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An argument for national unity and the preservation of diversity against secession for African states, by Chofor Che


There has been a wave of secessionist tendencies in the world and particularly in Africa prior to independence. Some good examples in Africa include the case of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon which is an ongoing predicament. Another example is the case of Zanzibar and Tanzania which is under scrutiny by the government of Tanzania. Other examples in Europe include the case of the United Kingdom and Spain. Judging from cases like the chaos which has befallen South Sudan after it seceded from Sudan, the question is should Africans continue to clamor for secession or independence rather than find ways to strengthen national unity and diversity? Are there any alternatives to secession which African states should consider?

There is no gainsaying that the issue of secession seems to be en vogue. Recently Great Britain was almost at the brink of secession when Scotland attempted to break away from the union. Had it not been for the verdict of the referendum of the 18 of September 2014 which saw a majority of Scottish voters say ‘No’ to secession, Scotland would have been an independent state.

The issue of secession is also a hot debate in Spain. Section 2 of the 1978 Constitution suggests that the Spanish Constitution is instituted upon the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible patria of all Spaniards, and guarantees the right to self-determination of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.’ This has led some scholars to argue that the Spanish Constitution falls short in allowing for national diversity in the case of Spain, because it allows for self determination which to some extent gives room for secession. Presently the Catalonians are using the aspect of self determination as a way to break away from Spain. They claim to be suffering from discrimination when it comes to access to jobs, natural resources and business opportunities. Other authors argue that self determination may not necessary mean secession, but rather a clamor for a more decentralized or federal system of government.

Secession seems to presume that disgruntled groups within a state want to break away, and form their own state. Yet it is not at all clear if secession is the priority of all communities. According to experts like University of the Western Cape (UWC) Associate Professor of Law, Yonatan Fessha, separation may only be a suitable option after investigating on other possibilities and only if there is no possibility of co-existence between different groups in the state. It is therefore agreed that secession should only be considered as the final resort and not the primary option where linguistic and ethnic groups cannot be accommodated in a state.

In the cases of Cameroon and Tanzania respectively major reasons why Anglophone Cameroonians and the people of Zanzibar want to secede is because there is some aura of discrimination which persists against these people in these various states. The distribution of jobs, natural resources, educational opportunities and business opportunities is inequitable.

In the case of Kevin Mgwanga Gunme et al v Cameroon before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), brought in 2003 by the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), an Anglophone Cameroon based pressure group fighting for secession on grounds of marginalization, the SCNC argued that the Republic of Cameroon was an extension of French colonisation. They added that Anglophone Cameroonians did not benefit politically and socio-economically from this union. At the 45th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, between 13 and 27 May 2009, the African Commission adopted the decision on the merits of the communication. The claim for secession was rejected by the African Commission especially on mainly procedural grounds that the applicant was not a legally recognised group fighting for the interests of all Anglophone Cameroonians. However, secession remains a real problem in Cameroon despite the verdict of the African Commission, as the SCNC in Cameroon has not accomplished its aim.

An example where secession has turned out to be catastrophic for national unity and diversity is the case of Sudan and Southern Sudan. Ever since Southern Sudan broke away from Sudan there has been turmoil and bloodshed. Property and families have been lost.

A probable alternative for secession may thus be to give more political and socio-economic rights to the disadvantaged group or groups in a state. This must not be at the detriment of individual rights especially as individuals must be allowed to own property, trade and circulate freely.

Authors like Professor Nico Steytler and Professor Jaap de Visser of the Community Law Centre at UWC argue that adequate decentralization to local government may be a great alternative rather than secession. This would warrant giving more financial and administrative autonomy via various national constitutions, to local government especially to disadvantaged groups. Professor Steytler also argues that a federal system of government can go a long way to protect unity and diversity. Adequate decentralization and federalism may thus be alternatives to secession. Such systems of governance allow disadvantaged groups in a state partake equitably in the opportunities found therein, if rightly applied by various central governments.

This article is originally published at LibreAfrique.org as Afrique : Quelle alternative à la sécession des États ?

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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The 23rd Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union and African Monetary Fund exaggerated ambition, by Chofor Che, 7 July 2014


The 23rd Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union (AU) ended on Friday the 28th of June 2014 after two days of discussions in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. In attendance were the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy and the Vice President of Cuba, Salvador Valdes Mesa.

