Category: Africa
Africa: Bridge to Education, or to Nowhere?
| August 8, 2017 | 7:56 pm | Africa, Analysis | No comments

Africa: Bridge to Education, or to Nowhere?

AfricaFocus Bulletin August 8, 2017 (170808) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“When Liberia’s Minister of Education, George Werner, announced last spring that he was inviting foreign education companies and non-profits to run our public schools, our country came under the international spotlight, both in Western media and for education activists. … Quickly, Liberia was turned into a battlefield between those who see for-profit ‘charter’ schools as the solution to the problems that plague public education across the world, and those of us who point to underinvestment and poor management as the true culprits.” – Mary Mulbah, president, National Teachers’ Association of Liberia

In the United States, recent controversy over for-profit education has prominently intersected with national politics, with the spectacle of “Trump University” and the installation of billionaire privatization zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in the Trump administration. Internationally, the U.S.-based for-profit company Bridge International Academies (BIA), operating in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia, and India, has won praise from prominent international “philanthropists,” but has met with intense criticism and skepticism from educators.

Last week, 174 organizations from 50 different countries called on investors and donors “to fully discharge their legal due diligence obligations and cease support for BIA. We would welcome an opportunity to explore alternatives with donors and investors to identify more effective ways to invest sustainably in providing quality education for all children, including those living in poverty.”

This AfricaFocus contains excerpts from that statement, as well as several short background articles and links to resources on the controversy around BIA and Liberia in particular.

For the perspective of Bridge International Academies and its responses to criticism, see http://www.bridgeinternationalacademies.com/

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on education, culture, and the media, visit http://www.africafocus.org/cultexp.php

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Liberia, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/liberia.php

Additional references

“‘May’ Days in March: Bridge Asked to Account by UK Parliament,” by Susan L. Robertson, Unite for Quality Education blog, April 5, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/l4be27k

Education International on Privatisation https://ei-ie.org/en/detail_page/4654/privatisation

Two recent books are interesting for background on this issue in the United States:

 

  • Samuel E. Adams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, has written a new book, “Education and the Commercial Mindset” (http://amzn.to/2vAOQJZ) that details how and why market forces have come to rise in public education and become important in corporate school reform. It is reviewed in “Why the movement to privatize public education is a very bad idea,” by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, July 14, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/y9mffc8e
  • Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” (http://amzn.to/2fqbI8G) has been the subject of intense controversy and of calls from right-wing critics for her to be fired from her post at Duke University. Its thesis is that the right-wing campaign against public education and other attacks on the role of government fueled by the Koch brothers have their roots in academic theories closed linked to opposition to desegregation of schools in Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the rise of “white academies” around the South in that period.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Civil society call on investors to cease support to Bridge International Academies

August 1, 2017

[Excerpts only: full 20-page statement, with detailed documentation, available at http://bit.ly/biainvestors]

Introduction

In May 2015, 116 civil society organisations published a statement raising concerns about the costs, impact and quality of Bridge International Academies (BIA), and responding to misleading information about its approach. Since then, evidence from various sources, including the United Nations (UN), a United Kingdom (UK) parliamentary enquiry, independent research reports, and independent media reports, has confirmed these concerns and raised the alarm about the serious gap between the promises of BIA and the reality of their practice, and pointed to other serious challenges.

Key evidence:

  1. Independent research shows BIA’s fees and practices exclude the poor and marginalised;
  2. Documents from the Ministries of Education in Kenya and Uganda demonstrate that BIA has repeatedly failed to respect the rule of law, including minimum educational standards, over several years;
  3. Documents from BIA show poor labour conditions;
  4. Media reports cite concerns about freedom of expression and lack of transparency;
  5. The United Kingdom (UK) Parliament has raised serious questions about BIA’s relationships with governments, transparency, and sustainability, as well as the absence of valid evidence of BIA’s positive impact;
  6. UN and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights statements raise concerns about negative impacts on education quality, equity and social segregation and stratification.

We recognise that most investors in BIA have positive intentions in wanting to improve the education of children living in poverty. There is an urgent need for education reform – to improve access, equity, and quality for all – so that education can fulfil its potential to play a transformative role in personal, community, and national development. However, evidence demonstrates that investing in BIA is not an appropriate or effective means to meet these objectives.

Cartoon credit: Education International

In light of these findings, the 174 undersigned organisations from 50 different countries are calling on investors and donors to fully discharge their legal due diligence obligations and cease support for BIA. We would welcome an opportunity to explore alternatives with donors and investors to identify more effective ways to invest sustainably in providing quality education for all children, including those living in poverty.

What is Bridge International Academies?

BIA is a large-scale network of private pre-primary and primary schools claiming to deliver “quality affordable education to underserved families and children”. It operates over 500 schools in India, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda, with ambitions to reach 10 million pupils by 2025. It has received investments from major international investors including the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the Omidyar Network, the United Kingdom, the United States, the World Bank, Pearson, and Bill Gates, for a total amount estimated to be over 100 million US dollars. It uses what it calls a “school in a box” model, employing a highly-standardised approach to education. At BIA, every school looks the same, the material used is the same in each classroom, and most importantly, the lessons are the same across all the academies of the same country. BIA uses a system of scripted lessons, and its teachers – who are mostly secondary school leavers without formal teaching qualifications – receive lesson plans on an e-tablet, which they have to follow word by word.

“UK urged to stop funding ‘ineffective and unsustainable’ Bridge schools

Civil society groups call on foreign donors not to fund Bridge International Academies, citing high fees, low pay and poor teaching methods”Rebecca Ratclifee and Afua Hirsch

The Guardian, August 3, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/y85g4qkg

A coalition of 174 civil society organisations has called on international donors, including the UK government, to drop support for a private school company operating in Africa.

Bridge International Academies (BIA) provides technology-driven education in more than 500 primary and nursery schools in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Liberia and India. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are among the high-profile philanthropists from whom the American startup has received funding.

In a statement, campaign groups said the firm charges prohibitively high fees and that teachers are poorly paid, receive little training, and are given inflexible, scripted lessons to read from tablets. The organisations also accused BIA of intimidating its critics, a claim the company has denied.

The statement, signed by organisations from 50 different countries including Global Justice Now and Amnesty International, cited research suggesting that the poorest students cannot afford to attend Bridge schools.

“BIA’s model is neither effective for the poorest children nor sustainable against the educational challenges found in developing countries,” said the campaigners, who alluded to “mounting institutional and independent evidence that raises serious concerns about BIA” and warned of “significant legal and ethical risks associated with investments” in the company.

In Kenya, sending three children to a Bridge school is estimated to represent almost a third of the monthly income of families living on $1.25 (94p) a day, according to a joint study by Kenya National Union of Teachers and Education International, a federation representing 32 million teachers and support staff. The researchers noted that teachers are required to work between 59 and 65 hours a week for a monthly salary of $100.

Uganda’s high court ordered the closure of 63 Bridge schools last year, ruling that they provided unsanitary learning conditions, used unqualified teachers and were not properly licensed. No schools have been closed and Bridge is in dialogue with the government.

In April, following an inquiry into UK aid spending on education, the chairman of the UK parliament’s international development committee questioned whether grant funding should have been provided to Bridge. “The evidence received during this inquiry raises serious questions about Bridge’s relationships with governments, transparency and sustainability,” Stephen Twigg wrote in a letter to the international development secretary, Priti Patel.

Bridge’s model, under which teachers are given electronic tablets containing lesson plans, is seen by some as an answer to improving access to education in low-income countries. In Liberia, BIA is the main partner in a government pilot scheme, Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), that involves state-funded private operators running state primary schools. Students at the schools are not charged fees.

The scheme was set up to address the country’s dire education outcomes. “For the sake of these kids, we had to do something,” said Liberia’s deputy minister for education, Romelle Horton. “Quality has to improve.”

One-third of the country’s 15- to 24-year-olds are illiterate and, in 2013, none of Liberia’s 25,000 school-leavers passed the university entrance exam.

Franklin C Jah, the vice-principal for instruction at Martha Tubman public school in Nimba county, one of the Liberian schools that has partnered with BIA, said standards have risen. “Last year, at this school, the students would just copy from the board,” he said. “The teachers would not even explain the notes. But now a computer tells us what to do.”

Initial government assessments suggest Bridge schools in Liberia are generally outperforming their state counterparts. The percentage of pupils scoring zero in reading comprehension in Bridge schools fell by 14% among year 1 pupils, while it increased 2% in government schools. However, pupil attendance was higher in government-run schools: 70%, compared with 60% in Bridge schools by the fourth school term.

But Mary Mulbah, president of the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia, has criticised the government for pushing ahead with plans to expand the scheme before receiving results from a larger study. “We don’t agree that student test scores alone should be used to decide whether to dismantle our public education system,” she wrote in a public letter.

Responding to the criticism from civil society groups, BIA said it provides highquality education to marginalised and remote communities across Africa. The company pointed out that it costs an average of just under $7 (£5) a month to send a child to Bridge, and that 10% of students are on scholarships. BIA added that teachers work about 54 hours a week and are given high-quality training before and during their careers, with salaries – between $95 and $116 a month in Kenya – higher than in other non-formal schools.

“Our pupils are outperforming their peers in national exams over consecutive years. Our model means that we’re able to attract new investment towards solving one of the world’s most pressing problems: hundreds of millions of children who are not learning,” the Bridge statement said.

“Public schools and Bridge schools can and do operate side by side to serve communities in countries where there are major shortages of nurseries and primary schools. We help governments quickly address the gap between how many schools they have and how many they need.”

The UK Department for International Development said: “We have supported over 11 million children in primary and lower-secondary education from 2011-15, including over 5.3 million girls.

“Many of the world’s poorest countries rely on privately run schools to provide an education where state provision is failing. Without privately-run schools, millions of children would be denied an education.

What’s bad for America’s children deemed good for others: Riposte to Nick Kristof

August 1, 2017

Fred van Leeuwen

[Fred van Leeuwen is General Secretary of Education International ( https://www.ei-ie.org/), a global union federation consisting of 401 member organisations in 172 countries and territories that represents over 30 million education personnel.]

http://africasacountry.com/ – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yad4ebwb

Writing in The New York Times [http://tinyurl.com/y8vb5rgt] about the growth of privately run for-profit schools in Liberia, the paper’s columnist Nicholas Kristof praises the turnover of a significant number of public schools in Liberia to Bridge International Academies, a US-based for-profit education company. That same company that has been ordered to close its schools in Uganda and Kenya for its neglect and disregard of national educational standards.

