Monday, June 30, 2014

The Vanishing Exports

Africa, the world's poorest continent, remains heavily dependent on natural resources and so is extremely vulnerable to manipulations in the price of the commodities it extracts and exports, with very real consequences for its economies. Switzerland is a global hub for trade in commodities, and so exerts a significant influence on Africa's development.  Critics say the way commodities are traded through the country ultimately deprives developing regions such as Africa of revenue.

A 2010 study by Christian Aid showed that as Zambia's copper production soared in the 2000s, Switzerland came to account for more than half of the southern African country's exports of the commodity. But the price of Swiss re-exports of the copper was far higher than that received in Zambia.

In 2008, the study estimated, Zambia's GDP would have been 80% higher if the copper leaving its borders in that year alone had received the same price as Switzerland. It's a pattern of trade mispricing that has persisted.

A study in January by the Centre for Global Development, a trade and aid think tank, estimated that developing countries may be losing between $8 billion and $120 billion a year because of mispricing of commodities in Switzerland. That report analysed 244 jurisdictions, including virtually all sub-Saharan countries, and almost 2,600 commodity categories, and found that the average price of commodity exports to Switzerland was lower than to other jurisdictions. The difference here cost developing countries about $8 billion annually, according to the report. But it found Switzerland also declared higher re-export prices for those same commodities and this difference was as high as $120 billion.

 Commodities such as copper will be recorded as destined for Switzerland but instead go to a Swiss-based trading house and onwards to, say, China. The Centre for Global Development study found that from 2007 to 2010, 99.8% of Zambia's exports to Switzerland - 27.7% of all its exports - were not recorded as entering Switzerland. For mineral-rich Burkina Faso, a west African gold producer, 100% of its exports to Switzerland over this period, accounting for 15% of all exports, also "vanished".

Friday, June 27, 2014

Africa - Migration Dynamics

Below are links to articles in this special issue of Pambazuka News, each in their own way relevant to current discussions in the western world about the 'whys and whos and where froms' of immigrants. Three months ago Pambazuka issued an invitation for articles on the subject. Here are some - in their diversity.

Africa and its Diaspora in migration dynamics

Tidiane Kasse

This special issue of Pambazuka News shows that the question of migration is entangled with complex political, economic, legal, social, cultural issues. One cannot address this issue from an African perspective without thinking about the violence and pillage rampant on the continent over the past several centuries 

Migration and Africa: On the urgent need to think beyond the nation-state

Marco Zoppi

European powers imposed the nation-state on Africa through colonialism. But even after African independencies, mainstream discourses and government policies have amplified the idea that sedentariness and the state are the only acceptable mode of modernity. Migration is portrayed as a menace to the societies where the migrants wish to settle

Sinking hope

Thousands of Africans drown every year as they sail to Europe in search of jobs

Kebba Dibba

Europe has transformed itself into a fortress, with anti-immigration legislation a centrepiece of foreign and domestic policy. Stringent visa regimes, among other restrictions, simply disqualify many aspiring migrants, forcing them to take ever more desperate measures.

The drivers and outcomes of feminization of migration in Africa

Nedson Pophiwa

Migration from Africa has historically been a male-dominated phenomenon, but the pattern has changed significantly in recent decades. African women are leaving their countries of birth to create new lives elsewhere. Economic opportunities are primarily available in childcare, domestic and sex work. These trends should be of special interest to those in the policy-making spaces who are concerned about the wellbeing of female migrants.

Rumble in the Belgian bungle

Citizenship questions are at the heart of the DRC's Conflict

Carol Jean Gallo

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly in the eastern Kivu provinces, can be traced to its convoluted history of migration, citizenship and property rights.

Which African diaspora? A slavery descendant's perspective, 500 years later

Marian Douglas-Ungaro

Would it not be both accurate and fair to acknowledge, and to designate, that there exists more than one ‘African diaspora’?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Huge Palm Oil Company Set To Steal Liberian Land

The UK-listed company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), which is threatening to seize land owned by Liberians in defiance of commitments by Liberia’s President, will today receive a visit from affected communities. Members of the Jogbahn Clan, together with representatives from Liberian and international NGOs, will deliver a petition with over 90,000 signatures, reminding EPO that it does not have community consent to expand onto their lands, and that doing so could escalate violence.  EPO’s past operations in Liberia have triggered allegations of conflict and human rights abuses. The company has maintained that any expansion is legal.

“EPO’s recent expansion efforts are a brazen example of a company defying international law, government orders and the rights of communities,” said Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, campaigner at the Sustainable Development Institute. “EPO has no claim to this land, it is owned by the communities who live on it.”
Residents from the Jogbahn Clan in Liberia’s Grand Bassa County say that EPO has begun demarcating blocks of land in preparation for clearing, and have accused its security officers of threatening community members. These actions defy the March commitment by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that EPO could not expand onto the lands of the Joghban Clan without their permission. The right of Liberian communities such as the Joghban Clan to give or withhold consent to projects that could have an impact on their land and resources is also provided under international human rights law, as well as the Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) of which EPO is a member. The Joghban people have refused to give such consent.

EPO has a very poor track record in Grand Bassa County. In September of last year, officers from the EPO security team and the Liberian Police reportedly worked together to assault and beat Joghban community members who were peacefully protesting the company’s operations. Those arrested were soon released after it was determined by the government’s Grand Bassa attorney that there was no justification for continued detention. No government investigation report regarding this incident has been made public.

EPO denied any involvement in the violence, saying that it had been “falsely accused”, and does not “condone or encourage such described behaviour," and “never instructed or directed any of its staff or PSU officers to intimidate Jogbahn community members in September or at any time.” However, EPO admitted to Global Witness that it provided logistical support to the Liberian police who are accused of intimidating villagers on the plantation. The company further stated that it “respect[s] the Liberian community rights and land, and ha[s] followed the law and procedures laid out”, had taken “strict steps" to ensure that it only plants oil palm on its concession land and legally-acquired community land, and  is “a responsible company and committed to sustainable oil palm development.”

EPO’s concessions in Liberia total 8,900 km2 of land, which the company believes gives it the legal right to use the land to develop a palm oil concession.  The company is listed on the London-based AIM stock market, and is now majority owned by Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK). Major brands including Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills have been reported as direct or indirect consumers of KLK palm oil.

“We demand that EPO stops inciting conflict by preparing to clear our land,” commented Jogbahn Elder Joseph Chio Johnson, “EPO must stop threatening our people and accept that our no means no.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Senegal's Land-Grab

Between 2000 and 2010, over 657,000 hectares of land, around 17 percent of Senegal’s arable land, was allocated to 17 private firms. Ten of the firms are Senegalese and the rest are foreign.

 Changes in ownership have coincided with serious food shortages in the sub-region, a global financial crisis and a growing emphasis on the promotion of bio-fuel, with Senegal heavily promoting the planting of the controversial Jatropha tree, the seeds of which are used for the production of fuel for diesel engines.

Under the previous administration of Abdoulaye Wade, the government pushed high profile schemes like the Return towards Agriculture plan (REVA) and the Grand Agricultural Drive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), with an emphasis on promoting agri-business and bio-fuels.

“These initiatives have led to a glut of private operators, including religious leaders and senior state officials moving in on land in rural areas,” complains Mariam Sow, coordinator of the Natural Protection Programme of international NGO ENDA. Sow says the loss of farmland in areas like Gandon is sapping farmers’ morale and not bringing the hoped-for benefits. “In losing their land, peasant farmers lose a part of their identity,” Sow argued. “With the amount of land allocated, the local population feels squeezed while only a small proportion of the land area is actually cultivated. The promises on creating jobs and infrastructure are not kept.”

