Africa in Social Media Age: Looking in to the Prospect and Challenges

This post would like to forward in recognizing the power of social Medias compared with the conventional Medias for public participations in good governance and democratic systems as well as bring ti the light on possible threats on the platform including ever grown provoking and ethnic engagement of users. And to bring attentions to all stakeholders on how virtual community at grass root level work at the community to fully exploit the potential of social media as well as collaborate with users towards making social media more Abuse Free, People Centered and Constructive.

The applications and effects of social media have grown with the expansion of communication infrastructure and youth preference. Recently social Medias are widely used by public officials, political parties and activist to interact with the community. Before the coming of social media, space in newspaper and airtime on radio and television were limited and expensive; thus youth, specifically cannot express their opinion nor participate in political affairs.  Online social networking sites such as Facebook have brought new hopes and opportunities by connecting youth with politicians and common interest groups to share information and opinions.

Studies have suggested that youth are now using social media to seek for political information, mobilize common interest groups, create user-generated content and share political views. The new platforms provides a great opportunity to politicians to reach out to their citizens and voters. The technology also link and facilitates interaction between community and elected parliamentarian representatives by providing a public online ‘Wall’, a space where community members can easily write comments in favor or against their political leaders’ decisions. More youth are showcasing stronger reliance on it as their online platform for securing political information they need to make an informed political decision. Hence, targeting and tailoring political messages online to the youth through social media and what motivate youth to develop an interest in politics became an important factor in future campaign strategies for Political parties in their day to day activities as well as during election seasons.

Researchers also argue that social media has a great potential to increase government outreach, enhance problem solving capacities and improve decision-making processes. Citizens´ demand for a transparent government is fermenting a new age of opportunities through social media, web-enabled technologies, mobile technologies and e-government. With the emergence of social media, citizens became able to be journalists themselves avoiding unnecessary mediation of traditional media. As scholars put it: ‘The powerful have been spying on their subjects since the beginning of history, but the subjects can now watch the powerful, at least to a greater extent than in the past’. Any one could become potential citizen journalists, if equipped with a mobile phone that can record and instantly upload to the global networks regarding any wrongdoing by anyone and anywhere. Social media is seen as technologically and financially accessible to youths. Citizens no longer have to be passive consumers of political party propaganda, government spin or mass media news, but are instead actually enabled to challenge discourses, share alternative perspectives and publish their own opinions.

In this age of widespread communication and political consciousness, social media allows citizens not only to influence public debate, public opinion and public policy, but, on a more direct level, also to get the chance to tackle matters of consequences, for example to address deficiencies in infrastructure projects, improve project planning and uncover cases of corruption.

The rapidly advancing world of information technology affects all spheres of life but none more so than politics and the replacement of authoritarian governance with democratic governance. Easy access to information from around the world promotes liberty, competition and choice.  It can also be used to advance respect for the rule of law and human rights and other indices of good governance such as equality and free and credible elections.  Use of the new social media enables group thinking to promote concepts such as the independence of the judiciary, the development of civil society, multiparty systems and democratic institutions which are participatory, transparent and accountable.

Political leaders can rise social and political issues and outline public opinion, and the media can give a voice to those who previously did not have one. It will also provide members of parliaments with the information they need to hold their representatives accountable in a more transparent system of governance. While the public can use the social media to influence political debate, can also be used by political parties to mobilize voters.

Challenges of social Media and way forward

But the ever growing threat that hinders for harvesting the advantage of social media in different parts of the region needs great attentions and further research and strategies shall be raised from the virtual communities for avoiding polarized and extremist generated contents perpetuated among us. If anyone done research, Content generated by polarized that are highly incite usually done with posts came from fake profile including with names of celebrities and public officials. And Fake profiles lack regular posts in the timeline and with limited number of friends in their own circle while they are actively comments on posts came from anyone in the virtual space.

Whatever the importance of the post; the comments from these intruders (the one with the fake ID) came up with provocative and insane comments based on once ethnic and religion lines. While this remarks at the comments of public posts usually controlling enough to hijacked/diverted the main discussion of the group and leads most of the users’ time with making angry response.

If it is not systematically approaches, came with awareness campaign and useful strategy,  Social Medias will have its own threats in fuelling the virtual problem towards the real on the ground conflicts. In response to this calamities social media companies and regional organization have to initiate to work with social media users to come up with user friendly reporting systems for inappropriate content as well as filtering server for provocative contents in local language in an effort of making the platforms remain benefiting its users at large for social interaction and common cause.

China-Africa friendship enhanced by diverse, growing cooperation

 

 

by Wang Chenxi, Wei Jianhua

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) — The friendship between the world’s largest developing country and the continent home to mostly developing countries has lasted for over 60 years and touched the lives of over 2.3 billion people.