Kristof claims that those who oppose the commercialization of education in Liberia and elsewhere, including Education International, are driven by ideological motives rather than the interests of children. This is incorrect. Around the world, the teaching profession is the most outspoken advocate of children’s right to quality schooling. That right is to be realized by governments. And where public authorities fail to make their public schools work, they need to be held accountable and pressured to do better rather than permitted to wheel in the marketeers to do the job they were elected to do in the first place.

Kristof believes that Americans are grown up enough to handle their own education system, but without a shred of evidence he offers that the “solution” for Liberia is to turn their schools over to a foreign, US based corporation.

Liberia experienced two civil wars, the first from 1989 to 1997 and the second from 1999 to 2003, followed by a transition to democracy and elections in 2005. The destruction of those wars left the population vulnerable to the Ebola virus in 2014 and 2015. That catastrophe inflicted serious damage on the economy and education.

Education is a public service that enables people to listen, sows the seeds of tolerance, heals wounds and develops critical thinking. It is a building process that contributes to development, good governance and decent societies.

On the other hand, education that limits such progress, restricts discussion, and focuses exclusively on a few narrow skills fails children and society. Bringing in private education operators, particularly in relative obscurity, is not an example of good governance. Handing over Liberia’s primary and pre-primary education system to a foreign for-profit company like Bridge is as bad for Liberian education as it is for the country’s democracy.

It is of deep concern that deals between the government of Liberia and the education privateers have been so opaque and that independent research and evaluation have been dismissed. Despite the promise that any significant expansion of the privatization project would depend on some rigorous evaluation six months into the trial, the Ministry of Education decided to double the number of schools in the project’s second year.

This earned the Minister a public rebuke from the government appointed evaluation team and the criticism of the international academic community. Suppressing independent research and evaluation and precipitous action are linked. Both have the effect of limiting governance by chilling or blocking informed, public discussion.

The current situation in Liberia is best summed up by Mary Mulbah, the President of the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL), who wrote on Africa is a Country last week:

Ultimately the key question is this: why is our own government so incapable of managing this critical public service that it must give the keys to our children’s future over to foreign companies and charities who often seem to have little to no understanding of our country and culture?

As teachers, we have a profound interest in seeing a well-financed, responsibly managed, modern school system that grants all of our students the best chance to succeed in difficult circumstances. But we believe this is best achieved through robust public investment, better administrative management, and stronger accountability for teachers as well as the ministry officials that supervise them.

Noting “successive studies,” Kristof himself acknowledges that for-profit schools “hurt children” in the US. Yet, without missing a beat, he proclaims that they are good for Liberian children.

In the US, as in Liberia, support for the privatization of education systems is not based on objective information, evidence or informed debate. It is, rather, driven by ideology; by the dogma that private must be better than public. It is only recently that much of the American public has realized that they have been victims of exaggeration, empty promises and deception.

Liberians should not be guinea pigs in an experiment to transform the noble mission of public education into a market opportunity for foreign capital.

So, a plea to Nicholas Kristof: let’s not wish upon other people’s children that which we would not accept for our own.

* This text was first submitted to the New York Times as an oped response to Kristof. The newspaper informed Education International that it does not “run response pieces as op-eds.”

Why is Liberia’s Government rushing to sell its public schools to U.S. for-profits?

July 19, 2017 by Mary Mulbah

http://africasacountry.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yd6kz73s

When Liberia’s Minister of Education, George Werner, announced last spring that he was inviting foreign education companies and non-profits to run our public schools, our country came under the international spotlight, both in Western media and for education activists.

The Minister and the supporters of the government’s plan excitedly championed the notion that clever thinking and technology could turn around our troubled school system. However, the broader education community warned that the consequences of turning an impoverished country’s school system into an “experiment” would be grave, and could lead to lasting damage to Liberia’s ability to run its own public services and provide free education.

Quickly, Liberia was turned into a battlefield between those who see for-profit “charter” schools as the solution to the problems that plague public education across the world, and those of us who point to underinvestment and poor management as the true culprits.

At first, Minister Werner wanted to outsource all of our public schools to one company – US-based Bridge International Academies, which has come under sustained criticism in Kenya and Uganda for operating substandard schools and flouting government oversight.

Pushback against this plan – which violated our national anti-corruption laws – resulted in the government inviting other companies and providers to take place in what was described as a pilot, which was to be judged independently at the end of the first year.

In all, 93 schools were taken over by foreign providers, with Bridge remaining the largest beneficiary of the pilot, managing 25 of our schools.

Now, the first year has concluded. But instead of waiting for the results of the Randomized Control Trial presently being conducted by the Washington D.C.-based Center for Global Development, the Liberian government is pressing forward with another expansion.

In fall 2017, we are told, an additional 107 public schools will be incorporated into the pilot. Contrary to assurance by the minister that there would not be any significant scale-up in the absence of evidence, that represents more than doubling the so-called pilot.

As the national representative body of Liberia’s teachers, we don’t agree that student test scores alone should be used to decide whether to dismantle our public education system. But the fact that the Liberian government is planning to expand the pilot before it receives the results of a study it commissioned is a clear sign that it is not interested in thoughtfully weighing the consequences and impact of its radical plans.

In fact, while high-profile delegations of celebrity visitors and expensive symposiums have been used to trumpet the “successful” outsourcing of our schools, the story on the ground is much more concerning, and does not align with the rosy picture being painted by the Liberian government, Bridge, and other providers.

Investigative reporting has shown evidence that parents in some towns where outsourced schools are located are furious that their children were left without access to education due to limits on class sizes in pilot schools, which were hastily implemented without a plan to assist students who were left out.

Parents were also promised that extended school hours would be supported by the implementation of school lunch programs that have failed to materialize, leading to large numbers of dropouts in some schools.

These and other harmful impacts of the pilot are easy to find. One simply needs to go to the towns where the schools are located and speak with parents and teachers. Any objective observer will almost certainly discover that there are serious problems that must be addressed before an expansion is even considered.

But far from being serious about methodically and responsibly measuring the effects of the pilot, our Ministry of Education seems determined to increase its scope.

In recent weeks, our global federation, Education International, was informed by the Ministry that a team of American academic researchers hired to provide a critical analysis of the pilot would not be allowed access to any of the schools or the administrators who supervise them. This begs the question: what do they have to hide?

Simultaneously, senior leaders of our teachers’ union have been fired by the government for speaking out against the pilot, and teachers working for Bridge have been told there would be consequences if they spoke to their union representatives or journalists about their concerns. Our union has come under attack not just by the government, but also by those who see us as an impediment to the effort to bring our school system under outside management and control.

Ultimately the key question is this: why is our own government so incapable of managing this critical public service that it must give the keys to our children’s future over to foreign companies and charities who often seem to have little to no understanding of our country and culture?

As teachers, we have a profound interest in seeing a well-financed, responsibly managed, modern school system that grants all of our students the best chance to succeed in difficult circumstances. But we believe this is best achieved through robust public investment, better administrative management, and stronger accountability for teachers as well as the ministry officials that supervise them.

The government’s reluctance to honestly assess the effects of the first year of this radical initiative should give pause to anyone who thinks that it represents the best hope for Liberian children.

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AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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Africa: Visa Openness on the Agenda?
| July 31, 2017 | 7:00 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa: Visa Openness on the Agenda?

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 31, 2017 (170731) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“For now, however, crossing borders remains a painful experience for most Africans. … On average, Africans need a visa to travel to 54% of the continent’s countries; it’s easier for Americans to travel around Africa than it is for Africans themselves. So far, the AU has issued its single African passport only to heads of state and senior AU officials.” – The Economist

The African Union’s “Agenda 2063” laid out the far-reaching goal of free movement of persons in a continent “with seamless borders,” and set the more immediate target of 2018 for “the abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries.”

Even the more limited goal is far from being achieved by next year. But the second of a new series of reports from the African Development Bank and the African Union measuring progress on the goal is now out, and finding that there is some initial progress in easing national restrictions, with Ghana and Senegal taking the lead in opening up their borders to visitors from more African countries. And momentum is growing for other countries to recognize the economic advantages of such policy changes, and extend the range of more open policies now being pursued within regional organizations in West Africa and East Africa.

A new High Level Panel on Migration in Africa (HLPM) began work with its inaugural meeting in June, a protocol for free movement of persons is to be drafted for approval next year by the African Union, and civil society organizations in West Africa have launched a campaign (http://tinyurl.com/yatj3seo). A new website (http://www.visaopenness.org) presents the reports with country scores allowing African citizens to check the ranking of countries, and details for each country.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the Visa Openness Report, including a graph of ratings of visa openness by country.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on migration and related issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/migrexp.php

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Visa-free travel in Africa remains far off

14 June 2017

http://www.visaopenness.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yb5eukjs

Note: This article first appeared in the Economist

By 2063, according to the African Union’s (AU) rather long-range prediction, Africa will be “a continent of seamless borders”. People, capital, goods and services will flow freely from South Africa to Tunisia and from Senegal to Somalia. Europe’s frontier-free Schengen area may be creaking under the strain of migration and terror, but another will arise, this one encompassing a continent of more than 1.2bn people. Last year, with that goal in mind, the AU boldly introduced a single African passport. The first recipients were two of the continent’s most powerful strongmen: Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, and Chad’s president, Idriss Déby.

For now, however, crossing borders remains a painful experience for most Africans. The World Bank estimates that intra-African trade is more expensive, all things considered, than trade in any other region. According to Anabel Gonzalez, senior director of a World Bank group on trade and competitiveness, one African supermarket chain reports that it spends $20,000 every week to get import permits for meat, milk and other goods in one country alone; every day one of its lorries is held up at a border costs it $500. On average, Africans need a visa to travel to 54% of the continent’s countries; it’s easier for Americans to travel around Africa than it is for Africans themselves. So far, the AU has issued its single African passport only to heads of state and senior AU officials.

But in the past year things have improved a little, according to a new report from the African Development Bank. Africans now need visas to travel to slightly fewer countries than they did in 2015, and 13 African countries now offer electronic visas, up from 9 the previous year. Ghana made the most progress: in 2016 the government announced that it would provide visas on arrival for citizens of every AU member state, while offering entirely visa-free travel to 17 African countries, including the 14 other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Seychelles is still the only country on the continent to offer visa-free access to all Africans. (An archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it is a haven for well-heeled tourists but hard to get to if you are poor.)

