Each year at this time one news story is repeated, analyzed, attracts more comments and fuels more anger in Africa than any other single story of at any other time of the year, year after year:
Results are not yet known, they will never be, for the 12,000 local and regional Mali officials. Cast ballots were burned, stolen and even blown up by jihadists. In the rebellious north most polling places never even opened.
Yesterday I showed Mali as the quintessential example of climate change and rapid development sabotaging African society. The tragedy goes much further: Soon it will threaten France. Ultimately it will kill Trumpism.
Reset by the global recession, reconfigured by massive new production of oil and gas in the U.S. simultaneously with aggressive development of non-fossil fuels, Africa begins to collapse.
Nigeria, Angola, Egypt and Algeria, even Ghana and many countries not wholly dependent upon natural resources are in economic tailspins. The best example is Mozambique.
Unending protests continue in Ethiopia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and though unique issues power each country’s turmoil, the fundamental driver is economic.
South Africa and Ethiopia are both experiencing healthy growth despite the protests, while Zimbabwe is tanking. Excluding Zim’s recent plunge, all three countries were performing very much like the U.S. over the last 4-5 years: modest but steady growth and improved employment. So what’s going on?
Let’s examine their individual situations, first.
“How can a billionaire businessman who calls Mexicans rapists, …insults women, stereotypes black Americans, admires…Putin, threatens to bar Muslims from entering the country …become a presidential candidate? Surely decent, responsible, fair-minded people would not give such a national and international menace a chance to become the leader of the free world?”
To that South African columnist Donald Trump is as newsworthy as a dozen other crisis in his country this morning and hundreds across the continent.
There’s a lot of news in Africa, today. And a lot of it is about Trump.
More than two thousand ardent scientists and advocates are in Johannesburg today preparing for next year’s CITES. Historical treaties like the Geneva Convention may actually effect our daily lives more noticeably but only CITES has attracted such global consensus that enforcement is aggressive and routine.
Today horse trading like you’ve never seen is going on, but in the end unlike so much else in today’s troubled world, everybody really will come together.
Sound nice? Yes, it is, but there’s still this one thing….
Every country wants an airline, its own airline, and how that airline works characterizes the country as a whole.
In a month Rwandair begins flying a new modern Airbus 330, the ninth modern aircraft in its fleet. Today, the third iteration of Air Tanzania begins as the first of two new turbo prop aircraft are delivered from Canada. I wouldn’t rush to buy tickets on either airline. Here’s why:
For the moment, there is no part of Victoria Falls comfortable for tourists. The Zimbabwean side of Africa’s greatest tourist attraction is ready to explode as President Mugabe’s health fails. Livingstone on the Zambian side Tuesday was filled with the smoke of burning tires and tear gas.
Britain issued new travel advice for Zambia this morning, but it was hardly severe urging its citizens simply to stay abreast of current news. The U.S. currently has travel warnings issued for 39 countries and “Europe as a Whole” but nothing this morning for Zambia.
Several reports confirm the Australian was waving placards in an anti-government demonstration. Tourists at Victoria Falls are also threatened by an absence of transport and electricity. (Both daily scheduled flights from the falls to Joburg, however, departed mid-day with only minimum delays.)
Serious protests have been growing in Zimbabwe for months and came to a head several days ago when civil servants didn’t receive their scheduled paychecks. It was the third time this year.
They organized a “stay-at-home” day for yesterday. The police reaction was so severe that protests continued into today.
WhatsApp is the principal social media platform in southern Africa, but the Zimbabwe government managed to shut it down late yesterday. Protestors immediately switched to Twitter using the hashtags #ThisFlag, #ShutDownZim, and #ShutDownZimbabwe2016. Twitter now tops its feed with instructions on how to keep using the service as government agents shut down different hashtags.
In typical reticent Zim fashion, even the protestors are being careful if coy. The five main demands being circulated are (1)-Fire corrupt cabinet ministers, (2)-Remove police road blocks, (3)-Pay civil servants on time, (4)-Abandon the bond notes and (5)-Lift the import ban.
The spark was (3)-, the lack of pay for civil servants. In this ruined country where unemployment may be approaching 80% civil servants are the last actively employed group. Until recently their loyalty to the incredibly corrupt government went unchallenged.
