How to change the perception of African countries

This week I had the opportunity to visit Madam Mavis Esi Kusorgbor the Minister in charge of economical and politic affairs at the Ghana Embassy in Madrid. We touched on topics such as her background in international relations and economic, political or cultural aspect of her task in representing and promoting her country.

Her daily tasks consist in looking after Ghana’s political interest in Madrid, promoting economic relations between Ghana and Spain and as a deputy to the Ambassador in administrative issues of the Embassy. Madam Kusorgbor envisaged working in a similar position from an early stage of her education. Before starting university, she studied Governments as major which prepared her for her studies in political science and later international affairs.

After her degree, she managed to find a role in the Foreign Ministry in 1995 which marks the beginning of her employment with the Government of Ghana. The different roles she has taken in the past 20 years were all related to handling Ghana’s foreign affairs and relations either from inside the country or in different departments and countries of the world.

Her first posting outside of Ghana was with the Ghana permanent mission at the United Nations in New York. She served on the Third Committee of the General Assembly which is responsible for social and human right issues and treating questions related to the advancement of women, the protection of children and the promotion of fundamental freedoms .”Everybody is basically pursuing their own interest and not thinking about what is really happening globally.” she said and questioned some countries disregarding events on security issues and humanitarian consensus and sticking to their political stands. After being sent out to Egypt from 2008 to 2012 which represented a momentous time for the country , she then served in Dubai for a brief period before taking her current position at the Ghana Embassy in Spain last year.

During those years she learned about different cultures of the world and how they perceive Ghana. That plays an important aspect in understanding how to present the interest to the different audiences. It is important to take the different aspects of the international relations of Ghana with the countries in consideration. The different strategies focus on knowledge of culture, development, social cultural aspects and most importantly the history of the relations with Ghana. Egypt for example as bilateral partner has a strong relationship, what ensures a lot of support to initiatives. People to people relations are also very important as Ghana is not very know for example in Dubai, but has seen increased activity. In Spain or Europe in general it is more difficult as you must first find out what people think about Ghana and what might be attractive in terms of “business, investment or cultural relations”.

The Embassy tries to promote Ghana as politically stable country with many economic prospects. Western countries look for certain factors such as “good governance”, “committed leaders”, “efforts to improve the well-being of the people” and “democracy” in their potential partners. Ghana fulfills all those factors and the duty of its representatives is now to showcase that potential. In her current role, she tries to attract investments to Ghana from chambers of commerce and companies. Arguments like the low cost of labor and the logistic aspects allowing short distances of production speak for those investments. The readiness of investor due to security and financial concerns are obstacles that she has to face. For that to change the Embassy also tries to showcase the culture of Ghana to attract tourism and subsequently the awareness about the country.

“As small individual countries if we do not come together as a bloc we will not have a voice strong enough to be able to engage with other regional groups like the European Union or even a bigger country like the United States, because after all it is just one small Ghana or one small Gambia.” With this statement, she shows the importance of unity between African countries. Ghana can serve as a leader for West Africa in such negotiations. Most countries of Africa have gone through difficulties. It is important to understand the different dynamics and to help development. It is for that reason that the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) exists. One important aspect in trade negotiations will be the possibility to sell processed goods rather than raw materials in order to be able to have more say in the prices negotiations. With a more unified stand these issues will be easier to solve.

In conclusion, it can be said that more countries have discovered or are discovering the economic potential in Ghana and what it has to offer culturally. With this development, the country can serve as a great role model for neighboring countries and as voice for international negotiations. To achieve that goal different parties and individuals have to come together and work on that common goal.

Rudiger Atchon

An interview with the ambassador of Sudan in Spain.

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Mr. Mohamed Abdalla Abdelhameed Ahmed, Ambassador of Sudan in Spain.

On the 31st of May of 2017, I had the privilege to interview the ambassador of Sudan in Spain. Mohamed Abdalla Abdelhameed Ahmed, who has been ambassador of Iran, Canada, United Kingdom and now Spain. He studied Economics and Political Science. The reason I chose to interview Mr. Ahmed was to know more about how the diplomatic life is and have the opportunity to learn more about his country.

The ambassador didn’t know he wanted to be an ambassador as a career, when he finish his career in Economics and Political Science he had the opportunity to do the exams to entering the foreign ministry. He explained that there are a lot of exams, test and interviews you have to make in order to enter. Finally he was accepted, and was send to Iran. If he wouldn’t became an ambassador or studied Economics and Political Science, he would like to study law. Even though his father didn’t like so much the idea of him studying law.

