Saturday, August 26, 2006


The Prize
J. Carl Dealy
EarlyBird Foundation

Putting political debate aside for the moment, let us not forget to take our eye off the real prize. Re-negotiation of the Mittel Steel Agreement is a second chance, not only for short tem infusion of foreign capitol, but also for a concession that will have lasting value.

Do we make a big name for Liberia, as in 1968 when Liberia was the world's third largest source of iron ore or do we promote projects that contribute to lasting poverty alleviation and economic development at both the local and national levels? We should have both.

While there may not be agreement on the definition of sustainable mining development, at least some of the elements are clear. As the public contemplates the implications of the Mittel Steel Agreement, let us keep the focus on a project that will have lasting value, and be socially responsible as well as environmentally sound. "There is now a growing body of evidence that the "sustainable development" approach, when well implemented, can provide net benefits not only to the community but also to the investor."(1)

During the 20th century iron mining boom of Liberia's first Iron Epic (2) the first generation of mining codes in Africa were just being developed. Liberia was already 30 years ahead of the curve, missing out on mining sector development planning. However, there was always the looming question about the real benefits accruing to the local economy because of the mining sector's limited capacity to generate additional local employment and value added processing. There have been many
comparisons to Firestone's labor statistics. The result is something Liberia at this juncture should no longer find acceptable, huge amounts of foreign-exchange earnings remaining offshore. The minerals management trend in the 1980's and 1990's was toward liberalization, deregulation and privatization. The Groupe de Recherche sur les Activites Minieres en Afrique has argued(2) postulated that openness accompanied by state withdrawal have the potential effect of driving down standards for social and economic development, as well as protection of the environment.

Responsibility for reasoned sustainable mining development can never rest with the government alone. The mining sector is actually an amalgamation of companies, industry, labor, local community, and government. Each part of the mining sector has a hand in the potential success of sustainable mining development. Mining companies must develop and adopt a Sustainable Development Policy and work with the local community to prepare community sustainable development plans. The mining industry should prepare a declaration on sustainable development. Labor must be in support of sustainable development and such support should be reflected in their contracts. Local community needs to take the time to define their goals and objectives while working closely with mining companies to integrate these needs into community sustainable development plans.

Finally, government must support the establishment of a sustainable development support process through adoption of mining codes and contracts that are favorable to social and economic development, as well as protection of the environment. These codes must address all phases of mining: exploration, development, production and finally mine closure.

Liberia is about to begin a new Iron Epic. This time the wealth of knowledge is not concentrated in the hands of a few exploration geologists, big capitol investors and government officials. We know the Mount Nimba Complex. Shall we continue with the embarrassment of growth without development? While Liberia's iron mining sector was sleeping, many mining ventures continued in Africa and around the world are on
the path toward sustainable development. We can re-start with lessons learned from our neighbors. We can adopt modern standards that are based on respect for the environment and the communities. Of course, we are not privy to the criteria of the Mittel Steal Agreement. However, for those who seem to know: Does it include oversight and management committees; local economic development plan and provisions for agreement related to hiring preferences, training, small and large business support and in-country joint ventures? Does it include environmental and social protection plans or mine closure planning with post-closure sustainability arrangements?

Liberia's great heritage of natural resources has been handed to us by our ancestors, but we must not forget, at the same time we are only borrowing from our children. A sustainable future is the prize.

(1) "Sustainable Mining Development from Concept to Action", John Strongman, IFC Conference, Mining and the Community II, Madang, Papua New Guinea, Sept. 16, 2002.
(2) "Liberia's Iron Epic, 20th Century Iron Boom" J. Carl Dealy, In publication.
(3)"African mining codes questioned", Mining Journal, London, February 14, 2003.

Thank You.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Investing in Science and Technology in West Africa

August 25th, 2006

The case for investing in science and technology in West Africa

Col. Kofi Abaka Jackson (rtd), a renowned Ghanaian inventor and energy research scientist has observed that, scientific knowledge and technology could salvage the West Africa sub-region from the claws of poverty and misery.

"Lack of scientific knowledge and skills have left us firmly in underdevelopment, poverty, diseases and sense dependency. The way to move out of poverty and misery is to equip our people with knowledge in science and technology." If West Africans employ technology in their endeavours, the sub-region can advance beyond the "primitive agriculture, agro-processing and foreign controlled extractive industries. We shall enter industrial production of goods and services, " he noted.

Col. Jackson was addressing an ECOWAS Parliamentary Workshop on the "Impact of Science and Technology in Promoting Regional Integration" in Accra. It was under the theme "Implementing Regional Protocols for Security and Development in the ECOWAS "Enhancing the Role of Parliament in Security". It was jointly sponsored by the Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA) and UNDP, and had in attendance Parliamentarians from Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Mali as well as civil society groups, academia and the media.

He regretted that although the sub-region is endowed with "awesome natural resources" coupled with the application of textbook economic principles besides the massive injunction of loans and aid from the IMF, World Bank and other donors, West African countries are reeling under the burden of indebtedness.

"We must develop by acquiring knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge, so that we have capacity to exploit our natural resources and have dominion over everything nature has created. This is our natural right and we ignore it to our peril."

Col. Jackson, who has 20 inventions to his credit with six of them patented, observed that, no nation can prosper without resorting to the use of science and technology, adding rather mournfully that, "we don’t acquire knowledge in science and technology, so we sit in the midst of natural wealth but wallow in poverty."

He observed that the lack of skills on the part of West Africans is the missing link in the economic development of the sub region. Key socio-economic indicators reveal that many West Africans lack access to social services, infrastructure and political institutions that are necessary for healthy and productive life- statistics in health, education, the position of women and income poverty are amongst the worst in the world.

For example, 100 million people (44 per cent of the total population of West Africa) live in severe poverty, surviving on less than a dollar a day and by 2015 the region’s population will increase from its present figure of 227 million to about 300 million, magnifying the challenge of halving severe poverty.

Per capita is lower than it was a decade ago and over the last three years, the region’s combined economic growth rate has averaged around 2 per cent, which is up to 4 per cent below the 6 per cent required to reach UNDP poverty goals.

According to World Food Programme (WFP), the West African sub-region has the lowest life expectancy at birth. There are 34 countries in the world with life expectancy of 49 years old and below, and 10 of these are in West Africa, with an average life expectancy as 46 years.

In addition, out of the 20 countries presenting the highest under-five mortality rate (per 1000 live births) half of them belong to West African sub-region.

Factors cited for the decline include a precipitous drop in the prices of important export commodities; low domestic investment and savings rates; plummeting foreign direct investment (now half the level of the early 1980s); high levels of external debt; and more ominously, the increasing cases of HIV/AIDS infection.

It is against this background that Col. Jackson thinks science and technology in addition to equipping the youth with employable skills can kick-start the sub region’s economic revolution

"A careful look at our educational system reveals that about 90 per cent of the children who enter school come out without skills and without the opportunity to develop themselves," Jackson emphasizes.

According to him, in Ghana for example about 300,000 children enter school each year. 200,000 of them drop out at the JSS level. 100,000 enter SSS. Of this number 20,000 enter Universities and about 10,000 go to polytechnics and other institutions. In effect, about 70,000 pupils drop out at the SSS level. This means 270,000 out of the 300,000 pupils leave school without acquiring any skills.

"They do not have opportunity to enter industry for apprenticeship training because there are no suitable industries. Far less than half of those who enter Universities come out as Scientists, Engineers, Doctors, Architects and other high professionals needed in the economy."

To make things worse, the country loses some of this scarce human capital who travel abroad in search of greener pastures. "The educational system therefore fails to give us people who can perform in the economy. How can we produce and create wealth without skilled hands? What is the economic goal of our educational system?"

Col. Jackson proposes the establishment of trade training schools for JSS and SSS students who drop out along the ladder to acquire skills. He believes that with this structure, the JSS and SSS graduates will end up becoming the high and middle-level professionals to spearhead the application of science and technology. The universities will therefore focus more on producing scientists, engineers, doctors and other high-level professionals.

Jackson is optimistic that such an educational system, which produces so much human capital, will reflect in every sphere of the lifestyles of West Africans and will place the economy on a strong footing.

"The economy enters rapid acceleration, the nation becomes rich, realistic wages are paid, brain drain stops and there is money for development. There will be greater political stability. Some of the national wealth is siphoned into the educational system so that more people can go to school.

