Amid the trade wars, populism and economic nationalism, capitalism is under fire. But which capitalism is that?
For the hard-nosed commercial titans of the roaring 2020s, the dictum by Milton Friedman that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business: to use its resources and to engage in activities designed to increase its profits” will remain the lodestar.
There is no question that this is the zeitgeist in Donald Trump’s dealmaking administration, and it is echoed in Brazil and India.
Some critics of capitalism find the ‘business of business is business’ approach more honest than a series of corporate social responsibility projects launched by communications companies.
For economist Léonce Ndikumana, who runs a commission on the reform of corporate taxation, the problem of capitalism in Africa is not a laser-like focus on profits but a failure of companies to comply with fair rules on tax and royalties.
Ndikumana and his fellow researcher, James Boyce, calculate that capital flight from 30 African countries between 1970 and 2017 totalled $1.4trn.
That is almost three times the stock of debt the countries accumulated and 1.5 times the foreign aid they received. Those figures suggests that capitalism – or at least its regulatory institutions – are failing in Africa, at great human cost.
Is the revival of interest in ‘stakeholder capitalism’ – a kind of anti-Friedmanite formula that focuses more on customers, employees, suppliers – relevant to Africa? Given its recent endorsement by the US Business Roundtable, it does reflect local and international pressures on corporate behaviour.
How that plays out on the ground will vary according to the industry and the region.
Employees want more transparency and accountability in corporate finances. Activist groups demand respect for human rights and environmental standards in the supply chain. For example, conditions in the DRC, which supplies over half the world’s cobalt for electric car batteries, are under intense scrutiny.
Globally, investments motivated by environmental, social and governance concerns are up to $30trn, about a third of the funds under professional management.
Pension funds, the biggest clients for asset managers in Africa and elsewhere, are using environmental, social and governance criteria. Analysts say they are producing higher equity returns than the old shareholder capitalist model.
Perhaps the biggest factor driving new thinking on economic systems has been the decline of trust in business and banking.
That, together with deepening inequality in most countries, informs critiques of a rigged economic system, whether in Joburg, London, Nairobi or New York.
The spiralling climate crisis along with the un-costed global effects of robotics and artificial intelligence are undermining faith in established models of trade and market capitalism.
At the least, the promoters of new ideas and strategies will have to fight it out in a new global arena.
Now, social and economic policies will have to start changing as fast as our technologies.
The handing over of power from Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to the government may not be what it seems.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, facing an imminent impeachment process, handed over several critical functions of the capital city to President Kenyatta’s government.
In a statement on Tuesday, Kenyatta’s spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo said the government would take over health, transport, and two other functions from the Sonko government.
In the deal, which starts in mid-March and will last for two years, Kenyatta’s minister for devolution, Eugene Wamalwa, will co-manage the city with Governor Sonko. The government will also make annual reports to both the national and county legislatures.
“The move comes as a breakthrough in the running of country services that had ground to a halt,” Dena-Mararo wrote.
While it might appear as if Governor Sonko has surrendered crucial executive and political power, it is in fact a brilliant manoeuvre on his part.
Sonko, who took over in August 2017 with a promise to improve service delivery, has had a hard time managing the capital.
Some of the problems have been of his own making.
A city politician who has risen fast in the last decade and a half, switching posts from Senator to Governor in the last two elections, Sonko’s reign has been a daily soap opera.
He has not had a deputy since the resignation of Polycarp Igathe, who quit due to differences with his boss. He has also been in the news after details of his criminal record became public, with a 2005 death certificate with his name on it doing the rounds around the same time. Sonko is also facing charges of corruption and abuse of office, after his arrest last December. Sonko also faces a hostile legislature, which plans to begin impeachment hearings in days, and has constantly reshuffled his cabinet.
But the main reason he wants Kenyatta’s government to be in direct control of critical functions has to do with deep-rooted cartels.
“The cartel in this city is too big,” Governor Sonko said last year, addressing a crowd but speaking to President Kenyatta, who was standing atop a vehicle behind him. “I need your help to dismantle it.” “If its revenue, take it to the National Government. If it’s planning, take it to the National Government,” he offered. The video of the speech has been Governor Sonko’s only public comment since signing the transfer documents.
Sonko’s decision is more than just about executive power, the timing has more to do with political survival.
Sonko’s immediate problem is the looming impeachment, which became even more likely after the removal of his neighbour, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, from the county legislature and the National Senate.
By handing over critical functions, which are home to various interests in and outside the legislature due to try him for impeachment, he has also outmanoeuvred them.
“What Sonko has done is to hand us over to the wild dogs. He saw that he will be impeached and to save him the embarrassment, he decided to give up some of the county functions,” Nairobi Minority leader David Mberia was quoted as saying by local media.
By Wednesday morning, some of Sonko’s changes were already being removed.
Succession drama While the deal will take effect in 21 days, it a done deal in Kenya’s current political climate. And with the Kenyatta Administration running the most important city, it would boost Kenyatta’s ratings as he winds up his last term.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report suggested granting Nairobi a special status, so its management is not based on an elective process. By taking over the critical functions, which will also include their revenues and expenditures, Kenyatta also has a new item on his balance sheets. But it could also be a poisoned chalice, given the results of similar moves by his predecessors. It also works at the political level for Kenyatta.
Governor Sonko, probably Nairobi’s most important politician, had gravitated towards Deputy President William Ruto in the ongoing succession politics.
Having a politician of his public effect back in his camp will grant Kenyatta a much-needed ally in his short-term goals, which are to mend the economy and halt Ruto’s likely succession.
But this could backfire on both: Sonko might survive impeachment and regain some control of the capital city, and this deal covers the remaining two years of his reign. President Kenyatta’s move might also be seen as another assault on the devolved system of government, which has included underfunding the 47 counties and not paying their share in time. Historic problem Managing the capital, which is home to 4.4m people today, has always been a challenge.
All of Kenya’s presidents since independence have tried to have a direct executive hold on the capital, due to its role as the country’s economic, social, and political nerve centre.
One of the first post-independence’s government’s crisis was the mayor’s attempt to acquire a better car than the president. But there were also many serious issues, both inherited and emergent.
President Jomo Kenyatta maneuvered in his daughter, the current President’s step-sister, to run the city in the ‘70s. In the early ‘80s, the second President Daniel Arap Moi dismissed the capital’s elected officials and appointed a commission to run the city instead. The commission, which was changed a number of times over the next decade, failed in its task too. It was a commission managing Nairobi in 1989 when the government planned to build a 60-storey multipurpose skyscraper in Uhuru Park, the capital’s biggest public recreational space. The third President, Mwai Kibaki, tried another route, creating a cabinet position to handle infrastructure for Nairobi and the metropolis.
Due to long tenures in office and dominance of ruling political parties, many opposition leaders in Africa rarely get elected into political offices.
Without opposition, there could be no creation. All life would cease without resistance.” ― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
There are very few political leaders who will agree with Kilroy Oldster’s assertion; many leaders see opposition as a plague that must be silenced by every means possible.
What becomes even more surprising is the fact that many leaders, especially in Africa, who treat the opposition with an iron fist, were once in the opposition themselves.
Around Africa, the script is the same; political leaders often oppress the opposition with every means possible until they toe the line.
Being an opposition figure in a continent like Africa, where abuse of power and human rights violations is the order of the day, is no walk in the park.
Yet, a few have remained dogged and refused to bow to government pressure. They have continued to defy the powers that be despite the oppression they receive in return.
Here are our top 10 opposition figures in Africa 2020:
1. Bobi Wine, Uganda:
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, is a Ugandan musician and politician.
He serves as the Member of Parliament representing Kyadondo East constituency in Wakiso District, in Uganda’s Central Region.
He is the leader of the People’s Power Movement and a major opposition figure to President Yoweri Museveni’s led government.
2. Julius Malema, South Africa:
Julius Sello Malema is a South African politician who is a Member of Parliament and the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, which he founded in July 2013.
He previously served as President of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012.
He is a vocal opposition figure in South Africa against governments of the former president, Jacob Zuma and current president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
3. Diane Rwigara, Rwanda:
Diane Shima Rwigara is a Rwandan businesswoman and women’s rights activist, who stood as an independent candidate in the 2017 Rwandan presidential election.
She is a staunch critic of President Paul Kagame’s government and was jailed for over a year with her mother for charges including inciting insurrection against the government of President Paul Kagame.
