Africa: Focused On Ending Hunger, Africa Neglects Rising Obesity

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Dakar — In Africa people are often unaware that highly processed foods are unhealthy and do not necessarily see being overweight as a problem

Focused for decades on ending hunger, African countries have largely failed to address a rising obesity epidemic that could soon become the greater public health crisis, experts said as new data was released.

A quarter of the world’s 41 million overweight children under five live in Africa, a figure that has nearly doubled on the continent in the last two decades, according to the Global Nutrition Report published on Saturday.

There are still six times more children on the continent whose growth is stunted from malnutrition, and that number is also increasing, the report said.

But noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, most of which are obesity-related, are expected to become the biggest killer in Africa by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Diets are changing, but they are not becoming more nutritious,” said Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report.

“We’re worried that because attention hasn’t been paid to this issue, obesity has had the space to grow,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than 30 percent of adults in Africa are overweight, according to WHO, with obesity rates nearing 10 percent even in very poor countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In some places people are both overweight and malnourished, experts said. Sometimes a mother is obese but her children are stunted, said Hawkes.

Highly processed foods have become increasingly affordable and available worldwide, which is one of the primary drivers, said Bruce Lee, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Moreover, in Africa people are often unaware that these foods are unhealthy and do not necessarily see being overweight as a problem, he said.

“If you have a country where the concern was always not getting enough food, it’s going to take a while to shift people’s perceptions,” Lee told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

West Africa’s regional health organisation (WAHO) makes no mention of weight gain or obesity in all 60 pages of its 2016-2020 strategic plan, although it notes “alarming” rates of diabetes and growing prevalence of high blood pressure.

Aid organisations that address hunger should adapt their existing programs to also prevent obesity, said Hawkes.

School meal programmes in West Africa, for example, are usually focused on making sure children get enough food but sometimes have no standards for quality, she said.

Obesity-related conditions are usually expensive to treat and will take a heavy toll on developing countries’ economies, experts say.

“If we invest in nutrition, we’ll be helping to achieve other development goals,” said Hawkes. “This is not a side issue.”

(Reporting By Nellie Peyton; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://www.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation

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Africa: Technology Can Help Kids Learn, but Only If Parents and Teachers Are Involved

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Educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom wanted to understand how people learn. So in 1965 he and his colleagues created Bloom’s taxonomy : a system for identifying, understanding and addressing learning. They came up with a system that’s composed of two elements: thinking and the ability to apply knowledge, and then feelings and emotions.

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When a student learns about gravity, the cognitive elements would include knowledge and understanding of the concept of a force pulling an object towards the Earth; acceleration, mass and so on. The moment the student has developed understanding, she would be in a position to apply (psychomotor) – the acquired knowledge and skills in new situations. For example, she might want to see what would happen if something different was done to the same object – would it experience the same acceleration?

This learning process doesn’t happen in an isolated context. It takes place during interactions with peers and teachers – what the model refers to as the affective domain. That is the elements of learning that affect emotional development. Elements of interest, motivation and values would help the student to appreciate the discussion and value the ideas as well as encourage her to develop social skills appropriate to working in groups. Eventually, development of this domain benefits broader communities and society as a whole.

Some researchers claim that integrating technology into teaching and learning improves students’ grades. Others argue that technology makes little difference to how students perform because traditional approaches to teaching still predominate.

A lot of research in this area has focused on technology as a tool. But what is the value of technology as a medium to encourage interactions between parents, teachers and students – tapping into the affective domain – and ensure that students construct knowledge?

Myself and other academics from the Mauritius Institute of Education and London’s  Brunel University wanted to know how technology could be used to transform the teaching and learning process into an innovative, interactive environment that promotes students’ cognitive development driven by the affective domain. So we embarked on  a study that attempted to build a case for incorporating the affective domain in the teaching and learning of physics using technology.

A space to develop the affective domain

The study was carried out in two phases: exploratory and evaluative. The evaluative phase confirmed the findings made in the exploratory phase.

The exploratory phase involved one teacher, 22 students (all 13 and 14 years old) from a coeducational school situated in Mauritius’ central region and 19 parents.

In the evaluative phase 31 students from an all-girls’ school (in the same region as the first school), 15 parents and one physics teacher participated.

We developed a framework called the Pedagogical Technological Integrated Medium. It is founded on a well-documented framework, TPACK, which was created to facilitate the use of technology in schools. Our framework helps learners to create knowledge and develop an understanding of physics through interactions between teachers, students and parents.

We created an interactive website to monitor how parents, teachers and students were engaging with the framework. The site encompasses a series of home tasks (parent-student and parent-teacher interactions), in-class tasks (student-teachers) and out-of-school activities (parent-student-teacher interactions).

For instance, students used the website to consolidate their existing knowledge of measurement as a concept in physics. They did this in collaboration with their parents before attending classes.

The experiment showed that learners benefited enormously from the approach we had adopted. By creating the affective domain through interactions with their parents (at home) and teachers (at school), the students were able to construct physics knowledge. The added dimension was that we used technology as a medium to meet this end.

Benefits of our approach

The framework was well received by students, parents and teachers. One parent told us:

I was happy that my daughter was discussing with me and I encouraged her to complete all the tasks and to tell me if she had any difficulty.

Students said they wanted to do more activities and be provided with more notes on the website because this would help them “to learn better”. One said,

I would like to try it first before learning it [the concept] at school.

The teachers were also happy. One said that, “the activities contained in the web lesson have helped me to understand in which specific areas students hold misconceptions”. The teacher also hailed the chance to “innovate in my teaching”.

Integrating the affective domain into our model has shown the potential of key educational stakeholders – parents, students and teachers – to collaborate. The teacher established a network with parents and learners and used the insights gained to construct her interactive lessons.

The schools we worked with are planning to use the website to sustain the interaction that’s been developed between teachers, students and parents. We also plan to get more schools in Mauritius using this system.

