Tag: africa

Africa ‘hostile’ to gays

Many in African countries see their homelands as hostile to homosexuals, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The poll also showed that most people in European nations feel their community is a welcoming place for gays and lesbians.

The Gallup survey of more than 100 000 people in 123 countries found just one to two percent of those polled in Senegal, Uganda, Mali and Ethiopia see their nations as gay-friendly, in a continent where same-sex relationships are still largely taboo.

Anti-gay supporters celebrate after Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on February 24 2014. (Reuters, Edward Echwalu)
Anti-gay supporters celebrate after Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on February 24 2014. (Reuters, Edward Echwalu)

One exception appeared to be South Africa, the only country on the continent where same-sex marriage is legal. Nearly half of those polled there said their community was hospitable to gays, although slightly more than half disagreed.

“As much of Africa continues to struggle with human rights for all residents, few in the region believe their communities are good places for gay or lesbian people. Anti-gay sentiment is apparent,” the polling organisation said.

The US state department has routinely cited numerous African countries for gross human rights violations, including against lesbians and gays. Those in same-sex relationships are often still targeted for discrimination and violence, according to its annual Human Rights Practices report.

International community more welcoming
The poll found 83% of those in the Netherlands said it was a “good place” for gays and lesbians to live, followed by 82% in Iceland, 79% in Spain, 77% in the United Kingdom and 75% in Ireland.

Eighty percent of Canadians said their community was welcoming.

Just three in 10 of those surveyed worldwide said their community is “a good place” for gays and lesbians to live. The ratio was 70% in the United States, which ranked 12th among the countries surveyed.

“These latest findings show that for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) people around the world, being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity likely comes with substantial risk,” says Gary Gates, a researcher at Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, who focuses on demographics and gender issues.

Another Gallup poll earlier this month showed more people who identify as LGBT report lower overall well-being.

Wednesday’s poll, based on data from face-to-face interviews between 2009 and 2013, had a margin of error of between 2.1 and 5.6 percentage points, depending on the country. – Reuters

China says more than half of its foreign aid given to Africa

South African President Jacob Zuma and his fourth wife Bongi Ngema  welcome China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan for a working visit to South Africa in March 2013. (Pic: Reuters)
South African President Jacob Zuma and his fourth wife Bongi Ngema welcome China’s President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan for a working visit to South Africa in March 2013. (Pic: Reuters)

More than half of China’s foreign aid of over $14-billion between 2010 and 2012 was directed to Africa, the government said on Thursday, underscoring Beijing’s interest in the resource-rich continent to fuel its economy.

Some Chinese projects have attracted attention for China’s support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency, such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola.

It provided no breakdown of aid recipients or any yearly figures. In 2011, China put its total foreign aid over the past six decades at 256.29-billion yuan ($41.32-billion).

While the number pales in comparison with the United States’ foreign aid, which is about $46-billion for fiscal 2015, China says its aid has no political strings attached, unlike many Western countries.

“China adheres to the principles of not imposing any political conditions, not interfering in the internal affairs of recipient countries and fully respecting the right to independently choose their own paths and models of development,” the government said in a policy paper.

Aid was given in the form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, the policy paper said, and nine countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Mali and Zambia had been forgiven a total of 1.24-billion yuan in mature interest-free loans.

Some in Africa say many Chinese projects benefit local people little, with materials and even labour imported directly from China. Dam schemes have proven divisive too.

China’s close links with oil-rich African states, including Sudan and Angola, have fuelled criticism as well that Beijing only cultivates relations to secure access to energy and raw materials to power its surging economy.

The Foreign Ministry said China’s relationship with African nations goes well beyond its quest for resources and encompasses agricultural, health and infrastructure-related projects.

“China’s co-operation with Africa is far from being limited to the sphere of natural resources,” ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters. Foreign aid “is an important manifestation of China’s international responsibility”.

The paper made no direct reference to such criticism, but said China was dedicated to helping economies boost their ability to export by providing infrastructure like roads and railways and by pursuing a policy of aid for trade.

