Africa Trade Magazine

From the Associated Press (AP): “Ebola is over, but could it happen again?”

(Yes. You know it will happen again.)

AP: This week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the world’s worst epidemic of Ebola is over – after two years. AP reports 11,315 people died - 4,809 in Liberia, Sierra Leone recorded 3,955 deaths and at least 2,536 people perished in Guinea. Nigeria recorded 8 deaths and 6 died in Mali. Others died in Europe and in the United States after being infected while in West Africa and some caregivers became sick. More than 17,000 people survived the disease. Many have vision, hearing and other physical problems. Many women suffered miscarriages or delivered stillborn children for reasons that are still not clear.

(The reasons will never be clear. While the WTO engaged in self flagellation at the height of the crisis, several Africa leaders were caught napping at the buffet table – yet again. Some chose to lash out at the donor community to accuse it of not doing its part while they sat in a fetid soup of corruption and graft. Sound familiar Liberia? Anyone track down that 50 mil or so than the Brits and others sent your way a while back to improve health care? Hello?)

AP: The WHO talks of "failure to see that conditions for explosive spread were present right at the start”, incompetent staff, bureaucratic bungles and delays, budget cuts and the “need to battle other diseases flaring around the world.”

(Fair enough, but when most of those you would seek to help have been left to fend for themselves, if not simply left for dead, by their “leaders”, you’re looking at things from the wrong end of the telescope.)

AP: Health experts also say they underestimated how difficult it would be to change behaviours. People were afraid to send their relatives to treatment centres. Many hid the sick out of ignorance and fear. Some clinics and caregivers were attacked. Many of those who were infected defied quarantines and traditional burial practices allowed the disease to spread.

(Yup. Crazed Hollywood stars and religious nut-jobs attack people who try to administer vaccines too. No excuse for the Hollywood types, the nut-jobs are often beyond rescue, but average folks just need a helping hand. In Africa, most of them feed the hands that bite them: the “canapé class.”)

AP: The WHO says another epidemic is possible. At least 10 flare-ups have occurred in areas thought to be clear of Ebola. Early warning systems are in place, along with stockpiles of protective gear. People living in these countries also know what steps they can take immediately to avoid getting sick after lengthy public awareness campaigns.

(Someone will come along to steal the protective gear and the canapé class will simply go back to sleep while waiting for Netflix. Ladies and germs, meet the new boss - same as the old boss.)

In a land where most politicians call themselves “Doctors” and most religious charlatans (yes, that is redundant) call themselves “Prophets”, one business is thriving in these tough economic times: the sale of private aircraft. Allow me to quote Malawi’s Nyasa Times (sic):

“The saying is strong, 'who God blesses no man can curse.' Leader and founder of the Enlightened Christian Gathering ECG Church Prophet Shepherd Bushiri continues to walk in the path of glory after sealing another breath-taking deal with South African Aviation company NAC for the acquisition of his third Jet, ZS-VIP.”

(A Gulfstream – worth a few million. Want to look classy? Wave it in the faces of some of the poorest people on the planet.)

Nyasa Times: “Bushiri dedicated the new jet to all the people who follow him and understand his vision: "Am a man of God and I believe I need to leave (sic) by example. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and that is exactly what am doing now. I am what God says I am and not how other people judge me. I believe to inspire a lot of Christians out there more especially fellow men of God. We can do it because greater is he who lives in us.”

(Alrighty, then.)

Nyasa Times: “This comes after the man of God recently made another inerasable history when he filled the largest stadium in Africa during 2015-2016 Crossover dubbed as the Lion of Judah Night. Bushiri has of late become one of the richest pastors in Africa and he the richest person in Malawi, a country of his origin. He is popularly referred to as the "Major 1" in Christian cycles especially among his followers.”

(The Nyasa Times copy has not been edited. I assure you.)

Says our Major 1: "I am what God says I am. I was born a winner. This goes to people who understand my vision. This is not for me but to those who believe in better things.”

