Friday, December 17, 2010

Africa’s Voice on Global Environment Issues: Why It’s Important

A FEEEDS™ blogspot

As Cancun ends with environmental issues and policies still on the table that will affect not only how future generations live, but how the planet copes with the enormous carbon foot print (greenhouse gases produced by humans measured in units of carbon dioxide, CO2 equivalent or CO2-eq), the voice of sub Saharan Africa needs to be front and center in the global debate. The world’s current per person CO2-eq is about 4 tons per person and the average North American generates about 20 tons of CO2-eq each year (

Sub Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world have a key role to play in leading, designing, deciding, and shaping environmental policy for the coming decades. Why? Because of several key factors that should not be underestimated or overlooked. Global environmental policy is the macro picture and sets the stage for how we will live together in the future. It will be important for Africa to keep the macro elements of population, economic growth, water and land use, food availability, pollution and last, but certainly not least, managing energy resources in a more efficient and effective manner. Africa needs to be one of the leading regions in the world shaping these policy issues -- developing practical, innovative solution that will help the Continent better provide for future generations. Here are some key factors as to why Africa should be one of the primary voices on how global environmental policy unfolds:

Sub Saharan Africa’s Population
Sub Saharan Africa’s population is young, with more than half of it under the age of 25. With current continent-wide population growth rates averaging 2.45 per cent, and the trajectory estimated to remain the same over the next 40 years (, Africa is on track to be home to 1.9 billion people by 2050. In addition, although Africa is the third largest continent, it is reportedly the fastest growing with the billionth person born there this year (

With half its population being under 25 now and if the trajectory remains the same, Africa would be host to 29 per cent of the people in the world of that age group. This means they will need to not only be adequately and nutritionally feed, but have access to education (particularly vocational), training, housing and resources to have a good quality of life. Thus, the affects of climate change and resources management will be vital for the Continent. Now is the time for sub Saharan Africa to be out front on global environmental issues. With this large population, the affects of climate change will likely hit Africa harder than any other region. To sustain this population several things must change from how energy resources, and water and land use are managed. The affects of climate change such as drought, famine-related diseases, and poverty cannot be underestimated.

In addition, oil-producing countries should not see alternative energy usages such as solar and wind as a threat to economic development. There will be enough need for all environmentally-friendly forms of energy well into the future. With proper planning, the right democratic leadership, and transparent resource management, economic growth for many African countries can be realized. The future does not have to be bleak for the Continent, but the time is now for Africa to be seen as one of the leaders in the global debate on how large populations cope and plan the use of their resources.

Water Management and Land Use
These are the next two issues that must move to the top of the agenda for sub Saharan Africa. Not only is the management of these resources key to supporting the population, but water and land use also affects economic growth and development. Although these two resources are often discussed in Africa, they need to be addressed in terms of continent-wide environmental policy, and regional cooperation. Leading activists, academics, and experts such as Hernando de Soto (,
Dr. Zuberi of the University of Pennsylvania, and the World Bank’s Deininger during a 2010 Tanzanian water and land use conference, noted that most of the world’s water resources and arable and agricultural land are in the developing world. For example, according to de Soto, about 1.7 billion hectares today produces most of the world’s food, and with a bump from technology this could rise to 2.4 billion hectares. These hectares are mostly in Latin America and Africa.

Furthermore according to GRID-Arendal, a collaborating center of the United Nations Development Program (UNEP), Africa has the potential now to raise its current 160 million hectares of arable and agricultural land up to 300 million hectares (

The importance of improving the management of both these resources is evident. For water, better management will provide more access to potable water and avert water scarcity and water stress (water scarcity and stress generally refers to environmental problems caused by unmet water needs). For land, better management will improve usage of arable and agricultural areas to improve food production.