Elsewhere, progress has been patchy. Less than a quarter of African countries provide “liberal access”—meaning visa-free travel or at least visas on arrival—to all African citizens, and most of the continent’s richest countries tend to be more restrictive. War-torn central Africa remains the most closed region; east and west Africa have opened up the most.

Africa Visa Openness Report 2017

African Development Bank

[Excerpts only: full report available at https://www.visaopenness.org/]

“We are trying to drive a continental visa policy reform programme for all of Africa. We want to remove many of the challenges and procedures facing many people when they travel. We want to make sure there is reciprocity on visa issuance across countries and we want to promote talent mobility all across Africa.” – Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank Group

African Union’s Agenda 2063

Aspiration 2 – An Integrated Continent, Politically United Based on the Ideals of Pan Africanism and the Vision of Africa’s Renaissance

  1. We aspire that by 2063, Africa will: * Be a United Africa * Have world class, integrative infrastructure that criss-crosses the continent; * Have dynamic and mutually beneficial links with her Diaspora; and * Be a continent with seamless borders, and management of cross border resources through dialogue.
  2. Africa shall be a continent where the free movement of people, capital, goods and services will result in significant increases in trade and investments amongst African countries rising to unprecedented levels, and strengthen Africa’s place in global trade.

A Call to Action

  1. We hereby adopt Agenda 2063, as a collective vision and roadmap for the next fifty years and therefore commit to speed-up actions to:
  2. Introduce an African Passport, issued by Member states, capitalising on the global migration towards e-passports, and with the abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018.

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Foreword, African Union Commission

By the end of 2016, Africa had advanced moderately towards greater freedom of movement for its people. The goal of an integrated Africa as envisaged in Agenda 2063 is slowly getting into sharper focus. The collective African Union decision for Member States to grant a 30-day visa-on-arrival to all African passport holders is being implemented by leading reformers such as Ghana, who this year have joined Rwanda, Mauritius and Seychelles to implement this system. Meanwhile, other African countries have also announced their intention to do so.

Their experience follows in the footsteps of some Regional Economic Communities who have already established a system for free movement of people across their borders, such as ECOWAS and EAC. Countries who have demonstrated such leadership need to be acknowledged. Findings of this second Africa Visa Openness Index highlight the positive momentum for promoting African travel across the Continent.

The process of facilitating visa issuance has improved tangibly since 2015. Besides, the majority of African countries have either opened up further or stayed the same during that period. The top 20 most visa-open countries have higher scores compared to the previous year, and only very few countries remain which do not yet grant visas on arrival.

In July 2016, another milestone was realized with the successful launch of the African Union Passport. This was issued to Heads of State and Government as well as high-level representatives. We are proud to report the tremendous interest in the initiative from governments, businesses and Africans across the Continent. The African Union has future plans to support Member States in rolling out the African Union passport to all citizens, granting them visa-free access to explore the Continent for business, pleasure, leisure and tourism.

Challenges to freedom of movement across Africa undoubtedly still exist. Policy makers, business leaders, civil society and engaged citizens need to highlight where gaps still exist to enable appropriate reforms to be undertaken. African governments are revising their immigration regulations with a view to facilitate movement across the Continent in line with the relevant decision of the Assembly of Heads of State, so as to afford greater opportunities within Africa for our youth and to strengthen the culture of a united, integrated Africa, at peace with itself and with the world.

Thomas Kwesi Quartey Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission

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Visa openness in Africa in 2016

Important progress was made on visa openness in 2016, with African countries on average becoming more open to each other. During the year, milestones for greater freedom of movement across the continent included the launch of the African passport in July, and greater reciprocity within Regional Economic Communities, promoting regional integration. The findings from the first edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index, launched in March 2016, energized the debate, highlighting the continent’s top performing countries and the priority visa openness solutions that countries could adopt as policy reforms. Over the year, four countries moved up into the top 20 most open countries in the Index, and over a third of countries put in place efforts to offer more liberal visa policies. At the same time, more countries announced specific measures to improve their visa regimes going forward.

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2016 Findings: Countries moving up

Ghana

While a number of countries still have a distance to travel to make greater progress on visa openness, countries from across West Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa moved up the Index rankings in 2016. In the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa in 2016, there are four new countries.

“With effect from July this year, we will be allowing citizens of AU Member States to enter our country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to thirty days and experience what our country has to offer. This measure, with time, should stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism.” President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, State of the Nation address, 25 February 2016

Continent-wide, Ghana has made the most progress in 2016 in opening up its borders for other African travellers, moving into sixth place in the Index, up sixteen places from 2015. The country offers 96% liberal access to all Africans. This is the case either through offering visa-free access to almost a third of all countries (including for the other 14 ECOWAS member states) or visas on arrival to almost two thirds of countries in Africa (from less than 10% in 2015).

Ghana’s policy decision follows a resolution adopted in early 2016 at the AU’s Executive Council on issuing visas on arrival for member states, with the possibility of a 30-day stay. This ties in with Ghana’s pledge to support the continent’s wider integration efforts and Agenda 2063, including through forging stronger links with its Francophone neighbours.

Economic drivers play an important part in Ghana’s new open visa policy in encouraging African visitors to the country, particularly in promoting the country’s travel, tourism, trade and investment sectors. Total travel and tourism contributed 7.8% to Ghana’s GDP in 2015 and is forecast to rise by 2.4% in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Ghana’s visa policy: African Union citizens are to be issued with visas on arrival, valid for 30 days, at Kotoka International Airport, with other ports of entry to follow. Visitors must have return air ticket/evidence of onward travel, evidence of sufficient funds, and proof of accommodation.

Senegal

Senegal has moved into the top 20 most visa open countries in Africa, up 9 places from 2015 by offering visa-free access to 42 African countries alongside other ECOWAS member states. The country offers 78% liberal access to all Africans, more than double the figure from 2015. In order to match the ranking of Seychelles – the most visa-open country in the Index – Senegal would need to offer visa-free access to 12 more African countries.

Senegal’s visa policy decision to promote freedom of movement for Africans builds on the country’s efforts since 2015 to re-energize the tourism sector. This has included a set of measures to cut payments for visas to the country, and to lower prices by reducing informal taxes on air tickets by 50%, particularly passenger fees, insurance tax and stamp duty. In line with these initiatives, total travel and tourism contributed 12.4% to GDP in 2015 and was forecast to rise by 4.4% in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Forward Look

Africans were able to travel more freely across the continent in 2016, as visa openness levels improved from 2015. The priority is to continue this positive trend and deliver on the AU’s decision for countries to issue visas on arrival for all Africans in line with Agenda 2063.

“This Index is going to expand the discussion about regional integration. It is time to check what leaders and governments are doing in terms of human mobility. You can see how much integration we need to make progress, taking into account the opportunities offered by a growing market that is going to grow to 2 billion by 2050.” – Carlos Lopez, Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

At the same time, African countries can make progress by facilitating visa procedures, cutting the time, documents and costs involved, as well as by making air travel cheaper and more accessible. Countries can also take advantage of technology developments and put in place electronic systems, which also promote regional security and cooperation. And, in a period of slow economic growth due to falling commodity prices, alongside a decline in international tourist arrivals in Africa, more open visa policies can help to re-energize the tourism industry, promote more African tourists and build the AU’s vision of Brand Africa.

Migration could break or make the future of the continent, according to a recent study by SEF, which includes a call to action for governments, business and civil society to promote freer movement of people that integrates economies and builds strong cultural and social ties. Going forward, greater visa openness in Africa can help to tackle global migration challenges, such as the Mediterranean crisis, while building a people-centered African integration that offers new travel, trade, leisure, study and job opportunities for all Africans.

High level panel on migration launched with Liberia’s Sirleaf as chair

Economic Commission on Africa

http://www.uneca.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y6w54lrx

Monrovia, Liberia, 6 June 2017 (ECA) – “Just last week, some forty young men and women died of thirst in the Sahara Desert, while trying to reach Europe. More than a thousand have perished in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of this year.” Those were the words of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her remarks during the launch of a High Level Panel on Migration (HLPM) in Africa, which took place on Tuesday in Monrovia.

Ms. Sirleaf noted that in many places in Europe today, “a mixture of migrants from diverse backgrounds have been living in the streets, under conditions that can best be described as inhumane.”

Established in April 2016 by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) under the direction of the joint African Union(AU) and ECA Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa, HLPM is made up of 14 members with Ms. Sirleaf as chair. The panel aims to push migration issues to the top of policy agenda by engaging major stakeholders and partners.

Speaking during the launch, ECA’s Acting Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, stated that Africa is still missing out on the many benefits of migration because of tight border policies. He deplored the fact that Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries.

“Travel in Africa by Africans is curtailed by stringent visa requirements, excessive border controls and immigration restrictions”, said Hamdok, adding that the phenomenon “increases the costs and risks of migration and often comes into conflict between individual motivation to migrate and state restrictions on mobility.”

Mr. Hamdok also stated that although international media outlets tend to present images of large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe as being mostly from Africa, intra-Africa migration still dominates migration flows on the continent.

“Data shows that less than three per cent of Africa’s population have migrated internationally and less than 12 per cent of the total migrant stock in Europe are from Africa.”

This view was also highlighted by Ms. Maureen Achieng, Representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to the AU, ECA and IGAD.

“Migration from Africa towards other regions is taking place in a much lower level than one might think,” said Ms. Achieng. “There are an estimated 7.5 million West African migrants in West Africa compared to 1.2 million in North America and Europe combined.”

The issue of excessive border controls was also deplored by Ms. Alma Negash, founder of Africa Diaspora Network and member of the HPLM. Ms. Negash cited Uganda’s acceptance of migrants as good example of what African countries should be doing.

“I salute the exemplary conduct of Uganda on migration. In the past few years, Uganda alone took 800 thousand South Sudanese migrations and refugees. Africa needs to accept and take care of its children.”

For his part, Knut Vollebaek – an HLPM member and former minister of foreign affairs of the kingdom of Norway – said the government of Norway “is very pleased” with the HLPM initiative. Mr. Vollebaek expressed hopes about the panel’s ability to achieve its goals.

“It is my hope that we the panelists under the wise leadership of President Sirleaf will mobilize political will among governments in Africa and abroad, regional and international organizations, civil society, business and other stakeholders in support of adopting the necessary policies to facilitate the orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people.”

Mr. Vollebaek added that, “I hope our work can champion the new development paradigm enshrined in agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 for Africa.”

