Friday January 31, 2020
Friday, January 31, 2020
Friday January 31, 2020

This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria to Increase Visa Categories from Six to 79

This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: UK to Assist Nigeria in Retrieving Stolen Ife Bronze Head with Belgian

Liberian Observer (Monrovia)

Liberia: WHO Declares Global Public Health Emergency

Egypt Today – Egypt

Egypt, France discuss US-drafted ‘Deal of the Century’

FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: National Transport Authority Releases New Transportation Measures

Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania, Norway to Improve Investment Areas

South Africa News Agency – South Africa

SA activates Coronavirus emergency operations centre

Egypt Today – Egypt

Algeria rejects Trump’s plan recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

African Development Bank Group

‘Agriculture is the most important business in the world,’ African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina tells students

Ahramonline – Egypt

Branding Egypt as a national strategy

By: Nehal Al-Ashkar

Once upon a time there was a country that was part of the former Soviet Union and felt a need to re-brand itself. This country’s population in 2019 was 43 million, and it is at least as large as France. Yet, even today this country does not have the international presence it might wish to have, and many of the things it has been known for are not wholly positive. While it has been considered as the “breadbasket of Europe”, it has also been known to many for the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union.

This country is Ukraine, and after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 it shifted from communism to capitalism. Today, the need to reinforce a Ukrainian national identity has meant that close to seven decades of Soviet hegemony have been slowly replaced, giving a long-term horizon for Ukrainian national branding campaigns that have involved various interested parties.

A strong brand is often narrow in focus, but one of the difficulties for Ukraine, in putting itself on the international map, has been that it does not necessarily have a strong image in consumers’ minds. Some people may be tempted to lump it in with other former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe, and so the challenge has been to construct narratives that can present its own specificity and image.

It must do so because, unlike countries like Ireland, which has Guinness, or Finland, which has Nokia, there is no leading Ukrainian consumer brand that can become a leading ambassador for the country. As a result, the challenge is to find an alternative national branding strategy.

Over the past few years, country branding has been studied by political and media researchers looking at the social and political aspects of so-called “soft power”. According to US academic Keith Dinnie in his book Nation Branding, “many governments have invested in nation branding to strengthen their country’s influence, improve their reputation, or boost tourism, trade and investment.” And according to Lee Hudson Teslik, a consultant at US consultants McKinsey, “applying corporate branding techniques to countries” is a logical extension of consumer branding.

There is also “place branding” and “city branding”, and more and more countries are becoming aware of their national and local brands and trying to increase their value. A main reason that countries are trying to brand themselves more positively is that they know the importance of a brand to attract investors, tourists, and the international media. The expansion of international activity by politicians since the early 1990s has led to an upsurge in such studies, with the result that country branding and public diplomacy are both connected with the increasing influence of soft power.

Research on soft power and country prestige has focused on real-world examples of countries that have re-branded themselves, among them Ukraine, South Korea, China and the United States. According to one writer, the majority of “policymakers and international relations scholars concur today that prestige is critical to world politics because states having prestige enjoy greater authority.”

“At its simplest, [country branding] is a synonym of a product-country image.”

Egypt has long been known for its soft power in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. With its great scholars, artists, and intellectuals who played an essential role in shaping the image of the country in the 19th century, Egypt became a leading country, perhaps the leading country, in the region. For Dalia Youssef, chair of parliament’s Committee on Foreign Relations, Egypt led the Arab world to more exposure to the Western world in the last century. However, writers such as the late Naguib Mahfouz also immeasurably enhanced its prestige by being the first Arab writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Egyptian music is also very influential, perhaps especially that of the immortal singer Um Kolthoum. Um Kolthoum’s songs are still heard across the Arab world today, and Egypt’s prestige is still high as a result of its arts and culture, even if recent political instability and economic uncertainty have to an extent blurred its image.

