Poor G8 summit seeks own solutions

By Will Ross (BBC)
Special to Global Wire

If the organisers wanted to ensure the event in West Africa bore no similarity whatsoever to the G8 summit, I think they succeeded.
There may have been red carpets in Russia but in Mali there was just sand underfoot and being on the edge of the Sahara desert, there was plenty of it.

The directions to the venue would have read as follows: locate Mali on a map of Africa, look for Timbuktu, move your finger to the right a bit along the Niger River and that's where we are - Gao.

The town may be remote but it is accessible - there are few countries in the region that can match the 1,200km tarmac road connecting the Malian capital, Bamako, to Gao.

Whilst Presidents Bush, Blair and company arrived in St Petersburg preoccupied with the escalating crisis in the Middle East, the delegates gathering in Mali had other immediate concerns: as the temperatures reached 40 degrees in the shade, if you could find any, the first priority was where to locate a source of drinking water.

A white sheet painted with the words "free entry, free expression" was hung at the entrance to the venue, a secondary school.


With little hope of the G8 leaders acting in the interests of the developing countries, one of the summit's organiser's, Dao Dounantie, was keen for home-grown solutions to be found to the problems of unfair trade practises, debt and immigration fuelled by unemployment.

"The solutions to the problems in Africa are in Africa - you will not find them in Saint Petersburg.
"But no individual country in this region can succeed on its own so we need to put our heads together and develop solutions here which should then be supported by those leaders."

Under a tree, a mother sat breast-feeding her baby next to a group of cotton farmers debating the future of an industry on which a quarter of the Malian population depends.

There are concerns here that the subsidies currently paid to American cotton farmers distort the world cotton price and the Malian cotton farmers cannot compete.


Abdoulaye Cisse from a Malian farmers union asks: "Why can we not determine the price of our cotton? After all people from outside tell us what price we have to pay for our fertilisers."

He lamented the fact that most of the clothes worn in Mali were imported.

"We need investment in factories to process the cotton here in Africa then we can make clothes ourselves.

"But building the textile industry in Africa will only be possible if African countries work together."

As if on cue, 13-year-old Amadou walked past wearing a second hand football shirt. His chosen team plays thousands of miles away in London - Chelsea.

On the back of his shirt - the name Drogba - Abdoulaye's hero is the Ivorian striker, Didier Drogba.

But where's the shirt made? Indonesia - oh and it is polyester. The global economy throws up plenty of problems for a cotton farmer in Mali or Burkina Faso.


The organisers chose to host this summit in Gao for a good reason; to focus attention on the young people who out of desperation head here before trying to cross the Sahara desert in search of work in Europe.

A few sandy streets away from the summit I met 23-year-old Peace.
She left Nigeria last year desperate to lift herself and her family out of poverty.

"My parents are poor. I had to leave university after one year because I had no money and without any work I decided to travel.

"Some men in Nigeria told me it was possible to go to Mali and then continue to Algeria, Morocco and Spain. They told me about the advantages but nobody told me about the disadvantages."

Peace never made it to Europe - she has been deported twice from Algeria and is now stuck in Gao without enough money to get home. I asked how much she needed to save.

"Two or three hundred euros would be enough."

The fact that her chosen currency is the euro suggests she has not given up on her journey.

Many in her situation end up owing money to the traffickers and are then forced into prostitution as a result.

As the summit concluded, the French proposal of selective immigration was condemned as being likely to increase the problem of Africa's brain drain.


There were calls for action to end or at least slow down the immigration flow.

Human rights campaigner, Sidibe Diaba Camara, called for the G8 countries to play their part.

"We want the total cancellation of debt. Then with the money saved, programmes can be created for the youth.
"If young people have job opportunities, emigrating will not be so attractive."

There were also calls for the politicians in Africa to also play their part and ensure the money saved from debt cancellation is wisely spent instead of being siphoned off to fund mansions, Mercedes and champagne.

As the summit drew to a close and Diallo Mariam Traore put away her packets of ground maize, couscous and sesame seed cakes, she showed me a black pellet which looked like it might have been left behind by a donkey.

In fact it was a processed plant which she said was rich in iron and good for pregnant women.

Keen to add value to the wealth of African raw materials and knowledge, Madame Diallo had a message for the G8 leaders.

"Your countries are very rich so you should come here and help us with your technology and then we can work together to process our products - then we will both benefit."

The hope here is that any decisions taken in the future taken by Presidents Bush, Blair Putin and others, will be made without ignoring the consequences for the likes of Diallo, Peace and Cisse.


