14 thought leaders Friday, September 29 2017| NEW ERA China’s Belt and Road, and Africa’s industrialized Ke n y a n s c h o l a r claims, the 21st Maritime Silk Road envisioned by Chinese leaders will not only foster Sino-Africa bilateral trade, but also fuel industrialization in the world’s second largest continent of Africa. Peter Kagwanja, the CEO of the Nairobi-based Pan African think-tank Africa Policy Institute, said China’s Silk Road would herald prosperity and renewal in Sub-Saharan Africa and will spur socio-economic Historically the Silk Road is an ancient network of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by merchants from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) breaks down into two parts, one over land and another over sea. The former is known as the Silk Road Economic Belt from China to Rotterdam and Hamburg, which will change global economics. The second section Maritime Silk Road a series of linked shipping lanes from China to Piraeus in Greece to Africa. Belt and Road Initiative involve 65 countries and impact about 60 percent of the world’s population, an unprecedented project of international interactions. For Africa, Belt and Road Initiative isn’t only a better connection to the Chinese market, but also to European and Middle Eastern markets closer by. This, together with the promise of Chinese-funded infrastructure, has made initiative. Along this Silk Road, seven ports are located on Africa’s coastlines. They are in Djibouti, Tanzania, Mozambique, Gabon, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia, circling the whole continent of Africa. The idea is that Professor Yang Ganfu these ports, collectively known as Strategic Maritime Distribution Centers (SMDC) will service the main commercial fleet coming from Asia, and each port will have its own coastal vessels to distribute to secondary ports. The SMDCs are located close to large population centers with reliable road systems for distribution to local and regional markets. For example, the Libreville port in Gabon, Africa’s 4 th most developed country with a per capita GDP of more than 11,000 USD, will serve as a distribution center to neighboring Cameroon, the Congo, and Nigeria to the north. According to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative has two African hubs: Kenya and Egypt. But Chinese-funded rail and communication networks are also linking other East African countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda to the BRI route. While East Africa, where much of China’s direct southernmost corner of Belt and Road Initiative and only represents a small fraction of the whole scheme, the initiative has massive implications for the continent as a whole. This is because Belt and Road Initiative doesn’t only touch Kenya’s eastern seaboard, it links with internal infrastructure China as well. The most significant of these is Kenya’s newly inaugurated Standard Gauge Railway. This network links Mombasa and Nairobi, and future extensions will connect to an existent Chinese-built line between Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, as well as to other countries in the region. Eventually this internal network could link countries as distant as Rwanda, Uganda and Djibouti to Kenya’s harbors, and therefore to both China and Europe, via the Belt and Road Initiative route. The combination of port and antipiracy expansion will surely smooth long-distance trade with China, while facilitating African trade via closer Belt and Road Initiative hubs. China’s inclusion of Africa in the Belt and Road Initiative means the continent is potentially offered with a whole new set of opportunities, which will facilitate Sino-Africa peopleto-people interactions and promote understanding and respect among people from different cultures. Some East African governments investment in infrastructure and manufacturing as a way to bridge infrastructure gaps and to position their countries as new logistics and manufacturing hubs that could serve not only Africa, but also the Middle East and Europe, thus speeding up Africa’s industrialization. Namibian Bahá’ís to Celebrate the Bicentenary birth of Bahá’u’lláh (Glory of God) Millions of Bahá’ís in over 100,000 localities worldwide are preparing to celebrate, on October 22, the bicentennial of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith whose Arabic name means “Glory of God.” The global festivities will involve people of hundreds of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, demonstrating the pivotal message of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings: the time has arrived for the entire human race to establish a world commonwealth based on its spiritual unity. Tributes in honor of the bicentenary from local and national leaders from diverse parts of the world continue to be received by Baha’i communities, most recently from Australasia, Central Asia, and South America. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English has addressed a message to the Baha’i community of his country. “Many in New Zealand and around the world will be celebrating this very special anniversary, and I hope you enjoy the festivities with your family and friends,” he states in his letter. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia wrote an uplifting tribute, acknowledging this special bicentenary year, saying, “Australia’s Baha’is are a community of warmth and welcome; a community of music and charity; a community that rejoices in its identity and yet extends its counsel of respect and equality to all.” He added that, “We are truly citizens of the world and our shared commitment to friendship, inclusion and harmony is what lies at the heart of our success.” In Pakistan, Member of Parliament Asiya Nasir hosted a gathering at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services in honor of the upcoming bicentenary. Over 100 parliamentarians, diplomats, and religious leaders were invited to attend the gathering, the theme of which was based on a well-known passage from Baha’u’llah: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” In Namibia, an event hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly, with over 200 government and ambassadors in attendance, will feature the Speaker of the Parliament of Namibia, His Excellency Prof. P. H. Katjavivi. The Speaker’s message, like those given at celebrations elsewhere in the world, will focus on the oneness of humanity, and of the importance of unity of the world’s peoples. The Bahá’í writings explain this emphasis on unity: “In cycles gone by… the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided... In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one... Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily, this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age...” Bahá’u’lláh’s guidance, contained in letters and books spanning over 100 volumes, will usher in an age of unity, while respecting and cherishing the diversity of mankind’s cultures. The Bahá’í Faith will forge unity because its core principles uphold that all religions are, in essence one, originating from one God, acknowledging humankind as one family. Bahá’u’lláh reconfirmed the moral teachings of the world’s great religions and commanded His followers to be law-abiding citizens, who practice rectitude of conduct in all their private affairs. In addition, Bahá’u’lláh wrote on societal and global issues that are highly relevant today, such as statesmanship, science, collective security, the role of the media, world language, the economy, medicine, the environment, global governance, agriculture, education and many others. The Bahá’í Faith was introduced to Namibia in the early 1950s, at a time of great disunity in the country. While interaction between black and white people was restricted by apartheid, adherents quietly promoted the principle of the unity of circumstances, the first Bahá’í to enter the country, an Englishman named Ted Cardell, was able to share the Faith’s teachings with a few people and enrolled Hilifa Nekundi, the first Namibian Bahá’í, in 1956. Vigilance was necessary when Bahá’ís met in the early days; gatherings of blacks and whites were risky for participants and, if observed, reprisals would have occurred. Following independence, the Bahá’í community continued to grow gradually, p r i m a r i l y e n r o l l i n g Namibians in the area of the capital and the north central region. The Faith does not ordain clergy to organise activities, but relies on assemblies elected from its adult population. The rate of growth has increased as the generation of Namibians who never experienced the restrictions of segregation grows to maturity. In Namibia, there are Bahá’í communities in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Omaruru, Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb, Grootfontein, Oshakati, O n g w e d i v a , R u n d u , Shighuru, and Katima Mulilo, among others. Activities are coordinated by a national governing body, the National Spiritual Assembly, which became a registered body in Namibia in 1981. Well-wishers of the government and the community at large, Bahá’ís promote and organise various activities open to all people of good will. These include devotional gatherings, classes for the moral education of children, groups for the moral and social empowerment of junior youth, and groups that study the Faith’s body of writings. Wherever Bahá’ís and their friends are gathered, the bicentennial celebrations in Namibia, promise to be joyous and spiritually uplifting. In Windhoek, the National Spiritual Assembly will invite all enlightened souls to join in celebrating this important world event with joy and reverence on 22 October 2017, at the Safari Court Hotel.
Friday, September 29 2017 | NEW ERA thought leaders 15 Back to Africa It was apropos – the wheel had come full circle. The great, great, great, grandchildren of Africa had returned to the land of their forebears to give back, in some small way, to the land that had given so much to them. We are referring to the recently concluded trip to Malawi by AFRICA LIFT, a philanthropic group of Antiguans living primarily in the New York Diaspora. This group, comprising Franz de Freitas, Steven James and Melvin Myers, among others, is dedicated to addressing and alleviating the food and water shortages, the grinding poverty, the paucity of proper health care and many of the other chronic problems that plague the Motherland. And largely, they have been successful. We here at OBSERV- ER media applaud the unstinting efforts of AFRICA LIFT and look forward to assisting in whatever way we can in future projects. Yes, we were involved in this project, not in our usual role of reporting the news, but in making a monetary and T- shirt donation to this most worthy effort. Would that more local and New Yorkbased businesses would step up to the plate, identify a need in sub-Saharan Africa, and contribute to meeting that need. Believe us, the needs of Africa are myriad! They run the gamut from AIDS and other diseases, drought, famine, pestilence, ignorance (Thabo Mbeki), tribalism (the dastardly Hutu-Tutsi con- (Robert Mugabe) and exploitation by multinational corporations, and so on and so forth. Sounds Biblical, eh? They are! And they need to be addressed post-haste to prevent cataclysms and other man-made disasters of, well, you guessed it – Biblical proportions! To its credit, AFRICA LIFT has risen to the occasion. Under the inspired leadership of Mr Franz de Freitas, a contingent from that organisation (motivational speaker, Steven James and executive chef, Melvin Myers) recently travelled to remote villages in Malawi to, not only teach impoverished farmers new and improved farming techniques and methods, but crop di- business management. These are all programmes designed to reduce poverty and empower the Malawians. The fascinating aspect of this effort is that practically