Africa: A Continent Without Democrats, By Reuben Abati

The second wave of democratization in Africa, beginning in the 80s, and the gradual establishment of democracy as the new normal in the continent brought much hope and excitement. As we have seen in the recent intervention by the military in Zimbabwe, coup d’etats have become unpopular and unacceptable in the entire continent in deference perhaps to dominant global politics. In the past two decades, there have been many electoral transitions across the continent indicative of a pattern of democratic consolidation. In reality, however, mercenaries of democracy, dictators and a military culture dominate African politics. The form of governance may have changed, but the form of politics has remained seemingly unchangeable.

We are forcefully reminded of this by certain recent developments across the continent. In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza has just ensured that the officials of a football team, which rough-tackled him during a football match last year, have been sent to prison. Nkurunziza, a graduate of Sports Education (1990), loves to play football, even as President. He owns a football team, Haleluia FC, and a choir, “Kameza gusenga” which means “pray non-stop”. President Nkurunziza is a member of his football team and he actually joins them to take part in tournaments, friendlies and other matches, fully attired in the club’s colours.

A day may well come when the President may decide to play for the national team, prompting concerns across Burundi that the President plays too much football, instead of attending to state matters. Nkurunziza had his day on the field when Haleluia FC met Kiremba FC. If in previous matches the President was treated with respect, and even allowed to score, the Kiremba soccer team was not ready for that. They played man to man, and treated the match with professional seriousness. They tackled the President each time he had the ball. He fell on the pitch several times.

It is for this reason the administrator of Kiremba FC, Cyriaque Nkezabahizi and his assistant, Michel Mutama are now in prison, having been charged and tried for a curious felony called “conspiracy against the President”! Nkurunziza may be a sports graduate, and even taught the subject for a while at the university level, but he is not in any way a sportsman. Like his other colleagues across Africa, he is a dictator who likes to have his way. Football is a body-contact sport, like rugby, boxing and wrestling. Not even the almighty Lionel Messi or Neymar or the skillful Cristiano Ronaldo, with all their accomplishments in the sport expect to be treated like royalty in a football match. Like Nkurunziza, most African leaders do not like to play by the rules. They like to cheat and force their options down the people’s throats.

This same Nkurunziza who came to power in 2005, refused to go after the expiration of his constitutional tenure of two terms in 2015. He insisted on having a third term. Protests by the people were suppressed, media houses were shut down, journalists were detained, members of the opposition were harassed, after two months more than 200 persons had been killed and hundreds of thousands had fled into exile. Nkurunziza had his way. He likes jogging, but when members of the opposition also began organizing Saturday morning joggings, he placed a ban on jogging across the country. He is the only one who is allowed to enjoy the pleasure of jogging as he wishes, in a country of 12 million people.

He is not the only African leader however who has been able to get away with a third term in office through a violation and manipulation of the Constitution. To many African leaders, the Constitution does not matter at all. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame, President since 2003, completed his constitutionally stipulated second term in 2017, but the constitution was altered to allow him serve for a third term, and now the constitution has been further altered to keep Kagame in power till 2034. The excuse is that he is doing a good job and that there is no alternative to him. The only person who summoned the courage to challenge Kagame in 2017, a lady, Diane Rwigara was harassed and detained. Her nude pictures were posted on the internet. This no-alternative thing is a dubious misinterpretation of democracy in Africa. And it is one of the stupid points being canvassed in Nigeria, currently, by those who want President Muhammadu Buhari to remain in office beyond 2019, despite growing protests that he should be a one-term President. Nigeria is a country of about 200 million people. Is it not the height of idiocy to say that there is no alternative to Buhari?

Africa is not in short supply of mercenaries who mouth such idiocy and actively give effect to it. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 46-year old Joseph Kabila whose two terms in office expired close to two years ago has refused to organize elections. He negotiated a one-year extension till 2017, but despite protests, and international objections, he has extended the election time-table till December 2018 on the ground that there are “logistical problems”. Now, the country’s electoral commission has further announced that no Presidential election can possibly take place in the DRC before April 2019. Various militias, rebel groups, and civil society organisations, backed by the Catholic Church are insisting that Joseph Kabila will not be allowed to rule the DRC forever. Widespread violence has made the DRC politically unstable and fragile, but Joseph Kabila cannot be bothered.

The standard African response is to descend on the opposition, including political parties, journalists, writers, human rights activists and thinkers as harshly as possible. The African man of power does not understand that the right to protest, to differ and to express an opinion is part of democracy. In Togo, there is an ongoing popular protest titled “Faure Must Go”. President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005. He succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years. With the Constitution of Togo not indicating any Presidential term limits, the Togolese opposition has been leading a series of protests to demand for such term limits – a restriction to a maximum of two, five-year terms and a two-round voting system. Faure wants to rule forever like his father, and so, even in spite of mediation by Ghana and Guinea, he has been sending soldiers after the protesters. The opposition in Africa is probably the most abused in the world.

