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Malawi is set for a major overhaul of its winner-takes-all electoral system with far-reaching implications for the country, if ongoing efforts to reform the system bear fruit.
Any changes in the voting system will represent the biggest overhaul of the country’s electoral system since it became a multiparty state in the mid 1990s. This followed the end of one-party dictatorship under Kamuzu Banda, the country’s first post-colonial leader and “president for life”.
A special Malawi Law Commission was given the task of reforming the country’s electoral laws. Following a year of investigation, it recently held a two-day multi-stakeholder conference to discuss the planned reforms. Its main proposal is that the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of electing the president should be abolished.
I believe that the proposed new system would help reduce the toxic politics of regionalism in Malawi. It would also enhance national stability, which is the bedrock of any successful nation. But it isn’t without challenges, and would need the serious allocation of state resources to bring it about.
The proposed new system - absolute majority - to replace the FPTP will require the winning candidate for president to get at least 51+ percent threshold of the national vote.
Political scientist at Catholic University, Nandini Patel, a participant at the conference, has explained the proposal thus:
In a situation where no presidential candidate secures the threshold, the recommendation is that there should be a runoff or double ballot where the top two candidates contest in the second round and the one who secures more votes is declared winner.
On the face of it, the proposal is straightforward and makes logical sense. Yet, this is complex than it appears and if adopted it would revolutionise the way local politics is done.
The FPTP has been been in place since 1994, when Malawi embraced multiparty politics after doing away with Kamuzu Banda’s 30 years of dictatorship. Since then, a presidential candidate from a high-populated region is more or less assured of electoral victory because the FPTP system.
In the case of Malawi, the country’s Southern Region has always had a higher population than the Central and Northern administrative regions. Thus, all the country’s presidents since the dawn of democracy have come from that region; Bakili Muluzi (1994 - 2004), Bingu wa Mutharika (2004 - 2012), Joyce Banda (2012 - 2014) and the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, Bingu’s young brother, from 2014.
This may yet be a coincidence given that there is no study to back the hypothesis. But, the fact that the sitting President, Peter Mutharika, won the election with only 35% of the national threshold strengthens the hypothesis.
All things being equal, it should not matter where the state president comes from. Yet, as I have previously argued: the trend in Malawi is for the incumbent president to concentrate government development efforts in their own regions and districts of origins.
This makes those from other parts of the country feel aggrieved and short-changed. It’s for this reason that some members of the political elite in the country lodged serious calls for federal system of government, barely two months after Mutharika’s electoral victory in 2014.
Of course the late President, Bingu wa Mutharika initially came into office in 2004 with only 36% of the national threshold but managed to get a 63%of the national threshold in 2009 to win his second term.
He got votes in all regions other than only the Southern Region where he comes from.
The proposals to end the advantage the FPTP gives to candidates from highly populated districts are already facing resistance from some in the governing party. Heatherwick Ntaba, President Mutharika’s special advisor has argued ca the proposed new system of electing the president is “unrealistic and wasteful.”.
there is no way we can attain legitimacy of people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality we are already struggling to conduct by-elections [in areas where MPs and local government councillors have died].
The proposed absolute majority system will certainly have its own problems. But, Ntaba’s fears are self-serving as the current system benefits his political party. Given the country’s regionalism voting pattern, the new 51+ winning threshold would require presidential candidates to reach out to regions beyond their own regions in order to win the presidency. No single region can produce enough votes for 51+ winning threshold.
Presidential candidates will thus be forced to consider forming alliances with candidates from other regions. This would have a good unintended consequence as politicians would be forced to extend government developmental programmes beyond their owns regions.
This would also introduce Malawi to the dynamics of alliance politics, with all its unpredictability and possible infighting within the governing alliance, given that it leaves a room for alliances of convenience, that are not necessarily in the interest of the country.
Yet, the bigger picture is that the new policy would reduce grievances and the feelings of unfairness. In the past, these fuelled calls for the country to adopt a federal system of government.
