Voice of African Immigrants & Refugees in Illinois
Volume 1 Number 1
Why the African Advocate?
doctors, architects, professors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, restaurant owners and other
professionals pooling their resources together
to give life to an African Village/Business Corridor in Chicago? Why are some of us doing
very well as individuals while our community
remains marginalized and invisible? Why can’t
we garner our strength/assets to empower
ourselves and give voice to a collective agenda
for community development?
The African Advocate marks the beginning
of a new chapter, pregnant with deep faith in
the promise of America. We know that if the
son of an African immigrant with a name like
Barack Obama can stir the soul of this nation, it
is possible that the daughter of an African refugee will someday be Mayor of the great City of
Chicago or Governor of the State of Illinois.
It is against the backdrop of this unwavering sense of optimism and hope that we launch
the first issue of the African Advocate. A
diploma? How many people know that 49%
of African immigrants have a college degree?
How many people know that nearly a third of
African cab drivers in Chicago have Master’s
degrees or PhDs? Which begs the obvious
question: Why do we suffer from chronic
under-employment? Why are our mushrooming
businesses unable to access needed capital for
growth? Why are we without an African Cultural Center in Chicago? Why aren’t our many
By Haidara Cherif
(continued on page 12)
(continued on page 2)
United African Organization:
New Vision for Unity & Advocacy
By Alie Kabba
The United African Organization (UAO)
is an advocacy coalition of African national
associations dedicated to social justice, civic
participation and empowerment of African
immigrants and refugees in Illinois. Rooted in
the spirit of collective African commitment to
unity of purpose and shared vision, the UAO is
the legitimate, democratic, representative voice
of the more than 100,000 African immigrants
and refugees that now call Illinois home.
After a decade of abortive attempts to
establish a solid African advocacy organization, the UAO is now positioned as the most
effective all-African advocacy organization to
give voice to the social justice aspirations of our
diverse immigrant and refugee community in
Illinois. Through visionary leadership and consistent community organizing, it has become
crystal clear that the UAO heralds a new phase
in the evolution of our social consciousness and
dedication to community empowerment.
The African immigrant and refuge community in Illinois is dynamic, diverse, and growing. With significant populations from nations
in both Anglophone Africa (Ghana, Ethiopia,
Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Sudan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.) and Francophone Africa (Cameroon,
Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Togo, Gabon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, etc.),
the need for an effective community advocacy
organization is as real as Timbuktu.
We remain the most underserved immigrant and refugee community in Illinois.
We have only one African-controlled service
organization (the Ethiopian Community
Association of Chicago, ECAC) and large
L’union fait la force dit on, et depuis la nuit
des temps rien n’est venu contredire cette vérité
tangible. La force des U.S.A. et le rôle primordial qu’il joue dans les affaires du monde sur le
plan économique, culturel, politique et autres
devrait nous enseigner sur les bienfaits de s’unir.
Le morcellement de l’Afrique n’est il pas
la recette de tout son sous-développement,
de ses guerres interminable et fratricide, de sa
pauvreté et de ces clichés de laisse pour compte.
Si au niveau mondial nous ne sommes pas unis
pour nous défendre, nous ne le sommes ni sur
la sphère continentale, sous-régionale et régionale ni même au niveau national ; alors quelle
surprise que d’être la où nous sommes ?
Bâtir, c’est gérer les différences. Frantz
Fanon disait que la beauté du visage réside dans
la contradiction de ses traits.
Chaque communauté a une importance
singulière, chaque élément de cette communauté est unique et indissociable. Chaque
région de chaque pays, chaque pays de chaque
région et chaque région du continent représente une particularité enrichissante.
Aujourd’hui, l’accent est mis sur les grands
ensembles c’est pourquoi l’Europe est entrain
de s’unir et on parle de l’Union Européenne.
Il existe une union économique des pays de
l’Asie du Sud et une autre de l’Amérique Latine
(Mercosur). Est il nécessaire de poursuivre
qu’ensemble on peut créer de grands destins ?
Ce qui est vrai pour les continents et les
pays l’est pour les familles et les individus.
Si Gambien et Ougandais, Ethiopien
et Sénégalais, Marocain et Sud-Africain se
voyaient d’abord en tant qu’Africain et ensuite
pour ce qu’ils sont, le rêve serait possible d’avoir
notre Etats-Unis d’Afrique tant prône par un
certain Kwame Nkrumah.
Qui peut le plus peut le moins. Serait il
possible au niveau de la diaspora que l’ensemble
des communautés Noires ou Africaines
regarde dans la même direction, défende la race
et non les particularités qui devraient nous
distingues ? Nous pensons que oui et entrevoyons cette contagion atteindre le continent au
point de déclencher une avalanche qui déferlera
du Caire au Cap de Bonne Espérance balayant
tout les résistants a cette puissante idée d’union.
Comme le disait l’autre, rien n’est plus
puissant qu’une idée dont l’heure est arrivée. Il
est arrive l’heure a laquelle nous devons nous
souder, nous tendre la main, serrer les coudes,
vaincre ensemble ou périr ensemble.
L’unité ou l’union ne se fait pas sur des
bases de l’ethnie, de la couleur, de la religion
It is against the backdrop
of this unwavering sense
of optimism and hope that
we launch the first issue
of the African Advocate.
The African Advocate is born out of the necessity to enhance the visibility of our community and reorient our collective focus squarely
on critical issues facing African immigrants
and refugees in Illinois. It is a credible medium
for the dissemination of relevant information
about our community, and acts as a forum for
constructive dialogue and exchange of views.
As the voice of all African immigrants
and refugees, the African Advocate is a serious
analytical paper with enough food for thought
for the curious mind; it offers accurate and
useful information to inspire readers, engender
respect for African immigrants and refugees,
and enhance unity in the African community.
It is guided by the immortal words of Amilcar
Cabral: Tell no lies; claim no easy victories.
The African Advocate does not cater to
divisive or pseudo-national interests in the
African community; it will not be a space for
ludicrous personal attacks and spurious claims;
and it will certainly avoid the slimy path of yellow journalism.
The African Advocate is not a business
venture. As a free community paper, our
motivation is predicated on the need to raise
public awareness about the state of African
immigrants and refugees in Illinois. Hence, the
pages will be essentially dedicated to the education of our readers.
We will steadfastly remain committed
to the role of the ethnic media as a vehicle for
We are a community with two souls,
culturally rooted in Africa and psychologically
responding and adapting to the sociological
forces of integration in America. We are black
and immigrant. Our blackness is the circumference of our identity, and our immigrantness is
the diameter of our blackness. Therefore, our
immigrant sensibility expands the frontiers
of the African American discourse on ethnic
identity at the point of intersection between
blackness and the immigrant experience in the
United States of America.
The story of African refugees fleeing
from persecution and death in the midst of
bloody civil wars in the Congo, Sudan, Eritrea,
Somalia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and
other parts of the African continent must never
be forgotten. How African refugees adjust to
life in the American salad bowl is a powerful
thematic statement about the human capacity to transcend the claws of nightmares and
embrace a new dawn of self-actualization.
As the most educated segment of the
immigrant community in the United States,
our experience remains the untold story of a
community in transition. How many people
know that 86% of African immigrants arrive
in Illinois with the equivalent of a high school
The UAO recognizes that
as both immigrants and
blacks, Africans have both
an opportunity and a
responsibility to play a key
role in bridge building
to advance the agenda
of the immigrant rights
movement in the US.
By Calvin Tchatchoua
“United African Organization, UAO”, cette organisation regroupant les associations
nationales des communautés africaines représentées dans l’Etat d’Illinois existe depuis plus
d’une vingtaine d’années. Pour bien d’entre vous, c’est certainement la première fois que
vous en entendiez parler.
L’UAO est organisée à peu près sur le modèle de l’Organisation des Nations Unies
(ONU) avec un “Board of Directors” constitué de deux représentants de chaque pays
Africain (semblable à la conférence des Chefs d’Etats pour l’ONU) et un organe exécutif
chapeauté par un “Executive Director” qui est semblable au Secrétariat Général de l’ONU.
Le Directeur exécutif est chargé de l’implantation des programmes et de la réalisation des
projets de l’UAO. Tout comme le SG de l’ONU rend compte à la conférence des Chefs
d’Etats, le Directeur exécutif de l’UAO rend compte au “Board of Directors.”
“African Advocate” est l’organe de presse de l’UAO. Il est bilingue (Anglais- Français).
Pour une fois nous parlerons nous même de notre histoire. Nous ne laisserons plus les
autres parler de nous à notre place, au risque de pires désinformations ou manipulations.
“African Advocate” est votre voix, la voix des communautés africaines de l’Illinois. Nous
sommes tous sans ignorer la puissance et le pouvoir des mass media, vecteurs essentiels de
communication moderne des peuples, plus encore au 21eme siècle, il revêt un caractère
exceptionnellement important. Votre journal bimensuel sera ouvert à toutes les contributions, venant de toutes les communautés africaines, aussi bien francophones que anglophones.
“African Advocate” sera donc cette vitrine qui permettra de mettre au goût du jour,
l’actualité brûlante dans votre communauté de l’Illinois, aux USA, aussi et surtout sur le
vieux continent, notre continent.
Nous ne pouvons ne pas saisir l’opportunité de ce premier numéro de votre journal
bilingue, pour vous présenter en détail le programme d’action de l’UAO qui globalement a
pour but de défendre les intérêts des africains dans l’Etat d’Illinois.
Votre association est une organisation à but non lucratif qui se donne pour priorités :
• Eduquer les immigrés et réfugies africains tout en promouvant leurs droits et devoirs
• Former les leaders communautaires africains à la bonne gestion de leurs associations nationales
respectives à travers des programmes spécifiques
• Défendre les intérêts des communautés africaines à travers des structures démocratiques organisées et des partenariats avec d’autres organisations de défense des droits des immigrés
Vive l’union pour que vive notre diaspora. A
Support provided by
African Harambee Restaurant
7537 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60625
African and Ethiopian Cuisine
Lunch & Dinner
• Rechercher des voies et moyens d’assistance aux nécessiteux de nos communautés
• S’engager dans les activités de promotion culturelle et de développement économique des immigrés et réfugies africains
• Dissiper la marginalisation et promouvoir une image positive des africains à travers des séminaires, des conférences, des tables rondes, des travaux en atelier et des publications diverses.
• Résoudre les problèmes de discrimination rencontrés par les africains et les assister dans les
domaines d’immigration, d’emploi, des services sociaux et de développement économique.
• Favoriser la constitution et la consolidation des associations communautaires à caractère national, pour satisfaire les intérêts communs.
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716 E. 79th Street
773-488-5599 or 773-488-9630
En guise d’éditorial
ou des cultures non ce n’est pas cela l’union.
Elle se fait sur des bases d’éthiques morales et
d’intérêts à long terme. Cette union ainsi faite,
sera bâtie sur du solide, reposant sur des assises
L’UAO (United African Organisation)
ici à Chicago doit être l’organisation qui parlera
au nom de toute la (les) communauté(s), devra
être celle qui fédère toute les autres, en somme
un gouvernement fédéral.
La multitude des voies divise les voies et
les voix, gaspille nos énergies et anéantie les
aspirations de notre communauté.
Elevons nous au dessus des considérations
personnelles, au dessus des intérêts égoïstes
et mercantiles, arrêtons les supports partisans
pour être les avocats de causes nobles et des
juges qui lisent la Sainte Loi avec sagesse et
prophétie. Livrons des combats d’idées qui,
quand elles germent laisse éclore les plus belles
épis et pétales que seule la nature sait produire.
Oh seigneur qu’il en soit ainsi par ta gloire
et ta mansuétude. Amen.
Voice of African Immigrants
& Refugees in Illinois
Calvin M. Tchatchoua
Belinda A. McKwartin
John Henry Assabill
John Mukassa-Ssebaana, Ph.D.
Chapurukha M. Kusimba, Ph.D.
Ousman M. Kobo, Ph.D.
Abu Bakarr Bah, Ph.D.
Ahmadu Muctarr Jalloh
Yvonne King, Ph.D.
