Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Indian woman - Another victim of intolerance and narrow-mindedness

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Another victim has fallen. May her soul rest in peace.

A victim of the intolerance of the few narrow-minded, who unfortunately the rest of us would have to deal with or put up with.

They want everyone else to think, live and act like them, if you don't, they use violence to bring you into 'line'.

So this young Indian woman's crime was because she dressed in a way that the extremists see as against the 'norms'. So now they have killed her, after they visited upon her that beastly act of rape in a public bus. Sadly, that's how they believe they can tell the 'deviants' how not to conduct their affairs. By these dastardly acts, so inhuman and barbaric, they shamelessly tell the rest of the world that they are on the right path.

In Pakistan, they even shot young Malala at close range in the head, for desiring to get an education, and they were proud to announce that they did it.

Unfortunately, we tolerate these intolerant few who are making our world unsafe, especially for women and children.

Little, closed knowledge, bigotry and to a large extent misinterpreted religious texts are what make these extremists a danger to us all.

They have never considered dialogue, mutual disagreement or even persuasion as ways of communicating one's position on any issue. For them, violence is the only way.

It is so unthinkable that these people who claim to be followers of religious truth, who believe that they are closer to a loving God would use violence in unimaginable proportions on usually, unarmed and defenceless individuals and groups to show their fervent commitment to their God!

They even believe that makes them more saintly and gives them a ticket to paradise with wonderful rewards so tempting that the killing and maiming of the innocent are justified.

Politics and religion are necessary, but truth be told, these two phenomena are only a small part of the realities of life - that is so because these are held by humans, who are limited in their capacity to hold and use knowledge in its fullness.

Even the most ardent proponents of political theories and religious knowledge are fallible. All humans are entrapped in weaknesses and foibles - what we know we know in part, these are not absolutes! Therefore, using violence to the extent of taking lives to propagate these ideals are unjustifiable by all standards.

As the people of India and the rest of the world mourn the untimely, but painful death of this young woman, may her death remind all of us that we can't use violence to make our point.

I hope her painful and unnecessary death, would also serve as a lesson to the political and religious zealots among us that it is immoral and even evil to use violence to force others to believe in what we stand for.

Hopefully, we would come to the realization that what we claim to have as knowledge or the truth is only a part, a small part of the whole, and must not be imposed on others, because they also probably have another part of that knowledge.

What eould make our world peaceful for everyone also includes a good amount of tolerance. Each one of us, have the freedom to live, no single individual or groups have the right to impose on others what in their view is the right way to live. If it however, becomes necessary to do so, dialogue is a much humane and acceptable option.

We don't know it all, and we don't have the whole truth.

Monday, December 10, 2012

There is no tension in Ghana after the elections, let the war mongers get that

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Sadly, it appears that when there is no violence in an African country after an election, then it is not normal.

Ghanaians went through voting on December 7, 2012 in some cases for two days of voting, at some polling centres voting continued on December 8, because biometric verification equipment didn't function on the first day of voting.

In 72 hours the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) announced the final results from all 275 constituencies and declared the winner of the Presidential poll.

The winner is incumbent President, John Mahama, who stood on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). He won with 50.70% of the total valid votes cast, defeating his closest opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The difference between these two close contenders was 325,863 votes.

Nana Akufo-Addo got 5,248 898 of the votes or 47.74%, followed by Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) with 38,223 votes – that is 0.59%.

Henry Herbert Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) has 38,223 votes or 0.35% of valid votes cast, Hassan Ayariga of the Peoples National Convention (PNC) has 24,617 or 0.22% of valid votes cast. Dr. Abu Sakara of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) has  20, 323 votes making 0.18% of valid votes cast.

The Independent candidate, Jacob Osei Yeboah has 15,201 or 0.14% of valid votes cast and Kwasi Oddai Odike of the United Front Party (UFP) has 8,877 of valid votes cast which is 0.08%.

According to the EC total valid votes cast is 10,995,262 and 251,720 votes were rejected. The results are from all the 275 constituencies around the country.

The voter turnout was 79.43% .

The opposition NPP is demanding an audit of the results. Its candidate, Akufo-Addo is yet to concede defeat and the NDC is organising what they call a 'mini' victory rally in Accra.

A few rowdy people had gathered around the premises of the EC and were driven away with tear gas by the police, and that is what is making news among the war mongers. If that is the only source of news to people following on the situation in Ghana after the elections, then these people will think Ghana is about to fall off a cliff.

I spoke yesterday and today to two different residents of the second politically most active city in Ghana, Kumasi in the Ashanti region and they all say, the city is calm.

Yet the mongers are emphasising the NPP position and the small crowd situation as the main focus of the aftermath of the elections.

Accra, the capital itself is calm and most people are happy returning to work Monday morning after a long weekend filled with election issues.

Ghana is not about to crack, there is not the slightest possibility that the country will be up in flames over the election 'dispute' by the NPP. Indeed, there have always been election disputes in Ghana, and yet the country never went up in smoke!

After the 2008 general elections, which the NDC won, some of its ill informed members marched to the offices of the EC and were driven back by the police. What the NPP supporters are doing is similar to that incident and that is that - it is not the beginning of war.

Ghanaians have voted, the EC has announced the results. The opposition says it has evidence of fraud, mostly in areas where it lost. It can go to court to make a case, Ghana's judiciary system has proven it is independent, and the matter will be looked into on merit.

Ghanaians love the peace they are enjoying, even if most of them have not benefited from the huge economic leap the country has achieved in cutting poverty to half - they cherish the peace and would protect it. Ghanaians won't go to war over election results and there is no tension in the country. Life still goes on.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What to expect after the Ghana elections on December 7

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

I made a promise to my friends on Facebook to write about my predictions of what are likely to happen after the elections are over. These predictions are nothing new. They happen in Ghana after every election.

I am keeping this promise, and here are my thoughts and the things that you should expect to hear or read about.

Some of the things you would hear would be exaggerated, some would be closer to the truth, some would be outright lies, the figment of some people’s imaginations and some deluded individuals would also have their fair share of the cake of happenings after the elections – but most certainly, these things I hereby predict, would happen. But as they do, remember this – I am not a soothsayer, and in answer to my dear friend Nii Ayertey Aryeh’s question, I did not use a crystal ball.

Election times in Ghana are interesting times, often filled with excitement and tense anticipations.

To some people, it appears to be the only time for real hope. Hope that their preferred candidates or political parties would win power and change their fortunes.

