http://www.voxafrica.com/modx/en/ShootTheMessenger/desperately-seeking-good-news

Roman Polanski was recently arrested in Switzerland over a crime committed  in the USA way back in 1978. The world of film has vowed to stand by him and many have signed a petition to have him released.

What has caught my attention in all this was a radio interview I heard the other day in which the views of ordinary Swiss and US folk were solicited.

Those in USA were of the view  that regardless of what time has elapsed the Swiss authorities were right to arrest Polanski whilst those in Switzerland were of the view that, it was wrong to arrest Polanski especially given the time taht has  elapsed and he should released immediately.

A comment from a Swiss woman stood out for me in particular she said,

Switzerland tolerates terrible crimes all the time why are the authorities so fussed about an incident that is over 30 years old?

An interesting if not curious statement to make, and what sprung to mind was all the money that the corrupt african leaders have reportedly hidden in secret Swiss accounts over the years, whilst their country folk  die of hunger!

Is this what the Swiss woman was referring to?  I don’t know for sure but I certainly wondered.

So is it right that  Swiss banks should if it is true allow African leaders to steal from their countries and hide their loot in the Swiss bank vaults? If Africans asked the Swiss authorities to return this loot would they?

Should Switzerland be focusing on this instead of a crime committed in 1978 in which the victim has since dropped the charges?

My answer is of course not, abuse of any sort should not be tolerated  regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed.

However the Swiss authorities need to be more consistent in their approach as opposed to being selective as to which crimes they will prosecute

That is according to David Lane speaking at the Pittsburg G-20 . He reasons that Africa has over 1 billion producers and consumers of services of goods. He calls for G20 to make Africa part of the solution to ending poverty in Africa and further more that the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa.

I must say that I agree with him on all accounts.

Yes  he is right in the first instance that Africa has an awful lot of consumers and suppliers.  Africa is also the producer of some of the high end/value products in the world such as diamonds, gold, petrol, coffee, cocoa etc but these products are merely extracted and taken to consumers elsewhere, and when returned the African’s almost always can’t afford them, and those that can often have to travel millions of millions to be able to consume these products. Does any of this make sense to you?

The next point – the next G20 meeting should be held  in Africa and the campaign has started and if you agree please add your name here

 

Africa is almost always part of the agenda at these summits with leaders of the richest countries in world pledging more help for the continent, however these meetings are never held in Africa, unlike  the COMMONWEALTH HEAD OF STATES

 
I can imagine that a lot of money is spent at these meetings, imagine therefore what such a meeting would do for the economy of a small central African country, like Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda, unless of course the organisers of such a meeting opted to fly in everything that would be used, including food service staff etc. But even then, there would inevitably be a trickle down of sorts.

 The economic benefits aside, if you have a matter to resolve with someone isn’t it best that you go to them and do this face to face. Some of the points that come out these meetings regarding Africa are , MAKE AFRICA LEADERS MORE ACCOUNTABLE, END CORRUPTION, IMPROVE GOVERNANCE,  and so on and so forth, but  if the leaders of Africa only ever here this on TV and radio, wouldn’t they be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with them,  a sort of hearsay, Afterall would you take anyone seriously who talked about you behind your back? The natural reaction is one of IF YOU HAVE  SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME,,,,,,

Obama and Clinton have led the way to going to the leaders of Africa and given them some tough love and I do hope that the G20 will follow in their footsteps. They are currently discussing how to lift the world out of the recession but surely the recession is worse amongst the bottom billion of Africa.

 Can the G20 ever see Africa as a key economic player and not a basket case that needs hand out? Is this indeed the solution to Africa’s  ending poverty? Can a whole continent be lifted  out of poverty by AID? Of course not treating Africa as  an economic partner,  a consumer and supplier of goods would go along way to resolving te poverty. food shortages etc experienced by its people.

 

If you have a view either way, I would like to hear from you as usual

Yesterday  I introduced Flotea one of our textile producers .  Flotea had left me with so much to think about and I when went to sleep  that night I wondered what the next day would be like as I was due to meet Elihaika who is also a textile producer for Ethnic Supplies.

Elihaika (on the right)

Elihaika (on the right)

Elihaika set up her Textile business in 2004 and initially designed clothing for the local market. Like other textile producers in Tanzania, she wanted access to a much wider market so she joined local groups and through these she got into large exhibitions and managed to access markets in nearby countries.

