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A Marshall Plan for #Africa should prioritize Family Planning

Colin Stevens

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At this month’s G20 summit, Germany secured a major injection of private investment for Africa as a way to curtail mass migration to Europe. The drive was a win for German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been driving a campaign for a new Marshall – or “Merkel” – Plan for Africa following the realization that roughly 400,000 migrants are expected to flee to Germany this year escaping war, poverty, or both - writes Colin Stevens.

The plan was conceived after some serious introspection on Berlin’s part. Last year, the government realized that among the 400,000 companies in Germany, fewer than 1,000 invest in Africa. Germany’s trade with the continent totals less than 2% of its overall foreign trade. Lawmakers realized that only with serious investment in entrepreneurs and infrastructure would it be possible to stoke enough economic development to discourage migration.

Their campaign to boost FDI in Africa should be applauded, especially given woefully low levels of corporate engagement in the continent by anybody but the Chinese. But in fact, the best way to address some of the root causes of the migration crisis may be for Europe to invest more in family planning services in Africa – especially given the Trump administration’s regressive policies on the matter. Beyond relieving pressure on Africa’s overburdened economies and job markets, effective family planning is the only way to reduce adolescent pregnancies, empower women, and unleash the power of the demographic dividend, the accelerated economic growth that results from declines in a country’s mortality and fertility rates. Despite the numerous benefits that result when women have access to contraception, barely 30 million of the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) 2020 target of 120 million women and girls can obtain birth control – 20 million fewer than the latest milestone. The gap is largely due to wealthy nations’ failure to allocate sustained resources to family planning services as one of the key building blocks of aid and investment in developing countries. And the results are staring us in the face.

Post-Ebola Sierra Leone is a real-life test case for what can unfold when there is inconsistent investment in contraceptives and maternity care. During the crisis itself, certain stakeholders dove in to help Sierra Leone and its neighbors. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) sounded early warning bells when the virus began to spread in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in spring 2014 and provided desperately needed medical care for the first victims. Private companies active in the region set up public-private partnerships to combat the crisis: Russian aluminium company UC Rusal, the largest foreign investor in Guinea, built and equipped a $10 million microbiological research and medical treatment center as part of a partnership with the Russian government to treat victims and strengthen the national healthcare system. As part of that partnership, Rusal also contributed its facility to developing a vaccine now being deployed to combat future outbreaks. Investments like Rusal's are important because they contribute badly-needed permanent health infrastructure in the places that need it most - the Ebola facility built by the company will remain in place and address other health issues in local communities.

Many others, though, left soon once the crisis abated, and foreign organizations and local governments alike failed to continue investing in basic public services (like family planning).

Even in the midst of the crisis, the risk of diverting scare healthcare resources was already clear. When Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone, social services broke down, schools were shuttered for nearly a full academic year, and family planning services essentially ceased to exist. The result? In one year, 18,000 adolescent girls became pregnant – a “huge spike,” according to the UNFPA country representative. The collapse in domestic services was compounded by the fact that as aid funds were channeled towards Ebola and other crises, family planning funding plummeted. During the past three years, allocations to UNFPA for Sierra Leone have fallen by more than half – a drastic drop for an agency that pays for 95% of contraceptives available in the country. The funding crisis was worsened by Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate the global gag rule, which prohibits recipients of US funding from mentioning the word abortion, and to slash funding for UNFPA.

The situation has major implications that will ripple far beyond a temporary spike in teen pregnancies in Sierra Leone – which already has the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy worldwide, at 125 births per 1,000 girls. Poor access to family planning services has massive human, social, and economic costs, leading to higher maternal and infant mortality rates, lower levels of education, poor gender equality, diminished job prospects, and persistent poverty. All of which, in turn, provides further reason for Africans to continue efforts to migrate north in search of better opportunities.

Of course, it’s questions of migration and population control that have spurred European donors to devote renewed attention to family planning service, with Denmark saying more investment could help “limit the migration pressure on Europe.” It’s a self-centered incentive, but one that will hopefully spur their neighbors to follow suit. Until the private sector decides it is worth investing in the economic boom that results from sustained investment in family planning, governments will need to keep doing so.

 

Africa

Murder of a Chadian president might be a link in a chain: Russian ex-rapt sociologist researching events in Africa

Graham Paul

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The statement by the US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland in an interview for the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper was a hastily implemented measure in order to put a scree up against the training of Chadian militants by specialists surfaced in Europe and the Arab media from France and the United States. Such an opinion was announced by Maxim Shugaley, the president of the Foundation for the Protection of National Values (FZNT).

“The United States has actually been in Libya since 2011 and is now increasing its presence. I     am aware of the locations of American units both in Fezzan and in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. It is not surprising that the United States has close contact with the groups that fought against Deby. As in Afghanistan and other countries, groups are created by the United States, then destroyed by them when it is necessary to "write off the budget" or when control is lost, as was withthe case in the war against al-Qaeda," wrote the sociologist in his Telegram channel.

