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The Sochi Summit and the Pride of Africa

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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After nearly three decades of extremely low political, economic and cultural engagement, Russia is indeed returning to Africa. For obvious reasons, Russia’s relations with Africa turned extremely worse as some diplomatic representations were unexpectedly cut, all cultural centers closed, and many projects were suspended. Of course, relations with many foreign countries have faded into the background compared with the challenges the country had to deal with in order to preserve its statehood.

Understandably, Russia has had to struggle with its post-Soviet internal and external problems especially during the first decade, from 1991 till 2000, which has been described by policy experts as the “Lost Decade on Africa”.

Still the second decade, 2000 to 2010, saw the reawakening with decades among the Kremlin, Government officials and academic researchers debated consistently whether “Russia needs Africa or Africa needs Russia” while African leaders were already turned towards Asian and the Gulf regions especially China and often asked why wake up the “Sleeping Giant Bear”. China became the best development suitor in Africa.

During this period, Russia seems to have attained relative political and economic stability. “As we regained our statehood and control over the country, and the economy and the social sphere began to develop, Russian businesses began to look at promising projects abroad, and we began to return to Africa,” noted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov early September when he addressed students and staff of Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

This process has been ongoing for the past 15 years. The return is now taking the form of resuming a very close political dialogue, which has always been at a strategic and friendly level, and now moving to a vigorous economic cooperation.

To reflect and consolidate these trends and in order to draw up plans for expanding consolidated partnerships with the African countries, President Putin initiated the Russia-Africa Summit last year during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. The initiative was strongly supported. This October, it will be implemented under the co-chairmanship of the heads of Russia and Egypt, since this year Egypt is heading the African Union.

Further, from my research and monitoring, it is interesting to recall here that during the BRICS summit in Durban, on March 26-27, 2013, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) discussed, among other topics, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization.”

The BRICS membership gives an additional competitive advantage. Firstly, none of the members of this association is tainted with a colonial past on the African continent, and second, the BRICS member countries as a matter of principle do not interfere in the internal affairs of African countries. None of the BRICS member countries spread democracy in Africa by force or impose their values with the help of expeditionary corps and air strikes.

The U.S. and the European Union (EU) monopoly in African countries is steadily coming to an end, as new players have come to the African continent, namely the BRICS countries. Russia is now the new force. Russia’s renewed interest in Africa is due to a desire to restore its previous influence and to build allies as it experiences growing criticism by Western countries.

During my long years of research has shown me that Africa is a huge continent that still requires economic development. Its active demographic growth and abundance of natural resources are creating conditions for the emergence of probably the world’s biggest market in the next few decades.

Today, Africa moves towards raising its social, economic, scientific and technological development, and is playing a significant role in international affairs. African states are strengthening mutually beneficial integration processes within the African Union (AU) and other regional and sub‑regional organizations across the continent.

Furthermore, African leaders keep in mind other key questions such as rising unemployment, healthcare problems and poor infrastructure development. That is, they now focus on measures toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

So, in the contemporary period, Russia and Africa have to, both at a bilateral level and in various multilateral formats, take significant new steps forward in new joint projects in extractive industries, agriculture, healthcare, and education. Besides, there are aspects of the diplomacy that really need focus, for example cultural and social spheres as well as the use of soft power. Indeed, the forthcoming Russia-Africa Summit on October 23-24 should lay the necessary foundation for improving all these for a stronger partnership.

Quite recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov assertively acknowledged “Africa is one of our priorities. Our political ties in particular are developing dynamically. But economic cooperation is not as far advanced as our political ties. We believe that we should promote joint activity in order to make broader use of the huge potential of Russian-African trade and investment cooperation.”

Political dialogue: Russia has intensified promoting political dialogue, including the exchange of visits at the top levels. Interaction between foreign ministries is expanding. Last year, 12 African foreign ministers visited Russia. According to my calculation, Sergey Lavrov and his deputy Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, have held talks with nearly 100 African politicians including ministers, deputies between January and September 2019. Bogdanov has interacted with all African ambassadors in Moscow.

