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AllAfrica News: Latest
All Africa, All the Time.
Saturday, 30 March 2013 20:16

Africa: Seeing beyond the stereotypes

More than half of Africa's one billion population has a mobile phone - and not just for talking. The power of telephony is forging a new enterprise culture, from banking to agriculture to healthcare. Africa has experienced an incredible boom in mobile phone use.

In 1998, there were fewer than four million mobiles on the continent. Today, there are more than 500 million. In Uganda alone, 10 million people, or about 30% of the population, own a mobile phone, and that number is growing rapidly every year.

 

In the west, we have been adapting mobile phones to be more like our computers: the smartphone could be described as a PC for your pocket. In Africa, where a billion people use only 4% of the world's electricity, many cannot afford to charge a computer, let alone buy one. The most dramatic example of this is mobile banking.

 

Mobile phones carry huge economic potential in undeveloped parts of Africa. A 2005 London Business School study found that for every additional ten mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%. As well as enabling communication and the movement of money, mobile networks can also be used to spread vital information about farming and healthcare to isolated rural areas vulnerable to the effects of drought and disease. Fewer than four out of 100 Africans currently use the internet, and broadband penetration is below 1%. Texting isn't just for late night conversations and killing boredom - it's used to conduct business all over Africa.

 

Underestimating the potential of Africa

 

People in the West are fundamentally uneducated about Africa. And it's not only the people in the street, even the educated classes know little about the continent. That's why companies and institutions systematically underestimate the potential of Africa. Two stereotypes dominate Europe's image of Africa. The crisis stereotype emphasises hunger, poverty, conflicts, corruption and widespread mismanagement, thus creating an image of helplessness, incompetence and inferiority.

 

The exotic stereotype accentuates the natural beauty of the landscapes, the colourful cultures expressed in textiles, music and artefacts, the mysticism and the smiles of the poor.

 

While both stereotypes have more than a grain of truth in them, at least two important aspects are lost in the caricatures: first, Africa's many important assets outside and beyond the stereotypes, such as widespread vibrant entrepreneurship, sophisticated intellectual elites and the ambition to be seen as a respected partner in the global community; and second, the diversity between regions, countries, cultures and socio-economic classes.

 

Generalising about Africa based solely on the examples of the crises in Congo-Kinshasa, Somalia and Zimbabwe is short-sighted and misleading. The differences between countries like Ghana and Nigeria or Rwanda and Kenya are at least as big as the differences between any two European or Asian countries.

 

An entrepreneurial generation on the rise

 

African economies score some of the highest growth rates in the world, political stability is improving and a young, highly entrepreneurial generation is on the rise. And while many of Africa's problems deserve global attention, the solid business success stories beyond the crisis and the exoticism must be told as well. Not only do they provide surprising insights into the present and future of the continent, they are also the key to continuing the current rise of Africa.

 

During the last decade, Africa has outgrown the world economy and, despite the recent financial crisis, this trend is projected to continue in the future. For some technologies Africa even exhibits the highest growth rates in the world, mobile communication being the most prominent example.

 

Despite these developments, the global technological gap is most persistent, poverty is denser than elsewhere and less is known about technology in Africa when compared with other developing regions. The combination of a highly dynamic region with excellent opportunities for development on the one hand, and a desperate need to improve the quality of life for a large part of the population on the other, makes Africa an exciting and worthwhile project target.

 

Looking to the future

 

According to the IMF's 2010 World Economic Outlook Database, by 2015, sub-Saharan Africa's GDP is expected to near 2.5 trillion international dollars, of which the top ten economies account for almost 2 trillion international dollars. Interestingly, at the projected growth rates, Nigeria will overtake South Africa and become the largest African economy well before 2050. One driver of this economic growth lies in the high resource prices that have favoured African economies for most of the decade. But this is far from the whole story.

 

Angola and Nigeria have certainly grown on the back of oil and gas. However, a long list of African countries has managed to diversify their economies significantly. In Côte d'Ivoire, Namibia, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, the contribution to GDP of the manufacturing and service sectors, such as construction, banking, telecom and retail, surpassed 65% in 2008, and is continuing to rise.

 

These changes are reflected in the mirror windows of the business districts' office buildings. They can be seen in coffee shops, where young urban professionals work at their laptops; they can be seen on Facebook, where millions of Africans network; they can be seen in the increasing number of African blogs and discussion forums.