Considering the fact that even though poverty has been cut to half in Ghana, it is still endemic in the country, just like most parts of the world, and the only way most people know to get out of poverty is through politics. There is overwhelming evidence to this fact – mostly unknown individuals have become millionaires overnight through their associations with political parties that became governments after winning elections.

The phenomenon known as ‘job for the boys’ is common. Individuals known to be incompetent are  appointed into very important and sometimes lucrative jobs, as a reward for their loyalty to the party in power or as a reward for some contribution to the party’s win or depending on which influential party stalwart one knows.

As a matter of fact, this election won’t be any different from all the other five since the country ushered in the 1992 constitution. After December 7, these things would happen.

My predictions

I predict that there will be winners and losers. That of course you know.

Long before the day ends Friday December 7, 2012, there will be claims and counter claims of having won the elections by two specific political parties. They would not wait for the Electoral Commission to announce the final results.

They have already appointed their ‘electoral specialists’ who are on standby to specifically monitor and announce what in their views are the true results.

Sadly, members of these two political parties are so sure of winning in the first round that none of them is psychologically prepared for any likely possibility of losing. They will start trading accusations and counter accusations of rigging even before the ballot is over.

None of these parties believe that  they could lose a fairly contested elections and they will have their own ‘evidences’ to prove the allegations of vote rigging even before the results are officially declared.

If anyone listened to executives of these two parties during their last political rallies Wednesday evening they were telling their supporters that the election is a done deal – they invariably are saying we have won already!

None of these parties has given any indications that its fate is in the hands of voters! They believe in themselves – they are so sure of victory.

We shall hear threats of court actions over results of some parliamentary ballots, and some will actually go to court to challenge the results – and these court actions might go on for four years, by which time the winner being challenged would have served the full term in Parliament, collect the financial benefits and go smiling all the way to the bank, returning to contest another election.

There will be jubilation by some and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some contestants will be so shell shocked that they are likely to fall into unconsciousness and be rushed to the hospital.

People on the winning side will tease their losing opponents – they will rub it in till it bleeds.

We shall hear of and witness some skirmishes but there won’t be any major conflict arising out of the elections.

I also predict that most of the pollsters who have recently arrived in town, will vanish into thin air after the elections as their ridiculously cooked up polls won’t materialize, leaving only Ben Ephson to show his face around because his polls have been proven in the past.

As for who wins the presidential slot, I predict that Ghanaians will decide the winner and still make Ghana the beacon of democracy in Africa.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My encounter with Israeli popular music and the Idan Raichel Project

Idan Raichel
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

It's not hard to identify great music when you hear one. It might be sang in a language you don't understand, but if it's good music it will touch you. And so the Idan Raichel Project hit me with their kind of music.

I knew Idan Raichel is a great musician immediately I heard his voice boom out of the microphone at the National Theatre in Accra as his highly disciplined band played Thursday November 22, 2012. He sang purposefully to touch his audience.

Raichel, like every Israeli has done military service. And when he was done, at that time barely 30 years old he plunged into music.

His records and music genre became instant hits selling millions of copies making him one of Israel's most acclaimed and awarded musicians. His music is known and appreciated worldwide.

But he was performing in Ghana for the first time, he told the audience.

Playing a genre that blends modern music approaches with traditional Jewish tunes, the Idan Raichel Project made up of nationals of different countries is arguably a remarkable music group. The band sings in Hebrew, Amharic, Spanish and English.

The group played in Accra to mark the re-opeing of the Israeli Embassy in Ghana after it was closed 38 years ago.

I was among the privileged few invited by the Embassy to attend the concert. Ghanaian reggae star, Rocky Dawuni was a guest artiste at the concert.

The 10-piece band played incredibly good tunes and the singers, four of them, two females and two males including Raichel himself and one Ethiopian. I could tell he was Ethiopian because he danced with his shoulders a lot - of course Ethiopians dance by holding the waist or clasping the hands together and moving the shoulders up and down.

The concert was my first encounter with Israeli pop music as I have listened to religious music from that country many times, and this encounter will leave much stronger memory of what may become a life-long love for Israeli pop music.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Melcom tragedy and Ghana's democracy facade

Yesterday, Wednesday November 7, 2012, the world woke up to another victory for Barack Obama to remain President of the United States for another four years. Ghanaians were caught up in the euphoria too.

The US Embassy in Accra organised an Election Breakfast that started at 5:00am local time to mark the elections.

The previous night, the Institute of Economic Affairs, (IEA) organised a debate for the Vice-Presidential candidates competing in Ghana's December elections. I didn't watch it. I knew it would be boring from the first few pictures I saw on local TV stations, so I switched off and watched something more useful elsewhere.

But as the country vacillated between the euphoria of an Obama victory in far away America and cynicism and sycophancy over the hard to swallow vice-presidential debate at home, tragedy struck in the morning hours of the day. News began filtering in about the collapse of Melcom. Initially, some people thought the chain of department store business itself had folded up. But as pictures began to be posted on social media networks and radio and TV stations began to carry the news, reality hit in. The building itself, a six-story building had collapsed with an estimated 52 people already inside - both employees and shoppers.

The President, John Dramani  Mahama, on a campaign tour in the north of the country expressed sympathy for the victims on Twitter - he eventually cut short his campaign tour to visit the accident site. Opposition figures, determined not to be beaten by the President, also trooped to the accident scene.

This grim reality was bound to happen. Because it is no secret that we take so much for granted in this country. We are susceptible to bending rules at the slightest hint to satisfy our whims, for financial gain or merely for political reasons. If you can afford to pay, you can get anything done in this country, forget the laws and regulations!

I remember that in the early days of John Kufuor as president, he changed a 1974 Law to allow the importation of right-hand drive vehicles into this country. The law as it turned out, was repealed just to satisfy one person and to make the Kufuor government look like it was fulfilling its campaign promise to improve public transport.

At that time, one man had imported right-hand drive double-decker buses into the country, but couldn't use them because of the law prohibiting the use of such vehicles. When the law was repealed the buses already in poor condition flooded our streets offering some 'relief' in our beleaguered and chaotic public transport system. As it turned out, the buses couldn't stand the wear and tear of the public transport system and were all parked after a short while and we returned to square one - where we were with public transport before the buses. A clear example of how short sighted, self aggrandizing decisions are taken to score political points.

Despite the repeal of the law, right-hand vehicles have not become popular with Ghanaians.

