interview with the trade representative in Guinea embassy

I have leaded my interview with the trade representative in Guinea embassy Mr. Aziz Diuff about few problems especially on the topics of social and economic crises. Along the interview I have learned that Guinea is an underdeveloped country who can’t support fully the aspirations of people, without the help of others states and NGO.

In response to my question concerning the low level of development of the country he said that Guinea isn’t a rich country and the helps (Donation, lines of credits) coming from the friendly states are object of embezzlement by the local oligarchy.

His answer about the future of Social and economic state of Guinea is more uplifting.

He said that this catastrophically situation support the illegal immigration, traffic of human and smuggling of arms with a dramatically result which is a collapse of the state and Guinea will become a bankrupt state.

On the question of what is the future of young men and women from Guinea face this situation of underdevelopment and lack of will in spite of the natural resources available in the country, he said that the future is compromised if no deep action is taken before it itself too late.

He added that his country cannot continue to wait for the assistance of friendly countries to survive. It’s true that it’s not easy especially that Guinea is moving in a very hostile geopolitical context with the addition of ethnic conflict problems, problems of political instability with almost frequent coups and interference in the by foreign powers including France.

About the corruption, He recognized that it is a fact like in all Africa and the third World but in Guinea the proportion of corruption is minimized. Guinea have also an elite who can, if it’s possible, to pull the Guinean society to the progress, because Guinea have many strengths like the Naturals resources, fishery resource and agriculture.

About the government’s social policy, he said that his country made great efforts to ensure better living conditions for the population but as it is known, the Guinean state was unable to fight against the Ebola outbreak which resulted in many deaths and if it was using the friendly countries the disaster would have been disastrous.

To end the interview my last question was about the vision who has my interlocutor on the ways and means to undertake out the Guinea under development and what  are the initiatives that friendly countries and international organizations are able to drive on the ground to assist Guinea in its quest for prosperity?

His answer was very strong above all his voice change and he spoke with He spoke with great bitterness and despair, saying that to friendly countries and international organizations, he did not expect much because there is no real will. About my personal view, I believe that only Guinean and are most concerned are those who must take charge of their destiny.

Life in Sub-Saharan Africa – Interview Simon

MADRID -Last Sunday Simon Vanden Broeke was interviewed to explain how it was to live in Sub-Saharan countries. As he lived there for 10 years and worked with the government of African countries, he is the right person to tell us more about this Sub-Saharan region.

Simon works for the European Commission and was in charge for everything related to government management and economy. First he lived in Niger, than in Rwanda, Mozambique and Nigeria and in the end in Djibouti. It was Simon task to analyse the economic stability, the management of the government financials, the transparency of the government financials and in some cases the progress of the national plan of this countries. If they could prove to Simon and his team that they made progress, the European Commission gave financial support direct to the government. Simon said that as these are developing countries you cannot expect that they evolved from nothing to everything. Even if these African countries improve their system just a little bit is this enough to give them financial help.

Simon is still working for the European commission, but now from Belgium.This is why he is able to compare how it is to work in Europe and in Sub-Saharan countries. In Africa he worked for an European delegation. They were only 30 employees. A mixture of expats and local staff. It is really expensive to send people to these countries, that’s why they had a lot of work to do for just a few people.  Simon declared that rhythm of the job was way heavier than in Belgium. After work you have many receptions with the government, what makes that your personally life is consumed by your work.

At the other hand in African countries is it normal to have personal in your house. This means that you don’t have to do anything at home. What is a good compensation with the heavy job. You have someone for the garden, cleaning, kids, cooking,… Simon’s opinion about this subject was very clear : “In the beginning it is strange to have personal in your house, but after a while you get used to it. This is a win-win situation. The personal is happy, because they earn some money and I am happy, because I don’t have to worry about anything in my household”.

The kind of house you live in, depends on the safety of the country. In Nigeria and Djibouti he lived in a compound. This is a gated community where a lot of expats and people with money live. It is nice to live in a compound, because it safe. But at the other hand Simon mentioned two disadvantages : “ You feel a bit as upper class and very often your neighbours are your colleagues. This means that you lose a big part of your privacy”. In the other countries he lived in the street. He mentioned that his preference definitely goes to living in the street, as a normal person.

