Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, a high school student from Long Island, N.Y., has a big decision to make soon. The Elmont High School valedictorian has been accepted at all eight Ivy League schools!
Schools in the Ivy League are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.
She also gained admission to Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Augusta is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, and she said her parents instilled in her the value of education.
“Though I was born here in America, I visited Nigeria many times,” she told WABC. “And I’ve seen that my cousins don’t have the same opportunities that I have. So definitely, whatever I do, I want to make sure that it has an impact on Nigeria.”
She also says that her own tenacity and persistence helped shape her into becoming a great student. But as with a lot of students, she did face hardships with some classes.
“I’ve struggled with numerous classes in the past,” Augusta told the station. “But I guess what allowed me to be successful, ultimately, in those classes, at the end, is my persistence and my tenacity.”
Augusta hasn’t decided which college to attend, but with a GPA of 101.6 and a recent invitation to the White House Science Fair, there’s no doubt that she’ll continue her academic excellence.
Meet Simon-Peter Frimpong, a 13-year old Ghanaian American from Aurora, Colorado. The 8th-grader is one of about 100 top science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students from across the USA who have been invited to the 2016 White House Science Fair, scheduled for this Wednesday, April 13th.
The fair, which is President Obama’s sixth and last, is a hands-on showcase of student innovation – robots, prototypes, tools to help us fight cancer and climate change – all researched, designed and built by the next generation of America’s scientists.
Simon-Peter and two of his schoolmates from Horizon Middle School, Maya Max-Villard, 13, and Grayson Fast, 14, were inspired by a veteran at nearby Buckley Air Force Base who needed a more comfortable and functional prosthetic limb. The three young scientists designed and built a new artificial leg using computer design, and 3-D printing of prototypes, as well as interviews with the veteran and others for feedback. The team built a prosthetic leg that will allow the amputee to hike, manage uneven terrain, and even skateboard!
The part designed by Simon-Peter is what makes the prosthesis unique. As their STEM teacher, Ms. Mel Possehl put it, “…with the design [Simon Frimpong] made, the bottom comes off. So you have a walking part, then you have a part that hooks onto a longboard or a snowboard, then you have a part that hooks onto skis, and then a part that can do multiple things. It’s a multiple-use prototype.” The project was so innovative that it was selected as a finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national competition, and then to participate in the 2016 White House Science Fair.
Simon-Peter is the son of Mr. Tony Frimpong, and Mrs. Yaa Frimpong (popularly known as Obaa Yaa), who is the secretary of NPP Colorado Chapter, and 2nd Vice Chairperson of NPP-USA Branch.
[Partly culled from the White House blog https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/04/08/science-fair-2016-meet-next-generation-americas-innovators]
Photographer Glenna Gordon spent months capturing female Muslim writers whose books are among the dozens of cheap, pamphlet-style novels popular across markets in northern Nigeria.
Known as “littattafan soyayya” – meaning “literature of love” in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language – the plots all revolve around love and marriage. But not all the stories are Mills and Boons-style fantasies: some are subversive or political, tackling subjects like child marriage and trafficking.
The movement was born in the northern capital of Kano in 1990, when author Balaraba Ramat Yakubu published Sin Is A Puppy That Follows You Home. The novel was based on her experiences of being a child bride before being divorced and destitute by the time she was 19 years old.
Gender disparity is high across all of Nigeria, but particularly in the Muslim-majority north, and many of the authors struggled to get an education. A minority are encouraged to pursue writing by their families. But all face public censorship. In 2007, then-governor of Kano, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, publicly burned the novels, which he claimed were “pornographic” and out of line with northern Nigeria’s traditional values.
In her book titled Diagram of the Heart – named in the style of the pocket-sized novels – Gordon shows another side to a region known to the outside world primarily for attacks from Islamist militants Boko Haram.
Gordon, who has also tackled subjects such as the mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, also documents the weddings and glamour that accompany life in northern Nigeria, which revolves around family ties.
To check out more of the photos, visit the article, which was originally published in BuzzFeed.
It’s 8 a.m., Congress isn’t in session and Washington’s roads are icy, but more than 100 ambassadors, academics, African emigres and heads of humanitarian groups have crammed into a basement room of the U.S. Capitol for an unofficial meeting about how Boko Haram and other terrorism groups are stunting African progress.
The regular breakfasts are the brainchild of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who is frustrated by a lack of attention paid to the continent and sees her own constituents with deep interest in policy toward Africa.
“In community organizing, you believe that the best policy is made by having those people that are most affected by the policy at the table. It’s not rocket science. If you do policy in a vacuum it can have unintended consequences,” she said in an interview after the meeting.
Bass first got involved in African policy because of South African apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s when she co-chaired the local Southern Africa Support Committee.
