Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Not Africa?

Progress means that countries that produce simple products often move onto more complex products. Low-skilled jobs are transferred to countries down the economic ladder whose labor costs are less, while the original producers find new products requiring more skilled workers. Thus far, the economic phenomenon of comparative advantage hasn’t worked for Africa as it should have. For example, products no longer being made in America still are not being made in African locales.

For example, the United States stopped making Rawlings baseballs – the ones used in the major leagues, college and high school games and sandlot ball – back in 1969. The St. Louis factory’s production was shipped first to Puerto Rico, then to Haiti and now to Costa Rica. Why not Africa?

Remember the toy Etch-A-Sketch? It used to be made in Bryan, Ohio, but since 2000, it has been produced in Shenzhen, China. Similarly, Mattel toys have been made in China since the last California factory shut down in 2002. Those Converse athletic shoes – know as Chuck Taylors for the All-American high school basketball player – are no longer being made in Massachusetts. Since 2001, they have been made in Indonesia. Levi Strauss & Company shut down its U.S. production of jeans in 2003, and production was outsourced to Latin American and Asian locations. Why not Africa?

For some products, Asian and other locations are still more competitive than African locations for a variety of reasons. No televisions have been produced in the U.S. since 2004. Cell phones stopped being made in America in 2007. Just this year alone, Dell computers, canned sardines and even kitchen flatware (forks, spoons and knives) stopped being produced in America. Complex products can be produced easier and cheaper in Asian countries, but there are still opportunities for African manufacture of products no longer economically feasible for the developed world.

Then why isn’t Africa taking advantage of these opportunities and becoming the destination of choice for the manufacture of products no longer made in America or often other developed countries? I could mention the lack of road and rail infrastructure, or the lack of consistent electric power that forces producers to rely too heavily on generators. The small production capacity of so many countries makes them less competitive on a global scale.

The failure of neighboring countries to cooperate in bundling goods at ports and airports, which also suffer from a lack of security and efficiency, make them less attractive sites for shippers. The dearth of shipping alternatives makes prices too high to be competitive on the world stage. All these and other reasons are certainly the cause of African countries as a whole failing to compete more effectively in the global marketplace, but there are African countries that have made the jump into a position of enhanced global competitiveness.

For all developing countries, it is estimated that manufactured goods account for more than 80% of their exports. That’s up from only 25% thirty years ago. What happened was that many of the resource-rich developing countries invested revenue from resources in the enhancement of infrastructure, the development of human capacity and the employment of new technology. At the dawn of the wave of independence for the developing world in the late 1950s and 1960s, several African countries were economically stronger than their Asian counterparts. However, the discovery of oil and the presence of commodities such as diamonds, gold and cobalt in Africa discouraged much lasting investment in manufacturing. Where would Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria stand among world economies today if they had pursued such policies as the so-called Asian Tigers did back then?

Instead, too many governments relied on a policy known as “import substitution,” under which production was encouraged in domestic goods instead of exports. This can work if you have sufficient infrastructure, internal markets, skills and technology, and oh yes, if you don’t depend on imported goods to make it work. Unfortunately, this policy, which seemed sound at the outset, was not positioned to work effectively.

Yet countries such as Mauritius, South Africa and Botswana have employed far-thinking policies to diversity their economies and compete well with their more resource-blessed neighbors because of it. One hopes that oil won’t spoil Ghana, Sao Tome and Uganda and lead them to get so comfortable with the production of oil that they neglect other sectors of their economies that produce more jobs than does the oil industry.

It is possible that African countries can take their place among countries attracting outsourced sectors from the developed world. None of the obstacles facing Africa today are insurmountable, and with sound policies keyed to tomorrow and not today, African countries can realize their competitive potential.

The 20th century is often referred to as “American century” because the United States used its natural and human resources to become the sole superpower by the turn of the century. China and India are off to a great start at the beginning of the current century. Still, with better planning and collaboration among African governments, the 21st century can become Africa’s century.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What to Do About African Elections?

In Cote d’Ivoire, the long-awaited presidential election ended with the two top candidates both declaring victory and being sworn in. In Egypt, the main opposition party accused the government of committing widespread fraud and preventing their observers from monitoring the vote in the recent legislative elections. In Guinea, the June elections resulted in a runoff that had to be postponed due in part to the conviction of election commission officials for vote-tampering in that initial election.

Since the wave of elections that brought multi-party democracy to Africa in the 1990s, there have been significant advances made in consolidating democracy and the resulting good governance in African countries. However, there continue to be forces that try their best to frustrate the political will of the African people, and the international community seems to lack understanding or will to make the long-term investment to help prevent abuses that frustrate a broader advance of democratic elections in Africa.

After working on African elections for nearly 20 years – observing them, analyzing them and training people to prevent fraud in them – it is clear to me that whatever the intentions of the past three U.S. presidents and the current one, too many bureaucrats within the American government don’t fully understand the complexity of the electoral process. I always thought that officials in the U.S. Agency for International Development in the early 1990s associated the political process with former U.S. President Richard Nixon, whom they hated. So despite what I and others working to help elevate political process in Africa told them, they didn’t enable us to do what was necessary from the start to make elections acceptable because they saw the political process as inevitably flawed.

What former U.S. President George W. Bush called “the bigotry of low expectations” also comes into play. There just doesn’t seem to be the ability by too many American or other international officials to accept that Africans are capable of world-class elections. So the mood of “it’s good enough for Africa” seems to permeate the reaction to African elections. Whenever an African election is troubled, the first reaction is to call for a Government of National Unity. Somehow, these international leaders think, by putting opponents together in one government, trouble can be put behind them since all the African politicians want is a share of power.

Arranged Governments of National Unity are not really the way things work in the developed world. If the voters choose divided government, so be it, but who puts a viper in his or her own nest? In America, Democrat and Republican presidents usually appoint a member of the other party to their cabinet as a sign of cooperation. But when has the losing presidential candidate ever been given a major role in the winner’s government, especially if that losing candidate is a viable future candidate for president.? Under what circumstances would President Barack Obama ever have given Senator John McCain a major role in his government? It was a surprise when Obama appointed his primary opponent – Senator Hillary Clinton – as Secretary of State.

American and other international officials must understand that elections are often won or lost long before the first ballot is cast. For example, the Kenyan African National Union created a majority of small constituencies for itself and larger, fewer constituencies for the political opposition and used this tactic to hold onto power in the transition to multiparty democracy in the 1990s. In Cote d’Ivoire in the 1990s, one of the current presidents, Alassane Ouattara, was declared ineligible to run on the bogus charge that he wasn’t a citizen. In the historic 1992elections in Angola, entire segments of the population were not registered to vote. Tactics called “wholesale fraud” are used to prevent parties, candidates and voters from participating in elections. Election day can be scrupulously clean if the election has been won in advance. Unless those trying to guarantee free and fair elections pay attention to this phase, nothing done on election day will matter.

Then there is the voting process. African governments to often wait until late in the day to train election officials and find qualified election workers. Polling places are often poorly chosen. For example, I saw polling places in Equatorial Guinea in Mongomo a few years ago that had no security of the ballot as there was access to voters while they cast their ballots out of the sight of election officials. You don’t usually see ballot boxes being stolen and ballots being stuffed nowadays. What you do see (if you pay attention) is manipulation of vote counting as was the case in Ethiopia in 2005 and Kenya in 2007.

Rather than trying to find an expedient solution to an electoral crisis as was the case with the international community in both cases, why not make a more concerted effort to prevent the crisis before it develops?

Since the wave of African democratic elections crested in the 1990s, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute have worked on all phases of African elections. Unfortunately, their efforts have been hampered by U.S. government officials who delayed funding until almost too late, required equal treatment for all political parties even when they were parties on paper only and asked for favorable public assessments in the face of blatant election manipulation.

Permanent, professional electoral commissions with input from political parties, political parties prepared to effectively contest elections on behalf of their supporters, timely funding of election mechanisms and the application of new technology, such as biometric voter identification systems, must be applied to African elections to put governments, political parties and voters on a more secure road to lasting democracy.

There are important elections coming up in 2011, including in Sudan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Cameroon. For some of these process, particularly Sudan, it is too late to make the investment in setting the stage for free, fair and transparent elections. We can only hope that what interventions are made at this late date can be helpful.

In those African elections where timely interventions may help guarantee the accurate expression of the will of African voters, efforts must be made now to ensure that the goal of a fully functional democracy is served. Trying to clean up a preventable mess must no longer be the option when it comes to African elections.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dimensions of the African Diaspora

A little while back, I wrote as blog post about Africa reaching out to its Diaspora. Although this outreach could be more robust, it does exist. But what about the Diaspora’s outreach to its own disparate parts? We generally know very little about who the other members of the African Diaspora are or where they live today.

As African Americans, we consider ourselves the preeminent sector of the African Diaspora. However, in terms of size, we are only number two. Brazil has nearly 86 million people of African descent who comprise 45% of that country’s population. African descendants comprise about 13% of the American population and about 38 million people. Of course, the African liberation and civil rights movements in America have enabled Diasporans living here to flex their political muscles and impact the continent far more than black Brazilians have been able to do.

