Testing time for Zimbabwe's indigenisation plan

Having invested $290m since August 2010, Zimplats hasalotto lose with the indigenisation of its Ngezi mining operation©Tsvangirayi MukwazhiZimplats is one of the first major foreign companies to face the new indigenisation law that will lead it to divest 51% of its operations in the country to empower local employees, communities and investors.

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Ethiopia-Kenya: Authorities to meet over border tension

Ethiopian and Kenyan authorities have agreed to hold an urgent meeting in Addis Ababa to find a lasting solution to border concerns. Tension over land grazing and water related issues in the Turkana and Nyangatom areas of the Dasenesh communities - in Kenya and Ethiopia respectively - are believed to have triggered violent clashes last month that killed over 23 people.

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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 

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Education Campaign: Communities seek equality in the classroom


Vast gender inequalities hinder African education, and girls are too-often deprived of the opportunities they need to perform well in school and in life


“Rebecca is a very nice and very respectful girl. I don’t know the man who was to marry her. I only know that if Rebecca were to stay at home instead of school then her father would marry her off. That is why I brought her here. For as long as she is here there is no problem, but if she goes back home she will be married off. I will fight for Rebecca’s education. I did not attend school myself but I think education is very important. I would like all my children to be educated.”?


So speaks Sara, a grandmother from a Maasai village near Kajiado in Kenya, who helped her 14-year-old granddaughter escape from an early marriage last July by bringing her to AIC Kajiado Girls’ Primary School, a Centre of Excellence (COE) run by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).?

In Your Classroom


Mothers' Clubs at Sambang
Upper Basic School, The Gambia
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Since the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All (EFA), education has been recognised as fundamental for development. Not education alone, but gender equality too. “The most urgent priority”, the declaration states, “is to ensure access to and improve the quality of education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation.”?


The empowerment of girls and women through education brings benefits for individuals, communities and countries. Livelihoods are improved, families are healthier, civic education and liberties are enhanced. ?


Yet more than halfway to the 2015 deadline for the EFA goals, deeply-rooted gender inequalities still exist. In countries where there is progress, it is slow and uneven. The 2009 EFA Global Monitoring Report found that more than half of Sub-Saharan African countries had not reached gender parity in primary education by 2006; gender gaps exist at secondary level in all African countries that reported data; and only Botswana and Swaziland have achieved parity at tertiary level. Furthermore, focus on access has often been to the detriment of quality, and improving learning outcomes remains a challenge in many countries. ?


Gender discrimination practices and attitudes within schools abound. Teaching and learning processes do not always give girls equal opportunities; teachers do not always acknowledge the academic capabilities of girls, especially in science and technology; and school-management systems do not always address the specific needs of each sex. Practices such as early marriage and female circumcision continue in communities surrounding schools, and persistent poverty remains an overriding challenge.


?At FAWE we advocate a holistic approach that creates an enabling environment where both girls and boys can learn. We support programmes such as bursaries to support underprivileged girls, empowerment schemes to rebuild girls’ self-esteem and literacy, and income-generating initiatives for mothers. ?


These interventions are unable to defeat gender discrimination alone, and so FAWE’s strategy has been to create COEs, institutions that take an integrated approach towards gender-related problems. With pilot projects in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania since 1999, the objective of each COE is to ensure that girls and boys become life-long learners and confident members of society. Programmes include boarding facilities for girls, with emphasis on adequate sanitation, nutrition, sports and health facilities, and community-mobilisation initiatives that gain active support for girls’ education. The COE model has improved girls’ performance and retention rates – at Kajiado Girls’ Primary School, girls’ national exam scores improved from 66% in 2000 to 75% in 2002 and to 98% in 2007.


?Today, FAWE operates 13 COEs in ten countries, and these schools have experienced lower drop-out rates for girls, reduction in teenage pregnancy to an average of just 1% and more girls participating in school committees and leadership roles. New centres are planned for Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Togo and Uganda in 2009.


?Schools do not function in isolation. The school community must work towards creating a favourable learning context for children. Staff must be trained to implement gender-responsive policies, practices and systems. Parents and communities must be encouraged to participate in resource mobilisation, school management and monitoring of students and teachers. The school infrastructure must be adapted to respond to the physical needs of girls and boys. Ministries of education and sponsors of schools must be convinced of the need to address gender constraints in the schools. Greater resources need to be mobilised at national level for budgets with specific allocations for girls’ education, and at regional and school levels to address the particular needs of girls, especially the underprivileged. Then stories such as Rebecca’s, although an inspiring testimony to the courage of the excluded and disadvantaged, will become the exception rather than the norm in many communities.


Interview: Don 'Smokey' Gold, a former Niger Delta militant


The Africa Report: Is the government doing anything to address the underlying causes of the crisis?


