Monthly Archives: March 2016

The deep economic and political crises in Angola

There’s a lot going on in Angola. Western media have extensively covered the trial and detention of the so-called book club (really a civic activists study group on protest) and the imprisonment of Cabinda activist Marcos Mavungo to the exclusion of other questions.

The 15+2 activists, how the book club is known, and Mavungo highlighted economic mismanagement and corruption in their critiques of the government. Meanwhile, a related crisis, the government’s navigation of the ongoing economic crisis (the price of oil plummeted with no prospect of resurgence any time soon), has received less attention outside of the business press.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines economic rights – like the right to an adequate standard of living and to work. Yet most human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etcetera) opt for the more idealistic political rights – freedom of political expression, freedom of association and assembly. It may be why we don´t hear much in the international press about the economic crisis that squeezes daily life for ordinary Angolans more than politics.

Three other events since the beginning of 2016, equally as important as political human rights issues, are also shaping the political scene and refracting the economic crisis.

The first is the passing, on February 27th, of Lúcio Lara, an historic leader of the ruling MPLA during the armed struggle and first decade of independence. Lara was considered the successor to first president, Agostino Neto, but stepped aside so current president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, could become leader in 1979 . Lara, who clashed with profligate MPLA leaders, effectively retired from politics when the MPLA made the transition from Marxism to neoliberalism in the late 1980s.

Eulogies proliferated. Many read these as critiques of the current regime.

The political scientist and long time Angola observer, Gerald Bender, remembered Lara on his Facebook page. He  noted that Lara was known as “o duro” (a hardliner to Washington, hard to keep in line to Moscow, hardcore in terms of his discipline within the MPLA). Mostly, Bender opined, he was a strong nationalist.

Continue reading on Africasacountry

by Marissa Moorman

Photo credits: Getty Images

Benefits of Backpack Biogas

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Billions of dollars of aid has been pumped into Africa. Yet effective change too often remains an elusive outcome, leading to a vicious cycle: more needs, more aid but still little change. How to resolve this seemingly intractable dilemma?

Biogas could be one part of the solution. (B)energy is a social business venture offering a clean energy solution that not only solves an energy crisis but a social problem too.

Its (B)pack—a nearly 1.5 metre wide, pillow-shaped inflatable blue bag—is filled with biogas from a special biogas digester, a sealed compost bag. Afterwards, the biogas-filled (B)pack can be hoisted onto a back for carrying to a home where it is hooked up to a biogas cooking stove.

German founder Katrin Puetz, 34, built the company’s business model on the idea of empowering local franchisees to sell mobile biogas technology on themselves. This turns them into biogas producers, so-called (B)entrepreneurs, in the words of Puetz, as each gains an income while promoting clean, affordable and sustainable energy.

One such (B)entrepreneur is 32-year-old Zenebech Alemayehu, a single mother with a 9-year-old son, based in a southern suburb of Addis Ababa.

“I sacrificed a lot for this,” says Zenebech inside a large ramshackle shed as a struck match is held to the end of a metal pipe and a faint blue flame springs into life. “When I see it working I am so happy and more motivated.” She puts her fingertips to her lips then toward the flame, a symbolic kiss for her new biogas-inspired business.

The pipe leads outside the shed connecting with a 5 metre long plastic tank—the digester—that takes anything from waste food to goat droppings or those of a larger human form; Zenebech keeps hers supplied from a giant pile of cow dung inside the shed.

Puetz began the project that led to her business while working for Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany, where she realised its potential in Africa as a clean, cheap alternative to cooking on smoky, polluting fires.

After being contacted by Addis Ababa University and invited to move to Ethiopia to develop the technology, she launched (B)energy in April 2014. She remains determined her enterprise remains self-sufficient, despite her technology being a prime candidate for tempting funding—she has already turned down grants from global charities.