Over the next few months, the HLPM will consult with relevant constituencies at national, regional and global levels to come up with recommendations on how to build and sustain broad political consensus on an implementable international migration development agenda, taking into account the particular challenges of countries in conflict and post-conflict situations. The report will be submitted to the African Union Heads of State summit in July 2018.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2
| July 26, 2017 | 8:32 pm | Africa | No comments

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 24, 2017 (170724) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women candidates. … The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House.” – Beatrice Akala

While most commentary on the August 8 Kenyan general elections focus on the familiar themes of the presidential contenders and the potential for violence in a close and disputed outcome, as in 2007, the election will also be notable for what it reveals about the impact of political “devolution” and the still contested role of women in politics.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three short commentaries highlighting the continued obstacles facing the participation of Kenyan women in politics, as well as one focusing on the impact of “devolution” in expanding the levels of political contestation to six: “a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.”

Another AfricaFocus sent out today (and available on the web http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707a.php) contains two commentaries focused on the election more generally, and one highlighting the devastating East African drought, the inescapable background to the August 8 election despite the lack of international attention to this massive humanitarian crisis.

For detailed news coverage, AfricaFocus suggests a custom google search of Kenya-based web sites using the words “Kenya elections 2017 site:.ke” as well as two other news sites aggregating content from different sources: http://allafrica.com/kenya and http://www.tuko.co.ke

The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on-line, with increased computer capacity and availability to check registration and other details, at https://www.iebc.or.ke/.

And there is an extensive analysis of the demographics of the expanded voter roll for the current elections, from DataScience LTD, available at http://tinyurl.com/yamygvsj

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/kenya.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++]

Election season offers a reminder that Kenya remains deeply sexist

By Beatrice Akala, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Johannesburg

The Conversation, May 21, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/y86rtwwp

Kenyan folk stories celebrate women as strong, fierce heroines of the distant past. Women in some communities in western and central Kenya are said to have enjoyed considerable power directly or indirectly as chiefs, queens, queen mothers and advisors.

One of these communities even started off as being matrilineal. Women led and fought fearlessly to extend their territory. Although this community has since become patrilineal, its nine clans are still named after the daughters of its legendary descendants.

In more recent times, women endured the same hardships as their male counterparts in the political struggle to free the country from Britain’s colonial grip. They risked life and limb to ensure armed freedom fighters got food. They were also an important source of intelligence for the armed fighters as they came under less suspicion.

But, in the 50-odd years since independence, Kenya’s women have had a rough time of it in politics. The first post-independence parliament in 1963 did not have a single woman representative. Only nine had contested for a seat in the 158-member house.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the first woman was elected to parliament. In a chamber of 169 members, there were only two women – one elected and one nominated. At the end of 1992, 30 years after independence, the count was just two women in a chamber of 198.

Kenya’s progressive 2010 Constitution brought a sea of change in the last elections held in 2013. Not only were there seats reserved for women, but more candidates than ever threw their hats in the ring. The new parliament had a whopping 88 both elected and nominated. More encouraging was the number willing to contest House at 449.

But the change went only so far. None of the 19 women candidates seeking senate and gubernatorial positions were elected. Of the 1,450 elected to county assemblies there were 88 women (or 6%). In Parliament, the increase in numbers amounted to 19%. All were well below the constitutional minimum entitlement of at least a third.

Lazy, idlers and busy bodies

As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women candidates.

Women candidates in cross ethnic marriages are often easy targets. Some are taunted to go seek elective seats where they were born. The naming and shaming of the single, divorced and married as people who should be taking care of their husband is the order of the day in campaign rallies.

The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House.

The Affirmative Action Bill is better known as the two thirds gender rule. Under an article of the constitution Parliament is required to pass laws to ensure that no gender holds more than two thirds of elective posts and public appointments.

Sadly, the 2013 Parliament has struggled to give to life the requirements of this rule. The failure further demonstrates the complexities of negotiating and upholding democratic principles, people’s wishes and constitutional imperatives.

Those against the implementation of the rule argue that women should not be handed free positions. They ought to go to the people and campaign for support. They have been branded as being lazy, idlers and busy bodies who don’t deserve to be in Parliament.

In addition, it has been argued that increasing women representation in parliament will hurt the economy due to the ballooning budget. One reads negativity and selfishness in the reasons being advanced. Those who hold leadership positions don’t want to let go.

Political parties can do more

Fundamentally excluding women from leadership means that the aspirations of half of the population are ignored. It should therefore be appreciated that if the playing ground was level, there would be no need to include the two thirds gender rule in the Constitution.

What will it take to bring the rule to life? Political parties can do more by making their leadership structures fair and inclusive. Their nominations should not be gender skewed and women who express interest should be given a fair chance to compete. And they could do more to shield women from acts of violence and thuggery.

Women are known to opt out of politics because of fear of violence because the impact on them goes beyond the physical harm. When they do, they lose their right to participate in politics as equal partners. And the country loses the opportunity to experience their aspirations, skills and the ability to lead and articulate the needs and voices of their people.

Having more women in leadership positions will also motivate young girls to strive for leadership positions when they grow up. The younger generation will grow confident that society is fair and doesn’t impose limitations on the basis of gender.

“I am a leader, but I was forced to quit”

Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2017

https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/kenya-elections-2017

In a country where women are routinely denied the ability to own and control their own finances, running for political office in Kenya is tough. And money isn’t a guarantee a woman candidate will be able to win over a patriarchal society. At the start of a painful drought in Kenya last year, Rosemary (name changed to protect her privacy), a young community organizer, decided to run for Member of the County Assembly (MCA). Human Rights Watch spoke to her in Mombasa about the challenges she faced as a young, unmarried woman, and about the threats and resource constraints that forced her to end her campaign. Rosemary’s account is edited for clarity:

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission       https://www.iebc.or.ke/       

I am a leader. I was the head girl in primary school and I was the music captain. In secondary school, I was games captain. I was the chairlady in Christian union group. I am also bright – I was number one in class. Now, I help school dropouts, when girls get pregnant I help them keep their partners accountable. I also work with 90 young mothers and do advocacy to help girls protect themselves from underage pregnancy.

Our area is inland. We only have small trees and it’s very dry and dusty. People are living in poverty, farming and cutting trees for charcoal which makes it hotter.

Last year, we had a bad drought. People had no water. I have my own tap on my compound so I would fill jerry cans and give water to others. I would wait for a car heading to areas without water and then I would send it along with some water. It was a lot of work.

Eventually, I called the county government, asking them to provide water for the people. The County Commissioner wouldn’t speak to me. He asked: “Who are you?” and I said, “I am Rosemary, a community activist.” He wouldn’t talk to me. He said that the local MCA needed to call him and that I had no right to call him directly, then he hung up.

But I wouldn’t give up. I kept calling – borrowing other people’s phones – until eventually he gave up and sent us a tanker of water.

That was when I decided to run for office. I launched my manifesto in April 2016. The priorities in my manifesto were water, education, health and participation for all. People really liked the idea of participation. I promised that I would invite everyone to community meetings so that everyone would have a say. Over 1,500 people came to my first rally even though I had only planned on 200. We ran out of food. I paid for the rally myself.

You can’t campaign without money. Even a grassroots campaign is expensive.

At the end of meetings, I would say goodbye, and the people would ask, “How are you leaving us? “They mean that I should give them a “sitting allowance” – money for coming to the meeting. Without that, they say: “just go, your words are empty.”

Transport by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) is 1,000 KES (USD 10) for the day. Then for each meeting you have to leave 4,000 or 5,000 KES (USD 40 to 50) minimum. Even if I use 10,000 KES (USD 100) a week would use up my money fast. I began to wonder how I would manage my life after the election, especially if I didn’t win.

Money is especially a big problem for women candidates. We have no networks, no big business. There were three women in the race when we started – only one is still running – she is not campaigning because she has no money. She is just registered and hoping for miracle. One woman candidate was running against the incumbent in the primaries, but she could not get money to transport her supporters. She lost in the primaries because she couldn’t get enough of her supporters to the polling station. There was a bus all the candidates in the primary were supposed to share, but they would ask everyone who they were voting for before allowing them on the bus. If you said you were going to vote for her, they would kick you off the bus. If you said you were going to vote for the incumbent, they allowed you on and gave you 200 KES (USD 2).

Security is also a problem – for example as a woman I don’t want to walk around at night. I got threats on the phone and on my Facebook account. “OK, Rosemary, drop this thing or else you know who we are,” they said, and “watch out for your life.” They also threatened me because I am a single woman with a baby. One said: “Go and get married and then come and ask for votes.” I reported to the police but they did nothing. You have to pay them to investigate in my town.

One day, someone dug up the waterpipe to my house, cutting off our water. I thought to myself: I don’t have to lose my life because I love my community. I started to think I could still help the community without winning an election.

When my boyfriend realized I was serious about politics, he dumped me. That was a big blow for me, I lost him and my money, I was emotionally down. That is when I decided to quit.

Still, in 2022, whether I am married or not, I will run again. I am going to start a business and get money to run; friends will support me. I have everything to be a leader.

Kenyans see gains in gender equality, but support for women’s empowerment still uneven, Afrobarometer survey finds

Afrobarometer News release

Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya

8 March 2017

http://www.afrobarometer.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9rwzytb (press release) and http://tinyurl.com/y8sj9hex (presentation)

[Excerpts. For full press release and presentation with figures, see links above]

A majority of Kenyans say the country has made progress toward gender equality, but below-average support among men and lagging political engagement among women point toward remaining challenges, according to new Afrobarometer findings released on International Women’s Day.

Popular perceptions that girls and women have a fair chance at education and jobs, that gender violence is never justifiable, and that women should be accorded a fair shot at being elected are in line with perceived progress toward gender equality, the new survey data show.

But much work remains to be done among men, who trail significantly on most of these indicators. Moreover, key pillars of women’s progress continue to require strengthening, including an equal chance to own and inherit land and women’s political engagement. The findings are being released on International Women’s Day, during a period of tense political competition pitting female candidates against their male counterparts in August general elections. The release also comes at a time when the country is beginning to assess the effects of its new gender empowerment laws, including equal rights for men and women to inherit land and other property.

Key findings

* A majority (56%) of Kenyans say that women’s equality has improved in recent years. The best-educated women and men are twice as likely as their uneducated compatriots to see progress on gender equality (Figure 1).

* About one in seven women (15%) say they personally suffered discrimination or harassment based on gender in the past year.

* More than three-fourths (78%) of Kenyans say wife-beating is “never” justifiable.

* More than six in 10 Kenyans (63%) do not agree that men should be given priority in hiring if jobs are scarce.