In one project, it said, Chinese experts trained 500 Liberians to weave bamboo and rattan into products they could sell.

“This programme has not only created jobs, brought the locals more income and lifted them out of poverty, but also boosted the bamboo and rattan industry in the country,” the paper said. ($1 = 6.1962 Chinese yuan)

Africa needs a new feminism

Africa needs a new feminism. A feminism that rises from the throats of ungovernable women, rolls down the backs of intellectually curious young men, and trickles down from every corner of government to reinvigorate the cultures of our continent, cultures that were greyed out by years of colonialism and the subsequent years of preoccupied capitalism. The feminism of Africa cannot be the same as the feminism of the West.

The cries of western feminists, seemingly weighed down by the apparent woes of suburban housewifery and the very troubling issue of beauty in the mainstream media, are swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean before the old African woman even has time to tie a hungry grandchild to her back, or the new African woman can use her entry-level salary to take care of a mismatch of relatives who Did Not Have Her Opportunities.

My feminism cannot be the same as that of my western counterpart. As tempting as it may be to sidle up next to a fellow soft-breasted twenty-year-old and talk heatedly about what Beyonce’s ‘suggestive’ gyrating means for ‘respectability politics’, I am not yet there. As fun as it appears to be to park onto a social network and turn my woes into a trending topic, I must remember my place. For my place is not the same as that of a woman in a first-world country – no matter how identical our birthdays are, no matter how “universal” female suffering is. We are not the same.

So why should my feminism be the same?

I am an Africanist. A third generation independent African, my father and mother were born just a couple of years shy of their respective countries’ heated dash from the clutches of a tired Britain. My task is not a simple task – my debt to the continent has not been paid. But I am only one of the few that realises that we owe the continent more than it does us. And I will be damned if Africa loses another young, energetic, liberated mind to the lazy glamour of participating in western feminism’s weak assault on society.

Delegations of women coming from various Malian regions attend a rally against femal genital mutilations as they sit under a banner asking for the end of excision and forced marrriage, on February 6 2014 in Bamako. (Pic: AFP)
Delegations of women from various Malian regions attend a rally against femal genital mutilations as they sit under a banner asking for the end of excision and forced marriage, on February 6 2014 in Bamako. (Pic: AFP)

African feminism has bigger fish to fry. Tasked with the burden of taking the blame for decades of societal degrade – alleged to be picking up where colonialism left off; the crumbs of African traditions are swept to the feet of the African feminist and she is expected not to accidentally crush them. When feminism or any allusion to gender equality is mentioned in a room full of traditionalists, self-proclaimed and otherwise, the voices shouting about the “un-Africanness” of a notion as simple as women’s rights are often all one can hear over the murmurs of those only beginning to find comfort in the idea.

But this cannot go on.

For all the other movements (like the pure socialism of African freedom fighters of the past)  are dead and capitalism has swept up my generation of Africans into a sea of perpetual desire, too busy copying American consumerism to actively participate in the reshaping of the African political landscape. Many more are too busy simply trying to stay afloat with western debt-collectors chopping away at their sodden feet. They cannot express interest in feminism thought processes – especially if said thought processes seem to be limited to concerns common to first-world women only.

So Africa needs a new feminism, one that recognises that the young men of this continent, though allegedly protected by the warm veil of patriarchy, are as much at risk for poverty, disease and hunger as women are; one that recognises that after two or three generations of single-parent homes, young men have little to no idea of what it means to be a man and are left to grab blindly at caricatures of sexist male figures for guidance. Africa needs a feminism that sees that it is the last original attempt to take our cultures into our own hands and shape young men and women that can lead this place away from the greedy claws of ‘foreign investors’; away from the cement-like clutches of heads of state too old to care; away from the exploitative ideologies of fly-by-night politicians.

