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Woman! Shut up on land matters

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Friday, February 17   2017 at  18:35

There is this heartbreaking video which went viral in Tanzania of a woman who wept before President John Pombe Magufuli in public narrating her torturous journey to get justice following her husband’s death.

The Kenyan woman was married in Tanzania but all hell broke loose when her husband died. She was branded an outsider and her property confiscated.

The widow tried unsuccessfully for several years to go to the authorities, including courts, with all documents indicating that her husband gave her the power of attorney to take charge of the family properties.

Marriage certificate

She also had her marriage certificate and all other required papers, but she instead ended up on the receiving end from authorities to her in-laws and step children.

It reminded me of the place of women as far as land rights and property ownership are concerned in Africa.

In most African homes, women still lack land rights, making them really vulnerable. I thought the situation was a bit different for women with some exposure and could at least stand for their rights.

Away from that woman, I had some unhappy experience two weeks ago in Dar es Salaam when local authorities had come to our neighbourhood to solve a boundary dispute pitting two of our neighbours.

A hoarse voice

I was later called and asked if I was the owner of the home where I live. When I responded in the affirmative, it was when I heard a hoarse voice from one of the men who had accompanied these officials! He was like, “You are just a foreigner and a woman so you have no say about this land. The only person authorised to talk about this land is your husband. I doubt if he had even married you by the time he acquired this land!”

My jaw dropped at this point. How sure was he that I was not married and did not participate in acquiring the parcel of land? I remember every time we would go to see the land in the past with my spouse, that guy was always friendly and would fondly refer to me as shemeji (Kiswahili for in-law). But on this day, when it came to land and property, I immediately became an outsider, a foreigner for that matter and a woman who should just shut up!

Offending others

However, I didn’t shut up, I insisted and reasoned with the local government officials who later told the man to avoid offending others. Then in a surprise twist, the government official asked me if I had legal permit to stay in Tanzania.

Well, to cut the long story short, Africa still has a long way when it comes to women having access to land or family property. The only time women will have secure access to land is when our governments come up with laws to contest the social norms and practices that stand in our way.

I know of a few countries like Rwanda and Kenya making headways there, but the efforts were yet to result in equitable outcomes for women and men.

Family property

The land question is a historical problem in Africa since the pre-colonial days. It was always the male members of the clans who exercised control on land use. And it was only sons who inherited land as women were regarded as distant claimants through male relatives even after being divorce or widowed.

The male members of the family would gang up and take over the family property and either kill the woman or send her and her children away. Sadly enough, the practice was still rife in many regions of Africa.

In some communities, old women who still owned some land were usually accused of practising witchcraft and killed, then their lands invaded.

Denied access

Even land titling has not helped women much as it is mainly men who were considered to be household heads who get their names on these documents.

While women worked hard to make ends meet for their families, land was definitely out of their control. Though we were making headways with progressive policies, we still need to raise awareness and carry out legal literacy about women's land rights.

Our governments need to encourage women who have been denied access to land to come out and file claims and help them secure access to legal redress. Land ownership gives woman some social status and dignity.

Twitter:@JanetOtieno
Email: kikijanty@gmail.com

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Africa needs to talk with Trump's team

Posted LONE FELIX

on  Friday, February 17   2017 at  15:03

I have returned from a rather illuminating visit to the United States Capitol. The visit involved interactive meetings with senior Republican legislators in both the Senate and the Congress, State Department employees, the business community and the donor community.

I also attended the 65th US National Prayer Breakfast addressed by President Donald Trump.

The palpating sense of uncertainty has engulfed everyone in Washington, DC, from lifelong Republicans, who should be celebrating total control of the Senate, Congress and the White House to a common liberal citizen, who seems really scared at what this change portends.

The Trump incursion caught the American political establishment unaware.

Self-rediscovery

The US seems to be on a journey of self-rediscovery, keen to figure out what the next four years will be like. Discussing this with Mr Richard McCormack, a former ambassador, I got a sense of how transitions are generally messy.

He served as an executive vice-chairman of the Bank of America and in President George W. Bush’s administration, as Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs. He has played a key role in four transitions and was instrumental in championing Aids relief under Pepfar and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, which helped Africa.