Maxim Shugaley, the president of the Foundation for the Protection of National Values (FZNT).

Shugaley cited the AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) bombing of Libyan Marzouk on September 26, 2019. Then the US Air Force destroyed dozens of militants, but in Tripoli, where the Russian army was held in custody, they stated that the Americans had struck “on their own.”

“Thus, as we predicted earlier, the instability belt is sinking below Libya. Following the “Arab Spring”, the “African Spring” should begin with a series of coups and revolutions. In the Central African Republic, they failed to carry out this coup, but Chad suffered such a fate, and President Deby has already been killed,” Shugaley noted.

At the same time, the sociologist underlined that, according to unconfirmed information, the Chadian leader died not from an accidental strike by militants, but from the hand of someone close to him. The distributors of this information indicated that Deby was buried in a closed coffin, and that such an accident is unlikely. Nevertheless, Shugaley is confident that Washington will try to prevent a thorough investigation of the incident.

The President of the Foundation said that he is currently deeply analyzing the crisis in the African country and the destabilizing role of the United States and other international players in it. On behalf of the FZNT Shugaley announced that this fund will soon publish a full study. However, the sociologist stressed, it is already clear that the consequences will affect the entire region, and the States will try to drag new players into this conflict in the same way they tried to drag Russia into the Libyan events. 

“In the same interview, Richard Norland once again stated that the Russians are still in Libya. Precisely to hide the presence of the United States and France, stories about private military contractors “Wagner” continue to be pedaled. We and other experts have already refuted these accusations many times: it was shown on the facts that all statements about the alleged presence of Russians are either anonymous accounts on social networks, or stuffing of Tripolitanian or Turkish propaganda. Let me remind you that the propagandists had to justify themselves for the fact that the National Transitional Council brought more than 20 thousand militants from the troubled regions of Syria to Libya,” Shugaley explained.

He noted as well that the reality in which the Libyans in Tripoli are forced to live is for now really harsh. Moreover, the sociologist and his colleague Samer Sueifan told that they saw mercenaries from the SAR when they were in the capital of the North African state. At the same time, no one from them never saw Russian private contractors in the country.

“The only place where Russia is present is the Central African Republic, where our guys are legally training the army to protect civilians from bandits and mercenaries, mostly from Chad. I have recently been there, in March, and seen this training with my own eyes. What is important, the militants terrorizing the CARs, in turn, are being trained by instructors from the NATO countries directly for implementing aggression against the CAR. This is also NATO's activity to lower the belt of instability,” the sociologist said.

He also recalled that in May 2019, he and his colleague-translator were kidnapped and imprisoned in the private prison “Mitiga”. Richard Norland has been listed as ambassador of the US to Libya since April of 2019, when the FZNTs sociologist was already conducting research in the country. The American diplomat, according to Shugaley, was informed of the abduction three days before the actual events. 

“In fact, the abduction was coordinated with Norland! It would be nice, Mr. Norland, for you to tell and explain - can the US Ambassador be in charge of the activities of gangster groups and kidnapping? I would like to ask, have you agreed the questions which were voiced to me during the torture? " the sociologist addressed the US diplomat in his Telegram publication.

Shugalei stressed as well that about four thousand people are still being held in the Libyan detention center, controlled by the militants, and are tortured every day. He invited the US Ambassador to visit the prison and find out who actually trained the Chadian mercenaries and why many of them know French and English, but cannot speak a word in Russian.

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Twists and turns of power in Chad: 'Peacekeeping' that led to the death of the country leader

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On the day of the elections in the Republic of Chad on 11 April, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad – FACT) entered Chad from Libya, advancing 400 km south of the Libyan border. Government forces met them on April 17, 300 km from N'Djamena, with its President Idriss Déby Itno in the front lines. The president was injured in the fight with rebels and these wounds led to his death which was announced on 20 April.

Chad has been torn by rebellions and military clashes since it acquired its formal independence from France in 1960. The inbreaks of the Libyan-based rebels are a common thing: the border was crossed by the rebels in 2018 and 2019, and both attacks were stopped by the French Air Force. This time, however, France has chosen noninvolvement: the only help from Paris was the intel support. The question is how much France is aware about the rebel forces and who is backing the FACT movement. 

According to the UN reports, the FACT were based at a Jufra military air base in central Libya. The Jufra airbase is known as an unofficial transport hub where France collects the gold, uranium and oil which was exploited in Chad, Niger and Mali. After being collected the shadowy cargo goes to the Sirte port to travel to its final destinations.

Another interesting venue also associated with the FACT rebel group is Sabha Airbase (also known as Tamanhent Airbase), a Libyan Air Force base southeast of Sabha. The open source research provided the information from the local source that the French have been building up this airbase and providing support for the FACT fighters. In the image of the Sabha Airbase, presumably taken on January 2021, the process of unloading of a propeller plane can be observed. Also there is a helicopter in the parking lot.

The image made on 4 September 2019 shows two fighter jets and a helicopter. The asphalt of the runway and adjacent roads has been refurbished.

