[in] focus

Time for Togo to enter the global scene

To keen observers of the African continent, it may have become noticeable that Togo has risen to a certain level of renown among the circles of key world players. The small West-African nation, which was under the 38-year dictatorship of Gnassingbe Eyadema until his death in 2005, is rising to the foreign policy agenda of the United States, the development agenda of China and the aid agenda of the European Union.  Beyond this, Togo has become one of the states to join the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member. All these indicate that it may be time for Togo to occupy more prominence on the global scene. American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s visit to Togo on January the 16, 2012, is a recent illustration that Togo is mounting in significance.

Four nations were visited during Clinton’s continental visit. These were Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo and Cape Verde. Her selection of Togo among the other three African nations was an important milestone, as the visit marked the first ever high-level U.S official delegation visit to the Republic. This set Togo apart from the other three nations Clinton visited during the tour, as it was not the first time a high-level US delegations had visited any of the other three countries. However, the US is only one of the key global players that has been improving its relations with Togo in recent times.

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The expansion of AFRICOM in Africa under Obama: A Paradox?

In classic Orwellian juxtapose, Obama’s AFRICOM strategy appears to echo “War is Peace” and “Ignorance is Strength.” In his presidential campaign a few years ago, Obama personified change and hope which granted him a Nobel Peace Prize even before he had started working for world peace in earnest. Yet his message is constantly being undone.

Contrary to expectations, AFRICOM, a Europe-based military platform for advancing the US’ strategic interest in Africa, has secretly expanded its presence in Africa under the Obama presidency, notwithstanding spirited opposition from African countries opposed to militarization of African affairs.

In 2008, no African country would host US troops, yet 30 months after becoming an independent command, AFRICOM has used other surreptitious ways of marking its presence, principally through the consolidation of military-to-military relations with 51 African nations. Changes in government in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya have added two more countries to that column. US troops now have bases in Djibouti, Senegal and Uganda. A US military base in Botswana remains a rumour, yet military relations between the two countries have grown significantly.

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Africa’s self-reliance in the context of changes in global power

Central to the idea of African renewal or renaissance is the continent’s ability to reduce and ultimately end its excessive dependence on others to finance even its most basic programmes. Ubiquitous poverty, a heavy disease burden, rampant corruption, weak intra-African trade, slow integration and other factors hamper Africa’s ability to achieve this. Yet, increasingly remittances and competition between new and old donors provide opportunities for Africa to grow its self-reliance.

Recent reports suggest that some R2 trillion worth of remittances are expected to reach developing countries in 2012. This development is to be applauded as it means that gradually poor countries will become less dependent on foreign aid.

In 2008, remittances from migrants constituted two percent of GDP of developing countries and three percent in case of low-income countries. The inflows declined in 2009 as a result of the effects of the global economic crisis, but picked up again in 2010. This means for the second year in a row and in the midst of a deepening global economic crisis, remittances are on the increase.

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Occupy Davos? Merging the world social and economic forums

 

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) of humanity’s transnational economic, political and business elite prepare to naval gaze with one another on the collapse of global capitalist optimism, the international system’s dysfunctions could not appear more glaring. Clearly we are in an interregnum of what, in what the late great evolutionist Stephen J. Gould, dubbed ‘punctuated equilibrium’ in which an old order of life suddenly crumbles after ages of seeming stasis before a new one takes its place. Or put another way in the world of international politics, the old world order of western dominance is in accelerated decline while the new world order has yet to take shape.

 

Over more than a space of a year, a confluence of economic and geopolitical forces accompanied by societal upheavals of a class and inter-generational nature, have unhinged the global order. This occurs at a time when incumbent structures such as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system are ill-adapted to cope with multiple security and financial crises while newly emergent formations like the G-20 and BRICS have yet to find their footing in advancing global governance.

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Congolese need to go beyond vigilance on Election Day to become everyday architects of the desired open and democratic society

The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) defied all man-made and natural disincentives to go to the polls on 28 November 2011 to elect a new President and members of the country’s 500-seat National Assembly. As predicted, logistical challenges and growing intolerance on the part of contenders and their supporters had a negative impact on the conduct of the vote in almost all the 11 provinces of the DRC. Besides the shortage of voting material that forced the electoral commission to extend the ballot by two days in some parts of the country, incidents of violent confrontations, arson attacks on polling stations, as well as intercepted attempts to stuff ballot boxes with pre-marked papers are also reported to have marred the DRC’s second post-transition general elections. Needless to say, these irregularities have to some extent compromised the quality of the ballot and risk exposing the outcomes to severe contestation.

Looking beyond what, by most accounts, appears to have been a chaotic poll, to a consideration of its implications for the quest for an open and democratic society in the DRC, one heartening development cannot be overlooked – the vigilance displayed by the Congolese populace. The November 2011 elections were observed by much fewer international monitors than was the case in the first transitional elections in 2006. Coupled with the weak resource base of political parties and local civil society groupings, this reduced international presence had, prior to the polls, prompted fears that the vote in most parts of the vast country would unfold virtually unmonitored.

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