African wild dogs vote over pack decisions by sneezing, a new study has found

African wild dogs vote over pack decisions by sneezing, a new study has found

The joint research by academics from Swansea, Australia and the United States monitored endangered dogs at the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust.

African wild dogs vote over pack decisions by sneezing, a new study has found

They found the dogs used sneezes to decide when to move off to hunt after making camp for greeting ceremonies called “social rallies”.

Dr Andrew King, of Swansea University, said the sneezes acted as a “quorum”.

The study was carried out by zoologists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, Brown University, in the United States, and Swansea University’s College of Science.

Previously it had been thought the dogs, which are among the world’s most-endangered species, were simply clearing their airways.

But, while zoologists recorded the details of 68 social rallies, they noticed the more sneezes there were, the more likely it was the pack moved off and started hunting.

Dr King said: “The sneezes act as a type of quorum, and the sneezes have to reach a certain threshold before the group changes activity.

“Quorums are also used by other social carnivores such as meerkats.”

However, the study suggested some sneezes hold more weight than others.

African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

Reena Walker, of Brown University, said: “We found that, when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off.

“However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed – approximately 10 – before the pack would move off”.

The team’s research will be published in scientific journal, The Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

African wild dogs

  • One of the world’s most-endangered species
  • Native to all of Africa
  • Largest populations remain in southern Africa and the southern part of east Africa (especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique)
  • Their main predators are lions and humans
  • They are social and gather in packs of around 10, but some packs number more than 40
  • They are opportunistic predators which hunt animals such as gazelles
  • In a sprint, African wild dogs can reach speeds of more than 44mph (70km per hour)

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/World Wildlife Federation/BBC

BREAKING: Lesotho Army Chief shot dead

At least two high ranking army officers have died in an exchange of fire at Lesotho’s Ratjomose Barracks in Maseru.

ldf-commander-lt-general-khoantle-motsomotso

The commander of the army Lt General Khoantle Motsomotso has allegedly been shot dead and one of the top suspects in the assassination of late Lt General Maaparankoe Mahao, Lt Colonel Bulane Sechele.

The minister of defence Sentje Lebona has confirmed the in-fighting and that some soldiers have run away but could not confirm deaths

It is not yet known what was the source of fighting between high ranking army officers.

The incident takes place some days after the leader of opposition, Democractic Congress (DC) Mathibeli Mokhothu and the former deputy leader and leader of a second biggest opposition party, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) escaped from the country saying they fear for their lives.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/TMGLive

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

Stunting –- a condition in which children are shorter than the recommended height for their age –- is a key indicator of long-term malnutrition. It has severe effects on a child’s cognitive growth and development.

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

South Africa continues to have a high prevalence of stunting. This is despite the fact that it’s a middle income country, which should put it on a par with countries like Brazil, which has a stunting prevalence rate of just 7%. In South Africa nearly a fifth of children under the age of 14 are stunted, showing persistently high levels of food insecurity in households.

The traditional dominant thinking about stunting suggests that it’s an issue set in early childhood and that after the age of two there is limited opportunity to correct it. But research has started to disrupt this conventional wisdom, suggesting that there are opportunities to “catch up” in middle childhood – that is around the age of 7 years – and later again in puberty.

Our research builds on this new thinking. It suggests that the physical effects of stunting can be reduced up until the age of 14 and that there is an association between lower stunting levels and serving children a combination of a breakfast and lunch meals at school.

Our findings are only preliminary and require further verification in different settings. But our study lays the ground for a possible solution to consistently high rates of stunting among children in South Africa.

A meal on arrival

All children attending 60% of the poorest schools in South Africa receive a lunch meal as part of the National School Nutrition Programme. The meal consists of a protein, starch and vegetables.

Schools in South Africa are classified into five quintiles (categories): quintile one and two schools are the poorest while quintile five are the wealthiest. The nutrition programme targets schools in quintiles one to three.

Children at some quintile one and two schools are also being given breakfast when they arrive at school through partnerships that the education department enters into with corporates and foundations.

Our study assessed the effects of children between the ages of six and 14 receiving a combination of breakfast and lunch against those who only received lunch. We looked at 39 schools. At eight of them, children received breakfast and lunch while at the other 31 they only got lunch. The schools were in the Lady Frere district of the Eastern Cape, the country’s poorest province. Lady Frere is a largely rural area.

We measured the childrens’ height and weight and found that the stunting rate among children who received lunch was 14%. This compared with a rate of 19% for the province. The lower stunting rate could be explained by the age range of the children in our study. While the provincial average is for children from the age of 0 to 15 our sample does not include pre-school children who are more vulnerable to stunting. Stunting rates in Lady Frere may also be lower than in other parts of the Eastern Cape.

But more significantly, among the pupils who received two meals the stunting rates was even lower – at 9%. This is despite these children being from arguably poorer households. Similar results were found in the urban leg of the study.

Counter-intuitive stats

Our findings counteract conventional wisdom about stunting but they are not without precedent. Research in Brazil, Guatemala, India, Philippines, and the Gambia show that there are opportunities for height-for-age catch up after the first 1000 days of a child’s life.

Our findings suggests that for our sample of children between the ages of six and 14, there are opportunities for catch up and that there is an association between providing an additional meal at school and lower stunting rates, although this does not mean that the programmes cause these effects.

But we believe our findings need to be subjected to further assessment. This is because the study was not designed to assess impact and there could therefore be other possible reasons for the reduction in stunting seen in Lady Frere. We also do not know whether the physical effects observed in our study would also result in positive cognitive effects, although some research suggests it would not.

Policy initiatives

The National School Nutrition Programme is one of three initiatives by the South African government to address malnutrition in children. The other two are child support grants as well as the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme – a process aimed at ensuring an integrated approach across agriculture, social development, education and health to ensuring delivery of food security programmes.

These programmes amount to massive state investments in alleviating the effects of childhood poverty. But the consistently high stunting levels suggest that they aren’t enough to address the effects of household food insecurity.

Our findings echo international research which shows that stunting can be shifted in middle childhood and puberty. This suggests that a great deal might be gained from providing children with two meals at school, although further research is required. Nevertheless it does show that there is potential for South Africa to disrupt the high stunting levels its school children face.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies

Six-month-old girl ‘teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police’ dies

A six-month-old girl has died in Kenya, her doctor told Reuters on Tuesday, after her parents said she was teargassed and clubbed by police in a security crackdown after last week’s disputed election.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies 003

Samantha Pendo was asleep in her mother’s arms when police forced their way into their home and beat her and her parents as they searched for protesters, her parents said.

“She remained in coma throughout. She never improved one bit,” said Dr. Sam Oula at the Aga Khan Hospital in the western city of Kisumu.

The baby and her parents were beaten when police were sweeping their neighborhood for opposition protesters on Saturday, residents told Reuters journalists who investigated the incident.

Kisumu is a stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is contesting results from last Tuesday’s presidential election. An official tally said President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election by 1.4 million votes.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies

Odinga’s accusations of rigging have led to protests in Kisumu and in Nairobi slums. Residents there say police have responded with lethal force and many residents were killed in their homes.

Among the dead are an 8-year-old girl, hit by a stray bullet as she played on her balcony, and an 18-year-old student whose mother said was pulled from under the bed and beaten so badly he died the next day.

Six-month-old girl 'teargassed and beaten by Kenyan police' dies 002

Police have promised to investigate all incidents but human rights groups say they rarely hold officers to account for extrajudicial killings.

The secret behind Rwanda’s successful vaccination programme

The secret behind Rwanda’s successful vaccination programme

The best medical treatment option in the world can’t save a single patient unless it is delivered at the proper time, with the proper plans and processes in place.

That’s why implementation science for health matters. It can best be described as a collection of principles that, if applied, will ensure the best possible health care is delivered to a specific community. It involves using evidence-based research to identify the obstacles to delivering health services, and the best ways to overcome them. The research must take into account things like geographical limitations, the social and economic make up of a community as well as cultural practices. Once established for one community, the methodology can be reused in others.

Through my own experience – as an academic and as former health minister of Rwanda – I am convinced that, unless we adopt this approach we won’t be able to achieve universal health coverage and other United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly true for Africa where health services are stretched because of a lack of resources.

If we incorporate efficient, evidence-based practices into our service delivery models in Africa we’ll save millions of lives, as well as millions of dollars.

A vaccination programme rolled out in Rwanda illustrates what I mean.

The Rwandan example

In 2011 Rwanda began a vaccination programme  for human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. 33 countries had rolled outvaccination programmes, but few of them were in developing countries and none were in Africa.

In 2010, when we were preparing our first campaign, Rwanda seemed an improbable candidate for achieving near-universal HPV vaccination coverage. After all, we were ranked the 15th poorest nation in the world. International skeptics argued that developing countries couldn’t manage because of their weak scientific base, poor infrastructure, economic difficulties and overemphasis on curative, rather than preventative, medicine.

At the time even the developed world had achieved only moderate coverage of HPV vaccinations. The US had less than 35% of its adolescent female population fully vaccinated, and France also had a low coverage. If countries like this couldn’t realise HPV universal vaccination roll-outs, how could low and medium income countries manage?

But we weren’t deterred. We convinced HPV vaccine producers to ignore the global disapproval by presenting our evidence-based strategy of how we would roll-out a programme across the country. They listened, and then signed a public private partnership agreement, which funded the programme.

Despite the seemingly impossible odds, Rwanda achieved 93% HPV vaccination coverage within a year of initiating the campaign. The coverage level has been maintained ever since

What is the secret to Rwanda’s success? The answer is simple. We put our trust in implementation science.

Implementation science in action

For the rollout we collected evidence, adapted distribution methods to our setting and set clear targets and outcomes.

Every step of HPV distribution was evidence-based. To analyse the cultural implications of our program, the Ministry of Health conducted a series of interviews and discussions with community members. We set up a task force which included all stakeholders – religious, educational, political, parliamentary, and community leaders – and designed a strategy of nationwide community education to spread awareness of cervical cancer, the benefits of the vaccine, and the proper time to receive it. Since almost all types of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus, it was important first to explain the link with cancer.

Using the same focus groups, we developed a method of defining and reaching the target population. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, we wanted to vaccinate girls before they became sexually active. The task force researched the proper age bracket for this. Its conclusion was that a school-based vaccination scheme of 12-year-old girls would be most effective. Over 97% of female Rwandan pre-teens are enrolled in primary school and few have sexual intercourse at that age.

Another research component was on the cold chain management. We needed to know how much vaccine to procure, how much storage space and money this would require, how many transport vehicles we would have to mobilise and where to send them. We also drew from our experience in rolling out other vaccination programs to create a rotating decentralized storage system.

Once all the evidence had been evaluated, we put a detailed delivery plan in place. We organised a distribution system to transport the vaccine from the cargo plane, to Kanombe International Airport, to the national warehouse, to the 30 district hospitals, to the 436 health centres – at that time, to the primary schools.

We also collaborated with Rwanda’s 45000 community health workers and all the teachers concerned. They identified girls who were absent from school on the day of vaccination to make sure they were covered too. And teachers were taught how to monitor students in the days after the vaccination so that they could report any adverse side-effects and be a key pillar of the HPV vaccine pharmacovigilance system.

The principles of implementation sciences applied for the success of the HPV vaccination roll-out have been used in other vaccination campaigns. Today in Rwanda we have more than 90% of all children fully vaccinated for 11 vaccines, with an additional HPV vaccine for all girls.

The need for research and education

As Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda we are introducing researchers to implementation science.

Like any science, it requires research. At the moment, the global focus (and therefore global funding) is on clinical research and fundamental sciences. Last year less than 2% of all research grants offered by the National Institute of Health, the largest funder of health research in the world, have been dedicated to implementation science.

But to improve health care we must also invest in implementation research to improve service delivery. Sure, we need basic science to create cheaper, more effective technology. But we also need implementation science to provide cost-effective ways of delivering and promoting universal health coverage.

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's son becomes member of Ugandan parliament

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s son becomes member of Ugandan parliament

Taban Amin, a grandson of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, has become a member of parliament for Kibanda North constituency in the western part of Uganda, the privately owned Daily Monitorreports.

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's son becomes member of Ugandan parliament

Mr Amin was unopposed after his main challenger, Sam Amooti Otada, lost a court petition and withdrew from a by-election race.

The parliamentary seat fell vacant in July after the Court of Appeal nullified the earlier election of Mr Amin on grounds that he had not fully complied with the electoral laws.

Mr Amin now becomes an MP for the ruling NRM headed by President Yoweri Museveni.

Mr Museveni was part of a group of Ugandan exile forces, backed by Tanzanian troops, who toppled the Idi Amin in 1979.

23-year old Kenyan student wins parliamentary seat

23-year old Kenyan student wins parliamentary seat

A 23-year-old university student is set to become Kenya’s youngest MP, after beating veteran politicians to win a parliamentary election, the Daily Nation reports.

23-year old Kenyan student wins parliamentary seat

John Paul Mwirigi won the Igembe South seat after running a modest campaign, often campaigning by walking from door to door.

He says he discovered his interest in politics while in form three at Kirindine Day secondary school.

“I had a dream where I was tabling a motion in parliament while I was in Form three. That is when I started asking my fellow students to start campaigning for me since I would need their vote in 2017. I have held leadership positions in school and in my neighbourhood,” said Mr Mwirigi.

His supporters say they decided to elect him because they are confident he knows their problems and will address them.

Mr Mwirigi said his first task would be supporting agribusiness activities, promote entrepreneurship and nurturing talents.

“Since I come from a humble background, I understand the issues that affect the residents. My key agenda will be to transform the lives of the people,” said the youthful candidate.

OPINION: Will Rebellion march against Zuma be enough to sack him?

Zuma no confidence vote: however it happens, the ANC is the loser

South Africa’s governing African National Congress has got itself into one hell of a pickle. The National Assembly is due to debate an opposition motion of no confidence  in President Jacob Zuma.

OPINION: Will Rebellion march against Zuma be enough to sack him?
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Jacob Zuma

Were the motion to succeed, Zuma and his entire cabinet would be forced under the constitution to resign. The Speaker of the House would then become Acting President for up to 30 days while it goes about the business of electing a replacement, who would then serve as state president until the expiry of the present term of parliament in early 2019.

Yet the reality is that, save a political tsunami, the motion won’t succeed even though it’s common currency that Zuma is irredeemably corrupt and that he has sold his country outto the Gupta family. He has also alienated many of the ANC’s traditional allies, and the performances of the government and the economy under his rule have become increasingly shambolic.

Key figures in the ANC have indicated that their party’s MPs should vote with the opposition. These include former President Thabo Mbeki who has proclaimed that ANC MPs should vote in the national rather than the party interest. Similarly, the recently dismissed finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, has urged MPs to allow their consciences to dictate their votes.

Despite such calls, only two ANC MPs, Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele, have openly declared that they will vote with the opposition. The ANC has indicated it will subject Khoza to disciplinary proceedings. Gungubele may well face a similar fate. If the ANC follows through on its threats, both may lose their jobs (for if a party expels an MP from party membership, the MP concerned can no longer sit in parliament).

There are certainly other MPs sitting on the ANC benches who recognise the damage that Zuma has done. But it appears they have been held back from speaking out because of the threat of dismissal from parliament and the loss of salary and status that would involve.

It’s for this reason that the opposition has set such store on securing a secret ballot – reckoning that this will allow ANC MPs to vote in favour of the motion while circumventing the risk of party discipline.

ANC’s conundrum

When faced by the request of the opposition parties that she allow a secret ballot on the no confidence motion, Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the House (and a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee) declared that she did not have the power to grant the request under the rules of the Assembly. However, after being approached by opposition parties, the Constitutional Court subsequently ruled that a secret ballot was permissible, throwing the decision back into her lap. Mbete has yet to make public her decision.

In the end she sought to deflect criticism by announcing in favour of a secret ballot – but only at the last minute.

But even if enough ANC MPs were to align themselves with the opposition to unseat Zuma, the ANC would remain in control of the immediate situation because it would retain its majority in the House, and it would be another ANC MP who would be elected to serve as president.

Yet win or lose the vote, the consequences for the ANC are dire.

