In Depth

Fri,17Nov2017

In Depth

Aid in Crisis: Who is helping whom?

International aid agencies are under attack – rich countries are cutting their budgets and African governments are questioning their motives 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 15:42

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Absolute monarchs and ?the freedom of the press

 

Bouba DialloMy children, it is with great sadness that I explain to you why I can no longer carry on with my work.?

 

It is with a heavy heart that I sit at this table, not to write news stories as is normally the case, but to tell you something in confidence: it is no longer feasible for me to carry on working in journalism, no matter how honourable people around the world think this profession is.

 

?In Niger, as in most parts of Africa, this job is hard, very hard. Working for the press is tantamount to being a prisoner. We are viewed by governments and lobby groups alike as pestilential spoilsports. This could be because we try to influence the expenditures of our officials in the public interest and that this is simply not acceptable to African leaders. Even when they reach power through the ballot box, our leaders are impervious to good governance and to any criticism by a journalist. Once in power, they become absolute monarchs. They believe themselves to be above the law and claim power over life and death.

 

So-called democrats can send a journalist to jail or have him beaten up for a misplaced comma. Pius Ndjawé has been arrested 126 times by President Paul Biya’s regime in Cameroon. Others less fortunate have been killed, as was the case in Burkina Faso with Norbert Zongo or in The Gambia with Haidara Daida. In some countries in the continent, reporters have simply gone missing, notably in Eritrea and Ethiopia.??

 

The situation may not be quite as alarming in Niger, but last year, eight of our journalists were in prison and one was in exile. This year we have already seen four journalists jailed in Niamey, one of whom is being detained for two months. In addition, on 21 February two Nigerien citizens were arrested and held in custody for having drawn a caricature of our president. Charged with having insulted the head of state, after seven days in detention they were eventually released. Niger’s Higher Communication Council – a supposedly independent administrative authority meant to “guarantee and assure the freedom and the protection of the press” – has become an instrument of repression. Getting access to information from the public administration is next to impossible.?

 

Another factor is the sheer difficulty of survival for our newspapers. As the papers have no financial support, they have no economic independence.

 

?Part of the blame, too, can be placed on us journalists. Many entered the job as fortune hunters and so the basic rules of the job are blithely ignored, leaving real journalists ashamed to be associated with the business. We are faced with a choice between mediocre content or empty newspapers.?

 

After so many years of hard work, my hopes have been dashed. I wanted to bring about change, to eradicate the growing ignorance in our society and to encourage the exchange of ideas to achieve development. But I have reached the end of the road, which is why I ask you to understand. Please reassure yourselves, my dear children, writing has become a drug for me, so I can write something else…??

 

Your loving father. 

A fractured nation

 

Those who fled the bloody reign of Sékou Touré have been kept at arm’s length, though a thaw may begin to bring them home to help Guinea’s development

Last Updated on Friday, 02 March 2012 16:11

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Are biofuels good for Africa?

Richard Morgan?, Chief Executive Officer, ?Sun Biofuels, United Kingdom??

 

"Biofuels can help Africa to meet its energy needs"

 

The continent of Africa probably has more arable land available than anywhere other than Brazil and Argentina. There are large parts of the middle of the continent that are so dry that jatropha probably won’t grow there but, potentially, Africa has a lot of land that could in theory produce a lot more food, a lot more intensively, and with the potential to produce significant amounts of biofuels. Provided the balance between those two needs is met, then there’s a big opportunity for Africa to contribute not only to its own energy needs, but also as a net exporter of energy. ?We believe there will be a very positive soil stabilisation effect, improvements to watercourse sustainability, and positive contributions to greenhouse gas balances from jatropha. The trees will have a lifespan of 20 or 30 years and, over that period, the use of water and chemicals, fertiliser and fossil fuels (in terms of machinery) will be quite low. ?There are issues with access to land, and this is the same for biofuels as it is for large-scale agriculture operations. It’s a political process. It’s not something that should be bulldozed through simply because there’s a demand for energy and investors out there with money, it doesn’t work like that. Land is acquired by legal processes that involve consultation with the communities that live on the land. Unless they want that land allocated, it’s extremely unlikely that I or anybody else will be allowed to operate. Land title and land law are massively complicated and bureaucratic, and that is one of the barriers I see to investment, expansion and intensification of agriculture in many African countries.

 

Bakari Nyari, ?Vice-chairman of the Regional Advisory and Information Network Systems (RAINS), Ghana??

 

"We need a much stronger voice for local communities"

 

The impact of biofuels on Africa depends on the approach. If the focus is export-oriented, biofuel projects can have negative fallouts, but if it fulfils the energy needs of the local community, then production does have its place. ?The general perception is that agrofuel crops do well on marginal lands, but what we are seeing in Ghana is that these so-called marginal lands are in use by local communities. Some may be used for grazing, others may be lying fallow to allow for regeneration and subsequent use, but often local communities are dispersed from these lands in favour of large-scale agrofuel projects. Much of the value of the investment, and the resulting exports, end up with the local elite who negotiated the land deal, seeding dispute and division in villages. ?Agrofuel farmers get greater support from local government agricultural officers, diverting their attention away from other more traditional crops. Jatropha, which has traditionally been used in Africa as a hedge, is now being planted en masse for agro-fuels. But farmers find there is no alternative use for jatropha seeds and in addition, some are now getting half the price for their seeds that they expected when they planted them. ?In Africa, we need to internalise our sources of energy. We should be cautious of situations where the market element, rather than self-sufficiency, is the driving force behind the choice of agricultural investment. When it comes to new agrofuel projects in Africa, we need to build a stronger voice for local communities, who need to have the opportunity to carefully measure the impact of potential biofuel production and understand the realities

THE QUESTION

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