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The Herald – Zimbabwe
The growth and institutionalisation of democratic governance on the African continent is improving if we are to use the holding of presidential, general or parliamentary elections in 2019 as one of the measurements.
By the end of the year, 17 African Union member states would have headed to the polls with Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Comoros Islands, Benin, South Africa, Malawi Madagascar, and Chad holding elections in the first half of the year. So far, the optics look good and quite promising.
Tomorrow, it is South Africa’s turn as they head to the polls. In these bellwether elections, the more than 26 million registered voters will be choosing National and Provincial Assembly members.
According to the South African election commission (IEC), 48 political parties are contesting the national elections, although the major challenge is between the governing African National Congress party led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Democratic Alliance led by Mmusi Maimane and the Julius Malema-led Economic Freedom Fighters.
The IEC revealed in March that of the 26 756 898 million registered voters, 14 716 879 million are women, constituting 55 percent of the voting population. The IEC also revealed that the largest section of voters are aged 30-39, representing 24.99 percent of the roll. Another interesting statistic from the IEC is that more than 9 million eligible voters did not register to vote, too big a number, when the country celebrated 25 years of democratic rule this year.
The May 8 elections, the sixth since the first democratic elections that ushered the first black President Nelson Mandela in 1994, are the most critical to be held in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region, since South Africa is the region’s largest economy.
Malawi goes to the polls on May 26. But the 9 million figure is troubling. What has happened to the Mandela aura? Has the post-colonial state, the liberation struggle narrative taken too long to self-innovate?
We all hope that the elections will be conducted in a free, fair and violence-free environment and that the Sadc election guidelines will be followed to the letter.
South African political parties sold their programmes in the past few months, and the expectation is that voters, guided by wisdom and knowledge, will exercise their right and choose the best from the marketed political documents.
Although unemployment is an issue the world over, it is an open secret that Africa has the highest jobless figures mostly among young people, the majority of them college graduates. As South Africans vote tomorrow, we ask whether political parties on the continent craft manifestos that are in line with the aspirations and wishes of this type of electorate.
Are they realistic manifestos that give room to innovation and also deal with long-term challenges faced by the continent or they are a cut and paste job every election season as some believe, which leads in apathy?
An example is the gender parity. Is there political will to ensure that the 50-50 scenario is achieved in all sections?
There is also the youth dividend which African countries have not fully taken advantage of in order to create a better tomorrow for future generations. These are also the touch button generation who are learning new approaches to problem solving, including governance.
How appealing are the current political states in order for young people to want to participate? In short, is politics as practiced today relevant to today’s generation?
Although elections are a way of fulfilling constitutional requirements and ensuring the growth of democracy, they should also give room for introspection on issues that are promised during every election season.
Review articles on the run-up to the South African election show that there is either apathy among the youth, while some have displayed a total disconnect to state affairs. This is not just an issue for South Africa, but for the whole continent.
The politics of the day must not only bring food on the table, create employment, but its relevance must be felt by diverse groups among the voting and non-voting population: women, the youth, the elderly, workers, and people in rural areas since in most countries, they are the majority. There should therefore be new ways of engaging these diverse groups.
As information, communication technologies continue to advance, this has also changed the way elections are conducted.
Social media has become central, but with it are challenges of fake news. Social media is the new propaganda machine used to frame agendas and manage perceptions. Are political parties moving with the ICT times?
Although there are thousands of election monitors and observers who ensure credibility, integrity, checks and balances of the whole process,
The electoral process would be incomplete without the role of the media.
In as much as politicians are under spotlight, so too the media, especially public media. Will the media play its oversight role without fear or favour?
The Herald – Zimbabwe
By: Beaven Dhliwayo
A great number of children and adults are victims of malnutrition and their lives are deeply altered by its effects. Nutrition is the outcome of various processes from when food is eaten to absorption of nutrients in the body for better health outcomes.
Good nutrition results from eating adequate food in terms of quality, quantity, safety and absence of diseases, which cause poor absorption and utilisation of nutrients in the body.
In addition, good nutrition is essential for survival, growth, mental and physical development of human beings. Adequate nutrition is also crucial for enhancing immunity, hence, reducing morbidity and mortality.
Malnutrition on the other hand is a broad term commonly used as an alternative to under nutrition, but technically it also refers to over nutrition.
People are malnourished if their diet does not provide adequate nutrients and calories for growth and maintenance or they are unable to fully utilise the food they eat due to illness (under nutrition). They are also said to be malnourished if they consume too many nutrients and calories (over nutrition).
