A Coding Academy in Johannesburg

By Paul Ndiho

South Africa is facing a severe shortage of developers leaving significant sectors such as financial institutions struggling to recruit employees with critical computer skills.  Now, a small, alternative academy in Johannesburg is working to change that deficit.

A54 South African Coding School PKG-1
There are no teachers or classes, and students don’t need to have any prior experience or qualifications to enroll at the “We Think Code” academy in South Africa.  Instead, the program focuses on peer-to-peer training for students to learn how to develop websites and apps. Students are selected through an intensive boot camp that sees only the top one percent with quantitative skills admitted to the school.  Nyaradzai Samushonga is the chief executive at We-Think-Code.

“Our universities are doing a great job, of delivering technical skills that are desperately needed within the business space. The reality is that they can’t keep up with the demand. And the university channel focuses on a particular type of high school education, which then feeds into what they do. A program like WeThinkCode_ democratizes the opportunity by saying ‘it doesn’t matter what your prior educational background is, it doesn’t matter what your prior social background is, you could be born to code and here’s an opportunity to include you in the economics of technology.”


Unemployment in Africa’s most advanced economy has remained high since the end of the apartheid era 25 years ago.  South Africa’s government says youth unemployment is a “national crisis.”  The 15 to 34 age group accounts for almost two-thirds of the country’s jobless.  But We Think Code says it wants to help improve things and be part of a solution.  About 98 percent of the students who’ve graduated from the program are now employed.

“Well we’ve seen that if you’re able to train one skilled developer successfully, that impact that individual has is on 10 to 15 other individuals in that person’s environment because they’re creating employment, they’re bringing more efficiency into the workplace, they’re creating more profitable businesses enabling companies to employ even more people. So the impact that one skilled developer has is on 15 other individuals. If we’re able to produce an extra 100,000 skilled developers across the country, we have 1.5 million people that can be employed in the country.”

The program, however, is struggling to recruit girls. Only 17 percent of the We Think Code students are female.  One of the aims of the program is to dedicate more resources to challenge perceptions that coding is only for males.
Software programmer and Geekulcha community manager, Skinny Shugo Kgwedi says there is a growing need for South African youth to have coding skills so they can have leverage when looking for jobs.

“I’d say coding is important because we are evolving in a technological world whereby, you get to build anything. So if you are starting a business and you need a website, you might pay a lot of money for a website. So if you know how to code, you can build your website which will be less. It gives you a chance whereby you get jobs easier; you get hired easier because a lot of companies now are involving in technology because of the 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution).”

Convincing young South Africans to learn how to code remains an uphill battle. Only four-of-ten public schools have a computer lab, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations.  Expensive data prices and a lack of internet infrastructure outside of Gauteng and Cape Town means that millions of students eager to learn coding are left without access to the internet.

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BLOCKCHAIN AND CRYPTO- CURRENCY IN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho
Blockchain and crypto-currency are two rising social media buzzwords.  Social Media trends show a increased interest in the technology, especially coming from Africa. Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 3.20.54 PM

At a recent Africa Technology Summit in London, African tech players, international investors, critical decision and innovators – kicked-off the event by opening the market at the London Stock Exchange and talking about the future Blockchain and crypo-currency on the continent.

Exporting tech solutions from Africa to the rest of world is likely to become more and more common – according to Tunde Kehinde, head of a digital platform which helps small and medium enterprises access to credit in just one day.

”The traditional way of getting credit assembly is not working. Why don’t we use technology and data to make loans without collateral, do risk-adjusted pricing, and more or less help any SME access the funds they need to grow.”


Elizabeth Rosiello, CEO and founder of Bitpesa, says Africa still isn’t at the same level as the rest of the world in terms of cryptocurrency use.

”In Africa, regulation has been a little bit slow and unclear, and in general, there are less financial institutions, there are fewer fintech companies. So there’s just less opportunity to purchase.”

