Ghana has been facing problems with lack of clean water for years. In the Northern region of the country, around half of the population living there does not have access to clean and safer drinking water. Many times, the most viable water source is a man-made trench that fills up during the rainy seasons. However, these trenches quickly become contaminated with waste, and the water is unfit to be ingested. On a university trip, a group of students from MIT travelled to Ghana to try to better understand the problem and hopefully come up with some solutions. They began a program called Community Water Solutions.
This program was designed to teach Ghanaian women- they are traditionally the ones in charge of finding drinking water- about safe ways to treat water. The students had discovered that just a few miles away from many of the small villages, there were cities that offered equipment to treat water. Unfortunately, the women of these smaller villages were completely unaware of this. The program was able to connect the women in the more rural areas to the treatment equipment from the cities. This program trained a few chosen women, who treated the water and were able to make a business out of selling the clean water.
After a few years, the results of the Community Water Solutions program are clear. It has created a new entrepreneurship business for women, while at the same time providing clean water for thousands of people. This program has inspired many other similar programs to appear around the country, and is said to have provided drinking water for over 30,000 people in Ghana.
Recently, the government of Malawi has been taking active measures to combat the 85% youth unemployment in the nation. The young Economic Planning Minister Ralph Pachalo Jooma and his counterpart form the Trade and Industry Ministry Sosten Gwengwe say that this is one of the initiatives being taken to address this major issue.
The government is advertising job opportunities for Malawian youth in Dubai, and has a plan to send 320 young workers to South Korea for unskilled labor.
Critics argue that this initiative is too little—saying that sending a small population of unskilled labor abroad will not produce any real effect on the country.
Despite the naysayers, youth from all sides of the political divide are gathering together to solve this problem and jumpstart economic development. This congregation is called the Zomba Youth General Assembly, and it is organized by aspiring Member of Parliament for Zomba Central constituency, Joseph Chikwemba, who called it “groundbreaking”.
It will be interesting to see where this initiative will go from here.
The Kenyan media has planned a series of American-style presidential debates before the March 4, 2013 election. Three debates will air on eight Kenyan television stations and 32 radio stations between November 26, 2012 and February 11,2013. The debates will adopt a town-hall style format for 90 minutes with two moderators and four panelists who will engage the candidates in a question and answer session.
According to the Chairman of the Joint Media Presidential Debates Steering Committee, Royal Media managing director Wachira Waruru, the debates will provide Kenyan voters with the opportunity to listen to, interrogate and interact with the presidential candidates. These debates will also provide the candidates with the opportunity to reach the widest possible audience. These debates will also help Kenyan voters make informed choices, promote national cohesion and steer the campaigns towards the quality of leadership rather than personality based politics that can often lead to violence.
After a series of bad investment experiences with Chinese firms Botswana’s president, Ian Khama, has stated that his country may no longer award government contracts to the fast-rising economic powerhouse. At the very least, Gaborone will be much more selective in granting infrastructure projects, especially those on which Chinese companies have placed bids.
Botswana’s harsh criticism of what it believes to be China’s sub-standard building practices is notable, given Chinese investor’s rapidly expanding presence in Africa. Additionally, this may also be viewed as an expression of growing dissatisfaction with China’s presence on the continent. Its investment activities were originally billed as a more equal partnership than what had historically been the case with the West. However, many in Africa, governments included, feel that China is more interested in access to raw materials at low prices than supporting genuine development in those countries where it maintains a presence.
Khama said that, were it not for delays and problems with Chinese-constructed power plants that we would “be totally self-sufficient if we hadn’t been let down by the Chinese.” The Chinese embassy in Gaborone did not respond to a request for a response to these recent allegations. It is important to note, though, that in 2009 when Khama became president relations with China were strong and it was involved in eighteen construction projects in the country. The future ability of Chinese investors to win contracts in Botswana will be played out in negotiations over which firms come out on top in the bidding negotiations for rights to build railways to transport Botswana’s untapped coal reserves to ports in Namibia and Mozambique.
It remains to be seen whether the criticisms Khama has voiced will become more common or whether Chinese growing economic clout will discourage other leaders from criticizing the fast-rising giant.
With the 2014 elections right around the corner, Malawian politicians are increasingly looking for different ways to market themselves to a broader audience. One such method they have chosen is through social media on the internet.
There are 188,900 Facebook Monthly Active Users (MAU) in Malawi, and the number is increasing by the hour. Social media penetration as a percentage of the nation’s population is 1.22%, and 56.09% in relation to the number of Internet users.
Despite the number of voters having increased since the 2009 elections, the Nyasa Times speculates that Facebook and other social media will not significantly alter the results of the 2014 election. Instead, the real mantra of influence will be from those who take their campaign “to the districts and not waste resources on Facebook agents or on phone/internet bills.”
