COVID-19 response in Africa is confirming that many in the continent do not receive humanitarian aid as life-saving assistance. Perhaps this is good news as it may reduce the unprecedented high level of dependency on international humanitarian presence in the continent.
This perception was manifested recently by the impounding of a humanitarian aid plane in Nigeria on May 18. Nigeria impounded the British aircraft for allegedly flouting a ban incoming commercial flights as a measure to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Nigeria’s Aviation Minister said the plane, operated by FlairJet, although allowed to fly humanitarian aid nevertheless contravened the ban that had been imposed on almost all passenger flights. Describing Flairjet’s action as callous, he said the crew was being questioned and maximum penalties could follow.
What is interesting about this event is that humanitarian aid has always been promoted and justified across Africa an intervention to save lives. Given recent media reports that hunger looms across West Africa especially Nigeria with the impact of COVID 19, one would expect the Nigerian authorities to relax its laws to allow `life saving’ measures as the arrival of a humanitarian flight. But the Government of Nigeria does not think so.
While humanitarian aid and presence which is predominant across Africa has been justified as life-saving measures, many African leaders and western allies have raised the alarm that protracted humanitarian presence across Africa is driven by perverse incentives as well as fostering dependency. Such presence, many Western-based think tanks have argued, is expanding not so much by urgent and increasing lifesaving needs, but to sustain a global humanitarian industry. The fact that international humanitarian presence has been rationalized and justified under very alarming predictions about the continent has been a ban of contention for many Africans, with serious implications for the continent’s image and reputation.
Many African countries have allowed international humanitarian aid in the form of international humanitarian presence and footprints to exist in their countries for decades. Up to 70 percent of the countries appealing for annual humanitarian aid are from Africa and these countries have been doing so annually by default for decades.
International Humanitarian assistance designed to provide short term assistance in the context of sudden-onset disasters, is being misapplied across many countries in Africa.
The global impact of COVID 19 pandemic should help African leaders adjust their realities of what Africa should expect from depending on humanitarian assistance from the West. The current reality of our COVID 19 world is that the countries Africa usually, and has been appealing to for humanitarian aid are now besieged by COVID 19, and are more affected than Africa.
But this reality may not have sunk in yet for the continent and those in the business of predicting crises for fundraising in and for the continent. Alongside speculation of why COVID 19 impact has not been widespread, and fears that it might, are ongoing dire predictions of other potential crises.
As recent as April 20, dire warnings about the impact of locust swarms on food security in East Africa continued. According to a report by Reuter’s ‘The second wave of desert locusts is threatening east Africa with estimates that it will be 20 times worse than the plague that descended two months ago.’ In April, the UK’s Guardian reported that hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming through parts of East Africa. The report highlighted this threat as the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening crops and livelihoods.
Dire predictions of the impact of COVID 19 on food security in West Africa have also been made. More than 43 million people are predicted to likely be in urgent need of food assistance in West Africa in the coming months. This figure is predicted to double as these same sources are projecting that the Covid-19 outbreak will accelerate across at least 47 countries in the continent. According to the World Food Programme Food insecurity, this year could affect as much as 265 million people across West Africa, where the UN body is projecting that the outbreak of the virus will be most severe.
Some parts of Africa have also reported the potential impacts of flooding. Reports in early May notes that floods and rock slides is devastating western Uganda with villagers who have lost everything sheltering in makeshift camps with limited food.
The United States, the major food aid donor, is currently one of the countries most affected by COVID 19. If West Africa is facing threats of hunger from COVID 19, America is facing its own looming food crisis that could affect over 30 million of its population. Perhaps what could be an outcome and a lesson learned from the COVID global pandemic is that Africa starts establishing its own Africa Food Programme. Such a food programme would source for material food aid locally which would increase and improve food security in the continent and not undermine it as has been the case with current food aid interventions.
East Africa should have come up with regional solutions for addressing locust swarms by now, the region has been announcing this threat since early 2019. The threat of locust swarms predates the COVID 19 pandemic in East Africa, certainly, a regional solution is in the works.
The world is besieged by COVID 19 right now, the impact of locust swarm is East Africa is not going to be a priority for the West. We may circulate images of Africans running amidst circles of locusts as much as we want, it will not generate much reaction at this time. Images of the United States burying its citizens in mass graves is a more compelling humanitarian story.
Floods and droughts are recurring hazards in many countries in Africa. These hazards have a significant impact on populations, but it reflects more of a gap in recovery than a humanitarian crisis. Recurring hazards like drought and floods impact the food security of vulnerable populations due to failures on recovery from prior drought or flood hazards, and lack of sustainable interventions.
As well as prioritizing funds and aid to save the lives of its citizens, the West, will be focused on helping its economies recover from the economic impact of COVID 19 for a long time.
Bottom line, my dear and fellow Africans, we must stop waiting for aid and solutions from the West. It would be really and truly embarrassing for the continent to continue to hold out begging bowls to countries in the west who can barely stand from the ravages of COVID -19.
