Special Feature

How African Governments Manage Extractive Resources

A new study jointly released by the African Development Band and OpenOil, a Berlin-based financial analysis firm has revealed how African Governments use financial models to manage the oil and gas sectors and mining projects.
“This report is the first of its kind in Africa and we hope that it will stir debate within the continent’s mining sector and contribute to countries getting more out of their mining projects,” they told the participants.


The report was launched at the 13th Annual General Meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 150 experts and representatives of international development institutions, governments, civil society and extractives companies attended the launch. These included the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Mining companies and miners’ associations such as Newmont Mining Corporation, AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) also attended. The joint report was presented by Pietro Toigo of the AfDB’s African Natural Resources Center and Olumide Abimbola from OpenOil.

The report, Running the Numbers: How African Governments Model Extractive Projects, analyses the capacity of 19 African resource-rich countries to use financial models, which simulate a simplified version of a real-world project in order to determine their financial benefits to the countries. AfDB and OpenOil conducted a survey of nearly 50 government officials to illustrate not only how widespread use of financial models is, but also how their results are utilised to inform policy.

“Financial models are essential throughout the life-cycle of extractive projects,” said Johnny West, Director of OpenOil. “They are not just important during the development of the fiscal regime, but also for the negotiation of fiscal terms with companies, for revenue forecasting, and for auditing and tax-gap analysis.” “This report not only stresses the need for African Governments to make efforts to close the information gap with extractive companies, but also shows where there are capacity gaps and how those gaps could be addressed,” Traore said, urging development partners to invest more in capacity building.

Also, there is a substantial gap in access to data that are key inputs for financial models in African countries, with the largest gaps in assessing information on capital costs and operating costs of projects. In addition to the need to build in-house financial modelling capacity, the report suggests that governments need to improve internal business processes and address the large gap that the report shows exist between information available to different agencies, departments and ministries.

“This study forms a crucial part of the Center’s support to African countries in realising the full potential of their natural resources”, Traore said. “How are countries supposed to enter into negotiations with extraction companies that use financial models if the governments of such countries are not in possession of the latest and best models to calculate what a potential project is worth?” Toigo asked.

The report also encourages development partners to make capacity building in financial modeling a more significant part of their support to the management of extractive resources. Partners doing so already were encouraged to not just supply financial models as part of isolated technical assistance, but to also invest in equipping government officials with skills to create and use models.-Press release

 

AfDB urges global support for young African farmers

The African Development Bank has called for global support for Africa’s young farmers and “agripreneurs”, highlighting how agribusiness is the answer to the continent’s youth employment.


In collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development, the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD), Michigan State University, Iowa State University, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the AfDB brought together stakeholders to discuss how to expand economic opportunities for Africa’s youth throughout the agricultural value chain, from lab to farm to fork.

The session titled “Making Farming Cool: Investing in future African farmers and Agripreneurs” was held on the sideline of the ongoing 2017 World Food Prize Symposium-Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, and had in attendance young entrepreneurs from Africa, private sector representatives, policymakers and thought leaders.

Africa has the world’s youngest population with 60% being under 35 years old. There are 420 million youth aged 15-35 and this segment of the population is expected to double to 840 million by 2040.

Working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Development Bank is empowering young farmers under the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth program.

“Africa’s next billionaires are not going to come from oil, gas, or the extractives. ENABLE Youth is about investing in small agribusinesses today so that they can grow into large enterprises tomorrow,” President Adesina said.
“By empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain, we enable them to establish viable and profitable agribusinesses, jobs and better incomes for themselves and their communities.”

He explained how attracting a new cadre of young, energetic and talented agripreneurs – who will drive the adoption of new technologies throughout the value chain, raise productivity and meet rising food demands – is an urgent priority.
Recent studies indicate that as African economies transform, there are expanding opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship throughout high-potential value chains – literally from lab to fork – where consumer demand is increasing, including horticulture, dairy, oilseeds, poultry and aquaculture.

In addition, there are huge opportunities for engaging African youth in services and logistical sectors in key off-farm activities such as transportation, packaging, ICT and other technology development and light infrastructure – that add value to on-farm productivity and efficiency, in ways that could not envisioned before.
The whole idea of connecting farms to markets, particularly rising urban and regional markets, is where Africa needs to plug in this bulging youth population, Adesina said.

The Bank President highlighted major efforts needed to provide young Africans with new business opportunities, modern and practical skills, access to new technologies, land, equipment and finance that will allow them to transition from subsistence livelihood into higher-paying work, whether these are on or off the farm.

In his words, “This is how we intend to make farming cool!” Through the ENABLE Youth program, the AfDB and its partners are empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain with plans to train 10,000 agriculture entrepreneurs, or “agripreneurs”, in African countries, launching at least 300,000 enterprises and creating 1.5 million jobs over the next 5 years.

Africa already has shining examples of successful youth agripreneurs, nine of whom were in the room as Adesina spoke. He cited three examples of the thousands of young agripreneurs whose fascinating stories fill him with a sense of hope and urgency.
“We need to effectively utilize this African diaspora in the same way done by the Asian countries by leveraging on their expertise to fast-track Africa’s development agenda and allow all Africans to contribute, regardless of whether they are based locally within the African continent, or outside,” Adesina noted.

On agribusiness as a solution to Africa’s youth unemployment, Jennifer Blanke, AfDB’s Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, called for access to finance for the youth agripreneurs by re-aligning incentives for commercial banks and other financial institutions to reduce lending risks.

“There are over 15 job groups along the whole agricultural value chain – from farm to fork,” she said.
Noel Mulinganya, a young agripreneur and leader of the Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (a group of 20 young graduates aged between 25-35 years old from different academic backgrounds engaged in collective agribusiness enterprises), spoke of the need for funding opportunities for young African farmers.

