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Africa:As Africa’s Need for Food Grows, Mali’s Rice Turnaround Shows a Way Forward

By Isaiah Esipisu

Abidjan — "Africa has the resources, skills, and human and land capacity to move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa"

In 2008, as food prices rose around the world, riots broke out in West Africa, and Mali's government stepped in.

It quickly launched an initiative to subsidise purchases of good-quality certified rice seed, as well as fertilisers, for farmers, in an effort to cut reliance on rice imports and grow more food of its own.

In just two years, the country was producing enough grain for domestic consumption, and today is a rice exporter, said Bourema Dembele, who until July was director of research at Mali's Institut d'Economie Rurale, a government institution.

"We had no choice other than to develop a policy that would later see our country out of the crisis," said Dembele, now a Mali programme officer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), a nongovernmental organisation.

Such policies need to be replicated around Africa if the continent is to cope with a burgeoning population and climate change while improving food security and economic growth, African experts say.

"Rice is going to be the biggest challenge for Africa because countries highly depend on imports from sources that are totally unsustainable," William Asiko, the executive director of Grow Africa, a non-governmental organisation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


According to a report released last month at the African Green Revolution Forum, African nations spend $35 billion each year on food imports, a figure expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025 unless the continent can boost harvests.

Changing things "will take commitment of African governments to stimulate and guide the transition," said Agnes Kalibata, AGRA's president,

"If left to the private sector alone, growth in the agrifood system will not be as fast as it could, nor will it benefit as many smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs as it could," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017, if most African governments moved as aggressively as Mali's, the continent could not only feed itself but meet the growing demand from affluent city dwellers for high-value processed foods.

In Mali, production of rice grew from just 900,000 tonnes in 2008 - below the domestic consumption of 1.1 million tonnes - to 2.7 million tonnes in 2016, thanks in part to government subsidies of 35 billion CFA francs ($64 million). Rice production is now double the country's annual consumption.

Overall food production - including cereal crops such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts, cowpeas and maize, as well as rice - also increased over the same period from 3.6 million tonnes to 8.7 million tonnes, making the country largely self-sufficient.

Apart from subsidising seed and other farming needs, Mali's government in 2015 began buying 1,000 new tractors every year to sell to farmers at half price. Farmers are required to make a downpayment of just 20 percent and can take out loans from commercial banks for the remaining sum.

Poorer or very small-scale farmers also are eligible to buy tractors if they group together to cultivate at least 50 hectares (124 acres) of land with the equipment.

To support the effort, Mali's government has allocated at least 15 percent of the national budget to agriculture, surpassing a target of 10 percent agreed to at the 2003 African Union Summit as part of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

Dembele's organisation works with research institutions in Mali to produce quality-certified seeds for farmers to meet growing demand for them. Previously, many small-scale farmers planted uncertified seeds in part because certified seeds had to be imported and were too expensive.


Asiko, of Grow Africa, said more African countries need to create initiatives to increase rice production, especially in West Africa, where it is the main staple.

"When we invest in production, we create a market for seed and fertiliser companies which are investment and business opportunities. When we produce in plenty, we create further opportunities for processors, and when we process enough, we further create opportunities for transporters and sellers," he said.

The Africa Agriculture Status Report suggests that more productive farming could be Africa's "quiet revolution", creating jobs and sustainable economic growth that has largely failed to materialise from mineral extraction and increased urbanisation.

"Africa has the latent natural resources, skills, human and land capacity to tip the balance of payments and move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa," Kalibata said.

Apart from Mali, African countries that have had significant success moving towards food self-sufficiency include Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, she said.

(Reporting by Isaiah Esipisu; editing by James Baer and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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South African Christian group visits Israel on peace mission – The Jerusalem Post

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Liberia’s news magazine: Pastor TB Joshua to influence outcome of presidential poll – The Eagle Online

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Nivea Ad For ‘Visibly Fairer Skin’ Sparks Controversy In West Africa – NPR

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The Nivea ad features Omowunmi Akinnifesi, a beauty pageant winner in Nigeria, promoting a lotion that promises "visibly fairer skin." superjoy via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

toggle caption superjoy via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

The Nivea ad features Omowunmi Akinnifesi, a beauty pageant winner in Nigeria, promoting a lotion that promises "visibly fairer skin."

superjoy via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

Dove isn't the only skin-care company caught up in a controversy about its ads.

Nivea, a German company with global reach, has been called out on social media for ads in West Africa that many described as racist, colorist and tone deaf.

The ads promote Natural Fairness Body Lotion, a cream that promises, according to the tagline, "visibly fairer skin." The social media storm erupted after the Ghanaian musician Fuse ODG posted the ad on Instagram this week.

The ads themselves have been around for a few months. They first appeared on billboards in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in June 2017. Former Nigerian beauty queen, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, is featured, gazing into space, a sly smile playing on the sides of her lips.