The official theme of this summit was “Agriculture and Food Security in Africa”, but according to Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari, a Senior Research Fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs in an op-ed dated the 26 of June 2014, few if any of the decisions during the summit focused on farming or food. He added that this is evidence that summit themes are merely symbolic and are hardly followed by intensive discussions around the subject matter. This notwithstanding, certain sources argue that the 23rd Summit is historic because at the end of deliberations, though much did not focus on farming and food, a gigantic step was made towards the financial autonomy of Africa as a continent with the adoption of the Establishing Protocol and Statutes of the African Monetary Fund (AMF) one of the AU’s Financial institutions.

Founded in 2009, the AMF has as aim to contribute to the economic stability and the management of financial crisis in Africa, giving preference to macroeconomic development and business by promoting trade amongst states in Africa. It is expected to create a common market amongst African states by 2017. Having its sit based in Yaoundé, the political capital of Cameroon, this institution is supposed to forge for a single African currency in a bid to encourage rapid regional economic integration which for the moment remains a dilemma especially with the numerous currencies on the continent. Some analysts even argue that the multitude of currencies on the continent has grossly weakened business between African states.

The putting in place of the Establishing Protocol and Statutes of the AMF arrived at in Malabo on Friday the 28th of June 2014, does not in any way mean that the African continent will suddenly become financially independent. 15 African states need to ratify the statues for the institution to go operational. An organigram for the institution needs to be set up before the recruitment of staff including a Director General.

This is indeed an ambitious agenda my Heads of State who have decided to put the cart before the horse. Many African states are still plagued by precarious financial hurdles such as heavy taxes, trade barriers and corruption. In addition to these hurdles, the Central African Republic remains mired in armed and bloody conflict, Nigeria remains tortured by the activities of the notorious Boko Haram Sect and Kenya is still seeking solutions to the Al Shabab dilemma.

In addition to the various hurdles faced by various states on the continent, Africa is still not a force to reckon with in the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Hengari in his op-ed argues that in light of a meeting which took place in May 2014, UN Security Council reform agenda in the AU remains stalled due to the rigid proposals which propped up from the Ezulwini Consensus. Hengari argues further that concerning the current institutional setup, the AU remains state-centric. While the AU accepts regional economic communities as vital building blocks in regional integration, there is no serious formal institutional rendez-vous with the assembly or the commission.

It is high time for states to resolve domestic issues like barriers to trade, over taxation and corruption. African states need to open up their boarders for trade and not close up boarders under the pretext of fighting illegal immigration just as what has been transpiring between Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Gabon.

It is germane for Heads of State to try and resolve the ongoing conflicts on the continent including terrorists’ attacks from groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab. It is important for the AU to equally engage heads of communities and officials within the frame work of the commission and assembly, especially in conflict resolution and regional integration.

Considering these suggestions is germane for the AU. If such proposals are not taken seriously then the AMF dream may be another waste of time and Africa’s tax payers’ money.

 

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Will the Central African bloc grow by up to 5.5 percent in 2014 as predicted by the International Monetary Fund? By Chofor Che, 7 June 2014


On the 5 of June 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that economic growth in the six-nation Central African CEMAC bloc is set to double to between 5 and 5.5 percent in 2014. According to an article by Reuters dated the 6 of June 2014, this growth is supposed to be pivoted on the back of increased oil production.
The CEMAC zone is composed of Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea. Reuters reports that five of these states produce oil, which accounts for 36 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 87 percent of total exports. Growth reduced to around 2.5 percent in 2013 because of a substantial drop in oil output. The CEMAC zone’s central bank forecast 2014 GDP growth at 6.7 percent in March.
In an IMF statement at the end of a two-week evaluation mission, the team said “The outlook for the remainder of 2014 points to a pick-up in economic growth. Regional real GDP growth is projected at 5 to 5.5 percent, as oil production will increase. The team added that inflation is expected to remain below 3 percent.

The medium-term outlook seemed solid because of strong growth in non-oil sectors, but a projected decline in oil production was expected to bring overall growth down, observed Reuters. It is sad how states in the CEMAC zone depend on oil production to boast their GDP whereas there are sectors which can fire GDP up if harnessed such as the agricultural sector which remains under-exploited. The IMF confirmed that the deteriorating security situation due to conflict in Central African Republic and attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist group in Nigeria could also cut into growth.