“My aspiration and those of my colleagues is to become business builders,” he said. “We would like this program to be a platform for sharing our knowledge and experiences in order to touch and engage youths as much as we can in agribusinesses.” Lilian Uwintwali, whose firm provides ICT platforms that serve over 10,000 farmers in Rwanda − linking farmers to markets, banks, insurance companies and extension services, said, “I aspire to get partnerships and investment opportunities here in the USA and I believe the discussions here at conference will help me shape a better business model for my project, m-lima, in Rwanda.”

She speaks of how farming could generate income for African youth. “I am talking from experience because it has sustained me for the past 5 years,” she said.-Press release

African integration through open borders

Renowned African historian, Joseph Achille Mbembe, has made a solid case for Africa’s integration through open borders that allow free movement of people on the continent.


“History tells us that the first thing you do to incapacitate people is to restrict their ability to move. Mobility allowed the stretching of societies; was determinant to trade and to building African civilizations,” Mbembe said. The erudite scholar made these arguments at the 21st edition of the African Development Bank’s Eminent Speakers series cat the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on the theme, “The Cost of Borders.”

The AfDB is investing heavily in transport infrastructure as part of its High 5 priority programme to fast-track Africa’s integration. Mbembe argues that a big bank like AfDB should do more by creating ideas to impact the world’s view on the positive aspects of mobility.
He cited a study that found that the cost of transportation in Africa is 136% higher than in most other countries, largely due to inadequate infrastructure and restriction of movements.

Mbembe also cited AfDB’s statistics which indicate that investing US$32 billion in transport infrastructure every year for 15 years in Africa would enhance trade by US $250 billion.He said restricted mobility and limited open borders is a serious cost prohibitive issue in a continent saddled with hundreds of internal borders and is highly cost prohibitive.

The biggest challenge facing Africa in the 21st century is for the continent to become a vast area of freedom of movement. The future of Africa does not depend on restrictive immigration policies and the militarisation of borders, he says. He further explained how barriers and political issues constrain continental efforts to integrate Africa through investments, trade, finance and free movement of people and skills.

According to Mbembe, borders have become a geopolitical question, with the proliferation of new forms of violence. Issues of safety and security have resulted in a global expansion of security infrastructure to monitor insecure places. Massive investments are made on new technologies such as drones, to the point that securing borders has become a big industry.

At the same time, refugee issues and the migrant crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of Africa will spur a demographic revolution that in turn will reshape the face of the world. “For years now, many have died attempting to cross borders in search of better living conditions. “This, he said, is an issue Africa must address.

Building on experiences in other regions, and specific African countries, the Speaker addressed the need to think deep about managing African borders and the possibility of privatizing boarder management.
Concerning language barriers, Mbembe said English and French are now seen as African languages that are no longer a prerogative of French and English people.

“Our relationship with these languages obliges us to consider them to be part of our heritage. We have to move our borders and adapt them to the environment in which we find ourselves,” he explained.

“We must open the continent to itself and turn it into a power house. It must be turned into a vast space of circulation. This is the only way for it to become its own center in a multipolar world.” For mobility to become the cornerstone of a new pan-African agenda, we need to leave behind migratory models based on anti-humanist concepts such as “national interest” and embrace our own long tradition of flexible, networked sovereignty and collective security, he says.

Introducing the speaker, the Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice-President, Celestin Monga, emphasized the relevance of the theme under discussion, saying that regional integration is one of the institution’s five operational pillars. He also highlighted Africa’s size and the diversity of its economic structure as issues to contend with in efforts to promote integration.

Mbembe is an eminent professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research of Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. He served as Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Harvard, Duke and California in Berkeley in the United States.

African integration through open borders

Renowned African historian, Joseph Achille Mbembe, has made a solid case for Africa’s integration through open borders that allow free movement of people on the continent.


“History tells us that the first thing you do to incapacitate people is to restrict their ability to move. Mobility allowed the stretching of societies; was determinant to trade and to building African civilizations,” Mbembe said. The erudite scholar made these arguments at the 21st edition of the African Development Bank’s Eminent Speakers series cat the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on the theme, “The Cost of Borders.”

The AfDB is investing heavily in transport infrastructure as part of its High 5 priority programme to fast-track Africa’s integration. Mbembe argues that a big bank like AfDB should do more by creating ideas to impact the world’s view on the positive aspects of mobility.
He cited a study that found that the cost of transportation in Africa is 136% higher than in most other countries, largely due to inadequate infrastructure and restriction of movements.

Mbembe also cited AfDB’s statistics which indicate that investing US$32 billion in transport infrastructure every year for 15 years in Africa would enhance trade by US $250 billion.He said restricted mobility and limited open borders is a serious cost prohibitive issue in a continent saddled with hundreds of internal borders and is highly cost prohibitive.

The biggest challenge facing Africa in the 21st century is for the continent to become a vast area of freedom of movement. The future of Africa does not depend on restrictive immigration policies and the militarisation of borders, he says. He further explained how barriers and political issues constrain continental efforts to integrate Africa through investments, trade, finance and free movement of people and skills.

According to Mbembe, borders have become a geopolitical question, with the proliferation of new forms of violence. Issues of safety and security have resulted in a global expansion of security infrastructure to monitor insecure places. Massive investments are made on new technologies such as drones, to the point that securing borders has become a big industry.

At the same time, refugee issues and the migrant crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of Africa will spur a demographic revolution that in turn will reshape the face of the world. “For years now, many have died attempting to cross borders in search of better living conditions. “This, he said, is an issue Africa must address.

Building on experiences in other regions, and specific African countries, the Speaker addressed the need to think deep about managing African borders and the possibility of privatizing boarder management.
Concerning language barriers, Mbembe said English and French are now seen as African languages that are no longer a prerogative of French and English people.