Martin Amidu, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has been fighting the system to get the government to prosecute some individuals and companies and retrieve huge amounts of public money that have been paid in questionable judgement debts under suspicious circumstances. The state always claims there is no money to provide services for citizens, but finds the money to pay questionable judgement debts and very high salaries for the Executive and Legislature.

Have we taken our democracy too far? Ghana is reputed all over the world for organising peaceful elections and for having orderly transitions of power. But it appears the democratic credentials are not translating into strong systems that work for the good of all. Our society is becoming ever chaotic and self-destructive. Our democracy is a facade, I am beginning to believe.

In the name of free speech, citizens, including people in positions of trust defame and libel others. State institutions in trying to present themselves as 'humane' fail to enforce bye laws and regulations. So many people want benefits they do not earn. Most people demanding to exercise rights without responsibility is becoming a norm!

Particularly, land and building issues have been a thorn in the flesh of Ghanaians for a long time now. Buildings rise up everyday in the country without permits. It is easier to do whatever pleases one, if the person is an active member of a ruling party or is well connected - the only thing one cannot do in Ghana is to turn a man into a woman. 'Prominent' members of political parties can get whatever they want including breaking clearly set rules and regulations. News abound of ruling party members attacking and physically assaulting members or suspected members of opposition parties. These suspects go free because, they believe they were acting in the interest of the party and it appears the party would not touch its own.

Our parliamentarians have become literally ineffective whenever it matters most, except in matters that directly benefit them. They are quick to pass into law bills that would favour the party in power, while bills such as the Right to Information bill is still lingering in a form that actually endangers right to information decades after the constitution which calls for its enactment into law has been in existence.

Indeed, it appears the practice of democracy in Ghana means lawlessness. The state has been rendered helpless and dysfunctional because governments in power are afraid to enforce laws. They fear to lose elections. For those in power therefore, wielding power for their own sake is more important than running the country for the good of all.

The collapse of the Melcom building and the unnecessary deaths and injuries would only shock our collective consciences momentarily - after the dead are buried and the injured are healed, unfortunately, some might end up with some forms of permanent physical disabilities, we will return to business as usual. No one would be punished, probably, the family of the dead (may their souls rest in peace) and injured might not get compensation, and we shall return to business as usual.

We are more democratic than the Greeks and so we won't enforce our laws and regulations. The political class wants to please everyone else so they will be voted back into power, where they can continue to pay themselves hefty salaries and enjoy privileges ordinary mortals do not deserve.

We can't survive for a long time as a country, if we continue to ignore the role of discipline and law enforcement in building a progressive society - we shall atrophy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

African Development Forum discusses how Africa can benefit from its natural resources

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

There is no doubt that the African continent is rich in natural resources.

The continent with an estimated over one billion population is rich in renewable and non-renewable natural resources, however, there is general agreement that the continent does not benefit from its vast resources. These resources are mined and exported in their raw form.

Africa produces more than 60 metal and mineral products and is a major producer of several of the world’s most important minerals and metals. But issues about Africa’s natural resources are vexatious.

Some of the minerals mined out of Africa include gold, diamond, PGE’s, silver, iron, uranium, bauxite, manganese, chromium, nickel, bauxite, cobalt and copper. Platinum, coal, and phosphates are also mined on the continent.

Africa also has rich forests, marine and aquatic resources that have been exploited for years, but Africa’s share of the revenues, “have been miniscule compared to what the mining companies have realised,” said Dr. Stephen Karingi, the Director, Regional Integration, Infrastructure at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 2011.

Dr. Karingi has also said the top 40 mining companies operating in Africa reportedly made net profits of about $110 billion in 2010 alone. And these companies have a net asset base which exceeds $1trillion.

Information available also indicates that mining has come to dominate the export earnings of many African countries. In 2005 minerals accounted for more than 80% of exports in Botswana, Congo, DRC, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and more than 50% in Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. By 2008 sustained demand from a burgeoning Chinese economy had seen prices for minerals reach new heights.

Jean Noel Francois, the Acting Director, Department of Trade and Industry at the African Union (AU) Commission has also said in 2011 that even though Africa’s mineral resources are fuelling growth and development in many industrialised and emerging economies of the world, Africa still remains poor, under-developed and dependent on donor assistance for national budget support.
He further reiterated the fact that Africa consumes very little of its own mineral resources and exports most of it as raw materials, “with little or no local value addition and beneficiation.”

The Eighth African Development Forum (ADF VIII) held from October 23 to 25, 2012 sought to discuss these issues and chart the way on how Africa can harness it’s natural resources to benefit its people.

The conference jointly organised by the UNECA, the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank is under the theme “Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development”.

“The ADF, an ECA) flagship biennial event created in 1999, is a multi-stakeholder platform for discussing the effectiveness of Africa’s development policies and strategies…. It is to establish an African-driven development agenda that reflects consensus, and has the  potential to yield specific programmes for implementation,” the conference concept paper has said.

The Concept paper further states that the Forum will build on the outcome of the Fifth Joint African Union (AU) Conference of African Ministers of Economy and Finance and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in March 2012 in Addis Ababa under the theme “Unleashing Africa’s potential as a pole of global growth” and the analytical work carried out in the Economic Report on Africa 2012 under the same theme.

It adds, the platform offers as much an opportunity to build partnerships as for the occasion to further deepen discussions on implementation of: the Africa Mining Vision (AMV); the AU Declaration on Land; the Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy in Africa (F&G); the Implementation Strategy for the Accelerated Industrialization Development for Africa (AIDA); Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests; and other frameworks for best practices in the management of mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources.

The overall objectives of the Forum are to  raise awareness and cultivate deeper understanding of the role of Africa’s natural resource governance in its economic transformation. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss frameworks, policy options and strategies to better integrate mineral, land, fisheries and forest management into national resource management programmes, strategies and policies.

And some of the specific objectives include to demonstrate the role that Africa’s mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources could play in its broad social and economic development; Deliberate on the challenges that mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources mismanagement pose to Africa’s development, and offer governance and management models that can best support the continent’s transformation; and promote sharing of models, experiences, best practices and lessons learned in enhancing the role of natural resources in development in Africa among others.

Some of the expected outcomes include the following; Better-informed stakeholders about the role of natural resources in Africa’s development; Deeper understanding of stakeholders on how to translate frameworks and visions for natural resources management into practical policies and actions; and Strengthened capacity of stakeholders to advocate for prudent management of minerals, land, fisheries and forest resources to enhance their contribution to development.