The international community condemned the arrest, and she was granted bail alongside her mother in October 2018.
4. John Mahama, Ghana:
John Dramani Mahama is a Ghanaian politician who served as President of Ghana from July 24, 2012, to January 7, 2017.
He previously served as Vice President of Ghana from January 2009 to July 2012 and took office as president on July 24, 2012, following the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills.
Mahama was confirmed as the candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress to contest in the 2020 elections against the current president, Nana Akufo-Addo who unseated him in 2016.
5. Riek Machar, South Sudan:
Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon is a politician who served as the inaugural Vice President of South Sudan from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013.
He now leads the rebel faction opposing Salva Kiir known as SPLM-IO. Between April and July 2016 Machar served as the First Vice President of South Sudan.
According to reports, he has signed a power deal with President Salva Kiir, which will lead to a cease-fire and bring peace to South Sudan.
6. Maurice Kamto, Cameroon:
Maurice Kamto is a Cameroonian politician; he is the founder of the MRC and a top opposition figure against the government of President Paul Biya.
He was a member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations from 1999 to 2016.
In October 2019, a military court in Cameroon freed opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who had been in prison for nine months and facing charges of insurrection.
Mr. Kamto was detained after organizing protests in January 2019 against the result of the 2018 presidential election.
7. Martin Fayulu, DR Congo:
Martin Madidi Fayulu is a businessman and lawmaker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He is the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party.
Many critics still believe he is the rightful winner of the December 30, 2018 elections and accuses former long-time leader, Joseph Kabila of brokering a back-door deal with the current president, Felix Tshisekedi.
8. Raila Amolo Odinga, Kenya:
Raila Amolo Odinga is a Kenyan politician who served as the Prime Minister of Kenya from 2008 to 2013 and leader of the opposition since 2013.
He was the Member of Parliament for Langata from 1992 to 2013.
In 2018, the Kenyan opposition leader, who boycotted the country’s disputed election the year before, swore himself in as the “people’s president” at a mock inauguration ceremony in protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
9. Kizza Besigye, Uganda:
Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe, known as Kizza Besigye, and also nicknamed Colonel, Daktari, Kifefe, KB, and Ssenyondo, is a Ugandan physician, politician, and former military officer in the Uganda People’s Defence Force.
He has been arrested numerous times for various charges, including treason.
According to reports, he has joined forces with another popular opposition figure, Bobi Wine to contest against President Yoweri Museveni in the next presidential elections.
10. Omoleye Sowore, Nigeria:
Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner and founder of an online news agency Sahara Reporters.
He was a presidential candidate in the 2018 presidential elections against President Muhammadu Buhari who won a second term in office.
On August 3, 2019, Sowore was arrested by the Nigerian State Security Service for alleged treason after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow.
Malcolm X was one of the forefront black activists and his friendship with Muhammad Ali gave the white man terrible headaches.
The United States of America has never been a land of the free for a black man. The existence of the black in America is treated as an unwanted thing, and from all angles of life, the black man still finds himself in shackles.
But in contemporary society, a lot has significantly changed for the blacks, even though total freedom remains a pipe dream. In the 1950s and 60s, at the height of racial segregation in America, there emerged a militant approach to fighting white oppression.
Malcolm X had grown to resent Christianity for it was an embodiment of white oppression; it was a religion used to disguise the callousness of the Caucasians. Religion had been employed by the white man to pacify black people so that they would not question the deplorable conditions in which their existence was thrust in. The life of Malcolm X had metamorphosed to that of vehemently and spiritedly fighting the vile racial segregation policies that prevailed at the time. The black man, through these policies, was effectively barred from having any access to social mobility and many had been accustomed to resigning to their miserable fate. But this was something that Malcolm X did not tolerate, and he gave the white man problems time and again.
A man who had renounced his name because of its direct link to the slave trade, Malcolm X had turned to Islam to free his mind and thus take on the white establishment head-on. He joined the black separatist movement, the Nation of Islam when he was still in prison and that was an important turning point in the fight for black rights. He was militant in his approach, believing that for there to be order there needed to be a separation of the blacks and whites. For him, white people had proved to be extremely obstinate as regards co-existence with other races and there was no other way to assert one’s existence in such a terrible world but to fight back. Christianity had implanted the notion that one had to turn the other cheek when slapped, but for Malcolm X the black man had to fight back. He was completely revolutionary in how he tackled the white establishment, saying that the mind of the black man had been taught wrongly and had been induced to accept squalid conditions as a way of life, which was wrong.
His influence had grown so strong that a young Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali in denouncing the white establishment, had been drawn to the Islam way of fighting white oppression. Malcolm X was the one who recruited Muhammad Ali into the Nation of Islam and the two had developed a friendship that was a solid threat to the interests of the white community in America. At the time the two had developed a friendship, Malcolm X was growing disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad, the prophet leader of the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad had lost the true Islamic values, Malcolm X asserted, and he did not want Malcolm X to fully implement his revolutionary thinking in fighting white oppression. He did not want Malcolm to talk publicly about politics and civil rights. Malcolm X had become a beacon of intellectual superiority and Elijah resented this.
Ali had been strongly inclined to Malcolm’s teachings, he was now an ardent follower of the Nation of Islam, armed with unbridled revolutionary enthusiasm. So profound was this development that Muhammad Ali flatly refused to be conscripted into the U.S Army to go fight in the Vietnam War. His brazen actions resulted in stripped off of his heavyweight title and his passport and was banned from fighting in the U.S.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform,” Ali said, “and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?… I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”
“It is in the light of my consciousness as a Muslim minister and my convictions that I take my stand in rejecting the call to be inducted. I do so with the full realization of its implications. I have searched my conscience.” Ali also said, “no Vietcong ever called me nigger.” That alone was powerful and it rattled the system. His conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971, but the message that Ali had sent to the world was loud and clear.
When Malcolm was assassinated in 1965 while delivering a speech because of his friction with the Nation of Islam, his friendship with Muhammad Ali had deteriorated. Ali did not agree with Malcolm’s decision of being disobedient to Elijah Muhammad. “Brother Malcolm, you shouldn’t have crossed the honorable Elijah Muhammad,” Ali had remarked this to Malcolm.
Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith, the authors of the book “Blood Brothers,” said, “The relationship between Cassius Clay and Malcolm X signaled a new direction in American culture, one shaped by the forces of sports and entertainment, race and politics. Under Malcolm’s tutelage, [Ali] embraced the world stage, emerging as an international symbol of black pride and black independence. Without Malcolm, Muhammad Ali would have never become the ‘king of the world.” The book details their friendship, how it shaped the world at the time and its subsequent breakdown.
Malcolm’s ex-communication from the Nation provided the ground for his friendship with Ali to break down. He fought for Ali’s loyalty, attempting to use him as a bargaining chip with Elijah Muhammad. Ali was no longer amenable to Malcolm’s moves at the time. He referred to Malcolm as “a jailbird, a hoodlum … that chief hypocrite,” and he declared that “Mr. [Elijah] Muhammad will destroy him through Allah.”
Ali later expressed this as one of the biggest regrets in his life. Years after Malcolm had been assassinated, he began to view him “a visionary, ahead of us all.” In 2004, Ali wrote, “Malcolm was the first to discover the truth, that color doesn’t make a man a devil.
It is the heart, soul, and mind that define a person.”
“Malcolm X was a great thinker and an even greater friend,” wrote Ali. “I might never have become a Muslim if it hadn’t been for Malcolm. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would never have turned my back on him.”
Although their friendship had died, their conduct and ideas inspired millions of black people all over the world. Ali was loved in Africa for his famous fight in 1974 in the Democratic Republic of Congo dubbed “Rumble in the Jungle” when he defeated George Foreman. Ali supported the fight for freedom in African countries and he visited Ghana, Nigeria, DRC, Kenya, and Egypt. Together with Malcolm X, they presented a tough time for the oppressors.
Egypt is building a concrete structure along the border to the Gaza strip.
The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is the only path out of the Strip that does not lead into Israel.
Egypt has intermittently opened the Rafah crossing in recent years. Now, it seems a concrete wall is being built along the border.
A Hamas security source told AFP that the goal was “to complete (the wall) as quickly as possible … the important thing for us is to control the border…”
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. Egypt and Qatar (a key Gaza donor) have been working hard to broker a ceasefire deal.
