Thursday, May 31, 2012

Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe

Staff Writer

The West Needs to Rethink On How to Go About Pressuring for Reform

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe is synonymous with three things: the country over which he supremely rules; gross human rights abuses; and land grabbing from white farmers and giving them to his political compadres. A close forth, very close, is blaming the imperialist United Kingdom for all of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic problems. Suffice to say that few Zimbabweans, or anyone else for that matter, have believed his claims that the country’s former colonial master and its friends are still the bane of the country’s existence. Mr. Mugabe reiterated this at the UN Assembly last year: “When we in Zimbabwe sought to redress the ills of colonialism and racism, by fully acquiring our natural resources, mainly our land and minerals, we were and still are subjected to unparalleled vilification and pernicious economic sanctions, the false reasons alleged being violations of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The DRC: An Inescapable Debt Burden Follows

Staff Writer

The poorest country in the world, according to the latest United Nations’ (UN) development report, is being taking to court for reneging on its financial obligations. The DRC owes $100 million (USD) to FG Hemisphere, an obscure debt servicing company based in Brooklyn, U.S.A. Actually, those are just the “facts” of the case and, as usual, there is more to the story. It is a story filled with villains—no good guys—and their 66 million victims—the Congolese people.

During his 32-year rule, from 1965 to 1997, Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko (a.k.a., the Leopard) ran up a $14 bn (USD) national debt. Perhaps one of the few genuinely civic ventures he undertook during his reign was an electricity grid he commissioned in his hometown. To underwrite the cost, Mobutu borrowed the money from the Yugoslavian Government, who at the time sort to win favors with the dictator for Yugoslavian companies doing business in the Congo. Overtime, the original sum gained enormous interest and, the Yugoslavian Government believing that the Congolese Government may never repay, cut its losses by selling the debt on the global sovereign debt market to someone with the stomach and patience to collect. In comes FG Hemisphere. It bought the debt at a meagre $3 million (USD), but it is entitled to being paid the full amount—which is now, interest and penalties included, a whooping $100 million (USD). And that’s exactly what it’s going for in the highest court in the Island of Jersey. Due to Jersey’s special legal status under the United Kingdom (UK), though FG Hemisphere cannot pursue this case through the UK courts, it can in Jersey.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Going Backwards and Forward [Part 1]

Author: Kombeh Jobe

The Journey of Boubacar Bah
“Place there is none. We go backward and forward, and there is no place.”
 - Saint Augustine
“America is not so much a country as it is an idea, and that must be why so many people are drawn to it, the idea of it, the idea that you might be free of your past, free of the traditions that kept you in your own traditions - that is the idea of it: freedom from your very own self.”
 - Jamaica Kincaid

This is a story of my father’s journey to America. It is not an unusual or exceptional story, no different from the many stories other young men experience. It is even a rather banal story of one man’s ordinary struggles and triumphs and tribulations.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mali's Maladies: an Outpatient in Critical Conditions

Staff Writer

If we imagined Mali as a sick patient, it would be laying on a gurney in the emergency ward with its fate in a balance between the worst possible outcome or a slow recovery. Mali’s loved ones, having had their hopes raised by the previous prospects of a return to good health, are now in the waiting room, experiencing the nail-biting, anxiety-ridden slow churn of time that comes with staring into the unknown.

While in the waiting room, everyone would be exercising his or her analytical talent to try and understand how dear Mali arrived at this precarious situation. How did Mali end up here, when only weeks ago he seemed on the right track back to normal? Yes, the whole situation started out like any “normal” political fiasco in Africa—trigger happy, though lowly paid, uniform men upend the cosy, corrupt regime of the country’s government. Although everyone feared the worst when news broke out of a coup d’etat in early March, Mali, through what seemed like a sublime, highly sophisticated diplomatic stratagem by the African Union (AU), was on its way back to democracy and checking out of the hospital. When the news broke that civilians had laid siege on the presidential palace and beat the interim president of the republic into unconsciousness, everyone’s high expectation was short-lived. So how has Mali returned to critical condition again?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Africa's Energy Deficit

Staff Writer

Where are the Bold Policies?

If the light stayed on longer, the idea is that Africans would be noticeably more productive than they are at the moment. This would also translate into a wealthier society. The numbers supporting this assumption makes as much sense as they are, equally, sad. A country the size of Nigeria, with 170 million plus people, consumed 18,617,000 MWh in 2009, according to a World Bank report, published in 2010. In 2008, the electricity consumed in Brussels, Belgium, was 5,261,799 MWh. An entire country consumes roughly three times the same energy as a city with 85 times less people.  Which means that, per capita, the city of Brussels is more productive than the entire country of Nigeria.