Today she works with 500 other women and is the team leader of Hand Products Of Tanzania (HOT) a group made up of 35 female entrepreneurs from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Her role is to promote the work of the group and to ensure that they have access to public funding to enable them to participate in high profile events. Some of the group’s members such as Julia are semi or illiterate and rely on her for issues such as pricing

Julia

Julia

I told Elihaika about my conversation with Omari and asked about what life is like for women in Tanzania.

Elihaika: some are financially dependent some are not: where a woman has independent income she has control over it and it gives her spending power whilst those without financial independence are always asking their husbands for money and there is no guarantee that they will get it or that it will meet their needs. If a man is in charge of the money chances are arguments will arise, men don’t like it when women ask them for money and find this irritating and despise women that ask them for money constantly this in turn frustrates the woman as the woman as she doesn’t want to ask money but has no choice.

Are there Systems and processes in place to support women to become economically independent?

Elihaika: things are changing even in the rural areas, land is more accessible to women and the government is keen for women to own property. It is however up to the women to take advantage of the opportunities that have been provided. For instance family/marital property can pass to women banks have become accessible to women, micro finance is available too and if women take up these opportunities up then they can become financially independent. Women have a big role in economic development as they participate in production, create jobs and are responsible for children especially in the area of education. This (education) is important as it is the key role eradicating poverty.

With that in mind what are the challenges women in Tanzania face?

Elihaika:

  • Access to working capital is still an issue for women without formal education.
  • For those involved in textile production market access is  a problem
  • Access to overseas markets
  • help with designing of products that are suitable for foreign markets
  • African customs and culture, still place men on pedestals, where women are meant to be subservient, there are still areas that believe in certain jobs being unsuitable for girls
  • property rights for women are still restricted in some parts even with the government legislation -girls can’t inherit  property and confined to  a life of poverty
  • exclusion from education
  • lack of control on household income and have not say how this is spent

I gave some thought to these challenges and naively or not I concluded that with a great deal of WILL and commitment almost all of them can be eliminated. It also seemed to me that women must strive for financial independence and one way that we can all help  is to give women the tools they need to develop the skills that they require to take advantage of the initiatives created by governments and donors. But how do we get around the issue of market access especially access to overseas markets?

We probably can’t do much about the culture that places men on pedestals at the expense of women in Africa but if women gain financial independence an element of that culture may fade out on its own.

I left Tanzania the next day and head to Uganda. I will be writing about my experiences there in the next post. As usual it you have a view either way, I would love to hear from you.

A little over a week ago I became aware of an initiative by Africans in the diaspora called #BrandAfrica through a twitter conversation with TMS RUGE and today I was interviewed by him in relation to the African image in the western world.

A UK based journalist called Jon Snow once said Africans are terrible at telling their story, there are so many good things going on in Africa but the Africans are not shouting about them. He should know as he spent several years in Uganda for instance and even managed to get an interview with Idi Amin and it would appear he is right

The Brand Africa project sees African in the diaspora who have had enough of the the poor representation of the continent and are taking advantage of Social media especially to tell their stories.

In the interview with TMS RUGE we spoke about the typical images of Africa, the dying children with flies and what we can do to change that. Yes granted those starving children with flies on their faces do exist however we never get to see the “after pic”

I can remember a conversation I had with a woman earlier this year in April about our project in SW Uganda and wondered whether she would be up to volunteering at teh project.

She asked what the project has got to do with me, before she went on to tell me that Africa isn’t Britain, I asked what she meant and she said well it is a different culture isn’t it? She went on to say that before she agrees to volunteer she would need to know that the set up was the same as it is in Britain specifically that the buses arrive on time?

I must admit to being lost for words for a few minutes before saying to her that we were looking for people with a great sense of adventure and wondered if she felt she met this criteria because this is what you get in Africa.

First forward to May 2009 I was at Entebbe Airport and I got into a conversation with a British man for whom this was the first visit to Africa. I asked him if he had enjoyed his visit and he said he had. I asked him whether he had had any thoughts of whatt to expect before he arrived, I nearly fell off the chair when I heard his answer ” I thought there would be animals, lions that sort of thing as soon as I got off the plain but all I saw was a monkey somewhere in the countryside”

As the conversation went on it transpired that he was not aware that the source of the River Nile was in Uganda nor was he familiar with the great explorers like Speke and Stanley.

Why is it necessary to show a different side of Africa? In my mind this is important because only then can Africa start to shake off her image of poverty, disease and be treated like an equal.  Africa offers real opportunities to the rest of the world in terms of business, culture and heritage, but these are never reported because this type of story does not sale News!

