Health – Malaria Vaccine Trials

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Three Africa countries are selected for first phase of a Malaria vaccine pilot. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi a are to be pilot countries for a new Malaria vaccine for young children from 2018. The vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.

The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and will be tested on children aged five to 17 months; it has taken decades of scientific and medical expertise to produce, and hundreds of millions of US dollars in funding.

The funding of US$49m for the first pilot phase is being funded by the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), UNITAID and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

However, the vaccine only has partial effectiveness, and the challenge is whether countries can deliver the required four doses per child, said WHO Africa Regional Director, Matshidiso Moeti.

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CC Radio Okapi 2006

Malaria infects roughly 200 million people each year, killing roughly half a million people, and Sub-Saharan Africa is hit particularly hard, with 90% of the world’s cases in 2015.

According to the WHO, modelling and data gathering has been so bad that it has been hard to tell if cases have been rising or falling over the last 15 years.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi already have fairly strong prevention and vaccination programmes, but were chosen as they still have a high number of malaria cases. The vaccine will be delivered through existing health provisioning systems.

The WHO has stated its aim to wipe out the disease by 2040, although so far it has proven stubborn, with resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides.

According to Kathryn Maitland, Professor of Tropical Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, writing in a academic paper published in December 2016, “the slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection…contrast this pace of change with out progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.” (The Independent 24/4)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

HEALTH: Malaria
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21416A–21417C

HEALTH: Wiping Out Polio
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21381B–21381C

HEALTH: HIV Treatment Soars
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21236A–21237C

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Kenya – Pastoralist Land Dispute

Incidents of violence involving herders highlight the increasingly precarious situation faced by pastoralists. 

A recent upsurge in attacks by herders on white-owned ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia has led to an outcry, with some describing the pastoralist herders as primitive with no respect for private property or wildlife.

According to the Independent around 10,000 nomadic herders with around 135,000 cattle have invaded ranches and conservancies in Laikipia over the last four months.

In Kenya the white-owned ranches have full support of the government and many are funded by influential donors through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), controlling around 10.8 million acres of land; around 8% of Kenya’s total landmass.

In an example of the influential funding support, the Tullow Oil Company from Turkana County has donated US$11.5m to the NRT to establish further conservancies.

According to some commentators the land was acquired with the help of politicians who subsequently have hailed the NRT as a success, protecting both wildlife and the environment.

The CEO of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) stated: “Conservancies amidst the increasing complex social and economic pressures, have been used as an avenue to bring together warring communities to co-manage resources, develop enterprises to enhance livelihoods, diversify tourism, secure grass banks for livestock during the dry seasons and create jobs for the local communities.”

However issues relate to pastoralists not being able to use the land during drought periods, when water is scarce. According to journalist John Mbaria, as the conservancies are United Nations (UN) protected, they are largely insulated from public scrutiny, reported the Daily Nation

The conflict also has highlighted prevalent attitudes towards pastoralists, who are perceived as damaging to the environment. Such a perspective ignores the fact that for centuries herders such as the Maasai and Samburu have lived relatively harmoniously with wildlife.


Herder in Samburu County – CC 2014

In the colonial period settlers turned Kenya into a hunting ground, while after independence and the ban on poaching, settlers needed to justify their ownership of property and thus established wildlife conservancies. Much of the land dates back to the 1904 Anglo-Maasai Agreement when locals “willingly” gave their land in the Central Rift Valley, according to the Daily Nation

Attempts by pastoralists to reclaim land have largely failed. In 2004 herders who drove their cattle into a ranch in Laikipia, were shot at by the police.

A British-Kenyan rancher, Matthew Voorspuy was shot dead while riding to inspect cottages that had been torched on his land earlier in March; a Kenyan politician Matthew Lempurkel was arrested and later bailed in connection to the incident.

In Kom, Isiolo County, a clash between armed herders from Isiolo and those from Samburu led to the deaths of ten people. Reports suggested that the Isiolo herders attacked the Samburu after they entered their grazing areas without permission, reported the East African.