?Don ‘Smokey’ Gold: The government and leaders of Niger Delta are working superficially and paying lip service to the Delta’s problems. There is no geniuneness in the pursuit of the problems to a logical conclusion. Their self-interest and gains are greater than the interest they might have in solving the problems.?The Ministry [for the Niger Delta] they set up recently is fattening their pockets and [is] not for the development of the region.


?Is the government serious about tackling oil bunkering??


The adage says when the head is rotten the other parts of the body cannot function well or not at all. This adage goes a long way to explaining the bunkering situation in the country. The seriousness should start from the top. There is no problem that cannot be tackled if there is seriousness of purpose from the government.?Government officials are the main bunkerers. They hide under the civilians and even when these civilians are eventually arrested, they will bring out their ugly heads to free them with huge sums of money. In fact, this generation has a long, long way to go to tackle the bunkering due to the high level of corruption. I see no seriousness.?


Are the oil companies doing anything to improve the lives of people in the Delta?


?The oil companies are not the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They are here purely for profit maximisation. The extent of their help should be spelt out in the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) signed by them and host communities.?The oil companies tried initially to [live up to] their MOUs but the so-called office-holders and royal majesties from various oil-producing communities killed the efforts of the companies. Because of this, the companies are deviating from their MOUs.?Office-holders and royal majesties have conspired with companies’ representatives to enrich themselves, because the companies’ representatives have seen that representatives from various oil-producing communities are so corrupt. So they all work together. That is the reason why you hear people from various oil-producing communities complaining. But they fail to understand that it is a game of conspiracy.


Back to Niger Delta, A dangerous masquerade


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


Helping women in Africa's battle against HIV/AIDS


The world is increasingly calling for justice and peace for women, pleading for equality and denouncing violence against them. But as all this unfolds, we are still faced with startling facts about the vulnerability of women to HIV infection, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 61% of adults living with AIDS are women.?


Women bear the bulk of the burden of care, even though they may themselves be infected with HIV or indeed ill. We know that these efforts largely go unnoticed, unrecognised and unrewarded. These heroic contributions by women have been a significant factor in the prevention of the further spread of HIV. Women have taken steps to seek information for themselves, their families and communities, through involvement in home-based care services, peer education and widow support groups. ?


However, women need to do much more to mobilise their communities to change those aspects of culture that put them at risk of infection. This can only succeed with the full participation of all community members – traditional leaders and all other agents of socialisation, including men.


?One of the prime drivers of the epidemic is gender inequality and violence against women. One in every four women will experience sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Although this issue is increasingly claiming space at national, regional and international forums, countries are not developing indicators to measure progress in this area. This is what women should demand. ??


Violence against women is also fuelled by the language used to describe it. Reframing communication is crucial. It is somewhat ‘acceptable’ to ignore violence against women if it is labelled a ‘domestic dispute’ because people feel that there would be an element of intrusion if they intervened. This attitude is often demonstrated when women report violence that has taken place at home: often law enforcement agencies attempt to ‘reconcile’ instead of prosecuting the perpetrator. The solution lies in a communication strategy that speaks to women as well as men. Women must be empowered not to tolerate violence and men must realise that they do not have to be violent in order to be men.


?Poverty fuels the spread of HIV in many ways. Women must hold governments to invest more to ensure that significant progress is made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty. Its alleviation, and women’s economic empowerment, have the potential to enable women to negotiate safer sex and contribute to the reduction of the spread of HIV.


?Women also need to demand tools that they can use to protect themselves against infection. They must call for more accessibility of female condoms, which can be used by women living with HIV who do not wish to fall pregnant and also to protect non-HIV partners. ?


What can be done? Imposing recommendations that promote gender equality as conditionality for grants goes against the tenets on which the Global Fund was created. When it comes to influencing patriarchal systems and gender equalities, it can only give out information and guidelines in proposal application forms on the availability of funds to target women and girls. However, the challenge is for countries themselves to put women’s issues at the centre of their programmes against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. ?


In the short term, countries can support women providing care in Africa by compensating them for taking on a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is not too far-fetched. Nutritional and financial support is already being given to the families of orphaned and vulnerable children as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. A study done in Zambia and Malawi shows that approximately 70% of the beneficiary households of social cash-transferring schemes seem to be HIV/AIDS-affected, even though the schemes do not use HIV/AIDS as a criterion. Targeting households where women are the care-givers may bring more success than attempting to reconstruct gender roles and sexual independence in the first instance. Changing the mindset is a long-haul problem.

It is critically important that society create an environment for women to be supported in their efforts to demand their basic human rights and freedom from acts of violence. In this effort, the joint contribution of men, institutions and all agencies should be marshalled for maximum results.


Elizabeth N. Mataka is Vice-chair, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria


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