New African review November 2012 issue

African Update – 13/12/12

The November issue of New African featured exclusive interviews with among others Kofi Annan, Mo Ibrahim, Moise Katumbi, Ozwald Boateng and Dr.Frannie Léautier, which make the cover story. The main theme running through all of the interviews is the desire to put in place the “Africa we want” as expressed by these notable African personalities, who are drawn from diverse sectors.

They not only put forth some propositions, but also substantiate them with what is being done to bring them to realization. They look at Africa’s past and present practices from which they isolate weaknesses and strengths that Africa must address if it is stand on its own.

The Ghanaian, Kofi Annan, once the UN’s Secretary General, contends that it is time “that Africa looked beyond its colonial past to try and understand its current problems.” Annan argues that holding onto views that accentuate the culpability of colonialism on Africa only serves those who desire the status quo just as much as the support of the big man syndrome creates a political culture that simply encourages autocracy and dictatorship. Comparing immediate post independence leaders and the emerging crop of leaders all over Africa, Annan observes that “the sort of qualities that make dynamic, and revolutionary fighters, are not necessarily the same qualities that you need to run a nation …we are now at the stage where we are seeing the generational change of leaders, who are better educated, and who know what they want from themselves, and their fellow citizens.” On the way forward, perhaps drawing much from his experiences as a diplomat, he underscores the importance of negotiation and communication, “negotiating… is a fact of life in the world of realpolitik…we need to talk …to save lives, to stop the killings and the gross abuse of human rights…” Annan’s thoughts on African and global issues are captured in depth in his new book, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, which is also referred too extensively in the article.

Ozwald Boateng, better known for “his flamboyant fashion sense and his perfectly tailored suits loved by the rich and famous worldwide,” is gradually emerging as a voice in a totally different arena. He is categorical that he is “passionate about where Africa goes and should go.” His particular focus is on development of infrastructure across the continent, which he believes is not reducible to a mere ambition. Among other things, Boateng envisions a self-financing, high speed rail network with state of the art sustainable cities and regional hubs along the route, use of green technologies and energy to open up new economy streams and enable social development, and use of innovative financial instruments and alternative capital flows like export credit systems, carbon credits and military offsets as a source of finance.  He thinks giant infrastructure development across Africa is all the more possible following the “the African Development Bank’s announcement [in October] to float Africa’s first infrastructure bonds to member nations to raise up to $22 billion to raise Africa’s much needed infrastructure projects in areas such as ports, railways, roads and energy.”

Mo Ibrahim, the Anglo-Sudanese former telecoms pioneer, has been in the forefront in the fight for good governance in Africa. He runs a foundation, Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF), which among other things compiles an annual index of African governance (the Ibrahim Index of African Governance) and awards outstanding achievements in African leadership (Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership). On politics, economy and governance, he observes that even though there are obvious examples of failed cases in a number of Africa’s regional giants, in general relevant indicators are improving across the continent. In his interview he emphasizes the importance of the youth, whom he declares to be Africa’s greatest natural resource. He says that young people constitute a major economic challenge for the African continent in as much as they represent a considerable potential; he points out that the risk of a disaster for the continent is great should the continent fail to develop suitable opportunities for them. It is therefore essential for Africa to help them realize their potential. Drawing comparisons with trends in Europe, he observes that Africa’s collective ability to offer its youths “not only acceptable employment, but also encouraging and stimulating opportunities, is a major challenge.”

Dr.Frannie Léautier, “a truly inspiring and talented woman” from Tanzania is in charge of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation, one of Africa’s most important organizations. In her interview, she talks about a wide range of issues, but gives a particular focus on “where women fit into African society and the crucial role they can play.” Without mincing words, she says, “ As a woman, you are born with the same rights as everyone else.” She says that in spite of difficulties due to culture, there are now a number of women role models who have “stepped out and taken leadership, and through their examples they are showing the younger women how to do it.” On African capacity building, she says the drive is not only to enhance what African entities (states, groups and individuals) have (resource, skills, knowledge etc) but looking at transforming policies, since a myriad of policies “within an economy are linked to the individual capacity to design something that is appropriate for their community.”

In other articles, New African looks at looming elections in Ghana and Zimbabwe; on Ghana it ponders over whether Ghana will live up to its record of being an example of democracy in Africa while in Zimbabwe the question is how the elections will turn out especially since the opposition does not seem to be firm. It also highlights on the oil exploration going on in northern Kenya, noting the successful findings so far, but at the same time the blessing and curse of oil finds weighing heavily on the minds of Kenyans, especially those living around the oil fields and potential entrepreneurs. From the Diaspora, New African takes a look at the life and work of Gil Scott Heron, whom it says was more than a poet. In another featured article New African wonders whether the handling of the Special Court for Sierra Leone could be making it difficult to solve conflicts diplomatically elsewhere?

For an in depth coverage of these articles and others see New African November 2012 issue.

Reviewed by Swegenyi D.S.K for Humanitas Afrika

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Our library has aquired a number of new and interesting books. Here is the list of the latest titles.

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  • Fashion Cities Africa by Hannah Azieb Pool
  • Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanismby Christopher Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Robinson, James A., Acemoglu, Daron
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  • A History of Modern Africa: 1800 to the Present by Richard J. Reid
  • Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture by Sarah Van Beurden
  • Children in Slavery through the Ages by by Gwyn CampbellSuzanne MiersJoseph C. Miller
  • Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control by Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos by Gary  Stewart
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 1: Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 2: The Modern Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Cahier d'un Retour Au Pays Natal by Aimé Cesaire
  • Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 by Karen Elizabeth  Flint
  • Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies by Antoni Verger
  • Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry by Matthew M. Heaton

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