Green Travel, Sustainable Travel, Responsible Travel

Ecotourism, Green Travel, Sustainable Travel, Responsible Travel — are all terms widely used by tour operators to promote trips to Africa. So how can you separate the marketing from the “real thing”? This guide to being a responsible traveler will help you figure it all out.

Defining “Responsible Travel” or “Sustainable Travel”

Responsible travel allows local communities to earn a fair income from tourism; it supports conservation; it supports local community initiatives; and it tries to limit the environmental impact of the vacation itself.

How do you make sure your trip to Africa is “Responsible” and truly guilt free? Follow the steps below and book a trip to Africa that will offer you a relaxing and adventurous vacation, as well as a chance to benefit the country you are visiting. Being a “Responsible Traveler” in Africa does not mean you have to ride a bike and stay in a mud hut (although I’d recommend a little of that too). You can enjoy a luxury safari and still be “responsible” by ensuring that the company you choose is truly “responsible” in how it operates its lodges and engages with the local community.

What’s the Difference Between Ecotourism and Responsible Travel?

Ecotourism really started the “green travel” trend. Where the focus was on the physical environment and conservation. