“End the wars” and “peace in our land” were the rallying cries for the protests that ultimately ousted Sudan’s long-ruling strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The country had been afflicted by a 40-year war with South Sudan, which resulted in South Sudan’s secession.
There is still intermittent conflict in the western region, particularly in Darfur, where the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, first clashed with the region’s black population in 2003. The conflict is rooted in ethno-religious and tribal divisions, economic disenfranchisement related to land, and profits from the oil industry.
The United Nations estimates that over 300,000 people died during the first Darfurian conflict, with over 2.6 million displaced.
The end of Bashir’s regime provided renewed optimism that these kinds of conflict would end for good, setting Sudan on a path to peace. And now with the signing of a peace agreement between the Sudan Transitional Authority and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a broad alliance of armed and other movements, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has heeded one of the protestors’ most visceral demands.
But signing the agreement is the easy part. Implementing the finer details of the laboriously negotiated peace pact will be the real test.
Peace has eluded Sudan for a very long time. The signing of the peace agreements heralds an epochal moment, but it is overshadowed by the enormity of the task at hand. The legacy of the conflicts has created a complex set of circumstances that directly inform the fate of this accord.
The most crucial of all is the cost of peace. Simply put, Sudan is too broke to afford peace. But with its imminent removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, an economic reset could be in the offing.
This latest development comes after the country agreed to pay $335 million to American terror victims in compensation for its alleged role in the 1998 al-Qaida bombing of two US embassies in East Africa. Sudan’s removal from the terror list could result in the resumption of much-needed financial inflows to Khartoum.
Terms of peace
The peace deal is anchored by eight protocols. Perhaps the most crucial is the autonomy that has been granted to local governments in West Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. The stipulation of self-government envisages real devolution of power from the centre by empowering local political elites.
Also significant was the agreement that warring rebel outfits (notably the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North) would be integrated into the national army within a period of just over three years. This enables the demobilisation of thousands of men under arms and brings them into formal institutions of the state. Consequently, it turns them into security guardians of the nation.
A revenue sharing agreement was also reached. Up to 40% of revenue generated in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan will now be retained by the local authorities. This assuages local grievances of resource flight, exploitation and uneven development.
The return of internally displaced persons and creation of a commission for protection of religious minorities was also stipulated. Sudan’s protracted conflicts displaced millions from their communal lands; this stipulation ensures a return of lands to their rightful owners who can then engage in productive economic activities.
It was also agreed that there would be regional balance in the appointment of officials to national institutions, especially within the legislature and executive. This provides marginalised groups the opportunity to share power, influence policy, and shape legislation.
A perilous road ahead
Sudan has been here before. Peace agreements have been known to fall apart quickly.
There are many obstacles.
Firstly, the previous Sudanese government worked strategically to prolong the wars during the al-Bashir years. Some of these officials remain in the transitional government.
Equally, the conflicts were a profitable venture for war profiteers. Part of the military hierarchy benefited directly. Not only did this culminate in a “war economy” with up to 70% of revenue directed to the war effort, it also saw the emergence of a cabal of officer-businessmen.
Secondly, international and regional efforts to resolve Sudan’s conflicts were in the past frustrated by lack of political goodwill. Historically, there has been a tremendous trust deficit between the rebels and government. This meant that carefully negotiated pacts came unstuck because of the distrust between signatories and failure to implement what was agreed. The Koka Dam Declaration is one of many.
Ultimately, warring factions have gone back to what they know best: leveraging by armed confrontation.
This has been driven by pure self-interest on the part of the para-military establishment and al-Bashir’s notorious proxies like the Janjaweed.
Thirdly, the peace deal is expensive. In its current state Sudan can’t afford its peace agreement commitments. The mobilisation of funds to rebuild areas devastated by war, repatriation of displaced communities, reintegration of the armed factions, and land and criminal justice reforms will require billions of dollars. This is money Sudan doesn’t have, at least not yet.
US sanctions stemming from Sudan’s links to terror starved the country of foreign direct investment, debt relief, and international financial support. While these sanctions are soon to be lifted, how soon Sudan rebounds from economic collapse can only be speculated.
Real power and money still lies with the men in uniform. Bankrolled by patron states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, military chairman of the transitional council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo are pivotal to the fate of this peace agreement. They wield both military might and financial leverage.
Finally, Sudan’s victims of conflict deserve justice. The pact promises to bring to book those who committed crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. Ironically, these judicial reforms are supposed to be undertaken by the same military men who bear responsibility for some of the worst atrocities.