As a new monument of the long-standing friendship between China and Africa, the 20-story African Union (AU) Conference Center and Office Complex constructed with the aid of the Chinese government, was just inaugurated in Addis Ababa before the 18th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly Saturday.

At the inauguration ceremony, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said the new AU headquarters is a gift from the Chinese government and people and also a symbol of the growing China-Africa relationship.

“The Chinese government has attached great importance to economic and trade cooperation with Africa, and promoted all-round cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture, human resources, clean energy and environmental protection,” Jia said.

ECONOMIC, TRADE COOPERATION ON FAST TRACK

The booming China-Africa economic and trade cooperation serves as a major driving force for overall cooperation between the two countries and is becoming increasingly important to both, especially when the developed countries, the main export destinations for both China and Africa, are suffering from global economic woes and the eurozone debt crisis.

The establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000 put their economic and trade ties on the fast track. Bilateral trade grew from 10.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 160 billion dollars in 2011, and Chinese investment in Africa rose from tens of millions of dollars to over 10 billion dollars.

China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

At the same time, Africa has become one of China’s top investment destinations. More than 2,000 Chinese enterprises are investing in the continent. Accumulated investment from China has surpassed 40 billion dollars.

In addition, China has further facilitated the entry of African commodities into its market. During the G20 summit held in Cannes in November 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that China will give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariffed exports from the least developed countries (LDCs) with diplomatic ties to China.

The LDCs — 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti — are defined by the United Nations as those with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars a year.

China has imported African products worth 1.32 billion dollars under the zero-tariff terms from 2005 to June 2010, according to a government white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation released in 2010.

Moreover, China is building economic and trade cooperation zones in Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, involving 250 million dollars in infrastructure construction.

Once completed, the cooperation zones will work as business incubators that help host countries attract foreign investment, create jobs, and improve local infrastructure and investment environment.

EDUCATIONAL, AGRICULTURAL, ENVIRONMENTAL EXCHANGES PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY

China is not only Africa’s trade partner, but also a dedicated participant in strengthening Africa’s development sustainability by helping countries on the continent improve their education, agriculture and environment sectors.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, during the academic years of 2010 and 2011, China has provided 5,710 government scholarships to African countries, fulfilling the pledge of 5,500 scholarships announced by China at the 2009 FOCAC ministerial conference two years ahead of schedule.

To speed up science and technology cooperation between China and Africa, and facilitate technology capacity-building in African countries, China also launched the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Program (CASTEP) in November 2009.

Under the Program, 100 joint projects on scientific and technological research will be carried out in the forms of equipment donation, technique training courses and workshops, popularization of technology, and joint research. Besides that, 100 African postdoctoral fellows will conduct scientific research in China with financial assistance.

Agriculture is one of the main fields that have witnessed growing China-Africa cooperation. From 2007 to 2009, China has dispatched 104 senior agricultural experts to 33 African countries, established agricultural technology centers in 14 African countries and has decided to build 10 more, said Lu Shaye, director-general of the Department of African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

Since 2009, China has sent 16 groups of agricultural experts to Africa and trained 874 Africans as agricultural experts, Lu said.

In the multilateral field, China actively participated in the Special Program for Food Security of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It has sent more than 700 agronomists to eight African nations. Besides sending professors to do research in African universities and institutions, China has also built demonstration centers and dispatched field experts to the countryside.

In Zimbabwe, construction of such a center began in October 2009 at Gwebi Agricultural College outside Harare. The center is expected to become a hub of high-tech agricultural experimental study and demonstration, technical training and sustainable development in the country.

In Malawi, Chinese companies and the China-Africa Development Fund jointly invested in a cotton cultivation program. Once completed, the program will help more than 50,000 local farmers increase their cotton production and processing capacity.

In Nigeria, much progress has been achieved by Chinese experts working with local farmers in the country’s 36 states. The cooperation involves fisheries, animal husbandry, crop production and processing.

Alhaji Gidado Bello, coordinator of the China-Nigeria South-South Cooperation Program, said the Chinese experts and their agricultural service stations across Nigeria have boosted technological advancement and led to improved production and income generation.

Environmental protection is another sector that shows strong ties between China and African countries, which all face the challenge of environmental degradation.

In a village in Nigeria’s Kano state, Chinese scientists have joined their Nigerian counterparts in setting up a research base for desertification control.

They will carry out forestation experiments and desertification control cooperation, hoping to nurture shelter-belts and foster sand-related industries to restore local ecology and boost economic growth.

