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Posts tagged ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’

Study: Government Restrictions, Social Hostility Rise Against Religion.


Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion are on the rise around the world, a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life disclosed.

Social hostilities include “abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country,” according to Pew.

Social hostilities in a third of the 198 countries or territories surveyed were viewed as high or very high, with acts of religious violence rising everywhere in the world except the Americas, Pew noted in its study, which covered the six years from 2007 to 2012.

“We monitor this in two ways that religious freedom is restricted — actions of government and actions of individual groups of society,” the study’s lead author Brian Grim told Newsmax. “We’ve seen a steady climb overall. It’s a global phenomenon.

“There’s an association between social hostilities and government restrictions. As one goes up, the other goes up. And that may be part of what is going on,” said Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Annapolis, Md.

Among the Pew study’s key findings:
• The number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years.

• Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32 percent), up from 25 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2007.

• The Middle East and North Africa were the most common regions for sectarian violence, with half of all countries in the regions seeing conflicts in 2012.

• China, for the first time in the study, experienced a high level of social hostilities involving religion, with multiple types reported during 2012, including religion-related terrorism, harassment of women for religious dress, and mob violence.

• The number of countries with a very high level of religious hostilities increased from 14 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Six countries — Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma) — had very high levels of religious hostilities in 2012 but not in 2011.

Raymond Ibrahim, a religious scholar and author who studies hostilities against Christians, said persecution of Christian minorities was rising across the Islamic world, as well as in North Korea and to a smaller extent in India and China.

Ibrahim said the U.S. culture’s embrace of tolerance makes it different from other places where religious traditions tend to discount other faiths as false.

“I think the historical position on religions is about truth. If I have the truth, you don’t. I don’t want your falsehoods to get out in the open. We in the West don’t appreciate this kind of logic and we take for granted the idea of religious tolerance,” Ibrahim said.

The difference between the United States and other countries around the world is that America has “many mechanisms to address religious freedom problems as they come up,” Grim noted, citing the Department of Justice’s special branch dedicated to reviewing discriminatory issues related to religious dress as well as land use problems involving churches and mosques.

In current hot zones of violence, like the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and across sub-Saharan Africa, “there’s a real trend toward major fighting and religious violence along this Christian-Muslim line,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

In Nigeria, “you have a largely Muslim north and a largely Christian south and extremist groups stoking tensions between the two and carrying out acts of violence,” Rassbach told Newsmax.

“I think what happens is those conflicts aren’t just limited to their own countries. What you are seeing is they end up resulting in inter-religious disagreements in other countries,” Rassbach said.

Ethnic and economic conflicts are also tied up in regional disputes, and those add to the mix of religious differences, he said.

“In other parts of the world, it tends to be government-driven, especially in more authoritarian governments. You tend to see a crackdown, so to speak,” noting the crackdown on Christian house churches in China.

In Pakistan, “the government doesn’t officially target religious groups, but the way it runs itself, it ends up essentially green-lighting inter-religious violence by individuals who can often act with impunity,” Rassbach said.

In the Middle East, “the Arab Spring has intensified a lot of previously quieter disputes,” many of which have spilled over to other countries within the region as governments have been destabilized. “I think, anecdotally, you can tell that the violence and resentment is going up. But I think it’s for different reasons in different places,” he said.

There also has been some hostility toward religion in the United States, Rassbach added. “I think a lot of it has been stoked by the government,” including “issues like the contraceptive mandate that we are litigating.”

“It used to be that everybody agreed that religious liberty was a good thing. Now you are starting to see people here opposed to religious liberty.

“I think it’s because of the politicization,” he said. “Some political actors have seen it as useful to pick fights with religious groups. That ends up stoking religious tensions.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Andrea Billups

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Mo Ibrahim Ranking, Federal Government And ASUU Strike By Anthony Kola-Olusanya.


