World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. For a brief moment in time, the world may take some time to reflect on the way in which the ecological systems that sustain us are under threat. Perhaps an inadvertent blessing of Covid-19, too, is that it has exposed deep fragilities in our global systems. Our economic systems, first and foremost, clearly require deep reform. Failing to properly account for ecological degradation has unleashed climate change and viral dark matter, both of which have exacerbated vulnerabilities among the worst off. Ecological economists have been raising the red flag on this front for decades.

As we know, human beings are at risk of overstepping several planetary boundaries. These boundaries indicate the limits of what the planet can absorb in terms of anthropogenic impacts. They also interact in sensitive ways, generating risks that overstepping any one boundary may have domino effects on the others, precipitating ecological collapse. Because of these anthropogenic impacts, we are now living through the sixth extinction, compounded by climate change. Radical biodiversity preservation is now a non-negotiable global imperative that will require extensive collective action.

Realising this collective action, however, requires an acknowledgement that humanity has created this diverse set of “wicked’ problems by treating the natural environment as if it is a free good in our economic models. In other words, ignoring the basic laws of thermodynamics has resulted in economic policies that pursue growth in production and consumption without recognising that there are limits to how much growth the planet can handle. It is therefore imperative that we transform our economic models to recognise that no economy is even possible without sustainable ecological foundations.

If Covid-19 is not a catalyst for designing and implementing new economic models that help us to arrive at a more safe and just space in our delicate web of planetary boundaries, it is hard to imagine what could be. Our next edition of Africa in Factto be published on 1 July, deals with this very issue and we encourage you to keep an eye out for it!

Dr Ross Harvey is a natural resource economist and policy analyst, and he has been dealing with governance issues in various forms across this sector since 2007. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Cape Town, and his thesis research focused on the political economy of oil and institutional development in Angola and Nigeria.

Gun trouble in the green city in the sun

Kenya: the arms race

Kenyan authorities are grappling to answer the question of how large numbers of illegal firearms have ended up in civilian hands

Kenyan government minister George Saitoti (R)
inspects a cache of illegal firearms in Nairobi in
March 2010 before it is set ablaze as part of
a government campaign to mop-up illicit small
arms and light weapons that are at the centre of
violent crime in Kenya and Africa. Photo: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

Referred to as the “green city in the sun”, Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, hosts more than 100 multinationals, including the United Nations Environment Programme. It is seen as a city with solid business magnetism and rich culture, and it is home to the second oldest stock exchange in Africa. But that is as far as Nairobi’s picture glows. The death rate from guns in Nairobi is 33 for every 100,000 people per year. Factoring in its population of 3.5 million, this means that on average, a gun death occurs once every nine hours, 25 minutes and 49 seconds. The high crime rate is tied to the fact that there are six illegal guns in the hands of every 100 Nairobians. The 2018 Annual Crime Report by the National Police Service indicates that there were 4,954 crime cases in Nairobi in 2016.

This went up to 7,434 in the succeeding year before dipping slightly to 7,128 in 2018. This is almost six times higher than the same rate in north-eastern Kenya, which borders two volatile countries – Somalia and Ethiopia. The organised crime rate in Ethiopia was at 1,122, 1,323 and 1,490 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. In the same period under review, in Nairobi 10 police officers were killed in 2017, and 11 in 2018 compared to three officers in central Kenya in each of the same years. The Kenyan police expect crime rates to increase in 2020 due to growth in the illicit trade in firearms and the rise in drug abuse. In 2018, 192 firearms were recovered and 19 surrendered. Of these, 121 guns were reclaimed from Nairobi County, representing 63% of the total guns recaptured in the country.

Experts associate the sale of illegal weapons, which has hit crisis proportions, with high crime rates in Nairobi. According to the Institute for Security Studies, a think tank based in Pretoria, black marketers sell about 11,000 guns in Nairobi every year. Most of them enter Kenya through the porous borders of Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. Due the nature of the borders, cross-border crime continues to be a challenge, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai told Africa in Fact. He says Kibish in Turkana County has emerged as a hotspot for such incidents. Security personnel and criminals from Ethiopia and Uganda, he says, come through the border and confront Kenyan civilians and security officers. At the Kibish border point, 70 km from Nairobi, there were a total of 26 reported incidences in 2018, resulting in 11 deaths – 10 civilians and a police officer.

