Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mugabe and Mandela: Exploring the Legacy of Two Great African Leaders

Author: Edson Charikinya

Former United States President, Bill Clinton (right)
with former South African President, Nelson Mandela,
on his 94th birthday (July 18th, 2012).
The international community joined South Africans in wishing Nelson Mandela a happy 94th birthday on July 18th. World leaders sent birthday wishes, with others, such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton, jetting into South Africa on the eve of the great man’s birthday to convey their wishes. But not all Africans feel that Mandela is the greatest African leader of the past century, as he is often portrayed in reverence. There are others who feel that president Mandela, by not addressing the question of economic freedom in South Africa, “sold out” the same people he spent a greater part of his adult life fighting for. Comparisons are quickly drawn between Mandela and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, with some praising the latter’s determination in confronting his country's difficult history at the expense of his international reputation. Mandela and Mugabe are both equally two of the greatest living African leaders, even as the world’s media and political pundits’ attempt to portray Mandela as the better of the two.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

South Sudan’s False Dawn

Author: Declan Galvin

South Sudanese citizens wave flag,
celebrating one year independence anniversary.
It is of little surprise that the one year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence passed with little mention from anyone outside its immediate East African community. This kind of complacency is all too emblematic of the international community’s forgetfulness with regard to the fragile states and regimes it supports and props up, only to later be drawn into expensive military operations (Afghanistan, Somalia, and the DRC are just a few examples). Therefore, we would be doing ourselves justice to use this occasion to reflect on some of the major economic and military developments in South Sudan, her new and not-so-new relationships within East Africa, and what likely opportunities and problems are on the horizon.

Perhaps most significant, is that South Sudan will likely go to war within the next year. However, I hasten to add that outright war between South Sudan and Sudan can still be avoided if appropriate mediation and diplomatic machines become activated, and run as intended.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mobile Banking Without Debit Cards or Bank Accounts

Author: Christopher Guess

Banks have been spending the better part of the last four years on the front page of every major newspaper in the world.  They have been derided as gluttonous and greedy, existing in large part only to keep themselves in business. There’s no doubt that that is sometimes the case and this certainly pertains to some banks, especially on the investment side of the industry. Despite the understandable animosity people hold towards these institutions, a world without a place to deposit and withdraw cash would be a very difficult one to live in.  This is especially true when the physical distances that modern life and business inhabit these days are taken into account.  While you and I would not think twice about writing a check for a debt owed, we can only do that because we can assume the recipient on the other end has the means and ability to cash it.  It’s quite nice that we can also assume that if you mail the check it will get there safely and not doctored.  These are all very much “first world” assumptions.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Africa's Brain Shortage

Author: Edson Charikinya

The Battle to Brigde the Technology Gap

Africa, over the last decade, has been recording positive economic growth rates. This growth is due to the current global demand for raw materials and fossil-fuel energy rather than sound macroeconomic policies by African governments. The economic growth surge in China and its investments in Africa have contributed significantly to improving the GDP of most resource-rich African countries.

However, to maintain this positive growth trend, Africa needs to quickly adapt to new technologies in all its economic sectors in order to bridge the technology gap that currently exist between Africa and the developed world. Africa’s ability to create, acquire and adapt to new technology at a faster rate than present is crucial in ensuring the continent’s ability to compete successfully in the global economy. To drive this technology advancement process, Africa needs doctorate holders to play a crucial role in developing its human capacity, as well as policy formulation.

Africans Get Financially Fit | Part 2: Work It Out!

Author: Aisha Lelouma Diallo

This is the second installment in a series titled "Africans Get Financially Fit." To read the first installment, follow the link "Part 1: Warm Up!"

In my first column I brought up some important questions to consider in order to establish a solid foundation to create a prosperous financial future. Now, we will actually craft the plan. In this section, you will find specific steps that you can start working on right away that will get you on track to securing a healthy financial future.

