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Op-Ed

What are the critical issues facing Africa in 2019?

Africa cannot rely on the rest of the world to drive our economic development.

Andrew S. Nevin

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People cross the Farafenni Bridge after its inauguration by Senegal's president and Gambia's President on January 21, 2019, in Farafenni - AFP

There has been a lot of good news around Africa recently, and many countries are achieving high economic growth rates – Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Ethiopia come to mind. And this is not happening by accident – over the last decade there has been an incredible paradigm shift in most countries, with a recognition that:

  • a country can only be prosperous with a strong private sector – that is, a model of state-led growth cannot succeed
  • countries need to compete globally to build their private sectors, including creating a conducive business environment

This evolution in thinking has been supported with progress on many key measures, including the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings of African countries. Rwanda in particular needs to be cited for its outstanding performance, jumping from 41stin the world to 29th, ahead of countries like France, Netherlands, and Switzerland– remarkable (Mauritius remains the top African country at 20th).

However, despite the considerable progress Africa has made, the reality is that we are not growing fast enough.

According to the AfDB’s 2019 African Economic Output report, 2018 growth rate was 3.5% and the projected growth rate for 2019 is 4.0%. This is still below the growth rate required to keep unemployment stable on the continent.

The reason we continue to struggle to reduce unemployment despite the progress in approach to the continent’s economy and the bright spots across the continent in the last decade is because the giants on Africa ; Nigeria and South Africa continue to slow down the continent’s economy.

In the case of both Nigeria and South Africa, 2018 growth was only 1.9%, dragging down the continent’s performance. We will have ample time during the year to examine the country specific issues holding back Nigeria, South Africa, and others. 

For now, let’s examine the overall economic issues for Africa. Here are the 2 biggest issues:

  • The global economic headwinds, their impact and implications for Africa
  • The incredible achievement-in-making that is the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)

Let’s discuss each of these in turn.

In 2017, there was the concept of globally synchronized growth – that is, strong economic growth occurring in all the major markets – USA, EU, and China – lifting economies around the world. There was an optimism that after 9 years of anemic growth following the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2018, global growth was going to take off. This optimism proved to be short-lived.

As we enter 2019, we face a barrage of global negative economic news that has been building for some time. Some of the issues include:

  • Slowing growth in Europe; this was inevitable given Europe’s rapidlyageing population which seems to have taken leaders by surprise. Slowing growth is a particular problem when combined with high indebtedness, which is a problem in the Eurozone, most acutely in Italy.
  • Fiscal challenges in the US, where the structural deficit at the Federal level has been exacerbated by recent tax cuts, cuts which are unlikely to lead to higher growth, basically because wealthier people don’t spend much more as they earn more
  • High and opaque levels of indebtedness in China. China’s economic miracle for the last decade has relied on ever increasing amounts of debt, often concealed in opaque structures. Recent economic data show this construct is coming to an end, and China’s mal-investment (particularly in real estate) may finally be catching up.

Of course, we all know 3 economists have 10 opinions about the future and it is not our purpose here to predict economic developments in 2019-2020.

The implication for Africa, however, is that Africa cannot rely on the rest of the world to drive our economic development. We need to build a resilient economy that will allow Africa to increasingly proposer, independently of what happens in the rest of the world.

In fact, if we look a little further in the future, by 2050 there will be 3 major poles of population in the world – Indian sub-continent, East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam primarily), and Africa. Each of these poles will have 2 billion people. The population in the rest of the world will be shrinking (and shrinking in East Asia as well).

In this world, how can Africa prosper? Well, if we sell raw materials to others – with little or no value added – we will continue to be poor. So we need to sell higher value goods and services. Who will we sell these to? It is unlikely we will sell into Europe and North America because with aging and shrinking populations, it is challenging to sell into these markets (which would require displacing existing suppliers in a shrinking market). Would we be able to sell to China? Unlikely. India? Perhaps some things but not enough.

The market that is most critical for our prosperity is in fact Africa. Africa can only become richer if Africans sell to Africans. There is no other path.

This brings us to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). We believe that Africans should applaud themselves with the remarkable progress AfCFTA has made in a very short period of time. In a world where divisions and fractures between people are becoming greater and greater, and politicians exploit these divisions to sow hatred and discontent, Africa has chosen a different path.

The Africa Union and Afrexim Bank have stepped up to drive this new pan-Africanism, based on economic prosperity and the private sector. In a very short period of time,

  • AfCFTA was signed in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018
  • 49 member- countries of the African Union have signed the AfCFTA (SEE MAP)
  • 18 countries have ratified the agreement (The proposal will come into force after ratification by 22 of the signatory states)
  • UNECA predicts a 52% increase in intra-African trade by 2022 if AfCFTA is implemented

This is remarkable progress and all those who are driving this new pan-Africanism should be applauded.