On the upheavals that have rocked the Trump Administration’s first weeks in office, he said there was nothing out of the ordinary. This view seemed to corroborate earlier opinions that even President Barack Obama’s transition had its own share of mistakes.

Centre of power

Whereas Mr Obama had many former Bill Clinton staffers, the bulk of Mr Trump’s transition staff are new with little experience of government. As the administration settles, a more certain pattern will emerge, perhaps with the offloading and reassigning of some staff away from the centre of power.

There is already talk of hiring a new press secretary and issues with the Security Adviser position.

Africa seems not to have a strategic champion of its interests in the new Washington.

Mr Trump’s views on Africa have largely been nonexistent. After his surprise victory, the only African leader he spoke with within the first few days is President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. This has to do more with the strategic nature of the country in the Israel-Arab world equation than as a key African ally.

Conscious effort

Without a conscious effort by Africa to champion its interests with the new administration, many decisions may be undertaken that will hurt the continent.

Three out of seven countries whose citizens were barred from entering in the US are from Africa.

The administration is moving to reduce American commitments to climate change, and Africa will be the most affected. Mr Trump’s team is sceptical about the criticality of the US engagement with Africa.

Questions on why Aid funds are sent to Africa whereas there is suffering in the US should be worrying.

Market principles

But there is still some hope. The Republican Party Platform of 2016 recognises Africa’s potential and notes that alliances should be strengthened through investments, trade, and the promotion of the democratic and free market principles.

Africa ought to take advantage of this recognition. The administration has also voiced concern on whether the US is losing ground to China in terms of trade. This provides the best basis through which Africa can substantively engage with the new administration.

There are many projects in rural Africa that depend on donor funding, and whereas I am no champion of aid dependency, an abrupt cut will be devastating on the lives of many African poor.

Strongest economy

This period before alliances and priorities are firmed up, the continent’s leadership must assert Africa’s position as a key player on the global stage with whom America and the rest of the world must engage.

As development agencies funded by American taxpayer resources struggle to defend their programmes in Africa, the continent must inject its own voice into that narrative.

The general feeling when Mr Obama left office was that he should have done more for the continent. But maybe we should ask what the continent did to take advantage of his presidency.

The US is the world’s strongest economy and a key player in geopolitics. Engaging it is not subordinating the interests of Africa; it is just being smart.

Lone Felix is an Equity Africa Fellow with interest in public policy and global affairs.

mail@lonefelix.com

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With so much goodwill, new Somali leader should be better

Posted RASNA WARAH

on  Monday, February 13   2017 at  11:10

The joy was palpable on the streets of Mogadishu as one of the most unlikely candidates, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, was declared the winner of the presidential election in Somalia last week.

There was double jubilation in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area and the Dadaab refugee camp, where Somali refugees celebrated both a new president and a High Court ruling that declared the Kenya Government’s decision to close down the camp and repatriate all Somali refugees to Somalia as “null and void”.

It was a surprise election victory. In a country deeply divided along clan lines, it was expected that the incumbent, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is reported to have had the support of countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Ethiopia, would win.

Heavily bribed

Mr Farmajo’s victory was also unexpected because it was rumoured that many of the candidates had heavily bribed MPs to vote for them, with some estimates indicating that millions of dollars had changed hands. In the end, as one commentator put it, people took the money but still voted for their choice.

Mr Farmajo served as prime minister in former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government, but his tenure was short-lived.

During his time as prime minister, he tried to bring a semblance of order to Somalia’s chaotic government by establishing an anti-corruption commission and instilling some kind of discipline in the civil service, a Herculean task, as most of Somalia was, and remains, a largely clan-based informal war economy where armed groups control both territory and economic assets.

Revenue collection

Mr Farmajo, who is a dual citizen of the US and Somalia, also tried to make revenue collection and government expenditure more transparent, but this proved to be extremely difficult as there were no functioning financial or regulatory institutions to speak of.

One report indicated that millions of dollars of domestic revenue from Mogadishu port and donor money from Arab countries simply vanished once the money arrived at Somalia’s dysfunctional Central Bank.

