Thursday, December 28, 2006

A 2006 year end message for my readers

I was having a look at the yearly stats for this blog today and noticed that I haven’t posted to Jewels in the Jungle in 45 days. This recess period has provided me with a much needed break from the daily grind of following the news, researching and analyzing information online, reading the work of fellow blog authors, and all of the related activities necessary to keep this baby up-and-running. As many blog authors and online journalists and writers already know, maintaining a blog can be an awful lot work. I must add that it has also been a labor of love and you my readers and especially those of you who have left encouraging and inspiring comments to my 200+ posts to date have had a profound effect on how I view and contemplate the world we all live in.

I am often in awe and deeply moved and inspired by the creative work of fellow blog authors, online journalists and writers, and multimedia producers out there who have contributed so generously and bravely to the global dialogues taking place on the Web and in the blogosphere. My hat is off to many of you (a full Hat Tip, Ma’am) as I feel so enriched by your work online as you share with us your views about the world, anecdotes, analysis on complicated issues, your humor and your sorrows.

My friend Imnakoya of
Grandiose Parlor, who has recently returned from Delhi, India where the Global Voices Annual Summit and the Hibiscus Project seminar was held last month, points readers to the TIME Magazine Person of the Year 2006 feature that celebrates YOU the online world community as the big movers and shakers of the year. I couldn’t agree more, you’ve come a long way since the birth of the Web and you can be sure that your voices are having a profound impact on the media, on politics and business, on just about everything.

The co-founders of
Global Voices Online, Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman, deserve a special award and congratulations for their brainchild over at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. GVO is attracting more than 1.1 million visitors a month (Yeow!!!) from all over the globe and has a community of contributors and volunteers worldwide that would be the envy of any organization or company. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to interact with these talented and gifted media and technology pioneers over the past few years. A deep bow of respect to Ethan and Rebecca and the hard-working global GVO volunteer crew and much luck to Rebecca as she begins her new higher education gig over in Hong Kong, PRC next year. Word on the street is that Ethan has been offered a “kingship” somewhere on the coast of West Africa, but I can’t verify that news as of this writing. Stay tuned for more updates on Ethan's whereabouts.

Last but by no means least, I am so pleased and inspired by the participation of people from Africa in the blogosphere and the Web this year. Many times I think to myself that there is no point to continue writing at Jewels in the Jungle about news and issues concerning Africa because there are so many great and talented writers from Africa and non-Africans who are knowledgeable about Africa publishing online today that my voice is really not needed. I and many others from around the world could have never dreamed that Africa would step forward in such a self-assured, interesting, and creative manner online as what we have witnessed over the past few years. You have been in a word M-A-G-N-I-F-I-C-E-N-T and I regret deeply that I can no longer sit down with the older generation of my grandparents and their friends back in my hometown St. Louis, MO. and all across America to tell them stories about what I have learned about Africa from your beautiful work… as these dear people have passed on to the other side of the river.

So, as the New Year 2007 is just around the corner I want to say “Thank You” to my readers and to my fellow blog authors and friends. My best wishes and my prayers are always with you as we take the next steps forward together into this challenging and troubled century.

See you next year in 2007, God willing. Remember to "Rock the World on New Years Eve", but rock her gently and party safely.
Auf Wiedersehen Ya’ll.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

China-Africa Summit 2006: the view from The World Bank

The Battle for Africa’s Hearts and Minds… and Black Gold – Round 2

One thing that the recent
China-Africa Summit in Beijing has produced is a goldmine of views and commentary and solid information from diverse people around the world. My personal feelings about the summit have already been clearly stated (see my previous post on the subject) but I would also like to point to important articles, opinions, and studies from experts on the subject. I have found so many good articles, blog posts, and other resources online that I will publish excerpts from some of them in a series over the next several weeks.

The World Bank Economists

The World Bank Group has released a statement at the conclusion of the summit and not surprisingly “The Bank” is positive in its outlook for China-Africa trade and development. I even heard
renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs the other day say that he thinks China’s new deals and loans for African countries was a great opportunity. I’m certain that both the World Bank and Dr. Sachs have reservations and concerns re: China’s support of certain despotic regimes on the African continent, but they did not voice them (loudly) while talking to journalists about this recent summit.

Correction: Dr. Sachs has spoken out on Darfur at Columbia University together with the award-winning correspondent Jonathon Ledgard (The Economist). See the November 1st 2006 video “Ending the Darfur Crisis and Preventing the Next One” at the
Earth Institute website.

Below are excerpts from the World Bank Group November 9th newsletter with statements from the
Chief Economist - Africa John Page and Benno Ndulu, author of a new World Bank report “Challenges of African Growth”.

Africa's Focus On Social Spending Has Hit Infrastructure: World Bank

“Africa is enjoying an economic resurgence but a focus on social spending means poverty-stricken nations lack sufficient roads and communications to attract foreign firms, the World Bank said Thursday.

‘Africa is on the move and appears to be perched on the cusp of breaking out of the long economic stagnation of the 1970s and 1980s,’ the Washington-based institution said in a report released [in Tokyo]. The last 10 years have seen renewed growth and better governance across a number of nations but increased spending on social sectors such as health during the 1990s has taken its toll on infrastructure, it added. The lack of adequate transportation and telecommunications links is a major deterrent to foreign companies thinking about setting up operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Bank warned.

‘The sheer magnitude of the problem and the long-term neglect of infrastructure in many African countries demands a big-push solution,’ says the new report titled, 'Challenges of African Growth'. … The report's author, Benno Ndulu, warned that African nations could not rely on the private sector alone to provide the $36 billion a year needed for infrastructure so as to meet the anti-poverty UN Millennium Development Goals. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

In related news, “The World Bank on Thursday welcomed China's increased involvement with Africa but urged the rising Asian power to learn lessons from past donors when helping the impoverished continent. ‘My summary take on the Chinese engagement in Africa is that it is broadly positive,’ said John Page, the World Bank's Chief Economist for Africa. ‘We witnessed the emergence of one of the most significantly successful developing countries as a development partner for Africa, and therefore perhaps a source of ideas and innovation,’ he told reporters in Tokyo after attending China's weekend summit with delegates from 48 African nations. …

The World Bank urged Beijing to work closely with other donors for the benefit of the African people. ‘If I could express one aspiration for the Chinese, it would be to learn from the experience of the World Bank and the traditional governments in Africa,’ said Page. ‘It has taken us a very long time, in Europe and North America, to reach the point of attempting to harmonize our own development efforts. I would hope it takes the Chinese less time,’ he said. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

Another important report that was recently published by the World Bank on Asian trade with Africa is “
Africa’s Silk Road: China and India’s New Economic Frontier” authored by World Bank Economic Advisor Harry G. Broadman. The book Africa’s Silk Road is available for free download in PDF-format at the World Bank website. In the introduction for the book the World Banks states:

The book shows that exports from Africa to Asia tripled in the last five years, making Asia Africa's third largest trading partner (27 percent) after the European Union (32 percent) and the United States (29 percent).