Limited access to smartphones, stable power supplies, and internet connection are just some of the stumbling blocks in the way.  But with smartphone usage expected to jump exponentially to 67% by 2025, many investors are optimistic.

”We still have the challenges of governments inability you know to get with the program and raise the game so to speak. But yes, I’m quite optimistic about 2025 given the level of youthful energy that is going into solution creation.”

Meanwhile, social media giant Facebook has revealed plans to launch a crypto-currency called Libra, the latest development in its effort to expand beyond social networking and move into e-commerce and global payments.

” Crypto is still a niche topic, not a lot of people know about it, not a lot of people own cryptocurrencies, and it’s the idea that Facebook could expose millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions of people to the idea of cryptocurrency and get them interested in the space, that’s really exciting to me”

Facebook is linking with 28 partners in a Geneva-based entity called the Libra Association, which will govern its new digital coin set to launch in the first half of 2020.

” One of the beauties of the cryptocurrency markets is that they’re open markets and anyone can participate, and anyone can create a new cryptocurrency, or fork an existing one, and compete on an even playing field. And, so, I think Libra will be competitive.”

Facebook has also created a subsidiary called Calibra, which will offer digital wallets to save, send, and spend Libras.  Calibra will be connected to Facebook’s messaging platforms — Messenger and Whats-App, which already boast more than one-billion users.

The California-based company, has big aspirations for Libra, but consumer privacy concerns or regulatory barriers may present significant hurdles.

 

NIGERIAN TO HEAD THE 74TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

By Paul Ndiho

A Nigerian diplomat was a elected as the new president of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.  The new chief is pledging to focus on “peace and prosperity” for the most vulnerable.  Nigeria elected as next General Assembly President

The United Nations General Assembly is now headed by Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.   The world body elected Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.N. to the post last month, by acclamation, to preside over its upcoming session.
“Taking into account the provisions of Paragraph 60 of General Assembly decision 34/401, I, therefore, declare His Excellency Tijjani Mohammad Bande of Nigeria elected by acclamation as President of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.”
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, focuses on peace and security, poverty eradication, climate action, and inclusion are among the major priorities of his presidency.

Addressing the General Assembly, the newly elected Mohammad-Bande said that the international community must continue to invest in sustaining peace and conflict prevention.


“As the United Nations has not met the expectations of its founding fathers, in terms of preventing many violent conflicts and mass atrocities, we have to assume a collective responsibility to make the world a better, safer and more peaceful one. The promotion of human rights and the empowerment of women and youth deserve special attention, and I will be devoted to the promotion of gender parity throughout the whole UN system, starting from my own Office.”
Mohammad-Bande observed that the UN will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, and that presents a unique opportunity to reduce the trust deficit between nations.   He says the world shares the same aspirations and must but work together

“The General Assembly must play its role in bridging the gaps and promoting collective action to address all international issues that deserve attention, with close coordination and collaboration with the Secretary-General, Security Council and ECOSOC.”

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the Nigerian Ambassador can bring many relevant and admirable qualifications to the job from his years as the UN representative from Nigeria, and from expertise in political science and public administration.
“As a Nigerian and as an African, you have invaluable insights into the continent’s challenges  such as the Sahel and Lake Chad basin  and more broadly into the challenges our world faces across the three pillars of our work, peace, sustainable development, and human rights.”
Mohammad-Bande’s election to lead the UN General Assembly could help spotlight insecurity in Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group, carries out attacks targeting civilians and the military.
In its annual world report, Human Rights Watch says that despite notable military advances, and premature proclamations of Boko Haram’s defeat by government forces, the extremist group remains a threat to security in the northeast region.  Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram still plagues the Nigerian government.

 

Their attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people.

The Politics of Transitions in Africa

 

At the beginning of 2019, voters from Ten African nations were scheduled to vote in general elections. So far, only Nigeria, Senegal, Comoros, South Africa, and Malawi have held elections — but there has been no transfer of power.

Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 9.06.11 AMTens of millions of Africans  have gone to the polls in an effort to use the ballot box to deepen the quality of democratic governance and bring about political transitions.  However, only the Democratic Republic of Congo has had a peaceful transfer of power.
On January 24, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as DRC president, marking the country’s first-ever peaceful handover of power after multiple bitterly-disputed elections since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
“Tshisekedi Tshilombo Felix Antoine, elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I do solemnly swear before God and the nation to observe and to defend the constitution and the laws of the republic.”


Perhaps the symbolism of one leader handing over the presidency to another, as Joseph Kabila wrapped the presidential sash around his successor, was in sharp contrast to what we have often seen on the continent.
Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president by the military in April. He ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was overthrown following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.  Al-Bashir was one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. The military generals announced that it would set up a transitional military council to run the country for up to two years — but pro-democracy demonstrators are firmly rejecting that plan.
Earlier this month, Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appeared before a prosecutor in Khartoum, where he was charged with corruption-related offenses.
In Senegal, President Macky Sall easily won re-election. Senegal has long been viewed as the region’s most stable democracy, with peaceful transitions of power since attaining independence from France in 1960.
It’s worth mentioning that two of the best-known opposition figures were banned from running in February due to corruption convictions that rights groups say were politically motivated.

Also in West Africa, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took the oath of office in May for a second four-year term to the cheers of many Nigerians who looked forward to a brighter future at the Eagle Square in the heart of Abuja.
Buhari, 76, won with 15.2 million votes. His nearest rival, Atiku Abubakar, trailed by nearly four million votes. The opposition claims that vote-rigging and corruption marred this election.  In 2015, Buhari was Nigeria’s first democratically-elected opposition candidate to be handed power from an incumbent president in the nation’s history.
South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as president is vowing to create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption.  Ramaphosa, becomes the country’s fourth democratically-elected president since the end of apartheid era in 1994.
Malawian President Peter Mutharika was sworn in last month for a second term after a contentious election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging. Malawi’s opposition rejected the election results; and are calling for countrywide demonstrations over the disputed result.  Police have used teargas to disperse protesters gathered in the capital Lilongwe, and in the commercial center Blantyre.

AFRICA FARMERS TURNING TO THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY

By Paul Ndiho

An Ivorian Agriculture-technology company is introducing locally assembled drones to help farmers boost crop production.  It’s part of an initiative across Africa to increase crop yields through the data-driven technology. Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 3.31.29 PM
A World Bank study says agriculture is an essential driver of Ivory Coast’s economy, accounting for 22 percent of its Gross Domestic Product and more than 75 percent of its exports.

Palm tree farmer Emmanuel Adou looks on as engineers prep a drone at his farm in Sikensi, 80 kilometers Northwest of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan.
Adou is among a growing number of farmers now using drone technology to help boost crop production.

For Adou, the days of back-breaking work at his plantation ended after he sought help from Investiv Group, an Ivorian company that specializes in precision agriculture.

“In the past, we would to physically irrigate the farm, but today, with this technology, we can irrigate the crops from above with the use of drones, as well as spraying fertilizers from above, that’s why I was very interested in this new technology, I wanted this company (Investiv Group) to work with us and help our workers,”

Precision agriculture incorporates technology like drones, sensors and GPS devices that allow farmers and researchers to monitor and optimize their crop growth – and assist in conserving resources such as soil and water.


Investiv Group uses drones to capture aerial imagery of crops and other physical features of farms.  The data is then analyzed to identify the types of plants, the potential yield, and health, as well as whether pests or the weather have damaged the crops.

Investiv Group CEO, Aboubacar Karim, says farmers must embrace technology and innovation.