In a May 2011 report, the Agricultural and Rural Prospective Initiative (IPAR), a sub-regional NGO which aims to provide “strategic analysis” of rural and agricultural issues, highlighted the volume of land deals in northern Senegal. IPAR drew particular attention to the case of Mbane in Saint Louis Region, where it said 232,000 hectares had been distributed to politicians, religious leaders and private operators with strong political connections under the GOANA project. The IPAR report noted that, at the time of writing, much of the land acquired had yet to be exploited.

Rosnert Alissoutin of Gaston Berger University in Saint Louis says there are obvious points of conflict between traditional land arrangements and modern legislation on land allocation. “Legislation passed at national level gives the state control over all land in the country, while the peasant farmer is convinced that the land he exploits is inalienably his, inherited from his ancestors,” he told IRIN. Inevitably, situations arise where the acquisition of land by private investors, although legally authorized, is at odds with the customary legal rights demanded by local farmers, the majority of whom do not have title deeds.

The main land legislation in Senegal dates back to July 1964 and stresses free access to land and the importance of communal ownership under state control. The law argues against land being re-appropriated by private owners. Land is awarded to members of the community on the understanding that the concessions granted are properly developed. But the laws give little indication of how the development can be properly evaluated.

Among the large-scale private sector operators to encounter strong local resistance has been the manufacturing conglomerate Senhuile/Senethanol, backed by Italian investors. It acquired 20,000 hectares by presidential decree near Fanaye in 2011 with the stated intention of cultivating sweet potatoes to produce ethanol and later sunflower oil for export. The project had its supporters, particularly those hoping it would bring jobs and generate wealth. But local communities bitterly resented the loss of pasture. The company had promised thousands of jobs, but as of today there are only 30 people from the community on Senhuile’s payroll. Given such conditions, young people do not have a reason to stay and so they leave for the towns.

From here 

Private or Public: Vigilant Civil Oversight Necessary

Despite large aid support, Ghana's privatised water utitily AVRL consistently failed to meet its contractual commitments.  Water is now back in state hands,  but it will need increased investment and a vigilant civil society to deliver the services Ghanaians need.
Ghana finally yielded to pressure from multilateral donors in 2006 and privatised its urban water utilities. The Government’s experiment with what it conveniently referred to as “private sector participation”, and not privatisation, was short-lived. This was despite considerable high hopes and expectations fostered by the Ghanaian media as well as very well-resourced backers and promoters of privatisation. The road between 2006 and 2011 was bumpy for the new management. The period after 2011, after water returned to the public sector, has also not been smooth. However it has highlighted the cost and key challenges that confront a public/state facilitator and provider of urban water within the context and constraints of a developing country.

Before Privatisation
The economic context before privatisation in Ghana was similar to most African countries in the 1980s and 1990s. These economies were characterised by high trade deficits due to a decline in prices of exports and a surge in the prices of imports, with resulting high budget deficits. This made it impossible for such countries to provide needed support to vital state-owned enterprises, and there was a consequential decline in the efficiency of such enterprises.
Particularly in Ghana, there was pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for fiscal discipline. The intention was to keep the government from investing in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and supporting them to weather the economic storms of the time. The prescription was to rather leave such roles for the private sector. Whether such private sector actors existed in Ghana at the time and were willing to take the risk were issues that did not receive much attention. This did not prevent a vigorous push by donors requiring the government to privatise, for example, the urban water and energy sectors[1] in exchange for economic assistance
This pressure led Ghana to open up its urban water sector to private ‘capital’ in 2006. The government’s original offer of a lease concession was not successful with previously interested bidders saying a lease involved too high risk in relation to political stability in West Africa and the large liabilities of the Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation among others.[2]
The truth was, however, that they had wanted to pay very little. Their concern about stability was not so much about stability of West Africa, but more about the wider stability and sustainability of water privatization contracts globally. On the continent and elsewhere in Latin America, similar contracts had been overthrown and were a major cause of uneasiness for the bidders for the Ghana contract.[3]
As a result private sector actors sought an arrangement that could allow the private sector to participate in urban water supply in Ghana without being required to make any direct investment.[4] The Government therefore contracted Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL), a company formed by Vitens Evides International of the Netherlands and Rand Water of South Africa. The company was paid USD 5 million as management fees for five years. Additionally, they administered donor support to the contract of USD 120 million for non-infrastructural work with huge cost overruns.

 New water provision failed to meet expectations
A close study of the contract shows how much it privileged AVRL above the state.  The contract was clear about the obligations of the Ghana Water Company Limited and very general about the obligations of AVRL.[5] The road became bumpy for AVRL because of the contradictions in the contract, particularly the arrangement where the private actor invested nothing financially and was given guaranteed returns before any performance.
The effect of this was that shortly after the signing of the contract, AVRL had to contend with the high expectations of workers seconded to it, as well as expectations of citizens who had been told of the efficiencies of AVRL. With no new investments by the new actors, AVRL faced similar challenges to those that the Ghana Water Company Limited faced: poor conditions of work for workers and irregular water availability for most citizens.
In the end, AVRL failed consistently throughout the contract period to meet its targets. Some of the significant failures included inability to reduce non-revenue water[6], inability to improve water quality, and consistently poor performance in six other target areas identified in a World Bank commissioned technical audit report.[7] These facts, in addition to the unmet expectations of citizens and workers of the company, created the conditions for the contract to be discontinued.

Reverting to public management
The same media that was instrumental in getting the public to accept AVRL became the ally of citizens and the workers in forcing them out. In June 2011, the management contract with AVRL was discontinued. However, operations did not return directly to the Ghana Water Company Limited as expected, but passed to an interim structure that the government named the Ghana Urban Water Company Limited. Some activists believed the World Bank (opposed to discontinuation despite the evidence) influenced this process. There was therefore a deadlock situation for about two years, after which pressure from civil society ensured a full reversion to the public company, Ghana Water Company Limited.
Currently, the urban water sector is fully owned by the state and is managed centrally by the Ghana Water Company Limited through its regional and district offices. It retains both production and distribution functions.

Ghana Water Company Limited’s Performance
Unfortunately the improved performance expected by citizens has not yet materialized and signs of poor water supply are everywhere and increasing. Water is still fetched and stored in yellow 25 litre gallon containers in most communities.
One cannot blame the Ghana Water Company Limited entirely for the present difficulties. The five years of dormancy in which they were placed during the management contract was enough to affect their momentum and rob them of continuity from their past experience.
Another publicly run water utility, the Uganda Water and Sewerage Corporation, offers a useful point of comparison. It was spared this hiatus and had reforms that did not bring in new managers but rather corrected what was wrong within the public corporation. The Uganda Water and Sewage Corporation is today celebrated as a successful case. It even now offers assistance to other countries, like Ghana, learning from the challenges it had.
At the Global Water Operators Partnership conference of 2013 in Barcelona, the UN-Habitat facilitated the second phase of a mentoring partnership between the Ghana Water Company Limited and the Uganda Water and Sewage Corporation under a public-public partnership (PuPs). Under the arrangement, the Ugandan Water Corporation acts as a mentor for the Ghana Water Company Limited.