Go to Egypt. Egypt goes to the polls on March 26 but incumbent President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi does not want any opposition. He has taken every measure to scare away every person who has shown interest in competing with him for the office. One Presidential aspirant, Colonel Ahmed Konsowa was accused and convicted for “expressing political opinions as a serving military officer”. Another, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, after being detained by the Egyptian military, had to call off his presidential bid. He was accused of “blatant legal violations (and) a serious breach of the laws of military service.” Other aspirants – Mortada Mansour, Khaled Ali and Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat have all dropped their presidential ambitions because they could not stand the climate of fear imposed by President Sisi.

Only one aspirant is still standing, Mousa Moustafa Mousa and he is, because the court saved him. The ruling party had asked for his disqualification on the grounds that he does not have a certified university or higher education degree. This is a minimum requirement for the Presidential office in Egypt. I hope some Nigerians would take special note of this! The Supreme Administrative Court has now ruled that Mousa Mousa indeed holds an MA in Architecture from a French University, and the National Electoral Authority has certified this, thus putting paid to the orchestrated possibility of President Sisi getting a second term unopposed. Still Sisi is not prepared to lose. He has declared that anybody or “forces of evil” who defame the country’s security forces through “the broadcast and publication of lies and false news” would be charged for “high treason.” He is of course referring to himself and not necessarily the military operation in the Northern Sinai Peninsula.

Absolute power corrupts and so it is also with Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Equitorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Cameroon has been battling secessionist rebellion in North West and South West parts of the country. The Biya government has done everything possibly negative to suppress the people of the proposed Ambazonia Republic including detention, police brutality, internet black-out, curfews, arrests and intimidation. When about 50 of the rebels, including their leader, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe fled across the border, they were chased all the way to Nigeria, where they were arrested by the Nigerian authorities on Cameroon’s request and repatriated. This couldn’t have been a difficult request for the Buhari government to accede to, given the fact that it had also launched a military operation against would-be secessionists in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Paul Biya also probably learnt a lesson from Nigeria or perhaps it was the old fox just being himself. He has just appointed two persons from the aggrieved North West/South-West of Cameroon into his newly reconstituted cabinet to assuage fears of marginalization by the Ambazonians. One of the portfolios is that of the Minister of Interior. The average African leader is manipulative and trickish. In Biya’s case, it is worse. He is 85, he has been in power for more than three decades, and he still plans to run for election this year. His opponent from the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) is likely to be a 49-year old, Joshua Osih. Biya is Cameroon’s Mugabe.

His sit-tight colleague in Equitorial Guinea is no better. Last week, Mbasogo proscribed the main opposition party in the country, the Citizens for Innovation (CI) for allegedly undermining state security. In November 2017, there were clashes between CI supporters and armed policemen. Party leaders have argued that their supporters did not carry any arms, and that they were only campaigning. 21 of them have been sentenced to 26 years imprisonment for sedition, and 10 years for breach of authority, and fined 210,000 Euros along with their party! I suspect that CI’s main offence would be that of having the audacity to win one seat in parliament in that country’s last elections, while the ruling party won 99 seats out of 100 seats. That makes Teodoro Mbasogo uncomfortable: he cannot afford the growth of opposition in his country, or anything that would threaten his plan to hand over power eventually to his first son, 48-year old Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue who is currently the First Vice President in charge of defence and security and the oil and gas sector.

First sons and first daughters are often part of the political equation. Togo’s Faure, DRC’s Kabila, Equitorial Guinea’s Teodorin, and Angola’s former first daughter, Isabel dos Santos. They share power with their father and possibly succeed him, and if not, they could become as wealthy as Isabel. This is why it baffles me that Nigerians are always hypertensive anytime they see first or second sons and daughters in the corridors of power enjoying privileges extended to them by their fathers. The Minister of State for Health received Yusuf Buhari at the airport and they won’t allow us rest. What if the President had sent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the airport? He would refuse to go?

The sad part of the African story is that even when you discover a President who seems to be doing well, he does well only for a while, before he begins to misbehave like the rest. Take John Pombe Magufuli, the developmental President of Tanzania, the “Bulldozer.” In nearly three years in office, he has brought fresh energy and creativity to governance in Tanzania. He has waged war against indolence, incompetence, corruption, ghost workers, bad infrastructure, but he is also now waging war against democracy. His government has banned public rallies by the opposition. It has introduced a law, which criminalises free speech on social and electronic media, and jailed at least two politicians for “hate speech”. Magufuli has also banned the smoking of Shisha, and famously declared, that “no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school…” In Tanzania, it is an offence to “annoy” the government, but okay to rape young girls!