The Central African region especially the CEMAC zone needs to get serious about other sectors of the economy rather than just relying on oil production. This zone has great potential in revamping the agricultural sector but has instead open room for land grabbing. Instead of ensuring that the populace in this zone benefits from vast arable farm land, governments in the CEMAC zone are giving away the land while their people languish in poverty.
Countries in the CEMAC zone still have a long way to go with respect to South-South cooperation. Rather than depending heavily on oil production to attain a 5.5 percent growth, which is not so evident, this zone needs to encourage trade amongst states in the zone and beyond. In recent weeks there have been tensions along the Gabonese and Cameroonian boarders. Both countries have accused each other of illegal poaching and trade which have led to arrests and repatriation of citizens from both states. There is need to encourage free trade among members states of this zone. Tensions amongst member states, such as that between Gabon and Cameroon will instead shrink growth in 2014 instead of boasting it.

Corruption also remains a serious reason why I remain pessimistic about the IMF’s predicted 5.5 percent growth in 2014. A recap on the Doing Business Report of 2013 and 2014 shows that states in the CEMAC zone are tailing the list when it comes to doing business. For instance, according to the AtlasFreeTrade.org initiative, Cameroon’s trade freedom ranks 128 out of 158 states and both the cost of doing business and tariffs remain extremely high. This picture mirrors itself with other states in the zone.

There is indeed high potential for states in the CEMAC zone to attain the 5.5 percent growth as predicted by the IMF. The zone is not only blessed with oil production, but has other sectors which need to be exploited. If the CEMAC zone is really serious about attaining the predicted 5.5 percent growth and more, then it is time for a policy rethink and shift. Government leaders need to also concentrate more in encouraging trade between member states as well as revamping their various agricultural systems. Government leaders need to be serious about true privatization and free trade. There is also need for the corruption canker worm to be curbed. Only such measures may project the CEMAC zone to the 5.5 percent target .

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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Pessimism still surrounds the ‘Visa free travel in Africa’ initiative, by Chofor Che, 03 June 2014


Africans especially in the Central African region have always wished to travel visa free. Many argue that if this were possible, it would be a speedy panacea to regional integration. How possible and true is this assertion? I wonder.

The ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative was launched by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote, during the World Economic Forum on Africa. According to an article by Biztechafrica of May 2014, the idea behind this initiative is to encourage travel across the continent by curbing on visa constraints.

The ADB’s Chief Executive remains optimistic about this initiative. According to him, the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative will spearhead regional integration across Africa and speed up Africa’s economic development. Kaberuka however opines that African leaders need to take action to make this happen.

There have equally been panel discussions all over the continent to engineer the ‘Visa free travel in Africa’ initiative. During one of such panel discussions in Nigeria, the ADB’s Chief Economist, Mthuli Ncube, encouraged Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to harness their developmental drive and make speedy growth on the continent a reality especially by ensuring that Africans are able to travel without visa constraints. According to Biztechafrica, this call was made during a panel discussion on ‘Forging Inclusive growth, Creating Jobs’. Ncube’s topic was on, ‘Driving Competitiveness through Cooperation, integration and Economic growth’.

The ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative is a very laudable idea but the continent still faces a lot of challenges especially governance issues. Lack of political will on the part of African leaders remains a gigantic hurdle. This explains why such an initiative is spearheaded by just two African leaders instead by all African leaders. In addition to this, continental bodies like the African Union have not strongly added their voice to the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative. A scenario such as this makes one to wonder if this is not just brutum fulmen (an empty noise) on the part of Kaberuka, Kagame, Kenyatta and Dangote.

In as much as the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative is a laudable one, African leaders are still to curb internal barriers in their various states especially barriers to trade and development. If circulating in various African states remain a nightmare, what more of travelling on the continent. Most states especially states in the Central African region cannot even boast of domestic air travel facilities especially infrastructure. Most of the personnel in African states are not trained with state of the art air travel measures especially ways of combating against terrorist activities. Citizens still have to pay exorbitant air port taxes despite having paid heavy visa fees and purchased expensive air tickets. Such impediments affect the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative’ from transgressing from an ‘initiative stage’ to a ‘reality stage’.

It is thus important for African leaders to bring on board more private actors. True privatisation of the airport sector with minimal control from big governments on the continent can make the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative a reality and thus speed up Africa’s development. African leaders need to curb internal barriers such as heavy taxes in their various states especially barriers to trade and development. Circulating in various African states should not be a nightmare. Most states especially states in the Central African region need to start rethinking their modus operandi on domestic air travel facilities especially infrastructure. Most airports in states especially in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the conflict ridden Central African Republic have been abandoned. It is time for most African states to revamp structures in these airports and begin with boasting domestic air travel before thinking of adding their voice to the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative. Most of the personnel in African states need to be trained with state of the art air travel measures especially ways of combating against terrorist activities. Governments in African states need to also ensure that citizens do not have to pay exorbitant air port taxes especially having paid heavy visa fees and purchased expensive air tickets. If such measures are taken into consideration especially partnering with the private sector, then attaining the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative’ would be possible.