African countries must go beyond talk to action. The global economic crisis and the eurozone crisis are enough evidence for action now.

The citizens of Africa have waited long enough. The teeming youth of Africa need jobs.

The 2012 African Economic Outlook (AEO) argues that youth unemployment figures will increase unless African countries move swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.

The AEO has also warned of looming domestic and external risks posed by the continued economic crisis in the eurozone.

This crisis, according to the AEO, threatens to constrain growth by lowering the demand for Africa’s exports, reduce tourism earnings and financial flows from foreign direct investments, Official Development Assistance and remittances.

Dr. Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Director of Economic Development and NEPAD Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has also argued that, “Exporting raw materials is equal to exporting your jobs.”  He indicated that, processing those raw materials on the continent would offer jobs to citizens and add value to exports.

According to him, it is important to get Africans into the global value chain. He said that can be done through natural resource governance, knowledge and human resource development and growth that is strong and broad-based.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The economics of death in Ghana


By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

"You would know the secret of death.                                          
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one." Khalil Gibran.

The great Lebanese poet, Gibran is saying both life and death are one. But as we put a price on life, can we also put a price on death? What is the economics of death?

A friend who had read this article said when he saw the headline he asked if it was possible to have the economics of death. In his his mind, he said he was expecting to read something about the secret of death.

Well, there is the economics of death. 

Looking at the data on death in any community and causes of these deaths should generate questions about the cost of these deaths to society.

When a society loses its labour force to deaths, that society is likely to suffer economic loses as well.

As economics is not only concerned with individual income and wealth and the choices people make in using what resources they have and what opportunity costs exist, economics is also concerned with how state resources are used to benefit citizens in accessing facilities, products and services that significantly impact the quality of life and longevity.

The provision of good quality health facilities, modern technology, including eHealth infrastructure and services are all meant to enhance the quality of life of individuals and make them live healthier longer lives.

It is therefore, reasonable in many cases to put a price on death.

For instance, even though euthanasia is not a major issue in Ghana, what price are people willing to put on a terminally ill relative in a hospital hooked to life support systems? Would families consider the medical cost and ask the doctors to pull the plug? Or some medical practitioners would advise euthanasia to save families and the health system money?

Death has economic consequences. Deaths through road accidents have economic impacts on the nation and families. For instance, when a bread winner dies in an accident, dependents may have their education cut short, because they are often unable to get the financial support for their education. A report carried recently by the Ghana News Agency cited an official of the National Road Safety Commission saying about 80 per cent of the people who die in road accidents in Ghana are men. And since traditionally in Ghana, men are expected to be the main bread winners for homes, it means that many more homes are experiencing some economic challenges as a result of road accident fatalities.

But more importantly, the concept of death in the Ghanaian society even makes it so poignantly, an economic issue. It is common to see and hear bereaved families wailing uncontrollably on hearing news about the death of a relative. Some of these people have been reported to have said words like these, "I am not crying because of the death of my kith and kin, but the cost of the funeral."

According to Samuel Twumasi Ankrah (2002) in Akan cultural heritage the death of an individual makes an extremely big difference not only to the deceased's relatives but also to whatever association one had during his lifetime.

He writes that among the Akans it is a norm for dead bodies to be kept in the mortuary for weeks or months until relatives are adequately organized to give a fitting burial ceremony to the departed soul. Such preparations normally take the form of an expensive coffin, shroud, food and refreshment for invited guests, provision of music usually by a hired band, publicity on radio and television, etc.
"Where necessary many do take loans purposely to cater for all these expenditures. This is especially so if the deceased had a good-standing relationship with his circle of associates prior to his death," he says.

In that case, sympathizers from the deceased’s religious, professional, political and other forms of affiliations will mobilize financial donations, transportation, etc. just to attend the burial or funeral of their departed colleague regardless of the distance, he adds.

He mentions that "it is a norm for dead bodies to be kept in the mortuary for weeks or months."

Keeping bodies in the mortuary attracts fees. These fees go up as the days progress. It is so because mortuary administrators want to discourage families from keeping corpses for long periods and also for decongestion, yet in spite of the costs, families still insist on keeping bodies in the morgue for months, sometimes for years as a 'fitting' burial is planned.

And a 'fitting' burial also means as the writer says the purchase of "an expensive coffin, shroud, food and refreshment for invited guests, provision of music usually by a hired band, publicity on radio and television, etc."

It is held among most Ghanaian communities that when a bereaved family, irrespective of its financial or economic status organises an expensive funeral, it wins respect and applause within that community.

The cosmology of most Ghanaian groups holds the view that life is a duality. The dead is believed to have merely completed his or her tenure on earth and would be embarking on a journey to the world of the ancestors. It is also held that as the dead will be joining the ancestors, it has been rationalised that the dead must be sent off properly, so that the dead person would be well accepted in the world of the ancestors. The expected implication for this worthy send-off is for the departed to in return shower blessings onto the living. These blessings include good health and economic success.

Businesses have sprung up solely to service the funeral needs of citizens. Funeral homes, bands that specialise in playing only at funerals, chefs that have expertise in preparing meals for funerals and undertakers.

Economics is concerned with the production of goods and services, distribution and consumption.

The dynamics work for how we stay alive and how we are buried when we die.
And as the poem by Khalil Gibran says, "For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

10 things every Ghanaian must do in honour of the Late President John Atta Mills

The president is gone to his village. He has gone to be with the ancestors. His work among mortals is done. The country is in mourning, still trying hard to come to terms with the tragedy. July 24, 2012 will remain a day never to be forgotten in our history. It is the first time a sitting president had died and he died in the country.

The first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah died in exile in Romania in 1972, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, Prime Minister in the second Republic died in London on August 28, 1978. Military leaders Gen. Kutu Acheampong and Gen. Frederick William Kwasi Akuffo were executed by firing squad in June 1979. Dr. Hilla Limann, President in the third republic died January 23, 1998 in Ghana.

As we mourn our loss, there are a lot of things we can do in honour of the departed President, as our dear nation and posterity need us, and I believe the Late President will be happy wherever he is now if we do.

1. Do not weep

It is customary for us Ghanaians to weep when we lose a beloved one to death. It is psychologically soothing, but we can't spend all the time weeping as we need to save some energy to get back to work.