The current peace agreement has been precipitated by the sheer pressure of domestic change forces. All parties appear to be grasping at this opportunity to co-write Sudan’s new chapter of peace.
Political goodwill and timing have coincided to beget compromise. But what remains to be seen, as is so often the case, is whether the signatories to the accord will have the patience to see the deal through.
Temporary setbacks are part of implementation dynamics, but a peaceful new Sudan is worth being patient for.
A preliminary count has shown Guinean President Alpha Conde will win a third term in office following a bitterly fought election that has led to deadly violence. Conde's opposition says the count was rigged.
Preliminary results released Thursday show Guinea's President Alpha Conde as the winner of a controversial election that keeps him in office as president for a third term.
Conde's opposition, led by his main election rival Cellou Dalein Diallo, say he his breaking the law by seeking a third term and will contest the results of the election in constitutional court.
Diallo said he has evidence of electoral fraud, accusing the government of manipulating the vote count in Conde's favor.
With 37 of 38 electoral districts counted, Conde, received 2.4 million votes, versus 1.26 million for his rival Diallo, Reuters news agency reported. Official final results are expected to be announced on Saturday.
Widespread violence follows contested results
Diallo had declared he won the election on Monday, without waiting for official results or citing figures.
Conde's Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party said Diallo's premature announcement was "irresponsible and dangerous."
Cities across Guinea have been wracked by violence since Sunday's vote, with Diallo's supporters clashing with government forces. At least 10 people have been reported killed.
Fresh clashes were reported in the capital, Conakry, Thursday, with demonstrators blocking streets, lighting fires and hurling stones at police, the AFP news agency reported.
Conde says a constitutional referendum in March reset his two-term limit. His decision to run for a third term has sparked repeated protests since then, resulting in dozens of deaths.
Credit: Reuters, AFP, AP
Following weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality, led by young Nigerians who complain of being targeted by the police, Adejuwon Soyinka asked Oludayo Tade, a sociologist, to help us understand what it feels like being a young Nigerian living in the country today.
Why have the protests been driven by young Nigerians?
The immediate trigger of the protest has to do with the brutalisation of young Nigerians by the trigger happy and extortionist Special Anti-Robbery Squad, now disbanded. Members of the unit extorted and abused the privacy of the young people through negative profiling. Most of those killed by the police tactical team are young and have not committed any crime.
Efforts by families and friends of these victims to get justice have mostly hit brick walls. While the ‘uniformed offenders’ walk free, the victims are left to mourn their losses.
Young Nigerians have been at the receiving end of bad governance since the return of democracy in 1999. Their education is poorly funded, with poorly equipped laboratories, uninhabitable hostels and unmotivated lecturers. About 14 million young Nigerians are out of school, partly because of insecurity and education affordability. About two million young Nigerians write the university matriculation examination every year. But only about 500,000 get admitted to university. Over 90% apply to public funded institutions, most of which suffer from infrastructural decay.
In addition, young Nigerians are the worst affected by unemployment. There are 21.7 million unemployed Nigerians with the youth accounting for 13.9 million of this number.
There is increasing hopelessness and dashed hopes. Young Nigerians watch a system where the ruling class takes all.
What does it feel like being a young Nigerian living in Nigeria today?
Young Nigerians are called the iPhone or Twitter generation. President Muhammadu Buhari has described them as being lazy cohorts who are looking for free things. Apart from this presidential framing, any successful young person is falsely labelled as involved in internet fraud. This is what the disbanded police unit feasted on, pouncing on anyone on the road carrying laptops, having iPhones or driving posh cars. They do this not to prevent crime but to harass and threaten; to frame them with robbery or threaten them with death. Cases abound of such behaviour.
Thus, it seems to be an offence to dress well, look nice and have items such as a laptop.
More broadly, young Nigerians live largely on the margins of the society.
Why is this particular protest different?
It coincides with people reaching boiling point on many issues which the Nigerian state has failed to address. The economy has been on lockdown due to COVID-19. But intimidation and killing by the police hasn’t stopped during the pandemic.
This protest is coordinated online combined with people gathering physically. It is superbly organised.
A number of groups have been part of the demonstrations. There are students who have been at home due to a seven month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities to force government to fund public universities properly. Then there are unemployed youth who have graduated from the universities but either have never had a job or have lost their job during the pandemic. Lastly, there are the victims of police brutality, their families and relations who have also mobilised.
