Aid to Africa: What An African Woman Thinks

One of the blogs I read “What An African Woman Thinks” has an interesting summary of several articles about the debate Aid to Africa:

On AppAfrica, Jonathan Gosier used a well-known tale to make a point. He suggested that people look at Africa like it’s the land from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

“It’s a strange land, in some far away place; far away from Auntie Em’s farm in Kansas. There are many oppressed people, people who need a brain (an metaphor for better education), people who need courage and confidence, and people who need a little love. There’s plenty of evil witches to slay in Africa (pick your poison, actually) and often plenty of ‘men behind the curtain’ (The Wizards) who dictate what the politics of the continent really are.”

Into this land, enter Dorothy, the well-meaning but naïve Dorothy. She lands in Oz, catalyzes what appear to be positive changes, and then flies away, back to whence she came. When she returns, it turns out it’s not holding together very well and her actions/collaborations have had unforeseen consequences. But, Dorothy doesn’t live in Oz. She whizzes in and out of there and it’s the Munchkins, the little people, the inhabitants of Oz whom she so wants to help, who have to deal with the consequences.

According to Gosier, there are “Too many Dorothys in Africa’s Oz’.”

His advice:

“Just remember, nothing happens in a vacuum and we should be careful of where we drop our houses.”

(read the rest)

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Slavery today

I recently came across several articles on BBC which show that slavery is still an issue today, in more than one country. Slavery is not just something out of our history books but still present today. Unfortunately. Here are some of the results of their research. Read for yourself:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Uncovering Mali’s hidden slavery

Iddar Ag Ogazide is taking a break from digging and shovelling in 40C Malian Sahel heat. He is happy just to be working.

“Today I am a free man, I am longer a slave. I am among men who are the same colour as me who consider me as a man. I earn 1,000 CFA ($2, £1) a day, and that covers my needs,” he says.

The idea of a salary is something Iddar is just getting used to, having dramatically escaped from his life in the hamlet of Intakabarte, outside Gao, in February this year.

According to Iddar, his grandmother was bought as a slave by the Tuareg Ag Baye family, and from then on she was listed as taxable property on the Ag Baye’s religious tax form. (Read more …)

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | ‘Chairman’ reveals seedy world of trafficking

He looks like a bank manager, on holiday. Grey hair, steel-rimmed glasses, polo shirt and paunch.

We have arranged to meet in a hotel lobby, and I am late. His two bodyguards are sitting by the door – pistols tucked none too subtly under their shirts.

The “chairman” has been trafficking girls for 30 years now
Later, I find out that the guards are actually off-duty policemen – doing a little freelance work for the local underworld boss. Welcome to the Philippines.

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BBC NEWS | UK | England | Sex slavery widespread in England

Young women tricked into coming to England, often by boyfriends, are being sold off in auctions at airport coffee shops as soon as they arrive.

They are among the thousands of women brought into the UK to be sex slaves, usually with no idea of their fate.

The trade was one of the findings of a BBC News website investigation into slavery in 21st Century England. (Read more …)

The following article is not on slavery, but about a similarly repulsive crime against humanity – rape as means of warfare:

VOA News – Rape By Rebels, Bandits and Soldiers Has Sordid History in CAR

Robert Souleymane, a former soldier in the French army during colonial times, shows the house where he says he was gang raped by a group of female Congolese rebels during heavy fighting in the town of Bossangoa in 2002.

(Read more ….)

'Summit of the Poor' in Mali Has Message for G8

By Brent Latham
07 July 2008

A conference of groups that say they represent poor Africans has convened in Mali, in an effort to provide a contrast to the activities of the G8 meeting in Japan. The meeting’s participants say their voice is more representative of the African continent. Brent Latham has more from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Hundreds of activists from around the world gathered in the dusty town of Katibougou, Mali, for the opening of a poor people’s summit, 07 Jul 2008
Debate at the so-called People’s Forum began in the city of Katibougou, 50 kilometers outside the Malian capital Bamako.
The meeting, last held in 2005, aims to give a voice to Africa’s poor, who organizers say are generally ignored by the G8, even though discussions in Japan actually centered on Africa’s problems.

This year’s People’s Forum has attracted more than 1,000 participants from around Africa, as well as observers from Europe and the United States, says observer Alexandre Foulon.

