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.
I love being in my continent Africa, most times Nigeria, because I connect soul-wise with my root. I soak in the spiritual and emotional warmth of my fellow Nigerians. I embrace the optimism that is at the core of who we are as Nigerians.
I stride, walk and travel through the towns, cities and streets confidently reassured and affirmed by Nigeria’s strong sense of community and interconnectedness is our identity. In Nigeria you get a strong sense of our collective humanity just by the languid and slow unrushed glance with and from fellow Nigerians.
Now moving to the superficial stuff, my skin glows in Nigeria. With the humidity, I look 15 years younger: given that I am now single, and the most attractive and dynamic men are in Nigeria, this is an added value.
I agree, there is one thing the West has we don’t have in Nigeria and most of Africa: and that is the makeup and skincare shop Sephora, I love Sephora, and this is the one reason I get excited about my periodic visits to New York, Toronto and Ottawa.
Dear Africa; It is no longer okay to take the backseat on the narrative driving our economic growth. We must stop believing and accepting Western-based agenda-driven data and statistics on who is developed, developing etc. If the outcome of Western-style development is a crisis of loneliness, presently ravaging these so-called developed countries, well why would we follow, listen to or accept their terms and definition of what it means to be developed.
Some of the countries that Africans are literally dying to migrate to are some of the top loneliest countries in the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF) last year described this growing crisis as an epidemic. The top loneliest countries in the world are the most developed, these include Sweden, The UK, Japan, Italy, the US, and Canada. Go figure!
The United States Uproar on Foreign Interference in Its Elections: My brothers and sisters from the US, Join the club
I have been following the uproar around alleged foreign interference in the US Presidential elections, gleefully. It is called Elections intervention when it happens to countries in Africa by hte way.
The two countries that could have or have allegedly interfered in the US most recent and upcoming elections are Russia and Ukraine. Interesting that Russia and Ukraine are accused of the same given that they are at loggerheads.
Well back to the issue of Americans uproar regarding foreign interference in the US elections. Not sure yet what the uproar is about?
The issue is that ‘The Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the goal of harming the campaign of Hillary Clinton, boosting the candidacy of Donald Trump, and increasing political and social discord in the United States.’ (Wikipedia).
What is the problem with this? Is it that foreign countries are allegedly interfering in the United States election? Oh mine, this is unheard of, - something the United States would never do and have never done.
Or, in the case with Ukraine, is it that the US President is using foreign aid as a coercive tool, in withholding 250 million military aid from Ukraine to get the Ukraine’s President to investigate a political opponent? Oh no!
The politicization of Aid? Wow, shocking! This is something the United States has never done and would never do.
Empowering Choices: To build our nations in Africa, We Need to Emulate the Passion Americans Have for Their Country
Empowering Choices: To build our nations in Africa, We Need to Emulate the Passion Americans Have for Their Country
For many years, I have been trying to figure out how the global community has gotten away with the messaging that Africa’s development and growth is premised on it being debt-free, yet western countries who are more in debt are plowing along very well. The top five debtors; the United States, the UK, France, Germany and Netherlands, provide `aid’ to Africa. How are they able to build their nations and give aid while in debt?
Since 2012, the number-one debtor; the United States’ official debt has equaled and/or exceeded its GDP - $21.5 trillion GDP and $22.5 trillion national debt. Besides, the country carry’s $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next decades. But the United States is the largest economy in the world. What makes a country credit or dept worthy, the country’s assets?
Why does the United States have more assets than the Democratic Republic of Congo? Because the world has come to accept this as is or as the way it should be? Do we continue to accept disabling messages, especially when these messages empower others at our expense?
Despite its debt, a homeless crisis, frequent sudden-onset disasters, a nearly 10,000 deaths from gun violence this year alone, Americans tell us that their country is the best in the world, and Americans, most of whom have never left the United States, believe this.
I visited Rome last year in the summer and appreciated the historic beauty of the city. I rented an apartment close to the Colosseum and was surprised by the stench from overflowing open large garbage boxes around the city. But even more surprising to me was that the stench from the open overflowing garbage boxes did not dissuade Italians from appreciating and promoting Rome as a romantic capital of the world. The stench did not stop me from appreciating the beauty of Rome too. Because I had heard of Rome as a historic and beautiful city, I expected to see a historic and beautiful city, and my mind’s eye conjured and pictured one even before I arrived for my vacation.