On March 20th the Daily Nation reported that two people were killed in Baragoi after clashes between Samburu and Turkana communities, after four cows and around 300 goats were reportedly stolen from the Samburu.

The situation also highlights the precarious situation of pastoralists, caught between state repression, communal infighting and persistent drought. According to the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), more than 65% of the arable land in the country is in the hands of 20% of the population.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Reparations Claim [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21271B–21272C

CONSERVATION: Kenya
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

KENYA: Deadly Attacks
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 11, Pp. 20358C–20360A

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Kenya – Mau Mau Veterans Seek Compensation

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Victims of Mau Mau rebellion seek considerable reparations from the British government.

Victims of violence and atrocities during the British colonial rule of Kenya have called for action to boycott against next year’s August election unless the UK government pays significant sums of reparations.

Many veterans who fought against white settlers and the British army during the Mau Mau rebellion claim they have never been compensated. However, in 2013 the British government did pay £20m to a group of 5000 survivors.

The veterans have said that believe they deserve a share of the reparations for the damage colonial rule did to the country, both at the time and subsequently. The figures that were previously counted, they claim, were based on census data from the 1940s and do not reflect that the population is now much greater.

The Chairman of a group representing the veterans, Field Marshall Ngacha Karani, said that the Kenyan government should be demanding 400 trillion Kenyan shillings – or £4 trillion; the UKs annual GDP is in the region of £4trn.

In an interview with Kenya’s Standard newspaper, 90-year-old freedom fighter Faith Wanjiru Wachira recalled how she risked her life to help feed and clothe Mau Mau rebels deep inside the Mount Kenya forest.

“It pains me that I fought for land, but I ended up without any. I am hopeful that one day, the government will consider my struggle in ensuring that Kenya attained independence and reward me with land,” she said.

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Mau Mau Memorial Statue – CC 2015

The Mau Mau rebellion, which took place between 1952 and 1960, remains one of the more controversial episodes of Britain’s colonial history.

The uprising involved thousands of mainly ethnic Kikuyu groups who revolted against British rule, economic deprivation and dispossession of their agricultural homelands in the north of the country.

To stem the unrest the Kenyan and British colonial authorities declared a state of emergency and rounded up more than one million Kikuyu into camps, which historians now see as essentially concentration camps – many thousands died.

Currently there is a class action suit making its way through the British courts which involves more than 8000 claimants. This is in addition to another case in 2013.

According to a report by Kenya’s Citizen TV, the group representing the Mau Mau veterans is urging representatives to travel throughout the country to mobilise Kenyans to boycott the election due to be held on August 8th 2017.

(The Independent 14/12)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Historic Mau-Mau Ruling
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 49, Issue. 10, Pp. 19469c-19470c.

KENYA–UK: Mau Mau Veterans Issue Writ
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 43, Issue. 10, Pp. 16841A–16841B

Mau Mau Leader Honoured
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 44, Issue. 2, Pp. 16980C

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Kenya – Conservationists Lament Railway Plans

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The central section of a huge infrastructure project is to cut directly across East Africa’s oldest national park.

The Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve housing lions, hyenas and giraffes just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, is currently in the midst of proposed plans to build a Chinese-funded railway across what is the oldest park in East Africa.

The edges of the park have slowly been eaten away by development and expansion, with power lines stretching overland and pipelines underground. New housing estates also obstruct key migration routes for wildlife, which lead to other nature reserves such as the Maasai Mara.

According to head of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, Sidney Kamanzi, in the 1970s and 1980s around 30,000 wildebeest came to the area, now the numbers are in the region of 300.

The proposed railway line is to be elevated across 6km of the park, on pillars between 8m and 40m tall. Conservationists have deplored the plans, calling it a step too far and claiming the consequences will be disastrous.

UK-based BBC News commented that the new railway project could be a new ‘lunatic line,’ referring to thousands of workers who were killed building railways in the country at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; around 100 people were killed by lions, while a further 4000 died of diseases.

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BBC News 

The railway is part of planned upgrades to the national network linking the Mombasa port to Nairobi and onwards to regional neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan; it is the largest infrastructure project in the country since independence in 1963.