This protest is largely organised by young Nigerians who have never experienced military rule. Is this material?
Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999 – more than 20 years ago – but things have not improved. This generation is the internet generation. They hear of stories of Nigeria’s glorious past from their parents and in literature but are served with a bitter present. They also know what happens and what citizens of other countries enjoy. They do not need to have encountered military experience to speak up against a system that is not working or meeting their needs and aspirations.
What would you consider as important takeaways from this protest?
The first is that the way in which the protest was organised suggests there is a future for the country. The protesters showed empathy and created job opportunities. They showed the importance of taking care of people by providing food and drinks for protesters. They treated the injured and provided support for the vulnerable.
They also crowdsourced for funding and they accounted for the money without needing to set up a committee as their government would do.
And they showed that religion, party politics and ethnicity are divisive tools used by the ruling class to keep people divided while they exploit them.
Secondly, they used their protest to show their love for Nigeria. They show why people need to speak up against the tyranny of the ruling class.
Thirdly, the protest has woken up many from their slumber to act on the need to reform the Nigerian police.
Lastly, a new wave of rights-demanding citizenship is rising in Nigeria. If sustained it could reset the country and make the government responsible, responsive and accountable.
The value of global trade is set to fall by 7% to 9% in 2020 from the previous year, despite signs of a fragile rebound led by China in the third quarter, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.
No region was spared by an estimated 19% year-on-year plunge in world trade in the second quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted economies, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.
Global trade recovered somewhat in the third quarter, when it was estimated at about 4.5% less than in the same period a year ago, the agency said in its latest update.
"Trade in home office equipment and medical supplies has increased in Q3, while it further weakened in the automotive and energy sectors," UNCTAD said. Growth in the textiles sector was also strong.
Its preliminary forecast put year-on-year growth for Q4 2020 at 3% less, but the report said that uncertainties persisted due to how the pandemic would evolve.
If the pandemic resurges in coming months, that could lead to a deteriorating environment for policy-makers and sudden increase in trade restrictive policies, it said.
China's exports rebounded strongly in the third quarter after falling in the early months of the pandemic, and have posted year-on-year growth rates of nearly 10%, UNCTAD said.
"Overall, the level of Chinese exports for the first nine months of 2020 was comparable to that of 2019 over the same period," it said.
Chinese demand for imported products recovered following a decline in Q2 2020, contrary to other major economies, it said.
Earlier this month the World Trade Organization (WTO) upgraded its forecast for trade in goods due to improvements from June and predicted a drop of 9.2% for 2020.
But it saw a more muted rebound in 2021, with further lockdowns from a second wave of COVID-19 infections posing clear risks.
Netflix Inc on Tuesday posted its weakest subscriber gains in four years as streaming competition increased, pandemic restrictions eased and live sports returned to television.
The company added 2.2 million paid subscribers globally during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, missing Wall Street's target of 3.4 million and its own forecast.
Earnings per share also landed below analyst expectations at $1.74. The consensus forecast was $2.14, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Shares of Netflix, one of the biggest gainers this year as people stayed home amid the pandemic, dropped nearly 6% to $494 in after-hours trading on Tuesday.
"Domestic subscribers were nearly flat, which highlights Netflix's saturation in the U.S.," said Ross Benes, analyst with eMarketer. With domestic additions slowing, revenue growth will likely come from price increases, he said.
The company reported a blockbuster quarter at the start of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, adding 15.8 million paying customers from January through March.
Netflix had warned investors that a sudden surge in new sign-ups would fade in the latter half of the year as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Netflix forecast in the fourth quarter it would bring in 6 million new subscribers around the globe, short of the 6.51 million that analysts expected.
The streaming video pioneer is trying to win new customers and fend off competition as viewers embrace online entertainment. During the third quarter, Netflix released "Emily in Paris", "Enola Holmes" and "The Devil All the Time."
Netflix acknowledged that competition was increasing as studios across Hollywood from Walt Disney Co to AT&T Inc's WarnerMedia have restructured to compete more directly for video subscribers.
"Competition for consumers' time and engagement remains vibrant," Netflix said in a letter to shareholders.
In recent months, major sports resumed play and nascent streaming services, including AT&T's HBO Max and Comcast Corp's Peacock, offered audiences new options.
Netflix said its results reflected the fact that it saw such a big surge in customers early in the year.
