Monday, August 24, 2009

Why is Africa poor? Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed

Quote of the Day
"Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed." - President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, 2009.

The following report also tells us that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says she underestimated the problem of graft.

From BBC News, Monday, 24 August 2009:
Why is the African continent poor?
By Mark Doyle, BBC world affairs correspondent
The desolate, dusty town of Pibor on South Sudan's border with Ethiopia has no running water, no electricity and little but mud huts for the population to live in.

You would be hard put to find a poorer place anywhere on earth.

I went there as part of a journey across Africa to ask the question "Why is Africa poor?" for a BBC radio documentary series.

I was asked to investigate why it is that every single African country - with the exceptions of oil-rich Gabon and Algeria - is classified by the United Nations as having a "low" broadly defined Human Development Index - in other words an appalling standard of living for most of the people.

In Pibor, the answer to why the place is poor seems fairly obvious.

The people - most of whom are from the Murle ethnic group - are crippled by tribal conflicts related to disputes over cattle, the traditional store of wealth in South Sudan.

The Murle have recently had fights with the Lol Nuer group to the north of Pibor and with ethnic Bor Dinkas to the west.

In a spate of fighting with the Lol Nuer earlier this year several hundred people, many of them women and children, were killed in deliberate attacks on villages.

There has been a rash of similar clashes across South Sudan in the past year (although most were on a smaller scale than the fights between the Lol Nuer and the Murle).

And so the answer to why South Sudan is poor is surely a no-brainer: War makes you destitute.

Why is there so much war?

And yet South Sudan is potentially rich.

"It's bigger than Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined," the South Sudan Regional Co-operation Minister Barnaba Benjamin, enthused.

"Tremendous land! Very fertile, enormous rainfall, tremendous agricultural resources. Minerals! We have oil and many other minerals - go name it!"

The paradox of rich resources and poor people hints at another layer of explanation about why Africa is poor.

It is not just that there is war. The question should, perhaps be: "Why is there so much war?"

And the headline question is in fact misleading; Africans as a people may be poor, but Africa as a place is fantastically rich - in minerals, land, labour and sunshine.

That is why outsiders have been coming here for hundreds of years - to invade, occupy, convert, plunder and trade.

But the resources of South Sudan, for example, have never been properly developed.

During colonial rule South Sudan was used as little more than a reservoir of labour and raw materials.

Then independence was followed by 50 years of on-off war between the south and north - with northerners in Khartoum continuing the British tactic of divide and rule among the southern groups.

Some southerners believe this is still happening today.

Corruption

On my journey across the poorest, sub-Saharan swathe of the continent - that took in Liberia and Nigeria in the west, Sudan in the centre, and Kenya in the east - people explored the impact that both non-Africans and Africans had had on why Africa is poor.

Almost every African I met, who was not actually in government, blamed corrupt African leaders for their plight.

"The gap between the rich and the poor in Africa is still growing," said a fisherman on the shores of Lake Victoria.

"Our leaders, they just want to keep on being rich. And they don't want to pay taxes."

Even President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia came close to this when she told me she had underestimated the level of corruption in her country when she took office.

"Maybe I should have sacked the whole government when I came to power," she said.

"Africa is not poor," President Johnson-Sirleaf added, "it is poorly managed."

This theme was echoed by an architect in Kenya and a senior government official in Nigeria.

Both pointed out that the informal sector of most African economies is huge and almost completely unharnessed.

Marketplaces, and a million little lean-to repair shops and small-scale factories are what most urban Africans rely upon for a living.

But such is their distrust of government officials that most businesspeople in the informal sector avoid all contact with the authorities.

Kenyan architect and town planner Mumo Museva took me to the bustling Eastleigh area of Nairobi, where traders have created a booming economy despite the place being almost completely abandoned by the government.

Eastleigh is a filthy part of the city where rubbish lies uncollected, the potholes in the roads are the size of swimming pools, and the drains have collapsed.

But one indication of the success of the traders, Mr Museva said, was the high per-square-foot rents there.

"You'll be surprised to note that Eastleigh is the most expensive real estate in Nairobi."

He added that if Eastleigh traders trusted the government they might pay some taxes in return for decent services, so creating a "virtuous circle".

"It would lift people out of poverty," he said.