(Not sure what that means, but it must be part of the voodoo that our friend does so well. The Nyasa Times, in its inimitable way, reports that Bushiri is loaded. A collection plate billionaire. The paper recently revealed that “the man of God” will soon open his own bank and a mobile phone concern. People the world over continue to fall prey to showmen like him and they have no one to blame but themselves. There are many other Bushiris in Africa and if you’re among those who gives money to men and women of his ilk, you too are a “Major 1.” The emerging continent is in for several more years of buffeting and if she is to hold her head up, she will have to shed her attachment the “chatteling” class. It’s been said that G*d helps those who help themselves.)

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Carlos Lopes is the executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He’s an  economist, an author and an educator. He is from Guinea Bissau and holds a PhD in History from the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne and a Masters in research from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Nairobi’s Mail & Guardian (M&G) recently asked Lopes to don the proverbial tinfoil hat and make suggestions as to what awaits the emerging continent through the end of the century. You’ll find the full article here: http://bit.ly/1Ugo2B9 and annotated excerpts below.

M&G’s first question was about football.

(Of course. Silly me.)

Lopes: “By 2028 an African country is likely to win the World Cup. For that we should count on a football governance clean up, so the corruption of those who control the game now gives way to a more intrinsic beauty of the game.”

(The United States set the wheels in motion to topple some of the crooks at FIFA. Corrupt elements in Africa and elsewhere played along with these kleptocrats for years.)

On the contribution of manufacturing to Africa’s GDP:

Lopes: “Africa will lead in frugal technology adaptation and will learn fast to move up the value chains, but it will be slower than other regions.”

(“Frugal technology adaptation.” I like that phrase. Consider it “borrowed.” Lopes says Africa’s young work force will contribute more than will a push for automation and I believe he’s right. Will a largely corrupt leadership class do the right thing? The signs are not encouraging.)

On cashless economies:

Lopes: “Kenya is poised to surprise the world on innovation. It will be the lead country in the use of digital money and will make bitcoin irrelevant. And the last user of new platforms will be Libya because it will resist non-tangible economic transactions, given its fear of any forms of centralisation and preference for cash.”

(See the next print issue of Africa Trade – cashless payment systems are set to see very rapid growth.)

On the control of disease:

Lopes: “If major diseases were dealt with, Africa would save at least one percent of its taxes, or approximately $80 billion. This money could be used for universal coverage and major human capital enhancement, changing people’s fortunes completely. The population life expectancy will be 20 years higher, diminishing the fertility rates and balancing the demographic pressure.”

(How’s that for a succinct and effective formula. Unfortunately, HIV and malaria will soon be joined by diabetes and heart disease. Over and above all of this, the great-granddaddy is still being left untreated: corruption.)

On Africa’s economic leaders:

Lopes: “South Africa will not get back on top. Nigeria will have strong competition and by 2050 may have an economy smaller than DRC and Ethiopia.”

(Ethiopia is certainly not standing still. We have an article on the country’s efforts in the pharma sector in the next print issue. We haven’t talked about DRC much recently, but we will.)

On climate change:

Lopes: “If we do nothing on climate change doomsday is closer, it will be within ten years. We will experience rising sea levels across the coast, 20% loss of biodiversity and chaotic city life.”

(Ten years. On the African time scale, that’s tomorrow. May 2016 bring us wisdom.)

He was born a pauper
To a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times
Said God is dead and the war's begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon

Perhaps he shall be Hage...

Hage Geingob, the President of Namibia, has declared “all-out war” on child poverty. As AllAfrica.com reports: “Since independence in 1990, the politically stable (Namibia) has mended the rifts of conflict, held six successful national elections and invested in critical infrastructure. But despite strides in such areas as education and health care, the vast majority of its 2.2 million people remain poor. The minority white population of approximately 75,000 enjoys a high standard of living, as does a small black elite. Namibia's income inequality – one of the largest in the world – reflects a legacy of colonial rule, first by Germany and then by apartheid South Africa.”

