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How ultranationalist rhetoric is stalemating the GERD dispute?

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Authors: Dr. Nervana Mahmoud & Dr. Mohamed Fouad

The GERD dispute has proven to be a tough and challenging. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been negotiating for years, yet failed to reach a final agreement. The negotiations have resumed, but there are fundamental disagreements, particularly on filling the dam’s reservoir during drought and prolonged drought, as well as the safety measures and precautions adopted at the dam.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia seems to have a well-orchestrated international PR campaign underway portraying its dam as a case of national development that is obstructed by Egypt, using several tactics.

First, portraying past agreements that govern the Nile basin as unjust by-product of colonial-era. Many leftists and liberals in the West may cheer this populist approach, however, it is dangerous and counter-productive. Nullifying past accords set a dangerous precedent that can trigger various water disputes and possible wars, not just in the Nile basin, but also in other hot spots around the globe. This false colonial victimization does indeed attract regional and perhaps international empathy, but it a sound legal argument. This real aim of such self-victimization approach is to discard basic negotiation frameworks and to justify the proceeding with filling the dam, fait accompli, without agreement with Egyt and Sudan.

In reality, the colonial allegations do not sustain. Egypt has signed two treaties with independent Ethiopia in 1902 and in 1993. Both has established a mutual consultation mechanism in the management and running projects on the Nile river .

Furthermore, refuting old water agreements makes Ethiopia’s adamant refusal to sign a new binding deal with Egypt more suspicious. How can Egypt be feel secure that the current deal, if reached, will be honoured by future Ethiopian governments? There are valid fears in Cairo that Ethiopia’s main objective is water hegemony, to monopolize the Nile’s water exclusively for their own use.. Without a binding agreement that govern the GERD, there is nothing that could potentially prevent Ethiopia from withholding Egypt’s full water share in the future.

Second, despite the fact that Ethiopia has relied heavily in designing, financing and building the Dam on the west, Ethiopia’s speech at the UNSC has rejected Egypt’s appeal to the international community, depicting the dispute as an “African matter”. This tactic of privatizing the dispute is helping Ethiopia to evade its legal commitments and obligations under international law. Moreover, since decisions by international organizations are generally more compelling than that of regional/African organizations, Ethiopia, it seems, is trying to evade any international scrutiny of its water politics.

Third, Ethiopia appeals to the West by using the development glossary to depict the operation of the Dam as the end of all of its development challenges.

However, numbers do not back the Ethiopian claim. For instance, the World Bank indicated in 2015 that the poverty rate in Ethiopia is 23.5 per cent, while in Egypt it is much worse, 27.8 per cent. However, those claims were used by the ruling party in Ethiopia to mobilize the public sentiments against Egypt by making the Dam the final solution to all their domestic challenges.

This nationalistic oversimplification has obstructed the negotiations for years now as Ethiopia is solely focused to fulfil its nationalist promises to its citizenry with complete disregard to the interests of other Nile basin stakeholders.

For over a decade, Ethiopia has distracted the international community from the core essence of the GERD dispute. It avoided binding agreements on water shares of both Egypt and Sudan. It employed a populist agenda to garner support domestically and internationally, and played the victim card to snooker Egypt and extract more concessions.

Egypt represents 20% of the Nile basin population and only gets 3% of the Nile water. Historically, Egypt has never objected any developmental plan by African nations; on the contrary, it has supported many liberation movements for example in the Nasserite era in the 1950s and 1960s. Equitable share of the Nile water does not and should not mean forcing Egyptians to use expensive desalination as a replacement of the Nile water. Ethiopia can generate electricity and develop its country without ruining the life of millions of Egyptians farmers.

A solution of the GERD crisis is achievable, as long as there is willingness to compromise from both sides. The last thing the world need now is a water war in Africa.

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China Signs Agreement to Build ECOWAS Headquarters

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a $31.6 million grant from the Government of China for the construction of a new headquarters for the regional body in Abuja.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, and the Ambassador of China to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Zhou Pingjian, signed for both parties at a bilateral meeting held at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters, Abuja, according to media reports.

Brou expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for the grant saying it was a mark of goodwill from the Asian country to ECOWAS. The project is expected to cost $31.6 million. The new headquarters is expected to be completed in 26 months, and will enhance productivity among staff and reduce operational costs as the ECOWAS Commission currently operates from three locations in Abuja.

The building’s facilities include offices and conference complex building, as well as roads, electrical equipment, parking lots and security posts within the proposed site of the project.