This means that current and future use of these two precious resources must be done with realistic planning. If not, the likelihood increases for food insecurity, and of course, conflict over these two vital resources. About 70 per cent of people living in sub Saharan Africa depend on agriculture (, and according to Water System Analysis Group, 64% rely on limited water

When talking about land, it is important also to keep in mind FAO’s definition of both arable and cultivate land. Arable land includes land defined by FAO as areas under temporary cultivation; cultivated land is that which is under permanent crops for long periods of time such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber. For sub Saharan Africa this means about 8.3 per cent of the land (

There are numerous examples in the world were ethnic and religious differences or tensions arise because of pressures on either land use or water rights -- or lack of access to either. If you add these challenges to the ever-expanding desertification in the Sahel, the importance of managing these resources in an environmentally sound manner is even more evident. Sub Saharan African leaders will need to continue to actively and effectively participate in the climate change debate and help develop global policies to address its unique position as the fastest growing Continent. At the 2010 Tanzanian Conference, it was sited that Sudan, Zambia and Mozambique reportedly have the largest amounts of land available for food production. Desertification is affecting countries like Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad to name a few and blogitrrs has already reported on current food security issues in the West Africa region ( Again, water and land use affects economic growth and development, jobs and the future.

All of these issues are pillars in the environment and climate change discussion. We all want a way forward that makes sense, and that will ensure that we have: a resource-rich future that pushes all of us to be environmentalists, energy conservationists, and users of alternative energy resources in the execution of our daily lives. It is important to remember that future economic growth and development will be impacted by how we handle climate change today.

Indeed, for sub Saharan Africa the important things on the radar screen to keep in mind are:

-- That a good percentage of the world’s water resources are on the African Continent, thus having enough potable water for the both current and future generations is vital;

-- That most of the arable and agricultural land today is in the developing world, (both arable and cultivated land). These must be used wisely for food security (both adequate and nutrition-rich foods), and with environmental considerations in mind. This includes using innovative technology to improved food storage and crop rotation, hybrid seeds, water harvesting, and more drip irrigation to name a few solutions;

--That land tenure and land uses are part of the climate change debate for Africa because laws and regulations in many countries will need to be address at the same time with a view to incorporating environmental sound policies. Land tenure issues are a big piece of the environmental picture given that whoever owns land determines how, particularly for agriculture. This includes bringing more women into the discussion, particularly on title and land transfer issues. Noting that 90 per cent of land in sub Saharan Africa is not titled, de Soto refers to land titles as “passports” as it allows one to have a voice in how land is used.; and,

--That energy usage (fossil fuel and combustion) is one of the largest markers of the world’s carbon foot print. Alternative energy usage (wind, solar, hydro) must come into play alongside improved environmental-sound use of hydrocarbons (i.e. advance efforts to capture gas from flaring so it can be used as an additional energy resource). A sufficient and efficient energy platform sustains manufacturing, industry and entrepreneurial activity leading to economic growth, development, and jobs.

All of these issues underscore the importance of the Continent’s leadership role in the global climate change/environmental debate in order for sub Saharan Africa to provide a good quality of life for its 1.9 billion population at mid-Century and beyond.

*N.B. Primary carbon footprint is emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels combustion for energy consumption and transportation. Secondary footprint is the indirect emissions during the lifecycle of products (i.e. greenhouse gases emitted making plastic bottles). ( All stats and Africa references refer to sub Saharan Africa.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nigeria's Role In Africa Over the Next 50 Years

2010 World Summit of Mayors, Nigeria, December 2010

What is Nigeria's Role in Africa Over the Next 50 Years?

Nigeria – a nation of plenty, a nation of potential, and nation of prospects. These are the key pillars that the next 50 years should bring to fruition for this great country. As an African-American who sees Nigeria as one of the most important global nations in the world today, it is important for Nigeria, with the support and encouragement from its friends, to enter the next half century with the goal of improving the daily lives of each Nigerian citizen. This includes having a safe enabling environment not only for economic growth and development, but also to further ensure its rightful place as a leader in the sub region on peace and security issues. Nigerians, and their friends, see the struggles that this great nation faces today with instability being renewed in the Delta, ethnic tensions in parts of the North, corruption issues, and concerns about a successful, and transparent election looming large for April 2011.