Last week, a security delegation from Egypt led by General Ahmed Abdel Khaliq (heads Palestinian affairs at Egypt’s intelligence agency) was in Gaza seeking to do just this.
However, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the second most powerful terror group in Gaza) has not endorsed any truce. Earlier this week, one of their sniper teams opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers and police officers along the southern Gaza border.
Dozens of workers and cranes can be seen erecting the wall, which will stretch for 3 km (2 miles) and is being built along the lines of an old, lower barrier that includes an underground structure designed to combat the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
The full length of the Egypt-Gaza border is approximately 12 km (7.5 miles), and it is unclear as to whether the structure will be extended to cover the entirety of this length.
Julius Nyerere wanted Tanzania to be self-sufficient and not be reliant on European imports. His policies failed, but present African leaders should revise them and take important lessons from “ujamaa.”
Finding sustainable ways to propel the economy forward for the betterment of everyone was the top agenda for Julius Nyerere when he became the president of independent Tanzania. He envisioned a society that will make itself prosperous simply by eschewing capitalism.
The biggest thing for Nyerere was to make massive economic progress by embracing African socialism. By embracing the traditional ways of Tanzanians, there would be a way to surmount modern problems. What Nyerere put emphasis on was the issue of Tanzanians working for themselves and thus bettering their economy than to rely on European imports.
He sought to effect this by using the concept of ujamaa as the basis for his economic blueprint. Ujamaa is a Swahili word that means “extended family,” “brotherhood,” or socialism.” The sense that the word evokes is oneness. In a political context, this implies that a person becomes a person through the people or the community. From this perspective, Julius Nyerere wanted to create a just society in which people worked together in the villages towards economic development.
In 1967, Nyerere published his economic framework on how to take the nation forward titled the Arusha Declaration. It was based on the concept of ujamaa. It entailed the idea of collective farming and “villagization” of the countryside. This would further be extended to the nationalization of banks and industry. The person was expected to work for themselves first, and work for the community. This was African Socialism coming to life.
Nyerere desired a full reversion to the African pre-colonial way of living, one that had been disturbed by Europeans colonization. If this was the way, then urbanization, which he argued was not contributing to the better welfare of people because wage labour would be eroded away. Production was to be done in the villages. This would create a traditional level of mutual respect, bring units of families together, unity, cohesion, love, service and a moral ways of life.
In the rural areas, families would be brought together in “nucleated” settlements, each of around 250 families. By doing that, distribution of farming inputs would be made easier. Villagization would make a complete Tanzanian, and thus avoid the problems of “tribalism,” something that was bedeviling newly independent African countries.
The rationale behind using ujamaa in the discourse of national development was to use African ways of living to beat capitalism. The goal was to make Tanzania self-sufficient, a goal that had been shared by Thomas Sankara, former leader of Burkina Faso.
This is a concept that present African leaders can learn – being self-sufficient. What it now requires is using practical means and modern solutions complemented by African ethics.
African leaders should be looking at some of these policies and glean important lessons on how to take their countries forward. They should carefully look at these methods, analyze where they failed and why, and then take practical steps to perfect them.
A. Bartlett Giamatti, an American professor of English Renaissance Literature once said, “Universities are not here to be mediums for the coercion of other people; they’re here to be mediums for the free exchange of ideas.”
Many university rankings in the world today focus on factors unrelated to academic merit. Thus, some rankings of colleges and universities often give too much credit to the attractiveness of campus, satisfaction of students and alumni, extracurricular benefits.
This list is not one of such ranking. In contrast, this ranking focuses on academic prestige, scholarly excellence, and intellectual horsepower.
In this ranking, the following criteria were considered;
Being chartered, licensed and accredited by the appropriate higher education-related organization in each country
Offering at least four-year undergraduate degrees (bachelor degrees) or postgraduate degrees (master or doctoral degrees)
Delivering courses predominantly in a traditional, face-to-face, non-distance education format
The publication also matched the rakings with the recently released list of 200 Top Universities in Africa compiled by uniRank.
The aim is to provide a non-academic League Table of the top Universities in Africa based on valid, unbiased and non-influenceable web metrics provided by independent web intelligence sources rather than data submitted by the Universities themselves.
uniRank is a leading international higher education directory and search engine featuring reviews and rankings of over 13,600 officially recognized Universities and Colleges in 200 countries.
These are the Top 10 Universities in Africa 2020 1. University of Pretoria, South Africa: The University of Pretoria is a multi-campus public research university in Pretoria, the administrative and de facto capital of South Africa.
2. University of Cape Town, South Africa: The University of Cape Town is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College making it the oldest higher education institute in South Africa.
3. University of Witwatersrand, South Africa: The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, is a multi-campus South African public research university situated in the northern areas of central Johannesburg. It is more commonly known as Wits University or Wits.
4. University of Johannesburg, South Africa: The University of Johannesburg is a public university located in Johannesburg, South Africa. The University of Johannesburg came into existence on 1 January 2005 as the result of a merger between the Rand Afrikaans University, the Technikon Witwatersrand and the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University.
5. University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) is a university with five campuses in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It was formed on 1 January 2004 after the merger between the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville.
6. Stellenbosch University, South Africa: Stellenbosch University is a public research university situated in Stellenbosch, a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
7. University of Nairobi, Kenya: The University of Nairobi is a collegiate research university based in Nairobi. It is one of the largest universities in Kenya. Although its history as an educational institution dates back to 1956, it did not become an independent university until 1970.
8. University of Lagos, Nigeria: The University of Lagos, popularly known as UNILAG, is a public research university in Lagos, Nigeria. It is one of five first-generation universities in Nigeria, founded in 1962.
9. North-West University, South Africa: The North-West University (NWU) is a South African university with three campuses at Potchefstroom, Mahikeng (Previously Mafikeng) and Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. In Potchefstroom is the head office of the University. With its merged status, North-West University became one of the largest universities in South Africa with over 64,081 students (full-time and distance education).
10. Cairo University, Egypt: Cairo University, known as the Egyptian University from 1908 to 1940, and King Fuad I University from 1940 to 1952 is Egypt’s premier public University. Its main campus is in Giza, immediately across the Nile from Cairo.
South Africa dominated the top 10 list of universities in Africa. Still, interestingly, critics have argued that this is not a reflection of the educational system in the country as a whole.
According to Nic Spaull of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa has the highest unequal school system in the world.
Most independent church-run schools that provided a good education in black areas were closed. After Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, his government expanded access to schooling.
Education in Africa needs urgent attention from both the government and the private sector.
Stakeholders must do more in providing a favorable educational environment for students across the country and try its best possible to make quality education equal for all regardless of class and location.
The majority of the conceptions about Africa and Africans are entirely false.
John Henrik Clarke once said, “the first light of human consciousness and the world’s first civilizations were in Africa.” However, many critics do not agree with the African-American historian, professor, and Pan-Africa pioneer on his conception of Africa. The biggest reasons for their arguments have been traced down to the misconceptions they have encountered over time.
Sadly, although hugely publicized, these beliefs are entirely false. Sometimes, these misconceptions are held by some of the most educated and prominent people in the world.
In 2001, George W. Bush famously commented that “Africa is a nation that suffers from terrible disease”, thereby reducing the planet’s second-largest continent to a single country.
Errors and generalizations like these are rife and perpetuated both by the media and by popular culture. With so many fallacies about Africa in existence, it’s often hard to get a realistic view of a continent that is as complex as it is beautiful.
GCN news feature looks at the top 12 common misconceptions and stereotypes about Africa that have been passed on through various forms of media for decades and are believed to be the true representation of the continent.
1.Africa is a Country
George Bush is not alone in thinking that Africa is a single nation. Often, people refer to Africa as a country, when instead it is a hugely diverse continent comprised of 54 independent nations. Each country has its currency, flag, anthem, history, cuisine, music, identity, and blends of cultures. There are more than 2,000 languages in Africa, and its 1.2 billion inhabitants represent more than 3,000 distinct ethnic groups. Africa is also bigger than most people think it is, with a total area of 30,244,049 square kilometers/ 11,677,239 square miles. It is the second-largest continent on Earth, both in terms of area and population, and the USA, China, India, Europe, and Japan would all fit simultaneously within its borders.
