Kenya’s government announced last week the discovery of two huge aquifers in drought-stricken areas in the north of the country. The underground water sources reported in Turkana contain at least 250 billion cubic meters of water. The revelation has raised hopes of more such finds in Africa; like oil (also discovered in Turkana), new aquifers are being discovered across the continent . Analysis suggests that underground water volumes in the region equal about 100 times the amount of water found on the surface.
Yet the discovery of these new aquifers won’t have much impact unless the world takes measures to ensure more effective access to, and use of, the water sources we already have. Even for Kenyans, a new aquifer in one part of the country isn’t that much help. For some people in rural Turkana, the new find will help simplify access to clean water by providing nearby boreholes. But the country’s annual freshwater withdrawal from lakes, aquifers, and rivers is 2.7 billion cubic meters, compared to close to 21 billion cubic meters in renewable supplies. For most of Kenya (and the rest of Africa), the most pressing problem isn’t a countrywide lack of water; it’s the lack of immediate, reliable access to it.
The UN is deploying an offensive combat force for the first time in an attempt to neutralise eastern Congo’s myriad armed groups. In March, Monusco adopted resolution 2098 , which enabled offensive combat and authorised an “intervention brigade”. The brigade will comprise 3,000 troops from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa . Approximately 70% have arrived in Goma so far.
A concern among NGOs in Goma is how the UN is blurring the line between military and humanitarian roles. Will those providing aid be perceived as allied to this new militarised group? For organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins sans Frontières, their neutrality in conflicts is rewarded with access to those in need. In many areas of eastern Congo there is an assumption that any outsider belongs to Monusco. “If that imbued affiliation is there, and then perception of Monusco declines, we could start seeing problems for humanitarians,” Briggs says.
There is also criticism that the new force creates a conflict of interest within the peacekeeping brigade. “Humanitarian action has to be humanitarian and has to be done by a neutral actor,” one Goma-based co-ordinator said.
A statement by the UN mission in the DR Congo has given everyone in the city of Goma and surrounding areas until 2000 GMT on Thursday to hand in their weapons to the city’s UN base, warning that anyone caught after this would be considered a rebel.
"They will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and [UN mission in DR Congo] Monusco will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement," the statement read.
Just across the border in Mozambique there is neo-colonial exploitation underway. It is not Europe or the United States that are dominating, but rather countries which are often looked up to as challengers, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. […] this tells a tale of one country, in which tens of billions of rands of investment by BRICS countries and companies in extracting minerals results in the extraction of wealth. Mozambique will join the Resourced Cursed societies of our region, with polluted local environments, and a changed structure of peoples’ lives, making them dependent on foreign decisions rather than their own local and national political power. This is not a random set of exploitations, but rather a well-orchestrated strategy to shift the elite development agenda away from Europe, the US and Japan, to what we now term the BRICS.
This positioning means that the BRICS drive for economic superiority is pursued in the name of poverty alleviation. No matter how one terms the process – imperialist, sub-imperialist, post-colonial, or whatever – the reality is that these countries are challenging the power relations in the world, but sadly the model chosen to challenge this power is nothing different from the model that has resulted in mass poverty and elite wealth globally.
Two new reports from the Oakland Institute, Development Aid to Ethiopia: Overlooking Violence, Marginalization, and Political Repression and Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley , show how Western development assistance is supporting forced evictions and massive violations of human rights in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government’s controversial “villagization” resettlement program to clear vast areas for large-scale land investments is funded largely by international development organizations. The first report, Development Aid to Ethiopia , establishes direct links between development aid—an average $3.5 billion a year, equivalent to 50 to 60% of Ethiopia’s national budget—and industrial projects that violate the human rights of people in the way of their implementation.
The report also shows how indirect support in the form of funding for infrastructure, such as dams for irrigation and electricity for planned plantations, plays a role in repressing local communities by making the projects viable.
"Retail is one of the fastest growing sectors in Kenya, so the chances are they will get a job in sales, marketing or promotions," she says. "But a lot of what they learn is transferable. Whatever they do after working with us, they need to be able to sell themselves. Really, it’s training for the rest of their lives.""We’re using a largely untapped labour force to solve a distribution problem that exists all over the developing world," says Laden.
