Photos / Massai Market, Nairobi

Open only for three hours during the day, the Massai Market is an open air market that takes place in different parts of the city in Nairobi, rotating depending on the date. The open air market includes artisans who come and lay their things on the floor, while you bargain away and try not to buy everything. The Masaai Market is a bit different in the sense that the items reflect almost exclusively to the culture of the Massai tribe in Kenya. Thus, the items, such as the patterns on the khangas to beaded necklaces are distinct from other products in the region, given the unique tribal traditions.

The Masaai Market was also established as a venue for women to sell their products and handmade crafts, to help their livelihood. It used to be exclusive for women, but with no ban on commercial sellers, you can see men more and more, which has garnered some controversy in terms of whether the market is serving its purposes anymore to empower female entrepreneurs.

The Massai Market reflects the celebration of color in East Africa. At first it is explosive, and as someone who loves patterns and bright color combinations, it was hard not to buy everything. You will also see women sitting around actually creating the necklaces, earrings, to sandals and bags and polishing wood carvings as you walk around to eye the items and try not to spend everything you have (sadly, or not so sadly, I destroyed by budget). Artisans use beautiful beads to make colorful items that speak to the Massai culture and traditions, neatly creating designs practiced for years.  Here are some photos that I took after shopping around.

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Feeding Rothschild’s giraffes in Langata, Kenya

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There are only a few hundred Rothschild’s giraffe left around the world in the wild, and they are only found in East Africa, which today only includes Kenya and Uganda. In the outskirts of Nairobi in Langata, the Giraffe Center houses some of these endangered species who roam around in the large protected park. We visited the center a little after noon, which apparently was when the  giraffes we saw in the distance were already full. Of course, that was not going to stop us. The center is simple, and there is a raised platform made just for people to climb to be head-level with the giraffes and feed them.

Rothschild’s giraffe is named after Lionel Walter Rothschild, the Second Baron Rothschild, Baron de Rothschild. He was a famed zoologist, who was also a politician and a banker. He found them after an expedition to East Africa in the early 1900s. Rothschild’s giraffe look a bit different from the more common Masaai giraffes in Kenya, with a more creamy colored background to the shapely spots, and most importantly, just plain cream color below the knees.

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The keepers at the Giraffe Center tried to get the giraffes to come towards us by calling their name. Kelly, the oldest giraffe there at fourteen years of age was the first to approach us. As the keepers called out “Kelly! Kelly!” the giraffe finally came and we were able to feed her small palettes one at a time. Visitors are only given two handfuls (I managed to get three, ignoring the sign that light heartedly asked us to not to that for concern of their diet) and we feed them one at a time. The giraffe will come up to you and take it from your palm with their tongue and it is seriously, one of the coolest things I have ever done. This is why I selfishly went and got another handful, because watching them pick a palette at a time from my palm was fascinating. They are beautiful, with big eyes, long face, and a unique patterned skin from other, more common types of giraffes, and so gentle. Kelly, having been around for a while, was equal opportunity, going around the raised platform to eat out of every visitor. Visitors were going crazy (as I was), both with watching them lick palettes off their palms and taking photos, of course.

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Another giraffe came along, named Ibrahim, affectionately called Ibra. Ibra is much younger and way more friendly; he is the one that stuck his head close to us and would lick your face if you got really close (aka, the kiss). Needless to say, adorable.

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The Giraffe Centre was founded by a Kenyan grandson of a Scottish Earl, Jock Leslie-Melville. The center was founded as a way to preserve the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, by breeding and raising them in Langata.

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Baby elephants at the Elephant Orphanage, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi, Kenya

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While I will observe wild elephants in my safari next week, a trip was made to see the much talked about elephant orphanage in outskirts of Nairobi. To check out what was actually happening at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you have to plan—they are open everyday but only from 11-12 pm, and it is about a thirty minute drive from the Westlands area of Nairobi, which with traffic can be challenging. The drive alone is beautiful, as you pass the city and gorgeous landscape, and also get a view of post-colonial architecture (i.e. massive bungalows representing unprecedented wealth during the British rule). The nursery of the Trust is one of few around the world and the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation center (National Geographic).

The fee is a donation of 500 shillings per person, which is not much considering how it can cost over $900 per elephant per year to raise and nurture them. Elephants are brought in two rounds for viewing, from the very young ones at first, followed by two to three year olds, some of whom can already feed themselves while others are still dependent on the keepers for milk.