None of these issues should be taken lightly, they are real, cause uncertainty, and are challenges that must be addressed in a transparent manner to set the stage not only for Nigeria in the next 50 years, but also for the African Continent writ large. The nation of Nigeria and the people I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing have always made me proud to be connected to a country with such great potential and prospects. Nigeria is a symbol for many African-Americans in so many positive ways – the creativeness, the talent, and the strong love of country - to name a few of the core values that I experienced living in Nigeria. This viewpoint does not mean that we are not rooting for Nigeria to be even more than it is today and that it must continue to work to ensure that the challenges of today mentioned above are addressed and are not markers of the future. I was asked about the role of Nigeria in the future of Africa over the next 50 years given that Nigeria and 17 other nations celebrated their jubilee anniversary in
2010. There are several very important points to make in this regard:

Leadership by far is Nigeria’s first role on the Continent as it is a key political, security, and trading partner in the sub-region and with other world nations. However, with this, it has to continue to find ways to better address its own internal security and corruption issues as part of this leadership and make transparent elections and good governance the order of the day;

Nigeria’s Development role is next, particularly, as Nigeria and the rest of Africa should be the next emerging frontiers for economic growth, markets, and trade. The recent positive news in some quarters of Nigeria’s macro-economic and capital market reforms efforts spurred by the leadership at Nigeria’s Central Bank and at its Security and Exchange Commission are symbolic of the solid foundations that countries in Africa need to be moving toward over the next 50 years. The issues of most concern to me are what I have called the FEEEDS™ issues (with the acronym meaning Food Security, Education, Environment, Energy, Development/Democracy and Self-Help). The FEEEDS™ issues will need to be better handled over the next 50 years by all nations on the Continent;

Nigeria’s Youth and Women need to be included and play a key role in the direction of the country. Given that more than half of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 35 coupled with having nearly 74 million women, both youth and women need to be provided with not only ample but more adequate educational opportunities (including vocational and entrepreneurship training) as they are vital to a viable future for any nation. No nation can develop by excluding more than half its population from a strong and visible role in political development, and social sector reform; and,

Transparency in Resource Management which is not only cross sectoral but also a synergistic way of better addressing how all resources -- energy resources, land and water resources, human resources, and financial resources - - in a country are governed.

None of us has a crystal ball, and none of us can predict the future. What we can do is our utmost to put in place the things that we know can help make the future a better place. Nigeria, as the most populated nation on the Continent and because of the core values I know are part of the Nigerian mosaic, can and should help set the stage for the future of the Africa Region and the global community, but addressing the four points above are key parts of achieving these goals. Many of us as African-Americans are counting on that. I know I am.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sad News: Bombing in Nigeria, A Worrying Sign, What Next for Nigeria

On what should have been a day of reflection and recognition of its 50th anniversary on October 1, the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, was rocked on October 1 by two car bombs, killing at least 12 people. First sympathies go out to the nation, and to the families of all those who lost their lives and were injured in this terrible bomb blast. Current reports are that elements of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, better known as MEND (a loose umbrella organization of militants and militant groups) perpetrated this act to underscore the issues in the oil-rich Niger Delta Region. Peaceful political and civil society groups have highlighted over many, many years the need to end corruption of oil wealth and to increase development in all sectors (education, health, agriculture) in the Niger Delta as well as the right of the Niger Deltans to have more say and influence in how resources and profits from the oil wealth are used to help improve the lives of those living in the Region. These are very legitimate issues, which need to be addressed. There are five key Nigerian states that make up the main oil states in the Niger Delta Region (Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akom Ibom, Cross River), and acts of sabotage, kidnapping, and disruption of oil infrastructure had been the tactic of choice of not only MEND but other militant groups in the Region.
This is the second time in nearly 8 months that elements of MEND have used the car bombing tactic. I was in Nigeria the first time MEND used this tactic earlier in 2010 in Warri, a city in Nigeria's Delta State in the Niger Delta Region, and also another militant group attacked a facility in the commercial capital, Lagos during the same period. In addition, over the last 2 years, elements of MEND have threatened, through letters sent and written to the press, such attacks in Abuja, but this is the first time that they have followed through on that threat and this is a very worrying sign and trend as the country grapples with trying to get its election process right so key social sector issues can be better addressed everywhere in Nigeria and particularly in the Niger Delta.
There is a lot to be done to move Nigeria further forward than it is now, and changing the paradigms in the area of education, health, agriculture, fighting corruption, and better utilization of its oil wealth to benefit the Nigerian people are all things that need to be addressed, but peacefully. All of these sectors need more assistance and more improvement so Nigeria cannot only become the Giant that we all want it to be, but because it is necessary for the next generation of Nigerians to have a better life.
MEND is not known to have been a totally cohesive group in the past, with a singular leader, but more of a loose affiliation of different militant interests. It is unclear now with this attack, which certainly would have required detailed planning and strategies, whether the affiliation has or is morphing into something different from the loose associations of the past of various militant interests. In addition since the amnesty for militants in 2009 and despite all the many problems with truly implementing the amnesty rehabilitation program with more consistent progress on training opportunities for militants, militant-related violence had diminished somewhat in the Region. This car bomb attack in the capital presents a new and worrying trend for Nigeria that we all need to pay attention to and work to bring those who perpetrated the act to justice. No one doubts the legitimate issues in the region, but we all must assist the nation in addressing and correcting these issues in the Niger Delta Region by supporting both political and civil society groups who want to make changes in the Region and improve its development and use of resources but through peaceful means.
(BlogSpot views on blogitrrs are personal and do not represent views of the U.S. Government, or any other institution.)