* Nine out of 10 Kenyans say that girls now have the same educational opportunities as boys, but perceptions of gender equality drop to seven out of 10 with regard to earning an income and less than six out of 10 with regard to the right to own or inherit land (Figure 2).

* While 57% say women currently have equal rights to own and inherit land, more (64%) say they should have those rights. Men are almost twice as likely as women to reject equal rights for women when it comes to owning and inheriting land (39% vs. 21%).

* About two-thirds of Kenyan women (63%) and men (68%) say the government has performed well in promoting opportunities and equality for women.

* Three-fourths (73%) of Kenyans say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office (Figure 3). But men (66%) are less likely than women (81%) to hold this view. Support for women’s political leadership has remained steady since 2011.

* Women are significantly less likely than men to discuss politics, to contact political leaders, to join others to raise an issue, and to attend community meetings.

* More than half (54%) of Kenyans say they fear political violence and intimidation “somewhat” or “a lot.” Women and men are equally likely to express this fear.

Afrobarometer

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa. Six rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 37 African countries between 1999 and 2016, and Round 7 surveys (2016/2017) are currently underway. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in Kenya, led by the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, interviewed 1,599 adult Kenyans in September-October 2016. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys have been conducted in Kenya in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014.

Kenya’s 2017 elections will be like none before. Here’s why.

By Nanjala Nyabola

African Arguments, July 10, 2017

http://africanarguments.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yamra4mw

[Nanjala Nyabola is a Kenyan writer, humanitarian advocate and political analyst, currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow her on twitter at @Nanjala1]

Devolution has demystified local power and emboldened voters to assert themselves, leading to shocks all the way up the political pyramid.

Kenya’s 2017 elections are set to be the country’s most interesting yet. The political landscape has shifted, and whatever else these elections turn out to be – violent, peaceful, confusing – they are going to a different kettle of fish to previous polls.

The most obvious reason for this is devolution. After the 2010 constitution was passed, Kenya restructured its political and legislative units, breaking 8 massive provinces into 47 counties made up of various wards. The national legislature was broken into two branches, establishing the roles of senator and governor. And the position of women’s representatives was created in each county to help achieve the new constitution’s gender quotas.

These changes also affected how elections work. In 2007, Kenyans voted at three levels: for a councillor, a member of parliament (MP), and a president. On 8 August 2017, the electorate will vote at six: a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.

This was also the case in 2013, but since then, it has become much clearer how the different levels of government operate in relation to one another. This means that some positions have become far more attractive and therefore competitive. And this increased contestation at the local level has undermined some of the typical tropes of Kenyan politics such as tribalism and regionalism. Things have changed.

Kenya’s political pyramid

One can think of Kenya’s system of political operatives as operating in a pyramid formation. At the bottom are local elders. One step up are county assembly members, followed by members of parliament, senators, and county governors. Above them are the ethnic kingpins. These are powerful individuals that come together to at the highest level to form national political alliances or coalitions that then contest the elections. In the case of 2017, we have President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto on one side as the incumbents, with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others on the opposing side.

Typically, the role of local elders at the bottom rung has been to marshal voters to back the right kingpin at the top. Much of campaign spending goes towards cementing this local loyalty. Although politicians themselves sometimes hand out cash at rallies, the really important network has been low-level leaders giving out goodies in less intense environments. It’s the chief calling a village meeting and distributing bags of maize flour, or the women’s group leader dishing out t-shirts at the chama meeting.

In prior elections, knowing which way local leaders were leaning gave a good indication of how the overall vote in a specific region would go. For politicians, spending enough money on these low-level actors could usually guarantee a positive return at the ballot box.

Dismantling the pyramid

Not anymore it seems. Devolution has made local politics much more intimately connected with voters’ day-to-day lives. Power has become demystified, and this has inspired more people to challenge local leadership when it has been deemed to fail. A record 14,525 candidates are running for office in 2017, and low-level chiefs and elders can no longer guarantee voters’ support for a particular party through the traditional means.

In 2013, it was enough for a candidate who wanted to be elected to buy a nomination certificate from their party and then hand out money at a rally, safe in the knowledge that their “person on the ground” would distribute campaign goodies to people to secure their votes. But with a more discerning electorate who, through devolution, more closely see how local power works, or doesn’t, these tactics are no longer as effective.

This can also be seen in the way Kenyan voters have been rejecting the notion of “six-piece voting”. This was a strategy employed by national politicians in 2013 whereby they encouraged supporters to vote for the same party across all six levels of government. This was most beneficial to those candidates in the middle levels of the pyramid. Rather than establishing independent political identities, candidates for MCAs, MPs and senators could just provide money downwards to foster low-level loyalty for the party, while trading off the popularity of the national-level politicians above them.

When Odinga and Kenyatta have proposed six-piece voting in 2017, however, they have been heckled and booed at their own rallies. People don’t want to just vote blindly for the same party in all the boxes; they want more say in what happens at the various levels.

We saw these new dynamics play out in the party primaries this April. Despite significant attempts at mobilisation, voters rejected incumbent MCAs, MPs and even governors who they believe have failed to deliver. Several key allies of national politicians failed to win their party’s nomination.

Many of these figures are now running instead as independents, meaning that many ethnic groups have two or more powerful figures contesting key constituencies. This divides these ethnic kingdoms and presents a dilemma for political parties. On one hand, they need to appease loyalists by putting the force of the party behind each of their candidates; on the other, they need to court voters that support those popular independents that have left the party.

To date, leaders have responded to this conundrum by inviting some independent hopefuls to participate in party events, but this has led to public, and sometimes violent, clashes between supporters of the different candidates.

A new politics?

In 2017, voters are not just rejecting six-piece voting and exercising their judgements over local candidates beyond party loyalty. They are also being vocal and visible about it.

This is the first time in recent memory that we’re seeing national political figures appear uncertain before their own supporters during their own rallies. The sight of Kenyatta, a sitting president, being heckled – not once, but fairly consistently during the election period – is novel. That people at a Odinga rally would shout anything that wasn’t a synonym for ndio baba (“yes father”) is unprecedented.

Of course, more things have changed in Kenyan politics since 2013 than those examined here. But these changes, amongst others, have thrown a significant measure of unpredictability into the landscape. Political punditry in Kenya has always been fixated on the ethnic question, but this time around, it’s not going to be that simple. Ethnic loyalty is still important, but it is no longer absolute. Voters have changed, politicians are adapting, and everything is getting a lot more interesting.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 1
| July 26, 2017 | 8:31 pm | Africa | No comments

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 24, 2017 (170724) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“Like Nairobi’s infamous matatus, the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer.” – Patrick Gathara

Major global media will likely not pay much attention to the August 8 election until a few days before. But coverage and speculation is intense in the Kenyan press and social media, as well as among other observers of African politics who recognize its critical importance not only for Kenya but for the East African region and for democracy on the African continent.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two commentaries focused on the election more generally, and one highlighting the devastating East African drought, the inescapable background to the August 8 election despite the lack of international attention to this massive humanitarian crisis.

Another AfricaFocus sent out today (and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707b.php) contains three short commentaries highlighting the continued obstacles facing the participation of Kenyan women in politics, as well as one focusing on the impact of “devolution” in expanding the levels of political contestation to six: “a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.”

For detailed news coverage, AfricaFocus suggests a custom google search of Kenya-based web sites using the words “Kenya elections 2017 site:.ke” as well as two other news sites aggregating content from different sources: http://allafrica.com/kenya and http://www.tuko.co.ke

Another recent article of interest is: “Kenya is set to hold one of the most expensive elections in Africa,” by Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa, July 18, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y8s6dysb

The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on-line, with increased computer capacity and availability to check registration and other details, at https://www.iebc.or.ke/.

And there is an extensive analysis of the demographics of the expanded voter roll for the current elections, from DataScience LTD, available at http://tinyurl.com/yamygvsj

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/kenya.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++]

Why Kenya’s upcoming elections should worry the world

By Patrick Gathara

Washington Post Global Opinions, July 21, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/ycvy9cp5

[Patrick Gathara is a strategic communications consultant, writer and award-winning political cartoonist in Kenya.]

Driving in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, can be a nightmare. Not only is one prone to spending endless hours in traffic jams, but also the roads are menaced by brilliantly colored, insanely driven, hulking deathtraps that pass for the city’s public transport system. Terrifyingly oblivious to the dangers they pose to both their passengers and other road users, the matatus — as the beasts are called — are a perfect metaphor for Kenya as it hurtles toward elections next month.

With three weeks to go, domestic and international observers are concerned with whether the polls will be peaceful and fair. Kenya is still haunted by the the postelection violence of a decade ago, in which at least 1,300 people died and more than 600,000 were displaced from their homes. Many are fearful of a repeat of violence if the credibility of the election is in doubt, as it was in 2007.

There is good reason to worry. Just like in 2007, the campaigns of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, have deeply polarized Kenya along ethnic lines; the nation is split down the middle, with polls showing the race tightening as election day approaches. Across the country, there are reports of people moving their families away from ethnically mixed neighborhoods in areas anticipated to be flashpoints of violence, and into tribal enclaves where there is safety in numbers. David Ndii, one of the country’s top economists, says flights out of the country on dates surrounding the election are already fully booked.

More disconcerting has been the impugning of the impartiality of the judiciary. In 2007, the opposition refused to entrust the electoral dispute to the courts, providing the spark for the violence. Alongside its poor handling of the 2013 petition against Kenyatta’s election, the judiciary has had to endure continuing allegations of corruption. Public infighting has broken out within the Supreme Court, which was specifically established in the aftermath of the 2008 violence to deal with electoral disputes. Now, the opposition has already declared that if it suspects the election to be rigged, it would not be returning to the courts, as it did in 2013. Many fear that this is code for a resort to street protests that may potentially degenerate to violence.

The real fuel for the fire in 2007 was the unresolved legacy of the country’s colonial past, which manifests in the form of land conflicts and massive class and regional inequalities. By the time of independence from Britain in 1963, about 60,000 European settlers owned half of all agricultural land in Kenya. Since then, successive kleptocratic governments have preferred to concentrate these areas in the hands of a small elite, further exacerbating land hunger as the population has grown ninefold. This, in turn, has led to the huge wealth disparities with one report showing 62 percent of the country’s wealth being owned by just 0.02 percent of the population. The recommendations of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was meant to help Kenya heal from history, have remained unimplemented; the report itself is gathering dust in Parliament.