It is a wonderfully organized center, where a local keeper will describe the elephants, where they were rescued from, their names, and what is being done at the center. The baby elephants are so cute. Bev and I were gushing at the orphan elephants, which are victims of poaching and brought to the center from all over Kenya. Many were also abandoned by their mothers if they were too slow to begin moving about, which left them orphaned. During the one-hour viewing, they play around with mud and water or their favorite acacias trees, and are also fed milk from giant bottles, which is just adorable on its own. The milk is in fact now cows milk because it has too much fat, but a mix of soy, coconut, and proteins made at the center to replace a mother’s milk.

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Once the elephants are not dependent on milk anymore, they are moved hundreds of miles away to Tsavo National Park. However, because elephants have extremely good memory and are sensitive to changes in environments or noise, it can take from five to ten years to just be able to transition into the wild from the holding centers at Tsavo. Charles Siebert  notes, “the program is a cutting-edge experiment in cross-species empathy that only the worst extremes of human insensitivity could have necessitated.”

Before visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, I was not the biggest animal enthusiast. I never grew up with pets and have been scared of them most of my life. It was just last year that I got comfortable with a dog around me (no joke). I don’t like zoos, and not amused by animal tricks at the circus. It was from when I started studying abroad that I began to be interested in larger animals, especially camels in the Middle East. The two times I engaged with an elephant was in Jairpur, India in 2008 where I have a photo with one, horrified, and in Thailand in 2011, where me and my friend Katie rode elephants in the outskirts of Bangkok.

In Nairobi, there is no such thing as riding elephants. Rather, you come here and you are humbled to learn about these perilous animals that were once abundant throughout the world. Elephants are more known for being poached and killed for their tusks or bush meat, and human-led violence is actually increasing. Yet it is up to the humans to help rescue them and bring their numbers back, as Daphne, a fourth-generation Kenya-born woman of British origin started with the establishment of the center in 1987 with her husband David Sheldrick, a famous naturalist.

There is a lot of politics around the elephants, from local Masaai beliefs about their natural habitat and place in their culture, to increased demand of elephant tusks in global trade, and to the discussion of who bears responsibility to nurture, raise, and educate the masses about them. While most travelers are weary of visiting animals in captivity, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a must see for anyone in Nairobi, as it will show you the depth of human activity and its effect on the world we live in in just a short period of time.

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The Atwima District Human Development Report: Analysis of the Rural Ghana (2004)

Based on:

National Planning Development Commission and the UNDP. District Human Development Report, Atwima District. 2004.

April 6, 2007

The purpose of a Human Development Report [HDR] is to provide a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of human development in a given area that goes beyond looking at the economics. Most importantly, an HDR should be accessible to the general population so that they can gain an understanding of various topics when analyzing their own development. Every year since 1997, Ghana has produced an HDR, but in order to further examine the growth of the nation, district HDRs began to be formulated, including the Atwima district which is of discussion here. The goal of the Atwima HDR is to “assist in the design and targeting of interventions aimed at improving upon the human development of the population” (2). Overall, the Atwima HDR’s format and flow of their findings are general and relatively straight forward, with enough ample statistics for a brief overview. On the other hand, its accessibility to the general population is questionable especially when the literacy rate of the people in Atwima is not at a level where development reports can be easily understood. Also interestingly enough, the HDR does not exactly give actual recommendations of what can be done to resolve issues but rather what can be done to entice the making of policy recommendations by others like the government and various NGOs. The tone of the HDR is one of hope, and although some bias is in existence, it provides an honest overview of human development in this rural district.

In the Atwima HDR, various aspects of development are discussed, including a brief profile of the district itself, and the assessment of trends of subjects such as poverty, education, literacy, health, and participation. Finally, the Atwima HDR discusses its main theme- vulnerability, followed by a discussion of the challenges and policy recommendations for Atwima. It is explained that vulnerability is the particular theme because it helps to identify the characteristics of low-income households who are unable to advance and improve their situations, and information gathered from such analysis makes it possible to create policies that addresses specific needs (4). The evaluation of human development in Atwima is performed within the framework of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and the human development trends that are explained are trends that have been observed over the past five years (1999-2004). The quantitative and qualitative data gathered in the Atwima HDR was largely by a “participatory approach”, including official documents, secondary data from various censuses, the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire survey, socio-economic surveys conducted by the Centre for Policy Analysis, as well as various consultations with academics and local leaders (vi). Those involved in creating the HDR were also local academics and professionals, making the report more personal to Ghana and its people who are supposed to be the primary beneficiary of the report.