Influence of Uganda – The promise and dangers of PuPs
Uganda’s experience, was one in which the water utility was highly corporatised. This process has been prone to sacrifice access for efficiency. A case in point is the introduction in Uganda of prepaid water metres to increase revenue collection efficiency. Under the public-public mentorship by Uganda, the Ghana Water Company Limited announced a similar policy in February 2014.[8] Intense public reaction and revulsion caused the policy to be halted, though not abandoned. Meanwhile, public investments into expanding infrastructure has improved relatively. Such investments mean that the capital city Accra’s current capacity of 93 million gallons[9] a day will increase to 158.3 million gallons by the end of 2014. This will provide 8.3 million gallons in excess of current demand.[10]
Though the increase in capacity would improve access, the Ghana Water Company Limited is looking for ways to avoid using public (tax) finance to fund its operations. This makes citizens the sole source of cost recovery, with poor areas and people being the most vulnerable. This was behind attempts to introduce the pre-paid water metering in  Ghana.
What the Ghana-Uganda partnership shows is that in the absence of a vigilant civil society, even a state company will sacrifice the common social objectives for profit objectives. Civil society therefore has an obligation to expose this discriminatory public policy and to mobilise public support behind the social objectives that should equally inform water supply to make safe water available for both rich and poor.

from here with links

Mine V Nature

Africa sustains some of the most spectacular ecosystems on the planet.  But those ecosystems and their iconic wildlife are now facing their greatest peril - a mining boom of unprecedented intensity.

Africa contains around 30% of the world's minerals - including large quantities of phosphate, platinum-group metals, gold, diamonds, chromite, cobalt, manganese and vanadium, and huge deposits of aluminum, uranium, iron ore and coal. But with just 5% of all global mineral exploitation taking place in Africa, the potential for growth is enormous. Africa is now attracting a stampede of foreign mining investment. China's investment in African mining quadrupled from 2000 to 2009, and now exceeds $100 billion annually. Investments from India, Brazil, Russia, Canada and Australia are also pouring in. For example, more than 230 Australian mining companies are now involved in over 600 mining and mineral-processing projects across 42 African countries.

Mining projects can have both direct and indirect impacts on the environment. The direct effects are generally limited to the immediate vicinity of the project itself, and can include intense impacts on land, wildlife habitats and aquatic environments from mines, tailing dumps, roads, pollution and an influx of mining workers and migrants. But for the environment, the indirect effects of mining can be far worse. Mining is often linked to major infrastructure projects such as roads and railways to move commodities from mines to smelters or seaports, and hydroelectric dams. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sicomines, a China-Congolese joint venture, is pouring $9 billion into roads, railways and other infrastructure in order to develop a massive copper mine, the Dikulwe-Mashamba concession. In Mozambique, the Brazilian mining company Vale is investing $4.4 billion to rebuild a railway system from northern coalmines to the city of Tete.

New roads and transportation projects can promote economic growth, but they can also unleash a Pandora's Box of environmental problems. Across the developing world, new transportation projects often promote large-scale deforestation, wildlife poaching and an influx of illegal migrants and land speculators. Local communities often suffer as well from the sudden influx of opportunistic nomads and spikes in prices for food and other goods.

The mining boom is a key driver behind 29 massive 'development corridors' that will criss-cross Sub-Saharan Africa. These corridors will bring tremendous pressures and land-use change to a continent that may lack the technical and governance capacity to manage such unprecedented environmental and social challenges:
In Gabon, the Belinga iron-ore deposit will require a 240 kilometre-long railway that will penetrate deep inside the Congo rainforest.
In Cameroon a 570-kilometre railway will link the Mbalam iron-ore mine to the Atlantic coast.
In Tanzania, a planned road to the goldfields by Lake Victoria could bisect Serengeti National Park and disrupt one of the world's greatest surviving wildlife migrations.

The rush to exploit Africa's mineral wealth is also threatening many protected areas. At least five African nations have already downsized or degazetted national parks to promote mining projects. Zambia, for instance, has downgraded 19 of its national parks to promote limestone mining, and permitted a huge copper mine in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Tanzania has downsized Selous Game Reserve for uranium mining, while Guinea has downsized its Mt Nimba World Heritage Site for iron-ore prospecting. And this might be just the tip of the iceberg. The potential for future threats is massive given that many valuable mineral deposits in Africa are located near or within protected areas.

The mining frenzy that is now engulfing Africa presents the greatest environmental threat the continent has ever seen.

From here

Monday, June 23, 2014

Maasai Familes Facing Eviction

Reminiscent of what happened to the Maasai community in Narasha in 2013, Maasai pastoralists in Kedong, Akira and Suswa are glaring at massive evictions arising from a group of concessions awarded to several companies including Hyundai, Toshiba, Sinopec and African Geothermal International (AGIL) for the purposes of developing geothermal projects on the Maasai lands.

According to the local communities–who claim ancestry to the land and have filed cases in Kenyan courts– African Geothermal International (AGIL) and Marine Power along with Akira I and Akira II1 have disregarded court injunctions instituted by the Maasai, proceeding to deploy their heavy machinery to their proposed project sites without due diligence or consultations with the local communities. The concession areas, which cover hundreds of thousands of acres, are home to thousands of Maasai pastoralists.

The communities feel that their rights have been grossly violated because each of the companies have failed to adhere to Bio-cultural Community Protocols that require all external actors to respect Indigenous Peoples’ customary laws, values and decision making processes; particularly those concerning stewardship of their territories and lands.

The companies have also disregarded a current dispute between Kedong Ranch Ltd and the Maasai community along with key provisions from the constitution of Kenya (2010). Article 40 of the constitution provides for the protection of the right to property (of any kind) without discrimination and just, prompt and full compensation where acquisition is of national interest. The right to a clean and healthy environment is equally guaranteed under Article 42 in addition to the right to a cultural heritage.

While the Maasai are not against infrastructure development for the country, they are equally distressed over the companies’ similar dismissal of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). By forcefully evicting the Maasai from their land while denying them the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the development projects, the companies are also in contravention of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.
On top of these concerns, the Maasai decry the use of armed police to enforce the evictions, the destruction of their property, and the outright dispossession of their grazing land which is the only source of their livelihoods..
The Maasai demand the following:
  1. That the current deployment of armed police to enforce the evictions be stopped forthwith.
  2. That the companies be held in contempt for disregarding court orders.
  3. That a clear and documented plan on access to benefit sharing be put in place to ensure the affected families’ livelihoods are sustained.
  4. That the following international donors and companies be held accountable for losses suffered by the Maasai and demand that they put in place safeguards
    • Sinopec-China
    • KEC-India
    • Hyundai-South Korea
    • Toshiba, Toyota, Tsusho, and JICA-Japan
    • AGIL
    • Marine Power
  1. That other bilateral donors that support the projects being undertaken hold consultative meetings with the Maasai community before any further investments are made.
  2. That the current ESIA reports which excluded livestock, homes and cultural rights should not be used and instead a team that includes Indigenous People be reconstituted to undertake another Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.
from here

Fact of the Day

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says some two million children under five die each year in Central and West Africa over poor hygiene. The figure makes up almost a third of all deaths worldwide in that age range. Due to the large population growth in Africa, the number of children under five who die every year from preventable causes remains unchanged.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

After World Refugee Day - - -

As Kenya continues to round up and detain refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers in a controversial anti-terrorism operation, fears are mounting over the fate of around 300 children separated from parents arrested during the sweeps. Some of these children are reported to be held in a Nairobi stadium used as a temporary detention facility, without a parent or guardian.

