African Nations Increase Farm Spending, Winning Poverty Battle

President Barack Obama hosts the leaders of four African nations this week, all of which are cited in a new report for effectively increasing spending on agriculture to combat extreme poverty and hunger.

The report by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty group co-founded by Irish rockers Bono and Bob Geldof, said Senegal, Malawi, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone either met or were close to meeting targets for increased budget spending on agriculture.

All of the countries, except Cape Verde where there is little data, are also on track or close to meeting a U.N. target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the report said.

The African leaders will visit the White House on Thursday to showcase their fledgling democracies, but also their potential in a region where strong economic policies are attracting increased investment.

A recent World Bank report said Africa’s agricultural sector could become a $1 trillion industry by 2030 if farmers modernized their practices and had better access to financing, new technology, irrigation and fertilizers.

“Despite record improvements by select African countries, Africa overall is still far from realizing its agricultural potential,” said the ONE Campaign report, which assessed progress by 19 African countries and donors that send them aid.

“For African governments, donors and the private sector alike, 2013 is the year to deliver on these building blocks that impact farming and expand economic opportunities for farmers,” the report said.

This year marks a decade since African governments committed to allocate 10 percent of national spending to boost agricultural production, reversing decades of under investment in the sector. The so-called Maputo commitments expire this year, giving world leaders the opportunity to lay out a bold new plan with targets, the report said.

According to ONE’s analysis, at least four of the 19 African countries analyzed – Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Malawi and Niger – met or exceeded the target of 10 percent total expenditure on agriculture. Senegal and Sierra Leone are close to the target.

Meanwhile, the laggards are Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, which spend less than 2 percent of their budgets on agriculture.

The report also called on industrialized nations – the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany and Russia – to make good on their various funding promises to help African nations increase agricultural production.

The G8, which meets in June this year, has repeatedly promised to support Africa-led initiatives, yet G8 agriculture investment plans have only secured about half of their required financing, and many donors contribute only a small fraction of their agriculture aid to poor countries, the report said.

The report shows that European Union institutions, Canada and Germany increased their share of foreign assistance to agriculture, while Britain, Japan and France cut theirs.

Channels TV Joins Hillary Clinton’s Last Global Townterview

Channels Television on Tuesday flew the African flag in the live and last ‘Global Townterview’ with outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The Secretary of State had her 59th Global ‘Townterview’ at the Newseum in Washington DC, her last in which she engaged young people around the world including young Nigerian professionals who were gathered inside ChannelsTV studio for the live interaction.

The event which was streamed live on the internet on YouTube had in attendance BBC London, MBC Beirut Lebanon, NDTV, New Delhi, India, NHK Tokyo, Japan, NTN24 Bogota, Colombia and representing Africa was Channels Television from Nigeria.

Nigeria’s 2015 Election

When Channels TV correspondent Maupe Ogun, asked the outgoing Secretary if she can pinpoint any African country that has strived to develop its institutions as President Obama advised in his speech when he visited Ghana in 2009, Mrs Clinton replied; “both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa.”

She described the successful transition in Malawi and the peaceful re-election of Ellen John Sirleaf in Liberia and the just concluded election in Ghana as big moves that showed that the countries are building their political institutions and the voice of people are hearkened to.

“Nigeria is a very important country in Africa and even the world. It really matters how well the next general election goes. Whether it is free and fair. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued. So it is important that everybody in Nigeria does not feel like they are going to be left out” she stated.

The crisis in Mali is one issue Madam Secretary spoke passionately about; she noted how important it is for peace to rain in the country and the region as a whole.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s feat in the first four years of the Obama administration cannot be over-emphasized and this has aroused speculations if she would be running for president in the next US election.

But responding to a question on her plans for the US Presidential in 2016, she responded that “I am not thinking anything about that now. I am working on concluding my tenure as the Secretary of State. I am also working on my 20 years of sleep deprivation.”

When two uniformly dressed radio dee-jays from Australia asked her what she would advise anyone to include on their CV to appeal for her office, the former First Lady of the United States cheerfully stated that “education, good looks and ability to meet people are the essentials needed to be a Secretary of States.”

The Townterview is a mix of a town hall and a television interview. The concept was first introduced by the Secretary when she entered office as a way to broaden people to people engagement.

Mrs Clinton is expected to resign as the US Secretary of State on Friday, 1st of February.