The general profile provided in the HDR of Atwima is quite useful, as it gives specific data that are important for understanding other parts of the report, such as population and environmental statistics, as well as the discussion of the government. Located in the western part of the Ashanti Region, Atwima is largely rural, with agriculture being the dominant source of economy, although there are hopes that the exiting mineral mines, such as gold, could bring revenue in the future for the district (7). Overall, this portion of the report addresses the basic and most important problems facing Atwima, with a special focus on the population demographics and the environment. The unbalanced age distribution of its population is a particular concern of the HDR, as even though Atwima has the highest population growth rate in the nation with 3.6%, its younger population is overwhelmingly dominating, with those under the age of 15 accounting for 43% of the population while those over 65 years of age account for 6% of the population (9). This creates great social security problems as well as future economic concerns, as it could mean that the working population may have to pay higher taxes to cater for the elderly (9). Another emphasized issue was the environment, such as the deforestation and other heavy human activities that are depriving the district of its natural resources in a speedy manner. The report states how “re-afforestation has not kept pace with the rate of exploitation” in Atwima and promotion of sustainable use of the forest has not been encouraging (vii). However, other than mentioning some example NGOs that are concentrated with the environmental concerns of Atwima, the HDR does not further discuss the issue or provide any meaningful recommendations.

In Part III of the HDR, there is a discussion of progress in human development in general, with a precise attention to the role of agriculture in Atwima, which is the main source of living for 65% of the population (27). The recent trend in this source of livelihood is how it is ceasing as the primary occupation among the younger population, as they are acquiring secondary jobs and migrating to the nearby capital of Kumasi, which is becoming increasingly urbanized (35). Many are also taking on additional jobs while being fully employed in agriculture, with the key reason being a lack of income (29). This is an important trend to pay attention to, as it relates to the population problem that the HDR has addressed previously, since the growing and moving working populations will create great tribulations for the economic progress of Atwima where agriculture still remains as the primary source of revenue. In the discussion of employment and agriculture, there are some data usage that are questionable; for example, the HDR concludes that farmers were happy with the government’s policy of mass spraying of pests and fertilizers in cocoa farms because “discussion with opinion leaders and informal conversation with cocoa farmers” proved so (27). It is followed by admitting that there was no actual scientific assessment of the degree of success of these policies at the time of the survey because it was not possible and because of time constraints (27). At another point in the report, the team makes an assumption that because unemployment is relatively moderate in Atwima (36.3%), it can be implied that people in this district on average are more likely to be working than compared to the rest of the country (31). This implication is a dangerous one because 36.3% unemployment rate still means that more than one in three is not working (34). For a report whose purpose is to accurately analyze human development, even if flaws are stated, making such conclusions in the first place should not take place. False hope is a dangerous phenomenon for a developing country, and therefore there should not be any conclusions when only questionable evidence is available.

The Atwima HDR’s study of education is another relevant aspect of the report, which begins by outlining the overall objective of education in Ghana, which is to achieve universal access to basic education with a special attention to geographical and gender equality by 2005 (36). The report discusses how to pursue education beyond the secondary level, students have to go out of district, and one of the reasons that such resources are not available in Atwima is because it is hard to get teachers to a district where there are poor roads, sanitation, and accommodations (37). The difference between rural and urban parts of Ghana is mentioned quite a few times throughout the HDR, as the report emphasizes how such differences affect various topics in development, such as education in this case. Such explanation is not only understandable but necessary, as the differences between rural and urban are quite large and influential in the economies, health, education, and general development of the district. Another positive analysis that the report makes in this section is the connection it makes between education and modernization and development of Atwima as a whole. This is an essential recognition as it gives more incentives to improve various specifics such as water supply and roads.