Lavrov conducted bilateral dialogue with African countries at the UN in New York, between September 24 and 30, 2019. Lavrov held talks with Foreign Minister of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum, Foreign Minister of Morocco Nasser Bourita and Prime Minister of Sudan Abdallah Hamdouk among others.

During their conversation on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, all the sides discussed matters concerning the further expansion of multifaceted partnership, foreign policy collaboration in regional and international affairs. 

With other questions such as the practice of democracy, Russia does support whatever regime is in power. While this makes its policy predictable, it does not encourage good governance and democratic practices in those countries that are severely challenged in these areas. Many other countries follow this practice and even countries like the United States, which often do speak out forcefully on behalf of good governance, are not always consistent.

Economic and investment cooperation: Africa truly is a continent of new opportunities and there is huge potential here for developing economic ties. Many see Africa’s growth primarily not because of aid, it is because of businesses and entrepreneurship, consistent efforts at creating wealth and employment. Africa in the 21st century does not need charity but wants to be an economic partner. African countries are not lacking the resources to boost the relationship, but the will power has always been put on hold or totally ignored.

Russia has shown strength in Africa in niche sectors such as nuclear power development, launching African satellites, and constructing energy and mining projects. It has been seeking to exploit conventional gas and oil fields in Africa; part of its long-term energy strategy is to use Russian companies to create new streams of energy supply. With regard to other economic areas, it may have to identify more sectors like this rather than compete head-to-head in a wide range of sectors with European Union countries, China, the United States, India, and others.

But U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said recently that “Russia has bolstered its influence with increased military cooperation including donations of arms, with which it has gained access to markets and mineral extraction rights. With minimal investment, Russia leverages private military contracts, such as the Wagner Group, and in return receives political and economic influence beneficial to them.”

While Russians are aware of the equal competitive conditions in the continent, Africans on the other hand view Russia as another fairly large trading partner and, probably a stabilizing and balancing factor to other foreign players. In terms of stringency of strategic outlook and activeness on economic engagement, the country is seriously lagging behind China, U.S., EU, the Gulf States, India and Brazil.

Trade: Russian aid, trade, and investment in Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, are modest. Russian exports to Africa have been growing modestly and reached $18.5 billion in 2017. Russian imports from Africa have been flat and totaled only $2.1 billion in 2017. This was well below Turkey’s trade with Africa in 2017.

Russian trade is heavily concentrated in North Africa, especially with Egypt. Noticeably, Russia’s relationship with North Africa is more significant. Nevertheless, Russia apparently wants to maximize the business relationship rather than the aid relationship. The problem is that Africa has little that Russia wants to buy.

It is, however, necessary to raise trade and economic ties to a high level of political cooperation. Russia and Africa have to show not only an exceptional commitment to long-term cooperation but also readiness for large-scale investments in the African markets taking into account possible risks and high competition.

Equally important are African businesspeople who are looking to work on the Russian market. Definitely, time is needed to solve all these issues including identifying and removing obstacles to mutual bilateral trade and investment.

Weapons and arms diplomacy: After the collapse of the Soviet era, Africa owed US$20 billion, later written off. This debt was due to weapon and arms delivery to Soviet allies including Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and a few other African countries. Now, Russia is the largest seller of arms to Africa and is willing to sell to any country. This gives it a certain advantage as many Western countries prohibit arms sales to a few countries.

More recently, Russia has made significant arms deals with Angola and Algeria. Egypt, Tanzania, Somalia, Mali, Sudan and Libya have also bought arms from Russia. The Russians also provide military training and support.

In Africa, Russia seeks to guarantee security. In the classical sense, security guarantees imply something different. Russia has very warm, historically developed relations since their decolonization. This forms the theme for the Sochi summit: “For Peace, Security, and Development” which organizers explained would serve as the foundation of the final joint declaration.

Soft power interplay: Experts and members of the Valdai Discussion Club noted that soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era. Federation Council and State Duma, both houses of legislators, enacted a law that banned foreign NGOs from operating in the Russian Federation. As a result, African NGOs that could promote people-to-people diplomacy and support cultural initiatives as well to push for good image, is non-existent.

