Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Rhino poaching is a white issue"

Just had an interesting twitter debate with Kay Sexwale (niece of Tokyo) about the value of protecting rhino for the well-being of our broader wildlife economy. Sadly, irrational Kay and her followers think rhino poaching is a white problem and has little to do with maintaining the R186 billion tourism supplied into the South African economy in 2012. I grow more disillusioned by the day by the lack of sustainable thinking and the integral role that protecting our natural resources and heritage means for the majority of rural economies that do not have other industrial sectors to depend on for their livelihoods. Perhaps the prevailing bias will only be shaken when our ecotourism industry collapses and millions of economic refugees make their way to the troubled mines or urban centres in search of work. Read the whole sad state of affairs  on my twitter feed @africanscribe

Monday, August 13, 2012

The real African Land grabbers

A recently published article by Fred Pearce in the Daily Mail makes a really poor and reckless job of representing an extremely complex issue. My response:

Firstly, citing two examples from Brazil hardly builds a case for an article about supposed land grabbers in Africa. Brazil is experiencing the highest economic growth among developing countries and their new economic model based on commodities is worth exploring separately. They have rebuilt their economy and boast the lowest unemployment rate in the developing world.
If you had done your research correctly and understood the dynamics of food security and land issues in Africa you will have discovered that that many of these so called agricultural pursuits are in fact smoke screens for earning mining concessions in resource-rich, unstable African territories. Whether these individuals are unscrupulous or not, the real emphasis should be on unethical African governments who allow the exploitation of their own people by selling tribal land to the highest, typically foreign, bidder. You can read the real story of how Phil Edmonds, Andrew Groves and Daniel Och bankrolled the 2008 ZANU PF Zimbabwe election in exchange for a platinum concession in the latest issue of Mail & Guardian. 

When the mining concessions turn out to be fruitless some of these territories have become test grounds for biofuels which prior to the economic downturn in 2008 where tipped as being the highest potential earners for a new green economy.

We ( Africans)  don’t need finger pointing and reckless tarring of foreign investors with an old (Imperial) brush, what we need is some ethical policy structures that encourage skill transfer and infrastructure investment to support small scale farming and commercial innovation of indigenous farming techniques. Your indignation would be better directed at Pan African structures like the African Union and NEPAD who are struggling to conclude pro-poor trade agreements with foreign powers after more than ten years in existence. 

And what Richard Branson has to do with this topic is beyond me. His investment into the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve has helped keep intact a vital ecologically pristine chunk of the Kruger Park biosphere and create hundreds of jobs for the local villages such as Dumphries. The concession fees paid by private landowners go into supporting local conservation and Ulusaba’s community outreach Pride and Purpose has also built schools, clinics and supported home based care initiatives, which are really the obligation of the local government. Isolating Paul Bayliss’efforts of building a clinic in Liberia are quickly diminished  when placed in context of the ecological damage that palm-oil production has over deforestation and food security. Bayliss should probably be doing a great deal more.

Even the shady Phil Edmonds has built a women’s clinic in Maputo to no doubt earn favour with the Mozambique government. What this says is that African governments have become masters at shirking their own responsibilities by using foreign investors to bankroll social development infrastructure for the betterment of their own people. The enemy is not Imperialism; it is a lack of ethics that traverses individual business interests and corrupt governments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

265 Rhinos killed this year

We cannot continue to behave like victims while the Chinese profit from Africa's forests, coal, mineral wealth and now our wildlife heritage due to our lack of sustainable conscience and easily bought government officials, but appealing to the Chinese appetite for commerce may be an option.

We need to call for a moratorium on Chinese imports and an immediate boycott on all Chinese goods until the Chinese government makes some sort of moral stand to publicly renounce the medicinal value of rhino horn and criminalise possession of it in its own country. I believe USA, UK and Europe would support this, they are Safari's biggest fans. The UK is already making a stand.

We also need to put pressure on President Zuma to use his influence with the Chinese Government to address this. If the Big 5 is diminished to the Big 4, the entire tourism industry will suffer and Zuma's big hope for new jobs will disintegrate.

We may also need to consider how all the rhino sold into Chinese 'breeding' projects are being managed. If the poaching slows down its only because China have purchased a sufficient breeding population to harvest their own horn and once again claim the domain on an economy that we should have led.

Right now, we need foot soldiers. Making an appeal to CITES for a once off sale of South Africa's stock pile of rhino horn could help fund this army and considerably devalue its appeal as rare commodity. It would also discourage unscrupulous private rhino breeders from fetching a high price. The enemy is not only in Asia.

This kind of brutality makes it hard to avoid an emotional response that will invariably end with prejudice. The world has enough prejudice-driven hatred to contend with. We need to maintain that this is not a cultural issue but rather an economic one, fuelled by China's massive population and buying power.

Let's be sure the way we fight this is a precedent we will be proud to to retell in the history books.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Water not energy constraining growth in South Africa

South Africa's climate change debate has, so far, largely focused on the country's overdependence on coal-fired energy and how it makes the country one of the world's highest per capita polluters.

A failure to factor in the cost of water in producing electricity is starting to have negative consequences. Little consideration has been given to the link between water, energy and climate change and indeed how dependent energy production is on water...Read more

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Somalia - celebrating tweny years of madness

I am currently reading Aidan Hartley's 'The Zanzibar Chest' - a very gritty memoir of his upbringing in East Africa, retracing his father's steps through Yemen and his days as one of the bang bang club - the war correspondents sent in to capture live accounts of wars in deepest Africa that the world has never really cared about.

Hartley was at the frontline of the civil war that erupted in Mogadishu in 1991, and one of the first journalists to coin the phrase 'Warlords.' He saw how gunmen literally created a famine and then continuously ambushed food aid deliveries until many NGO's eventually gave up trying to get aid in on account of the high risk.

I woke up this morning and checked the news. Somalia occupies the first three stories on CNN's Africa page. It's been twenty years and yet the stories of brutal killing, weapon stashes and explosions killing civilians are unchanged!

What is the point of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force or the African Union for that matter if they have failed in quelling one of Africa's longest running wars?

My suggestion, if you're a blogger hiding out in a Somali bunker is to send a tipoff to the media that you have just discovered oil. Maybe that will help dispatch the cavalry.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Communication training course for NGo's in Africa