Child malnutrition is widespread and is limiting the future success of millions of children and their nations in third world countries. Globally under nutrition is estimated to cause 3,1 million child deaths annually or 45 percent of all child deaths.
Nutritionist, Kuda Zombe said in Zimbabwe major nutrition problems relate mainly to undernourishment with nearly one in four children under the age of five years experiencing episodes of persistent under nutrition during pregnancy or before they reach two years.
“Of the children between 6-59 months — 21 percent suffer from shortage of vitamin A, 72 percent do not have adequate iron in their bodies and 32 percent suffer from anaemia.
“This situation needs to be changed because of its consequences on the general populace and country’s growth. Lack of proper nutrition diminishes the physical and intellectual capabilities of children.
“It affects their levels of productivity in adulthood and can have far-reaching consequences on a country’s development and economic growth. The damage done by malnutrition between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday translates into huge economic burden running into billions in lost productivity and avoidable healthcare cost globally,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nutrition is an input to and foundation for health and development.
“Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, less illnesses and better health. Healthy children learn better. Healthy people are stronger, are more productive and more able to create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of both poverty and hunger in a sustainable way. Better nutrition is a prime entry point to ending poverty and a milestone to achieving better quality of life.
“Malnutrition early in life can cause irreversible damage to children’s brain development and their physical growth, leading to a diminished capacity to learn, poorer performance in school, greater susceptibility to infection and diseases and a lifetime of lost earning potential,” says WHO.
Freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a basic human right and their alleviation is a fundamental prerequisite for human and national development.
WHO has traditionally focused on the vast magnitude of the many forms of nutritional deficiency, along with their associated mortality and morbidity in infants, young children and mothers.
However, the world is also seeing a dramatic increase in other forms of malnutrition characterised by obesity and the long-term implications of unbalanced dietary and lifestyle practices that result in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.
All forms of malnutrition’s broad spectrum are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, and economic costs, particularly in countries where both under and over nutrition co-exist as is the case in developing countries undergoing rapid transition in nutrition and lifestyle, according to WHO.
Zombe added that improving nutrition for mothers and children during the 1 000-day window that is from pregnancy until a child is two years old helps ensure children get the best start to life and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
“Good nutrition for children impacts everyone. It fuels not just children and their futures, but also our economies. As children grow stronger and healthier, so do communities and countries, thus, ending the cycle of poverty. Investing in good nutrition not only averts future spending on healthcare, it can also increase productivity for an entire country.
“Good nutrition lies at the heart of economic development and is the key to reducing inequality and eliminating poverty for everyone, everywhere, in every country,” he said.
Health experts agree that improving nutrition during the first 1 000 days after conception is recognised as being one of the best and most cost-effective investments that can be made to achieve lasting progress in global health and development.
Investing in good nutrition now averts future spending on healthcare for households and for countries, since well-nourished children suffer from fewer episodes of sickness.
The failure to provide children with adequate nutrition in the first 1 000 days after conception throws away human potential that can never be recovered, costing countries billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and holding back economic development that affects everyone.
Undernourished mothers are more likely to have undernourished babies, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that is passed down across generations.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
By: Pearl Risberg
Distracted by worst-case scenarios, the United States is missing an opportunity to support the development of African states and to find an area of common ground with China.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment platform, has positive economic implications for developing countries and the United States, but is consistently overshadowed by political and national security concerns.
Some analysts discount the threat of the BRI as inflated, while others advocate for a US response to counter a rising hegemonic power. However, the slow burning economic implications of the BRI are not necessarily a threat to US prosperity, nor to global development.
Examining BRI projects in Africa reveals a nuanced reality of how the initiative functions in the developing world, where infrastructure financing is desperately needed, and political externalities are of secondary concern to the receiving states.
The BRI is often critiqued as so-called “debt trap diplomacy.”
According to this narrative, China provides infrastructure funding to developing economies under opaque loan terms, only to strategically leverage the recipient country’s indebtedness to China for economic, military, or political favour.
The debt-for-equity swap of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port is an oft-used example, where China excused Sri Lanka’s $8 billion debt in exchange for a 99-year lease of the Sri Lankan port in 2017.
Interestingly, critiquing China’s BRI is one of the few major policy issues that saw bipartisan support in 2018’s hyperpolarised political landscape.
While the unifying aspect of a shared enemy may be beneficial to domestic US politics, this snowballing criticism tends to minimise or ignore positive aspects, missing opportunities to work constructively with China to accomplish shared goals in the developing world.
There are real reasons to criticise China’s actions along the Belt and Road, ranging from an expanding military agenda, psychological and political influence campaigns toting the benefits of authoritarianism, and the use of telecommunications technology to surveil other governments.