WHAT DOES EGYPT MEAN TO YOU? According to Iman, a UAE citizen interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly, “Egypt is a country rich in culture and represents ancient civilisations. It is Um Al-Donia [Mother of the World].”

Iman said she listened to the songs of Um Kolthoum. “She is the best thing about Egyptian culture, along with old films, TV shows, and a media industry that is ahead of the rest of the Arab world.”

However, when asked to describe what Egypt meant to her, Iman, 28 years old, also said “the area of Al-Hussein, the old souqs, koshary, fuul and taamiya, and oriental bread,” referring to traditional Egyptian food. “There are also the singers Abdel-Halim Hafez, [Ahmed] Adaweya and Shaaban Abdel-Rehim.”

Iman said her parent’s generation had been more influenced by Egyptian culture, however. Her mother had said that all her generation had been influenced by Egypt and Egyptian names. Traffic and people using car horns all the time reminded Iman of Egypt.

Gabriella from China told the Weekly that “for me, the first thing that occurs to me is Cleopatra. The second thing is the Suez Canal and its fundamental geographical position.” She mentioned the importance of the River Nile to the development of Egyptian civilisation. “I got this from my junior high school geography textbook,” she said.

Gabriella said she knew a little bit about the Pyramids and how they were built, along with some information about the ancient Egyptian gods. Mar from Spain agreed with Gabriella that the most famous thing from Egypt was “Cleopatra and Julius Caesar”, which she had seen in films.

But more than this Egypt is still the central pillar of the arts in the Arab world and home to institutions such as the Cairo Opera House and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Egypt’s soft power is historical, and it is not only crucial to the country’s prestige but also to other countries in the region. Egyptian soft power has assisted the country a lot in times of peace and war, something that was evident in the 6 October War, for example, when all the Arab countries supported Egypt because they felt a sense of unity and belonging.

In the words of US scholar Joseph Nye, “hard power and soft power are inextricably linked.” Therefore, Egypt’s political leaders, scholars, entertainers, and cultural influencers are all responsible for the country’s power, whether this be considered hard or soft.

WESTERNISING MOHAMED SALAH: To strengthen a country’s trademark, it is crucial to ensure that it continues to attract foreign investment through building a talented and productive workforce.

Skills Future run by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower encourages Singaporeans to develop their skills and lifelong learning to ensure that the talents and abilities of individuals in the workplace remain up to date, for example. “This is particularly true for countries with scarce natural resources, such as Singapore, where human talent will be the key to success,” commented one researcher.

But what happens when a country’s soft power is taken away by others? In the so-called Mohamed Salah crisis, for example, there have been clear attempts to “Westernise” the Egyptian football player Mohamed Salah, eroding his Egyptian identity. This campaign began by giving him the nickname “Mo Salah” and then linked his name to the UK football club Liverpool, ignoring his real nationality. This raised questions about Salah’s future with the Egyptian national team.

Yet, Salah is himself a critical tool of Egyptian soft power, since he is a model for Egyptian sports. Research conducted by Stanford University in the US revealed that anti-Muslim hate crimes decreased by 19.9 per cent in the UK as a result of Salah’s prestige, along with Islamophobic tweets.

Finally, soft power is about persuasion, desire, and attractive role-models. Salah is an important soft power tool for Egypt, and this has encouraged sports investment in Egypt’s wider 2030 Strategy. Another example of possible soft power, in a very different field, was when the World Astronomical Union in association with NASA gave the name “El-Baz” to an asteroid in space, though this piece of news was only widely circulated on social media.

The experiences of other countries that have been working on re-branding themselves have shown that countries must be ready to exploit their comparative advantages for branding purposes, whether in history, culture, or sports. Egypt therefore must work on building up successful figures, rather than leaving things to chance.

RE-BRANDING EGYPT: Egypt’s soft power has retreated in recent years due to political and economic challenges, meaning that the country should now re-rank itself among other countries.