The thing he like the most about his job is the opportunity to get to know different persons around the world and be able to work in so many fields concerning his country and the receiving country where he is working, as economics, politics or culture. I also asked what is one of the difficulties of his job, he thinks the stress that the job could generate. Also one of the difficult thigs about his job is the fact that he is traveling a lot and moving of country. He and his family has to adapt to the new culture of the receiving country, and if the language is different they would have to learn it, also his kids have to attend to international schools. Moreover, when he was ambassador in United Kingdom it was kind of difficult because Sudan was a colony of them, even though they have good relations sometimes they still have tensions.

I asked if Sudan and Spain have a special cultural agreement, he explain me that there are a lot of agreements between the two countries, but one that he could emphasize is one that was more active between the seventies and eighties, where a large amount of Sudanese students came to Spain to study their degrees.

He loves his country, even though as all countries it has their areas to improve. One of the things he miss the most is the hospitality of his people, he explained to me how Sudanese love to receive foreigners and treat them as their own people. Also the social life is one of the things he misses, because as difference as most European countries, Sudanese families tend to have large families. This makes the simple gathering of family be richer. Furthermore he loves the history of his country, which is one of the most ancient in the world, one of the oldest regions is Nubia, which is located at the south of Egypt and north of Sudan, in the Nile River.  Another thing the ambassador likes about his country is the multiculturality of this, even though the official languages are English and Arabic, there are approximately 70 different languages native of Sudan, and are very different between them.

Mr. Ahmed thinks that between Spain and Sudan are some similarities, especially in the personality of the people. As I have said, Sudanese families tend to be large and this is a peculiarity he has observed that is the same in Spain. Moreover he has noticed that Spanish people tend to raise their voice while speaking by phone, he says that Sudanese are tend to be loud. He really likes Spain because of how welcoming are, and reminds him back home.

The ambassador was pleased to explain to me how the relations are between Sudan and South Sudan. For me to understand it better he compared the countries with a family. Where the daughter marries therefore she starts living with the family of her husband. The two families are “different” but still have relations between them. South Sudan independence of Sudan on 2011, they still have good relations, also have economic and trade agreements, and cooperate to dissolve rebel groups in both countries.

Finally Mr. Ahmed encourage young students to work on this field, because is a privilege job, where you can learn a lot, also how interesting the job is because as he said before there are so different fields that you work when you are an ambassador. Furthermore how much the person can offer to the relations that their country is doing.

 

It was an honor to interview Mr. Ahmed.

Written by Emilse Pardo

“For them, women are seen as weak toys and war’s weapons” Mr. O.O. Akinlude

Mr. O.O. Akinlude is the Consular and Immigration Minister of the Embassy of Nigeria in Madrid, Spain. As a specialist in International Relations and Immigration, he has a lot of experience on issues that concern West Africa, especially on issues directly related to Nigeria.

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The Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Boko Haram due to the constant threat is  one of the main reasons why I chose a special representative in Nigeria. This group was founded in 2002 and since 2009 has provoked thousands of altercations where countries like Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali and most of Nigeria have been affected.

The first part to be analysed was the description of the current situation of Nigeria after the continuous attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram, as well as the handling of the situation by the government and economic impact to this fear in the country. His face of concern over the subject was clearly apparent. Akinlude began describing that the current situation was based on fear of any unexpected attack, stressing the complexity of anticipating the timing of these attacks. Akinlude emphasised the need for confidence and security on the part of the Nigerian population in the government but in turn empathized with the fact that it was a very complicated situation to demand that calm. He mentioned that since the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the entry of arms into Libya had increased considerably, as many barriers that were previously vetoed or closed were opened due to his death.

With regard to the economic impact, he emphasised the importance of Nigeria as one of the leading countries in the oil supply, being in 2017 the second behind Mexico with higher exports (8.1 million tons). But he also criticised the fact that it can not be further developed because of the conflicts that have arisen in recent years, which have damaged Nigeria’s economy.

