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Dear African Child (iv): the inevitable Economic evolution.

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

This Saturday marks the last appearance of the Dear African Child series.  This day marks the last Saturday of June –the extra ordinary Youth month. This series was orchestrated with clear and precise two pronged objectives; -it was meant to commemorate and pay homage to the courageous heroes and heroines of the 1976 generation. Simultaneously, it was meant to provoke thought and inspire constructive Youth activism in key development issues at continental and national level. Based on feedback from readers, I’m glad to say this series has achieved its objectives.

Dear African Child (i) called on young Africans to introspection and answer the following questions: -Is our generation deserving of the esteemed title ‘African Child’? -Is our generation an embodiment of the continent’s bright inclusive prospects?  -Will future generations have a solid and strong narrative to celebrate and recall our generation? -Will they have great stories to tell about how our generation courageously, fearlessly and selflessly demolished prosperity barriers years ago for their future benefit? Dear African Child (ii) focused on the impending and inevitable Youth led higher education evolution. Citing contemporary education challenges it encouraged student leaders and student movements at large to intensify and unite in advancing better education delivery and student welfare. It also reminded the general public that our continued ‘conspiracy of silence’ on education matters is tantamount to betrayal of future and current generations; this ultimately means we are betraying our own future as well.

Dear African Child (iii) focused on the severity and subterranean implications of Youth landlessness in particular and landlessness in general. It explored the explicit and implicit role ‘the Land issue’ played in most African wars and unrests throughout the continent. It also zoomed into Botswana’s bothersome Land state of affairs. It called on Youth leaders and Youth movements at large to consider jointly constructively tackling and providing recommendations on ‘the Land issue’ before our internationally acclaimed republic reaches the undesirable ‘tipping point’. This author strongly believes "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

He believes the pen is timeless, boundless and mightier than the sword. Furthermore, this author earnestly hopes this series will inspire subterranean Youth activism, advocacy and policy reforms, or at least spark necessary constructive debate towards better and more organized Youth activism and advocacy in our lifetime and beyond.  More imperative, he hopes it will inspire, guide and back future generations even in our absence.

Today’s installment focuses on the issue of ‘Economic Growth’ and ‘Economic Development’ in the African continent. Sachs (2012) makes it clear that it is vital for any economic development related debate or commentary to draw fundamental distinction between Economic Growth and Economic Development. He (Sachs) made this recommendation following the observation that most scholars and commentators habitually repeat the common mistake of confusing and sometimes interchanging the two. In light of Sachs’s guidance we will start by defining and drawing fundamental distinction between the technical jargons. Economic Growth can be defined as a phenomenon of market productivity and rise in GDP (Mbeki, 2014).

While Economic Development can be defined as a policy intervention endeavor with aims of economic and social well-being of people (Ramaphela, 2013). Consequently, economist Amartya Sen points out, "Economic Growth is one aspect of the process of Economic Development".  Having drawn the fundamental distinction between the two, we can now focus on our continent’s Economic Growth and Economic Development conundrum.

Africa has been hailed for doing very well in terms of Economic Growth. Seasoned economists, think tanks and development syndicates alike agree that Africa has done exceptionally well in this regard. For instance, between 2000 and 2010, six of the ten fastest growing economies world-wide were African namely; Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Chad and Rwanda (Herbst and Mills 2012).  Growth in the continent is reported to have averaged approximately five to six percent across the continent and prospects for many countries are improving, especially given the demand for African commodities from India and China (Mills, 2014). 

Similarly, Africa is also an essential part of the world record on poverty reduction over the past fifty years, through the just ended MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) framework. Furthermore, in Africa HIV/AIDS is no longer a defining and central development issue. African countries have also largely moved towards freer political systems, though at different speeds (Vadi, 2015). Conflict is on the decline in the African continent this is a positive indicator, because peace is likely to lead to increased growth as highlighted in the 2011 World Bank Report. Improved telecommunications have enabled new connections with the world, communities, citizens and states.

The number of telecommunication subscribers in our continent grew by almost 20 percent each year between 2006-2011 (Business Report South Africa, 2012). Most African countries no-longer depend on donors to drive their development programmes, heeding to Dambisa Moyo’s recommendations in her renowned and widely cited book – “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. 