In Brazil, people we would consider to be Diasporans are divided into pretos (blacks) and pardos (mixed race or brown). Centuries of racial mixtures means that many Brazilians have African ancestry that is not easily recognizable, thus the invention of the term moreno (tanned or of olive complexion). The result of Brazil’s ethnic history is that many Brazilians don’t really consider themselves to be African descendants; they are as likely to describe themselves as Brazilian descendants.

This was only the case with a smaller portion of American Diasporans – those who were quadroon (one-quarter black) and octoroon (one-eighth black) back in the 1800s when those were distinct racial categories. When those classifications were nullified by U.S. law that declared anyone with one drop of black blood to be black, many of the lighter ones passed as whites to avoid the bitter discrimination faced by those more easily identified as black. Over time, they intermarried with whites and are the ones surprised to find they have African heritage when they take the DNA tests.

We know about the Diasporans who live in the Caribbean. Countries such as Haiti (8.7 million), the Dominican Republic (nearly 8 million) and Jamaica (2.7 million) have large Diasporan populations who we see in America. They are very obviously black, and we associate those countries with being largely black. Yet there are other countries in this hemisphere with significant black populations: Columbia (11.7 million). Venezuela (2.6 million) and Ecuador (680 thousand). Most of the islands of the Caribbean are, of course, majority black countries: Saint Kitts and Nevis (98%), Antigua and Barbuda (95%) and Grenada (91%).

But did you know that the Cayman Islands, the noted destination for offshore funds, is 60% black? French Guiana is 66% black, and Suriname is 47% black. Have you ever met a black person from one of these countries? Perhaps you did, but didn’t know where they were from, or you thought they were a small minority in their country of origin.

Europe is only 1.2% black, but France has 3 million Diasporans, and the United Kingdom has 2 million. The Netherlands has 507 thousand Diasporans, and Germany has 500 thousand. People from Africa and the Caribbean are playing increasingly visible and important roles in these countries. Famous black people from Europe include NBA player Tony Parker, who was born in Belgium, and former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, who was born in the United Kingdom. They are but two of the many Diasporans born and raised in Europe.

We may know about the 200 thousand Diasporans (mostly from Ethiopia) who live in Israel because of the famous airlift of Jewish Africans, but what about the other black populations in the Middle East? Egypt and the rest of North Africa, which are considered part of the Middle East, is African, of course, but there are significant, identifiable black populations in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.

I used the term identifiable because while they may look black, many Afro-Arabs do not identify themselves as African descendants. Being African is akin to being identified as slaves. That remains a persistent issue in countries such as Sudan today. Nevertheless, Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew are believed to have their origin in Ethiopia, which at one time in history controlled territory on both sides of the Red Sea. Swahili, the widely popular east African language, contains much Arabic and was once the language used by traders in the region.

Although many scholars doubt the claims of African ancestry among people in the Pacific, it is quite clear that Melanesians and many other Pacific Islanders have strong African features. There are the Australian aboriginal people, the Semang people of the Malay peninsula, the Aeta people of Luzon and the Ati of Panay. Again, these people have little connection to Africa today and likely do not identify themselves as members of the African Diaspora.

The dimensions of the African Diaspora are broad, but the linkages in practice are tenuous. We may look alike, but we don’t all identify ourselves as having the same ethnic origin. So while some members of the African Diaspora are reaching back to a connection with Africa, many others don’t for many reasons. Still, they are our brothers and sisters whether they know it or accept it or not. What becomes of that truth remains to be seen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Africa’s Next Nation or Next War?

When the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, settling the long civil war between North and South Sudan, it offered hope that this troubled country could become a source of benefit to East Africa and not the constant drain and threat that it is now. Unfortunately, competition for resource control and ethnic divisions have kept this agreement from having the full positive impact that had been hoped for. We are now at the eve of its final prescription – the referendum on southern independence – and far from providing a final end to the war, it may lead to a resumption of armed hostilities.

The attention of the international community is increasingly pointing toward Southern Sudan and its January 9, 2011, referendum on independence, which also include a vote on whether the provinces of Abyei, Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile will join Southern Sudan in independence from the North.

The North faces the distinct possibility that it will lose not only a third of its territory in that vote in January, but also a significant portion of its income, which largely comes from oil. Approximately 56% of the North’s revenues are generated by oil, and 75% of Sudan’s known oil reserves lie in the South. The North does have some minerals, but agriculture is constrained by its largely desert terrain. There is about a two kilometer-wide swath of alluvial land in which agriculture is possible, and that depends on the annual Nile River flood. Consequently, Northern Sudan is definitely not looking forward to a successful referendum that frees the South from its control.

Of course, even if the referendum goes as anticipated, the North has several choke points to use as leverage over the South to force revenue sharing on oil. For one thing, some oil fields span the still-unresolved border between North and South Sudan. Currently, any oil pumped from southern soil must go through northern Sudan for export. As for water resources, the current international agreement on the Nile water allocates 80 billion cubic meters of water to Sudan, but only 18 billion cubic meters for the South.

Since 2005, Northern Sudan has refused to cooperate in implementing the CPA. The international community has been so focused on the continuing crises in Darfur, there was inconsistent attention on the failure of the CPA process. Rather like a magician, the North distracted from the CPA breakdown by maintaining the world’s attention to the West. The possibility of losing the South has far more immediate implications for Sudan than does the desert region of Darfur.

The demilitarization of the South has not been completed, and there is a significant force of northern troops and weapons remaining in the South despite the CPA plan. The North is ready for renewed war in the South and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) is trying to catch up. As it has since the days of the long civil war, the North supports southern rebel movements to cause confusion and to create potential allies in any new conflict.

Right now, some of these rebels are busy leasing land in the South to foreign interests. One-time warlord Paulino Matiep Nhial’s family leased 400,000 hectares in Unity State last year, and in late October, militia leader Gabriel Tanginya entered into an agreement with Jarch Capital, the company that leased the Unity State land last year. The GoSS has not agreed to recognize these deals, though.

The most immediate threat to a peaceful transition lies in the voter registration process, which began in mid-November. This process is filled with possibility for voter challenges. There is no computerized registry. The entire process is dependent on hand registration using carbon paper. Given the many similar names and lack of street addresses, the likelihood of confusion, if not fraud, is rampant. Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party recently expressed its suspicion of the voter registration process and said its complaints to the South Sudan Referendum Commission have been unaddressed. Consequently, the Khartoum government has said it would not recognize the outcome of the registration process if problems are not corrected.

Furthermore, the Khartoum government continues to strongly urge that the referendum be postponed. For the South, that is a non-starter. GoSS President Salva Kiir calls the referendum date “sacrosanct.”

In order for the referendum to be officially recognized, a minimum of 50% of the voters plus one must vote for independence, and 60% of those eligible must have cast their ballots. Since there remains a serious gap in the estimates of southern voters living in the North, many of whom are not now registering to vote, there is a very broad loophole the North can use to disqualify an independence vote. Still, there is every sign that there will be secession no matter what the official vote tally records.

Despite a serious lack of governmental capacity, Southern Sudan has great promise for its future as an independent country. Approximately 80% of land in the South is arable, though only 10% is now under cultivation. A Japanese plan would create an oil pipeline to the port of Lamu, Kenya, with would be beneficial for the Sudanese and the Kenyans. Southern Sudan has the second highest per capita count of cattle. Gold, which supported the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army for years, is but one of its mineral resources. An of course oil will continue to provide 98% of the South’s revenue for some time.

China, Japan, Uganda, Kenya and even Iran are counting on the new nation to be born in the next few weeks. However, no one should be foolish enough to discount the strong possibility that that birth will take more bloodshed to occur. The United States, Great Britain and Norway – the triumvirate who negotiated the CPA – as well as the African Union, the United Nations and the World Bank are all engaged in a furious effort to make this process conclude nonviolently. At the same time, hardliners in Khartoum and Juba, the southern capital, won’t make that outcome so easy to achieve.

The next few weeks will tell whether the African Union will celebrate a new member or prepare to deal with yet another African war.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reaching Out to Africa’s Descendants

With the growing interest among Africa’s Diaspora in reaching back to the Motherland, the question arises: is Africa reaching out to its descendants worldwide?

The answer is yes. As we reach out to Africa, many on the continent are reaching out to us, and there is a history behind these efforts.

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, as President of Ghana, invited members of the African Diaspora to join in the efforts to build his newly independent nation in the late 1950s. The late Pan-African leader W.E.B. DuBois became a Ghanaian citizen and is buried there. Many other Diasporans followed him to Ghana and live there today, although citizenship has come hard for them despite their length of stay. This reluctance to extend citizenship to members of the Diaspora belies the “Joseph Project,” an invitation to members of the Diaspora to reconnect with the land of their ancestors.

A decade later, Mwalimu Julius Nyrere, President of Tanzania, extended an invitation to members of the Diaspora to come to Tanzania and participate in building his new nation. In addition to the leaders of African liberations movements, Tanzania became a beacon for Diasporans, especially Black Panthers, Vietnam War resisters and others who felt the need to leave the United States. Many of those who relocated to Tanzania still reside there. Now Tanzania is exploring whether to allow dual citizenship for Diasporans who want to continue their ties to the land of their birth.