“Our relationship with these languages obliges us to consider them to be part of our heritage. We have to move our borders and adapt them to the environment in which we find ourselves,” he explained.

“We must open the continent to itself and turn it into a power house. It must be turned into a vast space of circulation. This is the only way for it to become its own center in a multipolar world.” For mobility to become the cornerstone of a new pan-African agenda, we need to leave behind migratory models based on anti-humanist concepts such as “national interest” and embrace our own long tradition of flexible, networked sovereignty and collective security, he says.

Introducing the speaker, the Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice-President, Celestin Monga, emphasized the relevance of the theme under discussion, saying that regional integration is one of the institution’s five operational pillars. He also highlighted Africa’s size and the diversity of its economic structure as issues to contend with in efforts to promote integration.

Mbembe is an eminent professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research of Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. He served as Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Harvard, Duke and California in Berkeley in the United States.

VP Boakai, Your Apology to the People of Lofa County Is Twelve Years Too Late

VANCOUVER, CANADA, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017: From the looks of things, Lady Momentum is rapidly kissing your campaign good bye and shifting to a footballer. Your party is in complete disarray -- split right in the middle between those who support you, Party Chairman Wilmot Paye and Cllr. Varney Sherman who is having an acrimonious relationship with Madam Sirleaf in one corner and those who support the President in the other. You are finding it harder and harder to persuade and convince Liberians why they should give you another six years given the twelve years of hardship and suffering your administration has brought to bear on the people.


Campaigning is getting increasingly difficult and so desperation is setting in for which you are calling on Liberians “not to vote for a footballer.” That call speaks to the level of frustration I am referring to. FrontPageAfrica newspaper attributed a statement to you in its August 25th edition under the heading, “’Don’t Vote for Footballer’ – Vice President Boakai Admonishes Supporters,” you warned supporters: “If you vote for a footballer you will be kick (ed) (past tense mine) like a football because that is the work of a footballer.”

Really? No, Honorable Boakai, George Weah will not kick the Liberian people around like football. He loves the people and they love and believe in him. During his illustrious football career, he combined mental and physical toughness with skills to outsmart and dribble opponents, chip goalies, outrun defenders, and score goals that were incredibly breadth-taking and spectacular by kicking the ball only and not people. That is why in 1995, he conquered Africa, Europe, and the world in football. If he did not kick opponents around in the past to win those laurels in football, he will not kick his own people around, plain and simple. In a game of football, if you kick your opponent instead of the ball, you will be shown a red card and that ultimately means automatic ejection. The funny thing about your statement is that you are berating a football icon yet here you are, going on soccer fields, taking kick-offs and asking players to vote for you. In other words, you are telling them that they are bunch of nobodies because they play football but hypocritically you want them to vote for you.

George Weah took a little over six years – from the closing stages of 1988 to 1995 – to reach the zenith of his foot-balling career. Therefore, when he takes the Presidential Oath of Office in January 2018, his first order of business within the first six years will be to give you a proper retirement package and not kick you around, that is a promise. Thereafter, he will build the Menokona Road so that when you are travelling to Monrovia to pick up your pension check, you will have a smooth ride and not get stuck in the mud as is presently happening. Remember, Sir the Menokona Road project was started by your former boss, President Samuel Doe, from Gbarnga to your home county of Lofa, but you and your present boss, Madam Sirleaf did not dare touch it for almost twelve years which prompted you to apologize to the people of Lofa as was reported in the August 28th edition of FrontPage Africa under the heading: “VP Apologizes to Lofa County For Not Addressing Critical Concerns.”

Uncle Joe, sorry Sir, but that apology came twelve years too late. For almost twelve years you have been dutifully playing second fiddle to Madam Sirleaf but abandoned your own people of Lofa County only to apologize to them and unconscionably promised them thus: “Let me simply and humbly apologize and ask that we continue to believe that the time for it to happen is at hand. God willing it will be done soon.” How can you, with straight face, look in the eyes of the people of Lofa County and ask them to vote for you after you abandoned them for twelve years? Where were you, Sir? That is a hard sell and you know it, Uncle Joe. I am not sure whether you can redeem yourself.

For almost twelve years, you and President Sirleaf have presided over a government with failing schools, endemic corruption, poor healthcare delivery system, bad roads and in some areas, no roads at all, which make the southeastern region and other parts of Liberia seem like a region in the 17th century. Pictures from Rivercess, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, Lofa and Sinoe Counties and parts of Nimba are horrible. And now you want the people to give you and your party another six years? What you did not do in 12 years, even though you had the opportunity but shirked that responsibility, cannot be done in six years. You had your chance but blew it.

Another thing, Uncle Joe, you keep playing the victim by stating that the President never asks you to recommend anyone for any ministerial post and also insinuating that she does not consult you on major policy issues and so you are fighting tooth and nail to distance yourself from the government’s failed policies. But you want to take credit for some of the good things that the government has done; for example, the roads constructed from Monrovia to Ganta and from Harbel to Buchanan? That does not fly. If you want to distance yourself from Madam Sirleaf for the failed government policies, you cannot and should not take credit for the good ones either. You cannot have it both ways.

Just to refresh your memory, Honorable Vice President: in 2014, during the Montserrado County senatorial election in which President Sirleaf’s favorite son, Robert Sirleaf was pitted against Amb George Weah, the Unity Party, through its then Secretary General (now Chairman) Wilmot Paye, called a press conference and made a scathing attack against Robert Sirleaf. The Party disavowed Robert Sirleaf in no uncertain terms and went as far as barring partisans from voting for him by over-emphasizing that any partisan who supported Robert Sirleaf would be doing so at their own risk. Unity Party publicly disgraced him and figuratively threw him under the bus. In that election, Robert Sirleaf went on to be embarrassingly trounced by Amb Weah. That began the watershed moment between the Sirleafs and the Party. Madam Sirleaf blames you partly for that. An aide close to President Sirleaf has said that the President will not support you and the Unity Party simply because you did not rein in Mr. Paye.