By Anthony Kola-Olusanya

On July 1st, 2013, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on an industrial strike to force the federal government of Nigeria (FG) to implement the 2009 Agreement, which the later had signed with the union. The agreement, which was largely about the revitalisation of the university education system in Nigeria, is anchored on FG’s massive fund infusion into Nigeria’s publicly funded universities (federal and states owned). Like previous agreements, the FG decided it wasn’t going to honour the 2009 agreement. This decision not to honour and respect an agreement it signed with ASUU was based on two reasons which includes; a flimsy excuse that the Nigeria’s economy will shut down, should the FG implement the content of the 2009 Agreement. Secondly, on the arrogance that the FG will appear weak should it implement the agreement it had signed with ASUU in 2009. It is suffice to say that the FG took this decision after it had conducted the needs assessment towards implementation of the 2009 agreement through two separate committees like 2009 ASUU\FGN Agreement Needs Assessment Committee and ASUU\FGN 2009 Agreement Implementation Committee. The later committee would round up its work later in 2011 with a commitment from the President and other stakeholders on the FGN side promising that there would never be a strike in the nation’s public universities for a long time.

While the university teacher strike was going on, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation published its 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) in October. Established in 2007, the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of quantitative data on governance in Africa. The index is compiled in partnership with experts from a number of the continent’s institutions. It also provides an annual assessment of governance in every African country. The IIAG provides a framework for citizens, governments, institutions and business to assess the delivery of public goods and services, and policy outcomes, across Africa. The index is classified into four categories namely; safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity and human development. Today, the IIAG is recognized as the barometer for measuring government performance in Africa.

Overall, the index ranked Nigeria in 41st position out of 52 countries in Africa in relation to governance and leadership in Africa. The implication of this present ranking is that Nigeria ranked 9th when we talk about countries without good leadership and lacks good governance. The sad point of the ranking is that many countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone among others who are just coming out years of civil war, ranked above Nigeria. Besides the overall ranking, Nigeria also showed poor ranking in other specific arrears.
Within the West African sub-region, Nigeria also ranked a dismal 16th position out of 19 countries, overall in good governance and leadership. Of note is the country’s ranking in education, and human development, which are both sub-components of human resource development (HRD). Nigeria ranked 30th and scoring 49% below the African average (52.9) and lower than the regional average (52.5) for West Africa, in provision of education to its citizens.

With respects to human development, Nigeria ranked 33rd in Africa, scoring 52.7%, a score considered lower than the continental average (58.3) and 43.4 below than the regional average (52.5) for West Africa respectively. Before going any further, it is instructive to note that at the top three positions in Africa are countries Nigerians would categorize as small nations like Mauritius (82.9%), Botswana (77.6%) and Cape Verde (76.7%) in first, second and third position respectively. Whilst the top three leaders at the west African sub-regional level includes Ghana (66.8%), Senegal (61%) and the island nation of Sao Tome  and Principe (59.9%). At the bottom of the table on the continent are Somali and Chad at the sub-regional level.

What is responsible for these countries’ success in Africa and West Africa? Both Mauritius and Ghana cannot  and do not earn as much as Nigeria, but unlike the self-acclaimed giant of Africa, the small African country – Mauritius education budget hovers around 13-15% of the annual budget in 2013. Ghana on her part allocated 33% of annual budget to education during the same period. What this suggests is that these two countries placed huge emphasis on human capital development since only an adequately-funded education sector can guarantee as well develop the much needed human capital that will help transform these countries. Sadly, Nigeria’s 2013 allocation to education is only a paltry 8% of the annual budget. In essence, the IIAG leading ranked countries at both the continental and sub-regional levels are doing some things which Nigeria is not doing; especially when one considers the federal government (FG) much vaunted commitment to ‘transformation agenda’ and the so-called vision 20:2020.

An assessment of the Mauritius economy revealed a concrete demonstration towards national development. It is an understatement to say that Mauritius has a strong human capital foundation developed through consistent and equitable investment in human development. The goal of the island country is becoming a knowledge economy. This goal is not impossible given that education is free and has been expanded in recent years, in order to create further employment opportunities and ensuring inclusive growth. Return on investment in education, shows that around 90% of entrepreneurs are Mauritian nationals, and businesspeople had the human capital, education and knowledge needed to exploit market opportunities. Interesting too Mauritius is one of the least corrupt African countries. On the contrary, the latest values of Human Development Index (HDI) which provides a country’s measure of human capital development (in areas such as income, health, and education) show that Nigeria is ranked 156 with the value of 0.459 among 187 countries. The value places Nigeria in the bottom, meaning that Nigeria is considered to have low level of human development. The comparative value for Sub-Saharan Africa is 0.475 and 0.694 for the world average and this places Nigeria a little below the continental average with an HDI of 0.471.