“Our concern is the separation of some 300 children, including babies as young as a few months, from their mothers and fathers or customary care-givers and foster parents,” said Emanuel Nyabera, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman in Kenya.

Since early April, some 4,000 arrests have been made in Operation Usalama Watch, mostly of Somali nationals, but also Kenyans of Somali origin as well as nationals of other countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo. Around 2,000 of those arrested have been transferred to the country’s two refugee complexes. Some 359 have been deported to Somalia.

from here

Saturday, June 21, 2014

World Refugee Day

20th June was World Refugee Day. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, for the first time since World War II global forced displacement has topped 50 million, equivalent to the entire populations of medium-to-large countries such as Colombia or Spain, South Africa or South Korea.

Many of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa - 86%, in fact, up from 70 per cent 10 years ago.

“Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue,’’ said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Crowd Control Drones For South Africa

A South Africa-based company will be selling 25 units of its crowd control drones to an undisclosed South African mining company likely for use against protesting workers, BBC News reported on Wednesday.

The drones, originally unveiled by their maker Desert Wolf at a trade show near Johannesburg last month, sell for nearly $50,000 apiece and are equipped with four "high-capacity paint ball barrels" that can each shoot a total of up to 80 paint, pepper, or plastic balls per second, with a full capacity of 4,000 balls. In addition to a generic on-board high-definition camera, it has a thermal camera for use at night, as well as “bright strobe lights, blinding Lasers and on-board speakers” that can be used to warn crowds, according to the company’s website.
"Our aim is to assist in preventing another Marikana, we were there and it should never happen again," the website states, referring to the 2012 miner's strike that led to the infamous massacre that resulted in countless injuries and the deaths of 44 people.

The purchase by the unnamed company comes in the midst of strikes sweeping South Africa's mining industry. The country possesses over 80 percent of the world's known platinum reserves, and the mining industry has seen continuous protest and striking since the deadly Marikana massacre. Just last week, the three major platinum producers that workers have waged a 21-week wage strike against announced that they had reached a deal “in principle” with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, but Wednesday it was reported that the AMCU had refused it.

While Desert Wolf argues the selling point of the drones is their ability to stop future tragedies like the Marikana disaster by controlling “unruly crowds without endangering the lives of the protestors or the security staff,” Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, says that drones such as the skunk will be used to suppress legitimate protests with potentially dire consequences.

"Firing plastic balls or bullets from the air will maim and kill," Sharkey told BBC News. "Using pepper spray against a crowd of protesters is a form of torture and should not be allowed. We urgently need an investigation by the international community before these drones are used."

Desert Wolf Managing Director Hennie Kieser said that the company “cannot disclose the customer, but [can] say it will be used by an international mining house.” Kieser reportedly also told the BBC that police units and a “number of other industrial customers” have expressed interest in the product.

Tim Noonan, spokesman for the International Trade Union Confederation, voiced concerns of the international labor community over the news.
“This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development, and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations,” said Noonan. "We will be taking this up as a matter of urgency with the unions in the mining sector globally," he added.

from here

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cameroonian Environmentalist Faces Trial In Land Grabbers Paradise

Arrested, assaulted and then charged with libel: this is just some of what land and environmental activist Nasako Besingi has faced while helping communities from the southwest region of Cameroon stop US company Herakles Farms (HF) from grabbing their lands for the development of a 20,000 hectare palm oil plantation.
On June 19, 2014, Besingi and four other opponents of the HF project will be in court, accused by the government of “participating in the organisation and holding of an undeclared public meeting”. The five were arrested and charged while distributing t-shirts critical of Herakles Farms in November 2012. 

Besingi will face separate charges of defamation on June 24, brought against him by the US firm. Herakles Farms alleges that Besingi published "false news via the internet” when he sent out a private email detailing how he was ambushed in August 2012 by four men employed by Herakles as he was travelling on motorbike to a community affected by the company's plantations. Besingi filed a complaint against his assailants after the incident. But the public prosecutor, who is pursuing the two cases against Besingi, has yet to bring charges against the four men who attacked him. Besingi was recently told by the state council of the legal department, Ndian Division, that the file had "disappeared".
"The Government of Cameroon is sending a message that the lands of its people are up for sale to foreign companies while anyone who resists will be punished," says Ange David Baimey of GRAIN.
Both court cases have been adjourned multiple times, causing enormous stress on Besingi and the other activists and their families, and adding to the cost of legal fees.
"Despite its initial plans of taking over 73,000 ha of the world’s second largest rainforest for its oil palm plantation having been reduced to some 20,000 ha, Herakles faces strong opposition on the ground. Resorting to intimidating local activists through frivolous law suits adds to their long list of wrongdoings such as illegal logging, corruption, and other questionable tactics used by the New York-based firm to make the project look sustainable and beneficial to Cameroon," says Frédéric Mousseau of the Oakland Institute.
"Herakles and the Government of Cameroon are hoping that people will tire of hearing about their intimidation of activists and communities," says Besingi. "International attention on this company and the government's attacks against its people is badly needed. Now."
Besingi will face separate charges of defamation on June 24, brought against him by the US firm. Herakles Farms alleges that Besingi published "false news via the internet” when he sent out a private email detailing how he was ambushed in August 2012 by four men employed by Herakles as he was travelling on motorbike to a community affected by the company's plantations.
Besingi filed a complaint against his assailants after the incident. But the public prosecutor, who is pursuing the two cases against Besingi, has yet to bring charges against the four men who attacked him. Besingi was recently told by the state council of the legal department, Ndian Division, that the file had "disappeared".
"The Government of Cameroon is sending a message that the lands of its people are up for sale to foreign companies while anyone who resists will be punished," says Ange David Baimey of GRAIN.
Both court cases have been adjourned multiple times, causing enormous stress on Besingi and the other activists and their families, and adding to the cost of legal fees.
"Despite its initial plans of taking over 73,000 ha of the world’s second largest rainforest for its oil palm plantation having been reduced to some 20,000 ha, Herakles faces strong opposition on the ground. Resorting to intimidating local activists through frivolous law suits adds to their long list of wrongdoings such as illegal logging, corruption, and other questionable tactics used by the New York-based firm to make the project look sustainable and beneficial to Cameroon," says Frédéric Mousseau of the Oakland Institute.
"Herakles and the Government of Cameroon are hoping that people will tire of hearing about their intimidation of activists and communities," says Besingi. "International attention on this company and the government's attacks against its people is badly needed. Now."
- See more at:

GRAIN, the Oakland Institute and the World Rainforest Movement call on Herakles and the Cameroonian government to stop all forms of intimidation against critics of the Herakles Farms land deal and drop all charges against Nasako Besingi and his fellow activists. The government and the company should instead bring those who violently attacked Besingi and his fellow activists to court and engage in good faith with local communities seeking to defend their lands.
Both court cases will take place at the Court of First Instance, Mundemba, Ndian Division.

from here

We Harverst - You Profit

We Harvest–You Profit is a promise made by African Land Ltd., a UK-based company that uses the idea of helping African communities, together with deception around yields and profits, to lure investors–including retired individuals–into handing over their life savings.

“African Land Ltd. offers an opportunity for land investment in poor countries like Sierra Leone that sounds too good to pass up. The Oakland Institute brief released today exposes unhappy investors; legal troubles with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s regulatory agency; and misleading promises, which reveal a harsher truth,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

In 2013, African Land Ltd. was brought to court by the FCA for allegedly operating a collective investment scheme (CIS) without its authorization and for providing false information to investors. In February 2014, the court ruled against African Land Ltd., a decision appealed by the company.