Senator George Weah will win this election because the Liberian people are behind him. He is battle-tested and has better organizational machine this time around. You have a humble beginning just as he is but what sets him apart from you is that he is younger and his message of hope is resonating with Liberians, especially the young people who make up majority of the voting population. They love him, believe in him and will vote for him. The Liberian people see you and Madam Sirleaf as one of the same – ones who they sincerely believe have failed to meet their socio-economic needs. Therefore, they will not give the Unity Party another six years.

By. Jerry Gbardy

The need to Transform LBS into a Public Service Broadcaster is Ever Present

Introduction
A bill to transform state radio – the Liberia Broadcasting System into a Public Service Broadcaster, has been tabled before the House of Representatives for the second time in nine years. The new establishment to be known as the Liberia National Broadcasting Corporation (LNBC), was introduced by Bong County Representative, George Mulbah on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 on behalf of the working group.


It was first submitted to the 51st Legislature together with a bill to establish an Independent Broadcast Regulator and the Freedom of Information Act in 2008 by the Press Union of Liberia and partners. But only the FOI got passed in 2010. The three media legal reform instruments were recommended after an assessment mission to Liberia by a group of experts under the egis of the ‘Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa’, just as the Liberian civil war was ending in 2003.

The partnership brought together national, regional and international media development and free expression organizations as part of global efforts to restore lasting peace, stability and democracy to the war-ravaged country. The group included: Article 19, Free Voice, International Federation f Journalists, UNESCO, UNDP, UNMIL, International Media Support, Canadian Journalist for Free Expression, Media Rights Agenda (Nigeria) and Media Foundation for West Africa among others.

Overall, the mission sough “to assess the media environment in Liberia, with the intention of prioritizing and renewing the media support activities of the partnership together with the local media community within the broader perspectives of post-conflict reconciliation and democratic development.”

Renewed Effort The current bill is a modified version of the original draft, revised with technical support from the USAID funded Liberia Media Development Program (LMD), implemented by Internews and its sub-contractor, Albany Associates.

There is no question the issues that obtained long before that assessment mission was undertaken in 2003, is ever present. The Partnership observed then that, “The Government needs to demonstrate its appreciation that the LBS is a national resource which should serve the interests of all Liberian citizens, regardless of …… political affiliation, religion or other backgrounds.”

This call was somewhat a harsh reminder to successive governments beyond the transitional period, to uphold one of the tenets of democratic governance - freedom of expression. Sadly, Article 15 (d) of the Liberian Constitution has not even been strong enough to guarantee unrestricted access to the State radio. The provision warns that “Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas expressed. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

I cannot remember any instance where the Station has been taken to court for denying anyone access to the Radio - thanks to the diversity of radio stations today. Even at that, the State Radio should not be the exclusive reserve of a segment of the society regardless of their power. That’s the message the Partnership was sending in 2003.
Yes, the timing of that call was appropriate - the country was in transition from a violent conflict [partly blamed on the marginalization] that left thousands of Liberians and foreign residents including peace keepers dead. Its people had been subdued and humbled into silence. But the problem of LBS being dominated by the ruling government or more appropriately, the Executive Branch, to the exclusion of other citizens, is still present. Hence the need to transform the station.

The Psychological Siege and Undue Influence In the 2011 elections, the Director General of LBS, Ambrose Nmah was suspended days after the station granted a live broadcast to an opposition figure. In 2014 senatorial elections, the same Director General was dismissed only after a live broadcast by Ruling Party officials who were opposed to the President’s son bid to contest the Montserrado County seat. As recent as September 8, 2017, the Standard Bearer of the All Liberian Party, was surprised to be on the State Radio. When asked by Director General, Ledgerhood Rennie who was hosting him on the ‘Supper Morning Show’ as to why he was surprised, Mr. Benoni Urey said because the station has always been used as a political tool for some people. Ledgerhood tried his best to disabuse the notion, but it really did not worth his time and effort because it was like trying to ‘prove or disprove the negative.’ There are countless number of instances in which members of the opposition and other citizens have complained of either been denied or censored on LBS. So the question is why lawmakers have not acted on this bill with urgency when it could answer the cry of many Liberians including themselves? Irony!

Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anna was on point when he said these words about the power of the media “…By giving voice and visibility to all people – including and especially the poor, the marginalized and members of minorities - the media can help remedy the inequalities, the corruption, the ethnic tension and the human rights abuses that form the root causes of so many conflict.”

Without questioning the professionalism of the Management team at the Station, one should excuse them for the apparent psychological siege and interferences they have had to endure. We are talking here about the State Radio especially in a Country where even if the President wanted to be tolerant in the minimal, sycophantic loyalists who don’t see the bigger picture, prevail.

The renewed call therefore to transform LBS into a Public Service Broadcaster is all the more timely. Incidentally, the Country is in transition again, but a different kind from the one we had 2003. Our country is going through a groundbreaking political transition when a sitting president will hand power over to a democratically elected president. This is simply a defining moment in our democratic development that should make sense to all the political players and the entire citizenry to study how to sustain this democracy. I have no doubts that once created, the Liberia National Broadcasting Corporation (LNBC) is a sustainer of our fledgling democracy - but also an enabler of our development agenda.

The Point of Departure
“The objective of the LNBC shall be to provide independent, nonpartisan, credible, professionally efficient and accountable public broadcasting service that will cater to the needs of the Liberian people and thereby promote a vibrant, open, stable and democratized society. “

In order to guarantee its independence, the Board of Director shall be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The composition of the Board shall be drawn from nine registered Liberian professional organizations and relevant Government bodies.” Four of those institutions including: The Ministry of Post & Telecommunications, the University of Liberia (Mass Comm.), The Press Union of Liberia and the Liberian Bar Association will serve as statutory members, while the National Teachers Association, The Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the Health Workers Association and the National Civil Society Council will serve two renewable two-year terms each.