The affective domain matters

Our study has provided evidence of a change in students’ attitudes: they claimed to be interested, motivated and better prepared to learn new concepts in class.

It’s been known for a long time that educational technology can offer opportunities for cognitive development in learning science. We’ve now proved that this isn’t sufficient unless the affective domain forms an integral part of teaching and learning when technology is integrated into the process.

Disclosure statement

Yashwant Ramma receives funding from Mauritius Research Council.

Source : The Conversation

About Attitude                About Values                About Behaviour

Africa: Child Sex Traffickers Turn to Rural Areas, Internet for Business

Bogota — Working undercover in bars and brothels across Southeast Asia to combat child sex slavery, campaigner Kevin Campbell has posed many times as a tourist looking to buy sex with a girl.

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But these days, Campbell, who works for the anti-trafficking group The Exodus Road, says it is far less common to see young girls for sale in sex tourism hotspots in cities, as child sex traffickers turn to out-of-the-way places – and the internet.

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“Three or four years ago I could walk into…sex tourism areas and you could see girls that were 14, 15 years old very easily,” said Campbell, vice president of global operations at U.S.-based The Exodus Road, which helps local authorities rescue children sold into forced prostitution.

“But now you are not going to find that. You will find maybe 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds … where we do still see very young girls being sold are in rural areas,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said traffickers operate in suburbs or small towns and villages, “where they feel they can operate with impunity because the national police aren’t as active there.”

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion a year.

More than 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery, according to new estimates by the International Labour Organization, human rights group Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration.

VENEZUELA

In Latin America, women and girls trafficked into sexual exploitation is the most common form of trafficking.

Campbell said Venezuelan women and girls are increasingly at risk of falling prey to traffickers looking to exploit poverty as tens of thousands head to neighbouring Colombia and Brazil to escape a humanitarian and political crisis at home.

“There’s a market right now for victims that is very enticing to traffickers,” said Campbell, adding Venezuelan women are being trafficked within Latin America and beyond.

“Traffickers are experts in exploiting the vulnerabilities of marginalised people. They are really adept at manipulating the desperation of the poor.”

Campbell trains people to work undercover and raid places where children are sold for sex, from bars and brothels to hotels and squares, to identify victims and gather evidence.

Typically evidence includes video footage taken with hidden cameras of children being sold that can be used by police to rescue them and put sex traffickers behind bars, he said.

For the past five years, The Exodus Road has worked mainly in Southeast Asia and India but recently moved into Latin America, a region known as a hub for online child porn, Campbell said.

The charity has trained five local investigators who are working undercover and in cyber forensics, he said.

Some of the techniques being used to crack child porn rings and identify victims include technology to decode encrypted files and data scrapping, which can pull information off the internet on traffickers.

“And then there’s just the pornography side, the live streaming of child rape and so you can have tens of thousands of men logging in and watching these things take place,” he said.

“There is an issue in Latin America where it’s kind of a hub for a lot of the trafficking and recruiting of young, young children and the live streaming is done from Latin America.”

He said traffickers are increasingly distributing child pornography and selling children via instant encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp, social networks such as Facebook, and sites on the dark web that can allow users to remain anonymous.

“It’s certainly is safer for the trafficker to sell online,” Campbell said.

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation

New Gates Foundation Report Against Global Poverty and Disease

Bill and Melinda Gates Call for Strong Leadership to Address “Solvable Human Misery”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on September 13 2017, launched an inaugural annual report showcasing the remarkable progress that has been made in reducing extreme poverty and disease in recent decades, but issuing a stern warning to the world that future progress is in jeopardy.

Goalkeepers : The Stories Behind the Data, co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, highlights past progress against some of the most devastating issues facing poor countries and uses breakthrough data projections to forecast good and bad future scenarios – with millions of lives hanging in the balance.

In all, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion and sanitation. The report looks beneath the numbers to pinpoint the leaders, approaches and innovations that made a difference.

Through the data and first-person accounts from six contributors, the report showcases the stunning progress the world has made in the past generation: cutting extreme poverty and child deaths in half and reducing HIV deaths and maternal deaths by nearly half, among many other accomplishments. But as the report shows, serious challenges remain – including deep disparities between countries – and future progress is not inevitable.

The projections are showcased in charts and explore three potential 2030 scenarios for each indicator. The first is what could happen if we continue along the current path, based on past trends – without significant changes to approaches or current spending levels. Two additional scenarios provide a glimpse at a better and worse future: what could happen with strong leadership, innovation and investment and, starkly, what could happen if attention and funding waned. For example, a mere 10 percent cut in global donor funding for HIV treatment could result in more than 5 million more deaths by 2030.

In their introduction, Bill and Melinda Gates express concern that shifting priorities, instability and potential budget cuts could lead the world to turn away from its commitments, jeopardizing the positive trajectory needed to end extreme poverty and wipe out diseases by 2030.

“This report comes at a time when there is more doubt than usual about the world’s commitment to development,” Bill and Melinda Gates state in the report. “Take it from the point of view of justice, or take it from the point of view of creating a secure and stable world: development deserves our attention.”

Bill and Melinda Gates will produce the Goalkeepers report every year through 2030, timed for the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. In 2015, world leaders committed to the Global Goals, which are focused on ending extreme poverty and fighting inequalities. The Goalkeepers report focuses on a subset of the indicators in the Global Goals and is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners and leaders around the world accountable. It will document not just what is working, but where the world is falling short.

The report includes first-person accounts from leaders whose innovations and policies have already made a difference – from tackling stunting in Peru to increasing uptake of modern contraceptives in Senegal to bringing more women in India into the formal financial sector.

It is clear from the report that decisions the world collectively makes in the next couple of years will have a significant impact on the futures of millions, if not billions, of people. Leadership, Bill and Melinda Gates argue, will make the difference in which path the world takes:

“Poverty and disease in poor countries are the clearest examples we know of solvable human misery. It is a fact that this misery is solvable and we have it within our power to decide how much of it actually gets solved. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s lead.”