Natural gas and renewable energy sources, such as sun, water and wind are also a huge opportunity, not a risk, in Africa (Machel, 2016). Noticeable Infrastructure Development and Technological Innovations also offer Africa huge possibilities. Clearly there has been much progress across Africa in the past decade.
However despite this glossy outlook the African continent is far from being an ideal continent. There is a lot that still needs to be done.  It is not yet ‘Uhuru’. Our impressive background and the bright prospects are under siege. 

There are many key decisions that should have been taken but have not been taken. There are many short-term political patronage decisions that were taken that shouldn’t have been taken. Consequently we now resided in a continent with appalling gaps between the haves and have-nots. It has been established that a very small fraction of our continent’s population owns a very huge fraction of our continent’s wealth. It is also established that those with the wealth are close or related to the elites in the corridors of power.

In this regard, Vusi Thembekwayo -a self-made African businessmen, strongly argues that we live in a continent with two economies; the connected economy and everyone else. To further justify his case, Thembekwayo states that it does not come as a surprise that the wealthiest lady in the continent happens to be the daughter of the president of Angola. We also reside in a continent were the gains made in poverty eradication over the past decades seem to be slowly regressing.

We reside in a continent were unemployment, underemployment and labour exploitation is the order of the day and somewhat unmanageable. Joblessness is endemic in Africa, especially among the young (Herbst and Mills 2012). Youth un- and underemployment is as high as 80 percent in some African countries. We reside in a continent were exportation of raw materials at the expense of value addition and local job creation is still a normal practice.

We reside in a continent were Sub-Saharan Africa’s total electricity production is equivalent to that of Spain, even though Sub-Saharan Africa has 20 times as many people. To make matters worse half of the total electricity is produced by one country, South Africa  (Herbst and Mills 2012). Our continent is also faced with rapid urban migration because of deliberate heavy centralization of key resources and services.

The trend shows that by the 1950s on 15 percent of the Sub-Saharan Africa population lived in cities, today is about 40 percent, it is also estimated that by 2025 the figure will be at 50 percent. This reality brings about the issue of slums, associated diseases and pollution. We should also note that without the right environment and opportunities, Africa’s Youth will most likely become a powerful destabilizing force for Africa at large and African countries in particular.   
Notes from the ‘Asian Drama’ to the ‘Asian Miracle’  

In 1968 Swedish economist and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal, published his three volume work Asian Drama. At the time Myrdal published his work instability, corruption, and poverty were widespread and development seemed a long way off (Morris, 2010).   For instance: -Singapore was just emerging under Lee Kuan Yew, -Malaysia was a year away from the race riots that sparked mahathir’s reforms, -Vietnam was in the midst of a very hot with its neighbors, -Indonesia had just suffered a palace coup as General Suharto took over from Sukarno, -South Korea seemed caught between student unrest and the ruthless of a military dictator, -Taiwan was still in the iron grip of chiang kai-shek, economic growth in China and India was at a standstill.

Myrdal’s book argued that the only way for Asia to develop was to control its population, redistribute agricultural land and invest in health care and education. In 1993, a quarter-century after Myrdal’s book, the World Bank published ‘the East Asian Miracle’ -a commentary on a region that in now a byword for development. The bank concluded that the reasons for the miracle lay in massive deployment of capital and human resources coupled with market-oriented reforms.

Therefore, at this economic development crossroads it is vital for Africans as individuals, communities and nations to draw fundamental focus and inspiration from the ‘East Asian Miracle’ case study.  It is however great, inspiring and worth noting that many young Africans across the continent have taken it upon themselves to become the economic development change they wish to see.

Young Africans are now becoming catalysts of what is popularly termed ‘The Coming Revolution’ or ‘Africa’s Third Liberation’. The most notable collective of such young Africans will be EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) in RSA (Republic of South Africa). EFF is youthful movement that has drastically redefined and amplified the modern-day Economic Growth and Economic Development narrative in RSA and the continent. Whether EFF has the right policies or not is a subject for another edition, but their regard for the future and standing for the voiceless is one of their commendable, admirable and celebrated attributes in Africa’s development.  

The next series is Co-Operatives 101. Co-Operatives 101 will be a four part series intended to; -honor the annual international Co-Op day and, -build capacity on fundamental Co-Operative info. It intends to stimulate establishment of Co-operatives as viable socio-economic development avenues for; job creation, economic diversification, wealth creation, poverty reduction and natural resource management.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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