Comparatively, two issues among others speak to Nigeria’s dismal overall performance on the continent and in the sectional areas of education and human development in this year’s IIAG rankings. One is the lukewarm posture of the FG lip service to educational development. Second is the gross underfunding of the educational sector. These two issues underscores our poor performance even areas in which Nigeria is noted to be doing well in forty–fifty years ago. As well, both issues are directly linked to the ongoing ASUU strike which is about to enter the sixth month. Another pointer to this dismal performance is that no serious country desirous of meeting its developmental goals don’t allow its university teachers to go on strike to pressure government to do what governments in other sister African countries do without pressure or prompting of any union.

A search through the internet failed to reveal any strike action by the university teachers in the IIAG top countries on the continent. In the West Africa sub-region for example, the university teachers across Ghana on Monday, August 1, 2013, embarked on a nationwide industrial action to protest unpaid market premium. The notice of strike served on the Ghanaian government prompted an emergency meeting of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) was called in order to avert the strike. In addition, the deputy minister in charge of tertiary education, Okudzeto Ablakwa would later assured university teachers their outstanding premiums will be settled. The strike action was resolved within a few days. What we see in this approach and prompt response by Ghanaian authorities when compared to Nigeria’s is an example of good governance and leadership. Little wonder Ghana is attracting students from all over the world including Nigeria to her universities.

Meanwhile, rather than provide leadership by either preventing or resolving the strike, FG has continued to play the roulette game with future of the teeming youths in public universities across the country. Instead of addressing the issues of non-implementation of 2009 agreement it signed with university teachers’ union, the federal government has continued to behave like the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand by pretending that all is well with the public universities system. Although, President Jonathan in November had personally intervened in the fifth month of the strike, events following the meeting with ASUU have further exposed FG’s unwillingness to respect and be bounded by its own proposal.

At this juncture, it is necessary for the FG and President Jonathan to know that Nigeria didn’t get this all-time low in one year. The crisis of the educational sector, vis a vis university education and by implication human development occurred as a result of the decades of neglect, massive funding cuts as well as gross under-funding has been with us for many decades. The same way, I would like to note that Mauritius, Botswana and Cape Verde did not just appear as African top three countries, but after years of serious planning and commitment towards greatness. President Jonathan needs to be aware that sacking all university teachers in one day does not portray him and his regime in good light. Indeed, for a government who is laying claim to a transformation agenda built on the back of the vision 20: 2020, mass sacking of university teachers will not only deny Nigeria the much needed human capital, his transformation agenda and vision 20:2020 will also suffer monumentally.

So rather than waste time sacking the university teachers, the federal government and President Jonathan need to be concerned about how to improve Nigeria’s position on the IIAG from 2014 and beyond. The FG need to stand up and confront the monster called under-funding that has reduced the once enviable Nigeria’s public universities to a shadow of itself by huge funds towards the revitalization of universities. Doing this, will lead to cascade of gains for the country, for which the FG and indeed President Jonathan can celebrate. Chief among the gains will be brain-gain for the universities. Furthermore, Nigerian universities will become the place to go for Nigerian youths who are daily leaving the country for study abroad never to return and the nation would have saved the best for human resource for the country.  In addition, foreign students will also return to Nigerian universities with the educational sector reaping some foreign exchange from the international students.

I have concentrated on the educational sector and indirectly university education because of the multiplier effect of such benefits investment for any country desirous of growth and indeed greatness. The successes and gains of investing in education including universities would naturally reverberate through the whole system in unimaginable ways. Finally, I urge President Jonathan to sit again with ASUU and resolve this crisis once and for all. Mr. President Sir, ASUU’s demands which includes adequate funding to revitalize the university system, progressive increase of budgetary allocations to the education sector to 26 per cent, transfer of Federal Government property to universities, setting up of research and development units by companies are strategic to Nigeria’s growth and development.  Therefore, there can be no other alternative than to resolve this lingering crisis, except you, Mr. President, and indeed your entire administration is satisfied with Nigeria’s continued ranking among the lowly performing governments of the world.

