25 February 2008


China has defended its sale of weapons to Sudan, amid growing criticism of its alleged failure to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.China's special envoy on Darfur told the BBC that Beijing accounted for just 8% of Sudan's total arms imports.

Liu Guijin said the US, Russia and UK were the biggest arms exporters to developing countries including Sudan.About 200,000 have died in the five years of conflict between rebels, the army and pro-Khartoum militias.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC's China analyst Shirong Chen, Mr Liu said Chinese weapons were not fuelling the conflict."Sudan is the third largest conventional arms producer in Africa next only to South Africa and Egypt and there are seven countries selling arms to Sudan. So even if China stopped its sale, it still won't solve the problem of arms in Sudan," he said.

Mr Liu, who is currently in the UK, is expected to travel to Sudan as part of an apparent diplomatic push to counter international criticism over Darfur.He told the BBC that he would advise Sudan to co-operate on the deployment of a UN-African Union force.
The UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Unamid, began deploying in January but the force still lacks most of the 26,000 personnel planned for the mission.

China has strong trade and military links with Sudan, which is accused of backing militias that have raped and murdered in Darfur.Critics say Beijing should use these links to pressure Khartoum on this issue. China says it is already doing all it can.

Mr Liu said that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China had been asked to help find a long-term solution to the Darfur issue, but that it had done so with respect for Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It was during China's tenure of presidency at the council that a controversial precondition was passed that Sudan must give its approval to the deployment of the Unamid force.


afrol News - The fall of the Iron Curtain cost Africa much in terms of reduced investments and development aid, which in the 1990s was redirected to Eastern Europe. But now, following EU demands and increased wealth, country after country in the region is setting up development cooperation agencies focusing on Africa, with booming budgets.
Slovenia, an ex-Yugoslavian republic bordering Austria and Italy, was the richest of the eight formerly Communist countries that entered the European Union (EU) in 2004, priding itself with a GDP per capita at US$ 17,700. But as a moderately rich nation, not even Slovenia came close to EU goals of spending 0.39 percent of GDP in development aid - let alone the UN recommendation of 0.70 percent of GDP.

As most other formerly Communist nations in East and Central Europe, Slovenia had benefited from generous EU programmes during the 1990s to reshape its economy, boost economic growth and make it fit for entering the common market. At the same time, analysts were complaining about the reduced efforts by rich, Western countries to assist African development.

Both investments and development aid for Africa were cut dramatically in real term during the 1990s, something analysts blamed both on an "aid fatigue" following the poor performance of African economies in the 1980s, but also on the new, large investments in Eastern Europe.

But in the longer run, Eastern Europe's growth and EU membership is set to pay off for African countries. Indeed, among the demands made by the EU to applying countries were their definition of an international development aid policy, plans to set up development aid agencies and adopting the long-term goal of spending at least 0.39 percent of GDP in development aid.

This is what is happening in country after country right now, as in Slovenia. After independence from Yugoslavia, foreign aid was unsystematic, amounted to a microscopic percentage of GDP and was mainly given as ad hoc humanitarian aid to nearby countries, mainly war-ravaged ex-Yugoslavian republics. With the start of EU membership negotiations, however, aid turned more systematically.

By 2004, Slovenia's foreign aid had reached 0.10 percent of GDP and by 2007 it is estimated at 0.14 percent of GDP. This comes at the same time as a rapid growth in Slovenian GDP.

While the development aid budget is steadily growing, so is also the governmental development cooperation agency, which still is an integrated department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Like most other new EU members, Slovenia receives capacity building assistance from the EU and other countries with longer development aid traditions to make sure well functioning development aid agencies and programmes are established.

Also, as new funds emerge and the new agencies have received training, the geographical focus of these Eastern European aid agencies start shifting. Still, the poorer parts of South-eastern Europe "remains the priority of Slovenia's bilateral development cooperation," according to a whitepaper by the Ljubljana Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But, "development policy which aims at poverty reduction must also be effective in Africa," the same document emphasises. "Slovenia's development cooperation will therefore also focus on Africa to a certain extent, in accordance with the EU development policy." There are already plans to co-finance projects carried out by Slovenian NGOs in Madagascar, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Malawi.