“I stopped doing international work and just focused on domestic work. One of the reasons I was excited about coming to Congress is I could do both,” Bass said. “I really took almost a 20-year hiatus away from foreign policy.”
She views it as her responsibility.
“The same way it was my responsibility to figure out how to address the gang and crack intersection in South-Central, I also felt it was my responsibility to help fight to end apartheid and especially the U.S. government’s policies,” Bass said.
When she joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee after taking office in 2011, Bass said it didn’t feel like those actually affected by the committee’s decisions had a voice.
“When I would go to hearings on Africa, you would have no Africans participating, but they are sitting there in the audience while we’re talking about their countries. That just seemed odd to me,” she said.
She is now the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. Other Foreign Affairs Subcommittees focus narrowly on one or two subjects.
“That in and of itself to me kind of says that Africa is not a big enough priority to have its own focused subcommittee,” she said. “We could go easily a month or two without having a hearing on Africa [with] so many subject matters.”
Bass said she’s gone out of her way to work with the Foreign Affairs Committee, not supersede it, by having committee leaders co-host the breakfasts or speak.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) said a wider group of people are excited about legislation before the committee because of Bass’ breakfast meetings. He’s spoken at a few.
“It’s effective,” he said. “Karen Bass is able to strategically use the enthusiasm of those who participate in the breakfasts in order to try to assist us.”
Royce pointed to several cases, including a bill recently signed by President Obama aimed at electrical infrastructure around the continent, the global anti-poaching act and congressional response to Ebola.
Bass said Africa may seem so far away to her Los Angeles constituents, “but we have a huge diaspora community in L.A.”
Her district includes Little Ethiopia, a block-long stretch on Fairfax Avenue between West Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive.
“Even Little Ethiopia is a commercial strip. It is not like Ethiopians reside in that area. I’m sure some do, but that area’s very, very mixed,” she said.
She plans to talk with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council about a trade mission and also a seminar to connect federal agencies with private businesses interested in investing in Africa, Bass said.
This year she wants to coordinate with the African diaspora living in Los Angeles and hold a policy breakfast in the city so her constituents can be heard too.
“I know there’s a huge Nigerian community, Cameroonian, and there are seven official consulates for seven African countries, and then there’s about another five honorary consulates,” she said. “There should always be a voice. If we come up with a policy we want to bounce it back and forth. You want the people that are most affected also pushing for the policy as well.”
Nii Akuettah, executive director of the African Immigrant Caucus, a coalition of immigrant groups in Washington, called Bass “a big champion for Africa.”
“There is a great deal of good will in the African community here for her and on the continent for her,” he said.
The periodic gatherings draw members of Congress, ambassadors from African countries, emigres or diaspora, and other people who have a stake in the United States’ policy regarding Africa, such as businesses, State Department officials and academics–and often the groups are “not on the same page,” Bass said.
The meetings began as a way to draw attention to reauthorization of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. First created in 2000, AGOA gives special market access to certain sub-Saharan countries that maintain legal, human rights and labor standards. In June, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation extending the act until 2025.
The talks continued, with a focus on trade and economic development between the United States and African countries. Topics have ranged from Ebola to elections to electricity, and the July 2014 breakfast was also about instability because of Boko Haram, the northeastern Nigerian Islamist group.
Bass said Boko Haram must be addressed when looking to set policy about Africa’s future.
“You can’t talk about economic development, you can’t talk about the implementation of AGOA in countries without security and in countries that are not stable or are being destabilized because of Boko Haram,” she said.
“When you look at the number of people that have been killed by Boko Haram, it’s more than the number of lives lost to ISIS. I think part of our job here is raising the consciousness in the U.S. that just because something is happening on the continent, that doesn’t mean that it does not have international significance,” she said.
It’s her goal to reshape U.S.-Africa relations.
“We still kind of view Africa as a charity case and not as a continent that is a partner. Unfortunately, I think the United States is behind the rest of the world, because the rest of the world sees Africa as much more of a partner than we do,” she said.
The original article was published in the Los Angeles Times.
Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore (L) and Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi (R) visit the Splendid hotel and the Capuccino cafe on January 18, 2016 in Ouagadougou, following a jihadist attack by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) late on January 15 / AFP / ISSOUF SANOGOISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images
Aryn Baker @arynebaker Jan. 18, 2016
A series of recent terror attacks across Africa have raised fears of a new wave of extremist violence
From Somalia in the east to the Western Sahel, Africa’s hotspots started getting hotter over the past week with a series of terror attacks that have raised fears of a new wave of extremist violence. Terrorism analysts have posited that al-Qaeda is vying for attention and territory with upstart ISIS in a region rife with instability. But as much as terrorist groups thrive on government weakness, military corruption also plays an important role, according to a new report on corruption in military defense spending in Africa.
