Africa – Help, not blame is needed in Libya

economic banner

The EU is focused on preventing illegal migrants reaching its shores while the AU is looking for ways to increase legal routes to Europe. It is essential that these two positions are reconciled.

Modern-day slave markets in Libya were on the lips of African and European leaders at the opening of a joint two-day summit in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – culminating in a last-minute emergency meeting on the matter on November 29th night.

They will look at ways to help the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) with access to the detention camps in Libya, where people have reportedly been auctioned like slaves.

The emergency meeting followed on a trilateral between AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and UN secretary general António Guterres, where they agreed to create a joint EU-AU-UN task force to protect the lives of migrants along the routes and inside Libya.

Leaders were unanimous in their condemnation of the “crime from another era”. The devil, however, is in the detail of what exact cure was needed. A South African official said the Libyans objected to the issue of slavery being on the summit agenda.

economic banner
Migrants in Libya – RFI

“Even this morning [November 28th] the Libyans were circulating a document to say there is no proof of people being sold into slavery. They were accusing CNN of fake reports,” he said.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk said the worst leaders could do was “start the blame game”, and urged “common solutions to allow people to live in dignity”. Libya needed help from the AU and the EU, not condemnation, he said.

Mahamat in turn said illegal migration was a “common challenge” and a “shared responsibility” between the AU and the EU.

South Africa’s department of international relations meanwhile urged the Libyan authorities to publish the outcome of its investigation into the atrocities. (Mail & Guardian 30/11)

For Europe, migration has become an almost existential problem. The influx in 2015 of more than 1m refugees and migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty created deep divisions and raised difficult questions about the EU’s commitment to open borders.

For Africa, despite the tragic deaths of many of those in transit, the migration of its citizens to Europe has not been a major concern. The vast majority of African migrants move between countries on the continent, which places great strain on host nations such as South Africa and Senegal.

The EU is doggedly focused on trying to prevent illegal migrants reaching its shores whereas the AU is looking for ways to increase legal routes to Europe for Africans. It is essential that these two positions are reconciled.

For its part, Europe has developed a two-pronged strategy to curb African migration and what it sees as the associated danger of terrorism. First, it has tried to address the root causes of illegal migration through investment compacts with selected countries, heavily criticised for offering incentives for reducing migrant flows to repressive regimes, such as Sudan and Eritrea, whose own domestic policies fuel the exodus to Europe.

1130 cnn
Migrants at a Libyan detention centre, June 2017 – CNN

Second, the EU and its member states have tried to seal their Mediterranean Sea borders by increasing their military presence in the Sahel. Taken together, these measures aimed at reducing migrant flows show that the EU is willing to do “whatever works”, as one European diplomat put it.

What the AU sees as the EU’s “fortress approach” to border control has alienated Africa. So too has the tendency of the media and populist politicians in Europe to link African migrants to increased terror attacks.

Discussions should focus on gradually increasing access for skilled African workers, who could be essential given Europe’s rapidly aging population. The AU and EU should also look for common ground outside the question of migrant flows, for example by focusing more on the root causes of migration.

Europe’s panic over migration and terrorism represents a significant opportunity for Africa. The EU and its member states have money to spend provided they can be assured of quick wins that will help calm the fears of citizens. “If we talk about migration, anything is possible. […] we’ll pay,” explained one European diplomat.

If the AU and African governments really want to address the root causes of migration, they should leverage support for border control and fighting jihadists and terrorists against EU investment in education, job creation, better governance more evenly distributed economic growth throughout Africa.

This, however, requires coordination. Until now, competing national and regional interests have overridden a more unified African approach to migration that could bring continent-wide benefits. But the grim reality of the migrant slave trade in Libya seems to have stirred the pan-African conscience, and continental cooperation may now be possible. (IRIN 29/11)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

LIBYA: Leaders to Hold New Talks
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 9, pp. 21583C–21585A

Economic, Financial and technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue 9, pp. 21846A–21848B

Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21774A–21776C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Namibia – Miner Wins Innovation Award

economic banner

Despite vast mineral deposits, Namibia currently imports 100% of its ceramic tile – 2.2m square metres annually. A small, determined team is about to change all that.  

