Items filtered by date: Friday, 17 November 2017

For decades, Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe in a ruthless, even recklessmanner. Over nearly 40 years, he turned the “jewel of Africa” into an economic basket case that’s seen inflation of up to 800 percent.

Then, late in the night of Nov. 14, the country’s security services detained and put Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president under house arrest in what appeared to be a military coup. The whereabouts of his powerful wife, Grace, are unconfirmed.


Much remains unclear at this early stage. Will violence erupt? Is this really the end of the Mugabe era?

I don’t know the answers to those questions yet. I’m not sure even Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who appears to have orchestrated Mugabe’s overthrow, knows how his gambit will turn out.

But with each passing hour, it is increasingly evident that Zimbabwe – a country whose politics I spent uncountable hours grappling with as a State Department official – is poised to see its first real leadership transition since 1980.

Setting the stage for Zimbabwe’s coup

For decades, Mugabe’s grip on Zimbabwe was iron-clad. Even when challenged by an invigorated opposition in 2008, he kept the presidency by entering into a nominal power-sharing agreement. After a decisive electoral victory in 2013, though, he cast the coalition aside.

But as the elderly president grew increasingly frail this year, the power struggle to succeed him became frenzied. Two major camps were vying for power.

Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who as a soldier fighting for Zimbabwe’s liberation earned the nickname “the crocodile,” represented the old guard. The 75-year-old enjoyed strong military backing, particularly from the veterans’ association, a powerful coalition of former combatants from Zimbabwe’s independence struggle which began in 1964 and ended in 1979.

The crocodile who snapped back. Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Last year, the group broke with Mugabe in a public letter, declaring that he had “presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin.” Many believed that Vice President Mnangagwa orchestrated the group’s letter as a shot across the bow to warn would-be rivals.

The second camp jockeying to control Zimbabwe before the coup was led by Mugabe’s current wife, Grace Mugabe. At a relatively spry 53, she represented the younger generation, drawing significant support from the ruling party’s loyalist Youth League and from an informal grouping of emerging leaders known as “Generation 40.”

But Grace Mugabe was deeply unpopular among ordinary Zimbabweans, who called her “Gucci Grace” because of her extravagant spending. Plus, she had a reputation for cruelty. Earlier this year, the president’s wife faced accusations of beating a 20-year old South African model with an electric cable.

In September, after Vice President Mnangagwa was emergency airlifted to South Africa due to a strange illness, Grace Mugabe had to publicly deny, on state TV, that she had poisoned her rival.

As recently as early November, it appeared that Grace’s camp had prevailed. President Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa. Mnangagwa, it seems, had a different plan. While in exile, he stayed in touch with his military allies.

On Nov. 14, Mnangagwa’s camp struck back. By the next morning, Mugabe was under house arrest, his wife had reportedly fled to Namibiaseeking asylum and Mnangagwa’s cohort appeared to control the country.

Democracy or dictatorship?

At least, that’s the picture right now. Events have moved swiftly in the last 24 hours, and some big questions remain unanswered.

If Mnangagwa officially takes power, the first unknown is whether he will rule by fiat or cobble together a transitional government. It’s unclear whether Mnanangwa and his allies have any real interest in introducing democracy to Zimbabwe. To do so, they would need to hold an election within a reasonable period of time, say six months.

Military coups don’t have a promising track record of ushering in democracy. Recent scholarship finds that while “democratization coups” have become more frequent worldwide, their most common outcome is to replace an incumbent dictatorship with a “different group of autocrats.”

Soldiers patrol the strees of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, after a military coup d'etat against president Robert Mugabe. AP Photo

Signals in Zimbabwe are mixed so far. Experts generally describe the latest developments as “an internecine fight” among inner-circle elites and ask two key questions: Which side will prevail, and will violence break out?

In my assessment, the answers hinge on Mnangagwa, a hard-nosed realist and survivor who was critical in securing Mugabe’s four-decade rule. Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record. Many consider him responsible for overseeing a series of massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi,” in which an estimated 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group perished.

More recently, in 2008, civil society groups accused Mnangagwa of orchestrating electoral violence against the political opposition and rigging polls in Mugabe’s favor.

It is also true that Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.

‘Unity’ for Zimbabwe?

Nonetheless, reports indicate that Mnangagwa is currently talking to several opposition parties about potentially forming a transitional government. A key stakeholder in any such arrangement would be Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, who served as prime minister to Mugabe as part of the 2009 power-sharing agreement.

That coalition achieved some success on economic matters, but Mugabe’s party never relinquished any real authority. Mnangagwa was among those who clung to power back then, but I believe he might play things differently now. Mnangagwa is no reformer, but he does need to find ways to bolster his legitimacy. Not to mention he will quickly need to confront Zimbabwe’s massive economic woes.

