Monday, 28 October 2013

Regional Integration Key to Transformation and Development - African Economic Conference



Gathering for the African Economic Conference in Johannesburg, leaders call on continent to seize the moment for wide-ranging structural change

Heads of State and business and development experts from across the world will gather at the three-day African Economic Conference from Monday, October 28 to Wednesday, October 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss regional integration and its role in boosting economic growth and human well-being on the continent.


The conference will be opened by Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa; Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).


Africa has seen high levels of economic growth over the last decade, however that growth has had limited impact on boosting competitiveness and increasing the quality of life of ordinary people on the continent.


Weaknesses persist in the quality of institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic policies, education and adoption of new technologies, while there are big gaps between its highest and lowest ranked economies.


“This great gathering should do more than restate the case for regional integration: it must examine how to push the African continent to the next level, to become a global growth pole in its own right,” said Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.


“At a time of diminishing multilateral solutions, this is the sure way to build resilience against external shocks. I applaud the steady progress that has been made in areas such as tariff reduction. Robust action is what is now needed on non-tariff barriers, trade facilitation, and the movement of people. Africa has the political will and the strategic vision to make this happen. The time is right.”


In addition, because of its focus on capital-intensive, commodity-based industries, Africa has seen limited economic transformation, with little investment in the manufacturing, services and agricultural sectors. Due to these limitations, the creation of jobs, markets and institutions required to help young women and men build better futures has lagged behind.


“There needs to be a much broader definition of regional economic integration. True, regional integration must include investments in regional infrastructure, trade and labour mobility. But countries would also gain by harmonizing regulations and standards, devising common approaches to macroeconomic policy, job creation, and effective management of shared natural resources for sustainable poverty reduction and structural economic transformation,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director of UNDP Africa.


While the benefits of integration are now well-known and many of the legal frameworks in place, the biggest challenge is how to further that agenda. Among the major hurdles are harmonizing standards and regulations, boosting human resource capacities and mobilizing leadership and political will.


The African Economic Conference will look at the political economy of regional integration and examine closely some of the practical solutions to advance it. High-level dialogues will cover integration issues ranging from finance to water resource management, fiscal convergence and harmonization of social policies. Participants will also be exposed to cutting edge research on all aspects of regional integration based on new analysis from African researchers and institutions.


Participants at the conference will look at some of the trends and best practices unfolding across the continent.


“It is undeniable that regional integration will impel Africa to economic transformation and industrialization. Capitalizing on natural resources, industrialization can swiftly add value to the continent’s exports and, therefore, stimulate job creation.” said Abdalla Hamdok, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.




Friday, 18 October 2013

Air Travel in Africa: My experience

As an African, traveling around the continent is something I've looked forward to. An opportunity came when recently I was selected as one of the three science/environment journalists to participate in a climate change adaptation workshop in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Cameroon is a neighboring country to Nigeria but it is located in Central Africa. The border between Nigeria and Cameroon is mainly in the Southern state of Cross Rivers and up North. Nigeria and Cameroon can be described as a Siamese twins surgically separates. This notion is more understandable in view of the fact that some parts of Cameroon used to be in Southern Nigeria, including the disputed oil rich Bakassi, peninsula. This geographical closeness of Nigeria and Cameroun has naturally created some cultural affinity, but the then struggle for control between France and Britain threw Nigeria and Cameroon in different sub regions of the continent. Nigeria, Africa's giant is in the West, while Cameroun, its neighbour is in Central Africa.

               Reuniting with Bernice Atabong in Yaounde

My friend and Colleague, Bernice Atabong whom I first met when we were both selected to travel with a caravan of youths from different countries by road from Kenya across six African countries as we reported on climate change instantly connected with me. I remember telling her she is from the Efik ethnic group in Nigeria because her surname sounds strikingly similar to the names of the Efik.