everything that our forefathers once taught, and practically all the food that they once bequeathed to us here in the Caribbean, we are now journeying back to Africa to teach and give back the same to their descendants. It is sweet irony! And quite to the Motherland. Consider. It was the Executive Chef, Melvin, who showed the Malawians how to make ‘fry dumplin’ and banana, ‘fritters’. Needless to say, the Malawians had their version of these delicacies. Similarly, the Malawians showed us how to roast sweet potatoes, yam, eddoes and other roots in the ground, as did our forefathers. They also showed us their version of ‘fungi’ – a delightful concoction called ‘ensema’. This was served with a moist, green, leafy vegetable puree similar to our pepperpot. The point is that the Malawians were just as comfortable with our gastronomical treats as we were with theirs. The proof of our common ancestry was certainly in the pudding! Here’s hoping that the tremendous effort of AF- RICA LIFT – a journey halfway around the world, and one that retraced the footsteps of our forefathers, will continue to bear much good fruit! And here’s further hoping that others will accept the call to volunteerism and philanthropy. After all, we subscribe to the notion that if we live unto ourselves; if we do nothing to enhance the lives of our fellowmen, what would have been the point of us being here. In that spirit, we are willing to be a part of any effort to help our suffering kin in Africa. Especially country of Sierra Leone. At last count, over 500 bodies have been pulled from the mudslides, and we can only imagine that the scars from that catastrophe will last for a generation. What is particularly painful for us is that Sierra Leone was one of the countries in Africa where freed slaves from America and the Caribbean were repatriated and resettled in towns such as Freetown. It is a tragedy that this country has not done more with the rich tradition of freedom and liberty that those freed slaves brought back to Africa. Again, here’s hoping that the sojourn of AFRICA LIFT, and all those who wouldn’t answer the call back to the Motherland, will yield meaningful results! – This article initially appeared in the Daily Observer A clear-eyed view of Africa African leaders now recognise, if they did not before, the frailty of growth, the necessity to diversify their economies and the need to maximise growth opportunities. The African version of the World Economic Forum opens today in Durban at a sobering time for sub-Saharan Africa. Continental economic growth tumbled in 2016 to the lowest point in more than a decade. Not only that, growth declined from really extraordinary levels in 2007, when it ran at a continental average of 7.4 percent, according to What an extraordinary reversal of fortunes. Gone are the days when African countries constituted the majority of the 10 fastestgrowing economies in the world. For a moment, it seemed as if grand solutions to Africa’s problems were realistically in sight within a generation. Now that ideal seems like a cruel chimera. in response to the underlying pessimism bedevilling African development is that the hope Africa could defy the economic cycle was a delusion in now a slightly more cleareyed view of African economic growth — past, present and future. African leaders knew at the time of the boom years that the strong economic growth was based largely on the commodity sector and, consequently, it lacked a broad-based character. It provided a limited window of opportunity to diversify African economies, and some grasped those opportunities better than others. One of the positive effects of the business cycle is that it exacerbates the process of renewal — sometimes brutally as it happens — by washing the weakest out of the system. In the same way, African leaders now recognise, if they did not before, the frailty of growth, the necessity to diversify their economies and the need to make sure they reap the opportunity of growth when it occurs. Second, the level of economic growth aside, the underlying currents of economic change remain intact. FTI Consulting released a report this week based on about 100 African opinion makers that shows nearly threequarters of respondents indicated they believed overall investment in the continent would increase over the next 12 months. The regional breakdown was interesting, too. In East Africa, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they were “very” or “slightly” positive. The start of a turnaround in views is also visible from the report. Investment optimism remains barely positive overall in North Africa, but is double what it was a year ago. Africa Attractiveness report, based on a much larger sample, also holds out the hope that 2016 could end up being a is declining for most of the subcontinent, allowing the space for central banks to ease interest rates. This in itself will add stimulus to economic growth, and should interest rates at the very least remain stable, consumer disposable income will support even stronger growth throughout 2017. big regional differences, with East Africa emerging as the most positive. All four of the key economies (Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda) are poised for growth of 6 percent and above for the decade. At the same time, some of Africa’s big problems remain stubbornly unchanged. Key among these, according to the EY report, are that rising twin fiscal and risk of currency devaluation. This becomes all the more evident where national debt levels are either rising too rapidly or are already at high levels. Over the past decade, Africa has been let down by its three biggest economies — Nigeria, Egypt and SA — which have all underperformed for different reasons. Smaller countries don’t always move the needle, but it is notable how much better they are performing. That will, with any luck, provide impetus to the slumbering elephants. – This editorial initially appeared in Business Day