An expanding list of African countries are offering or considering offering citizenship to members of the Diaspora, including Cameroon, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In fact, Sierra Leone provides an example of the enthusiasm of the people for a reconnection with the Diaspora and the obstacles that have prevented the flood gates to dual citizenship from being opened.

Research on the descendants of slaves brought to America from West Africa has long provided solid evidence of ties as exemplified by similarities in traditions, culture, language and even food. The Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia have long been known to have come from Sierra Leone. James Madison University Professor Joseph Opala was instrumental in bringing 13 Gullah community leaders to Sierra Leone in 1989 for a “Gullah Homecoming.” A week of national celebrations ensued. Still, Sierra Leoneans wanted to see a Gullah family who could prove descent from their country.

Opala researched the matter, and eight years later, he was able to bring Mary Moran from Harris Neck, Georgia, who sang a song in the Mende language she learned from her mother. When a Mende woman in one village recognized the song, it connected the Moran family to that village. The “Moran Family Homecoming” was indeed a miracle caused by Opala’s dogged research. Yet Sierra Leoneans wanted to identify the descendants of a specific person taken from their land. Opala likened the challenge to “winning the lottery three times in a row.”

Great research trumped luck in this case. Opala, with the help of writer Edward Ball, combed through slave ship records and slave auction accounts and found references to a young girl given the name “Priscilla,” who had arrived in Charles Town, South Carolina, in 1956. Through plantation records, they were able to trace her descendants to the Martin family of Charleston, South Carolina. The paper trail from Sierra Leone to America was remarkably intact, and when Priscilla’s descendant, Thomalind Martin Polite, visited Sierra Leone in 2004, there was no doubt where she was from and to whom she was connected.

While there are Africans whose shame over their part in the slave trade lead them to reject the reconnection with the descendants of those taken from their land, many other are overjoyed at having ancestral ties confirmed. Nevertheless, African societies tend to be family oriented. Those who live in the cities are still usually expected to be able to tell which village their families came from. This pride in heritage is at once a bond that strengthens African society and a barrier to newcomers.

Until recently, it was often impossible to make such a connection. The family of Alex Haley was able to make such a specific connection due to the deliberate transmission of his family’s African history through the generations. Many Diaspora families are not able to do so with specificity because not all slave traders and slave owners kept good records and not all families managed to maintain an oral history as accurate as the Haleys.

A desire to identity with an African country only works when that country accepts you without requiring you to document your linkage. Not even DNA evidence would be sufficient if a strict lineage test is used as it had been in Sierra Leone. Evidently, that country’s government has accepted that specific ties can be created from the blood connection established by DNA testing. On the country’s 50th anniversary of its independence on April 27, 2011, dozens of members of its Diaspora will be given citizenship.

If a blood tie to a specific family cannot be established, then we can make an adopted tie. For too long, time and distance have divided us. We must now be creative enough to make the dotted lines of lineage into solid lines of acceptance. Family, after all, is really about accepting one another as kin whether we have all the paperwork or not.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

African Women Need Broad Status Uplift

Did you hear about the United Nations request for an investigation into reports that hundreds of women refugees from Angola into the Democratic Republic of Congo were subjected to sexual abuse? It was just revealed a couple of weeks ago, but it may have faded into the many reports of sexual violence against African women you hear all too often.

The status of women in Africa is a series of paradoxes. On the one hand, women have an exalted role as mothers and nurturers of their families. On the other hand, they are not accorded many of the economic rights women have in other parts of the world and are still forced into marriages and subject to female circumcisions. Women and their children are the main victims of the various wars and civil conflicts in Africa, but they are historic peace makers, leading efforts to end these conflicts. In African countries with the most diamonds, oil, gold and other mineral resources, such as Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and others, women are at their most vulnerable. Women comprise an estimated 70% of economic activity in Africa countries, but they only own an estimated two percent of the land.

There are prominent women in Africa, such as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Zimbabwe Vice President Joice Mujuru, as well as numerous female ministers. There is World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. There is Kenyan Nobel prize winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai. One might think from their examples that the status of Africa women has taken a great leap forward. Unfortunately, these women are the exceptions to the rule for most women in Africa, who live busy lives building their families and their societies with little of the help one would expect for the glue that holds Africa together.

There is a saying: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” True though it has always been, even in the developed world, women had to struggle to achieve equal rights to men. Actually, it took the suffrage movement and the factories that were needed to feed the war effort in the 1940s to open the door that allowed women to break free from limited life choices. Still, that liberation did not spread to women in African countries, which for the most part remained as European colonies. While their sisters in Europe and North America had a choice as to the direction in which their lives would flow, African women continued to toil on with no discernable difference in how they could shape their futures.

Thomas Sankara, the late Pan-African theorist and military President of Burkina Faso, once said, “I can hear the roar of women’s silence.” Without being prompted by women demonstrating or boycotting, Sankara made adult education mandatory for rural women in his country. He was the first African leader to appoint women to government positions, including cabinet posts. He banned forced female circumcision, forced marriage and polygamy. Unfortunately, his Marxist ideology discredited his views generally among the Western governments who should have supported his enlightened position on equality for women. When he was assassinated in a coup, his policies were almost all reversed, including the status of women. Today, Burkinabe women are ruled by tradition and unprotected by constitutional law.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International reported that discrimination against women in Burkina Faso was responsible for a high rate of maternal death during pregnancy and childbirth because they were unable to access adequate health care. This situation is not confined to Burkina Faso, though. A thousand women in the world die each day from pregnancy-related causes, and 570 of them are African. While these deaths are preventable, they are not prevented. Reducing maternal mortality was one of the Millennium Development Goals, yet the level of African maternal mortality is actually rising.

African women more than carry their share of society’s burden and should be assisted far more than they usually are. The light of hope in this situation stems from those women who have broken through to become leaders in their countries and internationally. It also lies in the young men who have been educated to see beyond the boundaries of the culture in which they and their ancestors were reared.

We are entering the second decade of the 21st century, and communications technology allows us all to see how life is lived throughout our world. Even rural women in Africa are seeing past the limits placed on them by societies holding desperately onto the past. Young women on the continent will not be held back by the conventions of the past, and young African men are increasing less willing to try to hold them back.

There was a time in many societies on the continent before the colonial powers took control that African women and men had an equitable distribution of responsibility and walked side by side in partnership. Perhaps history is about to repeat itself – albeit in a more modern way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Postelection: Africa Still Matters

The lamentation over what the incoming Tea Party Republicans will do to American government has begun. The concern over what will happen to U.S. Africa policy has not yet ginned up, but it will. There is every reason to be concerned that, in a budget-cutting Congress, funding for Africa will suffer. However, that need not be the result of last Tuesday’s voting.

The fiscal conservative wing of the Republican Party has long viewed spending, perhaps especially spending on foreign affairs, to be an often unwarranted drain on national resources. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the Senate, once called aid to Africa “money down a rat hole.” He changed his tune after the Constituency for Africa convinced his constituents to protest this view. In recent years, the national security wing and the social conservative wing have had control of the party’s policies, but the fiscal conservatives found the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be too costly and the fights against abortion and gay marriage to be distractions. Their resurgence puts funding levels for everything squarely in the target zone of legislators.

So now there will have to be battles to justify spending on Africa. The byword for the new American political landscape on aid programs is self-sufficiency. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) grants have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to developing countries, largely in Africa, so that major projects can be undertaken. The point must be made that the MCA process forces governments to work with their private sectors and civil societies to devise a plan that is broadly beneficial with benchmarks to determine progress.

When fiscal conservatives last took over Congress from Democrats in 1995, they approached welfare reform much in the way they are likely to approach foreign aid. The goal was to set a limit on the funding going to welfare recipients by building their capacity to work and even providing day care for their children. Therefore, a time limit could be set on how long one could receive welfare payments. In this case, the MCA model of having government bring in the private sector and civil society to devise plans that help build the country in the long run with the funding provided will likely be favored. The incoming members of Congress will tend to look more favorably upon countries that use the funding wisely and don’t have to repeatedly receive funding for the same unresolved issues.

This expands accountability and puts the burden of making the grants work on not just government, but other segments of society. If we are to avoid a resumption of the “rat hole” view of aid to Africa, accountability and transparency must be a significant part of the message to Congress. President Obama has signaled them as major elements of his Africa policy, so he won’t be caving in to fiscal conservatives to promote that policy.

The Obama Administration currently seeks to shift the burden for HIV-AIDS services to African health care systems which unfortunately are not yet prepared to undertake that burden. Congressional budget cutters will find such a policy almost irresistible to support. If the Administration is ready to push responsibility onto African governments, preparing those governments to shoulder that burden must be a priority. That will not be easy unless it is described as enabling the shift in burden to take place.