We must stop building our nations on the prediction of worst-case scenarios by the messaging from international development and international humanitarian systems which is often couched in helping us prevent large scale crises or poverty, these are often driven by external agendas. What will it take for Africans to start recognizing that the grass is not greener in other countries?
What would it take to stem the tide of despair that continues to grow and has been our lot for decades and centuries., Fellow Africans, words create, messaging matter. Let us start by affirming what we have and the resources available to us. I believe it starts in the narrative and the words we speak into our present. This is the spirit and passion required to build a nation. Like in Rome, may the stench of the open garbage not blind us to the beauty of the Colosseum.
As hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas making its way to the United States and amidst the latest gun violence in Texas, second in the last 30 days, the United States President, informed of these crises, went golfing. In less than one year, the United States has recorded nearly 10,000 deaths from gun violence.
As is the case for Africa, the international community or systems should declare a humanitarian crisis from the impact of gun violence in the United States. If 10,000 people had been killed in a year in an African country, the word `genocide’ would be thrown into the reports and reflections from international systems by now. The heads of international and multilateral organizations would be drafting and releasing letters in the public domain calling the government to act.
So far in 2019, nearly 70 people have been reported killed by insurgents in northeast Nigeria, in the same period 10,000 people have been killed through gun violence in the United States, yet international humanitarian assistance is expanding in Nigeria because of the northeast insurgency. Nigeria has accepted plans to expand food assistance and aid across the country. Majority of this food assistance and aid would be coming from the United States where more conditions for an international humanitarian presence exist due to communal gun-violence.
In the last decade, African countries have witnessed a reduction in conflict. The continent has experienced the least amount of sudden-onset disasters than any other parts of the world. Asia and the Americas are increasingly becoming the epicenters of major sudden-onset disasters. We have growing poverty in African countries because of gaps in development and reduced resilience to slow-onset disasters like drought. Yet we have long-standing peacekeeping and growing international humanitarian presences as the main means and ways Africa’s issues are addressed, including messaging and how international systems interact with the continent.
International humanitarian action is required for sudden onset disasters that overwhelm the capacity of national authorities to address. The humanitarian principles of independence in the international humanitarian system are ignited when the national authority is perceived to be aligned to one side, and has interest in the root causes of the humanitarian crisis. Access and protection of vulnerable civilians become the bases of advocating for a protection cluster to be established. These are all elements in the United States gun crisis. So why are the relevant international/multilateral systems not calling for international action as they do for Africa?
Double Standards in Holding Leaders Directly Accountable
Since 2018, one or two Western-international journalists have built their careers on the back of negative reporting on Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with claims that the Prime Minister has failed to act to curb the invisible `so-called’ IDP crisis in Ethiopia. This is despite the phenomenal achievement of Prime Minister Abiy. Within 4 months of assuming power, Ahmed broadened political, civic liberty and economic spaces and improved the human rights landscape.
The Prime Minister released thousands of political prisoners, journalists, and bloggers; decriminalized opposition groups; invited exiled opposition groups to Ethiopia and started initiatives for peaceful engagement in the reform process. On the legal and policy front, the passing of the new Charities and Societies (CSO) Proclamation on March 2019, as well as other legal reforms, including media and refugee laws, are noteworthy.
The Government Strategy to address Internal Displacement in Ethiopia, which was released in April 2019, is a step in the right direction in a country that has yet to ratify the 2009 Kampala Convention. Globally, the Government of Ethiopia has been praised for achieving gender parity in Cabinet and for ending the state of war with neighboring Eritrea after two decades of diplomatic and armed strife.
I have followed some of these journalists who remain bent on blaming Ethiopia’s Prime Minister for the country’s displacement situation, noting the resounding silence in the context of the homelessness crisis in the UK and the United States, and the humanitarian impact of Europe migrant laws. I am hoping one of these reporters would write an article on the United States’ President’s perceived inaction leading to the death of 10,000 people in the US.
So why this Double Standards?
The naming of crises and solutions in Africa is indicative of the way the continent has been viewed and treated for centuries. The western obsession with naming African leaders and leadership negatively has increasingly become a case of `giving a dog a bad name to justify hanging it’.
