AN IC PUBLICATION
The bestselling pan-African magazine
Founded in 1966 • May 2019 • N°594
Analysis: Abiy Ahmed, the peacemaker Rwanda: A bad neighbour? Nigeria: Return of Baba ‘Go Slow’ Sierra Leone: Rape epidemic Ethiopia: Manufacturing boom South Africa: Election jitters
IS CYCLONE IDAI THE FACE OF FUTURE WARFARE?
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CONTENTS p. 18 Is Cyclone Idai the face of future warfare? Geophysical warfare can unleash storms as destructive as Idai. Readers’ views
04 Your comments and letters
Second african revolution
34 Who is telling Africa’s story?
06 Briefs 15 Quote/unquote
17 Shifting sands of North Africa 18 Cyclone Idai: The face of future warfare? 23 The awesome power of geophysical warfare 25 Cyclone warnings ignored
28 South Africa: Enough is enough
Native intelligence 32 A discoloured rainbow
37 How tech can transform health 38 Give us jobs! 40 Can Abiy Ahmed calm the Horn?
letter from london
44 Finding the power behind the scenes
46 Year of Return reflections
48 Why is Kagame at loggerheads with neighbours?
52 South Africa: Will loyalty factor decide elections? 56 Zimbabwe: What is causing erratic weather patterns? 58 Ethiopia: Manufacturing moves centre-stage 60 Sierra Leone: What is behind the rape ‘epidemic’? 62 Nigeria: Return of Baba ‘Go Slow’
64 African Heritage’s gala night 68 Film review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 70 Book review: Fashion Cities Africa
Back to the future
74 African-on-African xenophobia
NewAfrican The bestselling pan-African magazine, founded in 1966. MAY 2019 ISSUE 594 www.newafricanmagazine.com
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new african may 2019
Sudan: Tears of joy I read with great interest your Cover Story, End of the road for Africa’s Dinosaurs? (April 2019) as I am Sudanese and have been following the events in my country for many years from my exile in Europe. It is a brilliant analysis of how someone like Omar al-Bashir came to power and remained in power for so long. As I pen these words, news has just arrived that, as predicted in your article, both Algeria’s Bouteflika and our own Bashir have been ousted – the first has had the decency to step down while the latter was deposed through a palace coup. But with his chief henchman, the dreaded Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf promoting himself as chairman of the military council, this looks like a cosmetic exercise. [Ibn Auf stepped down a day later and Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took over. He has met with a civilian delegation and has promised a return to civilian rule – Editor.] I salute the determination and endurance of the brave men and women who have been demanding real change and who finally managed to topple Bashir from his throne, mounted on the suffering backs of the common people for three decades. If my health permits and God willing, I shall be happy to return to my country and share the hopes, expectations and responsibilities of my people. But as you say, we have been here before, in 1964 and 1985 when people power pushed out Ibrahim Abboud and Jaafar Nimeiry. I remember reading, in this very publication (New African) and by the very same author (Anver Versi), interviews with Sadiq al-Mahdi and later, Hassan al-Turabi, who stepped in as leaders, and spoke about their hopes for a new Sudan. But what happened? They fell out with each other and opened the door for Bashir. I hope we have learnt the lessons of the past and will not repeat the same mistakes. Whatever leaders
emerge from this revolution must, I repeat, must place the interests of the country and our youth ahead of their own egos. They should be prepared to make sacrifices and compromise which is the mark of true statesmen. God bless the Sudan and the Sudanese. I write with tears of joy in my eyes and I hope they don’t turn to tears of sadness in the future. R.O. Raheem (Requested non-disclosure of country of residence)
None so blind… The analysis of the events in Sudan that are now making all the news was simply brilliant. I have read it twice and would urge every African who loves freedom and independence to read it, especially the section on the characteristics of authoritarian regimes of which we have too many. Please allow me space to quote a passage from the article which I found particularly spot on: “The other feature that inevitably flows from authoritarianism is a lack of honest debate, discouragement of public discussion and an intrinsic fear of any form of criticism. This takes the form of muzzling the press, including banning some newspapers and jailing journalists, restricting or banning social media and the Internet, harassing, jailing, beating and torturing opponents, planting informers and secret police among social organisations, detaining and jailing without charge an increasing number of people, banning public gatherings, imposing harsher punishments, such as flogging in the case of Sudan, for minor infringements and clamping down severely on any show of public dissent.” Perfect. This description applies to so many of our regimes. No need to say any more. As the saying goes: None are so blind as those who refuse to see.
Richard Kamau, Maryland, US
not throw stones upon each other when we differ. We need to coexist peacefully. There is far more that unites us than divides us as a Zimbabwean people. God Bless Zimbabwe. Allen Choruma Harare, Zimbabwe
Sudan’s lost agricultural glory Your article is a wonderful analysis of the end of the road for despots, dictators, or autocrats, not only in Africa but beyond its borders (End of the Road for Africa’s Dinosaurs?, April 2019). With Sudan no longer having Omar al-Bashir clinging to power, what is the next phase to recover the peace and political stability, so that the country can rebuild its shattered economy? It is the most difficult phase when a country experiences the trauma of its social and economic structure being destroyed by years of internal conflicts and wars. Sudan has always made headlines in the media with the country witnessing turbulence and economic mismanagement. Sudan at one time was a shining star of agricultural production in Africa. How did it lose its past glory? Already the giant Asian tiger countries are witnessing declining exports and forecasting a further showdown. Given this global scenario, has Sudan any hope of rescue through international aid from the First World? It remains to be seen how quickly Sudan will recover from the current mess.
Kokil K. Shah, Mombasa, Kenya
Zimbabwe: Time to focus on nation-building Zimbabwe is facing serious economic and political challenges post-Mugabe. This is a call for Zimbabwean men and women to put their differences aside and work
towards building this nation into prosperity so that all can share in the country’s wealth and at the same time, set aside more wealth for generations to come. These are trying times for our young, 38-year-old democracy. Zimbabwe needs men and women of honour who are prepared to shed their personal interests and in their stead, place national interests first. Our mettle as a nation is being put to test. It’s upon our leaders to show their true character – whether they are going to consume their energy fighting each other or joining hands and fighting for nation-building, democracy, development and poverty alleviation. It’s upon Zimbabwean folks to show their character – whether they are going to incite division, hate speech or spread malice through social media or spend their time productively – building bridges and uplifting those who are hurt, bereaved, despondent and hopeless. Our values as an African people have for many generations been hinged on Unhu-Ubuntu-Botho. Ubuntu is premised on the basis that as a person you are not an island but are connected to others around you – I am because we are. People around each one of us give us our identity and sense of belonging or simply being human. During these trying times in our nation we need to transcend beyond our petty political differences and see ourselves not as political subjects, but as one nation. For us to be called Zimbabweans, we need to
Anti-regime demonstrators celebrate outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on 11 April, just before the official announcement of Bashir’s fall
A host of problems Your analysis of Zimbabwe (‘An unending season of discontent’, NA, February 2019) and the plight of the people is very well written. The discontent currently visible in Zimbabwe is no different from the position evident in Sudan, South Sudan, DRC, Comoros etc. Economic crises are multiplying in many other parts of Africa besides these five countries. Postelection disputes and various types of conflict present a challenging situation to donors and ruling governments over how to overcome the downward-spiral trends and improve the standards of living. This is also a bleak year for many other stable countries, which have borrowed heavily from foreign lenders and are now required to repay the loans with high interest charges. With the debt repayment pressure on many African countries mounting and forex reserves eroding, will this not lead to the depreciation of local currencies against the greenback and other major convertible world currencies? This could lead to hyperinflation and painful effects on average household incomes. Another issue is that thousands of school children in Burkina Faso have been affected by the dangerous security scenario. Schools have been closed because of militants’ threats. The country is also in dire need of humanitarian aid to provide food, water, and medicine. Can Africa, struggling with a sluggish economy and the vices of graft, fulfil any of the Millennium Development Goals, or any other sustainable development goals? This remains a challenge to overcome.
Kokil K. Shah, Mombasa, Kenya
may 2019 new african 5
Oratilwe Hlongwane, otherwise known as DJ Arch Jnr, is wowing fans across South Africa as the youngest DJ in the land. At just six years old, the boy has carved a niche for himself DJing and is slowly gathering a global following. It all started when his father, Glen Hlongwane, bought his son an iPad for educational games but realised he was more
interested in a DJ app instead. “As he continued growing up I always had a pair of decks at home and he’d come join me while I was doing all these crazy things. He’d watch me and copy what I was doing.” After one of his videos went viral online fans encouraged Glen to enter his son in the ‘South Africa’s Got Talent’ competition, which he won in 2015 at the
age of just three. Oratilwe then went on to compete in the American version of the show and although he didn’t win, the exposure catapulted him to global stardom. “He’s the best ever,” reacted fans after one of his concerts. “His mixing techniques are just off! You’d swear you’re dancing to an old DJ who’s been in the industry for ages. The way he was playing, he was perfect.”
Egypt uncovers remains of powerful ancient priest Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a 2,500-year-old powerful ancient Egyptian high priest at Al-Ghorifa, a remote site about 265km south of the capital, Cairo. The priest’s sarcophagus was covered in gold banding – indicating high social standing – and gave way to an immaculately preserved mummy. Within the inner chambers of the burial site experts also discovered two other mummies which adds to the recent discovery of ancient tunnels and tombs containing mummies believed to be part of “the noble elite”. ‘No need for elections in Tanzania’ As the election period in Tanzania comes hurtling around the corner, a ruling-party politician has nonchalantly suggested that President John Magufuli’s term in office should be extended until 2025 without the rigmarole of a democratic election. Arguing that elections are costly and moreover that “no one can defeat President Magufuli” anyway, Livingstone Lusinde from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party believes that the whole project should be abandoned. Ironically, President Magufuli’s defeat is extremely unlikely but more for reasons associated with creeping autocracy than overwhelming popular support. Since 2015, opposition parties have faced a serious crackdown with a major opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, even being shot. Next year’s election, therefore, may indeed amount to little more than a waste of time.
South Africa’s youngest DJ
EVE IRVINE AND STUART NORVAL A full review of the international news MONDAY TO FRIDAY FROM 4 AM TO 8 AM GMT
THE INTERNATIONAL NEWS CHANNEL 24/7 Already available on DTT platforms in 26 countries (including unencrypted in Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, ESwatini...), FTA on the satellites SES 5, Eutelsat 16A, Astra 2G, IS 20 and on MMDS, cable, satellite, IPTV bouquets and Mobile devices offers across Africa.
Defiant woman becomes symbol of Sudan protests For a protest which started last year as an objection to austerity measures, the end result has been the peaceful ousting of President Omar al-Bashir after his near 30-year iron grip on Sudan. While the military is announcing a two-year transitional regime – with many of the same faces in charge – the people are demanding wholesale change and refusing to accept the old guard. Throughout the uprising, heart-warming images of soldiers joining
hands and playing the saxophone with protesters have flooded social media screens. One image in particular has dominated the coverage and has become a powerful symbol of the revolution. A young activist known as Alaa Salah was photographed atop a white car – hand raised defiantly in the air – spreading the message of the revolution to countless onlookers in the sun-filled dust of Khartoum. The photo (below) has since rocketed around the world, drawing global interest to the
Sudan uprising, and Salah has gained nearly 37,000 twitter followers despite joining in April 2019. The image itself is multilayered and reveals far more about Sudan’s culture and history than meets the eye. Salah’s earrings are pieces of traditional wedding jewellery symbolising femininity. Her white traditional dress, otherwise known as a thoub, and no longer popular among young Sudanese, reflects a connection to mothers and grandmothers who wore the
garment when they marched in the streets against previous military dictatorships. Since then, women in white have often been called Kandakas, a reference to the powerful ancient Nubian queens who used to rule ancient Egypt from Sudan. As the daughter of a fashion designer, Salah used the choice of clothing to appeal to the strength of generations of Sudanese women in order to overcome adversity – making the image all the more powerful.
Horn pays tribute to rapper Nipsey Ethiopians and Eritreans have paid moving tributes to the famed rapper with Eritrean origins, Nipsey Hussle, who was shot dead in front of a clothing store he owned in Los Angeles. Known for his Grammynominated debut album, Hussle was remembered as a rare entertainer who bridged his American upbringing with his roots in the Horn of Africa. “When we heard there’s an Eritrean rapper out there, we were fans before we heard his music,” said Ambaye Michael Tesfay, who eulogised Hussle at the memorial event held in a darkened parking lot. “He was an icon for us.” Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, had won the attention of rap fans from both Ethiopia and Eritrea for his embrace of his father’s Eritrean heritage. He visited Eritrea last year and told state media: “More than anything, I am proud of being Eritrean.” “It’s just really tragic what happened,” said Tezeta Solomon, an Ethiopian living in Los Angeles, who attended the occasion in Addis Ababa. “When he first came out, we were all so excited. To know there was a habesha rapper out there definitely sparked some pride,” she said. Habesha, in fact, is a term used to refer to the culturally ethiosemiticspeaking inhabitants of the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is a description that both Ethiopians and Eritreans use proudly, as a way of referring to
themselves that eliminates the distinction between different tribes and origins, and celebrates the unity of people coming from the same region. The combination of both Eritrea and Ethiopia mourning adds weight to the recent rapprochement between the two countries after decades of separation and low-level fighting. The nations have much in common and were once part of the same territory.
Kenyan judges lowering age of consent Three judges have reversed the 15-year sentence of a man who impregnated a 17-year-old girl, ruling that it was time the country considered a revision of the Sexual Offences Act. They argued that it’s unrealistic to assume that teenagers do not engage in sex, and that there’s a need for greater proportionality in punishing different cases. “Our prisons are teeming with young men serving lengthy sentences for having
had sexual intercourse with adolescent girls, whose consent has been held to be immaterial because they were under 18 years,” the judges ruled. The debate, however, has sparked a Twitter frenzy across Kenya, attracting support and objection in equal measure. Those opposed believe any change in the law will add an underage element to sex tourism from mostly Western individuals. Others argue the ruling will disproportionately affect girls, who will be more likely to drop out of school if they are legally able to become pregnant at 16. Across most of Africa, children become adults at 18, giving them responsibilities such as permission to drive, consume alcohol and consent to a sexual relationship.
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Cape Verdeans transform rough Lisbon neighbourhood Cape Verde, Africa’s lusophone island situated off the Senegalese coast, has been making a lively contribution to its former colonial master Portugal, with immigrants transforming one of the capital Lisbon’s most impoverished areas. Long considered a no-go area by Lisbon residents, Cova da Moura is a warren of small streets where Cape Verdeans make up two-thirds of the 6,000 residents. As the residents have begun to share their culture
through Cape Verde-inspired music, food and street art, the previously run-down quarter is now attracting tourists. “Sometimes the only thing people know about Cova da Moura is the negative side,” said Paulo Cabral, 36, who was born locally to Cape Verdean parents. “But that isn’t the whole truth.” Cabral, who now organises tours around his local neighbourhood for tourists, jokingly refers to Cova da Moura as a more well-developed area of
Cape Verde. In the evening the location comes alive with traditional music, food and brightly coloured murals paying homage to anticolonial heroes like Amilcar Cabral. The end of Portuguese colonial rule was characterised by brutal conflict and independence struggles during the 1970s, as Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar’s administration attempted to maintain the colonies well after their French or British counterparts.
Cameroon fashion show for physically challenged Access 2019, a fashion show for differently abled people, was launched in Cameroon by Sister Speak, a women’s empowerment organisation. Staged in Yaoundé, it brought together 16 models living with disability, who walked down the catwalk in outfits from local designers. It is hoped the event will help change perceptions of women with disabilities in Cameroon. According to the WHO, around 2m Cameroonians live with a disability and face a myriad of challenges, including a lack of disability infrastructure and government support. “Access 2019 is an opportunity to show the world you can live with disability but look like every other woman. You can be beautiful and dream,” said Michelle Sojip, a physically challenged model.
3-5 M AY INDUSTRIA 775 Washington St New York, NY10014
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Richard Mudariki, Reading the Fake News Times, 2019. Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm Courtesy of Barnard
‘By the standards of the European industrial world, we are poor peasants but when I embrace my grandfather I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe,’
‘I have an affinity with the Arabic world. I have it in my blood, via my parents. I’m very proud of being French, but also very proud of having these roots and this diversity,’ ZINEDINE ZIDANE, FRENCH FOOTBALL STAR OF ALGERIAN ORIGIN
TAYEB SALIH, SUDANESE AUTHOR
‘Now that the scale of female participation is unprecedented, Sudanese women have become aware of their power and their role as agents of change. Whatever happens now, nothing is ever going to go back to the way it was before,’ DAME ROSALIND MARSDEN, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO SUDAN AND SPECIAL EU ENVOY FOR SUDAN
‘We need to change the way we treat women in our culture. That has to be, it’s not optional,’ MOHAMED ‘MO’ SALAH, TWICE ON NEW AFRICAN’S MOST INFLUENTIAL LIST AND RECENTLY NAMED ONE OF WORLD’S 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE BY TIME
‘I became a free woman when I decided to stop dreaming. Freedom that is waiting for nothing, and anticipation, is a state of slavery,’ AHLAM MOSTEGHANEMI, ALGERIAN WRITER
‘Nothing is going to change unless we have our own point of reference,’ MO ABUDU, NIGERIAN MEDIA MOGUL AND PHILANTHROPIST
‘Until the education of a girl is a right and not a privilege, we are failing our women,’ JAHA DUKUREH, GAMBIAN WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST
‘Rebecca Enonchong (@africatechie) is right to highlight disputable Jumia African-ness. However, the fact that matters is that African start-ups funding in 2018 broke records,’ CARLOS LOPES, FORMER EXEC. SEC. OF UNECA, CONTRIBUTES TO A HEATED TWITTER DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER JUMIA IS AN AFRICAN START-UP OR NOT, AFTER ITS NEW YORK LISTING
‘I've got 5 or 6 years left in football and I just can't wait to see the back of it,’ DANNY ROSE, ENGLAND AND SPURS FOOTBALLER, ON THE RISE OF RACIST ABUSE IN THE UK
‘I grew up in poverty, but I always saw it as a challenge. The good thing is that you can surmount a challenge if you are willing to pay the price. The price is hard work,’ REGINALD MENGI, TANZANIAN BUSINESSMAN
‘Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning,’ AMILCAR CABRAL, ICONIC GUINEA-BISSAUAN ANTI-COLONIAL LEADER
may 2019 new african 15
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From the Editor
Shifting sands of North Africa
ver the last month, we have seen some momentous shifts in North Africa – Sudan is considered part of the North African region although it intersects with Sub-Saharan Africa – the ramifications of which are likely to have long-term ripples over political development in the rest of the continent. Simultaneous, but unconnected, huge public protests defenestrated long-entrenched leadership regimes in Algeria and Sudan, forcing Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir out of office. Both regimes had relied on extensive and powerful intelligence services and brutal crackdowns to silence public disapproval and heavily armed military to enforce compliance. In both cases, faced with ever-swelling numbers of protesters who refused to be cowed by brutal beatings and detentions, the guns reached the limits of their potency to generate fear and became useless. In the case of Sudan, some of the army turned on their commanders and fought back, several soldiers losing their lives in their efforts to protect the people. In Algeria, Bouteflika, who had become little more than a figurehead for the regime, stepped down but the protesters were not satisfied and have continued (at the time of writing) to demand a total dismantling of the structure of the regime and a fresh start. In Sudan, the military made a last-ditch effort to remain in power by staging a palace coup against Bashir but the public refused to accept the compromise. The former defence minister, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, stepped down as chair of the interim military council and the dreaded head of intelligence and security, Salah Gosh was compelled to resign. The more acceptable General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took over the council. In a complete turnaround, he praised “the sacrifices made by Sudanese people, especially women and the young”. He lifted the curfew that had been imposed, ordered the release of political detainees, pledged meaningful dialogue with all political forces and promised the formation of a civilian government. The leading organiser of the movement, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), demanded “the transfer of power to a civilian transitional government in which the army
participates but does not rule and lead”. At the time of going to press, the SPA had named a group of civilian negotiators to enter into dialogue with the military council with a view to laying the foundations that would lead to a shift of power back into civilian hands.