The Board of Directors, and not the President, shall then recruit the top Management Team of three “including Director-General, Deputy Director-General for Broadcasting and Deputy Director-General for Technical Operations after an open and competitive recruitment process for a renewable term of four years based on performance.” Of course they will be hired with a service contract.

The LNBC shall not compete with commercial stations for advertisement. It shall be fully funded by tax payers through the National Budget. The bill proposes half of 1% of the National Budget to be appropriated for the operations of the stations each year.

With these and other safeguards in the bill including its programing structure should make it all too difficult for any government to compromise the independence and objectivity of the broadcaster. Conclusion Is this too hard for us to do as a people who are profoundly intent on developing our democracy? Honestly, there are too many stations here for the Government to worry itself holding onto LBS. We are in an era where every uncleaned propaganda is reproved. So it makes little sense for a government to manipulate a station and/or any outlet that is seen as bias.

I should therefore commend Representative George Mulbah for accepting the vision and his courage to sponsor the bill with absolutely no indecision. I believe there are other lawmakers who feel very strong about changing the status of LBS, we urge you to add your voices to this call. But this call should also claim the attention of all political leaders and Liberians keen on rewriting our democratic story – this too matters.

Peter Quaqua is President of the West African Journalists Association, Former President of the Press Union of Liberia and focal person on the media law reform pillar of the Liberia Media Development program.

“AN OPEN LETTER TO HER EXCELLENCY MADAM PRESIDENT THROUGH THE FOREIGN MINISTER ASKING FOR YOUR INTERVENTION”:

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Executive Mansion, Monrovia
C/o The Foreign Minister
Sept 7, 2017

Dear Madam President,
Please permit me to write you this letter through the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs.I am Ralph Z. David, an aggrieved Liberian, hailing from Nimba County (passport OR/00717xxx) and living in the city of Parma, Italy writing to complain the extortion scheme carried out by the Head of the Embassy of Liberia in Rome, Mr. Harano Rashid Kromah for your motherly attention and intervention.


Madam President, many of the Liberians in Italy are being exploited, coerced and extorted by the Acting Ambassador, Mr. Harano Rashid Kromah and his girlfriend at the Embassy. I regret to tell you Madam that this corruption has been happening at the Embassy in Italy since this man took over and many of Liberians here are afraid to report because of threats, blackmail and intimidation. They continue to charge us even for a simple nullo osta for the police declaration. Lessez passez is sold to us for 100 euro by the embassy and they don't give us any receipt to show that we have paid. Most of the time Liberians are not issued receipts at all. Even the people who are given visa in their itaslian passports, they use some kind of ink pad stamp with no receipt. When you ask for receipt, they get vex and threaten to call police on you because they feel that we are all clandestine immigrants. Please help us.

We have just come from Libya by boat. Me and my friends travelled to Libya by land through Mali and underwent severe suffering and maltreatment in the Libyan capital where we were detained and underwent hard labour.

As suffering Liberians seeking for greener pasture, we risked our lives by jumping on boats from Libya to Italy and through God’s Grace, some of us were among several other Liberians and other African brothers who safely made it to the Italian shores of Lampodosa and was rescued by good people. Many others didn’t make it alive.

Having spent several months in isolation camp in Italy, we were finally granted the temporary permit to stay on humanitarian consideration. We were issued papers to stay but were requested to seek valid document from our embassy or renew our passports so that we can be granted a permanent status. As desperate as we were, I proceeded along with some colleagues to the Liberian Embassy in Rome, Via Medaglie doro 7. Upon arriving at the embassy, we were not given any good reception which other Liberians have always complained about when they visit the embassy. The harsh language of Mr. Koroma in fact makes you afraid of him for anything assistance you may need. And fees charged to give simple documents are very expensive with no receipts given. He is very rude and impolite to Liberians visiting the embassy.

On March 24 this year, three of us went to the Embassy for the renewal of our passports and to be issued documents and were charged exorbitantly. We were each charged the amount of 150 euro which is about 175 dollars for renewal. Each of us paid to Mr Koroma in his office where he personally stamped in our passports the renewal without giving us receipts. But to our surprised, this was only a simple ink pad stamp placed in our passports for the huge amount charged. Please see my passport here attached for your review.

When we asked if it was possible to get a new passport, he told us that the new passport would cost each of us about 400 dollars. Because we couldn’t afford the 400 dollars each, we decided to pay the 150 euro each which he even said he was helping us because the Government of Liberia has stopped renewing the old passports. When we asked for a receipt, he got angry by saying if we request for any receipt, then we must pay the full amount of 200 euro for each renewal. He threatened us that he will call the police on us if we didn’t leave quietly. We bitterly and unsatisfactorily left his office. As we went downstairs, the Italian lady working in the embassy felt so sorry for us and even helped pay our way. She herself was not happy and she told us that this man is always doing this to poor struggling Liberians who can’t afford to spend so much. She told us that she used to handle passport renewal under the old ambassador because Mr Koroma was only doing receptionist job but since he got this job, she doesn’t handle that again. She suggested that we travel to Brussels but we had no valid travel document.

My friends are afraid to make any complaint against this man but I have decided to do so because, my passport was not accepted by the Italian immigration because it expires on September 23 of this month. We were also told that the embassy usually issues a renewal adhesive sticker so why didn’t they put the adhesive sticker in the passport? I also met one other Liberian fellow who renewed his passport at the same embassy and an adhesive sticker was placed in his passport but not the ink pad stamp. He paid the amount of 250 euro for this renewal and this renewal was honored and accepted by the Italian immigration because they say it was genuine. This very passport of mine was renewed before in Abidjan where I only paid 50 dollars to one Mr. John Jallah at the Liberian Embassy in Abidjan. Madam, why should we be treated like this Madam President, considering how desperate we are seeking for better life?