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Continuing with the importance of the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, in the second part of the interview the questions were related to specific topics carried out by the group in recent years, where we highlight the kidnapping of 82 girls in Chibouk (north-eastern Nigeria) and attacks of suicidal children in the last two years. The question about the abduction procedure was very necessary, as well as the role of women as the object of these attacks. Akinlude explained that 200 girls were abducted on April 14, 2014 and in October 2016, 21 of them were released thanks to the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Switzerland), but that it was not until May 7 when the news of the release of 82 of them was announced. The recruitment of combatants through kidnappings is very common by the terrorist group, especially in the border territory with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The release of the girls, according to Akinlude, was an exchange of prisoners of war belonging to the Boko Haram group.

The use of children with the target of suicide attacks was one of the points to analyse, where Akinlude gave a figure of 117 attacks. These were the attacks carried out by minors by the terrorist group Boko Haram (80% of the bombs are caused by children). Akinlude exemplified the detonation in 2016 at the mosque in Kolofata (10 people were killed), repeating itself in 2015.

Regarding the question about the role of the woman he commented, “For them, women are seen as weak toys and war’s weapons”. This is a very harsh, cruel, and real statement of how women are treated in these war processes. Women are seen more vulnerable and able to succumb to this type of terrorist groups, seeing this weakness in the same way the children.

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The third part of the interview was based on future interventions and aid with modernised material adapted to the fight against terrorism in Nigeria to combat this group, since in December 2016 it was believed to be crushed but the attacks continued. Akinlude stresses the current attitude of Russia, which has offered to give aid until 2018 (Covenant by Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama). In addition, in this last year Cameroon has received a total of 96,000 refugees and in Diffa (north-eastern Nigeria) there are 240,000 displaced people fleeing the wars.

Finally I asked him a question about how he saw Nigeria in the future. He emphasized a small smile of hope showing the desire that this big problem, “Hell”, ends.

This interview has made me reflect on the problems that occur around us. Many times we see these problems so external to us that we do not give them the importance they have and after this interview I have felt very closed and I have been able to see the complicated situation of Nigeria more closely.

It was a pleasure to interview Mr O.O. Akinlude.

 

Andrea Centeno Pobre

 

Ethiopian athletes “cross” for their rights

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Reuters Media Express

The history of Ethiopia is complicated because of the different regimes and types of government the country has gone through the last decades. The last civil war in 1991 lead the country to a “democratic” system, where the president started to make political and social reforms. It has been 17 years since the independence of Ethiopia, but the people are still fighting for their rights. This is why some athletes, have shown their support in different ways when winning different competitions. By using their right of freedom of expression, we think that they are using properly their right to express their feelings against what is happening in their country.  

There are public personalities that have a lot of influence on people. Sports personalities are normally also spokesperson for brands and also having the opportunity to show the world what is happening in the world. Sports events become great opportunities for these protests and struggles for the rights of many countries to be seen and heard around the world. Many athletes are  even in danger of death by their own countries because of the impact that they cause with their gestures of protest. An example is the case of Feyisa Lilesa, an Ethiopian athlete who crossed his wrists on the head in relation to the Demonstrators of Oromo.

Doing sports can give you a lot of valuable lessons about life. It helps people of all ages to learn about hard work, dedication, respect and fairness. The last two are very important in this case. If one can learn how to respect others and treat them fair playing a sport, why should that not be possible in everyday life? We have many rules in sports to keep them organized and fair, however  when it comes to simple things in life as human rights, authorities ignore them in many cases. Athletes such as Feyisa Lilesa who is  a male distance runner is doing the right thing by protesting the killing of people in the Oromo region in his country. It is important for others to follow him, when it comes to causes related to human rights and lives.  

Politics and sports do not necessarily have to mix but if sports can help raise awareness for certain topics in politics and inform people than it is never frowned on. There have been many cases of confrontation surrounding  sports and political interests. Athletes from soviet countries had to propagate their regime and  if they weren’t willing to cooperate with the government there is a chance of being  executed or sent into work camps. A courage to express opinion with risking freedom is an admirable act. Human rights are an important topic and everyone should care about it. It is important to increase awareness on human right issues in the world.

The main problem is apathy, people disregard the human rights of third world countries as it is something that does not affect them. This is because it is not heavily promoted and also these countries are  far from them. People in this stressful time prefer focusing on themselves more than solving difficult situation in developing countries. Many people do not know about the situation in Oromo or even where it is.Who knows what tomorrow will bring, so we should appreciate the possibility of freedom and try to help those that are still fighting for rights that we take for granted.