Africa’s energy deficit has been a long-standing issue. Not considered to be as important as the many existential maladies that still plague the continent. Energy is, however, a strong contender for the most viable route out of poverty. The infrastructure necessary to power the continent would be, perhaps, second to building physical roads, the most labour-intensive and job-creating prospect in its building phase. This is also due to the gap between where African countries are at the moment and where they should be, given that the global conversation has now moved to a completely different kind of energy—Renewables.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Democratic Republic of Congo: Trying to Write a New Chapter

Staff Writer

A new joint report from NGOs working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has provided little good news, if any, on the current condition of the Congolese people who, understandably, expected a change in their plight after the 2006 and 2010 elections. The most important issue in the DRC is security—physical security. Even with renewed focus and effort from the international community after the 2006 elections, the political climate in the DRC has proven more stubborn to change than anyone could have expected. The report—titled, “The Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform”—which is being presented by its authors to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the U.S. government, the European Union (E.U.), and the African Union (A.U.), declares that the Congolese government lacks the political will necessary to tackle the country’s problems. And the primary culprit in making the country so dangerous for innocent civilians is the Congolese military—the Forces Armées de la Républic Démocratic (FARDC). It conducts the most inhumane and predatory practices on civilians.

Mali to Madison

Author: Linda Vakunta

The Queen of Desert Blues

I jolted as I read the article title my friend had just forwarded me, “Timbuktu Encircled As Mali Coup Intensifies.” I checked my clock. It was 8 AM—much too early for such distressing news. Plus, I had decided to actively spend more time reading positive developments from the continent. As expected, this is not an easy task given the heavy dose of negative media produced for global consumption when it comes to Africa. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) segment, African Dream, is currently on top of my list for regular positive reads about Africa. The segment’s goal is to highlight an individual from Africa that is making significant change and impacting their community positively.

With the above resolution, a response to such negative news would have been: a sigh, a head-shake, and a prompt click on the “delete” button. Obviously, it’s convenient to do this when you live far away from the issues taking place on the ground; and only visit during university break periods like I do. Until two years ago Timbuktu, to me, was just the great historic city located in Mali at the edge of the Sahara desert. And, more prominently, to many others, and myself, it is popularly known as the center of learning and trade in Africa very long ago. It was an encounter I had a while ago, however, that exposed me to the fact that Tim-Buktu (the place of Buktu) was also one of the birthplaces of the Blues. I was fortunate to meet and spend time with the “Queen of Desert Blues,” Khaira Arby--born in a village not far from the historic city itself.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Restaurants, a Cultural Tool to Instigate the Exportation of African Food

Staff Writer

La Marmite, New York City
Throughout the United States and Europe, African immigrants have been establishing small communities that mirror their countries and villages of origin, in a Western setting. In these neighborhoods, children of African immigrants are in attendance at local schools, and older community members can be spotted in cars, on buses, and at work sites, earning a living on which relatives back home often depend. In these small communities, modest restaurants and bars exist to appease the immigrant community’s thirst for a fresh reminder of back home, through food, through dance, and through the general ambiance. Is it possible that these restaurants could serve as vehicles for greater diaspora contributions to the African business world?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

High-Speed Internet and Development in Africa: Ground-Breaking or Over-Hyped?

Author: Aisha Leluoma Diallo

I recently came across quite a few articles in various publications about the “Connection” of Africa, referring to the deployment of fiber optics networks off the coastlines of Africa that is currently taking place. The network, as a backbone for broadband data communication will now and in the future afford the continent better access to economic hotspots across the world.

While satellite communications have been widely used in Africa so far, they lack the efficiency that fiber optics offers, namely high bandwidth transmission, remote locations access and lower vulnerability of transmission to external factors, interception and corruption. In its current state, Internet in many African countries is still expensive and slow. The continent presently has an Internet penetration rate of 13.5% compared to the world average of 32.7% according to the Internet World Stats; a dire statistic considering that the continent is the second most populated in the world after Asia. What I have been reading mostly alludes to the fact that the influx of fiber optic internet in Africa will propel Africa’s development and businesses to the next level; a statement that is for the most part true, but while I want to join in all the excitement, I prefer to keep a reserved stance.

Egypt: What the Anxiety of its Political Juggernauts Means to its Political Future

Staff Writer

What the Anxiety of its Political Juggernauts Means to its Political Future

The upcoming Egyptian election has thirteen candidates vying for the position. An unprecedented level of excitement fills the air as the country moves closer to accomplishing this milestone. There is also a heightened sense of anxiety. Presidential elections are not, understandably, without national anxiety. But, the geopolitical ramifications of this May 23rd election will echo throughout the region’s volatile politics and national identities. This election is a product of the sweeping changes the Arab Spring set in motion from last year. Though the movement’s revolutionary wave is crashing against the geopolitical realities of the region—and the counter interest of very powerful regional actors, who will not stand by and watch their power fade.