2. Examine ourselves

Self examination is necessary for us at this time as a nation. We must look deep inside ourselves and ask ourselves if we have been true to this country, as politicians, professionals, fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters and workers.

We need to look into ourselves as the President would have wanted us to, to determine the depth of our commitment to the country and its future.

3. Stop the personal attacks in our politics

While personal attacks in politics are inevitable sometimes, making personal attacks a regular feature of political activities and discussions is not productive and can easily lead to conflict.

I believe the departed President who has not been known to have openly attacked his political opponents in his campaigns and speeches would love to see us do politics devoid of the personal attacks and insults that only make the perpetrators less dignified than they sought to portray themselves, besides, it breeds indiscipline, leaving the young with no good example to follow in decorum and respect for others. No matter how divers our views on issues are, no matter how much we disagree, we should learn to make these views known to our opponents without insulting them.

4. Live in peace

The Late President Mills while he was alive, always insisted he was a man of peace. He preached peace and lived peaceably with all. He has been known to have stretched the olive branch to some of his sworn detractors. He made efforts to maintain peace in his political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the nation as a whole. I remember his victory speech when he was elected president after a tensely fought general elections in December 2008. He said the election was over and Ghanaians must live as one people.

5. Be productive

We can honour the departed President by doing our duties productively. So many of us Ghanaians spend too much of our time deceiving ourselves that we are working, and yet our productivity levels are so low, and too embarrassing to talk about.

During his lifetime as President, Ghana's cocoa sector, which for a very long time was the country's main foreign exchange earner produced one million metric tonnes of cocoa.

We can be productive if we work hard instead of working 'smart'. We must follow laid down procedures of work, and be creative.

6. Love the country

The manner in which some Ghanaians use their political positions, connections and privileges of office to loot from the national coffers is nauseating. No one or group of people who love their country will take food out of the mouth and healthcare out of the reach of the majority who can't afford. The monies that few people siphon from the nation and share among themselves, if used for development or used where they ought to, life will be better for many Ghanaians.

Public officials who demand bribes from citizens before they do their work, would not do so if they love the country. Policemen would not take bribes or manipulate evidence for or against another citizen just so they can twist justice in favour of people from whom they make money if they love the country.

The President would be very happy wherever he is if we love this country and do right at all times.

7. Put Ghana first

Ghana is more important than any individual or group of people. We must therefore, put the country first. The President has passed on, but Ghana is still with us. Ghana is the country we all derive our collective identity from. If the country matters to us first, we would not engage in acts that set the country back, if we think of the country first, we would be selfless as the President did, despite his health status. He was brave. Despite being unwell, he continued to serve the country to his own detriment. He put the country first. Not all of us are unwell, and it would please the departed President to see that we put Ghana first.

8. Speak the truth

We can honour the President's memory, when we pursue the truth. Being truthful is a virtue that humanity everywhere acknowledges. Lying in the name of the country does everyone little or no good.

Being honest and sincere in our dealings with one another is the greater good we can do for the country.

9. Respect his memory

No matter what our differences are, when someone dies it is said that no one should speak ill of them. We can honur the Late President by not denting his image. He is not here to defend himself. That doesn't however mean, that we should no have records of objective perspectives about his life on earth. He was mortal like all of us and he had his faults. We should speak of him as we would love others to speak of us.

10. Remember his family

The Late President had a family. He left behind a beloved wife and a son. Let's remember them in this moment of grief. It's our duty to support and comfort them, let them know their loss is our loss too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Writing about my travels, writing about Ghana

A new friend I made recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia while I was attending an Experts Group Meeting on Statistical Data Flow Architecture for National Systems in Africa asked me if I had a blog. I said yes. And he said I should blog more about my travels.

Yes. Indeed, lately I have been doing some travels, work related travels as a journalist taking part in meetings, training and covering events and conferences.

I would very much love to write about my travels, as I have done occasionally. But more importantly, I would like to blog more about Ghana, my motherland. This great country appears to be in crisis, despite the façade of the kind of democratic culture that the country has been practising for some time now. The peaceful democracy in Ghana has won the country great respect and honour around the world. I know that because my frequent travels gives me the privilege of meeting people from all over the world who are impressed by Ghana's democracy and peace. The country has been described as a peaceful oasis in a turbulent West Africa, looking at Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

But beneath the admirable political calmness is a surging decadence unprecedented anywhere in a decent democratic culture. The culture of impunity and naked robbery perpetrated by the ruling class are not only nauseating but poignantly disturbing.

A stable democracy is all any people anywhere needed to pursue social and economic development - but not so in Ghana. Instead, it is all the political class needed to loot the national coffers. They are exploiting loopholes in the law to execute well crafted evil schemes to siphon urgently needed funds for development for themselves and their cronies.

The phenomena of 'Judgement Debts' have become the 'legitimate' means to steal from the public and share! Both ruling party members and the opposition party members all get their share, once the monies reach the main recipient.

There appears to be no such thing as raison d'État, what the French call the national interest any more.

While the President, his cabinet, and other public officials swear by the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, to uphold the law in the national interest, they turn around to protect the interest of the political parties on whose tickets they stood to win political office. The nation can go to hell! They seem to say.

Ghana is a great country with great potential, but poor, weak and short sighted leadership is making this country mark time instead of moving forward.

And sadly, the media is not playing its role effectively in checking the system because playing that role is precarious and financially unrewarding. Advertising revenues won't come in or might shrink for any news organisation that dares to hold the politicians accountable. Indeed, it is not only politicians but corporate bodies which are also cashing in and taking advantage of the inefficiency in the national systems of checks and balances to make huge profits. News organisations that demand good governance and accountability are effectively 'punished', by being denied audience or advertising.

Ghana is bigger than any one, businesses or political parties. No nation, will survive any economic mismanagement, corruption and graft. Recent developments in the US and the Eurozone are indisputable evidences - no nation will escape economic and financial meltdowns if the rogues are allowed to steal unhindered.

The crisis has gone to the point where majority of the people have lost confidence in leadership. This development can deteriorate if the system fails to correct itself and Ghana will be closer to a dangerous breaking point.

While most people are talking about the disgusting rot in the system, others are praying for solutions. All these can't be discounted as some sorts of efforts to address the situation, but more importantly, some specific, measured actions are needed to save this great country from the festering decadence and social malaise brought upon us by the greed of the shallow-minded incapable few who are running the affairs of the state.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Uncertain future for online journalism in Ghana

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Online journalism in Ghana does have a future, but that future is shaky. As more and more people surf the Internet for news and information, the opportunities are just unlimited.