Transparency International, a U.K.-based research organization that tracks corruption and perceptions of corruption worldwide, gave every single African country surveyed (47 out of 54) a failing or near-failing grade when it comes to preventing graft in their defense sectors. Defense spending is on the rise across the continent, notes the report, but without better tracking on how that money is spent, there is little to ensure that it will go to the areas that need it most in a new era of terror attacks, namely counter-terror and security programs. “With such limited oversight on military spending, there are many opportunities for corruption and graft that can in turn contribute to rising insecurity in the region,” says Leah Wawro, Transparency International’s program manager for conflict and insecurity. Corruption, adds co-author Eléonore Vidal de la Blache, the Africa project manager, can lead to black-market arms sales to terror groups, or, in some cases, bolster funding for those groups.
The report’s release on Monday capped a week of back-to-back attacks across Africa. Even as scenes of a devastating suicide bomb and grenade attack on a pair of luxury hotels and a café popular with foreigners unfurled in Burkina Faso, killing at least 29 people from nine different countries, reports started coming in of the kidnapping of an Australian couple in the country’s north, then an ambush on an aid convoy in neighboring Mali that killed two soldiers. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, and the group, or its affiliates, is thought to have been behind the kidnapping and the assault in Mali. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab militants affiliated with al-Qaeda claimed to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in a Friday attack on a remote base in Somalia’s southwest, where the African Union is trying to bring peace. And on Jan. 13, two female suicide bombers attacked a mosque in a town near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria during morning prayers, killing 10 in the latest of a series of suicide bombings attributed to the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram terror group, which is based in Nigeria.
In the wake of the attack in Ouagadougou, which followed the same pattern as a similar attack in the Malian capital of Bamako in November, the prime ministers of Mali and Burkina Faso agreed to share intelligence and conduct joint security patrols in their efforts to tackle the rising terror threats in the region. But that is not likely to be enough, say the authors of the Transparency International report.
One of the biggest problems, according to the report, is how such corruption can decrease morale among soldiers, especially when commanding officers pocket salaries meant for those in the lower ranks. Such siphoning of funds is rampant in Nigeria, where soldiers have regularly deserted their posts because they say they lack sufficient supplies and weapons to fight against Boko Haram. On Friday, the recently elected President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an investigation into corruption allegations going back nine years, saying that graft among senior ranks of the military hindered the fight against an Islamist insurgency in the north of the country. Sambo Dasuki, the former national security advisor under Buhari’s predecessor and rival, Goodluck Jonathan, was arrested in December, in the wake of a government commission finding that he, along with other senior officials, allegedly pilfered some $5.5 billion meant for equipping, supplying and paying soldiers taking on Boko Haram. Dasuki has denied the charges, calling the findings “presumptive, baseless” and lacking in “diligence.”
Members of the Jonathan administration say the allegations that graft hampered the military’s counter-terror abilities are unsubstantiated. Wawro, of Transparency International, calls the claims justified. “Absolutely, corruption is undermining the fight against Boko Haram [in Nigeria]. When soldiers’ salaries are pocketed, when they see their commanders driving fancy cars while they struggle to eat, they are more likely to sell weapons and other supplies. They are more likely to take bribes, and they are more likely to allow arms or drugs to be smuggled across borders.” They are also more likely to desert, she adds, further undermining confidence in the military, and the government.
It’s not just Nigeria. Kenya’s armed forces also stand accused of being involved in bribe taking, arms sales, and worse. A recent report by Journalists for Justice, a Nairobi-based, non-partisan organization that seeks to broaden citizen understanding of international criminal justice and combat government impunity, details how Kenyan soldiers in Somalia are working in cahoots with the al-Shabaab terror group to levy “taxes” on the illegal smuggling of sugar and charcoal through the Somali port of Kismayo. “This is problematic when the KDF [Kenya Defense Force] is supposed to be fighting al-Shabaab, and when elsewhere in the country al-Shabaab forces claim to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers,” says Vidal de la Blache. “What you are seeing is a direct link between the ability of al-Shabaab to arm and sustain itself and the corruption within the Kenya defense establishment all the way to the top.” Rather than promise an investigation, the Kenyan government has dismissed and denied the allegations.
It is impossible to know whether there is any direct link between the weekend attacks in Burkina Faso and corruption within that country’s military establishment, says Wawro. But the country is one of the worst ranked in the Transparency report. “What you can say about any country that scores an “F” [as Burkina Faso does] is that there is no one to hold the military to account about what is being done to prevent these attacks, and how the increase in funding we are likely to see after an attack like this will be put to use.” That, she says, creates a level of distrust between the people and their government, one easily exploited by terror groups.
While the report points fingers at African governments for failing to track military spending, the report’s authors aren’t letting the U.S. and France, the principal financial backers of many of Africa’s counter terror efforts, off the hook. “We are not seeing [these countries] taking the kind of actions needed to address the problem,” says Wawro. Kenya’s military, she notes, is a major recipient of U.S. military aid. “So, if you look through a winding lens, U.S. money is indirectly filtering in to support terrorism.” That, she says, is reason enough for the foreign backers of African counter terror programs to insist on greater transparency in spending, lest their assistance end up funding another terror attack.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame
By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen
Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.
Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.
Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.
Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.
Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.
Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.
Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.
The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.
The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.
A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.
Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.
France has deployed hundreds of troops in northern Niger to create a buffer against jihadist advances from Libya. Credit: Carlotta Gall/The New York Times
By CARLOTTA GALL JAN. 1, 2016
SAHARA DESERT, Niger — A group of light armored vehicles skated over the moonscape of the Sahara, part of one of the largest detachments the French military has deployed here since colonial times. Its mission is growing ever more urgent: to cut smuggling routes used by jihadists who have turned this inhospitable terrain into a sprawling security challenge for African and international forces alike.
Many of the extremist groups are affiliates of Al Qaeda, which has had roots in North Africa since the 1990s. With the recent introduction of Islamic State franchises, the jihadist push has been marked by increasing, sometimes heated, competition.
But, analysts and military officials say, there is also deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money.
Their threat has grown as Libya — with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East — becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa.
And as Africa’s jihadists come under the wing of distant and more powerful patrons, officials fear that they are extending their reach and stitching together their ambitions, turning once-local actors into pan-national threats.
The Nov. 20 assault on the Radisson Blu hotel that killed at least 19 people in Bamako, Mali’s capital, was just one of the more spectacular recent examples of the ability of these groups to sow deadly mayhem. Across the region, hundreds of people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past year.
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who heads the United States Africa Command, warned in a congressional statement in March of an “increasingly cohesive network of Al Qaeda affiliates and adherents” that “continues to exploit Africa’s undergoverned regions and porous borders to train and conduct attacks.”
“Terrorists with allegiances to multiple groups are expanding their collaboration in recruitment, financing, training and operations, both within Africa and transregionally,” General Rodriguez warned months before the Mali attack.
Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Islamic State and their respective affiliates, along with other jihadist groups, were active across large parts of North Africa in 2015. The map shows incidents of political violence, which include battles for territory, attacks on civilians and riots or protests.
The transfer of expertise can be witnessed in the spread of suicide bombings in Libya, Tunisia and Chad and in the growing use of improvised explosive devices in Mali, analysts and officials pointed out.
Such exchanges have been enhanced as groups shift shape, sometimes merge, and come under the wing of more powerful and distant patrons.
In one instance, two of the longest-standing North African groups, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun, after a long publicized split, announced that they had reunited and that the Bamako hotel attack was their first joint venture.
The leaders of the two groups — Abdelmalek Droukdel and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, both Algerians — have loyalties that reach far beyond Africa, however.
As does Seifallah Ben Hassine, leader of Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia, the organization believed to be behind three deadly attacks in Tunisia last year, including a massacre of 38 people at a beach resort in June and an attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March that left 22 dead.
All three men are veterans of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s, swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and now profess loyalty to Al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, based in Pakistan.
Mr. Droukdel, routed by French forces in Mali in 2013, is reportedly holed up in the mountains in southern Algeria. Mr. Belmokhtar and Mr. Ben Hassine have made rear bases in Libya, where they have been targeted by American airstrikes.
Today, despite French and American efforts to disrupt their networks, they still stretch across the continent.
To keep the pressure on the jihadists and help resist the threat, France has installed 3,500 troops across 10 bases and outposts in five vulnerable countries — Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. The recent French patrol, tiny dots in the Sahara’s expanse of dunes and blackened rock, included 30-ton supply trucks carrying food and fuel, armored vehicles mounted with 80-millimeter cannons and a medical truck.
Similarly, American Special Operations Forces are working in Niger, and last year President Obama ordered 300 United States troops to Cameroon to help defend against the Nigerian Islamist movement Boko Haram, which has spread across borders.
French troops have led repeated operations to break communication and supply lines from Libya that have fortified such groups. The November operation was part of coordinated maneuvers in eastern Mali and northern Niger to try to disrupt jihadist links between the two nations.
The smuggling route patrolled by the French is one of the main arteries for jihadists, arms and drugs. French troops call it the “autoroute” to southern Libya, which they describe as a “big supermarket” for weapons.
The route crosses one of the most remote places on earth. Devoid of human habitation or water for hundreds of miles, it is a treacherous terrain of unbearable heat in the summer and nearly impossible navigation. Yet small convoys of smugglers attempt the crossing several times a week.