The conduct of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has been a cause for serious concern. One study concluded that “preparations thus far have been plagued by several of the same problems that marred the last election cycle, suggesting a dearth of lessons learned.” Time and again, the IEBC has been chastised by the courts over its arrangements for the elections, most recently in cases concerning the finality of vote counts at the county level and its procurement of ballot papers (the latter case was recently overturned on appeal). Worse is the lack of transparency that has characterized the IEBC planning. IEBC finally agreed to provide public access to the registry of voters — after a questionable audit process. Even at this late stage, there remains little clarity on what “complementary mechanism” the IEBC plans to deploy if electronic and biometric systems — required for identifying voters and transmitting results from polling stations — fail as they did in 2013.

Perhaps most damaging to the IEBC’s credibility has been the perception that it is doing the incumbent’s bidding. This is reinforced by the near-identical positions the IEBC and the governing Jubilee Party have taken on almost every issue, sometimes resulting in party spokesmen purporting to speak for the elections body as well. As far as electoral abuses, the IEBC has been quiet on a series of TV commercials paid for by The President’s Delivery Unit, which clearly violate the legal prohibition against the government either advertising its achievements during the campaign period or using public resources to campaign for a particular candidate.

Like Nairobi’s infamous matatus, the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer.

Kenyatta or Odinga? Why dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya

by Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

The Conversation, July 11, 2017

http://theconversation.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y8vadsw5

Kenya’s general election will be contested by a large number of hopefuls, but in reality it’s a two-horse race between Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party.

Unsurprisingly in a country in which the executive continues to wield a dominant influence, coverage of the campaign has focused on the personalities and records of Odinga and Kenyatta.

What does their candidacy tell us about Kenyan politics in 2017?

The first and most obvious lesson from the 2017 election campaign is that dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya. Despite all of the contestation, efforts and plotting of rival leaders hoping to push their own ambitions, 2017 will be fought between a Kenyatta and an Odinga, just like the elections of 2013 and the Little General Election of 1966.

Rivals in the Kenya election Uhuru Kenyatta (left)      and Raila Odinga. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya     

The second is that ethnicity only gets you so far. In 2013, Odinga outperformed rival presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi within his own Luhya community. This was possible because while Odinga was seen to be a credible opposition leader, Mudavadi’s dalliance with Kenyatta – with whom he formed an extremely short-lived alliance – raised concerns that he was a State House puppet. Kenyatta’s recent rehabilitation as the dominant leader among the Kikuyu community following his electoral humiliation in 2002 also demonstrates this point well.

So who are the two leading contenders?

Odinga, the opposition stalwart

Raila Odinga is the son of Oginga Odinga, a prominent independence leader and Kenya’s first vice president who never realised his dream of occupying State House. Like his father, Raila has campaigned tirelessly against considerable odds, and has so far been unsuccessful. He narrowly lost elections in 2007 – when many believe he was rigged out – and in 2013.

Odinga’s great ability is to be able to mobilise well beyond his own Luo community, and to sustain his political party – the Orange Democratic Movement for a decade. Given that most Kenyan parties collapse within a few years, this is some achievement.

The breadth of Odinga’s support base is also impressive. In 2013 he performed well among Luhya voters in Western Kenya, Kamba voters in Eastern Kenya and also at the Coast.

Odinga’s capacity to mobilise support across ethnic lines has two sources. On the one hand, he receives some votes “second hand” as a result of the efforts of his allies from other regions and ethnic groups to direct rally their communities to his cause.

On the other hand, he’s built a strong reputation for representing historically economically and politically marginalised communities. Indeed, while he has never secured the presidency, he has contributed to political reform. Most notably, Odinga played an important role in bringing about constitutional reform in 2010 that introduced devolution and hence a degree of self-government for the groups in his coalition.

Kenyatta, born to power

In contrast to Odinga, Uhuru was born into power as the son of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and secured the presidency in the 2013 general election having previously failed to do so in 2002.

Kenyatta’s supporters like to say that he was born in State House, and hence born to power, although this is not actually true. But it is true that he has spent his life close to the machinery of government, and his family’s political influence and wealth give him a clear advantage in the elections. His gift is to be able to look and sound presidential when he has an important speech to make, despite his playboy lifestyle.

Although it’s tempting to see Kenyatta’s rise to power as inevitable, this is not the case. In 2002, he failed to mobilise support among his own community because he had been selected by the outgoing Kalenjin President Daniel arap Moi to be his successor. He was then widely seen to be a proxy for Moi’s interests. At that point, his political career appeared to be over.

It was not until Kenyatta developed a reputation for defending Kikuyu interests by allegedly funding and organising militias in the violence that engulfed the 2007 elections that he emerged as the dominant figure within the Central Province. It is for this alleged role that he faced charges (that were subsequently dropped) of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. This, and his electoral alliance with his co-accused – the influential Kalenjin leader William Ruto – were critical factors in his victory in 2013.

The 2017 race

During the campaign Kenyatta and Odinga have been a study in contrasts.

While Odinga stresses his intention to shake things up, Kenyatta presents himself as a safe pair of hands who will protect the status quo.

While Odinga plays up his image as the representative of the excluded, promising to deepen devolution and invest in poorer areas, Kenyatta emphasises building a national infrastructure and maintaining economic growth, arguing that the gains of the rich will trickle down to benefit all Kenyans in time.

These images are further entrenched by the criticisms that each leader makes of the other. Jubilee caricatures Odinga as an unprincipled thug who cannot be trusted with the fine art of government. For its part, the National Super Alliance charges that Kenyatta is out of touch and only interested in serving the interests of the wealthy within his own community.

Some complain that these differences are more rhetorical than real, one thing is clear. In fact Kenyans have a real choice to make at the ballot box.

Election outlook

The greater resources available to Kenyatta, along with the more professional team around him, mean that the opposition faces an uphill battle. Moreover, government interference with the media – which is regularly intimidated – means that while election reportage is vibrant some of the stories that would most hurt the government don’t make it on to the front pages.

It’s therefore not surprising that, at the time of writing, Kenyatta enjoys a small but significant lead in the polls. A series of surveys conducted by different companies using different samples have put him on around 48% of the vote, with Odinga on around 43%. These polls suggest that about 8% of Kenyans remain undecided. This suggests that Raila can still win, but to do so he will have to capture the vast majority of “floating voters” in the last month of campaigning.

However, if undecided voters divide equally between the two main candidates, Kenyatta looks set to end up on something like 52% – surpassing the 50%+1 threshold for a first round win – with Odinga on 47%.

Given this, the record of no sitting Kenyan president ever having lost an election may survive for a while yet, despite the momentum behind the opposition. Although the country has made real democratic strides with its new constitution, the advantages of incumbency remain formidable.

East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

By IPS World Desk

IPS News, July 19, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/y76xrtxq

Rome, Jul 19 2017 (IPS) – Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.

The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda, according to a new alert by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The alert, issued on 14 July by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required.

“We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.” – FAO chief

“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”

Increasing Humanitarian Need

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.

Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.

The food security situation for pastoralists is of particular concern, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition, FAO warned.

“When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.

Poor Crop Prospects

On this, FAO provides the following detailed information:

In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.

In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.

In Somalia there are unfavourable prospects for this year’s main gu crops, after the gu rains were late with poor rainfall and erratic distribution over most areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, unfavourable belg rains in southern cropping areas are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls. Drought is also affecting yields in Kenya’s central, Southeastern and coastal areas.

In Tanzania, unfavourable rains are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls in northern and central areas; while in Uganda there are unfavourable production prospects are unfavourable for first season crops in the Southwestern and northern districts.

108 Million People Face Severe Acute Food Insecurity

Meanwhile, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released on 31 March in Brussels.

The report, whose compilation required integrating several measurement methodologies, represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union (EU) and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño. ”

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.

By joining forces to deliver neutral analytical insights drawn from multiple institutions, the report – to be issued annually – enables better-informed planning decisions to respond to food crises in a more timely, global and coordinated way.

“This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes. The EU has taken leadership in this response. In 2016, we allocated € 550 million already, followed by another € 165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa,” said Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

“The report is the outcome of a joint effort and a concrete follow-up to the commitments the EU made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which identified the urgent need for transparent, independent but consensus-based analysis of crises,” added Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Most Critical Situations Worsening

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria, the report warns.

“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever-greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”

The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suffering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance.

This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the future, the report adds.

“Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”

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Aleida Guevara: “The Cuban Revolution will endure because of social consciousness”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aleida Guevara: “The Cuban Revolution will endure because of social consciousness”

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2017/07/aleida-guevara-cuban-revolution-will.html

Major abstracts of an interview by Aleida Guevara, daughter of the heroic Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, during her recent visit in Cyprus. The interview was published in the portal Dialogos / Translation in english: In Defense of Communism:

We talked about great personalities like Fidel, Che, Raul, Camilo. Their personalities frequently overshadow the Revolution of the Cuban people and the resistance which lasts for so many years. Something that imperialism feeds with illusions is (the perception) that the biological death of Fidel and Revolution’s leaders will result to her collapse. How do you comment? 
“It is exactly what they did for the people of Cuba that makes them so great revolutionaries. It is that they formated social consciousness also through their own personal example. For example my father set some basic points of reference of the Revolution. One thing he taught us is when we do not understand something, we have the tast to demand an explanation. Not to be afraid of saying what we think. Always with respect and earning the right to be heard. This is very important. Our young people have this educational method. We have full consciousness of the power we have as people. Because it is something more internal, many people do not know that is like that in Cuba.
It is difficult to understand the level of Cuban people’s consciousness. […] There is a large popular critique and our people have a big powers. They hear us. This is the important. The Revolution will endure after the biological absence of great people who led our people. We endured and resisted for many years, being so close to the largest imperialist center.
 