The second stage of construction, from Nairobi to Naivasha – crossing the park – is seen as the most problematic; many had hoped that the railway would skirt around the park, but according to the government the costs of this were just too high.

Works on the elevated sections are scheduled to begin in January 2017 lasting around 18 months, although in stages to avoid cutting off parts of the park completely. However conservationists have deplored the lack of impact study and disregard for the natural environment.

“If the railway (line) is authorised, it could create a precedent that could mean the death of the park,” said Sidney Quntai, who heads the Kenyan Coalition for the Conservation and Management of Fauna.

On October 3rd a group of Maasi women from Oloosirkon, Kitenkela, Emakoko and Embakasi villages presented a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. An environmental tribunal in mid-September ruled against the railway line in the national park until a case had been heard, but the government continues to hold public hearings.

“The processions are not against infrastructure projects. We don’t want those that are poorly thought out, environmentally unsound and abuse our natural heritage like having SGR pass through the park,”  one of the protest organisers, Nkamuno Patita, said, reported Kenyan media service, The Star.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition; “We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.

However, Kenyan economist David Ndii said, “It’s a white elephant – we don’t need it…It’s not necessary, its overpriced. Its the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future,” reported BBC News.

(© AFP 30/9 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21362B–21363B

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya – Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp.21325C–21327A

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21181A–21182A

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East Africa – Graft in Rail Investment

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Investigations into fraud and embezzlement are opened in one of Africa’s oldest railways.

An investigation, which has attracted the attention of the World Bank, suggests that Qalaa Holdings, which took over Rift Valley Railways (RVR) intending to revamp the rail link, has been involved in numerous questionable dealings. The World Bank has opened investigations into RVR, which manages the railway from Kampala to Mombasa in Kenya.

For many years one of the most importance rail routes in Africa has suffered neglect and underinvestment, until Qalaa Holdings, one of the biggest African private equity funds, sought to invest in the service.

An investigation by journalists from the UK, Belgium and Kenya under Finance Uncovered has obtained leaked documents and conducted interviews with rail staff. They noted that the company had created an offshore structure of shell companies to extract millions in advisory fees from RVR. The World Banks’ integrity unit has also opened investigations into fraud and embezzlement.

At the same time a parallel railway line, built by the Chinese, is set to open soon, which will be more efficient that the older line and is expected to absorb customers and profits, hampering more RVR’s already bad financial situation.

The British started the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1896, intended to secure Lake Victoria from German, Belgian and French colonial expansion. It later became known as the ‘Lunatic Express’ after many thousands died and millions were spent on its construction.

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Tororo, Uganda – CC 2010

In 2010 Qalaa Holdings, an Egypt based fund, took over through an offshore holding, Ambiance Ventures. In the subsequent year the company managed to secure US$287m in investments from a number of sources including the World Bank ($22m), the African Development Bank (AfDB) ($40m), and a number of others.

One central investment has been in new rolling stock, for which $63m was allocated for 20 “brand new” locomotives. However the journalists discovered that no new locomotives were purchased at all, instead they were purchased second-hand and refurbished from US-based National Railway Equipment Company (NREC). In total 20 locomotives were received for $20m rather than the stipulated $63m.

Regarding freight services, Chief Executive of the Kenya Ships Agents Association Juma Ali Tellah has said that many distributors have lost faith in the railways’ ability to transport containers; a blow as much of the railway’s income comes from freight.

“There are too many delays both in the port and during transportation…the skippers never know when their containers will reach destination. It’s not surprising that only a fraction of freight is transported by rail,” Tellah said.

Even though it currently has a monopoly, RVR has struggled to make profits under Qalaa’s management; in 2014 it reported losses of $1.5m. Despite not making a profit Qalaa has collected $4.7m of advisory fees from Africa Railways Limited, the investment vehicle of RVR registered in the British Virgin Islands. The firm has also paid very little corporation tax, and despite getting millions from state-backed development banks, many of its investments are managed through these offshore shell companies; while these corporate structures are not illegal, the investment will not fully benefit the home countries.