"Remember, poverty is related to quality of life, and the quality of life here is appalling, despite the huge amount of wealth flowing through these areas."

Then the young Kenyan architect echoed the Liberian president, some 5,000km (3,000 miles) away on the other side of the continent.

"Africa is not poor," he also said.

"Africa is just poorly managed."
See blog: Why is Africa poor? Have Your Say

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prendergast's ENOUGH Project: Poker players Ante Up for Africa charity - Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Chad, and Somalia



Posted to YouTube by ENOUGH - Ante Up for Africa, June 25, 2008:
ENOUGH is the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Focusing on the crises in Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Chad, and Somalia, ENOUGH uses a 3Ps crisis response strategy: promoting peace, protecting civilians, and punishing the perpetrators.

This year ENOUGH again joined the benefit poker tournament Ante Up for Africa, hosted by Don Cheadle and Annie Duke.
To learn what you can do to join the fight against genocide, go to ENOUGH.

© Center for American Progress
Category: Nonprofits & Activism
Tags: Cheadle Prendergast genocide Sudan Khartoum Uganda Somalia ICC advocacy Gayle Smith Africa war ENOUGH Ante Up Poker charity benefit Hollywood
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From usaplayers.com Thursday, 13 August 2009 by Bruce:
Full Tilt Poker's "Ante up for Africa" Charity Tournament
As part of Full Tilt Poker's FTOPS XIII online poker series, they are holding a special charity poker tournament known as "Ante up for Africa". The tournament will be held at 3 p.m. on August 15th [2009], and it will raise money for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The tournament will be hosted by actor and avid poker player Don Cheadle. The buy in for the tournament will be $100+20. The twenty dollar tournament fee will be donated to the charity. This charity tournament will be part of the FTOPS VIII online poker championships, which will feature more than $16 million in prize money over various tournaments. The last of the tournaments is known as the main event, and it will be held on August 16th with a massive guaranteed prize pool of $2.5 million.

Back in 2007, Cheadle co founded an Ante up for Africa Poker Tournament with Norman Epstein and Annie Duke. At the recent 2009 World Series of Poker, the third annual Ante up for Africa charity tournament was held. The tournament attracted some of the top celebrities from both poker and entertainment. Some of the stars in attendance were actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and they were joined by poker pros Erick Seidel and Jennifer Harmon. The tournament had a $5,000 entry fee, and the players were asked to donate 50% of their winnings to the charity. When the tournament was complete, over $600,000 was raised. Since the Ante up for Africa charity was formed a few years back, over $2 million dollars has been raised. The funds have been distributed to organizations such as "Not on Our Watch", "Enough Project", and "International Rescue Committee". The upcoming online charity tournament will help raise even more money for such a good cause.

The FTOPS XIII charity tournament will take place on a Saturday afternoon giving most players the opportunity to play and help raise money for a good cause. Even though the tournament is designed to raise money for the Ante up for Africa charity, there is plenty of money to be won as well. The tournament will have a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool, with the winner guaranteed to walk away with at least $22,500. Players can take that their shot at winning some serious cash, while raising money for a great organization. Along with the chance to play with many well known poker professionals, players who play in the tournament will also get to play alongside celebrities such as Matt Damon. This will be another opportunity for poker players to help raise money for the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

To discuss this and other Poker articles like it drop by our brand new forum at: www.usaplayers.com
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From PokerNews.com Wednesday, 12 August 2009 by Elaine Chaivarlis:
2009 WSOP Ante Up for Africa Recap
ESPN’s third week of 2009 WSOP coverage aired last night with the Ante Up for Africa event. Dozens of celebrities and poker pros showed up for this event. This was the first time that Ante Up for Africa was aired on television.

The event had a $5,000 buy-in and attracted 137 players. The total prize pool generated for the event was $665,820. It was suggested that players donate 50% of their winnings to the charity.

Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Sarah Silverman, Montel Williams, Nelly, Cedric the Entertainer, Herschel Walker, and Charles Barkley were among the notable celebrities at the event. Several poker pros played the event as well, including Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow, Peter Eastgate, and Dennis Phillips.

Let’s face it, there weren’t a lot of stellar players, or plays in this event, as the event was created more as a fun way to raise money and awareness for the Darfur region.