"We continue to view quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in paid net adds as not that meaningful in the context of the long run adoption of internet entertainment, which we believe is still early and should provide us with many years of strong future growth as we continue to improve our service," the company said.
Netflix officials noted the company had pulled in more subscribers in the first nine months of 2020 than in all of 2019. It ended the third quarter with 195.2 million global streaming customers.
"Next time we get together, we should be over 200 million members, completing a year of 34 million (additions)," an annual record, Co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in an analyst interview.
The company also said it expected to complete shooting over 150 productions by the end of the year and that it would release more original programming in each quarter of 2021 compared with 2020.
Revenue rose 22.7% to $6.44 billion in the third quarter, edging past estimates of $6.38 billion.
Net income rose to $790 million, or $1.74 per share, in the quarter from $665.2 million, or $1.47 per share, a year earlier.
The recent global events of civil and political unrest that started in the US have brought to the fore the complex dynamics of urban memorialisation.
The protests have, in some places, led to renewed scrutiny of certain urban symbols such as commemorative statues – what they represent and how they are perceived and interpreted.
Unlike monuments and statues, place names (toponyms) are intangible, and less imposing, but nevertheless, an indispensable part of the urban symbolic landscape. Their inscription, erasure and re-inscription is highly political.
In a study of toponymy in Nairobi, Kenya, my colleague and I analysed how streets got their names. It’s important to examine this as street naming and renaming allows us to remember and forget events and people in history. It also articulates what values exist in pursuit of political or national interests.
We explain how street names are imbued with symbolic references of power structures within a society. During the period of British rule (1895–1963), toponymy was used as an exercise of power – it reflected British control. Soon after Kenya gained independence, streets were renamed as a way to renounce the colonial regime and its ideology.
But today, Kenyans are starting to question the naming of important public spaces after a few individuals, their families and political affiliates – the ‘political dynasties’.
In 1964, after Kenya had gained independence, a street naming subcommittee was formed under the town planning committee of Nairobi’s city council. This subcommittee came up with names or received suggestions from the public. There was then a vetting process and proposals were eventually sent to the Minister of Local Government for approval. Since then, different laws have been established to guide the naming and numbering of streets and properties, but the process has remained very much the same.
Looking forward, the government should consider honouring other people who have contributed to the growth of Kenya as a country – for instance its athletes, academicians and artistes.
It would also be important to point out how gender exclusive the street names are. For a long time, there was only one street named after a woman – Mama Ngina Street, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s wife. And later, after much lobbying, a street was named after Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner. And in 2017, after the death of the firstborn daughter of Jomo Kenyatta, Margaret Wambui Kenyatta, Mugumo Road in Lavington was quietly renamed after her.
How streets are named, or renamed, serves as an important indicator of the values of a society – and what those in power might want to remember, or forget.
A colonial city
The vital role of street toponymy in Nairobi emerged at the inception of the city, at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Street names were used by the British colonisers to remove the indigenous identity of the previously marshy plain, known as Enkare Nyirobi (a place of cool waters), to create a new idyllic British city. Names such as Victoria Street, Coronation Avenue, Kingsway, Queensway and Elizabeth Way marked the modernising city to celebrate the British monarchy.
In addition, names such as Whitehouse Road and Preston Road were named after railway officials. George Whitehouse, for instance, was the chief engineer of the Kenya-Uganda Railway. This is because Nairobi started as a railway depot.
Other streets were named after administrative and political leaders of the time such as Hardinge, Elliot, and Sadler, all of whom were commissioners of the British East Africa Protectorate.
Leading settler farmers and business people also had their names imprinted on the landscape. They included: Grogan Road after Sir Ewart Grogan – a pioneer businessman, and Delamere Avenue, after Lord Delamere – a pioneer settler farmer.
Apart from the British and European street names, there were a few Indian names such as Bazaar Street and Jevanjee Street. This is because of the large Indian community in Kenya, many of whom originally came to Kenya as railway workers. “Bazaar” refers to a business area or market, while Jevanjee was a prominent Indian businessman in early Nairobi who owned the first newspaper company – The East African Standard.
What was starkly missing were African street names during that period. This was a clear indication of the political and social dynamics of the time that put the European first, the Indian second and the African third.
Decolonising and Africanising
There was a shift at Kenya’s independence, in 1963. The city’s streets were redefined as symbols of nationalism and pan-Africanism. The process was not devoid of challenges. There were inconsistencies – for instance in terms of ethnic representation – owing to the diverse interests that needed to be accommodated. It was an enormous task for the new government.