“When we talk about precision agriculture, it’s really about being able to identify and pinpoint the exact areas of the farm that may have issues. For example, based on data received from the drone, we can assess the health of the crops, or areas that need a boost in growth, and we compare and contrast to find out if there are issues around water irrigation or issues around crop fertility and so on,”

Cote d’Ivoire Drone is another company facilitating access to drones technology in the West African nation. Moroccan-born entrepreneur Maruna Jebbar, says Africa  is ripe for innovation in the aerospace industry, although the technical skills gap remains a challenge.

“It was challenging for us at the beginning, but it has become easier over time. We can now assemble up to four drones a day, and if we have all the pieces here, we can put out four drones a day,”

Meanwhile, in landlocked Malawi, which suffers from periodic crop failures and is prone to flooding  and is frequently in need of food and other aid.  Limited road access makes it difficult to get needed help to its rural communities.

“We are understaffed that one extension worker is covering 3,000 farmers instead of 700 farmers. So, if we can have access to these modern technologies, definitely we can ease our work and we can be producing reports in relation to what is actually happening on the ground.”

Malawi’s government and various United Nations agencies are using the country’s drone testing corridor to analyze drone assessments of crop health in the region.
The data is cross-checked against a ground survey and then shared with farmers.

 

The plight of refugees in Africa

 

By Paul Ndiho

United Nations World Refugee Day is commemorated each year on June 20th.  The day honors the strength and courage of refugees and encourages public awareness of people who have fled their home lands due to conflict or natural disaster.  This year’s theme is “Step With Refugees.”   Refugees 2

Every minute, 20 thousands of men, women, and children are forced to flee to escape persecution, violence, or terror.  Many of these people find themselves in Uganda, the host of over 1.4 million refugees and this number could grow up to 1.8 million by the end of the year, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Approximately 74 percent of all refugees are from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Over three-thousand people who had sought sanctuary in U.N. protection sites during various conflicts are expressing the desire to return home according to the U.N.

“When they go back home, they are now free to do other things like cultivation, farming, fishing, business, even some people can go back to school, so we are trying to facilitate them to move on with their lives.”

South Sudan was plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar.  The conflict uprooted more than one-third of the country’s 12 million people from their homes.  For the leader of the South Sudan National Movement for Change party, it was an emotional return to his home territory after five years in exile.  He now has high hopes for peace and for his people who greeted him with enthusiasm.


“I’m also very excited to see them after five years out of the country. I never left them with hatred. I’m coming back with love and with unity and let us continue to push the country forward. That is the only message. Never go back to war again. We need peace. If anybody has any intention to go to war, please take care of the vulnerable, the women, and children who are suffering. We don’t need war again.”

it’s a different story in Ethiopia.  Over one million people that were uprooted from their homes by ethnic clashes are still too terrified to return home.  Twenty-two year-old Teketel Memheru is still too afraid to return home, more than a year after his house in southern Ethiopia was razed to the ground, his coffee plantation destroyed and his cattle stolen.

“We have seen no peace since Abiy came to power. Peace is the most important thing for a human being, not only to farm, but also to cultivate and eat what is farmed.”

Officials insist that what became the world’s largest internal displacement crisis in 2018, is now under control and that more than one-million people have returned to their homes.  However, there are warnings that dire humanitarian conditions exist and are only set to get worse.

“The need is extensive and as you can see more than one million people have been displaced from different directions, so like these, there are several highly vulnerable and affected areas, so we addressed only highly vulnerable people with intensive targeting.”

Since coming to power in April 2018, after two years of anti-government unrest, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — himself an Oromo — has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors.
He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, and under his leadership, an easing of control has seen Ethiopia jump 40 points in the 2019 press freedom index.

But tensions remain between ethnic groups who are divided into nine autonomous regions, some have boiled over — usually over land and resources — leading to deadly violence in the country of over 100 million people.