 
 

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French support to civil societies in Cameroon: An impediment to development, 27 August 2013, By Chofor Che


Cameroon is one of the states in Africa that continues to receive financial assistance from the West. Cameroon’s civil society has benefitted financially from the West, but remains one of the weakest on the continent. Following an article by Cameroon Tribune dated August 20, 2013, France recently opted to support civil society organisations in Cameroon. For the next three years, France has earmarked 260 million francs to fund initiatives in the areas of health, environment, democratic governance and human rights. Such initiatives are to be funded via France’s newly established Support Fund for Civil Society in the South (support fund). A memorandum of understanding was thus signed on 19 August 2013 between the Minister of Economic and Regional Development and Planning (MINEPAT), Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi and the French Ambassador to Cameroon, Bruno Gain.

A call for proposals will be launched by the end of August 2013 by the Department of Cooperation and Cultural Action of the French Embassy to support eligible candidates who are to benefit from the newly created support fund. As stressed by Bruno Gain, special attention will be given to projects in the Far North, North and Adamawa regions, especially as these regions are mostly hit by natural disasters. The support fund replaces the Social Fund for Development which has been operational in Cameroon since 1996. Cameroon is one of four countries including the Republic of Congo, Togo and Guinea benefitting from this initiative.

The aim of this special fund is to improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. According to Cameroon Tribune, since 2005, France has contributed a total of about $ 948 million to finance eligible civil society projects in Cameroon. Despite the humongous amounts of money pumped in by France into Cameroon, the state’s civil society remains one of the weakest on the continent. The central government is well aware that Cameroon’s civil society is a weak one and has done nothing to encourage this weak civil society. The truth is that dubious means are going to be put in place by corrupt government officials to swindle the money from France. As has been done in the past, corrupt government officials will create fictitious civil society organisations and embezzle the finances meant to revamp Cameroon’s civil society.

It is thus clear that such assistance from France is an impediment to growth and development in Africa and Cameroon in particular. Cameroon’s civil society does not need such assistance. What needs to be done by the international community and France especially is to put pressure on central governments on the continent and Cameroon in particular to create an enabling atmosphere for more jobs. France and other Western states need to encourage Cameroon’s central government to improve on its infrastructure and technology. Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) especially those run by women and the youth need to be revamped via private and government partnerships. More Cameroonians need to be employed in the extractive industries. It does not suffice for foreign multinationals to rip the state of its natural resources while nationals languish in poverty. These issues are more important to the state’s development than dubious grants that will end up in the foreign bank accounts of corrupt civil servants.

- See more at: http://www.africanliberty.org/content/french-support-civil-societies-cameroon-impediment-development-chofor-che#sthash.7hdRZEcg.dpuf

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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The end of the visa quagmire plaguing six member states circulating within the Economic Community for Central Africa, By Chofor Che, 24 July 2013


Lying over about one third of the African continent, Central Africa is adjacent to all of Africa’s sub regions. This sub region is the region in Africa most endowed with natural resources especially crude oil and forests reserves. It also holds the largest water reserves on the African continent. Despite such wealth, the manufacturing base in the Central African sub region remains very narrow and although there is availability of relatively good agricultural land, food production is still below the needs of the population.

Many organisations have been created in the sub region with the aim of attaining economic cooperation among the member states. This is notably with the case of the Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS) which was founded in 1983 and became operational in 1985. Six out of the eleven member states of the sub region share a common currency zone (the CFA Franc) and a monetary zone union known as CEMAC (Communauté economique et monetaire d’Afrique centrale). These six states include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad. The large population in these six member states makes it potentially a huge consumer market, yet sub regional cooperation arrangements have not succeeded in unleashing this full economic potential and move it towards economic integration. Goods manufactured in Central Africa do not circulate easily in the ECCAS zone. Citizens for instance, of Cameroon, are still requested to obtain visas before travelling to Gabon. In contrast citizens of other sub regional groups like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are not requested to obtain visas to circulate in member states. This precarious situation in the above mentioned six member states of ECCAS, impinge on the development of the market for consumer goods while stifling local entrepreneurship. Local producers are left with no choice than to be involved with smuggling and illicit exportation.