This is the time for African countries to disallow dire predictions about the impact of COVID-19 on the continent unless such narratives are premised on solutions from the continent. What we need are Africans taking charge of the communication on the impact of COVID-19 on the continent. Tanzania is leading in this posture. The country on May 19 announced that there has been a "sharp decline" in the number of coronavirus patients in Tanzania's hospitals, the president said, four days after the US embassy in the country reported that many hospitals had been "overwhelmed".
We are also glad that Nigeria is taking national actions and initiatives in the response to COVID 19 in Nigeria. According to BBC's Nduka Orjinmo and Mansur Abubakar. ‘Powerful politicians in northern Nigeria are pushing for the scrapping of controversial Koranic schools after some pupils found themselves at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Africa has been comfortable with a pattern of announcing its challenges to the world and waiting for handouts and solutions. Sadly, alerts of potential crises in Africa is an industry, an economy, and the employer of the largest global workforce today.
Steaming under the radar of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the quest for response, is the controversy regarding Africa’s Madagascar claim that it has discovered a COVID organics (CVO), a herbal drink that is said to prevent and cure patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.
Madagascar has reported 171 coronavirus infections and 105 recoveries to date, with no deaths. According to Madagascar,’ The patients who have healed have taken no other product than Covid-Organics," some African countries are already ordering the herbal remedy. Madagascar has a long history of traditional medicine
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, and the African Union has expressed willingness to collaborate with Madagascar for facilitate clinical testing. WHO is advising the government of Madagascar to take this product through a clinical trial” but was “willing to collaborate with them”. But there is silence from the rest of the world.
Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina defended his promotion of the controversial homegrown remedy for Covid-19 despite an absence of clinical trials. "It works really well," he said of the herbal drink Covid-Organics.
I will like to state upfront that this posting is not a verification of the effectiveness of COVID 19 organics, but I am speaking out regarding global dismissiveness regarding it potential effectiveness. I stand with Madagascar’s President, Rajoelina claim that if a European country had discovered the remedy, people would not be so skeptical. I fully echo his question "What is the problem with Covid-Organics, really? Could it be that this product comes from Africa? Could it be that it's not OK for a country like Madagascar, which is the 63rd poorest country in the world... to have come up with (this formula) that can help save the world?" asked Rajoelina, who claims the infusion cures patients within ten days. Rajoelina has also reminded the world that many pharmaceutical drugs authorized in the West have turned out to be harmful.
Rajoelina’s call to fellow Africans that international organizations have been created to facilitate the exploitation of Africa is valid. He says that international organizations have been created to keep Africa dependent on the West.
We must stop waiting for Western institutions to validate our resources.
When we say validated by clinical testing, whose clinical testing and what should be the proof of that validation.
With a prediction by the World Health Organization that nearly a quarter of a billion people across 47 African countries will catch coronavirus over the next year, although due to the young population in the continent, the fatalities will remain less than that of Europe or North America, I am excited about the potential of COVID Organics.
I can understand the hesitancy from the West, health care is big business for the West. If big pharmaceutical companies in the West are not clear on how they can profit from a cure, they will not endorse it.
When multilateral and international organization scream dire predictions on Africa they do so to get funding from Western donors. When solutions come from Africa it would kill humanitarian and development businesses in the West, and for African gatekeepers for Africa’s exploitation.
Bottom line, Africa and Africans must stop waiting for approval from the West. The South must stop waiting for solutions from the North. It is good to note that many African countries are requesting for COVID organics. This is one time it makes sense not to err on the side of caution. It will not be the first-time solutions for the world is coming from Africa. This time we will be watching closely. Let’s see how the world will adopt COVID organics ingredients without due credit to its source: Africa.
South Africa is one of 22 countries that have called on Cuba to help with containing the spread and response to COVID 19 in the country. Cuba has responded by sending 200 doctors. I am glad that the government of both countries have their priorities right - to save lives.
But the current administration of the United States of America does not think so. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized South Africa for accepting more than 200 Cuban medics to help battle coronavirus. According to the AFP news agency, Mr. Pompeo is accusing Cuba of profiting from the pandemic. Says Pompeo to reporters on Wednesday April 29 "We've noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers," Mr. Pompeo is applauding leaders in countries like Brazil and in Ecuador and Bolivia and other countries which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar." Please note that according to Melinda Gates of the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, there are bodies on the streets from COID 19 fatalities in Ecuador. Interesting that suddenly, the U.S Secretary of State has taken on the role as the champion of the rights of Cuban doctors and basically would rather South Africans die than be saved by Cuban doctors.
The U.S claim that Cuba hopes to benefit is almost comical.
The team of Cuban medics that arrived in south Africa on Sunday April 26 included family physicians, epidemiologists, biotechnology experts and health-care technology engineers. These are being deployed to different provinces by South Africa's Department of Health. South Africa has recorded 5,350 cases of coronavirus, including 103 deaths.
Today, global data on COVID 19 stands at Confirmed cases 3,209,984 confirmed cases, 228,056 deaths and 841,607 recovered cases. Of these cases 1,064,819 coronavirus cases are confirmed in the United states with 61,680 deaths; the United States is the most affected by COVID 19. My Heart goes out to my American friends that their government seems more committed to do what it knows how to do best, tell the rest of the world what to do as the main MO to show itself as the leader of the world.
