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Next presidential elections in Liberia and Macdella Cooper’s candidacy

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]n October 10 next, elections will be held in Liberia to elect the President and the Legislative Assembly, as well as the Senate. In 2009 the National Electoral Commission of the African country, which is formally independent of both the government and Parliament, already accepted a substantial funding of 17.5 million US dollars directly from USAID to properly manage the previous elections of 2004 and 2014.

Still today the US Agency supports Liberia with various programs, all effective and necessary.

When criticizing US foreign policy, we should also recall the thousands of volunteers who travel everywhere, with sincere evangelical spirit, to help peoples in developing countries.

The Liberian Senate consists of two senators for each of the fifteen regions in which the African nation is divided. The term of each Senator lasts nine years. The House of Representatives has only 73 members.

As far as we know, there is no specific public American support for next October’s elections.

Nevertheless, we are aware of the current US support to the various Liberian initiatives for better managing its national institutions, with specific reference to their functioning vis-à-vis citizens; the respect for the Rule of Law; freedom of information; the technical management of farmland and the strengthening of free people associations – briefly the “civil society” network that is essential to freedom and democracy, as Hegel taught us.

These are the only possible rational proposals to prevent the African youth bulge – now widespread in all the regions of the Black Continent – from turning directly to Europe, thus undermining its Welfare State and disrupting its labour market.

In spite of the too many considerations made, Europe has not the will, rational programs or money to help Africa before its peoples arriving massively in it.

Conversely, the United States knows Africa very well and it is not by mere coincidence that in 2007 it founded the Africa Command, together with 53 African States, but established its headquarters in Europe, precisely in Stuttgart.

Not surprisingly, from May 19 to 30, the United States run the African exercise United Accord 2017 to train local soldiers and monitor the African regions around Ghana.

Then there is China. This is one of the real points of interest and substantial future development for Africa.

Without China, there will be no real economic transformation across the Black Continent – hence not even in Liberia.

It is worth recalling that Sierra Leone and Liberia were, respectively, the countries established by US and British slaves freed in 1820 and in the 1840s, respectively.

The humanitarian and moral motivation was obvious, but there was also a strategic goal: when there was the “rush to Africa” by the European continental powers, control networks of France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy had to be created to prevent the European regional powers from getting a big head.

Neither the United States nor Britain have ever stopped thinking that the States of the Eurasian peninsula are, indeed, dangerous global competitors.

To date, however, the United States depends on Africa for a quarter of its oil imports, while China depends on Africa for over a quarter of its oil imports.

Hence no more of those endless, tragic and especially stupid regional wars, like Rwanda’s and the two Liberian civil wars.

Cold War relics that survived even after the end of the bipolar confrontation, like Princess Sissi on the Geneva pier after being stabbed by the usual Italian anarchist.

At the beginning, Rwanda’s war was instigated by a European intelligence service, while the two Liberian civil wars by some local officers’ hunger for money and by small squabbles between neighboring states.

And by some big Western companies.

Finally no more with that idea – which today is really crazy – to replicate the old divisions of the Cold War in Africa, with so many small geopolitical frogs that swell up until bursting.

Or possibly trying to make third-rate local dictators cherish the illusion that revenue, and raw materials to be sold cheaply to the stupid Westerners, can be extracted – with such unnecessary and cruel violence – from an exhausted people.

We, in the West, we are not stupid at all. We do not need shady brokers who manage raw materials as if they were local monopolists. We do not even want Africa to become not a series of failed states, but a whole continent doomed to disaster.

Again, no more with the idea that the Black Continent is a reserve of raw materials and nothing else, or a region where anything is allowed, even at the expense of Europeans themselves, who, for example, are still paying the fixed exchange rate of the CFA franc against the euro.

Not at all, Africa is a huge continent that must be respected and quickly put back on its legs – just to use again a Hegelian metaphor – and, above all, should not be considered a mere reservoir of raw materials that others process.

By paraphrasing the slogan of Mao Zedong’s first speech as President in Tiananmen Square: the African people have stood up!

Hence work must return to Africa. It must certainly be cheaper than in Europe, but its cost must be such as to change the social, economic and civil system of the Black Continent.