There's a TV commercial as well in which Akinnifesi's skin progressively lightens as she applies Nivea's product to her body.

"I saw the Nivea ad once. It was after a long day, I'd been out on field assignments, and my skin had darkened by a shade, as it does when I stay outdoors for extended periods," says Ria Evbuoma, a medical doctor based in Lagos. "After the ad, I honestly took a look at my arms. I was darker, today. Do I need to be fairer?"

This ad campaign subsequently was taken to Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal. There's been particularly severe criticism in Ghana, with several social media users calling for a boycott of Nivea product and for the ads to be pulled, using the #pullitdownnow hashtag.

Ghana has had an ongoing conversation about skin tones – and lightening products – for a while now. Last year, the government banned creams that contain hydroquinone because of possible links between the bleaching agent and health issues.

"The first time I saw the ad, I thought it was problematic," recalls Ayodeji Rotinwa, a journalist and public relations executive based in Nigeria. "Omowunmi Akinnifesi is not that fair to begin with. But in my opinion, for someone who girls look up to and isn't too fair or too dark, to then come out and say, 'fairer is better!' ... people already aspire to be like you."

Akinnifesi, who first came into the limelight in 2005 after winning the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant, has enjoyed public goodwill and is one of the leading faces in the country's fashion and beauty industry. She has yet to speak on the social media uproar,

"What was wrong with Ms Akinnifesi's skin anyway?" Evbuoma asks rhetorically. "I think that [the ad] strengthens the stereotype that happiness, fulfilment, career advancement and other positives are directly linked to skin tone."

Nivea's response: "We have recently noted concerns on social media by some consumers regarding our NIVEA Natural Fairness Body Lotion communication in Ghana. We would like to emphasise that this campaign is in no way meant to demean or glorify any person's needs or preferences in skin care."

The statement also said that the product is meant to "protect the skin from long-term sun damage and premature skin-ageing" and also address "uneven skin tone" – and that it is "every consumer's right to choose products according to their personal preferences."

This social media criticism of Nivea's ad is part of an ongoing debate in Africa, where there is a growing dissent against skin lightening products, popularly called, "bleaching creams" in Nigeria.

The Two-Way

Dove Expresses 'Regret' For Racially Insensitive Ad

But unlike the Dove soap ads, in which a black woman took off her shirt and morphed into a white woman, critics don't necessarily use the word "racist" to describe the Nivea campaign.

In the countries where the ads appeared, nearly everyone is of the same race. So the term more often used was "colorist" — an attempt to perpetuate a belief that light skin tones are better than dark skin.

For some Nigerians, "good skin is usually fair skin," says Rotinwa. "It is sort of an indirect colonial legacy, a byproduct of colonialism." And if you think that "power belongs to people who are fairer, who are lighter, why not then look like them?"

There's even a word in Nigerian slang, Rotinwa says — oyinbo – that can mean anything from a light-skinned person to a Caucasian. "Oyinbo is supposedly better," says Rotinwa. "Oyinbo is a good thing. Oyinbo is something we should aspire to. And oyinbo is the standard worldwide." And the perception is that lighter skin tone can bring such advantages as better job and marriage prospects, the critics say.

The perception is that "the darker and more 'African' you are, the less likely you will gain privilege based on your looks," says Edwin Okolo, an editor and fashion designer. "Buying creams seems like a relatively easy way to a better life."

And the skin lightening products are popular. According to a survey of 450 residents of Lagos, done by the University of Cape Town, an estimated 77 percent use them.

One of the most widely read books in Nigeria, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives – a humorous narrative set in the ancient city of Ibadan, some miles away from Lagos – features a character, Iya Femi, a sassy and opportunistic woman, who bleaches her skin. The bleaching doesn't go well — her skin tone becomes irregular and spotted. Still Iya Femi is incredibly proud of the light skin color.

"She did it because she thought that was beauty," says author Lola Shoneyin.

That hasn't always been the case, Shoneyin adds.

"The way we look at people that bleached their skin in 2017 is very different from the way my mother will talk about women who use all these creams – I mean am talking 25, 30 years ago. Not that it wasn't acceptable but people who bleached their skin were regarded as women who were trying too hard to get attention."

Mazi Emeka Nwankwo is a freelance journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria, where he covers health, urban development, entertainment and technology. Find him on twitter @mazi_emekar

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Africa:AllAfrica Launches Information Initiative for Non-Communicable Diseases

Photo: WHO

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organization, speaking at the World Conference on NCDs in Montevideo.

Montevideo — AllAfrica's global platform to provide information on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) debuted today at the World Health Organization's Global Conference on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), hosted by the government of Uruguay.

