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Over the last two decades there has been a significant expansion of print/nonprint media in Africa. Journalists and independent media are increasing in number and vitality. Large numbers of Africans are gaining access to a wider variety of media, as sources for both news and additional information on a wide variety of subjects. However, this trend is not uniform and not without danger. In far to many african countries, independent media outlets and journalists are attacked and sometimes killed for criticizing their governments. While others are either censored and/or intimidated into conformity. Before the continent can adopt a monolithic ideology, there must be open and free expression of legitimate ideas without the fear of reprisals.

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Contemporary Africa is experiencing many of the same problems it has faced more than a century ago as the continent continuously succumbs from one disaster to the next. Nevertheless, life in Africa includes some wealthy African families that are living quite comfortably although oftentimes they are surrounded by the grim realities of deprivation that afflict a large majority of the African populace. Even though there are rich Africans who encompass positions of power, there are also many destitute Africans whose numbers are increasing exponentially and the gap between these two contradicting classes of Africans is simply widening at an alarming rate. That being said, Africa still does not get nearly as much direct foreign investment as it could profitably use, and that is one of the reasons why it is still the global center of poverty. But one may reasonably argue: Are loans from financial entities like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) along with humanitarian relief from various organizations the best way to combat poverty?

It should be noted that most of those who have made it out of poverty live in China and India, nations that have prospered from huge increases in trade, manufacturing, outsourcing and foreign investment. But of the $525 billion in World Bank guaranteed loans since its founding, only 17% has gone to China or India, where 80% of the poverty reduction has taken place. In fact, China, which alone is home to more than half of those on earth who have escaped poverty since 1990, has received only 7% of the World Bank's financing. This is just one of several conundrums affecting the continent.

The continent's problem exists primarily on at least two levels: external/internal. Many African governments are more concerned with ruling rather than governing their countrymen. In addition, many outside western influences have exploited Africa since the sixteenth century colonization of the continent. Western exploiters are found both in their economically superior indigenous governments as well as the international corporate establishments that literally rule the world through the massive power and wealth at their disposal. Presently, corporations, NATO and several eastern countries are trying to re-establish a strangle-hold on African resources while engaging in questionable practices to acheive their economic and social goals. For instance, hedge funds along with China, India and Saudi Arabia are purchasing large swathes of arable farmland in Africa while many indigenous Africans are starving. The corruption of both external and internal influences is primarily responsible for the fragmented approach when it comes to addressing extreme poverty and additional problems facing far too many Africans.

Unfortunately, many African leaders have not served their countries in particular or the continent in general as best as they can. In some instances, measures enacted by them have been counter productive to the advancement, aspirations and elevation of the African people. Several African leaders are working in tandem with oppressive foreign influences which have served to exacerbate instead of ameliorate the surmountable challenges that face their nations.(e.g., Equatorial Guinea/Gabon/Swaziland). Denial and croniyism have become the norm of several countries with some leaders having gone so far as to cover up for each other even though such actions have threatened the very existence of their countrymen.

For instance, Frederick Chiluba, who served as president of Zambia from 1991 - 2002 alledgedly stole $80 million from the government. In 2006, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that $1.5 billion was transferred out of Kenya by the family of former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi. In Malawi, grain consignments sent as foreign aid went missing and, coincidentally, a top Malawian official at the state run grain marketing board who was set to testify in two (2) corruption cases mysteriously disappeared. The aforementioned examples notwithstanding, perhaps the greatest foible of many African leaders is the continuous failure to acknowledge the ramifications of the debilatating effects of both bureaucratic ineptitude and parochial social policies that have hindered development on the continent for decades.

Nevertheless, many African countries claim to possess independence. However, due to sustained wide spread corruption and the continued misappropriation of funds, most of them do not have much in terms of conventional military armaments. Given Africa's considerable uranium resources, it would seem that the cheapest path many countries would have to getting their sovereignty assured is through the development of nuclear weaponry. Presently, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, no African country possesses nuclear weapons capability and the matter is not even in consultation anywhere on the continent. Therefore, the populations of African countries are pretty much defenseless against major world powers and African leadership is directly responsible for this phenomenon.