Edith I. Kabba, Ph.D.
Gaye D. Sleh, Jr.
Erku Yimer, Ph.D.
Kelley Johnson – Research & Analysis
Gwen Austin – Social Justice & Advocacy
E-mail your comments, feedback
or submit articles to
African Advocate is published by
the United African Organization
African and Senegalese Cuisine
“The Hidden Jewel on 79th Street”
• Promouvoir l’enseignement de l’histoire et la culture africaines, les développer et les préserver
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• Inciter la jeunesse africaine à s’intéresser profondément à l’éducation et la poursuite du savoir utile
à l’enrichissement de son éveil sur ses origines, son histoire et sa culture.
Real Estate Broker
Laughing Waters Studio
716 E. 47th Street
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• Construire et promouvoir une image positive de la communauté africaine
• Travailler en collaboration et en partenariat avec d’autres organisations ou institutions pour un
Voici dits en quelques points les objectifs de l’UAO.
Votre journal, “African Advocate”, a pour mission de véhiculer l’esprit et les actions des communautés africaines vers l’UAO et vis versa.
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10408 S. Western Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60643
773-358-7860 ext. 143
Nous avons l’obligation et le devoir d’informer, tel est notre vocation !
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Bob Schmitt, creative director
African Food Stores
522 E. Boughton Road
Bolingbrook, IL. 60440
Specializing in Food Products
from Africa and the Caribbean
L’Unité d’Esprit... (continued from page 1)
Africa & China: New Alliance for Mutual Development?
Since the China-Africa
Summit of 2004, China
has accelerated its
relationship with Africa.
This new relationship
reflects China’s version
of globalization, which
has significant implications for the United States
and for Africa.
The US perceives China’s economic
expansion in Africa with serious concern
primarily because of Africa’s huge oil resources.
For Africa on the other hand, China offers
significant opportunities but also areas of concern that we must not ignore. Unless Africa
finds ways of negotiating the complex webs of
international politics, it will once again become
a theater and a proxy for imperial competition.
China’s relationship with Africa dates back
to the 1950s when China’s revolutionary nationalism appealed to many African nationalists, including Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
Though a communist nation, China opposed
both the Soviet Union and the West. Interestingly, while some African leaders sought to
avoid Cold War politics by joining the Chinaled Non-Aligned Movement (created at the
Bandung Conference), China created its own
ideological block that shaped the nature of the
Cold War in Africa. Indeed, Africa became
a tripartite Cold War zone, where China, the
Soviet Union and the United States collided.
The Congo Crises of the early 1960s, which
set the stage for Cold War politics in Africa,
saw China competing with the superpowers
(the United States and the Soviet Union), over
Congo’s copper resources, crucial for military
and civilian hardware at the time. As Mao Tse
Tung remarked in 1964, “If we obtain Congo,
we have obtained Africa. Congo is our passageway into Africa.”
Some African nationalist leaders clearly
identified with China’s economic and political
strategies so much so that they adopted China’s
developmental model that centered on developing the agricultural sector first, and then
shifting to industrialization. Julius Nyerere’s
UJAMAA project and Ghana’s agricultural
development initiatives were good examples
of emulating the Chinese model. China also
became directly engaged in Africa’s liberation
struggles, sending military trainees and equipments to various parts of Africa. In fact, China’s
primary objective in Africa between the 1950s
and early 1970s was political, focused primarily on helping Africa overthrow colonialism,
neocolonialism and imperialism, the buzz
words of that era. Not surprisingly, China’s
fingerprints can be found in the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in Ghana, which
had significant number of Chinese military
expertise among the staff. China also helped
Ghana in the development of its atomic energy
(officially the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission). In return China also benefited from
Africa’s supports at the United Nations over
the question of Taiwan’s independence. But the
relationship also reflected in cultural exchange
and indeed, appropriation. Kwame Nkrumah
of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania even
adopted Mao’s dress code. China was the most
favored foreign power in many Africa capitals.
However, it was also in the course of helping African nationalist struggles that China
faced its most discomforting diplomatic and
military debacle in Africa. As a member of
what I call tripartite cold warriors in Africa,
China, which in the early 1970s had begun to
establish closer relationship with the United
States (after the late President Nixon’s visit to
Beijing in 1972) found itself fighting on the
side of Apartheid South Africa and the United
States against the Soviets in the Angolan civil
war. Having condemned apartheid and Western imperialism for over two decades, China
disappointed African leaders by unwittingly
acting as the proxy for apartheid South Africa
and the United States in what Chinese experts
saw as a war between China and the Soviet
Union. In that contest, the Soviet-backed
faction (the MPLA) won decisively. After this
fiasco, China virtually retreated from Africa
only to return full force after the Cold War as
an economic ally at a time when the West no
longer needed African proxies and oil was abundantly and safely available in the Middle East.
What has brought China back
to Africa and what does that
mean for Africans?
China’s interest in Africa’s oil
Let’s begin with China’s interest in Africa’s
oil. China’s booming industry is dependent
on sturdy supply of oil. Given the crisis in the
Middle East, China is moving ahead of the rest
of the world in entrenching itself in Africa’s
oil resources. According to an article in the
Council Foreign Relations in January 26, 2007,
Esther Pan noted: “China’s voracious demand
for energy to feed its booming economy has led
it to seek oil supplies from African countries including Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria,
Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of
Congo. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says China accounted for 40 percent
of total growth in global demand for oil in the
last four years; in 2003, it surpassed Japan as the
world’s second-largest oil consumer, after the
United States. In the first ten months of 2005,
Chinese official sources say, Chinese companies invested a total of $175 million in African
countries, primarily on oil exploration projects
and infrastructure. On January 9, 2007, stateowned Chinese energy company CNOOC
Ltd. announced it would buy a 45 percent stake
in an offshore oil field in Nigeria for $2.27 billion. China already has a significant presence in
many African countries, notably Sudan: China
takes 64 percent of Sudan’s oil exports.”
New paradigm of globalization
This new paradigm of globalization favors
China and provides Africans with a wider and
a diversified market. But for the United States,
China’s expansion into Africa represented
a significant strategic threat, at a time when
the US was also shifting its oil demands from
the Middle East to Africa. Pan notes further:
“Once the largest oil exporter in Asia, China
became a net importer of oil in 1993. By 2045,
China is projected to depend on imported oil
for 45 percent of its energy needs. The country
needs to lock in supplies from relatively lowcost African or Middle Eastern sources, experts
say. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent upheaval
throughout the Middle East, China is actively
trying to diversify its supply lines away from
Middle Eastern crude. Experts say China has
adopted an aid-for-oil strategy that has resulted
in increasing supplies of oil from African
Angola and Sudan provides a good
example of this potential competition over
Africa’s oil between the US and China.
Although the current Angolan government
was the very government China sought to
topple by supporting rival factions, Angola has
emerged as China’s second largest commercial
partner in Africa. Writing in Le Monde Diplomatique, Jean-Christophe Servant noted that
in early 2006, “China’s export bank, Eximbank
approved a $2bn line of credit to enable Angola
to rebuild its infrastructure (electricity, railways
and administrative buildings - destroyed during
30 years of civil war) in exchange 10,000 barrels
of oil a day.” As a result, Angola exports 25% of
its oil to China. China now buys 70% of Sudan’s
Africa is both a market and a source of raw
materials, primarily oil, for China. Between the
year 2000 when the first China-Africa Forum
was held in Beijing, and 2005, over $20bn trade
agreement has been signed between African
nations and China. Chinese and African leaders declared in 2005 that the year 2006 would
mark the African-Year. From China’s perspective, that meant an entrenched trade agreement
with Africa; for African leaders, that meant
a new opportunity for development. Most
analysts agree that at the current rate of trade
between Africa and China, by year 2010, China
will become Africa’s largest trading partner.
According to BBC News of Jan. 6, 2006, trade
between China and African nations jumped
39% to $32.17bn in the first 10 months of
2005, representing a record high. This urge was
fuelled by China’s increased imports of African
By Ousman M. Kobo, PhD
In 2005, Angola replaced
Saudi Arabia as China’s
largest source of oil.
China appeals to Africa leaders primarily because of China’s flexibility in deciding
African projects and loans, but also in the
speed with which Chinese businesses complete
assigned projects. As one Angolan leader
remarked, “when the Chinese agree to embark
on a project, they get it done at the stipulated
date and stipulated cost.” Most Chinese loans
to Africa range from low interest (1.5% is very
common) to no interests. But as several economists have emphasized, China also obtains a
virtual monopoly over various business in the
countries that have accepted China’s low interest or interest free loans. Angola again offers a
good example. In 2005, China offered Angola
a line of credit pegged at 1.5% over 17 years.
However, Angola also agreed to grant Chinese
firms 30% of national contracts. Lest we fault
China for using its loans to create jobs for its
firms operating in Africa, such conditions are
often embedded in loans and aids the West
offers Africa, except that Western loans often
came with higher interests; China was only
following a classical strategy.
China has also been willing to finance
projects rejected by Western financial institutions as too risky. Primary example is the
Tanzam-Railway from Tanzania to Zambia
intended to provide cheaper transportation for
the Zambian company to the coast (Zambia is
a landlocked country. Even nations like Chad
that had maintained traditional tie with Taiwan
are now being lured toward China, which has
accepted to finance its oil exploration. With
the help of China, Zambia’s Chambezi copper mines is functioning again, and offshore
oil installations that have been rejected as
dysfunctional by large petroleum companies
are also operating again in Nigeria and Gabon.
China Road and Bridge Corporation, a state
enterprise, has received contracts in many
African countries including Ghana, Kenya, the
Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), Feza mining, a joint venture between
the Chinese company Wambao Resources
Corporation and Congolese businessmen, is
finishing a plant which, according to the DRC’s
Ministry of Mines, should produce 1,000 tons
of pure cobalt per year. In Zambia, China has
invested nearly $170 million in the mining
sector, previously abandoned as unprofitable,
and has scheduled to build a $200 million
copper smelter at Zambia’s Chambezi Mine
with a capacity to produce 150,000 tons of
copper a year. In Gabon, a Chinese consortium
headed by the Chinese National Machinery
and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CEMEC) has been granted sole right to
exploit huge untapped iron ore reserves and
build the costly rail links needed to reach them
in the tropical forest.’’
This is particularly important in the face
of IMF and World Bank structural adjustment
programs that have stifled Africa’s investment capability. The World Bank’s imposed
Dr. Kobo teaches in the Department of
History, Ohio State University
Europe Trade Pacts Offer New
The first phase of re-ordering Africa’s trade
relations with Europe is over. Interim Economic Partnership Agreements (IEPAs) between
the European Union and African countries had
to be signed by December 20 to take advantage
of a World Trade Organization waiver which
allowed EU countries to give their former colonies preferential access to its goods market.
African countries trading with Europe
now fall into the following categories:
• 26 are regarded as “least-developed countries”
(LDCs) in whose favour WTO members are
allowed to discriminate. These countries have
duty-free access to the EU, with no obligation
to reciprocate, under Europe’s “Everything But
Arms” preference scheme;
• 18 (including 8 LDCs) signed the interim
agreements. They will enjoy the same access
to the EU market as LDCs, but are obliged to
open their own markets to EU exports;
• Three countries – Gabon, Nigeria and the
Republic of the Congo – will now export to
the EU under the less generous Generalised
System of Preferences (GSP); and
• South Africa has its own trade arrangement
The implications of IEPAs
First, it is not clear that signatories have
the capacity to implement these agreements.
This may give rise to administrative and political hurdles down the line.
Second, and more positively, the fears of
countries which signed the agreements that
they might be locked out of the EU market
New trade agreements with Europe have raised
legitimate fears for the future of African industry
but offer new potential for two-way trade, buttressed
by aid and “aid for trade” packages. Now trade talks
turn to even more contentious issues, such as investment, intellectual property and trade in services,
writes Peter Draper of the South African Institute of
have been allayed. (The validity of the agreements can be challenged in the WTO but this
Third, as IEPA signatories open their
markets to EU exports they will experience
competition, concomitant trade disruption,
and possible trade diversion. Thus exports coming to Africa from countries outside the EU
could be displaced unless those countries are
also given tariff concessions (which is unlikely).