Once inside Kenya, the firearms are transported to major urban areas such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Narok, and Kisumu, to cities and slums where sales are fast, guaranteed, and the returns are higher. The arms merchants know which routes to use and which ones to avoid, says Aggrey Mwakisha, a security analyst based in Lunga Lunga at the Kenya-Tanzania border. Mwakisha says the guns traders are so powerful that they even influence the transfer of individual members of the security apparatus who they deem unfriendly to their cause. Their organisation and logistics resemble those of drug dealers, he notes, and that some of the most common ways of transporting arms include the use of police vehicles, ambulances, and trucks disguised to look like they are carrying grain or transporting animals to market.

The police say that Eastleigh is one of the main places in Nairobi where guns are sold. The neighbourhood is sometimes referred to as “small Mogadishu” due to its large population of Somalis. A senior officer at the Department of Criminal Investigations, who requested anonymity, says that at least two small guns and about 100 bullets are sold in the area every day. At some black markets in Eastleigh, guns are leased out at a price of between Sh15,000 ($150) and Sh50,000 ($500) a night, depending on the “assignment”. A bullet, he adds, is sold for Sh500 ($5). This is Sh400 ($4) more than the retail price at Lwakhakha, on the Kenya-Uganda border, which is well known for its coffee bean smuggling. Meagre salaries, coupled with poor working conditions, have also seen some security officers getting involved in criminal acts, renting out their guns or selling bullets to criminals, for example.

Most of the guns held in Kenya are unlicensed, according to a June 2018 briefing paper by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. These firearms range from improvised craft weapons, like self-loading pistols, to factory-made handguns, rifles and shotguns – many of which are associated with the growing number of break ins, muggings and hijackings. The Small Arms Survey estimates Kenya: the arms race that there is slightly more than one gun per 100 civilians in Kenya. Out of the 650,000 private firearms, only 8,136 are licensed. Kenya’s stockpile of privately-owned guns is larger than those of its East African peers: Uganda has 331,000, Ethiopia stands at 377,000, while Rwanda’s stack is 66,000. Ironically, the number of guns in private hands in Kenya is much larger than the 45,790 held by the military and 51,527 in the hands of the police.

No wonder, then, that Kenya recorded 2,305 gun related deaths in 2014 and 2,261 in 2015 (During the same period, the UK recorded 14 and 11 deaths caused by guns, respectively.) How large numbers of guns have ended up in civilian hands is a question authorities are still grappling to answer. A source at Kenya’s Central Firearms Bureau says the country has strict guidelines on arms acquisition in place, but these are frustrated by corruption, incompetence and political intimidation. No thorough vetting is done before applicants are issued with gun licences, according to the same source; civilians without sufficient training in the use of small arms can still become licensed firearms holders. In late 2018, Internal Security Minister Fred Matiang’i disbanded the entire Firearms Licensing Board and appointed new board members.

The minister also suspended the licences of all firearms dealers and ordered them to be vetted afresh. The chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Kagwiria Mbogori, notes that the demand for illegal arms in Nairobi has been rising since October 2011, when Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi (Operation Protect the Nation) against Al-Shabaab in Somalia following a series of extremist attacks and kidnappings of foreigners in the northern part of Kenya. Mbogori says the use the arms against civilian targets is rising. She warned of “declining security dynamics” if the arms supply was not stemmed urgently. In her view, the crucial influence on the illicit arms trade in Kenya is poor security in unstable countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, northern Uganda, and southern Ethiopia.