Generally, under the new government, street names acted as sites for the restitution of justice (for those that suffered under British rule) and symbols of memory, ethnic diversity and unity.
The renaming of the streets happened in waves. The first was in 1964, with Delamere Avenue (which cuts the central business district into two) being changed to Kenyatta Avenue, after the first president of Kenya – Jomo Kenyatta. Hardinge Street was changed to Kimathi Avenue after the leader of the Mau Mau Movement – Dedan Kimathi.
The streets were often renamed after the political elite, a good number of whom came from the Kikuyu community, such as Kenyatta Avenue, Koinange Street, James Gichuru and Harry Thuku Road.
There’s a lot of political consideration that goes into street renaming too. For instance, in 1969, a street was named after Tom Mboya, a popular Minister who was assassinated that same year. Some called for Government Road (along which he was assassinated) to be named after him, others proposed St. Austin’s Road, along which he lived. Both options were rejected by the government, Government Road being too central and St. Austin’s being too peripheral. Victoria Street was the compromise. Government Road was later renamed to Moi Avenue and St. Austin’s Road to James Gichuru Road.
In independent Kenya the purpose of the toponymic changes was twofold: to erase names of the colonisers who were deemed as imposters and to celebrate the new heroes: Kenya’s political leaders and freedom fighters. The latter, such as Dedan Kimathi being celebrated superficially by the new political bourgeoisie.
Additionally, in the spirit of pan-Africanism, other African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Albert Luthuli and Julius Nyerere were celebrated through street names. Beyond the African continent, leaders who fought for black liberation and civil rights in America, such as Ralph Bunche and William Du Bois were also honoured.
The future of street naming
Nairobi’s street names are like a small history lesson. The County Government should consider putting up signs that tell people their former names, to show how the city has evolved over time.
More must also be done to ensure these spaces celebrate future heroes. There is a need to enforce the Kenya Information and Communications (Numbering) Regulations 2010 and the establishment of a National Addressing System as proposed by the Communications Authority of Kenya in 2016. In addition, a national body for dealing with place names, similar to the South African Geographical Names Council, should be instituted.
Finally, public participation should be an integral part of the street naming process, because people are the primary producers and users of names.
According to the research data analyzed and published by StockApps.com, Alibaba stock (BABA stock) has over the trailing one-year period grown by 81.70% as of October 19, 2020. At the same time, its share price has an impressive year-to-date performance (YTD) of 44.89%.
To a great extent, its success has been attributed to the flexibility of its fundamental business model. Unlike US eCommerce giants Amazon and Walmart, Alibaba does not have any physical infrastructure for handling inventory. Rather, it connects consumers to retailers.
Putting the difference in perspective, Macrotrends reveals that Alibaba has only 117,600 employees on payroll. Comparatively, Amazon has more than 700,000.
As such, Alibaba posts a relatively high profit margin from sales than its competitors. Illustrating this, Alibaba’s net income to stockholders margin as of December 2019 was 34.87%, compared to Amazon’s 4.1%.
While Amazon posted $11.58 billion as profit in 2019, Alibaba’s were a remarkable $13 billion. Interestingly, Amazon’s revenue for the year was $280.5 billion while Alibaba generated $56.15 billion.
Alibaba Revenue Surged by 34%, Cloud Computing by 59% in Q1 FY21
Alibaba has also benefitted from increased adoption of eCommerce arising from coronavirus effects on the market. During the first quarter of fiscal 2021 (Q1 FY21), which was from April to June 2020, its revenue surged by 34% totaling $21.76 billion.
Its performance beat expectations as Bloomberg analysts had estimated a 28.8% revenue increase for the period. It was driven in part by Alibaba’s robust growth in digital retail as well as cloud computing.
Cloud revenue grew at a higher rate than overall revenue, 59% year-over-year (YoY), and net income increased by 143% to $6.57 billion. The cloud segment has been facing stiff competition from industry bigwigs including Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Primarily, the growth of this segment was attributed to increasing revenue from the company’s public cloud as well as hybrid cloud business. The International Data Corporation (IDC) states that Alibaba Cloud was the largest public cloud service provider in China for the March 2020 quarter.
According to Alibaba’s fiscal report, there was an increase of 28 million in the number of mobile monthly active users, driving the total to 874 million. On the other hand, annual active consumers increased by 16 million from the previous quarter to reach 742 million.