Not much is being done yet to curb the current land grab trend in Africa, but if it is not opposed soon, there will be a terrible price to pay down the road for Africans without food or jobs because of their governments’ short-sighted policies. The mid-2008 food price spike led many countries unable to feed themselves to secure available land in Africa to meet their needs. The promises of enhanced infrastructure and shared food products to their African hosts remain to be fulfilled. If prices rise further in the future, such generosity will be unlikely to be honored. Moreover, if jobs are denied Africans due to the importation of foreign workers who then stay on to compete with African entrepreneurs, then the economies will be too weakened to benefit sufficiently from any new infrastructure or food sharing. This must be effectively explained to Congress as helping to prevent humanitarian disaster in the future.

There has been support for assisting in the recovery of African countries coming out of conflict, such as Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Continued aid will have to be tied to measures of success. Yet what about countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and the new Southern Sudan? They will need help to get back on firm footing, but you can be certain that their natural wealth will be held against them. Some formula must be considered to justify outside help for those countries who have oil, gold, diamonds or other resources of value. It will no longer be possible for generosity to countries who fail to use their existing resources to help themselves.

At the recent Africare dinner, World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the audience that “Africa does not want to continue to be dependent.” This is true, but Africa’s supporters also must accept this principle and use it to maintain aid for Africa in this time of budget cutting. An Africa that wants a hand up rather than a handout can still get help.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finding a Path Back to Africa

A few weeks ago, I received the results of my DNA test back from African Ancestry, Inc. I had wanted to receive the results in time for a DNA reveal ceremony at the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation Africa Policy forum in Atlanta, Georgia, in September. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the materials to the company in time. That may have been best, though, since I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the results, and receiving them in private has given me time to think about it out of the spotlight.

I am not saying I am disappointed, because I’m not at all. The test results reveal that I am descended from the Tikar, Hausa and Fulani people now in Cameroon. I say now in Cameroon because no one can say with certainty where my ancestors were when they were kidnapped from Africa. This is where they are today. That’s close enough for me.

Unlike some who have gotten their DNA results and been disappointed because it wasn’t what they thought it would be, I had no results I was hoping to receive. Actor/Africa activist Isaiah Washington, whose DNA linked him to the Mende and Temne people of Sierra Leone, says that DNA has memory and once asked me and some other people where we felt most connected on the continent. My immediate answer was Kenya because of the work I have done there and the many friends I have. Also, I have been asked by Africans elsewhere on the continent whether I was Kenyan.

Of course, I also have been asked if I was Nigerian, and for awhile I did wonder if I was Yoruba like so many Nigerians I know. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that I have done a lot of work on Angola and that I might be Umbundu because I have a connection to Angola. Talking to Isaiah, I once wondered if my results would lead to Sierra Leone, as they have for so many of us in the African Diaspora.

Learning that I am of Cameroonian heritage has been a revelation and a relief. It is a revelation because I didn’t expect it, and research shows that my people (at least the Tikar and Hausa part) migrated from Sudan long ago. So I am connected to a land on which I have spent much time helping to develop and implement policy.
These two groups are Bantu, while the Fulani are Nilotic. Thus, I am linked to the two major African ethnic ancestral groups.

It is a relief because I am adopted and always wanted to know about my heritage. However, I had no one who could tell me since my natural mother is deceased. I met my natural mother, but at the time it did not occur to me to ask her about our family history. I was nine years old at the time. Still, she did tell me in a way because I used the matrilineal test to find my path back to Africa. As African Ancestry officials will tell you, going through your mother’s line has a greater than 90% chance of leading back to the continent, while going through your father’s line has only a 65% chance of doing so. There are many reasons for this disparity that I will not go into at this time.

This 65% chance means that many who trace their heritage through their father’s line (only men can do this by the way) find that it often leads to Europe. This is what happened in Atlanta when Martin Luther King III and Dr. Julius Garvey (Marcus Garvey’s son) had their DNA tested. Their matrilineal tests led to Africa – King to the Mende people in Sierra Leone and Garvey to Fulanis with traces from various countries. But their patrilineal tests both led to Europe. Martin Luther King Jr.’s line led to Portugal, while Marcus Garvey’s led to Spain.

For some, this news about Diaspora heroes was deflating. There was concern that it could discredit the tests in the sense that many Diasporans would be discouraged from taking it. Had we known earlier, certainly we could have located a female relative of King and Garvey to test their matrilineal lineages. In future, this will be the prudent course for celebrities when we are trying to determine their parents’ lineage.

Nevertheless, any member of the Diaspora who finds a link to Spain or Portugal quite possibly is linked to the Moors, the Africans who conquered and ruled the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. Even so, we in the Diaspora have to acknowledge that most of us have European heritage as well as African. We should let no one tell us we should be more proud of the European linkage or more ashamed of it either. It is what it is. We determine ultimately who we are – not our ancestors. They and our parents give us the building blocks on which we construct our lives.

Whether we fail or succeed is mostly up to us. People have succeeded with problematic genetics and/or troubled upbringings. I hope that I have used well the genetics my birth mother gave me and the lessons my adopted mother provided.

So I am pleased to finally have my link definitively established to Africa. Knowing that you have African heritage generally is not the same as knowing specifically where your people are on the continent. Being a member of the African Diaspora feels more tangible to me now. I am proud to be of Cameroonian descent, although I feel no different today about championing the cause of Africa as a whole. I will continue to write about and advocate for Africa generally, as well as Cameroon specifically.

I guess that’s just the way I am.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Putting Foreign Investors Above Nationals

Last year, I wrote about the long-term leasing of African land by governments who brought in foreign investors to cultivate agricultural land for the benefit of foreign citizens at the expense of locals. In the wake of global food price increases, these foreign investors are protecting the interests of their people through “agricultural outsourcing” schemes, but the African governments leasing their land expect that there will be benefits produced by these deals that aren’t as apparent to their countrymen.

The procurement of African land by foreigners isn’t new, of course. The European colonial powers appropriated entire countries in the 19th century. African economies were programmed to produce basic products for the colonial powers. The Industrial Revolution passed Africa by because Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany and Spain had no interest in enabling their colonies to produce their own value-added products, especially in agriculture.

The 2008 world food price rise – reaching the highest levels since the 1970s – led many nations unable to grow sufficient food to look for avenues to provide for their own food needs. Certainly, there were African governments who also feared being unable to produce sufficient food. Nigeria and Zambia brought in displaced white Zimbabwean farmers and their production skills, but many other African governments evidently felt they needed outside expertise. It would seem that making a deal to let outsiders produce food for their own market was acceptable to African governments because of the portion to be provided for African markets and the anticipated infrastructure improvements that would result. According to the Oakland Institute, which produced a report on the global land grab crisis, 50 million hectares of African land have been leased to foreign investors.

Unfortunately, those assumptions fail to allow for capacity building for African farmers and exclude local investors from buying and cultivating land in their own country. A case in point is the Government of Ethiopia, which is in the midst of a massive leasing of its agricultural lands to foreign interests. According to the Indian Ocean Newsletter, about 600,000 hectares of Ethiopian land (approximately 1.48 million acres) has been leased to foreign investors and the plan is to lease more than three million hectares of Ethiopian land by 2013.

The newsletter states that the land, largely in the southwestern Gambella region, was listed as wasteland, but it was useful to the Anuaks who live there. The Anuaks have been at odds with the Government of Ethiopia for some time. In December 2003, 424 Anuaks were killed in Gambella by government security forces. There almost no accountability of the government forces involved in what was described as a massacre. Actually, over the subsequent two years there were allegations of government extrajudicial killings, rape, imprisonment and disappearances. According to Anuak sources, more than 1,000 Anuaks were killed during this period.

Now it seems that Anuaks are being targeted again as they are reportedly being moved off their lands so they can be leased to foreign interests. Karuturi Global Ltd., the largest Indian company operating in Ethiopia, reportedly is negotiating the lease of 300,000 hectares of land in Gambella to grow corn, palm oil, sugar cane, etc. Saudi magnate Mohamed Hussein Al Amoudi has sold the Ethiopian government on a plan to produce cereal s such as rice to minimize imports. His company, Saudi Star Agricultural Development wants to cultivate half a million hectares of Ethiopian land within the next ten years.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reports that the government in Addis Ababa has withdrawn from regional governments the right of conveying leases of more than 1,000 hectares. Ostensibly, this is to address the problem of corruption, but it also happens to take away any local involvement in the allocations of land. Meanwhile, Anuaks are being moved off their lands to other areas, and arrests of those who oppose these leasing arrangements reportedly have started.

As the Oakland Institute points out in its report, Africa needs investment in agriculture, such as better seeds and other inputs, extension services, education on conservation techniques and the enhancement of farming techniques generally. However, what Ethiopia and other African countries are doing is bypassing the African farmer in favor of foreign farmers operating on plantations. In the short run, production will certainly increase, and unless the deals are completely one-sided, African governments surely will receive agricultural products and likely enhanced infrastructure. However, the people of these countries will be bystanders in this process and will not develop better skills at growing food for their own families or for their countrymen and neighbors in surrounding countries.

Unless African governments insist on the employment of African farmers and allow Africans the opportunity to buy the land they would lease, the largest share of the benefits from these deals will be enjoyed by foreigners. That is a very short-sighted plan on how to develop one’s country.