In general a big part of the population think that Sub-Saharan countries are quite  dangerous. Simon explained that this is not totally true. Of course it depends where and on what time you go, but he lived there during 10 years and he only faced crime once. This was in Mozambique, the country is located at the border with South-Africa and there is more crime. His wife, Haoua, went to the supermarket with their 5-day-old car. When she came out  the shop, she couldn’t find her car. Unfortunately it was stolen. Laughingly he declared that the police founded his car back after two years, at the border with South-Africa.

Simon is a guy from Belgium, what means that he has a withe skin. This didn’t make any problems to live in Africa. “ I have never been confronted with racism”, he said. The only problem is that African people think you have a lot of money when you are white. You get a lot of attention and you always doubt if people really like you or they just like you because you are white. Simon married Hoaou, who is from Niger. There were no problems to marry her. The only thing that he had to do, was converting to Muslim. But this was more as a tradition/show.

Simon in The new Dian Fossey, Rwanda

Simon in The new Dian Fossey, Rwanda

It was really hard for him to say which of the 5 countries he preferred. He could easily say that he didn’t like  Djibouti. It was way too warm there and it was not simple to work with the government.Than he realized that he liked three countries most, but for a different reason. Mozambique is an interesting and beautiful country to live. You have a bit of everything: beaches, a very lively capital city, many parks and South-Africa is nearby. He stressed that Rwanda was the nicest and most interesting place to live. Simon explained : “ The government of Rwanda is very motivated and agreeable to work with”. The people he liked the most were the inhabitants of West-Africa as Niger and Nigeria. In his opinion these people are the most open and charming , “ With this people you can make great parties” , he said.

To conclude he admitted that he missed the adventure of Africa. In Belgium everything is planned and calculated. In these Sub-Saharan countries things that you don’t expect could happen, you see things you never saw before,…  He definitely wants to go back when his children are older.

Writer : Olivia Becu

Interview Margaux Hendrix, Project Malawi, Thomas Van Heurck

Interview Margaux Hendrix

 Project Malawi

Margaux Hendrix is a 24 year old student in Belgium, she is in her last year at the university for becoming a kindergarten teacher. Last year she started a project with two co-students, to go to Malawi and work out a project that would support and improve a little primary school that was located in Rumphi, Malawi. This project was offered by Erasmus in her school in Belgium, called the Karel De Grote Hogeschool.
During her project, that lasted three months, she was involved in a numerous of ways of supporting the school. She helped the school with the financial aspect of bookkeeping, and showed the employees which facilities where essential for a better education for the children. The facilities and supplies she thought where the most important, and were not offered, where a pen and a little book to write in. She also taught some courses to the children, for example some creative courses and English. Margaux tutored the teachers as well, she showed them how they treat their students in Belgium and how they teach courses. Apparently the teachers in Malawi are very strict and don’t accept failure and punish the failed students. That was one of the hardest tasks she had during her stay, because the teachers are very conservative and are used to the way things are. That’s why it was hard, every time she putted time and effort into a tutoring session it didn’t really pay off.
During their three months abroad they went back home for 2 weeks, during those weeks there was a storm in Malawi that destroyed the roof of the school. In those two weeks they were in Belgium they created a fundraising event to raise money to repair the roof. They didn’t want to be in a situation that they were taken advantage of, so the Margaux and her friends decided to pay half the costs to repair the roof. Because Margaux said, that sometimes the school took their services and “fundraising-money” for granted. Cause after the storm they presumed that Margaux and her friends would come up with the money to repair the roof.
The university Margaux goes to, granted her a scholarship of 600 euro to pay her flight and expenses in Malawi. Of course this scholarship was not enough to cover all of her expenses. This was the only money she was granted, there was no support of the Malawian government to help them improving the school. In general her expenses were, 1000 euro for her flight and roughly 800 euro for her 3 month stay.
Margaux actually wanted to go to Gambia, but because of the outbreak of Ebola this became impossible.
I was wondering if the people of Malawi would experience any threat of Al-Shabab, because it is a neighboring country of Tanzania. Apparently the people of Malawi are not really updated on these events. Malawi is a very peaceful country where very little criminality takes place. The village Margaux lived in, there were very little people who had connection with internet or even had a cell-phone. These people who live the village are separated with the rest of the world, and therefore are not acquainted with the problems of the world. Margaux was talking with one of the teachers and she mentioned the word “racism” during her talk and the teacher didn’t understand what Margaux was talking about. So she had to explain what racism was, which is “treating people differently based on their skin-color”. Even after this explanation the teacher had problems fully understanding the situation.
After her three month stay, Margaux isn’t sure to do the same project in Malawi again. She might visit it in the future but she doesn’t think she would do the same project again. After her stay she realized the work and effort she putted into it, didn’t really pay off. The teachers are a bit conservative and don’t have the mentality that teachers should have. Margaux describes that a teacher is, “a person that the student is able to go to anytime during school. A teacher has to guide the student in growing up and has to teach them some life lessons and to have fun in a safe comforting environment.” And in Malawi this wasn’t always the case. When Margaux and her co-students left for two weeks, they bought some supplies like paint, coloring books and pencils for the teachers so they could entertain the children. Because usually the kids just hang on the street , and this will bore them and will get them into trouble. When Margaux came back she saw that the paint and pencils we still in the package. These actions troubled Margaux and made her stay a bit hard.