Some of the participants proposed the establishment of sub-regional integrated educational institutions, especially an ECOWAS University, where ideas like that of Col. Jackson’s will be implemented for the benefit of West Africans. In addition, participants suggested that the teaching of both French and English should be made compulsory in schools in the sub-region.

An official of the ECOWAS Secretariat, Cyriaque Pawoumotom Agnekethom, revealed that ECOWAS at this stage of development is focusing more on issues of economy, defence and security, and that much premium, regrettably, has not been given to the issue of the harmonization of the different educational systems in the respective member states of ECOWAS.

Author: Ebenezer Hanson


Thursday, August 24, 2006

ChinAfrica (2) - Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

UN Advisor Says China Can Help Africa Escape Poverty

By Daniel Schearf
15 August 2006

A top U.N. advisor has said China's development aid and expertise can
help African nations escape from poverty. But some participants at a
U.N.-sponsored seminar in Beijing say problems remain on both sides
of the relationship.

A special U.N. advisor says China's experience in lifting millions
out of poverty with advanced farming techniques should be applied to
African nations.

Jeffrey Sachs was speaking at a forum in Beijing sponsored by the
United Nations and the China-Africa Business Council.

Sachs is an advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the
U.N.'s Millennium Project, which aims to reduce global poverty. He
says China's use of high-yield seeds and adequate irrigation and
fertilizer could triple agricultural production in Africa.

Sachs says China's pragmatic approach of not mixing politics and
aid has also shown results.

"Frankly speaking, China gives fewer lectures than Europe and the
United States and more practical help much of the time," he said.
"The roads get built, the bridges get built, the health care gets
expanded, and there are not a lot of painful lectures attached to it."

Sachs says Western countries need to stop using corruption and poor
governance as an excuse to pull back aid and should focus on
relieving poverty.

"There is a huge security gain by making the long-term investment in
helping the poorest of the poor out of the poverty trap," added
Sachs. "And, you cannot do that if you are treating symptoms of
political instability rather than underlying conditions of
agriculture, health, infrastructure, education and so on."

But not everyone attending the seminar agreed China's role in Africa
was completely positive.

Critics say Chinese arms sales have actually fueled conflicts in
African nations.

And human-rights organizations have criticized China for ignoring
human-rights abuses and international labor standards, while seeking
African energy and materials to fuel its growing economy.

Nigerian ambassador to China, Jonathan Coker, says China needs to
employ more local workers on its African projects.

"What China should know now is that you cannot on your own continue
to work with yourselves," he said. "You must engage the nationalities
to do the business with you. And, that is where the conflict is."

Other participants stressed that African countries need to change if
they were to use investment and aid more effectively.

"The issue is not what we have been given," said Afare Apeadu Donkor,
the Ghanaian ambassador to China. "The issue is what do we do to make
a good margin of all the help we are getting in Africa."

China's trade with Africa grew from only $2 billion in 1999 to nearly
$40 billion last year.



Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New contract with Mittal Steal

In the news, the Mittal Steel contract is being re-opened. When that door opens the people of Nimba need to step in.

The hope is to renegotiate a proposed $900 million iron ore investment by Mittal Steel by end-September, paving the way for mining to start by late 2007, the country's mines minister said in an interview.

With all due respect to Eugene Shannon, minister for land, mines and energy, need to listen to the people. Certainly Nimba is interested in the renegotiated contract meeting international standards, but is that enough. Mr. Shannon, ownership of the railway and the port is not enough.

I have not seen the contract, who has. Some principles we must insist on are that Mittal Steel and their sub-contractors conduct their activities in a manner that recognizes the needs of society and the needs for economic prosperity, national security and a healthy environment. Mittal Steel must commit on paper to integrating social, environmental, and economic principles in our mining operations from exploration through development, operation, reclamation, closure and post closure activities, and in operations associated with preparing our products for further use.

There should be real and tangible targets for development. We should never go down the road of growth without development. It is never too late for public debate. Let Nimba County be the model for the future development of Liberia as a whole.