On education and culture. Simply cultural cooperation could be described as catastrophic. With education, Russia now offers a few state scholarships. Official figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pegged it at 15,000 students, only one-third of this receives Russian grants. The remaining two-thirds are fee-paying clients. The Ministry of Higher Education told me last month during interview discussions that there are nearly 21,000 African students while some in the far regions are still undocumented. This also means that African elite and the middle class pay approximately US$75 million annually to Russian educational institutions. Average tuition is US$5,000 per year.

Over the years, one of the key challenges and problems facing Russian companies and investors has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, the needs and business opportunities of the African region. Africa needs broader coverage in Russian media. Leading Russian media agencies should release more topical news items and quality analytical articles about the continent in order to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian business to Africa. The media can, and indeed must be a decisive factor in building effective ties.

After several years of consistently constructive criticisms, Russian authorities have ignored media cooperation. Russia could use its media resources available to support its foreign policy, promote its positive image, disseminate useful information about its current achievements and emerging economic opportunities especially for the African public.

Russian media resources here, which are largely not prominent in Africa, include Rossiya Sevogdnya (RIA Novosti, Voice of Russia, Sputnik News and Russia Today), Itar-Tass News Agency and Interfax Information Service. Besides, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could use its accreditation opportunities to allow African media to work in Russia. While the Foreign Ministry has accredited foreign media from Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asian countries, none came from sub-Saharan Africa. Instead of prioritizing media cooperation with Africa, high-ranking Russian officials most often talk about the spread of anti-Russian propaganda by western and European media in Africa.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, reiterated: “Russia is not doing enough to communicate to the broad public, particularly in Africa, true information about its domestic and foreign policies as well as the accomplishments about Russian culture, the economy, science and technology in order to form a positive perception of Russia abroad and a friendly attitude towards it as stated by the new Concept of the Foreign Policy.”

Russia-Africa Summit: Russia holds its first summit in October. Through this, Russia and Africa aim jointly at advancing relations to a fundamentally new level and a wider dimension. Of course, Africa is not fully satisfied with Russia due to its “diplomatic niceties” and largely unfulfilled pledges and promises. Russia already has a plethora of post-Soviet bilateral agreements that it is now implementing, with some degree of limitations, in various African countries. It’s clear that Russia might not make any public financial commitment as many foreign countries have done over the years. But Russia needs to demonstrate that it has a plan to engage Africa in a significantly greater way than it has in recent years.

According to my investigations, Russia would sign 23 new bilateral agreements with a number of African countries and issue a joint declaration that would lay down a comprehensive strategic roadmap for future Russia-African relations.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, while addressing the Russia-Africa Economic forum in July also added his voice for strengthening cooperation in all fronts. “We must take advantage of all things without fail. It is also important that we implement as many projects as possible, that encompass new venues and, of course, new countries,” he said.

Medvedev stressed: “It is important to have a sincere desire. Russia and African countries now have this sincere desire. We simply need to know each other better and be more open to one another. I am sure all of us will succeed if we work this way. Even if some things seem impossible, this situation persists only until it has been accomplished. It was Nelson Mandela who made this absolutely true statement.”

In July, President Vladimir Putin took part on third day of the International Parliamentarian Forum that also brought African legislators, emphasized that “the modern world needs an open and free exchange of views, confidence building and search for mutual understanding”.

Indeed, judging from the above discussions about the changing geopolitical relations, after the first Russia-Africa Summit, there has to be a well-functioning system and mutual willingness in the spirit of reciprocity to achieve a more practical and comprehensive results from the new relations between Russia and Africa. [Find more from the Geopolitical Handbook titled “Putin’s African Dream and The New Dawn: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities” devoted to the first Russia-Africa Summit 2019.]

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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The children’s Continent: Keeping up with Africa’s growth

MD Staff

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The world’s population is growing, but it is in Africa where this challenge is particularly acute. We know Africa as the place where human life began – a place with an ancient and noble history, but today it is also a place that is becoming home to more children than any other place on earth. Already, 77% of population is below age of 35.

For many decades the enormous populations of South America, Europe and Asia have grown quickly, but today they have slowed, and the majority of their populations are adults. In India the average age is 29, in China it is even older, at 37. But in Africa, the average age is 19 years old and rapidly getting younger. The continent is growing so quickly that by halfway through this century, it will be home to one billion children. By 2050, two in every five children in the world will be born here.