“While the appeal is pending, we uncovered a renewed effort by African Land Ltd. to promote its scheme. In violation of court orders the company is seeking a sole investor to get around current legal problems, while ignoring the great hardship it has created for current investors and hiding its failure to bring any benefits for local communities,” said Mittal.

African Land Ltd. is now seeking new investors while good-willed individuals have lost their life savings, lured by the promise of  “doing good” with their hard-earned money.

“I was impressed by the high returns, two-year money back guarantee, and that the investment would provide employment, schools, and other benefits for the local people. Consequently I subleased land with promised returns of a minimum 15% a year, a two-year guarantee, and a high resale value. I have been awaiting returns since 2012, and have yet to receive a penny,” said an investor.

Even worse, the Oakland Institute brief shows that the company used investors’ contributions to fill their own coffers, doing nothing on the ground.

African Land Ltd. claims to bring technology and socially responsible investment to Sierra Leone, with promises of high returns to investors and social benefits for locals. The Oakland Institute’s brief shows that African Land does nothing close to this.

In testimony provided to the Institute, the local Paramount Chief details that the African Lands farm is in shambles, the few locals who were employed have still not been paid, and the promises of benefits for the local community, such as free food, a school, roads, and a health center, only exist in African Land Ltd.’s promotional materials.

Court orders don’t deter the individuals at the helm of African Land Ltd. As the brief shows, the people behind it leave a trail of closed and reinvented companies.

“It is heartening to see a regulatory agency like the FCA take action in the country of origin of investors, a unique development in the recent trend of land grabs. We hope that this brief will further embolden this effort to prevent dishonest land deals and investments. Africa needs real agricultural investment, not more promises that mislead investors and damage local communities,” said Anuradha Mittal.

Download the report


Forum For African Investigative Reporters On Land Grabbing

Apply now for investigative grants on land grabbing in Africa

The Gravitazz Continental Intiative (GCI) and the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) are offering fellowships to feature writers across Africa, who wish to undertake an investigation  into underreported land transactions.

Journalists/Reporters are invited to propose an investigation into any important yet underreported land transactions affecting communities, referred to as ‘land grabbing’. The successful applicants will receive a stipend of $500 USD over 4 months to cover research expenses for three articles each. The proposed project should expand the knowledge and understanding of the chosen investigative area and its publication or broadcast should stir public debate. Story ideas should profile people, communities, policies, events, or issues that illustrate poor governance around land/water grabs, food security challenges across the African Continent. Stories should focus on the issues at stake for poor land governance in sectors of vital relevance. Proper land deals should be integrated in mainstream media such as coverage of politics and governance, business and economics, budgetary/parliamentary reporting and social affairs.

The journalists will be supported by an advisory team with knowledge in the area of the investigation and scrutiny. The fellow may work in any medium or language but articles may be submitted in English but must be published in any of the African Union Languages. Journalists must have the support of their editors for publishing/broadcasting their stories.

The Award

Each selected journalist receives $US 500 stipend amount for these stories to cover transport and other logistical expenses involved in accessing materials for and publishing the features. Print journalists are expected to produce 1800 words for each story while broadcast produces 1hr weekly discussion programme series.


Preference is given to journalists who:

- Can apply research-based information to ascertain its effects on local communities
-Craft a concept/proposal listing specific sources of research and development information data from experts and oral testimony from marginalised groups, and how their features will create a platform to relate the two
- propose land grab topics that raise the most pertinent issues in these countries’ development
- provide a plan on how the features will be disseminated as widely as possible
- Strategise on how they will monitor their story contribution to change or impact

How to apply

The completed application package consists of:

- A copy of the CV
- Examples of relevant work previously published or broadcasted (scripts are acceptable)

- A one-page series concept/proposal that articulates the topic, importance, objectives, sources and how the output will be as widely published/broadcast as possible
- A brief letter of understanding from the journalists’ managing editor, communicating their willingness to provide airtime/space to for fellowship content dissemination

- At least one article must have been published by the 29 June 2014.

Send to:

The deadline for application is 24 June 2014

from here

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fact of the Day

 About 30 million primary school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa are not in class, partially because of conflict and poverty. The situation is especially dire in West and Central Africa, which has the largest proportion of children out of school of any region in the world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Democratising Food and Agricultural Research

Agricultural research for food sovereignty in West Africa

As part of the Democratising Food and Agricultural Research initiative
 (see, a series of citizens’ juries have been held in Mali over the last seven years. Their aim was to allow ordinary farmers and other food producers, both men and women, to make policy recommendations after cross examining expert witnesses from different backgrounds. Three citizens’ juries explored the following themes:

1. GMOs and the future of farming in Mali.
2. What kind of knowledge and agricultural research do small scale producers and food processors want?
3. How to democratise the governance of food and agricultural research?

The citizens’ juries were guided by an oversight panel to ensure that the entire process was broadly credible, representative, trust-worthy, fair and not captured by any interest group or perspective.
Altogether, the farmer jurors made over 100 recommendations on the priorities and governance of agricultural research for West Africa. Recommendations covered issues such as models of agricultural production, land tenure and property rights, and food and agriculture markets, as well as issues of research funding, organisation, practice and governance.

In the follow up to this unique deliberative process, West African farmers asked to have a Policy Dialogue with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and its main donors. Farmers wanted a face-to-face discussion on research priorities with AGRA because it is a key player in setting the agenda for agricultural research for development in West Africa. This policy dialogue took place in Accra (Ghana) on 1st to 3rd February 2012.
The three-day event was chaired by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, and was also attended by representatives of farming communities in Asia, East Africa and Latin America.

 A video link with London allowed participation by UK donors and members of parliament. Both farmers and AGRA presented their vision for agricultural
research in Africa. Overall, farmers analysis and policy recommendations significantly differed from those promoted by AGRA.
For example, West African farmers were clearly against research that leads to the privatisation of seeds and proprietary seed technologies which allow companies to control the seed sector. They also felt that AGRA wrongly views farmers’ local seeds as unimproved, - thereby denying the plant breeding and seed selection work done by wo/men farmers.
Most notably, AGRA and the African farmers framed their respective research agendas within radically different visions of food and farming. The wo/men farmers argued that a vision of farming that de-links and separates crop production from other sectors (livestock, fisheries, forestry) is not acceptable. By prioritising crop production alone, AGRA is inducing an imbalance which farmers want to avoid in West Africa. Farmers reject AGRA’s development model and type of agriculture which, they feel , encourages bigger farms and the disappearance of small family farms, as well as the poisoning of the earth, water, and people. Instead, West African farmers called for a research
agenda that supports family farming and food sovereignty.
from here

Monday, June 16, 2014

“I do whatever is necessary”

Since 1996, 6 million Congolese have been killed in a series of invasions and violent conflicts often instigated by armies and militias from neighboring countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, which are both U.S. allies. The battles have centered on access to Congo’s vast mineral deposits. Congo has never really been allowed to control its own destiny, save for the brief leadership of the visionary Lumumba in 1960. But Lumumba’s tenure and life were cut horribly short with the help of the CIA just months after he was democratically elected, only to be replaced by a Western backed dictator, Mobutu, who remained in power with U.S. backing for three decades. Even then, the stakes centered around Congo’s mineral wealth.