This didn’t happen due to a handful of revolutionaries. It happened because of the developed social consciousness of our people. The people decided and knows what they want. I wouldn’t like to be in the position of the one who will lead the people after the historic leadership of the Revolution, because of the obvious comparison with Fidel. It will be difficult, but the important is the will power of the people and the dedication by the CP of Cuba (PCC).”
Regarding the changes in Cuba’s socialist system, Aleida Guevara said:
 
“There has been much criticism. The PCC prepared a series of issues. These issues were analysed by the people in every workplace, in schools, universities, everywhere. The people expressed their view. The National Assembly of People’s Power recently adopted the final document with over 1,800 modifications made by the Cuban people. The changes in the first text were made through the popular participatory democracy and that is what the Parliament verified. We are very critical as a people. We have the political education to do something like that. Therefore, what will happen is a decision taken by the people.”
In the question about the U.S policy towards Cuba and how she evaluates Trump’s announcements on Cuba, Dr. Guevara mentioned the following:
 
“Obama “varnished” a bit the aggressiveness of the USA, but the worst sanctions of Washington against our people were set during Obama’s period. He was simply a clever politician and presented himself as someone who wanted “changes”. In tactics, not in strategy. Obama’s aim remained the overthrow of the Revolution. The same policy continues and Trump is simply rougher. He proved that when he made the statements alongside the US-funded anti-Cuban mafia of Miami. Alongside terrorists and murderers. And on that point I must say that not all Cubans living in the USA are enemies of our people, like the members of this reactionary and terrorist mafia. The aim of the USA were always the same against our people. Trump simply returned to the face of the previous US Presidents. We aren’t worried. Everyone knows that our people kneels only to pay tribute to the heroes of independence and Revolution. Our struggle continues. They gave us more strength. Maybe it is even better, because many were “drifted” with Obama. They thought that there was a change. They wrongfully thought that the blockade was ended. Exactly the opposite took place. Obama was probably the worst clamp upon Cuban economy. Our people and all the people must remember what Che was saying about imperialism: You can’t trust him at all.”
 
 
Aleida also talked about Che’s admiration for the Soviet people, his affection for reading and studying. Among other things she said:
 
“My father was always a critical person. He was applying the same with the Soviet Union, but with much respect towards the Soviet people who he admired and respected also for his role in the international level”.
 
“In order to exercise critique you have to study a lot. My father was very well-read. He studied and talked with Mao Zedong himself and he could discuss in a documented way with him. That was an advantage of Che. He wasn’t criticizing without reason. If we was criticizing something, that was because he had searched and found answers. That’s why his critique was constructive and he was treated with respect”.
 
Dr. Aleida Guevara mentioned her participation in medical brigades, where she offered her skills and knowledge, like for example in Angola. This experience, she said, strengthened her anti-racist views: “I am a pediatrician and I saw children dying, while I could save them if I had enough medicines. This is unjust. If a child is black or lives in this planet’s south, does it mean it must be condemned to death? There isn’t any right in this situation. That is why I react in everything racist and colonial and I will fight against these until my last breath”.
“Cuba remains a symbol of Socialism. She proves that with her internationalist solidarity. What makes Cuba special? Socialism and our values. The fact that human is above everything. For example, when the Ebola virus broke out in Africa, the WHO (World Health Organisation) did not call a developed capitalist country. It didn’t call the USA or the EU. It called Cuba. And the Cuban doctors stopped this epidemic which would be dangerous for the whole world. Socialist Cuba taught us to be ready to sacrifice ourselves in order to save lifes and help humanity. And the example of Cuba is very significant, because it shows that if we- a poor people- can be against american imperialism, then every people can do it.”
 
AfricaFocus: Congo (Kinshasa): Inga Dam Mirage Recedes, Again
| July 17, 2017 | 7:54 pm | Africa | No comments

Congo (Kinshasa): Inga Dam Mirage Recedes, Again

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 17, 2017 (170717) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

The latest projections for the Inga 3 hydroelectric project on the Congo River to become operational, cited in press reports last week, are 2024 or 2025. But even if the project is financed and constructed, says a new report, the project will likely provide only minimal electric power for the people of Democratic Republic of the Congo and burden the country with more unsustainable debt.

According to the report, “The project will sell most of its electricity to South Africa and to mines in eastern DRC. The report finds that losses along what would be the world’s longest transmission line to South Africa could leave very little power available to the mines, and the Congolese people would receive little benefit in increased electricity. Under the most likely scenario, 88% of the power would be sold to South Africa, leaving just 90 MW for Kinshasa, rather than the 1000 MW claimed. Under the worst-case scenario, no power at all would be available for sale to consumers in Kinshasa.”

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and the executive summary of the report from International Rivers, by economist Tim Jones. The full report is available on the International Rivers website, http://www.internationalrivers.org (direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y8o4olgu)

For a summary background story on criticisms of the project, see Adam Wernick, “Congo pushes for a mega-dam project, with no environmental impact studies,” PRI, July 3, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y76o55qm

For an update on the latest developments in plans for Inga 3, see Christophe Le Bec, “RDC: pour sauver le barrage hydroélectrique Inga III, l’union fait la force, Jeune Afrique, 12 July 2017 http://tinyurl.com/yc7gmbo3

For an article providing extensive background on the history of plans to dam the Congo River for hydroelectric power, see Charles Kenny and John Norris, “The River that Swallows All Dams,” Foreign Policy, May 8, 2015 http://tinyurl.com/laadz7v

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Congo (Kinshasa), visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Inga 3 Dam Risks Plunging DRC Deeper Into Debt

New report finds that DRC likely to suffer financial losses, continuing energy poverty if hydropower project advances

International Rivers, June 27, 2017

http://www.internationalrivers.org – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9g9kssh

Today, International Rivers is releasing the first in-depth economic study of the proposed Inga 3 hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Authored by noted British economist Tim Jones, “In Debt and In The Dark” exposes glaring flaws in the assumptions about the dam’s likely performance. The report finds that Inga 3 will likely plunge DRC deeper into debt, exporting needed power and delivering little, if any, to Congolese citizens while allowing international investors to reap the benefits.

The power from Inga 1 dam, which began operations in 1972, is far from sufficient even for the capital Kinshasa. Credit: Alaindg     

“Claims about the benefits of Inga 3 are wildly overstated,” says Jones. “In fact, the dam would be a huge financial burden for the government and the Congolese people and provide little if any electricity.”

From the outset, Inga 3 has been plagued by dangerously optimistic assumptions about the dam’s performance, including power output well above the world’s most efficient plants, zero cost overruns, and unrealistically low transmission losses.

Using empirical evidence from the performance of similar hydropower projects in Africa and globally, Jones tested proponents’ claims regarding Inga 3’s socioeconomic benefits. He then forecasted the dam’s potential performance across a range of scenarios.

His findings highlight the serious financial risks associated with the Inga 3 hydropower project, and should be deeply concerning to the DRC government, potential investors, and the Congolese people.

“The DRC is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, but suffers from massive energy poverty,” says Freddy Kasongo of Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale (OEARSE).

Emmanuel Musuyu of Coalition des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Suivi des Réformes et de l’Action Publique (CORAP), adds, “Unfortunately, this study shows that the Inga 3 Dam will further impoverish the DRC without delivering the energy that we need.”

The analysis shows that in the most likely scenarios, the DRC government will lose money on Inga 3. Even with fairly conservative estimates of cost overruns and generous assumptions of power generated, electricity prices, and low interest rates, DRC would stand to lose $618 million per year on the project, or nearly $22 billion over the project’s 35-year lifespan.

These financial losses could run as high as $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year under unfavorable conditions – up to $70 billion over the project’s lifespan – ballooning DRC’s debt levels and harming its long-term economic health.

“Not only will Inga 3 bring in no revenue, it will likely increase DRC’s debt burden,” says Rudo Sanyanga, International Rivers’ Africa Program Director. “And it won’t bring much-needed electricity access to the Congolese people. This would be a disastrous investment for the DRC.”

The project will sell most of its electricity to South Africa and to mines in eastern DRC. The report finds that losses along what would be the world’s longest transmission line to South Africa could leave very little power available to the mines, and the Congolese people would receive little benefit in increased electricity. Under the most likely scenario, 88% of the power would be sold to South Africa, leaving just 90 MW for Kinshasa, rather than the 1000 MW claimed. Under the worst-case scenario, no power at all would be available for sale to consumers in Kinshasa.

International Rivers’ study shows that the DRC could achieve greater energy access for its population if it used the funds intended for Inga 3 on micro-hydropower and solar energy. Such investment would support the DRC to generate enough electricity to increase access by an estimated 2.7 million people throughout the country.

Kate Horner, Executive Director of International Rivers, says, “If the DRC wants to become a true economic leader that sets a model for energy access in Africa, it should press the pause button on the Inga 3 Dam and instead explore energy solutions that can make a lasting difference for the Congolese people.”

[International Rivers is a global NGO with offices on four continents. It protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them.

Media contacts:

Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Program Director, International Rivers | rudo@internationalrivers.org | +27 76 842 3874

Josh Klemm, Policy Director, International Rivers | jklemm@internationalrivers.org | +1 202 492 8904

Emmanuel Musuyu, Technical Secretary, CORAP | emmamus42@gmail.com | +243 81 169 7699]

In Debt and In the Dark: Unpacking the Economics of DRC’s Proposed Inga 3 Dam

by Tim Jones

International Rivers, June 2017

http://www.internationalrivers.org – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y8o4olgu

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) needs reliable energy to power economic development and increase its prestige and standing in Africa. Although it’s one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, the DRC suffers from massive energy poverty. In 2012, only 16% of Congolese had access to electricity, and outside of big cities, this number drops to less than 6% – less than one of every 15 people. This energy deficit stunts economic development, as evidenced by the DRC having the lowest GDP per capita of any country in the world in 2013.

In its bid to address these urgent needs for electricity and economic development, the DRC government has pinned its hopes while other countries and international on the Congo River’s Inga 3 Dam, the first in a planned series of hydropower projects known collectively as Grand Inga.

In its bid to address these urgent needs for electricity and economic development, the DRC government has pinned its hopes on the Congo River’s Inga 3 Dam, the first in a planned series of hydropower projects known collectively as Grand Inga. Proponents of Grand Inga say that the project would harness the mighty Congo River and act as a battery for the continent, exporting power to all corners of the continent and even as far away as Europe.

This report analyzes the Inga 3 project to under-stand whether the dam will accomplish its goals of energy production and economic gain to benefit the DRC. Our analysis finds that Inga 3, in most scenarios, will sink the DRC deeper into debt while other countries (notably South Africa) and international investors reap the benefits.

The DRC should hit the brakes on Inga 3 and repurpose its investment share into alternative ways of powering mines in Katanga and bringing electricity and development to the Congolese people. DRC can power its future – and become a model for energy development on the African continent – by making visionary investments in small hydro, micro-hydro and solar energy.

Inga 3 Background

Inga 3 has a stated capacity of 4,800 MW, and its power is primarily intended for export to South Africa and mining companies in eastern DRC. Any remaining power would be sold to consumers in the capital, Kinshasa. The proposed dam and hydropower project is planned as a public-private partnership involving investment by both the DRC government and a consortium of private international companies.

Proponents of the project argue that Inga 3 will help reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity in the DRC by:

  • generating revenues for the DRC government, which could be allocated to poverty reduction pro-grams;
  • providing electricity to more people in DRC; and
  • creating jobs in a country with a chronically high unemployment rate.

