Saturday, May 10, 2003
I found a couple of articles a little while back about trade policy and effect on Africa. From the BBC:
"American and European taxpayers are financing the destruction of livelihoods of millions of cotton farmers in Africa," said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's advocacy office in Geneva.

"Cotton is a very clear case where what the African countries want is free trade and the chance to compete," she told BBC News Online.

"It exemplifies the double standards and double speak of the West."

And another:
In Zambia, the low world cotton prices continue to decide whether or not an average family will have enough to eat, whether they can pay for health costs, and whether they can keep a large number of children in school. Most people in Zambia continue to survive on a meal a day and it seems most families will continue to go hungry and we only pray for a better future.

Let us look at the position of cotton farmers in Texas, USA. This is the cotton capital of the United States - the country whose 25,000 cotton farmers generate about one quarter of all world exports. Giant mechanised irrigation sprinklers and tractors guided by global positioning satellite systems crawl across vast farms averaging more than 12,000 acres. Farmers here aren't losing any sleep over prices - they are guaranteed a bumper harvest of the crop that helps keep the Zambian family in abject poverty as the Zambian farmer does not recieve any form of assistance from government , yet his counerpart in Texas is guaranteed a market for his cotton and a windfall in the form of farm subsidies. The same subsidised texan cotton continues to depress the world cotton prices and in turn creating a depressing outlook in Zambia.

Yep. US agricultural subsidies are pretty bad and they really should be phased out -- the sooner, the better. Seems like these subsidies assist a smaller and smaller number of farmers at the expense of not only African farmers, but the other 99.9% of American taxpayers.

Supposedly the subsidies will be on the table again at the next round of WTO talks in Mexico this fall, but I haven't seen any indication that there will be a major breakthrough. As bad as the US subsidies are, Europe's are even worse.

Incidentally, here's the US Trade Rep's page about reforming world agricultural trade. I'd like to see Bush be as committed to trade liberalisation as he was to the Iraqi liberation.

Friday, May 09, 2003
Another mystery disease? This sounds pretty bad.

Instapundit is blogging about malaria. Meanwhile there's this story about Kenyans considering the use of DDT:
Kenya's leading research institute has sparked a fierce row among local scientists by proposing that the controversial pesticide DDT be re-introduced in the country to fight malaria.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is campaigning to have DDT lifted from a list of banned pesticides.

Institute director Dr Davy Koech says DDT is one of the most effective pesticides against the anopheles mosquito, which transmits malaria.

I doubt they'll get very far with this, but it's worth thinking about.

The Skeptic wonders if Bush would intervene militarily to stop genocide. It's an interesting question...

A good example might be Sudan where the Khartoum government continues attacks against the South, despite ongoing peace talks. The government's campaign has featured slaughter of civilians, enslavement and ethnic cleansing. It's obviously a bad situation, but can you imagine what would happen if the US wanted to go to war Sudan only because of genocide? I'm sure the Libya-led UN human rights commission would denounce the criminal invasion while simulataneously denying that the Sudanese government had done anything wrong.

UPDATE: Fears of genocide in the Congo, as well, following the withdrawal of Ugandan troops. Fortunately, the situation is under control, because UN peacekeepers are there.... Oh yeah, never mind.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
By the way, there's quite a bit of SARS-blogging going on over at Swamp Cottage. By all reports, a SARS epidemic could be a big problem for Africa due to the poor health infrastructure and the rather large immuno-suppressed HIV-infected population. I'd like to think that the medical community has had some time to see this one coming and make some plans, but I'm probably being way too optimistic.

UPDATE: Okay, well, maybe having HIV is actually a protection against SARS. That's pretty interesting, though it doesn't really make me very optimistic. (Posted by a reader in the comments below.)

It's a little hard to be optimistic about African democracy when people like Mbeki and Obasanjo are its most prominent statesmen. The Zimbabwe talks this week have accomplished little (except possibly strengthening Mugabe and demoralizing the opposition), but if reports like this one are accurate, Obasanjo and Mbeki never intended to settle any of the major issues anyway:
Mr. Obasanjo put a positive spin on the talks, calling the issue of how the election was conducted "a little point we can work out.

"On both sides we saw one common factor," he added, "earnestness for negotiations to be resumed."

Oh please. These guys aren't serious. Mugabe has had more than three years during which he has broken every promise that he's made. An infinite amount of negotiation isn't going to change that behavior. We've heard what he has to say and it's all been lies, so the time for talk is surely over. Now is the time for action.

I don't think Mbeki needs to go as far as shutting off Mugabe's power, but he should tell Mugabe that there will be no more "negotiations" until new elections are held, the rule of law is restored and the rape squads are dismantled. And the next talks, if there are any, should be held in Pretoria. The sight of African heads of state jetting off to Harare to pay tribute at Mugabe's mansion is, in itself, a sign of Mugabe's power.

It would also be nice to see a letter signed by Nelson Mandela stating that Mugabe has violated the spirit of the liberation struggle and has forfeited the right to lead the people of Zimbabwe. That would drive Mugabe nuts, and as respected as Mandela seems to be, such a letter might make real difference in terms of Mugabe's standing at home.