Options for the ANC

The party faces three possible options:

  • The ANC wins the vote by a substantial majority, with only a handful of ANC MPs voting with the opposition. Supposedly this would be a massive victory for the ruling party, yet it will fly in the face of not just the parliamentary opposition, but a massive body of popular opinion throughout the country. The ANC would have voted to keep a deeply corrupt president in power, with probable long term disastrous electoral consequences. Any internal ANC “reform” project will be more likely to fail.
  • The ANC just scrapes home by a small majority, indicating that a substantial body of the party’s MPs have voted for Zuma to go. Cue internal party turmoil. Will the dissident MPs own up? If they do, will they face party discipline? What would happen if the dissidents were known to include party heavyweights (and potential candidates for the party leadership at the party’s national congress in December 2017) such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Sisulu? Subjecting them to party discipline would risk not just massive intra-party division, but a split within the party – and the further danger that they might team up with the opposition.
  • The ANC loses the vote, and Zuma is forced to stand down as state president. In this case, the ANC is openly divided, and all hell would break out within the party ahead of its conference in December. An ANC MP, probably Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, would be elected as state president, but Zuma would remain as party president.

The ANC would be at war with itself, with little or no prospect of it facing the electorate in 2019 in one piece. Were the ANC to offer Zuma an amnesty from prosecution, they would face a massive public backlash. If they didn’t, they would face the very real prospect of his having to face trial, with the party’s extraordinarily dirty linen being washed in public for the foreseeable future.

Whatever happens, Zuma will work ceaselessly and ruthlessly after the debate to secure the party presidency for his former wife, (and favoured candidate) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, reckoning that in so doing, he will retain the power to shape events (and not least, to keep himself out of jail).

Meanwhile, those opposing Zuma will need to rapidly group behind one leader (presumably the new state president) if they are to stand a decent chance of securing enough control over the party organisation to defeat Dlamini-Zuma in December. Rivalry between the prospective anti-Zuma candidates for the party leadership (notably Ramaphosa, Lindiwe Sisulu and Mathews Phosa), would only weaken their chances of victory.

Ominous future

Tim Cohen, editor of Business Day, has indicated, sagely, that the Zuma presidency has begun to wind down as the #Gupta Leaks – the series of emails detailing the extent of the Gupta family’s control of the state – reveal more and more dirt. More and more ANC rats will desert the sinking ship and seek safety on a new (anti-Zuma) ANC vessel.

Yet even if the anti-Zuma campaign was to gain enough momentum for victory in December, it will come at massive cost. Not the least of these dangers is that the already alarmingly high rate of intra-party killing of rivals will increase.

It’s difficult to imagine that the ANC will be in any reasonable shape to face the electorate in 2019. Although ostensibly it may yet put on a decent show, it seems inevitable that it will lose numerous votes and a large swathe of MPs.

The looming danger is that in facing the risk of defeat, the party will be tempted to subvert a contrary result in the 2019 election.

Woman gives birth to baby girl at Kenya polling station

Woman gives birth to baby girl at Kenya polling station

A woman has given birth to a baby girl while waiting to cast her vote in Kenya’s election.

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Paulina Chemanang was helped to deliver the baby by other voters at Konyao Secondary School in West Pokot, before being rushed to a nearby dispensary.

She then returned to vote.

“Having given birth at a polling station is a blessing to me and I thank God,”, she was quoted as saying by Kenya’s privately-owned Capital FM radio station.

Ms Chemanang named her baby Chepkura. “Kura” means ballot or vote in Swahili.

Zuma narrowly survives vote of no confidence - Photos

BREAKING: Zuma narrowly survives vote of no confidence – Photos

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has survived an eighth vote of no confidence – despite the ballot being held in secret.

Zuma narrowly survives vote of no confidence - Photos

Opposition parties had hoped the secret vote would mean MPs from the governing African National Congress (ANC) might side with them against the president.

But the motion, called amid repeated allegations of corruption, was defeated by 198 votes to 177.

This news was greeted with cheers and singing by ANC MPs.

In order for the no-confidence motion to pass, at least 50 out of the ANC’s 249 MPs would have had to vote against the president.

However, the result does mean at least 26 ANC MPs rebelled, while another nine MPs abstained from voting.

Earlier, opposition MP Andries Tlouamma, deputy president of the Agang party, warned that if Mr Zuma survived then South Africa was “on a highway to hell”.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane said: “Today our choice is between right and wrong; between good and evil.”

Zuma’s fate vote: Watching and protesting


There is a rare sight in South Aftica’s parliament – four voting booths in the middle of the chamber. MPs are walking up, in an orderly fashion, to cast their ballot.

The 400-member chamber is deciding the fate of President Jacob Zuma.

Speaker Baleka Mbete decided that the vote should be by secret ballot because of the “toxic” political atmosphere.

Aliko Dangote falls 51 places in latest Forbes ratings

Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote has fallen from being the 51st richest person in the world to the 105th, according to the 2017 Forbes Rich List.
Aliko Dangote 3

Forbes magazine reports that Dangote’s wealth dropped from $15.4 billion (£11.8bn) in 2016 to $12.2 billion this year, due to Nigeria’s devalued currency.

Dangote, who made his fortune in the production of cement, sugar and flour, made international headlines in 2016 when he said he wanted to buy Arsenal Football Club within the next four years.

Yesterday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos briefly overtook Bill Gates as the world’s richest man on Forbes’ real-time ranking, but later dropped back to second place.

Mugabe's wife mounts pressure on him to name his successor

Mugabe’s wife mounts pressure on him to name his successor

President Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe has Thursday, urged her husband to name his successor in order to end the crisis rocking the future leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mugabe's wife mounts pressure on him to name his successor

The President who is currently 93, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 but has insisted that his party, ZANU-PF will choose a preferred successor not him.

Grace, who is ZANU-PF Secretary for Women’s Affairs, in a meeting with the women’s wing in Harare, gave a contradictory opinion, challenging him to name his successor.

Mugabe himself, however, did not speak at the meeting.

The election is proposed to take place July 21, 2018, and, if Robert Mugabe, who is the Presidential candidate for the election wins, he will be 99 years if he completes the five-year term.

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

More and more people around the world are getting sick with two or more health conditions at the same time. For example, people are increasingly coping with two chronic non-infectious diseases, like hypertension and diabetes. Or they will have a chronic infectious disease like HIV and a chronic non-infectious disease like asthma.

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

The co-existing conditions could include diseasesdisorders, illnesses or other chronic health problems. The concept of having two or more chronic health conditions at the same time is called multimorbidity.

Traditionally, developed countries have a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases – like hypertension – and due to this, a high rate of multimorbidity.

Now the tables seem to be turning. Due to the rise in the cases of non-communicable diseases in developing countries, there is an increasing emerging pattern of high levels of multimorbidity. This includes cases of hypertension which is now the most common co-morbid chronic non-communicable disease in the world.

The prevalence of non-communicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2000, non-communicable diseases accounted for only 56% of the total disease burden. Scientists estimate that by 2020, they will account for almost 70% of the total disease burden in developing countries.

The increase has been driven by urbanisation and changing dietary and behavioural patterns with people eating more processed food and sugar and exercising less.

But alongside this, many developing nations, especially in Africa, have the additional burden of chronic infectious diseases.

Non-communicable diseases and chronic communicable diseases co-occur, and the risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, associated with them are often shared. This further increases the likelihood of multimorbidity.

In Africa, the concern is that populations who are already socially and economically vulnerable also face the highest risk of multimorbidity. These include the elderly, people who have a lower socio-economic status and those who are not as educated. An intersectoral approach to address these vulnerable groups is needed. This remains challenging for developing health services in many African countries.

Affecting the patient and the system

The impact of multimorbidity is three-fold: it affects the patient, the health care provider and the health system as a whole.

Multimorbid patients have a decreased quality of life and tend to access health services more frequently. This often results in loss of potential income. And it places an extraordinary financial and psychological burden on the patient. The psychological burden often manifests as depression with mental health conditions frequently being associated with multimorbidity, which are often neglected or poorly managed.

More generally, the high self-management requirements and multiple drug prescriptions associated with multimorbidity can lead to poorer health outcomes for patients.

From the provider perspective, multimorbid patients are complex to treat. This can lead to increased workloads. In addition, they need an in-depth understanding of multiple drug and disease interactions. With each additional comorbidity consultation, time and individual patient cost increase dramatically.

But providers often find themselves in systems which are inadequately prepared to deal with this level of complexity due to their vertical nature. Vertical systems are based on the one disease model of care, which focuses on individual diseases, rather than holistic patient care.

Innovative models of integrated care are required to appropriately manage the multimorbid patient. This is a challenging task as integrated models need to be context specific. A “one size fits all” isn’t enough to address patients’ needs.

To tackle the problem, solutions need to focus on what’s causing multimorbidity. This means that policymakers must look beyond the health sector – they must engage with multiple sectors. This is necessary as most risk factors relating to multimorbidity are driven by factors that lie outside the health care system. Risk factors such as obesity, alcohol use and smoking can all be influenced by policies outside the health sector.

In South Africa, a well known example of this has been the reduction of secondary smoking as a result of a range of anti-smoking initiatives. These included using the media to run campaigns warning about the health risks of smoking, to limiting smoking areas in the hospitality industries alongside the establishment of an excise tax on tobacco products.

More recently, to address the rising burden of diabetes and associated risk factors, South Africa has proposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. A similar tax was successful in reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico.

One of the challenges in creating these policies lies in opposing powerful industry actors whose interests don’t lie with health issues, but with making profits. This requires advocacy from several key public health role players such as academics, civil society, and governmental departments.

Next steps

In Africa, multimorbidity will impose increasing strain on vulnerable people and already stretched health systems.

A structured collaborative approach is needed to manage the problem. This should include developing a good understanding of Africa’s unique patterns of multimorbidity, its causes, and focus on prevention.

Terrorists attacks on Tourists threatening Egypt's recovery

Terrorists attacks on Tourists threatening Egypt’s recovery

The government and the central bank of Egypt are working hard to rein in inflation, reduce budget deficit, and set the Egyptian economy on a path to stability and growth, but growing insecurity in the country may undermine this effort.

Terrorists attacks on Tourists threatening Egypt's recovery

On Friday, two Ukrainian tourists were killed and four other foreigners wounded by a knife-wielding attacker at an Egyptian Red Sea holiday resort, according to Egypt’s Interior Ministry and security sources. The attack comes as the Arab state tackles Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula. Although security forces seem to be the main target of insurgents, but they have also attacked tourism targets as well as Coptic Christians and churches.

Three foreign tourists were wounded in January 2016, when assailants attacked them at the beach of a hotel in Hurghada, per security sources.

Tourism has always played an important role in the growth of the Egyptian economy, contributing more than 11 percent of GDP and 14.4 percent of foreign currency revenues at its peak in 2010.

As Egypt finds its way back to economic growth and strives to achieve better standards of living, the tourism industry has a critical role to play. Hence, Egypt must improve security, even as it continues with the ongoing economic reform program, which Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), describes as successful so far.

The motive for the resort attack is still under investigation, according to the Interior Ministry.

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

The last two decades have seen a brisk growth in Christian universities in sub-Saharan Africa. This phenomenon exists at the intersection of two of the most dynamic social trends on the continent: the rapid rise of Christian adherence and the volatile growth of higher education.

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

A century ago, there were only nine million Christians living in Africa. Most were in Egypt’s and Ethiopia’s ancient churches. By 1950, this number had tripled, to about 30 million. Today, out of a population of around 1.2 billion, there are an estimated 582 million African Christians — Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and belonging to independent churches.

African higher education’s growth has also been rapid. In the 1950s, there were only 41 higher education institutions and 16,500 students on the whole continent. By 2010, 5.2 million students had enrolled in 668 higher education institutions in sub Saharan Africa, more than double the number in 2000.

This rapid growth has been far from smooth. Steep increases in demand coupled with cuts in state higher education funding left a gap that has been filled by the private sector, and increasingly by Churches. State and church are now educational partners, but there are some tensions inherent in this relationship.

Emerging from turbulent times

African universities today are emerging from a turbulent half century. The immediate post-colonial era brought high hopes, with supportive governments and massive international investments.

But by the 1980s, African universities were suffering deep financial cuts as falling commodity prices and inflated energy prices crippled national budgets. World Bank and International Monetary Fund advisers pushed debtor nations to reallocate educational spending toward primary and secondary schools. Meanwhile, authoritarian regimes suspected flagship universities of subversion and slashed their budgets. By the 1990s, even the finest African universities were in crisis.

To compound these problems, the growth of secondary education drove a relentless demand for tertiary enrolments.

Governments mandated their flagship universities to enrol far beyond their carrying capacities. New regional institutions were founded and tertiary technical colleges were granted university status.

Even with increases in funding, African higher education budgets lagged behind enrolment gains. Thousands of African academics were so discouraged by the educational crisis that they left to find work elsewhere.

Private, Christian universities fill the vacuum

In the early 2000s the tide began to turn.

In 2001, the World Bank reemphasised the universities’ role in national development. After years of neglect, western foreign aid programs re-targeted higher education and private funders returned. The Partnership for Higher Education, for instance, which engaged eight American foundations with universities in nine African countries, invested around USD$440 million between 2000 and 2010.

African governments began to approve more organisational charters for private universities and technical schools. In Ghana, for example, there were just two private universities in 1999. Now there are 28.

Christian higher education has played a salient role in this rapid private growth. Nigeria has chartered 61 private institutions since 1999. Of these, 31 are Christian. In Kenya, there are 18 chartered private universities and 13 more with interim authority. Of all these, 17 are Christian.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the hot spots of Christian higher education growth worldwide, a trend that can be observed across the continent.

In a broad sense, the Christian university movement is driven by the massive demand for access to higher education and the liberalisation of government chartering – both global trends.

But the religious scene in Africa provides its own drivers of this movement. The building of universities in Africa is part of a larger effort by church leaders –Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal – to institutionalise, and thus conserve, the huge gains in Christian adherence.

Christian groups in Africa often look first to sponsor primary and secondary schooling, but they also move quickly to train clergy. In 1950, there were only perhaps 70 or 80 pastoral education programmes or theological schools across Africa, but a recent survey found 1,468 of them.

Christian universities announce Christian purposes and perspectives for learning non-religious subjects and they structure campus life to reflect Christian norms. Many of them have strict codes of personal conduct for students. Yet most welcome qualified students regardless of faith.

Tensions between state and church mandates

These new Christian universities are very dynamic places, and their leaders express high hopes that they will help their nations flourish. But one of the main themes of higher education history has been secularisation.

State officials have decided to accommodate religious educational partners, but some still wonder why Christians want to impose religious hiring criteria, curricular development, and student norms.

Broad state purposes inevitably rub against religious particularity, even in highly religious Africa.

It is too soon to predict the trajectory of the African wing of the worldwide Christian university movement, but one cannot miss its growing presence and emerging challenges.


This story first appeared on The Conversation, the original also apeared on University World News.

African media leaders met in Durban last weekend | Here is what they resolved

African media leaders met in Durban last week | Here is what they resolved

onvened by the Centre for International Media Assistance, and hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, media leaders from across Southern, West, East and Central Africa – 40 of them – were gathered in Durban, South Africa for 2 days last week to map out the future of the media on the continent.

YNaija Editor-in-Chief Chude Jideonwo was one of the leaders at the meet, which also included the president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists as well as South Africa’s Mail & Guardian.

They issued this statement at the end of their meetings:

Building coalitions for media reform in Sub-Saharan Africa: A consultation for improving local, regional, and global action
5-6 July 2017
Durban, South Africa

A group of 36 experts in media and governance from 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa agreed to build a multi-stakeholder network of non-state actors working with governments, parliamentarians, and other stakeholders to support a conducive legal, regulatory, and economic environment for media and to defend independent voices, especially when under attack.

The network aims to be an essential resource for confronting a complex combination of global and regiona l challenges to media systems that threaten to reverse the progress made on the continent in fostering pluralism, quality journalism, and freedom of expression. Democracy and sustainable development in Africa will depend upon defending and deepening the role of media as a source of reliable information, a spotlight on abuse and injustice, a driver of growth, and a platform for citizen voices.