Source: United News International

“Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters”

Boko Haram’s constant terrorist threat in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali has provoked a multitude of deaths and controversies in the last eight years (organization founded in 2002), whose aim is to declare the establishment of the Sharia as in force norm in all the conditions of Nigeria. This organization has provoked 20.000 casualties, the displacement of 1,5 million refugees and a humanitarian crisis without precedents in the North-East of Nigeria in its eight years of insurgency.

During one of the moments of Boko Haram’s maximum territorial expansion, on April 13, 2014, members of this terrorist group were penetrating a center of Chibok’s secondary education, to the Northeast of the country, kidnapping 276 teenagers, between twelve and seventeen years of age. Of the kidnapped girls, 57 could escape of his captors, but the rest disappeared.

Now 82 of the Chibok school girls have been returned in a trade deal between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government. In order to retrieve the girls, five of Boko Haram commanders have now been set free. The Chibok girls gained attention after social media erupted with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, many public figures such as former United States First Lady Michelle Obama came out in support of the movements. As of today, there are still 113 girls held captive by Boko Haram.

For the return of the girls, some parents traveled to the capital to celebrate and to be with their daughters as soon as possible, meanwhile there are still parents worried about the 113 missing girls. Integrating these girls back to society is going to be a tough task as they faced unbelievable psychical pressure and violence without any hope for freedom. Because many of them were Christians they had to convert to Islam.  It followed marriage to their captor and childbirth somewhere in the forest. The others were forced to take part in suicide missions. The UN Special Rapporteurs stressed the necessity for useful measures to address stigma and rejection of women and people associated with Boko Haram by their families and communities.

As the girls return to their homes “the president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” said Femi Adesina. Their reintegration to the society will be supervised by government officials.

Even though President Muhammadu Buhari promised for his election to make the fight against Boko Haram and the return of the Girls his priorities it is unclear how active the terrorist group is now. Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed”. With the group, still in activity in Northern Nigeria and its surrounding countries Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris says, “A lot of people in Nigeria don’t believe that Boko Haram will simply release those girls after three years in captivity for nothing in return.”. This shows that even after the release of 21 girls last year and 82 now the population remains uncertain about their safety from the group and the power of the government.

Source:CNN

 

East African Community and European Union never ending ratification

With no agreement for the Economic Partnership between the European Union (EU) and the East African Community (EAC) in sight, the biggest question at this time is what is keeping the individual countries from finding common ground and if that could be expected soon.

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Source: Global Risk Insights

The region-to-region comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) seems to be a controversial topic. Even if there is no media coverage on the European continent. The  goals are aimed to strengthen the relationship between the EU and the EAC and drive forward development. The EPA agreement is centered around the trade of goods.

The main objective is to achieve a duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market and to open the EAC market gradually. This means that an equivalent of 82.6% imports from the EU will be liberalized and there will be no changes on the import taxes for the next 25 years.

The EU has been trying to work on a ratification of the EPA since 2007. It seems most countries have a common opinion on the trade and are all ready to contribute to the increasing business relations in East Africa. The further points about economical, health and rural development will all be run with existing EU funds that do not affect the individual countries of the EU directly.

The countries of EAC have made attempts since 2007 to  gain access to the European market. Kenya and Rwanda succeeded first with the EPA consolidating their commercial position. On the other hand, it brought disadvantages. Kenya belongs to middle-income economies so it will be charged by higher taxes if the  EAC does not sign the EPA and it will influence Kenya’s economy negatively.

Tanzania is still considering the pros and cons of signing the deal by running a study first but there are two countries that oppose the request. Without a study Tanzania will not sign the trade deal with the EU,with one of its important European business partner being the United Kingdom.The EPA seems inconvenient after Brexit and the deal could damage relations with China Tanzania’s main Investor.

The EU imposed trade sanctions against Burundi that caused civil unrest and unwillingness to make a deal. The latest country be involved in the intergenerational process was  South Sudan.

Uganda is also preparing to sign however prefers to wait for all countries of the EAC. Permanent Secretary, ministry of Trade, Amb. Julius Onen, said: “We are not going to allow EPA to disfranchise EAC. What is happening now is that this issue (EPA) is being blown out of proportion by a group of people.” it is not the end of the world for the EAC region. “Uganda does not want to see a weakened EAC, this is why as a country we are trying to see that we are all pulling from the same direction.”