The Chinese built the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at a cost of $200 million in 2012 and dubbed the marble and glass edifice a gift to the people of Africa. It is currently completing the building for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least three West African leaders including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his counterparts from Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, as well as President of the ECOWAS Commission Omar Alieu Touray and Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Cui Jianchun, performed the groundbreaking ceremony to formally commence the construction of the new headquarters.

In his opening address, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray thanked the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for providing the plot covering an area of seven hectares along the Airport Road in Abuja for the building project and the Chinese government who provided technical and financial support for the construction of the headquarters. 

Cui Jianchun, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS, said China is keen on expanding diplomatic relations with Africa through support for construction projects like the new ECOWAS Commission headquarters. He highlighted that these buildings demonstrate China’s sincere determination to support the unity, peace and development of the African region along her efforts to promote and support Africa’s infrastructure development programme.

In his remarks, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, highlighted that the project represents China’s commitment to West Africa’s sub-regional bloc and evidence of a strong and cooperation between Africa and China. He added that the new headquarters is a symbol of the unity and brotherhood of ECOWAS member states and signifies a re-commitment to regional integration and development of the countries in the sub-region. He thanked the Chinese government for their technical and financial support for the building.

Umaro Sissoco Embaló, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government and President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, thanked the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their contribution towards the realization of the building complex. He said the new and modern headquarters will enable the staff of the ECOWAS Commission perform their duties better and provide a suitable working environment.

The new ECOWAS headquarters will house the ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Parliament all headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria.

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U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Matters Arising and Way Forward

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On the eve of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit planned for December 13-15 in Washington, the Corporate Council in partnership with the African Union and the U.S. State Department hosted discussions which was a combination of online and offline with a number of experts from the United States and Africa.

Katherine Tai, the 19th United States Trade Representative and Secretary-General Wene from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Director of the Africa Center. Taking part was the Dean of the African diplomatic corps in the United States.

This discussion came on the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS), which will advance US-African collaboration on today’s most pressing global and regional priorities. The ALS will reflect the breadth and depth of US partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens-partnerships based on dialogue, respect, and shared values that harness the ingenuity and creativity of American and African people.

There were various themes during the discussion against the difficult geopolitical backdrop of high global economic imbalances slowing direct investment into the continent as well as accelerating shifts in the job market. 

Worth noting that the United States – Africa Leaders’ Summit will be hosted by President Joe Biden, and it primarily serves as a demonstration and commitment towards the African continent and further provides the platform for new joint initiatives between the United States and countries in Africa.

The discussion reviewed, somehow the current relations as well as possible new initiatives to boost the continent’s recovery from coronavirus pandemic, how to effectively bolster food security and to promote investment in various critical sectors including infrastructure, health and renewable energy, among other priorities.

On the other hand, the discussion also focused on strengthening the African diaspora communities and engage them in advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership, scale up innovation and entrepreneurship, and drive advancements in key sectors. 

The United States together with the African diaspora have a very unique opportunity to make sure to change the narrative of trade and focus on inclusive rather than only on market access. Supporting women and youth in  identifying opportunities, challenges and also barriers that confront them.

Questions such as what are the challenges that we can confront together and what are the solutions that we can present to heads of states and government to begin to change the last 60 years or so of exclusion of young people people for mainstream economic activity excluding – exclusion of small medium enterprises from mainstream economic activity to make them partners in the implementation.

The United States understands that African Union and African leaders are looking at regional linkages very strategically and then always around inclusivity. How and what to do better with economic engagement inside and outside, to bring everyone along and not to leave people behind.

The United States already plans to take concrete action to benefit young people including women, to benefit small medium enterprises, small cum medium enterprises in Africa, creating over 450 million jobs. And the bulk of that 450 million jobs are young Africans. 

The Corporate Council on Africa significantly undertakes the tremendous support and even galvanize U.S. leadership and engagement in partnership with allies and with partners to shape solutions to global challenges Africa. Its people have a critical role to play in achieving such solutions, Ambassador Tai noted in her discussion.

Nearly the discussants agreed all that will require a combination of private sector activities and governmental actions and one key governmental framework for Africa is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area promises deepening economic integration. It creates a single market for goods and services for almost 1.3 billion people across Africa. In fact, the 50 for African Union members have signed the agreement, 42 members have ratified it and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The Secretary General of the the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the summit will be able to discuss the way forward. The United States intends to fully engage with Africa as the recent Africa strategy says in a 21st century U.S.-Africa partnership and one aspect of that Africa is a friend shoring, which is to say working with reliable partners. It is noted to work within the framework that provides integration between West Africa and East Africa, between North Africa and Southern Africa.