But having to travel to Cameroon by air was a totally different experience because my study of the map made me believe the trip to Cameroon was going to be a stroll across the border. However, I was taken aback by  the bottleneck that characterised air travel between what I thought should be ordinarily a short distance between two neigbouring countries. In dismay, I later came to the conclusion that the nature of the aviation sector in the continent portrays the fact that Travelling Around Africa is a Herculean task.

In Nigeria, only Arik Air and Aero contractor fly to Douala and the take off point is Lagos, Nigeria's economic nerve centre. Also the flights are not available everyday; Arik Air does not operate on Mondays and Fridays. When I received an email with my flight itinerary, I was shocked to discover that to board the next connecting flight from Douala to Yaounde, I would have to wait for about six hours. What will I be doing with myself during these long hours that could as well serve as a working shift!

So I was able to endure the waiting period as I made some friends that kept me company. When leaving Lagos, the Arik staff at the ticket counter claimed I needed a visa to travel to Cameroon. I rejected the claim, showing him a photocopy of my authorization letter, which stated clearly that I could obtain my visa on arrival. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got to Douala, and the immigration officer told me I needed no visa since I was not staying more than 90 days in Cameroon.

The Douala International Airport is the most lonely walk-way I have ever walked in my travel years. At a point I thought, I was in the wrong place. Also there were no signals pointing direction of exit or entry from the point of arrival when you step out of the aircraft.

Lonely walkway at Douala International Airport.

Stamp of 10,000 CFA airport tax

On the day I was to return to Lagos, I was a bit glad that my waiting time between my connecting flight was less than three hours. But drama started for me when I was to pay what was called airport tax at Yaounde Airport; the amount was1,000 CFA. I didn't pay this tax when I came into the country, why was I now being told to pay? Then again, when I got to Douala, I was told to pay another airport tax of 10,000 CFA! Why the surprise tax! How was a foreigner or tourist suppose to know this as there was no notice to that effect? Will they start changing money to pay tax, especially as the airports is normally crowded by touts waiting to exploit a stranger? Not that I didn't have the money to pay, but when I arrived I never paid any airport tax so why was I now paying when leaving the country? I felt it would have been easier for the airline to charge passengers as part of the ticket price.

                         Douala International Airport

At Douala Airport my flight was meant to depart Douala to Lagos for 6:25pm and I arrived from Yaounde at about 10 minutes to 3pm. At this time, according to aviation rules an international flight boarding counter was meant to be open. But that was not the case for Arik Air in Douala. The counter did not open till about one hour to the stated departure time. To make the matter more annoying, only one counter was opened. This made passengers wait endlessly for just a simple checking in. When we asked why only one person was attending to us,we were told that was what Arik could afford.

 Arik counter at Douala International Airport.

We were on the queue till the flight was shifted to 7:25pm and after two hours, the flight was finally cancelled according to the Arik staff that came to address the passengers. He said due to technical reasons the plane meant to pick Douala passengers, was coming from Kinshasa but that was no longer possible due to technical fault. The cancellation would now apply to both Douala and Kinshasa passengers. He told us Arik would not operate till Tuesday and gave us the alternative of either booking another flight,contacting our agent for refund for those that bought through an agent, collecting the refund directly from Arik for those that bought through Arik or wait till Tuesday to fly with Arik. What splendid alternatives! Some passengers had connecting flight from Lagos to other parts of Nigeria, one passenger was meant to leave for UK, others had different business and personal engagements to catch up! So who takes care of all the mess? After a chain argument and negotiations, for passengers not living in Douala, we were lodged in a hotel not far from the airport.

