Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
As the United States and India have drawn closer in recent years, political observers have given at least some of the credit to one group: Indian immigrants settled in the United States, who have set up lobbies like the U.S.-India Political Action Committee.
Today, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in Addis Ababa, at the secondAfrica-India Forum Summit, laying out his vision for the future of India-Africa ties, which have always been couched in the language of solidarity but in recent years have focused mainly on energy trade. Can Indians in Africa, like those in the U.S., play a role in fostering ties between their adoptive nations and India?
That may be a trickier proposition.
Indians have had a far longer history in Africa than in the United States—emigrating there both under duress, as indentured labor with the British, and freely, as did many Gujarati traders. But analysts note that India has in the past been reluctant to reach out to Indian-origin populations in African countries.
“For a very long time the Indian government left the Indian community in Africa to their own devices. [First Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehru used to say they should settle in their adoptive homes,” said Ruchita Beri, senior Africa analyst at the New Delhi-based think tank, the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses. “For a very long time those people also didn’t want to engage India.”
There were many reasons for that—in some cases Indians in Africa didn’t want to be seen as having divided loyalties or perhaps didn’t feel a kinship with India. In other cases, Indian communities, insular at best, or aligned with white interests at worst, weren’t always ideal ambassadors for India.
A 2002 Indian government report on the diaspora blamed frictions between Indian and black Africans on local policy in some countries, such as South African apartheid, which played non-white groups against one another. But the report also criticized Indian attitudes, noting that there’s a “social aloofness and cultural superiority, even arrogance, that some Indians apparently still find it difficult to overcome.”
Ms. Beri said that even as India has begun trying to make more use of its 20 million-strong diaspora across the world—one recent initiative is the annual diaspora conference the government organizes—she doubted that that could work in Africa.
“People of Indian origin [in Africa] are a totally different ball game because they settled there centuries back,” she said. “They are South Africans or Tanzanians or Ghanians. They have a totally different kind of identity now.”
She said that in Africa, the Indian government probably shouldn’t focus too much on its diaspora as it tries to increase its $45 billion trade with the continent and catch up with China, whose trade with the continent stands at around $100 billion. And in fact some of India’s fastest-growing economic ties are with countries like Ethiopia, which has a very small Indian community.
But Alex Vines, an analyst with the London-based Chatham House international affairs think-tank, said that in some countries Indian-origin Africans could play a bridging role.
“There’s tremendous variability,” said Mr. Vines, who wrote a paper in December on India-African ties. “Some of the nationals of Indian origin in some east African countries are important interlocutors while others have decided that it’s not in their interest to interface with India. In East Africa there are issues there that you don’t really see elsewhere in Africa related to the perception of the Indian diaspora.”
The Indian community in East Africa has had a particularly checkered career, reaping ill will when many opted for British citizenship rather than Kenyan or Ugandan citizenship when those countries gained independence. The lowest point came when Idi Amin, then leader of Uganda, expelled residents of Asian origin in the 1970s. As a result of that history, East African Indians could be reluctant to be seen to be lobbying for India.
But the director of the South African Association for International Affairs, a think-tank based in Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand, said that more than anything else, the very longevity of many of Africa’s Indian-origin citizens, some of whom are now sixth generation, could make it hard for them to lobby or promote trade ties in the same way as the Indian-Americans, many of whom are just a generation or two old.
“I know that I probably would fail dismally to establish a business in Greece,” said Elizabeth Sidiropoulos. “That is an environment that is foreign to me.”
But she said that more recent arrivals from China and India, who are coming as a result of new investments, were now beginning to create a corps of people equally familiar with Asia and Africa, and they could take on a stronger role in fostering relations.
“Indian investment in South Africa has been growing and increasing. What that brings into the mix is a bit more like what you have in the U.S.: people born in India but who have left to seek education and new opportunities,” she said. “And that’s a different kind of dynamic.”
Monday, May 23, 2011
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Friday, May 20, 2011
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Singh is also likely to announce an additional Line of Credit in the range of $500 million for African nations. This is in addition to the $5.4 billion India has already committed. New Delhi shies away from comparisons with its biggest neighbour China, which has made rapid strides in Africa.
India intends to send out the message that it believes in long-term partnership and "capacity building" and its plans for Africa are not dictated by the benefits it can get from the resource-rich continent.