For the French, it is like looking for a tiny craft in an ocean, said Lt. Col. Étienne du Peyroux, the commanding officer leading the Niger operation.
“It is like a naval battle,” he said, sketching out the hunt on maps on the hood of his desert jeep. “The zone of operations is 40,000 square kilometers, an area the size of Holland, for 300 men.”
“We try to find them, to block, to constrain, to work out how they will be channeled by a particular piece of terrain,” he said.
The French rarely catch anyone — the last capture was of a drug haul in June. But, they say, their operations are at least disrupting the jihadists’ movements, evidenced by a drop in traffic and tracks in the sand showing smugglers’ vehicles having turned back.
“We want them to abandon the fight, until they cannot do it anymore or until the effort is too great,” the colonel said.
That, however, seems unlikely. “Weak government and chaos are always conducive to terrorism,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, coordinator of a United Nations Security Council committee that monitors the Qaeda sanctions list. “These groups do take advantage of that.”
The development of jihadist training camps in Libya over the past four years represents a regional and international threat, with particular significance for Africa, he warned in a recent report.
Especially worrying, he said, was “the growing numbers of foreign terrorist fighters and the presence of a globalized group of terrorists from different Al Qaeda backgrounds.”
North Africa and the Sahel — a vast area the breadth of the United States — with its difficult geography, impoverished populations and weak states, is acutely vulnerable, military and civilian analysts said.
Poverty, corruption, poor government and unfair elections are all making populations susceptible to Islamist propaganda, said Adam Thiam, a columnist for the Malian daily newspaper Le Républicain.
“Elections are corrupt; services are corrupt,” he said, and young people have lost confidence in government, “so they will go and listen to the religious leaders rather than the political leaders.”
Others blame foreign interventions in Libya and Mali, and repressive counterrevolutions like Egypt’s, for fueling support for the jihadists.
Certainly, despite the interventions and improved security efforts, new groups and recruits continue to appear. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its affiliates remain active in Mali, and they have sponsored a new group, the Massina Liberation Front, which has emerged in the past few months.
“They do not need much; they just need to be determined,” said Col. Louis Pena, a commander of French troops in N’Djamena, Chad.
The deepening reach of Al Qaeda and the arrival of the Islamic State are raising fresh alarm.
While the two groups are rivals, that competition can pose a significant challenge from a broader security standpoint — as extremists seek to prove their potency and relevance, inspire and attract recruits, and play on a bigger stage.
The effect can be witnessed prominently in Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency in Nigeria, which has killed 17,000 people and displaced more than a million.
Boko Haram has been around for two decades. But money and training from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb gave its leader, Abubakar Shekau, a substantial boost when he assumed control in 2010.
Last year, Boko Haram switched allegiance to the Islamic State, which claimed its West Africa division had killed more than 1,000 people since November, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.
Despite setbacks in Nigeria, Boko Haram has become a regional scourge by exploiting contacts in the wider jihadist network, and it has now spilled into Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
At Madama, an oasis about 50 miles south of Libya, a mud-brick fort built by the French in 1931 guards Niger’s northern desert approaches.
In the past two years, the French have built a sprawling base dwarfing the old fort still manned by Nigerian troops, and posted 300 French troops to create a buffer against jihadist advances from Libya.
Nigerian soldiers accompany the French on their missions, hurtling in battered pickups across the desert terrain, much like their jihadist opponents do. Many of the local soldiers have been through six-month training programs run by American forces. Farther east, Chadian troops guard their part of the border.
In this lonely spot, French soldiers watch from their guard post out across the empty sand toward Libya. French commanders agree that the root of the problem is there, and that until it is addressed the entire region is threatened.
“They are still fragile countries,” Colonel Pena said. “They are countries that need stability to grow and develop. That is the real danger.”
ROBERT ROTBERG | Special to The Globe and Mail | Published Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 8:00AM EST
Robert Rotberg is founding director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and senior fellow of the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
A strong new broom is sweeping Africa. In both Nigeria and Tanzania, determined new presidents are challenging the onetime dissolute and largely easygoing ways of their predecessors. As Nigeria and Tanzania go, so conceivably could go the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.
In Tanzania – expected to be the fifth-largest country in the world in 50 years – President John Magufuli took office in November and immediately began imposing higher conduct standards on his surprised and resentful colleagues.
When he unexpectedly arrived at the main state hospital to find slovenly conditions and administrators absent, he sacked the head of the facility. When he held a meeting and six administrators arrived hours late, thinking that “African time” still ruled, they were jailed. After being released, they showed up for work two hours early. Ever since, civil servants everywhere in the country have been rushing to work at 6 a.m., not 7:30 a.m., just in case the President or some other leader chooses to check on their adherence to approved office opening times.