Maurice Carney, the co-founder and executive director of Friends of the Congo, in an interview said “Congo has been at the center of the unfolding of the drama ... as it relates to the geostrategic pursuit to control the riches of the African continent.” He thinks the media fail to adequately cover Congo’s conflict because “if you look at Darfur, the bogeymen were the Arabs, the Muslims and the Chinese. In Congo, the bogeyman is the West. From the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, to the imposition of Mobutu on the Congolese people, to the backing of the invasion of the Congo by Rwanda and Uganda, the West is complicit.” In fact, Carney said, “The United States has been on the wrong side of history [in the Congo] from day one.”

U.S. policy on Congo also includes propping up Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. With respect to Kagame especially, despite the fact that several multinational bodies like the International Criminal Court have warned the Rwandan president that he could face prosecution for crimes in the Congo, “the U.S. has run diplomatic and political interference to protect its allies,” according to Carney. According to Carney, Congo’s Kabila government “lacks legitimacy among its people.” Because of that, different groups, even from outside Congo, simply enter the land and claim precious minerals. Congo’s borders are porous, even leading to serious questions of who exactly are defined as citizens.

 “Militia groups terrorize villages, particularly the women,” Carney said. He hesitated, adding, “I can’t even say they ‘rape’ the women. They will inflict a form of sexual terrorism on the women, destroy their reproductive systems, humiliate them by raping them in front of their husbands and their children, or even force the children to rape their mother.” Such unspeakable horror has led entire villages to be physically and psychologically destroyed and displaced. The invading militias then have easier access to the mineral resources such as gold, coltan or tin under the land where the villagers once lived.

Coltan, one of Congo’s most sought-after minerals, is used in the making of tantalum capacitors, which are ubiquitous in today’s electronic devices. Gold, tin and tungsten are also traded by armed militias for profit. Carney paraphrased Museveni, who likened Congo to a “banana plantation,” meaning that “everybody goes in and grabs what they want.”  The systematic pillaging of minerals without proper enforcement of environmental regulations has resulted in serious environmental devastation. For example, the mining laws of the Congo are written by the World Bank and are written in such a way as to benefit private corporations; the forestry laws are also written by the World Bank.” So, Carney concluded, “you have these multinational institutions having undue influence in the Congo.” Carney lamented that “in a sovereign nation, the government through its laws is supposed to protect the environment.” But multinational corporations, taking advantage of Congo’s weak government, are “exploiting the resources of the Congo to the point where it destroys the environment. It’s not just a question of local Congolese engagement, but it’s a global collaboration that winds up depleting and affecting the second lung of the world.”

Global oil company Soco International is planning a major drilling operation in Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to endangered gorillas famously studied by Dian Fossey, author of “Gorillas in the Mist.” Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and a World Heritage site. Despite legal challenges by environmental groups, Soco is moving forward with its pre-exploration development. Another undertaking, called the Grand Inga Hydroelectric Project, is a massive dam slated for the lower end of the Congo River in the DRC. It would be the largest dam project on the river. Campaigners with International Rivers warns that the project is expected to have “huge ecological impacts ... affecting local agricultural lands and natural environments; and may cause huge methane emissions that will contribute to global warming. The effect of reduced flow in the Congo River may cause loss of biodiversity and a shift in the dominant species.”

 Congo’s own social movements  are attempting to organize for justice and peace. “Young people throughout the country are organizing to transform the society,” Carney said. “They believe there is a fundamental change that is needed—a new society where leaders represent the interests of the people.” Like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the American civil rights era, Congo’s youth are “going into communities and rural areas, speaking with pastors, educating their peers, training people about the responsibility and the role of Congolese as citizens, letting people know about the geostrategic game that is being played, letting people know what is at stake in the Congo.” Carney’s eyes lit up about Congo’s dynamic youth activists, who cite the slogan “I do whatever is necessary.”Congolese activists are also harnessing the very technological tools containing the minerals for which their land is being ravaged in order to strengthen their work. American and Canadian students have been sending BlackBerry phones, laptop computers and digital cameras through groups like Friends of the Congo so that Congolese activists can communicate with like-minded people in other parts of the country and beyond. Carney said this sort of solidarity is crucial for young people to be able “to broaden their vision of the world, tap into different ideas, engage in dialogue and exchange in a way that’s going to empower them.” Most importantly, Carney said, “By virtue of them being able to connect with young people outside the country, it lets them know they’re not alone.”

From here

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Fate of South Sudan

More than 50,000 children in South Sudan face death from disease and hunger, the United Nations has warned. War has already killed thousands and forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes, and aid agencies warn of the risk of famine should fighting continue.

"Cholera has broken out, malaria is rampant and many children are malnourished. Millions of people need emergency healthcare, food, clean water, proper sanitation and shelter to make it through the year."   UN aid chief for South Sudan Toby Lanzer said. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sierra Leone - Women behind Bars

Twelve years after Sierra Leone’s long civil war came to an end, its broken institutions and weak development indicators continue to impact on the lives of its people.

And as ever it’s women who bear the brunt. Aside from the usual grim data, one statistic stands out: the number of female prisoners has doubled over the past three years.

IRIN’s latest film, Women Behind Bars, tries to understand why prison rates for women are soaring. It follows two paralegals, Victoria and Marvel (AKA Small Pepper) as they fight for the rights of women trapped in poverty, and a corrupt system that discriminates against them.

In a country of only 400 lawyers, Sierra Leone’s 80 paralegals have a crucial role to play in trying to deliver basic human rights. As we watch Victoria and Marvel at work, negotiating with police and prison authorities, advising and at times cajoling the women they have come to help, it becomes clear how daunting that task is.

from here

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ethiopia's Police State

Detention under spurious charges in Ethiopia is nothing new. With the second highest rate of imprisoned journalists in Africa[1] and arbitrary detention for anyone who openly objects to the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime’s despotic iron fist, the Western backed government in Addis Ababa is a dab hand at silencing its critics.

Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu are just two of the country’s more famous examples of journalists thrown in prison for daring to call the EPRFD out on their reckless disregard for human rights. This April the regime made headlines again for jailing six[2] bloggers and three more journalists on trumped up charges of inciting violence through their journalistic work. Repeated calls for due legal process for the detainees from human rights organisations and politicians, such as John Kerry, have fallen on deaf ears as they languish in uncertainty awaiting trial. This zero-tolerance approach to questioning of government repression is central to the EPRDF’s attempts to control its national and international image and doesn’t show much signs of letting up.

Stepping up their counter-dissent efforts the regime just this week detained another journalist Elias Gebru – the editor-in-chief of the independent news magazine Enku. Gebru’s magazine is accused of inciting student protests[3] which rocked Oromia state at the end of April. The magazine published a column which discussed the building of a monument[4] outside Addis Ababa honouring the massacre of Oromos by Emperor Melinik in the 19th century. The regime has tried to tie the column with protests against its plans to bring parts of Oromia state under Addis Ababa’s jurisdiction. The protests, which kicked off at Ambo University and spread to other parts of the state, resulted in estimates[5] of up to 47 people being shot dead by security forces.