The same project is also being conducted in several other desert countries including Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Niger.

Meanwhile, in order to improve African countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change, China has been launching 100 clean energy projects including solar power, biogas and small hydropower projects in Africa, Lu said at the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum (CATTF) in October 2011.

Lu said China has worked out country-specific plans and signed an exchange of notes on setting up projects with 11 countries, including Ethiopia and Mozambique. Relevant projects will start in the near future.

TIMELY AID

The all-round cooperation and friendship between China and African countries proved to be solid when the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions were hit by severe drought and famine in 2011. Millions of lives were threatened.

By the end of October 2011, China delivered food donations worth 443.2 million yuan (69.58 million dollars) to the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

In late July 2011, China had already announced plans to provide 90 million yuan (14 million dollars) worth of emergency food aid to the drought-hit African countries.

On Aug. 15, 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China will provide an additional 353.2 million yuan (55.28 million dollars) in food aid to Ethiopia and other drought-hit African countries.

This is the single largest grain donation to foreign countries ever delivered by the Chinese government since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Also, this tremendous donation is just the latest evidence of China’s continuous aid to Africa. Since 1956, China began to help African countries in various forms ranging from infrastructure construction to medical support.

During the past few years, China has not only helped African nations to build schools, hospitals, bridges and other important projects, but has sent many agricultural experts, medical professionals and volunteers to train nearly 30,000 personnel.

According to the white paper on China’s foreign aid activities issued by the Chinese government, China provided 256.29 billion yuan (38.54 billion dollars) in aid to foreign countries, including 106.2 billion yuan in grants, 76.54 billion yuan in interest-free loans and 73.55 billion yuan in concessional loans, with Asia and Africa accounting for 80 percent of the total amount.

“In order to help African countries achieve independence and development, the Chinese government has unswervingly supported Africa with all it can provide, which has promoted the socio-economic development of Africa and benefited African people,” Jia said.

With the good will and joint efforts of both China and Africa, the unique relationship between the two sides has an even brighter future ahead.

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Agricultural development in Africa / The African Union and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation Sign Memorandum of Understanding

The African Union (AU) Commission and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see them work together to raise agricultural productivity in Africa through technology access, development, delivery and uptake. The collaboration will facilitate the deployment of proven technologies to help address the constraints faced by smallholder African farmers.

‘We recognise and appreciate the contribution that AATF is making towards Africa’s agricultural development. The signing of the MoU today is a testimony to a mutual aspiration to work together to sustain the economic backbone of the continent and its peoples especially those who depend on agriculture and associated appropriate technologies for their livelihoods,’ said Mrs Rhoda Tumusiime Peace, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the AU Commission during the signing of the agreement at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Commissioner underscored the importance of partnerships saying progress gained to date requires stronger commitment and support on the part of the Commission, the Regional Economic Commissions and other Pan African institutions involved in agricultural development.

While welcoming AATF to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development (CAADP) programme of NEPAD, the Commissioner said that the platform has made great progress towards realising Africa’s goal of a food-secure and poverty-free Africa with 30 member states being aligned to the programme. ‘We will therefore require the technological leverage that the AATF has to offer the continent,’ she said.

‘AATF’s mission to access and deliver agricultural technologies for use by smallholder farmers is in full accord with the African Union Sirte Declaration on the challenges of implementing integrated and sustainable development on agriculture and water in Africa,’ said Dr Kyetere, the AAT Executive Director.

Africa has one of the lowest levels of farm productivity in the world as a result of the absence of appropriate agricultural technologies to deal with the stresses, pests and diseases that face the region’s smallholder farmers. Agricultural science and technology is recognised as offering potential to improve food security and reduce poverty in Africa.

“Since agricultural stresses and diseases are not contained by national boundaries, cooperation between nations will build critical mass and accelerate the production of science-based controls and remedies,’ said Dr Kyetere. ‘Success depends on all relevant organisations like the AU and AATF working together through partnerships,’ he added.

Saying that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa offer great potential towards enhancing food security and improved livelihoods, Dr Kyetere said there was need for radical interventions to stem the tide of these effects on food security and income and support the growth and meaningful participation of small farmers in the economic development agenda of the continent.

Currently working in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, AATF facilitates access and delivery of affordable agricultural technologies for use by smallholder farmers in Africa. Priority areas for the Foundation include addressing targeted agricultural constraints facing these farmers which include the impact of climate change in agriculture; pest management; soil management, nutrient enhancement in foods; improved breeding methods; and mechanisation. These are addressed through the access, development and deployment of accessible, transferable, adaptable and proven technologies.