Charles Barkley and Herschel Walker were two celebrities that might be able to benefit a little from the PokerNews strategy section. They both made this event entertaining to watch with their interesting plays. In one hand, where he rivered trip queens, Walker doesn't even know what the minimum bet is, but was happy with the face time he got from his hollywooding. Charles Barkley got it all in post flop when he flopped a flush draw with his . He never got there and was eliminated.

Mike McDermott (or Matt Damon, whatever you like to call him) ended up at the feature table sitting next to Erik Seidel. This is significant, only in that because of the movie Rounders, Erik Seidel's second place finish to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP has been seen millions of times. So maybe Seidel had it out for Damon a little. Damon, like every other celebrity in this event, didn't make it to the final table. Wonder what happened to all those tells he used to pick up on.

The final table was, not surprisingly, packed with poker pros. Jennifer Harman, Matt Kay, John Hennigan, Phil Gordon, Chris Ferguson, Erik Seidel, Rafe Furst, Adam Richardson, and Alex Bolotin all made the final table of the Ante Up for Africa event. Five of the players at the table, Harman, Hennigan, Ferguson, Seidel, and Furst hold a combined 18 WSOP bracelets.

With the super fast structure, the final table saw its players drop rather quickly with Adam Richardson all but out the door at one point when he was all in and went runner runner clubs to stay alive. Richardson ended up going heads up against the eventual winner, Alex Bolotin, who won $176,449 for his first place finish.

There have been numerous opinions about whether or not there should have been more events from the 2009 WSOP aired on television. We're sure the minds over at ESPN had a reason for the lack of other coverage. We're not sure, however, if this will be the trend next year. What we can say is, in regards to this event, people watch what their favorite celebrities are doing, and if their favorite celebrity is playing poker, then they’re watching them play poker, bringing a more mainstream audience to the game, and that much we like. No matter what the broadcast schedule is next year, we definitely hope this event will be in the mix.

Be sure to tune into ESPN every Tuesday night for continuing coverage of the WSOP, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter.
Good luck to all.

ENOUGH

ENOUGH was conceived in 2006 by a small group of concerned policymakers and activists who wanted to transform their frustration about inaction into pragmatic solutions and hope. Co-founded by Africa experts Gayle Smith and John Prendergast, ENOUGH launched in early 2007 as a project of the Center for American Progress. John Norris is Enough’s Executive Director. Read more about ENOUGH at http://www.enoughproject.org/about.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

LRA rebels will not return to Uganda despite fresh attacks in DR Congo -Uganda

From The New Vision, Uganda by Henry Mukasa, 11 August 2009 (via AllAfrica)
Uganda: 'Uganda Safe From LRA'
Kampala — LRA rebels will not return to Uganda despite fresh attacks in DR Congo, the army has said. Army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces were "on the guard" and no LRA fighters would be allowed to sneak back and cause havoc in the north.

"Take it from me, whatever the LRA does in Congo, they will never cross back to Uganda. Any attempts to cross back have been taken care of. Our people should rest assured that peace will be maintained," Kulayigye said in a telephone interview.

He was responding to reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday that the LRA had launched an "unprecedented" 55 attacks in north-eastern Congo last month, forcing about 12,500 civilians to flee their homes.

The UN agency observed that the rampage by the LRA was targeted at the Faradje area in Orientale province, about 100km west of the country's border with Southern Sudan and Uganda.

"The humanitarian situation in this remote part of the DRC remains pathetic. Most of the internally displaced people are unable to return home because of the ongoing assaults," said Andrej Mahecic, the agency's spokesman.

He said the insecurity was hidering delivery of aid supplies such as food, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking sets to the IDPs.

He added that the agency had only been able to reach about 45% of the displaced. The LRA rebel activities and mounting violence has also led to an increase in Congolese civilians seeking refuge in Sudan.

Out of 21,000 refugees in Southern Sudan, 16,500 arrived since last November from Orientale province.

The LRA fought an atrocious war in Uganda, killing thousands and displacing about 1.5 million people to IDP camps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CECAFA U-17 football tournament: Kenya v Uganda (Juba, S. Sudan, 4.30pm on 19 Aug 2009)

From Pana via Afrique en ligne, Wednesday, 12 August 2009:
Fixtures of Cecafa youth football tournament in Sudan
(Kenya) - Below are the fixtures for this month's Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) championships taking place in Sudan.