The Real South Africa

As Nelson Mandela celebrates his 88th birthday this week, one has to wonder as the more things change in South Africa, the more things remain the same.

From BBC News:

A racist mobile phone ringtone has been condemned by South Africa authorities in the city of Cape Town.

The lyrics are in Afrikaans and advocate violence against black people in derogatory terms.

Lionel Louw, chief of staff in the office of the premier of the Western Cape, said the originator of the ringtone could face prosecution.

But it may be difficult to trace the culprit as the file has been distributed via wireless technology.

According to a computer engineer, such technology makes it possible for any computer user to record any type of ringtone.

If the file is distributed via Bluetooth it is very hard to trace especially if the user clears the activity logs.

Blatantly racist

The lyrics of the song, according to a local newspaper, refer to a black person as a "kaffir" - an outlawed and derogatory term in South Africa.

It describes how such a person should be tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged around while driving.

The chorus has a blatantly racist tone and ends with a call to set dogs on the black person.

Some people, amused at the lyrics, have passed it on via wireless technology.

But it has outraged a growing number of South Africans, including human rights activists, since its existence has become public knowledge.

Dr Lionel Louw, chief of staff for the Office of the Premier in the Western Cape and representative of the Moral Regeneration Movement, said: "The Office of the Premier roundly condemns this ringtone that is circulating.

"The form of behaviour reflected in the ringtone is criminal and its perpetrators will feel the full might of the law." "It is a minority who participate in promoting this, and such views are not the reflection of the majority."

Given South Africa's painful past of racial conflict and discrimination, the existence of such offensive lyrics should be a cause for concern.


Ghanaians Musicians Get the American Experience

by Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Two musicians from the West African nation of Ghana will have the chance
this summer to study music at Berklee College of Music with some help from
reggae legend Rita Marley. For nearly 20 years young musicians from
across the country have come to study at Berklee’s five week summer
performance program, which is from July 8 through August 12. Students
will perform a wide selection of musical tastes ranging from pop, jazz,
rock, funk, fusion and R&B. They will also learn musicianship and theory
through private instruction, instrumental labs and ensemble playing.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for both the students and the
school,” said Berklee assistant professor Matt Jenson. “They will be
receiving training they would otherwise not be able to get back in Ghana.”

This opportunity came out the Africa Unite 2006 symposium Jenson attended
in Ghana this past spring. The symposium was produced by the Rita Marley
Foundation as part of Bob Marley’s 61st birthday celebrations. Rita
Marley approached Jenson about having Ghanaian musicians study at Berklee.
Rita Marley's invitation for Jenson to come to Ghana came from her hearing
about the class he teaches, “The Music and Life of Bob Marley,” which is
the only performance class of its kind in the world. According to
Berklee, the class is “aided by rare video footage and audio examples and
students learn about the evolution of Marley's career, and the
socio-political circumstances from which his music and ideas arose.” The
Bob Marley enthusiast was so enthralled with the prospect of having the
musicians come to Berklee that he immediately went to Berklee president
Roger Brown about the idea.

“Our president has a lot of experience in Africa because he used to work
for a relief agency there,” Jensen` said. “He really wanted to do this.
Berklee provides the tuition, room and board and the Rita Marley
Foundation covered their airfare.”

A call for auditions for the program was put out and the selection process
was highly competitive. Both Jenson and Marley auditioned over 18
musicians in Ghana. Ultimately they selected trumpeter Joanna Denaka and
pianist Victor Korsi Dey to come this summer.

While fetching water in Accra one day, Denaka was turned on to playing the
trumpet by another female trumpeter. “I was surprised to see this woman
playing trumpet, as I thought playing horns was something for men,” Denaka
said in a statement. “In my church women could sing in the choir, but the
musicians in the brass band were all men. She showed me that women could
play music as well.”

Dey started peforming at a young age. He was inspired by jazz musicians
from Africa, Europe and the United States. He currently plays three
nights a week at a nightclub in Accra and had performed in jazz festivals
when they come to town. He has had the privilege of performing with such
musical greats as Courtney Pine, Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder.

“It was an amazing experience to see the depth of talented musicians in
Ghana,” Jenson said in a press release. “Most players have had very
little formal training and despite this – by pure drive, inspiration and
hard work – they have developed their skills to a very high level.”

At the end of the program the students will have a chance to perform their
craft to the Berklee community. Jenson hopes that the students will go
back home and become better musicians while providing support for other
budding musicians.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Jenson said. “This is a once in a
lifetime opportunity that only the most talented musicians get to have.”