The four centres of excellence will be in Uganda (East Africa), Ghana (West), Botswana (south), and Burundi (north). Each one of them will be focusing on different subject. For example, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade will be pitching in for Uganda.
These centres will focus on subjects such as foreign trade, information technology, Indian Diamond Institute will be behind the centre in Botswana. The two coal institutes will be based in Mozambique. "These institutes will impart training in mining and other aspects", said a government official. The programmes aim at training 20,000 people in next five years, that's 5,000 people a year.
Prime Minister will be in Ethiopia from May 23 to 26 for the summit then will pay a bilateral visit to Tanzania before returning to the country on May 28. Prior to the summit, external affairs minister SM Krishna will attend will attend the foreign ministers' meeting to be held on on May 23.
President of Equatorial Guinea Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the chairperson of the African Union, will co-Chair the summit along with PM.
This post was commissioned as part of a Pulitzer Center/Global Voices Onlineseries on Food Insecurity. These reports draw on multimedia reporting featured on the Pulitzer Gateway to Food Insecurity and bloggers discussing the issues worldwide. Share your own story on food insecurity here.
The push by multinational corporations and foreign governments in recent years to obtain fertile land in African countries such as Ethiopia, Madagascarand Tanzania has spurred debate over whether the move will lead to development or is simply a “land grab” that further threatens the continent's food security.
There has been growing interest by foreign investors to buy or lease large areas of arable land in sub-Saharan Africa, either to grow food for their own countries or to export it for profit. The land rush has been triggered, says an article in South Africa's Mail & Guardian, by worldwide food shortages and food security concerns that followed oil price rises in 2008, water shortages and the European Union’s insistence that 10 percent of all transport fuel come from plant-based biofuels by 2015. Others say population growthis also a factor.
Investors say these acquisitions will fuel development, but opponents call the move a “land grab” that will threaten Africa's own food security and livelihood. Stacy Feldman, writing for SolveClimate News, elaborates on the situation:
Researchers revealed that foreign companies are buying or leasing vast chunks of land in Africa and elsewhere for their own use. In fact, up to 50 million acres have been sold off or soon will be. That's equivalent to about 25 percent of all the farmland in Europe. Much of that land is being bought by emerging nations to raise crops for their growing populations. These countries – China, India, South Korea and oil-rich Gulf states – have land and water constraints at home. They got burned by [the 2008] global food crisis and are turning to Africa as a food security blanket.
In Ethiopia, farmland is being bought or leased on an immense scale. The country has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007 and land is being leased for approximately $1 per year for 2.5 acres, according to the Mail & Guardian. The country gave out 600,000 hectares (1.48 million acres) to foreign entities between 2004 and early 2009, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Meanwhile, Ethiopia remains one of the hungriest countries in the world. Earlier this year the Ethiopian government said some 2.8 million people are in need of emergency food aid in 2011. Forty-one percent of the population is undernourished. This paradox has angered some Ethiopians, including the women behind the blog Mitmita, who compare Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, to a goat:
Look at Prime Minister trying to convince everyone that he isn’t a land hording communist—it's a land giveaway! Are you a foreigner? Do you have cash? Well Melesocracy has a stimulus plan for you! The Mitmita Girls are quite familiar with a few project finance deals ourselves; from what we understand, in these intricate transactions, Third World governments in collaboration with First World financiers orchestrate what are tantamount to beads for Manhattan deals where like the Native Americans, ordinary Ethiopians are bilked out of inheriting our land because a man with an uncanny resemblance to a goat has sold it to the Chinese.
But proponents of these land deals, including the Ethiopian government, say it will bring capital, technology, agricultural knowledge, infrastructure and lots of jobs to impoverished rural areas where subsistence farmers use low-tech tools. One government official, reported Fred de Sam Lazaro in a piece for PBS Newshour that was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, says that Ethiopia has an abundance of land and barely five percent of itis being cultivated by the country's farmers.
Berhanu Kebede, Ethiopia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said last month in The Guardian that the country must significantly develop mechanized agriculture to reach the development goals unveiled in Ethiopia's latest development plan, which aims for an average economic growth of 14.9 percent over a five-year period. A doubling of agricultural output, the plan says, will fuel that growth, and so the government has put aside 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land to be leased. The government says the country may not even need food aid within five years.