Happy Birthday Nigeria @50: Celebrate Oct 1; Back to Business Oct 2

Happy Birthday Nigeria! October 1, 2010, is certainly a day to celebrate for all Nigerians as the nation reaches the mature age of 50. Congratulations and Best Wishes. Celebrate and reveal in the importance of this day, but Oct 2 -- after the celebrations are over -- the business at hand is still the elections and doing this one right is a "must-do" in order to once and for all put the naysayers to rest. Giving INEC more time to put all the election processes in place is a step in the right direction as a lot remains to be done (a transparent voter registry of the nearly 74 million potential voters is a good example of one of the key must-do tasks). It is a positive sign that some in the nation are considering the need to move the election date to April 2011 as the INEC Chairman has requested to allow INEC to have more time to put the right processes in place.
Clean and credible elections do make a difference -- not only for this generation, but for the next -- as they set the stage to address and improve the remaining challenges that the country faces, particularly in the areas of improving the use and transparency of national financial resources for development in sectors ranging from education to agriculture (meaning ending corruption). With leaders elected through a credible, non-rigged, transparent process, who themselves are credible, and have the best interest of the nation at hand, then all else is possible --from curbing corruption to improving infrastructural development. It is always important to recognize milestone events in the life of a nation, and October 1, 2010, is such a day, such an event for Nigeria. However, October 2, should be back to the business, as a lot remains to be done between now and Election Day. As noted in an earlier Africa Post entry, Nigerian Resilience and Resolve (the 2 R's) - the country's two most fundamental national character traits -- must come into play in the run up to the 2011 elections. Your friends are counting on you to use those two traits to ensure that after the October 1, 2010, celebrations, that the focus continues on election processes, and all the other Election Checklist issues raised on The Africa Post @ blogitrrs ( which includes, but are not limited to the importance of the role of civil society at every step and in every way in the election processes as they are an important watchdog over the process and the election itself. The pressure was on before Nigeria's 50th anniversary to get the election right, and October 2, 2010, the pressure will be even more as reflection takes over from celebration. At a September 29, 2010, symposium in Washington, D.C. on Nigeria @ 50, there were some Nigerians who wondered what the nation had to celebrate. Once can go back throughout history and look at several countries, including the U.S., to see where they were as nations just after 50 years of development. But I would argue what counts now is not dwelling on the past, but focusing on the future so that it is bright, and so that the nation can move forward in its 51st year, and its 52nd year and so on. This can only start with a clean and credible election being the order of the day for the 2011 elections.
(Views expressed on blogitrrs are personal and do represent the views of the U.S. Government.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nigeria’s 2011 Elections – Keeping the 2 R’s in Mind: Resilience and Resolve