So as we look forward to 2019, Africa faces an uncertain economic environment in the rest of the world. But we must use our cohesion and drive the progress of AfCFTA to ensure our future prosperity.


The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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Op-Ed

“Sex for grades” – Another sad reminder of our failed education system (Opinion)

Lecturer involved suspended by university and local church.

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Sex for grades - another evidence of our failed systems
Snapshot from the BBC's African Eye Sex for Grades videos.

Sexual crimes as a social vice is as old as man. This is the reason we have various laws aimed at curbing these crimes. But the pertinent question that is begging for an answer is, how well do we match these legislation up with enforcement, especially in developing countries within Africa?  What efforts do we put in making sure that the excesses of man is not left unchecked. 

We keep hearing and reading stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. But do we give these issues the attention they require? Often, the victims of sexual offences take the  blame for the fate that befell them. One gets to hear statements like “She must have dressed indecently!”; “What was she doing on the road at that ungodly hour of the night?” 

Distasteful words that you hear and wonder the evil that has suddenly possessed humanity. The society aide the perpetrators of these crimes with excuses. Excuses that encourage others to also toe the same path. 

However, when it happens to a relative – a sister, daughter, cousin or even one’s mother, then, we feel the heat. When we send our wards to school and they get harassed, assaulted or even raped by perverts and sexual predators in the system, our voices will be heard. But should we be so selfishly reactive in everything?

Pay Attention: Denis Mukwege launches fund for victims of sexual violence in DR Congo

On Monday, BBC’s African Eye released a video in which a senior lecturer of the University of Lagos is seen sexually harassing a BBC undercover journalist, Kiki Mordi who posed as a 17 year-old teenager seeking admission in the institution. The randy lecturer was identified as Dr. Boniface Egbeneghu of the department of French, who was a former sub-dean of the Faculty of Arts of the same institution and also a local pastor with Four Square Church in Lagos. 

In the video which has gone viral since its release, the don could be seen, casually flirting with the supposed admission-seeker in a way that suggests a very regular adventure. In the video, he is also seen confiding in the young admission-seeker that sexual relations between lecturers and female students in the institution are very common occurrences hence, not one that should wow anybody. 

He could be seen in the video stretching out comfortably on his office chair while negotiating sex with the BBC undercover journalist who played along all the while, in a manner that paints a clear picture of a completely decayed system. 

But the story of Dr Egbeneghu is just a tip of an iceberg. It is just one out of many such stories that happen in our higher institutions of learning. Recall that about a year ago, it was a certain Professor Akindele from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife that was recorded telling a female student that she must have sex with him on 5 different occasions before she could scale through his course. 

The story made the headlines of many media platforms . He was suspended by the University Senate and was subsequently prosecuted. These despicable acts happen on the daily in our tertiary institutions but victims do not speak out for obvious reasons. With fellow lecturers and the university management always ready to defend and cover up accused colleagues while seeking for pieces of evidence corroborating the accusation from the victims before their claims could be taken seriously. 

Read Also: Amnesty International calls for justice for Cameroonian victims at soldiers’ trial

This frustrates most victims and leave them with the fear of being further victimized academically. This evil is so rife in our universities that most female students avoid having a one-on-one contact with their male lecturers.

The Nigerian Ministry of Education, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the National University Commission (NUC) must act now! A State of Emergency should be declared in our tertiary institutions as regards this menace, let sanity be restored in the system.  All hands must be on deck to curb this growing evil.

Finally, let the culprit be made to face the full wrath of the law. It is reported that Dr Boniface Egbeneghu has been suspended by both the University and the church where he pastors. But this is not enough. He should be charged to court by the relevant authorities.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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News

Tripoli drowns in waste, as Libya’s war drags on

The rubbish crisis adds to the daily ordeal for residents of the capital, where life is already punctuated by shortages of fuel, electricity and water.

News Central

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Faraj al-Doukali hastened to unload the dozens of rubbish bags from his van onto a sidewalk dump in Siyahiya, a residential district west of the Libyan capital.

“Each weekend I collect the rubbish from my four brothers at the farm where we live and I look for somewhere to dump it. I have no choice but to leave it here on the footpath,” he said.

Read also : Sudan shuts border with Libya over security concerns

Across Tripoli, tonnes of waste overflows from bins and piles up on roadsides.

The rubbish crisis adds to the daily ordeal for residents of the capital, where life is already punctuated by shortages of fuel, electricity and water.