Moreover, based on a report from Seeking Alpha, Alibaba’s digital retail marketplace has 90% penetration in developed areas while in less developed areas, it is only 45%.
A major highlight of the Q1 FY21 had to be the record sales posted at the 618 shopping festival. On that single day, June 18, 2020, sales across the shopping platform amounted to $98.52 billion.
eCommerce Accounts for 87% of Alibaba’s Total Revenue
Courtesy of the surge in BABA stock, the Chinese eCommerce giant’s valuation as of October 19, 2020, had grown to $820.01 billion. It significantly widened the gap between Alibaba and Tencent, which is valued at $659.73 billion.
Just like Alibaba, Tencent has registered impressive growth rates in 2020, outperforming the market. Tencent’s revenue increased by 29% in Q2 2020 with adjusted earnings rising by 28%. Its stock has rallied over 50% over the trailing 12-month period.
When it comes to revenue generation, Alibaba has four core businesses. These include eCommerce, cloud, innovation initiatives and digital media and entertainment. In the June quarter, its eCommerce segment generated almost 87% of its total revenue and profit.
Alibaba Cloud, which is the largest cloud platform in Asia, accounted for 8% of the total revenue. Innovation and initiatives generated 1% while digital media and entertainment accounted for 4% of the total.
Comparatively, Tencent makes money from online games, digital ads, social networks and fintech and business services. Its online games unit was the largest in the last quarter, accounting for 34% of revenue. It houses some of the top games globally including Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile and Peacekeeper Elite.
Online advertising accounted for a 16% share of total revenue while social networks contributed 23% to the total. On the other hand, the fintech and business service segment accounted for 26% of the total.
In terms of growth, Tencent posted double-digit revenue increments across all its four core segments. Gaming revenue was in the lead with a 40% rise while fintech and business revenue surged by 29%. Social networks also rose by 29% as online advertising grew by a relatively modest 13%.
While Alibaba’s eCommerce and cloud business segments posted remarkable growth, digital media was up by 9% while the innovation initiatives segment was reduced by 6%.
Analysts project an increase of 29% in Tencent’s revenue and a 31% growth in earnings for the full year. On the other hand, the Alibaba estimate is 32% growth in revenue and a 16% rise in earnings for the year.
Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa commit resources to promote agricultural innovations. This is based on the assumption that rural livelihoods are mainly agricultural and that the innovations will increase agricultural production and household income.
As resources come under pressure from growing populations and natural resource degradation, governments and donors want to see that agricultural research and innovation has an impact. They want to see “success” and “value for money”.
But success is understood in different ways. It depends on how it’s framed and by whom.
Studying conflict in agricultural innovations can lead to a better understanding of the appropriateness of certain technologies in terms of how they’re designed, promoted and how they’re linked to rural livelihoods.
Conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe provides a good example of an innovation like this. This approach to farming has been widely promoted by non-governmental organisations, research institutes and the state. It’s also promoted in other countries of eastern and southern Africa.
The method is based on minimal soil disturbance, mulching soil with crop residues, and crop rotation. These are meant to conserve moisture, reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter to improve crop yields and rural livelihoods.
We wanted to know how this innovation was promoted and implemented in Zimbabwe and how its “success” was framed and assessed. Our study found that there were differences in how farmers and promoters of conservation agriculture defined its success.
These differences matter when investments are made in promoting agricultural innovations. It’s particularly important to understand the diversity of rural livelihoods.
Our study was conducted in Gwanda and Insiza districts in south western Zimbabwe. Droughts are a common feature in the area, occurring on average every two or three years. We collected data via a household questionnaire survey, interviews and focus group discussions. Participants included farmers, NGO and government extension officers.
We found that innovation was understood by the majority of respondents as having three main attributes, namely, “novelty”, “adaptability” and “utility”. Despite novelty being mentioned more often than other understandings of innovation, some felt that it existed in theory and not practically.
For example, a farmer said interventions promoted in their communities weren’t new but rather repackaged existing technologies with different names. Some weren’t suitable for the area.
Conservation agriculture was identified as the innovation most often promoted by non-governmental organisations and government extension officers in the area. Huge investments were committed to promoting it – the Department for International Development set aside about US$23 million to promote it in Zimbabwe. Yet after the project’s three year lifespan, farmers mostly abandoned the practice.
The locals gave it the name “diga ufe”, which means “dig and die”, because it required so much physical labour. The manual digging of conservation basins during land preparation and the multiple weeding was labour intensive.
