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.

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Leaders Commit Billions in Major New Development Initiative for the Horn of Africa

UN Secretary-General, WBG and IsDBG Presidents, and other Agency Heads Visit Region to Link Peace Efforts with Economic Progress

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 27, 2014—Leaders of global and regional institutions today begin an historic trip to the Horn of Africa to pledge political support and major new financial assistance for countries in the region, totaling more than $8 billion over the coming years. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the World Bank Group (WBG) President, Jim Yong Kim, as well as the President of the Islamic Development Bank Group and high level representatives of the African Union Commission, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) are combining forces to promote stability and development in the Horn of Africa.

On the first day of the joint trip, the World Bank Group announced a major new financial pledge of $1.8 billion for cross-border activities in a Horn of Africa Initiative that will boost economic growth and opportunity, reduce poverty, and spur business activity.

The initiative covers the eight countries in the Horn of Africa — Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.

“This new financing represents a major new opportunity for the people of the Horn of Africa to make sure they get access to clean water, nutritious food, health care, education, and jobs,”said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “There is greater opportunity now for the Horn of Africa to break free from its cycles of drought, food insecurity, water insecurity, and conflict by building up regional security, generating a peace dividend, especially among young women and men, and spurring more cross-border cooperation.”

Leading the trip to the Horn of Africa, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said “The countries of the Horn of Africa are making important yet unheralded progress in economic growth and political stability. Now is a crucial moment to support those efforts, end the cycles of conflict and poverty, and move from fragility to sustainability. The United Nations is joining with other global and regional leaders to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach towards peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa.” 

The European Union also announced that it would support the countries in the region with a total of around $3.7 billion until 2020, of which about 10 percent would be for cross-border activities; the African Development Bank announced a pledge of $1.8 billion over the next three years for countries of the Horn of Africa region; while the Islamic Development Bank committed to deploy up to $1 billion in new financing in its four member countries in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda).

The Horn is diverse, with some of the fastest growing economies and huge untapped natural resources. However, it also has many extraordinarily poor people and populations that are now doubling every 23 years. Unemployment is widespread among growing numbers of young people. Women, in particular, face huge obstacles because of their gender, including limited land rights, limited education, and social customs that often thwart their ability to pursue economic opportunity, and improve living conditions for their families and communities.

Countries in the region are also vulnerable to corruption, piracy, arms and drug trafficking. Terrorism, and related money flows are significant and interconnected threats in the Horn of Africa. People-trafficking is also a growing problem in the region. However, there are commendable efforts being made through regional cooperation in parts of the Horn to tackle the root causes of these problems.

The new financing announcement will support those efforts and comes on the first day of the trip led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to discuss peace, security, and resilience. In addition to the UN Secretary-General, other leaders making the trip are World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim; Islamic Development Bank Group President Ahmad Mohamed Ali; African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha; Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim; African Development Bank Group Special Advisor to the President, Youssouf Ouedraogo; DeputyDirector General for Development and Cooperation, European Commission, Marcus Cornaro and European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos.

The World Bank Group said its new $1.8 billion packaging, which is in addition to its existing development programs for the eight countries, would create more economic opportunity throughout the region for some of the most vulnerable peoples, including refugees and internally displaced populations and their host communities. Wars and instability have generated more than 2.7 million refugees along with over 6 million internally displaced people. The Bank Group will also help the region build up its communicable disease surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment capacity.

Many of these diseases are associated with or exacerbated by poverty, displacement, malnutrition, illiteracy, and poor sanitation and housing. Increased cross-border trade and economic activity in the Horn of Africa will necessitate simultaneous investments in strengthening disease control efforts and outbreak preparedness.

The Bank Group will also support greater regional links between countries with regional transport routes, stronger ICT and broadband connectivity, more competitive private sector markets, increased cross-border trade, regional development of oil and gas through pipeline development, and the expansion of university and other tertiary education.

The Bank Group’s pledge includes $600 million from the IFC, its private sector arm, which will support economic development in the countries of the Horn. IFC investments under the new Horn Initiative will include a regional pipeline linking Uganda and Kenya; greater investment in agribusiness expansion in storage, processing, and seeds; possible public-private partnerships in pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and transport; and financial advice and support to government and companies to improve business confidence and investment, access to markets, and access to private finance. Another $200 million is for guarantees against political risks from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

A new World Bank Group paper forecasts that the Horn will undergo dramatic and lasting change when oil production starts in Kenya, Uganda, and possibly Somalia and Ethiopia.