Demand (4)- is a complicated issue created by the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank when it announced that by October it would issue “export bond notes” in lieu of a domestic currency. Zimbabwe abandoned its domestic currency seven years ago when inflation exploded and most Zimbabweans use the U.S. dollar.
Many Zimbabweans believe the fancy named currency with its hard-to-imagine restrictions that limit it to purchasing foreign goods is simply an additional way for corrupt officials to reintroduce a local currency. As with the last domestic currency officials manipulated the notes to enrich themselves at the expense of the local population.
Last week the country tightened its ban on imports, ostensibly to spur domestic production although it’s failed miserably. The country until now has survived on goods brought in principally from South Africa, and those are now being stopped at border points.
The interesting thing, of course, is that the population as a whole will likely join the growing protests precisely because of (4)- and (5)-, which if civil servants succeed in getting paid (3)- might likely immediately be reversed.
In effect government concessions on those last three points could quash the protests.
It’s absolutely amazing how much misery Zimbabweans have accepted over the years. It’s now nearly two full generations who have lived under the oppression of Robert Mugabe. The 90+ year-old leader is reported very frail and rarely seen in public. So unfortunately his legacy has held and a body of the politic is readying to replace him.
It’s unclear this protest will do much more than previous ones, particularly if the government scrapes up the cash to pay civil servants. But it’s extremely clear that holidays in Zimbabwe are increasingly ill-advised.
The Tanzanian government and safari companies appear to have embarked on suicide missions as they react to Brexit. Consumers beware : African companies raising prices in today’s climate are probably already deeply in debt.
The bottom is falling out of the Tanzanian safari market because the largest single component is the UK traveler. UK travelers are reacting to Brexit like Americans did to 9-11.
According to the British financial website, This is Money, more than 1 in 3 Brits now plans to cut back on planned holidays.
Brits book travel not quite as far in the future as Americans. Americans tend to do so about a year in advance. With Brits it’s about six months. This means that the very important end-of-year holiday season could be a disaster for Tanzania.
This follows several bad years because of ebola, terrorism, the persistent European recession and in the case of South Africa, the plummeting Rand.
One of the most horrible practices of any small business is to live on cash flow, and that’s legend among travel companies in particular. Now in Tanzania, those who have done so may be on the way out.
If you’re a consumer considering traveling to sub-Saharan Africa and Tanzania in particular, I really suggest you beware.
Hardly two days after Brexit, the panic began when the government of Tanzania decided to slap an 18% tax on many tourist products that had not previously carried it, such as transport and guided sightseeing. In Tanzania’s fairy world land, certain government officials claimed they were even slapping the V.A.T. tax on themselves, onto existing taxes!
However the math might eventually be done, government fees are rising and in some cases substantially. The cost for a vehicle headed into Ngorongoro Crater, for example, jumps 25% Friday.
V.A.T. is the value-added-tax of 18% theoretically applied across the board to anything sold in Tanzania. For many years, though, many tourist services have been exempt, an incentive of the sort many governments in the U.S. afford businesses for locating in their town.
Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli, has been crusading ever since being elected last year in a dark-horse contest, slipping incognito into ministries and firing sluggards on the spot. He reduced income taxes earlier this year for the “common man.”
He’s now trying to right the budget, which since time immemorial hasn’t really been one, rather just a siphon of foreign aid. It’s unclear that the huge V.A.T. announcement on tourism was entirely the result of Brexit, but clearly the rush to impose it – even unprecedented in Tanzania – suggests so.
Laudable as Magufuli’s efforts might be, it will have definite negative effects on Tanzanian tourism.
Healthy companies, I think, saw this coming. Particularly the old strongholds, the midmarket chain lodges like Sopa and Serena, have held prices steady or decreased them, trimmed staff without a noticeable trim in service, and moved towards dynamic website pricing.
Unhealthy companies, particularly some of the upmarket ones like Asilia, are doing just the reverse. In fact, they are using the current situation to raise prices higher than to just cover tax increases.
The upmarket could be the most effected under the current situation. Upmarket trends have been moderating or declining recently, stressing the health of those companies.