The current Trump administration has announced its dissatisfaction with what it allegedly says is China’s handling of alerting the world on COVID 19. China has ignored calls from the US for an investigation into its handling and rightfully so. China is more focused on co saving lives through co raining the spread of COVI 19. When the blaming China game did not stick, the Trump’s administration moved it to Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Director general of the World Health Organization has refused for the blame game to distracts from the agencies commitment to continue to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Now the US is accusing Cuba of hoping to profit from its COVID 19 support to countries like South Africa. South Africa asked Cuba for assistance and Cuba responded through sending 200 doctors to South Africa, the United States Secretary of State has accused Cuba for hoping to benefit from this.
I agree with the Director General of the World Health Organization, that COVID 19 should not be politicized. I am glad countries like Cuba, China and South Africa are heeding to this recommendation by ignoring recent erratic accusations and allegations from the current US administration, but my heart is heavy for my American friends.
It must be a tough time for Americans to see their country flounder at a time the world needed its leaders to demonstrate collaborative leadership to save the world. The U.S, a country that has prided itself as the leader of the free world and the most powerful country is the world, currently has an administration that announced it would be halting funding to the World Health Organization at a time it needed most. I have watched many late-night shows and laughed along with a few on the Trump administration, but regarding the current administration’s reaction to COVID 19 in the US and globally, I am not laughing, and we should not too.
With the highest infection and death rate in the United States I do indeed feel for my American friends that this administration is investing so much energy looking for foreign countries to attack. This is one time it is loud and clear that the U.S. needs the world support. The United States is using lorries to move corpse in New York as we speak. We have seen images of mass graves in New York. But the United States President is more vested in how perhaps China does not want him reelected.
I am not in the bash the U.S Donald J. Trump bandwagon. I respect the United States too much to do that. But right now, I feel for Americans as my fellow world citizens. For the Coronavirus response, the U.S needs the world right now, the U.S needs a President like South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa who will put saving lives before politics.
In the last 12 months, we have heard news of the enslavement of Africans rejected from migrating to Europe. Rejected from regular migration by Europe, many Africans have perished in the Mediterranean Sea by resorting to irregular migration.
Three months ago, we heard the announcement of Nigerian’s banned from access to migration visas in the US. As recently as last week about 6,000 migrants and refugee claimants were forcefully returned to countries they were fleeing from on the grounds of COVID 19 i.e. refoulment. Currently, Africans are demonstrating in Germany due discrimination by exposure to the COVID 19. But what has made the rounds have been video clips, some fabricated, about China’s discrimination of Africans in China.
So, who stands to gain from an end to China and Africa’s collaboration? Who is worried about China’s influence or relationship in and with Africa? Who wants China out of Africa and why.
My concern is that the goal for sharing videos of Africans facing discrimination in China is not to end the discrimination of Africans, but to end good relationships between China and Africa, the goal is to reduce China’s influence in Africa. This will not be good for Africa given that the rest of the world is intensifying efforts to build stronger ties with China.
In February 2018, former UK Prime Minister Prime Minister Theresa May visited China to strengthen the UK’s relations with Beijing. In a press conference in Beijing, the then UK Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s commitment to intensify the “golden partnership” with China and said
The UK continues to court China as a major trade power. China-UK trade is currently at an all-time high. Although the UK is not one of China’s top three investment destinations globally, it is now the biggest recipient of Chinese investments in Europe followed by Germany and France. Since the influx of Chinese capital to Europe, the sectors that attracted them the most are energy, automotive, food and property. ‘Chinese investors have poured £29 billion into a broad range of assets in the UK ranging from prime London property to banks, energy projects and football clubs since 2005.’
The UK, like other countries in Europe, is doing this because China is the new champion of globalization, especially now that the US is pursuing `a more protectionist route through Trump’s “America First” policy.’
According to `How Much Money Does the World Owe China?’ published in Economic Development magazine by Sebastian Horn, Carmen M. Reinhart, and Christoph Trebesch on February 26, 2020, ‘Over the past two decades, China has become a major global lender, with outstanding claims now exceeding more than 5% of global GDP. Almost all this lending is official, coming from the government and state-controlled entities.’ In total, the Chinese state and its subsidiaries have lent about $1.5 trillion in direct loans and trade credits to more than 150 countries around the globe. This has turned China into the world’s largest official creditor — surpassing traditional, official lenders such as the World Bank, the IMF, or all Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development creditor governments combined.
According to Investopedia, ‘It seems as if every American politician and talking head is expressing concern about the huge amount of debt that the U.S. government owes Chinese lenders. The Chinese do own a lot of U.S. debt -- about $1.1 trillion as of early 2020. ’
But the reason this is not as loud, and China is not accused of a negative influence in the West is based on the global bias and narrative of the developed and developing. Loans to the west is considered sound investment, but those to Africa are considered at risk.
Dear Africa, to pursue self-determination we must start thinking for ourselves and resist the continued manipulation of our former colonizers. While western countries are increasingly reliant on the Chinese economy they are promoting a negative narrative around the Chinese partnership with Africa.