The regional event, known as the Cecafa U-17 tournament, is slated for 19-31 August in three Sudanese cities - Khartoum, Juba and Medani. It is being sponsored by Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to the tune of US$ 700,000.

Aug. 19 - Ethiopia v Zanzibar (Juba 2.30pm); Kenya v Uganda (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 20 - Somalia v Nigeria (Khartoum 5.30pm); Sudan v Tanzania (Khartoum 9.30pm )

Aug. 21 - Zanzibar v Kenya (Juba 2.30pm); Uganda v Ethiopia (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 22 - Nigeria v Tanzania (Khartoum 5.30pm); Somalia v Sudan (Khartoum 9.30pm ),

Aug. 22 - Eritrea v Rwanda (Medani 5.30pm); Egypt v Burundi (Medani 9.30pm).

Aug. 23 - Kenya v Ethiopia (Juba 2.30pm); Zanzibar v Uganda (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 24 - Tanzania v Somalia (Khartoum 5.30pm); Sudan v Nigeria (Khartoum 9.30pm ).

Aug. 24 - Rwanda v Burundi (Medani 5.30pm); Eritrea v Egypt (Medani 9.30pm).

Aug. 25 - Rest Day.

Aug. 26 & 27 - Quarter finals

Aug. 28 & 29 - Semi finals (Khartoum).

Aug. 30 - Rest Day.

Aug. 31 - Third place play offs/Finals (Khartoum).
Cross posted from Sudan Watch on Wednesday 12 August 2009: Fixtures of CECAFA U-17 football tournament in Sudan 19-31 Aug 2009

Click on labels here below for related reports and updates.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Uganda’s Under-17 football team prepares to compete in Sudan from August 19-31

From The Observer, Uganda by John Vianney Nsimbe, 10 August 2009:
National U-17 footballers face daunting task
Since finishing second at the Under-17 CECAFA Cup in 2007, Uganda’s Under-17 football team hasn’t been active. Richard Wasswa, the team’s coach suggests that it’s high time Uganda sets up regular under age competitions to keep the young players active.

As the team prepares to compete in this year’s tournament in Sudan from August 19-31, Wasswa told The Observer that without under age competitions, it becomes hard to spot players.

“The time has run out for us to start building a new team. It would have been easier if there were regular under age competitions where we would have spotted the best talent early on,” says Wasswa.

Wasswa concludes that it’s important that our young players get more competition so that they get experience before such major events. Guest teams like Nigeria and Egypt will grace this event. Uganda will be in group ‘B’ battling Kenya, Ethiopia and Zanzibar.

jovi@observer.ug

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UN to expand Entebbe base - UN special envoy Joaquim Chissano tenure not terminated

From The New Vision, Uganda
UN to expand Entebbe base
By Henry Mukasa, Sunday 09 August, 2009
THE United Nations will expand its anchor operations at Entebbe army base to make it its logistical launchpad for UN missions in Africa.

Uganda’s permanent representative to the UN Security Council in New York, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, announced on Friday that the expansion of the logistics hub will commence next year.

Addressing journalists at the Media Centre in Kampala, Rugunda explained that the UN logistical services base has benefited peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, South Sudan, Chad and Somalia.

He disclosed that a memorandum of understanding between the UN and the Government would be signed to spell out the terms of the expanded use of the base.

Rugunda, who chaired the UN Security Council in July, pointed out that during his tenure, the council adopted five resolutions and five presidential statements.

Some of the issues dealt with by the council included the situations in the Congo, Somalia, Darfur – Sudan, Djibouti/ Eritrea, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Middle East and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Commenting on the situation in the neighbouring Congo, Rugunda said: “The council expressed grave concern over the renewed activity of illegal armed groups and condemned the targeted attacks against civilians by the FDLR and the LRA. It also expressed concern over reports of massive human rights violations, widespread sexual violence and the continued recruitment of children in armed conflict.”

On the LRA, Rugunda said the council commended the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, for his contribution to the Juba peace process and called on the LRA to sign the final peace agreement.

He explained that Chissano’s tenure as UN envoy had not been terminated.