                              Afrique Hotel Douala

Afrique Hotel was where we all spent our night. We were able to eat dinner at past midnight and went to bed afterwards. The hotel appeared to be a new hotel or probably, a renovated hotel as construction work was still ongoing in some parts of it. The lobby of this hotel is quite amazing with architectural masterpiece interior decor. The room were I was lodged look portable and quite to size with all the basic for comfort well placed. But the design of the bathroom is challenging in the sense that there was no barrier or divider between the shower place and the toilet. This now makes flooding of the room possible. To avoid this, you have to be vigilant and use your leg to stop the water from spilling into the room. What a bad icing to a well baked cake! Also some hotels are more interested in displaying wall clock with different time zone and also accommodation cost in foreign currencies, than improving service delivery.

My personal observation both at home in Nigeria and some countries within Africa is that more attention is given to aesthetic than service delivery. A hotel is not adjudged five or four stars by time zone or foreign currency for accommodation payment but by efficient service delivery in the area of customer satisfaction, courteous and solution offering front desk staff, prompt room service delivery, easy mode of payment through multi-financial platform like POS, online transfers etc. some hotel porters only dress beds without changing the bed sheets. This exposes customers to infection which could best be termed opportunistic. You came into a hotel healthy and leave infected and sick!

I was able to book another flight with Aero contractor that was departing for Lagos that afternoon. What I regretted was not paying online when I booked because by the time I got to the counter the booking was cancelled and I had to pay extra #6,000 from the price I got earlier on. Aero contractor kept to time as boarding started at 12noon which was one hour to departure and we landed in Lagos five minutes before the official time.

Why bore you with his stressful travelogue? If I was to travel to Europe say Madrid, Amsterdam or London. I would have long arrived and settled than the whole time I spent traveling and connecting within Africa. For traveling either for business or leisure in Africa to be attractive to locals, tourists and even foreign investors, there is the need to remove unnecessary bottlenecks that make travel a pain.

The issue of language barrier is there for Anglophone and Francophone countries. Why employ security,immigration officials that can't communicate in English for a country like Cameroon that is bi-lingual? Why believe every passengers speaks French? If these hiccups between airlines and airport operations can't be eradicated, there is no need wasting money on cosmetic adverts on cable networks inviting tourists to any country! When you visit airports like Dubai, Amsterdam you see the beauty of self help. As machines are positioned strategically with ease to follow directives and you print out your boarding passes, these reduce human contact and enable the aviation industry of the aforementioned countries focus on other areas that need improvement and innovation.

If I had alternatively travelled by road from Nigeria to Cameroon and vice-versa, I'm sure I would have arrived much earlier and relaxed than going through the stressful reality of flying the Lagos-Cameroon-Lagos route!

The Caravan Journalists: Tina Armstrong-Nigeria, Lily Yekoye-Ethiopia, Youssouph Bodian-Senegal, Kawire Wabwire-Kenya, and Bernice Atabong-Cameroon.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Integrated African Strategy on Meteorology supports transformative development


The Third Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-III) will be held in Addis Ababa from 21 – 23 October, 2013


The need for strong weather and climate services to reduce vulnerability and promote sustainable development will be addressed by the Third Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-III) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 21 – 23 October, 2013.


Organized by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), under the auspices of the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme, the conference’s theme is Africa on the rise: can the opportunities from climate change spring the continent to transformative development? 


The African Union and the World Meteorological Organization will co-host a side event that will identify current gaps and future needs in the provision of weather and climate services. It will also discuss a range of potential solutions through the implementation of the Integrated African Strategy on Meteorology (Weather and Climate Services), that can positively impact the lives and livelihoods of African communities.


The side event will further discuss the need for African political leadership and cooperation to strengthen and mainstream weather and climate services into the decision-making and development planning process in key sectors such as agriculture, water resources and transport.


The African continent’s weak adaptive capacity increases its exposure to climate change and limits its ability to benefit from advances in climate science. Many National Meteorological and Hydrological Services have limited resources.


The African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) provides political support to strengthen national meteorological services to enable them to perform their mandate and thus contribute to transformative development in Africa.