The Chinese government is cutting off the sources of Western monopoly on Africa’s economies, through economic investment in the continent and here lies the problem.
China’s investments in Africa is economically viable, and this how and why China’s influence is growing. It is so for Africa, and so for Europe and North America. For example, I agree with Forbes magazine’s 2019 report that China’s funding and building of a $3.6 billion railway upgrade between Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, will, and is exceeding expectations in both passenger and freight volumes and will probably contribute significantly to Kenya’s emergence as the premier economy in East Africa.
I find it suspiciously interesting that many of the video clips of Africans being discriminated against are of Nigerians in China. Interesting given that the bulk of Chinese investments are concentrated in Nigeria and Angola.
Some have argued that China’s influence in Africa could mean that China can use the diplomatic relationship, to gain Africa’s votes on sensitive matters in the UN. basically, countries like the US do not want China to do what they do to Africa.
Africans who are often obedient to Western global views and analysis have bought into these selfish concerns regarding China’s influence in Africa.
But African leaders know differently. Governments across Africa have, in the last two decades, started standing up a bit taller from the options relationship with China is offering, and many African leaders have expressed this appreciation publicly, it is perhaps making the former `masters’ uncomfortable regarding losing control and perhaps a regular source of exploited resources.
Dear Africa, let’s put our priorities and energy in the right and fruitful place. Africa should invest its energy and time right now to controlling the spread of COVID 19 and we need all the support and resources we can find and get. We should stop wasting our time investing or cooking up imaginary enemies.
If we want to vent, then let’s vent to our countries in Africa that are performing so poorly that Africans find themselves leaving the continent.
Dear Africans, the start of self-empowerment is to stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated. We are too comfortable and obsessed with the victim tag. Those who promote the message that we are not capable of a healthy mutually beneficial economic relationship are not our friends.
Migrating from Africa to Europe or North America for a better life is no longer cool. The trend for young Africans is staying in the continent to contribute in building the Continent. Africa’s youths are saying they don’t want to be takers, but makers and builders.
Africa is the Future and the Future is Now
A recent survey commissioned by Ivor Ichikowitz, chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, has shown a growing belief in the concept of “Afro-optimism”,
By this I mean fighting persistently negative stereotypes of the continent. And Mr Ichikowitz is right in noting that the result of the survey “are a loud wake-up call to all the Afro-sceptics”.
The survey covered 14 countries, in Africa and included 4,200 interviews with young people aged between 18 and 24. Here are some outcomes of the survey
I, Young people in Afeica are ‘overwhelmingly keen’ to tackle Africa’s challenges head on, confronting negative stereotypes
2, Young people across Africa are confident that the continent is heading for an era of success fuelled by technology and entrepreneurship.
3, while most people interviewed were dissatisfied with the state of their own country, almost half believed the continent as a whole was in a healthier state than previously, and two-thirds thought they were living through a transformative “African century”.
4, Africa’s youth are refusing to shy away from the very real challenges of Africa, that is honest about what needs to be done and what their role has to be to achieve this – and they are overwhelmingly keen to make that difference.”
6, Those surveyed had strong opinions about the importance of technology and business, with 81% saying they believed technology could unlock the continent’s potential. A similar amount believed access to wifi should be a fundamental human right.
7, Three-quarters of young people said they planned to start their own business in the next five years, and many already had ideas they were ready to work on.
8, The African Union was mostly looked upon favourably as a way of uniting countries across the continent.
The Brookings Institute is correct in in stating in early 2019 that While narratives over the past decades have painted a wide range of views of Africa—as a child in need of development, a rising economic power, an imminent threat, a tinderbox of terrorism, poverty, forced migration, and disease—the truth is, and “One thing is certain: the transformation that Africa has undergone in recent decades has been remarkable. Africa is shaping its own destiny and should be referred to as the “African opportunity” instead of the “African threat.”
With the establishment of the African Economic Community and the planned adoption of a single currency by 2023 Africa is a region of economic and global influence
Today, approximately 1.3 billion people are living in 54 countries in Africa, and that number is expected to increase by at least 30 percent by 2050 making it the most populous region in the world. A marketer’s dream destination.
Blessed with a large amount of the world’s diamond, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and cocoa beans, woods and tropical fruits to name a few, Africa is the most natural resource-rich continent in the world.
The Recent discoveries oil reserve in many countries accords Africa has increased increased the importance of that commodity on the economies of the continent. Sudan and Nigeria are two of the main oil producers in the world today.
Recent growth has been due to growth in sales in commodities, services, and manufacturing.
Most African countries will reach "middle income" status (defined as at least US$1,000 per person a year) by 2025 if current growth rates continue.
As Africans intensify efforts to end the exploitation of Africa’s resource by Western nations like the United States, Canada, Australia, France and the United Kingdom as well as emerging economic powerhouses like China the continents economic outlook will continue to improve.
Yes. Africa is the Future and the future is now!
