Monthly Archives: January 2017

CTA Brussels Briefings on Regional Trade in Africa

Brussels – The next Brussels Development Briefing n.47 on the subject of “Regional Trade in Africa: Drivers, Trends and Opportunities” will take place on 3rd February 2017 at ACP Secretariat headquarters.

Trade and regional integration have dominated the political agenda in recent years, with scores of countries pursuing trade agreements under various configurations. There is a renewed focus on the role of the private sector, and on reducing and eliminating trade barriers in order to boost economic growth by encouraging more trade and investment.

The nexus between trade, integration and development is recognised to hold immense potential for sustainable growth and poverty reduction, and provides opportunities for enhancing the welfare of producers and consumers, provided that governments are able to develop and enforce policies to this effect.

Under the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the role of trade in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is recognised in a number of areas. Target 2.b of SDG2 calls for the correction and prevention of trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, whereas targets 17.10 to 17.12 of SDG 17 also highlights the importance of trade, particularly for the least developed countries.

In order to maximise the benefits of regional integration and look for new opportunities for competitiveness, policymakers, the private sector and development partners need access to accurate and comprehensive data on intra and inter-regional trade in Africa with respect to agricultural goods.

It is in this context that CTA and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are launching the “African Agricultural Trade Status Report”, which examines the current status, trends and outlook in African trade performance, making an important contribution towards data and analysis of developments both at regional and at continental levels.

The Report, which is released in conjunction with the Briefing, builds on the work by the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) of CAADP and the African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium (AGRODEP) trade and also reflects the CTA’s commitment to advancing knowledge and sharing of best practices relating to agricultural trade.

Click here for the programme and background note.

Source: CTA Brussels Briefings

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). Its mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity and support sound natural resource management through information, communication and knowledge management, multi-stakeholder engagement, capacity-building and empowerment of agricultural and rural development organisations and networks in ACP countries. 

The briefings:

The CTA, the European Commission, the EU Presidency, the ACP Group, Concord, and other partners organize regular development Briefing sessions in Brussels on key issues and challenges for rural development in the context of EU-ACP cooperation.

UN: Millions of Children Caught in Conflict Risk Death From Malnutrition

GENEVA � Millions of children caught in conflict and other crises are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition if they do not receive life-saving therapeutic treatment.

This stark warning came as the U.N. children’s fund launched a $3.3 billion-dollar appeal to provide life-saving assistance this year for 81 million people, more than half of them children, in 48 countries decimated by war, natural disasters or other humanitarian emergencies.

The largest amount of money, $1.4 billion, will go toward helping 17 million children and families caught up in war inside Syria and living as refugees in five neighboring countries: Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. Half the beneficiaries are children.

Syria will enter its seventh year of war in March. Manuel Fontaine, director of emergency programs for the U.N. Children’s Fund, said Syria is the largest humanitarian crisis facing the agency.

“Of particular concern is the situation of about 400,000 children who are actually in besieged areas,” he said. “Unimpeded and sustained access is something we are asking for.”

While praising the generosity of the five host countries, Fontaine noted that the situation of 2.8 million refugee children is extremely difficult because “in many cases, they are forced to work and are at risk of many protection threats.

“We estimate that in Jordan, for example, almost half of the Syrian refugee families have a child as a breadwinner. And, in Lebanon,” he said, “three-quarters of the street children in the streets of Lebanese cities actually are Syrian refugees.

“Child marriage also is a major concern and on the increase concerning Syrian refugees,” he added.

‘Silent threat’

The UNICEF appeal focuses particularly on the “silent threat” of malnutrition. An estimated 7.5 million children, it reports, will face severe acute malnutrition in most of the 48 countries in crisis, with the largest number and most serious cases in northeast Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia.

In war-ravaged northeast Nigeria, UNICEF plans to aid 4 million people, more than half of them children. In South Sudan, two-thirds of the 3.3 million beneficiaries are children.

Fontaine told VOA he is very worried about the situation in northeast Nigeria because dangers posed by Boko Haram insurgents make it difficult to reach people with aid.

“We are very close, he said. We have our supplies there. We have our people and we will try to find every occasion we can identify to move in and do our work.”

He said similar difficulties also existed in South Sudan. “It is a real worry that war action and fighting actually just do not allow us, in some cases, to access children.”

‘Challenges are huge’

UNICEF reports almost one in four of the world’s children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster; that in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, South Sudan, and Nigeria, children are under direct attack in their homes, schools and communities.

Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Yemen representative, described the situation for children in Yemen as catastrophic. She said at least 10 million children need some form of humanitarian assistance.

She said the war has displaced at least 3 million people, half of them children, food is scarce, and 60 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. She said the health system is on the verge of collapse, and severe acute malnutrition rates are soaring.

“Definitely, children are dying of malnutrition. That is for sure, she said. The children that are not being reached by us or by the programs that are treating severe acute malnutrition are dying.

“The under-five mortality rate has increased to the point that we estimate that, at least in 2016, 10,000 more children died of preventable diseases.”

She noted that severe acute malnutrition is created by lack of food, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, lack of health services, and the rampant poverty in the country.

“This combination of factors is really increasing the malnutrition rate to the point that we have tripled the rate of severe acute malnutrition from 2014 to 2016, she said. It has gone from 160,000 to 462,000.”

UNICEF said its appeal would provide a lifeline for tens of millions of children during the coming year by providing food, access to clean water and sanitation, health services education, and other essential services.

“The challenges are huge,” Fontaine said, “but not insurmountable. … In these difficult conditions of access, we are saving lives on a daily basis.”

Source: Voice of America

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What Trump’s policies mean for Somalia and security in East Africa

If Al Shabbab seems less fleet-footed and lethal today than it did a year and a half ago, part of the credit must go to the US. It now looks like President Trump — who is breathtakingly naïve about the threat that Al Shabaab-like groups pose — wants the review in order to cut back US involvement in Somalia. This would be a strategic and costly long-run mistake for US policy in the Horn of Africa.

News last week that President Donald Trump had asked for a review of the US role in Somalia should worry frontline states like Kenya and Ethiopia.

Over the past three years, President Obama’s support for the 22,000-strong Africa Union Mission to Somalia, Amisom, has been crucial in the fight against Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliates trying to oust the Federal Government of Somalia.

By providing intelligence, deploying Special Forces, airstrikes and drones, the US has degraded Al Shabaab’s fighting capabilities and decapitated its leadership.

In May last year, a US airstrike killed Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a key military commander. He was one of many Al Shabaab leaders taken out by US drones and Special Forces in early 2016 among them Mohamed Dulyadin, architect of the 2015 Garissa University shootings; Yusuf Ali Ugas, an Al Shabaab recruiter; Mohamed Mire, the Al Shabaab governor for the Hiran region and Hassan Ali Dhoore, architect of both the 2014 Christmas Day attack on Mogadishu airport and the 2015 attack on Maka al-Mukarramah hotel, also in Mogadishu.

If Al Shabbab seems less fleet-footed and lethal today than it did a year and a half ago, part of the credit must go to the US. It now looks like President Trump — who is breathtakingly naïve about the threat that Al Shabaab-like groups pose — wants the review in order to cut back US involvement in Somalia. This would be a strategic and costly long-run mistake for US policy in the Horn of Africa.

The Red Sea

It also means that Kenya and Ethiopia, both allies of the US against Al Shabaab, could also soon bail out of Somalia. Should they do so, Al Shabaab will flourish, at least in the short-run.

The silver lining, though, is that in the medium-term, the retreat by the US, Ethiopia and Kenya would give the Africa Union an excellent chance to redesign Amisom, its otherwise doomed mission in Somalia. Here is why:

To begin with, it is baffling that President Trump cannot see the strategic argument. The Red Sea — and so the Suez Canal — is vital to global commerce, a route not only for oil from the Gulf states to Europe but also for goods from Europe and North America to India, the Arabian Peninsula and China.

The Red Sea shortcut — which carries about 8 per cent of global trade — eliminates 10 days and 8,900 kilometres (or 43 per cent) from the alternative route round the Cape of Good Hope. True, some oil tankers are now taking the long route but that is temporary, explained by low oil prices that offset the higher transport costs.

On all accounts, then, the Suez Canal route will remain critical. But it is vulnerable. The entry to the Red Sea, past the point where the Horn of Africa juts into the Gulf of Aden, is a 32km wide maritime chokepoint, the Bab-el-Mandeb, Arabic for the “Gate of Tears.”

Looking north towards Suez, the strait lies athwart the Red Sea with Djibouti to the east, on the African coast and Yemen to the west, on the Arabian coast. Behind, the Red Sea funnels out to the Indian Ocean and on to the coast of Somalia. The strategic threat of a failed Somalia is obvious and has been for years.