Heikky Katti graduated as a mining engineer from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 2011. Like any other graduate, he landed a graduate job at Namdeb before moving to Sasol as an explosives engineer.

But his story is different and unique. The 28-year-old came up with a business idea, Namibia Ceramics, which on November 15th won the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) 2017 Innovation Award that came with N$500,000 (€29,600) prize money.

DBN has said Namibia Ceramics will add value to Namibian clay, quartz and feldspar, by manufacturing tiles, locally. The project is expected to create 150 jobs, the bank said.

The prize money will be used to bring the project to full bankability which will include doing a reserve estimation study in order to estimate the life of the mine, The Namibian reported.

Katti told the newspaper in an interview that the idea of Namibia Ceramics came to him in December 2015, after discovering there were no ceramic products produced in the country, despite the fact there are deposits of industrial minerals in abundance in Namibia.

namibia award
Representatives of Namibia Ceramics receive their award at a Windhoek hotel – The Namibian 2017

After finding out that countries such as Angola and South Africa had ceramic plants, he and his childhood friend, Titus Hidishange, came together and started to put aside a portion of their salaries, eventually committing more than N$300,000 of their own funds to the project.

He spent a further N$50,000 in October 2016 for a business trip to a company called SACMI in Italy. Namibia Ceramics will source equipment from SACMI and they will give them after-sales technical support, including training on site at Rundu and in Italy.

The project will cost an estimated N$185m in total. The business will generate over N$90m in revenue annually.

“We have not secured the capital yet, but we are at an advanced stage of due diligence with different financial institutions. We have got the Development Bank of Namibia who are acting as the lead fund arranger for the transaction and they will most likely contribute between 30% and 50% of the fund portion,” he said.

Katti expects that the transaction will go through in the first quarter of 2018, after which they will order the equipment.

Asked what their target market will be, Katti said they target local retailers and property developers.

“Namibia consumes about 2.2m square metres of ceramic tiles annually and 100% of these tiles are currently being imported. Namibia Ceramics will initially produce 40% of the imports, after which we will ramp up to 70% over a period of three years,” he said.

The team includes Protasius Aluvilu, a mining engineer at Rössing Uranium, who has just completed his Master’s degree in mineral economics at Imperial College London; Katti’s former university classmate, Ike Aphane, a mining engineer; and Sello Mashebela, a geologist. The whole team is younger than 30 years of age.

Katti said as soon as the team secures the capital, they will establish the first production line, which will see Namibia Ceramics producing glazed and decorated ceramic tiles. After five years, they plan to explore sanitary ware such as toilet seats, basins and bath tubs.

“My advice to fellow young innovators is, if you can picture it spiritually then consider it done already physically,” said Katti.

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.


Nigeria – Olympians in the Making

Three women bobsledders stand on the brink of making history in the sport.

Driver Seun Adigun and brakewomen Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere have qualified for Pyeongchang 2018, ensuring an African nation will be represented in the sport at the Winter Olympics for the first time ever, CNN reports.

Despite numerous success stories in the summer Games – notably gold in the men’s football at Atlanta 1996 – no Nigerian has ever competed in a Winter Olympic event before.

“We are from a continent that would never imagine sliding down ice at 80 or 90 miles per hour,” Adigun told the BBC in March. “I find the idea of getting people to take to that inspiring in itself.”

But this is not Cool Runnings II, a sequel to the Jamaican bobsleigh team’s winter fantasy immortalised in the Hollywood hit movie.

1122 bobsled
Akuoma Omeoga, Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere – Obi Grant

Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga don’t want to be a feel-good side story – they want a medal. For this trio of trail-blazing women, getting to the winter games is where their journey begins, not ends.

“We have goals,” Adigun, the driver and driving force behind the dream of a Nigerian team said, quoted by The Guardian. “A lot of our goals have been met just establishing this entire entity […] the bigger goal is to just be as competitive as we can and obviously shoot for the podium.”

Although the Nigerians have achieved the qualifying standard, there is still work to be done. Countries hoping to race in Pyeongchang must be in the top 40 of the global rankings on January 14th after seven World Cup races.

While they have a little further to go, they have come a long way.

Without access to proper training equipment or valuable ice time to perfect their skills, the team started their journey in Houston, Texas, in a makeshift wooden sled they nicknamed ‘The Mayflower.’