In our always-on, hyper-connected world of social media, Internet searches and instant messaging, the smartphone is king. That's why, according to stats released by cell phone contract comparison engine Phonefinder.co.za, consumers choose their contracts primarily on the device offered.
“Upwardly mobile consumers, especially those in the emerging middle class want the latest smartphone technology, but many are not yet able to purchase a device outright,” explains Lance Krom, founder and managing director at Phonefinder. “In these instances, they consider a cell phone contract to be the ideal means to get the phone they want without the capital outlay or traditional financing.”
However, due to increased competition from a broader cellular provider market, which now includes four major players in MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, and literally thousands of contract options, Krom says that consumers often find it frustrating to compare options and find those that meet their specific needs.
“While this growth has been good for competition, especially with regard to price, buying a cell phone contract can certainly be confusing and complex,” he suggests, “which is why we launched Phonefinder in 2012.”
The website lists all available contract options in a neat, searchable and easy-to-understand manner. “Importantly, we're unbiased. Visitors to our portal can search every mobile contract deal available based on the type of handset they desire, their preferred network, monthly costs, data bundles and voice minutes, or any combination of these criteria,” continues Krom. “Once they've selected their preferred option and submitted their details, a simple click of the ‘call me’ button will result in a service provider calling them back to sign up.”
By providing this service, Phonefinder has gained numerous insights into the buying habits of cell phone contract subscribers. “With over 20,000 inquiries received per month, we've been able to establish key trends in the sector,” he states.
According to these stats, when it comes to phone manufacturers, Samsung is the most popular brand, accounting for 47% of phone selected with contracts purchased via Phonefinder.co.za. “The Samsung Galaxy J5 Prime is the current top-seller as it is chosen as the preferred device in 20% of all contracts sold via the website,” adds Krom. The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Plus is selected in 6% of deals, ranking it fourth most popular.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is currently the second most popular brand, with a 24% share among contracts purchased via Phonefinder. “The Huawei P8 Lite (13%) and Huawei P9 Lite (8%) are the top choices from this brand, in second and third, respectively,” says Krom.
The Apple iPhone 5S (16GB) rounds out the top five smartphone models, according to Phonefinder's stats, accounting for 5% of sales.
Of secondary importance to the device, but still a major consideration in the final decision, is price and the composition of the package. “Since the coverage of smaller providers has improved, and with the ability to port numbers, consumers now like to hunt for the best deals,” explains Krom. “They're looking for the most data and minutes at the lowest price, and they aren't afraid to switch brands to get it.”
According to Phonefinder's stats, mid-range contracts in the R189pm (24.4%) to R299pm (8.9%) price band are the most popular, with R199pm the second most popular option. “These contracts offer the right balance of affordability and the amount of data and minutes consumers need to make best use of their smartphones,” continues Krom.
And this deal-hunting trend is significant as it's driving a major shift in the industry, he adds. “Our stats show that the current trend is a shift by consumers from the incumbent operators – MTN and Vodacom – to Cell C and Telkom as these operators are aggressively disrupting the market with value bundle deals and other unique offerings, such as call sharing.”
Phonefinder's stats reveal that 29.9% of customers are moving from Vodacom to another provider, while 23.8% of MTN contract customers are choosing to change providers via the website. “Telkom appears to be the biggest gainer in this regard, with 42% of contracts selected via Phonefinder.co.za going to this provider,” states Krom.
Cell C is currently the second most popular provider, accounting for 27% of contract deals selected, with MTN in third (12%) and Vodacom in fourth (10%).
“From these figures it is clear that brand loyalty among cell phone contract subscribers is dead. The market has matured and providers are now competing squarely on device, price and added value. This bodes well for consumers as heightened competition leads to more options and cheaper prices, and with a service like Phonefinder at their fingertips, it has never been easier to find the best deal on cell phone contracts,” he concludes.
