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

A lasting change of perspective

In February 2014 begun the second last cultural exchange between the two Tanzanian secondary schools Mkwakwani and Usugara, and the Norwegian high school Greveskogen VGS, in which six Norwegian students travel to Tanzania during the winter, followed by four Tanzanian students traveling to Norway in the month of May.

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James Magoma, Tanzania

James Magoma from Tanga, Tanzania and Mikkel M. Møystad from Nøtterøy, Norway, were two of the students who took part in the exchange project, funded by Vennskap Nord-Sør (Friendship North-South). In two separate interviews I got to hear some of the experiences Møystad and Magoma had from the exchange, as well as how they benefit from the experience 2 years after the exchange.

Before traveling to Tanzania, Møystad had very little knowledge about the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. He had some basic understandings of the situations regarding corruption and the generally lower standard of living, “I was surprised of how little I did know about the region” he said, going on to talk about how welcoming the people there were. He was surprised that the people of Tanzania was willing to give so much from themselves, when they didn’t necessarily have so much themselves.  

When asked about his expectations Magoma said he was looking forward to meeting new people, gaining new friends, being confronted with new cultures and finishing by saying, “none-the least enjoy myself”.

The project, arranged by the three schools involved is focusing on cultural exchange, friendship and demeanor towards cultures. Møystad and Magoma are both convinced that projects like this can be largely beneficial to the countries taking part in them. Møystad believes that he got to see a very honest side of Tanzania. In Western media we have a tendency to learn about the African continent as one place where people are poor and need our help. This project though, showed him both negative and positive sides of Tanzania. “I’m happy that I experienced Tanzania through a cultural exchange, because that makes me more capable to contribute with anything if I were to do a charity project later on”, he said. He also believes that the students from Tanzania got to see an honest version of Norway as well,

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Mikkel M. Møystad, Norway

showing them that Norway has faults, and that Norway can learn a lot from Tanzanian culture.

Magoma seemed to have the same view as Møystad, though he is also convinced that regular aid with regard to health and education is just as important. He believes that the project is very beneficial, not only to him, because, as he said it; “I normally share the experience I had in Norway with my colleagues. I might express to them how things are done there, and there are a lot of things that I see changing, through me.” James is also playing a leading role in student communities at his university, as well as his country, which is giving him the opportunity to share his experience with many people. He also experienced that the teachers that took part in the exchange changed as well: “Our teacher changed their perspectives. The way they face their students, the way they would associate with their colleagues and the way they teach. They improve.”

Magoma’s experience is reflected in Møystad’s view of what the students visiting Norway gained, experience-wise. Comparing the school-systems in both countries, one can argue that the Norwegian system works better. Møystad speaks about the Norwegian school system as a more open one, giving the students more freedom without leveraging the efficiency and outcome of the education. The Tanzanian schools suffer from often occurring absence of teachers in classes, and student misbehavior is punished with caning, which might differ in intensity from one school to another. Møystad is convinced that he got to portray a functioning school-system, where punishment of physical nature is unnecessary.

The different way of managing schools is not the only perspective Magoma brought home. In Tanzania there are generalized biases of the western cultures in the same that western cultures generalize Africa. “Many people say that all people in Europe is homosexual. But you learn that that is not true.” Many people also believe that there is no discipline or respect in the family structure. When sharing his experience with his friends and colleagues, Magoma changes their biases about family values and homosexuality.

Due to changes in the national budget in Norway, the project ended after the last group in 2015. The Norwegian government has argued that there is no effective, nor clear, benefit from such programs, a statement which is contradictory to Møystad and Magoma’s experience. Magoma has argued that the project is not efficient enough, but only because there were not more than two students from his school, Mkwakwani and two from Usugara that got to take part in it. He believes that the project could bring greater changes to his school and country if more people got the same experience as he did.

Written by Christer Myklebust.

Let’s connect Sub-Saharan Africa

We live in a highly connected world where there are few things that go by without it being spread all over the web. The internet, and the idea of being “connected” have become a major characteristic of our Western culture. On another side of the planet in Sub-Saharan Africa, progress is being made to bring that region into a “connected” culture. Africa is a large continent, with thousands of tribes and different languages. Exposing this region to an “online community” might bring the same unifying effect, we believe, as the language Swahili did in Tanzania.

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Picture retrieved from: Mistbreaker.com

The last annual report by internetsociety.org tells us that nearly half the worlds population is connected to the internet, most of whom are connected through the use mobile devices.This development has brought upon many changes to the way in which we go about our daily lives, bringing broader opportunities. The internet is a platform that is difficult to control. Iran for instance, as the Washington Post reports, continuously fail to keep its population off blocked websites like Facebook. The internet is a great place for likeminded people to meet, and can be an important tool for individuals in countries with restrictions to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as people can easily obtain anonymity and join forums to discuss cultural and political issues. In that sense, the internet can be a more effective tool for improving democracy than economic sanctions  will ever be.

The easy access to internet does of course come with its pitfalls, with issues like online drug markets and child pornography, but these issues aren’t unique to the internet and the online community. What is unique to the internet though, is the possibility to spread a common set of values in what we can call a “online public opinion”. If you go to popular “meme” and forum pages such as 9gag, reddit or imgur, you will see people across borders sharing images, often portraying a common set of values. These values are often in favor of democracy and against inequalities.

Furthermore, If we look at the possibilities regarding democracy, accessibility to internet would be a ground breaking means of educating  citizens and would encourage active political participation. Education, is of course the basis of democracy and indeed, people would then be  able to understand how the world is working and become critical on their own country’s functioning. Moreover, it goes without saying  that the Internet nowadays  can be regarded as the biggest resource of retrieving knowledge, as well as ideas from like minded people. By having access to Internet, literacy rates and knowledge on basic civil rights, health, sexuality, development and so on would rise exceptionally in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. It could perhaps also give citizens the means to  question dictatorships in this region, which are basically based on a form of obscurantism Internet access in this region would then  could then encourage future political participations for the generations to come. For example, Khan Academy is a free learning website where anyone who has access to Internet is then able to “learn anything”. The more , the people can access Internet, the more likelihood of younger generations gaining further education and knowledge to hopefully implement important sustainable changes in the region when they take over power positions.

Sub-Saharan Africa , however, still has a long way to go with only 17% of its population online, compared to North America’s 84%. But it’s growth rate is larger than most other regions. Projects to increase the internet access in the region are rare, but they exist. A satellite soon will be launched to provide internet to Africa according to Mark Zuckerberg. This project is held in partnership with the Facebook foundation, internet.org.

According to CNN  said Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org the following in a statement“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.”  The goal is to connect rural African areas to the internet. By this initiative, African people would be able to be interconnected but also connected to the whole world.The foundation also created ‘Free Basics’ which aims to provide basic mobile websites and services to mobile’s owners. Already, 85% of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage so this project would be efficient to African people and increase their internet penetration rate. Half of the 40 Free Basics countries are now in Africa and Nigeria is the latest country to get access to its services dedicated to health, education, jobs, and finance. Mark Zuckerberg hopes also that internet connectivity would help to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development goals.

As this article argues, there are many aspects and benefits of the internet that intertwine. Through increasing internet access and exposing underdeveloped countries to the ideas of  “online public opinion”, we believe, it  can become a more effective  means compared to the traditional state-to-state aid. Giving people a platform to communicate is equivalent to making a platform to change. To change a society, people must connect. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from “severe distances”. The internet can virtually eradicate these distances and bring young people together. Rather than demanding the ruling generation to change, let’s give the next one a platform to do so.

 

Mombasa High Court: Kenya to declare anal examinations unconstitutional

Two men who were subjected to anal examinations to see if they had been involved in gay sex, have launched a case before the Mombasa High Court, calling for such tests to be declared unconstitutional.

Allegedly, following their arrest by Kenyan police in February 2015, the two men were also forced to take HIV and hepatitis tests on suspicion of homosexual activity. Like many African nations, homosexual activity is illegal in Kenya and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, although violations are rarely prosecuted.

The two men stated that they  had been inserted with a tube-like object, yet the doctors claim they only had “their private parts observed” while lying down. Neela Ghoshal a senior LGBT researcher spoke of her view of the treatment saying that;

“Anal examinations prove nothing, and they accomplish nothing, other than humiliating and demeaning people who are considered moral outcasts.”

The Independent supports such views, reporting that ,the use of anal examinations to uncover homosexual activity is medically useless.  Moreover, The Human Rights Watch addressed the issue by condemning the treatment as not only degrading, but that it could also amount to torture under international law.

A UN special rapporteur stated in a report this year that “In States where homosexuality is criminalized, men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment.”

In accordance with international law, the Human Rights Watch report that such treatment violates Human Rights under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Un Convention Against Torture as well as  African Convention on Human and People’s rights. All in which are signed and adopted by the state of Kenya.