The silence in international systems regarding the worsening humanitarian and human rights violations in the `so-called’ developed world is the reason international systems are increasingly ineffective everywhere in the world. If 10,000 people died from gun-related violence in a year in an African country or Muslim country, the United States, Canada, etc. would have issued a travel ban and alert warning its citizens not to travel to those countries by now.
Many African leaders look away from the way conflicts and disasters in their jurisdiction are presented because such reports are often prefixed by the call for funding. But, charity/Humanitarian appeals are announcements to the world of the weakness of a Government. The bigger the amount of funds required, the more a government appears weaker. The more recurring and repeated the appeals are, the weaker the national systems are perceived to be.
Bottom line, African countries, and its citizens must be less receptive of the injustices in the naming and categorization of its events and challenges. Because misnaming is more than mere words. Misnaming creates wrong response or assistance ultimately stalling development and growth in the continent.  http://archive.ipu.org/splz-e/unga08/s1.pdf
Through 2014 and 2015, as the Head of the United Nations Humanitarian Advisory Team, I facilitated consultations between a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) consultant and Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to strengthen food distribution to population affected by insurgency in the northeast states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. While Nigeria had enough food to meet the needs of the affected population, I saw the role of the United Nations World Food Programme at this level necessary because Nigeria’s emergency management authorities had not managed food distribution at the scale brought on by the insurgency.
Nigeria had successfully managed food assistance to the 2.1 million people affected by flood in 2012, but the duration of the displacement caused by the 2012 flood was short-lived while the displacement from the northeast insurgency was longer-term. I also supported WFP to establish the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service which was a valuable service in improving access to the northeast states affected by the insurgency.
I was very hopeful about the collaboration between WFP and Nigeria in 2014 and 2015, as I saw it as an opportunity to strengthen the technical/logistical capacity of Nigeria to lead its humanitarian assistance nationally and regionally. Nigeria provided the food, while the UN WFP consultant provided technical advice.
Today that collaboration and presence have expanded with the World Food Programme upscaling from providing food aid and assistance to northeast Nigeria to the rest of the country. WFP is set to expand its presence in Nigeria – based on a new Country Strategic Plan (CSP) for the next four years (2019-2022). According to WFP Representative and Country Director in Nigeria, “While we remain committed to the crisis response in the north east, this plan provides new and wider entry points for our assistance in Nigeria in the future.”
It Does Not Make Sense
With an estimated 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and seventh in the world. The country is the 10th world largest producer of crude oil and achieved middle-income status half a decade ago. With the 9th largest arable land in the world, most of that is still largely untouched, Nigeria should be a global food basket, most certainly a breadbasket for the continent.
Notions and perceptions of food security in Nigeria are rife with contradictions. According to Martin Nwalie in the paradox of food insecurity in Nigeria (2011-2017) `In March 2017 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared that about 7.1 million people in Nigeria are facing acute food insecurity and in need of urgent life-saving and livelihood protection (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2017).’ The research report noted correctly that this position `runs counter to general expectations as the same FAO has initially indicated that food availability is generally satisfactory in Nigeria.’
In farm outputs, Nigeria ranks 6th in the world and first in Africa but presently, Nigeria is `reliant’ on food aid in the Northeast of the country in response to the humanitarian impact of insurgency and is planning to expand to the rest of country.
Given that Nigeria’s current administration has prioritized increasing local food production through discouraging food imports, what would WFP’s countrywide expansion of food aid and assistance mean for increasing food production in Nigeria in the long term? According to researchers James Levinsohn and Margaret McMillan with the National Bureau of Economic Research group, while `Food aid can take several forms, but some portion of all types of food aid (including emergency relief aid) is eventually sold in local markets and thus competes with domestic producers.’
For Yale assistant economics professor Nancy Qian `The delivery of food aid to developing countries seems like an uncontroversial policy -- a straightforward effort that helps the poor and underscores the generosity of donor nations. Yet, economists have long debated the merits of food aid. By increasing the local supply of food, such aid may depress prices and thus undercut the income of rural farmers in the recipient nations, for example; it also may discourage local production. And, since the poor often are concentrated in rural areas, food aid in fact may disproportionately hurt the poor.’
From Bad to Worse
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, (WFP) 2.9 million people are food insecure in the northeast of Nigeria, with 1.9 million displaced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. 943,000 children under 5 years old are malnourished. In 2017 and 2018, the World Food Programme supported an estimated 1.2 million Nigerians in internally displaced camps in the northeast with food or cash transfer monthly.