Also African countries which have previously
imposed duties on goods coming from the EU
may experience declining revenues.
These potential impacts are lightning
rods for the global NGO movement behind
the campaign against Economic Partnerships
Essentially, the fear of opponents of EPAs
is that opening African markets to European
exports will kill what little industry there is in
African economies, whilst already fragile states
will wither for want of revenue, reversing the
tenuous economic and political recovery seen
in parts of the continent in recent years.
These are legitimate fears. Offsetting them
is the potential for new two-way trade – arising
on the one hand from tariff preferences granted
to EU producers, and on the other those
granted by the EU to African exporters from
countries which have signed interim agreements. The latter now have more favourable
access to the EU market, although it remains to
be seen whether they can overcome a litany of
non-tariff barriers and domestic constraints.
Unfortunately, previous decades of
preferential access have not been very effective.
But cheaper imports of EU goods, particularly
those not produced domestically, should be
good for consumers and producers reliant on
imports. And IEPAs will be buttressed by EU
aid and a potential “aid for trade” package. If
deployed effectively, all these steps could alleviate the loss of revenue from taxing imports and
build structures which support trade.
Fourth, the most enduring legacy of
IEPAs is likely to be the potentially fatal blow
they have dealt to feeble regional economic
integration efforts in Africa.
With the exception of the East African
Community, which signed as a bloc, every
other regional grouping in the sub-continent
fractured. (North Africa already has the EuroMed agreements.) This happened because the
regional groupings included both least-developed countries and non-LDCs, and the EU
differentiated between these two categories.
Thus, some countries within regions are
obliged to open their domestic markets to EU
exports whilst others aren’t. In southern Africa,
South Africa has to follow stricter EU rules
than its customs union partners, allowing it less
favourable access to the EU market.
Consequently, the politics of the next
phase are just as complex as the first. Different
African countries within the same region now
have different interests, and the intra-African
politics of negotiating regional economic
integration have lost their anchor.
When it comes to trying to integrate
regions, can Humpty Dumpty be put back
together, or is euthanasia a better option? This
fissure will bedevil broader African politics.
The EU also faces its own internal tensions
– between the former colonial powers intent
on maintaining influence in their erstwhile
wards, those member states that wish to cast
the developing countries of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) bloc adrift, and a host
of new members motivated solely by market
Hence Africa-EU political relations, as
evidenced in last December’s summit, will remain tense as these processes work themselves
out, and China will be the obvious beneficiary.
The next phase of trade talks will focus
on trade-related rules such as investment and
intellectual property, and trade in services.
The scope, depth, and timing of these negotiations remain to be seen; but they will be more
contentious than those over goods.
Much of this agenda is appropriate for
building properly-functioning markets. But unfortunately the environment in many African
nations is not conducive to the imposition of
the regulatory standards of developed countries. Therefore, I hope that the EU reduces its
ambitions substantially. A
Peter Draper heads the Development
through Trade Programme at the South
African Institute of International Affairs
By Peter Draper
In purely economic terms, low-cost
Chinese textiles and electronic are ideal for
Africa’s limited purchasing power. Yet, these
same low-cost goods are affecting local industries that could not compete with Chinese
imports. This is classical dumping that often
collapses local infant industries, rapidly increasing national unemployment levels. Across the
continent, such industries are really suffering
from the weight of Chinese low-cost goods.
The South African textile sector, for instance, is
believed to have laid off fifty percent of its labor
force between 1996 and 2006 as a result of
the sector’s inability to compete with Chinese
imports. Citing Chinese competition as the
main cause of rising unemployment, in early
2006, Congress of South African Trade Unions
threatened to boycott anyone selling Chinese
products. Only after the South African government raised these concerns did the Chinese
government reach an agreement to voluntarily
impose quotas on its textile exports to South
Africa in order to encourage the local textile
industry to recover.
For many African leaders, China offers
Africa an alternative partner in trade and
development at a time when the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund are
imposing conditionalities that were crippling
African economy and instigating social crises.
The South African Pambazuka News reminds
us: “Almost every African country today bears
examples of China’s emerging presence, from
oil fields in the east, to farms in the south, and
mines in the center of the continent. According
to a recent Reuters report, Chinese-run farms
Effects on African
The Chinese proverb, don’t give me fish,
but teach me how to fish so I can feed myself,
explains Africa’s interest in China’s approach to
economic development. China also seems to
appreciate African predicament in ways that
are different from Western world. It is therefore
not surprising that Sierra Leone’s ambassador to Beijing, Sahr Johnny remarked: “The
Chinese are doing more than the G8 to make
poverty history…If a country wanted to rebuild
the stadium, we’d still be holding meetings! The
Chinese just come in and do it. They don’t hold
meetings about environmental impact assessment, human rights, bad governance and good
governance. I’m not saying it’s right, just that
Chinese investment is succeeding because they
don’t set high benchmarks.”
An African proverb serves as the guide:
If you sell yourself for a dollar, you may find
yourself purchase at a penny.
Environmental degradations and human
rights violations are not expendable! Yet, how
many African leaders really care about these
issues? Let us be honest, has the West also not
overlooked human rights violations when it
suited their interests, depleted African forests,
and forced Africans to produce cash crops
China shows Africa that
a nation can develop
Western paradigm of
Both the West and the East
need Africa, but Africa
must not sell itself cheap.
that caused massive degradation of African
soils? Today, we know better. Indeed, African
leaders have more opportunity to negotiate
better trading agreements with China that
includes observing high standards and protecting the environment, in order to maximize the
benefit of that relationship. China is also fragile
enough at this point for African leaders to
insist on limiting Chinese exports so that these
cheaper goods do not adversely affect domestic
industries. The threats China posed to United
States’ oil security can also be invoked by
African leaders to negotiate better commercial agreements with the United States. The
competition offers opportunities for Africa,
but what seems lacking is negotiating strategies
in Africa. A
economic conditionality has opened up space
for China to deal quite profitably with some
of the more heinous regimes of continent. It
is no coincidence, for example, that Sudan
and Zimbabwe now play host to a very large
Chinese economic presence. Mugabe stated at
Zimbabwe’s 25th Independence Anniversary,
“We have turned east, where the sun rises, and
given our back to the west, where the sun falls.”
The metaphor is clear!
maximize economic benefits for the continent.
It will all depend on our leaders’ negotiating
Africa & China (continued from page 3)
in Zambia supply the vegetables sold in Lusaka’s street markets, and Chinese companies - in
addition to launching Nigerian satellites - have
a virtual monopoly on the construction business in Botswana.’
This expansion of Chinese presence has
not been overlooked by the West, especially
the United States. The recently formed AFRICOM (African Defense Force) slated to be
functional this year, is a clear example of United
States’ readiness to quickly respond to terrorists
activities in Africa, but it could also mean the
assertion of US military preeminence in Africa
ahead of any Chinese military expansion on
the excuse of defending Chinese economic
investment in the country. While this potential
competition may be interpreted as a new form
of colonialism, it is also important to note that
it provides African leaders with the opportunity for pitting one power against the other to
Cape Verde: Good Student, Reluctant ‘Example’
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
A scheme to give one million low-cost
laptops to Nigerian schoolchildren has stalled
because some policymakers say the money
would be better spent on other educational
projects, while government officials and private
computer companies have actively worked to
undermine the project, its manager told IRIN.
“The program has had to face a series of
difficulties,” said Tomi Davies, manager of a
US-based organization, One Laptop per Child,
which has designed a cheap laptop, known as
the XO. “It has had a lot of misinformation and
negative press,” he said.
Designed to withstand harsh
The laptop is designed to withstand harsh
conditions such as rain and dust. It has a screen
that can be read under intense sunlight. Its
battery lasts for 12 hours and can be recharged
with the use of a solar panel or a pull cord.
The laptop went on sale for around $100,
under a marketing strategy of selling large
numbers “directly to ministries of education,
which can distribute them like textbooks,” according to a statement by the organization.
In 2006 Nigeria’s government ordered
one million XO laptops, becoming the first in
the world to make such a large order, but since
then Nigeria has had an election and the new
government in power says it is reassessing the
Education ministry reassesses
Nigeria’s new education minister, Igwe
Aja-Nawachuku, told the BBC recently that
he found the project questionable given the
absence of basic equipment in many Nigerian
schools. “What is the sense of introducing one
laptop per child when they don’t have seats
to sit down and learn, when they don’t have
uniforms to go to school in, when they don’t
So far only 300 laptops have been delivered to children at one school in Galadima, a
village in the outskirts of the capital Abuja.
Teachers there told IRIN that computers have had a positive impact on the students.
“Nice classrooms are important - and indeed
the [school] environment here is not the best
- but what is more important is the knowledge
that we can bring to children,” one teacher,
Olugbile Oluyinka, said.
Students at Galadima were also enamored.
“I love my laptop,” Grace Ogwo, a 12-year-old,
told IRIN. Another student, Cythia Ounoha,
proudly showed IRIN a design for her dream
house which she made on the computer.
For Davies, the One Laptop per Child’s
project manager, computers are the key
to transforming developing countries like
Nigeria. “The world is not going to wait for
Nigeria. Screen-based interaction is going to be
a prerequisite for literacy in the future and if we
don’t start now there’ll be a digital gulf,” he said.
Davies said there are other reasons his
project is faltering. The multinational computer
company Intel has been selling a new type of
cheap laptop in Nigeria called the Classmate
below cost in order to drive competitors out of
market, he said.
Intel has denied such accusations. “We’re
not trying to drive [the One Laptop per Child’s
project] out of business,” Intel chairman Craig
Barrett told the BBC last May. “There are lots
of opportunities for us to work together.”
Intel and One Laptop per Child have had
hot and cold relations for the past two years. In
2006 they talked of collaboration but tensions
mounted in December because of increased
competition over prices.
The price of Intel’s Classmate is around
$300 in some parts of the world but the company recently dropped its price in Nigeria.
At the same time, the original price of XO
laptops rose from US$100 to $188 because of
the price of raw materials, Davies said.
One Laptop per Child is now trying to
market its laptops to education departments
of Nigeria’s state governments, rather than the
federal government. “Six states have already
given us their commitment [to buy 250,000
laptops in 2008],” Davies said, but he added that
the state governments have not yet secured the
necessary funds. A
But the difficult relations between the
governments of the United Kingdom and
Zimbabwe might block those intentions.
This issue does come up again and again in
the international press, and in coverage of the
EU-Africa Summit it often upstaged the truly
The economic and social indicators are
encouraging. Could this lead to an attitude
We are pleased with what has been
achieved, but our aspirations for a higher level of
development are much greater, regardless of the
opinion the rest of the world may have of us.
At independence we had an illiteracy rate
of nearly 70 percent, but today it is 24 percent.
Life expectancy stood at 50 years, and now it is
At the EU-Africa Summit on Dec. 8-9, 2007,
Pereira Neves spoke out about the need to
regulate emigration to Europe and to vigorously combat trafficking.
Cape Verde has a privileged geographical position, which can potentiate economic
growth, but which also poses a threat from
traffickers of persons, and of drugs from Latin
America. Criminals use our territorial waters as
a stepping-stone to the EU.
It is not our market of 450,000 people
with very low purchasing power that attracts
South American drug traffickers. It is the
European market, and therefore the EU and
we ourselves have to face a common challenge.
Europe is the final destination, and Cape Verde
is a way stage on that route.
Cape Verde even has a de facto border
with the EU in the (Spanish) Canary Islands. So
this is a concrete cooperation issue which goes
beyond development aid.
There is a real tragedy going on, with
people drowning at sea or living at the mercy of
organised crime gangs, so it is essential for the
EU to be our partner in solving these problems.
In this respect, the Africa-EU Summit
in December was a high point in the dialogue
between the two continents, and now continuing that dialogue depends on political will on
Analysts and experts have criticised London’s
inconsistency in refusing to sit down at the
same table with Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe, because he has persecuted
white settlers of British descent, yet having
no scruples about holding talks with other
African heads of state accused of trampling
on human rights. What do Africans feel
As things stand, we see both sides of that
dispute engaged in radicalising their positions,
which helps no one. There is a sense that a line
has been drawn between the good guys on one
side and the bad guys on the other. However,
the situation is more complicated than that,
and the line may not be quite so straight.