Given the reality of porous borders and ill-equipped security agencies, preventing the proliferation of arms in Kenya will take concerted internal and external efforts. The best way to deal effectively with illegal small arms sales is by intensifying intelligence gathering, Mbogori argues. The sources and mechanisms of arms acquisition and distribution channels need to be monitored and addressed in particular, she adds. According to Kenya’s 2019 State of the National Security report, some 650,000 light weapons are privately owned countrywide. In a media briefing on the state of security on October 18, Kenyan government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna said it had come up with a raft of strategies to address the proliferation of illicit arms. These strategies would be applied not only in Nairobi but the whole of the country.

As part of this, the government says it has developed a draft national policy on small arms and light weapons and a Small Arms and Light Weapons Control and Management Bill. Once it is made into law, the Bill will be augmented by the Protocol on the Prevention, Combating and Eradication of Cattle Rustling in Eastern Africa of August 2008 and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which it will soon ratify. Meanwhile, the internal security ministry says it is implementing “stiff measures” to control the private ownership of guns. Early in 2019, the ministry called on all people possessing illegal firearms to surrender them to the relevant authorities. And in addition to the measures taken against gun dealers, Matiang’i has ordered the fresh vetting of 4,407 private gun owners suspected of having acquired their weapons illegally, or through corruption.

Matiang’i says the vetting exercise has been successful so far, with those found to have obtained their licences through corruption losing their firearms, although he did not supply figures. Matiang’i says about 40 organised criminal groups are operating in Kenya, including one known as the Mombasa Republican Council, based in Coast Province, and the notoriously violent Mungiki gang in central Kenya. “Organised criminal gangs pose a headache to … national security. There is growing recognition that the intersection between organised crime and terror groups is deepening and becoming more complex,” he said on September 27 2019 when he launched a crackdown on Mungiki in Gatundu, central Kenya. Mutyambai said in a statement to newsrooms in May 2019 that the government had redoubled its efforts to curb illicit firearms and that doing so was crucial to the success of Kenya’s agenda for economic growth, known as the “Big Four”, which was unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.

This plan sees security as one of four elements required for long-term investment and sustained economic development. Kenya continues to invest in internal security by equipping the police, improving their welfare and embracing a multi-sectoral approach to fighting insecurity, Mutyambai said. But Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko differs. He blames the high number of gun-related crimes in the city on youth unemployment, which stands at an average of 39.1%, according to the 2017 UN Human Development Index. “Many youth still possess illegal guns in Nairobi,” he told Africa in Fact. “Action needs to be taken against them, but for this to yield fruit, the police need to work closely with the community. The governor says he is working on pro-youth policies aimed at generating opportunities for young people to earn a living.

These include “engaging with” young people, developing alternative sources of work and income, and driving enrolments at technical training colleges that will “arm” young people with employable competencies, he told Africa in Fact. Meanwhile, young people say that deeply ingrained corruption and nepotism continue to frustrate their ambitions for employment. Jacob Macharia, 26, has an accounting degree from Kenyatta University, but it’s been four years since he graduated and he has yet to find a job. Unless you know someone “up there” in either the public or corporate sector, he says, you won’t even be shortlisted for a job interview. “The exasperation of joblessness” and the need to survive drive many people in Nairobi to buy firearms and engage in crime, he says.

But that’s not an option for him, Macharia insists. He refuses to pay for a job, and says he may have to “retire” to his rural home in Nyeri, central Kenya, to work in the not-so-promising farming business.

Eddy Oduor is an economist and a statistician with more than 15 years’ experience in data analysis. He runs an independent research firm in Nairobi, Kenya, that consults on trade, regional integration and infrastructure.

Call for Submissions: The Complexities of Land Tenure and Land Reform in Africa

Submission Deadline: 15 October, 2019

Good Governance Africa (GGA) invites interested participants to submit a paper proposal in the form of an abstract of up to 500 words on the Complexities of Land Tenure and Land Reform in Africa.

Selected papers will be published in the second edition of GGA’s Rights to Land book. The first edition of the book examined land restitution procedure in South Africa’s post-apartheid era (William Beinart, Peter Delius and Michelle Hay, 2017).