[…] “We’re in a position where there are millions of unemployed youth on one side, and an endless supply of products that will benefit the poor and change people’s lives on the other. They have no idea how to get those products into people’s hands. So we look at the way we want to scale kind of like a Starbucks or a McDonald’s – on every corner.”
As African economies outperform the global average, a collectors’ scene is booming among emerging elites and a growing number of foreign buyers.
[…] The boom has been most pronounced in Nigeria and South Africa ,the continent’s two biggest economies, which between them account for half of Africa’s billionaires . Increasingly, local rather than imported artwork adorns the walls of many glitzy offices and restaurants.
It seems unlikely that many Ethiopian farmers sat down and thought about what Chinese consumers want to eat for breakfast before planting their crops. Yet a surge in the eastward export of sesame seed over the past decade has created an unexpected interdependency between the two countries.
Sesame seeds perhaps rank among the lesser known of China’s growing food imports, lacking the headline-grabbing attention of Brazilian soyabeans. Black sesame paste, eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner, is a popular snack among many southern Chinese people. It is made by mixing roast and ground sesame seeds with sesame oil; a sweeter version can be made by adding sugar or honey. Its use as a popular baking ingredient aside, sesame seed can be used as an oil or a high-protein feed for poultry.
Ethiopia has long produced sesame, but as China’s economic ties with the country and elsewhere in Africa have grown, so has seed production. For Ethiopia, Chinese ties have meant an increase in Chinese manufacturing imports, and access to finance and new infrastructure. In January, the China Development Bank provided a $25m loan to finance agricultural enterprises. In May, the Export-Import Bank of China agreed to provide $3.3bn to build a railway from Ethiopia to Negad port in Djibouti.
Although magical thinking might be less pervasive in the sparkling hospital wards of Europe and the private clinics of New York than inside the healer’s hut, it is still significant. According to a survey on the British Medical Journal website in 2007, only about half of all clinical practices rest upon a solid evidence base. Plenty of doctors would rather prescribe a useless antibiotic for an earache than do nothing at all (and many parents pressure them to do so). Question them, and they will complain that their authority is being stripped away. They are second-guessed by Google, second-fiddle to the wonder-drug makers, and second-class in the eyes of the actuaries. More than anything, these doctors find themselves crushed under a sea of data, data that can conflict with their most cherished rituals and ideas. The annual checkup, argued Lasse T Krogsbøll and colleagues in the British Medical Journal last year, does no good and can even do harm. Ditto prostate screening, according to the final recommendations of the US preventive services task force in 2012. Bad cholesterol is not so bad after all, said researchers at Texas A&M University in 2011.
Maurice Iwu, the esteemed Nigerian ethnopharmacologist and author of the Handbook of African Medicinal Plants (1993), has railed against Europeans who try to modernise African medicine by preserving its rational elements and dispensing with the magical ones. ‘The use of herbs in combination with the power of the human spirit, assistance from the gods, and other unseen forces constitutes a fundamental aspect of African ethnomedicine,’ he has written. Iwu and other proponents of traditional and alternative medicine often frame it as a cultural issue, suggesting that science, which they associate exclusively with the West, cannot possibly cast judgment outside that realm.
Africa’s poorest nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), plans to build the world’s largest (and most expensive) hydropower dam, Grand Inga on the Congo River’s Inga Falls. A day before I set forth for the DRC, the huge project took a significant step forward with the signing of a “cooperation treaty” by the DRC and South African governments. The treaty makes South Africa the principal purchaser of the power generated at Inga III power plant, the first phase of the Grand Inga. The country will buy 2500 MW of the total 4800 MW from the proposed dam. The balance will be sold to mining companies in Katanga in southeastern DRC. As expected, the signing event, held in Paris in May, attracted a lot of media coverage and excitement within the government circles in the DRC and internationally. It made headline news within the DRC for a week running. My mission was to see for myself what challenges that damming the Congo River at Inga Falls would bring.