The network will focus on building broad coalitions, including media associations, human rights groups, media outlets, legal and judicial organisations, and trade unions to work on four objective areas:

–  Solidarity among proponents of independent media

–  Sustainability of media outlets and markets

–  An African voice in digital debates

–  Media literacy and professionalism

The group further identified steps to be taken in coming months to set the network in motion:

–  Mapping existing networks: A mapping exercise will identify the existing stakeholders and networks that could form the basis of this wider network.

–  Forming working groups: Participants agreed to form working groups aligned to the four objective areas to elaborate specific action plans and proposals.

–  Developing common policy positions: The participants identified the need to formulate common positions for advocacy on media issues at the global level and at important upcoming events on the continent.

Facebook users bigger than Africa's population

Facebook users bigger than Africa’s population

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday that two billion people are regularly using its flagship service, marching past another milestone in its growth from a college curiosity in the United States to the world’s largest social media network.

 

The user base is bigger than the population of any single country, and of six of the seven continents. It represents more than a quarter of the world’s 7.5 billion people.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg disclosed the number to his followers in a Facebook post. “It’s an honor to be on this journey with you,” he wrote.

Africa with a continent of over 1.2 billion helped Facebook reach the remarkable milestone with over 300 million Internet users of which 170 million are active Facebook users.

Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Egypt and south Africa all set the pace for other countries in the continent with the the highest active users in Africa.

Although only 170 million out of 300 million internet users are active on Facebook, the 94 percent increase of last year from 2015 shows more Africans are getting more aware of the social network.

Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through its website or a mobile device, or used its Messenger app, in the past 30 days. It does not include people who use the Instagram or WhatsApp networks but not Facebook.

The company said in May that duplicate accounts, according to an estimate from last year, may have represented some 6 per cent of its worldwide user base.

The social network’s user population dwarfs that of similar companies. Twitter Inc reported in April monthly active users of 328 million, while Snap Inc’s Snapchat had 166 million daily users at the end of the first quarter.

WeChat, a unit of Tencent Holdings Ltd and a widely used service in China, said in May that it had 938 million monthly active users in the first quarter.

Facebook had 1.94 billion people using its service monthly as of March 31, an increase of 17 per cent from a year earlier. It reached 1 billion in October 2012.

The company, which Zuckerberg started in 2004 in his college dorm room, uses its huge size advantage to lure advertisers, offering them highly targeted marketing capabilities based on its data about users.

The number of advertisers topped 5 million in April, the company said.

Facebook’s growth has increasingly come from outside the United States, Canada and Europe. Three years ago, those regions accounted for some 38 percent of users, compared with about 30 percent in the first quarter of this year.

To increase penetration rates in developing nations, Facebook has rolled out pared-down versions of its apps that use less data, and it has been developing solar-powered drones to extend internet connectivity around the planet.

Kenya elections could be rigged | here is how to prevent it

Here is how Kenya elections could be rigged | here is how to prevent it

The race for State House in Kenya is heating up. After a long period during which President Uhuru Kenyatta looked a shoo-in for re-election, the presidential race is looking increasingly competitive.

Kenya elections could be rigged | here is how to prevent it

Although the most reliable polls still give the incumbent a strong lead of around 6% the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, has the greater momentum. Following a year in which his poll ratings hovered between 20% and 30%, Odinga has been buoyed by the confirmation that he will be the flag bearer of the main opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA). Other prominent alliance leaders have also said they will back his candidacy.

The closer the race becomes, the more Kenyans and those who care about the country will start to worry about election rigging. Both candidates have committed themselves to free and fair polls, but many Kenyans still fear that the process may not be credible.

In large part, this scepticism is a legacy of the events of 2007/8, when flawed polls led to post-election violence that took the lives of over 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Although the 2013 polls were much more peaceful, the process also suffered from a number of shortcomings which led the opposition to reject the official results.

Without prejudging whether the 2017 contest will be clean or not, it’s therefore important to ask how the election might be rigged, and how this could be stopped.

Technology, inflating turnout and fiddling figures

Here are four ways that elections could be rigged.

1. Bring down the technology

In the 2013 elections, the technology used to safeguard the process failed systematically. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission fell back on manual processes. This meant there was no fingerprint verification to ascertain that the right people were voting, and were only voting once. The breakdown of the technology, and the potential for the manual process to be abused, was a central part of the opposition’s election petition.

Odinga and his colleagues campaigned to make the use of biometric technology compulsory in the run-up to this election. But resistance from the government means that the commission retains the right to fall back on a manual system if the technology breaks down.

This is worrying for two reasons. First, candidates who fear they are losing and know that manual processes are less well insulated from manipulation have an incentive to make the technology fail. Second, technological problems will be interpreted as a sign of rigging whether or not they are, undermining confidence in the process.

2. Inflate turnout in North-Eastern

Electoral turnout in the north-eastern region of Kenya has traditionally been poor. This is because of low population density and the fact that the region has historically been politically and economically marginalised. Given this, the high official turnout of over 80% in 2013 surprised many. There were suspicions that the turnout may have been artificially inflated by adding ballot papers in the name of voters who did not actually go to the polls.

Ballot box stuffing in the north-eastern part is particularly viable, because it’s the most remote part of the country. It is also an area prone to terrorist attacks. As a result, it is a place that international election monitors tend not to visit, which opens to the door to electoral abuse.

3. Set up fake polling streams

Many Kenyan polling stations are split up into a number of “streams” to allow people to be processed more quickly. Another allegation about the 2013 election is that in some cases fake polling streams were set up so fraudulent votes could be added. In other words, the suggestion is that while real voters cast their ballots in one or two real polling streams, the ballots of people who had not turned out were artificially added to a made-up stream and then submitted.

This would be a smart way to rig an election. While the figures for polling stations are often recorded, the exact figures for polling streams are quickly lost. Indeed, because the results from polling streams are merged to generate polling station totals, which are then merged to generate constituency totals, it is possible to hide suspicious results from a stream – such as turnout in excess of 100% – because once everything is collated the final result may not look that exceptional.

4. Fiddle the figures

One of the classic forms of election rigging is to change the results as they are being transferred from the polling station or constituency level to the national tallying centre. In 2013, the failure of a new results transmission systemrun through a mobile phone app generated concerns about electoral manipulation during the vote tallying process. This was especially when it became clear that in some cases the security forces had been deployed to bring results back to Nairobi.

This was also a major source of concern in 2007. European Union monitors found that there were serious discrepancies between the results they observed being released locally and those that were subsequently read out nationally.

How to stop election rigging

There may be no plans afoot to rig the elections, but in matters of such great importance it’s better to be safe than sorry. So how can the process be safeguarded?

When it comes to the risk of the vote being inflated in North Eastern, the answer is straightforward: international election monitors need to overcome their risk aversion and ensure that the region is thoroughly covered. Deploying a parallel vote tabulation based on a sample of polling stations would also make it possible to tell whether turnout is artificially high.

The solution to the fiddling of election figures is also straightforward, although it will require political will. If the electoral commission agrees to accept the constituency level results as final – unless there are exceptional cases that would require a full and transparent investigation – domestic observers and the different political parties will be able to record all of the results as they are announced, and use these to ensure that the national total adds up.

That leaves the more tricky issues of fake polling streams and the breakdown of election technology. It is tempting to think that the solution to a breakdown is a technical one – that if the electoral commission learns from its previous mistakes it will be possible to ensure that the system works. But if the threat to the electoral process is political rather than logistical, better preparations will not help.

It is therefore important for every party to deploy a full set of trained party agents, not just in every polling station but also in every polling stream. This will ensure that the manual process cannot be abused even if the technology fails, and it will enable any fake polling streams to be identified and reported.

The ConversationThis conclusion is probably not one that the parties themselves will want to hear because it involves a lot of hard work and expense. But it is the only thing that will guarantee that the outcome of the election represents the will of the people.

Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

'Bible burning' Court summons Ugandan pastor

‘Bible burning’ Court summons Ugandan pastor

A controversial Ugandan pastor, Aloysius Bugingo, has been summoned by a court in the capital, Kampala to defend himself against allegations that he burned copies of the Bible, the privately-owned Monitor newspaper and NBS TV are reporting.

'Bible burning' Court summons Ugandan pastor

Wameli Anthony Yeboah, the lawyer representing one of the complainants who took Pastor Bugingo to court said in court that the action abused objects of worship:

It is criminal for him to burn Bibles because it goes against the constitution which guarantees freedom of worship and he is abusing the objects of worship which include Bibles, Qurans, rosaries and any other items people may choose to use during worship.”

Pastor Bugingo has in the past denied allegations of burning bibles.

However his own television station Salt TV has aired recordings of him calling for certain copies of the Bible to be destroyed.

This is how some Ugandan TV stations have tweeted their reports:

 

Zambia heading towards state of emergency

Zambia heading towards state of emergency

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu is taking steps that could lead to a state of emergency following Tuesday’s fire at Lusaka city market.

Zambia heading towards state of emergency
The city market was gutted in a blaze that began at dawn. Photo: DOUGLAS TEMBO

The fire followed other suspected arson attacks on public buildings. Mr Lungu said the latest fire was an attempt to make Zambia ungovernable and that he would not tolerate such “lawlessness”.

However, his spokesperson denied reports that an emergency had been declared.

Critics say it is not clear who is behind the fires and accuse the president of an alarming slide towards authoritarianism. Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is currently facing treason charges after his convoy refused to give way to the presidential motorcade.

The city market was gutted in a blaze that began at dawn and destroyed property worth millions of kwacha.

Africa on top of the G20 summit agenda, but likely to face challenges dealing with Trump

Africa on top of the G20 summit agenda, but likely to face challenges dealing with Trump

When G20 leaders meet in Hamburg in early July they face a problem not on their formal agenda: how to work around Donald Trump. The US president disdains multilateral financial cooperation, is opposed to US participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change, has shown little interest in, knowledge of, or desire to partner with African countries.

Africa on top of the G20 summit agenda, but likely to face challenges dealing with Trump
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses G20 health ministers in Berlin in May. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

These core issues frame the 2017 G20 agenda with a proposed “Compact with Africa” slated as the summit’s big initiative. It’s aims will be to encourage private sector investment, support infrastructure development, and greater economic participation and employment in Africa.

In addition to South Africa, the G20’s only African member, the leaders of Guinea, Kenya and Senegal have been invited as guests.

The US convened the first 2008 G20 Summit in Washington in response to the global financial crisis and has played a leading and constructive role ever since. Such experiments in informal global governance are an anathema to Trump, although he lacks any experiencein such matters.

If Africa is to gain the attention in Hamburg the agenda promises, this will have to be without the support and cooperation of the US, at least while Trump is president. But can anything be achieved while this is the case?

If the G20 is to remain relevant in the quest for more inclusive and fair global governance, Africa offers a historic opportunity for collective action, despite US absence. Most urgent is alleviating the famine in East Africa while China, India, and others among the G20 are showing fresh interest in Africa’s long-term peace and development.

The Trump factor

Trump’s first and only exposure to multilateral summit diplomacy was at NATO’s Brussels headquarters on 25 May. Then immediately to a two-day G-7 summit in Sicily. Neither went well. More significant than all the negative media coverage of Trump’s performance, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veiled warning that after 70 years, the US under Trump was no longer a credible ally and Europe

must be ready to take our fate into our own hands.

Merkel’s comments were probably intended for a global and American domestic audience as well. The US foreign policy elite and public continue to support close ties to Europe. Cooperation with Africa also has been generally popular in America. It is one area of foreign assistance that has enjoyed enduring bi-partisan support since the early 1990s.

Trump’s antics in Hamburg could detract from the summit and his recalcitrance may complicate setting and slow implementation of the G20 agenda. But, progress on the Africa Compact is still possible with support from the US private and non-governmental sectors. The same goes for climate change and economic cooperation.

How G20 leaders interact with Trump, and comment publicly on the progress or lack of progress in Hamburg will resonate domestically in the US. In deciding what to say publicly, G20 leaders may want to consider recent and escalating US domestic constraints impinging Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s domestic constraints

Trump meets all the definitional criteria of a demagogue. His appeal to popular passions and prejudices rather than reason and facts, secured him a base of support that remains loyal.

He has not broadened his popular appeal, polling favourability ratings around 36%, the lowest ever recorded this early in a first term.

Trump has shown authoritarian traits. And the leaders he appears he will get along with best are those G20 leaders heading authoritarian regimes in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The US still has the world’s biggest military and economy, but Trump has yet to earn the respect and deference of his G20 peers.

Politicians sometimes lie, but not all to the same degree. The Washington Post’s nonpartisan Fact Checkers recently documented 623 false and misleading claims by Trump in just his first 137 days in office.

Many Americans may be inured to Trump’s off-hand lies, or view it as a cleaver strategy to keep opponents off balance.

Allegations that Trump may now be under investigation by an independent special counsel for obstructing justice in the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possibly in collusion with the Trump campaign, have put his presidency in even greater peril.

If his own head of intelligence, and other senior officials of his administration, cannot trust him to keep his word, how can foreign leaders? Whatever Trump says at the G20, has to be discounted in light of this, including concurrence with a final joint statement.

Referees Matter

Trump’s mendacity points to a much bigger problem. In an era of big data and contested statistical evidence how can opinion be informed by agreed facts to achieve consensus at any political level?

He has ridden rough-shod over decades of research findings regarding the human causes of climate change.

Enter a cUS President Donal Trump. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

To inform and help frame democratic debate, about such scientifically complicated contested topics as climate, public health, national security, and a raft of other vital policy issues, the public used at least rely on professional journalists to arrive at the best obtainable version of the truth.

This is no longer sufficient. Trump has advanced politically by questioning scientific evidence, those who produce it and dismisses as “fake news” any journalistic reporting he disagrees with. G20 leaders should not be diplomatic in calling attention to this.

And a positive counter-note to Trump’s cavalier claims would be for the G20 leaders to make clear that they believe in evidence based policymaking, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of recommendations.

Cooperation without America

The leaders, individually and together, need to show their commitment to unbiased, honest, and rigorously informed judgements on such issues as the design, priorities, and implementation of their new “Compact with Africa.”

Doing so without US backing adds to the challenge, but is also an opportunity for demonstrating cooperation without America playing a central role. So long as Trump is US president, this is likely to also be popular in most G20 countries.

A just released Pew global survey of public attitudes in 37 countries (including six in Africa – Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ghana) toward the US under Trump shows a 15% drop in positive views of the US (64%-49%) since Barack Obama left office. Confidence in the US presidency under Trump, however, fell a stunning 41%. Only in Russia, and Israel is Trump regarded more favourably than Obama.

Far more important that thwarting Trump, however, will be gaining public support for the “Compact with Africa” and the rest of the Hamburg agenda. Justifying these costly and complex commitments in positive ways will be a tougher political challenge; but one perhaps rendered easier without Trump or his representative claiming a seat at the head of the table.

No president student would be allowed school - President Magufuli

No pregnant student will be allowed school – President Magufuli

Any girl of primary or secondary school age that gets pregnant should say bye to school as President John Magufuli says such students will not be allowed to return.

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“In my administration, as long as I am president … no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools … never,” Magufuli said.

The highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world — 143 per 1,000 girls aged 15–19 years — is in sub-Saharan Africa. Several non-governmental organisations and activists have risen over the years to help find a way for pregnant girls of school age to return to school. Such call is becoming louder in Tanzania where increasing incident of teenage pregnancy is threatening the country’s impressive literacy rate (one of the highest in Africa).

In 1961, Tanzania banned pregnant girls from attending state primary and secondary schools. Activists have maintained that expelled teenagers face widespread stigma, the possibility of being forced into early marriage and the challenge of providing for themselves and their babies. However, Magufuli maintained during a public rally late on Thursday in Bagamoyo, a coastal town north of Dar-es-Salaam.

According to a 2013 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), more than 55,000 Tanzanian schoolgirls have been expelled from school over the last decade for being pregnant. Wealthier families are not really affected by the law as they are able to send their daughters to private schools which are not included in the 1961 ban. Majority of pregnant girls, however, end up looking for casual work.