“The talks between the Government and LRA were concluded, but Kony dodged signing. So, it was decided that offices should not be kept open in Kampala for Chissano when Kony is not contactable.

When Kony avails himself for signing, Chissano will fly in as UN envoy. His services have not been terminated but suspended,” Rugunda stated.
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From UN - Daily Press Briefing (7 August 2009) by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General - excerpt:
Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), meanwhile, says that an unprecedented 55 rebel attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have displaced some 12,500 civilians in the past month alone. This is a spike from 23 LRA attacks in May and 34 in June.

UNHCR says that the Ugandan rebels have murdered 1,273 civilians and abducted 655 children and 1,427 adults. A number of women were also raped and houses were looted and torched. Fleeing civilians have found shelter in public buildings including schools and churches. And the situation is made worse by a lack of basic medical supplies at local hospitals, while aid agencies have so far reached only half of the internally displaced persons. And that’s due to widespread insecurity in the region. You can read more about this upstairs.

Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) fears that the recent massacre of 161 people in Southern Sudan’s Jonglei State might lead to a spate of deadly retaliatory attacks. Some 700 people have been killed since March in the region while another 19,000 were displaced. WFP and its partners have called on the Government to put an end to inter-tribal fighting, which is endangering the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Full story.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

David Blair's report from Witto, Western Equatoria, S. Sudan: LRA targets children of Sudan

Here is a long awaited report from The Daily Telegraph's Africa correspondent David Blair. I have lost count of the number of times over the past year that I wondered about his lack of reporting on Africa and even worried that he might be ill. So, it was a wonderful surprise for me a few minutes ago to find the following report filed from South Sudan's Western Equatoria! Fingers crossed that he remains in the region to report more on what is really going on. On Monday morning (10 August 2009) I published news at Sudan Watch about southern Sudan where a humanitarian disaster more serious than that in Darfur, western Sudan is unfolding.
From The Daily Telegraph
Lord's Resistance Army targets children of Sudan
By David Blair in Witto, Western Equatoria province, South Sudan
Published: 7:00AM BST Monday 10 Aug 2009

The Lord's Resistance Army, which specialises in abducting and murdering the young, has turned on a new and pitifully vulnerable target: the children of southern Sudan, one of Africa's most isolated and troubled regions.

Lord's Resistance Army targets children of Sudan

Local people call LRA fighters the "ton-tong", meaning "machete", because this is their chosen weapon for murdering victims Photo: GETTY

The LRA, which emerged in neighbouring Uganda and has kidnapped tens of thousands of children during two decades of guerrilla war, is now striking across a vast area of bush and plain along Sudan's south-western frontier.
These raids on defenceless villages, usually mounted by small groups of rebels searching for children to abduct and food to steal, have forced more than 55,000 people to flee their homes. Western Equatoria province has been worst hit, with scores of villages abandoned and new refugee camps springing up.

Local people call LRA fighters the "ton-tong", meaning "machete", because this is their chosen weapon for murdering victims.
Mary Anja, who does not know her age but looks about 30, lived in Diko district until the LRA attacked her village. Knowing that the rebels were hunting for children, local people tried to evacuate as many as possible, along with their mothers, on two tractors.

Mrs Anja gathered her three infant sons and climbed onto one vehicle's trailer. Meanwhile, her daughter, Phoebe, who is about 12, boarded the second tractor.

But this tiny convoy drove straight into an LRA ambush. "The ton-tong fired bullets in the air, then they shot out the tyres of the tractor," said Mrs Anja. "When people tried to jump out, they shot at the people." As the terrified women and children tried to flee, one baby boy, less than a year old, was shot dead in the arms of his mother. Another woman was wounded in the leg, while a Sudanese soldier, who had tried to protect the convoy, died in a hail of bullets.

Mrs Anja managed to flee with her three sons. As she ran, she knew nothing of the fate of Phoebe, travelling on the second tractor. "I was thinking 'Phoebe is not here'. I started crying while I ran," said Mrs Anja.

By this time, Phoebe was already in the hands of the LRA. The guerrillas surrounded her tractor, firing in the air and singling out Phoebe along with five other girls and one boy. "They surrounded us. We couldn't run and then they said 'sit down'. One of the rebels tied us up," said Phoebe.