Democracy in Zimbabwe is certainly in
need of a quantum leap, but we should never
use that as a pretext to make dialogue impossible. A
In spite of this, the so-called “Cape Verde
model” is highly recommended by the international community.
Cape Verde is a country that lacks natural
resources. Even our water is obtained through
an industrial process (desalinisation). We
are a small country, with the high costs of a
fragmented island economy. Despite these
difficulties, since independence we have made
continuous progress in terms of development.
That is why we are graduating this month
from the group of least developed countries
(LDCs) to the group of middle income
developing countries (MICs). Having said that,
Cape Verde is a long way from having found
solutions to all of its problems. Each successive government has concerned itself with
development, respect for human rights and
civil liberties, but I am still hesitant to use the
expression of a “moral example” for the rest of
the countries of the continent.
With respect to foreign investment and
development aid, the enormous activity of
Portugal in this field now seems to be overshadowed, particularly by Brazil, which with
its 190 million people is by far the largest
Portuguese-speaking country in the world.
It is not Cape Verde’s policy to replace
Portugal with Brazil as our main international
partner. Our policy is to diversify cooperation, trade and investments, with Portugal, the
European Union, Brazil, China, West African
countries and also the United States.
In the specific case of Brazil, we are
forging closer trade, economic and cultural
ties, because it is a country that is geographically, linguistically and culturally close to us,
and because the relationship has enormous
potential for Cape Verde and we foresee a great
future for it.
The visits by President Pedro Pires and
Prime Minister José María Pereira Neves to
Brazil, and of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva to Cape Verde, were clearly a
prelude to strengthening our mutual relations.
important debates. A lot of people heard all
about the problems between Zimbabwe and
the UK, but received very little information
about Africa’s real concerns.
It’s true that there are problems in Zimbabwe, but we insist that dialogue, however
difficult and disagreeable, is the only democratic means of finding solutions, nationally
Editor’s Note: Cape Verde Foreign Minister Víctor
Barbosa Borges dismisses out of hand the label
placed by various international institutions on this
small Atlantic archipelago, which are calling it an
example for the rest of Africa.
This chain of 10 islands, located 600 kilometres off the coast of Senegal in West Africa, was uninhabited when Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes
made landfall there in 1460, and its people are all
descended from foreigners, basically a mixture of
Europeans and Africans.
In an interview with IPS correspondent Mario
de Queiroz, Barbosa Borges acknowledged that
since winning independence from Portugal in 1975,
Cape Verde has proved its capacity to achieve the
different development milestones at a fast pace in
comparison with other African countries.
Now, after persevering for three arduous
decades, Cape Verde is graduating to the club of
middle-income developing countries, and is about to
achieve associate status with the European Union.
In other words, it’s an example to the rest of
the countries on the continent.
I find that expression difficult to accept,
because it implies that on the one hand there
are people qualified to evaluate, who know
what they are teaching, and on the other there
are child-like pupils who need to learn.
Nevertheless, Cape Verde is often cited by
different international institutions as a successful example that should be followed in
Yes, and we’ve also been described as “good
pupils.” But from a philosophical point of view
I am rather disturbed that Cape Verde should
be regarded as an “example.” We do not wish to
be set up as an example for anyone. Each African country must choose its own road toward
between 75 and 77 years. The infant mortality
rate has fallen sharply and is now one of the
lowest in Africa.
The government (of the ruling African
Party for the Independence of Cape Verde, PAICV) regards it as essential to respond to the
expectations of Cape Verdeans by increasing
the levels of education, training, health, safety
In a word, more development is needed.
While our people recognise the progress
already made, they are not satisfied yet, and it is
the dissatisfaction of Cape Verdeans and of the
government itself that will propel us further.
Inter Press Service
UAO Unveils 2008 Action Agenda
The United African Organization is building on last year’s significant capacity
development efforts by initiating several important projects.
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
Some of the research questions are:
• What is the nature of the socio-demographic,
economic and cultural setup of African immigrants and refugees?
• What are the major issues and challenges
confronting African immigrants and refugees
•What is the configuration of African immigrants and refugees residing in metropolitan
Chicago and the rest of Illinois?
• What types of services do they utilize?
• As the most underserved immigrant community in Illinois, what service needs are there
in the community?
• What barriers do they encounter in gaining
access to health and other social services?
•What role(s) do national or ethnic associations play in assisting African immigrants to
overcome barriers to accessing health and other
Overall, the project will contribute to
general knowledge about African immigrants
and refugees, as well as strengthen the advocacy
agenda of the United African Organization.
Furthermore, it will illuminate the needs of the
African immigrant and refugee community
and, in the process, facilitate the emergence of
a network of African service providers to serve
Community leaders and City of Chicago officials discuss the state of African immigrants
Development Program will offer free leadership development workshops on non-profit
management, fundraising, board development,
advocacy and civic engagement, community
organizing, non-partisan electoral training, etc.
The ultimate goal of the program is to coordinate technical assistance and strengthen the capacity of African-led community organizations
as active agents in community development.
United African Organization has launched
an ambitious three-year capital campaign to
establish a multi-purpose center for African
immigrants and refugees in metropolitan
Chicago Summit on African
Immigrants & Refugees
As we face a hostile political environment
for immigrants, there is urgent need to engage
in coordinated bridge-building efforts to
advance immigrant rights and foster a climate
of inclusion and tolerance. The UAO will
work to connect African American clergy and
community leaders to the campaign for a just
and comprehensive immigration reform, as
well as foster a Black-Latino alliance for a more
perfect Union. As both immigrants and blacks,
African immigrants symbolize the fusion of
two experiences that can serve as a bridge
of understanding through inter-community
Following the successful first Chicago
Summit on African Immigrants and Refugees
last May, the UAO will organize the second
Summit on May 31, 2008. It will provide a
unique forum for scholars, advocates, public
policy analysts, diplomats, clergy and students
to discuss African-centered issues.
The United African Organization will
organize a one-stop Resource Fair to bring
together private sector employers, public
sector entities and others for a day of targeted
outreach to African immigrants and refugees
on June 28, 2008.
& Language Bank
As part of the UAO efforts to connect
African immigrants and refugees to needed
services and resources, we are launching the
African Community Resource Clearinghouse
& Language Bank as a central point for disseminating information, coordinating referrals,
and building a comprehensive database.
There are many fledgling organizations
in the African community, and the common
denominator is that they all lack capacity to
African Cultural Center
organize, mobilize or serve their membership. Without doubt, there is a strong need to
The need for a socio-cultural space has
provide leadership and organizational capacity
increasingly become manifest as the Afritraining for African community-based orgacan immigrant and refugee community in
nizations as emerging service providers and
metropolitan Chicago continues to grow. The
community advocates. The African Leadership
This project seeks to investigate the social,
cultural and economic dynamics of African
immigrants and refugees in Chicago and the
rest of Illinois. Furthermore, the research will
investigate how African immigrants organize
themselves in new locations and to what
extent their ethnic, religious and other cultural
identities are preserved. The main objectives
of the project are to investigate spatio-temporal patterns and obtain basic demographic
characteristics of the community; examine the
methods African immigrants employ in building community organizations and the ways in
which the organizations assist each other; an
assessment of the needs of African immigrant
and refugee community; how they cope with
the disjuncture between cultural conventions,
gender balance, family ties and religious practices in Africa vis-à-vis the United States.
Immigrant Rights and
Democracy, Human Rights
& Development in Africa
The UAO will continue to be a strong
voice for the promotion of democratic values
and human rights in Africa. By establishing a
framework for an effective African lobby and
raising awareness about critical issues facing the
continent -- genocide in Darfur, HIV/AIDS,
good governance, gender inequality, debt
burden, economic reform, etc. – the UAO will
be in the forefront of African-led organizations
advocating for a constructive US foreign policy
With increased organizational capacity -as a result of having permanent staff, dedicated
Board of Directors, reliable funding sources,
and committed allies -- the inevitable impact
of the UAO’s action agenda will be felt in the
community as a whole.
Let’s keep our eyes on the vision. As an
African proverb puts it succinctly, the hunter in
pursuit of an elephant does not stop to throw
stones at birds. A
For more information about the UAO,
visit the website at www.uniteafricans.org
Teachers in Southern African have formed
a regional body called the Association of Nonaligned Teacher Unions in Southern Africa
(ANTUSA) whose aim is to address challenges confronting the teaching fraternity.
The regional body comprises the
Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia
(BETUZ), Botswana Secondary Schools
Teachers Union (BOSETU), Lesotho Teachers
Trade Union (LETTU), Professional Educators Union (PEU), Progressive Teachers Union
of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Teachers
Union of Namibia (TUN).
ANTUSA chairman elect, Jake Dikobo,
read the Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU) in Kabwe yesterday after a two-day workshop for leaders from the various teachers unions
in the region held at Zambezi Source Lodge.
Mr Dikobo who is also president of PEU
said the parties to the MoU noted various issues
that included the Dakar declaration on education for all, the effects of globalisation on education and teaching before formulating the body.
Under the MoU, the parties agreed to
work together in an effort to learn from each
other in order to uplift and improve the conditions of their members.
“The parties agree to work together in
areas which include organising where possible
leadership workshops and capacity building,
sporting and cultural activities, attending to
each other’s conferences and other activities,”
Mr Dikobo said.
The parties agreed to share information on
regular basis as well to offer solidarity and support to sister unions facing internal or external
He said the agreed MoU would not in any
way affect any arrangements that respective parties currently had nationally, regionally or even
globally or that parties would have in future.
It was agreed that leaders would be elected
from among the membership and to that effect
Mr Dikobo was elected as chairperson.
His duties would include presiding over
all meetings of the association in consultation
with the secretary.
It agreed that there be no monitory subscription to the association but each member
would bear its own costs relating to traveling to
the meeting of the association.
The duration of the MoU was for life and
that the chairpersonship would from time to
time rotate among parties.
He said the association would in April
next year meet in Botswana on a date to be set
for a sporting, cultural, beauty pageant contest
activities in Free Town.
Mr Dikobo said, “It is gratifying to note
that a giant association of teachers has today
been formed here in Kabwe town of Zambia
and this gesture is of historic significance to the
The association would talk to Mozambique and Malawi with the view of co-opting
the two countries for the growth of the body.
Dispatch from Minnesota:
An African Community Jewel:
Langston Hughes Predicted Kenya Ethiopian Community Association
of Chicago (ECAC):
African problems are
hardly ever African
Ever since Bartholomew Diaz, David
Livingston, Mungo Park and their cohorts
landed on the African shores, our present and
future have been shaped by their footprints.
And what I heard from some of these Kenyan
friends is that what is going on in Kenya today is
the fruit of a seed long planted by the British.
See, when the British came, they took land
from all Kenyans. In fact, they engaged in what,
by many definitions, is considered attempted
genocide against native Kenyans. Somewhere
between Jumo Kenyatta (a Kikuyu and the first
president of Kenya) and Arap Moi, land was
redistributed among the Kenyans. But, as it is
often with such dealing, one group is always left
feeling cheated by the other.
For good or bad Arap Moi’s heavy hand
kept a lid on this cauldron of discontent. Then
in one of the greatest political maneuvering
the continent has ever seen, the opposition
saw the futility in their individual efforts, and
therefore joined forces in the 2002 presidential
elections to successfully defeat Moi’s handpicked successor, Uhuru Kenyatta. With Mwai
Kibaki as president, and Raila Odinga feeling
betrayed because Kibaki had reneged on the
agreed upon memorandum that was supposed
to create a prime minister position for Odinga,
kerosene was doused over the wood the British
In the midst of all these, things were not
getting as bright for the average Kenyan as he
or she had expected. It’s true Kenya’s economic
picture on paper was shinier than before, but
every year college graduates were taking up
shacks in the country’s notorious shantytowns.