The Egypt 2030 website underlines this by saying that as part of the 2030 Strategy, “Egypt will possess a competitive, balanced and diversified economy. It will depend on innovation and knowledge, based on justice, social integrity and participation, in order to improve the Egyptian quality of life.”

Since the early 2000s, many countries worldwide have exerted tremendous efforts to align their developmental agenda with first the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and then the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, which replaced them in 2015. The Egyptian government’s strategy is based on youth participation, women and equality, social justice, knowledge and innovation, economic development, and the environment and how these things can be put forward as part of a re-branding strategy through the media and international diplomacy.

As US scholar Maria De Moya puts it in her Communicating Nation Brands through Mass and Social Media, “a country’s image is significantly shaped by the way it is portrayed in the media.” It is often the case that how the media portrays a country affects the way people feel about it, affecting the country’s reputation.

Many states attempt to influence how foreigners view them. However, “in the media landscape, which now includes not only traditional, but also traditional one-way media as a social tool, countries undertaking these efforts are presented with a series of new challenges,” scholars say. This environment makes it more difficult to manage issues related to the national brand, challenges countries to communicate their benefits better, and allows the public to create their own messages, which may be competitive, around a country.

In a study of the threat of fake news in destroying trust in the traditional media, US scholar Diana Bradley said that “if brands want to compete in a fake-news environment, they must communicate and build trust with consumers, leveraging traditional, digital and social-media platforms to tell their stories in a way that is authentic and true to their brand.”

The breakdown of trust in traditional media has seen an increase in alternative sources of information, creating many new challenges for organisations, she says. This fragmentation creates a new set of relationships that can be developed, and it also means that brands will need to evaluate the quality and accuracy of information provided by new outlets and new media channels and determine whether they need to be linked to them or not.

For advertising scholar Richard Carufel, “building confidence where it matters is how brands can fight ‘fake news’ and provide ‘real results’.” By developing innovative ways to deliver messages directly to audiences that interest them, they can help their clients to gain their audience’s trust and keep a strong channel that is not just about sales but also promotes an in-depth conversation about the brand and its story. Increased user interaction can also enhance the appearance of brand messages on users’ social networks.

Such research can apply to countries too. According to Craig W Thomas, a policy processes and research design professor writing in his book Maintaining and Restoring Public Trust in Government Agencies and their Employees, the decline of public confidence in governments has been documented. But we still know relatively little about how to restore it.

Trust is a keyword that can play an effective role either in a business context or in a political one, though the way of building trust can be entirely different. “Government systems differ from commercial information systems as they frequently encompass strategic goals that go beyond efficiency,” one scholar writes. 

The phenomenon of the decline in political trust, and whether this can be set right by re-branding, has been widely discussed, with interpretations often focused on specific historical events or the unique problems of political institutions. The most significant declines have been found among the better educated and those of higher social status. These findings suggest that changing citizens’ expectations, rather than government failures, drive the erosion of political support in advanced democracies.

According to scholars Geert Bouckaert and Steven Van de Walle in “Trust in the Public Sector: Is there any Evidence for a Long-Term Decline?” the correlation between performance and trust can be achieved within particular conditions. It is clear that the performance of public administration has a specific effect on trust in government, but current levels of confidence in government may also have an impact on the perception of government performance.

Such work on citizens’ perceptions of government and ways of changing these has everything to do with soft power and national branding. Today, the Egyptian government is investing in re-branding itself and rebuilding the country’s prestige, even if it should probably also pay more attention to the country’s real advantages and human resources as it does so.

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Premium Times (Abuja)

West Africa: Seeking Economic and Monetary Sovereignty for Ecowas, By Intellectuals From Africa and Its Diaspora

On December 21, 2019, the Ivorian president, Alassane Ouattara and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, formally announced three reforms to the CFA franc - the colonial currency created on December 26, 1945 and still in use in 14 African countries, including the eight member states of the UEMOA (the West African Economic and Monetary Union).