Anthony Kola-Olusanya is a teacher and citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

IMF warns FG against oil price shock, capital flow reversal.


Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala-02

The International Monetry Fund, IMF, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to implement timely policy actions to avert risk of oil price shock and reversal of foreign capital inflow looming over the country and other s in the sub-saharan Africa region.

IMF Director, African Department, Antoinette Sayeh made this call in Lagos at the presentation of the Africa Regional Economic Outlook for the region.

But Deputy Governor, Economic Policy Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mrs Sarah Alade, said that the CBN is aware of these risks and has put in place a framework to mitigate them.

In a presentation titled, “Sub-Saharan Africa: Keeping the Pace”, Sayeh identified the risks to the growth of the Nigerian economy as commodity price risk and the reversal of foreign capital inflows. She said these risks have increased not only in Nigeria but in the Sub-Saharan region significantly over the years.

“Looking forward, fiscal consolidation is expected to be strengthened in Nigeria with more moderate oil price projections. As a result, fiscal balance for 2013 and 2014 in Nigeria is projected to remain around 1.8 per cent of GDP, almost the same as in 2012.

“In Nigeria, government expenditure reached a cyclical maximum.

The risk of debt distress in many countries in our view remains low.
“Without significant policy measures, a prolonged negative oil price shock or a permanent real GDP growth shock could undermine the recent progress that had been made in achieving macroeconomic stability.

Given Nigeria’s strong position, it is important for the country to take timely policy actions to be able to avert future sustainability problems that can arise from such shocks.

“Portfolio flows have gained attraction in some countries and mostly in Nigeria. Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014 are expected to remain relatively unchanged.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

Saving Nigeria’s Agriculture From Fair-weather ‘Investors’ By Chidi Oguamanam.


By Chidi Oguamanam

Mr. President, you are feeding Nigeria and the international community recognizes your efforts and leadership in feeding Nigeria”. That was Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture’s remark to his boss, President Jonathan. Curiously, Adesina – not a top official of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations – was presenting an award from the FAO to the President.  According to media reports, the President was recognized by the FAO for his government’s effort at reduction of hunger and chronic poverty in the country. The FAO believes (more like speculates) that the federal government has reduced by half between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of Nigerians living on less than $1.25 a day!  Talk about a culture of low expectations, apologies to Okey Ndibe. The reference to 2015 underscores how less seriously one is inclined to take the source of this information, not to mention even the reference to 1990. No one is under illusion regarding Nigeria’s socio-economic profile in the 1990s. Against all odds to the contrary, even if we try to spin that era on a positive light, we quickly realise that the President’s political career had yet to take off in the 1990s.  It is then reasonable to suggest that the President received the award for himself, his successor, if any, in 2015 and partly for Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar, Yar’Adua and Obasanjo, our yesteryears heads of state.  So, what the FAO is saying is that the collective years of these men in power made us to crawl on a nano scale out of the tunnel of hunger and poverty in which they either met the nation or interred it by their policies.

 

This award to the President raises more questions than answers. I doubt if many Nigerians, even the President himself, took it seriously. The President’s measured and less enthused response was more important. A detached review of the award presentation on television indicates that the President’s body language reflected disguised embarrassment. I suggest that such a posture was more commendable than the award, a fact nuanced in the President’s remark.  Even the fact that the FAO did not choose a more auspicious strategy or forum to present the award has its own symbolism. If the FAO seriously and truly wanted to showcase the government’s positive impact on hunger and poverty eradication, it probably could have flown in its Director General, Jośe Graziano da Silva, to present the award to the President. It could possibly have chosen a more visible global arena, in Geneva, New York, Rome or elsewhere to celebrate the President and lift him onto a global pedestal as a model for other leaders, especially in Africa, on the issue of hunger and poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.

