Monthly Archives: February 2017

Toward a sympathetic critique of Thomas Sankara

Over the past few years, several, partly scathing critiques of African political heroes have been published in larger works of history and ethnography. Thus the Patrice Lumumba of David Van Reybrouck’s Congo is a young, inspiring man whose fiery rhetoric outstrips his coalition-building  and governance capacity.

The Kwame Nkrumah of Jemima Pierre’s Predicament of Blackness is simultaneously the exponent of a pan-Africanism that was merely “nominally powerful,” and a political leader “dependent” on colonial and industrial apparatus.

Although other, longer-lived revolutionaries from decolonization and the Cold War saw their stars fade as their time in office extended, the reputation as a worthy presidential martyr enjoyed by Thomas Sankara, who led a short-lived revolution in Burkina Faso, has only grown. Since his death in 1987, he has been hailed as Africa’s Ché Guevara, and seen as a beacon of good and selfless governance. As with Ché, he’s turned into a beret-clad icon with an aura of cool that transcends the tedium of policy.

What shape might a sympathetic critique of Thomas Sankara take?

The life and times of the late Joseph Ki-Zerbo, a leader of regional independence movements originating from Haute (Upper) Volta (how Burkina Faso was known before Sankara took power), and the lifelong face of its leftist opposition, offers a clue. Prior to the 1980s, Ki-Zerbo, as a leader of the Voltaic left before, during, and after independence, was widely respected for his historical and analytic perspectives as well as his political participation, and his unwillingness to compromise his socialist principles for an opportunity of increased power. Haute Volta was rocked almost from the start by a series of coups, and Ki-Zerbo never found a government that he could join with a clear conscience.

At the time when a number of West African states gained their independence. Ki Zerbo had given up a career track in academia (he studied in Mali as well as at the Sorbonne and Sciences Po in Paris) to go to work in government and serve as a public representative: first as a civil servant for Sekou Touré in Guinea-Conakry, the first French colony to gain its independence.

Ki Zerbo returned to Haute Volta before Touré’s regime in Conakry turned autarkic and self-consuming. Then, in Haute Volta, Ki Zerbo took up a seat on the opposition benches of parliament, working on things like education policy while the country was being rocked by a series of coups.

Sitting in his country’s parliament, and influenced by his experience studying with the Senegalese historian Chiekh Anta Diop, and by the ideas of the Malian ethnographer Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Ki Zerbo spent years leading the development of a primary school curriculum that tried to reconcile traditional Sahelian ways of knowing with Western-style, classroom-based pedagogy.

Before he could do much with his curriculum, Sankara, a young army captain who had been given ever-more powerful portfolios in a series of putschist regimes in Ouagadougou, came to power in a coup in 1983 with the help of his colleague Blaise Compaoré. He quickly renamed the country Burkina Faso, or the Land of Honest Men, and ushered in a remarkable slate of policies: among other things, he broke the country of its decades-long dependence on imported foodstuffs, and put in place unprecedented policies promoting gender equality.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By D. S. Battistoli


LUSAKA, President Edgar Lungu has arrived in Israel for a five-day official at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.The president is expected to meet Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and hold talks with Netanyahu.President Lungu is also e…

Volunteering is vanishing in Nigeria

According to, “Volunteerism is the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community.” Volunteers are driven by passion to leave a noble legacy of service to humanity.

Talking about the power of volunteerism, the United Nations Volunteer Programme observes that  “People the world over engage in volunteerism for a great variety of reasons: to help to eliminate poverty and to improve basic health and education, to tackle environmental issues, to reduce the risk of disasters or to combat social exclusion and violent conflict. In all of these fields, volunteerism makes a specific contribution by generating well-being for people and their communities.” The UNVP goes further to emphatically state that attainment of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is impossible without people offering free services to support it.

Indeed, national development is unattainable without some measure of volunteerism. This is because government alone cannot bring about the desired development. Neither is the organised private sector whose motive of establishment is purely profit-making. This is why there is a need for non-governmental, not-for-profit organisations better known as NGOs to bridge the developmental gap. The NGOs comprising of Community-Based Organisations, Faith-Based Organisations, Foundations and the wider civil society play critical roles in any country’s developmental agenda.

Aside from the aforementioned UNVP, other examples of voluntary organisations include but not limited to Voluntary Service Overseas which is an international development charity with a vision for a “world without poverty” and a mission to “bring people together to fight poverty”.

There is also the International Red Cross Society whose affiliate in Nigeria was founded in 1960 and has over 500,000 volunteers and 300 permanent employees. Other examples of voluntary organisations include social clubs like the Boys’ Scout, Girls’ Guide, Boys’ Brigade, Dangote Foundation, MTN Foundation, Rotary Club, Lions Club, and many more.

