Africa Rising? Part 3


Agra's Africa Agricultural status report states: "There is growing public opposition to GM crops in Africa that is best described as a fear of the unknown. Unless milled, the import of GM foods is banned in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. More important to seed-sector development, these bans signal the arbitrariness and unpredictability of public policy."

Agra is an independent organisation based in Kenya that aims to double the income of 20 million small farmers and reduce food insecurity by 50% in 20 countries by 2020. Critics of the group accuse it of showing its true colours after initial coyness over GM foods.

"This report clearly indicates their full support for GM crops, and their intention to use their influence to open African doors for Monsanto's and Syngenta's patented GM crops," said Teresa Anderson, international advocacy co-ordinator for the Gaia foundation, an advocate of food sovereignty that asserts the right of people to define their own food systems.


With Ethiopia planning to dam River Omo and the possible threats to the future of Lake Turkana, a look at the politics of dam construction.

Is the World Bank blinded by an outdated ideology? More likely, its return to mega-dams is driven by institutional self-interest. A strategy paper leaked from the bank in 2011 recognised that the increase in project size "may seem somewhat at odds with the goal of scaling up activities in areas where many potential projects – such as solar, wind and micro-hydropower ... tend to be small". Yet, the paper argued, the "ratio of preparation and supervision costs to total project size" is bigger for small projects than large, centralised schemes, and so bank managers are "disincentivised" from undertaking small projects.

The WCD concluded that while “dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development,” in “too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” For example, dams have physically displaced 40-80 million people worldwide, and most of these people have never regained their former livelihoods. In many cases, dams have led to a significant and irreversible loss of species and ecosystems, and efforts to mitigate these impacts have often not been successful.


There's clearly no shortage of cash, but, after 10 years of elevated income, the country still performs poorly across a host of development indicators – literacy is 34%, under-five mortality 169 per 1,000 live births, and the country was 184th out of 187 in the UN's latest human development index. There is a chronic lack of skilled professionals – a handful of gynaecologists, one psychiatrist and a few hundred midwives, for example.

"Most countries have a fixation with infrastructure, especially when there's a windfall," says Alan Gelb, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. "Part of it is genuine, because there can be a physical transformation, but governments often end up paying a very high price and there is a tremendous opportunity for corruption through the contracts-issuing process."

The Niger delta, home to some of the biggest oilfields in the world, is heavily polluted from five decades of living with the oil industry. In June, an explosion at one of Nigeria's major pipelines spilled 6,000 barrels of crude into the creeks and swamps around Bodo village, killing several people. In this special investigation, John Vidal visits the region to find out why oil and the delta's residents do not mix. They speak to traders and visit the communities most affected, and ask what can be done to develop the area to the benefit of the people living there.

"Is it because we are Nigerian and poor that they offer so little for the damage they have caused?" said one fisherman at the Bodo meeting. "This would be different in the US or London."

"Crude oil is the same in every country. Does the black man not also have red blood?" said another. "It is a big shame on Shell that they are unwilling to pay a fraction of their profit as compensation after subjecting the people and the environment to such unthinkable harm they would not dare allow in their home country," said the Nigerian environmentalist and chair of Oilwatch International, Nnimmo Bassey.

Allegations of corruption, residents disgruntled over property compensation, indecisiveness over the best infrastructure (refinery or pipeline, and how big?) for the industry, and painfully slow government bureaucracy are responsible for Uganda's delayed oil production. Countries such as Ghana, which discovered oil later than Uganda, have already started production.

Some Ugandans still doubt that a government whose president has already declared that "it is my oil" will use revenue from the industry to benefit the people. Their reality – the poor-quality services and poverty – has not changed in spite of the billions already paid out by oil companies in the pre-production stages.

If history in the Niger Delta is anything to go by, it is far from guaranteed that the population of Turkana County will benefit from the potential oil revenue. The existence of corruption has already been raised. During a two-day consultative meeting held in the regional capital, Lodwar, in June 2012, community leaders accused local officials of illegally acquiring title deeds, misappropriating community-owned land and using intimidation and violence to displace communities within the region’s oil-rich Ngamia 1 and Twiga South-1 localities.


While Bila in Johannesburg goes into the townships to photograph the fashion and street cultures, Lukhovi visits the garbage dump of Dandora in the east of Nairobi for his series Scavenging Boma, to show the hope that can radiate from even the hardest of realities. "I want to show South Africa to the world and the world to South Africa," says Bila. Lukhovi adds: "With my images I try to show the hope and success of people. Our continent is full of blessings, and even though it gets tagged as lost, there are more the enough beautiful and exhilarating stories to be told. Photography is the best medium to show these hopeful sides of the continent."