This opinion is not about the unanswered questions from the President’s award. It is a reflection on Nigeria’s agriculture, one that seeks to open a debate of some sort. All said, I personally think that we have a hard-working Minister of Agriculture. I have reason to believe that his leadership of the sector is comparatively refreshing. He needs to be encouraged. The potential of Agriculture as an engine of Nigeria’s national rebirth is great. We need to move beyond potential. In the last couple of decades, global agricultural transformation presents opportunities and challenges for developing countries, especially in Africa.  We have seen the full-blown introduction of the wonders and dangers of modern agricultural biotechnology, through genetic modification of crops and even animals. We have also witnessed the introduction of living modified organisms of various kinds and large scale international trade, domestic marketing and consumption of genetically engineered food. With the global expansion of free trade, the trans-boundary movements of these goods and various novel food and agricultural products have continued to increase.

Add to that, the aggressive presence of China in Africa and Nigeria, has continued to boost questionable foreign direct investments, not only in resource extraction but also in the service industries, notably restaurants and downstream retail and sundry services. These eateries and retail outlets serve and sell all kinds of foreign and culturally sensitive dishes and agricultural products. Sometime one wonders how those stuff make their way into Nigeria. With a feeble but noticeable revival of the middle class in Nigeria, our consumption pattern and taste continue to change in very predictable and unpredictable patterns. While Nigerians in diaspora long for local food, some of their compatriots at home make consumption of foreign cuisine a status symbol.  Vegetarians and carnivores alike are competing for consumptive space after their divergent fancies. Local crop, animal and fish farming are barely struggling to rise to these challenges.  Yet, I see opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurships for our graduates in the agriculture and allied sectors.

Nigeria, like most African countries, is a site for foreign agricultural land grabs. Pristine agricultural lands in Africa are increasingly targets of foreign acquisitions, especially since the 2008 global financial crises. Africa is a new destination for foreign biofuel farmers and adventurers. The continent is now at the crosscurrent of forces that seek turning poor peoples’ food into rich peoples’ fuel.  In Africa non-traditional trading partners from the influential bloc of regional and emergent powers such as China, India and Brazil look set to out-compete western powers with their eyes not only on extractive industries but also in agricultural investments.  The Obasanjo administration literally gave Robert Mugabe-displaced Zimbabwean farmers free pass into prime agricultural lands in Nigeria’s agricultural belts. Led by Kwara State’s Saraki, other sub-national governments in Nigeria jumped into the bandwagon of courting foreign industrial farmers into Nigeria.  All of these have happened in ad-hoc fashion, at a time when there is no strong legal and policy frameworks for mapping the future of Nigeria’s agriculture. Save for Botswana, Ethiopia and South Africa (the latter is also part of the land grab syndrome within sister Africa countries), Nigeria’s situation is not different from the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria has an ecological diverse richness that makes for sustainable agricultural production. In addition to its immensely youthful population, Nigeria has invested quite significantly in manpower development in Agriculture. With several research centres, mid-level colleges of agriculture, polytechnics, and universities of agriculture, the expectation was that Nigeria’s agricultural revolution will be driven from within. The success of the fairly new privately-owed Afe Babalola University in practical agricultural and food production is evidence of what is possible when corruption is bridled in public institutions and when there is a will to follow through with set target. Government can learn from the private sector. Agriculture is multi-layered solution to a significant measure of Nigeria’s hydra-headed problems: youth unemployment, dependency on petroleum, hunger, poverty and all aspects of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Collectively, national failure on those scores is related to persistent national security crisis, radicalization and religious brainwashing of idle and unemployed youths across all religious divides in the country.

Can Nigeria afford to let so-called foreign direct investors and agents of industrial agriculture and international trade dictate its agricultural road map? In Africa, certainly in Nigeria, agriculture is a way of life as well as a cultural process. It is not an exclusively industrial and production process as it has since become in the western world.  Our agricultural practices reflect our worldview and our relationship with our environment. From all nooks and crannies of this country, traditional farming communities, mainly led by women, are custodians of the culture in agriculture. The diversity of the agricultural crops and the millennial innovation of our farmers on the farm fields from season to season perhaps compares to the various claims of test tube or laboratory agriculture. These folks are the true custodians of our food security. They grow culturally relevant food and have a good mastery of our ecosystems.  For every civilization, food is an extension of culture and identity. Despite the abundance of foreign cuisine in Nigeria, our food security lies in locally-grown food by local people, especially women. With necessary support to these segments of our economic strength through access to land capital and market coupled with strategic support for young agriculture graduates, Nigeria’s agricultural revival will be under the control of ordinary Nigerians.