When the colonial powers seized African lands in the 19th century, they did so at the barrel of a gun, often through divide and conquer strategies. This time, African governments are voluntarily signing away their land and the future of their people. The world’s hungriest continent will rue the day that it turned over its agricultural production to outsiders whose main interest is in producing food for their own people.

What will these leasing governments do during the term of these 50-year or 99-year leases when their foreign partners are unwilling or unable to provide the amount of agricultural products due to a slumping global economy or another food price spike?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walking Apartheid Avenue

In Washington, D.C., there is a subway station known as Farragut West, it is two blocks from the World Bank headquarters. World Bank employees of African descent call this two-block stretch “Apartheid Avenue” because the white World Bank managers who leave this station to go to work there in one building, while black employees go to another building. Whites and Asians at the World Bank have little limit to their ability to advance, but the blacks stay in the positions they are given and are expected to be happy to be there at all.

Now you might say that there are blacks in high positions at the Bank, and you would be right. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is Managing Director at the Bank, and Obiageli Ezekwesili is Vice President for the Bank’s Africa region. However, to say that such high-level appointments mean that the World Bank has a color-blind environment is like saying the United States has achieved a color-blind society because Barack Obama was elected President. Very few of us would believe the latter, and there is no more reason to believe the former.

Three decades ago, the Washington Post ran an article that documented underrepresentation by black employees at the World Bank. In June 2009, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) issued a subsequent report on racial discrimination at the World Bank that showed very little progress has been made since then, and internal mechanisms to redress racial discrimination grievances were found to be part of the problem.

“GAP reviewed the Bank’s Tribunal decisions since 1996 in racial discrimination disputes. Our review found that the Tribunal failed to find discrimination in any of the 21 racial discrimination cases it reviewed over the past 12 years,” the report stated. “Given the fact that a series of studies have found systematic discrimination within the institution, and that the Bank’s own data reveal the racial differentials cited earlier, this record at the Tribunal is disturbing.”

According to the Bank’s data, between 1996 and 2009, a cutback led to three out of five black employees in just one department being let go, and neither of the two remaining blacks were promoted. Meanwhile, only four of 18 Asians were let go, while five were promoted. Only one of 12 whites was dismissed, and seven were promoted. Even looking at these numbers in just one department, World Bank grievance hearing officials see no pattern of discrimination.

GAP’s Beatrice Edwards, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus last year, said the failures to properly investigate and adjudicate racial discrimination at the Bank “translate into an environment of lawlessness and impunity where breathtakingly racist incidents can still occur.”

Dr. Yonas Biru knows that all too well. Until earlier this year, he was performing managerial duties at the Bank. His supervisors had brought back a retired white employee rather than allow him to head the project that he was partially managing. When the white manager proved incapable of doing his job, Dr. Biru was assigned more of his duties than he already was performing. When the man retired again, Dr. Biru was once more denied the promotion. The original excuse was that an outside agency made that decision, but it was discovered that this explanation was untrue.

When Dr. Biru protested, Bank officials apparently decided to get rid of him. Scholars working on his project were scheduled to deliver their reports in June of this year as contracted, but he was asked to summarize these reports weeks earlier. When he couldn’t comply, he was fired.

In his racial discrimination grievance, Dr. Biru noted that he had performed managerial functions and was qualified for the job. He cited his uniformly outstanding reviews and the testimony of the scholars that he had managed their work. At the Administrative Tribunal hearing, Bank managers said they only rated Dr. Biru so highly as an encouragement for him to do better. They said the scholars couldn’t be believed that Dr. Biru had managed them because they were biased by being managed by him. Dr. Biru faces a final decision on his case by Bank appeals officials next Friday.

The World Bank has declared that Africa is the Bank’s top priority, and of the requested US$50 billion plus in funding for the Bank’s International Development Association financing facility, half will go to Africa projects. With Western donors cutting back on aid because of the global recession, the World Bank is becoming increasingly important to Africa. But if Africa’s children are treated so poorly by Bank officials, how much faith can we put in any programs supposedly intended to help the continent?

Immunity should not be confused with impunity. We may not be able to sue them in court for such blatant discrimination, but we are not without recourse. No agency that depends on donor funding should take that funding for granted. Racism should never be rewarded, and World Bank officials should keep that in mind. For anyone who wants to voice their opinion to the Bank on this issue, call 1-202-473-1000 or send an e-mail to investigations_hotline@worldbank.org

Friday, October 8, 2010

Palm Oil Policy on Slippery Slope

When governments and international institutions make policy on where spending will be directed, they must take a number of factors into account. Sometimes these factors conflict to the detriment of one policy goal or another. Such is the case with the World Bank’s investment policies affecting palm oil production. Health and environmental issues clash with poverty reduction strategies. In this case, Africa stands to lose because of the perceived sins of others.

World Bank officials created in 1991 a strategy to reduce deforestation in developing countries. This policy has been unable thus far to achieve balance between alleviating poverty and facilitating environmental stability. Environmental activists have long noted environmental problems and biodiversity losses due to the palm oil business in Indonesia and Malaysia, the top two global producers of palm oil. Together, they produce 83% of global palm oil supplies.

Oil palms are an industrial plantation crop in Indonesia and Malaysia and are often grown on cleared rainforest land or in peat-swamp forests. Over the past four decades, the area planted with oil pal in Indonesia alone has expanded more than thirty-fold. In Malaysia, this area has grown twelve-fold. Moreover, Both countries have seen their lists of endangered animals balloon. In Indonesia, of the more than 400 land mammal species, 15 are critically endangered and another 125 are threatened. In Malaysia, of the nearly 300 land mammal species, six are endangered and 41 are threatened.

In the case of Africa, it has not been shown that environmental degradation due to palm tree cultivation is such a threat. Nevertheless, a global shift in palm oil policy would impact Africa as much as any country growing palm trees for palm oil trade. The World Bank is the largest single donor to sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture sector, providing US$1 billion in assistance this year. With at least two-thirds of African engaged in the agriculture sector, any product abandonment could be disastrous at a time when African countries are struggling to weather the global downturn that has hit commodities particularly hard.

Several African countries currently produce palm oil on a commercial scale. Nigeria is the largest African producer of palm oil and the world’s third leading palm oil producer behind only Indonesia and Malaysia. Even so, Nigeria is still a net importer of palm oil, which is a common cooking ingredient in much of tropical Africa.

Early on in the colonial era, palm oil was considered of lower quality than olive oil, which was available from European sources. Consequently, its use remained largely confined to West Africa. However, the Industrial Revolution led British traders to seek out palm oil as an industrial lubricant. Palm oil later came to be used as an ingredient in soap, such as Unilever’s “Sunlight Soap” and American brand Palmolive soaps.

As one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats, palm oil has increasingly been used in food products outside Africa, including not only cooking oil, but also mayonnaise and salad oil. That attractive color in your French fries likely is due to the use of palm oil. The debate about its health implications is pretty much a wash.

A 2009 study at Universiti Sains Malaysia indicated that of all vegetable oils, palm oil is “a healthy source of edible oil.” The World Health Organization and other health groups have alleged that palm oil contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but a joint University of California-Nestlé Research Center study concludes that research on how specific saturated fats contribute to coronary artery disease is inconclusive.

Palm oil has been found to have the lowest production cost of the major oils. It is estimated that by 2050, the global demand for edible oils will be about 240 million tons – nearly twice the 2008 level of consumption. Palm oil has the added benefit of being useful in the creation of biodiesel fuel. Heightened production of palm oil in Africa could satisfy both food and fuel demands.

Thus, the benefit of palm oil as a job producer in Africa is enormous.
Unfortunately, at a time when African countries, such as Uganda and Liberia, are expanding cultivation of palm trees for palm oil production, support for such projects may dry up (so to speak) due to decisions made for reasons not fully borne out by the facts. In Benin, the non-governmental organization Nature Tropicale continues to make the claim that biofuels will compete with food production and contribute to drainage problems in sensitive lands without convincing proof of either allegation. Programs such as Sierra Leone’s use of palm oil profits to finance Magbenteh Hospital in Makeni are ignored or downplayed.

The Institute for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA), a Nigerian think tank, has done a report calling on the World Bank to come down on the side of increased African palm oil production for both food production and job creation. IPPA organized a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick urging the Bank not to abandon support for palm oil production.

“We believe the surest way to cut poverty and protect our natural environment is by raising living standards and creating economic prosperity in poor countries. By cutting off much needed funding for palm oil producers, the World Bank threatens to generate poverty and economic dependency, instead of reducing it, a strategy that goes against the very ideals of the institution,” the letter states.

One hopes the Bank will listen to reasoned appeals from the continent and make the distinction between documented problems in Asian palm oil production and mere speculation about what increased African palm oil production could cause. Reality should trump possibilities for the sake of African people and global consumers.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Three Paths to Dual Citizenship

For the past six years, I have worked on the issue of dual citizenship for members of the Africa Diaspora. Anthony Archer, an attorney and professor at the University of California Dominguez Hills, who became interested in the issue as the result of attending a Leon H. Sullivan Summit, has been with me on this journey from the beginning. He wrote a paper on the subject that provides background on this increasingly relevant subject. He joined me in the task force I organized a year ago for the Sullivan Foundation, along with Faruq Muhammad and I. Nia Rogers of the UNIA/African Communities League; Dr. Lisa Aubrey of Arizona State University; Paula Coleman, Tendai Johnson and Eurica Huggins of the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute, and more recently, Dr. David Horne of the University of California Northridge.