Liberians in Italy are suffering too much Madam President since this man took over the embassy extorting money from everyone. In fact, he borrows and takes money from poor hardworking Liberians and he doesn’t repay them back. Whenever you ask him for the repayment of your money, he tells you that he is the Embassador and related to the Foreign Minister so no one can do anything to him. Many Liberians say this man used to do the same thing even when the old Ambassador was here in Italy. Mr. Kroma has always frightened Liberians whenever he was asked to repay back their money. Please ma, help us because we are suffering too much as I have already stated. Many of our friends making this journey died in the sea and for us who have made it, our own government is not punishing us by taking our hard-earned money. On behalf of myself and my countrymen, we are begging you to please listen to our cry to help us before you leave office.

Madam President, we know how hard you have tried developing our motherland and we thank you. Many of your citizens in this country are suffering because there are no jobs so everyone who comes in try to migrate to France or northern Europe like Sweden. But with no valid travel document, you are compelled to stay here and work in the tomato farms exploited and paid with small money. We have families back home that we have to help even with the small money that we receive so please tell your embassy people to feel sorry for us. We are poor and catching hell Madam.

Thank you very much for reading my letter and we have the hope that you will take an action to relieve us of this heavy load. Please see my address below.
Respectfully,
Ralph Z. David
43121 Parma (PR) Italy

How to make the green revolution a reality in Africa

In this interview, she speaks on the seventh African Green Revolution Forum, taking place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 4-8 September 2017; how to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture; the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy, and other key issues.


What are the goals of the AGRF-AfDB Partnership?

The African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy is to transform African agriculture over the next decade into a competitive and inclusive agribusiness sector that creates wealth, improves lives and secures the environment. The goals of Feed Africa are to help eliminate extreme poverty in Africa by 2025; end hunger and malnutrition in Africa by 2025; make Africa a net food exporter; and move Africa to the top of export-orientated global value chains where it has comparative advantage.
For its part, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) focuses on catalyzing smallholder farmer productivity to unleash agricultural transformation by using an integrated value chain approach, with an emphasis on staple crops.

AGRF is a multi-stakeholder partnership effort led and coordinated by AGRA. Its primary objective is to foster public-private partnerships and drive sustainable agricultural productivity as a catalyst for enhancing long-term food and nutrition security, and ultimately, broad-based economic growth for Africa. AGRF is thus a vehicle for unlocking the full potential of agriculture as a driver of economic growth and stability for Africa and transforming smallholder farms into productive and profitable businesses.

Both the Bank and AGRA focus on fostering agriculture as a vehicle for inclusive and sustainable economic transformation in Africa, and eradicating poverty and hunger. To this end, since 2010 when the first AGRF was held in Accra, Ghana, the Bank has participated in all of the meetings: Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.

The AGRF continues to serve as a vital medium for exchange aimed at unlocking the full potential of Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness to help drive growth and standards of living and transform smallholder farms into productive and profitable businesses.

How does the AGRF event align with the African Development Bank’s High 5s?

Since the primary objective of AGRF is to foster public-private partnerships and drive sustainable agricultural productivity, as a catalyst for enhancing long-term food and nutrition security, and ultimately, broad-based economic growth for Africa, there is strong alignment between the Forum and the African Development Bank’s High 5s.

The Bank’s blueprint of operational priority areas, referred to as the High 5s also constitute its vision for African economic transformation. Launched in June 2016, these are to: Light up and Power Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, Feed Africa, and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. Two of the High 5s- Feed Africa, and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa- are fully aligned with the purpose and activities of the AGRF.

SDG 2 focuses on end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. What are AfDB’s key initiatives in reducing malnutrition on the continent?

Within our High 5s strategy, AfDB is poised to invest significantly more in fighting undernutrition through nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific activities across all of its sectors by means of partnerships and direct investments, bringing together both critical sides of the equation: food producers and nutrition experts. Indeed, improved nutrition is an articulated goal of Feed Africa, to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa by 2025.
The Bank’s key flagship initiatives for nutrition include the Grey Matter Infrastructure which consists of Banking on Nutrition (mainstreaming nutrition as a cross cutting issue across the Bank’s portfolio, capacity strengthening of Bank staff, monitoring and evaluation Framework); and Capacity Strengthening in the ECOWAS Region. The Bank is addressing institutional, organizational and human capacity gaps for nutrition in the West African region with a focus on strengthening and harmonizing existing nutrition training modules, developing a skilled workforce for nutrition, and creating a network of nutrition training institutions and/or center of excellence for nutrition in the region

We also have the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) initiative which leverages high-level membership to increase the visibility of nutrition, strengthen political will and encourage policy and financial commitments and spark investment and progress on nutrition goals such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) /Malabo targets and the SDG 2. This includes the dissemination of an updated economic case for cost effective nutrition interventions, proposal of evidence-based policies and programs and the development of an accountability scorecard to track progress towards Malabo & World Health Assembly nutrition targets.

AGRF 2017 will focus on Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Economies and Jobs through African Agriculture. How does this align with AfDB’s initiatives?

As we are all aware, there is a dearth of jobs for the many young Africans coming into the job market. By some estimates, there are only 3 million formal jobs awaiting more than 12 million young people who join Africa’s workforce each year. Yet they represent a massive opportunity for Africa’s economies if their talents are harnessed. The goal of AfDB’s wider Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy is to create 25 million Jobs and equipping 50 million youth in the ten years leading up to 2025.