Indian and Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa also grew, with China's amounting to $US1.18 billion by mid-2006.

China and India each have rapidly modernizing industries and burgeoning middle classes with rising incomes and purchasing power. These societies are demanding not only natural resource-extractive commodities, agricultural goods such as cotton, and other traditional African exports, but also diversified, nontraditional exports such as processed commodities, light manufactured products, household consumer goods, food, and tourism.

Because of its labor-intensive capacity, Africa has the potential to export these nontraditional goods and services competitively to the average Chinese and Indian consumer and firm.

"To be sure, if you take a snapshot of today, the overwhelming bulk of Africa's exports to Asia is natural resources," says Broadman. "But what's new is there is far more than oil that is being invested in—and this is an important opportunity for Africa's growth and reduction of poverty because Africa's trade for many years has been concentrated in primary commodities and natural resources."

Roadblocks along the way: asymmetries and the need for policy reforms

While growing Asian trade and investment is cause for optimism, the book cautions that there are major asymmetries in the economic relations between the two regions. While Asia accounts for one-quarter of Africa’s global exports, this trade represents only about 1.6 percent of the exports shipped to Asia from all sources worldwide. By the same token, FDI in Asia by African firms is extremely small, both in absolute and relative terms.

And, the rise of internationally competitive Chinese and Indian businesses cuts into both domestic sales and exports of African producers of, for example, textiles and apparels.

“It is imperative that both sides of this promising South-South economic relationship address asymmetries and obstacles to its continued expansion through reforms,” says Broadman.
The study details a series of reforms that should be undertaken by all the countries:

“At-the-border” reforms, such as elimination of China and India’s escalating tariffs on Africa’s leading exports; and elimination of Africa’s tariffs on certain inputs that make its own exports uncompetitive.

“Behind-the-border” reforms in Africa, to unleash competitive market forces, strengthen its basic market institutions, and improve governance

“Between-the-border” improvements in trade facilitation infrastructure and institutions to decrease transactions costs, such as customs administration, transport and communications.

Reforms that leverage linkages between investment and trade to allow African businesses’ participation in modern global production-sharing networks generated by Chinese and Indian investments in Africa.

With this newest phase in the evolution of world trade and investment flows taking root—the increasing emergence of South-South international commerce—African businesses cannot afford to be left behind. Those reforms are critically important to allow Africa to be able to genuinely participate—and most importantly, benefit from—the new patters of international commerce.

In the September 16, 2006 press release for Africa’s Silk Road the World Bank also points out the following:

Trade with Asia is producing goods affordable to Africans, Indians, and Chinese, that are either being sold in Africa or exported to China, India or a third country.

At the same time, more and more Chinese and Indian firms are seeking to manufacture and export sophisticated components, such as those produced by the South African auto parts industry, to the global market.

"This is allowing Africa for the first time to enter into this network of more sophisticated third-country global exports," Broadman says.

But the study indicates that the conventional remedy of reduced trade barriers will not be enough. More important are "behind-the-border" reforms to encourage competition, strengthen market institutions and improve governance in African nations, and "between-the-border" reforms in both regions, to reduce international transactions costs.

"Part of what the Africans need to do to attract China is reduce the cost of doing business," says John Page, Chief Economist of the Bank's Africa region.

Some countries are already moving in that direction, according to the recently released World Bank Group's 2007 Doing Business survey, which found that the business climate in several African countries improved in 2005 and that Sub-Saharan Africa was the third best reforming region, after Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (high income) countries.

About a third of Africa's population lives in countries where population growth outstrips economic growth and where the economy is actually regressing, Page says.

But he says prospects are good in about 14 countries that are home to 65 percent of Africans. About 30 percent live in natural resource exporting countries, and another 35 percent live in countries that have been growing at an average rate of 5 percent a year for the last 10 years.

Many countries could greatly benefit from as yet untapped South-South trade opportunities, such as tourism aimed at China, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union, says Broadman.

"The tourism industry in Africa is underdeveloped. It's just a huge market waiting to happen," he says.

But what is needed is something Africa lacks: infrastructure—roads, airports, transit systems, and telecommunications, he adds.

It's a deficiency keenly felt by Africa's trading partners. China, for one, is looking for opportunities to contribute to the Bank's work in Africa, including infrastructure projects, says Page.
And the Bank may partner with China and India, particularly on agricultural projects, to tap into their specialized knowledge, Page says.

Related articles and resources:

Africa Emerges as China and India’s New Economic Frontier – 09/16/06

Infrastructure, Investment, Innovation and Institutional Capacity: The Four Big “I’s” Needed To Achieve Growth In Africa – 11/09/06

World Bank PSD Blog (Private Sector Development) – Africa, Asia archives
Beijing gussies up for South-South trade – 11/03/06

The World Bank – Africa Region

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beijing: The China-Africa Summit 2006, Africa bloggers weigh-in

I have to smile while writing this post today as I reflect on the flurry of activity in the international press and TV news media over the China-Africa Summit in Beijing. Fortunately while I was checking for updates last month at Jennifer Brea’s Africabeat, a weblog about the political and economic development of Africa with a special focus on the relationship between Africa and China, I noticed her post about an upcoming major summit in Beijing. This of course helped me prepare for the global news coverage of the summit that was to come, but I never expected such wide-ranging coverage of this important summit by so many different news services, research institutions and think tanks, government press services, and the international blogger community.