Senior government officials in Somalia are notorious for siphoning money intended for the people of Somalia — yet another reason the country has remained a failed state for so long.

This time around, hopes are high that the new president could achieve what his predecessors failed to do. Unfortunately, he assumes the presidency at a time when Somalia is facing several challenges.

Unleashing havoc

A looming famine threatens the lives of millions. Al-Shabaab is still unleashing havoc in Mogadishu and many parts of southern and central Somalia.

The Somali Army is weak and underfunded; the government has been relying on Amisom forces for security for almost a decade.

To end the mayhem, Mr Farmajo may need to negotiate a settlement with Al-Shabaab and other radical elements. Lessons can be drawn from Somaliland and Puntland, which have successfully managed to ward off the terrorist group.

A nationwide reconciliation is also needed to bring in minority clans and women, who have remained largely marginalised.

Largest clans

Mr Farmajo reportedly does not support the so-called 4.5 federal system that gives undue advantage to the four largest clans and which has broken Somalia into clan-based fiefdoms — otherwise known as federal states.

Currently these states operate largely without any reference to Mogadishu. Bringing them into the national fold should be one of his major tasks.

He will also need to reconfigure Somalia’s relationship with its neighbours, Ethiopia and Kenya, so that the relationship is mutually beneficial and not antagonistic and interventionist as it has been for decades.

The withdrawal of Ethiopian and Kenyan troops from Somalia would help this process.

Most importantly, the new president will need to eliminate corruption and restore Somalia’s institutions, including its ministries, the judiciary, the central bank and revenue-collecting institutions.

Nationalistic mindset

Without a healthy domestic revenue base and accountable government institutions, Somalia cannot emerge from the ashes.

Unlike his predecessors, Mr Farmajo is viewed as someone who has a nationalistic mindset and one who is not prone to be influenced by clan interests or Islamist radicals.

These are the qualities that got him elected. With so much goodwill, the new Somali president cannot afford to fail his people.

As one Somali told me, Somalis were fed up with the clannishness and corruption of the previous government, and so are ready for a change.

Let us hope that Mr Farmajo will not disappoint them.

rasna.warah@gmail.com

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My turbulent experience with Kenya Airways

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Friday, February 10   2017 at  19:09

Like hundreds of other loyal Kenya Airways (KQ) fliers, I have always been proud of the national carrier.

You see, there were times I would look forward to my trips, but now I am filled with dread whenever my travel agent tells me that only KQ tickets are available for a particular flight.

It is not the schedule discrepancy or the frustrating online check in system that made me believe things were turbulent at the airline. Something else made me believe that it has really sunk low.

It all started on my flight to Nairobi from Dar es Salaam in December last year. The flight delayed but we finally boarded and waited for long on the runway for the take off. And not surprisingly, noise soon erupted in the cabin with disgruntled people complaining about the delay.

It was at that particular point when a voice was heard through the intercom informing passengers that many children had been booked on the plane and there were only a few safety equipment for them.

The seat belt

All this time, my infant was soundly asleep on my lap as I had buckled him using the seat belt that I had been given.

Though I got a good seat with impressive legroom, my comfort did not last long since my infant was later to be mistreated and discriminated on board.

Suddenly, three airline officials came to my seat and told me to wake up the baby, surrender my infant's safety belt and life jacket to an older kid who they said was already two but looked smaller in size.

I told them my infant's safety should not be compromised.

I even showed them the child’s passport and the ticket details as they had demanded. I held onto my child’s seat belt so they threatened to throw me out of the plane.

My infant

I asked why they would rather have me out of the plane while my infant was already issued with safety equipment and not the other customer who missed one.

I am not playing the racial card here, but it was at this point I was forced to look behind to see the person who had missed the safety equipment. It was when I realised it was a mzungu (white) child whose safety was more important than my African one as far as the airline officials were concerned!

The safety officer then intervened though my infant's safety jacket had already been taken. I held my tongue until I returned and wrote an official complaint to them.

It was just the usual apology without any satisfactory explanation or taking any responsibility for their actions.