The Czech Republic, also among the richest new EU members, has already come a bit further. In 2006, according to preliminary data by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prague government spent 0.11 percent of its considerable GDP on foreign aid. The government has promised to increase this percentage to 0.17 by 2010 and to 0.33 by 2015. Much of this will go to Africa.

Among the Czech development agency's eight - mostly European and Asian - priority countries, there are already two African ones; Angola and Zambia. According to Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, "in 2006, we implemented 18 bilateral development projects and 11 small local projects in eight countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, we expect to launch six new bilateral projects."

In 2006, the total value of the bilateral assistance projects in Sub-Saharan Africa by the Czech Republic nevertheless was only at about US$ 3 million. But according to Mr Schwarzenberg, this was only the beginning. "Encouraged by the good results of the pilot programmes, we have decided to allocate more funds and increase the number of what is known as micro-projects, projects bringing immediate and tangible results," he told African ambassadors in Prague in late May 2007.

Neighbouring Slovakia has even had time to set up a full-fledged development aid agency, Slovak Aid, on 1 January 2007 with the aim "to support implementation of the Slovak Republic's international commitments in the field of official development assistance." But the poorer half of former Czechoslovakia so far only has implemented one project i Africa (Kenya) and it lags behind in development aid spending (0.07 percent of GDP in 2006).

The eastern country that so far has come furthest in developing its aid policies is the region's most populous country, Poland, which also has the largest total GDP among the newer EU members. In Warsaw, the agency PolishAid has been set up as part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Angola has been Poland's only African "partner country" for several years, but since 2004, PolishAid has also given assistance through its Small Grants Fund for the African continent. Still, in 2005 only 2 percent - or US$ 1 million - of PolishAid's bilateral aid went to Africa. More than half went to Europe's poorest countries. But the Warsaw government plans to change this as development aid is to more than triple by 2015, as percentage of GDP. Tanzania is already set to become Poland's next African "partner country".

Also Hungary, the second most populous of the countries joining the EU in 2004, is slowly discovering Africa. "We intend to pay greater attention to Africa," promised Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Göncz during the first celebration of Africa Day on 25 May 2007 in Budapest, meeting African ambassadors.

While Hungary reached a 0.1 percent of GDP spending in development aid in 2006, national humanitarian agencies complain that growth in spending is now all too slow. Given the country's current economic crisis, the development aid budget for 2007 was cut considerably. "Our goal is not only to keep the cooperation at the present level, but also to develop further the relationship that we established in the past decades," Minister Göncz nevertheless promised African ambassadors. His Ministry currently receives training from the Canadian development aid agency CIDA to empower it to launch projects in Africa.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia are among the fore-riders in setting up national development aid agencies and reaching EU spending targets among the new member states. But also poorer countries, like the Baltic ex-Soviet republics, are making steady advances.

Estonia, for example, only spent 0.01 percent of GDP on foreign aid in 1998, which steadily increased to 0,05 percent in 2004 and aims at reaching 0.10 percent in 2010 and 0.35 percent in 2015. Equally, Estonia still has no African development projects, but foresees this for the coming years.

In 2007, two new big eastern countries joined the EU, Bulgaria and Romania, both the poorest current member states. But the year before joining the EU, Romania had already started to adhere to EU demands and spent 0.04 percent of GDP on development assistance. Like other EU newcomers, Romania and Bulgaria have pledged to increase this percentage to 0.17 by 2010 and to 0.33 by 2015 - meaning an almost tenfold increase in just one decade.

At the moment, development aid for African countries is still very modest from the EU's new members. But the tide is just about to turn as most countries will have to double their aid by 2010, and then again triple it by 2015. In this process, the most advanced eastern donors have already shown, new relations with Africa have to be made. And African governments could start finding key partners in Eastern Europe right now, as the window is wide open.

18 February 2008


Ghana 2008 will be filed away as a vintage edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, perhaps even the best yet

It was a tournament where new records were set by individuals, teams and the competition itself.More importantly, it was the overall level of play and attacking philosophy that made these finals special.

"I think it has been a wonderful Nations Cup though a little sad that Ghana were not able to win the tournament," said former Ghana captain Abedi Pele.
"We've also learnt a lot from the way that Egypt came here to win."

Although they failed to make it to the World Cup in 2006, Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata galvanised his team to light up the tournament.
And Fifa President Sepp Blatter said the spectacle proved that African football could no longer be considered inferior to the more traditional football hotbeds.