The captives were led away into the bush. For the next three days, Phoebe was forced to march for 18 hours at a time. "If you don't walk fast enough, you are beaten with sticks," she remembered. "I was thinking, 'I may be killed like those who have been killed by the ton-tong before'. And I asked myself 'what has happened to my mother and my brothers'?"

Phoebe could not have known that her family was safe. They had managed to reach another village, from where Mrs Anja and her sons were brought to a refugee camp at Witto, some 50 miles away.

Shortly before dawn on the fourth day of the march, Phoebe and three other girls managed to slip away as their captors slept. For the next 12 days, they walked through the bush, surviving on river water and wild berries, until they reached the town of Tore Wandi.

Phoebe, emaciated and dehydrated, was taken to hospital, where her mother eventually found her. Today, she has recovered and the family lives in Witto camp, where Oxfam provides sanitation and basic essentials for about 500 refugees.

They cannot understand why they have become the LRA's latest targets. This nihilist movement, which emerged in Northern Uganda more than 20 years ago, has no coherent aim. Its psychotic leader, Joseph Kony, claims to be a prophet and says that he wants to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.

But Kony's rebellion has no purpose save murder, so no-one joins him voluntarily. Hence the LRA must abduct children, who are then brainwashed into becoming soldiers and sent to kidnap more young recruits. In this brutal fashion, the LRA constantly replenishes its ranks.

Uganda has managed to expel the rebels from its territory with a series of offensives. But the LRA has scattered across a new killing ground, covering Sudan's borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

No-one can tell how many children have disappeared in this vast area. Joseph Ngere Paciko, the deputy governor of Western Equatoria, has recorded 250 abductions in his province alone.

"There have also been cases in far-away villages, where we have no access, so the real number is certainly higher," he said. "Our people don't understand why this is happening. Why should the LRA come and kill our people every day?"

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Uganda: Microfinancing - Launch of new Mobile Money Transfer Directory will focus on Sub-Sahara Africa

A new Mobile Money Transfer Directory at http://creditsms.org launches in 2 wks focus on Sub-Saharan Africa (by @CreditSMS)

Source: White African Erik Hersman via Twitter 04 Aug. 2009
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Snippets from CreditSMS website:
In December 2009, CreditSMS will launch several pilots throughout Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Additional pilot requests have been submitted for Kenya, Sudan, and Sierra Leone. Uganda and DRC have 87% and 66% rural populations respectively, constituting a nascent market of as many as 76 million potential clients and consumers. By enabling MFIs [microfinance institutions] to reach and meet the demands of this market, CreditSMS will facilitate a form of 'bubble up' development whereby the income of microloan recipients will increase and the price of newly-available goods and services will trend toward market equilibrium. All pilot results will be made free and accessible via CreditSMS.org as they become available.
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The Beginning...
By Ben Lyon
Published: July 14, 2009

Formal banks were hesitant to give "the bottom billion" loans because they didn't have collateral. Today, microfinance institutions (MFIs) fill that void by providing collateral-free loans to micro-entrepreneurs. In order to compete with traditional moneylenders, however, those MFIs had to charge exorbitant interest rates, mostly to absorb the high transport cost of making weekly visits to rural areas to collect loan repayments. With teledensity penetration and mobile commerce growing faster by the day, one has to wonder: why are loan officers still making the trip? Read More...
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Increasing revenue and impact through technology
By Ben Lyon
Published: July 22, 2009
[article written for Project Diaspora]

Aaron Ewedafe wakes up every morning at least one hour before the sun rises. Donning his satchel full of client records and repayment schedules, he hails the nearest okada driver and races into the surrounding countryside to begin a long day of loan group meetings. The trip from headquarters in Oshogbo to the village of Ojudo and back can take all day. Aaron rarely makes it home before nightfall. Altogether, Aaron spends 112 hours and 5,000 naira a week to manage 350 microloan recipients. His profit is negligible. Read More...
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The 'Phone as Cow' Model
By Ben Lyon
Published: August 1, 2009

