Pulse #38 - Test for diversity: Tackling youth unemployment, SA's race row, kidnapping-for-ransom, plus black billionaires & a cure for HIV? #WomensDay
In this week's Pulse...
Love Island's race row rocks the 'rainbow nation', federal vs. state solution to kidnapping of children in Nigeria, another critic of Rwanda's president killed in exile, another International Women's Day with few African female billionaires, and should the Continent seek conventional industrialisation or save the planet?
Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy.
Are Nigeria’s state governments escalating the abduction of children? Abduction of school children by armed groups marauding north-western Nigeria have increased in recent months. Most recently, 279 schoolgirls were released following their abduction at gunpoint in the state of Zamfara. The attacks in the northwest, along with Boko Haram in the northeast and Covid-19, signal a triple assault on education in Nigeria. Security experts say criminal gangs prefer children because they guarantee “publicity and government involvement in negotiations, which could mean millions of dollars in ransom payments”. Often, the government caves in to demands, with state governors offering housing, cattle, cars, money and livelihood support in exchange for ‘repentance’ by the perpetrators. But state governments need to re-evaluate this approach whilst investing more in school security, as paying ransom seems to be escalating the crisis.
Home-grown digital infrastructure & platforms
Blockchain: Ghana sniffs opportunity where Nigeria sees crime. Ghana has launched a safe space, a sandbox, for testing innovations using blockchain - the database on which cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are developed and operated. The sandbox launched by Ghana’s central bank covers a broad spectrum of fintech innovations, particularly targeting women and improving financial inclusion. The bank is prioritising innovations facilitating remittances, crowdfunding, know-your-customer platforms, and merchant payments for small to medium-sized businesses. While Ghana is intent on exploiting the benefits of blockchain, not far along the Atlantic coast, in Nigeria the central bank has banned cryptocurrencies. Perhaps, like Ghana, Nigeria could explore the benefits of blockchain technologies rather than banning them outright.
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities
Another Rwandan dissident killed in South Africa: Implications for diplomatic relations.Seif Bamporiki is the latest leading Rwandan opposition politician to be killed in South Africa. He was the local coordinator of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), accused by Kigali of plotting to overthrow president Paul Kagame. RNC has already blamed Rwanda for killing Bamporiki. South African police are still investigating the matter but the last time Rwanda was linked by Pretoria to attempts on the life of another RNC politician, co-founder Kayumba Nyamwasa, diplomatic relations between the two countries collapsed. Both countries expelled one another’s diplomats, while South Africa stopped issuing visas to Rwandans. But with Kagame and South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa ordering their foreign ministers to normalise relations in 2018, will relations between the two countries survive yet another test?
High value skills development and talent repatriation
East Africa’s transition to electric motorbikes is a big deal. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are piloting hundreds of electric motorbikes with the view of transiting the region’s fleet from fossil-powered to renewables. The initiative is part of UNEP’s Electric Mobility Programme, which is the only worldwide intervention supporting electric mobility for developing and transitional countries. Shifting to electric bikes will reduce costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as create jobs in East Africa. Motorbikes are the most popular means of transportation because they’re a cheaper and faster way of navigating Africa’s congested roads. But their toll on the environment is projected to rise with the region’s stock of two-wheelers doubling annually. With Africa hardest hit by adverse effects of climate change, a rapid transition to renewables is long overdue to reverse the trend.
Access to financial services and products
Hypocrisy in the EU tax haven listing.Morocco and Namibia have been removed from the EU’s list of tax havens but Botswana, Eswatini and Seychelles remain. Listing criteria includes tax transparency, tax justice, and real economic activity. There are two lists, grey and black. Greylisting gives countries time to reform their tax system while blacklisted nations face difficulties accessing EU program funding and doing business with European companies. But Oxfam has called the EU out for hypocrisy in its listing - Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands would be blacklisted if EU member states weren’t exempt. Multinationals shifted $600bn in profits to tax havens in 2015 with a third of this going within the EU. As the EU protects its members against the rule’s encumbrances, the decision could be treated as impetus to develop other attractors to capital inflows beyond tax savings.
Continent on a high: should Africa capture more of the cannabis market? In an increasing number of African countries, you can now grow cannabis, but not light it for recreation. Only five countries - Malawi, Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe and now Zambia - officially permit cannabis for medicinal or industrial purposes. A few others allow for export. But the UN says cannabis production is taking place in at least 43 African countries. Africans have been smoking pot for generations: traces have been found on 14th-century pipes in Ethiopia. Now governments sniff an opportunity in the international market for legal marijuana, which is expected to reach $73.6bn by 2027. With only $7.1bn of this expected to be captured annually by Africa (by 2023), opportunities exist for governments to universalize production for ordinary farmers to distribute value, whilst also seeking ways to increase value addition within its borders.
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