‘Strong men’ politics
But, even while citizen power had toppled two of the continent’s ‘strong men’ leaders, another was making his way to take over in Libya. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army based in the east of the country, mounted attacks on Tripoli, seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord. Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary in the UK parliament, accused France of supporting Haftar’s advances, an accusation denied by the French. However, his main financial backing according to the British Foreign Office, comes from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has also backed Haftar. All three North African countries have the potential to be economic superstars in the continent but all three have been mired in internal turmoil for decades. Some of this has been due to structural weaknesses in their body politic and some of it is due to external interference. The result has been the same – stagnation of human and economic development – and the burden has fallen disproportionately on the common people. In Sudan and Algeria, the people have decided to do something about it and discovered new strength in unity of purpose. In Libya, the people are so far still divided by conflicting loyalties and rivalries. They have yet to discover that the real enemy is not another clan or ethnic group or region, but those who, domestic and foreign, build their palaces on the broken bones of people just like them. For the sake of the continent, let us hope that the people’s revolutions in Sudan and Algeria succeed and thrive. The triumph of the people in North Africa will be a triumph for the people all over Africa – and may usher in the end of the era of ‘strong men’ politics.
may 2019 new african 17
CYCLONE IDAI: THE FACE OF FUTURE WARFARE?
The ferocity with which Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe has led to it being called the worst natural disaster ever to hit the southern hemisphere. Cyclones, storms, floods and droughts are nothing new in the world but the frequency with which these occurrences happen is new. No doubt climate change has a lot to do with it. Human activity, we are now
convinced, has caused a good deal of climate change and the culpable actions have been recognised. But there is growing evidence that there is another form of human interference aimed at controlling weather patterns which seems to have gone under the radar â€“ for obvious reasons. This is the phalanx of electromagnetic warfare carried out by the global military superpowers. It should be kept in mind
that when the notion that human industrial activity would lead to global warming was first articulated, it was dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Now we know better. In the same spirit, for our Cover Story this month, Baffour Ankomah has researched the extent and scope of this form of top secret warfare and its implications. Is man playing God and reaping catastrophic results?
he UN has called it the worst weather-related natural disaster to hit the southern hemisphere in all history. Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14 March 2019, flattening Mozambique’s coastal city of Beira, damaging about 100,000 houses there, before veering off to southern Malawi and Zimbabwe’s picturesque Eastern Highlands districts of Chimanimani and Chipinge. Masvingo Province was also touched but fared better than its neighbours. In the Beira area, the torrential rains that came with Idai created an inland ocean the size of Luxembourg, according to some reports. In Zimbabwe, Idai caused massive landslides that sent mud and rocks hurtling down the slopes of mountains, destroying villages and sweeping away their inhabitants in the huge floods that followed. Zimbabwean rivers empty into the sea through Mozambique, so the bodies of the sweptaway villagers ended up floating in the floodwaters in Mozambique, where the unidentified were later buried. The human death toll in the three affected countries had risen to over 1,000 at the time of writing. Thousands more were missing, and scores of thousands more had been left homeless. Others were battling with cholera in Mozambique. The damage to the physical infrastructure in the three countries is incalculable. Being predominantly agricultural countries, the crops that were nearing harvest, and hundreds of thousands of livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, etc) were washed away by the rampaging floods. Ironically Idai means ‘love’ in Shona, the language that predominates in the worst-affected areas. Shona is Zimbabwe’s main language, but it is also spoken across the border in Mozambique. It is said that the Zimbabwe Meteorological Department chose the name for the cyclone. But what is in a name? This Idai, however, had no love in its soul and made it abundantly clear. Idai’s extraordinary ferocity and the sheer magnitude of its destruction have led some people in and outside Africa to ask if electromagnetic/geophysical warfare caused the cyclone.
Invisible war machine
Their concerns are informed by the view of Fred Bucks, a former US military interpreter who now writes for the Canada-based media group, Global Research. In a major article published by Global Research in 2010 and recently reprinted, titled HAARP: Secret Weapon Used for Weather Modification, Electromagnetic Warfare, Bucks says matter-of-factly: “Of course disasters like [Idai] happen regularly on a natural basis yet if you begin to research, there is some high strangeness around some of these disasters. The evidence is inconclusive, yet with the known and unknown major destructive capabilities of [electromagnetic/geophysical] weapons, serious questions remain.” Bucks’ article built on work done earlier on electromagnetic warfare by three documentaries, aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the History Channel, and Trutv.com. The History Channel documentary was titled ‘Invisible Machine, 20 new african may 2019
Electromagnetic Warfare’. Bucks’ piece came with a full health warning, knowing the subject he was dealing with. “The CBC, History Channel and Trutv.com documentaries quoted in this article can now be viewed,” he wrote. “They by no means can be considered as ‘conspiracy theorists’. Moreover, the US Air Force has referred to ‘owning the weather for military use.’ ” Here, Bucks was referring to an eye-popping quote from a major US military publication, AF 2025 Final Report, published by the Air University of the US Air Force (which was referenced as: http://www.au.af.mil/ au/2025/ on the US Air Force website). Incidentally the original link has been removed by the US Air Force, seeing now the huge implications of the confession. In the quote in question, the US Air Force admits that: “Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. “The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather … and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies which can provide substantial increase in US, or degraded capability in an adversary, to achieve global awareness, reach, and power.” In effect, “the ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather and the production of artificial weather” is not conspiracy theory of the sort people tend to dismiss. Such weapons do exist, and the holders of those weapons, principally the US and Russia, do not mind using them – in test runs and also live in war. Since 1997, America’s stated goal has been “full spectrum dominance” of the world in outer space by the year 2020, which is just one year away. This is enunciated in a ‘2020 Vision’ programme adopted
People walking along the flooded main street in the town of Buzi in Sofala Province, Mozambique, in the wake of Cyclone Idai
by the US Space Command (USSPACECOM) in February 1997. In the preamble of the Vision 2020 policy paper, General Howell M. Estes III, the then US Air Force Commander-in-Chief, stated: “As stewards for military space, we must be prepared to exploit the advantages of the space medium. This Vision serves as a bridge in the evolution of military space into the 21st century and is the standard by which United States Space Command and its components will measure progress into the future.” The Vision 2020 policy paper explains that: “The end result of these enablers and concepts [i.e., information superiority and technological innovation] is Full Spectrum Dominance ... The emerging synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority, will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance…”
Fourth medium of warfare
To leave nobody in doubt, the Vision 2020 policy paper emphasises that “the two principal themes of the USSPACECOM vision are: dominating the space medium and integrating space power throughout military operations. Today, the United States is the preeminent military space power. Our vision is one of maintaining that pre-eminence – providing a solid foundation for our national security.” In the History Channel documentary, US Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich takes a different tack. “Washington has been looking at Vision 2020, a programme for the US to dominate the world from outer space,” he says. “Now I love America [he smiles] and I like to say that we are number one, but let me tell you something, we don’t need to be number one in weapons in space. “The Department of Defence has been working from a facility in Alaska which is still in research into the effects of electromagnetic frequencies in the ionosphere,
and that facility, which is called HAARP, has raised concerns among many individuals about how this research will be applied. “For example, we know that, according to some of the research, as... energy pulses are directed into the ionosphere, they can have some negative weather effect,” Kucinich concedes. The History Channel itself made this categorical statement in the documentary: “Electromagnetic weapons pack an invisible wallop hundreds of times more powerful than the electrical current in a lightning bolt. One can blast enemy missiles out of the sky, another could be used to blind soldiers on the battlefield, still another to control an unruly crowd by burning the surface of their skin. If detonated over a large city, an electromagnetic weapon could destroy all electronics in seconds. They all use directed energy to create a powerful electromagnetic pulse.” The documentary goes on: “Directed energy is such a powerful technology it could be used to heat the ionosphere to turn weather into a weapon of war. Imagine using a flood to destroy a city or tornadoes to decimate an approaching army in the desert. “The military has spent a huge amount of time on weather modification as a concept for battle environments. If an electromagnetic pulse went off over a city, basically all the electronic things in your home would wink and go out, and they would be permanently destroyed.” Fred Bucks adds for good measure: “For those who still doubt that such devastating secret weapons have been developed, here is an intriguing quote from an article in New Zealand’s leading newspaper, the New Zealand Herald: ‘Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal. United States defence chiefs said that if the project had been completed before the end of the [Second World] war, it could have played a role as effective as that of the atomic bomb. ‘Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the [New Zealand] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1999.’ ”
Shivers down the spine
Even the most cursory research on Project Seal, such as on Wikipedia, sends shudders down one’s spine: “The tsunami bomb,” Wikipedia reports, “was an attempt during World War II to develop a tectonic weapon that could create destructive tsunamis. The project commenced after US Navy Officer E. A. Gibson noticed small waves generated by explosions used to clear coral reefs. “The idea was developed by the United States and New Zealand military in a programme codenamed Project Seal. The weapons concept was deemed feasible, but the weapons themselves were never fully developed or used. A related concept, the ‘bouncing bomb’ was developed and used in World War II, to be dropped into water as a means to destroy German dams and cause loss of industrial capacity and widespread flooding.” may 2019 new african 21
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi killed more than 2,000 people and laid waste to Palu, the capital, on 28 September 2018. Some have raised the possible role of HAARP in such major disasters
Project Seal first came to light during research by a New Zealand documentary filmmaker, Rau Waru (author of Secrets and Treasures: Our Stories Told Through the Objects). He examined military files buried in New Zealand’s national archives and found the shocking material in a box sitting on the desk of an official who was contemplating whether to stop releasing it because the Russians might be considering doing the same thing. Waru says: “Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunamiing people.” He says the initial testing was positive but the project was finally shelved in January 1945. Yet the New Zealand authorities continued to produce reports on the experiments well into the 1950s. “It was absolutely astonishing,” Waru says. “First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami ... and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked. “If you put it in a James Bond movie it would be viewed as fantasy but it was a real thing. I only came across it because they were still vetting the report, so there it was sitting on somebody’s desk [at the national archives].”
Water as a deadly weapon
To be fair, it is not only the Americans and their allies who have experimented and in fact succeeded in producing electromagnetic or geophysical weapons. The Russians have been in it up to their eyeballs, and China may now have them too. In early 1999, Colonel Stanislav Lunev, the highestranking Russian military spy to defect to the West, told an American radio host that Russia wanted to launch a satellite into space, which, after reaching its orbit, would, when prompted from a base station on earth, unfold a giant mirror that would conduct high energy light back to cities on earth to blind people. According to the American radio host, Lunev said Russia had secret geophysical weapons that could cause earthquakes and storms. In 2011, weeks after the tsunami that devastated Japan in March of that year, the colourful Russian politician and former Presidential candidate, Vladimar 22 new african may 2019
Zhirinovsky (leader of the LDPR party, formerly the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) claimed that “Russia has [geophysical] weapons to put entire continents to sleep in minutes.” However, the geophysical weapons that the American and Russian scientists proudly attribute to ‘science’ may not be scientific per se. In the Christian Bible, during Noah’s day, God destroyed the world with massive floods that rampaged for 150 days and rose 20 feet above the tallest mountains of the world. The Bible records at Genesis 7:11-24 that “in the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the second month, all the springs of the great deep burst forth and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40 nights … and for 40 days the flood kept coming on the earth… Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out, men and animals and the creatures of the air were wiped from the earth… The waters flooded the earth for 150 days.” So, in essence, the delivery systems of the modern flood weapons may be ascribed to science, but the knowledge of water or flood as a deadly weapon has been with us since Noah. However, Fred Bucks is left asking: “If the military secretly developed a weapon which could cause a tsunami over half a century ago [in fact 74 years ago], what kind of advanced deadly weapons might be available now? “And why is it that the general public still doesn’t know about secret weapons developed over 50 years ago? Clearly the military has the capability to cause a tsunami and likely to cause earthquakes and hurricanes as well. It’s time for us to take action to spread the word on this vital topic.” Bucks goes on: “Having interpreted for top generals in my work as a language interpreter with the US Department of State, I learned that military planners are always interested in developing the most devastating weapons possible. Yet these weapons are kept secret as long as possible, allegedly for reasons of national security. The many layers of intense secrecy both in the military and government result in very few people being aware of the gruesome capabilities for death and destruction that have been developed over the years… “Some researchers have raised questions about the possible involvement of HAARP in major disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, Indonesian tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina. Could these have been HAARP experiments gone awry? Might they even have been caused by rogue elements who gained control of this devastating technology?” HAARP stands for “High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme”, a little-known but critically important American electromagnetic (or weathercontrol) programme hidden in the cold recesses of Alaska, though HAARP itself is a non-classified project run by the US military. Now the question we are labouring to answer in this cover story is: Did electromagnetic/geophysical warfare cause Cyclone Idai? It is a question that needs time and space to answer, so let’s look at both the hard and circumstantial evidence in the next article. n
The development of devastating geophysical weapons as part of the US’s Full Spectrum Dominance strategy is causing serious concern around the world.
The awesome power of geophysical warfare and might be used to deflect a missile attack. The biggest attraction of Dr Eastlund’s idea was the ability to blast enemy ballistic missiles from the air. Eastlund himself was interviewed by the History Channel for its documentary, and he explained that his original plan involved the building of a single huge antenna, “big enough and powerful enough to make major modifications to the ionosphere. This was at the height of the Cold War. My focus was on the defence against a major Russian missile occurrence. The plan was to make a shield over Canada, over the US, over the whole world, which a missile could not penetrate.”
he US military’s High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP), based at Gakona, Alaska, is the latest electromagnetic/geophysical warfare programme to raise concerns locally and internationally, so much so that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) once interrupted its news programme to run a 15-minute documentary, titled ‘Geophysical Warfare’, to alert its viewers. HAARP’s origins go back to Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American cult hero whose inventions have influenced so many of the technologies we use today. Tesla theorised about a ‘Tesla Shield’ of electromagnetic weapons which, he said, would protect the Earth from missiles. He also talked about the possibility of electronic particles being turned into a weapon using a beam. In the 1920s and 30s, this idea became known as the ‘Death Ray’. Tesla’s ideas greatly influenced Dr Bernard Eastlund, an American physicist, who finally registered a patent for an invention that could be used to change the weather, disrupt communications all over the world,
Above: The controversial HAARP base in Gakona, Alaska is a giant antenna farm. Has it been used to modify the weather from space in pursuit of military aims?
Eastlund told the CBC: “The basic concept was to build a very large antenna, then to utilise a large amount of power to beam those radio waves up into the upper atmosphere.” Asked if he had approached the US Pentagon with his invention, Eastlund said, “Yes, but what I am not able to tell you is the details of what they are going to do.” The CBC said an American delegate, identified only as Mr X, told the journalist who broke the original story: “The maniacs are actually going to do it, up in Alaska.” The maniacs were in the Pentagon and he was convinced that they were conspiring to build Bernard Eastlund’s sky zapper “under the guise of a nice research project deep in the Alaskan bush called HAARP.” Soon word spread in the Alaskan cold recesses and a band of suspicious Alaskans set out to warn people of what they saw as the US military’s secret agenda. Eventually, HAARP was designed and built by BAE Advanced Technologies, the company Dr Eastlund used to work for. Official construction started in 1993, and the first functional facility was completed by the winter of 1994. The project was jointly funded by the US Air Force, US Navy, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but run by the US military between 1999 and 2014. According to the US military, the project is “aimed at studying the properties and behaviour of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand may 2019 new african 23
The US ignored an EU resolution describing HAARP as a project of global concern, calling for information on its health and environmental risks. and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defence purposes.” But if you believe this, you will also believe that pigs can fly. Judging from the urge to amass electromagnetic/ geophysical weapons even before World War II, the benefit of the doubt should be given to Jim Roderick, an American anti-HAARP activist, who says: “The military is incapable of doing pure science. Science is conducted by them for application in weapon systems, for no other reasons.” Though denied by HAARP officials, some respected researchers insist that HAARP was designed to achieve the US military’s stated goal of gaining full-spectrum dominance of the world from outer space by 2020. The project was built based on the contents of a 600page publication, titled Technical Memorandum 195, which the US military forbids its officials to publicly acknowledge. The US military is not comfortable talking in public about this memorandum because it consists of notes from a secret conference giving a breakdown of HAARP – where they were going to use the technology and how it was going to be applied. In January 1999, the European Union described HAARP as a project of global concern and passed a resolution calling for more information on its health and environmental risks. Despite those concerns, officials at HAARP insist the project is nothing more sinister than a radio science research facility. The EU resolution came with many bullet points. In bullet point 24, the EU “considers HAARP by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body before any further research and testing.” But the US ignored the EU resolution. 24 new african may 2019
Rather, HAARP officials claim that “the radio waves in the frequency ranges that HAARP transmits are not absorbed in either the troposphere or the stratosphere – the two levels of the atmosphere that produce the Earth’s weather. Since there is no interaction, there is no way to control the weather.” The CBC discovered that the small company that owned Eastlund’s patents was later swallowed up by a large military intelligence front company called E-Systems, which in turn was swallowed up by another bigger corporation that specialises in super-secret contracts with the Pentagon. In the end, by 2014, when more eyes and tongues became focussed on HAARP and the controversy over its impact on the world’s weather system grew, the US military turned HAARP over to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in August 2015, to be run by the university. But nobody was fooled. The Los Alamos Laboratory, which was the principal site of the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb, was operated by the University of California during World War II. Project Seal, which experimented with the tsunami bomb, was operated by the University of Auckland. So transferring HAARP to the control of the University of Alaska Fairbanks changes nothing about its essential military nature. In fact, the military is only behaving to type.
Idai – experiment gone wrong?
Top: The US tests a sophisticated weapons radar system (SBX) in the Gulf of Mexico in 2006. Terrestrial defences remain essential to the US but its aim has been to achieve a ‘synergy of space superiority with air, land, and sea superiority’ as part of its Vision 2020
Why people are questioning if Cyclone Idai was caused by a HAARP event gone awry is because the cyclone nearly coincided with the latest HAARP research campaign on 25-28 March 2019. Far from being ‘conspiracy theorists’, these people are not saying Idai was a direct electromagnetic attack on Mozambique or Zimbabwe, but that Idai could have been an electromagnetic experiment gone wrong. Since HAARP was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2015, five research campaigns have been conducted: on (a) 19-23 February 2017, (b) 21-25 September 2017, (c) 6-14 April 2018, (d) 30 July-1 Aug 2018, and (e) 29 Nov-3 Dec 2018. Idai’s landfall on the Mozambican coast on the night of 14 March was 11 days before HAARP’s next advertised research campaign began on 25-28 March. All things being equal, one can safely say this research campaign might have had nothing to do with Idai. But, as we all know, all things are not always equal in this world, particularly judging from how the world has been run in the past, and continues to be run, by the puppet masters. Therefore the people who are asking the world to look at Idai beyond it being a mere natural disaster deserve to be heard, even if they are making fools of themselves. As of now, no one can say with an absolute Yes that Idai was caused by electromagnetic warfare, or an absolute No that it was not caused by electromagnetic warfare. Only time will tell. But looking at the sheer quantum of the destruction wrought by Idai and the fierceness of the cyclone in general, one is tempted to say nature would have been more merciful if it had sired this cyclone from its massive loins. n
The toll on life and property caused by Cyclone Idai, especially in Mozambique, was a disaster waiting to happen. Over the years, there have been ample warnings about the fragility of the Mozambican coast and cities like Beira but they have been ignored. Wanjohi Kabukuru describes how poor planning has compounded the damange caused by the cyclone.
