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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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Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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Opinions

The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

Ever heard of a 666-type beast known as Fort Detrick?

Located in the US state of Maryland, about 80 km removed from Washington DC, Fort Detrick houses the US army’s top virus research laboratory. It has been identified as “home to the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and  also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research and National Interagency Biodefense Campus”.

The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses.  The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.

Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject   the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out.  In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.

These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!

Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?

THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED

 

About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.

The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations  Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”

All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.

Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory.  The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.

CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION

In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US  Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace  who were certified as having died of influenza  turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.

Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.

But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say.  Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?

THE BENASSIE FACTOR

The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27.  The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”

Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.

Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity.  Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility.   According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC,     Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.

The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory.  “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”

TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS

Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’  drive from Fort Detrick?

That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed   in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.

In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.

The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019.  This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?

Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?

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Opinions

Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.

From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.

Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.

It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.

No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.

In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.

Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.

Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!

Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.

The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.

The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.

The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.

It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.

The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.

It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.

Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.

The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.

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