Three of Asilia’s main competitors in Tanzania, Nomads, Sanctuary Retreats and &Beyond, have either announced no increases or agreed to guarantee current rates on existing reservations for which deposits have been paid. Wannabe upmarketer, Elewana, has even announced new specials that essentially lowers its prices.
This will not be a fun year for a safari company working in Tanzania. But tricking the consumer goes too far. Consumers should exercise exceptional due diligence before planning to sip a gin and tonic on the veld at sunset.
“Chaos has been unleashed and we all will be poorer,” writes a commentator this morning in the respected journal, African Arguments.
Many former British colonies in Africa are forcing calm while quietly panicking about Brexit, especially South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
I can’t see this getting better. Even if the hoped for British pivot occurs and somehow Article 50 is never triggered, the genie is out of the bottle. Economies don’t pause for politicians to catch their breath.
The biggest single concern with South Africa and Kenya is the plummeting pound. Kenya is also worried that a new British executive will be less disposed to foreign aid. Nigeria’s concern is the increased dollar which puts downwards pressure on oil prices, Nigeria’s lifeblood. South Africa suffered a 1.2% retraction last quarter and Brexit is likely now to dump them into a full blown recession.
There is even widespread concern that money transfers will be more difficult, something that will effect all aspects of business and trade.
By 0730cdt this morning all the indicators were moving in terrible directions. Former African colonies’ currencies usually move with the pound. Although weaker currencies are often spun positively for manufactured exports, most former colonies import more than they export so their economies become stressed when their currency weakens.
Add to this a 10% drop in the price of oil (as of 0730 cdt) and Britain’s former colonies are in a terrible mess this morning.
“Politicians paint a very beautiful picture of a very bad idea just to ascend to power,” writes one Kenyan about Brexit, today. “They dupe [the electorate] into voting for them, knowing very well that whatever they are promising cannot work even under any circumstance. That is exactly what Cameron did.”
Most Americans have never traveled to Kenya or South Africa or Nigeria, much less even the UK. Our economy remains the largest on earth so likely the one that can be least hurt by any other. But we are not immune to the effects of Brexit, and I mean that as much politically as economically.
Every Britain should have known what a disaster this would be, but their politicians duped them, to use the Kenyan’s words. The Leave Campaigners promised all sorts of things that they are today retracting like yo-yos, essentially admitting lying.
But there were even double-dupes like Cameron bringing up the whole idea then trying to turn it back; and triple-dupes like Corbyn only half-heartedly campaigning against the Leave because he really wants it.
In the end the electorate was only given one choice: leave or not. I think what the electorate manifest was a protest vote, a No vote, a vote against politics, against the status quo, because like many of us around the world, that’s the only power we’ve been left by our hoarding, power hungry politicians.
The most terrifying lesson to learn from this mess is that Donald Trump might win.
So maybe our tea is OK, but Carbofuran is still for sale over the counter in Kenya: Lions are being poisoned with it, vultures picking on the carcasses are going extinct, and so human diseases are spreading and there’s an epidemic of rabies among the growing population of feral dogs.
Richard Leakey’s conservation organization just announced that “poaching rates [in Kenya] have decreased dramatically” and that “Kenya’s elephant populations are now on the rise.”
This is, of course, good news but the May 25 press release was bereft of references or statistics. “Dramatically” needs to be substantiated, and frankly what I intuit here is that wildlife organizations are resyncing to reality: e.g., poaching was never as “dramatic” as had been suggested.
The group, Wildlife Direct, is one of the most respected in Africa. Leakey’s involvement goes way back to when he was the Wildlife Czar for the country in 1989 when poaching really was out of control. More than almost any other individual in Africa, he was instrumental in stopping that horrendous decimation of elephant.
He was integrally involved in Kenya’s collaboration with the U.S. prior to that which created the CITES treaty, which remains the mechanism worldwide for regulating the conservation of endangered species.
The recent Wildlife Direct report that monitored the creation, passage and implementation of wildlife laws in Kenya gives very positive ratings to the system in Kenya now used to prevent poaching.
It points out that many more persons are being prosecuted, including major black marketeer distributors, and that many more have gone to jail and that these represent “significant improvements.”
The group actually credits itself as well, claiming that its courtroom monitoring team is the principal motivation (for the courts, anyway) to implement the laws and put poachers behind bars.