To support enhanced food security, nutrition and income generation for families affected by the insurgency the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization provided seed and fertilizer to about 112 500 households (790 000 people) in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. But faced a major funding shortfall of USD 13.9 million requiring the organization to appeal for international funding to support agricultural production for the September 2018 for the three states affected by the insurgency.
Yes, the insurgency in the northeast states of Born, Yobe and Adamawa has displaced at least 1.2 million people. In a region that is potentially a food-basket for the Lake Chad region, this decade long crisis has left an estimated 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, but the northeast insurgency has not affected the whole country. Yet, rather than Nigeria pushing for a national food security plan, the World Food programme will be scaling up to implement food assistance and aid across Nigeria.
WFP came into Nigeria in 2015 to provide support for logistic of food distribution to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), then it opened a full-fledged office for the response to the northeast and now has plans to implement its assistance to the whole of the country. The Country Representative for WFP in Nigeria is proud of this expansion noting that WFP is “looking forward to broadening engagement with the Nigerian authorities, the donors and the cooperating partners to restore livelihoods and boost resilience and together reduce the number of people depending on food assistance.” WFP’s country strategy for Nigeria states further: `WFP will maintain its vital lifesaving assistance in Nigeria under the new strategic blueprint, however, it will also focus on self-reliance, resilience and peace building initiatives to enable access to food by all that will help achieve zero hunger.’
The contradiction here is that Nigeria is opening itself up and expanding its reception of food assistance and aid to countrywide level to reduce its citizen’s dependency on food aid and assistance. In other words, WFP will expand its food assistance across Nigeria to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on food assistance?
Do Not Do this Nigeria – Do Not Do this to Nigeria
The United States is the largest donor to food assistance in the world, and it does this through food grown in the United States, and increasingly through cash for flexible programming in recipient countries. Most of what is donated as food aid from the United States happens through the US government purchasing food from America’s farmers and donating this in close consultation with recipient countries, through WFP. Specifically, the United States Department of Agriculture and USAID purchase surplus grain to stabilize prices in domestic (United States) markets, the extra is donated to developing countries as food aid. In times of major sudden onset humanitarian crises this aid is lifesaving for the shortterm, but in any other contexts, food aid takes a major toll on the local recipient agro-sector and economy.
Since 1996, sub-Saharan Africa has been the largest recipient of food aid and the amount of food aid received by sub-Saharan countries have almost doubled since then. Today, the World Food Programme is present in about 83 countries around the world and countries from Africa make up more than half of this amount 43 countries in Africa receive food aid and assistance from the World Food Programme.
Food assistance and aid is not provided unless it is requested by the host government. We note that WFP is operative in Nigeria’s northeast due to the insurgency, so why is the government of Nigeria requesting for food aid and assistance across Nigeria?
Given the predominant notion that food aid is driven by the domestic context – agro-industrial sector - of its top funder, the United States, the expansion of WFP across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country is deeply disturbing. The fact that Nigeria is opening itself to this is very deeply tragic.
Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa and has the highest farm output in the continent. So why would Nigeria want to join the already high number of African countries depending on world food aid and assistance?
Nigeria should Lead Food Security in Africa, Not Entrench the Continent Further into Dependency
The optics regarding Nigeria’s dependency on food aid fundamentally contradicts the image of a `giant of Africa’, and is truly a disempowering message for the rest of the continent. Nigeria should foster and lead the establishment of an African food programme and not be reliant on a world food programme.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari recent directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria to block food importers' requests for foreign currency for food importation in a bid to boost local agriculture in Africa's most populous country, and I think it is the right approach. This move by the President is a continuation of a policy he launched when he came into office in 2015 and banned the use of foreign exchange for import of staple foods like rice. While some have criticized this move as not taking the low capacity of local farmers into consideration, it is interesting to note that the President’s ban on rice importation has increased the domestic production of rice in the country.
What this tells us is that self-reliance, even when enforced, propels growth, while looking at external resources and aids as the main sources of development and economic kick-starters deter economic growth. We need this understanding in our commitment to improving food security in Africa. Food insecurity in Nigeria is a result of de-prioritization of the agro-industrial sector. Relying on food importation or aid fosters the continued undermining of the sector. The expansion of the world food programme across Nigeria undermines Nigeria’s food security aspirations.