Former aspirant to White House, Senator John Kerry, was on Tuesday, confirmed as the next US Secretary of State.

Malawi’s president will not attend AU summit

Malawi President Joyce Banda will not attend the African Union summit which was moved to Ethiopia after she said her country did not want to host Sudan’s leader, wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges.

Banda, president since April, has been trying to woo back overseas donors which froze hundreds of million of dollars of aid under her predecessor who picked fights with Western countries and was condemned for a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

A few weeks after taking office, she asked the African Union (AU) to prevent Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir taking part in the July summit, saying his visit to Malawi could damage the economy. .

As an International Criminal Court (ICC) member state, Malawi is supposed to arrest Bashir if he enters its territory.

The AU this week moved the meeting to the Ethiopian capital due to Malawi’s stand.

“I respect the decision of the African Union to move the summit from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa but I am not attending the meeting,” Banda told a news conference late on Thursday.

When asked whether she was protesting the AU decision to move the summit, rather than prevent Bashir from attending, she said: “My main agenda is to put Malawi on an economic recovery path and that’s what I am trying to do.”

The Sudanese leader visited Malawi last year when President Bingu wa Mutharika was in power, which sparked international criticism. Mutharika died of a heart attack in April.

REUTERS

2014 W.C. Qualification: Nigeria denied victory with late goal

 The Super Eagles’ must have been getting prepared to celebrate at the 90th minute but the game took another turn at the same minute as Malawi midfielder John Banda took a late effort at goal which saw to it that Nigeria’s campaign for the Brazil 2012 World Cup qualifiers do not sail well and their own long unbeaten home record still remains as it is as the game ended 1-1 in favour of Malawi in Kamuzu stadium.

Super Eagles’ goal came at the 89th minute after playing barren in the first half and long into the second, midfielder Reuben Gabriel nudged the Nigerian-side forward and in quick succession, while celebration would have been registered in the minds of the Super Eagles over the successful garnering of three full points, the goal that tied the game to a draw came forth as the Kamuzu stadium went agog with so much noise in celebration of Malawi’s equaliser.

Attending four of the last five World Cup finals, the Super Eagles’ were expected to dominate the group, but laboured again to add to the largely ineffective performance in Calabar last Sunday, when they needed an 80th minute goal from Spanish-based striker Ike Uche to take all three points.

The relief for the Super Eagles now is that they are still atop the group with four points in their favour thanks to the victory against Namibia in Calabar last week.

Super Eagles waylaid by Malawians

Fans of Malawi national team ahead of the clash bet ween their country and Nigeria waylaid the Super Eagles during their training in Malawi.

Ben Alaiya, the media officer of the team said rough-looking fans came on the field with a plan to disrupt the late training session of the team which Coach Stephen Keshi insisted should hold despite arriving Malawi late so as for the players to feel the Kamuzu turf, although the time scheduled for the training was 2:30pm which had lapsed.

By the time the team was led to the Kamuzu Stadium by 5pm Malawi time by the Coach Stephen Keshi, it was already getting dark in Blantyre and that was when fans of Malawi stormed the training pitch and attempted to harass Nigerian players but were quickly prevented by team’s CSO, ACP Gideon Akinsola, Camp Commandant, Lt. Col Rabiu Yandoto and Psychologist Robinson Okosun, who momentarily assumed the duty of a security detail for the period that the shouting match lasted.

Malawi security outfit did not deem it fit to ride to the defence of Nigerian players not until the officials of the Super Eagles team resisted that a policeman came on board to wade into issue as the fans kept ranting that the stadium and country was theirs so nobody should or can stop them from having access to the arena where the Eagles were having their training.

A while later, the fans were calmed and told to let the Super Eagles have their training but they did that with a promise dealing with the Super Eagles players later on and the squad learnt that another confrontation is being planned against the Super Eagles team outside the stadium and after  30 minutes of training and due the darkness which was a deliberate act by the stadium officials to frustrate the Super Eagles, Coach Stephen Keshi had to retire the boys ,the fans still laid siege as promised and it took about 10 minutes for a combined team of policemen and some Nigerians resident in Blantyre to convince them to allow the Super Eagles out of the stadium and back into their bus.

All these Coach Stephen Keshi said were ploy by Malawi to destabilise the Super Eagles as he promised that the Super Eagles will do everything it can to make the country as whole by coming home with victory from Malawi as he also encouraged the team that such mind games should be expected in games like this and urged the players to be prepared for more of such antics from the fans of the Flames.