What I have found through this work is that there are three predominant and equally legitimate paths for the pursuit of citizenship in an African country, while maintaining citizenship in the United States. Each of us has our preferences, but on our task force, we respect the decisions made by individuals unless their concepts are so unworkable that they would not only fail, but could lead others to failure as well.

For example, during the second of our two workshops on dual citizenship in Atlanta, Georgia, the other day (the first was in Washington, D.C., two weeks earlier), a woman identifying herself as an “ambassador” said all one needed was a letter from the president of an African country or even a governor to travel to any African country and to obtain land.

First of all, what airline would allow you to get on a plane from America or Europe these days with no visa where required from the country to which you are visiting? Even if you did manage to take the flight to a country with no visa (one can obtain them sometimes at the airport), no letter will get you into a country without permission. Ask yourself this, all countries have a process of obtaining a visa to enter unless they require no visas for residents of selected countries, so why would a government circumvent their own visa system?

As for land, yes, members of the Diaspora were dispossessed of land their ancestors owned or might have owned had they not been kidnapped into slavery. However, to imagine that you can walk into a country and claim land from a government or from people who legitimately own it is not only absurd, it is incredibly selfish.
This kind of magical thinking is why our task force pursues three paths we consider legitimate and reasonable.

First, with the introduction of DNA testing by companies such as African Ancestry,
members of the African Diaspora can now pursue citizenship in countries in which those from their ethnic group now reside. The test, which draws on DNA data from throughout Africa, shows you where the specific branch of your ethnic group resides today. It will not tell you where they were when your ancestors were stolen away, but then the borders established by the colonial powers were and are artificial and do not reflect the normal migration patterns that have held for millennia.

We believe this DNA testing can be further certified by African scientists if necessary so that African governments will find the results conclusive for the purpose of honoring the Right of Return. This international code was codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, giving any person the right to return and re-enter his country of origin. Without conclusive evidence that we came from a specific country, it has been difficult for members of the traditional African Diaspora to successfully invoke the Right of Return. Now we have science in our corner.

Second, African leaders have called on members of the African Diaspora to come to their country to help rebuild for the future. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana made this call in the late 1950s, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made the appeal this year. For more than 50 years now, members of the Diaspora, without any proof of ethnic linkage to Ghana, went there to become a part of Ghanaian society. Others went to Tanzania because of their respect for what then-President Julius Nyrere was trying to accomplish.

While many in those countries appreciated their efforts at building businesses and employing people, most Diasporan émigrés have not been able to become citizens in the country to which they have devoted so much of their time and energy. That is an injustice that must be corrected.

Third, the UNIA/African Communities League is following the path set by the late Honorable Marcus Garvey back in the 1920s. At that time, only Liberia, Ethiopia, South Africa and Egypt were free from colonial rule. Mr. Garvey was the only leader at the time working to unite Africa and its Diaspora, and his organization has built a tradition over time on that. To abandon tradition because there are new alternative methods of approach is like walking on the beach and having your footprints washed away by the time: you have no record of where you came from and your successors have no path to follow.

The UNIA/ACL approach is to continue to represent the African Diaspora, especially the traditional Diaspora, in pursuing citizenship, land and acculturation for those becoming part of an African society. For any Diasporan who wants organizational support along the way in pursuing dual citizenship, Marcus Garvey’s organization offers that guiding hand.

The Sullivan Foundation dual citizenship task force recognizes that there is more than one path to a goal, and we intend to achieve our goal by any means necessary that are legal, ethical and effective.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Is Dual Citizenship So Difficult?

Since the wave of African independence in the 1950s, members of the African Diaspora seeking a genuine connection to the continent have sought the goal of attaining dual citizenship that is gaining citizenship in an African country while maintaining their citizenship in the country of their birth. For some, this goal has met with success, while others have done all they could but still failed to gain the legal sanction they sought in their country of choice.

Ghana has been considered the most likely to grant dual citizenship because of the generosity of spirit of the late founding President Kwame Nkrumah, who did grant citizenship to a limited number of Diasporans. One of his successors, former President Jerry Rawlings, also sought to make it legal for Diasporans to gain citizenship in Ghana. Unfortunately, the desire by Ghanaian leaders to follow through on his promise has not been present.

The law created to enable members of the overall Diaspora to hold dual citizenship was flipped to focus only on those born in Ghana who left to take residence in another country. In order to even apply for citizenship in Ghana, a Diasporan would have to give up their current citizenship first, but with no guarantee of being granted Ghanaian citizenship. A law of abode is the only consolation for those in the Diasporans seeking dual citizenship in Ghana – an empty gesture for those who have lived as model citizens in the country for decades.

The Government of Benin apologized to the Diaspora for the sale of our ancestors centuries ago. An annual commemoration of the slave trade and the restitution of relationship between Africans and members of the Diaspora was initiated, linking Porto Novo, Benin, to Liverpool, England, and Richmond, Virginia, in the United States. But then Benin’s government pulled back from the process of legalizing dual citizenship. They are now emphasizing the need for Diasporans to develop an understanding and a relationship with Benin with no definition of what that actually means.

In 2003, the African Union, impressed with the passion and interest of members of the Diaspora in establishing linkages, declared that the African Diaspora was the sixth region of Africa. Widespread jubilation among the Diaspora eventually gave way to disappointment when it was discovered that this declaration was another empty promise. There is no specific definition of who the sixth region is nor how the 6th region can attain representation in the counsels of the African Union. The Africa passport being issued by the African Union is intended only for current African citizens, with diplomats receiving them first.

So why is the increasingly intense courtship of the continent by the African Diaspora so often spurned? It seems there are several reasons. In Ghana’s case, as is likely elsewhere as well, ethnic chauvinism leads African officials to disregard the pleadings of those still considered foreigners. There is a recognition that the Diasporans did originate in Africa, but there appears to be little acceptance of us as deserving of permanent legal status. The DNA test used, for example, by African Ancestry to establish blood ties to African ethnic groups and countries, is not accepted by the Ghana government as proof of lineage from Ghana.

Another issue Diasporans may be ignoring is that as people able to travel internationally and buy or rent homes in African countries, often with servants, we are seen as the rich foreigners who want to come and go as we like – as many Africans are unable to do. It seems many African officials don’t want to have to explain why they are extending rights to foreign-born individuals when their poor countrymen can’t exercise all the legal rights they were extended at birth.

A related issue is the ethnic conflict that roils so many African countries – from the genocidal Hutu-Tutsi conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi to the political sparring between Kenyan Kikuyus and Luos. Adding yet another layer of ethnic rivalries to this mix is not widely popular and may be considered political poison for leaders already taxed with establishing equity in contentious ethnic disputes.

At a panel on dual citizenship I moderated the other day, someone mentioned a reason I had not considered before. It was suggested that the example of the Americo-Liberians – the returned slaves in the 1800s – still looms large in the minds of some Africans. The Americo-Liberians established Liberia as a nation, but in the process, they diminished the rights and political influence of indigenous Liberians. The contention is that some fear a wave of wealthier, more educated and internationally influential Diasporans could pose a similar threat. We in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United states and Canada, consider the Americo-Liberia example to be a relic of the past, while in the African view of time, spanning millennia, 150 years ago was like yesterday.

The task force on dual citizenship established by the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation last year with the UNIA/African Communities League and the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute among other organizations and individuals, is taking all obstacles to dual citizenship into account and is addressing this issue legally, diplomatically and culturally. We have proposed levels of citizenship based on the mutual needs and interests of Africans and Diasporans. Contacts have been made with African governments to begin the process of working out legal details of how dual citizenship could be enacted through legislatures across the continent. A process of cultural sensitivity and education has been put together to ensure that the new African citizens understand the societies they wish to enter. All that remains is the good will of African governments. The U.S. government has no problem with dual citizenship, except for issues that must be worked out in the legal process of extending dual citizenship.

No issue raised as an obstacle to dual citizenship cannot be resolved if there is mutual cooperation and commitment. The question is: does Africa want her long-ago cast away children to return with their skills, finances and eagerness to help Africa. We bear no grudges for the past. Does Africa?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Africa’s Debt Constraint

For the second time in four months, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week said that America’s external debt is a national security issue that weakens the nation.

“It undermines our capacity to act in our own interest, and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable,” Clinton said.

Quite true. China is a major holder of U.S. Treasury debt, and even though the level officially declined to US$755.4 billion last year (just below Japan), it is believed that a significant amount of the US$170 billion U.S. debt increase to the United Kingdom was financed by China, which means the Chinese directly or indirectly remain our largest debt holder. As Secretary Clinton declined to say directly, this impacts our ability to press China on major international issues of concern.

Of course, African and other developing nations have had to live with such constraints in operating in their own national interests since independence. In many cases, developing countries were required to assume the colonial debt or pay to become free. France, for instance, required Haiti to start its independent existence with a 150 million franc debt back in 1804.

