African Countries move ahead with New Currencies: The Case of Gold as Currency in Zimbabwe

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

It is no secret that prices are high everywhere: at the gas pump, at the food store, rent, prices are going up and up, affecting everyone and making those who are poor even poorer. Many African countries are trying to find ways to alleviate inflation. Zimbabwe is one such country.

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe

It is no secret that Zimbabwe has been going through an economic embargo for many years. Many thought, the traitors who toppled Robert Mugabe, that by getting rid of him, the economy would be better and all the embargo restrictions placed by the UK, US, and EU would be lifted… Lesson to traitors: it never works as planned! Five years on, and Zimbabwe is no better, even though Mnangagwa has signed all sorts of deals with the westerners [Is Zimbabwe the New Haiti?]and returned land [Zimbabwe to Return Seized Land to Foreigners]. Well, as I was saying, it is no secret that inflation is particularly high in Zimbabwe and has been for many years. This week, the government of Zimbabwe has announced that it will issue gold coins as legal tenders, thus trying to alleviate inflation. Not sure that I trust Mnangagwa’s government to do anything right… particularly given that the price of gold is particularly high and exacerbated by the problems in Mali [France had become 4th world producer of gold from Mali’s gold mines; Mali Rescinds France Defense AgreementsFrance confirms it will withdraw from Mali … moving to neighboring countries and beyondTensions Escalating in Mali].  Excerpts below are from the AfricaNews; for more, read also this Guardian article.

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Zimbabwe’s central bank says it will start issuing gold coins as legal tender in late July, as the country battles to control soaring inflation that has considerably weakened the local currency.

The gold coin is named ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya‘, after Victoria Falls, and can be converted into cash according to the apex bank.

The latest measure comes as the country’s inflation rate more than doubled last month to 191%, bringing back memories of the hyperinflation of the 2000s that saw the Zimbabwean dollar redenominated three times. The local currency would later be abandoned in 2009.

Governor of the central bank, John Mangudya in a statement released Monday, said that the gold coins will be available for sale to the public in both local currency and US dollars and other foreign currencies at a price based on the prevailing international price of gold and the cost production”.

The coins are expected to act as a ‘store of value and to reduce the demand for US dollars’ – something that has been blamed for the weakening value of the local currency.

There have been mixed feelings over the news as Zimbabweans experience with the central bank’s policies is often of concern and uncertainty. Many Zimbabweans are known to have lost their savings including pensions when the Zimbabwean dollar crashed in 2009.

African Countries move ahead with New Currencies: The Case of the Sango Coin of CAR

Central African Republic (CAR) flag

As the economy everywhere appears to be in free-fall, with high inflation all over the world, many African countries are taking measures that will help their citizens deal with and hopefully solve some of their internal issues.

President Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic (CAR) (Source: ConnecterLeMonde.com)

One such example is that of the Central African Republic (CAR) which adopted Bitcoin as a National Currency last April. This past Sunday, CAR President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, announced in an online event the creation of the Sango Coin and a zero-taxation “crypto-hub“, the first in Africa. The currency is named Sango after the main African language spoken in the country. This currency will, via the a platform called Crypto Island, allow the country to trade in its vast natural resources (diamonds, uranium, gold, and other minerals). Until now, CAR has been, like 14 other African countries, enslaved by the French colonial tax that is the FCFA which served at one point to ‘siphon’ up to 75% of the countries’ resources directly back to France [Africa is funding Europe!]. It is clear that those African nations need new currencies, and we salute CAR for having the courage to start, even though crypto seems to be unsteady at the moment (like everything else at the moment); it is always scary to be a pioneer, but it is rewarding as well! As a side note, the west tends to overlook, or vilify some of our leaders who try to stand up or do things right for their people. President Touadéra is one of those African leaders who has been demonized for his want to free his country from the French chains, turning to Russia for help in stopping a war in his country which benefited France and its croonies. Rarely do the Western media highlight the fact that President Touadera is also a trained mathematician, and in his free time still teaches students at the University of Bangui in his country.

Excerpts below are from Barron’s. For more, check out articles on Bloomberg, and AfricaNews.

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Map of Central African Republic

Undeterred by the turmoil hitting crypto, the Central African Republic (CAR) — one of the poorest and most troubled countries in the world — has unveiled plans to launch its own digital currency.

President Faustin Archange Touadera, in an “online event” on Sunday, announced CAR would create the Sango Coin and a zero-taxation “crypto-hub“, the first in Africa.