Ana Salado: “Women are Africa’s greatest engine”

Ana Salado talks women, development and cooperation. Speaking of morally-rewarding jobs, here is hers.

Madrid – Ana Salado does not have a regular job. As the Communication Manager of the non-profit Mujeres por África, her tasks go beyond having to keep up with the reporting of projects, receiving visitors, updating social media or covering news regularly. She is also a loyal brand ambassadress of the organization; using an expressive language as she speaks, full of hope and passion. “It all starts with awareness, then there comes the knowledge. Whenever you open a window, you realize there is a whole new world behind it yet to be discovered”, she says to describe the foundations of MXA.

The Madrid headquarters of this NGO tell stories through its tribal decorations. Their main goal is to be a transparent organization, keeping in constant touch with people, both in Spain and in African countries. “We are an organization for development, not a NGO dedicated to help. We promote development in Africa through women with medium and long-term projects”, she explains. The majority of them are implemented in Africa, monitored by a coordinator who travels to the region where the project is being implemented and who reports to Ana and the rest of the team. “We also have a few projects that only take place in Spain, as Africanas en España, providing coverage and support for those nearly 500,000 African women established in Spain and Ellas investigan, an initiative aimed at bringing scientist African women to Spain for a gap year”. This was launched in 2014 and works in association with six Spanish research institutes, being one of them Severo Ochoa.

The president and founder of MXA, former vice president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, also plays a key role in the communication of these projects. Ana recalls her once saying, “African women have become my great cause to fight for”, and that is how it all started three years ago. “Most of her time is taken up by Mujeres por África”, explains Ana, “she also is State Advisor for the government but manages to remain active and involved. Most of her head and heart are put into our projects”.

Every single project MXA is engaged in is different, but they all share a common goal: empowering women. In order to achieve this, the collaboration of national governments and their knowledge about the implementation of projects is essential. Women have a leading role in Africa as peace agents, and MXA as well as national governments are well aware of it. They are instructed to include women into peace agreements. “Women have starred many peace movements,” says Ana, “their inclusion into governments for these arbitration purposes is slowly developing. Achieving peace is the beginning of everything when there is an armed conflict”. For the most of the Sub Saharan countries, there has been at least one armed conflict in the past 50 years, being women and children the main victims. As Ana tells, “in the case of women, they are used as war weapons by combatants as a strategy to consume the enemy. We must not forget that during war times, women are the only support the civil society has since men are for the most part incorporated into the battlefields.”

Women carry the weight of the household, and that is why they benefit from social services designed specifically for them. Some countries have ministries dedicated to women, which have ratified the Maputo Protocol for Women’s Rights. Ana believes those campaigns help to raise awareness within society. “It is admirable how women are conscious of their rights and capabilities of evolving and contributing to the economy.” Despite common knowledge, women in the African society are extremely aware of their rights, and they know they have to fight for their empowerment. The drawbacks of culture and traditions have a big effect on the evolution of mentality, but Ana is convinced that happens in every culture. “There are some amazing movements for women’s rights, such as the ones in Ghana or Kenya”. She explains that the one in Kenya unifies all women associations of the country, summing up to thirty thousand female activists. “Their influence is so high that it has led to constitutional changes in some occasions.”

Even though Mujeres por África does an outstanding job, there is a lot of work to be done, especially in terms of awareness. “The main thing people can do from home about our women is becoming interested in Africa.” Ana is convinced in Spain we have lived for many years turning our heads against the huge unknown that Africa is, so now it is time to approach them, stop the prejudices, and react. “Sometimes we forget some of our every day life needs are fulfilled by resources from this continent. If people want to help from home, Mujeres por África has a supporting branch called Amigos de la Fundación. Their role is merely as supporters, it does not imply contributing economically. “It is good feedback for us to know there are some people who support the cause, at no cost.”