The blog Govindan Online, written by an former Indian diplomat, calls these land investments a welcome development:
Bringing in large areas of land under cultivation and building infrastructure will generate large scale employment even if these sectors are completely mechanized. Since land utilization in these continents is very low, compared to other continents, there is not going to be any ecological problems. It is also to be remembered that some European countries including Russia have sold/leased out land to foreigners with a view to increase local food grain production.
Speaking out against “land grabs”
Many farmers, land rights advocates, various reports and non-governmental organizations disagree. They call the situation a “land grab” that may lead to environmental destruction, displacement of small, local landholders, worker and resource exploitation, loss of livelihoods and food insecurity. Some say it's a new form of colonialism.
Many bloggers have also spoken out against the land grabs. Devinder Sharma, an Indian food and trade policy analyst blogging on Ground Reality, calls these foreign investors “food pirates.” Woldegb, commenting on Kebede's piece in The Guardian, says it is very unrealistic to believe that foreign investors can improve food security, and Nyikaw Ochalla, posting on Anyuak Media, refutes many of Kebede's claims.
Blog The Africanist says the deals will likely lead to violence and questions the logic of providing food aid to countries that are exporting food. Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, blogging on The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, points out that little has been mandated to protect the land and the interests of local communitiesand Ellen Albritton, blogging on CMH 365: Public Health and Social Justice, questions the ethics of benefiting from food grown in Ethiopia while Ethiopians starve.
RAH, commenting on a post on the blog Brown Condor, says there are four questions that should first be answered:
Number One: Will this adversely affect Ethiopian farmers in any major way?
Number Two: Will these foreign countries/companies abuse and or harm the land in any way?
Number Three: Will this drastically cut the water supply to downstream nations that depend on water from the Nile?
Number Four: Will all of this NEW REVENUE truly benefit the people of Ethiopia or just mainly the government?
The FAO says little is still understood about the impact of these international land deals. In response, the organization is drawing up a code of conduct to bring equitable shares for all parties in these deals. Perhaps such a code will help offset what the blog Yene Ethiopia believes is the government'sshortsightedness in approving such land deals:
The Ethiopian government makes it seem as if 50 or 100 years from now everything will be as it were before the lease. After producing under highly mechanized, intensive farming, the land will no longer be productive. The sizes being given away are not benign. Is there a plan beyond selling the land that will ensure a generation from now these farmers’ children will not be landless laborers?…Why not empower these people? Help them build cooperatives? Give them favorable loans? Help them get mechanized? No, that would require actually governing and would be hard work.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
AFP - The UN refugee agency said Friday it feared that up to 1,200 people fleeing Libya have died in the Mediterranean Sea so far, as it found evidence that a military vessel refused to rescue one boat.
"There are about 12,000 people who have arrived in Italy or Malta and we believe that as many as 1,200 people are dead or have gone missing," said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
A migrant told the UNHCR that unidentified military vessels off the Libyan coast refused or failed to pick up a boat carrying 72 people, most of whom subsequently died of exhaustion, thirst or starvation in late March or early April.
Fleming told AFP that the survivor's harrowing account obtained after a long interview on Thursday was "compelling and credible".
"At Shousha refugee camp run by UNHCR in Tunisia we met with three of the survivors. They were Ethiopian men, they said they were among only nine survivors from the boat that left Tripoli on 25 March carrying 72 people," she told journalists.
The 12-metre (40-foot) craft heading for Italy was packed with "barely any standing room" and drifted for more than two weeks after it ran out of fuel, water and food.
"The refugee that we interviewed said that military vessels twice passed their boat without stopping and then a military helicopter dropped food and water onto the boat at some point during the journey," Fleming added.
"The first boat refused their request to board, the second only took photos," according to the refugee.
The man was unable to identify where the vessels came from, Fleming said.
"According to the refugee, when water ran out people drank sea water and their own urine. They resorted to eating toothpaste," Fleming said.
"One by one people started to die" until the boat reached a beach in Libya, he said.
The account followed a report in the British newspaper The Guardian this week claiming that it was likely one of the ships was the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, which is helping to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.
The UNHCR is planning to interview the other survivors.
"We don't have any more information at this time," Fleming said.
"We have been in talks with NATO and we've just issued a general call to remind boats and countries that people are taking this route" on unseaworthy and overcrowded craft, she added.