Magufuli does not allow the big hammer land only on pregnant girls but also on men who impregnante them. He ordered police to arrest and prosecute them, saying convicted offenders could get up to 30 years in jail under the country’s sexual offences legislation.

“Non-governmental organisations that have been campaigning for pregnant girls to be allowed to continue with their studies at government schools should open private schools and enrol those teenage mothers,” Magufuli said.

Africa has plans for a Great Green Wall: why the idea needs a rethink

Africa has plans for a Great Green Wall: why the idea must be cross checked again

Africa’s Great Green Wall, or more formally The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, is the intriguing but misleading name of an enormously ambitious and worthwhile initiative to improve life and resilience in the drylands that surround the Sahara.

Africa has plans for a Great Green Wall: why the idea needs a rethink

The idea of a Great Green Wall has come a long way since its inception. Its origin goes back to colonial times. In 1927, the French colonial forester Louis Lavauden coined the word desertification to suggest that deserts are spreading due to deforestation, overgrazing and arid land degradation. In 1952 the English forester Richard St. Barbe Baker suggested that a “green front” in the form of a 50km wide barrier of trees be erected to contain the spreading desert.

Droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel from the 1970s onwards gave wings to the idea, and in 2007 the African Union approved the Great Green Wall Initiative. Many perceived it as a plan to build an almost 8,000km long, 15km wide, wall of trees across the African continent – from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.

This plan faced a great deal of criticism. It led to a clearer vision being endorsed under the same name five years later when the African Ministerial Conference on Environment adopted a harmonised regional strategy.

Can the vision ever come to fruition?

Only if there’s a ten-fold (at least) increase in pace so that the progress on the ground becomes consistent with lofty political ambitions. Sadly, the wall suffers from a major mismatch between ambition and effort. But that’s not to say it should be ditched.

Why did the vision change?

Critics argue that a desert is a healthy, natural ecosystem that shouldn’t be thought of as a disease. Nor, they argue, is it spreading like a disease. In fact, by the end of the 1990s, the idea of encroaching deserts had become difficult to defend against scientific evidence that climate variability was to blame.

Critics have also pointed out that the vision of a barrier is counter-productive to the development objective as it draws attention to the perimeter of the land rather than to the land itself. To boost food security and support local communities it is better to focus on the wide field rather than its narrow edge. The development objective is important – an estimated 232 million people live in the general area of the Great Green Wall.

This led to the clarified vision keeping the wall in name, but it has been bent almost beyond recognition.

The wall is no longer seen as a narrow band of trees along the southern edge of the Sahara. The vision is now to surround the Sahara with a wide belt of vegetation – trees and bushes greening and protecting an agricultural landscape. The new vision engages all the countries surrounding it, including Algeria and others in North Africa, not just the 11 original sub-Saharan countries of the Sahel.

Thus, the Great Green Wall is no longer a wall. Nor is it great – not yet anyway.

Unrealistic ambitions

A simple analysis gives a clear indication of how difficult it will be to realise the Great Green Wall within agreed timelines.

A recent analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organisation suggests that 128 million hectares have a tree cover below the “better half” of comparable landscapes in the two aridity zones that straddle the 400 mm rainfall line around the Sahara.

If one assumes that half of this (65 million hectares, or 8% of the total area in these aridity zones) needs intervention, and that the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets the target date for completion, then the Great Green Wall initiative should be treating an average of 5 million hectares per year (10 million hectares is the ambition to bring all lands up to the level of the better half). A less ambitious target date would be set by the African Union’s Agenda 2063 but even then an average treatment of 2 million hectares per year would be needed.

The actual intervention area is not known but is likely to be far less, no more than 200,000 hectares per year and probably less. At this pace, a century is an optimistic prediction of the time it will take to complete the Wall.

A massive increase in speed –- at least ten-fold –- is required if the Wall is to become great in our lifetime. More resources will clearly be needed but a ten-fold increase is unlikely. What to do?

Re-greening options

Many people assume that the wall can only be built only by planting trees. But tree planting is not always needed. Some of the less dry lands can be treated by techniques that rely on the capacity of the land to regreen itself – its ecological memory.

Floods and animals move seeds to places where they can sprout and root systems of former trees are sometimes capable of producing new shoots. Sprouting roots could live as the roots are already established – unlike newly planted seedlings. These could rapidly re-green a landscape, reducing the need for tree planting, as long as farmers protect them from fire and cattle.

This technique – known as farmer-managed natural regeneration – has proven to produce good results at low cost in areas where the ecological memory is sufficient for sprouts to come up by themselves and where farmers have the right to use the trees once they get big. The potential to scale it up is significant.

But farmer-managed natural regeneration will not work everywhere. Other methods are needed too, such as digging half-moons (to capture water) and planting seedlings. Doing a better job of applying the right method to the right place may be the quickest and most feasible way to speed the making of the Great Green Wall.

With $60.5BN received in 2016, Africans has proved to be helping themselves with remittances

With $60.5BN received in 2016, Africans has proved to be helping themselves with remittances

The amount of money migrants send to their families in developing countries has risen by 51 percent over the past decade – far greater than the 28 percent increase in migration from these countries, according to a new report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today.

With $60.5BN received in 2016, Africans has proved to be helping themselves with remittances

Sending Money Home: Contributing to the SDGs, One Family at a Time is the first-ever study of a 10-year trend in migration and remittance flows over the period 2007-2016. While the report shows that there have been increases in sending patterns to almost all regions of the world, the sharp rise over the past decade is in large part due to Asia which has witnessed an 87 percent increase in remittances.

Despite the decade-long trend, Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, said the impact of remittances must first be viewed one family at a time. “It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people’s lives. The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 percent of the family’s household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live.”

remittances
Share of remittances by region in 2016
remittance
Growth of remittance flows by region: 2007-2016

More than 200 million migrant workers are now supporting an estimated 800 million family members globally. It is projected that in 2017, one-in-seven people in the world will be involved in either sending or receiving more than $450 billion in remittances.  Migration flows and the remittances that migrants send home are having large-scale impacts on the global economy and political landscape.

Total migrant worker earnings are estimated to be $3 trillion annually, of which approximately 85 percent remains in the host countries. The money migrants send home averages less than one percent of their host country’s GDP.

 

Taken together, these individual remittances account for more than three times the combined Official Development Assistance (ODA) from all sources, and more than the total foreign direct investment to almost every low- and middle-income country.

“About 40 percent of remittances – $200 billion – are sent to rural areas where the majority of poor people live,” said Pedro de Vasconcelos, the manager of IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances and lead author of the report. “This money is spent on food, health care, better educational opportunities and improved housing and sanitation. Remittances are therefore critical to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Transaction costs to send remittances currently exceed $30 billion annually, with fees particularly high to the poorest countries and remote rural areas. The report makes several recommendations for improving public policies and outlines proposals for partnerships with the private sector to reduce costs and create opportunities for migrants and their families to use their money more productively.

“As populations in developed countries continue to age, the demand for migrant labour is expected to keep growing in the coming years,” said de Vasconcelos. “However, remittances can help the families of migrants build a more secure future, making migration for young people more of a choice than a necessity.”

The report is released ahead of the International Day of Family Remittances commemorated annually on 16 June. Its analysis and recommendations set the stage for discussions at the Global Forum on Remittances, Investment and Development 2017 on 15-16 June at UN Headquarters in New York.

In Africa, where several families rely on handouts from family and friends living abroad, remittance flows grew to 36 percent. Europe is also the main source of remittances to several fragile states in Africa. However, more than half of all migrants from Africa send money within their home continent. Out of the US$60.5 billion received in 2016, close to 80 percent of remittances went to five countries: Nigeria (US$19 billion), Egypt (US$16.6 billion), Morocco (US$7 billion), Algeria and Ghana (US$2 billion each). For 19 receiving countries, remittances are critical, as they rely on these flows for 3 percent or more of their GDP. For six countries, remittances make up more than 10 per cent of their GDP: Liberia (31 per cent), The Gambia (22 per cent), Comoros (20 per cent), Lesotho (18 per cent) and Senegal (14 per cent).

Despite its reliance on remittances, transfer costs in Africa remain one of the highest averaging 10 percent, with South Africa at about 14.6 per cent – the highest in the world.

As remittances have grown by 36 percent over the last decade, so has migration at 29 percent. Africa has 33 million migrants, with about one half remaining on the continent. The pace of migration growth is similar to population growth, a trend that differs from other regions. Preferred destinations outside of Africa are Europe (especially southern Europe); followed by Gulf states, particularly from East African countries and Egypt; and the United States from a wide array of countries. Some African countries maintain particular ties to their former colonial power, with migration flows from Anglophone countries (Ghana, Nigeria) to the United Kingdom; from French-speaking countries (Algeria, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal) to France; and from Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau) to Portugal.

Intra-regional migrations are drawn to regional economic hubs such as South Africa for Southern African countries (2 million); Côte d’Ivoire (2 million) and Nigeria (1 million) for Western African countries; and, to a lesser extent, Ethiopia and Kenya for Eastern African countries.


This post first appeared on The Nerve Africa

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found

Adoley and her husband Mike (not their real names) attend one of Ghana’s mega churches. Both are university graduates. She is a seamstress and owns a small retail shop. He is an accountant. The couple live with Mike’s family, where Adoley sometimes feels she’s blamed for the couple’s childlessness after having three miscarriages.

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found
Churches in the global South, especially Africa are growing. Photo: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

When they visited our home in Accra one Sunday in December 2015, Adoley complained about a few things, such as Mike refusing to carry her handbag in church while she went to the bathroom, because – as he explained – “a man doesn’t carry a woman’s bag”.

This anecdote points to a bigger story about the church in Africa today, and the messages that some of its influential male leaders promote about masculinity, marriage and gender roles in society more broadly.

“Men of God” are powerful

While churches in the economic north are emptying out those in the Global South – and especially Africa – are growing. Pentecostal and charismatic churches have mushroomed, many influenced by a wave of American-exported evangelicalism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Churches also carry out important social functions the state has neglected. They are involved in addressing HIV/AIDS, building hospitals and establishing universities. This kind of work – sometimes called the “social gospel” – makes the church much more than simply a religious space. The modern African church promises a life that is abundant and prosperous – both spiritually and materially.

African church leaders – the bishops and archbishops, prophets and overseers, pastors and deacons, benignly referred to as “men of God” – are powerful. Their teachings have a wide reach that is not limited to Sunday mornings and mid-week services. There are TV and radio programmes, audiotapes and books, international branches and YouTube videos that reach a wide audience beyond their own congregations.

They are also influential voices on gender issues. Jesus’ social gospel subverted gender cultures – and actively sought to challenge injustice in general. There are several examples of Christ’s counter-culture behaviour when it comes to his relationship with women. Women were generally viewed as the cause of men’s sexual sins. To prevent Jewish men from yielding to temptation, they were instructed not to speak to women in public, including their own wives. Not only did Jesus speak to a woman in public he dared to touch them in public.

These perspectives are not sufficiently evident in the messages preached from mega church platforms across the continent today. When it comes to the question of gender, injustice seems to have intensified in the church

Problematic messages about marriage

Much of the current discourse from church platforms in Africa focuses on marriage. Subjects include the breakdown of marriages, preparing women to be good wives, and the “unsuitability” of certain types of young women for marriage.

Archbishop Duncan Williams, founder of Ghana’s Action Faith Chapel International, caused a stir in 2014 when he told women:

it’s a privilege to be married… Sister when you get married, be thankful and stop misbehaving… It doesn’t matter how pretty and beautiful and intelligent you are; until a man proposes to you, you are going to stay beautiful, pretty, intelligent, nice and whatever, and rotten.

Not long afterwards Bishop Dag Heward Mills, founder of Ghana’s Lighthouse chapel, mocked Ghanaian girls for their inability to cook, saying that they were “less than 10% of what we want”.

In his book Till Death Do Us Part, Bishop Charles Agyin-Asare, founder of one of Ghana’s mega churches, responded to the issue of abuse in marriage, writing:

You are not the first woman to be beaten by your husband, and you will not be the last… Rise up with the Word of God and use your spiritual weapons… Keep going to church, listen to tapes, pray, notice the blessings around you, keep your vows.

Women, in this discourse, have no value outside of marriage. And they have no value within it beyond providing domestic services. Women carry the responsibility for keeping the marriage intact, even at the cost of their personal well-being and safety.

These pronouncements can have a profound impact on women’s position in marriage and, given the importance of marriage in African cultures, on gender relations more broadly.

A particular brand of masculinity

The male gender, just like the female gender, is culturally constructed. And as the church defines and redefines the roles and positions of women in marriage and society, it does the same for men.

The church has always been a male-dominated institution. Beyond this, my research into the gender discourse of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches shows how they promote a particular brand of masculinity.

By “masculinity”, I refer to “a cluster of norms, values, and behavioural patterns expressing explicit and implicit expectations of how men should act and represent themselves to others”.

On the one hand, the brand of masculinity espoused by the “men of God” encourages behaviour that can be advantageous for many women in relationships: they generally eschew violence, advocate monogamy and companionship between spouses, and underscore the responsibilities of fathers and husbands.

On the other hand, the “Men of God” portray women as the “weaker sex” emotionally and intellectually, who need protection and guidance. Sometimes they emphasise women’s “limitations”. This leads to a devaluing of women, re-inscribing male domination and undermining female autonomy.

A different approach

Pre-martial counselling has been suggested as part of the problem. But, there are churches that foster a more gender-sensitive approach.

One is the Family Life Ministry at Calvary Baptist church in Accra. They work with a network of professionally trained lay counsellors across several churches in Accra to offer couples practical social and spiritual guidance using an alternative approach to “family life”.

Gender issues are tackled from social, medical, legal and cultural perspectives. Couples are encouraged to see men and women as created equal in the image of God, and to see the development of their partners as a positive investment in their own lives, and those of their families and society.

Only when approaches like this become the norm will the church become a place where women as well as men, wives as well as husbands, the single as well as the married, can experience comfort, well-being and true freedom from bondage.

Until then, in our deeply religious context, we can expect some fraught gender relations at best, and many unhappy wives especially.


This publication first apeared on The Conversation, and it was published by , a Professor of African Studies, University of Ghana

A dose of faith, tribe and hard cash | things that will decide the Kenyan election

A dose of faith, tribe and hard cash | things that will decide the Kenyan election

After accepting his nomination as the presidential candidate of the main opposition coalition recently, Raila Odinga likened himself to Joshua, the biblical figure who led the Jews to the Promised Land.

A dose of faith, tribe and hard cash | things that will decide the Kenyan election

Odinga was appealing to people disaffected with the performance of the Jubilee government. But he was also appealing to the religious sensibilities of the Kenyan electorate where Christianity has a strong presence.

Religion is omnipresent in Kenya. The line between religion and politics is often thin. This is well illustrated by the fact that gospel music serves as an important vehicle for political mobilisation. Most of the National Super Alliance’s campaign rallies feature a rendering of the popular gospel song “Mambo yabadilika” (things are a-changing).

Odinga, as well as President Uhuru Kenyatta who is seeking re-election under the Jubilee Party in the August 8 polls, have sought to endear themselves to the main religious communities. Kenyatta even had members of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, the National Muslim Leaders Forum and the Jamia Mosque visit State House where they pledged their support for his re-election bid. Religion and politics are entwined, each to some extent complicit in the providential authority of the other.

Odinga and Kenyatta aren’t alone. In their quest for the votes of the religious constituencies, all political aspirants have sought to present themselves as people of faith.

But other equally important dynamics shape political relationships in Kenya. Religious symbols operate cheek by jowl with what political scientist Jean Francis Bayart has referred to as the “politics of the belly”. A third factor makes for an even headier mix – ethnic affiliations. Combined, these three factors distort democracy, and the way in which elections are run in the country.

Eating campaign money

On a recent visit to western Kenya during the party primaries I was struck by how voters’ actively sought cash handouts from politicians. And there is no shortage of candidates ready to offer money to the electorate as an inducement to vote for them. A young man who gave me a ride on his motor cycle taxi spoke with pride about his busy schedule these days – “eating campaign money” by night and working by day.