Farmers did find, though, that using the conservation agriculture techniques in their vegetable gardens yielded better results compared to bigger plots. Under crop production, farmers prioritised irrigated agriculture compared to rain-fed agriculture. Gardening was therefore identified as the second ranked important livelihood source after livestock production.
Respondents agreed that innovation was vital for sustaining food security and nutrition in the context of climate change. One farmer said innovation was about experimenting with resources at one’s disposal to come up with something new and suitable for the area. He also emphasised that innovation was a collective action that includes farmers, researchers, extension agents and the private sector. He said it was not only confined to new technology (hardware), but processes such as governance, that would yield positive results.
Climate smart crops such as sorghum, millet and cowpeas and climate smart livestock (goats and indigenous poultry) were identified by locals as potentially suitable in addressing dry spells in the area. But poor informal markets, limited bargaining power, shortage of grazing land, pests and diseases constrained productivity.
Diversifying out of agriculture was identified as an alternative response to climate change. It could boost the income of the household and help sustain food and nutrition security.
Government extension officers felt that innovations in the area should be targeted towards livestock production. The area’s semi-arid climate means it’s not conducive for rain-fed agriculture.
So, despite the efforts to promote conservation agriculture, dry land cropping was ranked as the lowest source of livelihood for rural people. People in the area prioritised livestock production. Promoting more livestock production related innovations would have been ideal for the area.
What does this mean for policy and innovations?
Innovation can thrive in rural areas. But this depends on understanding the communities’ perceptions and livelihood context to appreciate their priorities.
Rural communities are dynamic and complex. Imposing innovations that don’t speak to the needs of these communities won’t achieve rural development. Our study showed the importance of developing innovations with communities as opposed to innovations for communities.
People in rural areas don’t lack capacity. They need support to utilise available resources and innovate in a flexible manner that’s context specific. They should be key players in coming up with solutions, since they have a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within their communities.
Voters in Guinea have cast their ballots in a high-stakes presidential poll taking place after months of bloody unrest.
Almost 5.5 million people were eligible to vote on Sunday at roughly 15,000 polling stations. The results are not expected for several days.
Twelve candidates are vying for the highest office, but only the incumbent, Alpha Conde, and Cellou Dalein Diallo, the leader of main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), are said to be in with a chance of victory.
Conde, 82, is seeking a controversial third term after pushing through a revamped constitution earlier this year that critics denounced as a plot to sidestep a two-term limit on presidential mandates.
The new constitution was overwhelmingly supported by voters in a March 22 referendum that was boycotted by the opposition. The result means Conde could potentially now remain the country’s president for 12 more years. Mass demonstrations against the proposed changes were met with a harsh crackdown by security forces, leaving dozens of people dead.
There have been fears that recent tensions have taken on an ethnic dimension, with Conde accused of exploiting divisions during the campaign – a charge he denies. Guinea’s politics are mainly drawn along ethnic lines: the president’s base is mostly from the ethnic Malinke community and Diallo’s from the Fulani people.
Last week, the United Nations urged candidates to curb ethnically charged hate speech, warning the situation is “extremely dangerous” and may lead to violence.
Police on Sunday were out in force in the capital, Conakry, following clashes between rival supporters in recent days, but voting appeared calm.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Conakry, Patrice Vahard, spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, cited inclusiveness, hate speech and electoral violence as the main concerns in the lead-up to the vote
“Today was relatively calm,” Vahard said, adding, however, that “the period from the moment the polling stations close to the announcement of the final result by the constitutional court is going to be extremely critical”.
“It will be critical to keep an close eye on what happens in the coming 72 hours or so,” he said.
Mohamed Fode Camara, a social affairs ministry employee, said he “feared the day when results are announced”.
“God will save us, inshallah,” he told AFP news agency, adding that Guineans “want peace, not a fight”.
Voting under way
Earlier, Security Minister Albert Damantang Camara told AFP there had been “no major incidents”, although his ministry said “hooligans” had attacked security forces in the capital.
At a news conference, Diallo, 68, urged his supporters to “show restraint”.
“I have no doubts about the outcome of the election, which is why I do not want violence to disrupt the ballot and jeopardise my victory,” he said, adding that he thought Conde may nonetheless “cheat”.
For his part, Conde, who has been in power since 2010, said after voting at a primary school in Conakry: “Guinea cannot develop if there is no peace, security and unity. We do not want violence.