Our central message here at Ethnic Supplies is that “African women are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty and just need access to a wider market and equitable trade terms. I am not alone as far as this view is concerned, my good friend and associate Neill Kelsall of RAISE TRADE is passionate about increasing the GDP of African countries through positive PR amongst other things.

So watch this space as Africans start telling their story and I live you some images of Africa

Oh and don’t forget to visit/join our facebook group

Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi Kabale SW Uganda

Mt Elgon North Eastern Uganda

Sipi River Mt Elgon North Eastern Uganda

Antisarabe Madagascar

Lovers lake Antisarabe Madagascar

It is the final day of the G8 meeting in L’Aquila Italy. The issue for discussion as I understand it is help for African farmers and reduction in Food AID to Africa and the overall aim is bring about food security and reduce poverty.

I am encouraged by proposals to increase grain storage, irrigation projects, availability of seeds and fertilisers as way forward to reducing world hunger and extreme poverty. This is all great stuff, but I can’t help but wonder how it will work out in practice

We know about farmer’s subsidies here in Europe and the US and we also know that there is an over production of food most of which ends up as FOOD AID in Africa.

We agree that in emergency situations this is necessary. What is questionable is whether this food actually gets to those that need it. You will recall the case of the Canadian Peas?
In addition Food Aid/dumping as it is called in some circles kills local industry remember the case of the Zambian farmer?

W e also know that some parts of Africa have too much food whilst others don’t. Do we know how we can get this food from parts of Africa that actually need this food?

What about the extreme weather conditions, floods, lack of rain leading to poor soil condition etc not to mention diseases that affect the plants such as the banana and coffee wilt in sub-Saharan Africa? How do we tackle climate change? One thing for sure those in the developing world appear to be the worst hit by extreme weather conditions leading to disease, loss of shelter, food security amongst other things.
These are all big issues that will require the commitment of all stakeholders in order to effect change.

My wish list,
• I would like to see initiatives that work directly with individuals on the ground
• I would like to see more skills sharing with people in the developing world, they understand their environment much more than we will ever do
• I would like to see a system that enables African farmers to sell their food to other African countries that can’t grow enough. This might be achieved through increased food storage facilities as well as grain storage
• I would like to see a reduction in Food Aid from Developed countries as I believe that food could be provided from parts of Africa that have too much food. That would give those countries the incentive to grow more food, create jobs etc

Your thoughts please?

This week the Department for International Development here in the UK has issued a new report ELIMINATING POVERTY : Building Common future,  which spells out a new direction  and  desire to address issue of poverty in the developing world and amongst other things the report looks at the impact of the economic downturn on those in the developing countries.

And at the UN summit of September 2000 the richest nations in the world made pledges to the development world that are summed up in what has become to be known as the

Millennium Development Goals or MDGs

  • Goal 1:  Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4:  Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5:  Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6:  Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7:  Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8:  Develop a Global Partnership for Development

This was an ambitious undertaking on the one hand but one that gave hope  to folk in the developing world that we in the developed world are committed to making things better for them.

The question I ask today is whether these goals will be realised?  There has been an increase in AID but will increased AID have  made a difference in 2015? Can we in the west wait that long? what about the  folk in the developing can they wait until 2015 for the goals to be realised?

There is concern in some quarters that the MDGS will not be realised in some African countries and this appears to stem from the fact that

  • not everyone signed up to the MDGS ( it was reported earlier this year that France and Italy are two of the countries that ahve failed to honour the pledges made towards Africa)
  • increased insecurity in some  of the African countries
  • impact of diseases such as malaria and HIV
  • family breakdown
  • food availability
  • Climate change
  • and AID distribution to name but a few

Most including myself argue that the surest way to lift people out of poverty in a sustainable way is through trade.  That being the case how are we doing on that front? Are trade agreements more equitable now than they were in 2000? Are folk in the developing countries treated as equal or even potential trading partners?

Well one thing that is certain, is that Africa in particular has seen an increase in cheap imports from china, second  hand clothing and FOOD AID. Only last week I was speaking to a man I met at the Africa Matters get together. He lived in Zambia for many years as a farmer and produced vegetable oil.

He was put out of business in 6 months when cooking Oil given to Mozambique by USAID as part of teh FOOD AID package ended up for sale on the streets of Lusaka. I understand that cotton farmers in Zambia and Malawi suffered a similar fate with the increased cheap imports from China as well as second hand clothing.

Some African governments are fighting back by imposing huge DUTY on these cheap imports but what do you about FOOD AID?

So I ask the question are Millennium goals helping me?