Continue reading on IPS News

by James Jeffrey

Photo Credits: IPS/James Jeffrey

28 MW Genius Tracker™ Ordered from GameChange Solar for Southeast

NEW YORK, March 30, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — GameChange Solar announced that it has received an order from a leading nationwide developer/installer for a 28 MW Genius Tracker™ single axis tracker system to be installed in the southeastern United States in the second quarter. Lizzy Aldridge, Director of Business Development for GameChange Solar, stated: “Power density and fast […]

Zambia’s Former Interim President to Support Opposition in August Election

Zambia’s former interim president has declared his support for opposition presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in the country’s August 11 presidential election. Guy Scott, a member of the ruling …

USAID Donates Vehicles and Equipment to the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented three Toyota Hilux pickup vehicles and 41 desktop computers to the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) in Tamale, Ghana on March 31st. The vehicles and office equipment…

‘Bazooka’ assassination: Anti-mining activist knew his life was in danger

Xolobeni activist Nonhle Mbuthuma broke down in tears last month while addressing a mining conference in Cape Town. “Our people are being attacked. People are dying because of this,” she said, describing her community’s struggle to prevent mining on its land.

Six weeks later, her friend and colleague Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was assassinated.

A bid by Australian firm Mineral Commodities (MRC) to extract titanium from dunes near Xolobeni, a rural settlement at the northern edge of the Eastern Cape coast, has driven a wedge through Mbuthuma’s community since 2002. Supporters say mining will bring jobs and development to a desperately poor rural backwater. Opponents say the costs of land dispossession and environmental damage will far outweigh these gains.

A critic of the proposed project for more than a decade, Mbuthuma, 38, has become the face of local resistance to mining since featuring in the 2014 documentary The Shore Break — and a thorn in the flesh of those who want the scheme to succeed.

She is diminutive, with a clear voice and firm gaze. As the secretary of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), formed in 2010 to unite opposition to MRC in five villages of the Amadiba Tribal Authority region, she has grown accustomed to addressing large groups of people. As she spoke at the Mining Indaba panel discussion – off the cuff, without an accompanying slideshow – she grew emotional. “We can’t sacrifice our land for 22 years [of mining]. The damage will be irreversible.”

Shortly before 08:00 on Tuesday 22 March, Rhadebe, the charismatic chairman of the ACC, was shot several times outside one of his properties by gunmen posing as police. Mbuthuma raced to the scene when she heard the news, arriving to the sight of her friend and comrade dead on the ground.

“I’ve never cried so hard in my life,” she told me. “But it wasn’t sadness; it was anger. I could feel it in my body. I was sweating. For a short while all I wanted was revenge.”

Continue reading on The Daily Maverick

by Kimon De Greef for GROUNDUP

Photo credits

BMW Group And United Nations Alliance Of Civilizations (UNAOC) Announce Finalists For The Intercultural Innovation Award

NEW YORK and MUNICH, March 30, 2016 /PRNewswire/– Ten projects have been named finalists by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and BMW Group for the Intercultural Innovation Award. The selection process was highly competitive, with close to 1000 applications received from 120 countries. Selected projects come from all over the world, representing countries across […]

Opinion: World Bank Reinvents Tainted Aid Program for Ethiopia

OAKLANDI was taught that responsibility means admitting your mistakes and being accountable when you make a mistake. I still believe this to be true for individuals and institutions.

So when a powerful group like the World Bank makes a mistake, I expect it to be accountable for its wrong-doings, and to do everything possible to make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from reality.

The issue I’m referring to is last year’s launch of the World Bank’s “new” program in Ethiopia, Enhancing Shared Prosperity through Equitable Services (ESPES). On the surface, ESPES looks reasonable. Its main goal is to send money to local-level authorities across the country to make sure all citizens have access to basic services like water, roads, education, healthcare and more. But once you start peeling the layers back, the program stops looking so rosy.

The biggest issue is that ESPES is replacing the almost decade-long, World Bank-funded Promoting Basic Services (PBS) program. PBS started in 2006 with almost identical goals to the ESPES program. The snag is that for years, there were extremely serious allegations that PBS had become entwined with the Ethiopian Government’s program, “villagization,” which has forcibly relocated indigenous communities and made their land available for large-scale land grabs.

In 2012, members of the Anuak community – an indigenous group that has borne the brunt of these forced relocations and abuses – filed a formal complaint with the World Bank’s independent Inspection Panel. In early 2015, the Panel released its final report and it was scathing:the Bank’s finances couldn’t be properly tracked, important safeguards had not been applied, and there was poor monitoring and oversight.

Continue reading on IPS News

by Elizabeth Fraser

Photo credits: Getty Images

Zambia’s Religious Leaders Call for Civility in Political Rhetoric

The Episcopal Conference of Zambia has called on all political parties and their presidential candidates to take steps to curb politically motivated violence ahead of the country’s August 11 presidential election.The organization of Roman Catholic bish…