 

Technology supports many of these developments and Africa's 21st century will be a century of technology-driven change. This makes one think that Thabo Mbeki's vision of an African Renaissance might well have been a real strategic revelation!

 

Richard Firth is the CEO and chairman at MIP Holdings.

 

Only 11 days since taking over as Chinese president, Xi Jinping is already in Africa.

 

He spent Monday in Tanzania and will next attend the BRICS summit in seaside Durban, South Africa, before winding up his tour in Congo-Brazzaville. Speaking in a new Chinese-built conference hall in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, Xi conveyed a continuation of China's policy toward Africa under the previous top leadership.

 

"China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached," according to Reuters. He added, "We get on well and treat each other as equals."

 

Xi hailed Africa as the "continent of hope and promise," and spoke of Beijing's "sincere friendship" with Africa. He also indirectly addressed the criticism that China is only interested in exploiting Africa's natural resources.

 

"Africa belongs to the African people," he said, according to Agence France-Presse. "In developing relations with Africa, all countries should respect Africa's dignity and independence."  Xi is no newcomer to the continent—this is his sixth visit to Africa, the last being in 2010.

 

Throughout the trip, Xi and his team will be announcing an array of trade and development deals. At the BRICS summit, the Chinese are expected to jointly back a development bank along with fellow members Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Xi is scheduled to sign around 20 trade, development and cultural agreements, before journeying to Durban.

 

He renewed an offer of $20 billion in loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015 and noted that trade between China and Africa had reached some $200 billion in 2012. However, much of the attention may be focused not on Xi but rather on his glamourous wife Peng Liyuan, a famous folk singer in China who stole the show during the first stop on the trip, in Russia.

China imports many raw materials, including minerals, from resource-rich Africa. Chinese imports from the continent reached $113 billion last year, a 20-fold increase over a decade. GlobalPost senior correspondent Benjamin Carlson called Xi's visit Africa "a fascinating, intriguingly symbolic second choice for a foreign visit after Russia."

Carlson added:

Xi's visit may be a sign that China's primarily economic interest in the continent may be extending to political influence as well. "Chinese media is filled with glowing reports about China's harmonious relationship with African countries now, so clearly there's a propaganda imperative to portray relations as improving now," Carlson said.

Source: Global Post

 

 

 

 

Your excellency, Governor Theodore Orji, executive governor of Abia State 'God's Own State', you made history as the only governor to sworn in outside your state of jurisdiction in taking oath of office on May 29th, 2007, it is a rare FEAT! Orji Uzor Kalu [OUK] defied all the intimidation's by the EFCC to nail you and get you arrested on the orders of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo and prevented you from being sworn in as the executive governor of Abia State.

 

It takes courage to achieve this feat! With the recent happenings and developments in Abia State, I couldn't but ask myself, where has Orji Uzor Kalu erred? Orji Uzor Kalu is rich [his once emerging Slok Airlines whose license was later revoked on the orders of ex president Olusegun Obasanjo and later relocated  to Gambia and was doing quite well and many investments of his that could not be waved aside]. The recent controversies over his Abia State University, Uturu degree withdrawal by your administration is rather a politicize thing and unnecessary, having rule the state for eight years. What does he needs the certificate for again?

 

Your excellency, your eight years will come to an end by the grace of God May 29th,. 2015 and whoever comes in as the new governor of Abia State in 2015 will definitely reciprocate whatever you made Orji Uzor Kalu passes through as an ex-governor. Having subjected Orji Uzor Kalu to; victimization, character assassination, image ridiculing and slandering of his name.  Orji Uzor Kalu transformation of Eyimba Football Club of Aba 'Peoples Elephant' to Africa's conquerors twice is no little feat and the magnificent Eyimba Township Stadium, Aba.

 

Your excellency, you talk about Abia State as the safest state in Nigeria no doubt about it, but some major townships roads in Umuahia and Aba remains in a pitiable state. You left governance and concentrate on fighting your benefactor, somebody that risks everything to make you what you are today! There is a Yoruba adage that says 'The rod that was used to chastise the ex-wife will also be used to chastise the new wife". Orji Uzor Kalu tweets as regards the certificate brouhaha to me is unnecessary, after all he is self made man.