The information portal is a project of AllAfrica Global Media, the only independent, comprehensive pan-African news source – of, by and about Africa – with unrivaled reach and reputation. More people rely on allAfrica.com for news and information from all over Africa than on any other source.

NCDs represent the greatest challenge in public health today, accounting for over 70% of deaths worldwide. Communities around the world are mobilizing to fight back against cardio vascular diseases, cancer, type-two diabetes, obesity and mental health – to stop the massive burden caused by these life-threatening illnesses.

In some African countries, NCDs are responsible for more than seven out of every ten fatalities, and in most countries, the proportion of deaths due to NCDs is rising. Principal causes include unhealthy diets, tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, pollution and chemical products. Those affected are children, middle-aged people and elderly - both rich and poor.

Attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), spearheaded by the United Nations and adopted in September 2015 by world leaders, aim "to transform the world" by 2030, through improving lives and protecting the planet. Achieving them will require putting the fight against NCDs at the center of public health policies, particularly in Africa, with its youthful and fast-rising population.

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Governments alone cannot win the fight. Participation by the private sector, including media, is essential to the campaign against NCDs.

The new NCD platform - in English and French – aims to be a primary source for both news and contextual information. Surveys show that reliable, health-related data and developments is at the top of what the public wants from news sources.

"AllAfrica has always been there when it matters the most for Africans", said Amadou Mahtar Ba, AllAfrica's co-founder and Executive Chair. "Information is power, and that is particularly true when it comes to combatting diseases". Surveys show that reliable, health-related data and developments are at the top of what people want to learn from news sources.

"That is why AllAfrica is committing resources to create this public information tool to provide policy makers and citizens at large the news and information needed to win the fight against NCDs. We invite the WHO, research institutions, foundations, civil society groups and the private sector to engage with us to disseminate as much information as possible on this topic", Ba said.

View the platform in English: http://allafrica.com and French: http://fr.allafrica.com/ncds.

For more information contact: ncds@allafrica.com

AllAfrica Global Media is the leading source for online content from and about Africa that reaches global 'influentials' - heads of state and other policymakers, leaders of business and industry, entrepreneurs and international investors, analysts, diplomats, scholars and activists – decision takers of all kinds. Distribution channels include the popular allAfrica.com website, mobile devices, Apple News, Google Newsstand, LinkedIn and Viber, plus the AllAfrica News Wire on Bloomberg, Factiva/Dow Jones and other commercial services, as well as Facebook and on Twitter, where AllAfrica's reach exceeds 14.5 million a month.

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UN chief heading to conflict-torn Central African Republic

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he is going to conflict-torn Central African Republic next week to spotlight growing communal tensions, spreading violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation as well as highlight the work of U.N. peacekeepers. He said at a news conference that since Jan. 1 the number of internally displaced people has almost doubled to 600,000 and the number of refugees who have fled the country has surpassed 500,000.

Start the conversation, or Read more at The Progress.

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Anger over Mogadishu bomb attack boils over into streets

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Media captionThe BBC's Alastair Leithead at the scene of Somalia's bomb attack

A red bandana has become the new symbol of protest in Mogadishu as anger over the city's most destructive bomb attack is boiling over on to the streets.

Men and women in the city, security officers, even government officials - all are wearing a piece of red cloth around their foreheads to show unity and solidarity for the hundreds of people killed and injured in Saturday's massive truck bombing.

"It represents the blood of my people who have been killed in the explosion," said one girl pressed up against the fence at the national stadium for a demonstration organised by the city.

"If the Somali people unite they can defeat everything," another said, red cloth wrapped around her hijab.

The crowd chanted anti-al-Shabab slogans as they waited for the mayor of Mogadishu, the prime minister and the president to arrive.

Thousands came. It was something never seen before in the aftermath of a bomb attack.

There have been small protests in the past but people have been afraid of being targeted by the Islamist group.

This demonstration, and the rioting in the streets at the scene of Saturday's blast, betrayed a real change of atmosphere in Mogadishu - from fear to anger.

Image copyright AFP Image copyright Reuters

And that's why this bomb attack is different - why this could be a turning point.

"Al-Shabab started to kill 10 people, we kept silent, then they killed 20, and next they killed 100," said Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed. "Now, they killed 300 innocent Somali civilians.

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"We are telling [al-Shabab] that from now on, we are all soldiers and will come to you. We will no longer tolerate a Somali boy being killed and a Somali girl being killed. And we'll defend this flag."

But the crack of gunfire near the scene of the blast at K5 - the Kilometre Five junction - was perhaps a stronger indication of public feeling.

Image copyright Reuters

Stones were thrown, guns fired, people killed - for no reason other than the crowd was angry and had only a few security officers to channel that anger against.

That anger needs to be handled carefully and directed well - against al-Shabab, not the government or security forces for not doing enough to stop these attacks.