The Head of States for the above mentioned six states of the Economic Community for Central Africa (ECCAS) met during their last summit in June 2013. During this meeting the Heads of State for the six states in the ECCAS zone, agreed that visa requirements would henceforth not be obligatory for citizens of member states circulating in these states. This move is to take effect as from January 1, 2004.

Eradicating visa requirements for these six member states is indeed a laudable initiative which would go a long way to facilitate business transactions and economic ties amongst member states of the ECCAS zone. This would indeed unleash the full economic potential and facilitate the move towards economic integration in the sub region. It is also hoped that the eradication of the visa requirements for these six concerned states would facilitate the circulation of goods and agricultural produce in these member states. Eradicating visa requirements without ensuring that stringent barriers like heavy taxation of goods and agricultural produce are equally dismantled would serve no purpose. While citizens of the six member states of ECCAS that share the CFA franc await to benefit from the ‘no visa’ requirement move, it is important that Heads of State of these member states also put in place other measures like curbing heavy taxes. It is also important for these Heads of State to encourage partnership cooperation among the private sectors of these member states so as to facilitate rapid regional integration and economic growth.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Bad governance and corruption in the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) leads to suspension by the World’s Football Federation (FIFA) – Chofor Che


The World’s Football Federation (FIFA) provisionally suspended the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) on the 4 of July 2013. According to a BBC source, this was due to government interference of the FECAFOOT elections, which took place on 19th June 2013. During the period of suspension, Cameroon is not to take part in any regional or international matches, including club matches and friendly matches. In addition, no FECAFOOT member or official shall benefit from any development programmes or training courses during the suspension period.

Article 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently with no interference from third parties. During these elections, former FECAFOOT boss Iya Mohammed who doubled as boss of the state owned cotton company, SODECTON, detained by the Cameroon authorities for alleged financial mismanagement of this state-owned cotton company, emerged victorious. The elections were cancelled by FECAFOOT’s appeals committee.

FIFA’s ruling came as a result of the 19 June elections, when FECAFOOT vice president and former transport minister Mr. John Begheni Ndeh installed himself as president on 28 June. Accompanied by the forces of law and order some of whom were stationed at FECAFOOT’s headquarters, Mr. Ndeh took over the federation and suspended the Secretary General Tombi A Roko. This also led to the resignation of FECAFOOT’s first vice president Seidou Mbombo Njoya, who had expected to step in as interim boss.

FECAFOOT has long been plagued by corruption and mismanagement. This has led to the poor performance of the national football team, the indomitable lions. A team which was once Africa’s glory is today classified as one of the weakest football teams on the continent. Cameroonian footballers prefer to play abroad for foreign clubs than to be humiliated back at home by their very own FECAFOOT.

Events leading to this unfortunate situation were alarming and visible. Despite cries from the public and footballers of the corruption and mismanagement of state funds pumped into FECAFOOT, the state remained silent to such cries. Many argue that since Iya Mohammed was a protégée of FIFA it was difficult for the state to intervene in the internal affairs of FECAFOOT. The state therefore allowed a very prestigious institution like FECAFOOT to be humiliated internationally.

A normalisation committee is to be set up as per Article 7 paragraph 2 of the FIFA statutes to revise the FECAFOOT statutes and to organise elections for new office bearers. This normalisation committee will be set up by FIFA in collaboration with the African Football Federation. The suspension will be lifted once the Cameroonian authorities allow the normalisation committee to enter the premises of the headquarters at conduct the said elections.

In as much as FIFA may be right in suspending FECAFOOT provisionally, Cameroon remains a sovereign state and has a right to meddle in matters affecting its wellbeing. Where the state of Cameroon erred was that it allowed an individual like Iya Mohammed to control FECAFOOT and SODECOTON for too long. In allowing such an individual like Iya control two important institutions for long, some state authorities benefited from corrupt dealings that were orchestrated during his era. The great football state, suffered from this state action.

In as much as Cameroon may have learned its lesson or not, it is vital for institutions like FIFA to ensure that institutions like FECAFOOT are not controlled by certain individuals for long. The state also has a say in issues concerning FECAFOOT, but should not take this advantage and usurp the powers of FECAFOOT. The indomitable lions have done no wrong to suffer from corrupt practices from big institutions like FIFA and FECAFOOT. If the state of Cameroon wants to regain its fame in the football circles once again, then it is vital to combat corruption and rethink its governance strategy over institutions like FECAFOOT.

This article is published at http://africanliberty.org/

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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