The second volume of the book aims to consider the phenomenon of land ownership, tenure and restitution in Africa. It proposes to highlight the successes and challenges African countries have faced with their land restitution policies and identify the factors influencing the procedures of land tenure and land reform on the continent.

This includes, but is not limited to, legal frameworks, customary land tenure and the land rights of women, and land restitution mechanisms, which are reducing poverty and securing sustainable livelihoods. Given the differing historical backgrounds of many African countries, the book also intends to consider the current trajectory of land reform and restitution in post-colonial contexts.

The book aims to examine original and contemporary perspectives on land tenure and reform in Africa by focusing on the achievements and challenges of these mechanisms. Contributors may provide an analysis into a number of areas surrounding land ownership, tenure and restitution with the intention of shedding new light on these critical issues and providing concrete policy recommendations for governments, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders.

The proposals may apply a comparative or case study approach, considering single or multiple countries or sub-regional contexts in Africa. Topics should be centred exclusively on African countries (excluding South Africa).

This second volume will be published by a prominent South African publishing house. Both GGA and the publishing team include experienced authors and editors, and all team members take seriously their responsibility to ensure the book’s chapters are of high-quality scholarship and writing. \

The proposals and chapters will be subjected to careful editorial scrutiny and, where appropriate, the editors will ask authors to revise their chapters for the purposes of clarity and focus.

Your submission should include:

  1. A 500-word abstract, including references
  2. A brief 100-word author biography and list of publications
  3. Full contact details

The abstract must be in English and submitted in Microsoft Word Doc format – Times New Roman 12.

Each contribution must be original and unpublished work not submitted for publication elsewhere. Please submit your proposal by sending your abstract to both and

References: William Beinart, Peter Delius and Michelle Hay. 2017. Rights to Land: A guide to Tenure Upgrading and Restitution in South Africa. Johannesburg: Fanele.


Researchers wanted

Good Governance Africa is a research and advocacy non profit organisation with centres across Africa focused solely on improving governance across the continent.

GGA engages in applied research and stimulates critical debate.  All our work is based on exploring and advancing the key governance principles of democracy, accountability and transparency and combining these with upholding the rule of law and respecting human, civil and property rights.

To this end we often have projects in line with our key Programmes, and are looking for researchers for project work.  We need researchers with both a quantitative and qualitative research background, it would be beneficial if you have some in field research experience to boot.

Please get in touch by sending us a fully detailed CV to the GGA SADC GM, Michelle Venter on to be considered for one of our projects.

GGA Team visits Kantolo ECD

Our Child Development and Youth Formation team visited the Kantolo Early Childhood Development centre in March. The team took with them learning and play materials for the children and also conducted interviews with the principal, the teachers, as well as some of the parents and children. Our most pressing challenges continue to be infrastructure, nutrition and literacy levels, but the children are adapting well to the Montessori methodology and they are enjoying their daily activities. The changes are being done incrementally and with the involvement of several stakeholders.

From the interviews conducted on this visit it was clear that GGA’s intervention in introducing the Montessori methodology at the centre is having a positive impact on both the standard of education on offer and the performance of the children. The good results achieved thus far have led to a surge in the number of children attending the Kantolo ECD centre, which currently serves 86 learners.

GGA’s Lead researcher and some of the Kantolo ECD learners.

In addition, a young woman from the Mbizana municipality area has embarked on a new learning journey with the Indaba Montessori Institute. GGA is offering this young change-influencer an all-expenses paid opportunity to study towards an internationally accredited diploma in elementary education. The candidate, who is undergoing extensive training with the institute, now has an opportunity that we believe will benefit her, her immediate family, and the rest of the Mbizana community through the community development work she has committed to undertake.

Lionesses need historians more than fish need bicycles

The African story abounds with great women whose achievements are often reduced to prurient anecdotes

Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. So, says the Igbo proverb, which became a rallying cry for a generation of post-colonial African historians. But what of the lionesses? Are their tales being told? But enough with animal adages. Neither lions nor lionesses write history, while people do. The key question is: do the current written histories of Africa adequately include the experiences of the continent’s women?