Cyclone warnings ignored On 14 March 2019 at 23:30 GMT, Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique’s second-largest city of Beira.” This was the terse bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) headquarters in Geneva. For Professor Salomão Bandeira, a marine botanist at the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, this was the beginning of three days of anguish. His mother, relatives and friends were caught directly in the cyclone’s path. While his family got lucky, the stories from other families are painful reminders of what the UN now describes as “possibly the worst ever weatherrelated disaster to hit the southern hemisphere”. Travelling at speeds estimated by the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) at 194 km per hour, Tropical Cyclone Idai brought misery to three South Eastern African states – Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As of mid-April, the official figures from the Mozambican government indicated that 598 people were dead, 1600 were nursing injuries, more than 131,600 had been displaced and were living in temporary shelters, 715,000 hectares of crops were
washed away, 112,000 houses destroyed and 90% of Beira destroyed. Beira is now a shattered city struggling to rebuild its communications infrastructure, power lines, roads and compromised water supplies, with a reported 2094 cases of cholera, accompanied by a humanitarian crisis affecting 2.6 million people. A high-level UN Economic and Social Council Meeting convened on Cyclone Idai had established that $300m was needed for the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the affected countries but only $40m was available. People wait to be rescued on top of a house in an area of Beira city in Mozambique. The rains that came with Idai created an inland ocean the size of Luxembourg, according to reports
Ten days before it hit Mozambique as a cyclone, it was nothing more than a tropical depression crossing through the Mozambican Channel – an area between Mozambique and Madagascar. Long-serving meteorologist and former director at the WMO, Dr Evans Mukolwe, says that it is here at the Mozambican Channel that Idai picked up momentum and sucked in moisture destined for other parts of Africa, due to sea surface temperatures.
Since the calamity serious questions have been asked about the quality of national and regional disaster risk preparedness, management, climate information dissemination and relief support. That an elaborate global early warning system is in place is not in doubt. For several weeks in February, the Météo France in Réunion had kept tabs on the cyclone and relayed timely and constant advisories to Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology and the neighbouring nations. But it is clear the warnings were never broadcast appropriately and on time to millions of citizens. The level of preparedness was also wanting, signifying negligence. The developments were not entirely unexpected for Beira, which lies on the estuary of Pungue River. The city is classified as being in a high-risk cyclone zone and one of Africa’s most vulnerable cities in terms of extreme weather conditions and hazards. Tropical Cyclone Idai just exposed Beira city’s mitigation and resilience weaknesses. Ten years ago, under the UN’s Global Risk Identification Programme, Mozambique’s Instituto Nacional de Gestão de Calamidades (National Institute of Disaster Management) published a comprehensive country situation analysis report which outlined all the climate-related natural calamities experienced in Mozambique stretching from 1956 to 2008, and gave recommendations. The report noted that Mozambique had experienced 13 tropical cyclones and 20 floods, which at the time had collectively claimed 2,618 people. The report went on to warn that climate change was going to increase these natural calamities in future. The central provinces were identified as risk spots for floods, cyclones and epidemics. Of all the cities straddling the Mozambican coastline, Beira was singled out as the “most threatened by sea level rise and increasing intensity of cyclones”. The report was categorical that the city’s naturebased solutions needed to be bolstered. These included strengthening Beira’s fast-eroding dunes, decaying sea defences and the restoration of the disappearing belt of mangroves which acted as biological shields protecting the city’s population of 500,000 inhabitants. In 2013, Romy Chevallier at the South African Institute for International Affairs, through its Governance of Africa’s Resources Programme, echoed the same warning given by the disaster management agency. According to Chevallier, Mozambique had exposed itself through the decimation of natural bioshields as a result of increased dredging, which had destroyed corals and degraded mangroves. “Mangroves must form an integral part of Mozambique’s climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction response,” Chevallier noted in her report, Balancing Development and Coastal Conservation: Mangroves in Mozambique. “Mangroves provide a natural defence against coastal flooding. Given this, it is vital for the Mozambican government to incorporate these climate change risks into its planning and investment decisions, and to 26 new african may 2019
The aftermath of disaster: A semi ripped-up palm tree stands amidst rubble on the beach in the Praia Move area of Beira
formulate a national response plan to climate change that incorporates coastal vegetation.” These recommendations were not given due attention as dredging along the Beira coastline and deforestation of mangroves continued unabated. According to the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), sand dunes, mangrove forests and coral reefs act as natural barriers, which in turn helped in reducing the energy and force of the 2004 Asian tsunami waves in Sri Lanka. SEI notes that areas where development went right to the coastline were severely impacted. Several other studies commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) soon after the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami, which claimed over 200,000 lives, also echoed SEI’s findings. “There is considerable evidence that coastal forests can reduce the force, depth and velocity of a tsunami, lessening damage to property and reducing loss of life,” Keith Forbes and Jeremy Broadhead noted in their study, The Role of Coastal Forests in the Mitigation of Tsunami Impacts. “Numerous anecdotes, field surveys and scientific studies in India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand of the 2004 tsunami and other tsunamis show a connection between areas with the highest levels of damage and the absence of coastal forests,” they added. For years Professor Bandeira, who is an expert on mangroves and sea grass ecosystems, has warned about the dangers of the wanton degradation of coastal ecosystems in the name of development across the coastal and island states of the Indian Ocean. Apparently few take notice of his advice.
In 2014 the Beira Masterplan, which is aimed at turning this coastal city into a sustainable and resilient metropolis by 2035 through renewal and expansion, by pursuing a green infrastructure development path, was launched. In June last year, the World Bank announced its $120m ‘Mozambique Cities and Climate Change Project’, which envisaged the rehabilitation of Beira’s storm water drainage system, the installation of flood control stations, the construction of water retention basins and the refurbishment of drainage canals. At the time of the masterplan’s launch, the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, waxed lyrical, describing the infrastructure developments as marking “the end of the suffering of a whole population”. The mayor further outlined the city’s urban renewal plans. “Our green infrastructure project will transform Beira,” Simango said. “We will plant over 7,000 trees, establish a botanical garden, reestablish mangroves, build recreational infrastructure, among other work. This is arguably the largest green infrastructure in the region.” A vital component of this green programme looked to rehabilitate the Chiveve River into a green urban park that would offer ecosystem services such as flood control, urban cooling, drainage and enhance retention. According to Bandeira, the Chiveve tidal
river was built in the 60s to act as a natural drainage system during storms and floods. In retrospect the mayor spoke too soon. Eight months later and Cyclone Idai had breached the fortified defences of Beira and overwhelmed the ideals of the Beira 2035 Masterplan. The damage caused by the cyclone is now forcing Mayor Simango, the government of Mozambique and a retinue of global experts to urgently come up with smarter solutions for this threatened, high-risk city. “The combination of mangroves and coastal natural belts are essential,” Professor Bandeira says. “You know Beira is a city located below sea level, having swamps everywhere. Beira is the only city in eastern Africa where nature-based solutions using mangroves as a storm and extreme tide buffer existed from the 1960s.” Bandeira adds: “We are rushing to Beira to assess the state of mangroves in the Pungue-Buzi estuary, which miraculously remained intact. We plan to map the villages around and assess the green infrastructures as a tool of coastal defence so as to understand their roles in protecting communities.” According to Bandeira, there are vital lessons to be drawn from Beira for future cyclone responses. “[That a] small part of Beira was not inundated by the cyclone is due to the smart solution role played by mangroves and other drainage systems, which prevented the town
itself from being flooded,” he says. Coral reef expert Dr David Obura, who leads the oceanography think-tank, Coastal Oceans Research and Development Indian Ocean (CORDIO), based in Mombasa, Kenya, echoes his sentiments. Obura, who has led deep-sea studies across the entire Indian Ocean, explains that many such studies indicate that ecosystem features such as mangroves, corals and seagrasses are important as coastal and island bio-shields. “Coral reefs, where present, completely break the energy of the largest waves, so are critical in reducing the wave energy that hits the coastline,” Dr Obura says. “Seagrasses are also very important as they increase the drag underneath the waves. So while not as big a physical barrier as the others, they also help, and they may be very important in maintaining the health and integrity of both the reefs and mangroves.” Given the Beira cyclone experience, Dr Obura is emphatic that the continent’s 38 island and coastal states should take on board disaster risk reduction strategies. “Countries should look into the relevant, correct grey and green integrated infrastructure strategies that work for them and invest in ecosystem-based infrastructure as a primary line of defence. This also supports food and other livelihood security aspects at the same time.” NA
Ecosystem features such as mangroves, corals and seagrasses are an important defence as they form coastal and island bio-shields.
The recent resurgence of attacks on foreign black Africans in South Africa is something the country should be deeply ashamed of.
South Africa: Enough is enough
f you sense a tone of anger in this piece, please forgive me because I am angry! I am angry at the way black South Africans have treated fellow black Africans who have immigrated to South Africa since Apartheid was defeated in 1994. I am angry that black South Africans can kill other black Africans as if they were killing their goats. I am angry that they can do this with impunity! I am angry that South African leaders who enjoyed the hospitality and solidarity of the entire continent during the struggle against Apartheid have done next to nothing to stop this nonsense. I am angry that the current generation of South Africans considers African lives so cheap. I am angry at the sheer callousness and the lack of feeling that these South Africans have displayed when pumping bullets and hurling stones and rocks at the poor Africans who have become their victims. I am angry, oh Lord I am angry! They call it xenophobia. I call it Afrophobia. It is a disease eating away the soul of black South Africans. But from where will a saviour come? It is not xenophobia because, as Julius Malema, the leader of the
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Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the only South African political leader who has covered himself with grace in this sad episode, says, black South Africans don’t do it to the Chinese immigrants among them. Neither do they do it to the white or Indian immigrants. They do it to black Africans alone. Self-hate. What a shame!
Getting away with it
In all this, Gareth Newham, the head of the Justice and Violence Prevention Programme of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), speaks for many when he says the Afrophobia “attacks have continued in South Africa partly because South Africans know they can get away with it, as the police rarely act against perpetrators”. That is the crux of the matter. The young men who are pumping bullets into the heads of their African victims in Durban and elsewhere know that nothing will happen to them – and nothing has happened to them since the conflagration in 2008, and even in 2015 when Afrophobia flared up again. There are decent people in South Africa, in fact the majority of them are decent people. The few bad eggs who have besmirched the
good name of the majority are able to do it because the decent people do nothing to stop the nonsense. It is time the majority stood up and said enough is enough. We will no longer allow our good name to be dragged in the mud by mindless people. The shame of it all is that because this is election season (South Africa goes to the polls on 8 May), even decent people like President Cyril Ramaphosa have fallen prey to the mindlessness that feeds the Afrophobia. The politicians want votes, so they have all joined in the madness. May God blow away their votes! When President Ramaphosa stood at the podium at that election rally and said: “Everybody just arrives in our townships and rural areas and set up businesses without licences and permits. We are
Attacks have continued partly because South Africans know they can get away with it, as the police rarely act.
going to bring this to an end. And those who are operating illegally, wherever they come from, must now know…” What was he pushing for? Votes? Or action by the Afrophobes? Remarkably, hours later, when his citizens in Durban took up the chant and acted in the latest flare-up of Afrophobia, Ramaphosa was seen backpedalling and flip-flopping. “The attacks in Durban,” he said, “violate everything that our people fought for over many decades [and] I condemn them in the strongest terms.” Truly, a day in the life of a politician is a long time indeed. With blood on the streets and shame on his face, Ramaphosa now says: “As South Africans, we owe our freedom to the solidarity
Zulu protesters demonstrating against foreign migrants outside their hostel in the Jeppestown district of Johannesburg in April 2015. The wave of anti-immigrant unrest resulted in the death of a number of Africans and displaced thousands
and support given to our liberation struggle by people across our continent and around the world. “Our economy and society benefit from our extensive trade and investment relations with partners on our continent. African development depends on the increased movement of people, goods and services between different countries for all of us to benefit. We will not allow criminals to set back these processes.” So since when did Ramaphosa know this? If only he would not flipflop because of votes. Throughout the post-Apartheid years, says the Institute for Strategic Studies (Pretoria), “local business interests, gangs, community leaders and political officials typically fomented xenophobic attacks [by] regularly blaming foreigners for their own failures to deliver services as well as economic and physical security.” That reminds me of Great Britain where, at every election, immigrants become the scapegoat on whose back votes are won. There is a famous deputy police chief in South Africa, Bongani Mkongi, who claimed two years ago that ‘foreign’ Africans were threatening to overrun the country. The video of his diatribe went viral and it still remains viral. In the video, Mkongi is heard saying it is unacceptable that foreign nationals had taken over a South African ‘city’ when South Africans had not done so anywhere in Africa. Mkongi meant Johannesburg’s rundown Hillbrow suburb which he said had become 80% “foreign national” and if nothing was done about it, the whole country would become “80% foreign national” and the country’s president would eventually be a “foreign national”. In the video, Mkongi insists that his remarks are not xenophobic, yet he thunders out: “We fought for this land from a white minority, we will not surrender it to foreign nationals.”
This is where history can help, but Africans don’t want to learn even their own history. Mkongi would have known how many South Afri-
cans lived in other African countries and at the full expense (board, lodging, education, stipend, everything) of these African countries during the fight “for this land”. In my own class at the Institute of Journalism in Accra, Ghana (197880), were two black South Africans who were given all privileges by the Ghanaian government because they were South Africans whose people were fighting to free themselves from Apartheid. The two South Africans paid no tuition fees like other foreigners, they lived free at the student hostel, they were given stipends every month by the Ghana government while even we, the Ghanaian students, got no such stipends. All African governments extended such privileges to South Africans right across the continent. I will not talk about the political support – in funds, arms, military training, refuge, diplomacy – that all Africa gave to the struggle in South Africa. Some Africans indeed died when providing this support. Today, a forgetful generation of South Africans are saying, like Mkongo, “We fought for this land, we will not surrender it to foreign nationals.” How can they not see beyond their feeding spoons? But let’s thank God for Julius Malema. He is the only politician who says: “If you say you are not going to vote for EFF because we say you must love Africans, you can keep your vote. We don’t want votes from people who are xenophobic. Without the unity of Africa we will be exploited forever, by Europe, by America and now by China.” And he says this in a country where a recent study found that 56% of South Africans did not trust other Africans; only 17% did. Around 40% of South Africans said they would stop foreign nationals from starting businesses or accessing services in the areas where they lived. About 20% supported the government removing all foreign nationals irrespective of their legal status. May God help them to see beyond their NA feeding spoons. Amen.
(See also Native Intelligence, page 32.)
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C o m m u n i q u é
Changing consumer needs and the rapid evolution of the media in Ghana are leading to dramatic changes in the ways brands communicate their messages. New, holistic approaches are needed, as Jay Anjaria and Amit Agrawal explain.
How Ghana’s changing consumer trends impact on communication
s the famous African quote goes “If the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance step must adapt”, it is critical that as a consumer-centric business we should be keenly looking at the change, adapt to it and in some cases, lead the change. There are three broad areas in which we can capture the changing consumer trends – consumer needs, media and messaging.
Consumers in Ghana have also undergone a dramatic change due to various changes in the social and economic structures. • Becoming more urban-centric: The consumer is moving from rural areas to urban cities like Accra and Kumasi, the urban population is also growing five times faster than in rural communities (Source: World Bank estimate – United Nations, World Urbanisation prospects reports ). • With increasing education and urbanisation the consumer has become more aspirational, which also reﬂects in the brand/product choices they make. There is a shift from a traditional joint family to a nuclear family in the cities where both husband and wife work. This is critical data as brands will need to come up with solutions targeting this consumer profi le. • Consumers look at costs but are very conscious about the quality and hence overall value of the offering. Packaging and advertising play an important role in their buying choices. • Most of the buying still happens from table tops, neighbourhood general stores or the peculiar “go slow” vendors. But it is slowly shifting from cities to supermarkets, modern retail chains to online shopping.
• There is a silent but swift revolution happening due to the advent of the internet and rise in popularity of social media platforms. It is impacting the way in which the consumer decides, buys and gets exposure. The younger consumer spends more time on their mobile, making it the most critical source of accessing information. •
At 35% Ghana is one of the largest internet penetrated countries on the African continent. Mobile penetration is 130% of the total population. Facebook and Instagram have the largest active social media advertising audience.
If we go back in history, advertising in Ghana really started taking root in around the 1930s. Karl Hartenstein’s book Anibue (“Civilization”) (1932) documents the use of advertising media in Kumasi. An illustration of the “Billboard at the Train Station in Kumase” shows an installation of a variety of images that were most probably put up by the West African Publicity Agency. These signs are the first record of painted advertisements in use in Kumasi. Enamel signs for advertising were produced until the 1970s and imported from England. Hartenstein’s photographs recorded posters of Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits, Sanatogen, Sloan’s liniment, laxatives and alcoholic beverages, Guinness and Surf Brand Beer, and Quaker Oats.
Po w e re d
Other adverts are for Dietz petrol lamps, Rodeo lanterns and Dunlop tyres. Posters used to be put up at vantage points across the city and adverts were also put up on trees. By the 1970s, press started coming up in a big way in Ghana with publishers like African Morning Post, Spectator Daily, Daily Echo, Ashanti Times, Weekly Observer, Ashanti Pioneer, The Monitor, Drum Magazine and a few vernacular papers published by the then Vernacular Literature Bureau, now the Bureau of Ghana Languages. In 1957, the Convention Peoples’ Party (Kwame Nkrumah’s party) launched its souvenir brochure, profusely illustrated with advertisements of all kinds. Television and Radio broadcasting was
state controlled till the late 90s, after which it was privatised and led to a proliferation of channels both on radio and television.
The consumer is changing the way or medium by which the consumer information is changing, which is also impacting the kind of messaging they consume. Brands earlier could connect and create differentiation with simple functional advertising but with the evolution of the consumer needs, demographic and psychographic shifts, the clutter of information due to the number of channels and brands in play, it has become critical that the messaging happens in a far more cohesive manner at a much deeper level.
Consider the situation about a decade ago where there were limited broadcast channels and limited brands used to advertise on them. A typical ad break would not have more than a couple of ads being played, the number of billboards was limited and hence three to four brands would be on billboards. The situation today has dramatically changed with 54+ TV channels, 450+ radio channels, multiple outdoor options – LEDs, unipoles, high social media penetration and consumption, multiple brands categories advertising starting from traditional consumer good brands of food, personal care to service brands from banking and telecoms to Church congregations. The sheer complexity and spread of the above are mind-boggling and have clear implications for the messaging. While the basics of the messaging remain the same in terms of being simple and built on the brand/product benefit, there are dramatic changes which brands need to imbibe in order to address the above. • Shift from a product out, functional to a “role of brand”, deeper emotional connect communication. It is critical that the brand establishes a clear role in the life of the consumer with a deeper emotional connect. • Story set in an appropriate “everyday” life human context which the consumer can relate to. The story should depict real human context, everyday situations which adds to its believability and credibility. The older way of having an over the top song and dance routine will not cut ice anymore.
Opposite far left and above: Advertisements from Drum Magazine. Centre and near left: An example of a more interactive contemporary advertising campaign for Perk biscuits.
• Simple, short and clear messaging. Due to reducing attention spans and increased clutter the ads need to have a singleminded message. The challenge is to include the earlier points of a human context and emotional connect and also make it simple, short and single-minded in messaging. • Developing and using consistent brand cues The brand cues need to be consistent across touch points and can be as varied and distinctive as the brand colour, tonality, celebrity, sound etc.
A 360 approach is necessary so that the brand presence and impact is felt in this cluttered, complex ever-changing consumer environment.
All the above changes necessitate a very critical change in the approach of communication and approaching it holistically. With all the above complexities the brand needs to communicate across varied touch points, with consistent brand cues, consistent messaging and presence. A 360 approach is necessary so that the brand presence and impact is felt in this cluttered, complex ever-changing consumer environment. n
NATIVE INTELLIGENCE The violence against ‘foreign’ Africans in South African townships continues unabated. What are the roots of this African hostility towards other Africans?
A discoloured rainbow
have never actually been to South Africa and with the increasingly regular expressions of hostility towards black Africans, perhaps I never will. I do not get the feeling that I will have missed much. I nearly went, on one occasion, but I was thwarted mainly by my failure to work a way past a most mechanically obtuse South African gentleman in charge of receiving applications for post-graduate study at the University of South Africa (UNISA). Being very old, my academic records from the last place I ever studied did not exist in digital form, and the UK academic establishment concerned, which had since merged and morphed into a new and bigger one, could not be persuaded to dig up the paper records for just one student from before they were who they now are. Any and all attempts to explain this situation to this man were met with the same one-sentence reply: “We need to see the original records.” It remained the same even when I suggested they provide me with an official query – or make one directly themselves – that I could use to persuade the new organisation to go into its ancestor’s paper files. I was transported back to my
new african may 2019
days as a young refugee in Kenya, another African space blighted by white settler culture. I have long came to the conclusion that there remains a marked but unacknowledged difference between Africans from communities emerging from the experience of direct settler colonial domination, and those that lived under Lugardist ‘indirect rule’ (mostly in West Africa) in which colonial arrogance was still in full force, but there were no white settlers of any significance living there to socialise it. The former group tend to have suffered mass displacement and alienation from their ancestral spaces, as well as a resultant notion that ‘progress’ must mean acquiring the socio-economic status and ‘standards’ established by the white settlers. This means developing a certain rigid snootiness towards any other African not trying to assimilate, as would the case of the latter group, for whom there really wasn’t any physical white community to aspire to assimilate to. Violence today, as in the past, seems restricted to the poor areas of a given urban space. This also means that it is against mainly the black non-citizens residing in the country. As Julius Malema of the
Economic Freedom Fighters (among other, less loud voices) has pointed out, this is not violence against ‘foreigners’ as such; it is violence against black Africans who happen not to be citizens of the country. “Why do you hate yourselves?” he asked at one rally, perhaps unknowingly echoing Malcolm X.