Elderly men and women were seated along village lanes looking out for election candidates who might offer them “something small.” They were open to offers from whichever politician turned up. The amounts they got ranged from around 100 shillings ($1) to 1,000 shillings ($10), often not enough even to feed a family for a day. But the money counts for a lot in the context of extreme poverty.

I also attended an election campaign rally in which a candidate presented what seemed to be a well thought out blueprint for the development of his local ward. At the conclusion of the presentation, one person in the audience broke the silence with a bold demand for more tangible results:

That is enough speech-making, can you now talk to us?

“Talking to us” was easily understood to mean that it was time to give cash gifts to seal the bond.

Demands like this are not unusual during election campaigns in Kenya. They have been a regular feature of elections as long as anyone can remember. One can only imagine what this year’s campaign will be like on the back of a severe drought that has deepened inflation and led to economic hardships.

Building a democratic culture in the context of extreme hardships is a big challenge. As in many African countries undergoing democratic transitions amid conditions of high poverty, economic circumstances hinder or dissuade people from participation in the political process.

Politics of the belly

So what’s the relationship between religion and handouts? They interact and influence each other in myriad ways. Politicians distribute goods for the bellies of their clients in return for political loyalty. In this context democracy as a competitive process in which citizens freely elect their leaders is thrown out of the window.

The Kenyan Muslim leaders’ assurances of support for Kenyatta needs to understood against this background. The leaders – hint, hint – expressed gratitude to the president for

appointing the highest number of Cabinet secretaries and Principal Secretaries from the (Muslim) community.

A common pattern of religious accommodation in post-colonial East African states has been documented. Reflecting trends in Kenya, various religious groups have worked with governments and parties, irrespective of their political philosophies and ideologies.

It is also important to locate religion and politics in Africa within the broader context of ethnicity which has been sustained, and even strengthened, through the political distribution of goods and wealth.

The logic here is not based on universal ideas of human rights and citizenship but rather on networks of tribal patronage and clientilism. Politicians offer their ethnic clients certain material and symbolic gestures such as invocation of tribe, money, jobs in exchange for political support. It is an insecure means of organising support, admittedly, and one that is constantly at risk of corrupt indulgence in order to fund private benefit.

Thus Bayart’s politics-of-the-belly casts a long shadow on the deployment of culture in African states. It demonstrates that religion has followed patterns established by the politics of ethnicity in which merit and common good does not matter.

The current campaign confirms these various forms of symbolic and symbiotic relationships within Kenyan politics. Religious services and rhetoric, money tokens and ethnicity are an integral part of the political system. They will likely again be the main influence in the coming election.

Kenya’s political elite has historically been formed in mission schools, mostly within their ethnic groups and subject to ethnic expectations. Thus it’s an elite formed by – and crippled by – ethnic pride. Religious actors have not escaped a similar elite formation. Thus Kenya’s children of God are rarely Kenyans at large.


This story was first published on The Conversation by a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies, St Paul’s University

Ghana will become Africa's bigest economy by 2018 - Borld Bank

Ghana will become Africa’s fastest growing economy 2018 – World Bank

The World Bank (WB) has forecasted that growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will pick up at 3.2 percent in 2018, and Ghana will lead from the front as the fastest growing economy in Africa next year  followed by Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Ghana will become Africa's bigest economy by 2018 - Borld Bank

In a brief report, Global Economic Prospects: Sub-Saharan Africa, the WB predicted Ghana 7.8 per cent and Ethiopia 8.3 per cent while Tanzania to grow 7.2 per cent.

The Ghana’s economic growth, which had slowed from 4.0% in 2014 to 3.7% in 2015,  recover to 5.8% in 2016 and 8.7% in 2017, following consolidation of macroeconomic stability and implementation of measures to resolve the crippling power crisis.

However the forecasted recovery in economic growth in 2018 will depends on fiscal consolidation measures remaining on track, quick resolution of the power crisis, two new oil wells coming on-stream, and improved cocoa harvest and gold production.

“Growth in non-resource intensive countries is anticipated to remain solid, supported by infrastructure investment, resilient services sectors, and the recovery of agricultural production,” WB said in a statement.

The report brief further said weather-related risks are elevated in East Africa. “Worsening drought conditions will severely affect agricultural production, push food prices higher, and increase food insecurity in the subregion,” the bank said.


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On the Sub-Sahara outlook, the bank said growth in the area was forecast to pick up to 2.6 per cent in 2017 and to 3.2 per cent in 2018, predicated on moderately rising commodity prices and reforms to tackle macroeconomic imbalances.

Per capita output was projected to shrink by 0.1 per cent in 2017 and to increase to a modest 0.7 per cent growth pace over 2018-19. “At those rates,” World Bank said “growth will be insufficient to achieve poverty reduction goals in the region, particularly if constraints to more vigorous growth persist”.

Growth in South Africa, the second biggest economy in Africa, is projected to rise to 0.6 per cent in 2017 and accelerate to 1.1 per cent in 2018. Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, is forecast to go from recession to a 1.2 per cent growth rate in 2017, gaining speed to 2.4 per cent in 2018, helped by a rebound in oil production.

Growth is forecast to jump to 6.1 per cent in Ghana in 2017 and 7.8 per cent in 2018 as increased oil and gas production boosts exports and domestic electricity production.

For Nigeria, growth is expected to rise from 1.2 percent in 2017 to 2.5 percent in 2018-19, helped by a rebound in oil production, as security in the oil producing region improves, and by an increase in fiscal spending.

However the bank noted that militants’ attacks on oil pipelines could hold the key.”If militants’ attacks on oil pipelines in the country decreases further the Nigeria economic will grow further”

Black in a white skin: students with albinism battle prejudice

Myths and stereotypes about albinism abound. People with the condition are called derogatory names, like inkawu – the Nguni term for white baboon – and isishawa, a Zulu word for a person who is cursed. They are stared at, and must field ignorant questions.

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People with albinism often isolate themselves to avoid discrimination. Photo: Shutterstock

Some beliefs about albinism are incredibly dangerous, like the idea that having sex with a woman with albinism will cure a man of HIV. The bones and body parts of people with albinism are believed by some to bring good luck. In countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe, people with albinism are hunted so their body parts, particularly their hands and genitals, can be used in traditional medicine (muthi).

Albinism is a word derived from the Latin albus, meaning white. It’s a genetically inherited condition where a shortage of melanin pigment affects the eyes, hair and skin. Most people with albinism tend to have light hair, skin and eyes – but their other facial features and hair texture resemble those of Africans. They are usually born into black African families.

This means people with albinism tend to identify with the black rather than the white community. Their physical differences, though, mean they don’t fit into either the black or white race groups. I worked with two other researchers, Relebohile Phatoli and Nontembeko Bila, to try and understand the experience and contradiction of being a black person in a white skin in post-apartheid South Africa.

People with albinism often battle poor vision and blindness because of their condition. The students we interviewed struggled to keep up in lectures because they couldn’t see the board properly.

There were other struggles, too. Our findings confirmed the lack of knowledge about albinism, as well as stigma, “othering” – to separate “them” from “us” – and discrimination in relation to people with this condition.

Stigma and stares

About one out of every 4000 South Africans is living with albinism. Although the dangers aren’t as great in South Africa as for those in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe, people with albinism still struggle with stigma and discrimination.

We interviewed five university students with albinism and 10 students at the same university without the condition. The institution in question is a large urban university with several satellite campuses. There are an estimated 10 students with albinism registered at this university; it is not compulsory to register with the institution’s programme for disabled students and some people with albinism do not regard themselves as being disabled.

Our aim was to explore the beliefs and practices regarding albinism within a South African university. What we found exposed the sort of discrimination and “othering” that people with albinism experience.

One of the students with albinism said:

Honestly, I think albinism is a curse because people always stare at me, talk about me behind my back and also make very nasty remarks when I pass, saying that I do not know that my father is not black but is a white person and that is why I look the way I do.

This type of comment highlights the intersection of race, colour and gender in the social construction of such beliefs.

A student without albinism believed that albinos

don’t die, they just go missing and they disappear. Last year when I was pregnant, I was told that I must not look at the albinos because if I do I will get a child with albinism or if I do look at them by mistake I should spit at them to avoid a child with albinism.

Such forms of stigma have far-reaching psychopathological ramifications, such as self-exclusion from services, alienation and social withdrawal, loss of identity, poor self-image, depression and anxiety.

Stereotypes also dramatically affected the way people without albinism interacted with people with albinism. This in turn influenced how people with albinism viewed themselves. One student with the condition remarked: “I always have to prove myself, work extra hard and put in more effort into everything so that people can see me as ‘normal’.”

Isolation was another problem for students with albinism. They preferred to exclude themselves from the rest of the student population to avoid being judged or experiencing discrimination.

The students who didn’t have albinism said they were willing to befriend people with the condition – but wouldn’t necessarily go on dates with them. Those students who had befriended peers with albinism said they were able to value and appreciate the person behind the condition.

Learning and empowerment

So what are the lessons that can be learned from this research? How can young South Africans learn more about albinism and start breaking down the myths around it?

We recommend that schools provide knowledge and awareness programmes about the condition of albinism in the Life Orientation curriculum. Life Orientation is the holistic study of the self in relation to others and to society and focuses on the personal, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical growth of learners. This subject is usually offered in the last three years of high school.

Universities and colleges also need to engage in awareness programmes with students and lecturers. These programmes must explore the impact of beliefs and stereotypes on people affected by this condition, and the challenges posed by reading lecture notes.

Social workers, psychologists, nurses and other helping professionals need to arrange support groups and educate parents, learners, teachers, traditional healers and the general public about what causes albinism. They can also teach people how to treat those with the condition and equip those with albinism to handle discrimination.

People living with albinism must be given the tools they need to exercise agency and help play an active role in breaking the cycle of stigma and discrimination. By being out in the world, empowered to discuss their condition, they can demystify it and be positive role models.

Through these strategies we can hopefully create a safer, more just, humane and caring society where the rights of all groups are respected.


This story was first Published on The Conversation by 

Democracy waving thin and sick over Southern African

Democracy waving thin and sick over Southern African

Politics are in shambles across the world. Populism and political gambles are making headlines from London to Washington. Southern Africa is no exception. If it’s any comfort, this suggests that there’s nothing genuinely typical about African versions of  Nor are the flaws in democracy typically African.

Democracy waving thin and sick over Southern African

This might put some events into wider perspective. But it’s nonetheless worrying to follow the current political turmoil in some southern Africa countries.

The regional hegemon, South Africa, is embroiled in domestic policy tensions of unprecedented proportions since it became a democracy. And the situation in the sub-region is not much better.

The state of opposition politics and democracy is in a shambles too. The fragile political climate and the mentality of most opposition politicians hardly offer meaningful alternatives. This is possibly an explanation – but no excuse – for the undemocratic practices permeating almost every one of the region’s democracies.

Beyond multi-party systems with regular elections, they resemble very little of true democracies.

South African hiccups

At the end of May the dimensions of “state capture” in South Africa were set out in a report published by an.

It shows how deeply the personalised systematic plundering of state assets is . Additional explosive evidence was presented only days later through thousands of leaked e-mails. Dubbed the “Gupta Leaks”, they document a mafia-like network among Zuma-loyalists and the Indian Gupta family.

The evidence points to massive influence, if not control, over political appointments, the hijacking of higher public administration and embezzlement of .

Some 65% of South Africans want Zuma to resign. An all-time low approval rating of 20% makes him less popular among the electorate than even US President Donald Trump. Despite this – combined with growing demands from within the party that he steps down – the ANC still backs its president.

But divisions within the party are deepening, with some in its leadership demanding an investigation into the Gupta patronage network.

For his part, Zuma is focused on pulling strings to secure Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his successor as president of the party. The other front-runner candidate is Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Zuma’s assumption appears to be that, once in office, his former wife would not endorse any legal prosecution of the father of her children.

But the country’s official opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA), isn’t reaping the benefits of the ANC’s blunders. It has its own problems, which are constraining the gains it might otherwise be making from the ANC’s mess.

The party is divided over what to do about its former leader and Premier of the Western Cape province, Helen Zille following a tweet in which she defended the legacy of colonialism. The comment whipped up a storm of protest and for weeks the party had been at pains on how to deal with the scandal.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane finally announced that Zille had been suspended from the party and that a disciplinary hearing would decide what further political consequences she might face. But a resilient Zille immediately challenged the decision.

Whatever the outcome, the DA’s image is damaged. Its aspirations to be the country’s new majority party has been dealt a major blow.

Regional woes

In Angola, 74-year-old Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in office since 1979, has decided to select a successor. The scenario will secure that the family “oiligarchy” will remain in control of politics and the country’s economy, while the governing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) uses the state apparatus to ruthlessly suppress any meaningful social protests.

In contrast Robert Mugabe – reigning in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 – shows no intention of retiring. He was nominated again as the Zimbabwe African Nation Union/Patriotic Front’s (ZANU/PF) candidate for the 2018 presidential elections. But everyone is anxiously following the party’s internal power struggles over the ailing autocrat’s replacement. Fears are that the vacuum created by his departure might create a worse situation.

While the regime’s constant violation of human rights is – as in Angola – geared towards preventing any form of meaningful opposition, there are concerns that the unresolved succession might add another violent dimension to local politics.

Zambia’s democracy also looks sad. The country’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) is on trial for high treason. Hichilema has been embroiled in a personal feud with President Edgar Lungu of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) for years. He was arrested in early April after obstructing the president’s motor cavalcade. The charge of high treason is based on the accusation that he wilfully put President Lungu’s life in danger.

The trial is feeding growing concerns over an increasingly autocratic regime. The once praised democracy, which allowed for several relatively peaceful transfers of political power since the turn of the century, is now in decline.

Lesotho is also in a mess. It provides a timely reminder that competing parties seeking to obtain political control over governments are by no means a guarantee for better governance. Aptly described as a “Groundhog Day election”, citizens in the crisis-ridden country went to the polls for the third time since 2012 with no new alternatives or options.

Their limited choice is between two former prime ministers aged 77 (Tom Thabane) and 72 (Pakalitha Mosisili). The likely election result is another fragile coalition government – provided the military accepts the result.

Meanwhile, the biggest challenge for relative political stability in the region might still be in the making: President Joseph Kabila, whose second term in office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ended in December 2016, is still hanging on with the promise that he’ll vacate the post by end of this year.

Despite a constitutional two-term limit, his plans remain a matter of speculation. In a recent interview, he was characteristically evasive. He refused to give a straight answer on whether he’s still considering another term and flatly denied that he had promised anything, including elections.

Kabila’s extended stay in office threatens to exacerbate an already explosive and violent situation, with potentially devastating consequences.

His continued reign would not only provoke further bloodshed at home. Any spill-over will challenge the Southern African Development Community’s willingness and ability to find solutions to regional conflicts in the interests of relative stability. A stability which is at best fragile and indicative of the crisis of policy in most of the regional body’s member states.

Lagos fashion show: Four African countries to participate in this year’s carnival

​Four African countries, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and Zambia have confirmed their participation in the African Fashion carnival, scheduled for Lagos on June 3 and June 4.

The Chief Executive Officer of the African Fashion Week, Ronke Ademiluyi, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Lagos on Wednesday.

She said that top models and designers from the four countries would be joining their Nigerian counterparts to showcase the best in contemporary African fashion.

The carnival is billed for the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

Ms. Ademiluyi, who has been promoting the show yearly since 2014 in Lagos and London, said that the designers would showcase their skills alongside 52 top Nigerian fashion makers.

According to her, the event is meant to promote African cultural values, to make African fashion outputs competitive in the international arena.

“Leading African designers, who have featured in fashion shows in Morocco, Senegal and London, will add colour to the show, using colourful African prints to create shapes and quality garments.

“The catwalk will showcase African designers’ global cultural experiences and their rich heritage, which will be the highpoint of the two-day show.’’

“The Cameroonian designer, Alexander II Akande, aims to redefine the public perception of African fashion, challenging established ideas with the use of African fabrics such as Ankara.

“The designer from Zambia, Africawala, bridges western and African fashion, local arts and crafts, joining efforts with the Ghanaian designer, Nipo Skin, to display traditional fabrics in African styles.

Ademiluyi said the decision to use the National Theatre was to bring the creativity of African fashion to the culture pantheon as represented by the National Theatre.