Individuals can also go it alone. Helping disaster victims through voluntary blood donation or moving victims to hospitals is one of such ways.  Whistle-blowing is also an act of volunteerism. Helping the physically challenged and the aged to cross busy roads, assisting with traffic control when there is congestion, supporting the rebuilding of dilapidated public infrastructures such as schools or hospitals, offering scholarship to indigent pupils and students, offering pro-bono services as a lawyer, giving free medical support to people in hard-to-reach rural communities, fixing bad roads with personal resources, providing free security services are some of the ways individuals can key into acts of volunteerism.

Continue reading on The Punch (Nigeria)

By Jide Ojo

Credit picture: Ebola virus survivor Oluwatoyin Bamigboye, speaking to volunteer Nigerian health workers on a mission to fight the Ebola virus in affected West African countries in 2014. Pius Ekpei/Getty Images.

Xenophobia in South Africa and Nigeria

Nigerians are rightly outraged by the xenophobic attacks committed by some South Africans against Africans from other parts of the continent. The attacks bring shame to the country of Nelson Mandela. In condemning the attacks, there should not be the mistaken belief that all South Africans are xenophobic – the xenophobes are the minority.

It is also justifiable for anyone to criticise the South African government for not doing enough to stem the tide of xenophobic attacks that first started in 2008, because if it had, xenophobic attacks would not be recurring. It would also be right to be critical of the South African media for their reportage of crimes involving Africans from other African countries that profiled such criminals by nationalities. Such reporting fueled hatred against foreign African nationals.

The South African Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, has rightly said crimes should not be associated with nationalities. When people commit crimes, they are not representatives of anyone other than themselves, hence it is wrong to profile criminals based on nationalities as a section of the media tend to do at times. Criminals are criminals, short and simple, and should be treated as such. More important, most Africans from other parts of the continent in South Africa are living legally and are law abiding citizens. And they are contributing to the growth and development of South Africa.  Furthermore, there is no correlation between illegal immigrants and crime. Most illegal immigrants are not criminals. Again, as Minister Gigaba said during his press conference this week, criminality and immigration should be treated separately. The South African media has a role to play in this regard by not profiling criminals by nationalities.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed South Africa as a rainbow nation, he meant that it is not only for those who were born in the country but all those that live in it. Its rainbowness captures its diversity.

Those who are arguing for a stricter immigration regime in South Africa should have a rethink. They need to have a better understanding of the pull and push factors of immigration. It is puzzling that a European backpacker without a cent in his or her pocket can come into South Africa without a visa while Africans, including Africa’s richest person, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, are required to have visas to enter South Africa. Generally, African countries, including South Africa, need to liberalise their visa regimes to ensure free movement of Africans across the continent; and here they could learn a lesson from Rwanda and Ghana that issue visas to Africans on arrival.  It will be a clear manifestation of African integration. African countries cannot continue with immigration regimes that objectify Africans.

South Africans, including political leaders, businesspeople, scholars, religious leaders and representatives of civil society organisations, need to find ways to grapple with the problem of xenophobia that is denting the image of the country across the globe. One thing the government needs to do is to introduce African history as a subject in high schools so that kids can learn the history of the continent. Another issue for consideration is exchange programmes between education institutions in the country and their counterparts in other African countries. This way South Africans from a young age will have a better understanding of the continent. In the same vein, Africans from other parts of the continent will have a better appreciation of South Africa and its challenges.

At this juncture, it is important to point out that xenophobia is not peculiar to South Africa but something pervasive across the African continent. I will use the Nigerian situation to illustrate this point.

Continue reading on Sahara Reporters

By Omano Edigheji

Picture credit: A resident of the worker’s hostel in Jeppe’s Town neighbourhood of Johannesburg is detained by a South African policeman. Marco Longari/Getty Images.

Governance in Africa: What do the numbers tell us?

Africa’s track record of governance since independence is, at best, mixed. Despite the moderate socio-economic and political progress made since independence, only a few countries have improved their performance relative to those in other parts of the world, and these are mostly recent developments confined to some of the smallest countries on the continent.

According to most measures, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the least competitive region on the planet, stuck between the ebbs and flows of commodity cycles and global paradigm shifts. Despite enjoying its best decade of economic growth on record from 2002 to 2012, African countries continue to populate the bottom rungs of the 2016 Human Development Index (HDI), which measures key aspects of human progress such as life expectancy, per capita income and education. One in two Africans still live in extreme poverty, and Africa has overtaken Latin America as the most unequal region in the world.