The Integrated African Strategy on Meteorology developed under AMCOMET and endorsed by the African Union, positions weather and climate services as essential components in poverty alleviation, disaster risk management and sustainable development efforts.  The Strategy is a key component in the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Service (GFCS) in Africa to increase the provision of user-driven climate services, especially in the priority areas of food security, water management, disaster risk reduction and health.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Making Maternal Choice a Reality

The just concluded 68th United Nations General Assembly which took place in New York, recorded great sucess in the fight towards reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal care. Billions of Dollars was committed to attaining the Millennium Development Goals 4/5/6 which focus on women empowerment, and improving the lives of women around the world. In all of these, international collaboration to improve the quality of life for women and maternal issues concerning them. Still many women are far from benefiting from these collaboration and negotiations on their behalf.

The culture,tradition and religion of people are responsible for how they make decisions. 

In such societies, women are constrained with this belief system that makes family planning, a taboo for a woman to decide how she wants to space her children because it is believed that children are gifts from God. 

The women have no choice than to reproduce as much as they can.

This lack of planning in childbirth results in poor spacing between one child and the other, and these children lacking adequate maternal care.

Not only would the child lack maternal care but the mother's body begins to diminish in strength and vigour.

The ability of a woman to make the right maternal choice is of immense benefit to the society. 

The woman is strong and healthy to take care of the child and support the home with her work or business.

Family planning is a wise maternal choice that helps a woman choose how she wants to raise her children.

During my visit to the US last year,I got talking with a friend and she told me she does not observe her monthly menstrual cycle and for me that sounds weird.

You mean you don't menstruate, I asked her? And she laughed and replied, Yes with a poker face. Then she explained to me how she has been making wise maternal choices since her 7 years of marriage. I was suprised and asked,so how do you get pregnant? I have a family planning process, I have been on for a couple of years. After having my first child, I went on it for three years and when my husband and I decided we wanted another child,I went off the plan. According to her, a visit to her doctor gave a wide variation of options to choose from and best suited for her body was implemented.

For me it was an eye-opener. What a way to make maternal choices with adequate spacing and time to plan for the next pregnancy.

How many married women have this privileged knowledge? and how are their husbands working with them to make such maternal choices?

The more women are been perceived as an object of procreation, the more rate of maternal and child mortality of which Nigeria is a victim.

Back home I was chatting with a colleague who just gave birth and in a lighter mood I said "hope your son would not have a younger sibling soonest. And she replied "I don't think that is possible anytime soon because I have it worked out". How can you have it worked out? If oga won do you no go do? Oga go do she said,that one no be problem. 

My curiousity got a better part of me and I decided to ask further. My friend told me that after her delivery, she went on a 5-year family planning that won't enable her conceive till after then. I want to have time to raise my kids and also grow in my career. This is not a time for breeding children anyhow without any concrete plan on how they would be raised. I want my children to have good education and the best I can offer them. Education is not cheap my sister, so one has to plan and space the kids. If not, raising children would be a burden instead of a blesing, she concluded.

Hmmm,I thought to myself. How many women around the world are making such wise and strategic maternal choice? How many are not forced by tradition and culture to become child breeders instead of mothers?

We need to support our daugthers,wives,nieces,cousins,aunties to make the right maternal choice. Remember women are the mothers of the earth.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Africa has Multiple Environments of Media: Culled from


When Marguerite Sullivan started the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) in 2007, she said she faced skepticism as to whether the U.S.-based organization could help advance media development worldwide.

But since its launch, CIMA, which is part of the National Endowment for Democracy, has been helping independent news outlets and foundations navigate the ever-shifting media landscape through in-depth reports on media research, by creating abibliographic database of resources related to international media assistance and by mapping digital media around the world. (Disclosure: CIMA is an IJNet partner.)

Sullivan began her career as a journalist, served as president of the Washington Press Club and held posts in the White House and other federal agencies. As she departed CIMA last month to become an independent media development consultant, Sullivan talked with IJNet about the global media landscape, how newsrooms are adapting to digital disruption and the challenges independent media face.