“The National Theatre in Lagos is where Africa’s culture was showcased in all its grandeur 40 years ago.

“That was the very place that Nigeria hosted World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77), if we do not appreciate what we have, nobody will blow our trumpet for us.”

She said the Africa Fashion Week, which commenced in 2014 in Lagos and London had provided a platform for fashion and cultural enterprises to project the diversity of Africa’s rich heritage.

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

Female suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in West Africa in 2017 has significantly risen compared to 2016 according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report

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UNICEF documented 27 young girls used in suicide attacks already in 2017, 30 in 2016, 56 in 2015, and just four in 2014. This largely confirms the trends compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

According to Long War Journal data, there were at least 80 female suicide bombers used in 2015. In 2014, there only 15 females, most of which were adult women.

Since June 2014, at least 151 women and girls have been used in subsequent attacks the report says. The overwhelming majority of these assaults have occurred in Nigeria, while at least 14 has occurred in Cameroon, three in Chad, and one in Niger.

This year Boko Haram militants have used at least 27 children to carry out suicide bombing attacks in the first three months in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the reports says.

This marks a major increase — 30 children were used in bombings for all of 2016 in those four countries, where Boko Haram is active.

The horrifying pattern is a sign of shifting strategy for Boko Haram, now waging its eighth year of conflict. “The insurgency has changed its tactics over the course of the conflict, from holding towns and territory to a guerrilla-style insurgency that uses hit and run attacks and improvised explosive devices,” UNICEF says.

That shift is clear in the numbers: Four were used in suicide attacks in 2014, 56 in 2015, and 30 in 2016.

It’s enabled by the militants’ systemic kidnapping of thousands of children, most famously the more than 270 schoolgirls taken from the town of Chibok, Nigeria, three years ago. Girls in particular are subjected to forced marriage and repeated rape.

“This is the worst possible use of children in conflict,” UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said in a statement. “These children are victims, not perpetrators, forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”

It is not clear that all of the children who have carried out attacks are cognizant of what they were doing, the report states.

There are also major concerns about how the uptick in attacks impacts the way other children who return after being abducted by Boko Haram are viewed by their communities, making reintegration more difficult. “Girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives,” UNICEF says.

The organization published testimony from “Amina” from Chad, who was 16 when she got married, only to find out later that her new husband was a Boko Haram militant. Here’s more:

“After being manipulated and drugged, she was forced into an attempted suicide attack. Four people including Amina were on a canoe riding towards a weekly crowded market. The four girls carried bombs that were strapped to their bodies. When a Vigilante Committee spotted them on the canoe, two of them activated their explosive belt. Amina didn’t activate her device but she was injured in the explosion. She lost both her legs.

However Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari vowed in Sambisa Forest during the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship (NASAC), that never again will terrorists take over and occupy any part of Nigeria’s territory.

Represented by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Buhari noted that his government is resolved to stamp out all activities and operations of the Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria.

This year alone Al Qaeda’s group has been linked to over 100 attacks in West Africa. Most of the attacks so far  have occurred in Mali, majorly in the northern part of the country.

Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 

Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 
Monks look at the view following a terrorist attack against a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday. Photo: NYT/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive.

Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.

The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence.

The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.


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In the past few months, the Islamic State has made its intentions toward Copts well known. “Our favorite prey” they called my co-religionists in a February video. Their barbaric attacks have left more than 100 Copts dead in the last few months alone. The Northern Sinai is now “Christianfrei,” or free of Christians.

Many serious questions will be asked in the next few days. How has the Islamic State been able to build such an extensive network inside mainland Egypt? Is the Islamic State moving its operations to Egypt as it faces pressure in Iraq and Syria? And why has Egypt repeatedly failed to prevent these attacks?

All of these questions are important and require thoughtful deliberation by the Egyptian regime and its allies around the world. But these are not the questions on the minds of my Coptic friends at home. They have far more intimate concerns: Am I putting my children’s lives at risk by remaining here? Should we leave? And what country will take us?

In February 2014, I met the head of the Jewish community in Egypt,Magda Haroun. Today, she told me, there are 15 Jews left in the country, out of a population that once stood at nearly 100,000. Ms. Haroun said she was afraid the Copts would soon follow.
At the time I thought the prospect was overblown. There are millions of Copts in Egypt.

Where would all of them possibly go? Surely some will remain, I reasoned. But I had left the country myself in 2009 — and so have hundreds of thousands of Copts. Even before the recent wave of attacks, Copts have been packing their bags and bidding 2,000 years of history farewell. As more find permanent homes in the West, more are able to bring relatives over. Ms. Haroun was right.

The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor — where one of the giants of the modern Coptic church, Father Matthew the Poor, was ordained in 1948 — is the only remaining monastery of 35 that once existed in the area. Copts had always been tied to Egypt, their very name derived from the Greek word for the country, Aigýptios. Despite waves of persecution at the hands of everyone from Roman and Byzantine emperors, Arab and Muslim governors and Egypt’s modern presidents, they have refused to leave. Their country once gave refuge to the young Jesus. Where will they now find sanctuary?

In 1954 an Egyptian movie called “Hassan, Marcus and Cohen” was produced. The comedy’s title represented characters from Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2008, a new movie, “Hassan and Marcus” hit theaters. It warned of the growing sectarian strife between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims. Fifty years from now, it seems likely that the sequel will just be “Hasan.”

List of the most peaceful countries in Africa in 2017

List of the most peaceful countries in Africa in 2017

Many African countries are considered less stable due to their social, political, economic and demographic vulnerability.

List of the most peaceful countries in Africa in 2017

The stability of African countries were highlighted in the latest Fragile States Index released by United States think tank, Fund for Peace.

The index ranks countries per their vulnerability to collapse based on twelve key political, social and economic indicators using the Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) analytical approach.

The annual report released since 2005 has Mauritius ranked the least fragile country in Africa and 148th in the world.

Mauritius is followed by Seychelles, Botswana, Ghana, Cape Verde, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Gabon and Tunisia.

They rank 125th, 120th, 108th, 106th, 103rd, 97th, 96th, 91st and 89th in the world respectively.

The most fragile country in Africa, according to the index, is South Sudan, followed by Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Guinea, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

178 countries were ranked based on the different pressures they face that impact their levels of fragility.

The most stable country on the global scale is Finland, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Ireland.

Zambia's political climate and treason trial of Hichilema worrying

“Address your political situation or be prepared for violence” – EU MPs

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have waded into the political situation in Zambia calling for the government address the issues in order to avert political violence.

Zambia's political climate and treason trial of Hichilema worrying

A resolution presented in the parliament last week said it was concerned at the arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who has subsequently been charged with treason for blocking President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.

‘‘Parliament expresses concern at the arrest of opposition party leader Hakainde Hichilema, which is considered to be politically motivated by the opposition and has caused a wave of protests in Zambia,’‘ a press release by the parliamentarians read.

Parliament expresses concern at the arrest of opposition party leader Hakainde Hichilema, which is considered to be politically motivated by the opposition and has caused a wave of protests in Zambia.

According to them, the trial of Hichilema has increased political tension and acts of repression against the political opposition following the August 2016 elections.

They called on the government to ‘‘apply the law fairly and in a fair justice process,’‘ reiterating their call that the Zambian government guarantees full media freedom and take measures to prevent political violence.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader was arrested in April and charged with treason, disobeying lawful orders and using insulting language. The State prosecutor dropped the second charge whiles the magistrate struck out the third citing incoherent and untruthful testimonies by police officers.

The only charge that remains is that of treason and hearing is scheduled to take place next week. President Lungu and the government maintain that the trial is not political but the Catholic Church in the country has had cause to complain about political tension in the copper-producing country.

Lungu beat Hichilema in presidential polls held last year. The opposition cited mass irregularities and went to court but the case was struck out based on a technicality. I led to protests by loyalists of the opposition party.

An African University is on a mission to decolonise social sciences

An African University is working towards a path to decolonise social sciences and it is serious

It’s not often that you get to create a new university from scratch: space, staff – and curriculum. But that’s exactly what we’re doing in Mauritius, at one of Africa’s newest higher education institutions. And decoloniality is central to our work.

An African University is on a mission to decolonise social sciences
It’s time for students to see Africa differently. Shutterstock

I am a member of the Social Science Faculty at the African Leadership University. Part of our task is to build a canon, knowledge, and a way of knowing. This is happening against the backdrop of a movement by South African students to decolonise their universities; Black Lives Matter protests in the United States; and in the context of a much deeper history of national reimagination across Africa and the world.

With this history in mind our faculty is working towards what we consider a decolonial social science curriculum. We’ve adopted seven commitments to help us meet this goal, and which we hope will shift educational discourse in a more equitable and representative direction.

Seven commitments

#1: By 2019, everything we assign our students will be open source

Like most institutions of higher education in Africa (and across much of the world) ALU’s library is limited. Students often deal with this by flouting copyright and piracy laws and illegally downloading material. We don’t want to train our students to become habitual law breakers. Nor do we want them to accept second-tier access to commodified knowledge.

Our aspiration is that by 2019 everything we assign in our programme will be open source. This will be achieved by building relationships with publishers, writers and industry leaders, and negotiating partnerships for equitable access to knowledge. This will ensure that a new generation of thinkers is equipped with the analytic tools they need.

It will also move towards undoing centuries of knowledge extraction from Africa to the world that has too often taken place with little benefit to the continent itself.

#2: Language beyond English

Students who read, write and think in English often forget that knowledge is produced, consumed, and tested in other tongues.

We commit to assigning students at least one non-English text per week. This will be summarised and discussed in class, even when students are unable to read it themselves. Our current class comprises of students from 16 countries who between them speak 29 languages. English is the only language they all share. Exposing students to scholarly, policy, and real-world work that’s not in English means they are constantly reminded how much they don’t know.

As we grow, students will also be expected to learn languages from the continent: both those that originated in colonialism (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese), and those that are indigenous such as isiZulu, Wolof, or Amharic.

#3: 1:1 Student exchange ratio

Having cross-cultural experiences, particularly as an undergraduate, has become an important part of demonstrating work readiness and social competency in a “globalised” world. But scholars have shown that globalisation is often uneven. Strong currencies enable such experiences, so those who benefit usually come from Europe and North America.

This has had huge implications for higher education, where “student exchange” usually takes place at a ratio of 10:1 – ten Americans or Norwegians, for instance, exploring South African townships, for one Ghanaian who might make it to the Eiffel Tower.

In Social Sciences the body is the research tool and the mind the laboratory in which experiments are undertaken. We support as much exchange as possible across the broader institution. But our commitment when it comes to student exchange is strictly 1:1 – one ALU student goes abroad for every one exchange student we welcome into our classroom.

#4: Text is not enough

Africa’s long intellectual history has only recently begun to be recorded and stored through text. If students are exposed only to written sources, their knowledge is largely constrained to the eras of colonisation and post-coloniality.

To instil a much deeper knowledge and more sensitive awareness to context and content, we are committed to assigning non-textual sources of history, culture, and belief: studying artefacts, music, advertising, architecture, food, and more. Each week students engage with at least one such source to attend to the world around them in a more careful way.

#5: We cannot work alone

Social scientists often assign themselves the role of deconstructor: unpacking power, race, capitalism and consumption with glorious self-righteous abandon. My colleagues and I recognise that we cannot work alone, and require our students to play a central role in contributing to the university’s outputs.

We design our curricula in such a way that students are compelled to create, iterate, work with feedback, apply that feedback, and critically appraise it. We want them to collaborate with as wide a range of other people as possible, stretching them to use language and the tools of analysis that they acquire in their training with real world implication. For example, students recently worked with our legal, policy, and learning teams to write the university’s statement on diversity.

#6: Producers, not only consumers

The students who choose to come to the university bring with them tremendous insight and experience. These are often developed and augmented by spending time in the quintessential multi-cultural environment of the campus and dormitories. That allows certain fusions, tensions and commonalities to emerge much more clearly than they might in other places.

Working and living within this environment, it’s essential that students start contributing to discourses surrounding Africa as early as possible. It might take years to know how to write a publishable scholarly article – but an op-ed, podcast or YouTube video is not quite so demanding. This allows students to get accustomed to their voices contributing to and shaping public dialogue in and about Africa.

#7: Ethics above all

Social Sciences both reflect and shape the world. Our programme, then, is committed to the principle of “do no harm”, and also to be an impetus for good.

Students will learn to think and act to the highest ethical standards, and to feel confident in asking the same of others working with them. This is essential in bringing into being a world in which Africa’s place is both central – as it has arguably always been to global capitalism – and also respected.

Collaboration

It’s early days at ALU. There’s a lot we still need to do, and it will take time for us to build the institution into what we collectively envision. These seven commitments are an important foundation for the Social Sciences.

We’re inviting responses and collaborations through our blog, through email or through collaborations with our students.

‘Many Africans use Nigerian passports to commit crime’

‘Many Africans use Nigerian passports to commit crime’

Citizens of some African countries, including Ghana, obtain Nigerian passport to perpetrate crime in various countries, Yusuf Hinna, a non-career ambassadorial nominee, has alleged.

‘Many Africans use Nigerian passports to commit crime’

According to NAN, he said this while responding to questions at his screening by the senate committee on foreign affairs in Abuja on Tuesday.

He told the lawmakers that some of the criminal activities carried out in several countries of the world were by nationals of other African countries who hold Nigerian passports, “and not by Nigerian citizens as often believed”.

He said if confirmed, he would embark on continuous screening to determine citizenship and eligibility for obtaining the Nigeria passport.

On xenophobia, Hinna said if confirmed and posted to South Africa, for instance, he would engage the country’s government in order to stop the “harassment” of Nigerians living in the country.

“There are dislikes against Nigerians in South Africa. When Nigerians arrive, police dogs are used to sniff them at the airport,” he said.

“If I am sent to such a country, I will engage the government so as to stop unwanted harassment.

“However, I recall that some Africans such as Ghanaians were arrested and they were carrying Nigeria passports.

“There is abuse of our green passports. There are security challenges, and we have to tackle them.”

On threat to world peace, the nominee said “nuclear weapons are dangerous to world affairs’’.

Hinna also spoke on the rise of different militant groups, particularly in Nigeria, who pose danger to the security of lives and property.

He called on the federal government to curtail activities of such groups so as “to protect the country against security threats greater than that currently posed by Boko Haram”.

NAN reports that other nominees screened by the committee were Sylvanus Nsofor, a retired justice from Imo state and Joseph Iji from Ondo state.

President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter dated March 29, 2017, requested the senate to reconsider Nsofor, who was earlier rejected for failing to scale through the initial process.

Iji’s nomination replaced Jacob Daodu, who was also rejected by the senate based on a report from the Department of State Security (DSS).

Hinna, from Gombe state, was nominated to replace Suleiman Hassan.

Mugabe does not sleep when he closes his eyes, he is allergic to bright light - Aid

Mugabe does not sleep when he closes his eyes, he is allergic to bright light – Aid

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe does not sleep when he closes his eyes for long periods in public events, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Mugabe does not sleep when he closes his eyes, he is allergic to bright light - Aid

His spokesman, George Charamba said the 93-year-old leader only rests his eyes from bright lights.

Mugabe has regularly had his eyes closed at recent appearances, including when he appeared on a discussion panel at last week’s World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa.

“I feel like a failure when there is this reading that the President is sleeping in conferences, no,” his spokesman George Charamba was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.

“At 93, there is something that happens to the eyes and the President cannot suffer bright lights. If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoids direct lighting.”

He said Nelson Mandela’s eyes were also sensitive to flash photography after years of working in a limestone quarry when he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

“You were not allowed to even use flashes whenever he was in the room,” he said.

Mugabe, who has trouble walking unaided, is in Singapore on one of his regular medical trips.

Charamba said the president was receiving specialised treatment for his eyes and that his general health was good.

Mugabe to face tough test in next year's General elections as opposition parties unite

Zimbabwe Most highly developed than Nigeria – Mugabe

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said his country is “most highly developed country in Africa” after South Africa.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, sits in the Plenary Hall of the United Nations (UN) building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 12th African Union (AU) Summit.

While speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, Mugabe said his country was more developed than Nigeria and Egypt.