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Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km; (11.7 million sq. mi.) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people in 61 territories, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.

Familiarity with a wide range of perspectives on dealing with the problems of Africa are represented in scholarship produced indigenously and abroad is crucial in understanding how to establish multi-faceted solutions which could be readily applicable throughout the black diaspora. This task is impeded, however, by the marginalization of knowledge produced in Africa. Inaccessibility is perhaps the most fundamental, but also the most easily corrected, cause of the marginalization of Africa's scholarship. African journals and reviews are published in small numbers and their dissemination tends to be limited and tardy. As a result, the scholars who publish in them are consequently little known to the general public and international academic forums.

Electronic technology greatly facilitates the dissemination of information across the planet and enhances the possibilities for accessing new sources of knowledge. Afraz Alliance proposes to bring information produced in Africa to a new and wider audience by periodically citing notable forums of primary, secondary and tertiary resources of both print and nonprint media related to African and African American studies on this web site. The alliance receives a great deal of requests for information each month and strives to disseminate answers to questions in a timely manner. Many people have benefitted from our initiatives in part because Africa now has a number of electronic information dissemination hubs (e.g. Addis Ababa, Accra, Harare, Kampala, Dakar, along with several sites in South Africa) and the network is constantly expanding.

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Journal / News Articles / Forums

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Africa's Ascent

The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent has 54 sovereign states, including Madagascar and various island groups.

Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely regarded within the scientific community to be the origin of humans and the Hominidae clade (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their ancestors, as well as later ones that have been dated to around seven million years ago; including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Homo erectus, H. habilis and H. ergaster; with the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human) found in Ethiopia being dated to circa 200,000 years ago.

Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones. The African expected economic growth rate is at about 5.0% for 2010 and 5.5% in 2011.

In contemporary African cities, many of the shops are stacked six feet high with goods, the streets outside are jammed with customers and salespeople are perspiring profusely under the onslaught. But this is not a high street during the Christmas-shopping season in the rich world. It is the Onitsha market in southern Nigeria, every day of the year. Many call it the world’s biggest. Up to 3 million people go there daily to buy rice and soap, computers and construction equipment. It is a hub for traders from the Gulf of Guinea, a region blighted by corruption, piracy, poverty and disease but also home to millions of highly motivated entrepreneurs and increasingly prosperous consumers.

Over the past decade six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of the northern hemisphere’s slowdown, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Africa to grow by 6% this year and nearly 6% in 2012, about the same as Asia.

While real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stagnates in the developed world, many African economies are thriving with growth of 6% to 7% annually. Stock market returns over the past several years have been increasing too: 47% in Zambia, 67% in Mauritius, 155% in Malawi. These economic figures show that, despite claims by the World Bank and other institutions, that foreign aid is necessary, many poor countries economies grew as aid decreased. In the past 15 years, as the amount of Official Development Assistance (DA) has declined or stagnated to countries in Africa, economic growth has remained positive and outperformed the advanced economies of th G7.

The commodities boom is partly responsible. In 2000-08 around a quarter of Africa’s growth came from higher revenues from natural resources. Favorable demography is another cause. With fertility rates crashing in Asia and Latin America, half of the increase in population over the next 40 years will be in Africa. But the growth also has a lot to do with the manufacturing and service economies that African countries are beginning to develop. The big question is whether Africa can keep that up if demand for commodities drops.

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Critical Resources

Optimism about Africa needs to be taken in fairly small doses, for things are still exceedingly bleak in much of the continent. Most Africans live on less than two dollars a day. Food production per person has slumped since independence in the 1960s. The average lifespan in some countries is under 50. Drought and famine persist. The climate is worsening, with deforestation and desertification still increasing.

Some countries praised for their swift economic growth, such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea, are oil-rich kleptocracies. Some that have begun to get economic development right, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, have become politically noxious. Congo, now undergoing a shoddy election, still looks barely governable and hideously corrupt. Zimbabwe is considered by some intellectuals in America and various European countries to be a scar on the conscience of the rest of southern Africa. South Africa, which used to be a model for the continent, is tainted with corruption; and within the ruling African National Congress there is talk of nationalizing land and mines.