(The Observer, Kampala 22/6)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: East Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.5, Pp.21292B–21293C

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Rwanda – Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.4, Pp.21255A–21255C

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.21112A–21112C

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Africa – ‘Panama Papers’

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As global reverberations are felt following unprecedented leaks, some of the most pressing concerns are in Africa.

A number of high profile African leaders and businessmen have been named in the recent ‘Panama Papers‘ leak involving the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca, detailing the global scale of tax avoidance and evasion; top officials from at least 15 African countries have been named.

The leaks have added to the calls, made in an African Union (AU) and UN Economic Commission for Africa report in 2015 that African money kept in foreign banks should be repatriated to the continent. At a conference in 2015, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said that Africa was loosing US$50 billion through illicit cash flows, more than double the Official Development Assistance (ODA) the continent receives, although a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put the amount higher at $150bn, reported Deutschewelle.

The information released in the leaks strongly correlates with findings of the report and confirms the existence of a network of offshore accounts and investment vehicles, driving tax avoidance and evasion. According to a report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, it is an undeniable fact that these illicit financial flows deserve our full attention continentally and globally.

“There are illicit funds from Africa in European banks. We started discussions with the European Union (EU) some years ago to bring back these funds. We find it morally and economically good for the banks to send the funds back,” said the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

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BBC

In July 2015, at the UN Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African nations led the G77 bloc of developing countries who offered to forego international aid if western countries closed tax loopholes and shut down tax havens, reported the Daily Maverick.

The leaks are not entirely new revelations as many in Africa have been pushing for the global tax system to be overhauled, pointing to the billions that is lost from the continent each year. However it is the scale of the networks of financial secrecy, essentially set up to be unaccountable, that is becoming clear, and the intricate and murky connections between world leaders and businessmen.

Journalists have yet to make their way through but a tiny fraction of the 11-million documents and the high profile and politically connected nature of the African individuals implicated, seems to indicate that more are yet to come.

The leak was obtained from Mossack Fonesca by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung who worked in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and around 106 worldwide news organisations. Mossack Fonseca is a leading creator of shell companies, corporate entities that are used to hide asset ownership. The leaked internal files contain information on 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

A full breakdown of findings from the ICIJ are available here.

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African Public Officials Implicated – ICIJ

Country Level Findings

Botswana

The President of the Court of Appeals, Justice Ian Kirby, has been named in the leaked files, being said to hold shares in up to five offshore companies mainly in the UK, although he has insisted that all of these are legal. Much of Botswana’s wealth comes from diamond mining, and has been noted to have checks and balances in place to avoid illicit flows of wealth. However, commentators said that it was a worrying sign that many wealthy people in Botswana were considering to invest offshore, reported Deutschewelle.

DR Congo

A leading financial institution with close connections to the gold mining industry, Rawbank, has been implicated in the leaks, which show that the Rawji family, the shareholders of the bank, make extensive use of tax havens and shell companies, maintaining a web of offshore structures such as Khazana Holdings and Hurricane Investments in the British Virgin Islands, Pix Business and Trading Mamu Investments in Panama, and many more. Each of the entities are connected to many other shell companies, which lead to a complex and illusory network of financial connections. There have been concerns that with Dubai’s rise as a gold buyer, a destination for around 70% of DR Congo’s gold, coupled with its financial secrecy, illicit financial flows are growing, reported the Daily Vox.

Jaynet Desiree Kabila Kyungu – twin sister of President Joseph Kabila – considered one of the most influential people in the country, owns a media company together with a Congolese businessman, who were both co-heads of an offshore company in the South Pacific, said to have shares in mobile telecoms operators in DR Congo, reported Deutschewelle.

Egypt

The son of the overthrown President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was named; Pan World Investments INC, owned by his son Alaa Mubarak, was managed by Credit Suisse in the British Virgin Islands. After the toppling of Mubarak authorities asked Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World’s assets, although it is claimed that this was never fully implemented, reported Aswat Masriya.

Ghana

Ghana’s former President John Agyekum Kufour ‘s eldest son, John Addo Kufour, allegedly controlled a bank account in Panama worth US$75,000. They appointed Mossack Fonseca, to manage the fund, reported Deutschewelle.