“The general idea, the People’s Forum goal, is to elaborate on the proposed alternatives to the G8,” he explained. “The organizers call it the ‘Summit of the Poor.’ They are debating issues such as women’s [roles], development in Africa, the food crisis, and cost of life.”

Foulon says that participants include representatives of farmers, labor unions, migrant groups, and NGOs.

The meeting takes place at a university where agricultural studies are taught. Foulon says the agricultural crisis in West Africa has reduced enrollment there from a peak of 8,000 students several years ago, to just 400 today.

Lasene Sedibe, director of the Mali-based Association of Organizations of Professional Farmers, says that while the conference will directly address issues like food prices and agriculture on the continent, the goal is also to send a message to the G8 leaders.

He says that rich countries have the right to speak about Africa in its absence, but that a big problem has been outsiders deciding what is good for the continent without the participation of Africans. At the conference, he says, Africans have decided to figure out for themselves what is good for them.

Sedibe says he hopes that G8 leaders will consider the points of view of organizations like his, which are seldom represented at the gatherings of rich countries.

He says that those at the conference have a different vision of many things, including international and national governance, and humanitarian affairs. For that reason, he says, they need another place to meet, where they have the right to make the decisions that affect their lives.

Other farmers at the summit said they were feeling very discouraged. They say the cotton they are producing is being sold for very little, as they try to compete against U.S. cotton growers who get subsidies from the U.S. government.

The “Summit of the Poor” will continue through Wednesday, concurrent to the meeting of the G8 leaders in Japan. The Japanese hosts also invited the leaders of seven African countries to take part in the session regarding Africa.


Oxfam Calls on Mali and Gold Mining Companies to Open Their Books

Friday, February 02, 2007 :: infoZine Staff :: page views

WorldGold has surpassed cotton as main export, transparency in disclosing mining revenues missing

Bamako – infoZine – Mali’s gold exports have more than tripled in the last decade yet its citizens have so far seen little benefit from mining revenues, reported international relief and development organization Oxfam America today in its latest report, Hidden Treasure? In search of Mali’s gold-mining revenues. Today’s report launch in Bamako is part of a two-day workshop led by Oxfam and Malian organization Sahel Development Foundation on issues of gold mining and revenue transparency. The workshop is being carried out in coordination with the global Publish What You Pay Campaign.”Gold has become the cornerstone of the Malian economy,” said Mamadou Biteye, regional director for Oxfam America. “But a country prioritizing gold mining, and the mining companies operating there, must be transparent and demonstrate to the country’s citizens how they will actually benefit from the boom.”

Mali is currently the third largest exporter of gold in Africa, behind world’s largest exporter, South Africa, and Ghana. “Gold exports from Mali more than tripled between 1996 and 2002, going from 18% to 65.4% of total exports,” said Keith Slack, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America. “Yet Mali has remained at the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index, ranking 175 out of 177 countries in 2006.”

The laws and regulations that constitute Mali’s Mining Code have created a complex set of taxes, fees, and license charges that are effectively incomprehensible to those without some technical background. Mali’s low literacy rate, poor physical infrastructure, and inadequate electronic communications combine to make it nearly impossible for citizens to get clear and complete information about revenues and how they are spent to benefit the public.

“80% of Malians continue to live below the poverty line.” said Tiémoko Sangaré, executive secretary of the Sahel Development Foundation, an Oxfam America partner. “Yet gold has gone from accounting for 2.9% of our country’s gross domestic product in 2002 to 12.7% of in 2004. Where are the profits going?”

In its latest report Oxfam outlines several recommendations for increasing transparency in the gold mining sector in Mali. Recommendations geared at entities such as the World Bank, mining companies and the Government of Mali include:

* Mali’s Mining Code should require both the government and mining companies to report publicly on benefit streams. The government should create opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making processes in order to hold mining companies and elected officials accountable for appropriate distribution and use of mining revenues.
* World Bank funded projects must require that data about revenues received and expended be made public regularly. In addition, the World Bank needs to engage civil society and non-governmental organizations in the process it began in 2005 of revising the Malian mining code.
* The government of Mali should simplify its public reporting of information on tax revenues received from mining and the distribution of those revenues.
* The government of Mali should effectively engage with civil society on implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.