Yet against that depressingly familiar backdrop, some fundamental numbers are moving in the right direction. Africa now has a fast-growing middle class: according to the World Bank, around 60 million Africans have an income of $3,000 a year, and 100 million will in 2015. The rate of foreign investment has soared exponentially in the past decade.

China’s arrival has improved Africa’s infrastructure and boosted its manufacturing sector. Other non-Western countries, from Brazil and Turkey to Malaysia and India, are following its lead. Africa could break into the global market for light manufacturing and services such as call centres. Cross-border commerce, long suppressed by political rivalry, is growing, as tariffs fall and barriers to trade are dismantled.

Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600 million mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe. Since roads are generally dreadful, advances in communications, with mobile banking and telephonic agro-info, have been a huge boon. Around a tenth of Africa’s land mass is covered by mobile-internet services—a higher proportion than in India. The health of many millions of Africans has also improved, thanks in part to the wider distribution of mosquito nets and the gradual easing of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. Skills are improving: productivity is growing by nearly 3% a year, compared with 2.3% in America.

All this is happening partly because Africa is at last getting a taste of peace and decent government. About half the continent now lives in countries that convene regular democratic elections. For three decades after African countries threw off their colonial shackles, not a single one (bar the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius) peacefully ousted a government or president at the ballot box. But since Benin set the mainland trend in 1991, it has happened more than 30 times—far more often than in the Arab world.

Population trends could enhance these promising developments. A bulge of better-educated young people of working age is entering the job market and birth rates are beginning to decline. As the proportion of working-age people to dependents rises, growth should get a boost. Asia enjoyed such a “demographic dividend”, which began three decades ago and is now tailing off. In Africa it is just starting. Having a lot of young adults is good for any country if its economy is thriving, but if jobs are in short supply it can lead to frustration and violence. Whether Africa’s demography brings a dividend or disaster is largely up to its governments.

Africa still needs deep reform. Governments should make it easier to start businesses and cut some taxes and collect honestly the ones they impose. Land needs to be taken out of communal ownership and title handed over to individual farmers so that they can get credit and expand. And, most of all, politicians need to keep their hands out of the trough and to leave power when their voters tell them to.

Western governments should open up to trade rather than just distribute out aid. America’s African Growth and Opportunity Act, which lowered tariff barriers for many goods, is a good start, but it needs to be widened and copied by other nations. Foreign investors should sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which would let Africans see what foreign companies pay for licences to exploit natural resources. African governments should insist on total openness in the deals they strike with foreign companies and governments. Autocracy, corruption and strife will not disappear overnight. But at a dark time for the world economy, Africa’s progress is a reminder of the transformative promise of growth.

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With all the foreign investment pouring into Africa, one would think that its leadership, embodied in the African Union, would be forming coalitions of African states for the eventual nationlization of the continent's resources. But if anything, the exact opposite proves to be the case. African leadership is growing more fractious and the realization of African unity is as dead as Muammar Gaddafi. Consider the current phenomena taking place on the continent.

In recent years investors have been piling into Lagos and Nairobi as if they were Frankfurt and Tokyo of old. Anaemic growth in the rich world has made sub-Saharan Africa an attractive destination for money and its managers. Foreign direct investment has increased by about 50% since 2005. Once regarded as casinos, local capital markets now seem less risky. J.P. Morgan has just added Nigeria to its government-bond index for emerging markets; South Africa had, until then, been the only African country on its list. The American bank, the world's biggest underwriter of emerging-market debt, predicts that adding Nigerian bonds to its benchmark will lure an extra $1.5 billion to the country. New funds will pay for so far non-existent infrastructure on a continent with a land mass equivalent to that of China, India, Japan, America, Mexico and Europe combined.

Some business people remain sceptical about Africa's long-term prospects. Sales talk in Western financial circles hailing an African "golden age" is overblown. Most Africans are still poor, even if local managers drive flashy cars. A gaggle of truly wretched states is still trapped in misery and is unlikely to attain even modest prosperity soon. A recent survey found that nine out of 11 countries in the world at "extreme risk" of having a food crisis are African.