THE RACE TO REVIVE AFRICA’S NATIONAL AIRLINES

By Paul Ndiho

Air transport in Africa is critical in facilitating business, international trade, and tourism.  Across the continent, several countries are racing to relaunch their defunct national carriers even though these airlines were not profitable and survived on government financial support to stay solvent. The International Air Transport Association says Ethiopian Airlines is arguably Africa’s most successful airline — it leads the continent’s air carriers in revenues, the number of aircraft, routes operated in Africa and profitability. Ethiopian Airlines has the goal to become Africa’s largest Airline by 2025.
Industry analysts say the growth of Ethiopian Airlines is outpacing its regional competitors to become Africa’s largest airline with a fleet of over 100 planes.  The carrier services dozens of destinations in Africa, Asia, South America, and the United States.
“Airlines are now growing 5-6 percent, a maximum of 10 percent in any part of the world. But we are growing 20 percent plus. So this is impressive in any standard in the industry.”
Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 8.04.23 AM

Despite the success of Ethiopian Airlines, other regional carriers have not been as successful.  The International Air Transport Association says the aviation industry overall is expected to make significant profits in 2019, but African airlines are projected to continue losing money.
For example, In 2017, Kenya Airways lost money despite cutting its losses by 51 percent to $97 million compared with $250 million posted the previous year.

Last October, Kenya Airways announced its first ever direct nonstop flight from Nairobi to New York.  The carrier operates the route using the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.  The transatlantic flight is part of an effort to revive the airline’s fortunes, after it nearly collapsed, leading to a $2 billion restructuring in November that included a government bailout, which reduced the stake of Air France and KLM in the African carrier.

“This is, roughly this is 10 percent, this is going to increase 2019 revenues by roughly 10 percent of what we have today.”

South African Airways another intercontinental national carrier has also not been profitable. The airline has lost billions of dollars in the last seven years, recording a loss of $153 million in 2017.  Critics say that without a government bailout, the airline unlikely to survive.  However, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s is pledging to fully revive the troubled national carrier.

Uganda is trying to revive and relaunch Uganda Airlines, nearly two decades after the national carrier collapsed.  Ephraim Bagenda is the CEO of Uganda Airlines.

“Commercial operation will start the beginning of July this year. And we will start with a few routes. We intend to have 21 destinations eventually, but we shall start slowly.”

Air Tanzania bounced back, announcing the purchase of a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner package valued at $224 million. It’s slated to be flagship aircraft for Air Tanzania fleet – ‘The Wings of Kilimanjaro.’ The 787 is costly to maintain and could cost Tanzanian taxpayers millions of dollars.

Later this month Air Tanzania – Boeing 787-8 will launch four weekly flights between Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg and in July 2019 another additional flight between Dar es Salaam and Mumbai.

RwandAir, the state-owned flagship carrier of Rwanda, operates domestic and international flights across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia from its headquarters at Kigali International Airport. But some critics say RwandAir may be too optimistic with its financial expectations and is operating on losses.

ESPORTS GAMING TAKES ROOT IN KENYA

By Paul Ndiho

Kenya is gearing up to host the inaugural Africa Esports Championship in Nairobi in August this year, and younger players have already participated in several leagues in the build-up. Kenyan gaming events companies are hoping to cash in and become significant players in the global arena.  

esports kenya

The global gaming industry valued at over US$135 billion, has Kenya’s budding gamer’s sights set on honing their gaming skills to build professional careers as the fast-growing industry continues to create opportunities on several fronts.

Video gaming form of entertainment, and has even grown to become a spectator sport.  At a club in Nairobi, players recently had a chance to battle it out in the Kenya National League of the Africa Esports Championships.

Gaming has become a big business and has given rise to games being played in tournaments that offer impressive amounts of prize money.