We regret

“Dear Janet, We thank you for your response. We regret that this incident led to inconvenience and disgruntlement during your travel. We note that this could have been handled better and assure you that we have taken this up with our in-flight team, so that you and your child as our esteemed guests may be assisted in a better way.

"It was definitely not fair to be informed of the option of being offloaded from the flight. However, given the circumstances, our team would have had to offload one of the guests with an infant.

"Please accept our sincere apologies for this. We do hope to welcome you on board soon, and to be of better service then.”

Unfortunately, their apology did not last long. Later last month, we got an emergency so I had to fly to Nairobi in the morning then head back to Dar es Salaam in the evening.

My breastfeeding

I had a planning meeting and an editorial session the following morning, besides attending to my breastfeeding infant. Only Kenya Airways was available so I booked a return ticket and made sure I reconfirmed my flight in Dar es Salaam before jetting to Nairobi.

My business in Nairobi ended and was dropped at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) armed with my ticket. I then made arrangements to be picked up at the Julius Nyerere International Airport.

When I got to the counter to get the boarding pass, the lady did not look at me but walked to another desk before later coming to tell me that my seat was gone and typed a boarding pass for the next day! I got really angry.

How could they sell my seat or double-book yet I had reconfirmed this flight upon booking the ticket and before leaving Dar es Salaam that morning?

A nursing mother

“Madam, we will take you to an hotel then give you $75. We are sorry there is nothing we can do. You will travel tomorrow.”

To them, that was a reasonable compensation irrespective of what you stood to lose. What of a nursing mother whose milk supply might dry up because they could not travel as per the schedule?

What about an infant who had run out of the milk the mother left in the morning hoping to return that night? Other customers were also yelling after they were told they could not get their boarding passes.

You see, to the officials at the desk, they had seen many like us whose flights were cancelled before.

Our engineer

To them, an unhappy customer’s option was to go and complain on their website. I wondered why they were treating us with so much contempt that evening.

The service desk at Kenya Airways that particular evening made customer service at any flea market in any African nation look much better and sophisticated.

I am not saying everybody working at Kenya Airways lacks customer care; there are some who do their jobs well.

I finally got my seat and the airline officials were like “our engineer has volunteered his seat for you”.

Well, I am not an expert on airline safety, but I believe no commercial aircraft flies without an engineer on board, so that sounded like a well-crafted line.

Email: kikijanty@gmail.com

Twitter: @JanetOtieno

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Five Zuma clones vying to replace Nkosazana at AU? Sad but true

Posted TEE NGUGI

on  Monday, January 30   2017 at  14:36

We must demand nothing but the very best from ourselves and our leadership. Not to please anyone, but for ourselves. Then the world will begin to take notice.

Five candidates are in the running to be Chairperson of the AU Commission. Four of them, including Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, are foreign ministers of their respective countries. The fifth is a former UN special envoy to Central Africa.

Therefore, there is no doubt that all five have the requisite intellectual attributes and experience to hold that position. However, none of them has the ideological frame of mind that would transform the AU, and, by force of their personality and conviction, inspire a reinvention of Africa.

No matter who takes the chair, they will be more or less like the departing Chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Zuma was lacklustre, uninspiring, and she seemed more concerned with small ideas, like getting impunity for African heads of state from the ICC.

A paradigm shift

But perhaps most damning was her unwillingness to bring about, or at least propose, a paradigm shift in the way we think of Africa. Her ideological perspective remained firmly grounded in the nationalist ideology of the pre- and post-colonial period.

This ideology has many shades, from Negritude to so-called African Personality. But the common denominator in all its various expressions is what can be called a conspiracy element, a belief that the Western world is out to keep Africa down for exploitative and racist reasons.

As such, most who believe in this theory, implicitly or explicitly view international organisations such as the ICC, Amnesty International, Transparency International, and even sometimes the UN, as agents of this colonial conspiracy.

So they scream that African problems must be solved by Africans, they squirm at criticism of African presidents, and feel a great deal of discomfort at being told that Africa is corrupt and inefficient.