Guinea

Mamadie Toure, widow of Guinea’s late president, Lansana Conte, was allegedly granted the power of attorney to Matinda Partners and Co Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company, in November 2006. Authorities in the US claimed that Toure received $5.3 million to help a mining company win a mining concession from President Conte just before he died in 2008, reported Deutschewelle.

Kenya

The company which recently bought a controlling stake in the Raila Odinga’s molasses plant in Kisumu – Energem Resources Inc – has been linked to many dubious diamond mining companies in West and Southern Africa and tax havens in the British Virgin Islands.

Kalpana Rawal, Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice was implicated in several business deals linked to two companies based in British Virgin Islands. The documents revealed Rawal’s involvement in real estate in the UK through offshore companies. Kenya’s constitution bars public servants from owning a bank account outside the country, reported Deutschewelle.

Separately, a Danish national, who has previously been accused of land grabbing in Kajiado Country, has been accused of running Avon Developments Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, reported the Daily Nation.

Namibia

The leaks have revealed details about the Sicilian Mafia’s business network between Italians and Namibian businessman Zacky Nujoma, the youngest son of founding President Sam Nujoma. According to reports even though much of the criminal syndicate is imprisoned, the empire – with connections to Namibia, Italy and South Africa – has used financial secrecy companies in the British Virgin Islands, reported the Namibian.

Nigeria

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who has already been implicated for embezzling up to $75m in London property, has been named in the leak, leading to concerns that the true amount involved could be much higher.

Senate Bukola Saraki, said to be the third most powerful person in the country, has been named as failing to declare offshore assets in his wife’s name.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and his half-brother Sayyu Dantata, have also been linked to Mossack Fonseca’s shell companies. The two are said to have repeatedly bought and sold shares in 13 companies, mainly in the Seychelles, reported Deutschewelle.

Theophilus Danjuma, a retired army general and former defence minister, is one of Nigeria’s richest people, due to ownership of one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oil blocs. The leaks exposed another of his companies – Eastcoast Investments Inc – which he incorporated in Nassau, in the Bahamas, reported the Premium Times.

South Africa

President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Clive Khulubuse has been mentioned in the leaks, as being authorised to represent the offshore company Caprikat Limited, which purchased oil blocks in the DR Congo. According to reports the leak showed that he did not directly benefit from the deal which “deepens the mystery as to what he was doing there. The question arises why would they use him and what benefits would he have gained from that?” Sam Sole, from the investigative team at South African newspaper the Mail & Guardian said.

Zimbabwe

The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has called for an investigation after the Panama Papers brought to light links between two wealthy Zimbabwean business men, and the Zimbabwean regime. Billy Rautenbach and John Bredenkamp were named as engaging in widespread tax avoidance and externalising huge sums of money outside the country. PDP spokesman Jacob Mafume said “Bredenkamp is an arms dealer and mining tycoon while Rautenbach is the owner of GreenFuels and is involved in diamond mining”, both well known funders of the ZANU-PF ruling regime.

“As a result of the controversial links between Rautenbach and Zanu PF, major shareholders in fuel retail companies such as Sakunda and Redan have been elbowed out of business as the Zanu PF cartel has moved in to create a total monopoly in the fuel sector and thus keep consumers hostage to high fuel prices…What concerns us at the PDP is that the Panama Papers are being released when Mugabe in February said over $15 billion of proceeds from diamond mining remained unaccounted for,” Mafume added, reported New Zimbabwe.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

KENYA: Graft-Tainted Ministers Sacked (Free to Access)
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp.21059B–21060B

Transparency International: “Endemic Corruption” Plagues Most of Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20627B–20627C

TANZANIA: Illicit Outflows Report
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.5, Pp.20413C–20414B

NIGERIA: Illicit Oil Proceeds Laundered
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.9, Pp.20119A–20120C

AFRICA: Illicit Financial Flows
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.49, Issue.2, Pp.19449C–19450C

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Africa – GMO Debate Reignited

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As a number of countries debate the use of GMO crops to address food security, others have stressed opposition to profit-driven agribusiness.