Depends where you look. And who you ask. Since the 1960s, the university-based study of African women’s history has become a dynamic, global field. Where once the economic, social and political contribution of African women was regarded as an historical terra nullius – with women either entirely absent or relegated to minor roles in textbooks and tomes – there is now an ever-increasing body of research that includes analysis on a wide variety of societies, over 50 countries and hundreds of thousands of years.

Academia is acknowledging that African women enter the historical narrative from a variety of geographies and climates and that they carry diverse status, education, culture, age and other attributes. Moreover, all of the above can change or stay the same or circle through a combination of both within the endless ebb and flow that is human life and lives over time.

Academic historians recognise that what they study is not the past per se but rather an interpretation of the past, which is subject to revision and reinterpretation whereby distinct interest groups apply different standards, priorities and values and reach different conclusions. There is general consensus that interest groups with more social, political and economic clout have the power to dominate the narrative.

There is now widespread acknowledgement that the gendered nature of modern power is such that male stories are disproportionately present and that women’s stories are often assigned less value. The growth of African women’s history as a discipline demonstrates that spaces can and have been created to examine and challenge such power dynamics.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that almost all such scholarship sits behind paywalls on university websites. Non-professional historians are largely excluded from this information and the debates that such study stimulates. Outside of ivory tower academe, what passes for historical “knowledge” in the general chitchat of daily life more often than not either ignores them entirely or depicts women in terms of their perceived impact on men.

Historical evidence of African women is as old as humanity. Sometimes older. Humans evolved in Africa and so it is Africa that provides the backdrop for the first minimising of prehistoric women in the paleoanthropological corpus. Until the early 1980s archaeologists overlaid modern Western gender norms and sexual divisions of labour onto pre-historic, sometimes pre-human hominid peoples. Man the Hunter was widely considered to be the key evolutionary driver of human brain development and subsequent tool-making innovation.

Frances Dahlberg’s 1983 monograph, Woman the Gatherer, set forth a strong case for an alternative evolutionary trajectory in which Woman the Tool Inventor played an equal part in the human story. Which is all well and good – but for the fact that, over three decades later, that message doesn’t appear to have gotten through to the masses. Museums are the point at which the public and professional historians ought to intersect, but Africa’s pre-historic women are all but invisible at such sites. Androcentric stereotypes abound. Almost invariably, graphic material explaining the hominisation process depicts individuals of the masculine sex making their way from australopithecine to homo – thereby rendering the earliest African women invisible.

As Myra and David Sadker argued in Failing at Fairness (1995), “each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.” How much more so if she isn’t even in the diagram exploring the essence of our species?

Yet it is debatable as to whether exclusion is preferable to defamation. African women who achieved scientific, political or economic success have often been pulled into warped morality tales masquerading as history, which reduce a plethora of complex characters to wicked women who drew men into their beds and on into their death. The deeds of women in times past are subjected to such treatment worldwide but the practice seems particularly prevalent when it comes to telling tall tales about successful African women, who are almost invariably subjected to what amounts to a form of “ye olde” slut shaming. The accompanying character assassination is seldom supported by the sort of historical evidence-based scholarship found on the other side of the paywall.

Consider Cleopatra. Mary Hamer’s Signs of Cleopatra: Reading an Icon Historically (2001) offers us vast quantities of contemporaneous written records demonstrating the diplomatic, naval, linguistic, cultural and philosophical skills of Cleopatra VII Philopator (69-10 BC), the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Her tenure alone speaks to such skills. She ruled for 21 years and at the height of her power controlled virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coast. She was incomparably richer than anyone else in the region. And yet she survives in the popular imagination through a distorted depiction of her romantic relationships. She built fleets, suppressed several insurrections, controlled a currency and guided a nation through plagues and famines but she is remembered as a bare-breasted seductress bathing in milk.