Within the framework of the African Union agenda, the new generation who wants to build on geopolitical partnership dimension in the regional economic communities and with African countries. The point is that there are symmetries, obviously, between the economy and industrial development trajectory, and between developing and developed countries.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers rules and regulations relating to trade agreements, especially tariff liberalization, this is an important aspect for building sustainable economic cooperation between the two regions.

The United States and its partnering institutions (both public and private) can best work together to spearhead continuous complementary work as it relates to both business security for participating actors and investors and including for example, the global African diaspora and beyond industry for things like creative and cultural industries. 

The speakers unanimously confirmed the summit as the highest unique platform to determine the geo-economic centers, examine thoroughly the global priorities and challenges, and concretely design the main directions of U.S.-Africa cooperation. It offers, especially this critical times, an orientation towards the future, at least the next decade, between the African continent and the United States.

U.S.-African Leaders Summit 2022, aims at enhancing cooperation on shared global priorities. The heads of state and leaders from across the African continent will converge in Washington D.C., within the context of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States of America. 

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The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora Announces AU20 Writing Project Winners

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The African Union (AU) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) hosted a residency programme under the AU20 project for established writers from across Africa to produce a piece of work that celebrates the unity and potential of the African continent.

This year, the African Union celebrates its 20th anniversary since the organization’s establishment at the Durban Summit of July 2002. Dubbed AU20, the celebrations have taken place under the theme “Our Africa, Our Future” and focuses on the AU’s initiatives, successes, impact, challenges and the way forward. 

The writers residency took the form of a hybrid programme, with two online meetings in October/November and a two-week physical residency at the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) in Accra, Ghana from November 14 – 28.

Catering to the theme “Our Africa, Our Future”, five writers from the continent were tasked to interpret the theme in a broad and expansive way across a selected genre, including fiction, narrative non-fiction and poetry. The piece is pegged between 5,000 and 7,000 words (or five poems for poets) on the theme “Our Africa, Our Future” for the e-book. The final work will be published in an e-book anthology to be released in early 2023.

The AU20 project aims to elevate the profile of the AU in the minds of Africans, particularly the creative community, and better connect the AU to African citizens. Powered by Africa No Filter, the writers residency is a unique contribution towards bringing the African Union closer to the African people by selecting creative professionals who think outside the box, dare to challenge conventions and offer new and original work through their chosen materials, techniques and subject matters.

The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) together with the African Union, the UNDP and Africa No Filter have now announced the final winners of the AU20 writing project. Here are the five winners and bit of their professional backgrounds.

i) Nour Kamel from the Arab Republic of Egypt. Nour writes about identity, language, sexuality, queerness, gender, oppression, femininity, trauma, family, lineage, globalization, loss and food. She is the author of the chapbook “Noon” in New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Sita).

ii) TJ Benson from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His writing explores the body in the context of memory, migration, utopia and the unconscious self and his works have been exhibited, published in several journals, and shortlisted for awards. The author of three novels, his latest, People Live Here, is out now.

iii) Musih Tedji Xaviere from the Republic of Cameroon. She is a writer, activist, and Moth Storyteller. Her debut novel, These Letters End in Tears, won the 2021 Pontas and JJ Bola Emerging Writer’s Prize. It will be published in the US and UK in 2024 by Catapult and Jacaranda Books.

iv) Tony Mochama from the Republic of Kenya. He is a poet, author and senior journalist at The Nation Media Group. He is a three-time winner of the Burt Awards for African Young Adult Literature and is a recipient of the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. His futuristic novel, 2063 – Last Mile Bet, was published by Oxford University Press.

v) Sue Nyathi from the Republic of South Africa. She is the author of four novels, her latest, An Angel’s Demise, published in October by Pan Macmillan. A Zimbabwean based in South Africa, she was shortlisted for the 2020 Dublin Literary Award and is a JIAS Fellow ’22.

According to reports, The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) received an overwhelming number of applications from across the continent, and the selected writers represent the best of African literary talent as well as the literary future. 

Started in a one-room office, the library attracted significant national and international attention and quickly outgrew itself. In 2020, it re-branded as the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora and moved to a bigger space that includes a special collections/archive room, a screening room and extensive outdoor event space.

As a complete African library, it has also an archive, a museum, a writing residency and a research facility. It is dedicated to the collection and visualization of authors from Africa and the African diaspora from the late 19th century to the present. 

The library has over 4000 volumes of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction dating from the early 20th century to the present day. From Algeria to Kenya and from Liberia to Zimbabwe, the collections represent the rich diversity of the African continent and its vast Diaspora. 

LOATAD’s focus is on books by writers of African descent including African, African American, Caribbean, Black European, Afro-Latin, and Indigenous writers. The Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) is located in Accra, Ghana. 

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