Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Aid to Africa — just a lottery?

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French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet is floating the idea of an on-line lottery to raise aid for Africa.
 
The plan is pretty modest – the aim is to raise around 10 million euros a year for projects such as boosting school access to girls in Africa.

Critics are already writing it off as an empty gesture, particularly as Africa is suffering from billion-dollar aid shortfalls as recession hits rich donor countries.

To put it in perspective, the World Food Programme said last month it had received just $3.7 billion of the $6.7 billion it needs this year — a shortfall that would take 300 years of such lottery takings to plug.

Some dismiss the plan as yet another PR gimmick intended to gloss over years of exploitation of the continent by rich world.

Africa’s century?

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World Bank President Robert Zoellick ended a visit to Africa this week with the pronouncement that this century belonged to the continent’s development despite damage to economies from the global financial crisis.

Those who remember what were flagged by some at the time as “Africa’s decades” in the 1980s and 1990s may have cause for scepticism given that in many countries they turned out disastrous despite early hopes.

Bringing aid and being a target

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Posted by George Fominyen, AlertNet‘s humanitarian affairs correspondent for West and Central Africa, based in Dakar. He is also West Africa coordinator for Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Emergency Information Service.

The abduction of two Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers in Chad this month after a robbery at their compound near Sudan’s Darfur region has again brought to the fore the question of attacks on aid workers.

Should West back Zimbabwe’s government?

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The United Nations has joined Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government in appealing for more than $700 million in humanitarian aid for the ruined country.

But while Western countries may show willing when it comes to emergency aid, they are still reluctant to give money to the government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his old rival.

Is Zimbabwe’s Gono going?

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The acknowledgement by Zimbabwe’s central bank governor that it raided the private bank accounts of companies and donors to fund President Robert Mugabe’s government during the economic crisis has increased speculation over his fate under the new national unity government.

Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono said the central bank took foreign currency from private accounts to help pay for some $2 billion in loans to state-owned companies and utilities and for power and grain imports. He said the government still had to repay about $1.2 billion, so the bank could repay the money it owes.

Will Kenyan police be brought to book?

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A U.N. investigator has castigated Kenya’s police force for hundreds of alleged extra-judicial killings and called for both its chief and the Attorney General to be fired immediately.
 
In a scathing indictment of the east African country’s security forces, Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on extradicial executions, said he had received overwhelming evidence during a 10-day tour of systematic, widespread regular and carefully planned killings by the police. He said they were “free to kill at will” and did so with impunity for motives ranging from private disputes to extortion, to shooting a suspect instead of making an arrest. “The Kenyan police are a law unto themselves and they kill often and with impunity, ” said Alston, a law professor from Australia. In a statement laced with angry sarcasm, he accused the police of failing to provide him with virtually any of the information he sought, including the number of officers in the force. He supported allegations that police had killed 500 suspected members of the notorious Mungiki crime gang in 2007 in an attempt to exterminate it and 400, mostly opposition, demonstrators during a post election crisis last year — as reported by an official inquiry. Army and police are also accused of torturing and killing at least 200 people in an offensive to suppress a rebel movement in western Kenya.
 
Alston demanded the immediate dismissal of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali but did not stop there. He said long-serving Attorney General Amos Wako, who he accused of consistently obstructing attempts to prosecute those in high positions for extrajudicial executions, must also go, calling him the embodiment of a system of impunity. Alston added that Kenya’s judicial system was bankrupt and another obstacle to achieving justice.  And he even attacked President Mwai Kibaki for remaining completely silent about impunity.
 
Alston’s condemnation was perhaps the most high profile and powerful in recent years but it follows numerous reports by human rights groups about extrajudicial killings by the police. Ali, an army general who has led the force for five years, has survived numerous other controversies.
 
The government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, who as a sideline produces a popular television cop squad drama, immediately rubbished Alston’s statement, saying he had not been in the country long enough to draw accurate conclusions. But Kenya’s biggest newspaper, the Daily Nation, noted in an editorial that this was a routine response from the government and the U.N. official’s report could not be dismissed so lightly, an opinion shared by the other big daily, the Standard. But the government appears set to ignore even such high profile criticism, as it has done with allegations against the police in the past.
 
The case also underlines the divisions within Kenya’s unwieldy Grand Coalition government, set up almost a year ago to end ethnic bloodletting after the disputed election that killed around 1,300 people. Alston was invited to carry out his investigation by this very government, although it is not clear who did so. He said Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Justice Minister Martha Karua had expressed concern about his report. Odinga was quoted in the Nation as saying: “We must act on the report. No one will be spared. I am not willing to compromise on this one.” He doesn’t seem to have spoken to Mutua.  
 
But whatever Odinga says, nobody is holding their breath for a radical overhaul of the police despite wide public disgust over their tactics. A recent opinion poll showed that 70 percent of Kenyans surveyed felt the coalition government had achieved nothing since it was formed last April. Only 33 percent thought any political or business leader guilty of organising the election violence would ever be convicted. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who led mediation to end the crisis, warned that political manoeuvres delaying the establishment of a tribunal on the violence threatened the country’s stability.
 
Will Kenya ever tackle these fundamental problems? Will violent police ever be brought to book?

Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against

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Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty – if done in the right way:

In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.

Is Africa a good bet?

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For those looking to invest in Africa, the best prospects are in Nigeria and Ethiopia according to a new index of potential investment destinations published this week.

But should anybody want to put money into Africa at a time the global financial crisis and falling prices for export commodities, on which the continent is so reliant, have discouraged investors who had begun to see some African countries as promising frontier markets?

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.

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.

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