This is being achieved through various channels. For example, the Bank is equipping itself and its Regional Member Countries to become engines of job creation, ensuring that all projects we finance have a job creation or vocational training component. In addition, the Bank is assessing, incubating, implementing, and scaling up promising solutions, as well as catalyzing private sector investment for job creation.

Within the agricultural sector, AfDB has approached the continental youth unemployment challenges through the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE Youth) model by designing a program to empower young graduates at each stage of agribusiness value chains. It develops ‘agripreneurs’ by harnessing new skills, technologies and financing approaches so that young people can establish viable and profitable agribusinesses, creating jobs and income for themselves and others.

Is the green revolution really possible in Africa?

The Green Revolution is absolutely possible in Africa. India has shown what can happen in a relatively short period of time. But it has not happened yet given a number of well-known constraints: the lack of decent roads, storage, extension capacity, and finance to name but a few. But when governments and companies invest in agriculture, dramatic gains are possible. Just look at what has happened in Ethiopia (floriculture), Kenya (horticulture), Nigeria (e-wallet and efficient input distribution system), Rwanda (various crops), among others. For the green revolution to happen in Africa, there is an urgent necessity to increase productivity and to move up the value chain into processed foods. Africa cannot feed itself while getting only a quarter of its potential yields and without processing what it grows.

To what level is climate change a threat to the green revolution in Africa, and what measures can mitigate any possible threat?

Climate change is a fundamental threat for Africa. Given its susceptibility to the effects of climate change and other extreme weather events, African agriculture must be developed to simultaneously address three intertwined challenges: ensuring food security through increased productivity and income, adapting to climate change and contributing to climate change mitigation. Addressing these challenges will require radical changes in our food systems. It was precisely to articulate these changes that FAO forged the concept of Climate Smart Agriculture, as a way forward for food security in a changing climate.
The goal is to improve food security, help communities adapt to climate change and contribute to climate change mitigation by adopting appropriate practices, develop enabling policies and institutions and mobilizing needed finances.

For Africa to reap the potential benefits, multiple actions must be taken. This ranges from improving our evidence base underpinning strategic choices, promoting the adoption by farmers of appropriate technologies, creating supportive policy frameworks and public investments and developing and implementing effective risk-sharing schemes among others. The Bank has set up a climate smart agriculture flagship with highly qualified staff to ensure that all of our activities in the agriculture space are fully climate proof and climate smart. Jennifer Blanke is the Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the African Development Bank (AfDB).

By Jennifer Blanke

Journalism Is Not a Crime: Please Repeal

 

There seems to be a general apprehension among public officials about enabling the environment for the press to operate freely in most African countries, so much so that they are prepared to treat journalists as criminals. Ironically, these public officials and their friends and relatives want to be celebrated as populists, yet they are reluctant to part ways with the tendencies and laws promulgated by dictators to protect themselves in power. Contradiction!


Just days after Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted the bill to repeal criminal defamation laws to the Legislature, howbeit belatedly, the fear of the press has apparently been reinforced. There are members of the public and some in officialdom suggesting that “to repeal criminal defamation is to make the press frisky and more unethical,” as though the laws are being kept as weapons against the press.

Unfortunately, a large portion of the legal community even thinks the same way. There are lawyers and judges who believe that the only way to “teach journalists lesson” is to throw them behind bars. Perhaps this is the only means to satisfy their clients. A foreign colleague normally jokes that the Liberian legal system is “obsessed with punishment.”

Actually, there can be no repudiation of the citizens’ legitimate right to seek legal recourse against media houses and journalists in cases where people’s reputations have been wrongly and willfully maligned in erroneous news reports. But such cases should be considered civil matters, not criminal offenses, punishable where appropriate by direct compensation and/or repair of injured party’s reputation.

Financial compensation in civil libel cases notwithstanding, should be determined on realistic evaluation of actual damages and the ability for the media outlet to pay, among other considerations. Excessive judgments or penalties, like the one imposed (rightly or wrongly) on Rodney Sieh and the Front Page Africa in the case Vs Chris Toe, is simply intended to restrain or shut down the operation of the media. These kinds of actions, amount to official censorship and an infraction of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. I would like to leave civil libel argument for another day, but the scale of the law suits we have witnessed against the media since the inception of the administration of madam President, is unbelievable. These suits have negative implications and chilling effect on journalists.

Whenever there is an attempt, in good faith or otherwise, to legislate the ethical conduct of journalists, it leads to undue restrictions on their legitimate freedoms to practice, but it also places limitations on the unhindered flow of information.

Ironically still, Liberia enacted the first Freedom of Information Law in West Africa in 2010, but the country remains keen on punishing its citizens for using those information it has declared freed – as demonstrated in the government’s grab on criminal defamation laws. Contradiction!

Criminal defamation is simply contrary to the spirit and intent of the FOI – the two cannot work together. I therefore beg our lawmakers to please abolish criminal libel and accept greater reform of media laws.

The demand for quality and/or ethical journalism should never be used by governments as a prerequisite for enabling press freedom. On the contrary, according to a publication on Self-regulation by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (the OSCE), “ethical journalism can only develop in an atmosphere of guaranteed freedom. Journalists’ self-restraint must be preceded and accompanied by governmental self-restraint in handling of media.”

Under Liberian laws, criminal cases are prosecuted by the state, so it is common sense to conclude that when the government prosecutes speech and journalists in criminal charges as it were in criminal libel, it actually treats them as criminals, unfortunately. Journalists engaged in the act of journalism, are not criminals and should never be treated as one. With all intents and purposes, journalism is a human right activity that all governments must protect.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Convention on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, the Declaration of Table Mountain and many other regional and international instruments, obligate member states to conform.

Pointedly, like the Declaration of Table Mountain, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Resolution 169, declared in November 2010 that “criminal defamation laws constitute a serious interference with freedom of expression and impedes on the role of the media as a watchdog, preventing journalists and media practitioners from practicing their profession without fear and in good faith.”