Mr. Magufuli, insistent on frugality, has banned all non-essential foreign travel, and restricted first-class and business-class air ticketing to himself, his Vice-President and the Prime Minister. He has thus ended decades of happy privileges for many lower-ranking but self-important politicians and administrators and, symbolically, showed a new sensitivity to waste.
Mr. Magufuli, previously a well-regarded and assertive minister of public works who earned the nickname “bulldozer,” cancelled Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrations in early December, telling his officials to spend the saved money on cleaning up Dar es Salaam’s littered streets. “It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” he said.
The President’s actions also said more than his words. He personally joined the cleanup campaign in the streets, picking up trash along with fellow leaders, all of whom he had mobilized and energized.
Mr. Magufuli, a 56-year-old Roman Catholic and a former seminarian, was on the warpath against unnecessary expenditures throughout December. He startled everyone accustomed to sending out government Christmas cards by prohibiting their transmission, especially from his own office. He believes that printing cards at government expense is wasteful and unethical.
In a desperately poor country riddled for years by wild corruption scandals, all of these declarations and manoeuvres have been bold and well received by citizens, if not by the privileged politicians from his long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi political party. Long accustomed to abusing their public positions for private gain, they have been surprised and alarmed by the actions of the new President.
In 2014 and early 2015, key cabinet-level ministers and other officials were accused of stealing from the state-owned electricity monopoly, and for shifting huge sums of cash overseas illegally. Several prominent politicians lost their jobs, but graft still persisted as an accustomed way of life – until October and the arrival of Mr. Magufuli.
It is too early to tell whether the President’s dynamic gestures will improve Tanzania’s performance on a sustainable basis, and whether his pointed actions – many essentially symbolic – will reduce corruption appreciably. But they have given Tanzanian citizens, and East Africans more generally, great hope that governance will strengthen and that his fresh leadership will make government work for the people, rather than take from them.
Across the continent, in populous Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari’s broom has also swept strongly since he won the presidential election in March. Corrupt pursuits, once standard nationally and in the country’s 36 states, are now discouraged by Mr. Buhari, and corrupt politicians have been arrested. Petroleum revenues are neither being squandered nor spent wildly to enrich prominent individuals. Nigerians are beginning to enjoy more reliable services, even steadier electrical power and better road maintenance. The New Zion has not yet fully arrived, but it could be coming.
Tanzanians may soon also benefit appreciably from their new, committed leadership. If so, the Magufuli and Buhari brooms may presage similar behavioural replications in other African countries, appropriate emulation and aroused expectations (and hope) among Africa’s growing middle class.
Africa has long been irresistible to art photographers. The diversity of its 54 nations, its natural phenomena—even, say some photographers, the difference in light compared with Europe and the U.S.—have spawned vast bodies of work and helped inform the way many in the international community regard the continent. The problem is that these photographs have, until recently, been taken by non-African photographers. Through their lenses, we have seen the continent’s beauty and its rawness, the savannahs and the cities—but rarely have we seen this through the eyes of those who actually call Africa home.
The problem comes from a mix of access and interest. African photographers have been showcasing their work within the continent for years. One of the best-known photography festivals in Africa, the Bamako Encounters biennale in Mali, which has run since 1994, is aimed at promoting trends in contemporary African photography and video. The West, however, has been slow to take note. Of the 48 photographer-members represented by Magnum Photos—arguably the most famous and prestigious international photo agency—just one, South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky, lives in Africa.
“Photography is a $10 billion industry, and what part of that does Africa have?” asks Aida Muluneh, a photographer and founder of the Addis Foto Fest in Ethiopia, a biannual event since 2010. “The majority of photos of Africa come from [non-African] white photographers.” That lack of visibility is problematic for more than just monetary reasons. Since the majority of archived images of Africa were taken by non-African whites, many of the continent’s surviving historical documents show not the experience of Africans but the experience of colonizers and the native Africans they often subjugated.
People fill vessels with fuel from an overturned tanker. African photographers are revealing previously hidden sides of the continent. George Osodi/Panos
But a shift is occurring in the international arts community, and combined with the increasing affordability of cameras and improvements in smartphone lenses, it has led a new generation of Africans to the photographic medium. Some are photojournalists, while others work largely in art photography, sharing their experiences and viewpoints with a global audience. New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently exhibiting 100 years of portrait photography from West Africa. The increased exposure has benefited emerging photographers, who are being scouted by international galleries and agents at a much higher rate than ever before.
“Many African photographers are using their work to explore identity, and often this identity is linked to the past,” says John Fleetwood, head of the South African photography school Market Photo Workshop. “Colonial photography prompted the world to become used to a certain image of Africa, and photographers from the continent are now trying to represent it in a different way.”