The currency is named after Sango, which with French is one of the two official languages in the landlocked country, rated the world’s second poorest nation under the UN’s Human Development Index.

Through a platform called Crypto Island, the Sango will become “the catalyst for tokenising (CAR’s) vast natural resources,” Touadera declared, providing no timeline or other details.

He hailed Sango and Crypto Island as “a new digital system fed by blockchain,” the internet-based ledger that underpins crypto currencies.

Sango Coin will give the whole world direct access to our resources,” attracting investors and “getting the engines of the economy going,” he enthused.

On April 27, Touadera’s office abruptly announced that the CAR had adopted Bitcoin as legal tender alongside the CFA franc, a currency the country shares with five other central African economies.

It became the first country in Africa to embrace Bitcoin as a national currency, and the second in the world after El Salvador last September.

Touadera on Sunday said 57 percent of Africa’s population does not have access to a bank.

The solution,” he said, was “the smartphone, the alternative to the traditional bank, cash and financial red tape“.

On Twitter, he said, “gold served as the engine of our civilisation for ages! In this new age, digital gold will serve the same for the future.”

Central African Republic (CAR) adopts Bitcoin as a National Currency

Central African Republic (CAR) flag

An African country, the Central African Republic (CAR), becomes the second country in the world, after El Salvador, to adopt Bitcoin as a national currency. As its name says it, CAR is a country in Central Africa. The country of the late Jean-Bedel Bokassa is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium, and other precious minerals; yet it is one of the poorest countries in the world (when you have the FCFA as a currency, can it be any different?).

On Wednesday, a bill to adopt Bitcoin as the country’s legal tender was passed unanimously by the parliament. The office of CAR president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, claimed the move would “improve the conditions of Central African citizens” and distinguish CAR as “of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries.” I couldn’t have said it any better… it is about time to get rid of the FCFA [The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa] anyways, why not do it in style? Excerpts below are from the BBC.

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Bitcoin (Source: IBTimes)

The Central African Republic (CAR) has approved Bitcoin as legal tender – just the second country to do so.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, but is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium. It has been wracked by conflict for decades and is a close Russian ally, with mercenaries from the Wagner Group helping fight rebel forces. Lawmakers voted unanimously to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, said a statement from the CAR presidency. The move puts CAR “on the map of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries“, it said.

Others have raised fears that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin could make it easier for criminals to launder money, and that they are environmentally damaging because they use so much electricity to generate [as if exploiting uranium was eco-friendly! could they possibly be happy when the golden hen is going away?]. The internet is needed to use any cryptocurrency but in 2019, just 4% of people in CAR had access to the web, according to the WorldData website.

Map of Central African Republic

The country currently uses the French-backed CFA franc as its currency, along with most other former French colonies in Africa. Some see the adoption of Bitcoin as an attempt to undermine the CFA, amid a contest for influence over the resource-rich country between Russia and France. The context, given the systemic corruption and a Russian partner facing international sanctions, does encourage suspicion,” French analyst Thierry Vircoulon told the AFP news agency [of course, France will be suspicious of former slave colonies finding friendship elsewhere].

In the capital, Bangui, the response was mixed. Economist Yann Daworo told BBC Afrique it would make life easier, as transactions can be made with smartphones and it was easy to convert Bitcoin to any other currency. Businessmen will no longer have to walk around with suitcases of CFA francs that will have to be converted into dollars or any other currency to make purchases abroad,” he said.

Diamonds

He also argued that the CFA was not being used “to benefit Africa” [preach cousin]. There are growing calls in several countries for the currency to be dropped by those who see it as a relic of the colonial era, enabling France to continue to exercise economic control.

However, computer scientist Sydney Tickaya said he thought the adoption of the cryptocurrency was “premature” and “irresponsible“. Internet access is still underdeveloped in the country while Bitcoin depends entirely on the internet,” he said, adding that the CAR had more pressing issues such as security, education and access to drinking water [sure… but after over 100 years of dealing with France and the FCFA, and not even getting simple roads or education or water, while your diamonds are exploited without you getting a dime, isn’t it time to try something different? when will it be mature enough, or responsible enough to take a leap?] .

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How Africa Copes with The War in Ukraine: Alternatives to Wheat – Ancient Grains?