2. All African Countries Are Poor
Poverty is a problem for many African countries, and it will be one of the first things that you notice when you travel there. However, not all African countries are poor. South Africa, for example, is a wealthy country with many valuable natural resources. In the World Bank’s 2016 list of nominal GDPs, South Africa ranked 33rd out of 194 countries – above countries like New Zealand and Singapore. According to the same list, Nigeria has a higher GDP than either Norway or the United Arab Emirates. Poverty in Africa is rarely due to a lack of wealth, but rather due to a failure to distribute wealth evenly. In most countries, there is a small percentage of exceptionally wealthy individuals, offset by the poor minority. The middle class is growing,, though, and these people have the same financial worries and securities as the majority of Western families.
3. Africa is Dangerous and Violent
With wars, revolutions, pirates and child soldiers making the news, it’s no wonder that many people fear traveling to Africa. Of course, because bad news sells, you don’t often get to hear about the many good things that happen on the continent. As such, most people don’t know about Botswana’s stable democratic government or Senegal’s reputation for religious tolerance. South Africa is known throughout the West for car-jackings and break-ins, but in reality, middle-class life is much the same there as it is anywhere else in the world. Although crime occurs throughout Africa, staying safe is a matter of common sense. Travel warnings tell you which countries, cities or borders to avoid, and which are considered safe. Rural areas are usually much safer than urban ones, and this is where you’re most likely to spend your time – especially if you’re planning a safari.
4. Africa is ridden with Disease
Diseases take millions of lives every year in Africa because of a lack of access to childhood immunization programs and basic healthcare. However, successful immunization programs have made huge strides in reducing polio and measles in the last decade. As a visitor, many of the continent’s more exotic diseases (including yellow fever, typhoid, and rabies) can be avoided through vaccination. Malaria is easily combated through the use of prophylactics. While HIV/ AIDS is undoubtedly prevalent in many countries, you can guard against it using the same precautions you would at home. Although state hospitals in some African countries are understaffed, ill-equipped and afflicted with low levels of hygiene, it is possible to get good care in Africa. Most private hospitals are on par with private hospitals anywhere else in the world.
5. All African Governments are Corrupt
Corrupt politicians are a universal problem, and Africa certainly has more than its fair share. However, that doesn’t mean that all heads of state are corrupt. Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s legendary post-apartheid president, is often hailed as the epitome of political morality. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2011, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also became a Nobel laureate. On Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Index, Botswana was the least corrupt African nation, outranking European nations like Spain and Italy. Other African governments regularly praised for their relative lack of corruption include Cape Verde, Seychelles, Rwanda, and Namibia.
6. Africa is Technologically Backward
The idea that technological innovation is lacking in Africa is laughable to anyone who has spent time there. Cell phones are available throughout the continent, and even the residents of informal settlements and shantytowns often have phones with cameras and internet connectivity. In some countries, cell phones have several innovative uses. Kenya, for example, has established a highly effective mobile banking system, opening up rural areas to credit in ways that have revolutionized small businesses. Maasai tribesmen dressed in traditional red shukas text, one another current cattle prices, and healthcare workers use phones to share valuable immunization data. While education and resources are often lacking, innovation is in plentiful supply. Mobile money transfer, e-healthcare, and online education solutions are just some of the high-tech ideas to come out of Africa in the last decade.
7. Africa Has No History
Often, Westerners make the mistake of thinking that the continent’s history began with the arrival of colonial explorers to sub-Saharan Africa in the 15th Century. However, Egypt’s ancient pyramids, the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia and Namibia’s millennia-old rock art are all examples of a rich and eclectic culture that reaches back thousands of years. The ruins of an ancient city now known as Great Zimbabwe provide evidence of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which ruled during the Late Iron Age. In the 12th Century, while Oxford and Cambridge universities were in their infancy, Timbuktu in Mali already had three thriving universities and more than 180 Quranic schools. All over southern Africa, cave paintings created by San ancestors date back thousands of years. Scientists believe that modern humans originated from a single group of African ancestors, and so it could be said that Africa has the greatest history of all.
8. It’s Always Hot in Africa
Although there are countries in Africa that are usually hot all year round (especially in tropical West Africa) this statement is a huge generalization. Africa is not made up exclusively of deserts and savannahs. It also has areas of rainforest, temperate woodland, cool coastal peninsulas, and high-altitude mountains. Even in the depths of the Sahara Desert, winter temperatures often plunge below freezing at night. In South Africa, winters are cold with frequent frost (especially inland and towards the Cape). At the same time, the snow has been recorded in several African countries – including South Africa, Lesotho, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains see enough snow to support a ski resort at Oukaïmden, near Marrakesh.
9. Dangerous Animals Roam Africa’s Streets
Rhinos indeed graze just a few miles from the center of Nairobi, East Africa’s biggest city. There are golf courses in South Africa that house crocodiles in their water hazards and hyenas still wander the nighttime streets of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. For the most part, however, Africa’s wildlife is confined to national parks and reserves (including Nairobi’s rhinos). You are likely to see the odd ostrich or baboon by the side of the road in southern Africa. Still, elephant, giraffe, lion, and buffalo no longer roam freely (except for in certain areas of Namibia’s Damaraland). Competition for resources with a rapidly growing population means that wildlife can no longer survive outside the continent’s protected areas. That’s not to say that going on safari feels like visiting your local zoo. National parks and protected areas are often larger than many European countries.
10. Africa Needs Aid to Help it “Develop”
It’s questionable how much good aid money has done for African countries. Often, projects are ill-defined, ill-conceived and ignore any input from the people they aim to help. A lot of Aid, while given in the right spirit, has been somewhat detrimental to African development. For a start, aid money has subsidized some very corrupt governments and crippled efforts to increase government transparency. Real fair trade agreements are preferable, helping to promote steady employment, a stable economy and access to credit. Certainly, celebrity visits are not the answer. Many charities do make a difference, but it would be nice to see them based in Africa and not in New York or Silicon Valley.
11. All Africans Live in Huts
There is a common misconception that all African people live in grass-thatched huts made of mud and dung. Mud huts indeed are one of the most common forms of housing in rural areas on the continent, but it would not be fair for us not to mention the rapidly growing urban centres throughout the continent. The skyline of most African cities is nothing short of beautifully architecturally designed skyscrapers that have become a source of pride for their home countries.
12. All Africans are Dark Skinned
A common stereotype is that all Africans are dark-skinned; this is not true. We do have different skin pigments and various shades of black for the different tribes and different regions around the continent. It is also important to note that there are also immigrants from other continents who have come to Africa many generations ago, and their descendants have settled on the continent ever since. A good example is South Africa, which is also called the Rainbow Nation because of the diversity it is known for when it comes to matters of skin colour.
Bertrand Russell once said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” Since 2006, Global Fire Power (GFP) has released a list yearly that ranks the military strength of nations across the world.
The GFP makes use of over 50 factors in line with its in-house formula to determine a given nation’s Power Index (‘PwrIndx’) score.
According to the report, this provides the final ranking while also allowing smaller, more technologically-advanced, nations to compete with larger, lesser-developed ones.
Some bonuses and penalties are added for refinement, and in the end, they hope an unbiased look into the potential conventional military strength of world power.
The 2020 Global Fire Power ranking included a total of 35 African countries.
The finalized Global Firepower ranking below utilizes over 50 individual factors to determine a given nation’s Power Index (‘PwrIndx’) score with categories ranging from the workforce, airpower, land forces, naval forces, natural resources, financials, logistical capability, and geography.
GFP claims that a perfect PwrIndx score is 0.0000, which is realistically unattainable in the scope of the current GFP formula.
The smaller the PwrIndx value, the more powerful a nation’s technical fighting capability is (by conventional means as nuclear capability is NOT taken into account).
Please take a look at the top and bottom countries on this year’s list ranked by their potential military strength.
African Counties with Strongest Military Strength.
There is renewed concern about the sustainability of rising debt levels in many African countries.
Much of this debt is being incurred through foreign currency denominated Eurobonds issued on international financial markets. The total value of Eurobonds issued between 2018 and 2019 was more than the value of all bonds sold between 2003 to 2016.
African governments are issuing and listing their Eurobonds on established international debt markets – usually London and Irish Stock Exchanges. African governments would venture offshore a lot less if domestic bond markets were active and liquid. But besides South Africa, African bond markets are largely underdeveloped with inactive and illiquid secondary markets. This makes it difficult to attract international investor participation locally.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes that African countries are on a Eurobond issuing spree and half of them are near or at distressed levels. It argues that African governments are piling on debt without evaluating the exchange rate risks and the real costs of repaying the debts.