This Afrophobia as it is called, is now a periodic feature of poor urban South African life. This time round, we read with increasing frequency, this number or that number of people have been reported killed and a business looted and burned. (See ‘Baffour’s Beefs’, page 28.) As one Panashe Chigumadzi, a Zimbabwean who spent her childhood in South Africa has noted, this is as much an issue about poverty as race. The violence is basically groups of poor black people attacking other groups of poor black people for ‘stealing’ their jobs, and exploiting them through their small businesses. It is actually a statement about the fundamental unviability of South African township life. Some two and a half decades after the end of Apartheid, it has become clear that state-backed
anti-African racism was not the sum total of black South Africans’ problems. The promises (modified into the Rainbow Nation ideal) espoused in the very ambitious 1955 Freedom Charter for a non-racialised society, in which there would be homes, jobs, decent education, health care and freedom for all, seem to have bypassed many a township dweller. It reminds me of a conversation I have mentioned here before that I had with my departed friend and comrade, Professor Dani Nabudere. Many years back, as a participant in a symposium on urbanisation at one South African university (the same one that put me up against a human robot), he began to question the notions being put forward, that
Below: Police officers detain a Nigerian man during a march against immigration in Pretoria on 24 February. Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up clashes between the protesters and migrants
living in a space legally described as ‘urban’ or a municipality meant that one had become urbanised. The background was a point being made about balancing the ever-rising cost of bringing greater amenities (water, electricity) to the townships, against the cost of having to manage the social unrest when these were not delivered. The critical catch, of course, was these were the long-expected fruits of South Africa’s delayed independence from white settler colonial rule, formalised in apartheid. The professor had a different view. He asked why the focus was not on forestalling migration by making sure such amenities were more available in the countryside. After all, he argued, the rich white settler-farmers did have such amenities on their farms, so it was not a physical impossibility. He wondered how the state and economy was expected to keep delivering infrastructure to rapidly growing urban spaces. As the debate developed, the professor was told almost in the tone of a reprimand that the right of a black African to migrate to an urban space was almost sacrosanct, coming as it did as a repudiation of the now defunct apartheid (and before) era Influx Control Law (1923) that strictly regulated (largely male) African movement to and within the cities. The Professor persisted: given that South Africa now had tens of thousands of black Africans crowded into cramped settlements without such amenities, while white settlers enjoyed them upcountry, which was the real “urban area”, and which the real “rural backwater”, he asked. The meeting did not end on a fully cordial note. Echoes of that debate however can be heard in the murders and pogroms against Africans, taking place in the townships again. What I find the most ironic about any black south African calling another African who happens to come from north of the Limpopo a foreigner, is that they too, are also foreigners, in as far as they do not ancestrally originate from the townships in which they live. Let us be frank: the South Afri-
can township phenomenon – so celebrated as the bedrock of the African resistance to Apartheid, and so iconised in South African film, television, music and prose – is itself a white imposition. Townships emerged as the catchment spaces for those Africans evicted from ancestral areas to make way for white settler communities, farms, industries, mines and game parks. In essence, they are really just glorified Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Their longevity, and absorption into black African cultural iconography does not change this fact. It simply masks it.
Levelled the playing field
I once shared a car ride with a deeply spiritual visitor to Uganda from Johannesburg, who, as a black African, could not tell me where his people came from beyond his father’s father, who had grown up in a township near the one he now lived in. He spoke a melding of Xhosa and isiZulu. We discussed the notion of a ‘suspended’ citizenship, requiring a much more concrete affirmation, in order to become real. Perhaps Nelson Mandela is not the ‘sell-out’ that rising radical South African activists are revising his legacy to be. He did oversee the dismantling of formal Apartheid, and the removal of Western support to exclusively white South African politics; he also dismantled their nuclear arsenal; he brought his party’s large but scattered army home and ensured it became part of the state armed forces; and he normalised the idea of a black President, of which there have now been four since his retirement. Maybe his idea was that having strategically levelled the playing field somewhat, enabling the Africans advantages previously well out of their reach, the rest was up to them, as to how to reverse the centuries of dispossession, displacement, and deracination. It would appear that the deracinated black South African foreigners sojourning in ‘their’ IDP-townships, have not yet worked out what the old man was up to, and are blindly attacking other poor Africans instead. NA
may 2019 New African 33
How can we tell the African story, as told by Africans, if most of the media telling these stories is controlled by foreigners?
T HE S E C O ND AFRIC AN REVOLUTION Kwame Muzawazi
Who is telling Africa’s story?
ince 2014, there has been an annual publication titled the African Union Handbook, containing basic information about the AU and its organs. Every January a new edition gets launched in Addis Ababa, where the AU has its HQ. All seems fine until you learn that this guidebook about Africa’s biggest political and social organisation, representing 55 countries and over a billion people, is published from a country that is over 100 times smaller than Africa – New Zealand! In politics and culture, symbolism and perceptions carry decisive weight. The fact that the most senior African organisation cannot publish information about itself or find an African partner to do so without help from a faraway country is a body blow to the cause of ‘the African story told by the African’. But this is not an isolated case. A quick survey of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) shows that publications by these organisations are in fact mostly produced using money or talent from non-African countries. I assume you have heard of the Zimbabwean liberation movement and the party called Zanu-PF. That’s the party that Robert Mugabe, the ‘celebrated pan-Africanist’, led for almost 40 years. Zanu-PF built and
34 new african may 2019
maintains its headquarters on Pennefather Avenue in Harare. Lt.-Col. Pennefather was the leader of the Pioneer Column that invaded modern-day Zimbabwe to create Rhodesia under the instructions of Cecil John Rhodes. It’s as repulsive as having Mary the mother of Jesus making her home on Judas Avenue. Mugabe wrote fiery pan-African speeches but all it needed was the stroke of a pen to change the name of the street. The Museum of Black Civilisations that was opened in Senegal in 2018 was built by the Chinese and it resembles typical Chinese architecture. Looking at images from the farcical opening ceremony, the theme looks like “Celebrating black civilisations according to Chinese characters”. I for one will never visit such an insulting tourist attraction. Go to African schools today to see the textbooks our children are using. Ninety per cent of them are invariably either written by French or British authors, depending on who the former colonial master is. When it comes to radio and television news consumption in Africa, every day, 200m Africans listen to the BBC’s radio broadcasts or watch its TV programmes. The BBC therefore takes the crown, distantly followed by France24 and CNN.
Having ZanuPF’s party HQ on Pennefather Avenue is as repulsive as having Mary the mother of Jesus making her home on Judas Avenue.
Global war of information There are very few continent-wide quality daily news providers and these are web-based. In terms of news analysis, which is becoming essential given the proliferation of shoddy websites that mostly purvey fake news, rumour and innuendo, there are only two major pan-African organisations, IC Publications (whose output includes New African) and the Jeune Afrique stable. In the ongoing global war of information, the African voice, unless articulated by the above organisations, is as quiet as a church mouse. In fact the big global media organisations have seen this space and created special programmes to make us forget we need our own black voice. The BBC calls theirs Focus on Africa, CGTN has Africa Live, CNN calls theirs Inside Africa/ African Voices. The Voice of America, like the BBC, broadcasts news in many African languages. In 2010, yours truly went on a solo road journey across 21 African countries to study the effects of this most invasive colonial presence in African schools. I was desolated to realise that in the 3,000 interviews that I conducted, 70% of the youths aged between 14 and 24 stated that their greatest goal in life was to emigrate to Paris, London or the US. Dear New African reader, you have seen and shall continue to see hundreds of young Africans willing to die in the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea on the way to Europe. These are the young people I once interviewed. Forgive them, because back home, back at school, they were ‘educated’ by European authors, by European storytellers. Africans must come together and formulate a continent-wide policy on curricula, which the various ministries responsible for education and culture will in turn feed off to cultivate local specific flavours. But that must be preceded by a re-writing of the Constitutive Act of the AU in a manner that will grant more powers and autonomy to the AU Commission, so that this body has the power to monitor and enforce policy across the continent. It’s an urgent need! NA
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Africans have adopted and adapted new technology brilliantly. It is time we applied their innovative and entrepreneurial skills to solve the continent’s chronic health problems.
How tech can transform Africa’s health
frica is a continent of extremes. You can go to many rural areas of the continent and find students glued to their mobile phones, yet their homes still lack basic sanitation. That is because the exponential growth of mobile phone use and internet penetration – that has led to Africa being dubbed the ‘mobile continent’ – is democratic and transcends age, gender or class. Data collected by a global media agency indicates that more than 82% of the population in Africa was covered by mobile phone networks by the end of 2017. Indeed, as time goes on, more advanced networks are coming to the continent, and Africans are increasingly connecting to the internet via 3G and 4G networks. Yet, despite such huge advances, sub-Saharan Africa underperforms in a number of critical areas. This is particularly obvious when we look at health care and health security across the continent. Four hundred million people in the region lack access to health care services. According to the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), while sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 1 billion people – 13% of the world’s population – a staggering 24% of the global disease burden is felt by Africans. The region
has only 2% of the world’s doctors and benefits from just 1% of the world’s health expenditure. These facts illustrate the vast amount of emphasis and importance that is focused on technology and internet connectivity – in direct contrast to how much we focus on health.
Supporting technological innovations But what if we were able to harness a fraction of Africa’s hunger for technology and connectivity and divert this towards creating solutions to health care issues that we Africans still struggle to overcome? As determined as we are, we should take our fate into our own hands and use our skills and expertise and channel this towards health. To a certain extent, this is already happening. Just last year, Nigerian school girls developed an app that detects counterfeit medicine. A Ugandan inventor created a biomedical smart jacket that aims to detect pneumonia four times faster than a doctor. Teenage girls in Kenya created an app that connects girls who have been affected by female genital mutilation. Across the continent, mothers-to-be are using their mobile phones to access life-saving medical treatment. Meanwhile, drone tech-
THOUGHT L E A D ER S HIP Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti
What if we were able to harness a fraction of Africa’s hunger for technology and creativity towards creating health care solutions?
nology is used to transport vaccines and blood to hospitals and clinics where patients need them the most. While not all of these inventions come from Africa, a testament to our determination is the way that we have been able to adapt – and in some cases reinvent – innovation for our own purposes. We need to see this happening more. The International Finance Corporation estimates that approximately $25bn to $30bn in new investment will be required to meet Africa’s health care demands. Of this, a significant proportion must be earmarked for technological developments that can effectively deal with the unique health challenges the continent faces. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the enormous contribution technology can make in solving some of the continent’s big health challenges. As such, earlier this year we launched the first-ever WHO Innovation Challenge. Our aim was to source, select and profile the innovations and even community-based initiatives that apply new and fresh thinking to address Africa’s unmet health needs. We received almost 2,500 applications, from 77 countries and of these 44 were within Africa. A record 34% of submissions were from female innovators and a significant proportion of entries came in from youth innovators. The top 30 were invited to exhibit on the opening day of the second WHO Africa Health Forum, held in Praia, Cabo Verde, in March, and officiated by the President of the Republic of Cabo Verde, Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca. The sheer volume of responses the challenge generated illustrates how innovators – home-grown and those off-shore – believe that technology has the potential to transform health care in Africa. We must continue to encourage this talent and invest in innovation. Only then will we come close to reaching our goal of universal health care across the continent. NA
Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti is the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
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While there is a lot of talk about the potential of African youth, finding a job in a saturated market has become next to impossible. We must break this vicious cycle if a catastrophic future is to be avoided.
THE NEW AGE Winnie Odinga
Give us jobs!
few Fridays ago I had a group of my friends over. It was the Friday night after the 14 Riverside terror attack in Nairobi and we wanted a quiet evening in. We were seven young women, all over the age of 25 but under the age of 30. Among us we had a combined seven undergraduate and seven Masters degrees, there were two doctors and an aerospace engineer - but none of us had formal employment. Not for a lack of trying; but I’ll come on to the reason for it later in this column. What struck me as interesting during this particular gathering were the responses to my question, “Yo! Just how easy is it to become a terrorist?” I asked this question because at the time, the faces of the terrorists were plastered across all TV channels and social media sites. One point the Kenyan news belaboured was that the terrorists were not of Somali origin (an unfortunate, widely held stereotype of the terrorist in Kenya) but were actually of Kenyan ethnicity. This fact was a point of discussion whispered in buses, neighbourhoods, clubs and bars. What’s happening to our young people? What we were bearing witness to was a reality that as a continent
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we need to address. In the past few years we have watched Europe pay dearly for ignoring this growing reality. There is massive radicalisation going on among our young people and it’s happening on a larger scale and faster than we think. Back to the conversation with my friends. “Joining that thing is too easy. People think it just happens in the streets, [but] I can go online right now, find a website and by morning I’ll be on a plane to my future,” was one response. “At this point, if I have to go and be rejected at one more interview, I’ll have to start thinking outside the box,” another quipped sarcastically. Both points weighed heavily on me but reading between the lines, all I could see was a reality that affects millions of young people on this continent – a dramatic sense of hopelessness so acute that even terrorism seems a viable option. We have all heard the political rhetoric about how this and that government will deliver jobs. We’ve accepted that political routine for exactly what it is, a routine.
Pragmatic New African person
In my last column, I wrote about just how pragmatic the New African person really is. The New African has
moved from believing everything (or anything) that comes from politicians and has hit both the virtual and actual streets in search of jobs. They have shown up prepped and prepared for every job interview. They have impressed all HR reps and CEOs. They have modified and re-modified their CVs ad infinitum. They have browsed thousands of job ads in their country and now are looking beyond borders. They wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and go online on their phones and swipe through professions they are more than qualified for. The news recently highlighted modern-day slavery being experienced by Africans in the Middle East. That news may have been shocking for western media but is a devastating common occurrence for young Africans looking for some sense of upward social mobility. Boats full of West Africans trying to get to Europe capsize daily in the Mediterranean Sea. I recently
This New African has done everything short of drawing blood to get employment.
watched a group of Eritreans that had trekked through the desert and sailed through the sea to travel to Yemen. The journalist asked them if they knew there was an ongoing civil war and they said they didn’t care. This New African (NA) has resorted to pleading with strangers on LinkedIn to just look at their CV. This NA has given up, tried again, prayed for, drunk, danced, exercised and done everything short of drawing blood to get employment – which is as difficult as getting a scholarship to Harvard. Many may apply but only one will get in. Their unemployment is a topic at family gatherings, they are always being introduced to ‘friends’ who might help. Basically, they have done the
The New African at a job interview. They will have done the research and prepared; but typically, they don’t even get a text message informing them of their fate
search, research and are prepared. They do all this and don’t even get a text message informing them of their fate. After an interview they spend the next few weeks mustering up the courage to contact their potential new employer and are strung along with empty phrases like, “It’s looking good, I’m pushing,” only to be let down in the end. One is lucky to get even this kind of response. Due to the high number of job applications, companies make young people compete and jump through hoops in interview processes and don’t even honour them with a reply of yes or no. There is also the job trap: “Come in for an internship and we will see in six months.” Two years later you are still carrying the
boss’s briefcase from his car. It is unfortunate that commonality in Africa is usually experienced in negative terms. Lack of services, corruption, poor infrastructure, etc. Each country has its own problems and they usually tackle them individually as nations. However on this particular point, African youths are screaming in a unified voice, “GIVE US JOBS!”
New model needed
There is a hashtag on Twitter used by Kenyans called #IkoKaziKE, which is a job search tag. If you’re lucky and your story is compelling enough to go viral, the Twitter community comes together to support you and shares your application around.
‘Come in for an internship and we will see.’ Two years later you are still carrying the boss’s briefcase from his car. Quite a number have found jobs this way. Complete strangers supporting each other online. But much more of this community spirit is needed. Africa for too long has invested in an economic model that does not grow beyond providing raw materials. There is enough money and jobs in the value chain. Instead of minerals and agricultural produce being exported raw, let’s set up factories and refineries which will create engineering, managerial, accounting, IT and millions of satellite jobs in the chain. We must sprout beyond the colonial model of grow-to-sell. Catastrophic unemployment is the symptom of a diseased society. We cannot have talks about talks about talks any more, we have to build and invest, and to move to plan B. NA
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Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s 42-year-old prime minister (pictured below), is attempting to build on the peace agreement signed with Eritrea last year and position himself as a peacemaker in the Horn of Africa and potentially beyond. The benefits, if he succeeds, could be an economic resurgence in the Horn as well as a welcome lowering of the political temperature. But it will not be an easy task. Analysis by Joseph Hammond.
Can Abiy Ahmed calm the Horn?
part from the rapprochement with Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed hasn’t been afraid to tackle the region’s biggest challenges – with varying degrees of success – in South Sudan and Somalia as well as between Somalia and Kenya. Starting this year, he took on quite a large diplomatic portfolio in a short period of time. On 20 February, Ahmed hosted Muse Bihi Abdi, President of the breakaway northern Somalia territory of Somaliland. While Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, declined to attend the event, the pair discussed regional peace and integration, reportedly agreeing to strengthen bilateral relations and trade collaboration. Two weeks later, on 4 March, Abiy Ahmed joined President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea in Juba to revitalise the eight-country Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led peace process in South Sudan, which included a meeting with President
Salva Kiir. Three days later, Ahmed facilitated a meeting between Somalia’s President Farmajo and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi over the disputed maritime border. With potential oil and gas assets at stake, Mogadishu has now decided to leave the border issue to be adjudicated by the International Court of Justice, and the two leaders agreed to allow back their respective envoys as a way of “restoring relations”. “Abiy Ahmed wants to diversify Ethiopia’s trade routes by supporting greater economic integration and transport links in the Horn and wider East Africa,” says Jordan Anderson, an analyst at IHS Markit, a political risk consultancy. “Regional peace is necessary to fully realise this integration, so that is likely a key driver of Ahmed playing a regional peacemaking role.” Sudanese-Ethiopian ties have also strengthened under Abiy Ahmed, for economic reasons. Data compiled by Asoko Insight,
a consultancy, shows that China, India, the US and Sudan have been the top four sources of FDI by number of projects in Ethiopia since 1993. For its part Sudan has supported the Ethiopian perspective on the Grand Renaissance Dam, which has been under construction since 2011, much to the consternation of Egypt – though the Ethiopian government remains committed to a constructive settlement of the issue. This might explain why Abiy Ahmed had remained largely silent about the situation across the border in Sudan, where myriad street protests had raged from December on, demanding, among other things, the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, who had seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989. The government’s response was to impose a state of emergency and unleash its brutal intelligence and security agents on the people. Nineteen people were reported killed early in January. (See New African’s April 2019 cover.) Bouteflika’s regime fell, on April
2 April, after less than two weeks of protest. Nine days later, Sudan’s military elite announced that they had deposed Bashir, who had been put under house arrest and that the defence minister, Ahmed Ibn Auf, a close henchman of Bashir’s, would chair a military-led council to determine the way forward. This did not appease the protesters and Ibn Auf stepped down after one day. (See Editorial, page 17.) If, as seems likely, a largely civilian government emerges from the current talks, it will look to build and strengthen ties with its neighbours as well as the international community and Abiy is certain to receive a very warm welcome. But a good deal will depend on how South Sudan, as well as the restive provinces of Darfur and Kordofan, interpret Bashir’s fall. Abiy’s diplomatic skills may yet be stretched to the full.