Online news sources have become some form of reliable sources of news and information for Ghanaians both at home and abroad. Indeed, the online sources have become a source of news leads to radio and TV stations in the country, and some online news sources have found the radio and TV stations useful as sources of news.

Unlike the US and the UK where online media has thrived and often threatened newspapers, in Ghana both newspapers and online news sources are struggling. They are struggling for survival as advertising revenue goes round within a small cycle of news organisations.

While most online news sources in Ghana do not earn advertising revenue, online media in the US and UK generate income enough to sustain them as businesses.

In the US, online advertising revenue reached $12.1 billion for the first half of 2009, an increase of 11.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2008.

According to a report by The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC US, a division of PricewaterhouseCoopers, display-related advertising-which includes banner ads, rich media, digital video and sponsorships-totalled more than $4.4 billion in the first six months of 2010, showing a significant increase of close to 16 per cent over the same period in 2009.

Despite this increase in online advertising in the US, however, some popular online news sources are shutting down.

The latest casualty is the Seattle-based political news site PubliCola.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, despite its strong readership, the site has closed down because it was not making advertising revenue.

The Review cited founder Josh Feit saying in a post that the site is quite popular, with “more than 400,000 monthly page views during the election season and currently more than 10,000 Facebook and Twitter followers.” But that doesn’t always equal commensurate returns.

“We haven’t been successful as a business. Advertising revenue has been limited and inconsistent,” he writes.

The challenges that online journalism in Ghana is however  facing is on two fronts: it has an integrity crisis and there is no advertising revenue.

A couple of months ago, the Ghana version of South African football news site, shut down because it wasn’t making advertising revenue in the country.

While a few websites in Ghana are raking in huge amounts of money in advertising revenue, they are largely lacking in professionalism.

These websites are run mostly by non-professional journalists whose main interest is to use the platform first as a business and therefore do not pursue the basic norms guiding journalism.  And journalists working for some of these online news sources do not have the independence to practice according to the tenets of the profession.

And while most of these websites claim to be aggregators, they continuously engage in plagiarism. They generate very little original content and they don’t always acknowledge the sources from where they copy news and publish on these sites. While they would sometimes credit sources for the news, they often attribute incorrectly.

Additionally, they publish libellous, defamatory and unverified information. They also do not take the sensibilities of their visitors into consideration, by publishing offending graphic images without warning.

These situations, lack of advertising revenue and integrity endanger the future of online journalism in Ghana, and that is notwithstanding the fact that a number of practicing Ghanaian journalists are beneficiaries of the prestigious International Institute of Journalism (IJJ) in Germany and the Radio Netherlands Training Centre in Holland. These international institutions select applicants every year to undergo periods of training in online journalism.

But these journalists do not seem to influence online journalism the way they should, leaving the field to non-professionals. They are not even blogging effectively! Could it be that the selection teams for these programmes select the wrong candidates?

It is however, hard to say at this point what will save the future of Ghana’s online journalism, which in its present form is very distressing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why the GH¢1m Ghana Media Development Fund is in limbo

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi     

The Ghana Media Development Fund is in limbo. Long after the government announced a GH¢1 million seed money to start the fund to facilitate media development in the country it has not taken off yet.

Vice President John Mahama announced the government’s intention to set up the fund on September 9, 2011, when he spoke as the guest of honour at the 16th Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) awards held in Accra.

And November 16, 2011, the Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor announced the allocation of the funds while he was presenting the 2012 budget statement  in Parliament.

A great idea that would facilitate the healthy development of the media in Ghana appears to be still-born because as usual the politicians want to do ‘their own things’ with it.

The Ministry of Information wants to manage the fund! But it is ill equipped to do so. Besides, it has no good history of disbursing funds to the media as our recent history has shown.

For instance up till now, no one knows which group of ‘editors forum’ that the Ministry gave  GH¢150,000, even though speculations have been going about who handled the money at the Ministry and which specific journalists were given the said money.

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has made it clear to the Ministry that it doesn’t have a good record when it comes to disbursing funds to the media. The GJA therefore, suggested to the Ministry to set up a Board of Trustees and put the Fund under the management of the National Media Commission (NMC). It is also on record that Alhaji Haruna Atta, publisher and Editor-in-Chief  of the Accra Daily Mail has written to the Ministry making a suggestion similar to that of the GJA.

The media is a significant player in national development, but in Ghana, the media is seen as an appendage to the highest bidder. Media organisations are run mostly as business first, which makes its social role opaque. Journalists are made to believe that ethics and social responsibility do not matter, but serving a ‘master’ is all that matters even if that meant threatening social cohesion and the well being of the masses.

The announcement of this fund gave some hope that, at that point the government was taking cognisance of the important role of the media by offering support, but alas it is support with a string. A string to be used to control the media and to support mercenary journalists and to borrow former Attorney-General Martin Amidu’s words ‘the rented press’.

If the case was not so, then the government must prove skeptics like me wrong and let an independent body manage the fund. As the case already stands, government is not being fair to a section of the media that is also making significant contributions to national development. Government advertising is unevenly spread, with ‘government friendly’ but often unprofessional media organisations getting a good chunk of government advertising while, some very high quality publications are starved of funds because they are seen as ‘unfriendly media’.

The future of this country can to some extent be determined by what kind of media we have and if indeed the government means well for the people of this country, it must do the right thing to develop the media by making this fund functional.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Economic Report on Africa shows continent has potential to be pole of global growth

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The 2012 Economic Report on Africa has been launched. The report was launched last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa during the 5th Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The report which makes a strong argument that Africa has the potential to be a pole of global growth, calls for efforts to unleash the continent’s full potential to fully play that role.
The 2012 edition of the report titled ‘Unleashing Africa’s Potential as a Pole of Global Growth’, examines recent developments in the world economy and implications for Africa and analyses the economic and social prospects for 2012.

Africa’s potential to be the next global pole of growth has never been in doubt. Despite the ripples of the 2008 global economic crisis which are being felt and as the current Eurozone crisis goes on, Africa has shown resilience and continues to grow, even though the report acknowledges that the Eurozone crisis could negatively affect Africa.

The report  provides evidence among other factors to show that Africa could be a pole of global growth and goes on to propose a clear plan on how to unleash the continent’s development capacity and mobilize resources for its structural transformation.