Sanoussi Diakite demonstrating the capabilities of the Fonio husker to women (Source: RolexAwards.com)

Today, I would like to highlight the work of yet another African who has been working on alternatives, this time bringing back ancient grains to the forefront. Meet Senegalese Sanoussi Diakite, professor of mechanical engineering, who has invented a fonio husker machine. Diakite has been working tirelessly for several years to find ways to husk fonio. For those who know it, fonio is a cereal that has been cultivated for centuries if not millennia in at least 16 African countries from Cape Verde to Chad. Fonio is nutritious, gluten-free, high in dietary fiber, and drought resistant. It grows anywhere and does not need fertilizers. It is one of the fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, it is very labor intensive to husk. It takes about 2 hours to pound (yes you heard it right, women pound the fonio) to get 2 kg of fonio. It could easily take a woman the whole day to pound the fonio if she has a large family (not including the preparation of the meal afterwards), and this is one of the reasons many have shied away from the ancient grain in their nutrition. Diakite’s husking machine produces 5 kg of fonio in 8 minutes. Talk of a revolution! 

The Fonio Husker Machine has been patented, and effectively husks and cleans the fonio grains as they pass through the shifting and flexible paddle which is set on a vertical axis and on top of a fixed plate. The separation of grain and husk is done simultaneously. To learn more, take a look at the article on MyHero, Kumatoo, and and his bio as he was awarded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. It might have taken time, but like he says himself to BBC, everything is endurance and perseverance; at the core, he wanted to help women and reinstate the millennial grain.

How Africa Copes with the War in Ukraine: Clean Energy Alternatives

oil3In recent weeks, we have all felt the effects of the war in Ukraine, particularly at the gas pump. Prices keep going up everyday, forcing many to either stop driving, start biking, use public transportation, or switch to electric or hybrid vehicles when possible. The gas prices unfortunately affect almost everything else, such as the cost of food, given that it costs more to transport from the place of production to the stores. Today, we will highlight two African inventors who have been working on energy alternatives for quite a while now, but have now come to the forefront thanks to the crisis in Ukraine.

RDC_Elie Tubani
Elie Tubani (Source: Le Journal TV5 Monde)

Meet Elie Tubani, a Congolese University student in Goma, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, who has successfully powered cars with butane gas used for cooking. The city of Goma is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, which is known to be rich in methane; it is one of 3 lakes in the world, all in Africa, that undergo limnic eruptions, the African Lake with Explosive Power. Thus, Tubani’s invention is very important for Goma, the entire region, and using what the country has (natural gas) for energy production. As a side note, neighboring Rwanda has been using methane from Lake Kivu for electricity.

Zimbabwe_Maxwell Chikumbutso_1
Maxwell Chikumbutso presenting his hybrid helicopter (Source: GlobalBlackHistory.com)

Now comes Maxwell Chikumbutso, an inventor from Zimbabwe. Chikumbutso has created a Radio-frequency powered television: no power cable needed, and the TV is powered purely by radio waves similar to WiFi and Bluetooth. He said to The Herald, “With an RF-powered generator embedded on a TV set, it is now possible for many people to enjoy watching TV whilst they are off-grid. For me, this started off as a dream in 2003, but today it’s now a reality. We have successfully developed a solution that powers televisions, smartphones, laptop computers, fridges just to name a few.” His invention is a green energy solution, as it converts radio frequencies into clean renewable energy. Lately, he has manufactured a hybrid helicopter which runs on 6 different types of fuel, a green power generator which produces electricity with radio frequencies, cordless televisions, an electric car which does not need to be charged (watch out Elon Musk, there might be some competition in the future), and much more. Chikumbutso is the founder of Saith Holdings Inc.. Unfortunately, he has not had much support from the government; he was not able to patent his work because the authorities said that his inventions violated the laws of physics. To learn more about him and his inventions, please check out this article at the Perimeter and The Hub.News.

Now, these inventors remain underrated as our African governments still seem to think that great inventions will come from the West, or given that their agenda and development are run by foreign entities, their hands are tied. It is high time that Africans understand that in order to be competitive in the future, we need to be industrialized, and we have the manpower for it, as well as great minds that will propel us forward. Our deliverance will not come from the west or the east, as they after all look for their own interests not ours, but we have the potential to address our own problems directly with solutions that work for us. Is it not about time Africa believed in herself?