Beyond African borders Earlier this year Abiy Ahmed took a stab at one of the Middle East’s most intractable conflicts, the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, when he made parallel visits to both Doha and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. “Tantalising prospect perhaps, but is he mediating?” said Rashid Abidi, the Horn of Africa Project Director, International Crisis Group (ICG) in a post on Twitter. “No harm in trying a bit of The Horn medemer [coming together] to reconcile two Arab states.” Last year analysts observed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia both strengthened the EritreanEthiopian rapprochement through economic deals. Saudi Arabia had announced key investments and the UAE a ‘peace pipeline’ project to leverage the two states’ reliance on foreign petroleum. For its part Ethiopia last year announced it would buy a minority stake in the Port of Berbera (being developed by the UAE), in the breakaway territory of Somaliland, which has been self-governing for over 20 years. However, direct access to ports in Eritrea will likely prove more economically important in the long run than competing projects in other Red 42 new african may 2019
Sea littoral states. Still, Abiy Ahmed has shown that the relationship between wealthy Gulf states and Ethiopia might not be as it first appears and he refuses to allow Ethiopia to become a mere client state. In January, Abiy Ahmed achieved a diplomatic victory as important as his peace initiatives when it is thought he successfully lobbied for the release of SaudiOromo business magnate Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi. Al Amoudi is a Saudi national but was born in Ethiopia to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother. Forbes estimated his net worth in 2016 at approximately $10.9bn. He was listed as Ethiopia’s richest man and the second-richest Saudi Arabian citizen in the world. He began in construction and real estate before moving into oil refineries in Sweden and Morocco.
and AU peacekeepers in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. From what he has already accomplished, it is not surprising Ahmed has been the target of several Nobel Peace Prize nomination efforts. Were he to win he would be the first sitting head of state to receive the honour since Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos in 2016 and only the third in Africa (after Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia). Left: Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (c) receiving Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed (l) and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi last June. They were conferred with the Order of Zayed, the UAE’s highest civil honour. Both praised the UAE and Saudi Arabia for helping to catalyse the peace agreement Opposite: Saudi-Oromo business magnate, Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi
He is the largest individual foreign investor in Ethiopia. On 4 November 2017, Al Amoudi was arrested in Saudi Arabia on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during what was described as a “corruption crackdown”. He was held captive until his release in January this year. On recent trips to Ethiopia during Al Amoudi’s detention, this author frequently saw ‘Free Mohammed’ signs on the backs of cars – attesting to the large number of supporters he has amongst the Oromo of Ethiopia in particular. Ahmed’s efforts as a peacemaker are crucial as the Horn has been one of the most war-torn regions of Africa and is currently the continent’s most militarised zone. (See ‘The Horn: A Deadly Game of Chess’, New African, January). There are more than 50,000 UN
Domestic challenges However, there are several severe challenges for Ahmed mounting at home. The Oromo insurgency remains a lingering threat, even though Abiy Ahmed signed an agreement with 100 other political parties in Ethiopia to maintain a peaceful 2020 election. In October, Ahmed managed to calm a group of mutinous soldiers who stormed his office demanding a pay-rise by joining them in some push-ups. Ahmed, a former army officer who served as a peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995, is keen above all to avoid Ethiopia disintegrating into further ethnic conflict. Ethiopia is one of only two countries in the world (the other being St. Kitts and Nevis) where the right to secession is guaranteed by the constitution. Many ethnic Tigrayans, especially, feel increasingly marginalised in the Abiy Ahmed era. “Localised mob violence directed along political and ethnic lines is likely to intensify across Ethiopia as we get closer to elections (and the national census), including the targeting of ethnic Tigrayans,” says Anderson, “[which is] part of the violence that has already displaced over 2 million people in Ethiopia.” This seems an overly pessimistic projection. There are clear signs that the majority of Ethiopia’s people are tired of the economic paralysis that ethnic conflict brings in its wake and as long as the election process, still some way into the future, is perceived as fair, the projected violence may not happen at all or if it does, will be in fairly isolated and contained situations. Ahmed’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has governed since
1991. For most of that period, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, one of four parties constituting the EPRDF, has dominated the political structure, even though they are an ethnic minority in Ethiopia. Months of street protests by largely ethnic Oromos (who make up a majority in the country) led to Ahmed’s election as the chairman of the EPRDF and his subsequent appointment as prime minister just a month later, in April 2018. At only 42 years old, he is the youngest leader on the continent and his youthful energy has been key to his success as a peacemaker, but the challenge is now to grow his efforts beyond the actions of a charismatic individual and to embed them further still in regional initiatives and local institutions. His bigger problem is on the economic front. Although the country is one of the fastest-growing on average in the continent, it has still not managed to generate sufficient employment for large sections of its population. Ethiopia is still largely agrarian, with most of the rural population depending on subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Coffee, its traditional export crop, is now supplemented by an increasingly important horticultural sector. Manufacturing for export, especially under the US’s AGOA terms, has become central to the country’s planners and is seen as the main route to absorbing the large urban populations, which include a good proportion of its youth (see ‘Around Africa: Ethiopia’, p. 58). Abiy Ahmed’s forays into the Machiavellian politics of the Horn are largely driven by his desire to expand and deepen the domestic economy. He needs a great deal of investment, including from the Gulf, and if his efforts bring calm to the region, Ethiopia will not be the only country to benefit. He is seeking a win-win solution. Will he be able to pull it off? “I am not optimistic about his ability to balance competing concerns indefinitely,” says Mekki Elmograbi, a former Sudanese diplomat, “however, I can see he has the right approach in his efforts toward the region’s conflicts.” NA may 2019 new african 43
While many blacks in the UK have become very successful in sports, politics and entertainment, few have been able to get into positions of influence behind the scenes as coaches, managers or directors. What is behind this shortcoming?
Finding the power behind the scenes
ritain’s Princess Anne, presenting bestowing an MBE to the former gold medal hurdler and national team coach, Lorna Boothe caught the Jamaica born athlete by surprise with her question. “How is it,” the Princess Royal asked in words to that effect, “that you have transferred from being a top-class athlete to a top-class coach, when not all topclass athletes have done that?” One moment Lorna had been thinking that the tension of waiting to receive the MBE medal – remembering not to turn her back on a royal personage (even when returning to her seat) – was similar to what she had experienced while listening for the starting-gun at a major athletics championships; the next, she found it was not just a matter of courtesy, accept, thank-you and retreat, but she was also expected to engage in constructive conversation. It helped that they had met previously: both were members of the Great Britain team at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 – the one on a horse, the other on the track. Lorna replied that she had always had the opportunity to be around a lot of young people and had developed her skills from that. That answer, simple as it was,
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obviously satisfied Her Royal Highness, just as the Jamaica-born former Commonwealth 100 metres hurdles champion’s talent and commitment had impressed her mother sufficiently to create her a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). This positive news was encouraging because that morning I had learned of the passing of Tony Becca, the former sports editor of the Gleaner newspaper. For many years he had been my ‘opposite number’ – we worked respectively for the Kingston and UK offices of the same publication – and for just as long (that is, over 30 years) he had been the lone black presence in international press-boxes at a time when the West Indies bestrode the cricket world like a colossus. At 78 years old, Tony had been retired for some time, though still contributing a regular weekly column, so that when he suffered a cardiac arrest after entering hospital with dengue fever, what would surely have been a unique voice at this summer’s forthcoming Cricket World Cup was lost. On contacting the London office of the Gleaner to share the sad news with colleagues I encountered Paulette Simpson, representative of
Jamaica National (banking services), sponsors of that country’s team in the similarly up-coming Netball World Cup, which dove-tails in time and location with the closing stages of its cricket counter-part. She commented wryly that Jamaica had no UK/West Indian heritage television station – in contrast to the buoyant African sector – by which to publicise the Sunshine Girls. Where, it is tempting to ask, have the Jamaicans, and West Indians in the UK generally, gone? Their withdrawal from prominence across so many activities has been the subject of concerned comment. Africans now do indeed dominate the UK ‘black’ community.
A missing voice
At about this time Ian Wright, the former footballer and currently a pundit, chaired an in-depth television discussion as to why, in a sport in which they are so prevalent as players, there are few African/ Caribbean soccer coaches – which could apply also to all positions of influence and authority behind the scenes. The Cricketer magazine has published letters regarding the lack of participation, and, also, it seems, interest in the sport among
young people from a similar background. If there are few black cricketers developing, there are even fewer coaches, umpires, managers and ground-staff (apart from stewards). A story is beginning to develop. When Princess Anne observes how few athletes transfer to being coaches; Tony Becca the last consistent black West Indian representative in the cricket press-box dies; and Ian Wright raises the question of the absence of African/Caribbean professionals in positions of influence in football, don’t you feel that there is a voice missing somewhere? All these examples have been taken from the world of sport –
Lorna Boothe at the peak of her powers, winning the 100m hurdles at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, 1978
deliberately. I cannot face up to the political situation again so soon. However, with life, health and the Editor’s patience permitting I promise (or threaten?) to return to that subject again soon. Nevertheless, this phenomenon can be observed equally well in politics, social affairs, business and entertainment, apart from sport. It is accepted that to God alone belongs both ‘the power and the glory’, and that mere mortals have to settle on having just one or the other. Africans have achieved a degree of recognition ‘in front of the camera’ – as the film and television world would say – but a lot more is needed ‘behind the camera’. There are enough quality black actors to play any part which is required on stage, screen and radio: not everything has to be handled by Sir Lenny Henry, in spite of some appearance to the contrary. Yet a fully rounded picture cannot be achieved without a similar input by black dramatists, producers and directors. That, I would contend, is where Henry’s work is now of greater value. The contribution of the present well-publicised generation of African politicians in the UK cannot be realised until it is matched by Africans also filling the positions of party (and trade union) general secretaries, lobbyists and senior back-room staff. As much as the downright offence which can be recognised and countered, there is by this omission, danger of misunderstanding through an ignorance which is often well-intentioned. The late Syd Burke described his radio show Rice ‘n’ Peas on LBC as being from “a black point of view”. Several years ago a well-known television reporter said to me during a Parliamentary by-election campaign in more sympathetic bewilderment than may appear from the words on the printed page: “These black people around here are mad. They do not know who their own leaders are.” On being challenged to specify what he meant by that, he recited the names of leading officials on community relations boards – all of
whom had been appointed/elected by national, thereby primarily white, entities. When I indicated several Caribbean/Africans whose voices really counted in their neighbourhood, it was his turn to express ignorance.
To my mind there is no evidence that any race is better than another at transmitting experience and talent, or that people learn any less well from somebody of a different culture. Even so, apart from anything else, the newcomer must take comfort in knowing that a coach/ manager from their own background, facing similar difficulties as themselves, has achieved the goal they seek. The coach, too, will recognise those particular problems and have some practical idea of the solution. Above all, the minority coach/ director/organiser will know where to look for talent in communities that have been overlooked and under-developed. However well-meaning he/she may be, a university-educated coach with a secure middle-class suburban background can have little idea of or empathy with the problems of those, perhaps newly-arrived or second/third generation, from the inner cities. Whatever may be thought of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, it is in the highest system of honours this country provides; an inspiration for those aspiring young people whom Lorna Boothe has been around, helping to develop their skills, starting from urban Croydon on London’s southern fringes. She knows all about disadvantage. When we first met – in the early 1980s – Lorna, Jamiaca-born and black, was struggling to find sponsorship, even though she was the then current Commonwealth champion, which came more easily to her domestic rival Shirley Strong, Britain-born and blonde. Maybe nothing has changed but one thing has happened – Lorna Boothe has got to Buckingham Palace, and a new generation can take comfort that they, too, can get to the top (and not only on the track).
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President Akufo-Addo of Ghana has officially declared 2019 as the Year of Return for the African diaspora, whose ancestors were taken from Africa and enslaved in the Americas. But it is also an opportune moment for Ghanaians to reflect on their own shortcomings.
IN PERSPEC TIVE
Year of Return reflections
he Year of Return commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Jamestown, Virginia and invites the African diaspora to undertake a birthright journey home to Ghana, the location of 75% of slave dungeons along the west coast of Africa. According to the Ghana Tourism Authority, half a million Africans in the diaspora are expected to make the trip home to Ghana in 2019: 350,000 from North America, and the remaining 150,000 from the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. Events planned for this yearlong celebration include investment forums, summits, concerts, and festivals showcasing African arts, technology, and culture. This homecoming drive further cements Ghanaâ€™s status as a leader of pan-Africanism. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence. Kwame Nkrumah, the countryâ€™s first President, was a Founding Father of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union. Prominent African-Americans such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X,
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and Robert Wright visited or lived in Ghana during the 50s and 60s. George Padmore and W.E.B. Du Bois, both leaders of the pan-African Movement, relocated to Ghana and are buried in Accra. The Year of Return also builds on previous efforts to encourage the African diaspora to resettle in Ghana and contribute to the development of the African continent. In 2000, Ghana passed the Right of Abode law, which allows people of African descent to live in Ghana indefinitely. The obvious benefits to be accrued from the Year of Return include increased revenues from tourism in 2019 and beyond, investment deals and partnerships in various sectors, and closure for the African diaspora, who finally set foot in their ancestral home.
Taken for granted
A less obvious benefit is the opportunity it affords Ghanaians to reflect on the legacy of slavery and colo-
Half a million diasporan Africans are expected to make the trip home to Ghana in 2019.
nisation and our experience as an independent country. Whereas Africans in the diaspora are constantly reminded of the history of slavery through their marginalisation, the average Ghanaian hardly, if ever, reflects on the history of slavery and colonisation. Ghanaians take their hard-won independence for granted and consequently their awareness is less developed. It was after all the African chiefs and kings who sold fellow Africans they had captured from enemy states into slavery. Four hundred years later, young Africans, including Ghanaians, are still crossing the sea in droves to the diaspora under inhumane conditions. Again, their departure is involuntary and spurred by the betrayal of their own leaders, who have forsaken the principles of the independence struggle and put their selfish interests above the peace and development of their countries. Like the ancestors of the African diaspora arriving home, these young Africans are making lengthy journeys across the continent to reach the Mediterranean coast. Just like their ancestors, they are boarding overcrowded boats,
drowning at sea, and getting thrown overboard. Some of these migrants are even getting trafficked or sold into slavery. For too long, Africa and the entire world has blamed the white man alone for the scourge of slavery. Perhaps, as Ghanaians collectively and formally accept the culpability of our ancestors in this blight on history, we will begin to confront the parallels between the actions of our past kings and those of our present-day bureaucrats and ordinary citizens. How can we in good faith invite the African diaspora to unite with us when we cannot unite with each other back home? No amount of foreign invest-
The Kwame Nkrumah National Park in Accra, Ghana. Nkrumah, the countryâ€™s first President, was a Founding Father of the OAU, the precursor to the AU. The Year of Return, inviting the diaspora to undertake a birthright journey to Ghana, highlights its status as a leader of pan-Africanism
ment and partnerships or nation branding can lift us out of poverty unless we eschew the vices of corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency, tribalism, and nepotism. It is hypocritical to talk of unity when politicians connive with foreigners to inflate the costs of development projects for kickbacks, at the expense of the Ghanaian taxpayer. It is unpatriotic and shortsighted to overprice housing units in the city centre, crowding out the youth, who then have to live on the outskirts of the city and spend about four hours driving to and from work daily. Likewise, it is mind-boggling
and utterly reprehensible to support and encourage foreigners to engage in illegal mining activities which pollute our rivers and water bodies. The African diaspora is welcome to Ghana, a land where they are likely to find peace and solace away from the discrimination and marginalisation they have lived with for so long. To become a beacon for Africans everywhere however, Ghana must strive for socioeconomic transformation, good governance, security, and equal opportunities for all its citizens. Our right to invite the African diaspora home cannot be earned through our past laurels.
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Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is lauded as an arch pan-Africanist but his relations with neighbouring countries have become fraught. He has accused some of them, including former close allies, of harbouring dissidents set on toppling his administration. What is the reality behind the rhetoric? Analysis by Epajjar Ojulu.
Why is Kagame at loggerheads with neighbours?
wanda and President Paul Kagame were once again in the global spotlight as, last month, the country marked the 25th anniversary of the genocide with a week of mourning and remembrance. Kagame said that nothing on earth could turn Rwandans against Rwandans ever again. But while extolling the strides the country has made, especially in resuscitating the economy, enforcing public accountability and initiating pro-poor people programmes, he gave a stark warning to “those who think our country has not seen enough of a mess, and want to mess with us. We will mess up with them big time...big time.” He added: “Rwanda is a very good friend to those who befriend us but adversaries should not underestimate what a formidable force we have become as a result of our circumstances.” This was fighting talk aimed squarely at some of Rwanda’s neighbours as well as countries as far afield as South Africa. For a while now, he has been accusing some countries of either colluding with Rwandan dissidents to destabilise the country or giving them sanctuary. As he spoke, the country borders with Uganda and Burundi were 48 new african may 2019
for all practical purposes closed. At the beginning of March the Rwandan government barred traffic from Uganda from going through the main border point at Gatuna. Rwanda-destined traffic from Uganda was diverted to Cyanika, the border point near the DR Congo border. Rwandan officials claimed traffic was diverted to allow ongoing road construction on the GatunaKigali highway. But motorists said they were turned away from other border points as well. Only vehicles belonging to Rwanda, or other countries such as Kenya and DR Congo, were allowed entry. Rwanda also barred its citizens from travelling to Uganda because Uganda, according to Rwanda’s foreign minister, Richard Sezibera, was arresting, torturing and incarcerating them in detention for refusing to join anti-Rwanda dissidents. Kagame accuses Burundi and Uganda of being hand in glove with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL), comprised mainly of the Interahamwe, a Hutu-led militia blamed for the 1994 genocide in which over 800,000 mainly Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed; and the Rwanda National Congress, led by Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.
Burundi has denied the accusations and counter-accused Rwanda of training Burundi rebels to oust the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Reuters reported in February 2016 that a confidential UN report by experts presented to the Security Council accused the Rwandan military of training Burundi dissidents with the aim of ousting the government of President Nkurunziza. The Burundi government also accuses Rwanda of abducting Burundi fishermen from the border zone of Lake Rweru last December.
Right: Rwanda’s President Kagame (c) and his wife Jeanette (l) taking part in the ‘Walk to Remember’ in Kigali, one of a week-long series of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the genocide
Allies turned into foes? Despite Uganda being key to Kagame’s accession to power, relations between him and President Yoweri Museveni have largely been on the rocks. It has not been easy to pinpoint the cause of the bad blood between the two former guerilla leaders. While Museveni expects Kagame to acknowledge his role in his attaining power, Kagame too wants Museveni to concede that Rwandans, both as refugees and residents in Uganda, played a big role in Museveni’s winning the bush war that brought him to power three decades ago. Some observers claim it is nothing more than a
clash of egos. But events on the ground suggest something more serious. The current stand-off between the two countries followed Rwanda’s accusation that Uganda was arresting, incarcerating and killing its nationals who visited the country. “For the past three years, I have been raising this issue with the President [Museveni]. Nothing has been done,” Kagame told a national leadership conference in Kigali in March. The Uganda government has denied the accusations. Museveni says some of the alleged ‘dissidents’ are nothing more than entrepreneurs. “The problem is that Rwanda doesn’t separate business from politics,” he told a news conference, also in March. However, the Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told reporters at the beginning of March that some Rwandans were being held in Uganda under the law. He did not stipulate the charges preferred against them. That said, a 20-man list of Rwandans detained, part of a longer list, which was released by Rwanda’s deputy foreign minister, Olivier Nduhungirehe on 1 March, shows that most of the Rwandans have been detained by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, an arm of the Uganda People’s Defence Force tasked with fighting espionage and foreign military-related crime. Number one on the list is Rene Rutagungira, who has been in detention since 5 August 2017. Rutagungira and others detained by the military suggest that they are suspected of either being spies or Rwandans deployed to track down dissidents with the aim of murdering them. Kagame alleged on his twitter account in February that the Rwandans were being held in Uganda for refusing to join General Kayumba Nyamwasa’s rebel Rwanda National Congress.
Deep-rooted ties From the 1950s, millions of Rwandans have lived in Uganda. According to the Uganda 50 new african may 2019
Constitution, the Banyarwanda (Rwandans) are among the 55 officially recognised ethnic groups in the country. The Banyarwanda have been so deeply integrated into the Ugandan society that a survey in 1962 when Uganda got independence, showed that 20% of the population in south-western Buddu County comprised ethnic Rwandans, most of whom had settled there during and after the 1959 overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy in Rwanda. It is believed that the Banyarwanda are in fact the largest ethnic group today, larger than even the Baganda and other major native ethnic groups in the country.