“If you look at countries like those in the West and Asia, esports has become a full-time occupation. Where you have dedicated athletes who compete in games, so I can list some of them like, ‘League of Legends’ has a dedicated league. ‘Over Watch’ in multiple continents, whereby the players are paid a stipend, and they also earn money from endorsements they receive from sponsors and corporate investors, and this has now changed the landscape of the sport, where people are taking it far more seriously, like an actual sport,”

Esports already boasts an estimated 250 million players worldwide in a growing market worth about US$1 billion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized esports in 2017 as a sports activity, but the IOC maintains that the structure of esports and its focus on commercialization currently hamper immediate hopes of inclusion in the Games.

Sylvia Wahome also is known as ‘Queen Arrow’ in gaming circles, is Kenya’s first female professional gamer and is currently signed up with a US-based esports XiT Woundz team.

“I see myself becoming one of the most recognized esports athletes not just because of my gender and because of my skill, yeah because I am taking the slow and gradual steps to improve in my gameplay,”

Esports is the competitive side of electronic gaming, with multiple players battling against each other usually in teams, often in matches that are streamed live to crowds of young fans

“Well yes, with the growth of the industry especially at the numbers that the industry is growing in the international market, I believe that esports will be a career option very soon in Kenya,”

Several African countries are well positioned to benefit from gaming because of their youthful population and broadband access. Talent managers are also seizing the opportunity to nurture professional gamers.

“We know there are quite many talented players already, so as the sessions grow as the competitions expand, we feel like we are going to capture quite some talented players that will enable Kenya to compete against the best in the world,”

Global esports revenues are expected to hit $US1.1 billion in 2019, up 27 percent since last year amid ballooning revenues from advertising, sponsorship and media rights to competitive video gaming, according to a report from Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm.

ANALYSIS OF MALAWI AND SOUTH AFRICAN ELECTIONS

 

By Paul Ndiho

Cyril Ramaphosa South Africa’s president was sworn in as last month vowing to create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption that has stifled economic growth. Meanwhile,

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika took the oath of office and allegiance after winning the country’s May 21 elections. He called on his opponents to accept the results.

Malawi Elections

Newly-elected South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says he is committed to tackling severe challenges the country faced at his inauguration ceremony in Pretoria.  He committed being sworn in as South Africa’s fifth president since the end of Apartheid in 1994.

Ramaphosa pledged to root out corruption and to address socio-economic problems plaguing South Africa. And also announced a new, leaner cabinet for South Africa.

As he looks to meet a pre-election pledge to reform and revive an ailing economy and attract foreign investment.

Half of those appointed are women, making the country the third on the continent, after Ethiopia and Rwanda, to achieve gender parity among its ministers.

“All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties that our country is going through right now, but they’re also aware of the constraints that have been placed on our public finances. It is therefore imperative that in all areas and spheres of government, we place a priority on revitalizing our economy, while at the same time exercising great care in the use of public funds.”

A political analyst says having a small cabinet was good for business and investment, showing a sign of decisiveness and political stability.

 

    “The cabinet shows a certain level of dynamism. It’s efficient, and it’s meant to bring in elicit new ideas from people who were never there. Getting rid of the old tired bodies perhaps? So, there’s a heralding of dynamism, something new, right? Which is in keeping with the president’s theme of renewal.”

Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) clinched a 57.5% majority in a general election earlier in May, down from 62% in 2014 as voters turned against the ruling party due to revelations about government corruption and record unemployment.

Meanwhile, in Malawi, Peter Mutharika was sworn in as president of Malawi for a second term on Tuesday last week after a contentious election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

The Malawi Electoral Commission announced that Peter Mutharika, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won 38.57 percent against former evangelist Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on 35.41 percent — a gap of just 159,000 votes.

“Thank you, Malawians for re-electing me as your president for the next five years.” “There is a time to argue and a time to agree. There is a time to pursue our past and goal and a time to pursue our collective national goal. This is a time to unite and develop this country.”

Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda conducted the swearing-in ceremony in Blantyre’s Kamuzu Banda sports stadium.

Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera on Friday rejected the result of last week’s presidential election, saying he had launched a court battle to have the vote annulled on the grounds of fraud.