Once the team set their sights on the Winter Games, they established a crowdfunding website hoping to raise the much-needed funds to get to Pyeongchang.

Visa was inspired by their story and determination to carve out a place in history and pledged to help solidify the team’s trip, Nigeria’s Vanguard reports.

“We hope to provide this group of determined athletes with a global stage to tell their story and inspire athletes all over the world to follow their dreams and never give up,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa.

The athleticism and determination of the Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team is palpable, as they push to rewrite history in their sport:

Seun Adigun (driver): Adigun represented Nigeria in the 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Wanting to get back on the Olympic stage, she began training for bobsled in 2014. She is currently a chiropractic student.

Ngozi Onwumere (breakwoman): Onwumere, a former competitive sprinter, clinched a Silver and Gold medal at the 2015 African Games in Republic of the Congo in the 200m and 4x100m relay, respectively. Onwumere started training after being recruited by Adigun in 2016. She is a full-time student pursuing a doctoral degree.

Akuoma Omeoga (breakwoman): Omeoga is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where she was a sprinter for the university’s track and field team, competing in the 100m and 200m races. The Winter Games 2018 will be the first time she is representing Nigeria. She also works as a healthcare recruiter. (Vanguard 16/11)

Teamwork and support have been integral in giving the women of Nigeria’s bobsled team confidence as they work towards success.

“Defying odds is what we are created to do,” Adigun told She Leads Africa. “Take chances in life and maximize opportunities. Things can always appear impossible – until you successfully achieve it.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SPORT: World Athletics Championships (London)
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 8, pp. 21560B–21561C

SPORT: London Olympics
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 49, Issue 8, pp. 19400C–19401C

SPORT: Olympic Games
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 45, Issue 8, pp. 17662A–17664C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Kenya, Tanzania – Cross-Border Dispute

economic banner

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been strained over the seizure and sale of cattle belonging to Kenyan Maasai herders.

A Tanzanian court has auctioned 1,305 Kenyan cows whose herders had driven them across the border, said Tanzania’s Daily News on November 14th.

Four Kenyan herders were charged with being in the neighbouring country without valid travel documents. Tanzania remains the only East African Community (EAC) country that Kenyans need a passport and visa to enter, even while travelling by road.

Meanwhile, Tanzanian authorities recently burnt 6,400 chicks from Kenya on suspicion they could spread bird flu.

The auctioning of the livestock has stirred anger in Oloitokitok, which borders Tanzania.

The Kenyan herders sought the government’s help to secure the release of their animals before the auction, but the Tanzanian authorities remained adamant, the East African reported.

According to Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Anna Mghwira, the auction followed the law after the herders failed to raise a fine imposed on them.

Easing tension

The herders along Kenya’s border with Tanzania now want the government to show a much firmer hand even as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls for dialogue with Tanzania to resolve cross-border issues between the two countries.

Tanzania is in the process of auctioning another 2,400 cattle for crossing into Mount Kilimanjaro National Park in search of pasture, the East African reported on November 11th.

Kenya is asking the EAC to formulate a policy guiding relations between border communities because the Maasai from either side traditionally cross the border in search of pasture.

1117 serengeti herder
Maasai herder in the Serengeti, Tanzania. CC 2015

In a letter dated November 3rd to Tanzanian authorities, Kenya’s EAC Minister Phyllis Kandie said since August, Kenya has allowed in 4,000 cattle from Tanzania.

“We have tried our best to cool down the Kenyan community at the border and we hope Tanzania will play its part in promoting good neighbourliness,” Ms Kandie said.

However, Tanzania President John Magufuli has asked the country’s herders to brand their animals for easy identification and monitoring. He said the seizure was within Tanzania’s laws and key to conservation, adding that Tanzania was not a grazing field for cattle from other countries.

Kenya has said it will compensate herders whose animals were auctioned to the tune of $530,000.

‘Flimsy grounds’

Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku accused the Magufuli administration of harassing Kenyans on flimsy grounds.

Former Tanzania prime minister Edward Lowassa, a Maasai, asked the governments to address the matter diplomatically.

“The Maasai have co-existed in harmony. When we start having such issues then we are threatening that same peace. We should try and sort out this issue at the national level so as to guarantee co-existence at the local level,” Mr. Lowassa told the East African.

