9 February 2010


Africa: UK flexes muscle in scramble for Africa trade deals

Nairobi (Kenya) - The UK government has signed a pact with three African trading blocs that would see it play a more critical role in the planned merger and economic development in the region, signalling intention to solidify its influence in Africa in the wake of an onslaught by China.
In a deal reached in London between the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) and the leadership of the East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the former offered to help reinforce growth through various programmes.
"The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlines the basis for a long-term partnership between the tripartite and DfID and formalises DfID's existing relationship," they said in a communique.
Mr Gareth Thomas, UK's minister in-charge of DfID, said his government "looked forward to a deepening of the relationship so that real and tangible results in Africa could be achieved".
Mr Juma Mwapachu signed the MoU on behalf of the EAC while Messrs Joao Caholo and Sindiso Ngwenya signed on behalf of SADC and Comesa respectively.
In 2008, SADC, EAC and Comesa agreed to form a free trade area (FTA) covering more than 527 million people with an estimated combined gross domestic product of about $624 billion.
The blocs have since inched even closer towards the realisation of their dreams with the creation of a roadmap to guide the process.
The guide sets out the justification for the FTA and includes a memorandum of understanding to be approved by the heads of state, as well as a draft agreement for the eventual establishment of the area.
Members in each of the blocs are finalising analysis of the roadmap and its relevant work plans and are expected to give feedback soon as they set their eyes on having an operational FTA within two to three years.
A preview of the MoU signed in London last week showed that it also aimed at building capacity of the regional economic communities (RECs) and the promotion of donor coordination so as to achieve greater alignment and harmonisation of external assistance with the tripartite's regional priorities and programmes.
"The specific objectives of the MoU are that the tripartite's longer term regional cooperation and integration plan and annual work programmes will be presented to co-operating partners as the basis for aligning and harmonising their assistance and which might be co-ordinated through the adoption of a common framework of cooperation," it said in part.
It further points out that the tripartite will define and prioritise transport corridors and guide the supporting work that requires to be done along their entire length so as to avoid overlap and duplication of effort and promote coherence.
"DfID will, through its trademark programmes ... by working with the other key international financial institutions and donor partners, assist with the rollout of the transport corridors, trade facilitation and the tripartite Free Trade Area," the MoU indicated.
According to the pact DfID will also strive to work with other donors and international fund institutions to secure additional funds for infrastructure projects along transit corridors and facilitate the conversion of regional funding mechanisms into a tripartite funding framework so as to reduce wasteful competition and duplication.
"Other areas of cooperation will be explored such as in air transport, energy and climate change," the parties also agreed.
The MoU between the UK government and the SADC, EAC and Comesa is, however ,expected to add to ongoing debate about a conference scheduled for March in Tunis to discuss the fast rising Sino-Africa ties.


The reign of Libya's Moammar el Gadaffi as Chairman of the African Union has ended in a petulant whimper rather than in a big bang for African unity as the Colonel had promised. He flounced out of the AU summit in Addis Ababa on 1 February after failing to cajole his fellow leaders into giving him a second, unconstitutional term as Chairman.
Offers of oil largesse to his usual supporters and then attempts to split the votes of a rival candidate all ran into the ground. Libyan diplomats candidly admitted that the AU was no nearer to his promised union government than it was when Gadaffi took over a year ago. Instead, Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika took over on 1 February with a call for food security across the continent and practical measures to eliminate childhood malnutrition – the cause of physical stunting and mental underdevelopment for perhaps a third of Africa's infants – within five years. Mutharika's heartening call is based on his own government's progress in boosting agricultural production with strong state interventionism, often against the advice of experts from the World Bank and European Union. No Western poodle, Mutharika is a staunch ally of his neighbour President Robert Mugabe and remonstrates with British officials for interfering in Zimbabwe. Yet the relative success and local popularity of his farm policies makes it difficult for Whitehall to pick a public quarrel with him.
Gadaffi suffered a double blow in Addis Ababa. As well as foiling his bid for another term, the summit passed sweeping new rules that allow the AU to impose sanctions on regimes that seek to extend their rule through unconstitutional means. As the beneficiary of a military coup himself (against Libya's King Idriss in September 1969), Gadaffi's instincts were to indulge military usurpers such as the Guinean and Mauritanian putschists and even the Malagasy disc jockey Andry Rajoelina, who harried Marc Ravalomanana from power in Antananarivo in March (AC Vol 50 No 20).
In a stab at Maghreb solidarity, Tunisia's delegation suggested a special dispensation might be arranged for Gadaffi in view of his immense contribution to the AU. Tripoli has lavished more cash on the AU, its summits and its delegations than most of the other North African members combined. The Tunisian blandishments failed. Delegates from the Southern African Development Community were determined to get their candidate – Mutharika – into the job. It was a late revenge for South Africa's ex-President Thabo Mbeki, who had frequently and irritably clashed with Gadaffi on matters of high policy at AU summits. Tripoli's last-minute lobbying for Lesotho, in an attempt to split the SADC bloc, just left a sour taste.
On his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, South African President Jacob Zuma (whose ascendancy in the governing African National Congress Libya has strongly supported) stopped over in Tripoli on 25 January to persuade Gadaffi to drop his bid. Discreet negotiations continued on the eve of the summit on 30 January but formal discussions on the chairmanship were brief. According to a delegate from Swaziland, the decision to appoint Mutharika took less than two minutes.
Gadaffi invited a representative from the Forum of African Traditional Leaders to take the podium following speeches by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish President José Luis Zapatero, to the surprise of the delegates. He spoke brusquely, accusing fellow leaders of lacking political awareness, before handing over to Mutharika.
Gadaffi said that during his tenure, declarations had been made on behalf of the AU of which he was not even aware. He complained that he was not allowed to represent the AU at international meetings. Gabon's Jean Ping, the Chairman of the AU Commission, and Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi, represented the AU at the Group of Twenty (G-20) and G-8 meetings last year because Gadaffi was thought incapable of representing the AU. In a final humiliation, he failed to get Libya a seat on the African Development Bank, based in neighbouring Tunis, after trying to circumvent the usual procedures.
Questions emerged over the AU's own financial plans. It is widely criticised for its complex bureaucracy but delegates approved a 58% increase in the Commission's budget, to US$217.5 million for the next year. Almost half of its budget comes from outside Africa and many member states remain in arrears.
The AU's Commissioner for Infrastructure, Elham Ibrahim, said progress on continental energy projects and infrastructure was being held up. A decade ago, Mbeki and the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, helped to launch the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which envisaged spending some $80 billion a year on infrastructure to boost African economies. Current spending is less than a quarter of that and most is financed by credits from China.
Before International Criminal Court appeals judges ruled on 3 February that the Pre-Trial Chamber must review previously dismissed genocide charges against Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir, the summit backed a South African move to give the UN General Assembly the means to defer cases at the ICC by a year. South Africa's efforts relate to the ICC's warrant for the arrest of Field Marshal Omer on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, which African member states of the ICC are legally bound to execute. Tshwane (Pretoria) and some other African capitals had got no response from the UN Security Council after they asked it to defer action on the Sudan case, lest it derail peace negotiations. Security Council members, including Sudan's friends in Beijing and Moscow, ignored the request.
The summit declared 2010 a year of peace and security as it intensified efforts to ratify the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (adopted by the Organisation of African Unity in 2000 and by the AU in 2007). So far, 29 states have signed the Charter but only three have ratified it – Ethiopia, Mauritania (which signed just before the 2009 coup) and Sierra Leone. The summit published a report which concludes that 'the AU should have a "zero tolerance" policy on coups d'_tat, it should also show the same firmness with regard to transgressions in democratic standards which, if persistent and repeated, could lead to unconstitutional changes of government.'
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh wrote to Ping on 26 January to request that Eritrea not be discussed in its absence. Osman complained that Ethiopia had denied Eritrea the diplomatic privileges and the right to participate in AU summits in Addis. Ping denied this and urged Eritrea to participate in AU meetings. The summit welcomed the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1907, which imposes sanctions on Eritrea for undermining peace and stability in Somalia.
Many countries which the summit voted on to the Peace and Security Council are likely to be items for discussion there. Countries named for a three-year period are Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Those named for a two-year period include Benin, Burundi, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Rwanda and South Africa. AU diplomats are threatening sanctions against Madagascar, where interim President Rajoelina has broken up a power-sharing government, sacked its Prime Minister and looks determined to hold legislative elections in March.