The image from 4 February 2021 shows that the hangar near the parking lot is completed. At one of the hangars in the territory, seven military pickups are observed, presumably with large-calibre machine guns.

The situation became suspicious as the Chadian government forces were taken by surprise, because they did not have the right information on the rebel numbers and their equipment. There is a small chance that French military did not have the intel within a rebel group which was located close to the French areas of interest. Given the fact that the only help France was offering Chad this time was the intel support, it is hard to escape a conclusion that the whole operation with the FACT march on the Chadian capital is another below-the-radar acitivity orchestrated by France in order to solidify its positions in Africa.

At least 1,000 French soldiers are currently based in Chad. The military presence of France in the Republic of Chad dates back to 1986. Since 2014 the headquarters of the counterterrorism Operation Barkhane has been set in Ndjamena. The major base for France military presence in Africa, Chad is quite dependent on Paris and the recent event shows that France is ready to put the indirect pressure on the Chad’s government.

The fact that President Macron decided to attend the funeral of Idriss Déby is of utter importance: it looks like the French side wants to be sure that the new leadership of the country clearly understands the power balance and the means which Paris has and is ready to implement. Chad rests one of the last levers of pressure for France in the region, as the former colonial power is constantly losing authority among its ex-colonies. The growing discontent of French politics in Mali and the Central African Republic pushed Paris to quick and decisive actions which would show the region and the global community that France can use underhand methods of power exercise.  

France is not the only patron of the FACT. The UN reports that while the FACT were stationed in Libya they have been receiving cargo carrying weapons from the United Arab Emirates on the regular basis. The 400-450 cars with heavy military equipment deployed by the FACT fighters were also delivered by the UAE. The UAE, another global power with imperial ambitions, decided to remind Chad its place because of the rapprochement between the Chadian Republic and Qatar. There appeared the news that Qatar facilitated negotiations between the Swiss commodity firm Glencore and Chad concerning its €1.2 billion ($1.4bn) debt, which led to the renegotiation of the debt on very advantageous terms for Chad.

What is the role of the United Nations in this morbid scenario? The displacements and movements of the FACT fighters were well observed and documented by the UN experts. According to the United Nations investigators, in Libya the FACT fighters have been cumulating weapons, money and battlefield experience, preparing to come back to Chad. Yet nothing has been done on the side of the UN to counter these actions.

Now the UN is worried that uncertain situation in the Republic of Chad would have a negative impact on the counterterrorism operations in western and central Africa and will worsen security situation in the already unsteady region.

This situation, however, was potentially preventable if not for the UN’s inactivity and inefficiency. The approved budget for the UN peacekeeping operations during the current fiscal year (1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021) is US $ 6.58bn. In addition, many countries voluntarily provide additional resources, like vehicles, supplies and personnel, in support of the UN peacekeeping activities at no cost. These resources seem to be more than enough to imply the measures needed for peacekeeping. But the UN’s huge bureaucratic structure gobbles up the money, slowing down the actual implementation of the decisions. Another burning problem within the structure is the poor quality of the expertise, as most of the reports are drafted by the experts who are not based in the regions they describe.

Now Chad faces a certain period of instability which can affect its neighbors as well. It seems that under the passive eye of the United Nations, France and the UAE once again managed to create a power shift, using under-the-table schemes for destabilizing the situation in Africa.

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Humanitarian aid: €24.5 million in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The EU has announced new funding of €24.5 million in humanitarian aid for the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. EU humanitarian aid to the region seeks to provide a response to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in northern Mozambique, where €7.86m of EU funding will be directed. Furthermore, EU aid will support measures against the socio-economic crisis in Zimbabwe, to address food insecurity, and to support COVID-19 preparedness and response. In Madagascar, the EU will provide assistance to address the severe food and nutrition crisis. A further €6m will be dedicated to helping children across the whole region gain access to education. Another €8m will be provided to improve the region's disaster preparedness.

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region is highly vulnerable to various natural hazards, including cyclones, droughts and epidemics. In some countries of the region, this is exacerbated by a challenging political and socio-economic environment, while the overall situation is aggravated further due to the coronavirus pandemic. EU assistance seeks to alleviate the humanitarian consequences on the most vulnerable populations, and improve disaster preparedness in the region.”

Background

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated an already difficult situation in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region. The region faces natural hazards, including recurring droughts and cyclones, on top of economic and political challenges. Disasters represent a major source of risk for the most vulnerable populations and can undermine development gains. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many poor households are having difficulty in meeting food and non-food needs because of lockdowns and other coronavirus-related restrictive measures.    

Since 2014, the EU has mobilized over €237 million in assistance to the region, paying particular attention to disaster preparedness. The EU provides aid in the form of emergency financial transfers to vulnerable people affected by disasters and is also helping address food and nutrition needs in affected areas. With the security situation deteriorating in northern Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, the EU is supporting vulnerable displaced and affected people with shelter, food, protection and access to healthcare.

More information

EU humanitarian aid to Mozambique

EU humanitarian aid to Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean

EU humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe

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