the driving forces behind the gathering of Dr. Nkrumah and other leaders from 32 African nations on May 25, 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie hosted that first ever African Summit, during which the organization was born.

It is easy in this information age of search engines and social media, where protest and consensus are only a click away, to dismiss this decision to stand as one body in support of each other’s mutual interests as unremarkable. But, in fact, it was a quite remarkable feat. It took a vision that extended beyond the problems and circumstances of right then and right there. It took the wisdom to know that all vestiges of domination had to be deconstructed. New structures and paradigms, ones that mirrored our indigenous traditions, had to be created.

The divisions that had been created by colonialism, from artificial boundaries to purposely manufactured ethnic tensions, were all intentional impediments to African unity and, as a consequence, African liberation. Dividing, after all, is the first step toward conquering.

The Organization of African Unity concerned itself with improving the living conditions of Africans on the continent, defending the sovereignty of newly liberated nations, as well as funding and fighting for the liberation of places still under colonial domination. It imposed sanctions on South Africa for its practice of apartheid and aligned itself with individuals and groups in other parts of the world, particularly the United States, that were engaged in a struggle for the equality of African people within the diaspora.

Perhaps the most important mission of the Organization of African Unity, implicit in its every existence, was the recognition of Africans, regardless of origin, as brothers and sisters of the same soil. We were accepting the responsibility to be each other’s keeper.

But the priorities of the organization could only mirror the priorities of its member nations. There were years when some nations were being devastated by war, famine, ethnic strife and crippling poverty. The continent was fragmented. Many nations were too busy struggling for their own survival to take on the additional burden of being another country’s keeper. And, not surprisingly, the despots and coup-makers who were looting their country’s coffers balked at the idea of accountability.

During those years, which are often referred to as “the lost decades,” the Organization of African Unity seemed to exist in name only; many referred to it as a toothless bulldog. Nevertheless, everyone still recognized the need for its existence.

In 2002, the Organization of African Unity was dissolved and replaced with the African Union. It was more than a superficial makeover. The post-colonial growing pains that had resulted in chaos and poor governance for many nations were now giving way to peace, democracy and the rule of law. And once again, we recognized the strength and power in our unity.

The African Union is a well-structured organization with precise goals, a primary one of which is “to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.” In order to hasten this integration, eight regional economic communities were created: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (EAC), to name just two.

 

It is without a doubt that these subregional bodies have played a significant role in bringing economic stability. So much so that the majority of the nations listed as the world’s fastest growing economies are on the African continent.

Now that the majority of African nations are committed to the development of their democracies, the African Union is also better able to define its role when there is a need for conflict resolution. And because the challenges facing our nations are increasingly becoming ones that have no regard for national boundaries, challenges such as effectively enforcing laws to end the trafficking of drugs and human beings, addressing the impact of climate change, deforestation, desertification and land degradation, the African Union’s member states will come to an agreement on how to grant the organization full legislative powers, while at the same time enabling nations to maintain their sovereignty.

Just like the continent that it oversees, the African Union is a work in progress. As a student of history, I know that 50 years is a relatively short span of time, amounting to nothing more than a page in a history textbook. When considered in that context, the African Union has come a very long way since its inception — three whole decades before the inception of the European Union — and given the limitations that it has faced over the years, African Union has achieved a great deal.

At that first African summit in Addis Ababa, Emperor Haile Selassie said, “May this convention of union last 1,000 years.” With the renewed sense of potential on the African continent, indeed it shall.

John Dramani Mahama is the president of Ghana. 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in African News

 

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Africa’s new suitor and the dilemma of many investment partners

Odomaro Mubangizi

2013-07-24, Issue 640

 


cc S M
Among the investment suitors lined up for Africa, Brazil has close historical and cultural links with Africa and this makes her a more likely partner than other rivals. Africa should develop the chemistry that exists between her and Brazil

That Africa is on a roller-coaster economic growth trajectory is not in question among economics and development experts. From Cape to Cairo, from Ethiopia to Nigeria, private and public investments, especially in banking, infrastructure, telecoms, retail and general trading, health and pharmaceuticals, mining and metals, insurance, oil and gas, consumer goods, construction and materials, and information technology, have turned Africa into the most coveted investment destination of choice. This has made the African continent a much sought after suitor, to use, a romantic term, by the major world economies such as India, China, Brazil, EU and the US. But the most interesting recent global development is the economic block known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa). Of interest for this article is the role of Brazil as a potential investor or trade partner for Africa. The article seeks to analyze the merits and demerits of Africa’s courtship with Brazil amidst the stiff competition with other more powerful rivals such as China, US, EU and even South Africa itself. The theoretical framework will be that of international political economy, in the context of globalization, pan-Africanism, regional integration and emerging geo-politics. The analytical and conceptual framework is deliberately ambitious to capture as many variables as possible so as to get a full picture of what is at stake in this exciting complex scramble for Africa’s resources and economic glamour.

