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India China rivalry shifts to Africa

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By Harshmeet Singh

One can’t help but think of a possible ‘Chinese angle’ behind India’s offer of a $10 billion credit to the African nations. The reasons are plain and simple. Ever since the two Asian giants embarked on a crescendo of economic growth, the battle for monopoly over the resource-rich African continent has come out in the open. Apart from the vast proven reserves of oil and gas, the world’s second largest continent also boasts of enviable deposits of uranium, gold, silver, diamonds, copper and iron. Though China has denied any rivalry with India on the African issue, it would be naïve to believe that there isn’t more to it than what meets the eye.

With a continuously rising population and rapidly depleting natural resources, Africa’s relatively underutilized mineral wealth is a key attraction for many industrialized nations across the world. Though countries like USA and Japan have also tried to get a piece of the cake, China and India seem to be the front-runners in the race for becoming Africa’s closest partners in the coming years. In terms of numbers, China has the upper hand. With a $200 billion investment in different African nations, China has firmly placed itself as the foremost ‘well wisher’ of Africa. In comparison, according to WTO, in 2013, India’s investments in Africa touched $50 billion. Apart from the investments in infrastructure, China has also offered assistance to the African nations in the areas of education and training. The magnitude of such assistance far outnumbers India’s efforts.

The numbers in bilateral trade also highlight a similar story. The African-Chinese bilateral trade stands at $108 billion, as compared to the Indian African trade of $40 billion. But smartly enough, India isn’t trying to compete with China on the economic front. It has rather taken up the cause of capacity building and human resource development in the African nations, thereby fostering the people to people connect between India and Africa.

Over the past 5 years, more than 25,000 students from the African countries have been given higher education scholarships in India. Indian army also trains officers from many African nations, such as Lesotho. India is also offering its expertise in solar energy to countries like Mozambique, to help the country tackle its power woes. Underlining India’s strategy, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “The key area of interest is going to be the Indian investment in infrastructure. The government of India is giving a significant amount of resources for the development of infrastructure in the African continent. They have given us (Ethiopia) $700 million in concessional loans. India could have used this money for its own people. But this is indicative of the quality of special relations between India and Africa,” In many ways, the battle for Africa can be termed as a battle between China’s economic might and India’s soft diplomacy.

The African leaders, on their part, are basking in the new found limelight. With assistance flowing in from all sides, they are trying their best to keep both the Asian giants happy for as long as possible. This was reiterated by Katureebee Tayebwa, a member of the Ugandan High Commission in New Delhi, when he said that, “We [Africa] are happy that there is intense competition between India and China to gain African markets.”

 

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No More Schoolgirls Examined For Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya

We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can't do that as they can be stigmatized

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

No schoolgirls in western Kenya are being forced to undergo examinations for female genital mutilation, Kenyan authorities said Tuesday, after a government official sparked outrage by proposing compulsory tests to curb the crime.

George Natembeya, commissioner for Narok County, said on Friday that girls returning to school after the Christmas break were being screened for female genital mutilation (FGM) in order to prosecute their parents and traditional cutters.

Rights groups condemned the move, saying examining the girls — aged between nine and 17 — was demeaning and contravened their right to privacy and dignity.

FGM, Kenya
Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board said they had conducted an investigation in Narok after Natembeya’s statement and found no evidence of girls being tested.

“The Board hereby confirms that no girl has been paraded for FGM screening as per allegations that have been circulating in the last few days,” the semi-autonomous government agency said in a statement.

“The Board recognises and appreciates the role played by different stakeholders in complementing the government’s efforts in the FGM campaigns but we want to reiterate that all interventions must uphold the law.”

FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is prevalent across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East — and is seen as necessary for social acceptance and increasing a girl’s marriage prospects.

FGM, Kenya
KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. VOA

FGM dangers

It is usually performed by traditional cutters, often with unsterilized blades or knives. In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. It can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula and fatal childbirth complications.

Kenya criminalized FGM in 2011, but the deep-rooted practice persists. According to the United Nations, one in five Kenyan women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM.

Natembeya said he had announced the compulsory tests to warn communities not to practice FGM on their daughters, but that there was no intention to force all girls to undergo screening.

Rights groups said the policy was rolled back following outrage.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

“We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can’t do that as they can be stigmatized,” he told Reuters.

“What we are doing is that if we get reports from schools that a girl has undergone FGM, it becomes a police case and the girl is taken to hospital and medically examined. Then the parents or caregivers will be arrested and taken to court.” (VOA)