The envisaged reforms include a change of name from the West African CFA franc to ECO; the abolition of the requirement for the BCEAO (the Central Bank of West African States) to deposit its foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury; and the withdrawal of the representatives of France from the organs of the BCEAO.

These developments did not come about as a result of the benevolence of the French government or of its Ivorian ally, who had long been advocates of the status quo. They were rather triggered by the outcry for the abolition of the CFA franc orchestrated in the recent past by pan-Africanist social movements, intellectuals, ordinary citizens, etc. within the continent and in the diaspora. This is the time and occasion therefore to commend and encourage those working tirelessly in pursuit of the collective emancipation of Africa.

Be that as it may, it is still premature to claim victory. Some of the embarrassing symbols associated with the CFA franc will no doubt disappear, but the bonds of monetary subservience enshrined in legal and monetary policy would continue to exist. That aside, the announcement of the future change of name from the CFA franc to "ECO" is puzzling. ECO was the name chosen in June 2019, in Abuja, by the fifteen-member countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to designate the single West African regional currency then in gestation. The project had been brewing within ECOWAS since 1983, although its launching had been deferred on several occasions.

Why would UEMOA countries then arrogate to themselves the right to effect a change from CFA franc to ECO, whereas they are yet to comply with the criteria set by ECOWAS for entry into the ECO currency zone? How is one to view and appraise the hasty declaration by Macron and Ouattara, maintaining France as the alleged "guarantor" of the CFA franc, now renamed ECO and upholding the fixed parity with the euro, whereas to introduce its new currency, ECOWAS had asked for the complete withdrawal of France from the management of the currency of UEMOA countries? Need the point further be made that ECOWAS had also opted to peg its currency to a basket of currencies.

With the current confusion, compounded rather than dissipated by the various communiqués from ECOWAS, BCEAO, the Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Ghana, etc., we call on the citizens of ECOWAS member states to be more vigilant in light of the recent developments relating to the CFA franc and ECO.

Should there not be cause for concern over an attempt at sabotage, especially in view of the French government's oft-expressed desire to expand the use of the CFA franc to include English-speaking West African countries and thus isolate Nigeria?

With the current confusion, compounded rather than dissipated by the various communiqués from ECOWAS, BCEAO, the Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Ghana, etc., we call on the citizens of ECOWAS member states to be more vigilant in light of the recent developments relating to the CFA franc and ECO.

Although we welcome the emerging public debate on the CFA franc, driven by intellectuals and civil society actors in Africa, we must equally deplore the troubling dormancy of our Heads of State and Government on an issue of such symbolic, political, economic and psycho-sociological importance.

With the failure of African governments to react on an issue that affects the future of more than 300 million people in West Africa and has bearing on regional integration, we ask:

- The Heads of State of UEMOA and ECOWAS to live up to their commitments to their respective peoples by initiating a people-centred and inclusive debate on the envisaged reforms. Sovereignty does indeed reside primarily with the people who have on their own - need the point be emphasised - triggered the debate on the CFA franc and on monetary sovereignty in West Africa.

We seek economic and monetary sovereignty for ECOWAS because it is the straightforward path to ending economic extraversion, foreign exchange indebtedness, illicit financial flows and other factors inhibiting inclusive economic growth.

- It is up to the UEMOA Heads of State to inform their fellow citizens in a clear and unambiguous manner about the amazing declarations of Alassane Ouattara and Emmanuel Macron to which they seem to be bound, whereas they are yet to clear with their parliaments and other relevant republican institutions.

- Economic and monetary specialists within ECOWAS, UEMOA and BCEAO to participate actively in the public debate on the reforms, by weighing their proposals against the objections raised by independent civil society researchers and leaders.

- The peoples of ECOWAS member states to remain engaged in the public debate on France's definitive withdrawal from the management of the currency of our States and on the adoption of sovereign monetary systems that serve the people and form part of the process of establishing a Federation of West African States.