Step One: Track Your Income and Spending

In a spreadsheet, notebook, piece of paper or any tool you’re comfortable with, calculate your income. In evaluating your income, be sure to use after-tax income and include all sources of income such as side gigs, rental income, child support, etc. Next, list all your fixed expenses such as rent, mortgage, student loans, car payment, credit card payments and any other recurring expenses you have. Now compare the two amounts. Are you spending more than you’re making, or do you have a positive balance after your fixed expenses are paid? Ideally, your bottom line should be positive because the opposite would mean that you are living beyond your means.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

African Fiber

Author: Christopher Guess

Connecting Africa To The Digital 21st Century

SEACOM Fiber Optic Cable
In most industries it’s the giants that build infrastructure. These creations, whether by law or by kindness, are then used by others for their own purposes. Oil companies build roads to ship out crude, which are then used by farmers to move livestock and crops; and airports and runways that were built for passenger flights are rented by freight companies to fly packages.  The Internet is another beast all together. Tech companies are small and none, with the exception of Google, has the sheer amount of money to even contemplate building the sort of Internet connections that are almost universally required today.

Africa’s working on it, and getting a bit closer every year.  When last I was in Tanzania, in 2008, Dar-es-Salaam had internet that made the free dial-up I used to get around the America Online child filters seem blazing. The compound where I was staying had a bookshelf that was running thin, so I “obtained” an e-book of The Lord of the Rings from online. The download took me the better part of three days to get what ended up being only 125 megabytes, or about the size of 30 full-resolution digital photos.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Huge Loss To Africa’s Economy

Author: Edson Charikinya

Poor Intra-Africa Air Service Is Sapping The Continent’s Commercial Potential

The high cost of air travel between African cities highlights a scarcity of intra-Africa air services on the continent. This is despite the current positive economic growth being experienced on the continent and the emergence of a growing middle class population that can afford air travel.  The shortage of intra-Africa air services is depriving African cities of revenue from sectors that are heavily dependent on air travel such as tourism. Failure to move goods over long distances across Africa has also restricted the growth of intra-Africa trade.  This is despite renewed urgency by African governments to boost intra-Africa trade, which currently is between 10% to 12% of total continental trade. To deal with this African countries need to liberalise their individual air services industry.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The African National Congress (ANC): Reassessing its Role in Global Human Rights Struggles

Author: Tseliso Thipanyane

As the African National Congress (ANC) - Africa’s oldest political organization - enters its second century, the concern and question amongst many human rights activists is whether the ANC will play a more significant role in support of global human rights struggles, particularly on the African continent. At its formation in 1912, the African National Congress (ANC) was not only concerned with the human rights situation in South Africa. It was an internationalist movement concerned with the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and the emancipation of African people in the sub-continent from the bondages and pangs of colonialism in particular.

Describing the ANC, Pixley Seme - one of the founders and president of the ANC from 1930 to 1936 - said: “The South African Native Congress is the voice in the wilderness bidding all the dark races of this sub-continent to come together… in order to… talk and think loudly on our home problems and the solution of them.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On iPhones and Africa’s Tech Industry

Author: Christopher Guess

It was November 2008 and I had just returned to Nairobi from Tanzania where a friend and I had been traveling for the better part of three months. In need of a hamburger and a decent cup of coffee, we had decided to take a day trip to the very American-style Westgate Mall.  What we didn’t expect was to have to weave our way through a line, stretching for what seemed like a kilometer, leading up to the Orange mobile store.  After asking around for a few minutes, what we found out surprised us.  The line was for the opening release of Apple’s iPhone.  Much like other geeks, nerds and technophiles of the world, Kenyans had lined up to get their hands on what the tech world had dubbed a year earlier as the “Jesus Phone”.