In conjunction with the report, the Gates Foundation will be hosting two Goalkeepers Events in New York City around the UN General Assembly. Former President Barack Obama, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Malala Yousafzai, Richard Curtis, screenwriter, producer and film director, and Stephen Fry, actor, writer and presenter will join events on Sept. 19 and 20. Participants will celebrate progress toward eliminating disease, inequality and poverty around the world, and inspire a new generation of advocates to work towards sustainable development. On the evening of Sept.19 the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards dinner will honor outstanding activists and groups who have demonstrated a positive impact on people’s lives and are inspiring others to accelerate progress and leave no one behind. The Gates Foundation will livestream the Sept.19 and 20 Goalkeepers events.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About Goalkeepers
Goalkeepers is the foundation’s first annual report and global event dedicated to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). By sharing stories and data behind the Goals, we hope to inspire a new generation of leaders – Goalkeepers who raise awareness of progress, hold their leaders accountable and drive action to achieve the Goals.

About the Global Goals
On September 25th 2015, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). These are a series of ambitious targets to achieve three extraordinary things in the next 15 years: end extreme poverty; fight inequality and injustice; and fix climate change.

Source : Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States

Cases in Sahel, Lake Chad and Other Regions Illustrate What Works

By: Fred Strasser, United States  Institute of Peace

In Nigeria, a radio call-in show with local Islamic scholars provided an alternative to extremist propaganda. In Somalia, training youth in nonviolent advocacy for better governance produced a sharp drop in support for political violence. In the Lake Chad region, coordinating U.S. defense, development and diplomatic efforts helped push back Boko Haram and strengthened surrounding states. Such cases illustrate ways to close off the openings for extremism in fragile states, experts said in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Three men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia in June of 2014.

Noor, Bashir and Ahmed, men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group, stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Daniel Berehulak
For 15 years, the annual rankings of the Fragile states Index  have prompted the question of what works and what doesn’t in improving governance, enhancing stability and, increasingly, in reducing violent extremism, said Patricia Taft, programs director at the nonprofit Fund for Peace, which produces the Fragile States Index.From the Sahel to North Africa to South Asia, fragility generates the political grievances, social alienation and economic failure that fuel extremism, the panelists said at the event, part of the regular Conflice Prevetnion and Resolution Froum . Fragility, as defined last year by the USIP-led Fragility Study Group , is the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government, with institutional weakness and a lack of political legitimacy.

The impact of fragility—and the openings it provides for extremist influence—surfaces throughout a society, the panelists said. Read more…….

 

Ebola to Piracy: Sustaining U.S.-China Work in Africa

By: Jennifer Staats

U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.

US and Chines Military MIO Exercise

U.S.-China counter piracy exercise. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released
Initial trilateral efforts in Africa have revealed three key lessons for effective cooperation, according to experts in a recent discussion at USIP.  First, successful efforts must be African-led and should work through existing African institutions. Second, leadership matters, and the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Africa play a critical role in making collaboration possible. Third, engagement must be sustained, holistic, and long-term, rather than ad hoc.

Although both the United States and China want to see an economically prosperous and secure Africa, there are many barriers to closer cooperation. They include competition, lack of transparency, different definitions of “stability,” and bureaucratic stovepipes.

Three ambassadors and an associate director at the Carter Center in Atlanta considered ways to overcome these hurdles in a March 2017 article in Foreign Affairs.

“The goal should be to transform occasional moments of cooperation—such as the shared efforts of China, the United States, and African governments during the Ebola crisis—into what China expert Kurt Campbell has called “habits of cooperation” on those areas where all parties largely agree.”

Campbell and the four authors addressed the point at the USIP event on April 11, held to discuss progress in a three-year project between the institute and the Carter Center, called the Africa-China-U.S. Consultation for Peace. The program is being conducted in coordination with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel.

In addition to the authors’ recommendations, experts identified other opportunities for collaboration:

  • Coordinate humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad Basin to avoid duplication and gaps.
  • Conduct joint research on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including piracy as well as illegal and unreported fishing.
  • Strengthen maritime security structures in West Africa, particularly the Interregional Coordination Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • Develop African merchant marines to facilitate trade.
  • Address threats to food security and public health.
  • Build the capacity of African peacekeepers and establish a reliable source of funding for African Union peace operations.
  • Invest in civilian security, governance, economic rehabilitation, effective community-police relations, and the judicial and security architecture in the Lake Chad Basin.
  • Align development assistance, infrastructure projects, and economic investment with conflict prevention efforts.

The need for three-way cooperation in Africa remains high.  Where direct collaboration is not possible, one alternative might be to pursue complementary policies that still would allow parties to work in parallel toward the same goals, as long as they maintain some openness and transparency.

The United States and China should commit to adding these issues to the new U.S.-China Consultative Dialogue, to ensure these opportunities get the attention they deserve. The challenges facing Africa cannot be ignored just because leaders in Washington and Beijing cannot overcome their mistrust. Instead, the three parties must find creative ways to pursue complementary efforts that will help everyone realize their shared interests.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Africa: Get Rich or Die Trying – the Chinese Multinational Scamming Millions From Ugandans

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Thousands of people in Uganda have signed up to a company believing it will cure all their illnesses and help them make a fortune. It is more likely to do the opposite.

This article is republished here to coincide with the new documentary Uganda’s Health Pyramid, aided by African Arguments, into the company TIENS in Uganda. The film, made by Banyak, will be available on AlJazeera from 1st February 2017. The article below was originally published on Think Africa Press (now defunct) in 2014. As the documentary shows, not much has changed.

On the corner of a bumpy, red-soil road in the rural town of Iganga in eastern Uganda, there lies a small store. A handful of people mill around the entrance in the glaring sun, waiting their turn to enter. They are the main source of activity on this placid street, but their patient presence barely betrays the hubbub within.

