Southern and Eastern Africa Policy Research

Southern and Eastern Africa Policy Research Network (SEAPREN) was a network of six research institutions who were engaged in strengthening policy analysis in their home countries. The network was established in Gaborone, Botswana November 1999.

The aim of the Network was to collaborate on national and regional research projects and capacity building; exchange best practices and mutual learning in research as well as institutional management; and monitor international developments and new approaches within the field of policy analysis to ensure that network members used best practices and techniques.

The network was driven by a Secretariat, which was housed at the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF). The responsibility of the Secretariat was to ensure that the network was managed effectively and efficiently, and was properly resourced at all times. The network took off in 2002 with the seed funding provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The IDRC generously funded several meetings of the network and thus was instrumental in its creation. On 24 Janaury 2003, IDRC contributed a Grant to the value of US$ 250,000 for a period of 18 months. These core funds allowed the network to start its activities in the fields of collaborative research, training and dissemination.

Controversy over Beer for Africa Campaign

The brewing giant South African Breweries (SAB) has launched a controversial campaign in  tandem with the Stop Hunger Now organisation.  The idea is to provide funds to help feed students across Africa who are going hungry.  The campaign is non-profit making and all proceeds are being donated to the charities involved.

However organisations are lining up to criticise the campaign calling it irresponsible and urging people to boycott it.  The problem is that the campaign focusses on the creation and selling of a “Beer for Africa” eight pack.  The pack consists of some eight different beers from across the African continent and is being sold in off licenses and liquor stores across Africa.

The idea of the campaign is to try and fund one million meals by the end of 2018 and to date there has been huge success.  So far the campaign has funded 200,000 meals within the first two months.    The initiative was driven by some worrying statistics – 40% of students in Africa are failing because of hunger and poor nutrition.  That is a startling statistic especially when  you consider these young people are the hope of the continent to progress.

There’s is little controversy over the aims of the project however many feel that using the sale of alcohol to promote the charity is wrong.    At a fundamental level it is using poverty to promote the sale of beer.  The charity South African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) summarises their objections – the campaign is basically saying ‘the more beer you buy, the more money we give to hungry students”.  This creates a link between buying alcohol and feeding poorer children, which many will also find morally wrong.

Africa has of course many problems but traditionally alcohol abuse has not featured largely in most areas.  In reality Africa is a fairly undeveloped market as far as the large alcohol manufacturers are concerned.    Whilst developed countries are increasingly pushing against alcohol consumption by updating health guidelines, policies and taxes – less developed countries become more attractive.

The alcohol industry sees affluent low and middle income countries with weaker legislation as a prime objective.   Many areas of Africa are a key focus for them to expand into new areas.  It goes without saying that this is likely to be bad for Africa, alcohol is a significant health risk factor.

For example places like sub-saharan Africa offer huge potential for promoting alcohol.  Many people don’t yet drink especially women, and there is a high youth population which offer large markets. Combine these with advertising costs, minimal regulation and the possibility of high intensity consumption make a tempting target for global brands.

Developed countries are well aware of the issues that alcohol can cause.  It is estimated that over 3 million people die from harmful use of alcohol every year.   This is despite the more advanced health care systems that developed countries have in place compared to most African nations.  In europe for example potentially life saving drugs like Selincro which you can read about here are prescribed to limit people’s alcohol consumption.  However the costs of such drugs are expensive and would be difficult to obtain in Africa.

Although the ideals of the SAB promotion are worthwhile, there is still a significant marketing aspect to the campaign.  Linking feeding the poor by buying alcohol is a dangerous precedent, one that certainly wouldn’t be allowed in most developed nations.  Does the end justify the means of this campaign, unfortunately many of those who are linked with alcohol charities and care don’t think so.

John Williams

http://cipec.org/

Timetable Switch for the African Cup of Nations

The growth of International football has a surprising boost this month, especially in the African continent. The Confederation of African Football have verified the executive committee has passed a resolution to enlarge the Africa Cup of Nations from 16 teams to 24 and change the biennial championship .

CAF chosen to change the continental showpiece out of January-February into June-July, even though the championship will still occur every 2 decades, instead of moving into a four-year program.

Formerly, the African Cup clashed with a vital period for the European leagues, forcing many African American celebrities to choose between remaining with their clubs, their companies, and representing their countries. Many, like seven of Cameroon’s leading players at this year’s African Cup in Gabon, choose club over country to the detriment of the Cup of Nations.

An announcement printed on the confederation’s site, after the two-day CAF Symposium in Skhirat, near Rabat, supported the tournament growth and dismissed any suggestion that the contest would occur beyond Africa, as was suggested throughout the summit.