Instead of sending so many African raw materials to intermediate processing areas, which are equally, if not more, distant from the primary consumption areas, namely ours, it would be good to teach to a stupid globalization how to enhance the great local African potential.

We can no longer imagine a geopolitics of the Black Continent managed by ongoing and very harsh conflicts – and, indeed, Liberia is a tragic evidence of this, with its civil war between 1989 and 1996 and its second phase between 1999 and 2003.

All conflicts between the usual third-rate dictators operating for the second lines of the old global powers, new masters who thought to repeat the old game of the great powers – the “Great Game or the Tournament of Shadows”, as the Russians called it – with few means, no effective geopolitical idea and no command.

Not even of the network of raw materials brokers – and this is really serious. Certainly prices increased, but consumption plunged.

Let us now revert to Liberia’s elections scheduled for next October.

The President of the country is elected with a two-round system, while, as already said, the Legislative Assembly, composed of 73 members, is elected with the first past the post system, designed more by bookmakers for horse-race betting than by serious political scientists.

It is an electoral mechanism granting election to the candidate who has achieved the parity of votes, but who may also have even one single vote more than his/her direct competitor.

Its effects are obvious: clientelism and political patronage, corruption, electoral manipulation, unfulfilled promises, excessive power of the local ringleaders of the various candidates.

It would have been good also for Sicily in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Currently there are nine Presidential candidates.

There is Alexander B. Cummings, Head of the Liberian Alternative National Congress, former Coca Cola manager, who is currently President of the Cummings Africa Foundation.

Then there is George Weah, a well-known (and very talented) football player who spent four years in Italy.

Today, after two elections the outcome of which was not positive for him, he has been a member of the Liberian Assembly since 2014.

Another candidate is Joseph Boakai, Vice-President until January 2006, but already manager of the Liberia Wood Management Corporation and of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.

Once again, oil.

Liberia does not have it, but it has approximately one billion offshore reserves divided into 30 concessions, 17 deep sea and 13 ultra-deep sea ones. As early as 2011, Exxon Mobil had already started oil exploration, but the Ebola virus epidemic had blocked everything.

In 2017, but only at the end of the year, Exxon Mobil will resume explorations. Do you think this is not alien to the October elections? You are perfectly right.

The candidates also include Charles Walker Boakine, a lawyer and partner of a major law firm in Monrovia.

Head of the Liberty Party, and former ally of the Congress for Democratic Change – currently the two old coalition parties which, in European terms, we would define as center-left – are sworn enemies.

Another Presidential candidate is Prince Johnson, current Senior Senator from the Nimba County, former rebel general who is notorious for publicly slaying coup leader and ex-President Samuel K. Doe, during the First Liberian War (1989-1997), and narrowly failing to kill the kleptocrat James Taylor, who became President of Liberia in 1997.

It is worth noting with some malice that the Guinness Book of Records reports that the 1927 Liberian presidential election was the most fraudulent in world history – but even today the situation has not changed so much.

The 2017 Presidential candidates include Benoni Urei, a wealthy businessman, as well as two other businessmen, namely Jeremiah Wapoe and Richard Miller.

However, to put it frankly, our favourite candidate is Macdella Cooper.

She has long established the foundation, bearing her name, for the health and cultural and civil development of Liberian children and women.

When the first local civil war broke out, she was at first exiled to the Ivory Coast and later migrated to the United States in 1993.

She got a degree in Communication at the College of New Jersey and later her life was characterized by work and experiences designed to better know the world.

She started as mannequin in the high fashion world and then began fashion designer for the most famous griffes of the international fashion industry, both in the United States and Europe.

In 2003, she launched her foundation, with offices in Charlesville, Margibi County, Liberia.

There Macdella Cooper drafted her political program – a rational and practicable program, but especially useful for everyone.

First and foremost, free education for all Liberian children.

Currently, in Liberia, the literacy rate is 63.5% for boys and 32.2% for girls and young women.

The adult literacy rate is very low, namely 42.9%, while currently only 41% of all children attend primary school.

No country can really survive with these education statistics.

These are figures which can only pave the way for illegal recruitment of workers for very low wages, endemic hunger, the low but inevitable technological level of local, foreign or national industries and – as is natural – the criminal degeneration of politics and, hence, of public spending.