AFRICA AS AN EMERGING GLOBAL ECONOMIC POWER: CAN SHE CLAIM THE 21ST CENTURY?

Discerning observers of Africa’s development process since independence seem to all agree on one evident fact, that Africa is now the fastest growing continent, thanks to her untapped natural resources, and cheap young labour force. Another major factor that is making Africa an emerging global economic power-house is the new investor confidence she has gained from the developed economies at time when the global economy is experiencing recurrent crises. It is as if African ancestors have finally been appeased and they are returning favours to their long-suffering descendants. The IMF and the World Bank in their annual reports, are all in agreement that Africa is about to experience an economic take-off. On average, Africa is estimated to be experiencing an economic growth of at about 5 percent per annum. Of course the gross income inequality can be masked by such an impressive growth both within individual states and across the continent. South Africa is not on the same level of economic growth as Malawi, Botswana is not at the same level of economic prosperity as Uganda, Angola with its double digit growth cannot be compared with South Sudan.

Over all, there is renewed optimism about Africa’s economic prospects. Some analysts point to the relative political stability of the continent. Also to note is the general increase of countries that have embraced democratization. The 1990s saw the decline of one-party states giving way to multiparty democracy, and some countries such as Ghana, Mauritius, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, having free, fair and regular multi-party elections under the rule of law. While countries such as DRC and Somalia are still trapped in armed conflict, overall, armed strife has declined across the continent. Such peace dividends are a prerequisite for rapid economic growth and boosting investor confidence.

At a geopolitical and international political economic level, the emergence of a multi-polar world has left Africa relatively free from externally instigated armed conflict for ideological and strategic interests as was the case during the cold war. This is not to suggest that external forces have completely been obliterated. Far from it. The new challenge of global terrorism has once again brought Africa face to face with the choice of taking sides in the global war on terror. But the current impact on the global war on terror cannot be compared to the infamous cold-war rivalry. Africa now has more rational options in pursuing foreign policies that will be advantageous to its individual countries. After all, Africa has a continent-wide integration model under the rubric of the African Union and its specialized agencies such as NEPAD.

Africa’s population estimated at about 1 billion with its youth population of between age 15 and 24 is expected to double to 400 million by 2045. The market and productive potential of such a continent needs no further elaboration. Key to the vibrant young population’s contribution to economic growth is the easy use of Information Communication Technology (ICT), especially mobile phones for banking and other business transactions. For instance in Uganda, it is estimated that the amount of money transacted through mobile money has reached $ 4.5 billion USD by 2012 with about 2.9 million users. Kenya took the lead in mobile money transfer with its innovative M-pesa launched by Safaricom. Kenya’s Equity Bank has also come up with innovative financial services to become one of Africa’s fastest growing banks in the region.

Intra-African trade has also increased considerably thanks to regional trade blocks such as SADC, East African Community, ECOWAS, and COMESA. The two giant economies of Africa, Nigeria and South Africa have increased their bilateral trade with more than 100 South African companies doing business in Nigeria. The major catalyst for investment and economic growth in Africa is African Development Bank (ADB) under the able leadership of Dr. Donald Kabaruka who seems to have got the economic policies right. This is manifested in ADB’s current private sector portfolio that stands at $ 8 billion USD and is expected to grow to $ 10 billion by 2014. The private sector is now considered the engine of economic growth, despite the fact that some African government still get tempted to embrace a state controlled economy with little room for the private sector. The other major policy shift that stands the chance of boosting power is for instance the World Bank and ADB have signed an agreement to fund Ethiopia-Kenya power line that will cost $ 1.2 billion USD. If such cross-border power grids can be developed across most African counties, the shortage of electricity would be solved and the once labeled ‘Dark Continent’ would begin to shine.

THEN COMES CHINA: LOOK TO THE EAST

The common mantra on every one’s lips these days is how China has invaded Africa for trade and investment. China-African summits are a common occurrence and one often hears African heads of state invoking the phrase: ‘We look East’ as if to make the West feel a bit jealous. Is this ‘look East’ mere hubris or it is a new paradigm in Africa’s foreign policy? China symbolically welcomed this new policy imperative making rounds in Africa by donating the headquarters building of AU in Addis Ababa that cost $ 200 million USD. Never mind the counter argument that China actually gets about $ 130 billion USD in trade and investment! China has indeed funded massive infrastructural projects in Africa with grants and loans. Just by way of examples: between 2001 and 2011 China funded some African countries as follows: Rwanda $ 469 million USD; Burundi $ 165 million USD; Kenya $ 1.6 billion USD; Tanzania $ 4.6 billion USD; and Uganda $ 4.5 billion USD. Others countries that China has good investment with are both Nigeria and Angola in oil and construction.