This is going to present a unique challenge. Graça Machel has warned: “Even though our youth have the potential to transform Africa, if neglected, they could exacerbate poverty and inequality while threatening peace, security and prosperity”. Therefore, we must be proactive in ensuring we meet the needs of this burgeoning population.

But this flourishing of exciting new generations presents acute challenges. Evolving in tandem with this exponential population growth is a rate of urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa that is unmatched in the rest of the world.

Africa’s urban population is expected to nearly triple by 2050, to 1.34 billion. Coupled with a high rate of urban primacy in African countries (whereby one city is multiple times bigger than the next nearest) and the high number of mega cities, enormous stress is going to be placed on the physical, political, economic and societal infrastructure in these places.

Young people across the continent are increasingly migrating towards the modern technology, connectivity, and entrepreneurial opportunity of city life. Poverty, lack of resources and financial independence are simultaneously pushing them away from their rural lives.

Urbanisation is being driven by rural-urban migration, but city planners and management are not always prepared. Growth rates are unplanned, unregulated and beyond their ability to control. The problems manifest quickly from this point. High levels of unemployment lead to high levels of informal employment, which in turn is improperly taxed, denying vital financial capital to the state. Physical infrastructure is unable to keep pace, leading to overcrowding and informal accommodation. Waste management is unable to keep up, bringing its own environmental dangers.

SDG 11 has the stated goal of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. While progress has undoubtedly been made on this, there is a great need to act fast to guarantee the last part of this goal: sustainability. The environmental impact at local, national and international scale is at high risk, with rapidly-growing urban populations demanding instant solutions. We have seen innovative ideas spring from the continent already, such as Diamniadio in Senegal, Tatu City in Kenya, or Vision City in Rwanda – but more is needed.

It would be possible to talk at great length on the issues, and how one enables the next, creating a vortex of seemingly never-ending challenges. But we should view these challenges with resolve and see the opportunities that lie ahead.

Yes, Africa is facing some of the toughest challenges in the world right now. But it is also in Africa that we are seeing some of the most innovative, forward thinking ideas when it comes to tackling the issues.

It is in Africa where we can see the beginnings of the development of truly smart cities, with smarter infrastructure. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has given us unparalleled access to data analytics, providing us with real time solutions to real world problems, based on empirical data. We need to ensure we are making the most of this, driving smarter decision making.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) believes that science, technology and innovation have been solving global challenges on how we build and maintain our cities since the very beginning of civilisation. Investing in science, technology and innovation is a key driver for growing urban populations creating sustainable cities and communities, thereby achieving SDG 11.

Cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Affordable housing, safe & sustainable transport, mass migration, climate change and pollution affect us all, but those in the developing world experience these issues much more keenly due to weaker infrastructure.

IsDB has actively launched a science, technology and innovation fund to accelerate progress in cities worldwide. Transform is a $500 million fund for innovation and technology that provides seed money for start-ups and SMEs to facilitate economic and social progress in their respective cities and communities.

We will continue to drive our new development model that maximises our operating assets of $16 billion and subscribed capital of $70 billion to continue providing solutions to international infrastructure challenges.

financing investment Africa children population

The financing gap between what is required to achieve the SDGs versus the current level of investment

The challenges ahead of us require diverse, innovative solutions for the new generations in Africa. Already we can see young entrepreneurs taking the lead in their countries, but we need to be there to support them: helping develop human capital, nurturing the growth of science, technology and innovation in the journey towards the achievement of SDG 11.

Our energy must be focused – the size of the challenge offers little room for error – but we can look forwards with optimism that the solutions to the problems are taking root. We need to nurture and encourage them to flourish.