Nevertheless, many other Sub-Saharan countries, like Kenya, have also implemented strict policies. For many countries in this region homosexuality is more than just a subject of taboo. In fact, it  is illegal in 37 African countries (see map at the end of the article).

Last year Gambian president Yahya Jammeh declared: “We will fight these vermis called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” Whilst in 2013, Uganda’s Parliament even passed an anti-homosexuality bill.

This topic seems to touch the entire African continent. Indeed, just last March, The Human Rights Watch claimed that Tunisia had prosecuted seven men for consensual same-sex intercourse and forcing some to undergo anal examinations

One of the seven students confessed: “ I felt like I was an animal, because I felt like I didn’t have any respect. I felt like they were violating me. I feel that even now. It’s very hard for me”.Human Rights Watch have called on the Tunisian parliament to cease using anal examinations as forensic evidence and to urgently decriminalize homosexuality.

Thus , to conclude,  the condemning of such acts  by many officials including the Human Rights Watch, despite the underlying issue of homophobic legislation throughout large parts of Africa, provides a strong case for the Mombasa High Court to declare such acts unconstitutional.

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Image retrieved from Washington Post

 

Interview with Gabriella s. Buescher: use your twenties to explore different paths.

Ida Yordi Bredal, 27-11-2015.

Gabriella S. Buescher is the Chief of political office at the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission – UN Regional Office for West Africa, Dakar.

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Gabriella S. Buescher on fieldwork. 

In brief Gabriella is a Director-level senior expert with over 20 years of experience in humanitarian action, emergency preparedness and response, protection, political affairs, resilience and transition. The United Nations Office for West Africa is the first regional conflict prevention and peace building office of the United Nations. Created in 2002 it has as a mission to enhance the contributions of the UN towards achieving peace and security in West Africa. It helps promote the importance of good governance and respect towards the rule of law. It protects human rights and gender in conflict prevention and management in West Africa and helps good border relations between Cameroon and Nigeria. Boko Haram in the sub-region has complicated the work but they are now pursuing confidence building and development projects of communities along the border.

As a woman who has travelled the world, and dedicated her life to development and cooperation, i was curious of Gabriella’s personal choices that led her to where she is today. Which sacrifices that had entailed, how she had known which path to choose and when to trust her instincts.

Gabriella studied Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and Political Philosophy at Queen’s University in Canada; in 2000, when she was working for UNICEF in New York she decided to go back for a second Master’s—she started part-time and then took a one-year leave of absence from the UN to finish the MIA in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, as a Fellow in the Conflict Resolution Office.

When she studied journalism, it was with the goal of eventually working in the US Foreign Service but later she decided she wanted to work for an international organization instead. After her MA in Canada, she moved to NYC in her early twenties and tried to join the UN in NYC, but realized she needed ‘field experience’ and so started as a JPO for Italy at the UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya. She loved Nairobi but saw that one of the best agencies was UNICEF and after a year in NBI, UNICEF offered her a regular post in Mogadiscio. Somalia. From there she transferred to UNICEF NYHQ to work as an editor, and had the opportunity of going on a mission for a few months to Baghdad, Iraq. There, she met her ex-husband (who followed her to NYC) and found two other passions: emergency humanitarian work and photography. She still pursues both. She just published a photography book with five other photographers on their work in Iceland.

She has since been in several emergencies for the UN system, from working in the bush in Angola and Sudan, to running the OCHA office in Haiti; from running the human rights program for the UN Peace Keeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire to leading the UNICEF New York HQ response to the Haiti earthquake. She is currently working in a more political post in West Africa.

Gabriella has always followed her instincts and chased the next challenge. She has not had a linear career, and this might not be for everyone she says. When asked for advice for a student studying international relations interested in a career in development and cooperation, she says that she’s learned that by having such a career in the field in several countries, it makes it harder to have easy promotions and to have a career-private life balance. Yet, she might not have been considered for high level Director posts now if she had not had a wide range of experience in terms of Agency, location, and focus of work. The wide experience in four continents and with different agencies has provided her with the know-how to do coordination and evaluation work successfully.  One pays the price both in terms of career and love life, living such a nomadic life, but she has always taken chances in both areas, and still does. She has been lucky to have been married twice, to have met men who followed her (and still do), to have great friends in several countries, but has waited to have a family until now when she is ready.