Something I've been wondering for a while: Does Mbeki actually think democracy is a good thing, or is that just the sort of thing he says to foreign aid donors? Evidence so far: 1. Strongly opposes replacing tyrannical, sadistic, Arabic dictator with liberal democracy; 2) Never publicly criticizes war-exporting, terror-sponsoring North African despot; 3) Continues to behave as if the thug raping the neighboring coutry is a respectable leader, even when all evidence indicates otherwise.

Well, things look bad right now, but I'll reserve judgement until I can collect some more evidence.

I'm pretty skeptical about the reports of Sam Bockarie's death. Looks like another one of Charles Taylor's ruses. The guys at the Freetown war crimes court seem a little skeptical, too.

This was an interesting commentary from the East African. (They have an odd way of archiving these things, but hopefully the link will work.) Excerpt:
The world is getting tough on rogue authorities such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea, by force in the case of Iraq. Why not get equally tough with Somali warlords and faction leaders?

It is good to call on the groups to stop atrocities, but it is better to establish mechanisms to force them to do so. Action needs to be taken against those breaking the arms embargo on Somalia. The people of Somalia expect more than mere sympathy from the international community.

He's not concerned about the possibility of Somalia being a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism...but he's (justifiably) frustrated with the fact that the international community, once again, has brokered a "peace" agreement that none of the parties ever intended to keep and that none of the brokers ever intended to enforce. He's right: It's Iraq all over again...and Rwanda, and Ivory Coast, and Sudan.

It's clear (to everyone except those steeped in the faith of the UN) that thugs like the Somali warlords are only exploiting the UN-brokered peace process. And it's a perfect strategy because they know that there will be no consequences for violations. In the end, the UN has lent "legitimacy" to a 10-year process of lies, deceptions and broken promises -- all due to a failure (or unwillingness) of the UN to enforce its own agreements.

When will the UN start actually enforcing the agreements that they broker? I don't know, but as silly as the UN seems to me right now, it must seem even sillier to the tyrants, dictators, and thugs of the world. I look over that excerpt again, it's kind of interesting that he says "the world" is getting tough on rogue regimes. I thought that the US was acting unilaterally. And isn't that a bad thing?

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
This comment doesn't have anything to do with Africa, but it's well-worth posting.

Monday, May 05, 2003
More advice to invest in Africa:
Nine sub-Saharan exchanges recorded a cumulative return of nearly 18 percent in 2001 and 2002, according to a handbook released by UNDP at the Forum. Returns during the same period dropped about 30 percent on both the London and New York markets. "The cumulative performance of African Equity markets shows that over five years, most of them have outperformed key emerging markets as well as major markets indices," said Cyrille Nkontchou, managing director of Liquid Africa, an online information and transaction platform.

It's not only in Africa that African stocks are performing above average. The seven African companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) recorded trading volumes that were twice as great as that of all other non-United States listed firms, according to Bryant W. Seaman III, NYSE Group Executive Vice President, International.

"Further, Africa company trading volume has increased 700 percent between 1999 and 2003," he told the Forum. Calling Africa "an unparalleled opportunity" for high-growth investments, Seaman said several African companies are expected to list on the NYSE later this year or in 2004.

Just for fun, check out the website for the Ghana Stock Exchange. They're already up more than 27% for the year.

This piece from The Perspective places the blame for West Africa's wars right where it belongs:
Like an insidious disease, Taylor launched his tentacles in every direction. Both Liberians and Guineans for years have tried to convince the Ivorians that the Taylor cancer they helped cultivate in Liberia would turn to them someday. Unfortunately nobody listened. Fueled by Libyan logistic support, with the help of the government of Burkina Faso and mostly French business interests in Cote d'Ivoire, the Taylor gangrene grew to become the most potentially destructive regime with regional dimension since the Zaire of Mobutu.

Today Cote d'Ivoire is experiencing the Taylor phenomenon and tomorrow, it could be Mali or Ghana and even Burkina Faso.

He goes on to say that peace in West Africa can only begin with the removal of Taylor, but that can only happen with the involvement of the UN and the US. In any case, something ought to be done soon before this situation gets any more out of hand.

Sadly, it's unlikely that Taylor would allow himself to be removed without a fight. Maybe those NATO troops can do something about it.

Well, wouldn't you soon as I said I hadn't seen one of these articles for a while, I found one:
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline that conveys petroleum products from Warri through Benin has been vandalised.

The vandalisation took place on Tuesday about 10 kilometres from Benin City, with the vandals using three 33,000 litre capacity trucks to siphon the products.

That sounds like a pretty professional operation...I guess this kind of thing goes on all the time.

Sunday, May 04, 2003
Hmmm...the skeptic is blogging about lactose intolerance.

I've been told that most Africans are lactose intolerant. Some of the traditionally cattle-herding groups like the Fulani have developed a tolerance over the years, but for the most part Africans go pretty light on the milk and cheese.

I had a first-hand experience with this when I was in Ghana. In the US, I'd become accustomed to drinking two or three glasses (at least) of milk every day. When I got to Ghana I was pretty surprised that milk and cheese were nowhere to be found...despite the fact that there were perfectly good goats roaming around everywhere. Being a busy-body American, I worried a bit about people's nutrition so I suggested (reasonably, I thought) to some of my Ghanaian friends that they should milk the goats.

I've never in my life heard people laugh so hard.

So that's my experience with African lactose intolerance. I wonder if the same is true for African Americans.

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