But, in my view, the debt alarm being set off by international debt management organisations is exaggerated. The problem is not that African countries are borrowing too much, but rather they are paying too much interest. There are a number of reasons for this, including badly informed ratings by rating agencies, as well as the behaviour of issuers.
There are solutions. But these require African governments to stand up and take action.
Doing the calculations There are two key elements that are taken into account in assessing a country’s debt burden. One is the level of debt based on the ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP). The other is the cost of servicing the debt – interest payments.
Debt levels on the continent, for example, are on average way below the 100% debt-to-GDP ratio mark. But the impression created is that they are much higher. This exaggerated perception of African debt levels has resulted in countries paying higher interest rates on debt. The premiums are much higher than those paid by other countries. In my view these are not justified by the risk profile of African countries.
Save for four countries –- Cape Verde, Djibouti, Congo and Mozambique –- all the other African countries have debt-to-GDP ratio averaging 60%. A debt-to-GDP ratio of 60% is the IMF’s and African Monetary Co-operation Program’s threshold for prudent debt levels.
The scale of debt issuances in Africa amounts to only 1% of the continent’s total GDP annually – whose average annual growth rate is 4%. In simple terms, this means the value of income generation is higher than the rate of government debt accumulation. These ratios gives a snapshot of the a country’s fiscal sustainability.
On the contrary, the amount of interest expenditure has been disproportionate to the debt-to-GDP ratio. Studies show that in developed economies, an increase of 1% in debt-to-GDP ratio is associated with an increase of between 0.02% and 0.03% in interest rates.
African governments are paying interest of 5% to 16% on 10-year government bonds, compared to near zero to negative rates in Europe and America. On average, the interest repayment is the highest expenditure portion and remains the fastest growth expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa’s fiscal budgets.
The rising interest rates on Africa’s debt should be of major concern. African countries are shortchanging themselves by accepting high yield curves in their Eurobond Initial Public Offerings. This unjustifiably cements the perception that they are high-risk issuers.
The drivers The high interest rates are driven by several key factors. First, the mismatch between the short-term duration of the debt that African governments have taken on by issuing Eurobonds compared to the long-term nature of the infrastructure projects they propose to fund with the money raised through Eurobonds. The excessive need to attract investors is forcing African governments to borrow short-term to finance long-term projects.
Second, fungibility of Eurobonds proceeds – flexibility to be utilised for purposes other than the ones they were raise for – exposes the funds to the downside vulnerabilities of misappropriation and nonproductive expenditures.
Third, poor credit ratings as the majority of countries are in junk status. Credit ratings are pivotal in determination of both interest rates and the demand for bonds.
The weaknesses of rating agencies’ risk assessments have widely been criticised. According to sovereign credit methodologies of the big three rating agencies, economic growth is a decisive factor in past sovereign credit events. There is a strong positive correlation between economic strength and credit worthiness. But in Africa high economic growth has not translated into better sovereign ratings.
Despite consistent positive economic growth averaging 3.6% among 32 rated African states, data show that the number of downgrades and negative outlooks are almost double that of upgrades and positive outlooks. This implies that African countries are now worse off than they previously were. This overlooks the continent’s significant progress in governance, economic growth and human development over the past years.
Take Ethiopia. It has a current economic growth of 8.5% and has been hovering between 8%-11% for over 10 years. But it has not had a single upgrade activity from any of the three international rating agencies.
Senegal, one of Africa’s most stable countries, experiencing three peaceful political transitions since its independence in 1960, has maintained an economic growth averaging 6% over the past 10 years. It still remains in junk status rating.
Some of what drives higher interest rates also rests with Africa governments. For example, a lack of sufficient information about the specific ‘use of proceeds’ in prospectuses during Eurobond Initial Public Offerings is magnifying the risk of fiscal indiscipline. It means that funds have no conditionalities or any lines of accountability.
It is also the case that governments use the money they raise on loss-making projects and nonproductive fiscal expenditure. Two examples illustrate the point: the failing Kuraz mega sugar project in Ethiopia was funded from the 2014 Eurobond as was the Kenyan Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) which is failing to stimulate any new economic activity.
Solutions African countries can act to address the rising interest burden, and to avert falling into a debt trap through the following mechanisms:
Governments should use the money raised to fund profitable projects and use the profits from these projects to repay interest owed. Governments must take control of the bond issuance process during the bond structuring stage. They must exercise their choice of accepting or rejecting investors’ bids. It is imperative for African countries to structure bonds with favourable yields and tenure. This process should not be entirely renounced to syndicates of lead-managers, originators and investment banks. The oversubscription of recent Eurobond issues – Eurobond issuances have been oversubscribed by three times on average – simply shows that demand is outweighing supply. Countries should manage lead issuance advisors to negotiate for the lowest interests possible to be saved from unnecessary costs. Governments should bargain for competitive interest rates and accept only favourable bids. Governments should borrow for productive expenditure and manage proceeds from international bonds more prudently with integrity and transparency. African countries should establish a continental position, adopt international standards and guidelines to establish lines of accountability in rating agencies. This will create a platform to enforce adherence to scientific rating methodology, rating appeals, regulating rating agencies and sufficient involvement of rated countries in the rating process.
Vodacom’s bet on Africa’s burgeoning fintech market through M-Pesa is paying off.
Vodacom is South Africa’s largest mobile network operator. In addition to South Africa, it has a presence in Lesotho, Mozambique, DRC and Tanzania.
The company’s primary listing is on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. It is majority owned and controlled by Vodafone. The Public Investment Corporation is its second-biggest shareholder, with a 13% stake.
Vodacom Group recently published its quarterly update, which showed 40% of its revenue is now derived from its international operations. This trend has been largely driven by demand in data and the M-Pesa service.
M-Pesa is a popular mobile money platform mainly used in Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Lesotho, Mozambique, Ghana and Egypt. It was established by Kenyan network operator Safaricom. In 2019, 37 million active users conducted 11 billion transactions using the platform.
More customers, more money During the December 2019 quarter:
Vodacom added 1.7 million new customers to its international portfolio; The company attracted 484,000 additional customers in South Africa; The group has a total of 117 million customers “I am pleased with the consistency in the performance of our international portfolio, which produced solid results on the back of strong demand for data and M-Pesa services, resulting in a 9% growth in service revenue,” said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.
Banking on innovation
Through a joint venture, Safaricom and Vodacom will buy the rights to M-Pesa from Vodafone in a transaction valued at $13m.
In May 2019, the former Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore told Reuters acquiring the rights to M-Pesa would enable expansion to other African markets and flexibility in developing partner products on the platform.
In the Vodacom 2019 annual report, Joosub said: “The Safaricom acquisition has proven to be a catalyst for extending our mobile money leadership position on the African continent and in ensuring financial services have become a significant contributor to the group’s revenues.” “We are in the process of concluding the acquisition of the M-Pesa brand and platform-related assets from Vodafone through a joint agreement with Safaricom, we expect this will further accelerate our mobile money growth plans in Africa. The commercialisation of our recently launched payment gateway and digital wallet will assist in sustaining financial services growth in South Africa,” Joosub added.
Case for M-Pesa acquisition
Vodacom has every reason to be bullish about M-Pesa and its financial services products.
The 11 billion M-Pesa transactions recorded in 2019 were worth R2trn. In the same year, M-Pesa revenue grew to R3.1bn, which represents a 32.2% increase. The company’s pre-tax profit from financial services in South Africa was R1.bn.
A continent of opportunity and regulatory pain
Although the group has largely reaped the rewards of its investments throughout the continent, it is facing challenges on a number of fronts.
In South Africa, its issues include a market inquiry into data prices. One of the recommendations of the inquiry is that network service providers, including Vodacom, reduce prices. The company, much like its peers, is also battling to access spectrum.
In Tanzania, Vodacom was forced to disconnect more than one million customers. In April 2019, Vodacom’s MD in Tanzania and other employees were arrested “in relation to a customer’s alleged illegal use of network facilities.” The company also paid a R32m fine to the Tanzanian Communication Regulatory Authority for contravening the country’s Electronic and Postal Communications Act.
In DRC, the customs authority has opened a criminal claim against Vodacom for alleged failure to pay customs duties. “The group has objected to the claim, and is co-operating with the relevant authorities,” it said in its 2019 annual report.