Yep! The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), is right that `Libya has been beset by chaos since the North American Treaty Organization or Alliance (NATO)-backed forces overthrew long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.’ To make the underlying message clear NATO members are Europe and North America
The BBC rightly drives its point home stating that: `The oil-rich country, a key departure points for some of the thousands of migrants travelling to Europe, once had one of the highest standards of living in Africa, with free healthcare and free education. But the stability that led to its prosperity has been shattered and the capital, Tripoli, is now the scene of fighting between rival forces as negotiations to build a post-Gaddafi Libya stall.’
To put it clearly without the mumbo jumbo, with the murder of Gaddafi, and the presence of oil, there are vultures hovering, with a vigorous scramble for Libya’s resources including arms suppliers falling over themselves to profit from supplying arms to fuel the conflict.
To find a solution to the mayhem and greed-fest, there have been series of conferences since December 2019 in Berlin attended by over 27 European countries to find a solution, yeah right, I call it `to divide the `spoils’ amicably.
According to the BBC `the logic of excluding the Libyans, stemmed from the reality that the external actors are the ones providing the sophisticated weaponry and drones, mercenaries, and troops that allow each Libyan side to believe it might just overwhelm the other side militarily, obviating the need for hard political compromise.’
To think NATO killed Gaddafi for this?
One of Obama’s decent act upon the end of his presidency in an interview published in April 2016, is his admission that the "worst mistake" of his presidency was the failure to prepare for the aftermath of Gaddafi's overthrow.
He partly blamed then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron for "the mess", saying he had not done enough to support the North African nation.’
We hear the argument that the Libya’s crisis involves the Arab, international and African world so transcends the AU mandate, but there was no confusion of where Libya belonged under Gaddafi while he was alive.
Meetings to resolve Libya’s crisis is taking place in Europe’s Berlin, but the AU should be hosting these processes and should not be one of the participants. Imagine the African Union participating in the EU process of the United Kingdom’s Brexit, because some countries had historical and present items with the UK. So where is the African Union?
For years Egypt controlled the River Nile, but now Ethiopia and Sudan want a piece of the action, and Egypt is having a problem with that.
According to Addisu Lashitew; in the article `Why Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan should ditch a rushed, Washington-brokered Nile Treaty’ published Tuesday, February 2020, “Until the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a point of contention among Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in recent years. The GERD is now 70 percent complete, and its reservoir expected to start being filled in the rainy season of 2020.”
But the three countries are yet to come to an agreement on the process of filling and operating it despite years of negotiations.
As Addisu Lashitew; notes further notes in Bloomberg, “These tensions are not new; The Nile has been a cause of antagonism between Ethiopia and Egypt for centuries. The Blue Nile, which flows from the Ethiopian highlands, contributes to more than half of the annual flow of the Nile (the remaining coming from the White Nile, which flows from Lake Victoria, and Atbara/Tekeze, which also flows from Ethiopia). The rich sedimentation that is carried by the seasonal flow of the Blue Nile has been the mainstay of Egyptian agriculture for millennia. Since the times of the pharaohs, therefore, Egyptians have been wary of an upstream dam that would strangle the flow of the Nile.”
In recognition of the Nile to the Egyptian economy, Lashitew concludes that modern Egypt has “used legal, political, and military means to protect its access to the flow of the Nile, the only source of fresh water for its almost 100 million inhabitants.”
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have held a series of meetings since December 2019 in Washington, D.C, the latest of which came to an end without an agreement on February 13. There are plans to hold further meetings in the quest for a resolution. But whatever the outcome, the resounding sound in the process is the absence of the African Union. Really, where is the African Union?
In 2020, 14 of the 21 countries appealing for humanitarian aid are from Africa. More African countries are resorting to humanitarian appeals to the Europe and North America to address protracted conflict, IDP and food security challenges.
Africans and friends of Africa are looking forward to the establishment of the African Union Humanitarian Agency which should present a more dignified way to address Africa’s humanitarian needs without the people of the continent being auctioned, paraded and humiliated in the West. We are waiting in anticipation and hoping it would be talk supported by action.
The African Union was founded “to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States. To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent. To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its people.’’
As at September 2018, there were 55 African countries that are members of the AU. Amongst these are Libya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and the 14 African countries appealing for humanitarian aid in 2020. These countries are the African Union’s business we expect to see the AU leading in regional or global issues related to these countries and between these countries. And we expect these events to be hosted in the continent with the AU on the driving seat.
In 2020 the African Union launched a campaign to silence the guns in Africa. The AU's campaign on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” aims to achieve `a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters.’
Silencing the guns in Africa means stopping the flow of guns into the continent. The folks deciding the fate of Libya in Berlin represent some of the suppliers of arms to Libya. If the African Union is serious about silencing the guns, it needs to host and lead related ceasefire negotiations about Africa, for Africa, on Africa, in Africa.
Africa’s Economic Outlook and Credit Rating Should Not Be Judged by Western-Interest Driven Agencies
On January 26, African-American rapper and entrepreneur, Mr. Sean John Combs, known by the stage names of Puff Daddy and P. Diddy, at the American Grammy Awards spoke up on discrimination against African American and African artistes. He says: `We must stop putting ourselves forward and allowing ourselves to be judged by institutions that do not have our best interest art heart.’