OK, so I fell strongly about sustainable development.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"fair-trade" diamonds

GLOBAL REPORT / FINANCIAL TIMES Diamond Troubles The mining industry in Africa is evolving, with De Beers losing marketshare and producers struggling with ethical concerns. By Rebecca Bream, Financial TimesAugust 14, 2006

The world of diamond mining is finally opening up.

Africa produces 65% of the world's diamonds, and the industry on thatcontinent has long been dominated by one company - De Beers.

Although it is by far the world's largest producer ofrough diamonds, De Beers' market share has dropped from 80% 20 years agoto about 40%. The changes come at a time when consumers are avoiding diamondspurchased from war-torn Africa, and the industry is dreading a filmstarring Leonardo DiCaprio as a diamond smuggler due out early nextyear.
Throughout Africa, competitors to De Beers have emerged. They includeBHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, and smallerexploration companies such as Mano River Resources Inc. and GravityDiamonds.

De Beers is also facing Lev Leviev, Beny Steinmetz and Dan Gertler,three Israeli diamond-trading tycoons who have moved into mining toensure a reliable supply of gems.
Another development is the opening of more opportunities in war-scarredcountries such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic ofthe Congo, mineral-rich states that were out of bounds for investmentfive years ago.

Botswana, South Africa and Namibia - the countries where De Beers is atits strongest - are top African diamond producers, but many of the minesthere are maturing. Companies, including De Beers, are increasingly allocating theirexploration budgets to countries such as the DRC that hold greatpotential for diamond discoveries. Diamonds are notoriously difficult to find, so companies feel that itis worth venturing into dangerous territory if there is a chance of alarge discovery.

When a good deposit is found, it can be highly lucrative. AfricanDiamonds, a small London-listed group, may have found such a deposit inits AK6 project in Botswana. De Beers has joined the group as its joint-venture partner on theproject, and AK6 has been regularly praised by De Beers executives.

African Diamonds said recently that the diamonds found at the site hadbeen valued at an average of $150 per carat, higher than originallyexpected. All this has had a positive effect on African Diamonds' share price,which has risen almost 200% over the last 12 months.
The flow of investment into countries recovering from civil war raisesthe subject of conflict diamonds. Illicit gem mining and trading fundedand prolonged many of the African wars and caused a backlash againstdiamonds among consumers who did not want to feel that they were contributing to the bloodshed.

This year marks the three-year anniversary of the creation of theKimberley Process, a U.N.-backed initiative aimed at curbing the tradein conflict diamonds. Under the scheme, each diamond must carry a certificate of origin,guaranteeing it does not come from a conflict area.
All of the diamond-producing countries that have signed the KimberleyProcess are being reviewed to assess their compliance.

They have had to detail in an annual report the measures they have putin place, and it is the consensus in the industry that a great deal ofprogress has been made. "We are quite proud of the way our industry has reacted," says FreddyHager, chairman of Target Resources, which mines diamonds in SierraLeone.

Human rights campaigners are less impressed and point out that the Kimberley Process will have to prove its mettle amid fighting in Ivory Coast. Kimberley Process members agreed last year to impose restrictions ondiamond trading in West Africa to stop gems being smuggled out of therebel-held areas of Ivory Coast through neighboring countries.

The next challenge probably will be its assessment of Liberia, which isrecovering from an on-off civil war and wants to join the KimberleyProcess. Although the industry regards conflict diamonds a closed chapter, thesubject is likely to be revived in the minds of the general public by anintervention from Hollywood.

Early next year, Warner Bros. is due to release "The Blood Diamond,"starring DiCaprio. Set in 1999, it will probably show in graphic detailthe bloodshed that was fueled by diamonds and could undo some of theindustry's work to rebuild its reputation.

Hager, who is also president of the London Diamond Bourse, said, "Thepublicity is going to be awful. Concern over the film 'The BloodDiamond' illustrates how vulnerable the trade is."
But some, including diamond-pricing expert Martin Rapaport, say that apublic outcry could present an opportunity to create a new market in"ethical" or "fair-trade" diamonds.


Monday, August 14, 2006

ChinAfrica (1) - watching China Spread it's lacquer over Africa

Africa Exports to China Grow

By Isabel Goncalves
Posted 03 August 2006 @ 11:44 pm EST

africa china trade Trade between China, the fastest growing
economy in the world, and Africa had amounted to $40 billion by the
end of 2005, which is ten times higher than in 1995, according to the

This sharp rise in trade occurred after China omitted tariffs on 190
imported goods from 28 of Africa's least developed countries.