 

Your excellency, Gov Theodore Orji remember, Orji Uzor Kalu worked for you, labored for you and sworn you in at the risks of his life outside Abia State and you decided to reward and pay him back in theses unimaginable ways! Where has Orji Uzor Kalu erred, your excellency? As you inch towards the ultimate in life, lessons are meant to be learn' in the highest level of administration. Is it only in Abia State that a sitting governor will attend university, what about ex-governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State that was attending University of Abuja when he was a sitting governor? It is only Abia State that an incumbent governor is subjecting his predecessor to these kind of humiliation.

 

Kindly fast forward life and think of POST 2015. All the noise about his transcripts from Uni Maid, somebody writing exams for him, the University Senate been under duress at the time, all these smears smokescreen. It is on record that the trio of Orji Uzor Kalu, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar use all the resources at their disposal to fight ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo to stand still as regards the ill-fated and the aborted third term agenda and the resultant effect is what you are enjoying now.

 

Your excellency, it is and will be imperative to let the world know, where Orji Uzor Kalu has erred? Allowed Orji Uzor Kalu to enjoy his private life and concentrate on governance, transforming and delivering electoral promises to the good people of Abia State 'God's Own State', when you see a mad bull in China's shop, you find a way of leading it out gently to avoid damaging the contents in the shop;- according to Prof Wole Soyinka.

 

Governor Theodore Orji, allow Orji Uzor Kalu FRESH BREATH!


Taiwo Lawrence Adeyemi.

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Twitter: @LawAdeyemi

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 15:57

Achebe: The uncrowned Nobel Laureate

THE motto of Obafemi Awolowo University is ‘For Learning and Culture’. No one academic in Nigeria reflects and personifies that maxim more than Professor Chinua Achebe. The grandfather of modern English literature in Africa was both a colossus in learning as he was a thorough bred and highly cultivated individual in manners and character.

 

Chinua Achebe’s transition last week took the world by storm and he was genuinely mourned by all those who appreciated both his writings and character.

 

His passing on into eternity was a personal loss to this writer.

 

It was in July 1965 that Uncle Segun Olusola took me to Chinua Achebe somewhere on Broad Street, Lagos to seek his permission for me to adapt his most celebrated classic Things Fall Apart, published in 1958 into a play. I had seen the dramatic elements in the novel and decided to make a drama out of it. Achebe asked me a few questions and satisfied with my answers, approved my proposal to adapt the novel for both stage and television. Ambali Sanni’s Muslim College, Ijebu Ode provided the funds while the students made up the cast. The production was taken round the whole Western region, including Lagos (minus the colony) and was given loud applause by the likes of Derek Bullock and Dapo Adelugba.

 

That was the beginning of the romance with this giant of letters, who, seven years later hosted me and my wife on our honeymoon to his official residence at the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1972.

 

Achebe gave pride to African writing and to Africans. For the first time, he provided a lens into Africa and presented Africa from the African perspective. His writings were African based, but with monumental universal appeal. Hence his maiden novel Things Fall Apart got translated into well over 50 languages and sold over 12 million copies.

 

Apart from being the greatest writer of prose to emerge from African continent, Achebe wrote for the masses. Achebe spoke so that he could be understood. The beauty of his writings was that he was a most excellent communicator, believing that the over all purpose of any work of art is communication. Your work, be it dance, song, speech, drama, gesture, painting must convey a message, and that message must be comprehended by your listener, your viewer or your audience. Anything short of that is intellectual garbage.

 

In fact, Achebe could easily pass for a playwright of immense stature. There is so much drama in all of his novels. And this was the reason I started work on The Theatre in Achebe’s Novels. All the characters in his writings are alive and touchable. The trees, the mountains, the rivers and valleys in his novels speak.

 

Chinua Achebe gave dignity and personality to art. For him, you do not need to grow a bush on your head, or grow rodents in your hair to impress on the world that you are an artist or a writer.

 

Achebe was a man of character. He taught for many years at Nsukka, and no one ever heard that he drove his female students nuts, nor was he ever accused of befriending or marrying his students.

 

Achebe taught us what a great mind should be. Achebe never went round state governors with beggar’s bowl soliciting for money or gratification nor was he ever accused of sleeping with his friends’ widows.

 

Twice Achebe was offered national honours. Twice he rejected them, arguing that he was not one that would pose as holy in the day time and be in cosy alliance in the night with people he accuses in the day time.