In the hinterland away from Nairobi, old land
disputes were a rumbling volcano ready to spill
As it is with elections, when the 2007
Kenyan elections came around, everyone saw it
as the light to their dark days of despair. Finally,
the poor thought, an end to Kibaki’s unwillingness (or inability) to trickle down the country’s
fortune. And the other ethnic groups (rallied
behind the Luo, Odinga against the Kikuyu,
Kibaki) saw an opportunity to finally have the
government on their side and help them right a
wrong done decades ago.
Stolen or not, when those elections did
not turn out the way many had wanted…well,
Langston said it.
No, this is not just Luo killing Kikuyu.
This is Luo killing Kikuyu and Kikuyu killing
Luo. This is the poor fighting the rich, old landowners fighting new landowners, the disenfranchised fighting the establishment. But, no
matter the arguments, Kenyans are needlessly
What happens when foreigners come
and conquer a nation, hold the people hostage
(at best), and slaves (at worse)? What happens
when in the midst of genocide these foreigners realize their victims to be more resilient
than even the Germans they just came from
defeating? What happens when they devise
wicked schemes of divide and conquer; put
fathers against sons, brothers against cousins,
and sisters against nieces? What happens when
these locusts are forced to leave, but upon their
exit, crown one group overseer over the others?
What happens when land is taken from all natives, but when comes time to return this land,
one group is favored over the other? What happens when sons sit across the street from that
land waiting for the right opportunity to strike,
take back what they consider rightfully theirs?
What happens? What happens when
African leaders become European puppets?
What happens when dictators are propped
by superpowers? And young democracies
promise far more than they can deliver? What
happens when promises between politicians are
broken? And two thieves accuse each other of
What happens? What happens to a dream
deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?
I’m willing to bet, 9 out of 10 times, it explodes!
And Kenya serves as the latest testimony
to Langston Hughes’ warning.
Don’t believe the hype; Africans are not
bloodthirsty idiots. We know better, for we
don’t just wake up one day and attack our
brothers and sisters. Whether wielding the
machete or taking the hit, we are all victims of a
wicked game set in motion a long time ago.
As a Pan-Africanist, I was more than
disappointed when I heard the news that once
again my brothers have taken up arms against
each other, in one of the most promising
countries on the continent for that matter. Put
bluntly, I was pissed! But then intellectual curiosity got the best of me; I wanted to go beyond
the headlines to make sense of the madness.
Talking to few of my Kenyan friends here
in Minnesota soon confirmed what I already
IBé lives and writes in Minneapolis. He
can be reached at ibé@atlanticrock.com
ECAC facilitates the
development of its
constituency by offering
programs in the areas of
human services, and
ECAC was founded twenty-three years
ago as a grassroots committee of five refugees who had recently fled civil war in their
homeland. Their goal was to bring together the
scattered community of Ethiopian refugees
and immigrants living in Chicago, with the
hope that mutual aid and cooperation would
ease the difficult adjustments they faced in
moving to the United States. ECAC has served
approximately 25,000 individuals in its 23-yearold history. Since 1991, the organization has
sponsored and successfully resettled approximately 1,300 refugees from Africa, South East
Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and
the Caribbean. Presently, ECAC provides
programs and services for approximately 4,000
refugees and immigrants annually.
Today, ECAC is comprised of eight
full-time staff members, over 150 active community members, and a growing number of
dedicated volunteers. Services offered include
refugee resettlement; employment counseling and training; community health outreach;
financial and computer literacy training; after
school programming; citizenship and civic
education; and youth and family life education.
ECAC community events reinforce cultural
identity, and introduce the rich heritage that
Ethiopian immigrants bring to the United
States to a wider Chicago audience.
In addition to providing for the immediate needs of its clients, ECAC works
with Chicago-area coalitions to advocate for
long-term issues such as immigrant rights, fair
housing, and equal opportunity. Active affiliations include the Organization of the Northeast (ONE), Illinois Coalition for Immigrant
and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Coalition of
African, Asian, East European, and Latino
Immigrants of Illinois (CAAELLI), United
African Organization (UAO), and Uptown’s
Mutual Aid Association (MAA). Over the
past twenty years, ECAC has also worked
to foster relationships with local businesses,
schools, landlords and employers to ensure
both public awareness of the issues facing
African refugees and immigrants, and adequate
representation of their diverse and changing
needs. As one of the few resettlement agencies
in Chicago with an intentional African focus
What happens to
a dream deferred?
and as the first African-based social service
organization, ECAC is uniquely positioned
to combine culturally sensitive services with
an experienced, multi-lingual staff – many of
whom came to the United States as refugees
themselves. The association also advocates for
increased African refugee admissions to the
United States and for greater protection of said
refugees. Similarly, ECAC advocates alongside
other organizations for affordable housing and
home ownership for immigrant and refugee
families. Significant results have been achieved
in all domains.
Additionally, ECAC is responsible for
instituting Ethiopian holiday and New Year
celebrations across the Midwest. These events
have been highly acclaimed as opportunities for
Ethiopians to share their experiences and affirm
their cultural identity.
Erku Yimer, Executive Director, ECAC
ECAC earnestly strives to:
• Continue to provide quality resettlement
services to incoming refugees in an effort to
ease their cultural and economic adjustment
• Build and sustain the Ethiopian community
in Chicago through health advocacy, cultural
education, family life Education, and community events
• Lay the necessary foundations of support
for exciting new initiatives, such as a childcare
center, radio station, and Cultural Center
• Develop resources for an Immigration
Program that will manage the diverse legal
challenges of immigrants, refugees, and asylum
• Enhance and expand employment services,
including the development of jobs with a visible career path
• Improve and expand youth services, including
after-school and cultural education services
• Participate in CAAELII’s apprenticeship on
organizing and civic activity
• Be certified by the Department of Homeland
Security, Bureau of Immigration Services in order to provide a variety of immigration services
Presently, ECAC is embarking on building a cultural center that will provide community space for the expansion and development of current and new programming. The
center will house a childcare facility, a cultural
museum, and administrative offices. It will also
allow for the development of new initiatives,
including a program for seniors, a community
forum, skill development training centers such
as computer and entrepreneurial services.
Capital campaigns are being conducted successfully. A
The Ethiopian Community Association
of Chicago (ECAC) is a non-profit, mutual
aid organization committed to serving the
educational, cultural, and economic needs of
refugees and immigrants in Chicago and its
tecture, kings, written laws, and bureaucrats.
We may be less aware, however, that ancient
Egypt was in close and almost constant contact
with regions farther south. Extremists on both
sides of the “Black Cleopatra” controversy
have tended to ignore the fact that throughout
Egyptian history, the vast southern watershed
of the Nile routinely supplied Egypt not only
with fertility-bringing floods but also with
manpower – workers, entertainers, soldiers and
ruling dynasties. Much of what went south
from Egypt in return has vanished. One important export to the south, however, survives:
Coptic Christianity with its Egyptian/Middle
Eastern-inspired art, writing, and architecture.
The rock churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
bear witness to the intensity of early cultural
interchange between the northern Nile Valley
and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Trade relationships between the Sub-Saharan region and the rest of the world became
routine at least two thousand years ago. The
Egyptians and Carthaginians conducted
overland trade in the early and middle first
millennium B.C. As early as the first century
A.D., Africa’s trade relationships with Eurasia
began to be controlled by growing state societies and significantly contributed to bi-directional biological and technical transfers in the
Old World. Improvements in ships and the
introduction of the camel make it possible to
trade across the Indian ocean with East Africa
and across the Sahara with West Africa. Gold,
salt, ivory, hides, and spices were typical commodities in this commerce between North and
In Northeast Africa, important urban
centers including the kingdoms of Kush and
Axum came into being at this period, which
culminated during the fifth century AD with
Ethiopia’s colonization of South Arabia. In
eastern and southern Africa, long-distance
trade stimulated the growth of cities along the
East African coast and in the interior, centered
around the Shona kingdoms of Dzimbahwe.
In West Africa, the trans-Saharan caravan trade
led to the rise of a series of large, highly centralized kingdoms, including Ghana, Mali, and
Songhai. One sub-Saharan African group, the
Almoravids of the upper Niger area, expanded
their power northward beyond the desert in
the twelfth century. Conquering first Morocco
and then Spain, they established one of the
most brilliant dynasties of the Islamic Middle
Turning to modern times, many important cultural impacts of Africa have been made
by Africans in the Diaspora. Innovations made
by New World Africans in music, the sciences,
medicine, and architecture are now recognized
as major elements in our present world cultural
heritage. Non- Diaspora Africans continue
making contributions in music, literature, and
But then why did a negative image of African culture emerge and persist even in parts
of the world where there has been little or no
direct contact with African peoples?
First, slavery. Because some parts
of Africa were populous, poor, and militarily
weak, they became major suppliers of slaves to
other continents. In Christian Europe and the
Americas, though not necessarily in Islamic
countries, slaves were low in status and some of
this low status rubbed off on Africans who were
by no means slaves.
A second reason for negative images of
Africa: its enforced role as a supplier
only of raw materials. As European imperialism developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, Africa shifted from being an equal trading
partner to being a continent of mines and
exploitable forests and plains, yielding much
of the world’s ivory, gold, platinum, diamonds,
chromium, manganese, bauxite, uranium, and
so forth. With these being exported in raw,
unprocessed form, the profits and prestige
of manufacturing went to peoples of other
continents. In the eyes of Europeans, North
Americans and East Asians for whom factories
were close to the essence of civilization, Africa
lost prestige because it was seen as manufacturing nothing from its own resources. Few of
those observers took into account the fact that
neither the colonial nor post-colonial systems
allowed Africans to set up plants for converting
raw materials into consumer products.
A third reason: climatological chauvinism on the part of East Asians and Westerners. Both groups lived in chilly places, had
light-colored skins, and wore lots of clothes. So
it was quite natural for them to conclude that
partial nudity was immoral, that dark-skinned
people were inferior, and that warm climates
encouraged laziness, messiness, and generally
undisciplined attitudes. In the opinion of
Europeans, Africa and other tropical regions
shared another “uncivilized” trait: their peoples
took too many baths. Europeans, by contrast,
bathed infrequently and tended to regard this
along with their heavy clothes as symbols of
their more civilized status.
A fourth reason: ignorance. Outsiders
of the colonial period consistently failed to
recognize the remarkable qualities of traditional African technologies and to appreciate
their suitability for sustainable development.
Western agricultural specialists, for instance,
tried hard to introduce European-style
methods, crops and breeds in spite of the fact
that traditional African farming methods were
often as productive as those of Europe and far
better suited to tropical environments.
None of these reasons—former slavery,
persisting colonial production patterns, climatological prejudice, or simple ignorance —fully
account for Africa’s negative image, especially
in regions like the Far East which had little
historical contact with Africa.
And yet that negativism
persists, and has serious
One such consequence has been an irrational disinterest in traditional African agriculture and stockbreeding. Western agricultural
experts have spent more than a century trying
Down through about 10,000 BC, the
greatest of known African contributions was
its advanced stone tool technologies. Most
innovations in the making of stone knives and
spears either first occurred in Africa and spread
to Eurasia or occurred at more or less the same
time in Africa as in the rest of the Old World.
After 10,000 BC, when humans began
to experiment with raising food plants and
animals, and hence with settled village life
and everything that followed from that, the
technological links between Africa and Eurasia
continued to be close. This was especially true
in the realm of agriculture. While the Egyptians and other north Africans were taming
a wide range of animals and borrowing food
plants from West Asia, Africans further south
were domesticating numerous crops, including
sorghum, one kind of rice, two kinds of millet,
several legumes, several kinds of yams, coffee,
oil palm and possibly watermelon. They sent
several of these, including sorghum and both
Eleusine and Pennisetum millet, to Eurasia, and
in turn received domesticated animals, wheat,
barley, bananas and more kinds of yams. The
movement of food species into and out of Africa, even before the development of cities or
metal technology, testifies to the great antiquity
of economic links between Africa and the rest
of the world.