‘Rwanda is a very good friend to those who befriend us, but adversaries should not underestimate what a force we have become’ – President Kagame In the central region inhabited mainly by the Baganda, it is difficult to ascertain the number of Rwandans because most of them pass for Baganda, as they speak the same language, have indigenous Kiganda names and follow the culture of the Baganda as a result of several generations of intermarriages. Although Kagame has been trying to rebrand Rwanda as a nation free from social, economic, cultural and political influence, especially from Uganda, the ties between the two populations run so deep that it appears a futile exercise. Luganda, Uganda’s main language is, for example, commonly spoken on Kigali’s streets. Virtually every aspect of Rwandan life has a Ugandan element to it. Although Kagame himself was born in Rwanda, his parents fled to Uganda during the Rwanda Revolution, which ended the Tutsi monarchy. He spent nearly all his childhood in Uganda and some of his friends were to later become members of his government.
Kagame studied at Makerere University in Kampala, before joining the forces of Yoweri Museveni, who overthrew Ugandan President Milton Obote in 1986. Kagame became Museveni’s chief of intelligence and gained a reputation for incorruptibility and severity by enforcing a stringent code of behaviour. The two men are said to have formed a strong bond of trust, respect and friendship. Kagame’s own invasion of Rwanda from exile in 1994 (which ended the genocide) was carried out from bases in Uganda and a good part of his force was made up of Rwandan battle-hardened veterans from Museveni’s army. Given the intimate ties between the two peoples and their leaders, the current icy relationship between the two is difficult to comprehend.
At loggerheads further afield Rwanda is also not only accusing the DRC of colluding with dissidents but of failing to exercise jurisdiction over and control of its vast eastern North Kivu Province, which harbours numerous rebel groups and militia, including FDRL and other militants. Rwanda invaded North Kivu Province in 1996 and 1998, ostensibly to flush out the rebels. Kagame said, “We shall pursue those criminals inside DRC” before sending troops. However, the UN accused Rwanda, alongside Uganda, which also justified sending troops to DRC to flush out Islamist Allied Democratic Forces, of pillaging and looting DRC’s resources. Beyond the sub-region, Kagame has an axe to grind with South Africa. Pretoria accuses Kigali of masterminding the 2014 strangling to death in a Johannesburg hotel of Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former intelligence chief in exile there. Since 2015, relations between the two countries have been on the rocks with South Africa accusing Rwanda for twice attempting to murder renegade former Rwanda army chief, General Kayumba Nyamwasa, also in exile in South Africa. In both cases, Rwanda was suspected of sending a team of hitmen to carry out killings. Further south, Rwanda and
Below: Uganda’s President Museveni (l) presents President Kagame with the Pearl of Africa medal, Uganda’s highest honour, in Eastern Uganda in 2012. It was awarded for Kagame’s role in the 1981-6 NRM/ NRA liberation struggle of Uganda
Tanzania’s relations have neither been strained nor particular friendly. Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete appeared to have riled Kagame when in 2013 on the sidelines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa, he called on Rwanda to hold peace talks with the FDLR. He also urged Rwanda and Uganda to stop support for the M23 DRC rebels. Kagame’s response was that he would not talk to ‘terrorists’ and he politely advised Kikwete to mind his own business. The visit to Rwanda in April 2016 by the new Tanzanian president, John Pombe Magufuli, appears to have been aimed at mending the cracks on the wall left behind by Kikwete. The M23 rebel group was supported by the two countries to fight the government of LaurentDésiré Kabila, the man Rwanda and Uganda helped to remove Mobutu Sese Seko from power in 1997. Later, however, Kabila fell out with his erstwhile backers, alleging that Kagame and Museveni wanted
to relegate him to a stooge in the running of the DRC government. Rwanda has since time immemorial depended on Uganda for food, manufactured goods and other services. Before the border crisis which started in March this year, over 80% of consumer goods in Rwanda were either manufactured or came through Uganda, according to Rwandan trade statistics.
Rwanda’s East African ties Large numbers of Rwandans also live in DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Angola and elsewhere in Southern Africa and present a diversity of culture. If having a shared sentiment about a nation means nationalism, then Kagame has an uphill task to entrench it in the country. Rwanda is a member of the regional bloc, the East African Community, which includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan. Its decision to stop Rwandans from leaving the country by denying them exit
permits is against the spirit of the bloc. “By stopping Rwandan citizens from leaving the country, Kagame violates the free movement of people and goods protocol agreed by the East African Community,” says Uganda’s finance ministry economist Stephen Ndhaye. Ironically, Kagame is the current chairman of the EAC and outgoing AU chairman. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Kigali in March at the height of Rwanda’s conflict with Uganda and Burundi. No mention was made of what he discussed with Kagame on the strained relations with Uganda and Burundi, an indication that there was no change of position by Kagame on the crisis. At home, though, Kagame is lauded for initiating economic and social transformation of his country. Rwanda’s economy is among the fastest-growing in Africa, averaging 7% per annum in the last decade. However, the fruits of economic success seem not to have been felt by ordinary Rwandans, say economists. However, his critics say Kagame is whipping up nationalist sentiments to divert his people from the hardships they face. “There is biting poverty, food shortage and youth unemployment. Like other African leaders who came to power through the barrel of the gun, he wants to create excuses for keeping power,” says Makerere University political scientist Lumumba Bwire. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 14,000 Rwandans in Uganda, who have declined voluntary repatriation mainly for economic reasons. It is believed that there are millions of both documented and undocumented Rwandans living in Uganda, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Southern Africa who have ignored requests to return to Rwanda. It is these Rwandans, most of them Hutus, who have been joined by Kagame’s erstwhile Tutsi comrades, such as Gen. Nyamwasa, opposed to what they claim is his authoritarianism, who will continue to poison relations between Kagame’s Rwanda and its neighbours. NA may 2019 new african 51
Around Africa South Africa
On 8 May, South Africans go to the polls to elect members of parliament and other state officials. The polls this time around have added spice, given the dramas involving the ANC, a struggling economy and a more polarised nation. Rafiq Raji assesses the front runners.
Will loyalty factor decide elections?
hile the national and provincial elections in South Africa are typically of great interest, they are even more so this year. This is because they will be taking place against the backdrop of corruption scandals in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and power cuts by Eskom, the state power utility. There are 48 political parties participating in the 2019 elections. But the ANC is expected to keep its majority in the National Assembly, and thus determine who emerges as President of the Republic. According to the amended 1996 constitution, the President of the Republic must be elected in the first sitting of the National Assembly after the elections, on a date set by the chief justice – who will also preside over the election – which must not be more than 30 days after the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent president. The appointee is usually the head of the winning party – in the ANC’s case, this would be Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent. The main issues in the 2019 elections relate to jobs, land, corruption, and the provision of basic public services. Roger Southall, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says “it is the rising cost of living, keeping the lights on [a reference to the frequent power cuts] and as ever, jobs, jobs, jobs” that are uppermost on voters’ minds. Oxford-based Jason Robinson, 52 new african may 2019
The main issues in the 2019 elections relate to jobs, land, corruption, and the provision of basic public services. senior Africa analyst at Oxford Analytica, a consultancy, echoes similar thoughts: “Jobs, the economy, quality of service delivery, crime and education. He adds: “With the economy stagnating, unemployment still rampant and only a partial recovery in sight, exacerbated by the ongoing operational and management woes at the power utility Eskom, voters want a compelling option come 8 May.” Recent power outages or loadshedding are likely be uppermost in the minds of all voters. At its peak, water taps stopped running as pumps could not work and even traffic lights went dark. Is what is becoming a chronic lack of service delivery sufficient to sway voter loyalty away from the ruling ANC party, though?
Above: Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (l), interacts with supporters and shares his Agenda for Change in Umlazi township outside Durban on the DA’s Kasi-toKasi Tour
“You bet!” exclaims Prof. Southall of Wits. Oxford Analytica’s Robinson thinks so too, but does not see it moving “substantial numbers of ANC voters to other parties”. It could affect voter turnout, though. In any case, which of the three leading political parties has the best plan to tackle these issues? “They all claim to be addressing them,” says Wits’ Southall, noting specifically the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) 170-page manifesto. The ANC’s manifesto is about 70 pages long and the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) is just a little above 80 pages long. While Prof. Southall finds the EFF’s lengthy manifesto impressive, he also thinks that “it is highly inconsistent and doesn’t specify where the money [to fund its programmes] would come from.”
ANC still leading the pack Still, while the ruling ANC has demonstrably performed below expectations in regard of these issues, its strong revolutionary credentials continue to make it the party to beat. That is, even as its cadres face numerous allegations of corruption. It is thought, however, that the leading opposition parties might make greater gains this time around. For instance, the DA is expected to remain the main opposition party but may not make significant ground relative to the status quo. On the other hand, the radical EFF, which is increasingly regarded as the party genuinely promoting the ideals of the original anti-
apartheid struggle for economic emancipation, could turn out to be the real winner in the May elections by coming second to the ANC. But the ANC’s aura as the party of liberation and Nelson Mandela has been severely dented by a cascade of corruption scandals, going all the way up to former President Jacob Zuma, who was
Below: South Africa’s President and President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa on a campaign visit to Clermont township, KwaZulu-Natal in late March
eventually ousted by the party – a situation unthinkable during the early heady days of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. The corruption was compounded by a climate of impunity and irresponsibility which saw some of the country’s best office-holders sidelined and replaced by acolytes and the whole nation virtually held
to ransom by foreign-born tycoons such as the Guptas. The Zuma administration also oversaw a steep and sharp decline in the country’s economic performance, a precipitous drop in the value of the rand, a rise in crime, record unemployment, a crisis in its education and health delivery systems and a calamitous drop in its
may 2019 new african 53
Around Africa South Africa
public service standards. Despite this, observers believe that the hold of the ANC on the minds of the majority of voters, certainly black voters, is sufficiently powerful to give the venerable party victory in these elections. With the change of leadership from Zuma to Ramaphosa and a more pragmatic cabinet, voters might be more inclined to go with the emotions they have invested in the party for generations and place their trust in it rather than take a chance on the other front-runners. But the patience of voters is running thin. Should the ANC not reform and a viable alternative emerge from the two main opposition DA and EFF parties, it might only be a matter of time before some of the ANC’s core supporters decide they have had enough. But even if it is taken for granted that the ANC will win again this time around, how big will their support be? “I’m guessing the ANC will get 50-60%; the other two (DA and EFF) 10-20%,” says Charles Robertson, group chief economist at Renaissance Capital, a bank focused on emerging markets. Prof. Southall of Wits puts the ANC’s share of the vote at 55-60%, the DA’s at 20-24% and the EFF’s at 8-12%. In the 2014 elections, the ANC garnered 62% of the vote, the DA 22% and the EFF 6%. If the predictions bear out, the results will show a small swing against the ANC, the same level of support for the DA but a large swing in favour of the EFF. However, as we have seen elsewhere, elections are becoming more and more difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. What outcomes would be tantamount to an upset in the 2019 polls? Oxford Analytica’s Robinson says “an upset at this stage would likely be a sizeable increase in the DA’s support, given its travails over the past year or so, coupled with the ANC’s dropping below 54-55%.” Conversely, an upset would also involve “the ANC, somehow against the odds, garnering 62%, and ostensibly showing the party resurgent under Ramaphosa,” 54 new african may 2019
It is thought that the leading opposition parties – the DA and EFF – might make greater gains this time around. Robinson adds. Another upset, says Robinson, would be “a substantial boost in support for the EFF. Should the EFF take more than 10% of the national vote, it would be evidence it is making major inroads alongside its position as a potential ‘kingmaker’ in several provinces.”
Ramaphosa factor The ANC is making a show of dealing with its image problem. Various corruption inquiries are ongoing and are being conducted in the public eye. The ANC leadership has also made a deliberate effort to personally reach out to voters, embarking on door-to-door campaigning, among other outreach measures. Much of the credit is due to the party’s still relatively new leader. For instance, President Ramaphosa took a trip on the public train from Mabopane station in Gauteng Province to Bosman in Pretoria in mid-March. After delays and the train breaking down on the way, what should have been a 45-minute trip took four hours in total. Many saw this as an unexpected blessing. That the train broke down midway, with the President on it, and reached its destination so late, provided him with a perfect
Top: Julius Malema, leader of the EFF. The party’s bad press from recent corruption allegations is not expected to hurt its chances in the 2019 polls
example of the daily hardships faced by ordinary South Africans. And the failure of the ruling party to attend to their needs. But the mishap also showed that Ramaphosa’s intentions in going walkabout among the people were probably genuine. After all, the whole event could have been carefully stage-managed to be hitchfree, and thus present a different, but not entirely honest, view of the country’s public services. As Prof. Southall of Wits asserts, “Ramaphosa is vital to the ANC and has support well beyond the party.” Robinson agrees. “Many voters are seemingly willing to take a chance on him despite concerns over persistent ANC factionalism,” he says. In any case, the EFF is grappling with scandals of its own. There are allegations that the party’s top officials corruptly enriched themselves with monies from the defunct VBS Mutual Bank, which failed owing to mismanagement and corruption. EFF party leader Julius Malema and his lieutenants deny any misconduct on their part in respect of VBS. In any case, the bad press from the allegations is not expected to hurt the party’s chances in the 2019 polls. “Because,” says Southall, “the people who read about this stuff in the media are middle class and not really the people who would be ready to vote for the EFF anyway.” Besides, “many will see it as mere ‘fake news’ and a white-dominated media out to get the party and its leaders,” adds Robinson of Oxford Analytica. Were the president to be elected directly by the people, would the electoral maths be so static? “Yes, we all want to see candidates being made accountable to voters. But electoral reform is a much debated topic that never gets anywhere”, says Wits’ Prof. Southall. At this point it seems the South African elections will run very much true to form and despite what can only be termed a horrible period in its long and mostly lustrous history, the ANC will come away with the spoils. NA
Around Africa Zimbabwe
It has now emerged that Cyclone Idai was preceded by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake, compounding the destructive effects of the cyclone. Are the erratic weather patterns in Africa the result of environmental warfare experiments gone awry? Baffour Ankomah reports.
What is causing erratic weather patterns?
t is said lightning never strikes the same place twice. But Zimbabwe got a double whammy on the night of 14 March when Cyclone Idai battered the picturesque Eastern Highlands shortly after, according to the government, a 3.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of the Eastern Highlands, leaving 344 people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, several hundreds missing, scores of sleepy villages under rubble, and an estimated $1bnworth of property destroyed. The earthquake, acknowledged by the government only on 10 April, explains why there were massive landslides in the affected areas, flattening villages and leaving behind huge boulders and thick mud that had rolled from the top of the mountains and destroyed villages down below, burying some villagers under thick mud and stones as they slept in their beds when Idai hit the area. On two visits to the affected areas, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, looking at the scale of the destruction, is said to have told his officials that some unexplained phenomenon happened in the Chimanimani and Chipinge areas and that the phenomenon could not simply be ascribed to Idai. The President asked them to investigate. On 10 April, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced after a cabinet meeting that the “cabinet has established 56 new african may 2019
that the scale of the disaster was to some extent exacerbated by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake which hit the Chimanimani areas shortly before the onset of the cyclone. “A team of experts is currently on the ground in the Chimanimani and Chipinge areas carrying out a disaster vulnerability assessment exercise with a view to determining the suitable long-term settlement and land use patterns,” she said, adding: “Priority continues to be accorded to the repair or construction of damaged roads, and bridges, school infrastructure, health infrastructure, and the provision of large-scale psychosocial support.” The government has since launched an international humanitarian appeal, asking for help from international partners (to the tune of $612m) to assist the victims. Minister Mutsvangwa said “the search and recovery process is now confined to recovery of the deceased as the missing persons can now be presumed to be dead. Specialised equipment and the relevant expertise are being mobilised for the recovery of the bodies buried under massive rock debris.”
Was it geophysical warfare? The magnitude of the devastation wrought by Idai and the earthquake has triggered a debate in elite Zimbabwean society about whether the combination of the earthquake and Idai was an electromagnetic
or geophysical warfare event gone awry. The word used by the President is ‘phenomenon’. Zimbabweans simply cannot understand the sheer ferocity of a supposedly natural event such as a cyclone leaving such destruction in its wake as to make the UN describe it as the worst weatherrelated natural disaster to hit the southern hemisphere in all history. World Vision called it “the strongest cyclone on record in the southern hemisphere”. Part of the debate has seen people going back to a 1996
New York Times article in which America’s leading newspaper wrote about the US military’s “recent” success in short-term rainmaking as a weapon of war. (See Cover Story, page 18.) The paper reported: “Over the past decade a new term, geophysical warfare, has begun creeping into discussions of future types of military capability. A rough definition of the concept would be an act or acts of environmental engineering designed to change the
President Emmerson Mnangagwa (c) crosses a stream near Chimanimani Rural Hospital in the Eastern Highlands, on his way to meet local survivors of the cyclone
flow of air and water in order to damage one side in a conflict and benefit the other. “The most elementary type of geophysical warfare is shortterm rainmaking with a military objective in view; but published discussion of these possibilities has gone much further. There has been speculation about the possibility of radically altering the climates of particular areas, and even of manipulating ocean levels… “Geophysical warfare has now left the area of futuristic speculation and science fiction. The
revelation that the United States has used rainmaking techniques for military purposes in Indochina has suddenly put this problem on the world’s agenda for international discussion… “Even those who may feel that dropping rain on an enemy is better than dropping bombs must realise that rainmaking is only the first step. Once accepted as a normal military technique, geophysical warfare may some day be capable of drowning vast continental coastal areas, turning fruitful areas into deserts, and even perhaps ultimately of radically rearranging the entire world climate. “It is not just enterprises of a military nature that need to be discussed and brought under international control. With man’s increasing powers, the risk becomes steadily greater that projects will be embarked upon whose ultimate impact on the environment may be as destructive for some nations and some peoples as if they had been the intended victims… “The stated motivations for these and similar imaginative projects are usually praiseworthy and seemingly far distant from military objectives. Yet any major act of environmental engineering carries substantial risks because it is always accompanied by great potential for unintended side effects, for producing unanticipated changes that could harm – even devastate – some areas of the world.”
Accelerated drought periods This has set tongues wagging in Zimbabwe. Were Idai and the earthquake “unintended side effects” of some powerful nation’s geophysical warfare games, they are asking. Have they become victims of the “projects” that The New York Times talked about, whose “ultimate impact on the environment may be as destructive for some nations and some peoples as if they had been the intended victims?” As a result, some Zimbabweans are asking for a wider international debate on the Idai phenomenon, quoting SourceWatch.org which insists that: “Environmental war, however carried out, is almost always a violation of the 1978 United Nations Treaty against the
modification of the environment. Thus, environmental weapons are developed in secret, and acts of environmental war are carried out covertly, as both environmental weapons and war are illegal under international law.” According to SourceWatch. org: “Environmental war is generally carried out as a strategic deception [and the] weapons systems can include chemtrails, chemical weapons systems, climate and weather modification, electromagnetic weapons systems (which also include climate and weather modification) and seismic warfare.” One academic has gone as far as saying climate and weather modification also involves using electromagnetic weapons to push away clouds and create artificial droughts for enemy countries, what The New York Times calls “turning fruitful areas into deserts, and even perhaps ultimately radically rearranging the entire world climate”. Zimbabweans are now looking back and trying to explain how, since their country’s land reform started in 2000 and a hostile Western world imposed economic and political sanctions on the country as part of the regime change agenda meant to overthrow former President Robert Mugabe’s government, Zimbabwe has had drought almost every other year, when before the land reform, droughts in the country had a 10year cycle. “Droughts happened every 10 years or so, but now it is happening every other year, frustrating our agriculture and inducing hunger and starvation in our people,” says Albert Chikuse, a beneficiary of Mugabe’s land reform. This year, Zimbabwe has been hit again by drought and the government may need to import around 900,000 tonnes of maize to cover for the shortfall in local production. The country requires 1.8m tons of grain for both human and livestock consumption. For nearly 20 years, drought has been Zimbabwe’s enemy. Now the people are asking: Are the droughts also man-made? Who knows? NA may 2019 new african 57
Around Africa Ethiopia
Ethiopia has been steadily developing its manufacturing sector in a bid to supplement vital income from its more traditional exports. If it can maintain political stability, it could join Nigeria and South Africa as a continental powerhouses. Report by James Jeffrey.