Throughout 2006 blog authors and readers covering news about Africa have had sometimes brutal arguments (O.K., tough-talk dialogues) about the massive investments China has been making recently into Africa, especially the rush to buy-up valuable rights and concessions to Africa’s natural resources: oil and gas, minerals and timber. A sampling of some of those blog posts are listed below:

Chippla’s Weblog
China-Africa Summit – 11/04/06
China in Angola – 04/10/06
The Future of Africa is Not China – 04/20/06
From China Town to Oil Deals – 04/27/06
Our Changing World: Emerging Giants – 09/27/06
From Confucianism to Capitalism – 10/03/06

China in Africa; China is not the (only) devil – 08/06/06
China-Africa Business Council Meeting – 10/26/06
Jen’s China in Africa archives

Jewels in the Jungle
China in Africa: The CNOOC Nigerian Deal – 01/10/06
U.S.-China Relations: An Apology of Sorts – 05/03/06

Also see Grandiose Parlor (earlier blog), My Heart’s in Accra, Black Looks, et Al.

It would be uncharacteristic of me to remain silent about my opinions on this latest summit in Beijing as it holds so much promise for helping to improve the plight of millions of African people as well as presents new challenges and opportunities to Africa’s traditional trade partners and donor countries, namely the “Western nations” or the “rich countries” or whatever you prefer to call them.

Although Jennifer has taken the lead in keeping me up-to-date, Chippla has offered the 1st comprehensive summary on his thoughts about the summit and the promises and pledges made by China’s President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. I’m still busy reading reports and articles and organizing my thoughts about this important event and hopefully will be ready with my own summaries (it’s a big subject, one post can’t cover it) in another day or two or three. In the meantime, I would like to share this opening dialogue with you:

Excerpt from Chippla’s Weblog post “China-Africa Summit – 11/04/06

The Beijing Summit on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) opened today, the 4th of November 2006. It will run till the 5th of November. Probably the largest gathering of African leaders ever, outside United Nations General Assembly meetings, the summit is aimed at strengthening China-Africa relations. According to the state-controlled China Central Television International (CCTV), forty-one African Heads of State and forty-eight Heads of Government were present in Beijing for the summit, with hundreds of trade negotiators and business people. These alone hint at the significance of the summit.

China's interest in Africa is, without a doubt, greatly linked to the latter's huge pool of natural resources, much of which remain untapped. And with rapid development and modernization occurring across China, there is an increasing need for raw materials to continue fueling such development. African leaders in a position of strength (those who govern nations rich in resources of interest to China) must negotiate sensibly. The need to gradually curtail the export of raw materials and focus on the processing or conversion of such materials before export has become all too obvious. Non knowledge-based societies would simply be unable to compete favorably in today's fast-changing world.

According to this report in the People's Daily Online, trade between China and Africa reached almost $40 billion in 2005, four times more than it was in 2000. China has also granted tariff waivers to certain export items from the least developed African countries, as well as offered to train thousands of African professionals. Furthermore, China View reports that the Chinese Premier (Prime Minister), Wen Jiabao, has called on both parties to work together towards increasing bilateral trade volume to $100 billion in four years time.

Chinese involvement on the African continent is not without criticism. Most notable among these is its desire to deal and trade with Sudan, despite the ongoing conflict and killing of innocent civilians in Darfur province. The Chinese government should use its influence on Sudan to press for a speedy resolution of the conflict. The quiet diplomacy, which it claims to be employing, doesn't seem to be working.

For now, China appears to be doing something which neither the United States nor Europe did—engaging Africa. Whether this is solely driven by China's need for raw materials or also to increase its global sphere of influence would be debated for a long time to come. The President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, has described the China-Africa partnership as a partnership of equals (Botswana is one of the most stable democracies on the African continent). When it comes to dealing with Europe and the United States on the other hand, he sees a relationship between masters and subjects.

Like the rest of the world, this blog has watched China's increasing presence on and interest in the African continent for the past couple of years. From outright skepticism the position of this blog became one which cautiously accommodates China's increasing role on Africa's development. However, the fact remains that African nations are largely raw material exporters and until that changes, true partnership would be anything but achieved.

When China rolls out the red carpet for African leaders and decorates Beijing with billboards that read "Beautiful Africa", it unavoidably sends out a message to governments in Europe and the United States. While such marketing may have unconsciously boosted the morale and confidence of the African leaders and business negotiators in Beijing, it leaves the rest of the world guessing what China's exact ambitions might be. (Read more…)

Excerpt from my comment to Chippla’s postChina-Africa Summit”:

Good job Chippla on summarizing your thoughts about the China-Africa Summit in Beijing. I too was impressed with the reception the Beijing government has extended to the African heads of state and key ministers and to important African businesspeople. The announcements by the PRC regime that it will double aid, double trade to $100 bn dollars by 2010, write off an additional $1bn in debt, build hospitals and schools, increase training for African professionals, and so forth and so on sounds just great. Lord knows that most African countries can use all the help they can get.

The problem is these are pledges that have yet to be put into action just as the promises and pledges of the world's leading economies (the G7) made last year at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles. An additional problem is that China continues to prop-up not only repressive regimes in Africa, but murderous regimes in Africa such as Bashir's regime in Khartoum and Mugabe's regime in Harare (did I spell that right?). Then there are the less-than-desirable unfair business practices of continuing to use bribes and other perks to win lucrative contracts for building infrastructure and gaining access to the valuable natural resources that a handful of African nations have to trade with the rest of the world. Let's not forget China's involvement in the illegal trade in small arms and munitions on the continent or the fact that it supplies unstable regimes with high-end military hardware such as the attack helicopters used by Sudan in Darfur or the Chinese MIG's supplied to Zimbabwe. I could go on and on but why bother [as] the list of negatives is sooooo long.

I remain skeptical of the PRC's true intentions for the people of Africa and I am certain that the loathed Western nations will counter China's generous offers with some new initiatives and investments of their own. Let's not forget that trade with the U.S.A. and the E.U. account for more than 50% of the export revenues earned by African countries in 2005 and that figure excludes key African trading partners such as Australia, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and some Middle Eastern nations. China's trade and investments is still "chump change" in comparison, so let's not get carried away. Lastly, a slow-down in China's booming economy will have a direct impact on China's trade with Africa, especially in the demand for commodities such as minerals and oil and gas.

At the end of the day it is a matter for the people of Africa and their elected leaders (and non-elected dictators and despots) to decide, not the countries of North and South America or Europe or Asia. How best to use your precious and limited, finite natural resources and your unlimited human resources to build a better future for your children, and yourselves.