Mobile phones are quickly becoming the hottest topic in development. Everyday, waves of new innovations are rolled out to connect 'bottom of the pyramid' (BOP) entrepreneurs to markets and information. But many advocates and implementers seem to neglect a fundamental question: What good are mobile innovations if BOP entrepreneurs can't afford handsets? According to Iqbal Quadir of Grameenphone, the answer is to issue the handset as the first microloan. Read More...
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Follow Credit SMS on Twitter

Check out Mobile Money Africa - Africa's leading online resource for mobile financial inclusion: mobilemoneyafrica.com

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

‘Uganda came close to war with Sudan’

From Sunday Monitor, Kampala by Angelo Izama, 02 August 2009:
‘Uganda came close to war with Sudan’
Uganda was warned by its neighbour, the semi-autonomous South Sudan, of grave consequences including war and instability, if it dared arrest indicted Sudanese leader, Omar El Bashir.

Sunday Monitor has learnt from credible sources that a senior member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement jetted into Kampala carrying a letter from South Sudan president Salva Kirr Mayardit urgently asking President Yoweri Museveni to diffuse a situation created by Uganda’s position that it could arrest and hand Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The special envoy was Maj. Gen. Gier Chuang Aluong, the current minister for internal affairs of the Government of South Sudan. He arrived in Uganda on July 14 and had a meeting with President Museveni in the evening of the same day, literally entering State House just as President. Museveni concluded an uncomfortable session with Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the ICC.

Sources familiar with Maj. Gen. Aluong’s visit, but who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Mr. Kirr wanted to emphasise to his Ugandan counterpart the danger of even “threatening to arrest” Bashir.

Earlier, Mr Ocampo who made a surprise visit to Uganda expressly to inform the government of its obligations to arrest Bashir if he set foot in the country had held a press conference in Kampala with Minster of State for International Relations Henry Okello Oryem. It was here that the minister said if Bashir, an invitee to the recently concluded Smart Patnership meeting, arrived at Entebbe he would be served with an arrest warrant and taken into custody by the Uganda police.
“Gier said Uganda may turn into Somalia with suicide bombers making security difficult and there was the risk of war if Bashir was facing arrest” said one source with close ties to the South Sudan political establishment.

The choice of envoy itself is telling. Maj. Gen Aluong is a familiar face in Kampala and has close ties with senior members of the National Resistance Movement including former internal affairs minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and Works minister John Nasasira. He was previously minister for communications and helped set up the GoSS mobile phone network, Gemtel with the help of the Uganda government.

A statement from State House did not give any details of Maj. Gen. Aluong’s visit but simply said he and the President discussed bilateral issues. Mr. Oryem and the President’s Principal Press Secretary attended the meeting.

“The issue of President Bashir was not raised in this meeting,” Mr Oryem said yesterday adding, however, that Maj. Gen. Aluong had arrived as special envoy and consequently spent some time privately with the President.

The revelations show just how complicated the Ugandan position on Bashir’s arrest warrant is. Uganda would have been the first country which is a signatory to the ICC statute that Bashir would have visited.

“The Sudanese were very mad. They were threatening severe action against Uganda including war,” said a Ugandan delegate to the Non-Aligned States meeting which was taking place in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik at the time.
Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa who represented President Museveni at the meeting was tasked to cool things down with Bashir who was present. Later, Bashir took a phone call from President Museveni in which the latter reportedly apologised.

Uganda and South Sudan have a close relationship having been on the same side of the long war between SPLA and Khartoum. However, today, under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Mr Kirr is also Sudan’s First Vice President.

However the Bashir indictment is also complicated at various levels. Informed sources say President Museveni had been asked by a key European nation to mediate between Bashir and rebels in Darfur whose representatives had already visited Kampala.
Consequently the invitation by Bashir would have been a pro-active attempt by President Museveni to pursue a dialogue had it not been for the intervention of the ICC prosecutor and the controversy his visit generated in the media.

At the same time President Museveni is sensitive to Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s emphatic lobby for Bashir to be protected by African leaders. Col. Gadaffi is chairman of the Afircan Union.
At a broader level, the alliance of Egypt, Sudan and Libya was an issue that Uganda’s Foreign Service has been fretting about for some time.

“ Gier said Salva was very concerned and insisted that the matter be resolved quickly” said the source who added that after years of SPLA fighting Khartoum, Mr Kirr who used to be the army’s intelligence chief “ knew how dangerous an enemy Khartoum can be”.

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