Inside, almost a dozen people sit crammed on makeshift benches around two edges of the stifling room. Most of the remaining space is taken up by a shop counter, behind which are shelves piled high with vibrantly-coloured health products covered in Chinese characters.

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A couple of customers compete with a baby wailing as they read out lists of products to the shop attendants who pick them off the shelves. Every now and then, the door in the corner opens. Someone steps out, usually holding a piece of paper, and the person sitting closest steps in.

Beyond that doorway is an even smaller room, windowless and illuminated by a single light. As I peer in, three people are undergoing diagnostic tests, a woman is standing on a machine that hums loudly as it vibrates, and a few more patients are waiting slumped along the wall.

Wasswa Zziwa Edrisa – or “Doctor Wasswa” as he is known here – stands in the centre wearing a fresh, chequered shirt on his back and an unwavering grin on his face. With the easy charm of a seasoned salesman and the swaggering self-assurance of Uganda’s national bird and symbol, the crested crane, Wasswa welcomes me in.

“I will show you how we help so many people,” he says, beaming. “Let me show you the machines.”

“This is one of the scanners,” he explains, pointing to a piece of kit that looks a bit like a 1970s radio. “It shows everything. We can see if you have diabetes, kidney deficiencies, liver problems, eye problems. Everything.”

Wasswa explains that the test works using a traditional Chinese understanding of the body whereby different points of the hand relate to different internal organs. We watch as an attendant prods a patient’s left palm with a metal tip, making a little meter light up. When the light goes green, he explains, it means that part of the body is fine, but if it goes orange it indicates a problem.

Next Wasswa points me to the corner where a woman is standing on a small machine and holding onto a pair of handlebars to which she is harnessed. Her whole body blurs in the dim light as the platform beneath her vibrates rapidly, its droning buzz filling the room.

Similar machines can be found in many gyms these days and are meant to help tone muscle, but the uses Wasswa presents are quite different.

“This is a blood circulation massager,” he announces. “You see how she sweats. It opens the vessels and deals with paralysis. It helps people with stroke.”

Wasswa then shows me another diagnostics machine, this one connected to a laptop. As the patient holds on to an appliance plugged into the computer, pictures of different organs flash up on the screen for a few seconds each as a dial next to it oscillates erratically. After a minute, a one-page document pops up, listing how well his organs are functioning.

In the airless room, Wasswa runs through a few more devices – a face pain remover, a blood pressure reducer, a necklace that removes radiation – before squeezing past bodies and chairs to get back to the first patient we met. By now his diagnostic test is complete. He tells me that he came to the store because of some mild pain around his mouth, but Wasswa breaks the news that there are more serious things about which he ought to be concerned.

“Ah, he has a problem with his spleen,” says Wasswa, nodding knowingly. “At times, he gets constipation and some swelling in the legs and arms. There is also some paralysis in the legs. He gets headaches. At times he feels dizziness. His brain arteries need to be detoxified. He has kidney deficiencies. He has bad chest pain. He has high cholesterol. He has poor circulation. And he has problems with his stomach.”

The roster of the young and healthy-looking patient’s conditions seems extreme, but Wasswa is not perturbed.

“He needs to improve his circulation by using our machines and he will need to take our products. If he uses them, he will be fine,” he reassures.

Back in the light and noise of the waiting-room-cum-pharmacy, Wasswa shows me some of these products. He picks goods off the shelves, ranging from capsules to toothpastes to body creams, and stacks them on the counter as he explains what they each do. “This takes away all the radiation in your body. This helps with diabetes. This treats ulcers. This is for slimming. This adds more white blood cells to your system. This is for people who are mentally disturbed,” he says.

“These medicines are good for everything,” he concludes finally, the pile of products on the counter now complete. “If you have cancer, we can help. If you have HIV, we can help. Even if you have a hernia or a tumour or appendicitis, you just take our products and they will disappear.”

This small store in eastern Uganda employs a handful of staff and, according to Wasswa, receives dozens of patients each day. Wasswa is also frequently heard on local radio advertising his services and has made quite a name for himself in the area. He was previously a school teacher and says his parents were “peasants”, but now, in his 30s, he is anything but. These days, Wasswa drives a shiny four-wheel drive, wears sharp suits and even goes on jet-setting trips around the world. All this makes him quite the exception in Iganga, but across Uganda, this young ‘doctor’ is by no means a solo pioneer and his store is by no means unique.

Similar stores can found all across the country, from Kasese in the west to Soroti in the east, and from Gulu in the north to Entebbe in the south. There are four such outlets in Kampala alone. These stores offer the same diagnostic tests, stock the same range of products, and above all their doors, there hangs the same innocuous green and orange sign which reads: “TIENS: Together We Share Health And Wealth.”

TIENS – also known as Tianshi – is a multinational company based 10,000 miles away in the Chinese metropolis of Tianjin. It was founded in 1995 by Li Jinyuan, who has since become a billionaire from the venture. The company has established branches in 110 countries including 16 in Africa, employs over 10,000 staff globally, and reportedly enjoys net profits worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

TIENS first began tapping into the Ugandan market in 2003 and it has grown steadily ever since. There are now around 30 stores across the country, TIENS distributors regularly engage in outreach programmes to rural communities, and according to the company’s national chairperson, Kibuuka Mazinga Ambrose, TIENS-Uganda has an annual turnover of around $6 million.

The company has even bought the most prominent advertising spot on the Health Ministry’s official calendar, a particularly brazen move given that none of its outlets are registered health facilities.

Patients who come to TIENS seek help for a whole range of conditions – from malaria to paralysis – but they tend to tell similar stories of how they arrived here. Typically, they say that they first went to public facilities (some told me they had even visited two or three), but were either not seen to or found the treatment ineffective. TIENS is almost always a last resort. But in a country whose healthcare infrastructure is riddled with chronic problems and which, by some measures, ranks as one of the worst in the world, the last resort is often one that needs to be taken.