He said, “After South Africa, I want to see what country has the level of development that you see in Zimbabwe.”

“We have over 14 universities and our literacy rate is over 90 [%] – is the highest in Africa.

“Yes, we have our problems… but we have resources, perhaps more than the average country in the world, is it gold, diamond, coal… and our agriculture is very viable and this year we will have a bumper harvest.”

He added that the economy was improving, and denied that the country was a fragile state.

Zimbabwe was ranked 24th on the UNDP’s Human Development Index for Africa, and 154th in the world.

Nigeria came in on the development index at 152.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/YNaija

Malawi banned child marriage, joins other African countries with same law

Malawi banned child marriage, joins other African countries with same law

Malawi has joined the likes of Gambia and Tanzania to ban child marriage after it raised the legal marriage age to 18.

Malawi banned child marriage, joins other African countries with same law
Malawi banned child marriage, joins other African countries with same law

The constitutional amendment was signed by President Peter Mutharika last week after a two-year parliamentary process and subsequent approval in February.

This amended law quashes the previous practice where minors aged 15 years and above can marry with consent from their parents.

Under-aged girls in Malawi can now heave a sigh of relief because perpetrators of such marriages commit an offense punishable by five years imprisonment and a fine of about $143.

Child marriage is high in Malawi, like Gambia, Tanzania and Chad where the practice was outlawed last year with tough penalties for culprits.

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh prohibited the practice which is now punishable by twenty years imprisonment.

In Tanzania, a court ruled as unconstitutional sections 13 and 17 of the Tanzania Law of Marriage Act, which allowed girls to marry at age 15 with parental permission and at age 14 with the permission of a court.

The parliament of Chad in December last year adopted a reform of its penal code which raises the legal marriage age from 16 to 18.

Chadian President Idriss Deby also promulgated a law that punishes any person party to the marriage of a minor by 5 to 10 years prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 to 5 million FCFA (750 to 7,500 euros).

Zimbabwe is yet to come up with laws to criminalize child marriages despite last year’s court ruling that outlawed the practice by striking out section 22(1) of the Marriage Act which allowed under-aged marriage in contravention of section 78(1) of the Constitution which sets 18 years as the minimum age.

Other African countries who have already outlawed child marriages are struggling to enforce the law as the practice continues in the blind side of the authorities.

A report by Amnesty International last year indicated that Burkina Faso has one of the world’s highest rates of forced and early marriages in contravention of the law which sets the marriage age at 18.

The rights group said 51.3% of girls aged between 15 and 17 are married in the country denying them education and contraceptive health services.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also estimates in a report that some 50% of girls married off in East, West and Central Africa were under 18 years.

The report revealed that over 58% of marriages among women currently aged 20-46 years in Niger, Chad, Ethiopia and Guinea, occurred when they were under age (i.e. below the age of 18).

According to UNICEF, over 14.2 million girls under the age of 15 years are getting married annually which is an approximation of 39,000 girls daily.

“As well as having strong and enforceable minimum age of marriage legislation, it is imperative that to have strong supporting legislation which protects women and girls’ rights,” civil society organisation Girls Not Bridessaid.

In order to prevent child marriage, a holistic and comprehensive approach must be adopted which addresses the root causes of child marriage, it added.

Digital banking

Digital only banking: ALAT set to shut down bank branches in Nigeria

Imagine the cost a Nigerian bank can save by not having a physical branch where hundreds of thousands are burnt in diesel monthly. We could see a bank that offers the best deals in the country, encouraging the unbanked population to get onboard, thereby helping to increase financial inclusion and growing the economy. This is the future of banking – no branches that struggle to make enough profit to cover their running costs. Wema Bank, Nigeria’s oldest indigenous bank has taken the future in its hands by setting up ALAT, Nigeria’s first fully digital bank. The story is just starting.

Digital only banking: ALAT set to shut down bank branches in Nigeria

In February, global professional services firm PwC released its Nigeria FinTech Survey 2017 report, with a striking message: Nigerian Retail banking and Payments sectors will be the most disrupted by a group of new companies building financial technology (FinTech) solutions. This has been long coming, and the forward-thinking financial institutions have prepared for this by partnering with startups earlier seen as competitors.

It is true that banks have the advantage of legacy and wide customer bases overFinTech startups, but many lack speed and the capacity to understand and quickly build a very good user experience to improve efficiency and decrease costs. Suchadaptability is what characterizes the typical FinTech startup today.

Dr. Andrew S. Nevin Ph.D., Advisory Partner and Chief Economist, PwC Nigeria in his comment on the Nigeria FinTech Survey 2017 report, noted: “FinTechs are empowering customers by providing services that are delivered via technology applications on customer’s mobile devices. This allows consumers conveniently initiate and complete transactions, connect to third party entities and access information without restrictions.

“All over the world, the increasing momentum of FinTechs and their success is challenging financial services players to devise a spectrum of strategic responses.”

While some collaboration has started, banks remain worried about the threats posed by the sheer determination and guerilla strategies of these startups. At PayThinklast September, major organizations in the payments industrygathered to discuss innovations and trends in the payment space.A line of thought kept emerging at the conference: the existing relationship with FinTech startups won’t advance innovation in banking, and fear might stymie it. What then can banks do?

PwC’s Nevinis convinced that not all FinTechs pose the same threats or opportunities. “In some cases, FinTechs will be viewed as enablers to traditional innovation and continuous improvement. In others, it presents a series of disruptions and threats as they continue to make inroads into banks’ traditional territory by offering a competitive service or product.” The question remains: what then can banks do?

Innovate or Die! The popular saying is the stark message for banks in the era of marauding FinTech startups. The message of collaboration and adoption of an ecosystem approach where banks grant startups access to their API endpoints, large sales and agent networks, is gaining traction but it is a lazy way out for banks. Microsoft and Google do not remain relevant by giving in to threats posed by startups. They have remained relevant by constantly innovating and getting into the trenches with the startups. Big companies, sometimes due to the fear of risk taking, often find it difficult to innovate. Not Google. Not Microsoft. Not Facebook. When they can’t beat you in innovation, they buy you, rather than ‘collaborate’ and leave the future of a part of their business at a startup’s mercy.

Collaboration is the short-term answer to the threat posed by FinTechs but for a bank that has been around since 1945, short-term is never good enough. Wema Bank has not survived crises in the global economy and the Nigerian banking industry to leave its fate in the hands of FinTech startups. Wema Bank will innovate. Wema Bank will compete.

But the current struggle is not the end. In the UK, app-only banks are becoming an increasing threat to traditional banks. It goes beyond a traditional bank having a robust e-banking offering; because let’s face it, who has time to go to a bank branch for the initial documentations of new account holders and documentations for some services? British app-only bank Atom has raised £135 million since it was founded in 2014.

“At launch, we raised more money than any other bank in the UK had raised to launch,” Atom Chairman Anthony Thomson told Business Insider.

Atom is just one of a couple of app-only digital banks that have started up in the UK over the last 18 months. Others include Monzo, Starling, Tandem, and Tide.

With operating cost cut to the barest minimum, Atom can give customers the best deals on savings. Callum Brodie, a Senior News Reporter at MoneySavingExpert.com listed the app-only bank’s industry best deals.

One-year account — 2%

Two-year fix – 2.1% (next best, Charter Savings Bank at 1.75%)

Three-year fix – 2.2% (next best, Secure Trust Bank at 2%)

Five-year fix – 2.4% (next best, Secure Trust Bank at 2.2%).

ALAT gives 10% and more. Welcome to the future of banking!


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Nigeria’s position on the list of investment destinations in Africa lowers as Botswana takes the lead

Botswana has been named the most attractive investment destination in Africa, according to the latest Africa Investment index for 2016 by Quantum Global’s independent research arm.

Nigeria 8
Nigeria was the number one investment destination as of 2014 but is now finding it difficcult to stay stable and manage the floating economy

The index noted that this was possible as Botswana ranked highly in factors that include current account, improved credit rating, import cover as well as ease of doing business.

Out of the 54 African countries that participated in the survey, Botswana took the first position followed by Morocco in second spot, with Egypt third while the neighboring South Africa took  fourth spot followed by Zambia. Other countries that made it in the top ten include Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria, Tanzania, Namibia and Burkina Faso respectively.

Africa-Investment-Index-2

“The annual research is aimed at providing investors in Africa with a guide to which countries and markets are most attractive for investment in the short to medium term. The multidimensional barometer was based on six clusters of factors namely growth factors, risk factors, liquidity factors, business environment factors, social capital factors and demographics,” read part of the report.

Still on the same research, last year Botswana took the fifth position, while the year before the country obtained the third spot and fourth in 2013. According to the index, Botswana was scored the first position in the credit ranking category, the second position in the import cover, current access ratio as well as the fourth position in the ease of doing business.

The report also indicated that Botswana is doing well in terms of embracing technology as the country scored position nine in the Facebook penetration under the social capital ranking which accounts for the level of networks, knowledge and connections.

“Facebook penetration rate is used as a proxy for this social capital factor. Indeed a user of the index can also customize the business environment factors by incorporating their quality of networks in a country by adjusting the doing business ranking of the country. The social capital factor is an innovation,” reads the report.

Africa-Investment-Index

In the global rankings, Botswana is ranked position 71 out of 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s latest Doing Business rankings that was released late last year.

The report then noted that Botswana’s position on Doing Business has been steady over the past several years noting that last year the country implemented a reform in the area of dealing with construction permits by abolishing the requirement to submit a rates clearance certificate in order to obtain building permit.

The rich cares: Dangote and Bill gates sponsors mission to improve Africa health care

This week, more than 138,000 vaccinators will fan out across five African countries in the Lake Chad area in a push to eliminate polio in Africa and rid the world of this terrible disease forever.

Bill Gates

They will take boats across fast-flowing rivers, ride jeeps along sandy ravines, walk crowded street in towns and cities and navigate cramped quarters of refugee camps to ensure that every child is immunized. Traveling for hours a day, these dedicated women and men will visit children in homes, schools, train stations, and transit points across Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.

This also marks World Immunization Week, a coordinated effort to make sure that people everywhere understand the importance of getting immunized to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.

And by coincidence, it was almost seven years ago that the two of us first met in a hotel conference room in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. We were there as part of a diverse group—public officials, religious leaders, business people, polio survivors, and journalists—to discuss how we could work together to stop polio in Nigeria.

At the time, Nigeria had done an amazing job tackling polio—reducing reported cases by 95 percent in just one year. But it was still circulating in six Nigerian states. While 95 percent might seem like success, as long as a single child remains infected, children across Africa and around the world are at risk.

Thanks to the effort of so many, Nigeria’s Borno State is now the only place in Africa today where polio is still circulating. It will take ingenuity to end polio there, and it will take persistence to continue reaching children in the surrounding area with vaccines to protect them from the disease until it is eradicated. But we’re confident it can be done. And when that happens, Africa will celebrate one of the biggest victories ever in public health.

Aliko Dangote 3

Since our first meeting in 2010, the two of us have worked together on a range of other projects to help improve health in Nigeria and across Africa.

We supported the establishment of emergency operations centers in Nigeria and other countries to keep polio from spreading. This turned out to be a blessing during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. When the disease first appeared in Nigeria—an international travel hub that is home to more than 180 million people—the staff of an emergency operations center set up in Lagos jumped into action and stopped the disease in its tracks. It’s almost unimaginable to think what would have happened without them.

In the state of Kano, we are working with the government to ensure that children can get essential childhood immunizations against tetanus, pneumonia, liver cancer and measles. And when parents bring their children into a clinic for vaccinations, health workers can address other health issues, too, like nutrition, care for pregnant mothers and newborns and malaria prevention and treatment. We have since widened the program to several other states.

Vaccines are also one of the best tools to save lives in an epidemic, such as the meningitis C outbreak happening now in Nigeria and other West African countries.

And because of the devastating impact malnutrition has on Nigeria’s children –  leading to 300,000 deaths annually and causing stunted growth and development in millions more – we have expanded our partnership to include nutrition programs across 12 states.

Earlier this year, we also helped launch the End Malaria Council, a group of influential public and private sector leaders committed to ensuring that malaria eradication remains a top global priority.

Underlying all these efforts is our belief that strengthening health systems is the key to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty and disease—and kick-starting a virtuous cycle of health, productivity, and prosperity.

In our work together, we have learned a few important lessons.

First, improving the health of communities depends on a successful partnership between government, communities, religious and business leaders, volunteers, and NGOs. This ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction. And it is essential to building trust so parents have the confidence that vaccines are safe and will protect their children from life-threatening diseases.

Second, we must keep innovating to speed up progress. This month, for example, vaccinators will test a new vaccine carrier that keeps the temperature of vaccines stable for up to five days, even in blistering heat. This breakthrough will enable vaccinators to finally reach children in extremely remote areas with life-saving vaccines.

Last, accurate and reliable data is central to any effort to improve health. Data can tell a health officer which communities are running low on vaccine supplies, where there are gaps in vaccination coverage, and which new mothers need reminders to take their babies to the health clinic to be immunized.

An Africa without polio is within reach. So is the vision of getting life-saving vaccines to every child. Success will generate more enthusiasm and support from across different sectors – government, business, civil society, the media – to tackle other killer diseases and the underlying conditions that affect people’s health, including fixing broken health systems.

We know that strengthening health systems takes time and diligence. We are optimistic that Africa can achieve the future it aspires to. That future depends on people working together—across national borders and across socioeconomic strata—to build the better world we all want.

Written by: Aliko Dangote & Bill Gates / NEW YORK, United States of America, April 25, 2017


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Jacob Zuma

Outrage as South African plans to kill politicians, businessmen

A South African man on Friday appeared in court for allegedly planning to assassinate 19 government officials and high-ranking businessmen.

Jacob Zuma
Outrage as South African plans to kill politicians, businessmen

The 33-year-old, who was arrested on Wednesday, was standing trial in the magistrate’s court in the commercial capital Johannesburg for plotting to kill people who he had identified as beneficiaries of “state capture.”

Fear of “state capture” has been widespread in South Africa since former public protector Thuli Madonsela released a report in November 2016 that accuses President Jacob Zuma and his close allies, including the Gupta business family, of influence peddling, nepotism and improper procurement practices.

“Broadcaster ANN7” reported that the names of the president and former boss of state-owned electricity provider Eskom, Brian Molefe, were on the list.

But the South African directorate for priority crime investigation, also known as Hawks, did not confirm this information.

The accused was arrested “while he was busy explaining to the donors how the assassination of state capture beneficiaries was going to be carried out by the undercover coup plot snipers,” Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi told national broadcaster eNCA.

Hawks had been intercepting communication about the planned assassinations since October, according to Mulaudzi.

The accused had approached several companies and individuals for donations totalling 100,000 dollars to fund the killings, the spokesman said, adding that more arrests were imminent.

Obiang Nguema: I remember Gaddafi; What Africa is suffering today is caused by egoism

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo remembered the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a two-day state visit to Uganda where he stressed on pan-Africanism.

President Yoweri Museveni and other African leaders 2 (3)

Obiang Nguema told the media at the Ugandan State House in Entebbe on Wednesday that Africa’s problem is due to lack of unity to counter its challenges.

“I remember our hero Gaddafi who used to promote this African solidarity but sadly most countries would not still agree with him … The instability Africa is suffering is due to the egoism of each country,” he was quoted by local media Daily Monitor.

“We forget that we are Africans. Things are not moving in the right direction for our countries and it is not that Africa is not self sufficient but Africans look at ourselves as people who cannot develop ourselves yet we have many resources. Africans think all civilisation lies in the Western world,” he added.

We forget that we are Africans. Things are not moving in the right direction for our countries and it is not that Africa is not self sufficient but Africans look at ourselves as people who cannot develop ourselves yet we have many resources.

His host, President Yoweri Museveni also called on Africans to work together and ensure security and development on the continent.

“Our pan Africanism is not sentimental. It is for prosperity, security, and historical and cultural reasons. We look at Africa as Africa. We do not care whether the country is Francophone or Anglophone,” he said.

Museveni questioned: “Why can’t we work together and fight against terrorists taking over countries like Mali and Somalia or negotiate better trade deals with a bigger market?”