IsDB

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Non-Economic Drivers of China’s Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

Israel Nyaburi Nyadera

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Authors: Israel Nyaburi Nyadera and Farida Lukoko Ibrahim*

Research on China-Africa relations has often been dominated by the economic component, as well as debates over whether China’s involvement in the continent will have a negative or positive impact. Some scholars have questioned Beijing’s reluctance to attach good governance practices to its financial assistance. On the other hand, some look at China’s approach as a unique opportunity for countries in Africa, previously isolated by traditional western donors due to the lack of political reforms, to access funding. However, the fascination with the nature and approach of economic relations between China and Africa has meant little attention has been given to non-economic aspects of these engagements. More specifically is that economic explanations are often made to justify China’s non-economic activities. China Peacekeeping in Africa is one of the areas that remains shrouded by economic explanations. Yet, the motivation by Beijing to commit troops and resources towards peacekeeping in Africa has significant importance beyond the economic aspects. Indeed, several studies have highlighted the economic benefits for countries committing soldiers to UN peacekeeping missions. However, the benefits of China’s involvement transcend the potential revenues gained from troop deployment. This article adopts the rational choice theory to argue that policymakers in Beijing are able to derive several benefits beyond the economic aspects of the peacekeeping operations in Africa. Some of these factors as key drivers of China’s peacekeeping in Africa are also identified.

Peaceful Rise

The rise of China as a global economic power has left several scholars debating whether or not the anticipated rise will be peaceful. Some have used the analogy of the ‘Thucydides trap’ to opine that the rise of China has increased the chances of war between Beijing and Washington. Therefore the peacekeeping operations are meant to project what president Xi has described as China’s “peaceful development” approach. It also enhances China’s efforts not only to appear to be a responsible great power but also increase its involvement in global governance issues as it collaborates with other international actors, for example providing training to troops in Mali in collaboration with the EU.

Supplement Economic Drivers

While China has become a significant source of foreign capital in Africa over the last three decades, its impact is often exaggerated. The continent is still the lowest recipient of outward Chinese capital and foreign direct investment (FDI) (approximately 4 per cent). Similarly, China’s ODA to the continent and globally is still lower than other developed and emerging countries. This, combined with concerns over trade imbalance and unfavourable economic deals, provides another path through which China can increase its attractiveness to the continent.

Nature of Conflict in Africa

Often overlooked, the nature of conflict in Africa is somewhat unique compared to others in the Middle East and Latin America, first and foremost because peacekeepers can easily be deployed. The narrative that China has deployed 80 per cent of its troops in the continent should be accompanied by information that nearly 85 per cent of peacekeeping missions by the UN are in Africa. Yet, according to the International Crisis Group, only three out of the ten crises in 2018 are in Africa. The others include Yemen, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Israel and Arab Countries, Syria, Venezuela, US-China and US-North Korea, as well as the Iranian issue more recently, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Iraq, Lebanon, the Mexico drug war and others. The mentioned conflicts have claimed more lives and caused more devastating socio-economic and humanitarian crises than the conflicts in Africa. Yet, the nature of these conflicts makes it impossible to deploy peacekeepers. Therefore, some African countries provide an avenue for states interested in peacekeeping to deploy their troops.

Conflicts as an Obstacle to Development in the Region

The commitment by Beijing, through its investments, especially on infrastructure in Africa, is an essential step in promoting development. However, conflicts are a serious threat to achieving this goal, and it would be prudent for China to try to address some of these challenges. This explains the broad approach of deploying peacekeepers as well as training African troops to cover regions such as Mali where China has little interest. Besides, security is an important issue for African countries and a significant sphere of influence for the US and European countries. China needs to be involved in security issues to increase its relevance in the region.

Taiwan Factor

Taiwan has made significant efforts to try and gain recognition as an independent state for years. China, on the other hand, is keen on maintaining the status quo. This question remains at the heart of Beijing and Taipei’s foreign policy, and more often than not, African countries have been involved. For example, when Albania introduced Resolution 2758 to the UN General Assembly for voting to determine the de facto representative of China to the organisation in October 1971, the resolution passed with 75 votes in favour of China (More than 20 from Africa) and 35 against the government in Beijing becoming the sole representative of the country. With a two-thirds majority needed to pass the resolution, over 20 votes out of the 75 that passed were indeed quite significant. Secondly, despite China employing its economic and political muscle to isolate Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts, four African countries have recognised it. Therefore, China’s involvement in peacekeeping is strategic in gaining strong relations with the new governments to isolate Taiwan further.