Generic references to Africa blur the contexts, opportunities, challenges and risks as they relate to individual countries and you cannot have a generic strategy for expansion into Africa, not even for a region, because “Africa is not a country”, said Priya Soobramoney, University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) alumnus and Old Mutual’s Executive Head: Africa Strategic Change and Information Technology.
Soobramoney was one of the speakers participating in a panel discussion held at USB on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Africa. She was joined by Mr Atose Aguele, Managing Director of Avedia Energy, Mr Norman Moyo, Chief Executive Officer of Cumii International Ltd and political scientist and commentator, Emeritus Professor Willie Breytenbach.
Professor Breytenbach said population growth and rapid urbanisation in most African countries resulted in cities increasingly under pressure to provide adequate infrastructure and services. “Long-term projection says the new gold is agriculture. Agriculture will become so important, simply because urban masses will have to be fed,” he said.
African countries who have neglected investment in agricultural growth and development will have to urgently revisit their approach as food security is an increasing concern, exacerbated by weak currencies. Moyo added that, in addition to a focus on food security, there lies significant opportunity in agriculture for many African countries, especially in the area of organic food production where global demand is growing.
Recalling his two and half decades of doing business in Africa, Aguele highlighted that when he started working in his family business in Nigeria, most African countries were military dictatorships whereas today, even though some might be dysfunctional, most countries have democratic governments in place.
“In Africa, we are embarking on our own political evolution. It is going to be bumpy. It was never going to be smooth, but if you track democracy in Africa over the last 25 to 30 years, Africa’s human development index (HDI) has improved. Nobody will argue that democracy is good for business, democracy is good for the economy.”
Moyo added that it is time for Africa to consider tapping the expertise of the African diaspora and finding ways to bring those expertise back to the continent. He reiterated that Africa needs good leaders to move away from the perception and pocketed reality of being corrupt, needy, dependent and slow.
Whilst being mindful of the problems, risks and challenges, agreement was reached that Africa has much to offer and has proven over the last two decades that positive change is possible, with Rwanda being a case in point.
Soobramoney used a metaphor to emphasise the resilience of Africa and its people. “When there is a storm out at sea, you don’t sit along the shoreline and feel sorry for the fish, because the fish know how to navigate the water, even in a storm. Africa doesn’t need pity, it needs action and tangible help.”
The panel discussion forms part of a new module, Perspectives on African Frontiers, as part of USB’s MBA programme. The aim is to equip students with a keen appreciation of the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Africa by developing an intimate understanding of the contextual environment within which businesses operate on the continent.
The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources in Sierra Leone has announced an offer of sale of the 709.48-carat diamond found last week by a pastor in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono region. The diamond, according to a press release, will be sold by international tender.
Interested parties can view the diamond at the Bank of Sierra Leone from Wednesday 29th March to Wednesday 5th April 2017 between the hours 10:00 am and 2:00pm. According to the press release, “bidding documents can be purchased upon payment of a non-refundable fee of $ 5,000. A bid security of $50,000 will also be required”.
The diamond was discovered by Pastor Emmanuel A. Momoh “who is engaged in alluvial mining at Koyadu village in Tankoro Chiefdom”. It was presented to President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on March 15 by a local chief and is now being stored in the country's central bank.
According to the same statement on the official website, “President Koroma thanked the chief and his people for not smuggling the diamond out of the country. He underscored the importance of selling such a diamond here as it will clearly give the owners what is due them and benefit the country as a whole. The president assured that the selling process would be transparent and to the highest bidder”.
PTV Group announces the expansion of its software business on the African continent with its own office. The signs for this were set in 2016 with the successful takeover of Distribution Planning Software International Ltd. (DPS) with an office in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the future, the newly created PTV Africa branch office should boost the software business for planning and optimization of traffic and logistics with local expertise.