They lash out with self-righteous indignation at suggestions that Africa’s economic and political woes are caused by Africans themselves. They repeat the same nationalist mantra of colonialism and neo-colonialism to explain all problems on the continent, from economic collapse to state failure to human-rights abuses.

Conspiracy theory

Blinded by this conspiracy theory, they fail to see the wanton destruction in human and material terms being wreaked by African leaders on their own countries and peoples.

In a lecture at Ibadan University in the early 1980s, African scholar Abiola Irele talked of this nationalist fixation and its consequences.

He warned that as we became mesmerised, for instance, by Mobutu’s so-called philosophy of authenticism, which purported to be a movement back to our African-ness, represented by reclaiming our African names and wearing Kaunda shirts and leopard skin hats, the real business of stealing our wealth orchestrated by Mobutu was going on.

Similarly, as African minds are engaged with arguments about a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the Mugabes, Musevenis and Obiangs of this world press their boots more firmly on the necks of their citizens.

Crucial and urgent

Some, like Teodoro Obiang, continue to siphon unbelievable amounts of money out of their countries.

But this nationalist view that distracts us from what is really crucial and urgent is increasingly coming under criticism. One prominent voice has been advocating a paradigm shift in the way we do things – former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

A few years ago in an address to the AU in Addis Ababa, he bravely made that point, and criticised African leadership for the sorry state of human rights on the continent.

But a person like Kofi Annan would never be elected chair of the AU Commission, precisely because he would pose a danger to the ideology that has protected African leadership over the past 50 years.

The AU chair is designed to play by the rules set by the African presidents.

Scream for a seat

So neither Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Agapito Mba Mokuy, Amina Mohamed nor Abdoulaye Bathily will change anything.

As foreign ministers, there is nothing in their records to show, for instance, that human rights are factored into their diplomacy. As for the UN envoy, he has failed to lead a discourse that would put the blame for state failure, such as in the Central African Republic, squarely on African leadership.

Africa will get respect when it puts its house in order. To scream for a seat on the Security Council while we have presidents slipping into exile with sacks of state money Jammeh style, or presidents making their sons vice president Teodoro Obiang style, or starving millions, is a futile exercise.

We must demand nothing but the very best from ourselves and our leadership. Not to please anyone, but for ourselves. Then the world will begin to take notice.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political and social commentator. E-mail: teengugi@gmail.com

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Country with highest paid legislators but can’t pay doctors

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Thursday, January 26   2017 at  13:47

I was recently in Kenya and had an interesting conversation with a doctor from one of the public hospitals.

I was wondering if doctors don’t really care about the plight of poor Kenyans who visit the government hospitals.

What I gathered was such an eye opener on what the doctors go through in their day-to-day lives, especially in the public health facilities.

I was made to understand that most hospitals lacked basic equipment, yet doctors were supposed to save lives, making their work really hard.

At times, the doctors were forced to use urine bags to put someone on a drip. And at times, they failed to save lives because basic things like needles were missing. Not to mention that most of the public health facilities lacked even oxygen masks.

Persuade her

I also learnt more about their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

As a curious journalist, I managed to persuade her to allow me go through the CBA.

According to Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, implementing the CBA would cost $126 million per year, an amount the government says it cannot afford.

The government now maintains that the 2013 CBA was agreed without enough consultation.

The striking union, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) has so far rejected a 40 per cent offer by the government, holding onto the CBA which calls for access to quality healthcare services in public hospitals.

So, if you are wondering why the strike has been going on for about five weeks, you now know the reason though I am going to enlighten you more.

Faulty machines

After getting frustrated with faulty machines or lack of proper equipment and even drugs, making them lose a lot of patients, the doctors finally said enough is enough and downed their tools.

They were simply asking for better working conditions and improvement of the public health facilities and that the waiting time to see a doctor be made shorter. They were also rooting for more training and employment of support staff so that cases of negligence can be reduced and that public hospitals provide quality and standardised healthcare like top private hospitals. And don’t they deserve a better pay?

According to the World Health Organisation, Kenya has one doctor for every 5,000 people compared to 2.5 per 1,000 in the US and probably higher in Europe, Middle East and Far East.