How Africa Copes with the War in Ukraine : Alternatives to Wheat

Who buys Russian and Ukrainian Wheat? (Source: Al Jazeera / Observatory for economic complexity 2019)

Last week, we saw several European countries turn to Africa for their energetic needs. Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, many places in the world have seen high prices of products such as wheat, gas, and oil. Wheat because Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest producers of wheat (who would have thought? from my little eyes, I thought it was too cold to grow anything). Oil and gas because Russia is the largest producer and provider of gas to the rest of Europe, and of oil as well… and the shortsighted decisions of European governments to dump all sorts of embargo and restrictions on Russia has exacerbated the effects felt from the lack of those elements. Al-Jazeera has a very good article on the effect of the sanctions on wheat, and the high prices.

Baker Guy Marcel Nganta (source: top-channel.tv)

Countries around the world, and on the African continent who depend on wheat as a source of food, particularly Egypt, the world’s biggest importer of wheat, have been struggling. Thus, many have had to come up with quick solutions, like Egypt quickly diversifying its wheat suppliers. For some, these solutions already existed and the crisis has now made the public more receptive to trying different ways. Today, we will highlight the work of Cameroonian baker Guy Marcel Nganta, who is making bread from local sweet potato, cassava, and much more. Nganta has always been working on these alternative flours; however, the conflict and the high price of wheat have increased the demands for his products. Enjoy… excerpts below are from AfricaNews. Honestly, Africans should encourage and develop local productions. Why should we import wheat from somewhere else, when we can produce alternatives… and more importantly, do we really need to eat wheat? How did we, Africans, live before wheat imports? did we not have our local produces?

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A baker in Yaounde is making bread from sweet potato flour. And it is a relief for his consumers who are increasingly finding bread made from wheat flour pricey .

Guy Marcel Nganta, with his big, colorful hat screwed on his head, has been making baguettes with sweet potato, cassava, and other legumes flour for 13 years in Yaoundé. A godsend for this small baker now that in Cameroon, as elsewhere, the war in Ukraine is making wheat supplies more expensive.

… since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a month ago, his customers, whom he supplies only on order, have increased from about twenty to about fifty, according to him.

… A sweet smell escapes from a small rudimentary bread oven. The craftsman kneads, … and molds bread made only with food “made in Cameroon“, says Guy Marcel proudly.

Cameroon, like many other countries on the continent or elsewhere, is affected by the war between Russia and Ukraine, respectively the first and fourth-largest exporter of wheat in the world, a commodity whose prices soar since the beginning of the war.

… The 44-year-old baker’s bread has the same appearance as that made with wheat flour, but it is heavier and more consistent in the mouth. And the taste, slightly sweet.

I do very well with local flour,” Nganta says. Because if he cannot sell his baguette more expensive or cheaper than his competitors because of a price fixed by the state, at least their production cost is lower and therefore his profits are higher.

The taste is really different for bread made in Cameroon and it fills the belly more,” enthuses Lewis Ateba, an electrical engineer who leaves the shop with several baguettes.

Europe turns to Africa for Energetic Needs to Reduce Reliance on Russia

Africa_map3There has been recent news of European nations turning to Africa to meet their energetic needs because of the sanctions they have placed on Russia, and to reduce their reliance on Russia. Although we should applaud their sudden remembrance of African countries, it is still important to note that they turn to Africa because they can just pay peanuts compared to Russia, and the fact that Africa has so many little-little countries, Europeans can impose their own prize, or threaten them with never-ending debts inherited from colonial times. Thus, the reason they could afford to place Russia under sanctions that have proven in the past to never work.

Below are excerpts from two articles on Africanews. The first which came out today announces that Europe is turning to Nigeria for gas needs, and the other from yesterday shows Italy turning to Algeria for gas needs. When I read this, I just remember that the same United nations of thieves bombed Libya, installed jihadists in the entire Sahel region so they could ‘freely’ get Uranium (Niger), gold (Mali), and much more. Let’s hope African countries work on developing their local industries, and building transcontinental collaboration.

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On Monday, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, together with France, Italy, Portugal and Spain’s ambassador met with the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

The European Union is courting its first African liquefied natural gas supplier. EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, together with France, Italy, Portugal and Spain’s ambassadors visited Monday the headquarters of the NNPC and met with the company’s management. The visit came as Europe tries to reduce its reliance on Russian gas. After the United States and Qatar, Russia was in 2021, Europe’s third liquified natural gas supplier. The European envoys to Nigeria therefore sought to strengthen their cooperation in the energy sector with Africa’s top economy. …

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Italian Premier Mario Draghi has secured a deal for more natural gas imports across a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria.

It’s the latest push by a European Union nation to reduce dependence on Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is Italy’s biggest supplier of natural gas, representing 40 per cent of total imports, followed by Algeria, which provides some 21 billion cubic meters of gas via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.

After meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Draghi said that an agreement to intensify bilateral cooperation in the energy sector along with the deal to export more gas to Italy is significant for the “strategic goal” of quickly replacing Russian energy.

Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, I announced that Italy would move with the utmost speed to reduce dependence on Russian gas,” he said. …

Fighting to be Recognized for One’s Ideas: The Case of Nkosana Makate

South Africa_Nkosana Makate
Nkosana Makate was pictured outside court in Johannesburg when the legal case began (Source: Getty Images/BBC)

In these days of exacerbated capitalism and companies shipping jobs oversees so as not to pay the locals fair salaries in the face of increasing cost of living, or people’s ideas stolen by big corporations without a single penny in return, it is refreshing to learn the story of Nkosana Makate. Nkosana Makate is a South African man who worked for Vodacom in South Africa and who is the mind behind the “Please Call Me” texting service, yet it took him 14 years to be remunerated for his invention. His story is one of perseverance when in the right, and endurance. How many would have given up? After almost 2 decades of fighting, Makate is now about to receive several millions of dollars in compensation for his idea. Excerpts below are from the BBC.

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South African Nkosana Makate’s 14-year court battle against a huge corporate opponent is testimony to the idea that it is sometimes worth fighting on, as he is now in line for a pay-out worth millions of dollars, writes the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

Two decades ago, he came up with the concept that went on to become Vodacom’s Please Call Me texting service, which allows customers to send a free message to another user on the same network requesting to be called back.

South Africa_Nkosana Makate - TimesLive
Nkosana Makate (Source: TimesLive.co.za)

… Twenty-two years ago Mr Makate was working as a trainee in Vodacom’s finance department.

Rebecca [my wife] was a student at Fort Hare University and we were in a long-distance relationship. There’d be times where she’d want to call me but didn’t have airtime [credit to call].

I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to initiate a call even when you didn’t have airtime?’ That’s how the idea came about,” he beamed, reliving the moment.

He entered into a verbal agreement with the company’s then director of product development and management, Philip Geissler, that he would get a share of the revenue generated by the product once it went to market.

At the time [in 2000] the firm even shared an internal newsletter praising him for the concept.

But something changed at some point and it is not clear why.

Suddenly I was told that I’m being greedy for wanting a share of the profits from what I created,” said Mr Makate.

Instead of accepting the situation and deciding it was not worth taking on Vodacom, he went to court in 2008.

… His team of experts estimate that Vodacom made at least $4.7bn (£3.4bn) from Please Call Me and he has not seen a cent of those profits. Mr Makate has been asking for 15% of that.

At first, the company denied that their ex-employee had come up with the idea and then they said he was not due any financial benefits from it.

The case has gone through a number of courts

Eventually, in 2016, it ended up in the highest court, the Constitutional Court, which found in Mr Makate’s favour and ordered the two sides to negotiate remuneration.

The company offered a settlement of $3.1m saying it was “overly generous“, but he rejected it.

… “For me it’s about what is right, what is fair and it’s about justice. What they are doing is wrong and I cannot allow that,” he said …

… “I’m happy we persisted with the court review because we have now been vindicated,” he said.

Earlier this month, High Court judge Wendy Hughes said that Vodacom had gone against the Constitutional Court ruling and negotiated in bad faith.

Judge Hughes also said he [Makate] was entitled to a much bigger share of the revenue, which could run into the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.

… “… I will not give up,” he said, … He wants to make his children proud.

I hope they know that daddy fought a clean good fight and that they learn to stand for something in life. I also hope they learn that nothing worthy comes easy.”

‘Catastrophic’: Sierra Leone Sells Protected Rainforest for Chinese Harbor

Flag of Sierra Leone

Hundred years after the “signing” of all these lands in Africa to Europeans (we all know it was not a consensual signing as there were threats of war, aggression from other tribes, sometimes bombings, etc), the scramble for Africa, colonization, and more, a new scramble has started again, with lands yet again being “signed” off to foreigners to the detriment of the locals. Below is the recent signing of hundreds of acres of protected land in Whale Bay, in Sierra Leone to Chinese companies. This is a catastrophic story, especially as it will cause an ecological disaster. This is not the only area where it is happening, it is not just in Sierra Leone, and it is not just Chinese companies, but many more … reminiscent of the 999 year land treaty in Kenya [Did You Know about the 999-year Lease granted to Europeans in Kenya ?]… We, Africans, need better laws, better governance, love of our own selves, patriotism, and less corruption. True, we need development, but it cannot be at the expense of ourselves. There are also several questions: is this a land sell, a lease, or what? Can it be overturned? Excerpts below are from The Guardian

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A $55m (£39m) deal struck by the government of Sierra Leone with China to build an industrial fishing harbour on 100 hectares (250 acres) of beach and protected rainforest has been criticised as “a catastrophic human and ecological disaster” by conservationists, landowners and rights groups.