“Africa is an extremely interesting sales market. We have long been active in this region and now, with our own branch office and locally experienced personnel, we can support our customers more effectively than from our headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany. At the same time, we will further extend the geographic market coverage for our entire product range”. The CEO of the PTV Group, Vincent Kobesen said.
PTV Group improves mobility and transport – by using world-class software, data and scientific know-how gained from four decades of experience in planning and optimising the movement of people and goods. Recognised as global market player with German technology, we help cities, companies and people save time and money, enhance road safety and minimise the impact on the environment. Based on our unique expertise in every facet of mobility, we support smooth traffic flow.
In the new PTV Africa branch office, the experienced Managing Director of DPS South Africa, Charel Schickerling, will advance and be responsible for PTV Africa’s business development in future. This affects not just the transport logistics sector, but also the traffic planning sector.
Kuwait has signed a $20 million loan agreement with Zimbabwe to finance the development of irrigation infrastructure at Zhove Dam in Matabeleland South.
The loan has an interest rate of 1,5 percent per annum with a 25 year tenure which includes a 5 year grace period.
The irrigation project is expected to cover about 2,500 hectares of land, which will be put under citrus production for export to Kuwait. It will benefit more than 5,000 households upon completion and the targeted areas are Ferguson, Bishopstone and Cawood Ranches and Matengwe, Mabidi and Malala Communal Lands.
Matabeleland in the southern part of the country is a predominantly dry region, receiving very low rainfall.
“The current season turns out to be much better owing to above normal rains that we have received and records show that Zhove is 100 percent full. However, lack of investment in irrigation investment mean the country will not fully utilize this water for some time,” said Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
“This agreement will go a long way in unlocking the potential of Zhove Dam and the surrounding area.”
The total cost of the project is estimated at $35,7 million and the government will contribute $7 million, leaving a financing gap of $8,7 million. Chinamasa said Kuwaiti officials had approached the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development to finance the balance.
The Kuwait Fund has, since 1980, advanced loans and grants to Zimbabwe amounting to $60 million, targeted at projects in agriculture, road and rail transport but stopped lending to the southern African nation in 2002 after it had defaulted on its obligations. Cooperation between the two parties only resumed in November 2013 after an arrangement to reschedule the arrears.
Chinamasa said Zimbabwe had paid up part of its debt, leaving arrears in the region of $22 million.
Pastoralism is the main production system practised by communities who live in range lands and dry lands which are usually arid or semi-arid. But pastoral communities are facing increasing pressure on their land.
Traditionally, pastoral communities have accessed and used land collectively, using customary laws and norms to manage the land. For example, the Maasai community in Kenya believed that land was a birth right accessible to everyone. No individual could restrict access over a section of land. In addition, elders of the community would determine grazing patterns, when to migrate, and would negotiate with neighbouring communities when they migrated to foreign land.
But a combination of factors has upset this equilibrium. Pressures stem from global trends such as demographic change, urbanisation, competing land use and misconceptions about pastoralism by policymakers.
Public policy has supported the individualisation and privatisation of land tenure in these areas. The declared aim is to promote investments in land and increase land productivity. As a result communities have been forced to change because of urbanisation and competition for the use of land from activities such as mining.
These pressures are similar in pastoral communities across the world. A comparison of pastoral communities in Kenya and Peru illustrates this, even though they live in very different terrain and keep different livestock. In Kenya, pastoral communities reside in low lands characterised by high temperature and low rainfall. In Peru they’re on mountain highlands that are extremely cold and have very little rain. Cattle, sheep, goats and camels are common in Kenya, while Alpacas and llamas are common in Peru.
It’s important that these pastoral communities and their practices are protected. The maintenance of collective land tenure will aid and sustain their productive systems. This shouldn’t be too difficult given that a large majority of pastoral communities reside inland where alternative use is limited.
Public policy needs to be reoriented to support pastoralism by providing and sharing evidence on what works for and how current policies affect these communities.