Linda Heywood and Louis Madureira’s 2015 article, Queen Njinga Mbandi Ana de Sousa of Ndongo/Matamba: African Leadership, Diplomacy, and Ideology, 1620-1650 offers chapter and verse on their study subject’s skills as a military leader, strategist, diplomat and exponent of realpolitik par excellence. Research reveals the woman who defined and dominated what is now Angola in the 17th century to be a complex and contradictory character. At times, she profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, while at other times she protected escaped slaves. For over 40 years, she successfully limited the Portuguese colony at Luanda to a few square kilometres. How is it that her achievements are less well known than gratuitous and unsubstantiated gossip about her immolating a harem of male lovers?

Publicising the achievements of African women from previous generations has the potential to impact on the development of self-respect for African girls and women going forward. There is inspiration in knowing about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Asante-born Nanny of the Windward Maroons (c.1686 – c.1755) who escaped from slavery in Jamaica, led a successful armed rebellion, freed more than 1,000 previously enslaved people and achieved a 1740 peace settlement with colonists, under the terms of which she negotiated a land grant of 500 acres at what became known as Nanny Town.

In the face of Boko Haram’s terror and intimidation tactics, which threaten girls’ access to education across West Africa, there is strength to be drawn from knowing that in 859CE an African woman, Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya, founded the University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fes, Morocco. UNESCO describes it as the oldest existing, continually operating and first degree-awarding educational institution in the world. Female alumni include Fatima al Kabbaj, member of the Moroccan Supreme Council of Religious Knowledge.

At its most pernicious, observations of a past that never was are used to support patriarchal practices that exclude women from power in the present. During Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel he responded to a question about his wife’s political opinions with the comment that, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room” because he could “claim superior knowledge over her”.

Indeed, 2016 was a banner year for Nigerian patriarchal put-downs. In the same year, that country’s senate rejected a Gender and Equality Bill that included equal rights for women in marriages, divorce, property ownership and inheritance. Several senators stated that they opposed the law on the grounds that it was “un-African” and “anti-religious” to accord women equal rights with men.

Such statements invoke tradition, but the historical record shows otherwise. Kamene Okonjo’s studies of women’s political participation in Nigeria show that pre-colonial West African women were often much more economically, socially and politically independent and powerful than modern “traditionalists” would have us believe.

Their disempowerment came about by way of colonial Eurocentric, not indigenous African values. Chima J Korieh’s Gender and Peasant Resistance: Recasting the Myth of the Invisible Women in Colonial Eastern Nigeria, 1925-1945 (2003) offers evidence that while Nigerian women had historically participated in the government, the British colonial authorities saw these practices as “a manifestation of chaos and moral disorder” and would only engage with the political institutions headed by men.

Struggles over alternative views on the desirability of female political and economic power sparked significant anti-colonial revolts, including what modern historians tend to call the Women’s War of 1929 (Ogu Umunwanyi in Igbo), which was described by colonial authorities as the Aba Women’s Riot.

A watered-down version of the Nigerian Gender Equity Bill was subsequently passed in 2017 but the claiming of tradition to support female subjugation illustrates how a patchwork of patriarchies can cross the hunter/lion duality. There are times when hunters and lions form alliances around their common predator paradigm and call on faux history in support of shared interests. As we recognise and rectify the exclusion and misrepresentation of female African lives from the study of history, let us take cognisance of life’s complexity.

Even if certain sorts of lions and lionesses now have/are historians, accounts of their times past are likely to be incomplete unless the experiences of the earthworms and the elephants and the E.coli are included. Not to mention the valuable perspectives provided by the trees and the reeds. And the wind and the rain. Ultimately, ours is an interdependent ecosystem. 


Dr Anna Trapido is an anthropologist and a chef. She trained as an anthropologist at King’s College, Cambridge, completing her PhD in the department of community health at Wits University, Johannesburg. She qualified as a chef at the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy in Pretoria, and uses both disciplines in her work. She has won gold at the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards three times (for To the Banqueting House – African cuisine an Epic Journey, Hunger for Freedom – the story of food in the life of Nelson Mandela, and Eat Ting – lose weight, gain health, find yourself).