The choices that Zimbabwe’s political leadership makes in the coming weeks will have immense consequences for the future of a country whose development has stagnated under 40 years of authoritarian rule.

Real transitions in Zimbabwe are all too rare. Mugabe led the country to independence in March 1980, assumed the presidency and never left. His demise represents a chance for a political reset.


Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Economy

Ghana loses about 318,514 tonnes of maize annually to post-harvest losses according to a 2016 study by Dr Bruno Tran, an expert in post-harvest losses management with the Africa Post-Harvest Losses Information System (APHLIS).

This figure represents 18 percent of the country’s annual maize production and Northern Region is the largest contributor with 20,411 tonnes annually followed by Upper East Region and Volta Region which also contribute 13,000 tonnes and 8,983 tonnes respectively.

Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Central Regions are the least contributors with 778 tonnes, 734 tonnes and 636 tonnes respectively and according to Dr Tran, most of the maize was lost because the farmers failed to dry it thoroughly before storage. Mr Emmanuel Sasu Yeboah, Upper West Regional Director of Agriculture revealed this during the Regional Post-Harvest Losses Forum organised by the Ghana Trades and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC) in collaboration with SNV under the Voice for Change (V4C) partnership project.

He said major crops in the region which suffered post-harvest losses included; maize, sorghum, rice, groundnuts, cowpea, vegetables (tomato, okro and green leaves) and yam, adding that these produce are therefore sold immediately after harvest and in the circumstance farmers earned little.

He said another study on post-harvest losses of maize along the chain in the Sissala East and Sissala West Districts in 2015 by a student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has revealed that more than 50 percent of maize produced was lost due to poor post-harvest handling.

“Another research conducted in 2013 by the Urban Association Limited (TUAL) on post-harvest losses of selected food crops in 11 African countries including; Ghana…..revealed that almost half of food crops produced in the country do not make it to the consumer”, he said.

He said according to the report as much as 60 percent of yam produced in Ghana, for instance, did not make it to the final consumer, adding that the level of losses occurring in maize production, ranged between 5-70 percent. Between 11-27 percent and 5-15 percent of rice and millet/sorghum cultivated never made it to the consumer, Mr Yeboah said, noting that sucking buds were the major cause of groundnuts post-harvest losses.

The Regional Director of Agriculture mentioned harvesting, shelling, cleaning, sorting and grading, packaging, storage and transportation as critical areas that affect post-harvest quality or losses of farm produce.
He said farmers in the region have still not achieved their maximum potential in spite of several interventions and attributed it to high post-harvest losses.

Mr Yeboah recommended that research should provide appropriate scientific know-how on post-harvest handling and preservations methods of food crops to farmers especially during harvesting, transportation and storage to reduce mechanical injury. Again, policymakers and entrepreneurs should invest in roads, storage and processing infrastructure, noting that government’s “One-District-One-Factory” policy could become a key factor in addressing post-harvest losses in agricultural production.

The first Upper West Regional Post-Harvest Loss Forum was on the theme: “Addressing Post-Harvest Loss; implication for planting for food and jobs policy in the Upper West Region”.

Published in Agriculture

Dangote Noodles Limited, a unit of Nigerian company Dangote Flour Mills, has sold two production lines to rival pasta maker De United Foods Industries for 3.75 billion naira ($12.26 million), the company said.

De United said it has signed an agreement with Dangote Noodles to buy plants at its Ikorodu and Calabar factories. It would also buy stock worth 383.94 million naira. The deal comes after Dangote sold a small stake in its cement business to foreign investors in a one-off stock market deal valued at 27 billion naira.

Dangote Flour Mills, majority owned by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, had said it wanted to quit the noodles business to focus on flour and pasta production, analysts say. 

Nigeria’s noodle market is fiercely competitive and De United with a market share of around 70 percent is seeking to consolidate the sector. Privately-held Dangote Industries Limited, with interests in agriculture, real estate and truck assembly, bought back the flour unit it had sold to South Africa’s Tiger Brand for $1 in 2015 after it posted losses.

Shares in Dangote Flour Mills have more than doubled so far this year after rising 276 percent last year. The stock price was down 3.17 percent on Tuesday at 9.20 naira.

Dufil Prima Foods, the parent of De United Foods, is a privately held company set up over two decades ago, which has grown to become the largest pasta maker in West Africa. De United said the transaction had been approved by both companies and the regulators.

A banking source close to the deal said that De United would continue to produce noodles under the Dangote brand for two years after the acquisition.

In July Dufil Prima Foods said it would raise 40 billion naira in the local debt market to broaden its funding base.