Another major problem in education that was reported in the Atwima HDR is withdrawal from school, which is about 7% of the students, and one of the main reasons and a disturbing one, is because of a lack of interest (46). This is a crucial problem as it is universally known that education is one of the primary necessities to better lives and one’s future, as well as a nation’s. To not have interest is alarming, and it needs to be addressed, and how it should be addressed is unfortunately not mentioned in the Atwima HDR. Another distressing predicament is the literacy rate of adults in Atwima; 57% of women in the lowest wealth quintile [which is the dominating distribution of the overall population] have no education, and this goes for nearly a quarter of the men in the same arena (49). The report does raise this concern, and also mentions that in order to achieve the national goal of universal education for Ghana, efforts must be doubled to ensure that there is “no reversal of the upward trend observed at these levels” (50). The irony of the breakdown of literacy and education in this report is that the HDR itself does not satisfy the general population of Atwima as it does not reflect the general literacy rates; rather, the report is best understood by those who are somewhat above average in the literacy rate, which does not represent the general population of Atwima.

The reporting of public health and health care in general is another noteworthy portion of the Atwima HDR, as it highlights the overall progress in the system with a defensive edge. The report utilized childhood mortality rates as broad indicators of social development and health status, which is another problematic method of investigation (56). Issues like elderly care and diseases due to migration cannot always be fully understood solely based on child mortality rates, especially when one of the basic promise of the Atwima HDR is to identify trends in human development over the past five years. It is a useful indicator, but more factors must be looked at to make solid, valuable conclusions. And this lack of true solid data is mentioned in the report, as it states that it assessing health improvement goals in Atwima is “very difficult because data on the mortality measures were scantly” and based on the available data, “no meaningful comment on the achievement of the millennium goals with respect to child and maternal can be made” (57). Although a lack of data is a huge problem in this HDR, admitting to this problem is at least responsible, since it eliminates the false hope factor to an extent.

The Atwima HDR’s remark on the HIV/AIDS is one that is defensive, as unfortunately, the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in the district has increased since 1999 (60). Immediately after the mention of this terrible reality, the report states that this data is not convincing because it “could” be that people now find it less difficult to go to the health care facilities as a result of educational campaign about how to handle the disease in Ghana, and how overall, the number of cases for HIV/AIDS in Atwima is “under-disclosed” (68). One can think of many situations that can question the validity of this increase in HIV/AIDS epidemic, or any other problems raised in the observance of human development for that matter. Either way, the lone available statistic provided by the Atwima District Health Directorate in its 2003 Annual Report shows that in 1999, there were 25 reported cases and in 2003, there was 133 (60). Like its declaration of inadequate data to determine health improvements in Atwima, the report under the discussion of HIV/AIDS admits that improvement in public health is not progressing at a reasonable rate, and also mentions possible faults with the collected data. Again, this honesty is at least a positive inclusion for understanding this Atwima HDR.

Vulnerability, the main theme and the last section of the Atwima HDR gave attention to food, human, and job insecurity, and it was found that the average Atwima resident has a higher level of insecurity than the average Ghanaian (72). Through the survey methods, it was exposed that some of the types of events that lead to vulnerability in the community include natural disasters such as rainstorm and plant disease, as well as man made destructions such as land disputes, bush fire, and mining activity (72). The important issues that the discussion of vulnerability raises is how, like education, various societal aspects are connected together, such as economic progression, improving public health, and awareness. However, instead of providing some formal outline as to how such issues can be targeted, it instead criticizes the current movements to an extent, calling the existing public programs as “inadequate” and how the reason that the average citizen is critical of the government’s role is because of its limited number of beneficiary programs (84). Further, it goes on to describe the agendas as “safety ropes and ladders rather than safety nets”, and how no matter what is done, “disasters will strike a few and safety nets are needed for them to prevent people from falling deeper into deprivation when they face a crisis” (85). As an HDR, the Atwima HDR fails in this respect to assist in targeting interventions to improve the vulnerability situation, as it gives no real recommendations but resorts to condemn the existing system instead.

The formatting of the Atwima HDR unfortunately does not provide for the average people of Atwima as it does not match the literacy capabilities of the population. However, it is also not a document that can just be understood by the few elite intellectuals. The report is overall pretty broad, and gives ample explanations of certain ideas that may seem obvious. For example, in the education section of the HDR, the report notes that “infrequent attendance at school can impair the child’s learning and acquisition of skills and education” (85). This may seem like a very obvious statement, and almost unnecessary, but it reinforces better understanding of the HDR, especially if the reader is not the most educated but still literate enough.