Domestic Factors

The Chinese population is becoming increasingly optimistic that their country is becoming more and more relevant on the international stage. Not only are they supportive of Beijing’s financial support to developing countries, but military activities beyond Southeast Asia is also further proof of China’s growing influence on its domestic constituency. Equally important, Chinese troops are benefiting from real combat experience in these operations.

Conclusion

This study concludes that Beijing seeks to maximise the effects of its peacekeeping missions by rationally choosing to deploy its troops in Africa. These efforts have enabled China to supplement the gaps in its economic engagements with the continent, all while improving its international image while strengthening domestic support to the regime.

*Farida Lukoko Ibrahim, Graduate School, Anhui University, China

From our partner RIAC

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Nhaka Foundation: Transforming Education and Improving Basic Health Care in Zimbabwe

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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In this interview, Patrick Makokoro, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nhaka Foundation, discusses the organisation’s efforts at supporting education and health care in rural regions in Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in southern Africa. According official information, Zimbabwe’s total population stands at 12.97 million. Due to large investments in education since independence, Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate, in 2013 was 90.70%, in Africa, but much still remains to be done in the sector.

Makokoro founded the Nhaka Foundation in 2008 as a charitable organisation that provides education, health care and counseling, and other essential services to orphaned and vulnerable children throughout Zimbabwe. In 2012, he founded the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA). In addition, Makokoro is a Founding member of the African Early Childhood Network headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, which works to champion the development needs of young children in Africa.

As Patrick Makokoro discussed at length with Kester Kenn Klomegah in Harare, Nhaka Foundation plans to consolidate its relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other Government departments at the local level and leading civic society organisations working in Education and Primary Health Care issues in Zimbabwe. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: What would you say are the achievements and/or success stories since the establishment of the Harare based NGO, Nhaka Foundation?

PM: Nhaka Foundation is a Zimbabwe-based non-governmental organisation, it has developed and implemented a series of interventions designed to bridge the gap between the government’s capabilities and policies mandating the requirement for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programming in primary schools and its ability to fully realise the implementation of such programmes. Along with its partners, Nhaka Foundation provides access to education, basic health care and daily sustenance for the orphaned and vulnerable children in the communities it serves. It further provides aid and support to ensure the creation of a physical environment conducive to learning, growth and the optimal development of all children.

Classroom and Playground Renovation

Nhaka Foundation has managed to partner with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to work with rural area primary schools, parents and caregivers to create Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers through the renovation of over 32 dilapidated classrooms. The classroom floors, windows, doors and roofs are repaired or replaced, and a fresh coat of paint is applied inside and outside. Each Center has its own unique personality as the exteriors are then finished with hand-painted, age-appropriate drawings by local artists.

As a part of the renovation programmes, the organisation has worked with the families and members of the community to plan and build, expand or repair the playgrounds and equipment using readily available and safe materials, hence fostering a sense of community ownership and building sustainability into the initiative. Once restored to a like-new condition, the Centers would then be officially incorporated into the primary school system and sustained by the community through elected Pre-School Management Committees. This helps to ensure that the children continue to have clean and safe spaces to work and play.

Parenting Education

With the support of school and community leaders, Nhaka Foundation has facilitated meetings with the over 5000 parents and caregivers of children enrolled in the ECD Centers it serves. These meetings have been designed to educate, support and engage stakeholders in finding solutions to building a better future for the children. A lot of emphasis has been placed on building capacity and instilling a sense of community ownership and responsibility through this initiative.

The meetings have covered various topics including the importance of birth registration, immunisations, health record maintenance, HIV&AIDS education and screenings, early childhood development enrolment as well as parental involvement in the education of children. Indeed, the initiative has been successful in providing caregivers with the information and tools needed to better look after the children in their communities. It makes available a platform for voicing concerns and obtaining support from the school, the community, and the government.

Teacher Training

Nhaka Foundation has also managed to forge a cordial working relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) to facilitate the on-going training and development of the ECD teachers working in the Centers it serves. Nhaka Foundation has successfully trained over 350 early childhood development teachers in the past 5 years. On a rotating basis, the organisation accompanies District Trainers to the field to monitor and evaluate teacher performance.