Africa needs a new feminism, because it’s our last hope.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20-year-old Mathematics major at the University of Botswana. She blogs at siyandawrites.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SiyandaWrites

Confronting poverty in Africa with cash

A curious phenomenon has been recorded in some parts of Africa: people are becoming happier. The recent surge in happiness has even caught the attention of African leaders. At an April “expert consultation” in Cape Town hosted by the South African government, the African Union and Unicef, presentations were given which included an uplifting set of findings. In Zambia, there’s been a 45% increase in the amount of people who say they’re better off than 12 months ago; Ghana saw a 16% increase in the proportion of people answering “yes” to the question, “Are you happy with your life?” Malawi has seen a 20% increase in people who say they are “very happy” with their life, and in Kenya, there’s been a 6% increase on the Quality of Life index.

According to the impact evaluation work led by Unicef and partners, presented to around 40 African Union member states, people in some African countries are also eating better (Malawi and Zambia, for example, saw a 30% increase in food consumption while Ghana recorded a 10% decrease in the number of children missing a meal); are going to school more; are healthier (Liberia experienced a 20% increase in curative care seeking, Ghana had a 20% increase in health insurance coverage); are better nourished; and are transitioning to adulthood with greater success (Kenya saw reductions in early pregnancy and sexual debut, while South Africa saw a 63% decrease in teenage girls having sex with older men, and drug and alcohol consumption was less likely.)

The reason behind all this happiness, health and (delayed) sex, says Unicef, is simple: Thousands of people living in impoverished communities in these countries suddenly have more cash in their pockets. Some 20 countries across the continent have embraced what are known as a ‘social protection floors’. In essence, a growing number of national governments are deciding to support cash transfers to the poorest and most marginalised with no strings attached. The idea is that even a small amount of cash can tip the balance back in favour of a family, which might be struggling to survive. In countries where wages are often less than US$1 a day, cash transfers of as little as $12 a month, can have a profound impact. While traditional aid programmes continue to play a crucial role, it’s increasingly clear that it’s also very cost-effective to help governments disperse money.

Cash transfers to poor households
Giving money to the poor in the developing world isn’t new. In the 1990s, Brazil began making “conditional” cash transfers to poor households where school-aged children were enrolled in school. However today, it is African governments who are leading the way in developing “home-grown” social protection programs designed to respond to their specific contexts and characteristics. That is, unconditional cash transfers which build on existing strong community structures and hence address economic as well as social inequality. Amid it all, rigorous evaluations have found that households receiving the cash do better. They eat better quality food, they can afford to buy livestock and their children go to school. These benefits defy notions that social protection is a hand-out. Conversely, rather than create dependency, or become a burden on budgets, cash transfers invest in the poor’s human capital, allowing people to generate even more income.

The list of African countries now using cash transfer policies is impressive. In Lesotho, the Child Grant programme is expected to cover 25 000 poor and vulnerable households, reaching 60 000 children, by 2014, more than doubling in two years. Zambia’s expansion of its Social Cash Transfer Programme is expected to reach 190 000 households, or 1 000 000 people, by the end of 2014. In Kenya, the government is planning to double the number of beneficiaries in its cash transfer programme. Senegal is doubling the number of beneficiary households in its programme with plans to reach 250 000 by 2017.  In Ghana, the programme has expanded its reach from 1 650 households in 2008 to 71 000 in 2013. Plans for expansion are also underway in Mauritania, Mali, Malawi, Niger, and Zimbabwe, among others.

Unicef continues to advocate for social protection in Africa, supporting governments as they develop and strengthen social protection systems, and leading an innovative research initiative examining the impact of government-sponsored social cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan African countries: The Transfer Project.

Meanwhile, this Friday, on May 30, African social development ministers will meet at the African Union’s Addis Ababa headquarters to discuss how social protection programs can continue to benefit the continent’s children. The timing has never been more critical: Africa is going through a population boom and by 2050 one in three of the planet’s children will be African. During discussions we will argue that even low-income countries can afford to give money to the poor; indeed that they can’t afford not to. Social protection policies reduce inequity, help children, the communities they live in are transformed, and economies grow.