Another major purpose that the Atwima HDR fails to address is giving true policy recommendations (even though the last section is titled ‘Conclusion and Policy Recommendations’). Instead, the report “calls for a careful mix of strategies to address different development needs” for other institutions, such as the government and NGOs, to take (87). The Atwima HDR reports how problems such as the disproportioned number of younger and older populations and the exploitation of the environment are important to address for the future development of the rural district, as it relates to the rate of vulnerability rates, as well as economic growth of the area and its people. It reports how the findings raise the need to find advanced methods that will promote sustainable use of the forests, but does not give any indication of what kind of method may work for this to occur. The only specific recommendation that the HDR explicitly makes is how the District Assembly could improve its feedback and follow up mechanism to ensure better communication with the people through the FM radio channels, which is the main source of news that people use in the district (88). Other suggestions are much broader, such as having “counter-cyclical social risk management policies” in rural areas to target the vulnerability factor (89). This weak outflow of recommendations is a critical fault in the Atwima HDR, as even though we are made aware that more accurate data and analysis must be gathered, recommendations could have still been compiled from the broad discussions of the issues facing Atwima.

The hopeful and sometimes defensive tone that is carried periodically in the Atwima HDR may affect the way that readers interpret the report, but either way, it does not completely fulfill the two very important roles of an HDR- to be accessible to the general population and to give ample recommendations based on the findings for improvement in human development. The Atwima HDR does provide some good background information regarding various topics such as education and health, but it still remains futile in its reporting of its main theme, vulnerability. This also has to do with the fact that vulnerability is a very dynamic, abstract concept to look at in human development, but because it was the theme of choice, it should have been further discussed and incorporated into other topics that were covered in the discussion. Its lack of access to the general population of Atwima is significant because they are the group of all the people that should get something rewarding out of the report. Knowledge and awareness in general is vital for the masses of any nation with critical issues in human development, and in order for progress to take place in a nation like Ghana in a more speedy, consistent manner, it is imperative that the public be aware of the significance of the issues that they face everyday. It is the public that has the power to make change and improve their conditions, but if they are ignorant about their livelihood, then the issues will continue to exist. By making the HDR more accessible to the common mass, it could have a more impact on the very issues that it makes it clear as important to address.

Africa: The Potential and Road Blocks

Based on responses and reflections on the publications of:

S.W. Kisembo, Handbook on Decentralisation in Uganda, Wayne Edge Global Studies Africa, 11th Edition, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance, Patrick Bond, Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation

Written on March 2, 2007

The president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete recently stated that the only adversity of Africa was that it receives bad press, stating how the crisis in the “part of one African nation is portrayed as a crisis in all the 53 African countries” and as a result, “every country is condemned”. He further states that Africa is moving in a positive direction, where democracy is flourishing and is no longer such a hopeless case as everyone presumes, going as far as to say that it is the “emerging market of the future in this globe”. Such bold statements would not have been stated less than ten years ago, and even though many aspects have improved for parts of the continent, in order for us to take Kikwete’s insistence seriously today, we would have to be only observing a narrow set of economic statistics. The World Bank has even stated in 2005 that the continent is being “continually drained of wealth through depletion of minerals, forests and other eco-social factors”, and as long as such a trend continues at some level, we are not ready to firmly believe in the optimistic words of the president.

There are several problematic parts with Kikwete’s statements regarding Africa’s progress, foreign investment, as well as the media influence. Kikwete looks sternly at the developed Western world that has not been involved in investing in Africa, instead applauding Asian businesses, such as China, for taking risks in investing in Africa when others have been skeptical. Although it is true that China is investing in Africa, the reason and the method of their investment is questionable and does not follow a parallel pattern to Kikwete’s assumptions, which is that Chinese investment is improving the conditions of African people. Finally, the president’s criticism of the media is an understandable one, as biases and stereotypes are clearly present. However, bashing the media so strongly takes attention away from the deep rooted reasoning behind AIDS, poverty, unemployment, famine, ecological deprivation, corruption, and other shared problems of Africa. The media is bringing attention to such pressing concerns, whether we agree with its method. Overall, the progress of Africa is not as rapid and forthcoming as the president may want to convince us; rather, we are looking at a glimpse of all the potential that African has. But these potentials are not being utilized because of the dynamic problems that have existed for decades.