When an African leader finally decides to leave, he insists on choosing his own successor. Sierra Leone goes to the polls tomorrow, for example, with 16 parties and six leading candidates on the ballot, but the fight is between the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma has, in the meantime, handpicked his former Foreign Minister, Dr. Samura Kamara (APC), as his successor, because according to him, “he knows exactly what he needs to do…” Our democracy suffers in this manner in part because the people themselves play what the Sierra Leonean musician, Daddy SAJ calls “watermelon politics” (2007) – the people not knowing what they want or what is good for them. Nigerians have made that mistake too often. But then, is there something in the African DNA that is anti-democracy? Is this about African culture or the truth about universal democracy? Whatever it is, as they go to the polls tomorrow, Sierra Leoneans should eschew “watermelon politics” and vote wisely.

Buhari Calls For A Unified Market In Africa

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called for the speedy establishment of a single, unified market in Africa.

This, he said, would increase trade, create more jobs and reduce poverty.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President made the call while presenting Nigeria’s position in favour of the report on the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area and related issues presented by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“It is Nigeria’s position that as African leaders and principal architects of our union, we must now speed up action to conclude the negotiations and establish the CFTA,” the President.

Noting that the continent has missed the timeline set by the African Union in January 2012 to establish the CFTA in 2017, Buhari said African leaders still had the opportunity to set it up by March 2018.

Justifying Nigeria’s vote for the CFTA, the President said, “In a rapidly changing global economy, with much uncertainty, we believe that the establishment of a CFTA would provide Africa with tremendous opportunity to achieve significant growth driven by intra-African trade.”

According to him, while the stakes in setting up CFTA are no doubt very high, the benefits are wide-ranging and significant.

“The primary objective is economic namely, for trade in goods and services on the continent.

“A single, unified market would lead to a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement amongst African Union Member States.

“If we integrate Africa’s market for trade in goods and services, we will not only double intra-African trade but also negotiate with other regions or continents on trade matters,” he said.

Buhari argued further that, “If we increase our trade, we grow faster, create more jobs and reduce poverty. Thus, with CFTA, our continent will be more integrated, united and prosperous.”

He noted that the “CFTA will carry significant welfare gains associated with increased production, consumption and revenue. It will generate more economic growth, enhance efficiency and support enterprise and innovation.”

The Nigerian leader urged his African colleagues to also look beyond the economic benefits of the CFTA, stressing that it will “be another step in uniting Africa and consolidating the architecture of the African Union.”

He added, “The establishment of the CFTA is also the first step for the African Union in the implementation of ‘Agenda 2063” for the socio-economic transformation of the continent as well as being a building block in the achievement of the goals of the 1991 Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community.”

The President, who commended President Issoufou on his role as the “AU Champion for the CFTA”, whose work “has significantly advanced our goal to conclude and launch the CFTA.”

He also lauded the technical support provided by the AU Commission, with Nigeria serving as the Chair of the Negotiating Forum and Chairperson of the AU Ministers of Trade.

Considering the huge benefits of the CFTA, the President said Nigeria welcomed the idea and called on the AU Member States to lend their strategic support without delay.

Cassper Nyovest Admits Nigerian Rappers Are Not Known In South Africa

Award-winning South African hip-hop act, Cassper Nyovest, who ust scooped the Best Hip Hop act award at the just concluded Soundcity MVPs has revealed that Nigerian rappers are not known in South Africa.

Cassper who is regarded as one of the greatest and most successful rappers in Africa has shared his thoughts on what he thinks about the rivalry between Nigerian and South African rappers.

He said: ‘Yes, South African Hip-hop is in the forefront of African Hip-hop in general. It might not be as popular as it is in South Africa in Nigeria. But I know for a fact that the rappers from Nigeria are kinda unknown in SA,”

“If we talk about crossing over, I know that a lot of people in Nigeria know about my music. I know that in Kenya and Ghana it’s the same thing.

“I’m not just talking about me, I’m talking about the movement. Sarkodie is big in Ghana, but are there other rappers who are as big as Sarkodie from Ghana? The South African Hip-hop movement is big across, also in London, New York…we are out there performing in different countries.”

“Me saying that might offend people here. They might feel that I’m taking shots at Nigerian music. But that’s not the deal. If we are to discuss in terms of numbers and appeal across the world, it’s just the way it is.”

Reacting to M.I Abaga’s call to Nigerian rappers to infuse more rap into their music, Cassper said: “If I decide to rap on a beat like Davido’s ‘Fall’, which is more like Afro-pop, is it not Hip-hop? I don’t know, I’m not the one who came up with a set of rules. For me, it’s still Hip-hop because it is a rapper. I can decide to rap on anything. I just use it as a beat and rap on it. It doesn’t have to be a certain kind of beat.

“At the end of the day, it’s each to his own. If M.I feels like that’s his opinion, that’s his opinion. For me, anyone can rap in any language that is dope. If you say it’s Hip-hop, then it is Hip-hop.”