However, despite the growing popularity of the programmes, questions remain about how and in what contexts cash transfers are most appropriate and effective. Unicef hopes that lessons learned from the five-year Transfer Project will support national policy makers, who might otherwise be working in isolation, so that the benefits of giving money to the poor may continue to make Africans smile.

Natalia Winder Rossi is Unicef’s senior social policy specialist for Eastern and Southern Africa. 

Urbanisation in Africa and the conflict that comes with it

African nations are experiencing substantial urbanisation at a rate like never before. A continent that was once characterised by its largely rural nature is now seeing diverse groups of people – ethnically, religiously, and socioeconomically – flood its urban centres, 50 of which have a population of one million or more.

People come to the city for a number of reasons – to escape civil conflicts in rural areas, to search for employment in an effort to better their lives and those of their extended families, or in response to environmental issues such as drought or famine. In Africa especially, circular migratory patterns exist as people oscillate between large urban centres (to have access to wealth and other resources such as food and aid) and their villages (to maintain familial bonds).

However, even with the circular nature of migratory patterns as it exists, urban centres continue to grow in Africa. Considering the high fertility rates across the board, the bulk of this growth is in fact not coming from migrants but from the offspring of current city dwellers. When you combine this growth together with the aforementioned migratory population, it is estimated that this continent, where approximately 40% of the population lives in cities, will be more than 60% urban by 2050.

Traffic on Agege Motor Road in Lagos. (Pic: AFP)
Traffic on Agege Motor Road in Lagos. (Pic: AFP)

In the 2014 publication Africa’s Urban Revolution by professors Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse, civic conflict – a phenomenon that occurs hand in hand with this kind of rapid urbanisation – is defined. It is the violent expression of grievances vis-à-vis the state or other actors. Essentially, civic conflict is the manifestation of marginalised civilians’ frustration on the state’s inability to do things such as provide adequate housing or transportation, reduce distresses such as traffic and pollution or provide other services including healthcare, education to the masses. Though this type of conflict is distinct from warfare, which commonly exists in rural areas, these conflicts exist and effect great numbers of city dwellers. With the urbanisation in Africa taking place at its current rate, these conflicts should not be ignored.

The misconception that urban growth is temporary, that it will dwindle as conflict in rural areas is solved, robs civilians of a chance to live comfortably within the cities that they occupy. When I travelled to Abuja in February, I was struck by the immense traffic around the national mosque on Friday evenings. In recent years, increasing Boko Haram attacks in the northern states of Nigeria, many people have come to the nation’s capital to be out of this harm’s way. The traffic associated with the expanding population of the city does not only occur during this holy time for those of Muslim faith, but during rush hour as people struggle to find or get to work. Of course, the Nigerian state should take the steps it must in order to oust the terrorist group driving people away from their homes and into the capital. However, it should not be assumed that if and when it does, the population of Abuja will decrease to a more manageable one. Abuja and other cities in Africa that are experiencing growth from similar factors must increase attention towards alleviating woes within the urban centre or frustration amongst those caught in traffic jams of increasing length or those who live in inadequate housing due to the jurisdiction’s reluctance to provide the growing population with such will increase and strain the relationship between those who live in cities and those people who generate the policies around them.

Africa’s urbanisation provides both a challenge and an opportunity. It is an opportunity for young people to introduce innovative ideas that will allow for diverse groups in urban centres to be able to equally access resources and infrastructure in a way that will not put pressure on the state. However, in order to do so, the state must recognise that city growth is long-term and facilitate this kind of innovation. A symbiotic relationship between the state, the city centres and the population must be developed that allows for the growth of cities to occur in an efficient way that is considerate of the many different types of people who occupy these spaces.  As cities continue to grow in Africa, which they will, it is important that city management and these kinds of symbiotic relationships are not neglected. If they are, these civic conflicts and the ugly violence that becomes of them are sure to grow as well.

Georges Ekwensi is a Nigerian American from New Jersey. He contributes to Rise Africa, a blog written by a group of individuals who seek to create an atmosphere that encourages conversation between Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. Connect with them on Twitter@riseafrica