When it comes to shaping agricultural policy, Nigeria and, of course, Africa has the benefit of late comers. In most developed world, large scale industrial agriculture has displaced small-holder traditional farming and farmers. Seed breeders and their allies in hi-tech agro- biotechnology have succeeded in turning small-holder traditional farmers into endangered species. Rarely do people have control over their food supply any more in the developed world.  Consequently, genetically modified foods have become the norm in those regions of the world. Consumers have limited choice over what they consume.  The idea of organic food is no longer one based on absence of transgenes. Rather, it is based on what constitutes a tolerable percentage of transgenic presence. Organic certification is as politicized as the issue of labeling of genetically modified organisms. The history of industrial agriculture shows how unpredictable science is. Crop failure and presence of carcinogens in industrial agro-chemicals of the green revolution era are lessons yet to be learnt. Not mention the dangers of monoculture.

Nigeria’s factor endowment in its indigenous traditional agricultural communities must be leveraged in order to empower these critical segments of our socio-economic survival. The long-throat with which the government and elite private sector have embraced foreign direct investments in Nigeria’s agriculture is worrisome. There is no suggestion here that Nigeria can do without external technical and capacity building support in the agricultural sector. Presently, we have fairly robust educational institutions in agriculture that could play constructive roles in negotiating and hosting technology transfer initiatives toward a national agricultural policy that addresses Nigeria’s food security needs. That is different from freely downloading external industrial agricultural interests in Nigeria on a silver platter. Nigeria’s national interests are not necessarily in sync with these fair-weather investors.

Assuming the genie is still in the bottle, it is tenable that Nigeria could potentially manage and mitigate full-blown introduction of genetic modification in our agricultural farmlands.  Doing so, Nigeria could constitute itself into a niche exporter of organic or exotic produce. But in the prevailing paucity of a comprehensive cross-sectorial national agricultural policy framework and cognate legal and general regularly environment, living modified organisms could readily make their ways through our borders. Some of them can be easily and intentionally introduced into the environment without necessary precaution, risk assessment and management as mandated in international law.  Even modified organisms designated for food, feed and processing easily and, in fact, regularly end up in agricultural farmlands. Since Nigeria signed onto the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, it is not clear if we have any effective risk assessment, crisis intervention and management regime regarding trans-boundary movement of living modified organisms that are capable of posing environment and human health hazards, with severe implication for national food security. A critical look at our borders and customs contact points: land, sea and air, and this point needs no more arguing.

In the 1970s Nigeria invested in arts and culture, established a good number of universities with strong bias in the arts and in cultural studies. Several decades later, with the combination of private sector initiatives and the ‘products’ of those institutions, the Nollywood was born. In the 1980s without sound scientific base in primary and secondary schools, Nigeria boosted its technical education, established several universities of technology and later those of agriculture. Yet we have teaming youth unemployment, an agricultural landscape that is increasingly rudderless, far removed from the aspiration for food security and food sovereignty, one that is ready to marginalize the most critical link in agricultural sustainability – small scale peasant agricultural communities. We are ready to jump to bed with Zimbabwean farmers and offer French kiss to Indian and Chinese land grabbers. With political will and visionary leadership what we are looking for in the Sokoto of foreign direct investment in agriculture we already have in our traditional agricultural sokoto.

Conceivably, the President did not fall for the diversion of the FAO award. He did not seem to have been under any illusion that he is feeding the country. For our overpaid members of the National Assembly, it is time to partner with the executive and take a holistic look on Nigeria’s agriculture. Previous pretensions to generating agricultural policy for Nigeria are too shallow and lack depth, especially in regard to cross-sectorial challenges of governing the new global agricultural dynamics. It is time to begin the design of sound context-sensitive, national interest-driven policy architecture for Nigeria’s agriculture. We have good ministerial leadership in the agricultural sector that can drive the change. It is better late than never. We may even reflect on the pros and cons of a ministry of food separate from but harmonised with the ministry of agriculture.  The President has no business feeding Nigeria. His province is to spearhead the shaping of policies. He should leave that task of feeding Nigerian to the people whose job it is – real Nigerian farmers. They need empowerment and protection from fair-weather investors!