Methodology

To examine these claims, we analyzed the project proponents’ claims based on Inga 3’s likely technical and financial performance. We used empirical evidence from the performance of similar hydropower projects in Africa and globally to test the claims regarding Inga 3’s socio-economic benefits.

Our analysis lays out five possible scenarios for the socioeconomic performance of the Inga 3 project: best, good, median, worse, and worst-case scenarios. The bestcase scenario is based on the highly optimistic and favor-able conditions assumed by the project’s proponents; our analysis discusses the factors that make these assumptions unrealistic. The worst-case scenario, on the other hand, assesses the project under highly unfavorable conditions. While equally unlikely as the best-case scenario, this scenario demonstrates the enormous risks that Inga 3 creates for the DRC government. The median-case scenario presents our assessment of the most likely outcomes, using the most realistic assumptions of project performance.

Revenue Generation

Proponents claim that Inga 3 will lead to a significant increase in revenue for the government, which can then be invested in underfunded sectors such as health and education. We conducted a financial analysis to determine the likely revenue levels for the DRC government, under the five scenarios, based on construction and operating costs, price and amount of power sold, technical losses, and borrowing costs. Our analysis shows that Inga 3 could generate modest revenues under highly favorable conditions in the best and good-case scenarios. However, under the worst, worse, and most realistic median-case scenarios, Inga 3 would not even cover the DRC government’s debt payments for the project, let alone constitute a windfall that could fund development priorities. It would instead become a significant drain on the country’s finances. Figure 1 illustrates the financial benefits and costs associated with each of the five scenarios.

According to this analysis, under the best-case scenario, Inga 3 would generate $749 million per year for the DRC government. This scenario is, however, based on highly unlikely and optimistic assumptions, including zero cost overruns, a capacity factor well above the world’s most efficient hydropower plants, high prices for the electricity generated, very low transmission losses, and low rates of interest on financing that do not in-crease for 35 years. Furthermore, even if these assumptions were met, it is likely that a portion of the $749 million would accrue to the private investors as profit, rather than to the government.

In the good-case scenario, Inga 3 offers a marginal return of just $78 million per year for the DRC government. This scenario is based on slightly less optimistic assumptions compared to the best-case scenario. Thus, even if all assumptions in the good-case scenario are met, the DRC government would still receive only a modest financial return.

In the median, worse and worst-case scenarios, the DRC government will lose money on Inga 3. The median case – with fairly conservative estimates of cost overruns and generous assumptions of electricity tariffs, capacity factor, transmission losses, and interest rates – would result in a loss of $618 million per year. These financial losses could be as high as $1.5 billion per year in the worse scenario and over $2 billion per year in the worst-case scenario, demonstrating the extreme risk that Inga 3 poses to the country’s fragile financial position.

Increase in Access to Electricity

Project proponents claim that Inga 3 will increase access to electricity in the country. Our analysis, however, shows that increased electricity access, if any, would be quite limited. The project will sell most of its electricity to South Africa and to mines in the Katanga region. In the median-case scenario, only 3% of electricity from Inga 3 would be available to non-mining businesses and residents of Kinshasa. In this median scenario, Inga 3 would provide electricity for only 340,000 additional people in Kinshasa, without any impact on electrification rates in other cities and rural areas, where the need is greatest. Under the worst-case scenario, no power at all would be available for sale to consumers in Kinshasa.

After observing the limited potential energy access benefits of Inga 3, we examined alternative ways to in-crease energy access in the DRC and compared them with Inga 3. DRC could achieve more energy access for its population if it used the funds intended for Inga 3 on other energy sources. The cost of the Inga project is currently estimated at $14 billion, with the DRC government expected to contribute $3 billion obtained via concessional loans. Private partners would provide the balance of $11 billion. Our analysis showed that if the DRC government spent that $3 billion on other sources of energy, including micro-hydropower and solar energy, it could generate enough electricity to increase access by 2.7 million people and to increase average electricity consumption by 48 percent.

Our analysis also shows that consumers would pay much less for electricity from micro-hydro than for electricity from Inga 3. Electricity from micro-hydro would cost between US 1.8 cents and 3.1 cents per kWh, well below the 7–8 cents per kWh projected as the cost of electricity for domestic users in Kinshasa from Inga 3. Furthermore, developers could build micro-hydro at many sites across the country, thereby achieving a far higher geographical distribution of electricity than Inga 3 and reaching more people in rural communities.

Our analysis demonstrates that investing in solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity, while not as attractive as micro-hydro, would still outperform an investment in Inga 3. The DRC would still bear significant financial risk if it used the concessional funds solely for solar PV, though less so than Inga 3. It would also achieve a high geographical distribution of power across the country and provide electricity to more people across more diverse areas. Globally, the rapid scaling up of solar PV technology has seen prices fall rapidly. Consequently, the return on investment in PV power is likely to enjoy progressive increases with time. Our analysis showed that an extra 960 million kWh to 3 billion kWh of PV power would enable between 400,000 and 1.5 million more people to gain access to electricity, and electricity consumption would increase by between 6% and 21% for those with access. Similar to micro-hydro, investing in solar would outperform an investment in Inga 3.

Our report therefore demonstrates that the DRC is more likely to meet its objectives of energy production and economic gain if it redirects funds intended for Inga 3 to micro-hydro and PV power.

Job Creation

Project proponents claim that Inga 3 would create jobs. Our analysis shows that Inga 3 is not likely to create significant numbers of jobs, and would actually destroy more livelihoods than it creates. The national electricity company, Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL), estimates that the construction phase would create 3,000 jobs on average, with a peak of 7,000 additional jobs. After construction is finished, the number of direct jobs would likely fall to a few hundred. In economic terms, our analysis shows that it would cost $1 million in concessional loans to create just one temporary job during the construction phase, and $6 million in concessional loans to create one permanent job during dam operation.

In contrast, an estimated over 10,000 people would be displaced and therefore stand to lose their livelihoods from loss of land or fishing resources because of the dam. This figure significantly outweighs the number of people who would gain livelihoods from the few hundred jobs generated.

Impact on DRC’s Debt

Inga 3 will require large external borrowing by the DRC government. The most recent figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank say the DRC government’s external debt is $6.5 billion, which is 16% of GDP for 2016. Under the best-case scenario, Inga 3 will lead to $3 billion of new debt for the government, rising to $6 billion in the worst case. The new debt will increase government external debt from $6.5 billion (16% of GDP) to between $9.5 billion and $12.5 billion (24% to 31% of GDP), and could change the IMF and World Bank’s assessment of DRC from being at moderate risk of debt distress to high risk of debt distress. Such an assessment would further reduce the number of lower-interest loans available to DRC from various public bodies, ex-tending the DRC’s cycle of poverty and indebtedness to foreign lenders.

Key Findings

  • Construction of Inga 3 is likely to cause a financial loss for the DRC government and become a drain on the country’s limited financial resources, rather than a source of new revenues.
  • In the most likely scenarios, Inga 3 would generate little electricity for domestic users in the DRC. In the worst-case scenario, domestic consumers would receive no additional power at all.
  • Inga 3 would lead to a large increase in external government debt, risking a downgrade in the risk assessment of DRC’s debt distress and harming DRC’s long-term economic health.
  • If DRC invested its limited concessional loans in other energy options, that electricity would reach far more users at lower cost and in more diverse places, and create greater economic gain.
  • Inga 3 risks destroying more livelihoods than jobs that it would support.

In conclusion, our analysis shows that if the DRC wants to achieve its stated goals of increased energy access and economic development, and become a true economic leader that sets a model for energy access in Africa, the DRC should press the pause button on the Inga 3 Dam and instead explore micro-hydro and solar power.

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Invitation for the 3rd Pan-African Conference of WFTU Affiliates and Friends (for African Organizations only)
| July 4, 2017 | 8:38 pm | Africa, WFTU | No comments

Invitation for the 3rd Pan-African Conference of WFTU Affiliates and Friends (for African Organizations only)

Dear colleagues,

After the great success of the 17th World Trade Union Congress, WFTU is strengthening the efforts of all African trade union organizations to improve the living conditions of the workers and people of Africa. 

The World Federation of Trade Unions and and its affiliates in Nigeria have the honor to invite you to the 3rd Pan-African Conference of the WFTU Affiliates and Friends to be held in Abuja, Nigeria on July 25-27,2017. 

The theme of the Conference is: 

“TOWARDS A DIGNIFIED WORK FOR AFRICAN WORKERS” 

Each participant will have 7 minutes to speak. 

There will be simultaneous interpretation into English, French and Arabic. 

The host organization NUHPSWN will cover accommodation for three (3) nights, meals and local transports. Each participant has to cover his/her international air ticket. The venue of the Meeting is Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. All extra nights will be covered by the participants themselves. All arrivals should be scheduled on July 24th and departures on July 28, 2017. Please keep strictly this schedule.

http://www.wftucentral.org/invitation-for-the-3rd-pan-african-conference-of-wftu-affiliates-and-friends-for-african-organizations-only/

INVITATION pour la 3ème Conférence Panafricaine des affiliés et des amis de la FSM (Pour les syndicats africaines seulement)

Chers collègues,

Après le grand succès du 17ème Congrès Syndical Mondial, la FSM renforce les efforts de toutes les organisations syndicales africaines pour améliorer les conditions de vie des travailleurs d’Afrique. 

La Fédération Syndicale Mondiale et ses affiliés au Nigéria ont l’honneur de vous inviter à la 3ème Conférence panafricaine des affiliés et des amis de la FSM qui se tiendra à Abuja (Nigéria) du 25 au 27 juillet, 2017. 

Le thème de la Conférence est: 

« VERS UN TRAVAIL DIGNE POUR LES TRAVAILLEURS AFRICAINS » 

Chaque participant pourra parler pour 7 minutes. Il y aura interprétation simultanée en anglais, français et arabe. Les affiliés de la FSM au Nigéria couvrira les coûts d’hébergement pour trois (3) nuits, les repas et les transports locaux. Chaque participant doit couvrir le coût de son billet d’avion international. Le lieu de la réunion est Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. Les coûts de toutes les nuits supplémentaires seront couverts par les participants eux-mêmes. 

Toutes les arrivées devraient être programmées le 24 juillet et les départs le 28 juillet 2017. Veuillez respecter strictement ce programme.

http://www.wftucentral.org/invitation-pour-la-3eme-conference-panafricaine-des-affilies-et-des-amis-de-la-fsm/?lang=fr