DSC01563bInterviewee Ana Salado with interviewer Marta Parra, in the Mujeres por África head office in Madrid.

Note: This interview has been translated originally from Spanish.

The awakening of the giant

In the last couple of years Sub-Saharan Africa has become an important actor on the economic global market despite public opinion. On one hand, some argue that the national governments do not receive as much help as they need from international institutions to promote development. On the other hand, others state that national governments are so corrupted that there is not a viable solution that applies to the economic development. This bipolarization of opinion concerning the development of the Sub-Saharan region is often accompanied by thousands of statistics from research that dismisses or reinforces one argument or another. Today, the topic could not be more of a trend after the IMF revealed their Regional Economic Outlook and stated that the Sub-region is projected to grow by 4,5 % in 2015. The IMF places the region as one of the fastest growing in the world, due to its human and natural resources. However, economic development is not the only factor promoting development in the region. Other aspects, such as social, political or educational influence the growth of the region and will be discussed as equivalently important factors throughout this article.

Education is a key element contributing to development and economic growth and should not be disregarded. It is an essential part to help economies to grow and develop Sub Saharan countries further. Easterly and Levine found that ethnic fragmentation is an additional variable, being a major impediment for the slow growth of African economies. This is due to group tensions, which are also related to social unrest. Moreover, they found, that education is positively related to economic growth and therefore is prove that if education as well as ethnic fragmentation can be improved, Sub-Saharan African economy will grow in the future.

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Linked to the social development is the empowerment of the Sub Saharan women through their emancipation and participation in the labour force. The United Nations for Women state that, if more women work, countries develop faster, child mortality decreases for just one more additional year of education for them, women being main savers in the households adds up on conscious spending, and so on. These are just mere examples on how making women take part in the social and economic structures is a highly relevant contribution to development.

Political stability is another aspect that is important to achieve development in the Sub-Saharan countries. Sub- Saharan Africa is widely considered among the world’s most corrupt places. If governments work to create institutions that monitor the political structure in their countries, the region would become more stable and could boost development in all possible ways, making citizens also have hope on their public institutions and figures, putting the money to the correct causes. When the political structure of African countries becomes more transparent and less corrupt, the impact will be directly reflected in the economy as well.

The job of an international institutions as the IMF does not have the only job of convincing the world that economy is all that matters and that it is the issue to be discussed at all times. By publishing the regional report, the IMF is also giving hope on Africa, placing the spotlight into a region that deserves much of the attention but that some western countries often do not  look at. All of the above factors contribute to a better system as well as the population’s well being. With the combination of all of them working together, Sub-Saharan Africa will become the economic giant that it should be, all by itself.

Al-Shabaab strikes again

During the night of 1 April 2015, four Al-Shabaab members crossed the border from Somalia to Kenya to attack the University in Garissa. The Al-Shabaab fighters  were armed and came into the university at night. They shot the two guards and entered the first building. In this building young (8-14 years) boys and girls were sleeping. During the attack, the attackers separated Muslims from Christians and shot dead those who did not subscribe to the same beliefs as them. One of the gunman was identified as the sun of a governmental official. 148 people died, included the four Al-Shabaab members.

Al-Shabaab-at-Westgate-Mall-Shopping-Center

Insurgents terrorizing the WestGate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

This was not the first time Kenya suffers an attack from this terrorist group. Kenya has been a victim of terrorist attacks of Al-Shabaab, for example the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 that took the lives of 67 people. It is been said that the reason Al-Shabaab is targeting Kenya  is because of the government’s decision in 2011. Decisions were made to provide troops to the African Union Mission (AMISOM) in Somalia.

This peacekeeping mission , which acts on three different components, (civilian, military and maritime) is created to establish peace and order. The military component was mainly created to root out Al-Shabaab from its strongholds in south and central Somalia. So far this operation has been very successful and pushed Al-Shabaab out of much of southern Somalia including major towns and cities. But the latest and most gruesome attack of Al-Shabaab was the University attack in Garissa on the second of April which took the lives of 148 people.

In its origins, Al-Shabaab, which is the Arabic translation of “youth”, was founded in 2004 and was a part of the Islamic Court Union until 2006. The ICU was a part of the sharia-courts that wanted to bring peace and order into Somalia by fighting the local warlords. In 2006 the ICU controlled most of Somalia and started fighting Ethiopia for more ground control. They lost this battle, and that is when Al-Shabaab split from the ICU.

The Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahidin, or the faction known today as Al-Shabaab, was founded in 2006 in Mogadishu (Somalia), as a militant, terrorist group which mission is to turn Somalia into an Islamic state. It is estimated that this group contains an amount of members between 7.000 and 9.000 fighters.  This terrorist group is often linked to, and works closely with, the East-African Al Qaida cell which attacked US embassy’s in Tanzania and Kenya. Al-Shabaab is still trying to conquer Somalia and wants to turn this into an Islamic state which is based on the principles of the Koran.

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A classroom after in the Garissa University after the attack

On the 6th of April 2015, the Kenyan military launched airstrikes against Islamic extremists group Al-Shabaab in Somalia. This was the first response of Kenya after the attack in Garissa. Several days after this attack Al-Shabaab spread a  message into the media : “Kenyan cities will run red with blood.” The president of Kenya, Kenyatta, gave directly a response : “We will fight terrorism to the end. I guarantee that my administration shall respond in the fiercest way possible.”

Garissa-University-College-map-kenya

 The map of Kenya with it’s borders

After the attack in Garissa, the people of Kenya said they didn’t feel safe anymore in their country. Most of them lost faith in their government. ” Where was the government? They failed to protect their people,” a local high-school student told  Time. The people of Kenya belief that this attack could have been avoided if the government would not be corrupt. During Kenyatta’s speech he told the people that things will and have to change from now on. He doesn’t want to let the nation wait anymore. One of the first things he did to assure the safety of the Kenyans is a visible military presence from sunset to sunrise. He also directed the enrollment of 10 000 police recruits.The people hope that the corruption will stop taking over the higher institutions and that this problem will be solved as soon as possible.

South Africa: From the End – to be continued…

Despite the positive outlook that the region has effortlessly achieved thanks to social development policies, the latest events taking place in the country of Nelson Mandela have put South Africa back in the spotlight, this time for not so categorical reasons: xenophobic attacks towards African immigrants in multiple cities. Hundreds of black immigrants have been forced to flee to their countries of origin in the past weeks due to xenophobic attacks propitiated by South African indignados, deeply concentrated in the city of Durban, where seven were killed on Friday 25th April. Out of the seven dead, three of them were nationals and four kwerekwere, a term used in the country when referring to African immigrants in a derogatory way. The situation has become so critical for African immigrants that the governments of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have initiated the process of repatriation for their nationals. Despite the chaos of these days, South Africa does not face a new current of xenophobia, but it suffers a resurgence of a movement that has barely been propagated. After the apartheid, which was supposed to mean the end of an era where race categorized citizens, peace lasted little as xenophobic attacks intensified. Between 2000 and 2008, over 67 people were killed in similar outbreaks. 2008 was the year of uprisings and the record-breaking period of the twenty-first century, leaving 62 people dead behind. The situation subsides substantially after the issue was tackled by the government through dismantling the pro-xenophobic meetings in different areas of Cape Town. This prevented any incidences from happening during the 2011 World Cup. With this background, it would be easy to consider South Africa the place where racial differences are left aside, however the current economic crisis lashing the country has contributed to the resurgence of the movement. The reason for these attacks is clear and justifiable for the perpetrators: the arrival of African immigrants leaves the South Africans with less job opportunities. Real statistics show surprising results, well known by the South African population. The Migration for Work and Research Consortium (MiWORC) is in charge of examining the effect of South African immigration. Research found that only 4% of the total population aged 15-64 were “international migrants”, which are only 1,2 million out of the more than 33 million people in the country. The racial breakdown of these statistics reveal that 79% of international migrants are African, 17% are considered white and 3% are Indian or Asian. Despite these facts, only 14.86% of international immigrants are unemployed, against a 30% of nationals. This can be due to the lowering of salaries for African migrants and the working conditions. Even so, the results are rather discomforting for South Africans, especially for King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulu tribe, one of the most populous in South Africa, who has been considered by many the responsible for this year’s outrage. Three weeks prior to the attacks, King Zwelithini openly asked in Durban, “[…] those who come from outside to please go back to their countries”. After being accused, he denied such statement arguing, “if it were true that I sparked the xenophobic violence, this country would have been reduced to ashes”, referring to his influence in the country. Being the remedy worse than the disease, this last statement was unanimously criticized by the media as well. As opposed to this wave of xenophobic events, peace marches defending human rights and supporting immigrants have been propagated up and down the country, as not all South Africans feel represented by the perpetrators.