 

The millions who have continued to mourn Achebe since his transition, do so in deep sorrow and in sincerity, having discovered in the literary colossus a most genuine and sincere human being.

 

Achebe identified with his Igbo nation. He shared the pains and sufferings of his people. And never for once did he treat them with condescension that he was in any way superior to his clan.

 

Achebe was mature. He showed maturity in all his dealings. He did not exhibit childishness. He was never petty or small-minded. All those who had anything to do with him ended up respecting him, because he commanded respect. Even when he was in his 30s he displayed unusual maturity and mastery of human relations. As far as Achebe was concerned, a writer or any artist for that matter was first and foremost a human person with deep human feelings and ethos.

 

Chinua Achebe eminently qualified for a Nobel Prize before that hitherto prestigious prize got politicised and became not a reward for distinction but a reward for those who had mastered the art and science of boardroom politics or global arm-twisting.

 

Although Achebe mentioned lizard in almost all his works, the honourable man of letters never learnt the art of lizarding.

 

Prose writer Chinua Achebe shared the distinction of being the best in their arts with John Pepper Clark and Christopher Okigbo who up till today are the best writers of poetry, with Professor Ola Rotimi, the best in playwriting and play production, with Ene Henshaw, Wale Ogunyemi and Professor Femi Osofisan as playwrights with greatest relevance and profundity. This explains why to me, Achebe remains the uncrowned Nobel Prize winner with most authentic claim to that crown.

 

The Federal Government of Nigeria must immediately commence the process of creating a national monument to immortalise this rare genius of both learning and character. Chinua Achebe was not just a writer; he was a distinguished writer with the best and noblest of human virtues. A non-hypocrite. A non-bully. Achebe was both a great ambassador of Africa, and a true and respectable specimen of the finest humanity.

 

• Adeniyi wrote from Lagos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 14:52

Africa’s Voice, Nigeria’s Conscience

I GREW up under my grandfather’s ancient pear tree in the Nigerian village of Uwessan. The tree’s roots were massive and its leaves shielded us from hot tropical sun while we played soccer. Elders also used it as shade while drinking palm wine and telling hunting tales in the evening. We sometimes climbed a low branch to set wire-traps and catch birds. When a dead branch broke off, it became firewood. Most important, the tree was a major cash crop for my grandfather, who sold its fruits to traders from far away.

 

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer who died last week, was a similarly rich resource for an entire generation of Nigerians. He meant different things to different people, but he was first and foremost a writer whom we all grew up to respect.

 

We were raised on Mr. Achebe’s stories. His fame spread through towns and villages across Nigeria and even beyond. I first encountered him at the age of 10 through the pages of “Chike and the River,” a children’s storybook. Mr. Achebe later became a regular staple at every step of my educational journey.

 

In secondary school, his masterpiece “Things Fall Apart” was a recommended text. My older siblings had read the novel and passed down the story and a worn-out copy to me. One of my older sisters had warned me that some parts of the book were so tragic I would cry. I never knew until then that written words could elicit such emotions. When you grew up in a village like mine, not many books had familiar characters, setting or diction like Mr. Achebe’s.

 

His use of parables and proverbs brought his writing home for me, because they were sayings I heard every day as a villager.

 

In my undergrad days as an English and literature major, we were asked to write long essays on him and his works. Throughout the four years in the department, most of us had read him so much we felt we knew him personally.

 

I finally met Mr. Achebe in person years later in New York. When he entered the room, everybody froze in reverence. He was not a physical giant with a booming voice. He was a gentle needle that sewed tattered clothes, a minuscule scorpion’s tail that packed venom. He answered every question with the precision of a sniper. He was a man who spoke gently, yet he was a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down,” as Nelson Mandela said.

 

Mr. Achebe was a source of pride to many Nigerians, an elder we could point to when the world laughed at our shortcomings. We often invoked his name like that of a fierce god.

 

Beyond his literary prowess, Mr. Achebe was known to stand for what he believed in. When those who did not know the African story told it to glorify themselves, he rose like a lion and thwarted the hunter’s tales with truth. Not only did he fight back against the mistelling of our story by white explorers; he equipped other writers to do the same.

 

With fiction and nonfiction, he helped us deride colonialism. He went to the front lines of the Biafran war in the late 1960s and served as an ambassador for the short-lived breakaway republic when he felt the need to side with his fellow Ibos in their unsuccessful fight for independence.