Hence how to fund this new and smart African Welfare State, which is even more unlikely in a country, such as Liberia, having all institutions, even the most irrational ones, modeled on the Anglo-Saxon idea, as Carroll Quigley – Clinton’s ignored professor – called it?

Macdella proposes to check the Liberian natural resources.

It is an excellent idea.

However, we have to come to terms with what Stiglitz calls the resource curse and also with the excessive volatility of commodity prices dominated by Western futures and hence by speculation that focuses on raw materials when there is nothing else to attack.

Therefore, either a price and sales Authority is set up, being careful of international prices, but above all of not being cheated – a national and State body – but it is precisely the “resource curse” theorized by Stiglitz which makes us think that it becomes a rent seeking area.

Or Liberian raw materials, agricultural produce, gold, iron, diamonds, rubber, precious wood are sold to the highest bidder – with an auction regulated by international customary practices and Liberian laws.

The customers are the following: China, the United States – since the devil is not so black as he is painted – and Israel.

In the case of rare raw materials, part of the price is always set by the supply.

Finally, when you have to increase the price of what is sold, the supply is diversified. Do you not want Liberian gold? We will sell it to China or Japan.

Furthermore, Macdella focuses on health.

A central issue in the country where Ebola caused at least 11,000 victims.

Not to mention malnutrition, corruption and the lack of public health facilities, subject to the crazy and vicious religion of “liberalization”.

Obviously if you liberalize business activities, the average income increases, but are we sure that a job providing you two additional dollars a day can also make you afford good treatments and therapies?

This is the fallacy of the general argument, as already maliciously described by Pareto.

In fact, in Liberia 35% of health costs are borne by the patients themselves, who are statistically the poorest people. A reverse economic rationale.

Furthermore, for some time in 2015, the whole African country was deprived of 77% of its basic medicines.

As Macdella recalls, Ebola was largely defeated by the Liberian people’s good will and by international aid – less significant than it is believed – as well as by China’s efforts, in particular.

How can the Liberian public health system be paid – a system that is essential as education or even more to tackle the problem of underdevelopment?

A WHO share to be set, which is transferred by the World Health Organization – a share of structural aid (medicines, hospitals, training centers for doctors and nursing staff) funded by the EU, which now believes that today’s Africa is still the same as that of the Roman ancient imperial maps, bearing the warning hic sunt leones (“here are lions”) – as well as a large share of international volunteers and finally direct support by China and Israel.

In other words, my dear Liberian friends and my dear Macdella, if you immediately sell yourself to one single master, your price will drop until you cannot even pay the production costs.

In less metaphorical terms, do not let anybody handcuff you, both in the East and in the West.

You will see then how, magically, the prices of your raw materials will stabilize.

Once again, Macdella Cooper wants free access to healthcare – otherwise the phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette of France when alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, “Then let them eat brioches”, would echo also in Monrovia.

Liberalism has been invented by the theorists of the Mont Pèlerin Society as a tool for the general increase of incomes. However, if people have to pay everything by themselves, namely pensions, healthcare and education, can you tell me how can earnings and savings be increased? Are they all rich people there?

And to think that the Code of Camaldoli, drafted at the end of World War II by the best Catholic intellectuals in Italy, had already solved everything.

Let us now talk about electricity, which reaches only 10% of Liberian households.

Sometimes, in Liberia, there is also a lack of fuel, managed by the local monopoly.

My dear Macdella Cooper, what if your internal monopoly broke and possibly our ENI could set in, since it has a formidable and long-standing tradition of balanced policy and respect for the African peoples?

And it just so happens that electricity is supplied only by diesel generators.

Who manages them, apart from the private ones? You have certainly already understood it.

In 2015 the Millennium Fund signed a 257 million US dollar contract for restructuring the Mount Coffee hydroelectric power plant, but an autonomous authority is required to regulate the energy system.

Autonomous Authorities reporting only to Macdella Cooper if she is elected President, as we hope, are the administrative and political key not to have to do with the huge, corrupt, enemy local bureaucracy.

You should remember, Ms. Macdella Cooper, that – as Machiavelli said – men “must be either pampered or annihilated.”

Another fair and topical issue is decentralization.