Very true, the institutions that have continuously rated Africa’s economies unfit for foreign investment have come from the West. Most from countries that have exploited Africa for centuries. It is not far-fetched to recognize that these institutions have ingrain subjective terms of reference for accessing Africa’s economies to ensure the continued dominance by the economies of their own countries in which they have vested interest.
More African countries are going to international financial markets to raise capital through sovereign bonds. To raise funds successfully, African governments need sovereign credit rating like a credit score which ‘dictate’ the interest rate at which a national government can borrow. These ratings are given by three international credit rating agencies all based in the West: Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s (located in the United States) and Fitch (located in the UK and United States),and are only accountable to the US, teh Uk and the EU countries.
There are no regulatory bodies or institutions in Africa that hold these three agencies accountable for what they say and do in Africa. So, in reference to P Diddy’s comments, it raises the question: `why does Africa submit itself to be judged by these Western-based and Western-interest driven agencies?’
The number of African countries seeking a sovereign credit rating has increased from one in 1994 to 31 in 2018. But the credit ratings for African countries have been so negative consequently sending the interest rates in the continent over the roof, and putting Western economies at an advantage. African governments are no longer having it and are calling out, rejecting and disputing these ‘subjective' ratings.
In 2015, the Zambian government urged investors to ignore unsolicited credit downgrade from the rating agencies. It challenged the correctness of its rating, which it said hadn’t been discussed with the country’s representatives. Two years later, in 2017, Namibia rejected Moody’s decision to downgrade the country’s credit rating to junk status. This rating was contrary Namibia’s stable economy.
The government of Nigeria in 2017 also strongly disagreed with its downgrading questioning both the general rating premises as well as the agency’s conclusions. In 2017, Nigeria’s economy had successfully emerged from a recession and recorded important improvements across a broad range of sectors. In 2018, Tanzania rejected Moody’s assigning of a low credit rating with a negative economic outlook to the country’s first international credit rating. The rating was done without consulting Tanzania. In June 2019 South Africa was downgraded from stable to negative or Junk status.
The three rating agencies have downgraded more countries in African than they have upgraded over the past 24 years. There have been 47 downgrades and 113 negative changes in outlooks; only nine positive changes have been recorded.
87% of African countries are rated “junk status”, only 19% in Western Europe, 27% in the Middle East, 38% in Central and Eastern Europe, 54% in Asia Pacific and 55% in Latin America and The Caribbean. The effect of this is that African countries must issue sovereign bonds at high discounts, and are subject to higher interest rates, which gives the United States and the EU unfair advantages in attracting foreign investment.
In fact, the three Western-based, funded and led rating agencies have only one small office in South Africa so often fly into for a day or two. Another issue with this discriminatory process is that outside the US and the European Union (EU), the agencies don’t subscribe to any international regime or governance body. This means that their misconduct remains largely unchecked. The international rating agencies have operated unregulated even though the need for them to be regulated is very apparent.
The only time the EU protested the Western-interest driven agencies was when Greece was rated negatively, so if it benefits Europe and North America then it is legitimate.
These bogus, unsubstantiated ratings, are deliberate ploys to undermine Africa’s competitiveness in the Global Economy, and to retain Western countries’ and economies’ competitive edge.
The credit rating methodologies consistently over-emphasize political risk in the rating criteria. Political components constitute approximately 50% of the composite rating. Other components such as financial and economic components each contribute to the remaining 50%. While the qualitative factors are judged purely based on the ideology of the credit analysts, their perception towards the political institutions in Africa is generally negative.
Negative economic outlooks are fed by narratives of disaster, crises and needs that fuels international appeals for aid. The narrative that drives humanitarian appeals for aid in Africa, feeds the rationalization and justification for poor and negative economic outlook and credit ratings in Africa. This is where Africans, must be careful with the narrative they accept and promote to rationalize and justify humanitarian assistance and funding.
In other words, the narrative that 14 countries submitted that will be used to justify and rationalize humanitarian aid appeals in 2020 will contribute to the negative economic outlook in the continent for at least the next 5 years. Announcing the need for humanitarian assistance from flood, drought, conflict etc., may justify humanitarian aid, and funding to some African countries, but it is at the expense of the economic outlook and rating for investments.
Negative economic outlook has compromised Africa’s competitiveness through high interest rates, but it does not stop Western countries from exploiting Africa. While legitimate investors are distracted by these negative ratings, it has not reduced rampant looting in resource rich African countries by Western firms.
It is time that African countries design a collective response mechanism to save the continent from rating abuse. What we need in Africa is a continental rating agency, possible to include other countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China that have also been discriminated against to give Western based economies an advantage.
There are no laws in Africa to hold the rating agencies’ operations on the continent to account. And there’s no central coordination of their activities within individual African countries. This is because no single institution is responsible for administering their regulations or managing them.
A solution would be for the African Union to establish a continental regulatory authority to govern the cross-border activities of international rating agencies, administer a prudential standard framework and evaluate the accuracy and fairness of ratings assigned to countries.