IJNet: How have independent media been adapting to global digital trends?

I came to NED to start CIMA seven years ago, and the biggest and most dramatic thing that has happened has been digital media. It certainly was around 7 years ago, but its impact on media all over the world has been absolutely dramatic.

With a majority of content shifting to online and mobile devices, today journalists have to be proficient on many platforms. When I started out, you were either a newspaper, radio or TV reporter.

Today, journalists have to be skilled in all kinds of information: writing skills, presenting on radio, shooting video, short-form blogging, tweeting and more. You have to be skilled across multiple platforms.

IJNet: Is there a particular region or country that’s been an interesting case study for how independent media are changing?

One place that has multiple environments of media is Africa. There are parts that haven't yet reached the digital age, that don’t even have radio, and some parts where radio is the only main line to get information. Then there’s the explosion of mobile technology in Africa where people get a majority of their information on [mobile] phones. They skipped the whole landline era.

There are a lot of startups going straight to digital That’s occurring all over the world, but there’s still one thing that should remain constant, and that’s the basics of being a good reporter -- being unbiased, verifying information, using multiple sources, opinions and voices. The standards for a good journalist that we had 10 years ago, 100 years ago, remain the same today.

IJNet: With all of these changes, what are the most constant problems you see independent newsrooms face, and how do you think they'll be solved?

Independent media is not just about keeping to the professional standards of journalism.... There also needs to be a strong and supportive legal environment for journalists with freedom of information laws that are in operation and that people can understand. Often they’re on the books but they’re not put into effect.

You need high standards of media literacy when literally anyone can be a citizen journalist. The public needs to be very discerning with what they read and believe. Sustainable business models are certainly facing big challenges since the whole support of media through advertising has changed...with so much media transitioning to digital platforms. Advertising certainly still exists, but pays much less for digital news than traditional newspaper [ads did in the past].

IJNet: Are there any particular projects or news startups that you’ve been following?

One that I find very exciting is the work of the African Media Initiative. It has a number of different funding trees and several different projects going on, like the African Story Challenge, where they’re bringing together the best ideas in digital media and trying to incubate those to get them further developed.

There are also a number of networks being set up for investigative journalists around the world. An upcoming Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will bring out a lot of interesting projects [that are] going on between journalists, and the more collaboration there can be, the better.

IJNet: Any advice for those in the independent media field?

We need to look holistically and see that this is a field that has many parts. It’s a puzzle where all the pieces have to fit together--media literacy, a strong supportive legal environment for journalists, a government system that’s open to transparency and professional journalists, and a sustainable environment for media. Those are all very key pieces of the puzzle to reach an environment with freedom of expression and independent media.

Germany Unity Day Celebration: Germany and Nigeria Anthem Came True.

The Germany Unity Day was celebrated in Lagos with a dinner organised by the Consular General, of the Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Michael Derus.

According to the Mr. Derus, the German Unity Day came true in the national anthem of both Germany and Nigeria, which states "To build a nation, where peace and justice shall reign". He pointed out that the strive for universal values is expressed, in both Germany and Nigeria's national anthem which calls for Unity, Justice and Freedom.

Mr Derus stated that Germany as a respected member of the European Union was committed to ensuring international peace and stability.

Furthermore, he explained that though Africa has not received the needed attention it requires, things are changing as politicians are beginning to understand the need for global partnership for development. 

Mr. Derus also identified Lagos as a vibrant city and Nigeria's economic power.

The German Ambassador to Nigeria Mrs. Dorothee Janetzke-Wenzel, stressed that Germany was committed to partnering with Nigeria to ensure reliability, knowledge of technology, capacity building, jobs for Nigerian youths just as Germany is working in increasing youth employment.

Mrs Jantzke-Wenzel announced that German Development Agency GIZ, was already working on some projects in Ogun state to achieve her commitment in partnering with Nigeria for development.