Each teacher would be observed at work, given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns, and provided feedback for improvement. Through this initiative, the organisation has managed to provide teachers with increased skills and at the same time promote a cooperative environment to share information and resources that have inevitably resulted in quality education for marginalised children.

Feeding Programme

In response to the needs of the rural communities and the children it serves, Nhaka Foundation developed an in-school feeding programme to address one of the biggest challenges faced each day in, and out, of the classroom-hunger. Many children would come to school on empty stomachs making it impossible for them to concentrate or fully participate in classroom and outdoor activities. While the organisation’s work has been focused on children enrolled in ECD Centers, it simply could not ignore the remaining primary school students as the concern was pervasive.

As a consequence, the programme has provided food once each day in the form of a protein drink for all of the students in all of the primary schools it serves. The programme has benefitted well over 5,000 children a day across 15 primary schools in collaboration with the schools and communities, with food preparation and service is managed on-site by community volunteers while Nhaka Foundation manages the logistics, training and programme oversight.

Health Assessments

Nhaka Foundation has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, District Medical Offices and local health clinic practitioners to facilitate health assessments of the children enrolled in the ECD Centers it serves. On a rotating basis, the Nhaka’s team members have accompanied nurses from the rural health clinics to each school to evaluate the most basic and immediate health concerns facing the children.

The assessments have captured important baseline information on height, weight, heart rate, immunisations, and personal hygiene as well as screen for common conditions such as ringworms, scabies, skin infections and cavities. Indeed this initiative has created a strong starting point to address basic medical conditions and to educate parents, caregivers and the communities on infant and child health care issues and prevention reaching over 800 children in 2019 alone

Q: In the first place, tell us about the driving reasons, in other words the motivating factors, why the idea of helping rural communities in Zimbabwe?

PM: In 2019, Nhaka Foundation contributed towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 as recounted here as follows.

SDG 1: End poverty. The organisation contributed to SDG 1 through transferring skills in new systems of farming to parents, which has a potential to boost their economic status in the long-run. However, due to reasons beyond the organisation’s scope such as recurrent droughts, poverty was said to be the status quo for most households in the communities where Nhaka Foundation introduced these innovations, especially grandparent-headed households. 

SDG 2: Zero hunger. Nhaka Foundation’s support of nutrition gardens to strengthen the Feeding Programme and its impartation of new farming skills were meant to eliminate hunger. ECD learners indeed benefited from school-based feeding, although at the schools sampled by this evaluation the feeding had stopped and some nutrition gardens no longer functional.

SDG 3: Good health and Well-being. Nhaka Foundation invested heavily into the health and well-being of its target beneficiaries, including through its trainings in personal hygiene for parents, procurement of nutritious foods like maheu and porridge as well as its facilitation of health assessments for ECD learners.  At the time of this evaluation, these initiatives stopped because of limited funding to the organisation.

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Nhaka Foundation’s support for ECD infrastructure development made education accessible for the ECD learners while its capacity building for ECD teachers contributed towards improved education quality. ECD teachers confirmed that they learned new techniques of teaching and effectively handling ECD learners through workshops that the organisation facilitated in partnership with MoPSE trainers.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation. Nhaka Foundation supported the drilling of boreholes and construction of toilets in some schools that had dire need thereof, which tellingly improved access to clean water supply and sanitary ablution facilities.  The evaluation, however, revealed that with growing ECD enrolments, the need for additional boreholes and toilets remains at most intervention schools.

Q: How would you characterise the urban-rural development gap in Zimbabwe?

PM: The development gap between the urban-rural settings is still evident mostly due to unavailable funds that go towards infrastructure development. This challenge is not only limited to Zimbabwe alone but to most countries in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and sub-Saharan Africa. As African countries rise against the struggles and inequalities imposed by colonialism, there is the need to invest more resources in order to develop the rural areas. It is important for financial resources be directed towards creating economic hubs in the various rural areas so that there is enough investment that supports and boosts the rural economies.

Q: Under-development, diseases, illiteracy and abject poverty have something do with the Government. Could you please give your views and analysis here?