According to the report, after a strong rebound in 2010, the world economy slowed in 2011 owing to increased risks and uncertainties that are expected to remain in 2012 and beyond.

It takes note of the negative effects of the triple crisis of 2007–2009 – food, energy and finance – which still linger, and the euro area sovereign debt crisis, it says, has aggravated the structural imbalances in the world economy and cast doubt on the prospects for sustained growth and a quick recovery.

The shift of “toxic assets” from private sector to government balance sheets in major developed economies did not relieve the global financial system as expected, “but instead worsened government fiscal positions, paced by new global financial turmoil with the onset of the euro area crisis,” it says.

Noting that the depth and complexity of the global crisis has so far defied the many policy responses applied by the major developed countries, which kept interest rates low and pursued fiscal austerity measures to restore fiscal credibility, the report posits that, despite these measures, however, long-run structural problems, such as increased income inequality, dysfunctional labour markets and global imbalances, have intensified.

African economies, the report said, rebounded quickly from the 2008 financial crisis as commodity prices rose and export revenues returned to pre-crisis levels, enabling them to finance the necessary investments.

But with the political turmoil in North Africa, coupled with the euro area crisis, growth slowed in 2011. Still, some African countries continued to post double-digit growth, reflecting increased commodity prices and strong domestic demand, the report said.

Citing the world economy which grew at 2.8 per cent in 2011, down from 4 per cent in 2010, largely because of decreased demand and greater uncertainty, it indicated that gross domestic product (GDP) growth in developed economies declined from 2.7 per cent in 2010 to just 1.3 per cent in 2011, on both demand and supply factors.

Domestic demand, however, the report said, particularly in the developed world, stagnated owing to obstinately high unemployment and depressed consumer and business confidence, as fear of a second recession became widespread. Low growth in the developed world is expected to persist at least until the end of 2012.

Outlining examples of growth in the European Union, the US and Japan, it said growth in the European Union (EU) levelled off from 2 per cent in 2010 to 1.6 per cent as the euro area registered only 1.5 per cent growth in 2011. The euro area crisis struck at consumer and business confidence, and lowered private consumption and investment against a backdrop of re-emerging financial turbulence and a bank credit crunch. The EU is expected to register minimal growth of 0.7 per cent in 2012, and the euro area a mere 0.4 per cent.

Growth in the United States (US) it shows, declined to 1.7 per cent in 2011 from 3.0 per cent in 2010, reflecting continued sluggish private consumption and reduced government expenditure. An elevated oil price, high unemployment and persistent deleveraging held down disposable household income. US growth is forecast to slip to 1.5 per cent in 2012. Downside risks lie in fiscal policy choices and the spillover effects of the euro area crisis on still fragile financial institutions.

However, the report says, some positive signs have emerged in job markets, which might
influence the 2012 presidential election and the subsequent economic policy orientation and the pace of the recovery.

Japan’s economy, it stated, switched from 4.0 per cent growth in 2010 to a contraction of 0.5 per cent in 2011, mainly owing to the shock of March’s devastating earthquake and tsunami on private consumption and investment.

Export growth slowed, reflecting the disaster’s disruption to supply chains as well as the yen’s climb. Post-disaster reconstruction expenditure and rising manufacturing confidence are, however, projected to enable the economy to rebound with 2.0 per cent growth in 2012. In the medium and long term, though, an ageing population, mounting public debt and deflationary pressures will weigh heavily on growth, it said.

The ‘economies in transition’ grew 4.1 per cent in 2011, as in 2010, but still below pre-crisis rates, the report said.

It indicated that domestic demand remained weak, as high unemployment and increased household indebtedness constrained private consumption and investment. However, export revenue rose on high commodity prices. The economies in transition are expected to grow 3.9 per cent in 2012, yet they remain vulnerable to spillovers from the euro area crisis owing to their close economic links to that bloc.

In 2011, developed economies’ overall fragility weighed heavily on developing countries’ growth, which stood at 6.0 per cent, down from 7.5 per cent in 2010; growth is projected to decline further to 5.6 per cent in 2012, the report said, adding that, overheating worries have receded, but high unemployment and political turmoil in some countries are still threatening growth prospects.

Developing countries, it said, have tried to make up for the decline of external demand by stimulating domestic demand and pursuing expansionary policies.

East and South Asia—the world’s growth engine—also felt the global economic chill through slackening exports, it noted.

It said, growth slowed to 7.1 per cent in 2011 against 8.8 per cent in 2010, despite robust private consumption and investment. Natural disasters affected regional industrial production and supply chains. Growth is projected to further decelerate to 6.8 per cent in 2012 as external demand from developed countries stays depressed.

Citing China and India, the report inidcated that the two largest emerging economies, were slowed by headwinds from the world economy in the fourth quarter, though they maintained excellent growth of 9.3 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively, in 2011.

“High inflation eroded Chinese household incomes and government attempts to limit bank credit—stemming from anxieties of an overheating economy—put pressure on private investment. The major risk for China’s economy comes from a possible external demand slump, which would depress export growth. China is forecast to grow 8.7 per cent in 2012,” it said.

“India’s buoyant private consumption was its main growth driver. Rising prices of basic foods, water and electricity have, though, become a source of public protest against government policies. India is expected to keep its growth momentum, at 7.7 per cent in 2012. Low productivity of rain-fed agriculture and a possible reversal of capital inflows are the main risks,” the report said.

According to the report, Western Asia’s economic growth edged up from 6.3 per cent in 2010 to 6.6 per cent in 2011, mainly on a high oil price and greater social security spending.

Increased energy export income and supportive macroeconomic policies propped up growth in oil-exporting countries, while some oil-importers saw recovery led by fiscal stimulus and domestic demand. Others contracted  or stagnated because of social and political instability.

Growth for the region is expected to decline sharply to 3.7 per cent in 2012 as a result of regional political uncertainties and a possible downward trend in the oil price.

Economic growth in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, it said, decelerated to 4.3 per cent in 2011 from 6.0 per cent in 2010, despite the vigorous domestic demand attributable to favourable labour markets, high commodity prices, global low interest rates and currency appreciation. Growth rates were divergent across the region: South American countries continued to benefit from emerging economies’ commodity demand, sound economic fundamentals and increased domestic demand. Mexico and the countries in Central America and the Caribbean, in contrast, experienced slow growth, influenced by the weak US economy.