The reasons behind Africa’s turmoil are extensive, but there is a strong credit that can be given to colonialism by European powers. Colonialism led to an array of critical, lasting problems for the continent, such as its exploitation of the continent through ferocious taxing, stripping of natural resources, separating families by forced urban migration, violence, and new racial ideologies, to name a few. After decolonization, liberated countries faced extreme debt whether due to lending money for development projects or paying for WWII (as was done by former British colonies), and much of this debt is still being paid off today. Today, if one were to observe a plethora of African nations, it can be observed that ongoing corruption and civil unrest are common, as is the case with Zimbabwe, Sudan, Togo, and Sierra Leone. Many coastal nations are facing threats of desertification, deforestation, and over-fishing. Health care, especially the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be a battle, as well as other diseases such as Malaria which affects more than 90% of the population of Guinea-Bissau. The effects of colonization are still visible today, and as a result, one can state that although Africa is improving, it is not ready to compete with the world, especially when the concept of capital modernization and democracy is still ambiguous.

There are of course nations that are promising and follow the lead of Kikwete’s statements. Mali is mostly a rural nation where the annual growth and GDP growth rate are positive [though less than 3% for each], and the unemployment rate is dramatically lower than the rest of the continent [14.6% in urban areas], as well as the HIV/AIDS rate in adults [only 1.7%]. Botswana is another nation that comes into the front light today when we speak of progressive countries. It has a balanced rural and urban population, whose chief wealth comes from diamonds, copper, and other minerals, having one of the highest GDP percentage in the continent, at 7.2% and growing. Botswana has the longest continuous multiparty democracy in Africa, with a government relatively free of corruption and one that follows a fiscally conservative economic policy. Being noted for being one of the more stable nations of the continent, Botswana’s social services and economic sectors (such as mining) continues to expand, with diamond being 80% of its export. Even though the GDP growth and political situation seem to be enduring, the welfare of individuals under the system is quite unbelievable in Botswana. With life expectancy at birth being only 37 years old for male and 40 years old for female, it is predicted by the UN-AIDS that this rate could drop as low as 27 years by 2010. The main cause of such a dramatic rate is because of HIV/AIDS, which affects a stunning 35.8% of the adult population, giving Botswana the sad distinction of having the highest recorded rate of the infection in the world. If the life expectancy continues to decline at this speed, the economy of Botswana will be severely challenged as labor force will decrease and there will be an increased reliance on immigration which in itself is a problem since diseases become a problem due to population movements. HIV/AIDS could become the factor that could ultimately determine whether Botswana can live up to president Kikwete’s promise of an emerging Africa.

It is not to suggest that there are no organized venues for progress to take place for the continent as a whole. The African Union, established in 2001, is one such unifying factor that shows that nations are willing to take the need of progress seriously. Although dealing with 53 nations of various languages, cultures, and political ideologies has been difficult, it is still important to note the symbolic meaning of such an organization. New Partnership for African Development, or NEPAD is another example of a multi-coalition association that is part of the AU that was founded to “eliminate poverty, concentrating on growth and development, halting marginalization of Africa in the global arena, and accelerating the empowerment of women”, as well as to change the “overwhelmingly negative perception of Africa as a continent buckling under the weight of disease, disaster, death and despair, as well as corruption”. An example of one of several nations that has shown NEPAD in a good light is the successful civilian transfer of power that took place in Nigeria in 2003, its first. Nigeria has been known notoriously for its violent civil unrest, as well as corruption [ranking in the top five for years by Transparency International], but the election of 2003 that brought president Olusegun Obasanjo to power has provided for some hope, as he declared a war against corruption and is also a driving force behind NEPAD, with a strong motivation to bring peace not only to his nation but to West Africa. And according to Hunter-Gault, the election has also given the status of Nigeria as “one of the largest producers of oil in the world”, becoming significant especially for powers such as United States that has been seeking alternative options for oil since 9/11. However, like Botswana, the promising signs that come out of such countries are always shadowed by other crisis that are large enough to be a dilemma for confidently claiming progress.

Other than oil, Nigeria is mainly agriculture based, and although it has a high GDP percentage at about 7%, 45% of its population is under the poverty line, which is less than U.S. $1 a day, according to the World Bank. The inequality between the rich and poor remain at extreme levels, and this is quite upsetting when one sees the potential that exists. Since independence in 1960 from the United Kingdom, Nigeria is basically a nation that has faced political, economic, and a very emotional ride, with the capability of economic growth, human development and social progression being present but other factors such as corruption getting in the way.