The issue lies in providing services, healthcare and education to all Liberians, thus avoiding the destiny of the big cities generated solely by great poverty, as already happened in Haiti, in Latin America and certainly also in Africa – just think of Cairo or the South African Federation.

The decentralization program in Liberia is old and dates back to 2012. So far it has been supported by the EU and by the Liberian government itself, as well as by the efficient and humanitarian Swedish government and by Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the UN and by the United Nations Development Program.

Perfect, but are we sure that, in peripheral areas, the Liberian bureaucracy behaves as when it is closely scrutinized?

Another key issue in Macdella Cooper’s program is the distribution of land ownership.

This is the political axis to develop the new Liberia.

In March 2017 actions were started to support the Lands Right Act, which envisages a role for civil society organizations in managing new, safe and stable rights for land cultivation and ownership, the sale of agricultural produce and for maintaining these rights for a sufficient period of time.

Hence for stabilizing – at the highest level – farmers, the real future middle class of the new, free and rich Liberia.

The EU representative for these issues in Monrovia is a brilliant Italian official, Alberto Menghini.

Owners must always be created in rural areas.

Just think of the importance for the Italian history of the land struggles, supported by the Catholic union movement (Miglioli’s peasant leagues) and by the Socialist one, often even “softer” than the Catholics’ struggles for land ownership.

You can understand nothing of Italy if you do not recall the cry “the land to the peasants”, which characterized Socialists, Catholics, Republicans and finally the Fascists supporting “full land reclamation”.

The land to the peasants, the land to those who cultivate it, must still be the cry of all responsible African political forces.

Hence, as Macdella Cooper rightly says, the customary rights and those established by everyone and long time ago must not be eradicated. On the contrary, a census of said rights must be possibly carried out and this agricultural pourparler must be replaced by real ownership rights.

As Macdella says, never eliminate the commons.

She is perfectly right.

If England had not abolished the agricultural commons to favour the migration of the impoverished and hungry masses to work for nothing in Manchester’s factories, it would not have recorded the huge food crises of the nineteenth century.

Hence, as a sign of support and friendship, I have made some considerations on Macdella Cooper’s program for Presidential elections in Liberia.

I hope they will bring her luck.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Africa

Reviewing Russia-Mali Strategic Partnership

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After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.

The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis. 

“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.

Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.

“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.

During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.

As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.

Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.

The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.

Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.

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Mali’s withdrawal from G5 Sahel, Joint Force ‘a setback’ for the region

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UN peacekeepers patrol the Menaka region in northeast Mali. MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

Mali’s decision on 15 May to withdraw from the G5-Sahel group and its Joint Force is “unfortunate” and “regrettable”, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council on Wednesday, as she urged countries in the region to redouble efforts to protect human rights, amid protracted political and security crises. 

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said the Joint Force was created in 2017 by the “G5” Heads of State – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – to counter terrorism in the Sahel “head on”. 

Challenging dynamics 

However, the challenging political and security dynamics in the Sahel – and uncertain outcomes of transitions in Mali and Burkina Faso, in particular – has already slowed Joint Force operations.  The G5 Sahel, meanwhile, has not convened a high-level political meeting since November 2021, while its Defence and Security Committee has not met in over six months. 

Thanks to Commander General Oumar Bikimo, she said, the Joint Force has been able to carry out operations in all three of its sectors since the Council last met in November, despite the absence of Malian battalions.  

How Mali’s decision to leave the G5 and the Joint Force will impact the dynamics in the region remains to be seen.  “It is most certainly a step back for the Sahel,” she said. 

MINUSMA on hand 

For its part, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will continue to provide support to the Joint Force long as it is mandated to do so by the Council.  It has been working with contractors to deliver life support consumables to the contingents and will honour requests received by the other four contingents outside of Mali. 

Cycle of radicalization 

“Protecting the most vulnerable has become ever more important,” she stressed.  

She cited reports of serious violations committed against civilians – by terrorist armed groups, as well as reportedly by armed and security forces.  

To be sure, uprooting terrorist groups deeply enmeshed or embedded within communities is “uniquely challenging” in the Sahel, she said, making counter terrorism operations immensely difficult to carry out.   

But if civilians fall victim to these groups, “those very efforts are going to be pointless”.  Terrorist operations cause immeasurable human suffering, seriously undermine trust in the State and fuel radicalization. 