“If you want to sing, you could sing. But if you are a rapper, we still need to hear you rap. You can’t sing all the time. We have to hear you rap because you need to rap for us to call you a rapper. If you sing all the time that means you are a singer now.”

For the records, Cassper Nyovest has made history thrice in Africa with his concerts. In 2015, the rapper filled up the 20,000 capacity TicketPro Dome in Johannesburg. The next year, he doubled those numbers when he moved the stage to the 40,000 Orlando Stadium. While the Orlando Stadium concert wasn’t completely sold out, it was a historic move. No African artist had ever attempted it. In 2017, he brought together 68,000 people to the largest stadium in Africa, the FNB Stadium, for a concert.

 

Ghanaian Monarch Returns to Gardener Job in Canada

Eric Manu, a Ghanaian Monarch of Akan, in the village of Adansi Aboabo has returned to his landscaping career in Canada after ruling his subjects briefly, in order to raise money to provide health care for his 6000 people back home.

After living and working in Canada foe three years, Manu became king when his 67-year-old uncle, Dat, passed away in 2016.

He told CTV News, “Sometimes, we go to the (job) site and they say, ‘You are the chief. I saw you on TV.

“Why are you doing the landscaping?’

“This is humility, you understand? Anytime I’m in Canada, I’m proud to work for my boss.”

When Manu first moved, his boss, Susan Watson, started a foundation called ‘To The Moon and Back’, which sent the young king off with a shipment full of school supplies, clothing, laptops and medical supplies.

The money Manu hopes to raise from his several months’ stay in Canada will be invested in improving health care, with the aim of returning with another shipment of equipment.

How Do We Go Beyond Subsistence Existence In Africa?

If you accompany trouble on his travels through Africa and the additional Continent of Africa World, you would have to wonder why Africans do not wish to make life better, cleaner, healthier, for themselves. And for their children. Talking of continents, there are two additional ones now. There is the Arab World, most of whose land mass is in the continent of Africa. And there is the Africa World comprising Africa and the slums and dump sites around the world.

 

Africa world writers and intellectuals like to say what people in Asia and Europe and North America are doing to make life better for themselves and their children, and anyone else who cares. They do this as if the mere listing of the actions of a Japanese or Chinese or Indian leader would make the Nigerian leader do the same. Time and endless time again, the writers and intellectuals of the Africa World continue to do this without any positive response from their political leaders.

 

These political leaders have seen these countries, met the men and women who lead these countries, walked the clean streets of these cities and travelled in the regular and regulated means of these countries. Have our leaders been encouraged to imitate these persons, places and things?

 

Nigeria airways wasted. Nigeria railways railroaded into destruction. Nigeria roads reduced to motor paths and dirty fishing ponds without fish.

 

The newspapers are full of the failure of Nigeria to make life better for themselves and their children. Dump sites in the middle of government secretariats. Universities with impressive gates and no buildings. Buildings named hospitals where medication, doctors, nurses, cleaners have left behind and gone to other places.

 

Our political leaders have seen palaces, slept in palaces around the world and yet come home to ramshackle buildings decrepit in the extreme and hang notices indicating this to be the palace of some Oba or other. Every village is a kingdom, every untidy town an empire for some bare footed chieftain carrying a joke of a crown. Unless we have an indigenous inspiration to make things better for ourselves, no listing of what others have done would inspire us to make things better for ourselves.

 

What has inspired others in the world to seek betterment in their lifetime? Poverty and disease are major inspirations for people to aspire to a life of sufficiency and health. But there is still something else. There is the belief that poverty and ill-health is not the fate of any one. Poverty and disease is not wished on anyone by some malignant deity or neighbour. That underlining belief that poverty and disease can be avoided, can be done away with inspires the effort to seek better seedlings, better forms of food preservation, deeper understanding of the courses of illness and disease. Without this belief, nothing will get done.

 

The lives of others also inspire the wish for betterment. Look at Obafemi Awolowo in the old Western Region. He devoted himself to study Nigeria. Out of the abundance of his reading, research and writing he came to conclusions, which should guide any wise leader in future about anything Nigerian. Out of that contemplation consequent on continuous thought he came to a number of actions: about Education, about public health, about the economy, about housing, about electricity, about life being more abundant to everybody.

 

Look at Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Living the way we were living in South Africa, black and white, was inhuman. In a world where the satisfaction of the best of one set of people was achieved by the worst of another set of people, all fellow humans, was not good. Period. Something must be done to school the wealthy and the wretched, the powerful and the powerless, white, black or blue that only a shared wealth is worthy of humans. To achieve that balance Nelson Mandela pronounced himself ready to live for. Or to die for.

 

In spite of these shining examples of human beings, we are still locked in ignorance, in poverty and in disease. We are still covered in darkness as if nobody had showed us the light. Our people die uselessly in the face of curable diseases. In fact, dying uselessly seems to be our lot in the Africa World. And yet, it should not be so.