It is widely known that Kenya is also home to some of the greediest legislators on earth, earning approximately $20,000 per month. And what is more annoying is that the concerned authorities were still taking the doctors for granted, thus destroying the morale and even frustrating members of the public who depend on these health facilities.

Corruption scandals

What has seemingly annoyed members of the public is the government’s failure to resolve the strike. And it was coming at a time when corruption was stinking to high heavens, given the much publicised scandals that have tainted the image of the current administration.

And what seemed to have touched the raw nerve of the already frustrated public and helpless citizens is the internal audit exposure of how some senior health officials stole around $55 million from the 2015-16 health budget.

And currently, the government was pulling another fast ones on doctors. They were now threatening to arrest and jail them!

Remarkable work

Trust me, we are going to see mass resignations leading to brain drain as Kenyan doctors troop abroad in quest for better working conditions.

It could be worse than 2013 up to 2016 during which, according to KMPPDU, about 2,200 doctors left the country out of frustration to seek better working conditions overseas.

While they were doing a remarkable work, not all the doctors were angels though.

My family has also had a bad doctor experience since my father died as a result of negligence in one of the public health facilities, but that is a story for another day.

The opposition

As other ordinary Kenyans, we could not afford treatment in a private facility or elsewhere.

I know the Kenyan politicians can afford better healthcare overseas even for simple medical procedures that could be done in local dispensaries.

But for the rest, we need these doctors and cannot do without them.

It is everyone’s hope that the government and the opposition would rally with members of the public and resolve this impasse.

Twitter: @JanetOtieno

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A toast to China-Africa partnership, the future is even brighter

Posted MADELEINE BERRE

on  Sunday, January 15   2017 at  18:39

China’s image of a non-ethical partner has endured in the minds of many Africans, as often flashed.

Having enjoyed years of cooperation, and recently spent time with senior government officials and investors in Beijing, I can confirm that nothing is further from the truth. In fact, things have been evolving for the better.

As part of a major state visit at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, a Gabonese delegation travelled to China. The visit highlighted the increasingly important diplomatic and economic relationship, dating back to 1974, and also our enthusiasm and readiness to do business with China.

Increasing Africa’s political and economic relationships with China is, I believe, an agenda the whole continent should see as a priority. This relationship is very much two-way and it is clear to me that the People’s Republic of China has every intention to deepen their understanding of Africa.

Today, China is Gabon's first key partner. It has become the third largest supplier of goods to Gabon, representing 10 per cent of our total imports; and our most significant customer, representing 20 per cent of our total exports with mainly crude oil, manganese and sawn wood. Gabon currently hosts 30 Chinese companies and China has become a dynamic business partner in the wood processing, mining and infrastructure sectors.

Thanks to our growing partnership, President Ali Bongo Ondimba held meetings with Chinese officials, business leaders during the recent visit; and convened a China-Gabon Business Forum in Beijing. This brought investment opportunities to the foreground with a clear message: we want to attract more Chinese investments in Gabon and double our trade volume in the next 5 years.

National assets

The ultimate plan is a public investment and reform program to transform our country into a diversified emerging market economy by 2025, based on three pillars: ‘Green Gabon’, ‘Industrial Gabon’ and ‘Services Gabon’.

Gabon’s recent economic performance has been robust, especially in the non-oil sectors like mining, wood processing, agriculture and construction. They have helped boost real gross domestic product of the non-oil sectors (GDP) to 7 per cent in last few years and reduce our dependence to market fluctuations.

Through the ‘Emerging Gabon 2025’ plan, Gabon’s diversification strategy is being matched with the constant improvement of the business environment with very attractive and competitive incentives to foreign investors, as well as a qualified workforce. In order to improve the investors’ experience, Gabon’s National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANPI) has been created to be a one-stop shop, facilitating meetings, business developments and know-how.

China’s increasing investments in Gabon is their recognition that our country has an array of national assets conducive to a dynamic investment and a thriving business climate.