- End of excerpts -

Stay tuned for Round Two "The Battle for Africa's Hearts and Minds... and Black Gold"

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uganda: PBS Frontline/World feature on microfinance programs in Africa

For my readers who found the story about this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners Dr. Muhammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank interesting, Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online highlights news about a PBS Frontline/World documentary on microfinance and micro-lending to the world’s poor. Microfinance is a great way for individuals to get involved with supporting poor people who want and can provide for themselves and their families through micro-business and small business entrepreneurship vs. receiving aid handouts from donor nations in “the international community”. The PBS documentary focuses on a small California, U.S.A. firm which allows small capital lenders to “follow the money they lend” and measure results by having a hands-on involvement with the people and businesses they support.

Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way produced by David Ritsher and Josiah Hooper and reported by Public Radio International’s technology correspondent Clark Boyd travels to Uganda to focus on the work a small San Francisco microfinance startup named Kiva Microfinance is doing on the ground to help alleviate poverty in this small east African nation.

What is unique about (Swahili word for “agreement” or “unity”) is that they use the Internet as a tool to help bring together peer-to-peer lenders and small business borrowers in developing nations. Their micro-loan programs have been hugely successful in helping small entrepreneurs get a start in owning and operating their own businesses and the loan payback rate is an astounding 100% to date. Public Radio International, WorldChanging blog, and the World Bank Group’s PSD blog have all done stories about Kiva Microfinance and I have provided links to their podcast and posts and to other microfinance resources below. The video should be available online at PBS Frontline/World for viewing by November 7, 2006.

Excerpt from PBS Frontline/World - Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way

Microcredit is not new. It's been around in one form or another for hundreds of years. But in the Information Age, a San Francisco company has taken the idea of microfinance and upgraded it for the Web. Radio reporter Clark Boyd first reported about for Public Radio International's news program The World. He now travels to Uganda for FRONTLINE/World, where the first recipients of money collected through Kiva's Web site are building and expanding businesses.

Kiva, which means "agreement" or "unity" in Swahili, would allow people with a little bit of extra cash to use their credit card or the online money transfer company, PayPal, to lend directly to African entrepreneurs. Kiva got its start a little more than a year ago in Uganda, where it forged partnerships with local microfinance institutes so that each business would be vetted and approved before being posted on the site.

Boyd travels to Uganda to find out more about the real-world impact of these micro loans, He arranges to meet Grace Ayaa, whose peanut butter business received a micro loan through Kiva. When she fled a brutal war between government and rebel forces in the north, she took refuge in the capital. She takes Boyd to the Acholi Quarter, a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala, where many people displaced by Uganda's decades-long conflict scrape together a living.

Most people living here work all day in the local rock quarry breaking rocks used to build houses. The pay is around $1 a day. Ayaa helps people in the quarter out of the quarry work and into a position where they can start viable businesses with the help of a loan. Traditionally, micro credit is offered through banks that charge as much as 35 percent interest or moneylenders who charge as much as 300 percent. Kiva provides loans from individuals at a fraction of the cost.

Back in San Francisco, we see the other side of the operation, meeting some of the people who found Kiva's site and decided to make a loan. Nathan Folkert is a software engineer who lives in the city's Mission District. He read Grace Ayaa's story online and decided to help fund her peanut butter business. Ayaa is one of 70 businesses Folkert has loaned money to. He pulls up Grace's journal page where a message is waiting for him. "Thanks so much Nathan," Grace has written. "I purchased the fridge and bought the packing materials, and this has really enabled me to produce more."

Other lenders in the United States talk about their experiences. "My husband's hobby is rebuilding old motorcycles," says Donna Slote, who loaned to a small motorcycle workshop she saw on the site. "It's incredibly personal in the sense that you get to choose the specific businesses that you want to loan to. You have a real connection with where your money's going and what it's being used for," adds Slote.

Kiva has been connecting lenders with would-be entrepreneurs for a year now, but it is a small operation, relying on donations and a staff of seven in San Francisco to keep things running. Premal Shah, who used to work for PayPal, is Kiva's president, and he explains the role Kiva is trying to carve out in the microfinance world.

"Banks don't value emotional returns," says Shah, "so they will charge a high interest rate to these microfinance institutions. But people are a little more forgiving. Today, your average person can't actually invest in small businesses in the developing world." By creating Kiva, Shah says, "we're tapping into this new source of capital," which is ordinary people.

As Boyd travels across Uganda, meeting people and listening to their stories, he finds that many struggle to support much more than just themselves. In the town of Mbale, Amos Mayoka, a furniture maker, is hoping to get a loan of around $1,000 to expand two businesses he has started. "My elder brothers passed away of AIDS and left me with a lot of children. So now it's entirely on me to keep up the two families," Mayoka tells Boyd. When asked how many people he supports, Mayoka responds, "More than 20." Amos' picture and story are uploaded to the Kiva site, and his loan officer Janet will monitor the progress of his request.

Grace Ayaa also looks after more than her own family. She is the assistant director of Life in Africa, another of Kiva's local partners in Uganda.At the weekly meeting of her Life in Africa group, three loan requests are up for review. It's a lively affair in an outdoor garden setting. People fire off questions to the new applicants, who must give a good account of why they should be chosen. Those present are invested in making the right decisions, as they are all responsible if the business should fail. One of the hopefuls, Molly, has her loan officer explain that she needs $275 to set up a stall selling charcoal for fuel. One woman calls out that she supports Molly's loan but that she should not hire her son. "He refused to go to school 10 years ago," she says. "He might be capable of stealing or disrupting the business." It's a close community, and people know much about each other's lives. Molly's loan is approved, and soon enough it's uploaded to Kiva's Web site halfway across the world.
(Read more…)

Related articles and additional online resources:

PBS Frontline/World – Stories from a Small Planet
Uganda: A Little Goes A Long Way – 10/31/06 – Loans that change lives

World Bank PSD blog – P2P microfinance (10/31/05)

World Changing blog –
Distributed, Collaborative… Microfinance (10/21/05)

Public Radio International –
The World programMicrofinance report (02/15/06)
Interview with
Global Giving and Kiva founders and Ethan Zuckerman of GVO

My Heart’s in Accra blog –
Ugandan microfinance on PBS (10/31/06)

Small Fortunes: Microcredit and the Future of Poverty

The Microfinance Gateway – online portal for the microfinance industry

Global Giving Foundation – enables charitable donors to give directly to projects

Accion International – a leading, award-winning U.S.-based microfinance institution

Unitus – a leading, award-winning U.S.-based microfinance institution

PBS microfinance documentary highlights Unitus and Accion (10/27/05)

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

London: African Leadership Achievement Prize for Good Governance Announced


Sudanese-born entrepreneur Dr. Mohammed (Mo) Ibrahim, founder and Chairman of African mobile telecoms leader CelTel (a subsidiary of MTC Group), has announced a groundbreaking annual leadership achievement prize for good governance in Africa. Just when I was sinking into a hopeless well of depression over the disintegrating humanitarian situation in the Sudan’s western province of Darfur, Dr. Mo comes through with the big news of the day to lift our spirits about Africa. This news helps to inspire me at just the right moment since over the past several days I have been doing a great deal of online research in preparation for my next posts on the history of the Sudan and a piece about some of Khartoum’s budding entrepreneurs. Dr. Mo Ibrahim describes himself as a Nubian, a people with a long and rich history.