 

Why then is it so? History has to do with it. And there are idiots who proscribe the teaching of history in our educational institutions. Culture has to do with it. Yet, our culture and, particularly, our non-culture, has to do with it. Later for the content of our non-culture, attitudes and behaviour that we pick up along the way because they are convenient. Our beliefs also have to do with our not seeking to better ourselves beyond subsistence level.

 

Subsistence existence is dragged from the concept of subsistence farming, which is defined as “farming whose products are intended to provide the basic needs of the farmer, with little surplus for marketing,” and “farming that brings little or no profit to the farmer, allowing only for a marginal livelihood.”

 

We have extended this concept to every human effort we make. We have subsistence teaching and subsistence lecturing. We have subsistence banking and subsistence trading. We do subsistence politics and subsistence pastoring and evangelising. With no little profit margin to invest in greater possibilities, the rest is to manage to survive. The quality of that survival never improves. Unless we strike it lucky, like the luck of the gambler. Or a Ponzi scheme winner. Or a pool winner.

 

If we strike it lucky we abandon our subsistence profession and spend like the pool winner, spend until it finishes! And when it finishes we return to our subsistence profession and live on the dream of our recent boom!

 

The question our writers and thinkers should be concerned with is not telling us how they did it in China or in India or in Japan with the implication that we can do the same thing and make life better for ourselves and our children. What they should do is tell us how we go beyond being satisfied with living a subsistence existence in Africa World.

Achieving Sustainable Peace and Security In Africa By Olusola Adeyoose

In the 2017 Global Peace Index, the Institute for Economics and Peace reported deterioration in peace in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest deteriorations occurring in Ethiopia, Burundi, Mali, Libya and Lesotho. Six of the reported ten least peaceful countries in the world – Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, and Libya are equally from Africa. Despite reduction in the number of external aggressions, Africa continues to suffer from internal conflicts in the form of – ethnic tensions, electoral crises and terrorism.

Although it is impossible to quantify the human tragedy that results from violence, the widespread insecurity in the region has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and resources, hence the need to create a new paradigm of sustainable peace and security in the continent.

Peace in this case will not merely be the absence of violence, but the ability of a society to respond to the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of conflicts, and resolve existing disputes. While security, will be protection from harm in every imaginable way.

One veritable way to actualise the dream of a peaceful Africa is through the embrace of education. Good education will help purge our population of extreme doctrines and intolerance. It will also help promote a culture of justice, equity, respect for human rights, and harmony – a panacea for peaceful coexistence among diverse African populations.

Promotion of traditional African values in our communities and integration of African philosophies of reconciliation, non-violent resolution of grievances, and communal participation into the educational curriculum will also help achieve sustainable peace. Pre-colonial African states were plural, yet people lived in harmony. Traders could display their wares and leave their shops to attend to domestic chores without the fear of theft, children in the community were trained and nurtured by all, and members of traditional religious groups enjoyed the support of one another during festivities, despite worshipping different deities. Such sense of solidarity, togetherness, and religious tolerance is needed to achieve sustainable peace and security.

There is similarly the need to stem all forms of inequality to prevent civil unrest in our communities. We cannot achieve sustainable peace as long as women are discriminated against, and minority groups are sidelined. By allowing equitable distribution of resources, bridging the poverty gap and ensuring minority voices are heard; we will be taken steps in the right direction. We equally need to strengthen our democratic institutions, promote representative governance and shun all forms of discrimination to achieve sustainable peace and security.

Economic revival in the form of job creation to cater for the unemployed population and improvement in the ease of doing business is also important to attain security. Engaging unemployed youths will prevent them from being willing tools in the hands of extremist groups. While the improved ease of doing business, will make local enterprises thrive, and increase tourism and foreign direct investment. Business competitiveness and economic productivity will thus result.

Health is a prerequisite for the attainment of peace. As it is impossible to be at peace when there is infirmity and the mind is feeble. Making health care affordable via creation and strengthening of insurance schemes will enable even the least privileged of our population access care when the need arises. And this will in effect bring about peace and security.

To deter crimes in our communities, it is important to uphold the rule of law. Recruiting natives into our security agencies will also make them more efficient. An indigenous police force will understand the local population more, and will be able to maintain law and order better. Funding, equipping and regular training of such agencies will help improve their capacity to sustain peace.

We equally need to strengthen our social institutions to cater for street children, internally displaced persons, and refugees – to help integrate them into our communities. By creating trust funds we will be able to provide relief materials and fund peacekeeping operations during natural disasters, and violent conflicts.

The construct of peace is such that straddles every facet of human life. So the attainment of peace is dependent on good governance – which requires responsible leadership, participatory citizenship and fair political representation, with its attendant benefits of good education, affordable health care, financial security, food security, and an effective criminal justice system. While this definition of peace may seem like a utopia, each gentle stride will move us towards the desired destination. Only enduring peace can provide the level of security necessary to make human potentials flourish. With a peaceful and secured Africa, we will be able to develop human capital and attain sustainable development.