We affirm and confirm that the monetary/currency question is fundamentally political and that the answer cannot be primarily technical. As an instrument and symbol of sovereignty, money/currency considerations must stem from the most profound aspirations of the peoples of Africa, who should be permanently involved in the ongoing processes. In that regard, we are of the opinion that convergence criteria are not the most suitable approach. They need to be reviewed and possibly replaced by indicators of a more political nature, which factor in the challenges of this day and age such as industrialisation, empowerment of local producers, competitiveness of national enterprises in the ECOWAS zone, full employment and ecological transformation. We seek economic and monetary sovereignty for ECOWAS because it is the straightforward path to ending economic extraversion, foreign exchange indebtedness, illicit financial flows and other factors inhibiting inclusive economic growth.

Makhily Gassama, Essayist, former minister and ambassador (Sénégal) Boubacar Boris Diop, Writer (Sénégal) Aminata Dramane Traoré, Essayist, former minister of culture and chairwoman of the Groupe, États généraux du franc CFA et des Alternatives (Mali) Mariam Sankara, Economist (Burkina Faso) Odile Sankara, Artist, actor (Burkina Faso) Odile Tobner, Academic, essayist (Cameroon) Tony Obeng, Development analyst, former professor at IDEP and former diplomat (Ghana) Mamadou Koulibaly, Economist and politician (Côte d'Ivoire) Nathalie Yamb, Consultant and politician (Côte d'Ivoire) Véronique Tadjo, Writer, academic (Côte d'Ivoire/Afrique du Sud) Bouchentouf-Siagh Zohra, Academic, essayist (Algérie/Autriche) Ibrahim Abdullah, Professor of History (Sierra Leone) Koulsy Lamko, Academic, essayist (Tchad, Mexico) Stanislas Spero Adotevi, Academic, essayist and former director of UNICEF (Bénin/Burkina Faso) Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Film maker and former minister (Mali) Antonin Zigoli, Academic, Université Félix Houphouët Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire) Ndongo Samba Sylla, Economist and essayist (Sénégal) Issa N'diaye, Philosopher and former minister (Mali) Elimane Haby Kane, Sociologist, president of LEGS-Africa (Sénégal) Ngaba Ngadoy, Economist and financer (Tchad) Rahmane Idrissa, Politist (Pays Bas, Niger) Amadou Tidiane Wone, Former minister, former ambassador (Sénégal) Adama Samaké, Academic, University Félix Houphouët Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire) Mamadou Diop, Former haut fonctionnaire and essayist (Sénégal) Dialo Diop, Doctor, biologist and politician (Sénégal) Cheikh Hamala Diop, Economist et interpretor (Sénégal) Sandjiman Mamder, Economist, former hight official, ILO/UN (Tchad/Genève) Raphaël Eklunatey, Biologist (Togo/Genève) Martin Bire, Education specialist (Tchad/Prague) Mouhamed Ly, Anthropologist (Sénégal) Crystal Simeoni, Feminist economist (Kenya) Cheikh Oumar Diagne, Economist (Sénégal) Amadou Elimane Kane, Writer and poet (Sénégal) Coumba Touré, Africans Rising Coordinator (Sénégal) Jibrin Ibrahim, Researcher at Centre for Democracy and Development (Nigeria) Elom 20ce, Artist and rap musician (Togo) Redge Nkosi, Economist (Afrique du Sud) Ismail Rashid, Historian (Sierra Leone/USA) Amy Niang, Academic (Afrique du Sud) Mouhamadou Lamine Sagna, Anthropologist (Nigeria/Sénégal) Many Camara, Sociologist (Mali) Versa Mshana, Lawyer (Tanzania) Mahmoud Ibrahime, Historian (Comores) Carlos Vamain, Jurisconsult, former minister (Guinée-Bissau) George Klay Kieh Jr., Academic (Libéria) Momar Sokhna Diop, Professor economy and managment, essayist (Sénégal /France) Cheikh Gueye, Géograph and permanent secretary of Alternative Report On Africa (Sénégal) Lionel Zevounou, Maître de conférences in public law (France) Mouhamadou Ngouda Mboup, Professor-researcher in public law (Sénégal) Luc Damiba, researcher, PhD candidate (Burkina Faso).