 

He also addressed corruption head on, teaching younger Nigerians not to be hungry to the point of selling our birthrights. His soul and conscience were nonnegotiable. He turned down Nigeria’s national honors twice because he was one who believed an elder should not eat his meal atop a heap of malodorous rubbish.

 

Mr. Achebe was a gentle rebel who refused to shake the necrotic outstretched hands of corrupt leaders. He was an old breed, a wise man from a different generation who could not stand the wanton looting of Nigeria’s public coffers.

 

Mr. Achebe would have loved to spend his twilight years among his own people instead of in America. With the bastardization of a nation he was once proud of by kleptocratic military and civilian rulers, the old man had no country to return to alive.

 

Victor Ehikhamenor, a writer and visual artist, is the author of “Excuse Me!”

 

 

New President Xi Jinping has hailed the strength of China's ties with African nations. Mr Xi described Africa as "a continent of hope and promise".

 

He was speaking in Tanzania - the second country he has visited since taking power 11 days ago. Addressing leaders at a conference hall built by China in Dar es Salaam, he said trade between China and Africa topped $200bn (£130bn) last year.

 

Mr Xi and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete signed 16 different trade agreements including improvements to Tanzania's hospitals and ports, and the building of a Chinese cultural centre. The Chinese leader is expected to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday to take part in a summit of the emerging economies, known as Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

 

He will wrap up his African tour with a visit to Congo-Brazzaville.

Outlining China's policy on Africa, Mr Xi pledged to help the continent achieve "independent and sustainable development"

 

He said Beijing is "not only interested in shipping out raw materials but wants a relationship of equals that would help the country develop", Reuters reports.

 

China has become one of Africa's major trading partners in recent years, largely based on the trade in mineral products, including oil.

 

 

Writer Chinua Achebe, who passed away, shared his thoughts last year about what's wrong with his home country of Nigeria and what hope there is of fixing it.

 

In January 2012 celebrated Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who passed away, spoke with former Monitor Africa correspondent Scott Baldauf about his political views, the extent of corruption in his homeland, what hope there is for change, and the dangers of "leaderless uprisings." Achebe was a winner of the Man Booker prize in 2007 and the Gish Prize in 2010 and has been an influential chronicler, in both fiction and non-fiction, of post-Colonial Africa. His novels include "Things Fall Apart," "A Man of the People",” Arrow of God" and "Anthills of the Savannah" and his body of work includes literary criticism, memoirs, poetry and even children's books. Probably the most widely read African author in the world, at the time of his death he held a teaching post at Brown University. His final work,"There was a country: A personal history of Biafra," was published last fall, and is a personal look at the bloody war there with the Nigerian government in the late 1960s. - Dan Murphy

 

Question: In your 1960 novel, "No Longer at Ease," you write about the coming problem of official corruption in Nigerian society, told through the rise and fall of your main character Obi. What do you think are the roots of corruption in Nigerian society – colonial legacy, corporate power, local business elites – and what will it take to uproot it?

 

Everything you mentioned has played a part. Nigeria has had a complicated colonial history. My work has examined that part of our story extensively. (No longer at ease, A man of the people and later Anthills of the savannah also tackle Nigeria’s burden of corruption and political ineptitude…) At this point in Nigeria’s history, however, we can no longer absolve ourselves of the responsibility for our present condition. Corruption is endemic because we have had a complete failure of leadership in Nigeria that has made corruption easy and profitable. It will be controlled when Nigerians put in place checks and balances that will make corruption “inconvenient” – with appropriate jail sentences and penalties to punish those that steal from the state.

 

The first republic produced political leaders in all the regions who were not perfect, but compared to those that came after them they now appear almost “saint like” – they were well educated, grounded politicians who may have embodied a flawed vision or outlook for the country (in my opinion); but at least had one.

 

Following a series of crises that culminated in the bloody Nigeria-Biafra war, Nigeria found itself in the hands of military officers with very little vision for the nation or understanding of the modern world. A period of great decline and decadence set in, and continues to this day. The civilian leadership of the Second Republic continued almost blindly the mistakes of their predecessors. At that point in our history, the scale of corruption and ineptitude had increased exponentially, fueled by the abundance of petro-dollars.