In imperial times, Britain and France split sentinel responsibilities over the strait, Britain taking Yemen and France Djibouti. Today, two states at or near both ends of the strait, Somalia and Yemen, have slipped into chaos.

In Yemen, there is a proxy war raging between Saudi Arabia and Iran pitting pro-Saudi government forces against pro-Iran Houthi militias. The chaos has energised terror groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The problem for global trade is that nearly 16,500 ships — a quarter of which are oil tankers — transit through the strait and the Suez Canal every year.

These are tempting for terrorists.

Continue reading on The East African

By Wachira Maina

Europe’s refugee colonialism

In August 2015 when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel declared an open-door policy for Syrian refugees — the first and only European country to do so — it seemed possible Europe would take a different course on migration. A year and a half later, it’s as if that moment never occurred.

In contrast, Europe today is outsourcing its “migration problem” to a set of authoritarian or unstable regimes in Libya, Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere. The US is now following Europe’s lead with Donald Trump, yesterday, issuing orders to block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and barring all refugees from the rest of the world for at least 120 days.

The European Union already began abdicating its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2016 with the EU-Turkey deal, which paid Turkey to prevent refugees from heading to Greece. Now, similar deals are being made with African countries. An interactive map by German journalists shows the 24 African countries already receiving funding to “stem migration.”

This hands off approach, aimed at curbing the flood of migrants before they reach Europe’s shores (out of sight, out of mind), resembles the strategy of indirect rule employed by European nations during their colonization of Africa and the Middle East.

During this time, European countries like Britain and France sought to control their colonies by sending a small occupying army, along with white settlers, and imposing a top down order with authority passed on via European administrators to local leaders and existing power structures.

These local rulers would be the ones who would perform most of the governing of the “native” population. This allowed European countries to dominate economic and military interests in the colonies without having a large on-the-ground presence.

In 2017’s version of this remote control command, security and defense contractors in Africa, colluding with state officials, will likely start halting men, women and children as they cross the Sahara desert and on the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to reach Europe. Ensnaring these African bodies will be paid for by European tax dollars and cleverly packaged as “aid” to quell questions from the public.

While the EU-Turkey deal essentially halted the flow of people from Turkey (at least for now, as its uncertain how long Turkey will uphold its end without the EU fulfilling its promise to lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens), 363,348 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy and Greece in 2016, primarily transiting from Libya.

Now the EU is so frantic to cut off this migration route that it’s willing to dish out millions of dollars to Libya, even though right now Libya consists of three governments and at least eight armed groups vying for power, including the Islamic State.

The EU has already started funding the Libyan coast guard to patrol Libya’s coastline – despite the fact that Amnesty International documented that the coastguard has left migrant boats to sink. Africans passing through Libya on the way to Europe are almost all jailed – either by the government or by different armed groups. Women in detention are systematically sexually assaulted.

Human rights and humanitarian organizations have detailed the torture and abuse migrants and refugees face in Libya, often having to buy their freedom only to set out on another perilous journey. In 2016, 5,079 people drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean sea.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Caitlin Chandler

Gambia: Adama Barrow is back!

After weeks of a political impasse, The Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow returned home yesterday. Barrow landed at the airport in the capital Banjul. Dressed in flowing white robes called the “Haftan,” Barrow shook hands with elders and senior members of his coalition government on the tarmac.

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“I am a happy man today,” Barrow told the Associated Press after he arrived. “I think the bad part is finished now.” He promised to get his Cabinet in place and “then get the ball rolling.”

He was accompanied by two of his wives and some of his children as well as dozens of Gambian soldiers and troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Barrow’s return marks the first democratic transfer of power in The Gambia’s history.

Hundreds gathered to greet the new president in the capital after he was forced to flee to neighboring Senegal on January 15 after his predecessor Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.

Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years, lost the December 1 election but failed to the recognize Barrow’s win. After weeks of regional pressure and the threat of arrest by West African troops, Jammeh conceded defeat.

The former strongman went into exile in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday, with authorities accusing him of plundering state coffers and absconding with $11 million (10 million euros).

Barrow already has named a female vice president, Fatoumata Tambajang, who has called for Jammeh’s prosecution for alleged human rights abuses. One of his first jobs, however, is to deal with an internal crisis over the appointment after it was revealed that she may be constitutionally too old for the position.

The Gambia, a country with nearly 1.9 million people, has set an example for other West African nations as the region pushes for stable, democratic transitions of power.


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