Ethiopia appeals for humanitarian aid every year and has been doing so for over twenty years, but down my street and on my way to work are Syrians in Ethiopia appealing for aid. To Syrians, Ethiopia is a place of refuge, and Ethiopians are welcoming and compassionate to Syrians in their border, although, they do not announce it to the world.
For Ethiopians it is important to assist people in need with dignity without announcing to the world. My cab driver Sisay literarily breaks down in tears and he slows down to contribute to the them from his meagre resources.
Ethiopia appeals for humanitarian aid every year and has been doing so for almost twenty-one years, yet Ethiopia is hosting close to a million refugees and has been doing so for a decade, while the United States Texas has declared publicly that the state would be turning refugees away.
Ethiopia is finding solutions for its Internally displaced peoples’ (IDP) crisis by exploring options for returning and resettling internally displaced people. The United States calls its internally displaced people `homeless peoples’, criminalizes them and makes it unlawful to be homeless.
Humanitarian aid? Now who is aiding who?
The aid-giver and aid-receiver are not about needs and the ability to give, it is about national identities, it is about responding to and feeding national stereotypes.
Giving aid or receiving aid makes a statement: it is vested on, and in stereotypes of potentials and possibilities, stereotypes of lack of ability and capacity. It is not about what a nation has or does not have to give.
The United States is currently facing a food crisis driven by crisis in the farming community across the country, but the US is not calling for food assistance. Agricultural challenges in the US yields a national solution of a bail out of farmers to sustain and protect their livelihoods. Agricultural challenges in Africa would yield a national solution of food aid most likely from the United States.
Despite its farming crisis worth over US$500 billion the US is still the highest donor to food aid programmes across Africa, and it is the world’s highest donor and world’s highest debtor concurrently.
The US has built its identity as a donor and upholds that identify not because it has much to give but because it has to give to feed an identity, and to uphold a status. The US has to borrow to be generous because it has an image to uphold.
The assumption is that the United States has the capacity to owe more than any other parts of the world. It doesn’t matter if it takes the US 20 years to address its food crisis the assumption and perception that the country has the capacity is all that is required.
What entrenches Africa into aid dependency is not our challenges, but our belief, fed by history of exploitation, our obsession with external solutions to our challenges, even when those solutions have not worked for half a century, or do not even come.
Africa does not have more crises than other parts of the world. Africa’s capacity to address its crises is not less than any other parts of the world. The fact that the West donates to Africa’s aid appeals does not mean the west has more to give and Africa lacks. It is all about feeding national status, identities and stereotypes.
Australia has been ravaged by raging fires for weeks that has left many dead and tens of thousands displaced - Australia has not been able to contain this disaster and our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives. This is a true disaster, but the country has not declared an appeal. To the contrary, Australia has asked the world to refrain from sending aid as it disrupts the national plan of action to address the fire crisis.
Like Australia, many other countries have publicly rejected external assistance especially when these assistance or aid come with public announcement, because they know that the giver and receiver of aid makes a statement about national characteristics, identity and pride.
“The main problem arises with food aid's negative impact on domestic production. Imported food aid can flood markets, lower prices and put farmers out of business. US imports of food aid have had huge impacts on local economies in Africa” (ActionAid UK)
Nigeria accepted Western-driven food aid and presence in the country from mid-2016, allegedly upon the request of the Nigerian Government. The initial plan was to provide targeted food security and nutrition assistance to conflict-affected populations in the northeast. But plans are underway to expand the international food aid programme across the country, with the expectation to, hopefully, phase out international food aid programmes in Nigeria by 2022.
Apart from the fact that a food aid programme in Nigeria is shocking in the first place given the country’s agro-economic capacity and potential, Nigeria should remain concerned about joining other African countries who got on the food aid wagon and have not been able to disembark, are now stuck and, or are addicted.
While food aid lifted Western countries out of food insecurity, it has entrenched, and is entrenching African countries and the continent into food aid dependency. Thirty of the forty-six countries with food aid programmes are in Africa and many of these countries have been receiving food aid for over 2 decades. These African countries are Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
South Korea, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Turkey, Poland, and former Czechoslovakia were one-time recipients of the US-run food aid programme. Today these countries are now contributing to food aid and other humanitarian assistance to African countries who started receiving food aid before them.
Relief or emergency food assistance was intended for cases of war, sudden onset/natural disasters, etc., where food is distributed for free. But African countries have settled for using this short-term response mechanism to meet long term and permanent food needs to the detriment of the agro-economies of the recipient countries.
The United States is the top donor to world food aid. But it must be noted that the food aid from the United States is mainly through in-kind donations. According to the United States, `The food commodities that USAID sends around the world come from many states in the United States as well as from local and regional markets abroad.’
The USAID website states further: `We do not provide assistance when it is not requested.’ This would mean that the 30 African countries have been formally requesting and appealing for food aid to feed its’ citizens every year for decades. In the case of Nigeria, we would then assume that the government of Nigeria has formally requested food aid for its citizens affected by the northeast insurgency and is planning to roll out food aid across the country.