Business leaders in Beijing were eager to hear about the attractiveness of the country’s business environment – which is rated by the World Economic Forum as the 18th best macro-economy in the world. They listened closely as we set out the huge untapped potential of Africa’s largest rainforest, with huge reserves of iron ore, manganese, diamond, niobium and rare earth as well as world-class infrastructure and economic zones through projects financed by the African Development Bank.

Regional hub

I believe the reason they were so intent to hear more is not as part of a cynical plot to exploit African resources as many may think; but instead because many Chinese business people are inclined to know more about the opportunities to collaborate and discover the tremendous potential Africa has to offer.

It is also crucial to mention that Gabon is strategically positioned to be a natural regional hub that investors have an opportunity to benefit from economy of scale. Gabon is a gateway to several markets, including the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In a land of one billion citizens, access to more than 600 million potential consumers is appealing.

Our delegation also stressed to our Chinese hosts that Gabon is an active member of all pan-African and world trade organisations. As such, the country has endorsed many bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, including Non Double Taxation Agreements (NDTA), of which China is a signatory, particularly useful for long-term investors and entrepreneurs entering the Gabonese and Central African markets.

China has become a shining example of the possibilities of rapid economic development, lifting 700 million people out of poverty during 30 years of reforming Government.

Now, a successful global player, China has an international investment outlook from which we should take advantage to accelerate our development plans, create jobs and generate growth. Gabon is eager to further strengthen political and economic ties with China and hope to see this replicated across the continent.

The writer is the Gabonese Minister of Investments Promotion.

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There is failure all around East Africa; it is simply too much

Posted MUTHONI WANYEKI

on  Tuesday, December 27   2016 at  17:48

As we end the year… Burundi projects stability…but one maintained by increasing authoritarianism. The government has thumbed its nose not only at the East African Community-led political dialogue, but also at the rest of the international community.

Despite Rwanda’s ostensible retreat, reports still exist as to activities of the armed opposition — such as it is — across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Authoritarianism, this disdain for regional and international efforts to build an inclusive political dialogue and the continued threat of an armed offensive do not, in the long-term, stability make. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the constitutionally prescribed presidential term has come to an end in the DRC. But the president seems to be going nowhere.

Nor does he seem able or willing to provide a timetable that would lead to elections sooner than the ridiculous 2018 date agreed to by the African Union-based political dialogue — immediately dismissed by the main political opposition.

Was taken aback

That political opposition was taken aback by the announcement of a new Cabinet. The political opposition has not yet responded.

But Congolese youth have taken to the streets. Given the communications shutdown, reports coming in of deaths as the security services respond, are hard to confirm.

Armed group activity is also up in the east. The Congolese can look forward to yet more turbulence in the year ahead.

As for Somalia… all that can be said is that the Emperor-Has-No-Clothes situation continues.

South Sudan degenerates by the day.

Sexual violence

The violence ever-more ethnicised, with sexual violence reaching levels parallel to those in eastern DRC. The president remains intransigent, and unbothered and unhelpful.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development doesn’t seem to know what to do — the outcomes of its political dialogue discredited by the situation on the ground.

Sudan tries to brush off the meaning of the civil disobedience — the stay-away — in the capital. It is too busy trying to normalise its international standing.

Despite the persistence of the armed opposition in Blue Nile, Darfur and South Kordofan. Despite the utterly ruthless manner in which the state responds to this armed opposition.

Lies beyond

That is all just in our neighbourhood.

We cannot even contemplate the chaos that lies beyond. It is too much. It is simply too much. Especially as — in our neighbourhood at least — it is almost all down to incumbents that will do anything, anything, to their citizens as long as they retain their incumbency.

We could go on and on about the failure of the neighbours, the failures of the region, the failures of the rest of the world.

Own populations

But the more fundamental question is why the neighbours, the region, the rest of the world should need to do anything at all?

The problem is one of the ethics and morals of incumbents — their absolute contempt for notions such as the citizenstate compact. Their absolute willingness to run their countries completely to the ground — economically as well as through literally razing the countries to the ground.

While we tip-toe around them, evoking notions such as sovereignty that enable their continued eradication of their own populations.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa. the Horn and Great Lakes