Peoples too continued to move into and
out of Africa. Genetic and linguistic evidence
shows that there was a constant flow of population between East and Northeast Africa on
the one hand, and the Middle East, India, and
southern Europe on the other hand. Historical
linguists maintain that the Semitic languages
– the ancestors of Arabic, Hebrew, Assyrian,
etc.– originated in central Africa. So did the
language of ancient Egypt.
Egypt, of course, was centrally involved
with many famous achievements of the ancient
world. Most of us are aware that ancient Egyptian civilization is now thought to be as old as
Middle Eastern civilization with regard to such
key “inventions” as writing, monumental archi-
to persuade Africans to raise European and
American breeds of cattle, even though these
tend to do poorly under African conditions.
It is only quite recently that modern breeders
have begun looking at African cattle not as
primitive but as the products of hundreds of
generations of carefully controlled, patient
and intelligent selection for desirable qualities.
One of the first results of this new attitude has
been the introduction of the Tuli breed, originally from Zimbabwe, into the United States.
With meat quality as good as Angus steers,
an exceptionally docile nature, and the ability
to thrive in spite of extreme heat and drought,
the Tuli may replace many of the breeds that
are currently popular with American cattle
Another consequence is the disappearance of much of the well-adapted material
culture of traditional Africa. For instance,
African communities had for several millennia excellent earthenware industries that were
well adapted to the functional and symbolic
requirements of those communities, and
most of which are still relevant to present day
populations. Yet, today many African nations
import, at great expense, ceramics of a far less
relevant range of shapes at far higher expenses
while the indigenous industry has collapsed.
The negative effects are not only economic but
cultural, leading to a dilution of tradition and a
loss of design skills on the level of the individual
Yet another consequence is
the loss of what has been
learned over the centuries
adapted architecture and
Beautiful and elegant old houses constructed of indigenous materials are being
allowed to decay and collapse centuries before
their working life is over. Some are converted
to new uses, but their fabric is remolded with
insensitivity to the ecological and climatic
setting. On the other hand, modern structures
constructed with imported materials are problematic. Filthy walls, poor designs, bad sewage
systems, overgrown grounds, leaking roofs,
and other appalling facilities contribute to the
overall impression that mega-slums are indeed
in the making in Africa.
We could cite many more unfortunate
effects of negative attitudes toward Africa and
African achievement. But the point is made.
While many communities around the world
may be aware of Africa’s important contributions to their cultural and historical heritage
in the distant past, they ignore the potential of
those contributions in the present and future.
The solution, we think, is education, and that
has to be done not only by non-Africans and
Americans and Europeans of African ancestry
but by Africans themselves. When Africans
can confidently and knowledgeably offer
their heritage as solutions to the problems of
other continents, Africa’s historical place in
the modern world community will become a
But in spite of this,
non-Africans tend to
devalue both ancient
and recent African
contributions to the
We think there are several reasons.
Anthropology Department, The Field Museum
Striking contradictions exist in the way
we see Africa’s role in the past and present
world. Few people still question that eastern
and southern Africa were the birthplace of the
modern human lineage, and were indeed the
only home known to our ancestors until about
a million years ago. Most specialists accept that
when modern humans first left Africa for other
continents, they carried a good deal of culture
Chapurukha M. Kusimba
What does Africa Mean to You?
Kelley Johnson can be reached at Kelley.
1) Collection and study of any existing [email protected]
mation resources relating to the experience of
Currently, the absence of research into the
experience of post-1965 African immigrants is
proving to be a significant obstacle to the work
of organizations which seek to provide services
to this population. One such organization is
the United African Organization (UAO), a
Chicago-based “advocacy coalition of African
national organizations dedicated to social
justice, civic participation and empowerment
of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois.”
In their attempt to bring more visibility to the
African community in Illinois, as well as raise
awareness about the challenges faced by Africans in Illinois and lobby for program and policy changes to benefit this community, UAO
advocates have found themselves without the
data necessary to substantiate their community
A complete response to this question
would require documentation of community
demographics and organizational structure,
assessment of current needs and assets within
the community, and ethnographic research
highlighting the experience of African
newcomers. Such research would go a long
way to advancing UAO objectives as well
as to helping service organizations provide
better services, informing future scholarship
on specific topic areas, encouraging collaboration amongst different African populations,
teaching native Chicagoans about their new
neighbors, and helping newcomers as well as
interested volunteers get connected to existing
efforts. However, this type of effort would
require considerable time and human resources
Considering the limited scope of a 300hour internship, it seems feasible for me to use
my time this Spring to conduct preliminary research in preparation for a more extensive study
to be conducted by a larger team of researchers
in the near future. I will also use my time with
UAO to link the organization with potential
research partners, identify funding sources and
help to prepare grant applications to fund this
The research component will focus on
two activities that would provide the base of
knowledge needed to move forward while
avoiding any duplication of previous work:
February 23, 2008
Join the Ethiopian Community Association
for a night of celebration and community
building at White Eagle Banquets and Restaurant, located at 6845 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
The celebration will include a nine-course dinner, key note speaker, entertainment including
traditional music and a fashion show, and an
exciting raffle. For more information, please
call 773-728-0303 or visit www.ecachicago.org
March 8, 2008
The Ghana National Council and its affiliates
will have a grand celebration of Ghana’s 51st
Independence Anniversary at The Westin
Hotel, 6100 River Road, Rosemont, Illinois, 7
P.M to 2 A.M. For details, contact John Henry
Assabill, GNC President: 773-556-3179 or
Berlinda A. McKwartin, Secretary: 773-5563159 or Sadik A. Bosompem, Assistant-Secretary: 773-556-3158 or visit www.ghananationalcouncil.org
April 26, 2008
The Sierra Leone Community Association
will organize the 47th Independence Anniversary Celebration of Sierra Leone and
5th Annual Fundraising Dinner. For more
information, please call 312-808-9560 or visit
Save the Date!!!!
May 31, 2008
8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Join the United African Organization for the
2nd Chicago Summit
on African Immigrants & Refugees
and the African
Experience in the US
For more information, contact the UAO at
Who are Illinois’ Africans
and what are the key
factors impacting their
quality of life in their new
2) Identification of organizations active in
the African community (both African-specific
organizations and those that serve a large number of Africans) and interviews with representatives from these organizations to identify what
services or resources are already available to the
community, learn about any existing intraorganizational collaboration around African
community issues, and obtain their insights into
the program or policy issues that they view as
most pressing for the Africans they serve.
In-depth, open-ended interviews will be
conducted with key informants from organizations that specifically respond to the values and
situations of African immigrants and refugees,
as well as organizations that have a significant
number of African clients or beneficiaries.
These organizations will include formal service
providers such as resettlement agencies and
health providers, national or ethnic community
organizations, and other sources of community
support such as churches or mosques.
In the absence of a complete sampling
frame to determine the pertinent organizations
to be interviewed, I will obtain an initial list of
organizations through background interviews
with UAO leaders. Additional organizations
will be identified as a result of referrals collected
from the other organizations interviewed. Recruitment letters will be sent by mail to inform
each organization about the project. They will
be informed that a researcher will be contacting
them to request their voluntary participation
and schedule an interview. They will then be
called by the researchers and asked to participate in the project. If agreed, a phone interview
will then be scheduled with an appropriate
organizational representative. As organizations
will be the subject of investigation, none of the
information gathered will be about the individuals interviewed themselves. Instead they
will respond as informants about the programs
they serve. Participation will denote consent
for the phone interviews.
In regards to language, I am capable of
conducting interviews in English or French. In
the case that another language is necessary for
successful completion of an interview, a volunteer translator will be recruited from within
the UAO network to assist in translating the
recruitment letter and the interview guide and
conducting the interview.
Interview guides and recruitment materials will be developed in collaboration with
Following collection, I will use qualitative analysis techniques to identify common
themes in the interview content. I will also use
the content of existing information resources
to construct a basic historical and ethnographic
picture of the African community in the
United States. A directory of organizations
identified during research and a bibliography
of existing resources will be compiled as a
reference for UAO and made available to all
participant organizations. A
I am currently a graduate student in Applied
Sociology at Loyola University. As an intern
for research and analysis, my internship with the
UAO will focus on narrowing the information
gap about America’s most invisible immigrants
– the estimated one million Africans who have
made the United States their home over the last
40 years. Even for those who are interested in
the experience of this community, information
is hard to find. In Chicago, despite the fact that
Africans have been coming in sizable numbers
since 1990 and continue to arrive in increasing
numbers as refugees, asylees, diversity visa recipients and students, they are strangely absent
from the strong research tradition documenting the history and experience of Chicago’s
various immigrant communities.
African immigrants and refugees in the United
States, focusing on Illinois or Chicago-specific
resources where possible.
Focus on narrowing
the information gap
about America’s most
the estimated one million
Africans who have
made the United States
their home over the last
agenda to legislators or to convince funders to
support specific program initiatives.
Hence, the United African Organization
(UAO) has identified a major information gap
that is hindering their work. Any effort to fill
this gap would have widespread benefits for
the community and comes at a very opportune
time as Africans are arriving in larger and larger
numbers. However, in order to make extensive
research possible it is necessary to have a base of
knowledge from which to move forward. The
preliminary research I have proposed would
pull together the patchwork of documented
information and service provider knowledge
that currently exists in order to enable future research efforts to be conducted efficiently and in
an informed and effective manner. At the same
time, collection of this preliminary information
would have immediate impact by facilitating
other UAO objectives such as serving as an
information clearinghouse for constituents
and networking with other organizations and
institutions for the benefit of the community.
Although their experience living and
working in the African community has allowed
the UAO leadership to identify a few key areas
for action over the last few years, the questions
they bring to the table is a large one:
by Kelley Johnson
Filling the Gap: UAO Internship Project
Advocate at Work
forest, and some women are walking more
than eight hours with goods on their heads,
Sloan says. “We have a big problem with the
lack of cold storage. Electricity has not yet been
restored throughout the country, and it is too
expensive to run cold storage on generators.”
Market Women Help
To the untutored eye of a visitor from elsewhere, the markets in Liberia and many other
African countries seem chaotic, noisy, smelly,
dirty and often dangerous. Traders and shoppers alike are wary of ever-present pickpockets
or, more threatening, criminals.
Still, the basic business of market operations appears straightforward, with traders
– predominantly women – peddling just about
everything short of big-ticket items like cars.
Depending on the market, dozens, hundreds
or even thousands of people buy what they
need – including food for the evening meal,
household wares big and small, CDs and
electronic devices, toiletries, shoes and clothing
- from intricately designed African dresses to
American blue jeans, new or used.
But what goes on at these markets is, in
fact, quite complex – and represents a major
foundation of life in Liberia, dating from long
before the two decades of unrest, 14 years of
war and the succession of regimes and militias
which have left the nation in ruins.
Everything in the marketplaces of this
West African country’s awakening economy
is negotiable, often in loud voices. “I spoil the
price” means a trader reduces the price of an
item to speed its sale.
The idea is that “fast
penny” is better than “
—a trader makes more by selling quickly at a
lower price than if she holds out for a higher
Even though most market women in
Liberia are illiterate, they are essential to food
distribution throughout the country, and they
remain a formidable economic force. With Liberia’s post-war unemployment rate estimated
at 85 percent, market women—who comprise
the great majority of the traders—are breadwinners, often the only people supporting families
of up to 20, often including war orphans.
Many of the women are also farmers,
growing food on smallholdings of two or three
acres and then transporting their goods to
market, usually walking with a big load on their
heads, often with babies tied to their backs.
Before the war, some say, they had dreams of
getting an education but were forced to turn to
trading to make a living.
During the years of conflict, agricultural
production was disrupted and most of Liberia’s
people were displaced from their homes.
Minimal international food aid was often the
only means of survival. But fighting frequently
blocked distribution of relief supplies.
The only sources of food
With men constantly subject to being
killed or coerced into fighting forces, unless
people foraged in the wild, market women were
the only sources of food in many areas. What
little was left of Liberia’s war-time economy was
often sustained by the endurance of women,
who ducked bullets and braved torrential rains
or the hot, relentless sun to grow and fetch fruit
Many women commuted between rebeland government-controlled areas to supply key
commercial centers like Monrovia, the capital,
and the towns of Gbarnga and Buchanan.