While African exports to China consist of oil, timber and cotton,
China's exports to Africa comprise mainly machinery, electronics,
textiles and hi-tech products

South Africa is China's key trade partner in Africa. It constitutes
to 20.8 percent of the total volume of China-Africa trade. According
to South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry, China has
established more than 80 companies in South Africa since 1998.

Total China-Africa trade reached about $29.5 billion in 2004, an
increase of 59 percent over 2003. Growth since 2001 has increased at
an average of 31.2 percent a year, according to a statement by South
Africa's government.

Meanwhile, Africa's trade deficit with China has decreased from $2
billion in 2004 to a surplus of $900 million in 2005.


Africa, China Bonds Have Mutual Benefits

By Terry Leonard
Posted 08 August 2006 @ 02:10 pm EST

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, under targeted sanctions by most
Western governments because of his country's human rights record and
its retreat from the rule of law, has declared a "Look East" policy.

China, hungry for energy and raw materials as its economy expands,
has invested heavily in Africa. At the same time, it has offered
limited political and economic help to repressive governments in
Africa. Western governments are more likely to tie engagement to
political and social reform, though they, too, have a history of
backing African dictators.

Africa is also a battleground in China's rivalry with Taiwan. Chad
recently ended ties with Taiwan and resumed diplomatic relations with
China after a break of nearly a decade.

Bilateral trade between China and Africa has increased more than 300
percent since 2000 and now exceeds $40 billion a year.

"There is a potential of political leverage for China. The West is
worried about growing Chinese influence. But the political effect so
far is less than might have been imagined," said Stephen Friedman, a
senior research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies in

"The argument is that they have helped Mugabe. But they haven't much.
It has been more of a symbolic gesture."

But Friedman said repressive and corrupt governments may nonetheless
increasingly turn to China for economic development and political

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on a visit to South Africa in June,
insisted China's interest in Africa was based on mutual respect, and
that both sides would benefit.

"We respect the social system and development strategy pursued by
African countries in light of their particular national conditions,"
Wen said in a speech during his visit. "We do not seek to export our
own values and development models."

"We respect the principle of equality, mutual benefit and
noninterference in other's affairs," he told reporters at another
stop on his South African tour.

China is now the largest exporter of oil from Angola. It also exports
oil from Sudan, without condemning that government for the killing in
the Darfur region that the United States has labeled genocide.

At the United Nations last September, China worked to dilute a
resolution condemning Sudan for the killings in Darfur.

China has come to Africa seeking oil and raw materials, such as
Zambian copper, and to make investments that include such big ticket
items as roads and refineries, usually built with Chinese labor.

The Chinese "never make any pretense that they are anything other
than hard nosed and want to take away a profit," said John Robertson,
an independent economist in Harare. "My biggest fear is that Zimbabwe
has become so weakened that at some stage the Chinese can say, 'We
can bail you out,' and in exchange we not only will repay money but
sell their products in the region.

"In other words, we will be come the tool that wipes out the
clothing, footwear and textile industries for the whole of Southern
Africa, and the Chinese will have the market to themselves," said

At the level of the working man, China _ and especially imported
Chinese workers _ are seen as a threat to already meager livelihoods.
In Zambia, local workers have rioted to protest the Chinese.

Chinese companies have been accused of flooding Nigerian markets with
fake and substandard goods, notably textiles. In December, Nigerian
officials took the dramatic step of shutting down several shopping
centers run by Chinese traders in the commercial capital, Lagos.

Even in South Africa, the richest country on the continent, unions
fearful of a loss of jobs, especially in the clothing and textile
industries, are pressing the government to re-negotiate trade
agreements with China they believe are advantageous to the Chinese.

South African imports from China exceeded $4.4 billion in 2005
compared with $1 billion in exports, according to government figures.

South African firms _ from mining giant Anglo American to Internet
service providers and beer brewers _ have invested some $400 million
in China, according to government figures. China has put about $130
million in South Africa, most in a chromium mine.