PM: Over the 20 years after independence, the government in Zimbabwe invested heavily in education, and by the end of this period, Zimbabwe had one of the finest education system (and its highest literacy rate) in Africa. The success of this programme was reinforced by the importance Zimbabweans place on education and the considerable sacrifices families are prepared to make to ensure their children are well educated.

Unfortunately, the financial and political crisis that engulfed Zimbabwe in the first decade of this century resulted in a dramatic decline in the educational sector. The impact of this decline was especially marked in rural schools. In light of these challenges, the investment in early childhood development and education programmes was minimal if any, as the government and other civil society organisations focused more on the delivery of primary and secondary level education.

Early education thus was not given the appropriate attention and action. More importantly, parents have little or no understanding of the substantial long-term benefits that early childhood development programmes have on their children’s educational and social outcomes. Parents and caregivers have limited knowledge of other important child development, protection and welfare issues.

Q: Judging from the above discussion, is it correct to conclude that Nhaka’s activities are closely related to the politics and policies of the Zimbabwean Government?

PM: As far back in 2005, the Zimbabwean government introduced a policy (Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 2005) mandating all government primary schools to introduce two years of ECD education before primary school entry. This was in line with the Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training’s (CIET, 1999) main recommendation to democratise pre-school education, the Ministry designed a two-phased, ten-year programme to establish ECD classes at every primary school in the country. During Phase One (2005/6 to 2010), every primary school was expected to attach at least one ECD class of 4-5 year old’s referred to as ECD ‘B’, to prepare them for Grade One the following year. In Phase Two (2011 to 2015), every primary school would attach another ECD class of 3-4 year old’s to prepare them for ECD B.

Indeed, over the past 11 years, Nhaka Foundation has become a leading organisation in Zimbabwe working in partnership with the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Services to enhance Early Childhood Development (ECD) services and access to early learning opportunities reaching 15,000 beneficiaries directly through its programmes in 2019. Nhaka Foundation’s preschools programme works closely with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and has received its full endorsement through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in October 2017.

Nhaka Foundation is aligned with the established policy of integrating ECD centers into primary schools. The current Government in Zimbabwe is responsible for setting policy priorities and within the education sector that falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Nhaka Foundation therefore works to complement government efforts in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two parties.

Q: How does Nhaka operate in terms of project financing, support from stakeholders and so forth?

PM: Nhaka Foundation promptly responds to calls for proposals as well as carries out internal fundraising activities in order to generate resources for its operations and sustainability.

Q: What are your long-term strategic plans, at least, the next half decade?

PM: Really, we have long-term plans to raise the current achievements to a higher level, especially along the lines of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are:

Goal 1: Resource Mobilisation

The organisation will focus on the development and implementation of a comprehensive resource mobilisation and sustainability strategy that will encompass both traditional and non- traditional means of fundraising as well as incorporate key principles such as financial accountability and integrity in order to retain the confidence of funding partners

Goal 2: Enhancing Nhaka Foundations Visibility

The organisation under this focus area seeks to promote the Nhaka Foundation brand using traditional and emerging online platforms. The organisation anticipates consolidating its relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other arms of government at the local level and leading civic society organisations working in ECD programming as a means of strengthening its reputation as a growing practitioner in ECD issues in Zimbabwe.

Goal 3: Governance and Institutional Capacity Development

The organisation will focus on strengthening the role of the Board of Trustees in giving oversight to implementation of this strategy as well as operations of the organisation. Strong attention will be paid towards ensuring strong internal organisational systems, controls and procedures are taken up and implemented by all organisational members.

Goal 4: Enhancing Implementation and Management of Programmes         

The organisation plans to strengthen the framework of programme cycle management, including development of an indicator-based monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that enables drawing of important lessons and best practices. The organisation intends to build the capacity of programming staff in order to enhance efficacy in project cycle management as well as improving responsiveness to the ever changing trends in ECD-related programming such as responding to the needs of children with special needs and addressing other issues that inhibit access to education by young children.

Goal 5: Influencing Policy, Advocacy and Evidence-based ECD Programming

The organisation anticipates engaging a lot more in thought leadership in ECD issues at national and international level, spearheading and supporting various advocacy and lobby efforts aimed at improving childrens’ access to affordable and equitable ECD services in Zimbabwe and in sub-Saharan Africa.

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