5 February 2010

Africa: Continent Ripe for Citizen-Led Development Plan

There have been real improvements in Africa over the past decade. Economic growth has been averaging about five per cent a year, 34 million more children are in school, malarial death rates have nearly been halved in a number of countries and more than three million people are on life-preserving AIDS medications. Africa can build on this progress to achieve sustainable development by establishing a new citizens' compact. This bottom-up approach would ensure that development is devolved, that citizens are connected with new technologies, that executive powers are diffused, that political parties are strengthened and that the integrity of leaders and governance institutions firmly take centre stage.
There are three urgent considerations for such a strategy.
First, African accountability efforts by civil society and think tanks must be expanded dramatically. Efforts such as Twaweza, an East African citizen accountability movement, can be scaled up across the continent and deliver great returns on investment by empowering citizens to demand their rights.
These efforts are easier with today's technology, especially mobile telephony. From the student who can text a hotline when her teacher does not turn up to the anti-corruption monitor who pores over statistics from national budgets online, new technology is the tool of the
Also, a new citizen strategy should not repeat past mistakes of lionizing specific political leaders – this makes it harder for Africans to hold them to account.
Second, experience shows that constant vigilance on transparency, especially with regard to national budgets, is critical. Thieves have more to hide. Regimes run by kleptocrats are more likely to fumble and fall, with wider security implications.
But it is not just African budgets that must be more transparent. One of the great scandals in development is the lack of good statistics to measure progress – this area needs much more investment. Another scandal is the hypocrisy of most high-profile global promises, such as the vague billions alluded to at the Copenhagen climate change summit.
Third, private investment can also drive the citizens' strategy. Proliferating mobile telephony is allowing Africans to leap digitally from the developing into the developed world. Africa has tremendous renewable energy potential that is ripe for investment. African stocks have been doing well, although this has been barely noticed by investors abroad.
 Read on...

SA remembers news of Mandela's release

Twenty years after announcing Nelson Mandela's release from prison, former South African president FW de Klerk commemorates the speech that began dismantling the apartheid regime. 

 De Klerk will give the closing address at a conference commemorating his February 2, 1990, speech to South Africa's parliament, which called for a new democratic constitution, lifted the ban on dissident political parties and announced the release of all political prisoners, including Mandela.

 Conference organisers said De Klerk's speech "opened the way to South Africa's constitutional transformation" and "announced the steps - including the release of Mr Nelson Mandela - which helped to open the way to the democratic transformation of South Africa."

"It really was a turning point of South African history," said Dave Steward, executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, which organised the conference and which the former president chairs.
De Klerk, South Africa's president from 1989 to 1994, had been in office just five months when he delivered the historic speech. A one-time hard-liner in the pro-apartheid National Party, he would go down in South African history as the last apartheid president.
Mandela, for his part, was released nine days later - on February 11, 1990 - ending his 27-year imprisonment. He would go on to become the country's first democratically elected leader.
The two shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their work in ending the apartheid regime and building a new democratic South Africa.