I flew back to the US two days later and everyone wanted to hear stories.  Of all my tales and tragedies, the line for an Apple product was one of the few that truly surprised everyone. My friends had always thought that Africans lined up for food, not phones.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Woes of Guinea’s Political Deadlock

Author: Mohamed Toure

How Ethnic Partisans Are Holding Their Own Futures Hostage

Guinea's President Alpha Condé (left),
opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo (right).
On July 2nd, 2012, Guinea’s president Alpha Condé vowed that the country’s long overdue legislative elections would be held by the end of the year. President Condé, having won the first free and fair presidential election since the early days of Guinea’s independence from France, came to power with high expectations and an aggressive agenda to develop the West African nation. Currently, Guinea’s future is being held hostage by political deadlock between President Condé, who heads the RPG (Rally of the Guinean People), and the opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo of the UFDG (Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea). The authors of this deadlock are partisans on both sides, whose zeal is fueled by misunderstood ethnic loyalties. The current situation has many wondering: will Guinea be able to overcome the social, economic, and political stagnation amplified by this ethnic division?

The Death of Africa's Cities

Author: Edson Charikinya

A Continual Loss in Human Capital

Johannesburg, South Africa
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the UN agency that analyses and studies human settlement patterns, estimates that over a third of Africa's 1 billion population currently live in urban areas. However, by 2030, that proportion will have risen to one and a half billion—it represents a 50 percent increase in urban population in just over 20 years. The pace and nature of urbanization in Africa is such that many African governments are not able to provide adequate access to public services such as housing, transportation, and clean water to urban dwellers. African governments simply do not have the financial means or the institutional capacity to develop infrastructure to support this level of growth in its urban population.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Arab Spring in Sub-Sahara Africa

Author: Staff Writer

A Continent's Silent Optimism

Africa's Tech-Savvy Youth
The youth, who were so instrumental in orchestrating and defining the revolt in Egypt and Tunisia, are not so evident in Africa. On first glance, they are not there. It is important to note, that like their Middle Eastern counterparts, Africa’s youth are below the radar. However, they will be instrumental in the second democratic wave soon to occur on the continent. The hopes of many sub-Saharan Africans is that the recent, exciting, and liberating events that transpired in the Middle East, specifically in North Africa, known as the Arab Spring, should happen in their respective countries. Like the 60s, when the winds of freedom spread throughout the continent, freeing each country from the yoke of colonialism, Africans hope the wind can make a second round. And this time, actually, for the longest of time now, they have wanted institutions, strong ones. In fact, they want one institution above all: institutions of justice, to enforce the “rule of law.” It was with immense longing that Africans looked on to the collective consciousness of Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans, as they expressed their frustration with the humiliating regimes under which they had lived for generations. “When are we going to wake up as well?” was the question. Africans have lived under similar conditions, for just as long, if not more. Though, it is not so clear from where the spark for the necessary mass movement will come.

South Africa | Lost in Transition

Author: Tselio Thipanyane

Is This South Africa's Second Post-Apartheid Transition?

Following its recent one hundredth anniversary, Africa’s oldest political organization and South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), held its policy conference from June 26 to 29, 2012. The conference deliberated and defined the policy direction the ANC will have to adopt in its 53rd national conference in December 2012, in order to respond to numerous challenges facing the country after eighteen years of democratic governance.

Some of the biggest challenges the ANC urgently had to address in its policy conference, and beyond, are high levels of poverty, unemployment, and income inequality. These challenges are largely a result of the inadequate transformation of South Africa’s apartheid colonial economy, which has continued to exclude and deprive the majority of black South Africans full benefit of the country’s wealth and resources; not the least, a meaningful role in and control over the country’s economy.

Africans Get Financially Fit | Part 1: Warm Up!

Author: Aisha Lelouma Diallo

Picture this: an African arrived to the United States fifteen years ago; he has worked extremely hard from the day he got here, he has built his roots, he has a decent living condition and seems to be doing well by immigrant standards. Dig a little deeper and you find out that this individual has been a renter for the last fifteen years, has almost no savings and has no retirement plan set up, let alone an education fund for his three children. This is the reality for countless African individuals and families across the United States.

Making use of the little knowledge I possess in financial planning, I often try to sensibly edify African immigrants I come across, however I’m often met with resistance, with the most common excuses being: “We are not American, we do not have the same conditions;” “We came here to work then go back home, the rest is in the hands of God;” “I am still in college, this not for me;” “I am just starting my career;” and “I just want to get my bills paid;” all of which, needless to say, make me cringe.