Sometimes they too were conscripted into
armies to provide labor and were forced to live
as sex slaves. Now the market women, along
with the rest of the country, are trying to put
the past behind them as they struggle to restart
A voice for small traders
The Liberia Marketing Association
(LMA) is the umbrella organization that oversees markets in the country. Established as a
voice for small traders, through advocating better marketing facilities and lending practices,
the LMA is a nationwide organization with
branches in each of the country’s 15 counties.
When a woman wants to sell in the market, she registers with the LMA and pays a onetime fee to get a table. Each trader pays daily
fees to a collector who works for the LMA. A
flat tax, rather than a fee based on income, penalizes subsistence traders. Those who don’t pay
can have their goods confiscated and be barred
from selling in the market. The fees collected
are supposed to be used for the cleaning and
maintenance of market facilities, but there is no
mechanism to enforce performance.
Traders say the organization has a long
history of poor leadership and lack of financial
accountability. Critics say these problems
cannot be addressed until the organization is
professionalized and establishes checks and balances, and the membership is trained to hold
the leadership accountable.
Lusu Sloan, interim LMA chairperson,
estimates its predominantly female membership at 35,000 nationally, making it one of the
largest organizations in the country. She says
the group is struggling to regain ground lost
during the war.
“Before the war we had microcredit for
fertilizer and farming tools. Farmers could get
loans and pay back what they borrowed with
small interest during the production season.
Now that’s not in place. Before, we had an
agricultural bank, and some traders had regular
savings. Now you can’t get any funds.”
Widespread destruction of
One of the biggest problems, Sloan
notes, is the widespread destruction of basic
infrastructure. Even before the war, upcountry
roads were impassable during the worst of the
rainy season. Now they are much worse. Where
roads are passable, a lack of vehicles constrains
movement of people and goods.
“We cannot go to reach goods in the
On the outskirts of Monrovia, the
bustling Red Light market is a sprawling,
activity-packed center of trade where buyers
and sellers meet from sunrise to sunset. Named
after the last traffic light on the main highway
leading from the capital to the north of the
country – in the pre-war period when traffic
signals actually functioned, it is Liberia’s largest
A commercial hub, Red Light is dominated by women. Most are small traders who
spread their wares on the ground in the sun, on
tables in small stalls, or – for the more successful – in small shops along a row of improvised
shacks under plastic or tin roofs. Itinerant
hawkers, including street children, roam the
market with goods on their heads, calling out
wares and prices to entice buyers.
There is fresh local produce: fruits and
vegetables, fresh and dried meat, fish and rice,
Liberia’s daily staple. Since most Liberians lack
electricity – even that supplied by generator
– they buy small quantities and cook daily what
Every day a pickup truck laden with
giant bags of cassava, containers of palm oil
and stacks of vegetables slowly turns into the
markets. Perhaps a dozen of the more than 100
women nearby run toward the truck, untying
a garment called a lappa from their waist and
throwing it onto one of the bags.
Juanita Neal, a founding member of the
fledgling Liberian Business Women’s Network,
explains the ritual. “When the women take their
lappa and throw it over a bag of cassava or pepper or potato leaf or whatever, where that lappa
hits, that bag belongs to her and nobody better
touch it. It’s organized confusion every day.”
Neal eats the food she grows. “I have 100
acres, but I’m not doing much with it,” she says.
Instead, her attention is focused on helping a
group of successful market women to spearhead a new movement to get small traders and
producers better organized.
“We want to get women
involved. We’re talking to women who have
even small patches of
land to see if we can get
them together to do one
big project, like growing
jalapeño peppers or aloe
vera plants. Anything that
can make some money,
because food is where the
Illiteracy is a barrier to women improving their positions. Most market women
can’t read, write or speak English, Liberia’s
By Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga
Buyers and sellers meet
from sunrise to sunset
official language. Few have the experience to
grow their own businesses without guidance.
Nevertheless, supporters argue, they do have
the determination and the skills to get started
Juanita Neal says the business women’s
network – brainchild of Josephine Francis, who
owns a large farm just outside Monrovia – was
founded to address the need for expertise and
financing. “We need loans, and we need to be
educated about loans,” says Neal. “We have lots
of ideas and plans but no money. We are trying
to organize the women, come up with proposals. It should be easier to get soft loans or grants
if we are registered as a group. We are putting a
system in place to monitor what the traders are
doing, so money comes back to repay the loan
and sustain the business.”
They know what they are doing
and what they want
While many of the traders may be illiterate, says Neal, “they know what they are doing
and what they want. We want to direct them to
think bigger, to get better crop yields with pest
controls, tilling the land, and good environmental practices. They come to us and we write
the plan for them.”
Most of Liberia’s women practice subsistence farming. But against the odds, there have
always been market women who are moguls in
their context: important, powerful, influential
women with hundreds of acres of land and their
own pickup trucks. A few who started small
are now big farmers growing cash crops, like
cucumbers. Some keep livestock such as goats
and pigs, and a few have entered the rubber
trade. Some are beginning to expand into the
more lucrative field of food processing. They
are entrepreneurs, and they love their work.
Kebbeh Freeman is such a woman. Lacking formal education, Mrs. Freeman started as
a small-time market woman and learned the
skills she needed to become the successful businesswoman she is today. She is a founder of the
Red Light market, a former board chair of the
Liberia Marketing Association and a former
member of the Liberian legislature.
Today, as she sits on the front porch of her
comfortable house on a side street of the market, she looks at her commercial compound
and laughs, as if it’s hard to believe what she has
accomplished from meager beginnings. She
invested her earnings to purchase her own vehicle, a pick-up truck, and sells rice and cement
wholesale. She exports palm oil to the U.S. and
Europe. And she cares for an extended family
of more than 30 people. She built her first small
house before the wars started. Now she doesn’t
want to say how many houses she owns.
“I was born in the bush,” she says. “I don’t
know my age or even my children’s ages. I had
my first child when I was very young. I began
doing market during Tubman days [the presidency of William Tubman] to help support the
children and sometimes my husband. Now a
lot of people know who I am. I may not know
book, but at least I have a lot of sense and can
give good advice.”
Freeman credits determination and sound
business management for her success. Of
course, it didn’t hurt that even though she was
born poor, her parents were also traders. “During Tubman time, so many people were not selling like they are now. There was the common
view that only uneducated people were selling.
People with education were looking for jobs.”
Her practical advice for the hundreds of
thousands of struggling market women today:
on it - millions of other lives do,” said John
Bradshaw, the group’s director of public policy.
In a recent speech at Harvard Medical
School, Aids-Free World co-director Stephen
Lewis pointed out the difference in spending
between HIV/Aids and Iraq.
“The [United States] administration
spends, conservatively, up to $108 billion a year
on the war in Iraq, and perhaps $5 billion in an
entire year on HIV/AIDS,” said Lewis. “Those
priorities are so skewed as to be obscene.”
Joining Bush’s wife, Laura, in Congress
for the State of the Union was Tanzanian Tatu
Msangi and her daughter, Faith Mang’ehe.
Msangi is HIV-positive, but her daughter
does not have HIV because of a Prevention of
Mother-to-Child Transmission program supported by Pepfar, according to a White House
Addressing the fight against malaria, Bush
told Congress: “With your help, we are working to cut by half the number of malaria-related
deaths in 15 African nations.” Earlier this week
he called for an expansion of the Presidential
Bryden, however, said that without additional money, “flat-funding may even affect
Bush also called for full funding for the
Millennium Challenge Account, an aid program introduced by the Bush administration
in 2002 to distribute foreign development assistance by following a corporate model. “This
program strengthens democracy, transparency,
and the rule of law in developing nations,” the
He did not limit his focus on Africa to
health-related funding. “America is opposing
genocide in Sudan,” he said. He also called for
“supporting freedom” in Zimbabwe, where
elections are scheduled for March.
Karen Hirschfeld, Sudan campaign director for Physicians for Human Rights, called his
statement on the country “empty rhetoric” that
should be replaced with real action. A
United States President George W. Bush
has asked Congress to vote an extra U.S. $30
billion for the President’s Emergency Plan for
Aids Relief (Pepfar) over the next five years.
In his final State of the Union address,
delivered to Congress Monday night, Bush
said: “We can bring healing and hope to many
more. So I ask you to maintain the principles
that have changed behavior and made this
program a success… I call on you to double our
initial commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS by
approving an additional $30 billion…”
According to the White House, 1.4
million people have benefited from the Pepfar
program. In an interview with USA Today last
week, President Bush called Pepfar “a strategy
that is working” and one that “has made a
difference in over a million people’s lives in a
relatively quick period of time.”
Bush says millions more lives can be saved
with Pepfar funding. But David Bryden of the
Global Aids Alliance accused him of obscuring
the issues around HIV/Aids funding through
the ambiguous use of language, stating that
HIV/Aids funding is actually “flat-funding.”
“The President has proposed ‘doubling’
spending to $30 billion, but the reality is that
his proposal would not double current spending at all,” said Bryden.
According to Bryden, the U.S. is spending
U.S. $6 billion on HIV/Aids in 2008. Over five
years, the total would be U.S. $30 billion, equaling the amount of spending Bush calls for.
Physicians for Human Rights echoed
Bryden’s desire for more funding, calling in
a statement for U.S. $59 billion to fund the
fight against Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and
other global health programs. The advocacy
group also called for more programs targeted
“He should fund it like his life depended
Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga, reporting as
Phyllis Crockett, covered the White House
for National Public Radio and was based
in sub-Saharan Africa for more than 10
years working on development issues. She
was part of the allAfrica.com team in Liberia to report on agricultural development
and poverty reduction.
By Brian Kennedy and Katy Gabel
Washington, DC (allAfrica.com)
have played a key role in
distribution on the
marketing side. They
have a vital role in
Freeman, however, is an exception. Most
market women face a daily struggle to earn
enough to feed their families one meal a day,
and few can spare their children to attend
school, even if they could afford books and uniforms. What they do have, they demonstrated
in 2005, is a voice.
Strong support from market women, including powerful entrepreneurs like Freeman,
were an important factor in the victory of Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard University-trained
economist and former World Bank executive,
who became Africa’s first woman to be elected
president of a country. The president, fondly
called “Ma Ellen” by the women, regularly acknowledges that debt. She says her appreciation
of the strength and resilience of the traders is
personal as well as political. Both her grandmothers were illiterate market women.
Shortly after Johnson Sirleaf ’s election, an
international group of women friends and colleagues asked how they could help. The president asked for assistance for market women.
The result was the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market
Women’s Fund (SMWF) (http://smwf.org/),
established under the umbrella of the African
Women’s Development Fund, to speed postwar recovery.
The New York-based organization, with
a 12-member board of high-powered African
and American women, has raised more than
one million dollars and has completely reno-
A daily struggle to earn enough
Bush Proposes More Funds
for AIDS Fight
vated the Nancy B. Doe Market in Monrovia.
A huge, three-story building, it is one of the
largest market buildings in the city.
Dorothy Davis is a board member of the
Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund. “Before the
renovation, the second floor of the Doe market
was threatening to collapse and there were no
stalls, so the women sold their goods from the
floor,” she says. “The sanitation system had been
destroyed, and there was no trash collection.
“The building is now structurally sound.
There is a beautiful outdoor garden playground
for children. SMWF has also installed stalls
within the market and made provision for
water, toilets, storage and electricity. In addition, we are creating adult education, financial
resources, and child support programs centered
on empowering market women and their
SMWF is planning a fundraiser in New
York in June, with tickets starting at $50. “Organizations can play a role in renovating existing
markets or building a new one,” says Davis.
James Logan, Deputy Agriculture Minister for Planning, says the entire government is
keenly aware of the importance of women.
“Even if you just sell small pepper, you just don’t
sell and eat all for today. You take a dime or a
penny and put it down for tomorrow. You just
can’t sit and say, ‘God will help me.’ You have to
help yourself first.”