Time for a re-think 

“It is perhaps time to rethink our approaches and change the way we do our work” she added.  “We need innovative approaches in the face of the constantly evolving tactics of terrorist groups, whose influence keeps expanding”. 

She noted that for the last five years, the international community, donors and partners have struggled to reach a consensus on the most effective support mechanism for a collective security response in the Sahel.   

And the lack of consensus persists – despite the recognition by all, that the terrorist onslaught in the Sahel constitutes a slow-burning, mortal threat to international peace and security. 

Holistic approach needed more than ever 

“It is now more urgent than ever to act,” she said.   

She called for a holistic approach that honours “the primacy of politics”, addresses the causes of poverty and exclusion, and provides opportunities and fulfilled lives for the many young people in the region. 

The African Union Commission and the United Nations Secretariat will jointly carry out a strategic assessment of security and governance initiatives in the Sahel, she said, with the goal of strengthening support to the G5-Sahel, its Joint Force and other security and governance initiatives in the region. 

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African Development Bank Seeks U.S. Support to Alleviate Africa’s Food Crisis

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With Russia’s “special military operation” still continuing in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine and its impact especially on Africa’s economy, the President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made a compelling case for the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan. The comprehensive urgent plan seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused primarily by Russia-Ukraine crisis that started late February.

The African Development Bank is prepared to meet this new challenge and has developed an Africa Emergency Food Production Plan. Within this plan, $1.5 billion will be used to support African countries to produce food rapidly – produce 38 million metric tons of food. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a huge factor in fertilizer prices hiking upwards of 300%. Analysis has shown that Africa faces a fertilizer shortage of 2 million metric tons this year. It is estimated will cost about $2 billion dollars – at current market prices – to source new fertilizer to cover the gap.

The total value of the additional food production is $12 billion. The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will deliver climate-resilient agricultural technologies to 20 million farmers. The $1.5 billion plan intends to source $1.3 billion of its own resources. With U.S. support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – this can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success.

Chairman Senator Chris Coons, Ranking Member, Senator Lindsey Graham, and distinguished Members of the U.S Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, appreciated the opportunity to testify about the U.S. response and policy options for global food security crises.

The AfDB chief, and a panel of witnesses, testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. Among others, senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) participated in the hearing.

Distinguished members of the Subcommittee are spearheading efforts for African solutions to Africa’s immediate, medium, and long-term challenges. US has a strong support for the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan, and will allow Africa to avert a looming food crisis and use the opportunity to drive structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.

Ukraine exports 40% of its wheat and corn to Africa. According to the United Nations, 15 African counties import more than half of their wheat, and much of their fertilizers and oil from Ukraine and Russia. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict rages, Africa is also dealing with a 30-million metric ton loss of wheat and corn that won’t be coming from Russia. The cost of bread is now beyond the reach of many Africans.

Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding. “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe,” he said. Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.

Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years. “The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.

The plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers. With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.

Adesina said the African Development Bank would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation. He called on the US to make up the funding balance. “With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.

The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors for approval. Also providing testimony were David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.

McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.

Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “Covid comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”

Adesina emphasized that the bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories. “One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said.

The president said the AfDB was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs. “If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem,” he said. According to Adesina, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity. The initiative will “drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.” 

Furthermore, the fact is that the AfDB is helping to fend off a food crisis. On the other side, Africa must rapidly expand its food production. The AfDB has taken a few measures including mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency Facility – a dedicated facility being considered by the AfDB to provide African countries with the resources needed to raise local food production and procure fertilizers.

According to Adesina, the continent’s most vulnerable countries have been hit hardest by conflict, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, which had upended economic and development progress in Africa. He warned that Africa, with the lowest GDP growth rates, has lost as many as 30 million jobs on account of the pandemic. Now the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis has brought an unimaginable suffering and extra hardships around the world.

Russia-Ukraine crisis has severe impact on Africa, only half the continent voted agaisnt Russia at the United Nations. Today, its focus is on feeding Africa and is doing a lot to address the global food crisis. Africa has an estimated 33 million smallholder farms. They are key to food production and the livelihoods of millions of Africans whose work and lives are linked to the agricultural sector. The African Development Bank’s strategic priorities are to light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, as well as improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

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