Recently, in August, Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto announced a move to lift a ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) imports by the end-of October, with a wide-ranging selection of Ministers supporting the move. GMO crops are now free to be field tested in the county with sites already set up at Kalro field stations.

Currently there are trials for a virus-resistant transgenic cassava at Alupe; a vitamin A-enhanced cassava at Alupe; biofortified sorghum at Kiboko and virus-resistant cassava at Mtwapa, explained the East African.

The Daily Nation reported that the decision to lift the ban has reignited the debate around GMO crops with farmers groups protesting across the country; one group, the Kenya Small-Scale Farmers has sought an order from the high court to reverse the decision. Some have even called for investigations into the funding for organisations involved in the sector.

Some scientists do see GMO crops as the answer to stark situations of food security across much of the ‘developing world’; the Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff) stated that the country needed modern technology, of which GMOs are a part.

Kenaff CEO John Mutunga, said that such technology would need to be backed by sound scientific evidence, to dismiss claims that such crops cause adverse health impacts, and to remove the vested interested and donor-oriented policy that dominates the sector.

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Cassava Seed (CC)

Tanzania is also planning trials for a GMO Maize variety for April 2016 in Makutupora area of Dodoma, conducted by Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), a public-private partnership led by Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The government recently revised its GMO laws to allow confined trials of maize and cassava, reported the East African.

Similarly the Director-General of the Nigerian National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Rufus Ebegba, has said that the safe application of modern biotechnology will trigger an agricultural revolution in Nigeria.

“Modern biotechnology has the huge potentials to enhance the agricultural sector, promote industrial growth, and the medical sector; and it can also be used for environmental sustainability; but our agency is not to promote modern biotechnology or its products but to ensure the safety because we are aware that this technology has that potential for adversity especially in the agricultural sector” he said, reported Leadership.

Only South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan have officially adopted GMO food on the African continent . However the recent and ongoing drought across much of Southern Africa – with five districts in South Africa declared disaster zones–  and the effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon more widely across sub-Saharan Africa, has raised the urgent need for inclusive solutions to the problem of food security, particularly for the very poorest.

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Sorghum Market Ethiopia (CC)

A 2013 report accused scientists of conducting research that favours seed companies; the study by Canadian Professor Matthew A Schnurr claimed that GMOs could jeopardise the livelihoods of local farmers by supplanting locally derived and often resilient seeds, for new supposedly high yielding varieties.

The research, entitled Biotechnology and bio-hegemony in Uganda: Unravelling the social relations underpinning the promotion of genetically modified crops into new African markets, was based on over 70 interviews in Uganda with research scientists, policy experts, lobbyists, and promotional organisations between 2009 and 2012.

In relation to GMO cotton, the report details that the crops are resistant to species of bollworm. However Schnurr claims that bollworm is of limited problem in Uganda, and the crops still continue to be affected by black arm disease and other pests. According to Schnurr the market is supply rather than demand driven, and BT Cotton finds a ‘solution to a non existent problem’, report the East African.

The report also throws doubts on the ability of farmers to pay for the new SureGrow 125, a cotton variety from the United States (US), with evidence from South Africa showing that farmers are paying 30-40% more for their seeds. The variety, which is suited to American climate and mechanised picking, may be unsuitable for the Ugandan context.

It is important that the aims of improving food security and livelihoods for the most vulnerable people do not get lost amidst the rhetoric of a profit-driven agricultural sector. GMOs are likely to be a useful resource in some contexts, but it is important to also remember the wide-variety of foodstuffs, non cash-crops, and farming activities undertaken as livelihood strategies across Africa, which have a tendency to be forgotten in the privileging of monoculture, cash-return GMO crops.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), on November 10th, launched its 2016 International Year of the Pulses, to “raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits of all kinds of dried beans and peas, boost their production and trade, and encourage new and smarter uses throughout the food chain”, reported the UN News Service.

“They have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries…yet, their nutritional value is not generally recognised and is frequently under-appreciated” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Growth Slows, Food Insecurity Rises 
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20979A–20980C

CEREALS: Southern Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20896C–20897B

FOOD: FAO Report
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.2, Pp.20752A–20753A

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