She laughs again when asked how an
illiterate woman learned to save. “Whenever
I would sell,” she says, “I would eat some and
keep some. If I buy two containers of oil today,
when I keep some, the next time I could buy
three containers and still keep some and then
the next time I could buy four.” She was among
the market women who managed to stay in
Liberia during the conflicts, when hundreds of
thousands of were forced to flee to neighboring
countries. She is proud that her work helped
hungry, internally displaced people to survive.
Health Facts: Women & Heart Attack
February is Heart Attack Awareness
Month for Women. A woman may not believe
that she is vulnerable to a heart attack as men.
Women make three-fourths of the healthcare
decisions in American households and spend
almost two of every three health dollars, approximately five billion annually.
According to American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of
women in America (fifty-eight percent of all
deaths); death rate highest for women of color.
There are differences in how women and men
respond to a heart attack. Women are less likely
than men to believe they are having a heart
attack and more likely to delay in seeking emerA
The more risk factors, the greater the risk
The symptoms of heart attack
in women are often different
than in men.
Heart attack is the most preventable cause
of death. Women should pay attention to any
of the above symptoms and seek professional
Women are more likely to experience
nausea, dizziness and anxiety.
• Chest pain (may include back pain, deep aching and throbbing in one or both arms).
• Breathlessness (inability to catch your breath
when waking up).
• Clammy sweating.
• Edema (fluid retention swelling of ankles or
• Fluttering (rapid heartbeats, palpitations).
• Feeling of heaviness (pressure-like chest pain
between the breasts that may radiate to the left
arm or shoulder).
• Sleep disturbance.
• Unusual fatigue.
Practice the following tips to lower the
risk of heart disease:
The more risk factors a woman has, the
greater the risks of having a heart attack. Some
of the risk factor such as increasing age, family
history, race and gender can not be controlled.
• High blood pressure.
• High cholesterol.
• Hormone replacement therapy.
• Physical inactivity.
• Gender (men are at greater risk than women).
• Obesity and overweight.
A woman may not believe
that she is vulnerable to a
heart attack as men.
gency treatment. Women tend to be about ten
years older than men when they have a heart
attack. Heart disease in women often goes
undetected and untreated until the disease has
become severe. As a result, thirty-nine percent
of women who have heart attack die within one
year compared to thirty-one percent of men.
• Stop smoking.
• Engage in physical activity.
• Eat heart-healthy foods.
• Maintain/reduce weight
• Control blood sugar/cholesterol
• Limit alcohol intake.
According to the National Institutes of
Health(NIH), women often experience new
and different physical symptoms as long as a
month or more before experiencing heart attack. Therefore pay regular visit to your health
care provider. A
numbers of voluntary national associations and
ethnic/hometown clubs. Hence, the African
community is generally served by many large
service organizations, such as World Relief
or Heartland Alliance. These organizations
do wonderful work, but do not substitute for
African-led organizations where we can work
together for justice and with our own voice.
The UAO is filling this void!
Consistent with our agenda to raise
awareness about our community, the UAO
organized the first Chicago Summit on African
Immigrants and Refugees on May 26, 2007 at the
Illinois Institute of Technology. The conference was funded by the Illinois Department
of Human Services-Bureau of Immigrant and
Refugee Services and the Northern Illinois
Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The theme of this historic summit was “Planting
Seeds for a New Season” meant to underscore the
optimism and vitality of African immigrants
and refugees in Illinois.
The UAO discussed federal immigration
issues with Illinois’ Congressional delegation,
including staff in the office of Senators Barack
Obama and Dick Durban. In addition we met
with State elected officials, including Senators Donnie Trotter and Kwame Raoul, State
Representatives David Miller, David Williams,
Constance Howard and Eddie Washington, to
add support from African American legislators to the struggle for driver’s certificates for
the undocumented, citizenship efforts, and an
The UAO recognizes that as both immigrants and blacks, Africans have both an opportunity and a responsibility to play a key role
in bridge building to advance the agenda of the
immigrant rights movement in the US.
African immigrants and refugees will
certainly continue to adjust and adapt to life in
their new home—Illinois—and contribute to
the development of this society.
Some counterparts to Wizzit have
emerged elsewhere in Africa. Like Ms.
Wanjiku, about 1 million Kenyans use M-Pesa,
a joint product of the Vodafone/Safaricom
mobile phone company, the Commercial Bank
of Africa and Faulu Kenya, a micro¬finance organization. M-Pesa customers deposit money
with a registered agent or phone vendor. The
agent then credits the phone account. Users
can send between 100 Kenyan shillings ($1.5)
and 35,000 shillings ($530) via a text message
to a desired recipient - even someone using a
different mobile network. The recipient then
can obtain the cash from a Safaricom agent by
entering a secret code and showing personal
Similar services are now available in
the Democratic Republic of the Congo and
Zambia. In Zambia, Celpay, a product of
First National Bank of South Africa, allows
businesses to pay for services and receive
payments via mobile phone accounts. Celpay
currently processes up to $10 mn in payments
In South Africa, First National Bank
also partners with cell phone provider Mobile
Telephone Networks (MTN), which provides
services for South Africans who already have a
bank account but also want to send and receive
money over cell phones.
Between them, MTN and Wizzit enable
500,000 South Africans who do not have accounts to send and receive money to relatives,
pay for goods and services, check balances and
settle utility bills. Until the advent of the two
services, South Africans often paid couriers the
equivalent of $30-50 to deliver cash to relatives.
Continental Africans and the global
Now such transactions cost only $0.50 through
African community are yearning for deep
mobile bank networks.
change in the twenty-first century. Nothing is
The greatest impact is in rural areas, says
more central to this change than the launching
Beyers Coetzee, a rural community officer
of a grassroots African Unification Movement
for Wizzit. “Eighty per cent of all farmers do
to fulfill the Pan-African dream of a continental
not have bank accounts.” Moreover, he adds, a
Wizzit account, unlike a regular bank account, Union Government in Africa.
African unity will not come through
is not closed if the customer does not use it
regularly. That is “very useful for seasonal work- empty proclamations by inept and self-serving
leaders, for they have failed us time and time
ers” in particular.
again. With visionary leadership, African unity
Rob Conway, head of the Global System
must come through consistent, systematic
for Mobile Communications Association, an
and assertive grassroots community organizinternational group of mobile phone service
ing—from Cape Town to Freetown and from
providers, says that such innovations have
“changed the lives of millions of Africans, cata- Accra to Addis Ababa.
After successful decolonization in the
lyzing economic development and strengthentwentieth century, the twenty-first century
ing social ties.”
must be the century of African unity—at home
Lauri Kivinen, head of corporate affairs
for the Nokia Siemens network, agrees that this and abroad!
Kwame Nkrumah was right: Divided we
development is significant. “It means unprecedented, substantial change for ordinary people,” are weak; united, Africa could become one of the
greatest forces for good in the world. I believe strongly
he told Africa Renewal. Through mobile
phone banking, people can “extend their social and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and
dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the inand business networks, boost their productivtense humanity that is our heritage, the African race,
ity and so much more, all at the touch of a few
united under one federal government, will emerge
buttons on a cell phone.” A
As we live our lives in
relative abundance here,
we must work to be a force
for change in Africa.
not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth
and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness
is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy
and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but
founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to
the good of all mankind.
Yes, Kwame Nkrumah was absolutely
right: Who is there to oppose or frustrate us, if we
only have the courage to form an all-African Union
government? Can the industrialized nations do
without our copper, our uranium, our iron ore, our
bauxite, our coffee, cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, palm
oil – or will they come running to us, as we have been
running to them, for a trade on equitable terms? It is
courage that we lack, nor wealth.
As African immigrants and refugees, let
us march forward with a firm conviction that
a new season with a new vision is upon us in
Illinois. Together we are planting the seeds of
African unity through the democratic community organizing principle of equal representation of African national communities,
Alie Kabba, Executive Director,
United African Organization
small or large, in the institutional workings of
the UAO. Hence, no single African national
community, by virtue of its size, can derail the
historic march of the UAO toward a new dawn
of African unity in Illinois.
We are and forever shall be an integral part
of the greater African American community.
Our advocacy work for social justice and community empowerment is an inseparable part
of the illustrious continuum of the civil rights
movement. Therefore, we must be at home on
the South Side and West Side of Chicago; we
must fashion our politics to reflect our interests
as part of the African American social reality.
For those of us who are naturalized US
citizens, it is OK for us to run for public office;
it is OK for us to win and secure a voice for
us at City Hall, the State Capitol, and the
Congress of the United States of America. In
so doing we will be discharging our unique
responsibility to expand the human possibility
frontier, articulate the fundamental aspirations
of the global African community, influence
US foreign policy toward Africa, strengthen
the immigrant rights movement, and advance
American progressive agenda.
The New Year is bound to come with
its unique set of challenges. No matter the
challenges ahead, the enhanced organizational
capacity of the UAO as the voice of African
immigrants and refugees in Illinois is good
reason to be optimistic about our future. A
Alie Kabba is Executive Director of the
United African Organization.
For more information about the UAO,
visit the website at www.uniteafricans.org
or e-mail [email protected]
Most banks in Africa have branches only in
urban areas. Brian Richardson, the chief executive officer of Wizzit South Africa, a cell phone
banking facility, notes that expanding access to
rural areas has traditionally involved opening
new branch offices. “As long as you have that
mind-set,” he says, “it becomes incredibly expensive to bring banking to the mass market.”
As a result, regular bank services are often
simply unavailable. Ethiopia has just one bank
branch for every 100,000 people, compared
with Spain, which has 96 branches for every
100,000 people. Moreover, requirements to
maintain relatively high account balances make
such services too costly for most Africans.
Even in South Africa, which has a more
extensive banking system, it is estimated that
people keep about R12 bn (US$1.8 bn) “under
mattresses,” says Mr. Richardson. “If we could
take just a small portion of that into the formal
banking system, the impact on the economy
would be enormous.”
Established in 2004, Wizzit has signed
up 50,000 South African customers. It hopes
to reach 16 million others, in a country where
some 60 per cent of the population has no
bank account. Holders of Wizzit accounts
can use any cell phone, even the cheap, old
models popular in low-income communities.
Users can deposit cash into their cell-based
accounts through any post office or any branch
of Amalgamated Banks of South Africa or the
South African Bank of Athens. Salaries can be
paid electronically into a Wizzit account. Account holders also receive Maestro debit cards
accepted at ATMs and by retailers. There is no
minimum balance or annual fee, but users pay
Money under mattresses
Like 90 per cent of Kenyans, Ms. Wanjiku
does not have an account in a regular bank.
Across Africa, only 20 per cent of families have
formal bank accounts, according to a World
Bank survey. In Tanzania the percentage is as
low as 5 per cent, and in Liberia 15 per cent.
But the proliferation of mobile telephone
services around the continent has opened a
new way to extend financial services to people
like Ms. Wanjiku. In the few countries where
they have emerged, companies such as M-Pesa
can use any phone or phone card to provide
affordable services to customers wherever there
is a mobile phone signal.
Expanding such innovations in the use
of modern information and communications
technologies (ICT) more widely was a central
topic at a Connect Africa Summit held in
Kigali, Rwanda, in October. More than 1,000
private-sector, government and donor representatives discussed how such technologies can
help in finding solutions to Africa’s development problems.
UAO Vision (continued from page 1)
the equivalent of US$0.15-0.78 per transaction.
According to Mohsen Khalil, the World
Bank’s director of global ICT, Wizzit’s operation is one of the most innovative approaches
to mobile banking, since it specifically targets
the poor. If this model works in South Africa,
he says, the World Bank will help the company
expand coverage within and beyond the country. “We may be looking here at . . . the most
effective way to provide social and economic
services to the poor.”
Touch of a button
Editor’s Note: Ann Wanjiku walks up to a greenand-white booth with an “M-Pesa agent” sign on it.
There she shows the agent her identity card and her
cell phone, which displays a PIN number provided
by a client. Using the PIN number, the M-Pesa
agent takes just a minute to verify that the client has
transferred payment for 1,000 traditional carvings
into Ms. Wanjiku’s mobile money account. Ms.
Wanjiku then withdraws the amount in cash, writes
Ms. Mary Kimani in the United Nations Africa
A Bank in Every African Pocket?