The Resolution therefore “calls on States Parties to repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws which impede freedom of speech, and to adhere to the provisions of freedom of expression, articulated in the African Charter… ”

Further to the above, a joint statement by freedom of expression rapporteurs around the world also declared that, “Criminal defamation is not a justifiable restriction on freedom of expression; all criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary, with appropriate civil defamation laws.”

Do politicians and members of the public ever take a moment to check why there is a consistent global appeal for the defense and safety of journalists? Journalists and all those engaged in acts of journalism are, at best, public interest agents. In other words, journalists act on behalf of the community, the society and even the government whether it feels offended or comfortable by their work. Unavoidably, journalists formed the bedrock for democratic development regardless of the misgivings. Journalism is here to stay; the onus is on us to make it better.

It needs to be stated here that the repeal of criminal libel will not merely benefit the media, but also political and civil society activists. It benefits prosecutors of the media, it benefits even those who are lawmakers and the rest of those in society who maybe be worried about “giving the media more freedom.” I dare say it also benefits judges. Repeal of criminal libel would reinforce and guarantee citizens’ rights to freedom of information under the Constitution of Liberia. This reform is also in the political interest of the current government, and all future Liberian governments.

I commend the President for submitting the bill, but that’s not enough. She must join the lobby to have the lawmakers act upon it. I should also challenge civil society organizations, political activists, student leaders, human rights activists and all those interested in an open society to impress upon the legislators to please repeal criminal defamation.

Criminal Defamation Laws

By: Peter Quaqua

China's on the Horizon with Trade and Education

As the world turns, more and more attention is being focused on the East, specifically the People's Republic of China with its "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" system of governance. No doubt, China was in the throes of economic degradation a few decades ago; struggling to implement experimented national development plans that could uplift its people from the dragnet of poverty and inequality. Many died in the process of reforms. But since 1978, the Asian leader has achieved enormous economic growth averaging 9.85% annually, thus making it the second largest economy on earth.


As an emerging economy situated between the developed and developing worlds, China has shifted its focus not only on the manufacturing industry but importantly, on the service industry as an engine for increased growth. With a sufficiency economy in terms of more supply of, than demand for goods and services, the Country produces almost everything and sells almost entirely to its citizenry.

Adopting the policy of openness to trade and commerce, the Country also exports most of its commodities to other developing and developed nations at varying prices. This gives even the underprivileged the opportunity of utilizing their purchasing power. There is a price for everyone including the poor and the rich, the "haves and have not" in China's mixed market operations.

The key attraction of this sporadic growth rate can be singularly attributed to the level of investment in education, especially science and technology. The Country investment in Research and Development constitute almost 2.07% of its GDP. The result of investment in R&D is practically and visibly seen through the level of infrastructure development, the construction of super highways, modern industries as well as the production of technologically energy efficient vehicles. The Country's "New Normal" for economic growth is to increase production through technological advancement, especially in the service sector.

As a means of expanding its developmental trajectory to other parts of the world, the PRC adopted the "One Belt One Road" policy. Simply put, it's a trade initiative that helps expand its economic growth corridors while at the same time bringing shared prosperity to other nations along the route. From Jakarta to Russia and from Ethiopia to Tanzania, this network of roads connectivity has stretched out its access to trade and improve diplomatic relations with various countries.

The principal value of this undertaking is not only embedded in the desire for materialism and wealth creation through increased economic growth and transformation. It affirms the principle that inner peace through harmonious means can easily be achieved by adopting friendly relationship with your neighbors. More to this is that this sort of economic initiative also validates the maxim which states "countries that trade together, are less likely to go to war".

Unlike the European Union common approach to continental peace, economic and trade, China approach is more global, cutting across continents. It is like a bottom to top approach to alleviating global poverty and income inequality across countries, space and time.

Aside from broadening its economic achievements as the second largest economy the world over, the Country has now elevated its openness policy to include educational opportunities for other developing countries. That on the margins of the 70th session of the UNGA in New York in 2015, President Xi Jinping will launch the Institute of South- South Cooperation and Development (ISSCAD).

ituated at the nation's historic and premier Peking University, in Beijing in the National School of Development (NSD), the program brings emerging leaders from across the developing world. From Afghanistan to Albania, from Liberia to Nepal, the Master and Ph.D. programs are intended to harness the skills of students by exposing them to real-world developmental processes.

With full sponsorship from the Ministries of Commerce of China, the idea principle underlining the formation of ISSCAD is engraved in the concept that crafting real-world solutions to complex problems would require multi-disciplinary and actionable approach. Further, the existential basis for the National School of Development maintains that "national development calls for public leaders who care about the world, countries, and communities, and are prepared to engage and be engaged in shaping a better future with vision, passion, courage, and wisdom to turn ideas into action".

Adding to its impeccable character as one of the leading centers of excellence in the world, the School of National Development at Peking University also prides itself with professors with diverse educational credentials. From Harvard to Oxford, from Columbia University to New York University, and from Princeton University to George Mason University.

From the University of London to the University of Wisconsin and from the University of Chicago, to the University of Leeds, the school brings together some of the learned gentry in international development, economics, management, comparative governments, political economy, political science and public policy. The convergence of these indisputable former officials of Government blended with refreshing faculty and scholars can only serve as a solution hub to some of the many developmental challenges faced by developing nations.

hina's decision to invest in trade through its "One Belt One Road" policy and education through South-South Cooperation and Development has a binary effect on the rest of the developing world; meaning that as China progresses along the lines as an emerging economy, its backwash effects will help pull other countries from the dungeon of poverty and inequality. As there can be no way to prosperity other than through education and economic freedom; and that is just what China has initiated: Trade and Education- the best way to go for South-South Cooperation and Development.

By: Plingloh Emmanuel Munyeneh

 

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