 

By the time the Third Republic arrived, we found ourselves in the grip of former military dictators turned ‘democrats’ with the same old mind set but now donning civilian clothes. So, Nigeria following the first republic has been ruled by the same cult of mediocrity – a deeply corrupt cabal – for at least forty years, recycling themselves in different guises and incarnations. They have then deeply corrupted the local business elites who are in turn often pawns of foreign business interests.

 

When I have talked about the need for a servant leader, I have emphasized an individual that is well prepared – educationally, morally and otherwise – who wants to serve (in the deepest definition of the word); someone who sees the ascendancy to leadership as an anointment by the people and holds the work to be highly important, if not sacred. I know that is asking for a lot, but that really should be our goal. If we aim for that, what we get may not be so bad after all.

 

That elusive great Nigerian leader that is able to transcend our handicaps – corruption, ethnic bigotry, the celebration of mediocrity, indiscipline etc- will only come when we make the process of electing leaders – through free and fair elections in a democracy – as flawless as possible, improving on each exercise as we evolve as a nation.

 

Once we have the right kinds of leaders in place – the true choices of the people – then, I believe, it will be possible to solidify all the freedoms we crave as a people- freedom of the press, assembly, expression etc. Within this democratic environment, the three tiers of government filled with servant leaders chosen by the people, can pass laws that will put in place checks and balances the nation desperately needs to curb corruption.

 

Question: During a 2006 trip to Nigeria, citizens told me that they welcomed the government's rhetoric about fighting corruption, but didn't place any faith in lasting change. Do you think a citizens' movement like Occupy Nigeria can be effective where official government efforts fail?

 

The right to protest, the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of speech…these are all human rights that should be protected in any democracy, indeed in any nation. Any involvement of ordinary Nigerians in a non-violent (peaceful), organized, protest for their rights and improvement in their living standards, in my opinion, as a writer, should be encouraged. An artist, in my understanding of the word, should side with the people against the Emperor that oppresses his or her people.

 

The hope of course, is that the non-violent protest will eventually lead to change in a positive direction – like the civil rights movement in America, Mahatma Gandhi’s independence struggles in India etc. – if that is the case, then I am all for them.

 

A functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy educated, participatory followership, and an educated, morally grounded leadership. Civil society has a role to play in educating the masses about their rights – making sure that they understand that the elected officials report to them, that those in positions of leadership are not monarchs – and then insisting through the ballot box or other avenues of the democratic system that their voices be heard.

 

However, having said that, it is important to emphasize that Nigeria is a complicated country with more than 250 ethnic groups. Protests are often a symptom of deeper rooted problems – in Nigeria’s case, resistance to a fifty year history of leaders essentially swindling the nation of its resources – $400 billion worth - and stashing most of it abroad with little in terms of infrastructure on the ground. Nigeria continues to be held back by the lack of basic amenities – there is epileptic electricity supply (often times blackouts for months), very poor schools, no standard water supply systems, bad roads, poor sanitation…Nothing works – life, schools, electricity, nothing....

 

Question: The Arab uprisings in North Africa raised hopes that other authoritarian governments on the continent could also be challenged by citizen movements. Do you think the Occupy Nigeria movement has the potential to follow in the Tunisian and Tahrir Square footsteps?

 

Popular non-violent uprisings as an expression of the feelings of the people should be allowed and protected. I have already made that clear. The hope is that such movements coalesce onto a defined platform with a clear direction and leadership. The problem with leaderless uprisings taking over is that you don’t always know what you get at the other end. If you are not careful you could replace a bad government with one much worse! My hope for Nigeria actually is that the people will channel all that pent-up rage towards a fight for sound democratic institutions – a competent electoral body that can execute free and fair elections…in other words, exercise their frustrations at the ballot box. Movements that begin on the streets… on the ground… should channel their frustrations in a non-violent, organized direction – politically. But the great challenge for Nigeria – one that has stunted her development since independence – is how to convince 150 million people to put aside competing interests, sideline different religions, ethnicities, political persuasions, and build a united rostrum or two with strong leaders to truly bring about fundamental change to Nigeria. That is the challenge.

 

Question: The statement you signed supporting the Nigerian protests reads, in part, "The country's leadership should not view the incessant attacks as mere temporary misfortune with which the citizenry must learn to live; they are precursors to events that could destabilize the entire country." Nigerians in the past have seen themselves as complacent in fighting injustice. What makes this moment different?

 

Those that perceive Nigerians as complacent don’t completely understand our history.