In many areas of Uganda, public health facilities are virtually inaccessible, while those who do manage to reach them may find their walls crumbling, their clinics under-staffed, and their shelves bereft of drugs. Although the government has promised to invest more in the sector, much of the country’s healthcare infrastructure is in decay. Doctors and nurses are over-worked and underpaid, and although services are meant to be free, in reality patients face many hidden costs.

In this context, stores like Wasswa’s – with its quick turnaround, attentive staff and fully-stocked shelves – offer an appealing alternative. The always conclusive diagnostic tests are highly convenient; attendants’ claims about the healing powers of TIENS products may well be reassuring; and many patients say the fact the medicines travelled thousands of miles from China suggest they must work.

Many customers who use TIENS products also insist that they do work.

On the Friday morning after my tour of Wasswa’s clinic, the courtyard next to the outlet is packed. Over a hundred people sit on plastic chairs facing forwards while latecomers lean against the back wall. A red tarpaulin sheet shields the crammed attendees from the sun and gives the whole atmosphere an eerie pink hue.

‘Doctor Julius’, a man in his late-30s with an intense glare and impatient demeanour, stands at the front. He has just finished explaining the healing powers of TIENS toothpaste – which as well as cleaning teeth, can be used to treat ulcers, angina and skin problems amongst many other conditions – and he invites attendees who have used the product to give testimony. Four hands go up immediately.

“I had terrible problems with my teeth,” says the first speaker. “I went to see doctors but a new tooth had to be uprooted every week. When I started to use TIENS toothpaste, the pain went away.”

The next patient tells a very similar story before two mothers relay how the toothpaste cleared up their respective children’s skin rashes and burns.

Every now and then over the next few hours, many more attendees are invited to recount their experiences of using TIENS products. We hear how a man with back pain can now walk, how another man was cured of vertigo, and how a woman’s child was once bed-ridden but is now running around. At one point, Wasswa looks particularly pleased as a mother tells of how her young son – who she had taken to three separate public healthcare facilities before he was cured of cerebral malaria by TIENS – now wants to change his name to ‘Doctor Wasswa’.

“You see, these products work,” Wasswa announces after one of the testimonies. “At hospitals, they will ask you how you feel, but here, we tell you how you feel. At hospitals, they treat signs and symptoms. Here, we treat causes. At hospitals, they give you medicines made from chemicals which are harmful and can give you ulcers. Here, we use herbal medicines which have no side-effects.”

“This is real,” he continues. “This is Chinese herbal medicine based on 5,000 years of traditional medicine and it works.”

In Kampala, I test this out for myself. I visit a couple of the company’s stores, nestled in the city centre’s endless bustling plazas, and in one of them, managed by an intense man named Frank, I get tested.

Frank, the self-declared “best in the business” at doing diagnostic tests, seems thrilled at my presence and bundles me across to the end of the room. He sits me down and pulls across a thin curtain to give us a modicum of privacy from the handful of waiting patients. He takes out a battered looking hand-held device, pushes a 9-volt battery into its back and plugs a wire into it that branches into two metal tips. He gives me one of the electrified points to hold in my right hand and says he will use the other to press points on my left palm. With a grave look on his face, Frank instructs me to tell him when I feel a tingling. This seems to be a more basic version of the first test I’d seen in Iganga.

To begin with, I report whenever I feel something, which is every single time the tip touches my hand, completing the basic electric circuit. Frank nods excitedly when I do so and explains that I have a serious problem in whichever part of my body he is testing. After a while, however, I decide to stop reporting every time I feel a tingling. Frank lets me get away with one, but after that he frowns when I stay silent and simply keeps the metal point on my hand until I give in, sometimes rubbing my hand and even licking the metal tip if I am being particularly resistant.

In the end, Frank writes out a list of around 25 health conditions including “liver disorder,” “STROKE,” and “enteric fever [aka severe typhoid],” and prescribes a roster of products that comes to over USH 1 million ($400).

Before committing to his costly regimen, I decide to get a second opinion.

In the bright, clean reception of Beijing Clinic, a private health facility in Kampala, I relate my experience to a young Ugandan doctor, who trained and qualified in China, specialising in traditional Chinese medicine. The doctor, who prefers not to be named, laughs as I explain the machines I saw in Iganga and the test I underwent in Kampala. “No machine can test all those things like they claim,” he says.

Next, I show him the TIENS Information Guide, a booklet from which it seems Julius and Wasswa get most of their information. On page 3 of the booklet, a short disclaimer warns: “Tianshi Company does not make any medical claims whatsoever.” However, the next 60 pages are filled with bold declarations about the powers of its products and instructions on how to treat different diseases.

“Whatever this is, it is not Chinese medicine,” says the Chinese-trained doctor with a combination of amusement and incredulity. He chuckles as he reads how TIENS medicines are supposed to treat about a dozen different conditions each, from preventing cancer to reversing impotence to promoting “the growth of children’s reproductive organs.”

However, the doctor’s amusement soon turns to horror as he reaches the section of the booklet advising distributors on what steps to take when patients are suffering from different diseases. TIENS customers are typically encouraged to undergo diagnostic tests in store, but most who go to TIENS have previously been to hospital and know some of the conditions from which they are suffering. The company guide offers clear and easy instructions on what they should be prescribed.

Of the few hundred conditions listed – which span from AIDS to Yellow Fever – a handful include the recommendation to ‘see a doctor’. But the rest just list a few products to be taken.

“This is a death sentence,” mutters the doctor, falling silent.

One of the most repeated claims by TIENS distributors is that because the products are ‘herbal’, they have no side-effects. This assertion is used to elevate them above Western medicines, which they say are made from chemicals and so can be harmful, but the claim is also used to suggest that there are no dangers involved in taking them.

“Even if I tell you to swallow one and you swallow four, there will be no problems,” Wasswa had insisted. But when put to the Chinese-trained doctor in Beijing Clinic, he just shakes his head. “That is a flat out lie,” he says.