Many have argued that the US commitment to food aid is a strategy to bolster its agro-economy. As Frederic Mousseau, from the Oakland Institute noted in Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in Our Time, in the 1950s, “the US was open about the fact that food aid was a good way to fight communism and for decades food aid has mostly gone to countries with strategic interests in mind. The domestic interests have somewhat shifted in recent decades from supporting the whole American agriculture sector to the interests of primarily the following groups: (1) A handful of large agribusiness, crop and food lobbies (Wheat, rice, soybean oil and milk powder producers and exporters), (2) US shipping companies and (3) NGOs and relief organizations.”
According to the NGO ActionAid, the provision of food aid to developing countries has been controversial in the last two decades. `In theory, the provision of lifesaving food should be a positive step towards meeting people’s right to food. The main problem arises with food aid’s negative impact on domestic production.’
ActionAid notes further that Imported food aid can ‘flood markets, lower prices and put farmers out of business. US imports of food aid have had huge impacts on local economies in Africa. Some maintain that by undermining recipient nations’ domestic economies through food donations, the US has served to ensure market dominance for its exports. Certainly, the dumping of subsidized surpluses on to Southern markets can no longer be viewed as “aid”.’
In other words, the growth of the agricultural sector in many African countries has been stalled to sustain the growth of the agricultural sector in the United States. If this is the case, Nigeria must be a very attractive location for the food aid programme. Another country that has been the recipient of food aid for over two decades is Ethiopia the second largest population to Nigeria in Africa. Today Ethiopia and Nigeria are recipients of the food aid programme. With a combined population of at least 300 million, both are attractive locations, destinations and countries for a US national-interest driven food aid programme.
Given the above, Africans and friends of Africa working in humanitarian agencies must guard against creating pseudo justification, rational and mandates for food aid intervention, after all, humanitarian assistance should do no harm. The sad fact is that food aid has become a `narcotic’ for many African countries dependent on it, we must make sure we are not humanitarian pushers.
Nigeria is one of the newest recruits into Africa’s food aid recipient countries. Nigeria should have thought twice before getting on board the food aid train, it certainly must ensure it gets off as planned by 2020 if not before.
We bemoan the negative representation of Africa in the media, but Africans must realize that the source through which negative messaging is disseminated about Africa is through fundraising for humanitarian aid.
Here are two ways it works.
If I am an international NGO in Nigeria and my mandate is food security, I must prove that Nigeria has a food crisis, near famine conditions and malnutrition to remain relevant, and to continue to be based in Nigeria. I must sound the alarm through the media with the worst-case projections and scenarios to advocate for urgent funding from Western-based humanitarian and development donors. After a few months, years and decades of doing this, the world, Nigeria and Nigerians will come to accept this messaging as normal i.e. the worst-case scenario is taken globally as the reality.
The funds raised to address the food crisis in Nigeria are raised by international and multilateral organizations. These funds are administered by international agencies that raised them, yes, they raised the funds on Nigeria’s name, but it will be spent on Nigeria’s behalf. Please Nigeria - its peoples and government - humanitarian funding is not spent through national authorities or citizens. It is spent by international actors on behalf of the affected peoples.
Another case in point, if I want humanitarian funding for drought in Ethiopia, one way of doing this is to show worsening and harrowing drought conditions. If I choose to organize and facilitate a donor mission to see evidence of drought to advocate for funding, I will ensure that I take the international donors to the one place and perhaps only place a life stock may have died. As preparation for the mission, we would have sent out internal and public information on the drought where we give figures on how many people are food insecure, our strategy would be, the higher the figure the better for fundraising, we hope.
The livestock does not need to have died due to drought, and it does not matter that most of Ethiopia has lush greenery and with appropriate food logistics and transportation the whole country would be food secure. All these does not matter, what is important is that we show ‘impact’ of drought and promote this through the media. Now the donor mission does not need to see 8 million drought affected people which we would have promoted through the year as affected by drought prior to the mission, the dead livestock will suffice, this is taken as evidence. Our `exaggeration’ to raise funds for a humanitarian response is now received as fact and a data for the country.
Such data affect the economic and development growth and projections of the country. The western media reports these as facts and Africa’s media quote the Western media data or the report from the mandated international agency whose messaging is targeted to raise funds for its programmes. This is the story of many countries in Africa today.
If we need funds to solve a crisis, we must promote that crisis, and these are the main sources of negative and stereotypical representations of Africa and its peoples. To put it succinctly; `Africa, you want humanitarian assistance? then let us tell the world how bad your countries are and how incapable your governments are: these are the conditions under which we raise funds for humanitarian action and assistance. It comes with a price tag, your reputation!’ (Choice Ufuoma Okoro)
I have tried so hard for the last decade to alert Africa’s authorities that going to the international community to appeal for humanitarian funding does not guarantee that the funding would come, and raising these funds is at the expense of the reputation of the country. I have done this at the expense, many times, of my career advancement and growth within international and multilateral organizations. I will continue because I believe it is the right thing to do.
African countries have entangled themselves in a drowning web of humanitarian and development aid dependency that has stalled the economic growth of many nations in the continent. I will be hanging around to contribute to ending this until the Good Lord takes me home. Hopefully, more Africans and Western-friends and allies of the continent will join me on this journey.