On 1 March, voters will elect their new parliamentary representatives and, more importantly, decide whether or not to adopt Alpha Condé’s proposed changes to the constitution – unless they end up responding to the opposition’s call to boycott the election and referendum.
The countdown to one of Africa’s most politically sensitive public referendums in 2020 has begun. Two weeks from now, on 1 March, Guinea’s voters will go to the polls to cast their ballot on two matters.
The first is perfectly ordinary – parliamentary elections – while the second is extraordinary – a constitutional referendum.
While electing National Assembly members whose terms expired months ago is (practically) like a routine public clean-up operation, approving (or rejecting) a new constitution by way of direct democracy is much less common, not to mention a lot more likely to arouse controversy when the person who initiated the referendum “from the top” (as Charles de Gaulle used to say) is suspected of having thinly veiled personal designs.
Under normal circumstances, all the opposition would have to do to get Alpha Condé to forgo his constitutional reform proposal is campaign for a “no” vote and for it to win at the polls.
Getting his opponents to debate and vote is exactly what Condé tried to do, but the strategy has failed. The opposition’s distrust of an electoral process it considers to be “flawed” (unless the opposition has little to no confidence in its ability to convince voters to vote against the reform) is such that this very same opposition has decided to use all possible means to ensure that neither of the two elections scheduled for 1 March take place, or that at least voter turnout will be so low that they won’t even matter.
We unpack this high-risk power struggle.
• What’s at stake in the parliamentary elections? Given that Guinea’s National Assembly has been operating under a one-time extension for a year now, elections need to be carried out and no one disputes this fact. Candidates from some 30 political parties are running for 114 parliamentary seats under a mixed member system (one-third are elected by first-past-the-post voting, while the rest are elected by proportional representation), organised by an Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) which, until the radical opposition pulled out from the commission in late 2019, was composed on a parity basis.
In addition to the president’s party, the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG-Arc-En-Ciel), other smaller parties will participate in the election on 1 March. These parties are clustered around personalities who chiefly come from major political groups and fall within the moderate wing of the opposition.
Innovatrics, a Slovakian company contracted through a tender process, is overseeing a series of initiatives (updating of the electoral register, biometric registration kits, facial recognition software to eliminate fraudulently registered minors, etc.) to improve the reliability of the electoral process by comparison with the 2013 parliamentary elections.
The radical opposition has explained that it refuses to participate in the election because of the botched and biased manner in which they claim it has been organised. Involved in a power struggle with President Condé, radical opposition leaders can’t, it’s true, take the liberty of calling on their partisans to vote in the parliamentary elections while also urging them to boycott the referendum on the new constitution, with both votes taking place the same day.
If they did take such a position and the move were to fail, the three former prime ministers of the military regime, i.e., Cellou Dalein Diallo, Sidya Touré and Lansana Kouyaté, could end up paying a steep price.
Diallo, whose party has won every election in the past ten years in Middle Guinea and Ratoma (a sub-prefecture of Conakry) and is gaining traction in Lower Guinea, could lose at least 37 seats and his status as a salaried leader of the opposition, while Touré could end up leaving his ten parliamentary members in the lurch. Kouyaté’s party, whose representation was reduced to its most basic form (himself) when his protégé defected to RPG-Arc-en-ciel, risks disappearing from the political map altogether.
Although the riskiness of such a move is based on a certain amount of incongruity – after all, the radical opposition parties, represented by the CENI, monitored and approved of the technical and administrative process right to the end, including reassessing the electoral register and setting the election date, before withdrawing their participation – it’s part of an attempt to delegitimise the results of the election from the outset.
Indeed, how can these opposition parties’ polling agents be reliably replaced on such short notice to count ballots and verify election returns at the CENI’s some 5,000 local sections?
The opposition has thus left the door wide open for the election results to be disputed, especially now that the smaller parties, such as that of Faya Millimono or Bah Oury, have pulled out, as they could have helped balance out the situation.
• What is the purpose of the referendum? No one really disagrees with the idea that the constitution is in need of a thorough overhaul. Dated 7 May 2010, it was hastily drafted and passed by a transitional National Assembly whose members were not elected.
No one really disapproves of the decision to adopt a new constitution via public referendum, as it is infinitely more democratic than just a parliamentary vote. Lastly, no one really condemns the new provisions of the text that will be put to voters on 1 March.
After all, who is against making school compulsory until the age of 16, raising the required legal age for marriage to 18, prohibiting genital mutilation along with slavery and child labour, granting spouses equal rights in divorce, decreasing the age of candidacy from 25 to 18, making it mandatory for at least one-third of members of government and parliament to be women, abolishing the death penalty, etc.?
If the proposed constitution were to be adopted, Guinea would have one of the most progressive constitutions in French-speaking Africa, especially since the article limiting the presidential mandate to two terms would stay intact.
Why, then, has the text sparked so much controversy?
The problem isn’t its content, but a simple equation: a new constitution means a new republic, effectively hitting the reset button on the presidential term limit and thereby making it possible for the president currently in office to run for the top post in the October 2020 election.
Certainly, Condé never explicitly said that he was planning on taking advantage of this opening if the “yes” vote prevails in the referendum on 1 March. Nevertheless, the opposition, which views Condé’s ambiguity as a red line, is convinced that he will run again, and it’s hard to say that they are wrong on that point.
• What is the FNDC? With tens of thousands of activists in red t-shirts taking to the streets of Conakry, the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) continues to be a force to be reckoned with, even though the movement’s turnout has somewhat dwindled as the weeks have gone by.
Launched in April 2019 in response to the announcement of the proposed constitutional referendum, the movement brings together civil society organisations, labour unions and opposition political parties. Its leader, 61-year-old Abdourahmane “Doura” Sano, a businessman from Kindia and former director of the Conakry International Fair, briefly served as a minister under Captain Dadis Camara.
The FNDC is supported by media personalities such as music artists Elie Kamano and Bill de Sam, the organiser of civil society organisation Balai citoyen Guinée, Sekou Koundouno, and teacher and unionist Aboubacar Soumah, as well as garnered the sympathy of Ivorian reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly.
Although the FNDC seeks to cast a wide net, the fact remains that it is largely a tool of radical opposition political parties, especially that of Diallo’s party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), which accounts for most of the movement’s activists and has claimed a majority of the victims of the demonstrations.
This type of horizontal structure prevents the protest movement from being interpreted as emanating from the radical opposition. Also members of the FNDC, the parties of Touré and Ousmane Kaba, a former minister under Lansana Conté and then Alpha Condé, are far from having as extensive a reach as the UDFG.
• How likely is violence to occur? There clearly is a chance of violence given that the death toll from prior demonstrations has stood at around 20 since mid-October 2019. In a country that has less than 100 police officers per 10,000 residents, security during the two votes on 1 March will be ensured by the Special Force for a Safe Electoral Process (FOSSEPEL), as the army has been excluded from policing ever since Condé entered office.
Spurred by political leaders for whom the 2020 presidential election likely represents their last chance to seize power (Diallo is 68 and Touré, 75) and faced with an 81-year-old president who obviously doesn’t plan on stepping aside for them, the FNDC is going much further than a call for boycott.
Promoting “active resistance” with the Susu-language slogan amoulanfe (“It will not happen”), the FNDC asserts that it is “taking all necessary measures” to have the 1 March election called off. “Even if it must kill you, just let it go ahead and kill you,” said one of the UFDG’s vice presidents in an effort to encourage adults to demonstrate alongside young marchers.
Clashes with the police and gendarmes, who are still unfamiliar with democratic policing techniques (although they generally respect the ban on firing live ammunition), are therefore on the agenda, so to speak, and the chance of them resulting in new casualties is high.
The hotspots are the same as four months ago: a portion of the capital, particularly the Ratoma sub-prefecture and area along Le Prince road, towns in the Fouta Djallon region (a UFDG stronghold where a number of public buildings were attacked and, in some cases, looted in early 2020), Télimélé Prefecture (north of Conakry), and Boké and Kindia in Lower Guinea.
Upper Guinea, a stronghold of the ruling party, and Forested Guinea, where a significant share of the country’s mining operations is located, are largely unaffected by demonstrations. For the time being, no internal mediation efforts are currently being undertaken between the two sides. Imams and bishops did attempt such efforts, but the Guinean Catholic Church’s public denouncement of the proposed constitutional reform forced it to abandon its role as referee.