There is still hope, however, that progressing in the internet field will have profound effects on Malawi in other ways in the coming future.
On Monday, November 26th, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced his desire to see more women seek elected offices during the March 2013 election. Due to Kenya’s changes in its constitution, Article 23 states that there may be no more than two thirds of one gender holding office, consequently, women must hold at least one third of all public offices. Kibaki stresses to women, “The fact that the Constitution accepts your right to seek elective positions is very clear but to get that right, you have to work hard”. Kibaki worries that Senate, Parliament and even some County Assemblies may be ruled unconstitutional by the courts if the gender quota is not met.
Currently Kenya is not only falling behind nationally in their gender parity for elected offices, they are drastically behind surrounding countries in the region: only 9.8 per cent of Members of Parliament in Kenya are women, compared to 56.3 per cent in Rwanda, Uganda (35 per cent), Burundi (30.5 per cent) and Ethiopia (37.8 per cent). Kibaki specifically reached out to the organization, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO). MYWO is an organization of Kenyan women that works to empower women and girls throughout the nation. They have called on their 25,000 members to elect women for positions in Kenya’s 47 counties. In order for Kenya to meet their gender ratio for the 2013 election, more women must run for office.
In mid October, 2012 La Francophonie summit was held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the summit, the President of Benin, Boni Yayi, met with the Haitian President Michel Martelly to discuss the possibility of cooperation between the two countries. President Yayi stated that Benin is “with Haiti” and wants to help with the development of the country. The two Presidents are considering a summit in order to lay out the terms of cooperation to help Haiti with development and policy.
In 2010, Benin signed an agreement with the Haitian State to provide scholarships to Haitian students and provide them with a higher education in Administrative Sciences, Economic and Financial Sciences, Biological and Environmental Sciences, Human and Social Sciences, or Science and Technology. President Martelly and President Yayi discussed the students and the program during the summit.
Haiti President Michel Martelly and Benin President Boni Yayi
Results of the Mo Ibrahim Index for 2012 have now been released. Which political leader was announced the winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize? Not one. No single leader within the continent of Africa was found to fit the prize’s qualifications and expectations.
What exactly are the qualifications? The political leader must have been democratically elected, have left office within three years of the prize, and has not exceeded the position’s constitutionally defined limits. The outcome of this year’s prize has caused many to criticize the index’s criteria. Some see the result as another negative statement about Africa and believe that the award is too narrowly defined. It has been proposed that the prize should be extended to civil society to include other forms as leaders such as leaders of opposition. None the less, the organization has refused to change its restrictions, explaining that the purpose of the prize is to award actual achievement, not to raise hope. But the organization also claims that its index is more important than the prize itself. In this year’s index, a rise of economic prosperity was displayed, but there still remained a downward trend in governance. This has lead critics to suggest that perhaps the prize should be awarded to countries instead of specific leaders. This way African country could still receive recognition for the progress they have made.
It has been reported that President Joyce Banda of Malawi has taken a voluntary pay cut of 30%, in order to align herself with the government’s austerity measures.
President Joyce Banda
She has also confirmed that her government will sell the controversial presidential jet that was purchased by former President Mutharika, which she called “wasteful.”
In addition to this budget cut, the government will also be cutting its forecast for economic growth of 4.3 percent, due to “contraction in some major sectors.” The projected 4.3 percent growth rate has been put aside after several major industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing, forestry, and fishing, experienced negative growth.
A Somali man tends to his crops that have suffered from drought
The former UN Secretary General has announced that food shortage was one of the triggers of the protests leading to the Arab Spring. He was speaking at the African Green Revolution Forum held during September 26-28, 2012 in Tanzania, at which leaders developed concrete plans for the development of African agriculture to promote food security. At the forum, leaders discussed the importance of food security as a top priority for governments in order to preserve order and to stabilize the African economy. Since most African farmland is underutilized, if African governments can focus on agriculture, they could feed a greater number of people, create opportunities for employment, and create global food security. But it is important to understand that it is not only food shortages that lead to uprisings; political unrest also plays a large role.
Political stability and economic growth go hand-in-hand, and it is for this reason that members of the East African Community are using this discussion as an opportunity to stress further integration between its members. They see political environments as an existing trade barrier and believe that it would be much easier to attract investment if there was a common currency between the nations if the East African Community. They believe that people need to be able to invest without problems and that further integration would create stronger political trust between nations. By linking them economically, states would have greater interest in stabilizing the political environments in their partner countries. In addition to their discussions around shared currency and linkages between East African Community members, many also acknowledged that democracy must work in Africa because if it does not, the cycle of economic hardship and political instability will only continue.