Manufacturing moves centre stage
his Mother’s Day gone, there is a fair chance that if you bought your flowers in the likes of the UK or US, the floral arrangement for your dear mother contained cut flowers from Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s income from flower exports has increased steadily over the years, generating $228.6m in the last fiscal year, according to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Trade, part of the overall $2.84bn worth of goods exported. This marked an increase of 10.5% since 2013. In its bid to become a lightmanufacturing hub to rival those in the Far East, Ethiopia is pursuing an ambitious programme of building multiple investor-friendly industrial parks offering special opportunities in textiles, leather products, horticulture and pharmaceuticals, to attract both foreign capital and know-how as it seeks to keep boosting those export numbers. “The best sectors relate to export revenue generation,” says Reg Hankey, CEO of Pittards, a British leather goods company trading in Ethiopia since the 1920s. “Broadly these are agriculture, textiles, leather, shoes, leather goods and other manufacturing options. These all generate foreign exchange, but also employ lots of people whilst developing their skills, enabling the society to move away from poverty.” Along with cut flowers – representing 11% of total exports in 2016/2017 – Ethiopia’s other top exports were coffee (30%), oil seeds (12%), pulses (10%), gold (9%) and khat (9%), according to the US Department of Commerce. Major destinations for Ethiopia’s exports 58 new african may 2019
in this period were Asia (37%, with China at 20%), Europe (32%) Africa (21.5%), and the US (8%). “In the next 10 years, the exports from these industrial parks and other manufacturing facilities outside of them, plus value-added agricultural production, including coffee, and electricity and other items are expected to account for up to 25% of GDP from less than 5% today,” says Zemedeneh Negatu, chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund, a US-based investment firm. Fairfax has several investments in Ethiopia including in technology and manufacturing. “Ethiopia’s export model is similar to the strategies used by the Asian Tigers and China to generate significant forex and build wealth in just a few decades.”
Made in Ethiopia Zemedeneh notes how global brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and the Italian clothing manufacturer and retailer, Calzedonia, are already successfully exporting to Europe and elsewhere. “The export opportunities are significant for products Ethiopia has started to manufacture, and will be manufacturing in the future, which will be in demand around the world,” Zemedeneh says. It all fits in with the government’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II) that aims to spur economic structural transformation and sustain accelerated growth towards the realisation of the national vision to become a low middle-income country by 2025. Increased exports also address key vulnerabilities, such as the persistent shortage of foreign
exchange within the economy. “The government hopes that textile and garment manufacture in Chinese-inspired and funded industrial parks will be a gamechanger,” says Clive Newell, executive director of the Londonbased consultancy agency, G3 (Good Governance Group). “This is a challenge as it entails new working methods for an agricultural population and a high level of government support from institutions that have little experience of industry or export.” But Ethiopia has a significant advantage in its preferential treatment in export terms by other countries. Growth in Ethiopia’s garment manufacturing, for example, has been largely driven by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This US Trade Act established in 2000 – applicable until at least 2025 – enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries like Ethiopia, granting up to a 32% relief on tariffs to garment buyers. Ethiopia’s exports also benefit from being granted duty-free and quota-free access to the EU, Japan, Canada, China, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Ethiopia needs all the export leverage it can get in its fight to decrease its trade deficit gap, which has steadily increased on average by 12.5% per year between 2004/05 and 2016/17, reaching $15.8bn in the last of those fiscal years. “It looks bad, but it is to some degree expected, and mitigated,” says Will Davison, International Crisis Group Senior Analyst for Ethiopia. “Ethiopia needs
to purchase capital goods such as machinery to increase the economy’s productive capacity, as well as essential items like food and medicine, so it’s hard to control import growth. Also, exports aren’t the only source of forex – the country receives more remittances, grants, loans, and FDI combined than it generates from exports, reducing its current account deficit.”
Below: At the Chinese-owned Huajian shoe factory in Addis Ababa, workers make shoes for American brands such as Guess. Ethiopia aims to become a lightmanufacturing hub to rival those in the Far East
To make the overall balance even more manageable, Ethiopia is trying to expand into new areas for exporting. A Chinese conglomerate, POLY-GCL, is spearheading the $4bn development of oil and gas projects in western Ethiopia. Construction of a 550km pipeline pumping gas to Djibouti Port is underway, and substantial
exportation is set to begin in 2021. Ethiopia can’t be accused of shrinking from bold economic gambits, but it remains to be seen if such efforts will pay off as hoped. “Recent economic successes have been building the foundations for a dynamic market economy by investing in infrastructure and people – but many planned new export streams are behind schedule, including sugar, gold, potash and electricity,” Davison says. “Still, we tend to focus on goods, whereas Ethiopian Airlines is a service export and has been remarkably successful, sometimes generating more foreign exchange than the largest grossing commodity, coffee.”
Massawa opens new door
The recent rapprochement with Eritrea offers Ethiopia’s export endeavours the possibility of using Massawa, on Eritrea’s Red Sea coast as a crucial alternative to Djibouti Port, which until now has monopolised Ethiopia’s export traffic – and charged a handsome sum for the privilege, estimated at $1.5bn-$2bn in port fees. “My company exports Ethiopian beers to Europe,” says entrepreneur Yemane. “I used to export beers from Djibouti to Rotterdam, but now that peace has come between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Massawa port is a much better option.” The timing is fortuitous. Ethiopia is struggling under high public debt, rising inflation and has long been plagued by a shortage of foreign currency, while at the same time lately the economy hasn’t performed well. Those cut flower export sales in 2017 achieved only 68% of the government’s revenue target. But Ethiopia has demonstrated an ability to weather its troubles. The stability of Ethiopia’s macroeconomic and investment policies during the unrest meant Ethiopia was still reported as a 2017/18 ‘Star Performer’ in an FDI Attractiveness survey by the World Bank. Some observers talk of Ethiopia eventually emerging as an African powerhouse alongside South Africa and Nigeria – if it can retain stability both politically and economically. The national elections in 2020 will be key. NA may 2019 new african 59
Around Africa Sierra Leone
What is behind the huge increase in the incidence of sexual violence and rapes in Sierra Leone? The government has announced draconian measures against perpetrators but will these address the root causes? Julian Lahai Samboma set out to find out.
What is behind the rape ‘epidemic’?
hen Sierra Leone’s government recently passed legislation making the crime of sexual penetration of minors punishable by life imprisonment, the move was universally hailed as a signal that the government was serious about getting to grips with the spiralling rise of rapes and gender-based violence in the country. The new legislation was speedily enacted on the back of President Julius Maada Bio’s declaration that the crisis was a national emergency. This was after figures showing that the number of rapes and sexual assaults against women and young girls last year had risen to over 8,500, from just 632 reported cases in 2012. However, it was only in 2012 that the police began officially recording incidents of sexual violence, so in that year there was serious under-reporting of cases. The situation improved in subsequent years, as witnessed by the over 8,500 cases reported last year. “Our commitment [to solving this problem] is beyond mere words and beyond mere acknowledgement of an obligation,” the President said. “The protection and empowerment of our women and girls is critical to our existence and progress as a nation.” Whatever the statistical anomalies, there is no doubt that the egregious incidence of rapes and gender-based violence against women and underage girls – who account for over 70% of sexual assault victims – is a major social and perhaps cultural disaster. The 60 new african may 2019
A protest against sexual violence staged by the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Social Welfare in Freetown on 15 December. It helped launch the First Lady’s ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ programme, aimed to protect girls from sexual abuse, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, which will support the President’s work in the area
question is why is this happening in a relatively small country like Sierra Leone? What is the truth behind the assertion that spiralling genderbased violence in Sierra Leone can be attributed largely to the country’s bloody civil war in the decade of the 1990s? In this context, it is interesting to look at the work of Dr Luisa Schneider, a German anthropologist who had worked on the issue in Sierra Leone, and written several papers on it. She holds that the
problem can be traced right back to the country’s history of slavery and colonialism. Speaking to New African, Dr Schneider said: “Anthropologists often work with the concept of a continuum of violence to show that individual acts of violence against women do not happen in isolation from larger social, political and economic structures of violence. “In Sierra Leone,” she contends, “the civil war tends to be overemphasised as the trigger for the high levels of violence.
However, gender-based violence is shaped by larger structural violence which Sierra Leoneans endured for prolonged periods of time through colonialism, slavery, economic exploitation, health emergencies and conflict. This resulted in harmful gender norms and gender inequality.” Those structures of violence by people in power against
“The protection and empowerment of our women and girls is critical to our existence and progress as a nation” – President Bio
marginalised groups, she says, “were then reproduced and reinforced throughout history. It is a process with its own dynamic; it is not reducible to [a] simple explanation. It’s not the case that this huge problem developed just today. This is a continuum both historically and in scale.” She holds that while European slavery and colonialism marginalised women and exacerbated gender inequality, the increasing use of violence in the resultant economic exploitation saw violence as a ‘medium of expression’ trickling down from the powerful to the powerless. Thus men, who suffered brutality at the hands of the invaders, dished it out in turn to their womenfolk, their children, and to weaker or less powerful men.
Cultural norms When we couple this historical dimension with cultural norms in Sierra Leone, which allow much older men to marry much younger women, the result is a slippery slope into a society in which respect for women and young girls is low to non-existent. Instead of pumping resources into new initiatives and organisations, campaigners say that the government should embrace civil society groups like Advocaid and the Rainbo Initiative, which are already on the ground doing good work, but are severely underresourced. Compounding the egregious sexual assaults on women and young girls in the country is the traditional practice of female genital mutilation (or FGM), which campaigners like Alimatu Dimonekeneh consider a form of sexual abuse because, as she says, “It intentionally alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Sierra Leone is one of the countries with the highest rates of FGM, with between 80-90% of girls being cut. The practice can lead to medical and other complications in later life. Dimonekeneh, who is the founder of A Girl At A Time, an advocacy group for women’s and girls’ rights in Sierra Leone, welcomes the new law on the statutory rape but says the
government “cannot address rape and ignore FGM”. This is a reference to the fact that although there is a ‘technical ban’ on the practice dating back to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, FGM continues unabated. Sierra Leone is one of the few countries without a law against FGM. She said: “We need urgent intervention from the government of Sierra Leone to safeguard and protect women and girls from the complications and impact of FGM on the next generation of girls.”
Practical issues While the welcome legislation of life imprisonment for statutory rape would not fail to concentrate the minds of potential rapists and paedophiles, it raises questions about just how the new law will work in practice. In the first instance, will Sierra Leone’s prisons system have the capacity to cope? It is obvious that if the law works as intended, and all other things remaining the same, there will be a massive influx of inmates convicted, or awaiting trial, for sexual offences. It is an open secret that the country’s prison system, starting with Freetown’s Pademba Road Prison, is severely overpopulated. So, if this initiative is going to arrest, and in time reverse, the horrific incidence of rapes and gender-based violence against women and underage girls, then the government should also be implementing measures to free up the available prison space, and also building more prisons. Another question is, will those convicted under the new law will spend the rest of their lives behind bars? If, it is the case that they will be let out after serving a portion of their sentences, will there be programmes of rehabilitation or reeducation in prison? And how will they be monitored post-release, to keep reoffending rates down? Given what many have described as a positive start to his new government, President Bio would be advised to match his words about his commitment to gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights with the resources needed to get the job done. NA may 2019 new african 61
Around Africa Nigeria
In his initial pronouncements following his election victory, President Buhari has returned to his old script and says he will fulfil the pledges he made the first time around. But is he in a position to do so or can the country expect another series of failures? Analysis by Peter Ezeh.
Return of Baba ‘Go Slow’
fter Muhammadu Buhari, incumbent President and retired infantry general, was named the winner of Nigeria’s Presidential election, his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, led a team of ministers to pay him a congratulatory visit. This was the first visit by a group of Nigerians following the release of the result of the election, which at some point was neck and neck between Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). During the visit, Buhari was forthright in what Nigerians should expect in his second tenure as President. “My last lap of four years,” he told his visitors in a widely reported remark, “is going to be tough.” One of the defining characteristics of the President is candour. When reporters went to the polling booth where he himself voted to ask if he would accept the results of the elections and congratulate his opponents should he lose the election, he told them, “I will congratulate myself because I am the one that will win.” You can always tell where he stands. You can trust him, as the cliché goes, to call a spade a spade. In that meeting with members of his cabinet, he said that in his new tenure he was going to continue with the original agenda which came into office with four years ago. His three cardinal programmes are: fighting corruption, boosting the economy, and improving security. The problem, though, is that the percentage of Nigerians who think 62 new african may 2019
that he has performed below expectations on all three goals is increasing. Corruption in Nigeria is actually reported to have grown during President Buhari’s first tenure. On the eve of his assumption of office in May 2015, Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria 136th out the 174 countries surveyed for corruption worldwide. The last TI survey, before this year’s Presidential election, showed that Nigeria was now 144th out of 180 countries. The nation had slipped further into corruption than when President Buhari took office. “The problem with Buhari’s approach to the anti-corruption fight is that corruption is defined in a way that is far narrower than the world understands it to be,” Dr Nnabuike Oguguam, a sociologist, told New African in Onitsha, Nigeria’s south-eastern commercial hub on the banks of the River Niger. “Buhari’s government is the most nepotistic that I know of. Court orders are rarely obeyed. Excuses are raked up to harass influential legislative and judicial officers for the same acts which supporters of the President are up to their neck in and yet [they are allowed to] move about freely. I do not see how corruption can be reduced by harrying members of the opposition in a supposed democracy.” Many also see him as not having achieved much in the sphere of security. But basing his self-assessment on the ending of the spread of the Boko Haram insurgency, he told Nigerians who received him during a recent visit
President Buhari after his reelection. He has a second, golden chance: how many of his promises will he deliver on?
to Dubai, that his government had achieved much in terms of security. According to him, the Boko Haram insurgents had occupied 17 out of the 774 local government areas (the administrative units of the country) before he became President. The number of territories that are occupied by the insurgents had been reduced to zero, he told his hosts. Members of the sect now
Next to the security issue, the economy is the hottest topic of discussion – and provides most of the bad press directed towards Buhari.
resorted to targeting soft targets, largely through suicide bombings, he said.
Contentious points of view With his characteristic frankness, the president accepted that the bloody conflicts between herders, mainly from his native Fulani ethnic group, and settled farmers, had not reduced. But he blamed the
trouble on the fact that the herders, often armed with sophisticated assault rifles against unarmed countryside farmers, might not be Nigerians. “The problem is that you can hardly identify the differences between cattle herders from Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and other cattle herders,” he was quoted by a Nigerian daily as explaining. It is precisely such a point of view that his critics attack. On a previous occasion, he had said that the belligerent herders might have got their guns from Libya in the chaos that followed the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. The argument of his critics is that whatever might be the origins of the aggressors or the sources of their arms, the President of Nigeria owes all his citizens protection. Buhari says his government will find a solution to the problem but a quick fix should not be expected. He told Nigerians in Dubai that he had learnt from his experience as head of the military junta in 1984, when his haste in solving problems had earned him a palace coup. “Whoever calls me ‘Baba go slow’, I’m very cautious of historical antecedent. I was in a hurry, I was locked up. I am going slow so that I can survive,” a Lagos newspaper quoted him as saying in the Nigerian pidgin.
Economy a real worry Next to the security issue, the economic situation in the country is the hottest topic of discussion – and it provides most of the bad press directed towards Buhari. Practically all the major Nigerian newspapers carried front-page stories recently reporting that the national debt had now reached N24.4tn (360 naira = 1US$). It had stood at N12.6tn in 2015 when President Buhari came in. The government of President Goodluck Jonathan which the Buhari administration took over from, grew the Nigerian economy to the number one position on the continent by 2013; but the present GDP of $376.4bn can hardly compare with the figure of $630bn with which the economy attained that enviable position. The continuing rise of foreign
debts in the last four years makes Nigerians nostalgic for the time in 2006 when their country became the first in Africa to pay off its debts to the Paris Club. Youth unemployment stood at nearly 40% earlier this year, with overall unemployment at circa 25%, compared to a figure of 8.2% when Buhari took office. Government has found that contrary to electoral promises, it could not improve on the exchange rate of the local currency, the naira. It had been less than N160 to the US dollar at the time Buhari came in, but is now around N360 to the dollar. The government also hoped to bring down the pump price of petrol but that too has doubled, fuelling inflation that was 11.28% at the end of 2018. The economic growth rate of 1.5% is less than the 2.5% envisaged in a World Bank forecast and nowhere near the government’s expectation of 3.5%. The PDP’s Presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku, is in court to challenge the election result. If Buhari defeats him in court, the president may have less turbulent relations with the legislature than in his first term, when the bicameral parliament was sympathetic to the opposition. Disappointed with the President’s performance during his first term, the heads of both chambers of the legislature joined the PDP. However, Buhari will be happier this time round. The incoming Senate, the upper chamber, has 63 APC members, and only 37 from the PDP (the only other seat is occupied by a member belonging to a small party). The new House of Representatives, the lower chamber, has 211 APC members, 111 PDP members, and 13 from four minority parties. Some of the victories were still being contested in court, too. But one thing seems clear. As far as the Executive/ Legislature relations go, President Buhari will have an easier time of it than he did during his first tenure. What he will do with a more sympathetic legislature and how many of his pledges he will fulfil is what the nation is waiting to see. He has been given a second, golden chance – how will he use it? NA may 2019 new african 63
ARTS AND CULTURE
Regular readers will have noticed that we have followed the story of Kenya’s African Heritage establishment from its early days, 40 years ago, as the first such organisation to take genuine African culture and fashions to the West, rather than the other way round, to now, its final fling, the Gala Night of the Century in Nairobi last month. The occasion, to celebrate the book African Twilight by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher (reviewed in earlier NA issues), also provided the opportunity to showcase the best from around the continent.
Spectacular celebration of
AFRICAN CREATIVIT Y
tarting at twilight, the show opened with a presentation by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, with images from their life’s work shown on a giant screen in front of the vast expanse of the Nairobi National Park. The sound of chanting was then heard from behind the giant screen. Bounding on to the stage, Samburu warriors and women took to the
64 new african may 2018
catwalk and stages for a memorial to their fallen comrade, the legendary musician Ayub Ogada (see New African, March issue), who was to perform that night but died during the preparations. Images from the fi lm The Constant Gardener, with Ayub playing his mournful, most famous song, ‘Koth Biro’, were shown before Papillon, a protégé of Ayub played his composition, ‘Ayubu’, an ode to Ayub, while Samburu women chanted, their necklaces clacking in rhythm to the music. Dancer Fernando Anuang’a, with his troupe of Maasai who have danced with him at Espace Cardin in Paris, strode on to the stage as Rose, a model in a Maasai beaded dress, poured a libation of milk from a traditional calabash, and dancer Fernando performed sensuous moves to the music by Papillon. Maasai and Samburu dancers entered the African Heritage House, its columns and arches bathed in red light, to take their position on the upper verandahs
where they performed for the rest of the evening. The African Heritage Herald in embroidered Ethiopian velvet trousers and silver jewellery opened the show with an ivory and embossed-silver horn from Guinea. Models in the royal textiles of Ghana appeared in flowing evening coats of hand-woven and handprinted fabrics, woven and printed with calabash stamps and combs by Ashanti men. They were escorted by male models draped in the royal cloths adorned with bronze and gold accessories. The show then moved swiftly with models wearing the gauzy embroidered Sharma cloth from Ethiopia which Alan Donovan, founder of African Heritage, used in his first design in 1971. Masks, stilt-walkers and men in towering red feather headdresses displayed the vibrant and mysterious culture of Cameroon to the sound of thunderous war drums. Nigeria then took over with models showing traditional textiles
Opposite left: The Gala Night kicked off with Carol Beckwith (r) and Angela Fisher. Left: Just one of the wonderful sets of traditional clothing on display at the event. Below: Alan Donovan, founder of African Heritage, is accompanied onto the catwalk by models
of Africa’s most populous country woven by both men – on narrow hand looms – or women on wide stationary looms, which brought prestige to both the weaver and the wearer, followed by the famous indigo-dyed Adire cloth. This is created by painting cassava starch on fabrics with a palm frond or feather before dipping the cloth several times in the blue-black indigo dye and then may 2019 new african 65
ARTS AND CULTURE
chipping off the starch to obtain the light blue colour of the cloth. Men sometimes make zinc stencils for the designs – the only work by men on this fabric.