You may follow me on twitter: @chidi_oguamanam

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Obama to Pledge $7 Billion to Africa For Electricity.


Image: Obama to Pledge $7 Billion to Africa For Electricity

President Barack Obama plans to announce an initiative to enhance access to electricity across Africa by tapping the continent’s vast energy resources and attracting international investment.

U.S. administration officials said the $7 billion venture, dubbed Power Africa, will complement an additional $9 billion in private funds to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, according to the White House. Obama will unveil the program today in a speech at the University of Cape Town.

“We’re looking to provide support and partnership so the lights can turn on and stay on,” said Gayle Smith, National Security Council senior director for development and democracy.

The venture will begin in 6 countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania — to add more than 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity-generation capacity and will increase electricity access by at least 20 million new households and commercial entities, according to the White House.

General Electric Co. is among the companies that have contributed to the $9 billion in private-sector funding for the program’s first phase, the White House said.

“We are in a situation where poverty is being conquered on this continent at a speed that is unprecedented,” said Smith. “It’s much more targeted assistance from us than in the past.”

Obama is on the second leg of an African trip that began in Senegal and finishes in Tanzania. The president has promoted trade and investment across the continent and underscored the importance of democratic values to economic growth.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

GOP Reps Call on Obama to Cancel Africa Trip.


President Barack Obama should cancel his trip to Sub-Saharan Africa because of its hefty price tag, two Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals with Africa have told Newsmax.

With an estimated cost of $60 million to $100 million — at a time when a budget sequestration is forcing major cuts in government agencies — the president should  postpone the trip, say freshman Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Steve Stockman of Texas.

Both are members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

“Though the president must take diplomatic trips, the cost should always be carefully considered before finalizing an itinerary,” Meadows told Newsmax. “Forcing a $100 million price tag onto hardworking taxpayers while American families struggle to balance their household budgets and thousands of federal workers are being furloughed is outrageous.

“With 76 percent of Americans now living paycheck-to-paycheck, President Obama needs to take a hard look at the burden his travel abroad is placing on the people at home,” Meadows said.

Stockman agreed, branding the week-long trip which starts Wednesday, “a show of insensitivity to the American taxpayers by the president, who is always talking about the ills of sequestration.”

Along with serving on the Africa subcommittee in the House, Stockman’s work in Africa goes back to before he was in Congress. As a private citizen, he delivered antibiotics to South Sudan and the Republic of Congo.

Doubts about whether the trip — that will take the president to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania — is worth the cost began almost immediately after the Washington Post reported the details on June 14.

The following day, former White House Travel Office head Billy Dale told Newsmax: “It’s mind-boggling to think of taking a trip like this when we are having to make the cuts in federal spending that we’re now having to make.”

Dale, who worked in the White House Travel Office for presidents from John Kennedy to Bill Clinton, added that he couldn’t “imagine any president I worked for ever making a trip like that, especially when we had to tighten the budget.”

Questions about the importance and timeliness of a trip to Africa emerged at the June 21 White House press briefing, when Jon Christopher Bua of Sky News succinctly asked Press Secretary Jay Carney: “Why Africa? Why now?”

“In keeping with the trips that President Bush took in his time in office; in making clear the importance of Africa in a variety of ways, the president will make a trip next week to engage in three countries with leaders in the region,” replied Carney. “This is a part of the world that’s seeing substantial economic growth, where there are substantial opportunities, and substantial national-security and other national interests for the United States and our allies.”

But the House members who deal with Africa see it differently, with the cost taking priority over any “substantial opportunities” Obama may have there.

“Africa is very important and I realize Presidents Clinton and Bush placed great priority on going there,” Stockman told Newsmax. “But at this time, I have great reservations about spending that kind of money on a presidential trip there. If the president wants to spend tax dollars on Africa, he should give it to one of the charities that is doing good work in the continent — maybe Billy Graham’s charity, the [tax-exempt] status of which is now being probed by the IRS.

“Or perhaps he could use the tax dollars to re-open White House tours.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By John Gizzi

Mother… Why Was I Born Black? By Gimba Kakanda.