At the launch of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation today in London, Dr. Mo announced the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, a USD$ 5 million prize to be awarded annually to one of Africa’s best and most deserving leaders. has the best MSM news coverage on this exciting initiative along with an exclusive interview about the prize with Dr. Mo Ibrahim. BBC World News has today broadcast a short video about the award and published a story to their website. The rest of the global mainstream media is well…asleep at the wheel. Jewels in the Jungle is of course one of the first to bring this story to the blogosphere, where the best news and most informed readers really matter.

Hats off to the people of Sudan for bringing the world Dr. Mo Ibrahim. Finally, finally you have something to cheer about and a(nother) reason to be very, very proud.

I already know whom I would nominate for the Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for 2007 but unfortunately she was just elected to office last year. I certainly know whom I would not nominate for this year’s award, especially the guy sitting at position Nr.1 on this list of world leaders (World’s 10 Worst Dictators for 2006).

Excerpts from the latest news about the award can be found below with links to, BBC News, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and other related articles.
NEWS October 26, 2006
Posted to the web October 26, 2006
By Margaret McElligott
Washington, DC

After a professional career spent proving that investing in Africa can be profitable, telecommunications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim has embarked on a new task: to improve the quality of African leadership. To that end, the
Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced today a $5 million annual prize for African leaders who were elected fairly, improved their country's standard of living, and handed over power peacefully to the next elected government.

Recipients of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will get $500,000 a year in their first 10 years out of office, and $200,000 a year for the rest of their lives. The prize will be the world's most generous award, according to the foundation.

"The message is that we, Africans, it is time for us to take charge of our issues," Ibrahim said. "It is our responsibility to look after our continent, to look after our kids."

Ibrahim told AllAfrica that he hopes the award will spark a debate on the role of governance in Africa, and provide the means for former leaders to stay engaged in the national life of their countries.

"You don't need the power of the office to do things," Ibrahim said. "Civil society is so rich. We need to get engaged there."

More than anything, he said, the prize will be a reward to leaders who deliver to their people. He hopes to make the first award by the end of 2007.

"It's important that the citizens of Africa take the leaders to account," he said.

The prize's selection committee will choose winners with the help of a governance index that is being developed by Dr. Robert Rotberg at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The foundation will spend about $500,000 a year to develop and update the index. Rotberg has previously written on governance indices and has been developing new measurement methods with students for years.

Rotberg told AllAfrica that most existing measures rely on interviews and other forms of documentation for comparison, but that he will use only quantifiable, objective measures. For example, in measuring changes to the national infrastructure, the index may count the miles of paved road in a country. To measure political freedom, team members may identify the number of journalists or opposition leaders held in prison.

(Read more at - Record Breaking Governance Prize Launched)

Related articles and additional online resources

BBC News – 10/26/06
Prize offered to Africa's leaders A $5m prize for Africa's most effective head of state is being launched by one of the continent's top businessmen.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation official website – see Flash video with Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, et Al.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation African Leadership Prize press relese – 10/26/06

Exclusive interview with Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim about the Leadership Prize

Harvard University – John F. Kennedy School of Government
Center for Public LeadershipCPL Newsletter
Belfer Center (JFK School of Government) - Dr. Robert Rotberg profile

AME Info – 09/13/06
MTC Wins 4 Prestigious Industry Awards - 05/28/03
Dr. Mo - The Cellular Choice (interview by Francois Ploye)

CelTel Corporate website
Interview with Dr. Mo Ibrahim about his career and the telecoms industry in Africa

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Norway: Nobel Peace Prize 2006 awarded to development economist Dr. Muhammed Yunus and Grameen Bank

On a day when much of the world is sitting on the edge of their seats wondering if there is going to be a nuclear confrontation on the Korean peninsula, the Norwegian Nobel Committee reminds us about the kind of world we all should be working hard to build.

Professor Muhammed Yunus, noted economist and champion of the poor for more than 30 years, has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Grameen Bank, started by Dr. Yunus in his home village in Bangladesh in 1976, will be sharing the coveted peace prize with the Vanderbilt University educated economist. The Grameen Bank specializes in providing small loans and financial services to the rural poor of the world, with programs ranging from Asia to the Middle East and Africa, and in Latin America and the Carribean. There are more than a dozen organizations and companies that come under the umbrella of the Grameen family of enterprises offering a variety of services and products. The Grameen Foundation alone serves over 2.2 million people worldwide with their micro-finance programs. A well-known and successful Grameen Foundation technology program is the Village Phone Project. You can learn about how the Village Phone projects work in sub-Saharan Africa by visiting George Conrad’s blog On Safari with El Jorgito and reading his archives from Uganda and Rwanda for 2005/2006.

Dr. Muhammed Yunus is a featured participant in the Principal Voices Project and a good buddy of world economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. CNN has some great video reports about Professor Muhammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank and more information can be found at the websites and blogs listed below:

Washington Post - 10/13/06
Bangladesh Economist, Grameen Bank Win Nobel Peace Prize

CNN International
Bankers for poor win peace Nobel – 10/13/06
(Note: see related articles and video clips in this CNN article)

PBS The New Heroes (2005)
Muhammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank

Knowledge @ Wharton
(Wharton Business School, Univ. of Pennsylvania)
Muhammed Yunus, Banker to the World’s Poorest Citizens
(Note: PBS Nightly Business Report interview March 09, 2005)

Businessweek Online
Muhammed Yunus: Microfinance Missionary – 12/26/05 – Microfinance archives
Muhammed Yunis wins Nobel Peace Prize – 10/13/06

Poverty and Growth

World Bank Institute’s Poverty and Growth Program blog
Advances in Development Economics archives

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

U.S.A.: Students STAND UP for DarfurFast Day

I was telling my fellow blog author buddy Jörg Wolf of the Atlantic Review that I intend to increase my focus on the Darfur crisis & Sudan here at Jewels in the Jungle this month. Jörg has been making a great effort over at his blog to share his own views on Darfur as a European (German) and to stimulate a transatlantic dialogue over the crisis amongst his many readers.