Road to Nigeria's Elections blogspot series

Do Not Underestimate Nigerian Resilience and Resolve

As Nigeria continues on the path to its critical elections which appears to be slated for April 2011, there are two key things to keep in mind which I call the two R’s: Nigeria’s Resilience and Nigeria’s Resolve. Do not underestimate either. Having just finished up my 3 year tenure there as the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (2007-2010), I have always marveled at these two elements which are fundamental to Nigeria's national character. These two elements will also pay a role in the conduct of how Nigeria’s 2011 elections will unfold. Yes, things are heating up in Nigeria’s election landscape and yes there is still a long way to go in ensuring voter registration, political party transparency, and a secure enabling environment for a credible election. But make no mistake – today more than ever Nigerians want a fraud-free election conducted in a secure environment. No one (and this includes Nigerians) underestimates the challenges ahead to get everything done on time, and keeping everything on track. But, what I would argue is important from this point forward until the proposed April 2011 election is working WITH Nigeria and Nigerians to makes this election as successful as possible, not criticizing it this far out from the sidelines – every friend and every partner of Nigeria should be working in lockstep in that direction.
Let’s keep in mind this phrase (one I have always thought about over the last couple of months in Nigeria before the end of my tenure) -- “What a Difference a Year Makes.” With a quick trip down memory lane, last year this time (the Sept-Dec 2009 time period) when many outside of Nigeria were worried about destabilization of the country, many Nigerians in-country (not necessarily all) were confident that the days of military intervention were over. This resolve was inspite of things being very politically murky as worries about the late President Yar’Adua’s illness overtook the nation. There was a sense not only that the country would get through this difficult time (and it did!), but also a strong desire not to repeat history, but continued efforts to try to build a better electoral process. Resilience and Resolve prevailed during this period and we need to continue to call on Nigeria to depend on these two elements of its national character as it moves toward its 2011 election. There is not a Nigerian that does not understand getting this election process right will not only be tough as there is a lot to do in a short amount of time (see The Africa Post August 2010 @blogitrrs). But this is where friends are supposed to come in and do their utmost to support the right actions.
Friends of Nigeria from this point forward should be helping Nigeria get to credible elections. There is a way of doing things in Nigeria that is not always clear from the outside, and no doubt there will be ups and downs until the 2011 election is executed. Things will look uncertain from time to time, and be of concern, but every single step or misstep does not mean a doomsday scenario is unfolding. We need to continue to encourage Nigeria to:
• Support and involve civil society at every turn in the election process;
• Support an active and free press;
• Support parallel vote tabulation or swift vote count by civil society;
• Support all efforts which will promote a violent-free election;
• Support election monitoring by both civil society and international observers; and,
• Support efforts to encourage political parties to have true internal democratization.
Consider the above My “Checklist for Nigeria’s 2011 Election.” I was a Nigeria optimist when I was there as U.S. Ambassador and I will remain one. This does not mean that I will not encourage Nigeria – as a friend and daughter of the Continent – to do things that I hope will continue to build its democracy or state when there are things of concern. This is what friends do, but they do it fairly, forthrightly and with a long term positive goal in mind, but always with mutual respect to this nation of 150 million people. I have a democracy wish list for Nigeria @50 as it reaches its jubilee independence anniversary on October 1, 2010 and outlined clearly the challenges ahead in several speeches (see the Africa Post @, &, and my “Checklist for Nigeria’s 2011 Election” above is nothing new. It is what the Chairman of the Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Jega, Nigerian civil society, and the Nigerian people, who want a clean election, have on their radar screens to try not only to turn the tide of how INEC is viewed, but rebuild the confidence of so many Nigerians in their electoral process. Let’s all work toward supporting Nigeria in achieving these things.
(views on blog from Sept 26, 2010 onward are personal and do not represent the positions of U.S. Government or Africare.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ambassador Robin Sanders on Channels TV

Channels TV yesterday aired the interview with Ambassador Robin Sanders on U.S. – Nigeria bilateral relations.  Please follow this link to listen to the interview.