The summertime change eradicates a longstanding difficulty involving CAF and European nightclubs unhappy with losing lots of the African American players to get a month of this year every calendar year.  It has always been a huge problem for many of the biggest clubs who have many African stars in their teams.    Checking out Match of the Day whilst relaxing on holiday can be dissapointment when half the players are missing – Article – Watching British TV in Spain..

Likewise, whilst CAF’s inter-club contests — the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup — won’t be enlarged again, the confederation have opted to change them into an August-May calendar, instead of within one calendar year.

This change further brings African football in accord with the European game, although various questions remain unanswered from the symposium, with lots of the continent’s nations unable to boast the infrastructure to host 16-team Nations Cups, let alone an expanded 24-team tournament.

Elsewhere, CAF confirmed that the working group had made a decision to raise indemnities to referees, organise zonal Nations Cup qualifiers for the tournament at age-grade levels, and improve international partnerships and relations between CAF, its member associations, national governments and the African Union.

John Williams

Irish Blogger

 

Start of the African Technological Dawn

Technology has long been seen as one of the possible saviours of the African economy. The problem has always been lack of infrastructure both networks and telecommunications however this is a problem that is being solved gradually. There are lots of centres of investment in Africa which are focussed on the upgrading of the digital infrastructure. IT makes sense, it’s the biggest untapped market on the planet and many large multinationals are active on the continent.

Today tech industry innovations are popping up not just in California but in emerging markets like Ethiopia. Well, Ethiopia has Sheba Valley as its emerging technology hub. There are a couple of examples of emerging technology companies changing lives in Ethiopia, from how communication is done to the way in which the banking sector operates.

One of the most important opportunities is that there are lower level possibilities in the digital economy for ordinary African entrepreneurs.  There may not lead to large national size corporations, but have the ability to make a real difference to real people as a source of income and revenue.  Africans still have some disadvantages to overcome, such as access to digital payment processors and some excessive filtering.  However there are real technical options to assist with these using remote mailing addresses and British proxy server technology in order to bypass these blocks by changing IP address.

Among the investment portfolios of American Billionaire Tim Drapper is Nigeria’s PAGA financial solutions. The platform was built, maintained and is now being supported by engineers from Apposit, a software technology firm based in Ethiopia.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) development including emotion detection & voice/facial recognition has been designed and created by AI specialists of Icog-Labs in Ethiopia. Co-created with American writer Ben Goertzel, Icog-labs is the first Ethiopian research and development lab specialising in AI.

Gebeya has its head quarters and training centre in Ethiopia and has graduated over 70 innovators from all around Africa.

A taxi hailing service that integrates text messaging & app/online booking and e-payment solutions has been developed by a Business dubbed YENEPAY, an internet payment solution that has been designed by young Builders in Ethiopia, is unlocking e-commerce chances in the nation.

Add to this the fact a new Deloitte report referred to Ethiopia as a ‘A developing Miracle’ . According to this report, the African country is among the best destinations for infrastructure investment. Infrastructure remains a significant challenge and whilst Ethiopia might have the talent pool there’s a gap in the shape of resources, direction, mentorship, and business skills.

John (Netflix) Herrings

The Status of African Teachers

In a report made by UNESCO entitled Teachers and Teaching in a Changing World the following statement is made:

“The communication and information revolution currently underway reinforces this need. New technologies are bringing the different peoples of the world closer together, helping them to become more aware of their common humanity and shared concerns and hopes for the future. At the same time, these technologies accentuate divisions both within and between societies, between those who are able to utilize them for the enrichment of their cultural, social, economic and political lives and those who are unable to do so because of poverty or lack of the necessary knowledge and skills. Without a greater commitment to education on the part of governments and society at large, these divisions will widen further.”
http://www.unesco.org/education/information/wer/PDFeng/wholewer98.PDF

This paragraph points out an important paradox in modern society. It is that the fast evolution of new technologies threatens to make the divisions within societies, and also within the world greater not less. Because of the high tech revolution young people are more vulnerable than ever before to being left behind.

There is more to teach now than there was 50 years ago. Such is the march of knowledge. We know more now; and we understand better the complexity of physics, biology, economics, psychology, medicine and so on. This means we need better teachers than ever before to impart this new information to the upcoming generations. The internet of course has an important part to play in education especially in areas of Africa where there are few specialized teachers, being able to access educational resources from sites like the BBC is invaluable – http://bbciplayerabroad.co.uk/

We are not at the stage where teachers can be replaced by machines. It is interesting to note how YouTube has proliferated thanks in no small measure to its ‘how to’ videos. This is clear proof of the importance of the human touch when it comes to education.

Clearly the best way to get the best teachers is to afford teachers a high status in the community. This must be backed up with the best teaching resources and suitable remuneration. It is clear that the more a society values its teachers, the more the most talented people are going to aspire to being teachers. This is a dynamic that can be seen throughout history.