Current projects being coordinated by AATF include: Striga control in maize; development of insect-resistant cowpea; Improvement of banana for resistance to banana bacterial wilt; biological control of aflatoxin; development of drought tolerance in maize; and development of nitrogen-use efficient, water-use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties for use by smallholder farmers in SSA.

Dr Kyetere renewed AATF’s commitment to honour the provisions of the MoU for the benefit of the continent saying that ‘with this MoU we can work together with the Commission on various initiatives to eradicate poverty and assure food security, health and nutrition for majority of people in Africa’.

Reaffirming the commitment of the AU, Mrs Tumusiime expressed the need for the two organisations to explore options of mutual benefits and make them work for the good of Africa.

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Africa Union raises US$ 50 million to tackle famine in Horn of Africa region

Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) – Nearly US$ 50 million was raised by the African Union (AU) to assist the countries in the Horn of Africa, threatened by famine, the AU Commissioner for the rural economy and agriculture, Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, announced Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“This is from voluntary contributions by member countries. This should be added to the financial aids granted by several countries and which have already been disbursed to needy populations,” she declared at a news conference ahead of the AU summit, scheduled for the Ethiopian capital this weekend.

The AU Commissioner pleaded for the search for a definitive solution to food problems through the establishment of policies which would guarantee further financial resources to the agricultural sector.

“Nearly 30 countries have already put in place agriculture development programmes decided by the African Union in Maputo. This effort must be kept up as there are no other means of attaining food security goals on the continent,” Mrs. Tumusiime said.

Several million people are threatened by famine in the Horn of Africa, mainly in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya where huge refugee camps have been opened

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New Food and Agriculture Organisation chief pledges to prioritise Africa

The new director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world’s flagship agency for food policy, has indicated thatAfrica will be his priority at a time of limited resources.

In his first press conference, held on Tuesday, José Graziano da Silva said he wanted to see “one FAO” acting at country level.

“Many of these poor [African] countries have no facility of going to donors,” he said. “The FAO will be there to support those countries to achieve the desired results.”

Graziano da Silva, who played an important role in Brazil’s successful “zero hunger” initiative, argued the key to improving food security in Africa was the political will to eradicate hunger, which could in turn be translated into action through financial resources, research and good practice.

“This mix of political will and finance and technical research are the most important combination to defeat hunger,” he said.

Graziano da Silva said he would attend an African Union summit later this month and visit the Horn of Africa, which – plagued for decades by conflict – has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years in some parts,particularly Somalia.

The FAO was criticised for inefficiency and bureaucracy under Jacques Diouf, its leader for 18 years, but Graziano da Silva said he was commited to reforming the $1bn organisation.

“The reform process is advancing, but there is still a lot to do,” he said. “Decentralisation is essential. I attach great importance to regional FAOs and a bottom-up approach … I will also look for improving technical work and reducing administrative costs.

“You solve food security problems at your village, at your town, at your neighborhood – not at the global level. Nobody eats at the global level. You eat in the restaurant, in the cantina, at your house. That’s where you need to provide those answers.”

Graziano da Silva said he would cut excessive bureaucracy, travel and perks for top management, including himself. The FAO has faced long-standing calls from top donors, particularly the US and the UK, to get its house in order. Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, has urged the FAO’s new team to drive through “ambitious and comprehensive changes needed to make it the high-performing organisation the world so urgently needs”.

Britain last year threatened to pull out of the FAO unless the organisation improved its “patchy” performance, and some donors, such as the US, have started agricultural development projects of their own. The UK will review the FAO’s progress on reform in two years.

“We need to rebuild trust between the secretariat and member states to move forward, and I plan to do so by promoting a transparent and constructive relationship with member states and FAO governing bodies,” Graziano da Silva said.

As Brazil’s minister of food security and fight against hunger, Graziano da Silva was in charge of the country’s “zero hunger” programme, which helped lift 24 million people out of extreme poverty and reduced undernourishment by 25%.

“Ending hunger requires the commitment of everyone: neither the FAO nor any other agency or government will win this war alone”, he said, adding that he wanted to work “in the most transparent and democratic way” with member countries, small-scale farmers, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society.

Asked about “land grabs” – the purchase or leasing of land by foreign companies – Graziano da Silva said the FAO was working on voluntary guidelines on land tenure that will give countries in Africa, where there is a lack of legislation on land rights, access to a set of rules that would provide a “point of reference for countries that feel threatened”.

In June, Graziano da Silva narrowly won a contest to take over the FAO, which has a mandate to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. He won 92 votes out of 180, beating Spain’s former foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, who received 88 votes. The election showed a split between donor countries and developing countries, a divide that Graziano da Silva has pledged to bridge.

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