However, the Permanent Secretary in Tanzania’s Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Maria Mashingo said that seizure of cattle would continue.

“It is important for our border communities to not allow, for any reason, herders from other countries to bring their cattle into our pastures as this is economic sabotage. We are also urging our herders to avoid crossing the borders into other countries by any means possible to overcome similar problems,” Dr Mashingo said.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA: Economy Slows
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 9, pp. 21852C–21853A

Kenya – Tanzania :Trade War
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21773C

TANZANIA: Graft Scandal
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21747B–21747C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Africa – Infrastructure and Cooperation

economic banner

Experts discuss the findings of a report on infrastructure development, inclusive growth and the creation of a free trade area.

Overcoming infrastructure gaps remains critical if the continent is to unlock its economic potential, the executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Sogwe, told delegates at a major conference in Addis Ababa in November.

Participants at the ECA’s Tenth Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration were considering a report which presents the “ECA’s articulations” of Africa’s structural transformation “through inclusive economic growth and sustainable industrialisation”.

Sogwe said there was a consensus that “quality economic infrastructure in Africa is a catalyst to its industrial development,” exemplified by current efforts that focus on scaling up infrastructure facilities at national and regional levels.

Continental market

“Implementation of initiatives for promoting regional investments… as well as the Continental Free Trade Area need to be supported by all member states to achieve the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour,” Sogwe added.

The African Union (AU) in 2012 adopted a decision to establish the CFTA, which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services and to expand intra-African trade.

ECA’s African Trade Policy Center Coordinator David Luke, speaking to allAfrica on the sidelines, said that to boost intra-African trade, tariffs needed to be brought down. The average tariff within Africa is 8%, he said, whereas with “our external partners, it’s 2%”.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Bekele Bulado said it was prudent that the CFTA negotiations take into account different levels of development to “accommodate the Least Developed Countries” and vulnerable economies with regard to improving their productive capacity.

1102 container port
Container port, Cape Town. CC 2008

Inclusive growth

Soteri Gatera, who heads the ECA’s Industrialisation and Infrastructure Section, said only “inclusive” economic growth will help resolve the “persistent social economic problems” Africa faces.

“For quite some time we have seen African economies grow steadily… but [the growth] is not creating enough jobs; it is not adding value which trickles down to everybody,” Gatera said.

One speaker pointed to the quality of Africa’s roads, which he said is “more than four times lower than the global average”.

The experts, who come from African governments, trans-national economic communities, academia and international institutions, acknowledged that many African countries have good policies, but that implementation of those policies is a problem.

The link between infrastructure and industrialisation was one of the key talking points of the expert session. The idea of convening the meeting, according to Gatera, is to try and “dissect” the findings and identify key policy recommendations.

Gatera said the report is based on country case studies and on extensive research into previous studies. Critiques of the draft report will be integrated into a final report, which he hopes will be released in two months.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DJIBOUTI: Regional Hub Plans
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21671B–21671C

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Restarting the Growth Engine
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21686A–21687C

Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21689B–21690B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Malawi – ‘Vampire’ Attacks Reflect Healthcare Tensions

political banner

Economic woes and unhappiness with healthcare have contributed to the panic in the southern part of the country, says a leading clinical psychologist.

Ten people have been killed and others attacked in October over accusations of blood sucking in Malawi. Police have made some 200 arrests of those allegedly involved in mob justice.

“It’s a reflection of the way the country looks at things and makes sense of tensions and economic pressures,” Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Malawi in Blantyre told RFI.

The first blood sucking accusations in Malawi occurred in 1948 and 1949, according to Catholic University lecturer Sangwani Tembo, who spoke at the university on this issue on October 27th.

While marginalised people, including widows, are typical scapegoats, accusations have been placed on the population at large, including doctors.

“It’s also about trying to make sense of the western-type medical profession vis-à-vis traditional medicines, and of course the western type has the power now, and all this contributes to the tension,” says Dr Bandawe.

“I think at some point also there’s been some dissatisfaction with the health system itself, because it has been under-resourced,” he says, adding that some stories have emerged where healthcare workers abused patients.

Medical practitioners are frequently on the receiving end of abuse, especially in the rural areas, says Dr. Amos Nyaka, the head of the Malawi Society for Medical Doctors in Lilongwe.