Pastoralists in both countries face growing pressure over their land due to increasing individualisation of land tenure. Both use collective land tenure and common sustainable practices. These include mobility and mosaic grazing, split grazing, genetic improvement and herd size management.
Mobility refers to the practice of moving animals based on resource availability, mainly pastures and water. It allows pastoral communities to access fresh pasture and water by moving to resource-surplus areas. While this is supported under collective land tenure, it’s constrained where land is under individual tenure.
Mosaic system of grazing consists of spatial combination of intensively grazed and underutilised patches where land is grazed intensively, or superficially or not grazed at all. Mobility and mosaic grazing are important for regeneration of resources such as pasture and help maintain biological diversity. Mosaic grazing also aids in control of overgrazing, pasture planning and management.
Split grazing on the other hand is where animals are separated based on sex, age and breed. This helps in genetic improvement of breeds and control of over breeding. However, this strategy requires sufficiently diverse pastures as well as labour resources. As such, it’s constrained under individual land tenure, where land sizes are smaller.
Finally, genetic improvement refers to a strategy for adapting livestock to the environment while at the same time boosting production of meat or milk. These are important for the sustainable utilisation of the land.
Mobility and mosaic grazing are practised by communities in both regions. An example in Kenya is the Borana community in Isiolo County. The community is organised in dheedas. These are grazing clusters, which independently set rules for pasture and water management. Each dheeda has a grazing plan where land is accessed depending on the season – whether rainy, dry, or severe drought. In the Peruvian Altiplano, access to extensive and varied pastures means family condominiums and pastoral communities move their herds according to seasonal feed availability.
However, as the land tenure becomes individualised, these strategies can no longer be practiced. For example, in Kajiado County, once individuals bought what was once community land, they quickly fenced it off to limit access. Pastoral communities who had free accesses to all the land before land fragmentation now accessed less land.
Pastoral communities in Kenya and Peru also practise split grazing. For pastoralists who have genetically improved their breed, this is important to maintain purity. Under individual land tenure, genetic breed improvement is enforced due to spatial constraints.
To improve productivity, genetic breed improvement becomes necessary. Communities in Peru have improved alpaca breeds to increase wool production. Similarly, some communities in Kenya have adopted the Sahiwal breed for cattle and Dorper breed for sheep.
A major difference is that under collective land tenure, a number of breeds are easily managed. Different animal breeds have different pasture requirements. As such, making use of heterogeneous resources available aids pastoralist diversify their risk.
However, managing the number of breed can increase labour costs under individual land tenure. A herder in individual land tenure will manage the herd size to suit their land holding. During dry spells, the herder will sell off animals and remain a sustainable herd. This ensures sustainable use of available resources.
Community mechanisms to manage and utilise land need to be supported and ensure that they can enforce customary laws over their land. The government and civil society organisations are now working with communities through off take programmes to manage their herd sizes. However, since communities under collective land tenure can migrate, they sub-optimally utilise this strategy.
Breaking the trend of individualisation of land tenure in pastoralist areas will help sustain their productive systems. In addition, there’s a need to strengthen community institutions that manage land accessed collectively. In Kenya, the recently enacted Community Land Act, 2016 seeks to achieve this.
The Netherlands is building its first large-scale commercial vertical indoor farm. It’s expected to serve Europe’s largest supermarket chains with high quality, pesticide-free fresh cut lettuce.
Vertical farms use high tech lighting and climate controlled buildings to grow crops like leafy greens or herbs indoors while using less water and soil. Because it’s a closed growing system, with controlled evaporation from plants, this farms use 95% less water than traditional farms. At the same time, most vertical farms don’t need soil because they use aeroponics or hydroponic systems – these dispense nutrients needed for plants to grow via mist or water. This technique is ideal for meeting the challenges of urbanisation and the rising demand by consumers for high-quality, pesticide-free food.