It can be observed from various African nations that that though rich in minerals, most of the continent remains dependent on agricultural, which is an issue since the global market for agriculture continues to be a battle. Also, many African countries are either facing or are coming out of political turmoil, affecting the mostly negative human development and human rights record that exists in most African nations, such as Kenya, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Nigeria as discussed. The life expectancy rate continues to be extreme, at an average range of 40s to 50s, and this goes hand in hand with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is heavily concentrated in the continent. Such rates of life expectancy becomes important when discussing the progress of the continent when you are expected to live for such a short time, your outlook on what is important in life and how you choose to lead it will be very narrow as priorities may differ and more narrow, and thus your approach to various issues such as health care will not be the same as those in developed countries.

Along with the progression of Africa into being a hopeful instead of a hopeless case, many leaders have applauded Asian nations, such as China for investing in Africa. And there are statistics that illustrate how investment in various sectors in Africa is not necessarily a risk, such as the fact that in South Africa, the lower middle class have a collective buying power that is over U.S. $26 billion. This indirect attack by Kikwete to other developed nations is questionable; it is true that foreign investment by the West such as the United States has been very limited [though foreign aid has certainly been in existence], but the reasoning behind this is also logical.

Kikwete’s praise of China is interesting since evidence has shown that the affect of Chinese involvement has not been as helpful as hoped. In nations such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Angola, Chinese investment since the 2000s has shown to encourage corrupted regimes, and since then, many native Africans have lost their jobs directly and indirectly by the Chinese threat; in Nigeria alone, where unemployment is already almost half the population, 350,000 jobs were lost directly, and 1.5 million indirectly, and the garment industry of Lesotho completely collapsed when China joined the WTO in 2005. Since 1987, Africa’s agricultural export, which is already limited, has gone down from U.S. $87 billion to US $13 billion in 2000, and one of the primary causes for this is China’s import demand. In its rush to secure relations and resources such as oil for its fast developing economy, experts say that China’s need to expand is “reinvigorating an older, crude style of development, re-establishing an era of ‘white elephants’ and ‘prestige projects’ with little benefit to the local people” (Bond, 74).

Nations are looking at more than the media when thinking of investing millions or even billions, and so statistics must be taken into consideration when we ask why the West is not investing as much as Africa would like. Debt, stock market performances, political stability, resources, and taxes are some of many factors that are taken into consideration in foreign investment. The G8 finance ministers have reported that Third World debt has risen from is defined as “third world”, it is certainly a risk factor that must be taken seriously. The stock market is another dynamic that makes many nations capable of investing rethink their decisions, as the ones particularly in Africa have been very unpredictable. For example, in 1997, outflow of hot money (the speculative positions by private sector investors) crashed Zimbabwe’s currency by an astounding 74% in just four hours of trading. The performances of the eight major stock markets of Africa have been tremendously erratic, sometimes returning “impressive speculative style profits style profits to foreign investors and sometimes generating large losses”. Like the debt issue, the indiscretion of the stock market is an anxiety that is taken into account before any decision is made regarding investment.

Tax fraud is another problem that makes investing in Africa less attractive, especially when corporate failure to pay taxes and the state’s failure to collect leads to controversy. Because foreign investment is much needed and wanted, most African nations are very generous when it comes to tax breaks to new investors. However, it easily leads to corruption; one common form by the state is the awarding of import permits to individuals with distinction, undermining what is supposed to be a legitimate protection, and the negative result of this can be seen with the ruined sugar industry in Kenya and the feed milling and poultry industry in Nigeria that lasted for long stretches of time. Tax fraud and transfer pricing has made much of Africa victims of privatization-related foreign investment. It is certainly a problem when you actually necessitate foreign investment but you do not receive it because of the number of various problems that makes it a risk, and once you do receive investment, the government acts on corruptive actions so that a win-win situation is never guaranteed.

Looking at new organizations with the goal of development such as AU and what they have done to tackle the investment issue has shown that investment is a complete obstacle. The African Peer Review Mechanism is a process that is voluntary that would allow members to be submitted to a review by Western nations of their political governance in order to be considered for investment and aid. The African Peer Review Mechanism is one that has won popular support by Western nations, clearly indicating that they are willing to keep the promise of the program but only to those nations that received the best reviews. However, as of January, 2006, only 26 of the 53 nations that are part of the AU have agreed to participate, and of the 26, Ghana and Rwanda are the participants that have actually gone through the full process. So, the resources are there, but African nations also have to be accountable. Sadly, it is not that easy to grab and plant the seed, as corruption, political unrest, and age old economic concerns and human development problems cannot be changed overnight.