There are more than 32,000 blog posts about Darfur in this Technorati search result (tags) and more than 20,000 posts about Darfur in this Blogpulse search result, many of them coming from international blog authors too numerous to mention here. I want to thank all the new global visitors who have left comments to my Darfur posts and I apologize for not being able to spend more time at your blogs lately to read some of your very fine posts. I recommend that my readers check the comments to my most recent Darfur posts and click through to these international blog authors who have graced this site.

One new global blogger that has caught my attention lately is Drima, a Sudanese student studying at university in Malaysia and author of the Sudanese Thinker. In Drima’s own words he is…”Born where the White & Blue Nile meet aka Khartoum, Sudan. Currently a full-time student and a part-time multi genre music producer, aspiring entrepreneur and blogtivist in the tiny multi cultural island nation of Poopa Majoma...”. Drima’s blog is quite good with lots of links to news and opinions about the crisis in Darfur and Sudan in general as well as general news about the Middle East and global issues. In a recent post titled Ex-US Officials Urge Military Action Over Darfur I made mention of the STAND DarfurFast campaign that is taking place in the U.S.A. on October 5th.

Unfortunately, Drima felt that I was “rubbing it in his face” re: the reaction of high school and university students and the general public in the United States to the Darfur Crisis vs. Malaysia and the rest of the world, but that wasn’t my point. Jörg and I have been having an intense (private) dialogue about the same thing re: European university students and the lack of media coverage and public outrage here in Europe. “Where is the rest of the world on Darfur?”
So, this was meant to be a brief Heads Up post on the DarfurFast campaign that is taking place on university campuses and in high school auditoriums across America today, and I will keep it brief.

Another Heads Up event this week that focuses on Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is the CNN special report on Anderson Cooper 360°. The CNN documentary news production is titled The Killing Fields: Africa’s Misery, The World’s Shame. With some luck I hope to have more information published tomorrow about this series from the award-winning production team at Anderson Cooper 360°. CNN correspondents Jeff Koinange, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Anderson Cooper are spread out from the DRC to the Horn of Africa and are maintaining a blog with video clips for online visitors and viewers. Here is a link to Jeff Koinange’s post about a ride with the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) forces on their way to rescue stranded refugees in North Darfur: Outgunned soldiers avoid confronting the enemy – Oct 03, 2006.

The Anderson Cooper 360° special will be airing in Europe again on Friday at 0400 CET, other regions of the world should check your local CNNI program schedule. CNN Insight has a related feature report tonight airing at 2000 CET and titled Living in Africa’s Refugee Camps, hosted by Jonathan Mann. All I have to say about that prime time program airing schedule of 4:00 AM in the morning is “Thank GOD for the Internet!”.

Below is an excerpt from an October 4th article at the Christian Science Monitor online that highlights the work of the organization STAND:

Student activists rise again - this time for Darfur
By Matthew Clark Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

She sleeps less, goes out less, and has reduced her course load to work 30 to 40 hours a week organizing student campaigns. Her goal: to end the suffering in Darfur, Sudan, perhaps the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"If people are still dying, I need to keep working," says Bailey Cato, a University of Oklahoma senior and a regional coordinator for a student antigenocide coalition called STAND. And tomorrow she'll be fasting - along with Don Cheadle, Hollywood star of "Hotel Rwanda," and other celebrities and politicians in a show of solidarity with the people of Darfur.

Student fasts are nothing new, of course. But the Darfur crisis has caught on with American activists in a way not seen since the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s and early '90s. And the big surprise is: They're achieving results.

In the past month alone:

• The US appointed a special envoy to Darfur, bowing to pressure after an international day of protests - including a rally of some 30,000 in New York's Central Park.

• California passed legislation to stop investing in companies supporting the Sudan regime - the fifth state to do so. More than two dozen colleges and universities are also in the process of divesting.

"The grass-roots people have really kept the issue alive and forced the hand of the governments," says Alex de Waal, a fellow of the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, who has been advising the African Union on Darfur. He says the UN Security Council's decision in March 2005 to refer Darfur war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court and the US move two years ago to label the conflict "genocide" would not have happened without advocates' pressure.

That pressure is building. Yesterday, student musicians from Berklee School of Music in Boston released a CD dedicated to the women of Darfur. Proceeds will benefit aid programs there run by Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian group. Last week, a coalition of Cincinnati-area religious, civic, and student groups held "Five Days for Darfur," a series of awareness-raising events.

The CSM article goes on to say:
Activists' priority: UN peacekeepers

As the situation has worsened, activists have pushed for change. Most advocates want UN peacekeepers sent to Darfur.

"I think [grass-roots efforts] have made [Darfur] almost a top-tier issue for the Bush administration," says John Prendergast, a senior adviser of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "There's no question [President] Bush feels political pressure to respond."

Mr. Bush said Monday the UN should send peacekeepers without delay.

One reason the Darfur movement has succeeded - where many similar international efforts have failed - is the US move to label the crisis genocide. "The comparison of Darfur to [the 1994 genocide in] Rwanda is what has been most potent here," says Eric Reeves, a Darfur analyst and Smith College professor.

While appearances by celebrities like George Clooney have been crucial, grass-roots efforts have made the difference - especially those of young people, he adds. "A lot of students now really only know Rwanda as historical event, and there is a resolve that this will not happen on their watch.... You have to go back to apartheid-era South Africa to find [a movement] this powerful for an issue that doesn't involve US blood or treasure.