Regarding the signing of the trade treaty between the EU and the EAC, the UN think tank has warned the EAC not to sign the deal. This is because they have made studies to look up how the deal would favor the East African countries nonetheless this deal would not have a positive impact in the trade of this countries. “UNECA says the removal of taxes on capital goods from Europe will cause the EAC accumulated revenue losses of $1.15 billion per year.”

To conclude, several countries of the EAC are still examining the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of the trade. Some of them,  disagree due to higher taxes and stronger competition from the EU, it is a complex agreement that will still be negotiated for several years.

Source: CTGN AFrica

A moment with the consul of Burkina Faso

Interviewee : Karidia K. Friggit, Burkina Faso Honorary Consul in Madrid
This interview was held in French, because it is our common mothertong both to the consul and me. Therefore here it is a translation from French to English.
«Me: What did you do before becoming consul ?
Karidia K. Friggit: Well, I have a master of English. Then I moved to London with my husband, and because of my children, I did not want to work. But I was working voluntarily in an association. The association was called London Detained Support Group. I heard difficult stories so I took psychology lessons, to understand people and put distance between them and I . Simultaneously, I made a degree of interpret, which allowed me to be more independent when I had meeting with lawyer and refugees. So we stayed 7 years in London and after we moved to Madrid. We created a foundation to build primary schools and high schools in Burkina Faso. It was notably to help girls who usually who drop out of school early. Then we were searching for a consulate in Madrid, for the foundation, but there was not any in Madrid. I began to help the Embassy to find a consul, then they ask me to assume it. So now I am honorary consul.

What is an honorary consul ? What is the difference with a general consul ?
Honorary means that I am not paid, like volunteerism. It is a honorary title for the good actions I make and to represent the government abroad. Many countries create honorary consuls because it costs nothing to the government, unlike an Embassy or a general consulate. There is an Embassy of Burkina Faso in Paris, and I represent it here in Spain. At the beginning I had my office at home. Fastly the work became important, so we decided to buy rooms in 2014. Since 2012 I am accredited, it means that I am working as a consul. I am leading the foundation and a master in Sciences Po Paris at the same time.
What does the job of consul consist in?
I make visas, I take care of Burkina people’s passports : I receive their file and I send them.
I am a listening ear for Burkina people’s personal problems. But I am not here to give solutions, I am here to listen them and to let themselves finding solutions. When they have administrative problems, I redirect them to lawyers.
I make also conferences about the situation in Burkina Faso. But it is quite difficult because we do not have all the information here, when there was the attacks, or the coup d’état for instance. We organize manifestations, such as one on the 8th March, for women, or cine debates. However, I don’t do anything when I receive eviction notices of undocumented people. But if an undocumented person from Burkina Faso come here, I will redirect him to a lawyer.
Is Burkina Faso’s community important in Spain?
I would say that we are almost 300 people from Burkina Faso in Madrid and almost 3 000 in Spain.

And must they all come to Madrid when they need help from the consulate ?
I forgot to say that there are four consulates in Spain. I am in Madrid, there is another in Valencia, another in Andalucia, Almeria, and in Barcelone. They were created according to the needs, because Spain is wide. Before it was the French embassy who was treating the visas, now it is me. So we create the consulates in the cities where there are many people from Burkina Faso and in the cities where there are people who wants to go to Burkina Faso, where there is an interest for the country, with a lot of associations related to for instance.

What about the relations between Spain and Burkina Faso ?
They are complicated. Before, Burkina Faso’s government had private relations with the Spanish government. Now the new Burkina Faso’s government, in power since last December, try to implement new relations. At the consulate, we try to organize meeting to welcome Burkina Faso’s leaders. But it is difficult for them to understand that now there is not a government in Spain. They do not understand either that they could more cultivate ties with the Communidades, which are strongly independent, such as Navarre, which is two times Burkina Faso’s GDP. They prefer to wait for the new Spanish government. Moreover there are many Spanish NGOs in Burkina Faso, they are really involved, such as Caritas, Manos Unidas, which work with my Foundation on a project over a school, los Amigos de Rimquieta, who are taking care of more than 300 children who are
living in Ouagadougou streets. That’s why, we have to work more on the cooperation between Spain and Burkina. There is also a bilateral cooperation between the two countries over the renewable energies, notably the solar energy, over the agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry. For instance for emergency medication, the notices are in Spanish so we try to cooperate to translate
them in French or English at least.»
Thanks to Karidia K. Friggit for answering my questions and to you Alana Moceri, to allow me to meet her.

Written by Ludivine Mouly