By Gimba Kakanda

Calm down, patriot, those aren’t my words. Kindly transfer your anger to the grave of the Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek who in his prose poetry book “Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol” lets loose an Africa-bashing black man who is an exact portrait of the subject in Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Mask”. Today I’m possessed by the rage that intoxicates Ocol [husband of Lawino, that proud daughter of Africa]—Ocol who asks us to set fire on “all the anthologies/ Of African literature/ And close down/ All the schools of African studies.” To Ocol, Africa is merely an “Idle giant/Basking in the sun,/ Sleeping, snoring,/ Twitching in dreams;.” Ocol is angry, and he is so for a reason, which is why, while asking us to arrest, disregard and dishonour the persons and memories of our intellectuals, poets, freedom fighters, monarchs and all advocates of pan-African ideologies and traditions, he challenges: “Can you explain/ The African philosophy/ On which we are reconstructing/ Our new societies?”  This question was asked by Ocol, a British-educated African, about the time of independence of many African countries. Half a century later, where is our longitude and latitude in the world geography of development?
Unlike Ocol, my anger has not lost its bearing, and it has not somersaulted into the lake of self-hate. But it’s close to that state, which is why I sound almost like a disowned son of Aime Cesaire. It is a valid excuse to blame the European explorers who disrupted the “darkness” of Black Africa in the era of their industrial revolution and led us through torturous years of slavery and then colonialism. The Europeans planted their greed on many strange lands, and their ideas in many people and thus left behind an explosion of identity crises which our ancestors couldn’t really manage. Here we are, still chained and imprisoned by petty antagonisms along the lines of governments, religions and ethnicity—Muslims against Christians, the Hutu against the Tutsi, democracy against the military, government against the people.

Africa has been the testing ground for all forms of evils, in governments, in religions, and in socio-economic structures. Today while the world is inventing new ideas and going on for grander scientific and technological prospects, Africa is still discussing “tribes” and related antiquities. The world has embarked on researches to understand human genetics and pathology, Africa is still fighting over whose religion is superior. The races whose people organised these religions have since moved on to higher rungs. The Arabs, of whom Prophet Muhammad was a member, now have the Burj Khalifas of modern tourism. And the Jews, of whom Jesus was a member, have the Albert Einsteins whose scientific “atheism” changed the way we see the world. . . Africa’s intellectuals and scientists are wasted in activisms of religious and ethnic advocacies; a battalion of them is lost in brain drains to the same West. The least we can offer to honour the struggles of our ancestors whose activisms were veritably for the redemptions of our identities is building an Africa of many possibilities; and Blackman who must not rush to Germany or India to treat his catarrh, who must not seek refuge or asylum in Europe and America on grounds of war, famine, education and social welfare.

The trouble with man in Black Africa is largely his inability to solve the puzzles of his creation; man on the earth of Black Africa fails to look beyond two or so centuries ago, long before the coming of the Christian missionaries and Arab traders, to see a reason why we must never let these religions and politics of the foreigners push us towards anarchy. This man is still possessed by inferiority complexes, having been tactfully trained to see his history, personality and civilisation as nothing but wreckage salvaged by a people whose languages and cultures he has taken up.

The world is not waiting for us, and the cry that the Europeans exploited us to build their civilisations is already clichéd. The task ahead of us now is matching the feats of our sisters, old colonies, who have beaten the colonisers in certain phases of developments. Singapore, a small island with no natural resources, has been awarded the best city in a world where Paris and New York have reigned since the wake of modern civilisation; India is performing magic, astonishing the West, in areas of information technology; Malaysia has beaten countries that once nursed it in not only building a country worthy of the name, but also it has become, for Africans, the leading headquarters of educational capitalism. The question to ask ourselves now is: is the Whiteman still in charge of our State Houses from Abuja to Addis Abba, Khartoum to Kigali? And in skirting the many excuses of conspiracy theories and neo-imperialism twaddle, I realise that Africa is actually suffering from a complicated case of low self-esteem at a time when we should be confident, in the chaotic universes of western imperialism, Christian materialism and Arab expansionism. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda
Kakanda maintains a Friday column for the Abuja-based Blueprint Newspapers.
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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