The German Unification Day took place on the 3rd of October 1990, as a result of a peaceful revolution and brought about the unity of East and West Germany. The Unification Day is an official public holiday and is celebrated by different German cities yearly.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

UNHCR Shocked by Boat Tragedy of Lampedusa

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres
expresses his shock at today's boat tragedy off the Italian island of
Lampedusa, which so far is reported to have claimed 82 lives.

Mr. Guterres commended the swift action taken by the Italian coast
guard to save lives. At the same time, he expressed his dismay at a
rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or
persecution and perishing at sea.

Of the estimated 500 passengers on the boat, believed to be Eritreans,
only 147 have been rescued so far. The boat, which originated from
Libya, caught fire half a mile from the coast.

UNHCR is actively engaging with countries in the region to provide
effective alternatives for people resorting to taking these dangerous
journeys so they don't have to risk their lives.

This is the second boat disaster this week off Italy's coast. 13 men
drowned off the Southern coast of Italy on Monday when they attempted to
swim ashore.

UN considers actions to increase benefits and address challenges of international migration

For only second time in UN history, High-level Dialogue puts international migration at centre stage with theme of Making Migration Work

The United Nations this week will consider actions to harness the benefits of international migration for development and reduce its economic and social costs, when delegates from more than 150 countries, including dozens of ministers and hundreds of civil society representatives, gather for a High‑level Dialogue on International Migration and Development on 3-4 October.

The global number of international migrants has risen from 175 million in 2000 to 232 million in 2013, according to figures released last month by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The number of international migrants has continued to grow despite the recent economic and financial crisis.

A report by the UN Secretary-General for the High-level Dialogue identifies eight action points for Member States to consider, including protecting migrant rights by implementing relevant conventions and creating greater opportunities for legal migration. The report suggests that Member States should take collaborative action to reduce the costs of migration, such as lowering the transfer costs of remittances and fees paid to recruiters, especially by low-skilled workers.

The report also calls on Member States to protect and assist migrants stranded in humanitarian crises, such as the conflict in Syria; to raise public awareness of the contributions migrants make to destination countries; to eliminate migrant exploitation, especially human trafficking; to fully integrate migration into the post-2015 development agenda; and to make major improvements in data collection related to migration. The report notes, for example, that four out of 10 African countries lack basic data on migration.

“This High-level Dialogue is about taking concrete measures to make migration a catalyst for development,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said. “I hope that Member States will present good practices and launch concrete initiatives to address the migration challenges at the bilateral, regional and global levels.”

Mr. Eliasson said that Member States and stakeholders should use the High-level Dialogue to identify priorities for international cooperation on migration in the coming years. With the UN planning to adopt a new development agenda in 2015, the meeting will highlight the critical contributions of migration to development and make a strong case for including migration in the post-2015 development agenda.

“From a global perspective, migration should be recognized as a positive force for development. Migrants bring fresh energy and ideas to receiving areas, contributing directly to economic growth. Migrants can also relieve the pressure caused by under‑employment in countries of origin and support those economies through remittances and the transfer of knowledge and ideas,” UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said.

“Migration is an age-old strategy for people seeking to escape poverty, mitigate risk, and build a better life,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration Peter Sutherland said. “I will focus on a series of concrete initiatives, including ones to ensure that migration is given full consideration in the post-2015 development agenda, to reduce the costs of migration, and to ban the detention of migrant children.”

The Special Representative also will expand his advocacy for the Domestic Workers Convention, which extends the labour and social rights of millions of migrant domestic workers around the world.

Events this week will build on progress made since the first High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development was held in 2006, after which the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) was created. Since 2007, the GFMD has served as a platform for informal dialogue and cooperation on international migration and development outside the UN. Also in 2006, the Global Migration Group was created by the UN to increase interagency cooperation on migration.

For the latest statistics on international migrants, please visit www.unmigration