Published in Business

What a difference a century makes. If we stepped back in time to a hundred years ago we'd find a primitive China; a Middle East that had yet to discover the riches of oil and most of Southeast Asia consisted of countries that were barely distinguishable from medieval societies. It was an entirely different world.

Roll back two hundred years and many European nations would be far removed from the modern countries they are today. It is an enduring myth that fools us to believe everything has always been like it is today; that the societies at the top of the pile have always been there. Technological and social revolutions have molded the modern world and opportunity is out there for the taking.

When asked why I am so optimistic about Africa my answer is simple: look at how far we have come and look at how fast we are moving forward.

By 2050, it is estimated that Africa will boast a $29trn economy. It will have the largest youth labour market in the world and if guided and educated correctly, the same youth will be the workforce of that world.

Even today, the future is starting to glow in Africa. Many projects and initiatives are delivering and being joined by new catalysts every day. According to Jake Bright, co-author of The Next Africa: An Emerging Continent Becomes a Global Powerhouse, there are already over

200 innovation hubs on the continent, 3,500 tech-related ventures and $1bn in venture capital injected into local startups.
Africa is modernising at an unmatched rate. Its tremendous mobile device adoption proves this fact. African companies and people simply accept that new technologies will improve their lives and if what they need does not exist, they will create it. From new solar power systems to the much-celebrated M-PESA mobile banking, Africa innovates at the edge. While other countries wonder about delivering packages with quadcopters, we are already pioneering intelligent drone systems sophisticated enough to track poachers. It was an African student who developed a new rocket fuel - in his mother's rural kitchen!

This culture of innovation leapfrogging is one of Africa's secret weapons, supported by a rising tide of SMEs. Though policy and leadership have been slow to respond, we hear new voices promoting SME and innovation cultures every day. Rwanda, for example has reduced new business registrations from over 18 days to as little as 6 hours through a series of reforms that include technology and paperless processes. As a result, more companies were registered there in 2009 than the total five years before that - and it keeps growing.

Skills are central to Africa's future and I see a lot of promise in the growing pool of related projects across the continent. Technology skills are being brought to schools everywhere with innovations including container classrooms and maker hubs. Tertiary skills are also being reinforced through partnerships with universities, as well as award-winning programmes such as SAP Africa's Skills for Africa and Africa Code Week, the latter which trained over 86, 000 youngsters in basic coding skills last year.

But this is not a services revolution. Africa's resources and agriculture remain important. They benefit acutely from innovation. One example is the partnership between SAP and GIZ, developing systems used by cashew farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Mozambique to better manage their supply chain.

Thanks to the continent's demand for hardy and meaningful technology, which is being driven by partnerships that reinforce Africa’s role in creating a better world, Africa is where others will look for the best in new innovation. The SAP Rural Sourcing Management solution is one direct result of this. Refined on African farms, it will serve as a blueprint to meet agriculture and food challenges across the world.

I believe that Africa will emerge to be the third centre of global power, settled in between the worlds of the East and West. The world needs Africa. It needs its resources, its people, its skills and its insights and Africa is rising to meet those expectations. Yes, it has not been a smooth ride, but the winds of change are blowing in the right direction. This will be Africa's century. - Brett Parker is the Managing Director of SAP Africa

By Brett Parker

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Top cocoa producer Ivory Coast will launch an operation to expel thousands of illegal farmers from the Goin-Debe forest reserve, the West African nation's largest, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

The decision is part of efforts to protect forests in Ivory Coast, which has lost much of its rainforest to agriculture.

"We will immediately proceed with ... the identification of the occupiers of the Goin-Debe forest and the end of the occupations," Bruno Kone said after a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Ivory Coast's water and forests minister this week said that authorities planned to end illegal farming on protected lands within five years. Kone said the operation would involve the deployment of about 1,000 defence and security forces personnel to the western Cavally region, where Goin-Debe is located, for an initial three months.

"There will then be a vast disarmament and security operation in the region," he said.

The 134,000-hectare Goin-Debe reserve has been at the heart of recent violence between immigrant cocoa farmers and local indigenous ethnic groups.




Published in Agriculture

South Africa’s unemployment rate puts it in the bottom ten countries in the world. Hunger levels are growing. It has what Berkeley geography Professor Gillian Hart calls a “population surplus to the needs of capital” that must find ways to survive despite living a “wageless existence.”

This is happening against the backdrop of three unfolding social processes.

The first involves deteriorating conditions for survival. A new social category is emerging called the “precariat”: growing numbers of people who struggle to secure the conditions for their survival through traditional means like permanent work. Instead, more and more people survive through multiple jobs that are part-time, insecure and precarious. Guy Standing, who is a professor of economy security at Bath University and coined the term, estimates that a quarter of the world’s adult population is now in the precariat.