Nigeria went through a thirty- month-long civil war that cost over 2 million lives (some say as many as three million); mainly children. After that, my people, the Igbo people, for whose survival the war was fought; were economically, politically, if not emotionally exhausted. The rest of Nigeria was also devastated, albeit, to a milder degree. Let us remember that at the time it was seen as one of the bloodiest wars in history. Following this catastrophe were several decades under the iron rule of Military dictators and civilian adventurers. A people don’t just jump up and protest after they have been nearly annihilated by war and then systematically subjugated for decades with their rights stripped from them for so long. In order to survive, people employ a number of tactics– they adopt a posture of subservience, quietness, etc., but it should never be interpreted as weakness. Human beings are alike everywhere you know. All human beings have their breaking point, it could be a big event or a small one; and for most long-suffering Nigerians the removal of oil subsidies made life intolerable because it exponentially increased the cost of living – food, transportation, education, water, you name it – over night. Most clear thinking bureaucrats should have seen this coming…as an untenable situation for the population.

 

Economists often give us condescending lessons in favor of fuel subsidy removal – that fuel subsidies siphon much needed cash away from the treasury of the federal government, that its removal will yield $8 billion; that those who benefit the most in the current system with subsidies are some of Nigeria’s wealthiest citizens; that subsidies further fuel corruption in the oil industry including the state-owned NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation). Other reasons to take away subsidies this group also highlight include the fact that the presence of subsidies prolongs Nigeria’s dependence on fossil fuels, that they are indirectly implicated in the failure of Nigeria to establish and run refineries etc.

 

What has not been pulled into this entire debate is that the scale of corruption in Nigeria – the Nigerian government – and I am talking about corruption at all levels of government – Federal, state, local government, municipal, etc. – amounts to at least $10 billion a year ($400 billion in forty years). Putting an end to this should be the focus of the present government. Is this amount saved by tackling corruption in Nigeria not more than what would be made available with subsidy removal – and at no cost in pain and suffering to the average Nigeria?

 

If the present government reduced its own bloated budget, curbed the outrageous salaries and perks of parliamentarians, state governors, and local government officials - that would yield an additional hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars a year. And that at least would be a start. In an environment where corruption is truly tackled, a conversation can then be had with the people about a gradual withdrawal of subsidized petroleum products. But the way it was done, was harsh, even contemptuous of the average Nigeria and that is why it is being resisted.

 

 

Press Release by Wole Soyinka and JP Clark on death of Chinua Achebe

 

Chinua was a man of resilient will. His works are testimony to the domination of the human spirit over the forces of repression

 

For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter. Of the "pioneer quartet" of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe. It is perhaps difficult for outsiders of that intimate circle to appreciate this sense of depletion, but we take consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.

Wole JP Achebe Okigbo

We need to stress this at a critical time of Nigerian history, where the forces of darkness appear to overshadow the illumination of existence that literature represents. These are forces that arrogantly pride themselves implacable and brutal enemies of what Chinua and his pen represented, not merely for the African continent, but for humanity. Indeed, we cannot help wondering if the recent insensate massacre of Chinua's people in Kano, only a few days ago, hastened the fatal undermining of that resilient will that had sustained him so many years after his crippling accident.

 

No matter the reality, after the initial shock, and a sense of abandonment, we confidently assert that Chinua lives. His works provide their enduring testimony to the domination of the human spirit over the forces of repression, bigotry and retrogression.

 

 

Intra-Africa Trade, Investment Key to Continent’s Development


A new generation of African entrepreneurs and businesses is emerging.

They are challenging traditional incumbents and introducing new business models and strategies that are driving domestic and cross-border growth within Africa. Kenya’s ICT companies are investing in Rwanda and are now looking to enter Nigeria, while United Bank for Africa and other Nigerian banks are rapidly expanding into other African countries. In 2009 alone, South Africa invested $1.6 billion (FDI outflows) into other African countries. In telecoms, MTN, a South African company, now operates in 21 countries across Africa, and Glo, a Nigerian mobile operator, is operating in the Republic of Benin, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

 

To better understand the profound changes underway in Africa’s business environment and how governments and entrepreneurs can open the way for more trade and investment by Africans into Africa, the Lagos-based Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation are commissioning a series of in-depth case studies across a number of key sectors. They will highlight how intra-African commerce could propel the continent to greater economic prosperity.