Left and right: Attendees were treated to a cornucopia of magnificent design styles, models, dancers, acrobats and musicians in an evening honouring Africa’s unique cultural heritage
Chieftaincy regalia At this point, two Chiefs from Nigeria, Nike Seven Seven Okundaye who has devoted her life to reviving the traditional fabrics of the Yoruba and who now owns Nigeria’s largest art gallery, Nike Gallery in Lagos, and Muraina Oyelami, from whom Alan Donovan bought his first works of contemporary art from Nigeria in 1967, adorned Alan Donovan with chieftaincy regalia before presenting him with his official chieftaincy certificate along with an emblem of his new role as Chief Babalaje of Ido Osun for his work in promoting the arts of the continent. Ambassador Hon. Amina Mohammed, Kenya’s new Minister of Sports, Heritage and Culture, and the evening’s chief guest, looked on during the ceremony. Next came a pair of graceful dancers wearing lavishly embroidered costumes once used for the Gerewol ceremony – a male beauty contest in the Sahel and collected by Carol Beckwith, who also produced a book of her experiences. The Congo was symbolised by the Kingdom of Kuba with models displaying cloths all woven from palm fibre using various techniques like embroidery, appliques, tiedye, and pile cloths clipped like a piece of velvet. The Kuba King was accompanied by two Queens. Then the famous Bokolonfini (commonly called ‘mud cloth’, as it is created using natural mud dyes from the bottom of lakes in Mali) was on display with masked dancers and stilt-walkers bobbing and weaving in raffia outfits under the weight of carved wooden antelope headdresses from the Bambara. A series of outfits made from the rare textiles of the island country of Madagascar made their appearance with polished, hand-woven silk, textured raw silk evening coats, flannel garments and hats worn by men with fabrics of pineapple fibre and cotton rags woven with raffia.
Frenetic routine Beaded garments from the Ndebele and the Zulu of South Africa were followed by the famous cotton Khanga, Kitenge and Kikoi textiles from Kenya. Then the original trio of the sensational male dancers from Kenya, known as Rare Watts in the 1980s, appeared in Maasai dress, performing their original frenetic routine to the song Dirty Cash during the African Retro segment. During a lull in the performances, Alan Donovan presented Kenyan fashion designer Sally Karago with an African Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award. Models wearing the bark cloth wedding gown studded with porcupine quills, with attendants in porcupine quill headdresses, paraded on stage – a collection that had won Sally the first Smirnoff Fashion Award in Africa in 1993. A new collection of her Turkana-inspired attire from Kenya was also shown. Finally, three pairs of warriors in traditional attire from Sudan, Mali, Togo, Nigeria and Kenya, all bearing long spears, strode on to the stage and crossed their spears while models in Maasai, Kamba, Kikuyu and Dinka beadwork opened the spears and took their own positions on stage. This was followed by Maasai, Samburu and Fulani dancers, acrobats, stilt-walkers. Carol Beckwith, Angela Fisher, Alan Donovan, MCs Naomi Cidi and Oscar Beautah, guest of honour Ambassador Amina Mohamed and sponsors from the hotels joined the performers on the stage. This was a spectacular, joyous celebration of Africa’s unique culture and creativity. NA
66 new african may 2018
African Twilight has now been made into a documentary with the world premiere in Nairobi at the Alliance Française auditorium on 6 May, with further showings planned in London, Germany, Los Angeles, New York and other venues.
ARTS / FILM REVIEW
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor Stars: Maxwell Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aïssa Maïga, Lily Banda
An authentic, inspiring Af rican sto ry Left: Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) with his son William (Maxwell Simba), who is undoubtedly the film’s main star. Right: William with his wind-powered generator built out of a bicycle and a tractor fan
ecently released on Netflix, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the incredible true story of 13-year-old William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba) and his efforts to help his village in the midst of one of the worst droughts in living memory. This movie is based on the 2009 book of the same name written by William and Bryan Mealer and marks young Maxwell’s acting debut. This was the Nigerian-British Chiwetel Ejiofor’s first stint as director of a full feature fi lm. He also wrote the script and took on one of the leading roles in the fi lm as William’s father – Trywell.
68 new african may 2018
Over the years, Ejiofor has become one of the most sought-after British actors, with memorable roles in such fi lms as Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster and The Martian, Roland Emmerich’s 2012, Biyi Bandele’s Half a Yellow Sun, Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene and Steve McQueen’s multi-award-winning film, 12 Years a Slave. He won a BAFTA award and nominations for the Academy and Golden Globes awards for his acting in this fi lm. While he is an outstanding actor, can he direct? For me the answer is a resounding yes. At no point did you feel that it was about style over substance, he just let the importance of the story guide the way. He developed the characters beautifully and shot the landscape with such sensitivity that it too seemed to acquire a life of its own. Above all, he brought an authenticity to the fi lm that is often missing from Hollywood productions about Africa. To the fi lm itself: Trywell and
his brother John work the fields together in their remote village in the landlocked country of Malawi, until one day the older of the two brothers passes away and instead of leaving his land to his sibling, bequeaths it to his son. This is just the start of an unfortunate chain of events that leads Trywell and his family into financial difficulties. During these events, his son William, who has a natural knack for engineering – mending radios and raiding junkyards for salvageable bits – starts secondary school, something he is so excited and proud of. Unfortunately his father has other priorities for spending the family’s money so William is soon obliged to drop out. Fortunate discoveries But his curiosity about what things work leads him to discover how the dynamo on his teacher’s bike makes the light shine. He also discovers a secret romance between his teacher and his sister and uses this as a lever to be allowed to use the school library surreptitiously, where he buries himself in technical books. This is later to prove life-changing for him and his village.
With an unrelenting drought withering the crops in the fields, the village is starting to starve. The country’s president pays a visit and is greeted with much celebration but when the village chief (Joseph Marcell, who older viewers may recognise as Geoffrey, the butler from Will Smith’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) decides to speak out honestly to try and help his people, he incurs the wrath of the President’s bodyguards. Thanks to the aforementioned light and a book in the school library titled Using Energy, William is convinced he can build a windgenerated dynamo to power a pump and bring sufficient underground water to the surface to irrigate the fields. But his hardest job is convincing his “wiser” father that he knows what he is talking about. The film is told in a combination of English and the Malawian dialect of Chicewan, with English subtitles where appropriate. Director Ejiofor break the film down into several symbolic chapters: Kufesa – sowing; Kukula – growing; Kukulola – harvest; Njala – hunger; and finally Mphepo – wind. Without doubt, it is young Maxwell Simba in the title role who is the star. He is not the only one taking first steps in front of the camera as many of the other actors also made their acting debuts in the film, including Lily Banda as William’s sister Agnes. The film works on several levels and in one sense highlights the vast aspirational gaps between an older generation that puts its faith in tradition and hard work, eking out a living from the soil, and the younger generation that sees education and knowledge as the salvation. It is beautifully shot and acted and despite its strong message, is entertaining and engrossing. It is extraordinary to realise, at the end of the film, that it is based on a true story. One wonders how many such true stories of achievement in the teeth of adversity there are yet to be found in Africa. NA Review by Michael Renouf Ngati mphep yofika konse – God is as the wind, which touches everything may 2019 new african 69
ARTS / BOOK REVIEW
African fashion is hot today – it’s one of the most innovative, exciting contemporary design scenes on the globe, from couture to street hip-hop style. Juliet Highet reviews a new book that focuses on four African cities as the centres of this revolution: Fashion Cities Africa, edited by Hannah Azieb Pool.
FASHION MADE IN AFRICA I
n the last decade, there’s been a huge surge of interest in contemporary African art and design. Now, for the first time, the book Fashion Cities Africa celebrates the emergent or established fashion and style landscapes of four cities at the compass points of the African continent – Lagos, Nairobi, Casablanca and Johannesburg. The book focuses on style selections by individual key players from each city, and how they reflect the social and political realities of those cities. This includes designers, stylists, photographers and bloggers. Their choices celebrate each city’s clothes, jewellery and accessories, evoking the vibe, the drama and creativity of the distinctive cities, as well as their craft heritages. For far too long books on African design have been written by anthropologists and ethnographers. So now let’s hear the voices of those who create and wear it today. As the editor of this book, Eritrea-born Hannah Azieb Pool, says: “The book is not an academic text, nor is it a definitive guide to African fashion. But what I hope is that it provides a glorious snapshot of very different fashion landscapes.’ 70 new african may 2018
Right: The book celebrates Africa’s fashion revolution Below: Leading the way from Lagos: Bubu Ogisi, owner of fashion label I.Am.Isigo (l) and (r) Amaka Osakwe, creator of the brand Maki Oh
Lagos – Nigerian is the new sexy “We are known for being rambunctious and flamboyant,” says Tokini Peterside, a strategy consultant specialising in African luxury products. “But here you have to stand out. Otherwise you drown in the noise and volume of people”. For her designs, Bubu Ogisi of I.Am.Isigo draws on everything from the movie Calamity Jane to the Wodaabe Fulani people of northern Nigeria. She says: “What drives us all is the stress of living here, which actually makes you more creative. There is beauty in the chaos!” “Nigerians are the new sexy. With the spotlight being shone on our creative industry, we can grow and use it to do something positive. It’s time to step up and deliver,” says Hauwa Mukan, radio and TV producer and presenter. Chinedu Okeke, brand consultant and festival producer, adds: “I want to see our brands consumed in the mainstream internationally. That’s where they need to be.” And those ‘brands’ include fashion. The profile of contemporary Nigerian fashion began to be defined around 2008 with the launch of Arise magazine. For her label Jewel, Lisa Folawiyo reinvented ankara (Dutch wax cloth) as a luxuriously embellished fabric. This printed textile had been
Opposite far right: the gala night kicked off with Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher . Below: Alan Donovan, founder of African Heritage accompanied onto the catwalk by models
An image featured in the book entitled ‘Aminata’, after the model pictured, from the ‘Studio of the Vanities’ series by Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop. The series captures contemporary urban fashions and faces in vibrant Dakar
ARTS / BOOK REVIEW
synonymous with West African style since its introduction in the early 19th century. Maki Oh’s Apparel reinterprets adire, traditionally made by Yoruba women in southwest Nigeria, using indigo resist-dyeing techniques. On Fridays, Lagos professionals are encouraged to ‘wear traditional’ to work. Other style luminaries are recognising the need to protect and develop craft traditions. Design consultant Yegwa Ukpo and his wife founded the menswear store Stranger in 2013. It not only stocks clothes created by experimental Nigerian designers not readily available elsewhere, Stranger also has an indigo dyeing pit. “Indigo holds such history and mystique for Lagosians,” Ukpo says. “So we are offering dyeing workshops and in the future, we want to introduce weaving workshops. It’s my goal to prove that it’s possible to make something contemporary bringing crafts from our past, projecting them into the future. This country needs to import less and make more. It’s time to be proud of ‘Made in Nigeria’, create sustainable jobs and support the economy.” Nairobi – synergy of fashion energy High-end Nairobi labels also have a fresh take on using traditional fabrics, as well as on the tailoring heritage of the city. Smashing the clichéd stereotype that Africa doesn’t do luxury, Ami Doshi Shah and Adèle Dejak are accessory and jewellery designers who source local materials to create bespoke highly sophisticated pieces. Dejak, who specialises in very dramatic jewellery, has shown at Milan Fashion Week, and her work has been featured in Vogue Italia. She says: “We’re not ‘curio’, catering for only an expat or international market. Our pieces are bought by Kenyans too.” Anthony Mulli combines Maasai beadwork with international seasonal trends to create bags that sell in New York as well as Nairobi. For his Katchy Kollections, he seeks out craftspeople, learns their skills, and encourages them to modernise 72 new african may 2018
their products for contemporary tastes, changing perceptions of African fashion. In this way, he maintains that Kenyans are keeping parts of their heritage alive, and leaving a legacy. Mitumba – second-hand clothing – is a key part of the Nairobi fashion scene. The Gikomba market stretches approximately 20 acres, where towering bales of used clothing from Europe and North America, as well as cheap Chinese imports, land daily. Somehow ‘the look’ gets pulled together – a vintage beaded bag with a ‘distressed’ leather jacket, for example. In the midst of apparent chaos sit tailors ready and able to effect instant alterations. But there are divided opinions about mitumba, a mixed reaction to what are essentially cast-off imports. Is it degrading or democratising style – enabling under-privileged people to pick up essentials, or Nairobi’s gilded youth to put together their own uniquely ontrend ensemble? Is it damaging to the local fashion industry, since many Kenyan designers are forced to aim at the exclusive luxe market? But hang out on the Nairobi happening scene, and you’ll see traditional textiles like kanga, kitenge and kikoye, once with ‘bush’ connotations, worn with skinny jeans and trainers from second-hand clothing in the markets. Along with the realisation of the importance of investing in local designers and local brands, there’s a synergy of fashion energy in Nairobi. Casablanca – Souk meets street-wear “Casablanca’s fashion scene is very calm, people are stylish and the culture is rich,” says stylist and blogger Louis Philippe de Gagoue. He has influenced street style with his look, which is eclectic, to say the least. “I mix up babouche slippers, Berber and Tuareg jewellery with clothes from other cultures.” Architect Zineb Andress Arraki adds: “I wear my grandmother’s caftans with tattoos and short hair. My style is considered punk, but for me it’s about creating a future heritage.” Journalist Mouna Belgrini
elucidates: “Morocco is like a sponge. We absorb from Europe, Africa and the Arab world while retaining our own roots. It’s always been like that. You can choose which culture you identify with and express that through the way you dress.” Morocco has been at the crossroads of trade roots and empires for thousands of years, endowing Casablanca, its main port city and commercial hub, with a unique cosmopolitan design. By the 1960s the first generation of fashion designers emerged, who appreciated that women leading modern lives could not and would not wear the large, thick, heavy traditional clothes such as the djellaba (hooded robe) that restricted their movement, and were too hot as well. Amine Bendriouich launched his label ABCB, standing for Amine Bendriouich Couture & Bullshit, characterised by a soukmeets-streetwear look. In 2014 he went into the Sahara and sought out local craftswomen, who make carpets and embroideries. From
this he created figure-hugging black dresses covered with embroidery in vivid, psychedelic colours. He says: “I’m making a stand against the hegemony of the caftan, which had become self-exoticised.” Johannesburg – political and design lightning “There’s always been a relationship between race, politics and fashion and nowhere is this truer than in Joburg,” says Milisuthando Bongela, who blogs under the name Miss Milli B. This juxtaposition is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago and it’s dynamic – few cities crackle with political and design lightning like Joburg. Apartheid may ostensibly be over, but the mood of the city is still sometimes one about to simmer over. “It’s sad, but it’s great for creativity. There’s something that is alluring, creatively speaking, about it,” says Nkhensani Nkosi, founder of lifestyle label Stoned Cherrie.
Opposite, from top: Fashion Cities Africa profiles many talents, including leading fashion designers Reni Folawiyo from Lagos (l), and Maria McCloy from Johannesburg (r); and (centre) Velma Rossa and Papa Petit, the brother and sister style entrepreneurs behind 2manysiblings in Nairobi. Bottom: A design by Johannesburg’s Marianne Fassler Below: Amine Bendriouich, fashion designer and founder of the Casablanca-based label ABCB
“It’s hot here, as in it’s boiling, there’s always something going on.” There are two rival fashion weeks, giving designers a great platform and which have played a key role in highlighting the energy of the scene. Lucilla Booyzen, founder and director of South African Fashion Week (SAFW), says: “Jo’burg is a vibrant city, there’s a love of glamour, but also a willingness to experiment, to mix things up; a boldness that shines whether people are wearing high street or Hermès.” Yolanda Sangweni, founder of Afripop, says: “My style is super funky, stolen from my Mum and aunties, super-African and nonconforming.” But actor and activist Standive Kooroge tells a more global tale: “My style is a reflection of my life experiences and travel – a traditional Zulu influence and a vintage Western tapestry; I’m an African global citizen.” NA Fashion Cities Africa is published by the University of Chicago Press (ISBN: 978-1-783-611-7).
While African emigrants decry their treatment in Europe and elsewhere, the spate of African-on-African xenophobia raises ugly questions. What are the causes of this problem?
he outbreaks of violence against African migrants continue to poison the South African brand. The positive narrative of truth, reconciliation and forgiveness, or the much-vaunted philosophy of Ubuntu, melts into insignificance in the face of Africans being ruthlessly hacked with machetes. This treatment of the other undermines complaints about the treatment of Africans in Europe and elsewhere. What is fuelling this? Anyone visiting South Africa since independence has sensed the shift from the optimism and openness of the early years, when Mandela was celebrated and everything seemed possible, to the gloom of the present, where for many, hope has evaporated, and little change is expected in their lives. For me, this shift has been reflected in the behaviour of my middle-class African friends. Post1994, as the society opened up, former white-only institutions looked around for these middle-class Africans as part of overdue diversity drives. The same institutions, looking to hedge an uncertain black future, also offered businesses opportunities, partnerships, and access to credit. On the back of this an emerging African middle-class opened
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fast-growing businesses in sectors like fashion, retail, hotels. Confidence was such that every visit to South Africa ended with invitations from this middle class to relocate and participate in the opportunities. The blandishments were easily declined. Instead one tried, unsuccessfully, to engage this over-confident group in discussions about the fundamentals of the economy, set against the deal that produced the miracle of the ‘rainbow nation’. Under the deal there was to be no redistribution – land and the existing economy would be left in white hands. Future African empowerment would happen only through an expansion of the economy. But just to absorb the historically unemployed and provide jobs for those coming onto the job market, the economy needed to grow annually by 5%. Since 1994, however, the economy has averaged just 2.7% growth, which is not enough to absorb the long-term unemployed and those coming onto the market, let alone the large numbers of new migrants, dazzled by the prospects of the ‘rainbow nation’.
Soured dreams The gap between what was needed and the reality is what is producing the soured dreams witnessed on
The gap between what was needed and the reality is what is producing the poisoned behaviour we witness in South Africa now.
recent trips to South Africa, and the kind of poisoned behaviour we witness towards other Africans. On a personal level, seeing the crushing of the dreams of friends over the last 15 years has been sobering. Having got the measure of the African opposition, the whites who control the economy have defaulted to their old complacency, closing up the partnerships and access to finance they had previously offered, when they once feared radical retribution. Africans, although representing the majority of the consumer market, remain just consumers. They or their political leadership, have not been able to develop businesses to service their needs and employ themselves in sufficient numbers. Afraid to take on the unfinished business with white capital (or even colluding with it); reluctant to admit to a bad independence deal (which has been institutionalised and celebrated) or their subsequent political failure in growing the economy, has finally left – as the default position – the scapegoating of foreigners for all the country’s shortcomings. What is occurring here is not unusual. All countries have a degree of xenophobia, and when exacerbated by economic setbacks, this leads to tensions and even expulLogo sions, as when the Nigerian and Angl Ghanaian governments expelled Logo AfDB each other’s citizens. Communal Anglais + français Pour violence is also widespread within countries where different ethnic or Pour format A4 religious groups have been targeted. However, despite the individual tragedies and disappointment in South Africa, we need to be careful not to overestimate the problems associated with this kind of xenophobia. According to UNCTAD, in 2017, there were about 41m international migrants from, to, or within Africa. Of these, 19m resided in Africa, 17m were outside the continent, and 5.5m were immigrants from the rest of the world to Africa. Of the 19m moving within Africa, most have been made welcome. Problems only arise where they get caught up, as in Côte d’Ivoire, with countries where migrants and migration have become politicised. NA
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The May issue of New African opens with an investigative story on the ever-growing menace of the big powers’ geophysical warfare strategies,...
Published on Apr 25, 2019
The May issue of New African opens with an investigative story on the ever-growing menace of the big powers’ geophysical warfare strategies,...