Ethiopia has a history of student protest movements setting the wheels of change in motion. From student opposition to imperialism in the 1960s and 1970s to the early politicisation of Meles Zenawi at the University Students’ Union of Addis Ababa.  The world over things begin to change when people stand up, say enough and mobilise. Ethiopia is no different. Similar to its treatment of journalists Ethiopia also has a history of jailing students and attempting to eradicate their voices. In light of such heavy handed approaches to dissent the recent protests which started at Ambo University are a telling sign of the level discontent felt by the Oromo – the country’s largest Ethnic group. Long oppressed by the Tigrayan dominated EPRDF, the Oromo people may have just started a movement which has potential ramifications for a government bent on maintaining its grip over the ethnically diverse country of 90 million plus people.
Students and universities are agents of change and the EPRDF regime knows this very well. The deadly backlash from government forces against the student protesters in Oromia in April resulted in dozens[6] of protesters reportedly being shot dead in the streets of Ambo and other towns in Oromia state. Since the protests began scores more have been arbitrarily detained or vanished without a trace from campuses and towns around the state. One student leader, Deratu Abdeta  (a student at Dire Dawa University) is currently unlawfully detained in the notorious Maekelawi prison for fear she may encourage other students to protest. She is a considered at high risk of being tortured.

In addition to Ms. Abdeta many other students are suspected of being unlawfully detained around the country. On May 27th 13 students were abducted from Haramaya University by the security forces. The fate of 12 of the students is unknown but one student, Alsan Hassan, has reportedly committed suicide by cutting his own throat all the way to the bones at the back of his neck after somehow managing to inflict bruises all over his body and gouging out his own eye. His tragic death became known when a local police officer called his family to identify the body and told them to pay 10,000 Birr ($500) to transport his body from Menelik hospital in Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa town in Oromo state.  Four of the other students have been named as Lencho Fita Hordofa, Ararsaa Lagasaa, Jaaraa Margaa, and Walabummaa Goshee.

Detaining journalists and students without fair judicial recourse may serve the EPRDF regime’s short term goal of eradicating its critics. However, the reprehensible silencing of opponents is one sure sign of a regime fearful of losing its vice-like grip. Ironically the government itself has its own roots in student led protests in the 1970s. No doubt it is well aware that universities pose one of the greatest threats to its determination to maintain power at all costs. Countless reports of spies monitoring student and teacher activities on campus, rigid curriculum control and micro-managing just who gets to study what are symptoms of this. The vociferous clamp-down on student protesters is another symptom and just the regime’s latest attempt to keep Ethiopia in a violent headlock. The regime would do well to remember that stress positions cause cramps and headlocks can be broken. It can try to suppress the truth but it can’t try forever.

by Paul O’Keeffe from here with links 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Global Malaria Fight Hampered By Profit At Any Cost

Some 60 percent of countries where malaria is endemic lack solid information about the quality of available drugs to treat the deadly disease, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Malaria Journal in April, looked at 251 reports from 104-malaria endemic countries since 1946. It found that of the 43 countries that had some information about anti-malarial quality, more than half of these, 25, had only one or two published reports available.
“Estimates of anti-malarial quality vary widely depending on the sampling methodology used, with most reports not employing rigorous scientific techniques, potentially biasing results,” said the authors of the report. “Although there are clear foci of poor quality anti-malarials, the current global situation remains unclear, poorly documented; and their impact on public health uncertain.”
This means that when attempting to reduce the number of poor quality and illicit medicines in the market, individual states are often unable to quantify the extent of the problem in their country. The report found that globally, of the nearly 10,000 anti-malarial drugs sampled, 30 percent failed quality tests.

According to the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT), preparations sold as effective antimalarials often in fact contain substances such as rat poison, mercury, lead, boric acid, paint, brick dust and floor wax. Such poisons can cause kidney failure, cancer, developmental defects, strokes, high blood pressure and other health complications.
According to the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), poor-quality antimalarial containing lower quantities of the required active ingredient increase the risk of malaria drug resistance, compounding the problem.
While it has been known for some time that there are a large number of fake and poor quality drugs on the market, “the efforts put into addressing the quality have had little tangible impact in comparison to the size of the problem” say the authors of the study, “because the programmes have mostly been slow, under-funded and fragmented.”

Challenges with jargon, patenting

Challenges related to terminology and patenting have also hampered progress in reducing poor quality antimalarial medications.
“The controversy over definitions has disabled much that could be done and the use of the unwieldy term ‘substandard/spurious/falsely labeled/falsified/counterfeit medical products (SSFFCs)’ has not helped,” noted the authors of the study, because medicine quality reports don’t standardize their terminology or use the same metrics for calculating poor quality drugs.

A member state mechanism on SSFFCs was established in 2010 to seek global solutions to tackle the distribution and trade of poor quality and illegal medications, but has so far made little progress.
“Although drug companies, nongovernmental organizations, and governments all want reliable access to safe and effective medicines, and deplore unsafe fake medicines, it is difficult to achieve agreement on action because discussions too often trespass into conflict-prone areas such as pharmaceutical pricing or intellectual property,” said Amir Attaran, professor at the University of Ottawa and one of a group of health professionals, who came together to advocate for better action against illicit medications in 2012.
As a result, in places like Kenya, ‘‘unlicensed salesmen have taken advantage of country’s post-marketing survey that has given room to smuggling and sale of drugs through porous borders to non-licensed pharmacy kiosks and clinics operated by non-professionals,’’ said Charles Maitai of the University of Nairobi’s Department of Pharmacy.
‘‘We advocate for the standardization of terminology about poor-quality medicines in order to ensure comparability of antimalarial quality findings,’’ Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), said in a statement published online.

Some progress

By lowering the cost of anti-malarial drugs, and distributing information about the quality of medications, it is possible to reduce the number of SSFFCs, and lower malaria mortality rates.
In Kenya, anti-malarial drugs are currently being provided freely in public hospitals, while in pharmacies, they are being sold at a subsidized price Sh100 (US$1.1) as opposed to the market price of Sh800 (US$9.4).
Following concerted efforts by the government to tackle the disease, the prevalence has dropped from 34 percent to 20 percent in the last five years.

To make sure the drugs meet the required standards, the government conducts periodical quality checks on the drugs stocked in various institutions. It has been training health professionals on malaria treatment to ensure that they are giving out the correct dosages to patients.
‘‘We are advocating health workers to ensure correct use of anti-malarials to minimise episodes of drug resistance. This will ensure that the drugs in use remain effective,’’ Kenya's cabinet secretary for health, James Macharia, told IRIN.

The disease accounts for 30-50 percent of all outpatient visits and 20 percent of all admissions to health facilities.
Custodia Mandlhate, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Kenya Representative, told IRIN during this year’s World Malaria Day that the gains so far realized are fragile and there is need to make them sustainable.
‘‘Should the funding stop, the gains made would be drawn back,’’ she said. ‘‘There is need for more investment by the government and donor agencies to properly combat the disease.’’

from here

Monday, June 09, 2014

African History Interrupted By Slavery And Colonialism

Majority of African people suffer from Inferiority complex, because of the huge amount of literature that portrays them like savage before the arrival of Europeans.
Anyone interested in african history know that’s not true. NOT AT ALL!
Now, According to Columbia University’s Alexander Ives Bortolot “Contrary to popular views about precolonial Africa, local manufacturers were at this time creating items of comparable, if not superior, quality to those from pre-industrial Europe.

Due to advances in native forge technology, smiths in some regions of sub-Saharan Africa were producing steels of a better grade than those of their counterparts in Europe, and the highly developed West African textile workshops had produced fine cloths for export long before the arrival of European traders.”
“Prior to the European voyages of exploration in the fifteenth century, African rulers and merchants had established trade links with the Mediterranean world, western Asia, and the Indian Ocean region. Within the continent itself, local exchanges among adjacent peoples fit into a greater framework of long-range trade.
The merchants from Britain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands who began trading along the Atlantic coast of Africa therefore encountered a well-established trading population regulated by savvy and experienced local rulers.”