President Yoweri Museveni and other African leaders 2 (4)

The two leaders signed bilateral agreements in diplomatic cooperation, trade, culture and oil and gas exploration.

Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea also pledged to support Uganda in its exploration of the oil and gas industry with the recent discovery of 21 oil and gas fields in Uganda estimated at over 6.5 billion barrels.

Obiang Nguema cautioned the East African country to be careful when negotiating oil and gas deals.

“Oil can be linked to honey. Honey attracts many bees but some of those bees are the bad ones. Uganda needs to be vigilant to sieve the bad from the good,” he said at a joint oil and gas convention and regional expo.

President Yoweri Museveni and other African leaders 2 (2)

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo left Uganda Thursday afternoon.


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Namibians Advised to name babies before birth

Namibians Advised to name babies before birth

Namibians have been advised to name babies before birth to enable a quick acquisition of national documents immediately after birth.

Namibians Advised to name babies before birth
Namibians Advised to name babies before birth

According to BBC, Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana made the remark at a ruling party gathering last week where she linked the difficulties people are facing to get national documents to late registration of children.

“All newborn babies should be registered before birth, so they get birth certificates immediately after birth,” the minister was quoted by local newspaper New Era.

Iivula-Ithana also added that the pre-birth naming of children will avoid late registration of babies whose fathers are absent.

All newborn babies should be registered before birth, so they get birth certificates immediately after birth.

Child naming is significant in African cultures and done mainly by the father or paternal relatives in some instances.

Generally, tribes wait for some days – 7 days in most cases – before a ceremony is held to name the child.

Namibia is phasing out its old South West African identity card by March 31, 2018 for the new Namibian identity card “to adapt to international best practices and have only one legal identity card and number,” the government said May last year when it approved the project.

Many Namibians are complaining about challenges in correcting identity information and acquiring the new identity card.

Among those having difficulties are hundreds of Namibians who returned to the country from East Germany – formally the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – in 1990 without an identity.

They were children from various refugee camps who were relocated during the liberation struggle of SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) against South African occupation of Namibia in the 1970s.

They returned after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Namibia’s independence. They struggle to find jobs without national documents.

The government has assured them that they will be given citizenship certificates, birth certificates and identity cards without any investigations regarding proof of their birth.

“For those of you who could not be employed due to a lack of national documents, such a hurdle will from now on be a thing of the past,” Minister Iivula-Ithana said last year after handing 49 citizenship certificates to some of the children of the struggle.


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Famine ravage Africa while the world’s media turn blind eye

Major political events in the US and Europe have preoccupied western media over the past year. Chief among these has been Donald Trump’s rise to US president and his continuing efforts to establish a credible domestic and foreign policy agenda.

Famine in Somalia 4

Before that, the inability of the European Union to agree on a plan to host an influx of refugees gained the media’s attention along with the United Kingdom’s referendum on Europe. Now a succession of national elections across Europe – in France, Germany and the UK among others – looks set to dominate front page news.

The western media’s focus on momentous events at home has come at the expense of reporting on events unfolding in the global South. Among the events which have been eclipsed by the media’s preoccupation is the famine that’s unfolding in Africa.

Today the causes of famine are largely man made even though below average rain fall has exacerbated local food production in the Horn of Africa over the past 18 to 24 months. However, in Sudan, Niger, the Central African Republic and Nigeria military conflict over the past three to four years has disrupted food production, displaced millions and created conditions which prevent the delivery of humanitarian assistance (assuming it was available).

The situation today is not unlike events that unfolded in Ethiopia in the early 1980s. Western governments then failed to monitor and intervene in time to prevent or mitigate the famine. It took a global media event – in the form of Band Aid and a pop song [Do they know it’s Christmas] – to focus attention on the failure of western governments to respond to the tragedy that was unfolding. Alas humanitarian assistance, when it arrived, was too little too late.

The factors responsible for famine are complex. But, following the work of Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winning economist, they are well known and should be the focus of western development policy and humanitarian assistance. They include poor governance, inadequate planning, limited investment in development, ongoing violence and large scale population displacement. Unfortunately, such factors don’t appear on the agendas of western governments.

At the same time development assistance to Africa has declined since 1990. The continent receives approximately 33% of total Overseas Development Assistance, down from 45% in 1990. And while humanitarian aid has stabilised at 7% to 8 %, funding for economic projects has increased from 17% to 21%.

Even though over the long-term the assistance should, in theory, be declining as the pace of development picks up, the need for humanitarian assistance needs to be constantly assessed so that it can be delivered in time to save lives.

Interests are far more insular

Why has western development policy failed to recognise the signs that a famine has been unfolding in Africa? Why has it failed to provide humanitarian aid in a timely manner?

The answer to these questions is twofold. Firstly western governments have failed to engage in sustained dialogue with African states to discuss the consequences of policies that rely on force, which displace populations and which disrupt markets and set back development.

Secondly it appears that western governments and tax payers are no longer interested in Africa. Their interests are far more insular, a situation reflected in the domestic issues that dominated the US election and the UK Brexit referendum.

The extent of western interest in Africa, indeed with the global South, is focused on securing the flow of oil and other commodities which underpins their consumption. Coupled with this are determined efforts at stopping illegal migrants and refugees from entering the west. This fact is reflected in the $21 billion cost of Trump’s proposed wall between the US and Mexico and the European Union’s €2.5 billion project to bottle up migrants in Africa to prevent them from reaching Europe.

The current cost of humanitarian assistance for Africa pales into insignificance against such sums.

Too little too late

The famine in Africa is occurring on a much larger scale than in 1980 across the Horn of Africa, in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria where an estimated 40 million people are at risk.

Yet humanitarian assistance has come very late. What’s on offer is too little and it will be delivered too late to prevent large scale death. For instance the European Union’s pledge of €760 million to the Horn of Africa was only announced in November 2016 while European states made belated and quite small pledges in February this year. The US, for its part, remains the largest provider of food aid but has yet to state what it will pledge to alleviate famine in Africa.

In 1984 public support for Band Aid provided a much needed kick up the backside to western governments for their failure to respond to the needs of 1 million Ethiopians. It remains to be seen who or what’s going to push the world into action today, for the 40 million Africans who face famine.

Champions League draw made with new new surprises

The Confederation of African Football has completed the draw for the group stages of the Champions League.

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It is the first time that there will be four groups of four teams as up to now there have been just two groups of four teams.

One of the surprises this year is the presence of Zimbabwe’s Caps United. They went into the draw after defeating the much-fancied TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

BBC Africa’s Nick Cavell says they have a tough group with three difficult games in North Africa to manage.

The draw has also thrown up a Sudanese derby with the country’s two top teams – Hilal and Merrikh – drawn in the same group.

Africa economy - The Bloomgist

Africa’s economic recovery: the role of non-oil producing countries is crucial

Ethiopia, Senegal, and Tanzania whose economies depend less on extractive commodities have been predicted to grow robustly than oil producing countries, like Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, South Africa.

sudan

According to the lender in its latest “Africa’s Pulse” report, the world bank reveals that seven countries Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, and Tanzania continue to exhibit economic resilience, supported by domestic demand, posting annual growth rates above 5.4% in 2015-2017.

Speaking in an audio interview the World Bank chief economist for Africa Albert Zeufack said the economies of Angola, Nigeria and South Africa — which make up 60 percent of GDP — was recovering but at a weak pace and per capita income was growing in negative terms.

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is seen rising between this year and 2019, helped by better commodity prices expanding to 2.6 percent this year and further to 3.2 percent in 2018 and 3.5 percent a year later.

“We are pleased that Africa is back to growth but we are not out of the woods yet. That’s why we need to strengthen reforms to make sure stability is maintained,” Zeufack said.

“It will remain subdued for oil exporters, while metal exporters are projected to see a moderate uptick. GDP growth in countries whose economies depend less on extractive commodities should remain robust, underpinned by infrastructure investments, resilient services sectors, and the recovery of agricultural production. This is especially the case for Ethiopia, Senegal, and Tanzania.”

He said the upturn in economic activity is expected to continue in 2018-19, reflecting improvements in commodity prices, a pickup in global growth, and more supportive domestic conditions.

The bank said the 2016 growth was the worst for the region in more than two decades, hurt by poor performance in Angola, Nigeria and South Africa. Though Mali and Ivory Coast grew more than six percent.

Zeufack said tackling infrastructure was key to stability. Only 35 percent of Africans have access to electricity which is the lowest among developing countries and that road density on the continent was also the lowest in the world.

Risks to growth could occur if there is a slippage on reforms, heightened security concerns and policy uncertainty, leading to a sudden stop in investments, Zeufack said.

He also added that the growing protectionism in the West could pose a risk for sub-Saharan African economies but it could also present opportunities for the continent to be self-sufficient and create jobs.

“With poverty rates still high, regaining the growth momentum is imperative,” says Punam Chuhan-Pole, World Bank Lead Economist and the author of the report.

“Growth needs to be more inclusive and will involve tackling the slowdown in investment and the high trade logistics that stand in the way of competitiveness.”

“The analysis shows that the impact of public investment on economic growth can be improved if countries implement policies that make public investment more efficient,” says Punam Chuhan-Pole.

According to her there is evidence that countries with sound public investment management systems tend to have even more private investment.”

“Improving the institutions and procedures governing project appraisal, selection, and monitoring are among the policies countries should implement to ensure they have a sound public investment system.”

First large-scale malaria vaccine to be tested in Africa

A new malaria vaccine will be tested on a large scale in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi, the World Health Organization said Monday, with 360,000 children to be vaccinated between 2018 and 2020.

southernhousemosquitosmall

The injectable vaccine RTS,S could provide limited protection against a disease that killed 429,000 people worldwide in 2015, with 92 percent of victims in Africa and two-thirds of them children under five.

“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa.

The vaccine should be used alongside other preventative measures such as bed nets, insecticides, repellants and anti-malarial drugs, the WHO said.

“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” Moeti said.

The vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, has been developed by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and the large-scale three-country pilot will test it on children aged five to 17 months.

The drug passed previous scientific testing — including a phase three clinical trial between 2009 and 2014 — and was approved for the pilot programme in 2015.

‘Huge impact’

The aim of the trial is to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine as well the feasibility of its delivery to populations at risk as four successive doses must be given on a strict timetable.

The immunisation cycle is not in sync with routine childhood inoculations against diseases such as hepatitis, measles and meningitis, with injections required at five months, six months, seven months and two years.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, muscle pain and headache as well as vomiting and diarrhoea.

While RTS,S does not promise full protection against the mosquito-borne disease it is the most effective potential vaccine so far developed, reducing the number of malaria episodes by 40 percent in tests on 15,000 people over five years of clinical trials, and could therefore save hundreds of thousands of lives.

“It’s an efficacy rate which is quite low, but given the amount of affected people, the impact will be huge,” said Mary Hamel, who is coordinating the vaccine’s implementation programme.

“There will be other vaccines and they’ll be more efficient, but in the meantime, this will have a significant influence.”

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were selected for the trial because malaria rates are high and they have a long history of use of bed nets and other interventions.

The large-scale pilot is the latest step in decades of work seeking to eradicate malaria with the numbers dying falling nearly two-thirds since the turn of the century.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/France 24

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

In the dusty, baking emptiness of Leer in South Sudan, bags of British food aid fall from the sky to relieve the hunger below.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Planes drop aid sacks into famine-hit areas of South Sudan. Photo: ROBERT OXLEY/ DFID

It is here in the north of the country that the United Nations has declared a famine. It is here that the fighting between government and rebel forces has driven so many into hunger and homelessness. And it is here that UK aid is being carefully targeted from the air.

To watch these bags of cereal and pulses and food substitutes pour from the bellies of ageing Russian transport planes that have been hired by the aid agencies is to witness an absolute good. For without it, more people in this war-ravaged, hunger-stricken country in central Africa would starve to death.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Hungry South Sudanese eat leaves and seeds to survive as famine bites harder, Photo: iBasam

I watched the Ilyushin planes lumber slowly into view alongside Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, who had travelled many hours to see what impact the money she had authorised was having on the ground.

Despite the controversy over her £13bn aid budget, Ms Patel insisted that Britain’s humanitarian spending gave it influence in the world.

First the planes practise a low pass over the drop zone, marked by a large white cross. They make another wide circuit to let nearby villages know an aid delivery is on its way. And then, at around 300 metres above the ground, they begin to drop their cargoes.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Any food drop in a government-held area has to be matched by one in territory held by the rebels

Each plane can carry about 30 metric tonnes of aid, about 600 sacks. They make three passes, dropping 200 sacks each time. These are not parachute-born crates, just individual bags hurtling towards the ground. Like some dreadful game of pass-the-parcel, each sack is bagged seven times to stop it exploding on impact.

To watch this, to see the gleam of hope in the eyes of those waiting below, is a moving experience. For many of them, without this aid, they would be forced to live off what nuts, leaves and water lilies they can forage, none of which provides adequate nutrition.

“UK aid is providing a much-needed lifeline to people who have been persecuted, driven off their homes, forced to flee,” Ms Patel told me. “The aid that we are providing right now is the difference between life and death.”

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Children cross a body of water to register for a UN food distribution program in Thonyor

Yet the problem is this. Each plane contains food enough for only 2,000 people a month. The cost of the planes is astronomic and there are only seven in the region that the World Food Programme can operate.

There is a scarcity of available food aid because there are so many other droughts in the region. Each drop has to be negotiated with local community leaders and armed groups, whose permission is needed to ensure that any fighting is put on hold. The hungry will come only if they feel safe.

The distribution centre on the ground – a temporary, pop-up affair – can exist only for a few days before the security risks become again too great.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Children in South Sudan are suffering from acute malnutrition

Any food drop in a government-held area has to be matched by one in territory held by the rebels. The amount of aid has to be roughly equal in size to avoid accusations that the aid agencies are taking sides.

In other words, this aid that falls from the sky may help people who are the hardest to reach in a severe humanitarian crisis. But it is expensive, complicated and, as aid workers repeatedly told me, not nearly enough.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Women carry food in gunny bags after visiting an aid distribution centre in Ngop in South Sudan’s Unity State on March 10, 2017.

There are three road corridors into South Sudan along which aid can travel by truck. And this can be more efficient. One truck alone can carry as much as a Russian transport plane.

Yet trucks have deal with checkpoints, fighting and simple banditry. And soon they will lose the roads when the rains come and render much of the country impassable. So there is, aid workers say, a race against time to build up aid dumps before the weather closes in.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
UK International Development Secretary Priti Patel inspects aid sacks that have been dropped by plane. Photo: ROBERT OXLEY/DFID

Such is the reality of delivering British and other aid in the north. To the south, in the capital, Juba, the UK is funding much of South Sudan’s only children’s hospital – its medicines, its water tanks, its solar panels. Here doctors are seeing rising numbers of children with acute malnutrition. And inevitably they need more resources, above all more space.

On the day we visited, in one ward alone, there were 43 children sharing 21 beds. I spoke to Rhoda, a 50-year-old woman who had brought in her granddaughter 10 days previously. Cecilia, only 18 months old, arrived severely malnourished. Her mother had died and Rhoda had no milk to feed her. But, she told me, Cecilia’s fever and diarrhoea had abated after a few days of milk and porridge.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

Further south, the problem is one of refugees. More than a million South Sudanese have fled the country to escape the fighting. We travelled to northern Uganda where on average 2,000 people are pouring over the border each day. Last week there was one 24-hour period when no fewer than 7,000 refugees came across.

Uganda – unusually – welcomes refugees and gives them a plot of land with shelter and access to services. Here millions of pounds of UK aid is being spent to provide some of the basic infrastructure. Yet here again the scale of the crisis outweighs the humanitarian response. Last August there was next to nothing at the main refugee settlement at Bidibidi. Now, it is the largest such settlement in the world, home to more than 270,000 people.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
South Sudan Declares Famine As Thousands Face Starvation

Clearly, the scale of the humanitarian challenge is huge and growing. But the aid agencies report that the United Nation emergency response for South Sudan is hugely underfunded, with some international donors showing reluctance to stump up the cash. So this is a crisis that many expect to get worse before it gets better.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/iBasam/BuzFeed