 

Africa’s statistics speak of tremendous potential: the continent is the size of China, Mexico, Europe, India, the United States and Japan combined. The population will soon surpass China’s, with a middle class as big as India’s. Africa has enjoyed more than a decade of sustained GDP growth, which has  often outstripped  many other parts of the world.

 

There is frustration, however, that Africans are not reaping the rewards of the current global investor confidence as much as they should. The mass export of commodities to the East and the West doesn’t effectively facilitate the ‘trickle-down’ effect of wealth.

 

Home-grown investments, focused on value-adding industries, are a major key to changing this dynamic.

 

Africans still seem to choose products and investments from outside the continent. They prefer to export outside Africa rather than to trade, manufacture and add value within. Many African countries continue to trade raw materials but they don’t have the capability to refine or process, so they end up importing the finished products from outside of Africa.

 

We need to understand what is preventing Africa from being home to value-adding and value-creating businesses. Why, for example, is Africa’s agricultural richness not generating an integrated growing and processing industry as it has done in Brazil?

 

Africa requires an environment that facilitates investment and greater market integration. The current weaknesses – corruption, high start-up costs, poor infrastructure, and so on – are well known. But our study will also shed light on the legal, social and cultural differences within Africa that restrict cross-border investments.

 

There needs to be integrated regional production chains within Africa where Africa’s raw materials are processed into finished goods that are traded locally and regionally. Regional trading blocs, including the Tripartite Free Trade Area, which encompasses the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Southern African Development Community would thus thrive, paving the way for a Continental Free Trade Area that would produce and trade high value-added goods internally.

 

Greater market integration in Africa will lead to a significant reduction in the cost of doing business and alleviate some of the problems associated with securing work permits and  labour mobility.

 

Over the long-term, Africa’s competiveness will hinge to a great degree on how well we educate our young people. Traditionally, the most talented Africans have sought educational advancement and careers overseas, but a combination of transformational educational technology, growing opportunities at home and the poor global economic climate could see this brain drain becoming a brain gain. Retaining talent, home grown or otherwise, is critical. Policy that enables skilled Africans to work across our borders more easily will help achieve this goal.

 

Both the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Brenthurst Foundation believe that Africa’s ability to engage in intra-African business will be one of the key determinants of its future social and economic development.

 

Never have circumstances been more propitious for African business. A rise in disposable incomes, high rates of urbanisation and a fast-growing working-age population speak of an emerging class of purchasers of consumer goods, financial services and infrastructure as well as a potential source of manpower for industrialisation and agricultural development.

 

Africans must explore ways to move beyond regional differences and competition to build Africa together from within, so that Africans at all levels become the primary beneficiaries of the continent’s growth


• Elumelu is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited

 

• Oppenheimer, is a South African businessman and member of the De Beers Diamond mining dynasty

 

 

 

Friday, 22 March 2013 13:10

Great Chinua Achebe dies at 82

World acclaimed author, the father of the modern African literature, The Great and Honorable Chinua Achebe has died.  The dead of the Nigerian born academic giant and  author was disclosed by Anambra State government and his publisher.

 

"Mr Achebe, 82, was one of Africa's best known authors. His 1958 debut novel Things Fall Apart has sold more than 10 million copies. He had been living in the US since 1990 following injuries from a car crash. The writer and academic wrote more than 20 works - some fiercely critical of politicians and a failure of leadership in Nigeria.

 

South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer called him the "father of modern African literature" in 2007 when she was among the judges to award him the Man Booker International Prize in honour of his literary career.

 

Things Fall Apart has been translated into more than 50 languages and focuses on the traditions of Igbo society and the clash between Western and traditional values. Mr Udah is the spokesman for Anambra state governor Peter Obi.

 

Analysts say in Igbo society the death of an important person must be announced by someone in authority. Shortly after the Anambra government announcement, Mr Achebe's London publisher Penguin confirmed his death.

 

Last year, Mr Achebe published a long-awaited memoir about the brutal three-year Biafran war - when the south-eastern Igbo region tried to split from Nigeria in 1967. After leaving Nigeria, he worked in the US as a professor. His 1990 car accident left him paralysed from the waist down and in a wheelchair.

 

A statement of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it offered its condolences to the Achebe family. The former South African president and anti-apartheid fighter, who spent 27 years in jail, "referred to Prof Achebe as a writer 'in whose company the prison walls fell down'", the statement said."  (BBC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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