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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Debunking the puzzle behind unwarranted delays of containers at the Douala seaport in Cameroon, By Chofor Che, 30 August 2012


Clearing goods from sea ports in Africa and most especially from the seaport located in the economic capital of Cameroon, Douala, can take many weeks. Such delays are definitely disastrous to the economy of Cameroon as well as to the economy of other central African states like Chad and the Central Africa Republic, who also benefit from the seaport in Douala.

According to a study conducted by the Douala based Atanga Law Office, over 50% of total land transport time from seaports to hinterland cities in landlocked countries is wasted at the sea ports. This is so because trying to clear goods from the sea ports has become a painful process mired with a lot of challenges.

Averagely, it is very difficult to reduce cargo dwell time at the Douala seaport in Cameroon. Planners at the Douala seaport set an objective of 7 days at the end of the 1990s, for goods to be cleared from the port in question, but it still takes 18 days to clear goods from this seaport, notwithstanding real improvements for some shippers.

What is the cause of such a quagmire? It is argued that the private sector, which includes customs brokers, owners of container depots, shippers, as well as terminal operators, all have an interest in reducing dwell time. But such a move is slowed down by big government represented by the Ministry of Finance including the centralised customs administration. Customs procedures which could have been handled in Douala still need to get approval from the Ministry of Finance and General Customs Administration sitting in the political capital, Yaoundé. One would have thought that issues concerning the seaport of Douala should have been decentralised. But this is not the case.

In as much as most of the blame goes to large government, the private sector is also partly responsible for such long delays. The research from Atanga Law office also confirms that low logistics skills as well as cash restrictions explain why most importers have no reason to curb cargo dwell time; because in most cases, it would increase their input costs. Additionally, conflict of interests may strengthen rent-seeking behaviours among controlling agencies, intermediaries and shippers. Similarly, some terminal operators gain a lot financially, by providing storage facilities. Customs brokers do not bother to curb long delays at the Douala seaport since the importer bears the brunt of the inefficiency and which is eventually shared by the consumer.

This research also adds that companies may utilise long delays at seaports as a strategy to prevent competition. Such a move acts as a strong impediment for international traders. Delays at the Douala seaport may also be considered a means to sustain rent generation for some shippers.

Such a precarious situation implies that the government of Cameroon needs to re-think its intervention strategies. One of such ways is to further decentralise the Customs administration, which will go a long way in curbing administrative bottlenecks, as well as corruption.

The Customs administration may also consider investing in additional storage facilities so as to curb congestion at the seaport. If facilities at the seaports are increased and existing ones maintained, then curbing delays can be checked so that international traders are not discouraged in trading with Cameroon and parts of central African states like Chad and the Central Africa Republic.

The private sector also has to show a sign of maturity by encouraging international traders continue to trade with Cameroon, as well as other parts of central Africa, via the port of Douala. Reducing conflict of interests may be one of the ways of creating a favourable environment for fewer delays at the Douala seaport.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Re-thinking irrigation to fight hunger, By Jonathan Kamkwalala, blogs.worldbank.org, 28 August 2012


Food prices are spiking globally and in Africa one way to ensure food security is to rethink the role of irrigation in agriculture and food production.

Achieving food security in Africa is a critical issue, even as efforts are stymied by drought, floods, pestilence and more. To these natural disasters, we can add the challenge of a changing climate that is predicted to hit Africa disproportionately hard.

So, what can we do? World Water Week kicked off on Sunday in Stockholm and how water impacts food security will be the focus.

In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that a proven way to expand agriculture and food production in Africa is to focus on scaling up irrigation programs, bringing water to parched lands, and strengthening the hands of farmers who produce food against climatic odds.

Despite chronic food shortages, Africa is not a water-poor continent. In fact, its water endowment rivals that of other continents. The continent is home to major river basins: Niger, Lake Chad, Nile, Zambezi and Orange, and accounts for about 10% of global freshwater resources, according to the UN’s Africa Environment Outlook 2.

Yet getting water to people and agricultural land has proven to be a challenge. As little as 7% of the continent’s arable land is irrigated – or artificially watered. The rest of African farmland is subject to the vagaries of erratic rainfall. This means that when there is a drought, as there is now in the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel, much of the land stays dry preventing farmers from producing crops and forcing people to depend on costly imports – and that’s on the off-chance they get access to imported food. This dependence on rainfall, droughts and resulting food shortages together have cost thousands of lives and have impacted millions of people.

Irrigation investments in pipes, channels and canals that help water flow to dry areas, and in more large-scale multi-purpose dams that provide water and control flooding, will bring relief to drought-weary regions and help blunt the worst effects of unpredictable weather.