"I have followed, with lots of interest, most of the matches of this competition and I have to say that the state of African football is at a very high level when compared to other tournaments around the world," he told BBC Sport.

Evidence of attacking philosophy can be taken from the much-mentioned fact that 99 goals were scored over the three weeks.

The new record surpassed the previous best tally of 93, set some 10 years ago.

But quality of goals, as well as quantity will also be etched in the memory.

I was in Egypt in 2006 and the (standard of) football we have seen here in Ghana is much higher

Former Nigeria striker Daniel Amokachi

To mention just two, there was Kader Keita's strike for Ivory Coast against Egypt, and Manucho's swirling shot for Angola, also against the eventual champions.

But quality football is not just about goals.

Some, like former Nigeria striker Daniel Amokachi, claimed the players would not care as much playing for their countries as they would their clubs.

But the former Everton ace was happy to be proved wrong.

"I was in Egypt in 2006 and the (standard of) football we have seen here in Ghana is much higher," he told BBC Sport.

"When you have players like Samuel Eto'o running for every ball over 90 minutes and Didier Drogba trying so hard - it's great to see and great for African football."

The positive approach was underlined by the fact there were no penalty shoot-outs and there was a need for extra-time on only one occasion.

In Ghana, it seemed, all coaches were gamblers.

We also witnessed Eto'o surpassing Laurent Pokou's all-time goalscoring record and Rigobert Song's 33-game appearance record.

There was Ahmed Hassan becoming the first player to finish three finals as a winner, and Egypt's awesome sixth title.

Away from the action itself, the stadiums had all been renovated or built from scratch to a high specification.

Despite grumblings from some in the media, Blatter argued the tournament had its own unique challenges.

"I think the organisation was not so bad, it is not easy to organise a Africa Cup of Nations," he told BBC Sport.

"There is always improvements to be made with tickets, hotels, transport and so on but I don't think we should criticise so much."

Indeed there were some nice touches. In the Kumasi press area we worked off a marble-topped table.

And in terms of playing surfaces, while they were not the standard of the English Premier League, they were higher than in previous years.

Even the Accra surface - which faced the challenge of excessive and unprotected use ahead of the opening ceremony - held up well as the tournament unfolded.

The decision to stage a group in the dusty northern city of Tamale was either brave or misguided, given the poor infrastructure there.

But what a wonderful legacy it is for the city's professional club Real Tamale United, which produced Ghanaian great Pele.

If there was a failing of Ghana 2008 it was that once again the local fans did not fill the stadiums, even for some of the bigger games.

The day when African fans can take two to three weeks off work and travel in numbers, as happens at the World Cup, is still a long way off.

Local organising committees have to accept this, and Angola, who host the tournament in 2010, must work hard to sell the tournament to local people.

But if they tackle this and with rising star Manucho to lead them, Angola may yet be able to breach the final step that eluded the hosts this time around.

12 February 2008

Cameroon: Business Climate - Taxation Authorities Take Lead

The fiscal component of the measures to ease investment in Cameroon has gone operational at the department of Taxation.

Owing to its technicalities and the difficulty of understanding the new dispensation, authorities of the Taxation department have resolved to explain and sensitise tax payers on what ever measure may be taken in that direction.

In an unsigned explanatory paper published in Cameroon Tribune on Thursday, taxation authorities underscore the four areas through which the measures will be implemented. These include: procedure simplification and business creation incisive measures; improvement on the business legal security and reinforcement of tax payers' guarantee; support to the competitiveness of national enterprises and enhancement of enterprise treasuries.

According to the new law, the simplification of procedure has to do with exonerating new enterprises from business licences during the first two years of their creation. "The implementation of this law entails the delivering of an exoneration certificate following an application from the newly created company", the statement said. This aspect will be implemented by the chief of centre for taxes. The law equally entails the suppression of tax deduction at the source for private, public and para-public enterprises.

Improving the business legal security and reinforcing tax payers' guarantee are measures taken to facilitate issues for foreign investors. In the same light, other measures set out to foster competition among national enterprises. These particular measures seek to help improve the performance level of local enterprises in order to face their international counterparts within the framework of the Economic Partnership Agreement. In this vein, local enterprises will be exonerated from Value Added Taxes for those using agricultural in-puts and fisheries.
Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

1 February 2008

WEST AFRICA: Why is child development stalled?