But even the sceptics accept that the latest outlook for Africa is good. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the continent's GDP will grow by 5% this year, down from a predicted 5.4% but still much faster than almost anywhere else. In 2013 growth may nudge up to 5.7%. Further economic problems in the rich world could hit South Africa, but countries to its north are still likely to do well.

A new research paper by two World Bank economists says that if Africa were one country it would already be "middle income", defined by the bank as having income per person of more than $1,000. Africa's average is $1,700. In sub-Saharan Africa 22 countries have passed this admittedly still quite low middle-income threshold. Together, their population is 400m; they include odd cases such as Angola and Sudan, which were both ravaged by years of bloodshed until recently and where inequality is rife.

Wolfgang Fengler, one of the two World Bank economists, has identified four causes of Africa's economic rise. First, the continent has the right kind of population growth: most Africans live increasingly longer while having fewer children, rather than the other way round. The UN says that Nigeria may overtake the United States by 2055 as the third-most-populous country after India and China, yet simultaneously reduce its birth rate.

Second, rapid urbanization is creating efficiency gains and luring investors to capital cities that have begun to thrive and where growing population density cuts transport times and fosters small-scale industrialization.Third, technology is having a bigger effect on Africa than anywhere else, because it started from such a low base. In the past decade the use of telephones went from 0.7% of the population when land lines were rotten to 70% with the advent of mobile phones; Africa is a global pioneer in banking on mobile devices, not least since most people have no access to conventional banking.Fourth, governance and economic management by officials have got better, again from very modest beginnings. The growing popularity of African sovereign debt is a good indicator.

"If current trends continue, most of Africa will be middle-income by 2025," says Mr Fengler. But he warns that things will get harder. A lot of recent growth has been a matter of catching up, as well-known Western and Asian ideas and practices take root. Some say that the easiest ways to make money have already been exploited. Now Africa needs to build its still creaky infrastructure and diversify its companies if it is to keep up its fast growth. For that, it desperately needs two things: more capital and skilled workers.

Both are available in abundance in the West, where interest rates are low and job prospects grim. Hence the proliferation of African investment conferences in London and New York. There is much talk of where in Africa factories can be built and bonds bought. But equally high on the agenda is hunting talent from all parts of the world, Africa included. Managers search lunch tables for staff to poach and for investment professionals with experience in other emerging markets that could be useful in Africa.

According to one executive from a big Wall Street firm, salaries for Africa positions have gone up by 30% in the past year. "The continent is taking off but it's still a tricky place to make money," he says. "Political risks are high and contracts hard to enforce. Success often depends more on the quality of your people than on the attractiveness of the local market."

Leading business schools in the West are getting in on the game. The London Business School held an "Africa Day" in May 2012 with a title unthinkable when colonial memories were still fresh, "Africa: Taking Ownership". INSEAD, based in France, has an Africa Club full of former management consultants and investment bankers who want to move to the continent because-says one-they see an "opportunity to work at the senior level with relatively little experience". For them, "Africa is like India and China ten years ago."

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Two (2) pernicious effects of international expansion and colonial rule in Africa were: the introduction of the transatlantic slave trade, which encouraged the development of African economic and political institutions in an extractive direction, and the use of colonial legislation and institutions to eliminate the development of African commercial agriculture that might have competed with Arabs, Asians, Europeans and other ethnic groups. It should be remembered that the development of extractive institutions by colonial powers in Africa resulted in widespread corruption and exploitation of the continent.

African farmland resources are presently exploited by private investment motives and those carried out by governments concerned about food security. As of 2010, the World Bank revealed, fully half of cropland aquisition projects involved locations in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, because African aquisitions tend to be larger than those elsewhere, when measured by land area they accounted for an even higher proportion of the world total: roughly two (2) out of every three (3) acres involved in major land buying operations globally!