In Angola, where most people live in extreme poverty, Prime Minister
Fernando Da Piedade Das Dos Santos last week had to respond to rumors
that he had authorized the immigration of 4 million Chinese workers
into Angola.

"The Chinese are coming to Angola within specific projects and after
those projects come to an end they will return to their country," he
said without confirming or denying the rumored figure.

In Zimbabwe, "Look East" has generated deep resentment of the
Chinese, said John Makumbe, a political analyst at Zimbabwe
University and a critic of Mugabe's policy.

But Friedman believes despite any resentment in the streets, corrupt
and repressive African governments who have nowhere else to turn will
look to China for political legitimacy and protection. Even if China
has offered little political help so far, it presents itself as a
leader of the Third World.

Democratic governments in Africa will look toward China because their
businessmen will be pressing for access to China's huge market

Friedman said China believes its investment in Africa, beyond
bringing it the energy and raw materials for expansion, also has the
potential of creating a windfall profit in geopolitical influence in
the future.

"The West is very worried about China's involvement in Africa," said
Friedman. "Seeing a new superpower emerging is making it very

Saturday, August 12, 2006

growth without development

growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
growth without development
is useless.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Researchers Outline Recipe for African Rice Revolution

Researchers Outline Recipe for African Rice Revolution
SciDev.Net (London)
NEWSAugust 9, 2006
Posted to the web August 10, 2006 By Mun-Keat Looi

Africa's 'green revolution' will hinge on homegrown rice, said researchers and policy analysts at the first African Rice Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week. Delegates agreed resolutions calling for more research aimed at developing improved varieties and boosting rice production in Africa. They urged governments to support their rice farmers, instead of becoming increasingly dependent on foreign supplies.

Sub-Saharan Africa imports almost half of its rice, and demand is increasing by six per cent each year. The conference emphasised the need to increase the number of rice scientists in sub-Saharan Africa through incentives and training. A spokesperson for the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), which organised the meeting, says the centre will strengthen its training of rice scientists and technicians in collaboration with Cornell University in the United States.

Delegates also said that plant breeding and biotechnology programmes such as those run by the Rockefeller Foundation in East Africa should be extended to West and Central Africa. To increase production, they emphasised the importance of developing low-cost agricultural machinery, such as rice threshers, that are appropriate to farming conditions in Africa. Delegates said that the success of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties -- bred from high-yielding Asian rice and African rice that thrives in harsh conditions -- showed the benefit of conserving Africa's rice diversity in gene banks.

Nguu Van Nguyen, secretary of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's International Rice Commission, welcomes the resolutions but says much effort will be needed to make Africa self-sufficient in rice production. He emphasised the importance of developing irrigation systems to support rice farming. The Food and Agriculture Organization is also working with the Rockefeller Foundation-funded African Rice Initiative to scale up dissemination of NERICA seeds throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Copyright © 2006 SciDev.Net. All rights reserved.

Natural Resource Issues Liberia

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Books Now Literacy Later

Article follows; from personal experience I know that a young person in Liberia today can reach the 9th grade without learning to read. It is tragic. In addition to a broken down educational system, I suspect that a lack of access to reading material is a major factor.

"Books for Africa" Helps Africa Fight "Book Famine"

U.S. government, private sector and individuals fund book shipments
It only costs about 38 U.S. cents to give an African child access to a book. This is the claim made by Books for Africa (BFA), and one factor in its success.

The organization has shipped more than 10 million books to the continent since 1988 and in the past three years, has made significant progress in expanding Africans' access to books, taking its work to "the next level" in terms of scope and number of partners, said Patrick Plonski, executive director of the organization. BFA provides more donated textbooks to Africa than any other organization, he said.

Partners include the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.N. World Food Programme. Some of the greatest help comes from Better World Books, which buys and sells books at universities around the United States. Its donates 15 percent of its profits to BFA, and many of its surplus books as well, allowing BFA for the first time to distribute significant numbers of post-secondary textbooks. BFA also works with other used booksellers, such as Follett and Academic Book Services.

Through donations like these, BFA manages to keep its budget low but still have a large impact. Plonski estimates the 2006 budget at $850,000, which translates into an estimated $14 million worth of books being distributed throughout the continent, he said.