They’re not unusual. In recent years, there’s been a gradual increase in the number of vertical farming enterprises, especially in North America and Asia. In the US, Chicago is home to several vertical farms, while New Jersey is home to AeroFarms, the world’s largest vertical farm. Other countries such as Japan, Singapore, Italy and Brazil have also seen more vertical farms. As the trend continues, vertical farming is expected to be valued at US$5.80 billion by 2022.
Africa faces similar trends that demand it considers vertical farms. Firstly, it’s urbanising at a fast rate. By 2025 more than 70% of its population is expected to live in the cities. Secondly, many of these urban consumers are demanding and willing to spend much more to buy high quality, pesticide free food.
Yet, despite sharing trends that have fuelled the vertical farming movement, Africa is yet to see a boom in the industry.
A few unique versions are sprouting up on the continent. These show that the African versions of vertical farms may not necessarily follow the same model of other countries. It’s important to establish what the barriers to entry are, and what African entrepreneurs need to do to ensure more vertical farms emerge.
Barriers to vertical farming
Initial financial investments are huge. For example, a complete modern (6,410sqm) vertical farm capable of growing roughly 1 million kilos of produce a year can cost up to $80 to $100 million.
There also needs to be upfront investment in research. Many of the successful vertical farms in the developed world, including the one launching in the Netherlands, invest in research before they go live. This ranges from studying the most appropriate system that should be used to the best lighting system and seed varieties, as well investigating the many other ingredients that determine the success or failure of the farm.
Access to reliable and consistent energy is another barrier. Many African cities frequently experience power cuts and this could prove to be a big challenge for innovators wanting to venture in vertical farming business.
Faced with these challenges, entrepreneurs thinking of venturing into vertical farming in Africa need to put in more thought, creativity and innovation in their design and building methods.
They need to be less expensive to install and maintain. They also have to take into consideration the available local materials. For example, instead of depending on LED lighting system, African versions can utilise solar energy and use locally available materials such as wood. This means that entrepreneurs should begin small and use low-tech innovations to see what works.
As innovators locally figure out what works best for them, there will be further variations in the vertical farms between African countries.
In Uganda, for instance, faced with lack of financial resources to build a modern vertical farm and limited access to land and water, urban farmers are venturing into vertically stacked wooden crates units. These simple units consist of a central vermicomposting chamber. Water bottles are used to irrigate the crops continuously. These stacked simple vertical gardens consume less water and allow urban farmers to grow vegetables such as kale to supply urban markets. At the moment, 15 such farms have been installed in Kampala and they hope to grow the number in the coming years.
In Kenya, sack gardens represent a local and practical form of a vertical farm. Sack gardens, made from sisal fibres are cheap to design and build. One sack costs about US$0.12. Most importantly, they use local materials and fewer resources yet give yields that help farmers achieve the same outcomes as vertical farms in the developed world. As a result, many have turned into sack gardening. In Kibera, for example, over 22,000 households have farmed on sacks.
Also in Kenya, Ukulima Tech builds modern vertical farms for clients in Nairobi. At the moment it’s created four prototypes of vertical farms; tower garden, hanging gardens, A-Frame gardens and multifarious gardens. Each of these prototypes uses a variation of the vertical garden theme, keeping water use to a minimum while growing vegetables in a closed and insect free environment.
The continent has unique opportunities for vertical farms. Future innovators and entrepreneurs should be thinking of how to specialise growing vegetables to meet a rise in demand of Africa’s super vegetables by urban consumers. Because of their popularity, startups are assured of ready markets from the urban dwellers. In Nairobi, for example, these vegetables are already becoming popular.
Feeding Africa’s rapidly growing urban population will continue to be a daunting challenge, but vertical farming – and its variations – is one of the most innovative approaches that can be tapped into as part of an effort to grow fresh, healthy, nutritious and pesticide-free food for consumers.
Now is the time for African entrepreneurs and innovators to invest in designing and building them.