He recalls that last year, he was consulted by police after a man suffering from kidney problems died suddenly from liver failure. A toxicology report found that he had had a toxic overdose and it was suggested that the TIENS supplements the patient had been taking without his doctor’s knowledge had either caused additional problems or reacted badly with other medicines. The man’s family could not afford to get a more detailed medical report, however, and declined to take the matter further.

At another private clinic in Kampala, Dr Wen, a highly-regarded practitioner with three decades experience, is similarly concerned. “This is not medicine,” he says, “but it is still dangerous. Everything has side-effects. Even herbal medicines and herbal supplements used wrongly can kill.”

I contacted Uganda’s Health Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, repeatedly for comment, but received no reply.

Apart from the story of the kidney patient, I didn’t come across other rumours of deaths, but cases of the products not working as miraculously as promised were easy to find. After all, TIENS products are not medicines. Some of the company’s goods have been registered with Uganda’s National Drugs Authority, but as ‘food & dietary supplements’. In fact, stories of TIENS products not fully working were even common amongst some of TIENS most ardent fans.

Back in Iganga, with the courtyard seminar over and Wasswa busy talking to a small circle of attendees eager to hear more, Sarah*, 25, moves towards the back of the courtyard closer to where I am sitting.

During the seminar, she had given testimony telling of how she’d taken her baby boy, who was suffering from sickle cell anaemia, to several hospitals before she came to TIENS. Many of those who told their stories directed them matter-of-factly at Julius or Wasswa, but Sarah had turned to face the crowd and spoken passionately as she’d explained how the products worked wonders.

Asked a few more questions after the symposium, however, her story reveals itself to be far less straightforward. It transpires that her son is still ill. So ill, in fact, that she recently quit her nursing job to look after him full-time. Sarah nevertheless insists that the TIENS medicines work and says the reason her son is still suffering is because his treatment is incomplete. She bought half the products the boy needs for a full recovery but is struggling to find the money to purchase the rest.

Robert, 30, tells a similar tale. He too claims to be a firm believer in the healing powers of TIENS, and acted as my translator throughout the seminar, seemingly on Wasswa’s instruction. Robert says that he came to TIENS with kidney problems and maintains the products worked where hospital treatments failed. Like Sarah’s son, however, he admits that he is still in pain. Firstly, he attributes this to the fact that his kidney treatment is incomplete; he too has had financial difficulties. Secondly, he explains that the TIENS diagnostic test revealed his kidneys are not his only problem; while his original condition may have improved, he now knows he is suffering from other conditions that need to be cured too.

Sarah and Robert reveal that they have each spent USH 460,000 ($180) on products so far, paying in instalments from what they could borrow or scrape together. Sarah says she needs USH 500,000 ($200) more to complete her son’s treatment, but doesn’t know where the money will come from given that she is now jobless and that the father of her son is in school. Robert says he needs around USH 200,000 ($80) more, but says that as a “peasant”, he too will struggle.

“I haven’t balanced it well,” he says, “but I hope it will balance out soon. I am still feeling pain.”

It is not a coincidence that Robert, Sarah and a few others who spoke to me had all purchased exactly USH 460,000 worth of products. Nor is it an inexplicable peculiarity that individuals with no reliable source of income had shelled out what little they had, and more, on TIENS products. After all, TIENS is more than just a supplier of health supplements.

In the symposium in Iganga, once Julius had waxed lyrical about various products, it was time for Wasswa to take over the stage to talk about another benefit of TIENS. Though not before Julius had the opportunity to rouse the crowd.

After finishing his demonstration of TIENS’ disease-curing sanitary pads, Julius put down the product and strolled ponderously along the front of the courtyard before turning to face the audience. “Tianshi!” he shouted suddenly. “Together we share!” came back the reply on cue, a hundred voices amplified by the concrete walls. “Tianshi!” Julius proclaimed a second time, a little louder. “One dream!” came the soaring response. “Tianshi!” yelled the doctor a third time. “The best of all!!” bellowed the crowd.

Next, Julius taught the audience a new trick. Since all points in ours palms relate to different internal organs, he explained, clapping stimulates the whole body and works as a kind of “first aid.” He held his hands apart and, together with the crowd, clapped out a rhythm that crackled across the courtyard. Julius explained that the louder you clap, the greater the benefits to your internal organs, before holding out his hands and going again. And again.

Finally, looking satisfied, Julius completed his session and handed over to Wasswa.

“TIENS is not just good for your health,” the salesman proclaimed, taking to the stage, “it is also good for your wealth. If you register with TIENS, they will start to pay you. You come here for treatment, but over time, you will start to get a salary.”

Over the next few minutes, Wasswa explained that this is what he had done and that he was not only receiving thousands of dollars every month now, but had been taken on international trips by the company, received huge cash bonuses and been given a brand new car.

“When you reach a certain level, you start earning,” he said. “And it does not matter if you have no qualifications or education. TIENS does not care if you are educated. TIENS only cares how many products you buy and how many people you recruit.”

Wasswa said these words with a weighty earnestness, but they were not news to half the courtyard. Robert, Sarah and many others around them – all recognisable by the golden lion-shaped badges they were wearing – were not just TIENS patients, but members and distributors already. They were here on Wasswa’s instructions to give testimony and help convince others to join too. For these returning members, TIENS is not just a medical supplier, but a livelihood, an investment, and a chance to follow in Wasswa’s jet-setting footsteps.

Sitting behind his desk at the TIENS-Uganda headquarters, located at the top of King Fahd Plaza on a busy street in Kampala, Kibuuka Mazinga Ambrose is delighted to explain how the business model works in more detail.

“Anyone can join,” says the company chairperson, wearing a bright yellow TIENS-branded cap. “All you need to do is pay a small initial fee of $20.” Once you have done this, you can buy products at wholesale prices and sell them on at a profit. However, this is just the start, he says. You don’t get rich by selling a few bottles of herbal supplements. Under TIENS’ model, there are eight ranks and you need to move up the levels to really start enjoying the benefits.