Secondly, land reform is now geared at servicing the economic needs of black and white rural elites. Land reform budget allocations are spent on the wealthy rather than poor South Africans who are unable to access land.

Thirdly, the structural legacy of dispossession of Africans from land hasn’t been addressed. Failing to resolve this means that a painful political question is left hanging and becomes an easy symbol to manipulate.

So how do these historical and present conditions constitute the conditions for an emancipatory politics? For instance, will rural people who need land to live on or to farm organise to assert claims for restoration?

One possible answer emerges from research undertaken by the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA), a land rights NGO working with farm dwellers in South Africa’ Kwazulu-Natal province.

AFRA recently undertook a socio-demographic and income survey of 850 households resident on farms in the Umgungundlovu Municipal District to understand more about farm dwellers’ conditions and how these have changed over time.

AFRA’s conclusion is that the politics associated with land is not about an organised emancipatory movement. While the radical opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and some factions of the governing African National Congress (ANC) are calling for the restoration of land to Africans without compensation to existing landowners, farm dwellers are mainly preoccupied with daily survival strategies.

If work opportunities arise away from farms, then many farm dwellers will choose to leave the farm. However, such opportunities are increasingly limited. Many farm dwellers are now asserting a demand to remain on land they have long ties to. These different strategies fragment farm dweller interests in the land. But it seems that the potential exists for a social movement of people “surplus” to capital’s requirements. Whether such a movement develops depends on how effectively populist political groups can create alliances within and between the agricultural precariat, those living in city slums and those whose land access is threatened by agreements between traditional authorities and corporate interests like mining.

The International Peasant Movement, Via Campesina provides one example of a social movement involving reoccupation of unproductively used farmland. However, we argue that South Africa’s precariat is more complicated because the country is not agriculturally rich and more than half the population is now urbanised and lives in shacks on the edges of cities.

What we found

AFRA defines farm dwellers as rural people who live on large commercial farms owned by someone other than themselves.

In some respects farm dwellers are a relic of the country’s agrarian history, which involved the establishment of capitalist agriculture in the early 1900s on the back of African labour tenants’ unpaid labour. In return, tenants were granted the right to use some of the farmland for their own farming.

Our data shows that farm dwellers are not simply wage workers. They identify intimately with the land they live on. More than half of the interviewees have family graves on the farm. Their livelihoods are land-based: more than half cultivate crops, while just under half own livestock.

We identified three distinct responses of a fragmenting class of agricultural labour to the increasingly strained conditions for its social reproduction. These are: moving away from conditions on farms that make survival intolerable or impossible; seeking out better options in the cities and towns; and holding on to the roots of a familiar life and place on the farm despite deteriorating conditions.

Those who decide to move away from farms usually do so because of landowner decisions. These include explicit measures to evict some or all of the family members – this affected 7% of the total sample of over 7 000 individuals – as well as implicit or “constructive” evictions which involved the impounding of livestock, cutting off access to basic services such as water and electricity, locking gates and preventing children from attending school.

The second response – seeking better options – involves individual farm dwellers who decide to leave the farm. About a quarter of farm dwellers who have the landowner’s permission to live on the farm choose to live elsewhere. Rates of unemployment affecting households on these farms exceed 80%, so those who leave tend to have done so in search of work.

Farm dwellers must contend with difficult living and working conditions. This makes the third response – staying on the farm – perhaps the most surprising. One factor is farm wage income which makes up 55% of household income. So when people can get work on the farms where they have dwelling rights, it makes sense for them to stay.

There are other explanations for why farm dwellers stay on farms. We call this the politics of holding on to home.

Nearly 75% of all farm dweller households we interviewed had lived on the farm in question for 23 years or longer, and had a parent, grandparent or great grandparent who was born on the farm. When asked “who is the owner of the house you live in?”, 61% said they owned the house – even though they had already stated the name of the farm’s owner.

Among the reasons given were that they had no other home and had never lived anywhere else.

When asked who would take over the home after the household head died, more than half said that someone in their family would take it over. This suggests that a different, parallel conception of ownership co-exists with legal ownership of the land. Farm dwellers know the farmer is the title holder of the farm but are also asserting that they are the owners of their homes.

Creating alliances

A political alliance among farm dwellers opting for different survival strategies doesn’t appear to exist yet although the economic conditions are present. It could possibly develop if either the EFF or a breakaway group from the ANC organise it.

For now, the EFF’s focus seems to be on shack settlements and the urban poor and the ANC is too mired in its own internal wrangles to be able to organise a movement of this kind.


Donna Hornby, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of the Western Cape

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture

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