Sammy Baloji is one such artist. In 2014, he was made a graduate of Rolex’s mentoring program, which pairs young, gifted artists with more experienced ones for a year. Baloji, who splits his time between his hometown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Belgium, exhibited at London’s Tate Modern in 2011 and at this past year’s Venice Biennale. Much of Baloji’s work focuses on the Congo and the ways he and his countrymen confront their colonial past.
It wasn’t until 1960 that the Congo, as it was formerly known, gained independence and an identity separate from its colonizer, Belgium, though peace was still slow coming. Shortly after its emancipation, coups and a bloody civil war hit the Congo. Ever since, the country has struggled to reconcile its identity before and after colonization—a confusion that comes through in Baloji’s work, which frequently features images of the country’s past superimposed on photographs from its present.
“Many people in the DRC think we have lost our culture—that is, our pre-colonization culture,” says Baloji. “The role of colonization was not just exploiting minerals but educating people in a Western way that erased what came before.”
In one of Baloji’s earlier exhibitions, 2006’s “Mémoire,” washed-out color photographs of the Congolese city of Lubumbashi are overlaid with black-and-white archival images of workers who toiled in the industrial city’s Belgian-owned mines. In one haunting image, two Congolese laborers, one chained by his neck, work in a ditch, watched over by two men. The ghostly, enslaved figures are the only clear markers on the landscape—modern buildings and what appear vaguely to be cellphone towers in the far background are so faded as to be almost unrecognizable.
George Osodi, a Nigerian artist and former photographer, earned international recognition for his photographs of his country—especially a series in which he exposed some of the injustices taking place in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. As oil companies flocked to the south of Nigeria, their activities began to slowly poison the environment and force many Nigerians into poverty. Though the Delta is one of the country’s most profitable regions, its people remain some of the most destitute in all of Africa. Osodi’s photographs, from six years of documenting the area, show slums, billowing clouds of black smoke and the flames of gas flares. In one of the most jarring photographs in the collection, a charred skull looks directly into the camera—the remains of a villager killed in 2003, when oil pouring from a compromised pipeline exploded. In another, from 2006, titled Water Drum, a young girl grips a plastic bucket by the rusting water container—an oil barrel stamped with the white logo of Exxon Mobil Corp. Osodi’s work is currently on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.
A girl holds onto a jetty as a boy paddles a canoe on Lagos Lagoon in the Makoko district. George Osodi/Panos
Osodi says he entered the world of photography because “a lot of things, unjust things, were happening. There was mismanagement of the country, and this needed to be documented visually.” Just as Baloji is driven to make sense of his surroundings and find identity and a sense of self in them, Osodi says he “had a drive to photograph things that needed to be changed. I needed to photograph to make people aware—that was my driving passion.”
It’s a passion that could have real benefits for the international understanding of African identity. “Photography in Africa has grown dramatically in its popularity, because people want to understand the diversity of the world,” says Fleetwood. As more and more people across the continent gain access to photographic equipment and realize there is a demand for their images, African photography could become a common fixture on the global art scene.
Atkinson, who has served in her current position as national security adviser since June 2013, also coordinated U.S. participation in Group of 20 and Group of 7 countries’ annual summits.
In his official statement, President Obama said of Atkinson’s work:
For the past four years, I have relied on Caroline Atkinson, most recently as my Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, as we’ve navigated pressing challenges to the global economy.
As my representative at the G-7 and G-20, she played a key role in coordinating our response to international financial crises, worked with our allies to devise and implement targeted economic sanctions to advance our national security goals, played a vital role in our economic engagements with China, and helped to achieve breakthrough agreements on climate that will strengthen our economy and our security.
I’ve relied on, and benefited from, Caroline’s knowledge and judgment and, as she concludes her tenure on my national security team, I am deeply appreciative of her service.
Adeyemo’s most-recent appointment was as deputy chief of staff to Jacob Lew of the White House’s National Economic Council, where he acted as the Treasury’s lead negotiator on the currency agreement in the Pacific Trade deal.
With the crises in Ukraine and Greece in 2010, 34-year-old Adeyemo also assisted the Treasury in developing its responses.
Of Adeyemo’s appointment, President Obama said:
I am grateful that Caroline’s work will be carried on by Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, who has served in my administration since 2009. At the Treasury Department, he was part of the team that helped coordinate our response to the global recession, laying the foundation for renewed growth at home and abroad.
He helped establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and he’s been our point person on a range of international economic issues, including negotiations on strong currency agreements around the Trans Pacific Partnership. I will be calling on Wally’s intellect, judgment and dedication as we sustain America’s global economic leadership, which reinforces our national security, and as we work with allies and partners around the world to create jobs and opportunity for all our people.