Africa qualifies as a prime farmland buying-locale for several reasons. Whereas most other farming regions, including those in North Ameica, Europe, and Asia are already intensely cultivated, Africa possesses large untilled areas that can be acquired at comparatively low prices. Most African governments are anxious to attract foreign investment and are therefore very accomodating to potential buyers. Moreover, while global warming is likely to reduce the amount of rainfall in some African states, it is expected to bring increased precipitation to others, increasing the productivity of their croplands. By choosing wisely, therefore savvy investors can gain control over vast parcels of valuable farmland at cheap prices.

Susan Payne's Emergent Fund is among several companies that are placing particular emphasis on Africa when planning their cropland aquisitions. She declared at the 2009 Global AgInvesting conference in New York city that: "Africa is the final frontier. It's the one continent that remains relatively unexploited". Describing Africa's attraction in a New York Times interview, Payne similarly noted that its "land values are very, very inexpensive, compared to other agriculture-based economies". Moreover, she said, "there's accessible labor. and there's good logistics-wide open roads, good truck transport, sea transport". Citing Africa's extraordinarily low costs and excellent growing conditions, Emergent promises to achieve an unusually high rate of return on investment-exceeding 25 percent per year.

For African farmers, the cheerful language of asset managers conceals a grimmer reality. Payne's mention of "accessible labor," for instance, is a thin euphemism for massive joblessness and underemployment, while the continent's "wide open roads" say less about Africa's investment infrastructure than about its pervasive poverty. Many local activists would also contest Payne's description of Africa as "unexploited," noting the lands aquired by outsiders are often already used by pastoralists and other indigenous peoples employing traditional agricultural techniques. Such objections, though, carry little weight with outside investors.

According to a July 2009 report in Der Spiegal, Emergent controls more than 370,000 acres of prime African farmland, with its largest holdings in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia. The company is also reported to have acquired land in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Swaziland. Approximately 30 percent of this land is owned outright by Emergent, and the rest is secured by contracts that will last for generations. "We only operate in countries where we can have clear land title, " states Payne. "If we can't get this, or we don't have a 99-year lease from the government then we won't operate in that country." Casting aside accusations that her company is engaging in hostile "land grabs," she insists that "we are seeing amenable terms because local groups, including governments, want us there."

Middle Eastern and South Asian land buyers also find Africa particularly attractive, for both geographical and historical reasons. Sudan and Ethiopia are just across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula, and East African ports on the Indian Ocean provide easy access to the South Asian subcontinent. arab and Indian merchants have been plying these waters for thousands of years, so there is a long history business ties-and, often, family connections-stretching across the region. For arab investors, there is the added appeal that Islam has made significant inroads in africa, creating cultural and religious links as well. This is especially evident in northern Sudan, an Arab Muslim nation that is receiving significant attention from the government of Saudi Arabia.

As state-owned companies and private investors from across the globe rush to procure African farmland, some observers, invoking the continent's colonial past, describe the situation as a "scramble for Africa." However, unlike nineteenth-century European colonization, this new wave of land acquisition is mostly carried out with the support of African national governments themselves, who see in it a chance to replace subsistence agriculture with high-payoff cash crops. Local residents of the territories in question, however, often believe that their traditional land rights are being abrogated. The situation is so tense that many african land transactions are conducted in secrecy. The farmland issue in the following african countries can help to suggest its magnitude: DROC, KENYA, LIBERIA, MALI and SENEGAL.

Many farmland-acquisition projects are underway in other African countries as well: an inventory conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute in 2009 included Angola, Cameroom, Egypt, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe among the nations being targeted by foreign investors. Even this list is incomplete, since may of the deals negotiated by Emergent Assets and other private investment firms have not been publicaly reported. A recent report by the advisory firm Dalberg Global Development informed investors at the 2010 Agribusiness Investment Summit that huge amounts of arable land in Africa is still available and untapped. Finally, African governments must decide which approach to agriculture is best: The western approach advocated by the Obama Administration of large scale corporations like Cargill and Monsanto which sow genetically modified crops or the eastern agricultural methods of organic farming: Nanjing Global Organic Food Research and Consulting Centre (OFRC).

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Digital References

Africa Union

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