That leaves the army.
It’s highly unlikely that it will intervene to defuse the crisis, as the Forces of Defence and Security (FDS) have been extensively overhauled and reorganised in a democratic direction since 2011 with the help of French General Bruno Clément-Bollée. This achievement under Condé’s watch, indisputable for those who lived through Guinea’s era of military-civilian regimes – to which the current opposition leaders belonged – isn’t expected to be challenged.
Even if, according to our information, a small group of ten or so soldiers, led by a commander who was discovered in possession of a rather quaint declaration of a coup d’état, was arrested in mid-October 2019 in Conakry, the army is expected to stay in its barracks.
• Who do the former presidents work for? There are two of them, Sékouba Konaté and Dadis Camara, both former military men living in partial exile outside Guinea. Both work first and foremost for themselves, blowing hot and cold according to their interests.
Konaté, who recently renewed his Guinean diplomatic passport, is likely the most sceptical of Condé (and vice versa), but he has little influence over the elections. Camara remains popular in Forested Guinea, a region he has virtually led since the death of former Prime Minister Jean-Marie Doré in 2016.
Condé has spared no effort for the former captain, whether financially or legally – the trial for the massacre of 28 September 2009 has yet to be held – and Camara returned the favour by supporting him in the last presidential election, in 2015. Will Condé keep this up? It’s possible. In the meantime, keen to ensure he has the votes of the “forest dwellers,” a key voting bloc, the president reintroduced one of the region’s other leading figures into his government, Papa Koly Kourouma.
• Which side are foreign allies taking? China, Russia and Turkey have rather overtly positioned themselves on the side of Condé and their respective ambassadors to Conakry hardly try to hide it, while Western governments have taken a cautious non-interventionist stance and seem satisfied with making appeals for peace and transparency.
Nevertheless, Europeans and Americans are keeping an anxious watch over the death toll of the demonstrations and wrangling over the critical threshold for tolerance of casualties which, if crossed, would force them to take a firm position.
The Guinean government has been surprised by the West’s reaction to the proposed constitutional reform given that similar reforms in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo “went unnoticed” despite objections from the opposition. On the other end of the spectrum, the FNDC is demanding that the current leaders be punished, similarly to how Joseph Kabila’s entourage was when he tried to change the constitution in 2016.
In a February 6 interview, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who has known Condé since they were active in the Socialist International, condemned “all forms of violence as well as hate speech” before announcing “the organisation of an intercommunity forum to consolidate social cohesion” in Guinea.
This is wishful thinking for the time being, in a country that is much less responsive to outside influence than its Francophone neighbours and where all eyes are fixed on the inevitable arrival of 1 March.
A solid economy in the face of a crisis Although it is too early to measure the crisis’s impact on growth, which is projected to reach 6% in 2020, it has had an immediate effect on foreign exchange markets. In early October, one US dollar was equivalent to 825 Guinean francs, but two months later it became worth 11 times as much.
The local currency seems to have stabilised at just over 10,000 Guinean francs for one US dollar following the slowdown in trade with China. Accordingly, the trade balance has been given a slight boost: while the value of imports has fallen these past weeks, the value of exports (80% of which are iron ore) has remained stable.
The situation will remain unchanged as long as Forested Guinea, which contains the bulk of the country’s main mineral deposits, stays out of the conflict. The Guinean franc’s devaluation, coupled with a decrease in imports, has pushed up inflation, which is once again in the double digits.
Conakry is the first to feel the impact, but the entire country is expected to be affected as trade with neighbouring countries dwindles due to border closures.
This is compounded by the incompetence of the ruling elite, but the effects of sanctions cannot be understated.
Much of what determines the shape of global politics is hinged on the dictates of the United States of America. A country that has vehemently and aggressively defended the capitalist way of doing things, it is inimical to any country that decides to chart its course of doing things.
What happens in every country on Earth should at least be beneficial to the interests of the US. When a country decides to do what is not in the liking of the US, a weapon called sanctions is deployed against it.
Economic sanctions, for the longest time in history, have been employed as a brutal tool to compel countries to act in line with what is considered politically healthy. Sanctions have had the effect of crippling economies and making the lives of people extremely difficult.
For the United States, sanctions have been a favorite tool as far as desiring regime change is concerned. The interests of the US find space in every corner of the world, for they managed to become the biggest economic power in the world. Only recently has China been able to catch up with the US and give it a serious competition but even as though that may be, the economic and political influence of the US can be felt in every part of the world.
As such, the US has never been interested in applying economic sanctions against certain countries for genuinely good and righteous purposes. It is mainly to ensure that US interests are not harmed by the activities of that particular country. They use the pretext of vague concepts such as democracy and human rights.
While it may be true that these concepts are not applied in the interests of people in those countries, the US goes overboard so that their economic interests are thrust in danger. So, they may hide under the guise of democracy and human rights but in reality, all they desire is regime change so that their deeply entrenched economic interests are not attacked.
History is replete with examples where the US has continuously meddled in the internal affairs of other countries in a bid to implement regime change. The example of Iran brings this point to the fore. The US is the only country in the world that takes an interest in what happens in each country. If a country decides to take on its path which the US finds “dangerous,” then it becomes a certainty that sanctions are to put on that country.
Iran has battled US sanctions for simply rejecting the American way of doing things in its own country. Iran has faced American sanctions simply because it found its way back to its Islamic roots, where it rejected strongly leaders who were American puppets. This Iranian way of doing things meant that the US no longer had access to the vast supplies of Iranian oil and what better way to punish them than to impose economic sanctions on them?
In 1953, Iran’s then democratically elected leader Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq had sought to nationalize Iran’s oil. The British and the Americans saw this as damaging their economic interests in Iran which were mostly reliant on Iran’s oil. The American CIA took the matter into their own hands and through a coup, ousted Mossadeq from power in that year and installed the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi as their puppet leader.
In 1979, Iranians rose up in tremendous unison to demonstrate against the Shah’s rule and he was forced into exile. Religious rule was then restored when the Islamic Republic of Iran was proclaimed on the 1st of April. This did not go down with the United States and in November 1979, President Carter imposed the first illegal economic sanctions against Iran which froze about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold, and other properties. From there, sanctions kept being enforced on Iran, much to the detriment of the Iranian citizens.
The origin of the sanctions is Iran is a clear attestation to the fact that when a country goes a divergent route with the US, citizens suffer as sanctions do not affect the lives of the ruling class.
America pursues an unrelentingly toxic zeal when inflicting sanctions. Sanctions on Iran continue being imposed up to this day, and the more Iran disagrees with the US, the more sanctions are thrown on it. It also means the more its citizens suffer.
Another issue aggravating sanctions on Iran is that of nuclear energy. The US, together with its allies in the West, are fully armed with nuclear weapons. But when other countries decide to do it, deals must be negotiated and if deals are absent, sanctions become a reliable substitute. The hypocrisy is beyond alarming and shocking.
In 2015, President Rouhani agreed to a nuclear deal so that sanctions would be lifted. The deal severely cut Iran’s capacity to be involved in nuclear energy. What is crystal-clear is that the US wields its economic supremacy to dictate what other countries should do or not do.
Donald Trump has reneged on the deal and the tensions remain strongly palpable. The US sanctions still target the country’s energy, financial and shipping sectors – all-important for the survival of its citizens. Trump exclaimed that sanctions on Iran are “intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue”.
Their hatred for the regime is affecting the citizens in terms of rising inflation, a weak currency, rising cost of living, hardships for foreign Iranian students and the discontent in the citizens signals a population that is suffering under the biting effect of American sanctions.
It is not only Iran that is suffering from the draining US economic sanctions. And it is not only Iran feeling the pressure of regime change. Countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Zimbabwe have suffered under American sanctions. They have suffered from choosing to go the other way that lacks “democratic principles.” In Zimbabwe, sanctions were imposed after the Mugabe-led administration implemented the Land Reform program that saw white farmers losing their land, without compensation, to the black majority.
At that time, colonial imbalances meant that the vast majority of blacks did not have real access and real rights to the means of production; white farmers owned about 70% of the land when they were just a minority. Sanctions by America, which still stand to this day, have meant that the average Zimbabwean suffers acutely from economic hardships. This is compounded by the incompetence of the ruling elite, but the effects of sanctions cannot be understated
For the longest time too, Cuba was under grave sanctions for choosing not to be a capitalist country. They suffered for that. Sanctions against countries like Venezuela and Iran are ceaselessly renewed and applied with much vigor, but what happens to the ordinary man on the streets? What happens when others are told not to trade in oil with Venezuela, knowing very well that such resources are the bloodlines of those countries?