DAKAR, 28 January 2008 (IRIN) - Experts put the lack of progress on children’s development in West Africa down to pervasive poverty, chronic malnutrition in many countries, piecemeal aid responses, and health systems broken by protracted conflicts.

Nine of the 12 countries with the world’s highest rate of child deaths are in the region, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) State of the World’s Children 2008 which was released on 22 January.

According to the report, the region is the only one in the world showing “no progress” on reaching the Millennium Development Goal to reduce under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.

While the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has declined by almost a quarter globally since 1990, in West and Central Africa it dropped by only 1.2 percent, the report showed. On average 18.6 percent of children in West Africa die before their fifth birthday, while one in 10 will die by their first.

The reasons for such slow progress are complex, but some factors stand out according to UNICEF’s Dr. Genevieve Bagkoyian, UNICEF’s regional adviser on child survival and development.

High death rates among children are largely a result of chronic poverty and the legacy of conflict in Chad, Liberia and Sierra Leone; poor management of health systems in some of the wealthier states such as Nigeria; and chronic malnutrition in parts of Sahel countries of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, Bagkoyian said.

“Throughout the region, how many governments do we have that are stable, have adequate funds and good governance to tackle change?” she asked.
Leading cause

Malnutrition is a leading cause of death in the region, killing half of all children under five, according to UNICEF. This is because it weakens children’s ability to fight other diseases, such as malaria or pneumonia.

"Poor nutrition in the first five years of a child’s life combined with high levels of disease will lead to high death levels," Greg Ramm, West Africa regional director of Save the Children, told IRIN.

According to a previous UNICEF report, malnutrition-related death rates in West Africa are double the global average.

Malnutrition also affects reproductive health, leading to low birth weights and in some cases, premature births.

In Niger, of the 19 percent of children who die by their first birthday, a quarter die on the day they are born, mainly because of these factors, combined with a lack of access to skilled doctors or midwives, according to Bagkoyian who estimated that across the region 60 percent of women give birth at home without a doctor present.


But giving birth also leads to death for simpler reasons that are easier to rectify, such as the lack of a clean blade to cut umbilical cords and cultural behaviours such as an avoidance of breastfeeding Bagkoyian said.

“In many of these countries, if we changed a number of taboo behaviours, we could save a lot of children even if they are born at home,” she said.

The lack of trained medical staff points to a need for stronger health systems that prioritises the health of mother and child, she said, adding that aid agencies and donors have not had as much impact as they could because they have not coordinated themselves to tackle root problems.

‘’In the past we had one agency working on a polio campaign, another on measles, when what is needed is commitment from agencies and donors to come up with joint solutions to these problems, rather than one by one.’’

She added that prevention efforts are crucial. “Simple preventive actions, if expanded to reach higher numbers, could reduce child mortality by 5 percent per year,” she estimated, pointing to mass immunisation campaigns, working with donors to provide children with Vitamin A and mosquito nets and spreading simple reproductive health messages as good examples.

''...What is needed is commitment from agencies and donors to come up with joint solutions to these problems...''
Government role

But building better health systems also depends on governments, Save the Children’s Ramm said. Poverty can create a major barrier to achieving this, because it leaves such a small tax base for governments to invest.

“In many of these places, even when governments have prioritised healthcare within their available budget resources, there would still not be enough money to get the job done, because there’s simply no tax base to fund it.”

“When addressing if it’s a question of poverty or of priorities, the answer is both, but ultimately you can’t prioritise what you don’t have,” he said.

But while some West African governments channel a relatively generous proportion of their annual income to health, some of the most marginalised give the least, including Chad, which according to UNICEF allocated just 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) to health in 2007.

To reverse the situation in West Africa, Ramm said, aid agencies and governments need to tackle change at different levels: working on prevention efforts at the community level, working with governments to set up stronger health systems, and lobbying donors to meet their aid commitments.

But donors also have a responsibility to increase the proportion of their aid budgets that goes to healthcare and nutrition, he said, starting with meeting the UN target of committing 0.7 percent of their GDP to official development assistance. To date only five countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – have done so.

“Even among donors who are doing better at upping their aid levels, most of them not reaching these targets,” Ramm said.