This email is UNCLASSIFIED.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Freedom Radio Interviews Dr. Robin Sanders

Ambassador Robin Sanders being interviewed by Freedom Radio correspondent Umar Saed Tudun Wada. (Abuja: August 26, 2010)

Listen to the interview here (mp3)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Strength of the Nigerian Women: 50 Nigerian Women Celebrated as The Nation Turn’s 50

Under the Women for Change Initiative, The 50@50 Project was launched in grand style in Abuja, Nigeria August 25, 2010. The goal: As the nation turn’s 50, The Project celebrated 50 incredible Nigerian women who have had an impact on this dynamic nation of 150 million strong. The First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan, is the Grand Patron of the Project, and I served as the Goodwill Ambassador bringing a global touch to a wonderful event. The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Iyom Josephine Anenih oversees the First Lady's Women for Change Initiative. Nigerian women past and present – trailblazers in finance, the private sector, government, the arts, agriculture, education, and development - were all honored for their indelible mark on the nation that plays host today to nearly 75 million women – half of the country’s population, the 9th largest female population in the world (see population figures at All 50 women have left their mark on Nigeria and the women in Nigeria today stand on their shoulders as they continue to push for equality in all sectors of Nigerian life, particularly in government. The 50@50 Project will begin a global tour to 4 continents showcasing the Nigerian woman through a documentary, coffee table book, exhibition, Green Ribbon Youth Movement -- all with the 50@50 logo unveiled August 25 by Nigeria's First Lady. The global tour will end where it began in Abuja just before the eve of the country's 50 birthday,which is October 1. It was such a powerful event attended by not just Nigerian women, but women from all over the globe. The import of this event was clear and I dedicate the following Ode to the incredible talent, integrity, commitment, and love of country which are the hallmarks of the Nigerian woman:

Ode to the Nigerian Woman
Written By Dr. Robin Renee Sanders - U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria

“The Heritage Within”
Walk with me today, together down the ancestral path to see who we are as women

There is a spirit we cannot touch but always know is there – It is the "Heritage Within"

Our role is the foundation of life; our role is the foundation of change

We see our strength in the eyes of our mothers as they too have journeyed down the same ancestral path

The journey is about traditions, like 3-legged wedding pots, Uli signs, adire and ashoke cloth, henna designs, life, and certainly about long talks into the night as deep as indigo blue.

But, just like us, their lives made a difference, their contributions made an impact; their dedication to their nation allows you to stand on their shoulders today

Thus as Women for Change you will continue your journey down the ancestral path to your future, to Nigeria’s future

Remember you have a responsibility to the next generation to make a difference, to leave a mark, to make a change …just as your mothers did before you …and your grandmothers before…

Life is a journey and you have come so far, let’s walk the rest of the way together, hand-in-hand, spirit-connected-to-spirit, so that the changes we all seek come from….
The Heritage Within!

First published August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Tribute to Dr. Sanders (The Nation)

Tick, Tick…The Clock is Running On Nigeria’s 2011 Elections

This blogspot is part of the series “The Road to Nigeria’s 2011 Elections”

Tick, Tick… What is that sound? Nigeria’s election clock ticking toward a January 2011 election, but much work still needs to be done so that everyone, particularly friends of Nigeria, can begin to exhale that things are on the right track, and moving in the right direction. There has been a mixture of news that shows some progress, but the loudest sound coming from the election clock is the need for a date certain to be set for the election itself by the country’s Independent National Election Commission – more commonly known as INEC. From that point - from that election date - everything else will be determined: how long voter registration can go on, and when the voter registry must be finished.

The last week has had a lot of interesting aspects that are worth noting. First, INEC got most of the money that it requested to conduct the elections, nearly $480 million, which will be used for direct capture machines of voter information in the registration process, voter education, setting up the nearly 120,000-140,000 or more polling places, and deploying both people and resources. Reportedly 360,000 staff are needed to conduct the elections.