Fed up with the smell and the sight of rats and stray cats feasting in the garbage, some residents have taken to burning the rubbish. But this only replaces the stench of rotting garbage with columns of nauseating smoke in the streets of the capital.

Tripoli’s trash turmoil isn’t a new phenomenon but it has reached alarming proportions in recent months. Municipal rubbish trucks no longer collect waste because the city’s main landfill is on a frontline.

The dump is at Sidi al-Sayeh, 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of Tripoli, where forces loyal to the capital’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) are battling those of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on April 4 to seize the city.

‘Find a solution’

Doukali seems more angered by the rubbish than the fighting.

“Is it up to citizens to collect the garbage now? Why doesn’t the government and the municipality provide skips in every neighbourhood?” he asked.

A furious passerby interjected: “I’m talking to the government of the east (which supports Haftar) and that of the west (the GNA): keep your ministerial portfolios and the money, but find a solution to this rubbish crisis because it’s making us sick.”

Without long-term solutions and as long as fighting continues, “the crisis will worsen”, said Tarek al-Jadidi, director of environmental protection at the National Centre for the Prevention of Diseases in Tripoli.

“In addition to the lack of environmental awareness among citizens, the state is unable to manage the rubbish in the streets, while ongoing conflict prevents the implementation of plans like in other countries,” Jadidi said.

In theory, waste management in Tripoli takes place in stages, with rubbish being taken first to collection points and then onwards to the main landfill. But with the landfill in a combat zone, collection points are overflowing. Rubbish sorting and recycling are out of the question. 

Glass, paper and plastic could be recycled, but specialised facilities “require a stable security situation”, Jadidi said.

Rouqaya al-Hachemi, an environmental researcher, recently conducted a study on the rubbish crisis in Tripoli. 

She found that respiratory illnesses and skin conditions have clearly increased among children, the elderly and pregnant women.

“People are aware of the environmental risks and dangers of garbage fires but they complain about a lack of skips,” she said.

To resolve this chronic crisis, Hachemi recommends “the creation of a ministry of environment to manage the rubbish situation, and laws to punish offenders”.

Waste management may not seem like Libya’s most pressing issue, but ultimately, Hachemi said, “it’s about the health of citizens”.

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Health

Nigeria’s “Street Doctor”, Samson Shonowo provides free healthcare for the poor

From free maternal healthcare to caesarian sections and more, Dr. Samson Shonowo opens his doors to whoever needs help

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Nigeria's "Street Doctor", Samson Shonowo provides free healthcare for the poor
Dr. Samson Shonowo, founder of Shonowo Hospital.

Illnesses are no fun for anyone, but imagine being seriously ill with a serious condition that requires not just visits to the hospital, but surgery.

Now, imagine being too poor to afford the visits and the treatment necessary to get better.

This is where “The Street Doctor” comes in. Dr. Samson Shonowo of Shonowo Hospital is popularly called ‘The Street Doctor’ because he’s made it his mission to care for the sick in local communities who, otherwise, would not be able to afford their medical bills.

The 37-year-old started his career as a young medical officer at General Hospital in Agege Lagos, where he found himself in constant turmoil, having to attend to several patients who could not afford to pay for their healthcare.

“Every time I had to break the news to a patient or their loved ones that they would be needing surgery and I see their shoulders sag in despair and hopelessness, my heart broke.”

“These are people that can barely afford money to pay for hospital registration cards or recommended lab tests. I decided to do something about it,” he said.

What Dr. Shonowo did was to open his own hospital about 4 years ago and take on as many charity cases as he possibly could.

From free maternal healthcare to caesarian sections, breast lump removals, fibroid removals, hernia repairs and other procedures, Dr. Shonowo opened his doors to whoever needed help.

“It’s not easy, I have to tell you,” he says.

“It’s hard running a hospital where over 60 per cent of your patients cannot afford their care. Bills need to be paid, staff need to be taken care of and medication needs to be supplied, yet, we do it all without external funding or grants”.

“Standard healthcare is not negotiable. It is a right that everyone deserves to have and I believe that as a private healthcare practitioner, it is my duty to humanity to do my part.”

On government’s responsibility, Dr. Shonowo says the Nigerian government must pay better attention to Primary Healthcare.

“When the primary health care system does well, it meets people’s health needs, and that is essential if we are to make progress toward the country’s health goals.”

“Primary Health Care should be free for everyone to access. It will help with preventive medicine and it will handle most people’s health needs before it becomes a major problem.” he further added.

Dr. Samson Shonowo is making good on his commitment by opening up the Shonowo Free Surgery program again. This November, 100 hernia patients will be screened and treated for free.

Intending patients can register and book appointments via the hospital’s website.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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