Says Geingob, who lived in poverty as a young man: “No child should go hungry. We are creating a food bank with branches across the country. I have challenged commercial farmers to contribute – and they are eager, provided it is voluntary. We are asking the fishing industry and the private sector in general to help. We want to use government machinery - all the ministries must get involved. We are mainstreaming the fight against poverty.”

Geingob says donor math doesn’t work: “The global community takes the gross domestic product of our country and divides that by our small population to get a high per-capita income and therefore says we are a rich country. After independence, I was sent to argue to the World Bank that Namibia must be listed as a least-developed-country, but they refused. They said that's how they calculate it all over the world. They said our problem is distribution. I asked them: 'If we grab from the white people and distribute to blacks, are you going to be happy? How do we re-distribute?' They didn't have an answer. On our part, we have to recognize the reality that the majority of people in Namibia are poor. If we don't address that, the poor will rise up one day and all that we see as peaceful now will go up in flames. That's why we are declaring war on poverty and addressing that issue. We will do it. The mood is good in the country. People are joining the effort.”

In the whirlwind of accelerated growth, some things on the emerging continent have not changed. Best wishes on your campaign Mr. President and may the new year bring victories – however small.

(Lyrics (“Levon”) Copyright: Elton John / Bernie Taupin)

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It’s that time of the year again when people go around saying: “It’s that time of the year again.” Regardless of whether you mark a religious observance or simply celebrate the end of another Gregorian year, look around you and decide who deserves a Holiday Hug or a Simple Slap. Some of the people in our midst deserve a hug just for being good people. They may not accomplish much, they may get on our nerves occasionally, but they mean well. Others deserve a slap because they should know better. They’re selfish, or lazy, or generally uncaring about anything but themselves. I, of course, am deserving of hugs year-round and I present to you, in no particular order, my HH / SS list for 2015-2016.

Muhammadu Buhari: HH
The President of Nigeria has taken on one of the more difficult jobs on the planet: being the President of Nigeria. Surfing high on oil when he came in, he is now swatting away chickens as they come home to roost. For years, Nigerians have been robbed blind by their own countrymen – an oil minister here, a defense department official there and thousands upon thousands of others in between. Buhari promised to kick butt when he arrived and he has begun doing just that. The task has been made even more gargantuan in the face of falling oil prices and a grumbling population, but he is undaunted. As well, he recently brought in a University of London graduate, Ms. Kemi Adeosun, to take on the role of Treasurer. Looks very promising. A polite handshake for Ms. Adeosun and a Holiday Hug for the prez.

Jacob Zuma: SS
Three finance ministers in one week, the Rand getting its butt kicked, derision from business leaders and the markets. Can’t blame that one on Apartheid Mr. President. Running a country like you would a fantasy football league. “If the ANC doesn’t show itself to be more professional in how it runs the country, more support will slip away” one “expert” told Bloomberg. Really? He deserves a slap too.

Paul Kagame: HH / SS
Yeah, this one’s a hug and a slap. Paul Kagame lived through and participated in a horrible chapter in the history of Rwanda. He has since served two terms as president and has introduced a number of programs that are designed to transform Rwanda into a middle income nation by 2020. It’s a tall order and there will be many bumps along the way, but he’s kicking it and he’s been recognized for his efforts. There’s the hug. As I write this, Rwandans are voting on a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to seek a third term. It’s expected they will approve. They like the guy. Unfortunately, the third term thing is not kosher. The US and other nations have urged Kagame to step down and he’s told them to butt out. There’s the slap.

Serge Tchaha (his family, friends and colleagues): HH
Serge worked for our sister publication “Afrique Expansion.” Reporter, author, entrepreneur. Widely respected for his abilities. We worked together briefly in Cameroon in 2014. Serge died suddenly a few weeks ago at the age of 31. I have cufflinks that are older than that. I barely knew the guy, but he and several others I met during my brief stay in Africa embody the energy of the emerging continent and the spirit that will help it to grow. Hugs all around.

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