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Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)

Southern Africa in a Climate Emergency

By Enos Denhere

THE climate emergency is a growing threat especially to the most vulnerable, and a threat to the long-term health, safety and prosperity of people in southern Africa.

The region is facing massive famine this year. This is a result of change of seasons due to shifts in climate and a decline in rainfall. The 2019/20 season began with erratic rainfall across most areas. October through early December rainfall has been 55 to 85% of normal across much of the region. The worst affected areas are most of Lesotho, central and southern Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa, and parts of western and southern Zambia.

Planting is underway in most parts of the region, below-average rainfall in the aforementioned areas as well as the poor macro-economy in Zimbabwe are negatively affecting planting and germination rates.

With a forecast of below average rainfall from January to May 2020, many areas of the region are likely to face a second consecutive poor rainfall season and harvest.

Many people have lost their livestock to this drought after barely recovering from another loss due to anthrax outbreaks. In Africa, hunger is increasing at an alarming rate. Economic woes, drought, and extreme weather are reversing years of progress so that 237 million sub-Saharan Africans are chronically undernourished, more than in any other region.

In the whole of Africa, 257 million people are experiencing hunger, which is 20% of the population. High prices of staple foods in the region are contributing to below-average purchasing power for a significant number of poor households. Typically, high staple food prices are being experienced in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Given that many poor households depend on market purchases, especially during the lean season, high staple prices are restricting household food access.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1 is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. More than 700 million people, or 10% of the world population, still live in extreme poverty and is struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. The majority of people living on less than US$1,90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17,2% -- more than three times higher than in urban areas.

Having a job does not guarantee a decent living. In fact, 8% of employed workers and their families worldwide lived in extreme poverty in 2018. Poverty affects children disproportionately. One out of five children live in extreme poverty.

Ensuring social protection for all children and other vulnerable groups is critical to reducing poverty. Poverty has many dimensions, but its causes include unemployment, social exclusion and high vulnerability of certain populations to disasters, diseases and other phenomena which prevent them from being productive. Growing inequality is detrimental to economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increasing political and social tensions and, in some circumstances, driving instability and conflicts. According to World Vision, a humanitarian organisation, almost 41 million people in southern Africa are food insecure and nine million people in the region need immediate food assistance.

Drought, conflict, civil wars, poor governance, floods and instability have led to severe food shortages. Many countries have struggled with extreme poverty for decades, so they lack government and community support systems to help their struggling families. Many people in Zimbabwe cannot afford to buy basic foodstuffs due to skyrocketing prices.

Southern Africa's vulnerability to famine and food shortage is in part a result of low agricultural productivity. Providing small-holder farmers with basic agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, seed or equipment, can help increase production. They need to adapt to new technologies of agriculture. During the floods be able to harvest the water for future consumption. At the moment, Zimbabwe is facing a water crisis. Introducing an irrigation levy to boost agriculture is a crucial move. Equally important are the drilling of boreholes and building of dams in areas prone to drought.

Although the primary goal in southern Africa is to get food to people as soon as possible, attention should also be given to how relief and short-term measures can reduce future vulnerability. Relief, recovery and development projects must be combined and sequenced in mutually-reinforcing ways. Governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and donors must strengthen their co-operation.

Each of these actors has different capacities, and it is important to draw upon and integrate all of them in plans for mitigation and long-term development.

Poverty hinders the development of a country. Action is needed now in southern Africa to come up with solutions on climate change.

Denhere is a Journalist based in Zimbabwe. He has been invited to attend the United Nations Africa Climate Week 2020, in Kampala, Uganda, from March 9-13, 2020.