It is interesting to note that during the Cultural Revolution in China students were encouraged to hate their teachers and to distrust the intelligentsia. The result of this revolution was a dearth for many years of teachers, scientists and technicians. China depended on the Soviet Union for its technology until 1960 when the alliance between the 2 countries was dissolved. It was not until the 1990s that China became equal to the rest of the world in its ability to manufacture such things as TVs, fridges and farm machinery. Today, in China teachers are venerated as they have been traditionally. This will ensure China continues to grow as an economic powerhouse.

It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of teachers and the status they should be accorded. They are the custodians of the future.

Do African Skies Hold the Answer?

Most of the developed countries in the world, grew their economies initially by exploiting their natural resources or those of their neighbors.  The industrial revolution across Europe saw countries desperate for raw materials and energy sources like coal.  Africa too has ample natural resources, however much of this is being exploited by foreign companies and investment.

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Sure Africa has mineral and fuel resources although unfortunately this is not evenly distributed, the problem is that these resources are coveted across the world and often they are simply used to fuel other countries growth not African ones.  There is also of course, the perennial problem of corruption – Nigeria has huge energy resources but often the people of that country fail to see the benefits.  Oil has created great wealth for Nigeria but little filters down to ordinary citizens and smaller businesses.

The economic growth model based on mineral resources like coal and oil is however an outdated one and it may be better for Africa to look to the future using cleaner energy sources.  After all the continent has some huge advantages when it comes to creating energy using wind and the sun.

Just outside the Sahara Desert on the Moroccan border lie a huge installation of nearly half a million parabolic mirrors arranged in rows across the valley.   It is a $650 million investment in solar energy which opened this year, Morocco has committed to generating  over 40% of it’s electricity requirements from renewable sources by 2020.

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Their is some strong logic here, Africa is ideally placed to utilize both solar and wind power and many nations are beginning to aggressively expand in these areas.   There is hope that if this continues, Africa can avoid some of the hugely destructive growth phrases which most countries have practiced, China being the latest example.   There is little logic in forcing Africa down the same path, it hasn’t worked up till now and for once the continent can learn from the mistakes of the more developed world and bypass carbon based fuel sources.

This is important, it is obviously unfair to deny Africa the same growth  options as the developed world, yet the consequences of global warming would be disastrous to the continent.  There are many reports and documentaries which list the potential problems that Africa could face if the world’s temperature keeps climbing – you can download them from peer to peer file sharing sites but use anonymous torrents to hide your location.

Africa needs more energy and it needs it fast, demand is exploding alongside the population.  Many of the 1,2 billion people there simply don’t have access to reliable power sources and to get that to them using traditional methods would increase global warming substantially.   The solutions are there for Africa in a variety of renewable sources, all they need is the skills and expertise to implement the solutions.  It is in every ones interest to help Africa meet it’s energy requirements using clean fuels rather than carbon based ones.

Additional References,

John Hawkins, Changing Your IP Online, Faber Press 2015.

African Development Bank Promote Tanzanian Railway

Later this month the African Development Bank will hold a presentation and roadshow designed to attract additional financing for a new railway linking the port in Dar es Salaam with surrounding landlocked countries.  It is expected that nearly $8 billion dollars will be required to complete the project.  The lender based on the Ivory Coast is linking up with the World Economic Forum in order to try and attract additional investment for the massive project.

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The line will extend over 2200 kms and is widely hoped that it will transform many of the industries in the area,  It is though a huge project and much of the finance is still to be raised.  The planned standard gauge line has much of it’s funding in place and it is hoped will be operational soon.  Tanzania has hopes to become the logistical hub of Eastern Africa and become an important trade center for neighboring countries.

The line will end in the Capital of Rwanda – Kigali and two other lines will branch off to Lake Victoria and Burundi.  The Kigali line is expected to eventually connect to the Democratic Republic of Congo although this would require additional investments.  Much of the money is expected to come from Chinese banks and other Asian investors, there will certainly be a large contingent of Asian investors at the roadshow.   It is hoped that the investment will be spread so that there are no controlling investors although all understood this may not be possible,

Tanzania is the third largest economy in East Africa behind Kenya and Nigeria. It is also rich in mineral wealth for example the fifth largest gold producer and there are large reserves of natural gas which have not yet been exploited due to infrastructure issues.   Many people in these countries have to relay on much poorer communications for example simple things like residential VPN services like this can cost an awful lot of money even if they are available.

The first phase of the Kenyan link, measuring 609km and costing $3.2bn, is scheduled for completion by June 2017. Construction of a second 120-kilometer leg begins by the end of this year, according to the government.

Tanzania is also planning a liquefied natural gas plant that could cost as much as $30bn and a $10bn port at Bagamoyo. It has also agreed to host a $3.6bn pipeline to transport Ugandan crude to its Indian Ocean port at Tanga.

John Williams