With his father and mother working as a school principal and nurse, respectively, Adeyemo grew up with his two other siblings in Southern California.
Adeyemo recently explained, during his nominee statement for another position in September, that his desire to serve came from, in part, an experience he had with his father.
This desire to instill the value of service in me led my father to wake me early on the morning of February 11, 1990, to watch as Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Although the images on my television were of a reality thousands of miles from our home in California, I could feel the hope Mandela inspired not only in South Africans but also in my father.
Watching Nelson Mandela go from prisoner to president and start the process of bringing together a country was more than inspirational, it motivated me to imagine how I could use public service to improve the world around me. And it continues to remind me that events far from home can make a meaningful difference in the lives of Americans.”
This article was originally published on Face2Face Africa.
LAGOS, the congested commercial capital of Nigeria, has a population variously estimated at anything from 12m-21m. But what is certain is that people are moving to the megacity and its smaller counterparts across the continent in droves—and not into brand new flats with recently acquired mortgages.
With around 40% of its people living in cities, sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s least urbanised region. But it is changing fast: the UN predicts that its urban inhabitants will more than treble in number to 1.1 billion by 2050, accounting for 56% of the region’s population. By 2030 Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Luanda will have joined Kinshasa and Lagos as megacities, each with more than 10m people.
Most of that growth will be in slums, which are currently doubling in size every 15 years while they shrink in many other parts of the world. They’re not always cheap to live in, either. Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, residents devoted almost a third of their non-food expenditures to rent. More than 90% of them are tenants. In Kenya’s countryside, by contrast, 90% of households pay no rent at all, typically because they built their own shelter on informally owned land.
Rural migrants who want to take advantage of the opportunities Africa’s cities have to offer often have no choice; formal housing is unaffordable in most countries. The cheapest new, privately-built formal house in Ethiopia cost $68,783 in 2013, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, a South African non-profit. A 100 square metre state-subsidised apartment sold for $16,600, 35 times the average Ethiopian’s earnings (by comparison, in Britain the ratio is around five times). Even in Mali the cheapest legally-built private homes in the region, at $5,800 (plus another $1,000 to $4,000 for land, depending on location) are out of reach for most.
It is no surprise that sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest mortgage market in the world. Just 3.7% of adults in urban areas had any type of home loan in 2011, according to a World Bank report released this week. The value of Nigeria’s mortgages more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2011, but was still equivalent to no more than 0.5% of GDP, compared with more than 25% in South Africa.
That won’t change until more of the region’s land is registered (just 10% was in 2013) and the tangles of state and customary ownership are resolved. Rwanda’s computerised land registry is the kind of reform that might help. It cut the time it takes to transfer a property from a year to a month. Countries from Ghana to Uganda are trying similar reforms. African cities will also have to invest huge sums in sewage systems, roads and other infrastructure if they want to house the millions of people who are likely to move there in the coming years. In the meantime Africa’s slums will continue to swell.
Nigerian-born fashion designer, Duro Oluwu, was enlisted by the First Lady of the United States of America to decorate the white house in preparation for the 2015 Christmas celebrations. He and other fashion designers like Carolina Herrera, Humberto Leon, Carol Lim and Kenzo were brought in to decorate White House’s China Room, Vermeil Room and library for the holiday season.
Olowu decorated the Vermeil room using two 8-foot Christmas trees draped with vintage fabrics, ribbons and encrusted tinsel to spruce up the space, which is sometimes used as a sitting room.
Born to a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother, Duro was raised in Lagos, spending his childhood travelling between Nigeria and different cities in Europe. His wife, Thelma Golden is the Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.He studied law in London before returning to Nigeria to practice for a few years. Here he developed an interest in fashion, becoming inspired by the mixture of colors and rich textures of clothing worn by the people around him. In October 2004, he launched his first women’s wear label with a collection for Spring/Summer 2005.
The patterns and colors of his designs, which are sold around the world to concept stores like Ikram in Chicago and Biffi in Milan are mostly African with British-made prints of his own design portraying a mixture of his African heritage and international sensibilities.
Duro’s eclectic designs have earned him clients like the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who has worn his designs on several occasions, further cementing his credibility. A cosmopolitan list of celebrities who wear his design include, Uma Thurman, Keira Knightley and Linda Evangelista; one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time.
Duro Olowu is a recipient of many awards. In 2005, his high-waisted “Duro” dress, hailed by both British and American Vogue won the coveted Dress of the Year award. In the same year, he won the ’New Designer of the Year Award’ at the British Fashion Awards, the only designer to have ever done so without a catwalk show.In 2010, he was named Best International Designer at the African Fashion Awards in South Africa as well as being one of 6 finalists for the Swiss Textiles Award in Zurich.