“I reject the Malawi Electoral Commission’s fraudulent presidential results,” Chakwera said in a statement. What we have witnessed in front of our very eyes is not an election, but daylight robbery, a crime against our decency as a people and our democracy as a nation.”

Chakwera lost the election by just 159,000 votes to incumbent Peter Mutharika, who was hurriedly sworn into office the day after the delayed result was issued. Third-placed presidential contender Saulos Chilima who garnered  20.24 percent, of the vote. Chilima was a vice president and member of the ruling party but quit last year to form the youth-focused United Transformation Movement.

Malawi has a “winner-takes-all” system, and in 2014 Mutharika also narrowly beat Chakwera, by a small margin.  Mutharika came to power vowing to tackle corruption after the “Cashgate” scandal a year earlier revealed massive looting from state coffers.

But he has faced corruption allegations himself. Last November, he was forced to return a $200,000 (180,000-euro) donation from a businessperson facing corruption charges in a $3-million contract to supply food to the Malawi police. 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS IN UGANDA

By Paul Ndiho,

The Buganda Kingdom plays a significant role in Uganda. Since the restoration of traditional Kingdoms in 1993, this cultural institution has served as an essential support-base for politicians running for office, spearheading cultural and development programs within the country. bugandakingdom2_7215799c70b647366cee70ca8357fe6f_650x400.resized

At the top of Mengo Hill in Uganda’s bustling capital Kampala, the Bulange palace – home of the Buganda Kingdom symbolizes the country’s rich history of the monarchy.

The Buganda Kingdom is one of four Ugandan kingdoms and perhaps the most influential politically and strategically.   Cultural institutions are not supposed to have any “real” political power — but Buganda, with a population of nearly six million people, is more than a cultural institution – it is a political force.

Buganda has embarked on the social and economic and infrastructure transformation that sets the bar for the rest of the country. Charles Peter Mayiga, the Prime Minister or commonly known as the “Katikiro” has been at the center of development programs.

The Buganda Kingdom boasts of the largest ethnic community “Baganda,” and they pride themselves as having a unique culture, good morals, and close association with the other clans to boot.  Margaret Muwonge is one of the 11 representatives of the Kingdom in North America. She explains.

“The Kabaka is what I would call the custodian of the screed trust of Buganda. He does not come in to rule over the people. He comes in to mingle and look at his people and direct them and inspire them. He does not give them orders. What he does is to listen, and that’s why he deploys all of us everywhere in the Diaspora.”

The Katikiro, the Kings representative, is visiting the Washington, D.C. area to meet and mingle with members of the Bugandan ethnic community from different parts of North America.  His mission is to meet and listen to the king’s subjects and then report back to the king.

“People look up to him because they revere the trust, they revere him, and that’s why you see them kneeling. They do not kneel to the man; they kneel to that entity of what he represents.”

The Baganda were instrumental in the current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s rise to power 33 years ago.  Museveni based his five-year military struggle in the kingdom’s heartland in Luwero.   Since then, the Baganda have supported and helped him to stay in power.

But a long-simmering dispute over land and power between President Yoweri Museveni’s government and the Buganda kingdom has persisted for a long time.  The Kabaka wants more autonomous control over resources in his kingdom, such as land and taxes, but the government says he is only a cultural figure and must steer clear of politics.

The disputes over land and power with Buganda sparked violent protests in 2009 that killed dozens of people.  Demonstrators,  mostly youth from the Baganda tribe, blocked roads, and set fire to vehicles and tires, protesting the decision to block the Kabaka, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, from visiting a part of his kingdom, the Kayunga district in the eastern part of Buganda.

A couple of months later, fire gutted a mausoleum was built in 1860 and destroyed much of the Kasubi Tombs, the final resting place of the kings of Buganda and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The cause of the blaze was never determined and the reconstruction of the tombs is still ongoing.

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