For all of the problems in Africa that has made the continent a “hopeless case”, Kikwete states that it is the media alone that has caused the continent to be an unfortunate case. It is absolutely true that more often than not, the press does intend to report the negative more than the positive, mainly because they receive the highest ratings. Charlene Hunter-Gault labels the media in regards to Africa as “parachute journalism” where journalists basically look at the situation very briefly and then fly back to report without looking at the reasons for why the situation is the way it is. Judgments are often made in void, and this continues the poor portrayal of Africa, and also causes Africans themselves to be angry towards the media, as well as themselves since it is just another reinforcement of what is, could, and should be happening. Articles such as The Economist’s story on “The Hopeless Continent” in 2000 fuels anger, and bolsters Afro-pessimism, a term given to the belief that there is no way out of the position of Africa and using it to justify the lack of investment and involvement by the rest of the world. However, the media alone cannot be blamed for the decades-long tribulations of Africa; media in this case illustrates the symptoms of the troubles, but reporting on poverty, corruption, or HIV/AIDS is not the cause of the short life expectancy, genocides, desertification, etc. in the continent.

If media were to be the reason for all of the problems of Africa as Kikwete suggests, does it mean that the end of reporting negative stories and highlighting only the positive aspects will cure everything? The overwhelmingly depressing portrayal of Africa does not just come out of no truth- statistics, surveys, and research by institutions such as the World Bank and the UN clearly shows that Africa continues to be in trouble. It is arguable that positive reporting of Africa can help the situation- morale boost of Africans is definitely something that can go a long way, since confidence in oneself is more often than not necessary when you are speaking of taking on vast projects for drastic changes. But when we look at the reality of the situation, pessimistic reporting of Africa or any Third World country for that matter will not just terminate, but continue because in the end, media is business and demand of consumers are the shock-stimulating reports.

Media coverage should not terminate, but continue, even if it may irritate leaders such as who are trying to show the world that their nation (and themselves) should be taken seriously. It is better to have coverage than no coverage since it is only by this form that Africa can remain “alive” in the West. Media coverage has shown to be extremely important in actually helping many dire situations around the world. Coverage of the genocide in Sudan has sparked demonstrations throughout major cities in Europe and the United States and has led to the creation of campaigns and associations in various institutions, such as Wellesley College. It is often regretted that if there was more coverage of the genocide in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, the situation would have been taken care of much earlier by public pressure, even though one can argue that that is not as easy as it may seem because many other factors are involved for organizations such as the United Nations to get involved in terminating civil conflicts (such as funding, safety, and interests of gain by powerful nations). Another example can be seen with South Africa, where then-president Mbeki was embarrassed by the media coverage of the dire HIV/AIDS crisis couple of years ago, especially when it was reported that the president did not see the connection between HIV and AIDS, and the health minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang claimed that roots and garlic are better remedies for treating AIDS than antiviral that is available. Media has made the issue particularly in South Africa available, and through international pressure that followed, as well as statistical reports and further research has led to a new initiative drawn by the administration whose goal is to halve the number of HIV infections and made antiviral available to 80% of women and children by 2011. Journalism becomes extremely important in such cases, and even if it is negative, it is definitely much better than nothing at all, especially for the Third World.

Africa is a continent that consists of nations that are burdened by series of political, economic, social, and ecological issues, many of which are unfair because they emerged from exploitations from colonialism. Although Kikwete is optimistic in his claims about Africa, it is far from not being a “hopeless case”. Nations are not lost; rather, most of the nations are full of potential for progress. The initiation of uncovering the potential and utilizing the resources for improvement is where it gets tricky, since external factors such as civil unrest and political corruption greatly affects the degree of advancement that can take place in a given time. Foreign investment is much needed, and there are developed nations that have the wealth to do just that. However, investors are not just looking at CNN and BBC to make decisions about the placement of a huge portion of money; rather, a multiplicity of factors such as tax, debt, GDP percentage, and the stock market are observed for such decisions. Therefore, the media cannot be blamed solely for the lack of investment in Africa. Rather, the media should continue and increase their reporting of Africa, thereby keeping attention and perhaps inserting stress onto governments to initiate changes for the betterment of the continent. And perhaps, with such increased attention and pressure brought by the media, real progress could take place for the millions of victims of Africa.