Adeyoose wrote from Ibadan

China’s Curious Engagements In Africa

The offer by the Peoples Republic of China to build the 3,050 megawatts Mambilla hydropower plant at minimal initial monetary commitment to Nigeria is raising some curious discussion points again about China’s constructive engagements in Africa and indeed Nigeria that led Africa to declare boldly to the West on January 11, 1976 that, “Africa has come of age.”

The terms agreed to reflect the positive role that the Peoples Republic of China continues to play in the development of critical infrastructure in the country. According to Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, China would under an import-export financing arrangement, contribute 85 percent and Nigeria would pick up the remaining 15 percent of the $5.72 billion cost. Besides, the interest on the long tenor –up to 20 years- project loan could be as low as 2 percent. It must be noted though, that this financing model also grants that the lending country supplies companies, equipment, and workers for the project. This may not be quite in line with the local content policy of the Nigerian government. But it would be reasonable to expect that the general and long-term benefits of the deal on Mambilla power plant outweigh the immediate concerns.

Coming from an experience of oppression and balkanization by foreign powers that is similar to the imperialism and colonialism suffered by nations of Africa, China’s role in the development of Nigeria as well as Africa, is a story of collaboration, economic assistance, and even diplomatic support that predates independence. And this relationship has been consistently underpinned by an attitude of mutual respect. As China’s economy grows stronger and bigger, its vast financial and human and natural resources have enabled it to relate more confidently with greater impact upon other nations at political, economic, and cultural levels.

The Nigeria – China relations have, in recent years been substantial- but not limited to- economic activities such that, trade has grown into multi-billion dollars level. In 2014, China exported into Nigeria $10.2 billion worth of goods (about 22 percent of total imports but took goods worth only $1.67 billion from here (about 1.7 percent of total exports). Recent figures from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicate that China is the leading exporter of goods into Nigeria. In the fourth quarter of 2016, alone N404 billion worth of Chinese goods (17.5 percent of the total) came into this country. But that country did not even feature in the top five importers of Nigerian goods within the same period. Import was valued at over 1 billion dollars. This figure compares –unfavourably, it must be admitted – with Nigeria’s export of only hundreds of millions of dollars to China in the same period. Even now, while China ranks as the highest exporter to Nigeria, that country is not in the top four importers of Nigerian goods. Trade imbalance against Nigeria dates far back into the 1970s when, in 1972 – 74, Nigerian exports were worth a mere $14 million while its imports were worth $249 million.

A glaring and perennial trade imbalance, especially since a fall in oil export to China, raises the question whether China is a colonising power in another garb or is indeed a genuine partner for development and mutual benefits between both countries. The point to keep in mind is that nations relate with others on the primary basis of self-interest, and secondary basis of mutual interest. This is to say it would be naïve to expect China to do business with this country, or indeed any other country, except that its interest is first and foremost served thereby. This should be the article of faith that drives Nigeria as it interacts with China. On balance, however, Nigeria, like other African countries, has benefitted immensely from relations with China.

Nigeria has much to learn from a People’s Republic of China that came into existence only 68 years ago-just a decade earlier than Nigeria as a self-governing state. Besides its thousands of years of history and sophisticated culture, China has gained from a strong, focused, and uncompromisingly patriotic leadership that, in the face of foreign interference and opposition, forged a collective will to survive, thrive, and hold its own in the community of nations, the harnessing of its immense human and natural resources to feed itself, industrialise, and become lately, the second largest economy in the world. It is important to say too that China has extremely low tolerance for that value-corroding, socially destructive cankerworm called corruption.

Nigeria – China relations are similar in several respects, to China dealings with other African countries for the obvious reason that they face largely similar challenges and have basically similar development needs.

China has, historically, been a friend of Nigeria and Africa generally, and has demonstrated this in material and non-material support especially in the post-war economic needs of Nigeria. But the point must not be lost to anyone that China relates with Nigeria- and Africa in a strategic, long-term view manner. Its national leaders visit African countries often, while its envoys regularly relate with local traditional, political, and business leaders on a wide range of platforms. China makes large and small donations such as the $260 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, and cottage hospitals in Nigerian villages. It invests in the land for agricultural and other purposes. It establishes industries through a combination of state-funded large projects on the one hand, and small and medium private commercial and other forms of business. And its citizens mix enough with the local populations to reside and do business in nearly every nook and cranny of their host countries.