The first few levels can be reached simply by buying more products, which essentially brings with it a small discount on goods. However, to get to the bigger rewards, you need to start recruiting others. This way, you receive a commission whenever they make purchases and also get rewarded if they recruit their own followers.

The more people you recruit and the more they recruit in turn, the higher you move up the rankings, and soon you can just sit back and watch as the commissions roll in. Furthermore, once you’ve reached the 8-star level and keep growing your network, you will eventually become a Bronze Lion, then a Silver Lion, then a Gold Lion, and enjoy rewards of cash prizes, international trips, a brand new 4×4 car, a luxury yacht, a private jet, and finally a “Luxurious Villa Palace.”

“It’s all about growing your network; their success is your success,” says Ambrose cheerily. “TIENS does not care who you are. Anyone can do it, and there is no limit on what you can earn.”

As the TIENS Guide puts it, joining the company means: “You stop struggling financially,” there is “little risk of losing”, and “if you work for 5 years you can retire.”

According the company website, over 200,000 Ugandans have joined TIENS, eclipsing even the number of government school teachers in the country.

Given Uganda’s high rates of unemployment – youth unemployment is over 80% according to some estimates – the appeal of membership is clear to see. Decent jobs are scarce and rags-to-riches stories like Wasswa’s are even scarcer.

Furthermore, the company’s image is significantly helped by the Ugandan government. Not only does TIENS advertise on the Health Ministry’s calendar, but according to Wasswa, around ten MPs are members of the company and at the Iganga seminar, Stephen Wante, the mayor of Bugembe, made a guest appearance. In 2011 meanwhile, Vice-President Edward Ssekandi officiated a ceremony in which a distributor was awarded a car and organised for TIENS to donate some of its products to a government health centre. A photograph of the Ssekandi shaking hands with TIENS’ president also has pride of place on the company website.

However, despite all of TIENS’ promises of wealth and perceived legitimacy, actually making money from the scheme is virtually impossible. At the TIENS headquarters, where members can print out their balance sheets, many leave the office holding spreadsheets indicating that they are owed almost nothing, if anything at all. Meanwhile, back in Iganga, several members who had joined several months ago, attended every biweekly seminar, bought lots of products, and gone on recruitment drives, revealed that they had not earned any notable income either. It seems many others have also abandoned the scheme after finding they could not make it work.

According to most TIENS members – both those who are profiting and those who aren’t – the reason for these failures is simple: the individual did not work hard enough. When I asked Sarah why she thought she hadn’t made any money after being a member for five months, for example, she hesitated before Robert helpfully chipped in to say “it means she is not performing well.” Yet Robert had barely received any income either, despite having been a member for six months and having recruited nine people. Other members who had yet to make money also suggested their situation was down to bad luck or poor performance.

This feeling was perhaps most starkly expressed after the seminar as I spoke to Wasswa within earshot of three members, all of whom had been distributors for up to six months yet not come anywhere close to getting a decent income. I asked Wasswa how long it typically takes to break even. “Some people can take a month, but sometimes maybe two months,” he replied. What if someone has been working hard but hasn’t started getting an income after 6 months, I followed up. “Six months?” Wasswa exclaimed. “No, it’s rare. Very rare. If someone is serious, they should be on a high level and earning well after six months.”

I looked over at the three recruits who all just stared at the floor, looking sheepish and, I thought, ashamed.

The reality, however, is that failure under TIENS is not the individual’s fault. In fact, for the vast majority of members, the business model is designed to fail. TIENS in Uganda appears to be little more than thin-veiled pyramid scheme.

Recruiters emphasise that to join, all you need to do is pay a $20 membership fee. But in reality that is only the start. Members have to buy products to move up the rankings and then continue to buy goods to keep their accounts open.

Members could make money selling these products, but the idea of shifting all these goods is a non-starter. Not only does each distributor have to compete with 200,000 other sellers as well as 30 well-established stores, but it doesn’t even make economic sense for customers to buy from individual members when they could sign up to TIENS themselves and get much lower prices anyway.

This is perhaps why Wasswa and other recruiters barely even mention selling products and why the emphasis instead is very heavily on “growing your network.” The incentives for signing up new members are higher than those for sales; the training sessions teach recruits how to sell membership rather than goods; and the TIENS Guide’s main piece of practical advice is a 6-step plan of how to “make a name list of at least 100 in a shortest time possible.”

If not from selling products to the public then, the bulk of the money in the TIENS system comes members’ own pockets as they pay to join, pay to move up the rankings, and pay to keep their accounts open. And it is this same money that finances top-level distributors’ huge salaries, shiny new cars and trips around the world. Given all the money in the system comes from members, the only way this tiny elite profits is because the rest of Uganda’s 200,000 members do not.

TIENS refer to itself as a ‘multi-level marketing’, but in reality it seems to be an unsustainable and fraudulent pyramid scheme designed to extract money from the many to pay the salaries of a few.

I later contacted Ambrose, Wasswa and Jamba George, another 8-star recruiter, for their response to these allegations, but they all declined. The manager of TIENS-Uganda, a Chinese expatriate, and the company’s global headquarters in Tianjin did not make a comment either.

It should also be noted that TIENS is not just in Uganda, nor is it the only scheme of its kind. The American firms Forever Living and GNLD also deal in health supplements and follow a multi-level marketing model, while TIENS’ presence on the continent seems to be particularly strong in West Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. It is further notable that TIENS has offices in many Western countries, though the products there seem to be marketed more directly as mere food supplements.

Back in the courtyard in Iganga, Robert is listing the products he was prescribed six months ago. Like so many others faced with Uganda’s struggling healthcare system, Robert ended up seeking alternatives and eventually ended up at Wasswa’s busy but welcoming clinic.

The products worked, Robert insists. Up to a point. He just wishes, he says, that he could finish the treatment and be fully cured of his kidney problems as well as the other health conditions detected by the diagnostic test he underwent. But he cannot afford it.