The world economy, the report explains, is entering a period full of uncertainties and challenges. In the short term, the euro area sovereign debt crisis might push the global economy into another prolonged and deep recession or slow global growth, at steep social cost. High unemployment and rising food and energy prices have already widened income inequality and stirred up widespread discontent and social instability around the planet. The failure of developed country governments to provide long-lasting solutions to correct global imbalances deepens the malaise.

Africa, the report noted, is not immune to the global crisis, though it is now in a much better position to deal with external shocks. The expected global economic slowdown may well cut demand for its commodity exports, reduce prices and thus hurt its export revenues, but increased output alongside its gradual moves to diversify its exports—as well as recently improved intraregional trade—can help the continent to better weather adverse global developments.

ODA shortfalls, it noted, could threaten many aid-dependent African countries’ social development programmes, but could also encourage the continent to mobilize more domestic resources and reduce over-dependence on foreign financial assistance.
In view of these risks and challenges, the report calls on African governments to implement growth-supportive macroeconomic policies in the short run, while adopting long-term development perspectives.

“To be more specific, they should increase their investments in programmes such as education, health and infrastructure that can enhance their economies’  long-term growth potential in the bounds of their fiscal space. Monetary policy needs to be accommodative to support growth, but must be combined with income policies to provide a minimum social security cushion for the weakest groups in society, so as to consolidate the achievements in reducing poverty over the last decade,” it says.

In the long term, Africa’s, it says, governments need to pursue economic diversification and structural transformation vigorously in order to reduce vulnerability to external shocks, such as the euro debt crisis or volatility in commodity prices. Moreover, African countries must continue to diversify their export destinations and expand economic partnerships, including those with new development partners, while deepening intra-African trade and investment.

The report believes that, crucially, African countries can grow faster by unleashing their productive potential—by aggressively investing in infrastructure and human capital, and by promoting good governance.

“This will require strong political leadership and a firm institutional framework to fulfil the broad, transformative long-term agenda,” it says.

The report is a joint publication of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU).

Monday, March 12, 2012

FAO says additional $69.8m needed to address imminent food, nutrition crisis in Sahel

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) is calling for additional funds to head-off an imminent food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.

The FAO made the call yesterday March 9, 2012 in press release copied to

The organisation says several countries in the Sahel region of western Africa need urgent support to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition security crisis and to protect and restore livelihoods of communities dependent on livestock and crops.

It says $69.8 million in additional funding to provide assistance to 790 000 vulnerable farming and herding households, who have been caught in a cycle of recurring food crises is needed.

The FAO estimates that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, “in part due to localized, but significant, declines in agropastoral production. This includes 5.4 million people in the Niger (35 percent of the population), three million in Mali (20 percent), around 1.7 million in Burkina Faso (10 percent), around 3.6 million in Chad (28 percent), 850,000 in Senegal (6 percent), 713,500 in the Gambia (37 percent) and 700,000 in Mauritania (22 percent),” it says.

The looming crisis it says, is due to a combination of factors, including drought; sharp declines in cereal production and high grain prices; a shortage of fodder for livestock; a reduction in remittances from migrant workers in several countries; environmental degradation; displacement; and chronic poverty deepened by chronic crisis.

According to the FAO, in 201, total cereal production in the Sahel was on average 25 percent lower than in 2010, but as much as 50 percent lower in Chad and Mauritania.

“There were also localized, huge food production deficits in other countries (up to 80 percent), according to the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA), a forum which includes governments, donors and others involved in food security issues in West Africa,” it adds.

There were also reported increases in the number of displaced persons in the region, the FAO noted, indicating that this includes a total of 63,000 internally displaced persons in Mali who have fled conflict in the northern section of that country, and more than 60,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries.

“We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva was quoted as saying in the release.

“Part of the solution is to improve the access of farmers and herders to local markets, encourage the use of local products, and apply risk-reduction good practices to reinforce their resilience”, he added.

To address the issue immediately, the FAO proposes among other interventions the following support it intends to offer:

· helping farmers with the delivery of food crops and vegetable seeds in time for the main planting season, which begins in May

· increases in off-season irrigated crop production

· drought-related assistance to herders, including the distribution of animal feed, use of cash vouchers to rehabilitate natural pastures and water points

· production of animal fodder; livestock destocking, and veterinary inputs

· provision of integrated nutrition practices through agriculture, livestock rearing, school gardens, and nutrition education for women with children

· support for reinforcement of food security-information, early-warning systems and coordination.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Africa's trade statistics depressing as compared to other regions of the world

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The statistical information on Africa's share of global trade is depressing. And statistics on intra-African trade is even more dismal.

During a conference of statisticians from across Africa in Cape Town, South Africa in January, a presentation by Simon Mevel of the Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division (RITD) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the statistics of trade globally, showed Africa lagging behind.

The figures show that in the year 2000, Africa's share of global trade was 2.3% and in 2010 it stood at 3.0%.

And according to the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), global trade (in current prices) has increased from $13 trillion in 2000 to an estimated $30 trillion in 2010, but Africa’s share in world trade has been in decline since 1980 and currently stands at about three per cent.

According to the 2010 International Trade Statistics of the World Trade Organization compared to other regions,intra-African trade is low.

For instance in 2009, intra-European trade was 72%, intra-Asian trade stood at 52% and intra-North American trade was 48%.

Intra-South and Central American trade was 26% but intra-African trade was 11%.

Africa produces large amounts of raw materials, which are exported as primary products.

The data shows that the high concentration of African exports in primary products are made up of agricultural and food products, 9.4%, primary products 36.43, 35.4% are other industrial products and 18.9 of services.

The biggest challenge to intra-African trade available statistics show is the imposition of high tariffs which is a barrier to trade. Compared to the other parts of the world, higher tariffs prevail within the continent.

Statistics provided by Mevel shows that Ad Valorem Equivalent Tariff between Africa and Africa is 8.7%. It is 3.2% between the Rest of the World and the Rest of the World, while the tariffs between the World and the World stands at 3.4%, making trade within the continent among African countries much more difficult than between the continent and the rest of the world.

There are also high non-tariff barriers to trade within the continent.

He cited the World Bank Doing Business, Trading Across Borders 2012 report, the figure below summarises the challenges.

A recent World Bank report painted a gloomier picture of intra-African trade. According to the study, the continent is losing billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighbouring countries.

And this report was released days after African leaders made a call for a continental free trade zone by the year 2017.