Boosting irrigation investments also benefits small landholders and is an important solution to addressing Africa’s development deficits.

But needs are large, and providing irrigation to cover 93% of Africa’s landmass is no easy matter. Multi-purpose dams, canals, channels and water pipes are expensive, regardless of scale. Projects both large and small are needed.

One way to support the government’s financial investment in irrigation is to help farmers move up the value chain by encouraging them to plant high-value crops such as vegetables, fruits, flowers, and spices. The returns will help to not only repay the government’s investment but also increase farmer incomes. However, the shift from subsistence to high-value farming must be done in a sensitive manner. Governments must provide farmers with tools and technical advice and the infrastructure necessary for them to make the shift so that basic goals of food security are met while grasping those opportunities that can lead to higher incomes.

As delegates deliberate at World Water Week, I hope the blue and placid waters of Lake Mälaren will serve as an inspiration for launching the next generation of projects and programs that will spread irrigation to the farthest corners of Africa. I hope, too, that participants will learn more than they thought possible about the critical link between water and food security and commit themselves to improving irrigation to benefit people, boost production, and protect the environment.

And perhaps next year we can talk about more than just the link between water and agriculture, but also the link with hydropower to address Africa’s energy deficit – only one in three Africans has access to energy. After all, for a region to have sustainable irrigation it needs stable and adequate electricity supply.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

“Moving Forward by Giving Back”: The Diaspora Story, The World Bank, 30 August 2012


WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 – More than 450 global Diaspora leaders joined U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the second-annual Global Diaspora Forum, a gathering designed to encourage partnerships between the Diaspora, the private sector, civil society and public institutions.

The opening event took place at the State department where Clinton was greeted with standing ovation by African, European, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern leaders. During her speech, Clinton emphasized the importance of partnering with Diaspora communities on development and diplomacy initiatives and encouraged participants to connect with one another, build global networks, and discussed opportunities for giving back to their countries of origin.

“By tapping into the experiences, the energy, the expertise of Diaspora communities, we can reverse the so-called ‘brain drain’ that slows progress in so many countries around the world, and instead offer the benefits of ‘brain gain,’” Clinton said.

Africa had the highest representation at the Global Forum, with 26% of the participants. In addition to USAID and Hillary Clinton’s Global Diaspora Initiative operating in Africa, the World Bank’s Africa Diaspora Program (ADP) is working on projects at various stages of development in about 25 African countries. The ADP has been able to mainstream the Diaspora agenda in country policy and sector dialogue based on the Bank’s Africa Region’s Strategy emphasis on partnerships and knowledge.

The ADP was launched in 2007, and works closely with the African Union, focusing on Diaspora policy formulation and implementation, financing and leveraging of remittances for development; and human capital utilization, through Diaspora professional networks, organizations and hometown associations.

The Forum, which outlined various tools available to Diaspora associations, kicked off with an overview of accomplishments of the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), a partnership platform launched by the Secretary of State in 2011. Today, IdEA has over 1,500 Diaspora community partners and has launched three regional entrepreneurship competitions including the second African Diaspora Marketplace, the Caribbean Idea Marketplace, and the Latin American Idea (La Idea) competition. Building on these successes, the Secretary announced new commitments around this partnership.

These included the official opening of the La Idea business competition to support small and medium sized entrepreneurs from Mexico and Central America. She also announced new partnerships for promoting diaspora engagement, including a mentoring platform, a grassroots philanthropy program, a diaspora fellowship program, and a diaspora volunteer corps.

The new Diasporas@ program was another major feature of the 2012 Forum. Through this initiative, diaspora community leaders were invited to host local parties to watch livestreamed sessions from the main Forum at the State Department, and host discussion groups around topics of interest. Diaspora groups in Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Massachusetts coordinated viewing parties and participated in online discussions about diaspora engagement, along with more than 655 online participants representing groups from the United States, African countries (Nigeria, Sudan, etc.), India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Canada, Egypt, China Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Over the course of the two-day conference, participants shared ideas about how government and diaspora communities could work together more effectively. Key themes from the conference focused on the best ways to tap this diaspora potential and implement specific diaspora engagement strategies. Many of these discussions addressed the need to create diaspora-led initiatives that not only successfully target a critical challenge, but that are scalable, efficient, and effective enough to create a sustainable solution to the problem.