Besides, China has established the Confucius Institute in selected Nigerian universities and elsewhere, to encourage the learning of its official language and to spread its culture abroad. It will be no exaggeration to say that the country is in Africa for the long haul. This being so, it behoves Nigeria and Africa to similarly engage China through a most rigorous strategic thinking that ensures maximum benefits and respect in both the short and long terms. One example: while China is one powerful country with a unified, focused and coordinated external policy, Africa is a fragmentation of 54 sovereign countries neither quite united nor sufficiently coordinated in foreign policy to advance the best interests of the continent.

Notwithstanding the best of motives, the one is likely to outsmart the other in a thinking-intensive game of negotiation. The obvious good that Africa derives from this partnership does not mean that everything is fine and flawless. Not at all! Complaints against China’s practices in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa range over many issues. These include the violation of local labour laws in Chinese industrial businesses, the dumping in Nigerian markets of sub-standard, or cheap, or even fake products; the use of Chinese hands where local hands can well serve the purpose; discriminatory pay structures between indigenous and Chinese staff and the ill-treatment of local employees, are some of the unacceptable features.

What is more, Chinese imports on a large scale have also rendered locally produced goods uncompetitive leading to the closure of local industries and job losses. But, according to the former deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe, Prof. Arthur Mutambara, Africa must not blame China but must take responsibility for its own problems – including Chinese misdemeanour – and solve them.

Notwithstanding the reservations about China, there is no doubt that Nigeria – and Africa in general – have much to learn from China, a nation taken in under 70 years from the fourth world level to the first world category, thanks to consistent visionary, fiercely patriotic leadership on the one hand, and a willing, determined, and enduring followership on the other. Besides, China takes the education of its citizens very seriously. The Asian country takes research and development in all areas of knowledge seriously. It also makes sense to remember that China takes the core values that sustain and promote national interest as a fundamental objective of state policy. And it bears repeating: China has extremely low tolerance for corruption in high places. These are the examples African countries must emulate to take a great leap into this very competitive global village.

With China and indeed, any other trading partner, Africa must avoid a repeat of the colonial agenda that maintained it as merely a source of raw materials in one direction and a consumer of finished goods in the other. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) remains a good ‘win-win partnership’ platform upon which Africa – China relations must be continually refined to serve the best interests of the two sides. It is said that one who outthinks you will outsmart you. Africa must first assume full responsibility for its development and prosperity before it relies upon outside help. A thoughtful Africa must define in all ramifications, the nature, purpose and method of its relationship with China. The African Union has a duty to set out and continually review the overarching parameters of Africa-China relations such that the continent would never again suffer foreign domination and plunder. While it may be admitted that relations between nations are perpetual work in progress, the point should ever be in focus that a win-win partnership must remain the guiding principle and the watchword of both parties in Africa-China relations. That is the only way we can walk our vaunting that Africa has indeed come of age!

 

 

 

Source: The Guardian

South Africa’s Health Minister Blasts African Leaders

Minister for health in South Africa, Aaron Motsoaledi while speaking in Zimbabwe at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting of African health ministers, criticised African leaders for seeking medical treatment abroad.

Motsoaledi stated that Africa is the only continent where the leaders travel abroad for health reasons. He spoke just hours after President Robert Mugabe, known for his frequent medical trips to Singapore opened the meeting. However, Mr. Mugabe was not present at the time Mr. Motsoaledi spoke.

“I have said this before and I will say it again: we are the only continent that has its leaders seeking medical services outside the continent, outside our territory. We must be ashamed of that. This is called health tourism. We must promote our own.”

In the past year, five African Presidents have gone overseas for medical treatment, including Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Benin’s President Patrice Talon, Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Rooney In Spotlight On Africa Trip

Wayne Rooney was the centre of attention in Tanzania on Thursday with England’s record goalscorer set to make his first appearance back in an Everton shirt against Kenya’s Gor Mahia.

Rooney rejoined his boyhood club from Manchester United last week on a free transfer after 13 years at Old Trafford. Everton is touring East Africa as part of their preparations for the upcoming Premier League season after signing a deal with Kenyan betting firm SportPesa to become the club’s new shirt sponsor.

The Toffees received a warm welcome after arriving in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday with large numbers of Tanzanian football fans eager to greet Rooney and his new teammates.

Manager Ronald Koeman has confirmed all players making the trip will play at least 45 minutes in the game against the reigning Kenyan champions, which kicks off at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT).

In May, Everton announced they had penned a five-year sponsorship deal with SportPesa to succeed Thai brewing company, Chang.

“We’re pleased to have secured the biggest commercial partnership deal in the club’s history with an ambitious and growing, global company,” Everton chief executive Robert Elstone said at the time.

“From the outset, we have been impressed by SportPesa and the company’s plans for the future. Over the coming months and years, we will be working closely to realise our ambitions together.”

“We are thrilled to have secured an alignment with Everton, a club weaved prominently throughout the tapestry of world football,” added Ivo Bozukov, director of the global strategy for SportPesa.

SportPesa, which is looking to increase its visibility through the Premier League, is further strengthening its ties with the city of Liverpool by moving its European headquarters there.