Robert has no other jobs – he says there are hardly any jobs available in the area – and has five children to support. When he joined the company half a year ago, he thought TIENS was the answer to all his prayers, but he is still in pain and deeper in debt.

“Money is a problem, he says. “It is not easy to recruit people and I spend USH12,000 ($5) every week on transport to come to these seminars.”

I ask him why he is still part of the company despite losing money each week. He pauses for a moment before answering, “I believe I will balance my accounts soon. And I am close to moving up to the next level when I will be able to earn more.”

He explains that a technical misunderstanding delayed him moving up a rank, but that it should be sorted out soon. I point out that even if he moves up a level and earns slightly more than now, he will still be earning a tiny fraction of what he has invested. He nods in agreement, but adds, with a faint smile, “But with TIENS, time is on your side.”

But what if it still doesn’t work out, I push. What if Wasswa is the exception that proves the rule? What if it never works out?

Robert looks me in the eye for a few seconds before gazing out across the courtyard where a few groups of attendees are still standing around chatting.

“If the money defeats me, ” he says quietly, turning back to me, “I will disappear.”

*Some names have been changed to protect interviewees’ identities.

James Wan is editor of African Arguments. He was an associate producer on the Aljazeera documentary Uganda’s Health Pyramid. He is a fellow of the China-Africa Reporting Project, managed by University of Witwatersrand.

Source : African Arguments

African Least Developed Countries Need Greater ‘Momentum’ to Graduate From LDC Status

Kigali 15 December (ECA)- After several years of resilience following the global financial crisis, economic growth in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has declined sharply since 2012 and significantly reduced their chances of graduating out of a LDC status.

According to “Least Developed Countries Report 2016: The path to graduation and beyond: Making the most of the process” – a new report released on Tuesday by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – global poverty is increasingly concentrated within the group of 48 LDC countries, which are falling further behind the rest of the world in terms of economic development.

Currently, approximately 80 percent (38 of the 48) of the LDCs are African. According to UNCTAD’s projections, by 2025 the LDCs group would be composed of 32 countries, and all but two (Cambodia and Haiti) in Africa. In Eastern Africa, there is a particularly notable concentration of countries which classify as LDCs – 12 of the 14 fourteen are currently part of LDC group (Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania).

Speaking at an ECA Policy Dialogue to discuss the findings of UNCTAD’s report, Mr. Andrew Mold, Acting Director of ECA in the Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, explained that the UN classifies a country as an LDC if it has a combination of both a low per capita income and scores lowly on two composite indicators relating to the level of human development and degree of economic vulnerability.

Insight Into African Integration & Industrialization @ #UNCTAD14

Insight Into African Integration & Industrialization @ #UNCTAD14

Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) speakers offered a plethora of insight at the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development #UNCTAD14, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17-22 July. ECA panelists talked about why extractive industries’ policy should ensure their revenues are used to particularly “transform the lives of those in the local area where the extraction is taking place”; why regional integration among African countries grows innovation, which enhances competition, and how investing in STEM education is the key to developing that innovative capacity. Finally, ECA’s executive secretary Carlos Lopes talked about boosting agricultural productivity and the transformational effect this has had on the Ethiopian economy. More about the ECA in this BRIEFING.

Mold clarified that LDCs typically suffer from three types of development traps: first, low incomes which lead to low investment, limited economic growth, and high levels of poverty; secondly, a low-level of economic diversification and heavy dependency on primary commodities exports, and finally, weak productive capacities.

The report argues that graduating from the LDC category should be achieved concomitantly with a rapid structural transformation of the economy, so that countries can better take advantage of the global economy.

During the policy dialogue, it was noted that only a very limited number of LDC have graduated to date – only four countries in the 45 years since this classification was established (Botswana in 1994, Cape Verde in 2007, Maldives in 2011 and Samoa in 2014. Other countries, such as Equatorial Guinea, Tuvalu and Angola, are forecast to graduate over the next few years, but pointedly only one in Eastern Africa (Djibouti).

Discussing ways of increasing the prospects for graduation from LDC status, Mr. Mold called for countries in the region to scale up public investments, including projects that strategically address bottlenecks in the productive sector, as well as accelerating the transformation of rural economies by upgrading agriculture and promoting non-farm activities.

Mold also highlighted that countries could graduate faster with more effective help from the international community in terms of finance, trade and technology. “Donors need to fulfill their long-standing commitments for assistance to LDCs and most importantly align their support more closely with national development strategies”, he said.

Source : United Nations Economic Commission For Africa

Africa: IFJ Condemns Closure of Three Radio Stations

Press Release

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the closure of three independent radio stations in the Gambia.

According to the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Taranga FM, Hill Top FM, and Afri Radio were closed down on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd December by the National Intelligence Agency NIA without explanation.

Media reports claim the NIA agents ordered the members of staff of the privately owned Taranga FM to stop transmission.

“Four NIA agents and a uniformed policeman came to the radio this afternoon (Sunday) around 2:30 pm (local and GMT) and told us to stop broadcasting,” Taranga FM staff told AFP on condition of anonymity. Local media sources also reported that Hill Top FM was closed down later the same afternoon.

Taranga FM is said to be critical of the Jammeh administration and is a popular radio station in The Gambia for its daily translation into national languages of the news published by the Gambian newspapers. Since its inception, it has been closed several times and has often been reopened conditionally as in 2011, when it was allowed to resume its activities but prohibited from addressing the subjects raised by the private press. Its journalists were also sometimes summoned to the NIA, arrested or tried.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We condemn these closures and the attack on freedom of information this represents. The rights of all media workers in The Gambia must be fully respected and the stations allowed to broadcast without unlawful interference”.

The move is part of a renewed crackdown on independent media in The Gambia. Prior to December elections, freelance journalist Alagi Manka and journalist Yunus Salieu of the Daily Observer were arrested and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul. The director of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Mr Momodou Sabally was also sacked on 8 November, was detained and has faced a trial. GRTS journalist Bakary Fatty was also arrested.

Source : International Federation of Journalists