Lack of education comes into play as well, says Chitawira-based Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) Director Vincent Hango.

1031 mulanje children
Schoolchildren in Mulanje – CC 2010

“We have a good number of people who are illiterate. They believe in witchcraft. It’s very difficult to change their beliefs because this is what they have believed since they were born,” he says.

The government has enforced security in affected areas, but many feel that it should have taken a stauncher response, reassuring those who felt threatened by the wave of violence.

“As a country I think we’re very ashamed,” says Dr Nyaka, adding that the Malawi Society of Medical Doctors “will take this as a challenge to communicate to our people and to reassure them that they are not blood suckers.”

Malawi will from November 1st host a three-day high-level meeting on promoting policy coherence on health technology innovation and access for the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO), said Malawi News Agency.

The meeting brings together a range of leaders, policymakers and institutions including representatives from Ministries of Trade, Health and Justice, civil society, international experts and academics.

Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi has said Malawi and many of the 18 ARIPO member states have made great strides in improving public health and by consequence, human development outcomes in recent years.

He said that despite significant progress, the burden of infectious diseases, particularly HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis pose a threat to public health.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu said the meeting comes at a time when countries around the world are pursuing various means to ensure availability and access to medicines for their citizens.

The meeting aims at providing a forum for ARIPO countries to exchange views and to share experiences on best practices that promote availability and access to affordable health coverage, Tembenu added.

The high-level meeting has been jointly organised by the Malawi government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Malawi – Refugee Clashes Deplored
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21458C

HEALTH: Malaria
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21416A–21417C

MALAWI: High Future Growth?
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 21707A–21707C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Sahel – Regional Force

political banner

An appeal by countries in the region for help in their battle against jihadist violence receives a boost as a visiting Security Council ambassador pledges support. 

“I can assure you Burkina Faso and the G5 Sahel Countries will get the support they need,” said Ethiopian ambassador Tekeda Alemu on October 22nd, as the 15-strong UN delegation ended a five-day visit to the region.

The “G5 Sahel” states – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are to launch a first operation against the jihadists at the end of October but lack funding for equipment and training.

On the 22nd, the ambassadors had visited the command headquarters in the central Malian town of Sevare for talks on the security crisis in the region.

Sevare is just east of Mopti in central Mali, an area which has seen a severe worsening of security in 2017, giving greater urgency to a G5 move to relaunch a joint regional force initially created in November 2015.

The estimated budget for the force’s first year of operations is estimated at €423m ($499m), but so far only €108m has been raised.

The G5 countries have pledged €10m each, the European Union is giving €50m and France €8m.

Extremist hotbed

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

A fresh attack in Niger’s restive southwest, which borders Mali, killed 13 paramilitary police on October 22nd, just weeks after a deadly ambush on a joint US-Niger patrol.

1027 minusmaTroops of the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA – CC 2014

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned recently that the Sahel region is descending into all-out violence and said the world body must help the region confront the threat from Islamist militants.

Guterres warned that without urgent action “the stability of the entire region, and beyond, is in jeopardy, leaving millions of people at risk of violence,” a development he described as a “disastrous scenario.”

Guterres said the risks of not supporting the Sahel force “vastly outweigh the risks of supporting it, given the magnitude of the challenges facing the Sahel region.”

The UN chief stressed that there was a risk of human rights abuses during the counter-terror operations because many of the armed groups in Mali are entrenched in the population. A UN presence, he argued, could help reduce harm to civilians.

He put forward four options to back the force, including setting up a UN support office in the Sahel and sharing resources from the 13,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The report will undoubtedly be welcomed by France, which has been lobbying hard for UN backing for the Sahel force, but the United States has resisted calls for funding.

A UN meeting on support for the force was scheduled for October 30th, as well as a donor conference in Brussels in December.

Mali has become particularly volatile since 2012 when jihadist groups captured the entire north of the country. (© AFP 16, 22/10 2017)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SAHEL: Regional Force Inaugurated
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 9, pp. 21594B–21594C

MALI: Peacekeepers Killed
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 8, pp. 21549A–21549C

SAHEL – FRANCE, EU: Bamako Summit
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21523A–21524C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.