The gold and black sands of Black Johnson beach fringe the African nation’s Western Area Peninsula national park, home to endangered species including the duiker antelope and pangolins. The waters are rich in sardines, barracuda and grouper, caught by local fishermen who produce 70% of the fish for the domestic market.

After reports of a Chinese-backed fishmeal plant began circulating on social media, A statement that appeared to be from the Sierra Leonean fisheries ministry confirmed the deal, but denied the planned construction was a “fish mill”. The facility would be a harbour for tuna and “other bigger fishing” vessels exporting to international markets, it said. It would include a “waste-management component” to “recycle marine and other wastes into useful products”.

The beach earmarked for development fringes the Western Area Peninsula national park, home to endangered species including pangolins. (Source The Guardian: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty)

The government said the beach, one of many along the nation’s 250-mile (400km) coastline, was the “most suitable place” for construction, and revealed the finance ministry had set aside a compensation package of 13.76bn leone (£950,000) for affected landowners. But the statement leaves more questions than answers, say those objecting to the plan.

… “Under the constitution, the government can sequester land if it is in the public interest,” Tonner said. “Even if this just a deep-water harbour, it is not in the public interest because it’s not a suitable site. There are fish breeding sites in the lagoon. It will wipe out the local fish people live on.”

… James Tonner, who owns land at Black Johnson with his mother, Jane Aspden Gbandewa, has written an open letter to the president, Julius Maada Bio, calling for him to intervene and stop the construction, which Tonner said would be “disastrous for the country and the planet”.

It would destroy pristine rainforest, plunder fish stocks and pollute fish breeding grounds and several ecosystems, Tonner said. The beach is on Whale Bay, so-named because whales and dolphins are seen there.

… “Under the constitution, the government can sequester land if it is in the public interest,” Tonner said. “Even if this just a deep-water harbour, it is not in the public interest because it’s not a suitable site. There are fish breeding sites in the lagoon. It will wipe out the local fish people live on.”

… “Our own fishermen won’t have a place to fish. Everything will be spoiled. Tourism will be finished.”

Dr Sama Banya, president emeritus of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, echoed Gbandewa’s comments, saying the proposed development would have a “disastrous” impact on tourism and “the very fish industry that it’s supposed to support”. …

“History of Histories is Needed to Address Systemic Racism” by Gisele Yitamben

Black power symbol

In recent months, racial and social justice, and systemic racism have been at the forefront of the battle for human equality. A few days ago, Mrs. Gisele Yitamben wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum (WEF) where she addressed a very important point in the battle against systemic racism, namely the fact that the history of the victim needs to be told accurately in all its glory and entirety for the healing process to start. There is a saying that “until the lion tells its story, the hunter will always be the hero.” Mrs Yitamben has been most gracious to share with us her ideas on ways to address systemic racism, and expand on her WEF article here. Enjoy!

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History of Histories is Needed to Address Systemic Racism

By Gisele Yitamben*

“Systemic racism” is used to talk about all of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that harm certain racial groups and help others. “Systemic” distinguishes what’s happening here from individual racism or overt discrimination, and refers to the way this operates in major parts of society: the economy, politics, education, and more.

Systemic racism is also a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other issues. 

Systemic racism has its roots in extractive capitalism”

 It is “a deeply rooted prejudice, combined with institutional power and systemic oppression of certain groups of people.” continuing inequalities in education, housing, employment, wealth, and representation in leadership positions are rooted in humanity’s shameful history of slavery and systemic racism.

In the case of African and people of African descent, it is a direct consequence of doctrine patiently distilled, policies developed and communications put in place to downgrade the blacks with the end results of taking their wealth, their souls.

To support the Portuguese expansion, Pope Nicholas V issued a Papal bull on 18 June 1452 authorizing Afonso V of Portugal to conquer Saracens (Africans) and pagans and consign them to “perpetual servitude”. Successive popes reiterated the Bull: Pope Callixtus III in 1456 with Inter Pope Sixtus IV in 1481 and Pope Leo X in 1514 with precise denotations.