For its part, the European Union’s Horn of Africa approach is based on a strategic framework adopted in 2011. Support programs for 2014-2020 will be guided by the same analysis that underpins the World Bank’s Horn of Africa Initiative and will focus on the development challenges that must be tackled to unlock the region’s considerable potential. EU support will mostly target the three pillars of the Horn of Africa Initiative: boosting growth, reducing poverty by promoting resilience, and creating economic opportunities.

“The EU stands ready to further deepen its long-standing partnership with the Horn of Africa – helping to build robust and accountable political structures, enhancing trade and economic cooperation, financing peace keeping activities and providing humanitarian assistance and development cooperation,” said European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgsprior to the trip.

Other leaders on the trip said that the Horn of Africa region needs new development assistance in order to secure peace and opportunity to thrive and prevent future conflicts.

The Islamic Development Bank Group said its new financing for Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda over 2015-2017 would focus on critical infrastructure development, food security, human development, and trade. A further $2 billion could be provided by the Arab Coordination Group over the same period.

Commenting on this announcement, Islamic Development Bank Group President Ahmad Mohamed Ali said “The Horn of Africa is an important gateway to Africa and a bridge to Western Asia. Bringing stability and sustainable development to the Horn of Africa will undoubtedly significantly contribute to stability across the entire African continent. The Islamic Development Bank Group salutes this renewed focus on the Horn of Africa and stands ready to work with all partners, including the Arab Coordination Group, to support regional cooperation and the economic revival of the Horn of Africa, especially in its four member countries.”

Given the complexity of the environment prevailing in the region, we must convince ourselves that it is not the financial means that will win in the Horn of Africa region, but our commitment and determination to act under the leadership of the countries in a united and coordinated manner, said African Development Bank Group Representative, Youssouf Ouedraogo, Special Advisor to the President.

African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha, added, “Our efforts to create peace and stability must be reinforced by investments in the peoples and countries of the Horn.”

A new WBG regional study on the Horn of Africa released today at the start of the trip found reasons for hope for the region: “Despite the challenges the Horn of Africa faces, there are encouraging signs of political momentum for enhanced regional economic interdependence. Increasingly, Horn of Africa countries are members of the East African Community, IGAD in Eastern Africa, and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa. Some countries are showing strong political will to solve both security and development issues through increased cooperation—for example, many have sent troops to participate in peace-keeping efforts and have participated in diplomatic initiatives.”

“This mission is the apex of an ambitious partnership approach that will provide the necessary instruments to strengthen the resilience agenda in the IGAD region,” said IGADExecutive Secretary, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim.

For the UN’s Ban and World Bank’s Kim, this is their third trip in 18 months together to Africa. In 2013, the two travelled to the Great Lakes and Sahel regions, drawing attention to the need to promote both peace and development. During the two previous trips, Kim pledged $2.7 billion for regional projects for programs to improve health, education, nutrition, access to energy, and job training. To see the results of these previous peace and development regional initiatives, visit: http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/brief/world-bank-group-sahel-and-great-lakes-initiatives

To see the new WBG regional paper on the Horn of Africa, please visit: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/10/20316926/

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East African Community Appeals International Community To Help Drought-hit Somalia

NAIROBI, Sept 12 (BERNAMA-NNN-Xinhua) — East Africa’s bloc has appealed to the international community to help Somalia where more than one million people face food shortages.

The regional bloc, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), also hailed the measures the Somali government has undertaken to mitigate the devastating effects of the current drought in the country.

“IGAD hereby places an appeal to the international community to promptly assist the Somali government in its effort to overcome the challenges of drought before it becomes famine,” said the statement received in Nairobi.

The appeal comes after the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of worsening food security situation in Somalia in the next several months as drought looms in the Horn of Africa nation.

Latest assessment findings by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network reflect a significant decline of food providing, owing to a lethal mix of drought, surging food prices and conflict.

Over one million people in Somalia face food insecurity today, up by 20 percent from 857,000 six months ago, bringing the total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance or livelihood support to over 3 million.

According to the UN, after gradual rebuilding of livelihoods since the 2011 famine that cost over 250,000 lives in excess mortality, fragile gains are now being eroded and malnutrition rates are again on the rise.

The regional bloc said the Somali government has not only established a Special Committee to tackle the drought and its effects, but also follows and addresses the needs of those who are affected as much as its capacity allows.

The Somalia government has declared the urgency of making food, water, medication and shelter available to the victims of the current drought, which has occurred within a very short span of time since the last devastating drought of 2011.

It has also allocated 500,000 U.S. dollars to the victims to reach intended recipients as soon as possible in the form of the items mentioned above.

“IGAD would like to add its voice to that of the government of Somalia in stressing the need for international assistance in the form not only of food, water and medication, but also vehicles and other technical support that would assist in moving the supplies to where they are most needed,” the statement said.