"STAND, the student antigenocide group, is an example. Since April, it has grown from seven to 55 chapters. When Ms. Cato brought Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan whose story inspired the movie "Hotel Rwanda," to her campus last Wednesday, he packed the 750-seat auditorium with an overflow audience of at least 1,200 people. "We're young, idealistic, and we're horrified that genocide can go on in this world," Cato explains. (read more at CSM online)

Additional online resources

Time to Protect homepage (see regional blogs, videos, and other resources)

STAND: Students Taking Action Now- Darfur (a student anti-genocide coalition)

Friday, September 29, 2006

New York: As U.S. pressure on Sudan grows top UN officials stab Darfur in the back

In an amazing turn of events two top UN officials recently have expressed reservations about sending in UN peacekeepers to Darfur effectively retreating on the demands put forth in the UN Security Council Resolution 1706 and backstabbing global efforts to get security forces into the Sudan in order to protect millions of displaced refugees. According to a news article at BBC News online Jan Pronk, UN Special Envoy to Sudan has stated that the UN should abandon efforts to send in a UN peacekeeping force and instead increase funding to the African Union mission. In a statement to the Associated Press Professor Johannes Pieter Pronk said,

"The international community should instead push for the African Union's mission to be prolonged and reinforced," Mr Pronk is quoted as saying. He said the AU force's mandate should be extended indefinitely to ensure relief continued to reach Darfur's refugees. Mr Pronk is quoted as saying he was certain Khartoum would allow the AU force to stay on in Darfur. World leaders, he said, must guarantee more funds for the AU so it can carry out necessary peacekeeping work. "Otherwise, we're shooting ourselves in the foot each time," he said. "Our first priority must be to help the people of Darfur."

In a further shocking development, outgoing
UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown (chief of staff for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annanas) has lashed out at the U.S. and U.K. governments in an attempt to lay blame for the UN’s failures in Darfur at the feet of President George W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. During an exclusive interview with the U.K. newspaper The Independent Mark Malloch Brown claims,

Nowhere are the new limitations of US power today more exposed than over Darfur, where Washington has used the word "genocide" to condemn the scorched earth policies of the Sudanese government against the people of Darfur and the rebel groups who hide among them. But, says Malloch Brown, in their outrage the US and the UK are, "out there alone and it's counter-productive almost".

"Sudan doesn't see a united international community. It doesn't see its oil customers [China and Russia] or its neighbours in that front row. And that allows it to characterise themselves as the victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan. So Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding. The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London: 'you damn well are going to let the UN deploy and if you don't beware the consequences' isn't plausible. The Sudanese know we don't have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government; if Sudan opposes us there's no peace to keep anyway; you're in there to fight a war. It's just not a credible threat."

What is needed instead is two things: "a carefully-modulated set of incentives and sanctions which Sudan needs to understand" and a diplomatic coalition to back them.

Khartoum wants four things: "the normalisation of their relations with the US, UK and others; an opportunity to deploy their new oil wealth and exercise global diplomatic and economic influence; a UN deployment that will increase their authority as the national government of Sudan and not undermine it; and a way of handling the International Criminal Court indictments laid against members of the Khartoum government which they all feel very threatened by. Those are the kind of issues which the Sudanese need to hear a positive message on.

"But in the other pocket there need to be the sanctions. And those pluses and minuses need to be echoed not just by a group of Western leaders but by a much broader cross-section of countries that Sudan respects and trusts. That's what we're now trying to orchestrate. We've been working very hard on getting China to be part of the next set of diplomatic demarches to put pressure on the Sudanese. We're working on how can we bring the major states within the Arab League and the African Union more into frontline diplomacy."

Meantime, he says, the West could do with matching its moral indignation with cash. The food aid pipeline to three million hungry people in Darfur is still $300m short of what is needed. And the African Union peacekeeping forces in the region - inadequate but the only game in town - isn't properly financed till the end of the year. Western governments, he says, "have really taken their eye off the ball on this".

There you have it from the U.K.’s very own
Mouth of the South, Mark Malloch Brown, a rat leaving a sinking ship if ever there was one. Brown is obviously more interested in saving his tarnished legacy at the United Nations than saving lives in Darfur, a mission where he and his UN colleagues have failed miserably. Did I mention that Mark Malloch Brown is a son of Africa, born 1953 in the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia?

Meanwhile, back in the United States of America and from various corners around the globe pressure on the Government of Sudan and its cadre of international backers (
the Arab League, China, Russia, etc.) has been steadily building. From the pages of the New York Times (a full page ad) to the halls of the U.S. Congress, from the Canadian capital of Ottawa to the Norwegian capital Oslo, politicians and civic leaders and ordinary world citizens are demanding action on the crisis in Darfur with or without the permission of the Khartoum regime. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently thrown down the gauntlet at the feet of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir (aka Omar the Butcher) according to a September 27th Voice of America news report:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday Sudanese authorities will be held responsible and "bear the consequences" if they continue undermining efforts to reinforce peacekeeping operations in Darfur. In a Washington speech, she said the Khartoum government is at a crossroads in its future relations with the United States and the rest of the international community.

State Department officials billed the speech to the
Africa Society as a major address on Sudan. And the message to the policy group included some of the strongest language to date about implications for the Khartoum government if it continues to reject the upgrade of the African Union observer mission in Darfur into a full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping operation.

The U.S. State Department VOA news article goes on to say:

She called on the Khartoum government to "immediately and unconditionally" accept a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, as called for in a Security Council resolution at the end of August.
Rice said the Khartoum government, which has refused the U.N. force as a violation of its sovereignty, faces what she termed a "clear and consequential decision" and a choice between cooperation and confrontation.

She said it if chooses cooperation and welcomes the U.N. force into Darfur it will find a "dedicated partner" in the Bush administration. But she said if remains defiant on the peacekeeping issue, it will be headed for international isolation.

"If the Sudanese government chooses confrontation, if it continues waging war against its own citizens, challenging the African Union, undermining the peacekeeping force, and threatening the international community, then the regime in Khartoum will be held responsible, and it alone will bear the consequences of its action," she said. "The international community must make clear to the leaders of Sudan that this is the choice they face."

Two days after Secretary Rice’s speech before the Africa Society U.S. lawmakers from the
Congressional Black Caucus held discussions over Darfur with diplomats and ambassadors from 11 Arab and Muslim African countries and with the People’s Republic of China ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong. VOA News reported on the meeting between U.S. African-American lawmakers and the Arab League’s diplomatic corps in Washington D.C. and I quote:

In what some described as tough discussions, members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent more than an hour behind closed doors with ambassadors and diplomats from Arab countries.
Attending, according to congressional aides, were Egypt's ambassador to the United States,
Nabil Fahmy, and the Arab League ambassador to the U.S., Hussein Hassouna. Also, diplomats from 10 other countries, including Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, Djibouti, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia [were in attendance at the meeting].

Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat told VOA the lawmakers had, in his words, "drawn our line in the sand" regarding the need for urgent Arab government pressure on the Khartoum government to allow a 20,000-strong U.N. force into Darfur: "We reiterated our feeling that the Arab League has the power, and the authority, and the relationship with the government of Sudan to move [Sudan president] Bashir. If anyone can do it, they can and we asked them to go back to their capitals, (send) a message to their capitals, send a message to Bashir that he has to change his ways," he said.

