(FinalCall.com) – According to the April 25, 2012 edition of Foreign Policy, if journalism standards were used to judge Western reporting of Africa, not only would journalists receive substandard grades, in addition, there would probably be lawsuits.
The lack of journalistic ethics when reporting in Africa is appalling. “Standards for the depiction and identification of victims of conflict, rape, and child abuse are frequently handled very differently from how they would be were the victims American or European,” reported FP. The author points out, “it is very common to see pictures of starving (African) children or rape victims in pages of Western newspapers.” In a January 30, 2010 Op-Ed written by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof actually published a 9-year-old girl’s real name along with a facial photo.
Why is Western reporting on Africa so bad? According to the FP, “Part of the problem has to do with the limited number of journalists assigned to cover the continent. Many major Western media outlets assign one correspondent for the entire continent–more that 11 million square miles. He or she will be based in Johannesburg or Nairobi, but be expected to parachute into Niger, Somalia, or wherever the next crisis is unfolding, on a moments notice.”
“This is insane. Africa is a continent of 54 distinct states, all with multiple languages and ethnic groups and unique political dynamics. Nowhere else in the world–not even in undercovered Latin America–would one person be expected to report on so many complicated situations. Yet in Western media coverage of Africa, such a state of affairs is common.”
Presidential hopeful Romney in bed with vulture fund magnate
Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) mineral wealth is estimated at about $24 trillion should make it one of the continent’s richest countries. Its mineral wealth includes huge deposits of cobalt, diamonds, gold, copper, oil and 80 percent of the world’s supplies of coltan ore–an ingredient used in the making of computers and mobile phones.
But Congo and at least 20 other countries, are being pursued by “international debt speculators,” known as vulture funds, with Romney supporter Paul Singer writing the handbook, according to published reports, on how to “legally” rob poor countries of much needed capital. The British daily The Guardian in November 2011 reported that Singer’s involvement goes back to “one of the earliest cases against the country (Congo) came in 1996 when $30 million worth of Congolese sovereign debt was purchased by Kensington International Inc., a subsidiary of the well-established hedge fund Elliott Associates, headed by prominent vulture financier Paul Singer.”
Vulture funds take advantage of poor countries by buying up their sovereign debt at one tenth of what it was worth before a country defaulted. They then sue the country in question in court for the full face value of the debt plus interest.
Singer, who has a history of contributing to the Republican party, “reportedly bought the debt at a significant discount and began pursuing lawsuits against the impoverished African nation through the world’s courtrooms, reported The Guardian. According to Bloomberg the country spent an estimated $5 million fighting Singers lawsuits resulting in Singers subsidiary being awarded $39 million in the United Kingdom’s high court.
Fifty percent of Mali now controlled by Azawad liberate movements
Ousted president Amadou Tourmani Toure of Mali has formally resigned after being overthrown by soldiers in a coup in March. But the real story–since the president’s term was ending anyway–is the people called the Tuareg, or a united movement called the Azawad taking over and controlling over 50 percent of Mali’s territory, including the historic city of Timbuktu.
Firoze Mannji, editor-in-chief of the prize-winning online Pambazuka News, confirmed the above while being interviewed by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.
“What I fear is that there is going to be a lot of bloodshed, because this is only–I think this is the fifth uprising by the Azawad. The first one was in 1916 to 1917, then in 1963, then again in 1991, and then again in 1996. We have had several uprisings, but this has been a really exceptional one. For the first time, you have a united front of many of the movements for the liberation of Azawad. And these are people, you know, who occupy for many, many centuries. These are people who are herders. They’re desert people. And they, in fact, historically occupy territories that included Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria and parts of Libya in the north. And so, we have a situation where you have a national liberation movement seeking to liberate its own people and have their own territory. But I think that the Mali government and, indeed the Economic Community for West Africa, and in the international community, I’m afraid are not going to let them have their way. And that is going to be really quite tragic.”
In a related story that appeared in the Atlantic Wire, titled “Why Are There So Many Coups in West Africa?” raised more questions than it answered. In Mali’s case the problem clearly harkens back to colonial times when Europeans mapped out Africa drawing artificial borders. It was just a manner of time before the people called Tuareg reclaimed what they say is rightfully their land.
Africa needs to bring markets to African farmers
In cities and villages, noted Kenya’s Africa Review, “markets are at the center of African life. Yet, vital as Africa’s agricultural markets are for millions of small-scale farmers, or smallholders, too many markets aren’t reaching their potential as an engine for transforming Africa’s countryside.”
Weevils destroy grain because farmers are unable to make it to market and milk spoils before it’s able to reach the city. And for every truck that makes it to market, others idle at roadblocks “as paperwork and bribes pass,” part of the cost of doing business.
Strong markets and infrastructure and intra-African trade are as important to poverty reduction and economic growth as increased farm productivity. “It is time to transform Africa’s markets, and seamlessly connect Africa’s smallholder farmers with its centers of agricultural exchange. This is no small task. Farmers need transport. Policies need to eliminate, rather than encourage, bureaucratic delays and price volatility, providing incentives for farmers to invest and produce more,” argues African Review.
But, “the reverse is often the case,” it said. Regulation obstacles, limited infrastructure, including roads, and institutional hurdles to intra-country trade, so-called “non-tariff barriers,” contribute in some cases an additional 40 percent to the price of commodities in many parts of Africa. And to add insult to injury transporting products from Northern Mozambique to neighboring Southern Malawi requires purchasing an export permit that can only be accessed in the distant port city of Qelimane. In Zambia, trucks operated by a grocery store chain have to carry 1,600 documents to meet border requirements.
(Jehron Muhammad writes from Philadelphia and can be reached at [email protected])