But the battle’s not over, the group points out:
“The team of lawyers also warn that endemic delays and corruption mean that too many criminals are still walking free from the courts… The undermining of wildlife trials by corruption is the elephant in the room.
“Numerous cases are failing due to … the loss of evidence, witnesses fatigue, loss of files, wrong charges, wrongful conclusions, and illegal penalties. What’s worse is that there are no consequences for those involved in undermining these cases.”
Those criticisms apply to almost everything prosecuted in the Kenyan courts. Anyone remember why the President and Vice President of Kenya were let off their International Criminal Court prosecution for crimes against humanity? Loss of evidence, loss even of witnesses.
Wildlife Direct’s actions continue the long and uninterrupted integrity of Leakey’s involvement in all aspects of his native country, and bravo to that.
But when the stats arrive as they must, and as they trickle in from elsewhere in Africa, I think we’ll learn a couple very important things:
First, poaching in the last few years – as horrible as it is – was never as bad as we were told. I wonder how many media groups are publishing this current finding, that things are improving, compared to a couple years ago when anecdotal statistics were used to suggest an apocalyptic decline in elephants.
Second, as the individual stories of poachers get reported — as journalists study those who are prosecuted and jailed — I think we’ll learn that most poachers are ad hoc individuals just trying to survive: Criminals, if you will, forced almost against their will into illegal activity simply to get food and provide for their families.
Poaching is not cut-and-dried, and now we’re learning, it’s not even well documented.
The African diaspora in North America is a vital component of today’s modern African societies, and Africans are now worried that Trump could change that.
The possibility that a large number of Americans will emigrate to Canada in reaction to a Trump presidency is not a sarcastic joke, but a realistic threat to many Africans.
Concerned that Americans will be able to ‘break the queue’ getting residency rights to Canada, Africans worry they’ll be displaced from the pipeline.
Sunday, Nairobi’s main Sunday newspaper published a page 3 story assuring concerned Kenyans this was probably not the case.
Discounting several new websites in the States like “Maple Match“ the article interviewed “businessman Neil Katz,” a well-known agent who helps Kenyans obtain dual citizenship, for his take on the possibility that ‘Americans will flee to Canada.’
Katz told the Daily Nation, “Americans opposed to Trump hardly meet the UN definition of a refugee.”
Katz assured the interviewer that Canadians would not alter their policies for fleeing Americans, although he conceded that the Canadian “break the queue” loophole allows anyone with $100,000 to invest to go to the head of the line.
This could be someone who uses that money to buy a home, and this is the type of “mass emigration” that worries the Kenyans.
Diasporas are something quite foreign to Americans, since as of yet there really isn’t an American diaspora anywhere. In contrast, the 80,000 Kenyans, 40,000 Ethiopians and 120,000 Nigerians with residency in the U.S. are integral components to their homeland’s economy.
Jobs in North America pay roughly ten times the wage for a similar job in their African homelands, and many more jobs are available in North America than Africa.
Many of the jobs taken in North America by African immigrants are in nursing, home care and maintenance for which there aren’t enough American applicants. But there are also many very successful business people.
These folks create networks that stretch back home, bringing everything from high tech startups to simple manufacturing industry skills to these rapidly emerging economies.
Expecting the “largest increase in housing values” for years, one of American’s favorite Canadian holiday destinations, Cape Breton, is enjoying a remarkable housing boom.
A controversial Cape Breton website explicitly inviting Americans to emigrate was widely circulated in February, and has toned down in reaction to concerns like those expressed this Sunday in Kenya. It now emphasizes that it welcomes everyone around the world, not just those fleeing Trump.
It remains, however, the perfect example as to why foreigners considering emigrating to Canada are worried that Americans will displace them.
The average housing price in Canada is just over $80,000. The average home in Cape Breton is 50% higher, reflecting a genteel, modern and up-scale community. But that price is actually well below what most retirees in America considering emigration already hold as equity in their current home in the States.
The $100,000 threshold to break the queue in Canada is thus no big deal at all for these retiree ”asylum” seekers.
Note that a similar move by the well-off, older middle and upper class occurred in the Weimar Republic, not long before a populist became the leader of Germany.