Payne said he and others were "not diplomatic" in delivering a message that Khartoum's objections to a U.N. force may ultimately not prevent a U.N. force from deploying to Darfur. He adds there was a clear difference of opinion on the issue of Sudanese sovereignty, cited by Khartoum and the Arab League as a barrier to a U.N. force. "The support the Arab League gives to Sudan reflects I think as much in its policies for good as it may be for inaction, and what we are saying in this meeting, very affirmatively and very strongly, [is] we want an active Arab League, actively and aggressively approaching the Khartoum government that they have to change because people are dying," said
Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat – Texas), who was among lawmakers participating in the meeting.

Note: links to external online resources in articles above have been added by author

Hmmmm. I like Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice’s approach better than Pronk & Brown’s backsliding tactics for conflict resolution. How about you, my readers? Should the UN make another worthless deal with Omar al-Bashir on Darfur, or should the U.S. & Co. offer him a deal he can’t refuse?


UN News
UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (full text and press release)
Security Council hears proposal to revive 'nearly dead' Darfur peace plan (SC/8833)

VOA News – 09/27-29/06 - text, audio and video
Rice Warns Sudan of ‘Consequences’ for Refusing Darfur Force
U.S. Lawmakers Press Arab Governments, China on Darfur

BBC News online
UN must drop Darfur peace effort – 09/29/06

The Independent online (U.K.)
Exclusive interview: In defence of the United Nations – 09/29/06

U.K. Guardian newspaper online – 01/12/05
Meet Kofi Annan’s right-hand man (profile of Mark Malloch Brown)

Congressional Black Caucus of the 109th U.S. Congress
Congressional Black Caucus – Wikipedia

CBS 60 Minutes – Yahoo! News Online Special – 09/24/06
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 60 Minutes
Video segments, exclusive interviews, and viewer comments

PBS Frontline
Interview with Egypt ambassador to the U.S. Nabil Fahmy – Sep 2001

Diplomatic Traffic
Profile on Arab League Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Hussein Hassouna
Arab League: We are trying to restore trust with the United States

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

World: Pope Benedict XVI Under Fire - Africans, Americans, & Germans Speakout

Global Voices Online (a Harvard Law School - Berkman Center for Internet and Society project) has a roundup post on the controversy in the Muslim world over Pope Benedict XVI's reading of a 14th Century text. GVO's citizen editor Ndesanjo Macha highlights in his post Africa's Reactions to the Pope's Remarks what some of the African bloggers from both sides of the aisle (Christian and Muslim) have to say. Following is my comment left at that GVO post which pretty much sums up my feelings about all of this worldwide nonsense:

”Great roundup on a very controversial subject. In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI has clarified his position on this subject (3 times+) and should go about the business of taking care of his flock. It is outrageous that so many religious leaders, theologians, and world leaders would take offence that a text from a 14th Century document was read aloud at the German University in Regensburg by a Roman Catholic Pope. I am certain that within the halls of institutions and mosques and political offices within the Islamic world much worse has been said and done re: Christians and Jews down through the centuries. All major religions of the world can point to a violent and inhumane past”… and their respective followers today should bow their heads in shame and prayer for forgiveness.

Get a grip on yourselves! Damn!

Sorry Pope Benedict, but this kind of stuff can get a good Christian to cussin'... if not worse. What's next? Do we all have to go out and buy a suit of armour, swords and scimitars, war horses and camels, kiss the wife and kids goodbye as we march off to free the City of Jerusalem from the Infidels?

Update Sep 21st:

In following links to blogs posting on this subject via the German news magazine Spiegel International Online (see below) I discovered an interesting roundup post by an American mom titled The Pope's Speech and Why It Matters to Non-Catholics. One of the commentors at The Common Room points readers to an article written by a former student of Pope Benedict XVI at Universität Regensburg, a Father Joseph D. Fessio S.J. (Doctorate in Theology, Regensburg University 1975). In Father Joseph's article "Is Dialogue with Islam Possible?" he states the following:

In the main body of the lecture, Benedict criticizes attempts in the West to "dehellenize" Christianity: the rejection of the rational component of faith (the sola fides of the 16th century reformers); the reduction of reason to the merely empirical or historical (modern exegesis and modern science); a multiculturalism which regards the union of faith and reason as merely one possible form of inculturation of the faith. All this is a Western self-critique.

But as the starting point of his lecture, Benedict takes a 14th century dialogue between the Byzantine Emperor and a learned Muslim to focus on the central question of the entire lecture: whether God is Logos. The Emperor's objection to Islam is Mohammed's "command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor asserts that this is not in accordance with right reason, and "not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature". Benedict points to this as "the decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion".

It is at this point in the lecture that Benedict makes a statement which cannot be avoided or evaded if there is ever to be any dialogue between Christianity and Islam that is more than empty words and diplomatic gestures. For the Emperor, God's rationality is "self-evident". But for Muslim teaching, according to the editor of the book from which Benedict has been quoting, "God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality".

Benedict has struck bedrock. This is the challenge to Islam. This is the issue that lies beneath all the rest. If God is above reason in this way, then it is useless to employ rational arguments against (or for) forced conversion, terrorism, or Sharia law, which calls for the execution of Muslim converts to Christianity. If God wills it, it is beyond discussion.

The entire text (translated) of the lecture by Pope Benedict XVI can be found in the resources I have listed for readers below.

German press reports on the Pope's remarks controversy
Spiegel Online International (German news magazine, English edition)

Muslims Angered by Pope’s Remarks – 09/15/06

The Pope’s Lecture at the University of Regensburg (translated) – 09/12/06

Popes Apology Rejected by Some, Accepted by Others – 09/18/06

Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, the Pope – Who’s Next? by Claus Christian Malzahn – 09/18/06

Spiegel interview with German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble – 09/20/06
“We have no relationship to our diverse Muslim Society”

Spiegel Photo Gallery – Don’t miss
the “Pope on Fire” Muslim anger photo album

Der Speigel Online (Original German language version, for the purist)

Papst Contra Mohammed – Glaubenskampf um den Islam, die Vernufnt und die Gewalt
Heft Nr. 38/2006

The Catholic Press

Ignatius Insight - Is Dialogue with Islam Possible? by Father Joseph Fessio - 09/18/06

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