African progress has been stopped by slavery and colonialism because we didn’t have guns when the europeans came.
Slavery and colonialism ARE NOT Africa History, They have interrupted it!

 By: Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN
from here

Nigeria's Politically Correct Team In Brazil

In two weeks, on Monday, June 16, Nigeria will play Iran in Brazil world football competition as its first match in the Group F, trying to qualify for the second stage.
Go, Go, Naija!
Now, there is something strange with the team Nigeria is sending to Brazil. The minister of sport has asked the coach Stephen Keshi, to choose at least a player from each of the 36 Nigerian states, making sure each ethnic group is fairly represented.

“Make sure the players from the North are at least 50% in the team. For the South, 25% should be from the West, and 25% for the East. We don’t want to cause frustration to local populations because they won’t have any player from their ethnic group in the team. It’s a national team, you understand. Every son and daughter of this country should feel well represented.” said the Nigerian Minister of Sports Dr Tamuno Danagog.

Stephen Keshi, who is one of only two people, along with Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach, kindly told the minister that sport is not about the West, the south, the north or the Ibo, the Yoruba or the Haoussa.

“Minister, please understand that this is high level sport. We need the best players, only the best ones, where ever the region they come from, or whatever their ethnicity or language. We will not be able to win a single match if I’d select players based on their language or region of birth. Please, Minister, kindly reconsider your position.” pleaded the coach Stephen Keshi.
The Minister won’t hear the coach, because he has an upcoming election to win, and won’t let a competition of 11 boys running after a small ball on a green field in Brazil stand on the way of his political savviness.
The coach Stephen Keshi was obliged to comply.

The 23 players he has selected are 50% from the north, 25% from West and 25% from the East. In some region, he couldn’t even find 3rd division players, so he was obliged to include some college amateur players in the national team. Also, Some people who will be traveling with the national team to Brazil will be there only because Keshi couldn’t find any player at all in some ethnic group, so he promised the Minister he will give them free tickets, all expenses covered to travel to Brazil to enjoy. The Minister was happy.

If you are upset reading this, let me tell you this how nigerian government’s cabinet are formed. I just used the football analogy to make you understand how absurd is the idea of a federal government which is not made of the best people Nigeria has, but formed depends on ethnic or regional representation.
If all Nigerians understand that to win a football match, they don’t care about the ethnic background of the players, I think they would understand that to win the war against poverty, the war against illiteracy, the war against pollution, the war against power disruption, the war against corruption, the Nigerian government should be made only of the best and finest of our people, regardless of their background.

There is a daily worldwide governments’ competition to beat each other, and secure a better future for their citizen. Tough less visible, and less noisy, it still is there, and we better win at that competition too!
Our future depends more on our government quality, than on winning a soccer competition!
Go, Go, Go, Naija! Bring back the Cup!

from here

Saturday, June 07, 2014

"A bunch of losers"

As the Brazil World Cup approaches, South Africa reflects upon the legacy of its own hosting of the event.

Nine stadiums  built or renovated for the World Cup to the tune of 10 billion rand - a quarter of the overall budget - all are in the red, unable to attract regular sporting events or concerts. The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in the decaying industrial city of Port Elizabeth supports the case.
The current tenants of the state-of-the-art 47,000-seat, 2.1 billion rand venue are the Southern Kings, a second-tier rugby side excluded last year from the lucrative Super XV competition that includes teams from Australia and New Zealand. The Port Elizabeth region has also not had a team in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) since 2006, and even if a local side clawed its way into the big time, the turnstiles will not be overworked - the average PSL game attracts crowds of just 7,000. Since it opened its doors before the World Cup, the stadium has been attracting on average just over 300,000 visitors a year, only three times the record 94,700 who turned up on one day at Soccer City to watch the South African Springbok rugby side play New Zealand in 2010. Its annual up-keep costs may be as high as 65 million rand, according to two university studies, but the owners concede that it runs at a loss of 13 million rand a year - a bill that the municipality has to pick up.
The bill for the under-used and loss-making stadiums' up-keep falls on cash-strapped municipalities, a salutary lesson for Brazil, where hundreds of thousands have protested, sometimes violently, against state spending on this year's tournament. The bill for their up-keep falls on cash-strapped municipalities, a salutary lesson for Brazil, where hundreds of thousands have protested, sometimes violently, against state spending on this year's tournament.

Brazil's anti-World Cup movement argues that the $11.7 billion earmarked for Cup-related spending - three times South Africa's budget - would have been better used on hospitals, schools and public transport. Many in South Africa feel the same way.

"If 50 per cent of the collective resources deployed around the World Cup were deployed around these critical issues, I think the country would have made a big, big leap forward," said Achille Mbembe, a social scientist at Johannesburg's Wits University.

 FIFA and the South African Football Association (SAFA) urged people to focus on "non-tangible" benefits such as an improved national team and the rebranding of a country plagued by violent crime. Whereas tourism numbers have risen since the tournament the sporting benefits are debatable. The national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and are currently languishing at 65 in the world rankings, having slid from a short-lived post-World Cup high of 38th in 2011. Since 2010, the side has also struggled in the bi-annual African Nations Cup, qualifying for only one tournament by virtue of being the host. The under-20 and under-23 teams have also failed to get in to any major events.  Bafana Bafana manager Gordon Igesund - the 17th coach since South Africa's admission to international football in 1992  got his marching orders as national coach this week after presiding over a string of lackluster performances and goal-less draws that prompted sports minister Fikile Mbalula to brand the side "a bunch of losers".

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Gender Inequality And Land Tenure

At its 2014 Land and Poverty Conference in March, the World Bank highlighted the efficacy of producing computerised land-related data using satellites, drones, databases and other sources such as traditional surveys.
This makes it easier and quicker to register land and generate title deeds, and - being digital - it means poor smallholder farmers can access deeds from local land registration offices rather than having to travel long distances to a town where paper copies would otherwise be stored.
As SciDev.Net reported, some conference delegates pointed to potential complications. They are right to be concerned: creating and digitising land registries could exacerbate unfair land grabs or further marginalise people who may not have the right to claim land they live on or farm.

The topic of gender inequalities around land tenure is much discussed in development, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, for example, has a global database with up-to-date information and analysis on such inequalities.  (Gender and Land Rights Database here)

Although 70 per cent of Africa's farmers are women, patriarchal customary law often holds sway, excluding them from owning or controlling land. Even in matrilineal societies, where property and land inheritance follows the female line, such as those in Malawi, in reality the maternal uncle - or mwini mumba - will control the land.
Such discrimination in land access and decision-making is a key barrier to empowering poor women, lowering their status in the community and preventing them from borrowing money against collateral to improve their farming methods or to start small businesses.
Digitising land ownership is something of a double-edged sword. If land registry digitising projects were to blithely record the name of the head of the family as the proprietor of the land, this could further erode women's limited control over land.
But, done with sensitivity to the complex dynamics around land ownership, they could offer the chance to record women's rightful access to land officially, while also providing quick and easy access to title deeds.
The challenge is how to do this when land is so often considered the property of the male household head. One way could be to record the name of the person who farms the land, rather than the person who traditionally controls it.
To begin with, promoters of land digitisation projects should be aware of its potential to dispel one of the largest barriers to women's empowerment: their unequal access to land. To do this, digitising technology must be used wisely.

from here