As we celebrate the 50th year of independence of 17 African nations this year, we must keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of Africa became independent during the Cold War era. During this period, their strategic importance to the United States and the rest of the West was based on two things: their vital resources and their willingness to join our side against the Soviet bloc. Consequently, odious regimes were sometimes tolerated and even supported in running up a debt they either likely never intended to repay or ended up not repaying due to their lack of longevity.

When Nelson Mandela took the helm of a majority rule government in South Africa in 1994, he started out having to pay debt accumulated by the apartheid regime to prolong itself for Cold War benefits. That very same government had imprisoned him for nearly 30 years and had threatened to cause an unstoppable social explosion in a major world diamond and gold producer, hence the international support. The South African debt also included paying for the funding of the apartheid regime’s unwise and/or illegal military operations in Namibia and Angola.

Now really, when former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha borrowed international funds, was there ever any serious belief that he intended to do the right things with that money and pay it back in full and on time? Surely not by any reasonably aware lender. Because of the intransigence of Nigerian leaders and unforgiving lenders, a US$5 billion debt ended up being more than US$32 billion in debt when former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo turned on the light in his office on the first day even though the country had paid back US$16 billion.

Some of the loans reportedly had technical deficiencies, meaning they were bum deals from the start. Some were dollar-based, meaning that they had to be repaid at the U.S. dollar rate rather than based on the value of local currency. Other loans were necessitated by world events over which African governments had no control, such as rapid increases in oil and food prices.

Certainly, there is enough blame to go around for this debt burden, which has been as high as US$15.2 billion annually and remains in the neighborhood of US$14 billion even now. Too many African leaders have shown little commitment to developing sustainable programs to expand their economies and increase the collective wealth of their citizens, which would produce higher tax revenues that could replace donor assistance. There also is insufficient skill among some African governments in handling loans efficiently to avoid penalties and in understanding the many issues involved in debt.

Still, a 2004 World Bank study showed that African countries who qualified for debt relief generally used the break wisely. According to the study, Tanzania used debt savings to eliminate school fees, hire more teachers and build more schools. Burkina Faso reduced the cost of life-saving drugs by a significant amount and increased access to clean water for its citizens. Uganda used its debt relief to facilitate the doubling of school enrollment. So why are so many international financial institutions, major international banks and donors still so reluctant to agree to a sweeping round of debt forgiveness?

The theory of “moral hazard” espoused by many economists speculates that if debt were broadly forgiven, it would motivate countries to default on their remaining debt or deliberately borrow more than they could repay in hopes of another round of debt forgiveness.

But if an amateur like myself can offer a solution based on the current practices of the Millennium Challenge Account and other international aid programs, why not negotiate debt forgiveness based on a debtor’s public-private plan to use the monies saved to benefit its citizens. If the money is tied to agreed-upon benchmarks and timetables and paid out in tranches, what would be the genuine risk to lenders, who collectively give aid with one hand and take back more in debt repayment with the other?

The harm of not doing so for the African debtor nations is this: for every US$1 African countries receive in grants, they pay US$13 in interest on debt. What if China forced us to repay our debt to them under the kind of terms under which Africa is forced to repay its debt?

That puts this matter in a very different light, doesn’t it?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Forgotten Madagascar Crisis

If you ask most Africa watchers what is the most urgent crisis on the continent, you’ll likely get answers ranging from Sudan to Somalia or even Congo. It is not likely that Madagascar will rise to the top of the list even though there is a perfect storm of calamity there due to the March 2009 military-backed coup.

Efforts to negotiate a political solution have thus far failed, but the regime of former Antananarivo mayor Andre Rajoelina has alienated the international community and the country’s political community. Donor nations, including the United States, have cut off all but humanitarian assistance, which is particularly damaging to Madagascar since the country’s budget was dependent for more than half its revenue from donors. The cutoff of foreign aid has caused health clinics to shut down. A quarter of the country’s health clinics have shut down, and the distribution of essential drugs has collapsed.

More than half the country’s children are considered malnourished. UNICEF resumed funding of centers with severe acute malnutrition in June, but other donors are unlikely to resume their total foreign aid funding.

The economy also has been heavily impaired by the reaction to the coup. The United States suspended Madagascar from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade process. Madagascar had been one of AGOA’s success stories, earning US$600 million annually and accounting for 60% of the country’s exports. The closure of factories servicing the U.S. market has caused 50,000 to lose their jobs, exacerbating an already problematic economic picture.

Another level of damage has been largely unseen by the outside world, except for environmental groups monitoring the devastation of Madagascar’s biodiversity. “Paradise Lost?” a U.S. Agency for International Development report states that Madagascar’s unique biodiversity could be lost, possible forever, and will harm not only Madagascar, but also the world at large. The report, written by the International Resources Group, estimates that the country’s flora and fauna, 80% of which is found nowhere else on earth, is seeing the loss of rare lemurs and tortoises. These animals are either being captured for export and for food at rates seen as ensuring their extinction.

“Slash and burn” agriculture is being practiced by poor farmers oppose a significant threat to Madagascar’s forests, but the report says the forests likely can’t be protected without addressing “fundamental economic issues that maintain rural people in abject poverty.” Over the 25 years covered by the report, Madagascar has seen its forest shrink from 11 million hectares to 9 million hectares and its population grow from 11 million to 20 million.

“Environmental preservation is hostage to economic development, and economic development is hostage to good governance,” the IRG report states.

Systemic corruption has become part of the normal landscape, benefitting transient leaders but not the population as a whole. It is this corruption that the deadlock is maintaining and which donors point to as their rationale for ending all but emergency aid to Madagascar.

The prospects for a resolution of the current political crisis may have waned because Rajoelina seems to have overestimated his leverage. He set this past August as the month in which a constitutional referendum would be held with the presidential election in November. However, the main opposition parties refused to take part in the elections, which have now been reset, with presidential election in the middle of the year and the constitutional referendum on November 17. Even those dates are in doubt, though, because the main opposition parties still refuse to participate in any election not organized by all major parties. Thus far, the
interim government has reached agreement only with minor political parties.

Meanwhile, a Madagasque court has sentenced former President Marc Ravalomanana and two others to life imprisonment with hard labor for the part they played in the deaths of about 30 protesters before he was forced from office last year. This is Ravalomanana’s third conviction by the country’s courts, which are considered not to be independent. The convictions are seen as preventing his return to the country to run for office. But they also represent yet another sign that dialogue on resolving the political crisis is going nowhere.

In scanning the continent, we must not forget the spots not at the top of the news because they have their significance as well. This crisis is having a long-term environmental, economic and humanitarian impact that will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome without a more attentive response.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What To Do About Sudan?

It wasn’t that long ago that mass demonstrations and civil society lobbying provoked strong U.S. action on Sudan because of what we defined as genocide in that country’s Darfur region. However, frustration with the continuing stalemate over the punishment of those involved in the genocide and the inability of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action against those charged with crimes against humanity in Sudan means not much is on the table to move past the current deadlock.

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice reportedly blew up in a principals-level meeting at the White House a few weeks ago because the Administration’s Special Envoy to Sudan, retired Major General Scott Gration, was making headway in gaining support for his gentler, more diplomatic approach to the regime in Khartoum. Rice, who previously held the posts of Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, has had long experience in dealing with the Sudan government. Her position is that absent strong sanctions against the government of President Omar Bashir, no progress will be made in safeguarding Sudanese in Darfur or elsewhere, and the referendum on the status of South Darfur could be marred, leading to renewed violence.

General Gration has from the beginning of his tenure called for a more cooperative relationship with the Khartoum government in order to positively influence its behavior. He also supports a de-emphasis on public criticism of the regime despite its continuing violations of international law and human decency. According to Save Darfur, one of the leading civil society groups appealing for strong action to safeguard Sudanese, since April alone the Khartoum regime has:

• Restricted humanitarian aid to the internally displaced persons in Darfur,
• Expelled humanitarian aid workers and threatened to expel peacekeepers,
• Jailed members of the political opposition and human rights activists,
• Censored the Sudanese media and harassed journalists,
• Rigged national elections and
• Failed to cooperate with the United Nations Security Council and the

International Criminal Court regarding the outstanding arrest warrants against President Bashir and other accused of international criminal acts.
On that last point, Bashir and his government evidently don’t see any reason to honor the indictments. After all, the ICC has no police or military and must rely on member nations to carry out arrests. Bashir is reluctant to travel to any country that might honor those warrants, but Arab and African countries don’t seem to be among those willing to do so. The Sudanese leader has travelled to Chad, and most recently, to Kenya and has been accorded the welcome expected of any Head of State.

Despite pleas from human rights groups for the Kenyan government to bar Bashir from the celebration for its new constitution, Bashir was welcomed to the ceremony and even escorted to his seat by Kenya Minister of Tourism Najib Balala. When asked why an indicted violator of international law would be welcomed to the ceremony of Kenya’s advancing its own democracy, Kenya Minister of Foreign Affairs Moses Wetang’ula gave a telling response:

“He is here in response to our invitation to all our neighbours and the sub-region to attend this historic moment. He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African,” the foreign minister said.