The most dramatic development in Africa’s geopolitical and international economic re-alignment is the emergence of China as the world’s second largest economy after the United States. China’s attractiveness as Africa’s new trade partner is premised on China’s policy of not interfering with internal politics of partner countries. This of course has its own drawbacks for Africa’s new young democracies. Tyrannical regimes would gladly welcome such a policy that will not make them accountable to the electorate. It also raises a deeper question of whether one can sustain economic growth without a corresponding growth in democratic systems such as free and fair elections, rule of law and free media.

THEN FOLLOWS BRICS: A NEW POWER CENTER ON THE RISE

While observers of global politics are still making sense of the Chinese ascendance on the global scene, a new power center has emerged under the acronym BRICS (Brazil, India, China and South Africa). This is the first time in world politics that a South-South economic block has emerged to challenge the Western hegemonic control of the global economy. The Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and IMF are popularly known, have now to face the reality of another economic power center especially if the BRICS go ahead and set up a bank of their own. For Africa, BRICS is an exciting possibility given that it will once again break the monopoly over the global economy that the West has enjoyed for centuries. But most importantly, South Africa, Africa’s leading economy is part of this economic block. This is very significant given that South Africa has the top ten of Africa’s 250 largest companies. And most importantly, Brazil another emerging economy is part of this economic architecture. If these two can team with the rest of Africa, the BRICS can help Africa meet some of its strategic goals in the international political economy.

Some critical questions about BRICS of course is the danger of Africa being torn apart by multiple offers from the various suitors wanting a hand in the investment marriage. What will happen to the China-Africa trade and investment deals if BRICS has other interested parties equally greedy for Africa’s immense resources and economic potential? Is Africa united and cohesive enough as an economic block to negotiate deals with Russia, China, and Brazil? Does South Africa side with Africa while it is part of BRICS in the case of complex trade and investment deals without falling into the trap of a conflict of interests?

WILL BRAZIL WIN THIS COURTSHIP CONTEST FOR AFRICA?

We now turn to Brazil the main focus of this discussion. I want to argue that Brazil, given its cultural and economic similarities with Africa, has a better chance of being Africa’s trade and investment partner even if the BRICS framework is maintained. Brazil has about 60 percent of its population who are people of African descent. This brings some cultural proximity to Africa. Economics is also about chemistry. The vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture manifested in dress, food, dance and belief systems can provide a basis for close economic cooperation. The only challenge being language—Brazil uses Portuguese while most African counties use either French or English as official languages. Only Angola and Mozambique use Portuguese. This might be another opportunity to explore in Brazil’s foreign policy, to think of promoting Portuguese in Africa while at the same time introducing French and English in Brazil. Language is a tool for cultural exchange and trade.

Brazil can also help link Africa with the rest of Latin America, a continent that has a lot in common with Africa in as far as colonial history is concerned. Again Latin America has a vibrant religious and cultural landscape that is akin to that of Africa. This can help create stronger bonds of South-South cooperation. Asia can be part of this geopolitical re-alignment via India and China. Only then can the end of Western hegemony be accomplished in an increasingly globalized world.

The other advantage that Brazil has over other competitors for Africa’s economy of affection is its relatively recent economic take off. As Africa learns to jump, it is better to learn with some one of equal strength.

Brazil is also experiencing birth-pangs of state consolidation judging by the recent streets protests about high public transport costs, unemployment and restless youth. Brazil is to host three major events: this year, World Youth Day led by the Pope Francis, then next will follow the World Cup and Olympics. These three global events can help show-case Brazil as an economic force to be reckoned with. But the unrest that Brazil is experiencing has to be addressed strategically. If the protests in Brazil turn out to be harbingers of a ‘Brazilian Spring’ then Africa’s new suitor’s credibility and image is in question.

WHAT AFRICA NEEDS TO GET RIGHT: STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK

When all is said and done, what strategic options does Africa have vis-à-vis the emerging economies of the South and East, especially Brazil? Africa has been experimenting with all kinds of policy frameworks and strategies for decades: modernization; Lagos Plan of Action; Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs); neo-liberalism; private sector; import substitution; and recently, developmental state inspired by the East Asian model and China. From all these varied approaches, one conclusion can be made: Africa has been marked by policy uncertainty for decades.

This calls for a more careful scrutiny of strategic options available lest past mistakes get repeated. As George Santayana aptly observed that, ‘If you forget history you are condemned to repeat its mistakes.’ Some of the past mistakes to be avoided are the following: 1) Over-depending on foreign policy experts to find solutions to Africa’s problems; 2) Designing short-term policies that come and go with particular regimes; 3) Operating in colonial political economic frameworks; 4) Failure to link development with democracy; 5) Not utilizing indigenous knowledge systems.