In terms of career choices, follow your passion, follow your heart and you will do well, she advices. She is glad to have worked in challenging contexts such as Somalia, Iraq and Colombia when she was in her twenties and early thirties. It shaped the person she has become and it provided her with valuable work and life lessons. She also took chances leaving jobs that felt restricted her and choose some that she thought she could grow with; she took chances ending UN contracts and going back to school or working for an NGO, learned a new language or traveled. If there is a lesson she would like to share it is this: of course, try to be strategic in a tough and competitive market, but also use your twenties to explore different paths, learn about yourself; take chances, be courageous!

ZIMBABWE: A DIPLOMATIC APPROACH

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Alicia Moral in the 8Enise (Encuentro Internacional de Seguridad) in 2014

Zimbabwe, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a colonial past and years of political problems behind, is the new destination of Alicia Moral Revilla, the new ambassador of Spain in Zimbabwe Malawi and Zambia. Since May, she has been the representative of our country there while fulfilling her desire of returning to Africa, her first diplomatic destination.

She started the diplomatic career in Tanzania, where she was posted from 1991 to 1994. After, she worked in Indonesia (1996-1998), The Netherlands (1998-2003), Bulgaria (2005-2008) and is now in Zimbabwe. Ms. Moral has also worked in the the OECD in Paris from 2008 to 2012. Her extensive experience in the diplomatic corp has provided an excellent background to conduct a certainly interesting interview focused on the relations between Spain and Zimbabwe as well as on the current situation of the latter.

But, what does the diplomatic work consist of in a country like Zimbabwe? A variety of functions are assigned to an ambassador. Ms. Moral is the voice of Spain in the state and has to enhance its visibility in official and bureaucratic actions, such as sending reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or participate in the meetings organized by the European Union, and in cultural ceremonies, for example organizing cultural events. Another function is to be the mediator between the government and Spanish people in Zimbabwe, either residents or tourists; she is in charge of legal procedures and problems with documentation. But Alicia also works in the opposite direction; Zimbabweans that want to travel to Spain have to request their visas to the embassy in Harare, the capital.

However, it is curious that a diplomat with so many tasks is posted to a country like Zimbabwe, with whom Spain does not have a prolific relation, either political or economic, and where there are not many Spanish residents. Ms. Moral firstly gave an apparently simple response: “because Spain is an important country within the international community”. Nevertheless, this does not only mean that is relevant in multilateral organisations and decisions, but also that has huge rivalry among other powers. Zimbabwe, despite suffering a rather complicated situation, it is considered a regional power and Ms. Moral highlighted that the most important countries of the EU have their representation there: UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Romania and Check Republic as well as the so called emergent countries, the BRICS. Considering all this and the importance of “soft power” nowadays, “Spain has to be represented and defend the interests and values of the European Union and of the country”.

Additionally, not only the present situation is important; it is essential to have far-sighted initiatives and that’s why Spain is maintaining its relation with Zimbabwe. The economic and political forecast of the country is very positive and maybe in the future a business partnership is possible. Zimbabwe has great potential and, as Ms. Moral explained, “there will be lots of opportunities for Spanish companies in sectors like renewable energy, infrastructures, tourism, water…”. And that is why diplomatic relations are essential.

Still, the current political situation is far from optimistic. President Mugabe has been in power for the last 20 years and he, who first presented himself as a “freedom fighter”, has taken advantage of his position, for example expropriating of farms without compensation, and is responsible of massive human rights violations. Zimbabwe is surely “a rich country in terms of natural and human resources” as Ms. Moral emphasized. For example, the level of education is much higher than those of other African countries and there are plenty of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, metals, sugar, tobacco, maize, etc. However, she outlined that many reforms are necessary to attract foreign investment to take advantage of this richness and to increase the development level as income reaches the people. But these people alone cannot make the change; growth will only come if the government makes these needed new policies.

Mugabe is still in power but, regarding his last actions, the international community believes that now the government is seriously committed to make reforms to develop its economy and to implement a new and fairer constitution. That is why Spain is taking steps to strengthen its diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe through Alicia Moral, who has experience in the field and in Africa. In our globalised world, there is an increasing need of soft power and Spain, as well as the international community, is aware of this fact, also bearing in mind that the most promising continent right now in terms of new economic opportunities and growth is Africa. The world must keep an eye on Zimbabwe’s political context to see if the expected growth is real or if, lamentably, the country remains stuck in its unstable and complicated situation.

By Cristina Huergo