Actually, it is becoming clear that it is not African to respect the authority of the ICC. The African Union has criticized the warrants and urged that they be suspended. While many of the AU’s members are signatories to the ICC, there is growing sentiment on the continent that only Africans are being targeted.

In fact, the record shows that the ICC is only actively investigating crimes against humanity and war crimes in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Kenya and Sudan. This has occurred despite the fact that as of three years ago, there were nearly 3,000 complaints of alleged crimes in at least 139 countries. African governments wonder why their past cooperation has resulted only in Africans being indicted, and an increasing number of them are likely to welcome Bashir to future meetings.

With the United States seemingly paralyzed by frustration and, it must be admitted, not much room to levy further sanctions except on gum Arabic, which is vital to our economy, at least some U.S. officials seem willing to try another approach. But as Ambassador Rice so correctly points out, we already know what the Bashir government will do. To do nothing or to take a softer approach to Sudan will only embolden an already shameless government to facilitate the killing of more Sudanese and America’s reputation in Africa as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rwanda’s Extraordinarily Popular Leader

Last year, I questioned whether Equatorial Guinea’s presidential election results could be justified. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was reelected in November 2009 with 90% of the vote. It is beyond the ability of the international community to accept that such universal popularity was possible through legal, fair means. As I said then, even winning margins in the 70s seem suspicious to us in a competitive race anywhere. Now another African leader has won reelection with the support of more than nine out of every ten voters.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front received 93% of the vote last week in his bid for a second term. The three leading contenders – Jean Damascene Ntawuhkulirayo (Social Democratic Party), Prosper Higiro (Liberal Party) and Alvera Mukabatramba (Party for Peace and Concord) – all conceded defeat. However, none of them were considered Kagame’s most competitive rival.

That would have been Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) a coalition of Rwandan opposition parties with a large base of active members in Rwanda, Europe, the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, she was unable to run for president as her coalition wanted because she was placed under house arrest earlier in the year on charges of funding rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and espousing a genocidal philosophy.

Despite giving a speech upon her return to Rwanda in January criticizing the largely-Tutsi directed genocide and condemning war crimes, she was accused of minimizing it instead. Ingabire questioned the ethnic makeup of the government, which is considered dangerous in a nation in which hundreds of thousands were killed in genocide in 1994.

If Ingabire’s detention were the only action limiting the opposition’s chances in the election, that might be explainable under the circumstances. But it wasn’t. André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-president of the Democratic Green Party was murdered. Jean Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of the newspaper Umuvugizi, was shot dead. Bernard Ntaganda, a potential presidential candidate was arrested and held in detention. Theogene Muhayeyezu, Ingabire’s attorney, was arrested and held in detention. Hundreds of other opposition party members were arrested and detained weeks before the election. Given that the campaign period was only 20 days, these killings and arrests prevented much of the opposition from effectively organizing and contesting the election.

The Economist magazine recently accused Kagame of allowing “less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe.” That view is confirmed by various human rights reports. According to the U.S. Department of State’s current human rights report on Rwanda, “Citizens' right to change their government was effectively restricted. Violence against genocide survivors and witnesses by unknown assailants resulted in deaths. There were reports of abuse of suspects by security forces and local defense members, and prison and detention center conditions remained generally harsh. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Prolonged pretrial detention was a problem.”

Human Rights Watch noted that over the six months leading up to the August elections, they found “a worrying pattern of intimidation, harassment and other abuses - ranging from killings and arrests to restrictive administrative measures - against opposition parties, journalists, members of civil society and other critics.”

American attorney Peter Erlinder was held in jail in Rwanda for three weeks in connection with his defense of an opposition politician. He has accused Rwanda of being a “police state” supported by the United States, which has provided Rwanda with approximately US$1 billion in aid over the past decade.

Indeed, Kagame was once considered one of Africa’s up-and-coming young leaders, and he has been supported by the U.S. and other Western nations for leading the fight against genocide in 1994. His increasingly authoritarian rule has been tolerated because he has been considered a strategic ally. However, the strains on the relationship seem to be fraying it. The National Security Council (NSC), in a somewhat unusual step, expressed concern over “a series of disturbing events prior to the election, including the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights researcher, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists.”

In Equatorial Guinea, Botswana and some other African countries, the ruling party wins largely because of the weakness of the opposition, albeit with some help from ruling party fiddling. In the case of Rwanda, the fiddling seems to be a greater reason for the Kagame landslide.

So what is to be done in this situation? To be fair, even critics acknowledge the progress made in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide. Transparency International has ranked Rwanda as the least corrupt country in East Africa. The World Bank describes Rwanda as a one of Africa’s top economic reformers. Rwanda has already achieved some of the United Nations Millennium Development goals for 2015.

Rwanda poses one of those foreign policy conundrums governments constantly face. An ally has some obvious problems, but has much to commend it. The country’s strategic value remains the same this week as it did before the election. Quiet diplomacy would seem to be the answer, but that has often been lost on a government that continues to use the genocide card to explain away opposition and its overreactions. The NSC statement may be the first in a louder display of diplomacy aimed at preventing a valued ally from going completely off the rails. Let’s hope it is not too late already.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Father of African Nationalism

On this date, 123 years ago, a great world leader was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. At one time, he was the most talked-about Black man on the planet, but he died in 1940 a largely forgotten figure on the world scene. Nevertheless, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the “Father of African Nationalism,” remains one of the most influential sons of Africa in all history.

His influence can be seen in the organization of the Nation of Islam; the inspiration for leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya (as well as the colors of their nations’ flags); the African-African American Summits and self-help philosophy of Reverend Leon H. Sullivan, and even non-African leaders such as Ho Chi Mihn of Vietnam, who observed Garveyism during his time in New York City.

Marcus Garvey arrived in America in 1916 at a critical time in our history. The post-civil War freedoms won had been eroded by racist government officials who created laws limiting the rights of Black Americans and vicious white mobs that lynched and otherwise killed thousands of Black people. There was an effort to win the freedom of Black people, but it was split among those who wanted to play down political rights to concentrate on economic self-sufficiency and those who believed a “talented tenth” could be the vanguard of a resurgence of Black political power.

Like Prince Hall, Martin Delaney, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Henry Highland Garnet before him, Garvey advocated the involvement of the entire African Diaspora in the affairs of Africa, most of which was under European colonial rule at that point. However, Garvey took that view further, espousing a Pan-African mass movement to free Africa and create a universal Black nation. “Africa for the Africans…those at home and those abroad,” he said.

Like the Hebrew patriarch Moses, Garvey would lead his people to the Promised Land, but not get there himself. He died in 1940, more than a decade before the wave of freedom that swept across Africa and saw all of its nations become independent. In this year in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the independence of 17 African nations, how many of us give due credit to the man who stimulated both Africans and the Diaspora to seek freedom?

He had come to America to raise money for a Jamaican school to be modeled after Tuskegee Institute. However, America and its Black crisis attracted him. He began a series of speeches on the race problem that started slowly in New York, but by the time he had gone down the Atlantic seaboard and over to New Orleans, he had created a legend. In 1920, his Universal Negro Improvement Association claimed four million members. Garvey’s International Congresses in New York drew tens of thousands of delegates from across America, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Africa.
While some focused on the educated, professional class, Garvey spoke to the average Black man and woman. His economic ventures, including a shipping company, factories, restaurants and other businesses were initially well-received and successful among Black people. In fact, he was the first Black leader to get our people to invest in their own future. Unfortunately, there were those among us who saw him as dangerous.

The focus among the existing Black leaders of America was on incrementally gaining rights and fighting the hated Jim Crow laws. While this was a laudable goal, the established leaders considered this Jamaican interloper presumptuous and criticized what some would consider his “folderol and glitter.” The grandiosity of the Garvey trappings at his mass meetings was part of what attracted his many supporters. They wanted to be part of something larger than themselves, something that spoke of the grand history of the African people. They responded to his credo: “Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will.” Garveyism resonated then with Black people and continues to do so today, even if many of us don’t realize it.

There is a misconception that the entire focus of Garveyism was on a “back to Africa” movement, but he said he never intended for all Black people to return to their ancestral home. Garvey believed the Black nation should know no boundaries and should embrace the Diaspora worldwide. Still, he supported those who wanted to return to Africa and help build the continent.

In Garvey’s day, Black people didn’t normally work in concert across organizations, regions or social status. That is not the case today. African nations are working slowly, but surely, on a plan to create a United States of Africa. Here in America, the Black Leadership Forum was created in the 1970s as a clearinghouse for Black organizations and continues to join the strength of dozens of Black organizations to press for solutions to issues of concern to our people. In the 21st century, the African American Unity Caucus was established to join dozens of Black-led organizations focusing on Africa and the nations of the Diaspora. Cooperation, not competition, has become the byword of the African Diaspora.

“Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm,” Garvey said. Indeed, the winds of change are blowing ever stronger, as the Black world Garvey foresaw nearly a century ago is now taking shape. It is the mark of a great leader that his vision carries on after he is gone and resonates with those who never knew him. To borrow a portion of a great speech by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, for Garvey “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”