Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Crisis raises AIDS funding worries

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HIV infection rates in Africa have slowed since the start of the decade, but statistics still make very grim reading on the worst affected continent – of the global total of 2.1 million deaths due to AIDS in 2007, 1.6 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.

An estimated 1.7 million people were infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 compared to 2.2 million new infections in 2001.

Some now fear that progress could be knocked off course by the global financial crisis, potentially reducing the funds that Western donors have available for fighting the disease and providing treatment.

An official from the Global Call to Action against Poverty said recently that Kenya had already been asked by one donor to fund HIV and tuberculosis programme itself. Other donors, such as Oxfam, have said they fear the financial crisis will lead to funding cuts as developed countries have other priorities – such as saving their financial systems.

Hu reassures Africa?

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If anyone in Africa was worried that the global financial crisis might dim China’s interest in the continent, President Hu Jintao will be visiting this week to give some reassurances – as well as possibly to temper any unrealistic hopes for the amount of assistance to be expected.

As Chris Buckley reported from Beijing, this visit is also about China showing the wider world that it is a responsible power.

from The Great Debate:

Somalia’s slim hope

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By Daniela Kroslak, Deputy Africa Program Director, and Andrew Stroehlein, Communications Director, of the International Crisis Group, Any views expressed are their own.

ICGPirates, Islamists, refugees, anarchy, civil war -- not much good news has come out of Somalia in the last couple of decades. With warlord replacing warlord over the years and transitional governments constantly hovering between extremely weak and non-existent on the ground, the temptation will be to view this week's election of a new Somali president with an eye-rolling, "so what?"

Time to stop aid for Africa?

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Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.

Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.

Will Gaddafi bring change to African Union?

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Libya’s often controversial leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has finally won the top seat at the African Union and promised to accelerate his drive for a United States of Africa, but it seems doubtful that even his presence in the rotating chairmanship will do anything to overcome the reluctance of many African nations to accelerate moves towards a federal government.

Gaddafi, a showman whose fiery, often rambling speeches, sometimes unconventional behaviour and colourful robes are always a scene stealer at international gatherings, has been pushing for a pan-regional govenrment for years. But like his previous, three-decade drive to to promote Arab unity, it has not aroused much enthusiasm in many quarters. All the AU’s 53 states have said they agree in principle but estimates for how long this will take vary from nine years to 35.

Time to build Africa?

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Where once African officials might have viewed infrastructure projects solely as a good source of kickbacks, these days there is pressure from electorates, at least in some countries, to deliver on promises of improvements.

The growth that many African states have enjoyed in recent years has exposed the failure of the continent’s infrastructure still more starkly – with even South Africa suffering the kind of power outages that much of the rest of Africa has grown far too used to.

New hope for Zimbabwe?

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Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change has agreed to join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, breaking a crippling deadlock four months after the political rivals reached a power-sharing deal.

The decision could improve Zimbabwe’s prospects of recovering from economic collapse and easing a humanitarian crisis in which more than 60,000 people have been infected by cholera and more than half the population needs food aid.

from Global News Journal:

Crunch time for Zimbabwe

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Southern African leaders have decided at a summit that Zimbabwe should form a unity government next month but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome, raising doubts over chances for ending the crisis.

The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa - its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government - it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by Feb. 11.

Hopes disappear of new era in Kenya

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Long-suffering Kenyans have once again had their hopes dashed of a new era of political progress freed from the depredations of their notoriously venal politicians, after a wave of high-level corruption scandals and factional squabbling inside the government. 
 
President Mwai Kibaki first won power in 2002 riding a wave of popular support for his promises to end the corruption and  misgovernment of his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi. Disillusion soon set in with massive graft scandals that mirrored the worst of the Moi years tarnishing Kibaki’s image as a reformer.
 
Then hopes rose again last April when a “Grand Coalition” was formed between Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to end two months of brutal ethnic bloodshed after a disputed election, in which at least 1,300 people died and 300,000 were forced from their homes. Despite the formation of the biggest and most expensive government since independence to pander to  the interests of both sides in the election dispute, there was optimism that a wind of change was blowing after decades of abuse by politicians pursuing only narrow tribal and regional interests as well as lining their own pockets.
 
Kenyans sick of the old political class had swept away more than 60 percent of parliament in a powerful vote for change. The new law-makers were said to be of a different cloth, more professional and educated and interested in the welfare of the nation .
 
Early signs were promising with Kibaki and Odinga reported to have struck up a strong and productive relationship and cooperating on policies that brushed aside the protests and pressures of powerful political pressure groups.
 
But the early optimism generated by the post-election settlement has dissipated less than a year later.  Squabbles between Kibaki’s PNU party and Odinga’s ODM, who accuse the president’s close supporters of bypassing them to force through controversial decisions they oppose, are so bad that a new 12-member committee has been set up to mediate within the government. The MPs, already among the world’s best paid, refused to back down on voting themselves fat tax-free allowances despite heavy criticism and pushed through a media bill seen both at home and outside Kenya as a blatant infringement of the rights of the country’s vibrant press – a powerful democratic force.
 
But worst of all, the recent revelation of a string of scandals ranging from the tourist authority to the theft of millions of dollars of petroleum products are a clear sign that not much has changed. The sheer scale of the accusations of graft has shocked many Kenyans. The most damaging is over the diversion of precious reserves of maize, Kenya’s staple food, to bogus millers while almost a third of the population are facing famine because of a long drought. As myriad scandals came to light, the heads of the cereals, petroleum and tourism authorities were all sacked. “In one year only, Kenyans have been treated to a magnitude of corruption they have never seen,” said Okong’o O’Mogeni of the Law Society of Kenya.
 
Foreign analysts say the coalition government is likely to survive its many disputes and will probably last until the next elections scheduled in 2012. None of the parties benefitting from the bloated coalition government are thought likely to want to precipitate a political crisis before then and much manoeuvring is focused on who will make a run for the presidency when Kibaki has to step down after his second term. The relative stability, unexpected when the post-election crisis ended in April, has encouraged positive forecasts for Kenya’s growth by 2010 in contrast to many other frontier markets.

But when will Kenyans get the honest politicians so many of them yearn for, so that this country can develop its full potential as a gateway to a wide swathe of central and eastern Africa and meet the government’s goal of turning it into a prosperous, well-governed country by 2012?

Africa still crying for freedom?

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“Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Regression”. That was the heading used by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House in its survey of political freedom in the world published this week.

Of course the Freedom House survey pointed to the coups in Guinea and Mauritania as well as the situation in Zimbabwe, whose elections were condemned by many countries and where the crisis shows no sign of lessening, but there were plenty of other names on the list too:

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