The greatest cost for BFA is shipping because volunteers keep staffing costs low. The books mostly are sent in sea containers, each carrying about 22 tons of books. Transport for each container costs around $10,000. BFA will ship about one container a week in 2007, Plonski said.
Much of the organization's funding comes from African nationals in the United States, as well as individuals "who have traveled to Africa, have seen the need, and are motivated to do something to help the children of Africa. You know, people go on a safari, and then they visit a school, and their hearts are moved by the experience," said Gena Doyscher, president of the group's board of directors.

Plonski agreed. There is a "direct linkage between tourism [in Africa] and a desire to help out," he said. For example, Tanzania is one of the greatest beneficiaries, receiving 38 shipments to date, in part because of its natural beauty and the extent of tourism there. Many of these tourists sponsor donations to the country.

BFA began in 1988 with one such experience. Tom Warth, a successful publishing entrepreneur, decided to sell his business and travel. In Uganda, he visited a library with nearly empty shelves. Upon his return to the United States, he worked with Rotary Clubs, publishers, booksellers and librarians to send shipments of books to the Ugandan library and others.
"We just feel that this is the best thing that we can do to promote education for African children," said Doyscher. "We think it all starts with reading, and reading starts with having a book."

About 20 percent of the shipments go directly to Africa, from publishers donating new books. The rest of the books, from individual donations, go to the BFA warehouse in Minnesota, where they are sorted to ensure high quality - no more than 10 years old, with no marks on them, and of useful or educational content.

The great majority of the books are in English, although BFA would like to offer more to Francophone countries. A recent partnership with Nathan publishers in France aims to accomplish this, with recent shipments sent out to both Mali and Senegal.
More extensive, ongoing projects in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana are due to strong BFA partners there, which make it relatively easy to arrange shipments.
Partners in Africa, from nongovernmental organizations to Rotary Clubs and religious organizations, request their book preferences from the list of available books, receive the deliveries and distribute the books.

BFA recently began working with U.S. embassies in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti and Uganda, which help with distribution. Plonski also would like to expand cooperation with the Peace Corps, to take advantage of its extensive infrastructure.

A recent addition to the recipient countries is Liberia. Since the country's emergence from civil war, BFA has sent 23 shipments there. Most recently, a Liberian national wanted to sponsor a few containers. That effort grew, with other donors signing on for a total of seven containers. "They can put those books to good use," said Plonski, to help rebuild Liberian society.
Doyscher sees "pretty much only growth ahead" for the organization. She recently returned from Abuja, Nigeria, where she distributed English dictionaries to schoolchildren. "The teachers and the children are absolutely thrilled," she said.

Source: U.S. Department of State


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Freedom to Develop

We are pleased to see the initiatives being developed by the State inthe areas of environmental protection and labor regulation. How fantastic, what a great testimony to the new government that the first executive order should be related to the environment. The re-evaluationof all concessions has been a brilliant move. This is a good sign that the natural heritage, health and welfare of the people may be safe the future.

Jubilation, as we know so well in Liberia, can be cut short instantly. Hopefully we do not overshoot the mark and venture into areas beyond regulation to State Control. With patience and good governance,we will triumph over the people and powers foreign and domestic that would do harm to Liberia's natural resource, exploiting them forshort-term gain on the backs of the citizens.

Increased State Control will always bring increased corruption.

Openly encouraging private sector participation in government is the model that we have before us. We have come through the darkness into the light. How fortunate we are when many African countries are still under military autocracy clothed in civilian clothes, crippling people's initiatives. By following democratic principles, that involve the people at alllevels in a transparent manner development of Liberia's Natural Resources will bring about a common good.

We believe that government should not shirk its duty to pursue development policies that emphasize the private sector as the engine of growth and expressed the hope that with these developments benefits will reach all in Liberia willing to work... You Monrovia boys may dream about your feet up behind a desk with the fan blowing you, dream on, but stay out of the way of the people who are ready to do what it takes.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Natural Resource Issues Liberia

Natural Resource Issues Liberia

Did anyone get a whiff of the Liberia Environmental Watch’s Newsletter? Take a look:

Congratulations Morris T. Koffa on your inaugural newsletter