Al-Shabab have not said they carried out this attack, perhaps because of the number of civilians killed.

K5 was probably not the target. Security sources say the truck had travelled through a number of lighter checkpoints, with its cargo of homemade and some military grade explosives disguised with sacks of rice. When it reached Kilometre Six, suspicions were raised and the security forces called ahead.

The driver detonated his explosives before he could be stopped. It seems to have been a coincidence that he did so next to a petrol tanker, upping the death toll.

At one of Mogadishu's busiest junctions at one of the busiest times of the week, the blast tore through the traffic-jammed streets and crowded pavements.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The bomb mangled buildings

Security sources disagree over the intended target.

In the past, "complex" al-Shabab attacks involved a first, smaller bomb at a security gate allowing a second, larger bomb to get through and cause greater damage.

In this case a second, smaller car bomb was intercepted and the driver arrested just before it exploded - killing and injuring a number of people. The driver is accused of taking part in a previous large-scale attack in Mogadishu and is believed to be a member of al-Shabab.

The vehicles were travelling along different routes but they appeared to be moving towards the airport - the "green zone" of Mogadishu where the UN and many international embassies are based. This may have been the target or maybe the foreign ministry or a new Turkish military base.

A third explosion further out of town has not been widely reported but it happened around the same time as the second blast, so could have been part of a botched plan.

The security forces are expected to release more information about the blast and about the efforts being made to stop al-Shabab from striking again.

Amid the anger and determination among those wearing red bandanas was a man who also gave a realistic picture of the fight against al-Shabab.

"We can't stop these people - they live among us - only God can stop them," he said.

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Africa:Hasta La Visa – When Travelling Takes a Wrong Turn

Photo: Pexels

(file photo).

By Andre van Wyk

Cape Town — We all know traveling is great - learning about new places and cultures while posting selfies to make friends on Facebook jealous is always fun, but what about when it's not? Sometimes things go wrong, and not in the lost luggage or I-forgot-my-charger-at-home-and-now-I-have-to-buy-a-new-one kind of way. Facing crime and bureaucracy at home is bad enough but it's especially impactful when abroad.

Want some examples?

In July 2017, South African artist visual artist Sibahle Steve Nkumbi traveled to Amsterdam where she planned to write about a friend's art exhibition. On the day she and her companions were expected to check out of the AirBnB they were staying, the 47-year-old host of the establishment got into an argument with Nkumbi, who was filmed being pushed down a flight of stairs. The AirBnB host has been charged with the Dutch equivalent of culpable homicide.

That same month, a team of five Gambian teenage pupils who built a robot for a prestigious international competition in the United States were denied refused entry to the U.S. Moktar Darboe, director of The Gambia's ministry of higher education, research, science and technology, said that the visa was denied shortly after their interview at the US embassy in Banjul in April. They were not given any explanation despite having paid U.S.$170 each for the visa application. Their denial came at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the partial enforcement of President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, even though Gambia was not on the list.

A month later, in August 2017, Ugandan pilgrims on their way to Mecca for Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam during which pilgrims are cleansed of sin, were allegedly conned of nearly U.S.$4,000 by travel agents. 65-year-old Hajjat Hanifah Nakalema recalled the shock after her tour guide for the trip Sheikh Swalleh Mubiru returned to her group with only their passports and no visas. "He said the embassy ran short of visas," Nakalema said. Assistant accountant at the Saudi embassy, Abdul Hakim Nsambi, contradicted Mubiru's account, saying the Saudi mission never stopped offering visas to pilgrims.

Of course, tourists traveling to Africa are bound to encounter problems too.

In September 2017, a group of 36 Dutch tourists were robbed shortly after arriving in Cape Town, South Africa. While en route to their accommodation, a man in a police uniform driving a police car stopped their bus. Five additional suspects were dressed in civilian clothing. The incident sparked condemnation from government officials who said the crime was a threat to the growing tourism sector.

In this article from Zimbabwe's The Source, tourist Karel Stander recalled the experience of paying for for various "creative offences" during a pair of trips to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe during 2015 and 2016. These included:

A U.S.$20 fine for slowly crossing a railway line in Victoria Falls without stopping at a broken set of traffic lights A U.S.$10 fine over Stander's 10-year-old daughter's failure to wear a seatbelt A U.S.$20 fine, "mercifully" reduced from U.S.$40, for not having special reflective car stickers

Stander's consclusion is that even if tourists oblige and respect every Zimbabwean road requirement, "the police will (creatively) find an excuse to exact a penalty (or worse)".

Have you had a travel experience as bad as any of the ones mentioned above? Take the allAfrica Twitter poll or share your story on our Facebook page.


Does Africa Really Want a Continental Parliament?

It's just one of the many ironies of the African Union (AU) that two of its most important recent instruments - which… Read more »

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