The opacity of Chinese infrastructure loans and investment is detrimental to US companies’ ability to compete and increases states’ vulnerability to debt leveraging.
This risk is exacerbated by China’s courtship of African political and military leaders through visits from top leadership.
US national security concerns are particularly potent, as the Chinese military base in Djibouti has become the epitomising symbol of China’s aggression along the Belt and Road.
While these concerns are valid and broadly defended by US-China policy experts, they overshadow the positive outcomes of the BRI and thwart any opportunity the United States may have to work alongside China to uplift African states.
China lists 39 African countries on the Belt and Road official website, ranging geographically from Tunisia to South Africa.
Of these countries, China’s government financing is the principal creditor of only three countries: Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti and Zambia.
Overall, 67 percent of African governments’ external debt is owed to either the private sector (which may include Chinese companies) or multilateral institutions, while 20 percent is considered Chinese government lending. There is no official figure for total Chinese investment into Africa, but a recent estimate from the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University places concessional loan totals at around $5 billion per year.
This study also found that Chinese loans are not a major contributor to debt distress in Africa, identifying only six countries where China, among several other financiers, is contributing to heavy borrowing.
When another study by AidData at the College of William and Mary analysed the effects of Chinese financed infrastructure on economic activity, findings revealed that the positive economic spillovers of Chinese investment produced a more equal distribution of economic activity.
While there are substantial concerns for both African states and global stability that should not be overlooked, China’s impact on Africa is, at least in part, positive. This is notable considering the United States has pumped over $1 trillion into Africa in the past decades with uncertain impacts on per capita income.
When evaluating China’s BRI, there must be a delicate balance between protecting US interests and supporting efforts to develop global markets.
Disentangling the positive economic outcomes of China’s presence in developing countries from the negative is difficult due to the complicated and contentious nature of the BRI, including all economic, political, militaristic, and ideological inputs.
“China’s strategic aspirations are causally related to its economic engagement in Africa and are mutually reinforcing each other,” opined Yun Sun, a director at the Stimson Centre, during a congressional hearing on China’s presence and investment in Africa.
While positive and negative economic outcomes are inherently connected, a sound economic analysis of the BRI depends on a comprehensive understanding of China’s multifaceted impact.
It would be dangerous to claim that all of China’s engagement along the BRI is detrimental. For the interests of both the receiving country and the United States, there are economic benefits to greater global connectivity, even if China leads and enables this effort.
As Judd Devermont, the director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, stated in the same congressional hearing, “it is essential to draw a clear distinction between Chinese activities that threaten US interest and those that are neutral or complimentary.”
China struggles with project quality, adherence to environmental standards, and transparent procurement processes, necessary practices for sustainable infrastructure development everywhere. However, China’s contributions to many African countries’ development have become a central aspect of those countries’ development strategies.
Many of China’s infrastructure projects in Africa address a desperate need for roads, railways, ports, and energy. This includes a 2,600 MW hydropower scheme in Nigeria, $3 billion in telecom equipment to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Ghana, and major railroad projects in Nigeria, Gabon, and Mauritania.
US vice-admiral Michael Franken echoed this notion of dependency, emphasizing the irrelevance of China’s motives in many cases.
“The Chinese may stay or they may go, but the railroad they are building will stay,” and the railroad is what many African countries are counting on.
Where few other lending countries or international financial institutions are funding infrastructure, China is showing up. As Devermont also pointed out, at the September 2017 UN General Council, nine African leaders stated a preference for doing business with the United States, but the United States is not there the way China is.
Studies suggest that the growing dependence on externally funded infrastructure in African countries arises from enormous need and low private investment.
Limited by insufficient transportation infrastructure, regional trade in sub-Saharan Africa remains low, constituting only 20 percent of total trade in 2016.
In May 2018, the African Development Bank launched an investment platform to address the estimated $87-112 billion annual infrastructure funding gap.
This need represents an opportunity for the United States to engage with African partner countries while countering the most concerning Chinese practices.
By increasing US infrastructure engagement in Africa, deliberately aligning US-China efforts where they do overlap and bringing US procurement and transparency standards to the region, both African states and the United States could benefit from China’s involvement in Africa.
Further, these African states could represent an opportunity for the United States to engage and partner with China and pursue a constructive shared vision.
China’s economic and political relations with Africa should not be ignored.
However, establishing a clear distinction between detrimental and essential BRI engagement is crucial to fostering development, building common ground with China, and expanding the global market. —Centre for Strategic and International Studies