Pope Nicholas V

This position of the Catholic Church, accompanied by the legend of Shem in the Bible, that the noble institution disseminated without being encumbered with its real textual and theological foundation, too happy to have new territories of crusades, of evangelization, would be authority sweeping the reluctance herding slave traders and neophyte traders.

The position of the Catholic Church in relation to the slave trade was not going to be an epiphenomenon, far from it, its encouragements to enslavement would continue throughout the Negro period, like doctrinaire activism of the eminent French theologian Bellon de Saint Quentin, who used the “Holy Scriptures” to free the conscience of those who relied on his science.

All sorts of means will be used to dehumanize races, as a matter of policy to seek to assimilate cultures, for example, US and Canada, established boarding schools, prevented native language speaking, and separated children from their parents to put them in foster homes.

Slaves on board a ship

“People went as far as exhibiting Africans in Zoos”

Human zoos

Paris, the  capital of lights celebrated 100 years of freedom, equality and fraternity in 1989 with a “Universal Exhibition”. In addition to the brand new Eiffel Tower, the main attraction offered to the 28 million visitors to the “Universal Exhibition is the “Negro village” and its 400 Africans, exhibited on the Esplanade des Invalides, in the middle of the colonial pavilions. For ten years, these indigenous villages have been present in most of the major exhibitions, and they continued to be so for much of the 20th century in Hamburg, London, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Barcelona, ​​Osaka. Senegalese, Nubians, Dahomeans, Egyptians, Lapps, Amerindians, Koreans, and other so-called exotic peoples were thus presented in an environment evoking their countries, often in junk costumes and alongside wild beasts. More than 1 billion visitors rushed to these exhibitions between 1870 and 1940.

Caricature of Sarah Baartman from the 19th century

One of the most pathetic cases, of those  human zoos, is that of Sarah Baartman, who was put on display around Europe as a sexual freak, paraded naked on runways by a keeper who obliged her to walk, sit or stand so that audiences could better see her protruding backside

Even when she died, destitute and diseased, the ”Hottentot Venus,” as she was called, did not get a decent burial. Napoleon Bonaparte’s surgeon general made a plaster cast of her body before dissecting it. He preserved her skeleton and pickled her brain and genitals, placing them in jars displayed at Paris’s Museum of Man. Her brain, skeleton, and sexual organs remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Her remains weren’t repatriated and buried until 2002.

It was President Nelson Mandela who took up the cause of trying to get the young woman’s remains a proper resting place. Nelson Mandela sought the intervention of President François Mitterrand for his help in the matter when the two men met in South Africa in 1994. It took 8 more years to finally get Sarah buried.

Exposed face of Sarah Baartman from the French Museum

For more than five centuries, the Doctrine of Discovery and the laws based upon it have legalized the theft of land, labour and resources from Indigenous Peoples across the world. This has regrettably rendered indigenous peoples to be seen as dolls (see history of Sarah Baartman) that appeared not to have made any contribution to the evolution of mankind. Research has proven that modern day medicine took roots from traditional medicines practised by indigenous people. It is the same with other domains of social science.

Addressing the root causes of systemic racism and bias

Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l'astronomie et mathematique
Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l’astronomie et mathematique

As a Black woman in Africa, I am living the reality that the “deep roots” of systemic racism lie in extractive capitalism on this continent. Slavery, the colonization of Africa and the economic exploitation and speculation that continues today, are driven by greed for profit which is underpinned by cheap replaceable labour and raw materials seemingly at any cost, using obnoxious cooperative accords inherited from the colonial era [The Charter of Imperialism]. Ultimately, it is greed that has led all European to the systematic and methodical devaluation of all Africans. For centuries, African peoples have been discounted and devalued as the colonizers sought to maximize profits and focused on their own needs and “happiness”. This mindset continues to drive racist attitudes today.  What is amazing is that the exploitation of African resources have been going on for 500 years and the minerals are showing no signs of depletion [The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu]!!! This should have called in a big change of the system’s approach.

Current approaches to addressing racism have failed for the most part because they have addressed the symptoms but not the root causes of racism. We see this when we consider that while slavery and colonialism were officially abolished, the system of oppression merely transitioned into Central banks serving slave owners [The Bank of Senegal: Ancestor to the FCFA – producing Bank], but not former slaves [Reclaiming History: Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners], and police forces serving elected officials rather than  ordinary citizens.  In Liberia for instance, a country populated by ‘freed’ slaves, plantations enslave the rural populace.