Countless arguments have tried to explain Africa’s lacklustre development record and perennial underperformance on various scores and indices. It was the British economist, Richard M. Auty, who coined the term “resource curse”, linking the endowment of natural resources such as oil and minerals, as we see in many African countries, to slow development, corruption and authoritarianism.

Others have blamed the continent’s underdevelopment on geography, diseases and the legacy of colonialism. In more recent years the development debate has become a sparring contest between two opposing camps: One side, championed by the economist Jeffrey Sachs and celebrities like Bono, advocate for more aid. Others, like famed Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo, insist that development aid is part of a bigger problem, crowding out productive capital and undermining good governance in Africa.

Regardless of which side of the ideological debate or angle of the argument taken, at the heart of it, poor governance has undermined Africa’s socio-economic progress. By falling short on their key obligations, which US political scientist Robert Rotberg calls “political goods”, African governments fail to deliver on security, political participation, the rule of law, and ultimately sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

And through the grand debates, a mixed record of results and a sketchy collection of data and facts, Africa’s overall governance is difficult to measure. Application for policymakers and practitioners seeking an empirical basis for comprehensive competitive performance is even trickier. But new tools with a decent record of annual averages dating back more than a decade can provide better insights through a composite collection mixed with practical observations and experiences on the ground. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and the GIBS Dynamic Market Index (DMI) are two such measures.

The IIAG is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and robust tools for gauging governance performance in Africa. Funded by the Sudanese-British billionaire Mo Ibrahim, and first published in 2007, the index measures the quality of governance across 54 African countries.

Continue reading on The Daily Maverick

By Prof Lyal White, Director of the Centre for Dynamic Markets at GIBS, and Adrian Kitimbo, Senior researcher for the Centre.

Picture credit: Mo Ibrahim attends the Social Good Summit. M. Sagliocco/Getty Images.

Alcatel lance l’A5 LED, premier smartphone interactif recouvert de DEL dans le monde

Une promesse de moments éblouissants pour les amateurs jeunes et énergiques de divertissements BARCELONE, Espagne, 27 février 2017 /PRNewswire/– Alcatel a annoncé aujourd’hui le lancement de l’Alcatel A5 LED au Congrès mondial de la téléphonie mobile. Premier smartphone interactif revêtu de DEL dans le monde, l’A5 LED promet sur d’Alcatel des innovations pour les jeunes […]

Alcatel Launches A5 LED, the World’s First Interactive LED-covered Smartphone

Offering dazzling moments for young and energetic entertainment s eekers BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Alcatel today announced the launch of Alcatel A5 LED at Mobile World Congress. The world’s first interactive LED-covered smartphone, A5 LED delivers on Alcatel‘s promise with innovations for energetic young consumers. Photo – “With the A5 LED, Alcatel […]

Sudan seeing significant increase in refugees arriving from South Sudan

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has seen a significant increase in South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Sudan since January this year. Initial expectations were that 60,000 refugees may arrive through 2017, but in …

Kenya to cut arts education fund for technical schools

Kenyan universities could face slashed governmental allocations beginning next financial year if some of the funds are diverted to technical institutions. The move is part of the changes contained in a new curriculum that is expected to take effect in May this year. If implemented, this will make a radical shift to technical and science courses against arts and social sciences.

Education, science and technology cabinet secretary, Fred Matiang’i, says he will lobby for increased number of students taking technical courses as opposed to those studying arts at the universities.

The fund raised from the cuts will be given to the country’s Higher Loans Education Board to advance loans to students of technical training institutions, he adds.

Matiang’i says that many students are opting to study commerce, arts and theology instead of technical ones.

“We have filled up our universities, and even expanded them with students acquiring education in areas that we do not have development needs,” Matiang’i said last month (23 January) in Nairobi at the commissioning of some 3,000 candidates joining Technical Vocational Education and Training.

According to Matiang’I, Kenya has many graduates with degrees for jobs that do not exist. “This notion that Technical Vocational Education and Training education is less prestigious should be done away with,” he noted.

But Beatrice Muganda, director, higher education programme at the Kenya-based Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, says arts and technical education are both necessary and there is no need to cut arts funding.

Taking Matiang’i’s route, according to Muganda, would lead to skewed growth favouring sciences and stifling arts and humanities. “Dwindling growth of the university sector will lead to unemployment. But before we get there, there will be apathy with massive student protests,” she explained.

Muganda emphasises that education is not just about fixing technical things in kitchens and roofs, but about research and generation of new knowledge to help the country make great leaps in socio-economic development as well as significant democratic gains.

“Every individual is unique and education is an enabler that should help them develop their full potential and contribute to society,” she says citing musicians, artists, writers, mathematicians and scientists as important for national development.

Continue reading on SciDev.Net

By Baraka Rateng’