The Kenyan company were Hull City’s shirt sponsors last season, but the Tigers were relegated from the top-flight at the end of the 2016-17 campaign. SportPesa also has partnerships with Arsenal and Southampton.

 

 

Source: SuperSport

Afreximbank, Belarus Sign $150m Pact to Boost Africa’s Economy

As part of efforts aimed at addressing economic shocks arising from commodity price instability in Africa, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has signed a $150 million framework agreement with the Development Bank of Belarus, to promote trade financing between Belarus and African countries.

The agreement was a continuation of the dialogue, which started in 2016 between the two banks, during the visit of the Chairman of Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, to Belarus, where they agreed to embark on the collaboration.

Oramah, who did the signing on Wednesday, at the maiden edition of the Belarus-Africa Trade and Investment Forum, in Minsk, Belarus, said the signing of the framework agreement is the first step towards achieving the total potential of $800 million.

While assuring that the agreement will help step up mutual trade between Belarus and African countries, Oramah said if the country with limited natural resources and population of 10 million people could reach this level of industrialisation, Africa has a chance to partner with them for the supply of investment goods, especially in the area of agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

“The document will be a so-called corridor for Belarusian goods to the African continent. In general, we are setting an ambitious task of increasing trade between Belarus and African countries to $3 billion by 2020.

“During last year’s visit to Belarus, Afreximbank and the Development Bank agreed to reserve certain limits of funds. These will be some $400 million from us and the same amount from Belarus. They are needed to boost mutual trade between our countries. This first $150 million will be mainly used to purchase Belarusian equipment for the developing African market.

The event, which was part of the Belarusian agro- industrial week (Belagro 2017), is aimed at promoting cooperation in the agricultural and industrial sectors.

In his presentation titled:Belarus-Africa-Untapped Opportunities: An African Perspective, Chief Economist, Afreximbank, Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, said to achieve the goal, the parties need to strive to ensure that the partnership is not driven by “opportunistic trade and beggar-thy-neighbour policy,” but must respond to a more ambition-strategic relevance.

“In other words, the development impact of such a partnership will be much greater if it supports the implementation of emerging African development strategy and integration of the region into the global economy.

“The commitment to transform Africa’s agriculture and move towards large-scale production and value addition could fundamentally change and sustain the dynamic of trade between Africa and Belarus-shifting it towards imports of capital goods and irrigation equipment,” he said.

Fofack noted that Potassic fertiliser is another industry where a more strategic partnership driven by relevance and development impact could be a game changer for both parties, adding that the need for fertiliser are expected to rise, especially in the light of rate of population growth in Africa.

“Africa has a large trade deficit as nearly 95 per cent of fertilisers consumption is being met by global imports. In 2016, Africa imported an estimated $54 billion worth of fertiliser, mainly from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany and Belarus. Agriculture is another area where potential for trade, investment and growth are significant”, he added.

Guardian

IMF Advises Africa on Economy

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to get their budgets in order, diversify their economies and look after their poorest people, the IMF said.

According to the IMF’s regional economic outlook, if they do that, there is no reason why the region cannot have the strong growth needed to meet the aspirations of a young and growing population.

That, at least, is the three-pillared prescription from the IMF as expressed by one of its top Africa researchers, Celine Allard, in an official IMF blog post and podcast.

Allard co-authored the Fund’s regional economic outlook.

It found that sub-Saharan economic growth hit only 1.4 percent last year, the lowest level in two decades and well off the five to six per cent rates normally reached.

It was also well below the population growth rate.

“This is a quite broad-based deceleration because we see about two-thirds of the countries having slowed down last year, which is quite substantial,” she said in the podcast.

While some of the reasons for the slowdown are beyond the region’s immediate control, low global commodity prices, drought etc, Allard said some problems are down to a lack of governmental response.

“Part of the deteriorated outlook is a reflection of limited policy adjustment in the region,” she said.

Hence, the first pillar: renewed focus on debt reduction, fiscal policy to raise domestic revenues, and greater exchange rate flexibility.

Allard noted that some of the countries in the region that had kept growth up, such as Senegal and Ivory Coast, had run up large budget deficits to help this along.

With that, though, comes vulnerability, she said, and now is the time to shift gradually to reduce this.

As well as taking action on budgets, the IMF said sub-Sahara needs to focus on economic diversification and improving the business climate so that the private sector can feel confident about investing.

Many countries in the region are overly dependent on commodities, getting a huge boost when they are in demand but suffering when prices fall.

A Bank for International Settlements paper in 2016 estimated that the share of commodities in of sub-Sahara African exports rose to 76 per cent in 2010–14 from 57 per cent in 1990 to 1999.

Allard said the third pillar was to provide social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“We know that in some countries there are some programmes, but they are usually fragmented and they need to be better targeted,” she said.

(Reuters/NAN)