Over the course of the Forum, participants discussed a variety of successful and unsuccessful initiatives, as well as challenges they faced and the best practices they discovered for building diaspora-led partnerships. The most important themes that emerged from these discussions are:

  • Partnerships with diaspora is critical to more effective foreign policy: As access to technology expands and the world shrinks, diplomacy and development is increasingly becoming more inclusive. The diaspora community organizations and members play an important role in promoting stronger, deeper, more effective bilateral collaboration with their countries of heritage.
  • Diaspora communities are a “diplomatic bridge” during times of transition: Diaspora communities can serve as a “diplomatic bridge,” helping to reaffirm and strengthen diplomatic ties amid political upheaval and change. Diaspora from Tunisia, Egypt and Syria were cited as examples for their role during recent upheavals in the respective countries.
  • Leveraging the diversity of the United States as an asset: More than 60 million Americans are first-or second-generation diaspora. They bring diversity to the American tableau and are an important engine for growth and innovation across every industry and sector.
  • Remittances are important but only part of the picture: Remittances from the United States alone to developing countries in 2010 were $95.8 billion—three times what the U.S. government spent on official development assistance. Remittances represent a significant share of many countries’ gross domestic product. However, remittances alone will not suffice in promoting sustainable development in emerging economies. The great potential to scale up remittances’ impact from the household to the country level can be achieved through public-private partnerships, in which diaspora communities can strategically invest in their countries of heritage, supporting innovative projects that are scalable and sustainable and greatly improve quality of life.
  • Diaspora engagement is key for exploring new markets: Diaspora communities are important catalysts when it comes to exploring new markets due to their expertise of the local economy and culture, as well as their tolerance for risk-taking.
  • Diasporas drive innovation in Silicon Valley and beyond: More than half of the CEOs of Silicon Valley were born outside of the United States, demonstrating the enormous amount of talent and entrepreneurial energy that immigrants bring to the technology and engineering sectors.
  • Diaspora mobilization can save lives: The work of an organized, mobilized diaspora to raise awareness and money in a time of crisis and coordinate relief efforts can save tens of thousands of lives in their country of heritage. Somali diaspora in the U.S. were cited as an example for their role the 2011 famine crisis in Somalia.

Key announcements were made towards the conclusion of the Diaspora Forum, including:

  • La IdeA: The Latin American IdEA Partnership (La Idea) is a business competition platform that fosters collaboration between entrepreneurs in the United States and Latin America with the goal of expanding innovative businesses that will generate employment and economic growth throughout the Americas.
  • MentorCloud: IdEA is partnering with MentorCloud, an online, peer-to-peer e-mentorship and knowledge-sharing platform. This partnership provides diaspora organizations a powerful means for their members and partners across regions and countries to exchange ideas and expertise. It also allows them to collaborate with each other to promote human resource development and entrepreneurship, in their US communities and in their countries of origin or heritage.
  • GlobalGiving: IdEA is partnering with GlobalGiving to link diaspora communities to an innovative online platform for giving back to their countries of origin or heritage. Global giving works with over 1,100 organizations in 120 countries.
  • Diaspora Corps: USAID, Accenture LLP, and Cuso International announced the launch of the Diasporas for Development (DfD) initiative as a new Global Development Alliance to support and encourage diaspora volunteerism under the auspices of the IdEA Fellows Program.
 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Nine executed in Gambia, says Amnesty International, BBC News Africa, 22 August 2012 [reposted 27 August 2012]


Amnesty International says it has received “credible reports” that Gambia executed nine death row prisoners on Thursday.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh
President Yahya Jammeh has repeatedly been criticised for his human rights record.

“More persons are under threat of imminent executions in the coming days,” Amnesty International said.

President Yahya Jammeh had vowed to kill all 47 death row inmates by next month, in a national speech to mark the Muslim festival of Eid.

The last official execution in Gambia took place in 1985.

The African Union called on Mr Jammeh to renounce his plans after he made the announcement on Sunday.

But according to Amnesty International, nine people, including one woman, were removed from their prison cells and executed on Thursday night.

Three of those reportedly executed had been sentenced for treason, the group said in a statement.

“The decision of the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to execute nine prisoners after more than a quarter of a century without execution would be a giant leap backwards,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Africa region.

She added that many of the death row inmates were political prisoners or have faced unfair trials.

‘Determined man’

A Gambian security source told AFP news agency that all 47 death row prisoners had been “transferred to one place”.

Referring to President Jammeh, the source said: “The man is determined to execute the prisoners and he will do so.”

The death penalty was abolished when former President Dawda Jawara was in power but reinstated in 1995 shortly after Mr Jammeh seized power in a military coup.