If we want to end systemic racism we need to get beneath the surface and understand what’s really going on, especially on an unconscious or subconscious level. And to do this, we need to go beyond campaigns, slogans and figureheads—important as these are—and re-write the real stories of each race and its contribution to humanity.

Writing the history as it happens

Black Pharaohs of Nubia
Black Pharaohs of Nubia

It has always been curious to me that the “black pharaohs” of Egypt – powerful Kushite leaders that ruled all of Egypt from Nubia to the Mediterranean Sea from about 760 B.C. to 650 B.C. – have been largely forgotten by history [The forgotten kingdom of Nubia]. This dynasty of leaders embarked on an ambitious building program up and down the Nile, including the construction of pyramids in modern-day Sudan [Africa’s Forbidden Pyramids: Meroe, Nubia, and Sudan], under which their kings are buried. Yet the average person – black and white alike – if you mention pyramids, they think of those in Cairo first, and are not even aware that such structures exist further down the Nile in Sudan because this southern country is mostly a Black country.

“Black people need to start telling their stories”

In confronting racial stereotypes we need to tell the story as it happens and show how the development of the world is made of interwoven efforts; that will rebuild respect. There’s a reason why the Black Lives Matter activists are targeting statues of colonial and slave oppressors – because they recognize that there is power in these stories and symbols that have kept people trapped for centuries. As David Adjaye – lead designer of the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington DC –once wrote: “there is a direct relationship between symbols and systems and that people are starting to seek complex truths in new symbols that don’t ignore the losers or the forgotten underbelly of history”.

Pyramids of Nubia
Pyramids of Nubia, Sudan

For many years, the narratives about Africa have been about misrule, corruption, poverty and hunger, yet it remains one of the richest continents in terms of mineral wealth and agricultural potential. This is not to discount the reality of poor governance and corruption, which I must stress out is being encouraged and promoted by developed countries within the frame work of the exploitation strategy.; Many people lose their lives each year trying to cross dangerous waters into Europe in search of a better life largely because of these factors [Francis Bebey, Fatou Diome, and Immigration]. But there are positive stories we can tell too.

“When we really know each other, their contribution to common history and see that their solutions also hold value, we may start to shift systems” 

Africa needs to take the lead in telling her stories to shape a new perception. This new perception will be positively shaped if truth is told. It is not about begging to be accepted. We need to tell the stories that make visible the things we value, the beauty and the power that have been written out of history. We have a saying – “Until the lioness tells her side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Driving systems change at the local level

By telling real Africa’s stories (victories and downfalls) and making Black history more visible we can start the work of unraveling the systems that hold racism and oppression in place, but this alone will not be enough. Systemic racism has also to be tackled at structural, institutional and political levels. A system that has historically devalued a whole group of people is by definition exclusionary; we need to therefore re-design systems that value inclusiveness. In this, solutions cannot be imposed from outside. Those that need change most must be involved in bringing it about.

Flag of Cameroon

The COVID-19 pandemic may ironically be showing us a way here. In Cameroun working in remote areas with social entrepreneurs – lockdown measures have effectively cut us off from our usual means of trade; incomes have collapsed and we’ve been forced to create new systems to ensure that people can attend to their basic needs. This has included creating a local currency to allow people to trade during this time and setting up of new localized trade routes. While driven in this instance by necessity, there is power in this approach in that it starts with what is under the control of the beneficiaries and needed and what is valued and then builds around that.

Going forward, we can seek to apply this principle of localization more broadly. When we start to respect others and see that their solutions also hold value, we can start to shift systems.  These systems are built on mutual trust.

I believe social entrepreneurs will have a central role to play in this regard by driving localized solutions, for example, creating access to affordable finance for initiatives that can improve livelihoods for future generations of Africans. In this way we can build out a new narrative for the continent and create systems that value people, and their happiness and well-being, over profits.

We are at a historic moment in the fight against systemic racism. There is a wider moral recognition that some things in our society are fundamentally wrong and a broader understanding of the need to address the root causes of these ills. We have an opportunity to uproot systemic racism and it starts with rediscovering what has been forgotten and revaluing what has been systematically devalued.

Gisele Yitamben is the Founder and President of Association pour le Soutien et l’Appui à la Femme Entrepreneur (ASAFE) a social enterprise  that provides business training and development services, alternative financing and access to e-commerce to support thousands of women entrepreneurs in Cameroon as well as in Guinea, Benin, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She can be reached on myitamben@yahoo.fr