Secondly, President Jonathan signed the new 2010 Nigerian Electoral Act on August 20, 2010, ending a fair amount of uncertainty on whether the election will be in January 2011 or April 2011, and finally setting the stage for INEC to decide when in the next 150 days there will be a turning point election for Nigeria. I have been calling this a "Must-Do" election because of the rallying cry of the nation to hold credible and transparent polls. If you are counting both fingers and toes that means the election date should be set before the end of August – only a few days away. There is still a debate out there (and a few legal suits) as to whether President Jonathan has to assent to the constitutional amendment (see blog-itrrs: The Africa Post on constitutional debate) passed in late July 2010, before they are enforce. Despite these suits things appear to be progressing in the direction that the amendments are in force, which call for an election to be held no later than 150 days from Nigeria Democracy Day – May 29, 2011. So this mean, January 2011. INEC’s new Chairman, who all agree is a committed and dedicated Nigerian with integrity and skills, has a lot on his plate, most notably the eyes of the nation and the international community.

However, we must not forget the politics of the day as political parties decide on their next moves. The ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) seems to have figured out how it is going to handle it north-south zoning issues; there is the new Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) - a merger of two parties; and, other political groups are holding meetings to build coalitions.

We all look forward to an election date being announced in the coming days and we continue to encourage the new INEC Chairman as he puts in motion people, resources, manages the politics, and determines the next election steps for this dynamic country of 150 million people as the clock looks like it is ticking toward a January 2011 election. The U.S.-Nigerian Binational Commission will meet this week to have informational meetings on the U.S. Government-UK funded election technical assistance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Food Security Challenges in West Africa: Let’s Pay Attention!

A FEEEDS™blogspot

There have been few reports noting the growing food security issue that has arisen over the last few months in the West Africa Region. We all need to pay more attention to this so that it doesn’t turn into a regional crisis. Affected countries in West Africa are doing their best to manage the ever-growing food security issues related to staple commodities, particularly grains. U.S. Agency for International Development has called this the “Hunger Gap,” as many of the regions poor have already exhausted not only available food stores but also having access to affordable and adequate food (nutritional food), (see the FEEEDS™ blog-itrrs page, defining the elements of food security) . The next harvest is still months away. For many countries in the West Africa Region that is October. The affected countries in West Africa that are potential affected by this “Hunger Gap,” are Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and parts of Chad. Although for many of the Sahel countries food security is always a challenge, the rains have come late and not in abundance (or too erratic) in many places, exacerbating the already difficult food situation for many of the regions’ populations. The erratic nature of the rains have produced drought in some areas, negatively impacted planting seasons, and delaying the replenishment of water sources.

In Nigeria, the drought and food shortages are affecting the northern area of the country in states that are on the front lines of the Sahel such as Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano. The Government of Nigeria has not only responded to the needs of its people with releasing key stables from its National Strategic Food Reserve (NSFR) of some 80,000 metric tons of assorted food survival grains (sorghum, maize, millet, cow peas, etc.) to help its people, but it is also assisting neighboring states such as Chad and Niger Republic. All commodities from the NSFR are to be sold at 30 per cent subsidy – but these subsidized commodities still may not reach those most in need, particularly already malnourished children. Thus the potential effect of this “Hunger Gap” in Nigeria could be close to 15 million people. In recent weeks planting has been accomplished in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi states, but other states are still challenged by the erratic rainfall affecting both planting and harvest seasons. The U.S. Government is very much focused on food security world-wide, but particularly in Africa through its $48 million “Feed the Future Initiative” for the Region. “Feed the Future Initiative,” also includes non-Africa countries such as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. It is projected that Nigeria will get approximately $51 million to address the fundamentals of food security including developing markets and hybrid sees. I have seen first-hand the success of the USG-funded MARKETS program ( in these areas, but the international donor community needs to keep the food security situation of the affected West Africa countries front and center on its radar screen over the next few months so that all vulnerable people (particularly children) have in their reach the fundamentals of food security: accessibility, availability, affordability, and adequate (nutritional) commodities in order to avoid a crisis later in 2010.

Outlook: Let’s Pay Attention! Current early warning assessments note that things have improved somewhat for replenishing some water sources and the physical condition of some livestock. Watch the food security situation in northern Nigeria and the other affected West African States. The next couple of months will give us a better idea of the food security challenges for the remainder of 2010.