“By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter; there is no way my government will allow 99% of the population to be held to ransom by criminals,” President Jammeh said in an speech on Sunday, which was broadcast on national television the next day.

In response, Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is the current chair of the African Union, sent his foreign minister to Gambia.

“After having learned of the imminent execution of a number of prisoners sentenced to death, President Yayi, who is very concerned, wished that President Yahya Jammeh not carry out such a decision,” Beninois Foreign Minister Nassirou Bako Arifari told BBC Afrique.

Mr Jammeh’s human rights record has often been criticised by international organisations, with particular concerns over press freedom.

Last year, after winning a fourth term in office in widely criticised polls he told the BBC that his critics could “go to hell” because he feared “only Allah”.

The tiny West African state is a popular tourist destination.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Togo women call sex strike against President Gnassingbe, BBC News Africa, 27 August 2012


Women in Togo have called a week-long sex strike, starting on Monday, to demand the president’s resignation.

Opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi (25 August 2012)
Isabelle Ameganvi said holding the strike would ensure women’s voices would be heard

The ban has been called by opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo, which groups together nine civil society groups and seven opposition parties and movements.

Opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi said that sex could be a “weapon of the battle” to achieve political change.

The coalition wants President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has held power for decades, to stand down.

“We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo,” Ms Ameganvi, leader of the women’s wing of the coalition, told the BBC.

She said she had been inspired by a similar strike by Liberian women in 2003, who used a sex strike to campaign for peace.

“If men refuse to hear our cries we will hold another demonstration that will be more powerful than a sex strike,” she added.

‘Like fasting’

Togo has been run by the same family for more than four decades.

President Faure Gnassingbe took power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years. The president was re-elected in 2010.

The strike was announced at a rally on Saturday in Lome, attended by thousands of people.

Map

The rally was held to protest against recent electoral reforms, which demonstrators say will make it easier for Mr Gnassingbe’s party to win re-election in the parliamentary polls set for October.

Activists say that the strike will motivate men who are not involved in the political movement to pursue its goals, which include an end to the system allowing unlimited presidential terms.

Earlier this month, two anti-Gnassingbe protests were dispersed by police using tear gas and more than 100 people were arrested.

The sex strike was welcomed as a political tool by some women in Lome.

“It’s a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now. I believe that by observing this, we will get them released,” Abla Tamekloe told the Associated Press.

“For me, it’s like fasting, and unless you fast, you will not get what you want from God.”

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Africa to benefit from 350 MW of Solar Power from Norwegian based group, Scatec Solar, By Chofor Che, 26 August 2012


A Norwegian solar company, Scatec Solar has showed interest in developing photovoltaic solar systems in Central and West Africa.

 

Scatec Solar is supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) InfraVentures, a member of the World Bank Group, with enough investment potential and capacity in local networks and knowledge.

‘Joining forces with IFC InfraVentures allows us to combine Scatec Solar’s know-how in photovoltaic development, installation and operations with IFC’s expertise in financing and working with governments in a region where limited supply of electricity is one of the major challenges for growth. We believe that this partnership will be of great value to the countries we work in by reducing the time required from project development to power generation’. alluded  Raymond Carlsen, Chief Executive Officer of Scatec Solar.

The rate of economic development and growth in Africa is the fastest in the world. All the same there remains a need to coordinate efforts towards developing the renewable energy sector on the continent. The continents of the world, including Africa most especially still rely on fossil energy. These are not only expensive, but also contribute for large quantities of carbon emissions every year.

Africa is blessed with a lot of sunshine, and therefore  the best resources of solar energy, making both thermal and photovoltaics excellent alternatives of energy .

Scatec Solar will finance, design, construct and operate solar power plants each with a minimum of 10 MW total installed capacity. The goal is to install 350 MW of solar within the next couple of years.

This solar energy initiative calls for collaboration from governments in Africa, which need to ensure that bureaucratic bottlenecks are curbed in making this dream come true. There is also need  for well qualified locals as well as international experts to be employed to achieve this initiative. If this initiative is well planned and free from a lot of bureaucratic strings, then Africa can benefit from the Scatec Solar energy initiative.

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Gambia vows to execute all death row inmates by September, sparking outcry


choforche:

I pray the African Human Rights system does not allow this to happen.

Originally posted on This Just In:

Gambia plans to execute all death row prisoners by September, the president said this week, sparking condemnation from human rights groups worldwide.

The tiny West African nation last executed an inmate about 30 years ago.

It is unclear what prompted the change in stance.
By the end of last year, Gambia had 44 people on death row, including two women, according to human rights activists.

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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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