Sanctions hardly affect the politicians. Their political intentions are not felt for those whom they are targeted. But the economic consequences are dire for the citizens. Sanctions, for America, have always been a tool for regime change and because of their adverse effects on the ordinary people who may not invest much into the political happenings of their country, they have been a very evil tool.
In order to carry out this large-scale graft, Moi relied not only on Kenyan institutions under his thumb, but on a worldwide “web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen
Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya with an iron fist between 1978 and 2002, will receive a state funeral after dying in Nairobi on February 4th. Observers justified the funerary honours and the praise which current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lavished on the long-time strongman by the fact that Moi voluntarily stepped down after over two decades of authoritarian rule.
Moi’s death, however, will refocus attention on the darker parts of the autocrat’s legacy. In his heyday, the Kenyan leader staged massive festivals in his own honour, carried an ornate ivory walking stick as a heavy-handed metaphor for his authority, and had thousands of his opponents imprisoned and brutally tortured beneath infamous government facility Nyayo House.
Graft with a Western touch
He also presided over increasing corruption, which he exploited to enrich himself, his family and his cronies. Moi and his inner circle are believed to have siphoned off some £1 billion in public funds, much of which still eludes Kenyan authorities’ grasp.
In order to carry out this large-scale graft, Moi relied not only on Kenyan institutions under his thumb, but on a worldwide “web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen”. Even as Western governments pressured Moi to stamp out corruption, the strongman bought properties around Europe, a bank in Belgium and managed to stash away funds with the help of Swiss financiers and secrecy jurisdictions such as Liechtenstein and the Channel Islands.
It’s tempting to consign Moi to the past as one of Africa’s “last Big Men” and argue that Western go-betweens and financial institutions would no longer be complicit in such schemes. Unfortunately, as the growing scandal surrounding Angola’s dos Santos family illustrates, a plethora of rogue consultants, banks and businessmen are still helping corrupt African elites transfer their ill-gotten money out of the continent.
Angola’s dos Santos clan in the limelight
Just as Moi’s death is reminding pundits of the scandals which saw him nicknamed Kenya’s “grandmaster of corruption-fed patronage”, the Luanda Leaks released last month have laid bare the rampant corruption former leader José Eduardo dos Santos and his family allegedly engaged in.
Dos Santos himself seems to have initiated some problematic schemes, while others were masterminded by his children, to whom he handed lucrative government positions. The president, who came to power just a year after Moi and ruled until 2017, apparently enlisted some of Europe’s most legally-compromised businessmen to help him move Angolan state funds out of Africa.
Yves Bouvier and Marc Francelet: European con men at dos Santos’s service
In one such plot, dos Santos enlisted a pair of reputed fraudsters for a public healthcare project. It’s somewhat doubtful that Swiss art dealer and “freeport king” Yves Bouvier—who’s on the hook in Switzerland for potential tax evasion and is being pursued in courts around the world for apparently swindling a former client out of $1 billion—and French paparazzo Marc Francelet—whose lengthy criminal career has included falsifying his own payslips and accepting bribes from Saddam Hussein—actually intended to set up a healthcare system.
Instead, according to the Angolan press and French court documents, the pair carried out a series of suspicious bank transfers between Francelet Conseil— a consulting company Marc Francelet set up at dos Santos’s behest— and Yves Bouvier’s Singapore-based company Brave Ventures Pte Ltd. Through their convoluted network of firms, Francelet and Bouvier apparently made Angolan state funds disappear into both Francelet Conseil’s coffers and Yves Bouvier’s bank account.
Like father, like daughter
The former Angolan president’s daughter Isabel may not have taken advantage of Marc Francelet and Yves Bouvier’s services, though it’s possible that she and her husband may have stored some of their substantial African art collection in Bouvier’s freeports. Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, is recognized worldwide as an art collector who is extremely engaged in repatriating African artworks and has amassed an impressive collection of more than 3000 works of African art. In any case, Isabel dos Santos clearly doesn’t fall far from the tree in using shell companies and unethical Western consultants to milk Angola for all it’s worth.
Isabel dos Santos allegedly funneled more than $1 billion from Angolan state-owned companies to firms in which she and her husband had a financial interest. In the wake of the Luanda Leaks and a complaint by former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes—who, interestingly enough, was instrumental in the investigation into Yves Bouvier’s freeport in Luxembourg which resulted in the European Parliament recommending that such zones be phased out—dos Santos is now facing investigation in both Angola and Portugal and may soon be the subject of an international arrest warrant.
Like her father and Daniel arap Moi, Angola’s former first daughter built a dense network of offshore accounts in secrecy jurisdictions and more than 450 holding companies to enable this apparent fraud—and then used the imprimatur of major international banks and consulting firms to give her empire the veneer of legitimacy.
Lax regulation in Lisbon
An arsenal of Western firms and consultants were happy to sanitize Isabel dos Santos’s image while apparently turning a blind eye to signs of money-laundering. McKinsey, PwC and BCG all collected handsome profits for managing the Angolan billionaire’s intricate investment schemes and front companies. Accenture shrugged off evidence of dos Santos’s corruption while carrying out $54 million of work for companies she controlled.
As former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes highlighted, however, Portugal was particularly complicit in these problematic schemes. The autocrat’s daughter was allowed to collect shares in any number of Portuguese important companies, from engineering firm Efacec to telecom group NOS. What’s more, dos Santos’s access to Portuguese banks was pivotal in permitting her to sidestep growing scrutiny of her financial dealings. Between 2012 and 2014, skittish as regulators honed in on anti-money laundering issues, Citi, Barclays, Santander and finally Deutsche Bank cut dos Santos and her husband off.
As one kleptocracy expert put it, “one of the best ways to launder money is to buy the bank”. Dos Santos did exactly that, becoming the largest shareholder in Eurobic and the second-largest in BPI. These two banks extended her large loans which should have raised red flags, signed off on irregular payments, and opened bank accounts for her shell companies.
Many of these Western firms are now feigning shock and contrition at suggestions that they enabled Isabel dos Santos’s graft. PwC chairman Bob Moritz euphemistically declared “it’s not exactly our finest hour”, while Eurobic has reacted with relief to dos Santos’s announcement that she is selling her shares in the bank. The Luanda Leaks, however, have confirmed that the days when Western financial institutions and advisers helped African autocrats squirrel away cash pilfered from their people did not die with Daniel arap Moi.
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law.Psalm 119:18
Closed eyes and sightless eyes have something in common: neither can see beauty. The beauty is there for the seeing, but with no eyes beholding it the beauty shines on unappreciated, like a diamond in the desert sand.
Hearts have eyes, windows letting in the light of life. But if the eyes of the heart are closed, truth shines on, unobserved. The heart is darkened, the mind is confused, desires are twisted, and wrong decisions are made. The difference between right and wrong becomes blurred and indistinct until right seems wrong and wrong seems right. Eventually the very existence of objective truth is questioned and the person stumbles into a subjective morass of sensuality and sin. Meanwhile, truth shines on unabated—and unappreciated.
Any man, young or old, who is concerned that his life is heading downhill, his principles compromised and his morality eroded, at least has the eyes of his heart opened partially. But he needs to ask the Lord to open his eyes fully to the “wonderful truths” found in God’s word (119:18)—truths that have shone brightly through the centuries, pointing unerringly to who God is, who we are, what he expects, what we have done, what God has done about it, what we should do, and how we should live as a result. These are wonderful truths!
Once a man’s eyes are opened to the truth of God’s word, the man thus begins to perceive vistas of truth formerly undreamed of—mysteries previously hidden, insights formerly never imagined. He discovers answers to questions he never thought to ask, and he questions opinions never previously examined. More wonderful truths!
These truths are carefully hidden in the heart and are pondered (119:11, 15). As a result, the mind becomes educated in God’s principles and promises (119:7), the emotions are stimulated to wholesome delight and godly desire (119:16), and the will is moved to make decisions that consistently reflect the divine principles. Thus might a man live life to the full.
Happy is the man who has eyes wide open to discern, desire, and do God’s will.