The next step is the complex strategic analysis of what comparative advantages Africa has in engaging Brazil more instead of either China or India. On close inspection one notices that the BRICS model masks certain fundamental philosophical differences among these five emerging global economic powers. A quick appraisal of each is in order. Brazil has a dynamic civil society and private sector and has also embraced democracy. India and South Africa are in the same category as Brazil as far as economic liberalization and democratization processes are concerned. Not so China and Russia which are unapologetically state-controlled political economies. Africa needs to be careful when it comes to what political economy to follow. Some countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Mauritius and Botswana are fully committed to development that has democracy as an essential element. The AU through its NEPAD framework demands that states be accountable both politically and economically. Why then all of a sudden is this rhetoric of seeking economic development first while democracy waits for some time? Why would African countries claim to be upholding the rule of law and still argue that they do not want to be subjected to international justice systems such as the ICC, a system that they willingly became signatory to? Even if there were other rogue states that violate international law, that is not a good argument to want to emulate them. So Africa needs to get right the essentials of democracy as the various African constitutions spell them out: rule of law, a democratic constitution, free media, bill of rights, and respecting the international conventions that each country subscribes to.

Finally, on the question of how Africa will navigate through the competing suitors, some suggestions. In a multi-polar that we now live in, Africa can no longer think in terms of either or, when it comes to selecting who to do business with. In choosing Brazil, Africa cannot say it has nothing to do with China or the USA. Africa will have to develop a complex integrated model of constructive engagement with whoever has something to offer in the global market. This is not different from what the developed economies are doing. The EU does business with China just as it does with USA. There are other economic groups such as the G8 that control the world economy but they also have widened the net to now comprise the G20. This kind of strategic flexibility is what Africa needs. Some countries in Africa are already experimenting with this strategic flexibility. For example Tanzania belongs to both the East African Community and SADC. Africa will have to learn the age-old lesson that economics like politics is an art of the possible.

Strategic areas that both Africa and Brazil need to invest in include: industrialization; tourism; agriculture; infrastructure development especially power, roads, air travel; human resource development and South-South cooperation.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the role of Brazil in Africa cannot be divorced from the BRICS initiative. But a case has been made for a strategic option for Brazil as far as Africa is concerned given the unique common characteristics that the regions have in common. Africa should exploit the chemistry that exists between her and Brazil. However, a key element that will make the bonds between Brazil and Africa strong and sustainable is stable democracy and inclusive development. Both Brazil and Africa have a certain charm and mystique that is mutually beneficial, and they are not rivals in this regard.

*Odomaro Mubangizi (Dr) teaches philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Ababa and is also Editor of ‘Justice, Peace and Environment Bulletin.’

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in African News

 

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Seven African countries cut child HIV infections by half

 

A man walks past a banner tied on a bus before the start of a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at the Ebute Mata district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos April 21, 2012. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

By Kate Kelland

(Reuters) – Seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s worst-hit region in the global AIDS epidemic, have cut the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009, the United Nations AIDS program said on Tuesday.

The dramatic reductions – in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia – mean tens of thousands more babies are now being born free of HIV, UNAIDS said in a report on its Global Plan to tackle the disease in around 20 of the worst affected countries.

Overall, across 21 priority countries in Africa, there were 130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children in 2012 – a drop of 38 percent since 2009 – mostly due to increased drug treatment of pregnant women with the virus.

“The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts every child can be born free from HIV,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS’ executive director.

“But progress has stalled in some countries with high numbers of new HIV infections. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up.”

Among places causing concern, UNAIDS said, are Angola and Nigeria, where new infections in children have increased and remained unchanged respectively since 2009.

Nigeria has the largest number of children acquiring HIV in the region, with nearly 60,000 new infections in 2012.

And for those children who do become infected, access to AIDS drugs that can keep their disease in check is “unacceptably low”, UNAIDS said, with only 3 in 10 children getting the AIDS medicines they need in most priority countries.

The report said much of the reduction in new HIV cases in children was thanks to more use of AIDS drug treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women. Coverage rates were above 75 percent in many of the priority countries, it said.

AIDS medicines known as antiretroviral therapy not only improve the health of mothers with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but can also prevent HIV from being transmitted to their children.

Botswana and South Africa have reduced mother to child HIV transmission rates to 5 percent or less, according to UNAIDS.

Eric Goosby, global AIDS coordinator for the United States government, called on the international community to “continue working together to see the day when no children are born with HIV, which is within our reach”.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

 

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