Malawi may be first African country to legalise homosexuality

Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda has said she wants her country to overturn its ban on homosexual acts – the first African country to do so since 1994.

Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda

Two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 after saying they were getting married.

Several Western leaders have recently said they would cut aid to countries which did not recognise gay rights.

Mrs Banda, who came to power in April on the death of her predecessor, said in her first state of the nation address on Friday: “Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed.” She described the measure as a matter of urgency.

She further said her government wanted to normalise relations with “our traditional development partners who were uncomfortable with our bad laws”.

But repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote and, although Banda’s party commands a majority, it is unclear how much support the move would have in this socially conservative nation.

Malawi was widely condemned for the conviction and 14-year prison sentences given in 2010 to two men who were arrested after celebrating their engagement and were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency.

The former president, Bingu wa Mutharika had pardoned the couple on “humanitarian grounds only”, while claiming they had “committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws”.

The Senate had last year taken a strong stand against same sex marriage in Nigeria.

Debate over same sex marriage is growing across the world. While some countries have legalised it, others are considering adopting it and few conservatives have taken similar strong stands against it.

“We as a country need to act very fast for this trend not to find its way into our country,” Domingo Obende, had said while moving the motion against same sex marriage last September.

“Same sex marriage cannot be allowed on moral and religious grounds. The Muslim religion forbids it. Christianity forbids it and the African traditional religion forbids it. It should not be allowed because it will lead to a breakdown of the society,” Mr Obende said.

The United States’ State Department and 16 international human rights groups had strongly condemned the bill, calling it a violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly guaranteed by international law as well as by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a barrier to the struggle against the spread of AIDS.

Malawi’s President Mutharika is dead

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday, although few of his countrymen mourned a leader widely seen as an autocrat responsible for a stunning economic collapse.

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday,

The 78-year-old was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing but was dead on arrival, the sources said. State media said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment although his immediate whereabouts remained unclear.

Medical sources said the former World Bank economist had been flown out because a power and energy crisis in the nation of 13 million was so severe the Lilongwe state hospital would have been unable to carry out a proper autopsy or even keep his body refrigerated.

Many Malawians blamed Mutharika personally for the economic woes, which stemmed ultimately from a diplomatic spat with former colonial power Britain a year ago.

“We know he is dead and unfortunately he died at a local, poor hospital which he never cared about – no drugs, no power,” said Chimwemwe Phiri, a Lilongwe businessman waiting in a snaking line of cars for fuel at a petrol station.

There was no official announcement. State media said a statement would be made at midday (1000 GMT).
As rumours of the death of the self-styled ‘Economist in Chief’ swept the capital on Thursday night, there were even pockets of drunken jubilation among locals who saw him turning back the clock on 18 years of democracy in the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.

“I am yet to see anyone shedding a tear for Bingu,” said Martin Mlenga, another businessman. “We all wished him dead, sorry to say that.”

The constitution says Vice-President Joyce Banda will take over as head of state. Analysts said there would be a smooth transition even though Banda was booted out of Mutharika’s ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession.

Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his Foreign Minister brother Peter as his successor, although there was little question of the army and police not respecting the law, said former Attorney General Ralph Kasambara.

“The army has been very professional,” Kasambara, now a human rights activist, told Reuters. “He was very unpopular. People were praying for his death. We can’t get any worse than we are.”

The next election is due in 2014.

FEW MOURNERS

Police deployed in force across the capital immediately after Mutharika’s hospital admission, although it was business as usual on Friday as residents went about their daily struggle to get by.

Mutharika came to power in 2004 and presided over a seven-year boom – underpinned by foreign aid and favourable rains – that made Malawi one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The good times came to a halt last year after a dispute with Britain, Malawi’s biggest donor, that led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and the freezing of millions of dollars of aid.

The cause of the row was a leaked diplomatic cable that accused Mutharika of being “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

The aid freeze exacerbated an already acute dollar shortage, hampering imports of fuel, food and medicines, and leading to a fall in the value of the kwacha against the dollar.

Malawi’s diplomatic isolation and economic plight worsened in July 2011 when the United States shelved a $350 million overhaul of the dilapidated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests.

Mutharika hit back in typically combative style, urging his supporters last month to “step in and defend their father rather than just sit back and watch him take crap from donors and rights groups”.
REUTERS