“Those who want to challenge the results must do so within a legal framework, with recourse to the Constitutional Court,” he added, dressed in white and flanked by bodyguards.
Meanwhile, a number of people including one of the candidates said they had been turned away at polling stations because of problems with their voter cards.
Presidential hopeful Makale Camara, a former foreign ministerm said she herself had not received a voter card at all, and so had been unable to vote.
“That’s totally unacceptable because there are people who ended up with three or four cards,” she told Reuters news agency. “It’s a holy mess they’ve organised there. If there can be ‘fictitious’ citizens, a candidate cannot be fictitious.”
In response to Reuters’ question about potential voting irregularities, an election commission spokesman said: “Only cards distributed over the last 30 days are valid.”
Conde has already won against Diallo twice before, in 2010 and 2015, and political analysts predict he will win another five-year term.
During a heated campaign, Conde, who has described the constitutional reform that allowed him to run again as fair and democratic, said he needed more time to finish major mining and infrastructure projects.
Diallo, who was at the forefront of protests against Conde’s third term, told supporters he wanted to turn the page on “10 years of lies” and criticised police repression, corruption, youth unemployment and poverty.
Nigerians have been protesting for years against police brutality, so why did this October's protests gain international attention and support at a scale never seen before?
Over the last two weeks, an outpouring of support for Nigerian protesters has played out on Twitter, with various hashtags, but predominantly #EndSARS.
Sars stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
Accusations of Sars officers robbing, attacking and even killing people go back years but a new wave of protest started at the beginning of October.
Nigerian technology news site Tech Cabal tracks this wave down to 3 October.
A tweet by someone with just 800 followers received more than 10,000 retweets:
The Tweeter, who calls himself Chinyelugo, told the BBC that he normally keeps a low profile on Twitter but that he personally had been harassed by the police previously so when a friend told him about what appeared to be another attack by police he felt the need to tweet it.
"If Sars see you as a young person who is successful with a nice car, they will harass you and extort money from you," he explained.
He later tweeted video of what he said was the young man shot by police.
The video appeared to be from an Instagram stories post by an account by someone who describes themselves as Azakaza Sarah - a brand ambassador.
Her posts are normally a mixture of posing in fishnet tights and promoting body scrubs.
It's possible that this video had already passed from the person who filmed it, through many different people, and WhatsApp groups before it reached Azakaza Sarah.
But now it was on Twitter.
A few people who the Nigerian press described as social media influencers, and later described themselves as "accidental leaders" took up the cause.
The BBC's Nduka Orjinmo says the real energy was injected on Wednesday 7 October, four days after the tweet about the man being shot, when Rinu Oduala, a woman who describes herself as a media strategist, persuaded other protesters to spend the night outside government house in Lagos.
In the early days of the protests BBC Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones observed an interesting digital protest which could explain why this protest got so much more attention than previously.
The organisers appeared to be attempting to shame brands and journalists by tagging their twitter handles in tweets and asking them why they weren't covering the protests.
Here's one directed at broadcaster DSTV.
Other tweeters piled in by cutting and pasting the text of the tweet and tweeting it on their own accounts.
It was like a "swarm of shame," our correspondent says.
It was very effective - within a day it was trending and more people were talking about it, she says.
Then protesters started bombarding celebrities.
On Friday 9 October Dípò Awójídé, who describes himself on Twitter as a senior lecturer in strategy, strategically tweeted Nigerian-British boxer Antony Joshua and Star Wars actor John Boyega asking them to tweet about it.
In his request, he equated the protests to the Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the year.
Again, streams of Twitter accounts bombarded the tweet underneath.
A little over an hour later, Boyega obliged.
The hugely popular Nigerian musicians Davido and Wizkid had also been bombarded with messages about the protests and they followed closely after Boyega in tweeting their support for the protesters.
By the end of that day the #EndSars hashtag was trending worldwide.
Over the weekend celebrities who had no tie to Nigeria, like German-Turkish Arsenal player Mesut Özil, also tweeted their support.
Özil alone has 25 million followers on Twitter.
The discussion on Twitter reached a peak of 661,340 tweets on Sunday 11 October.
By the middle of the next week, the CEO of Twitter himself, Jack Dorsey, tweeted, asking for donations to the protesters.
Two days later, he tweeted a new Twitter emoji, showing a raised fist in the colours of the Nigerian flag, designed especially for the protests.
As of Friday 16 October, there were nearly 3.3 million tweets with 744,000 retweets of posts containing the #EndSARS hashtag.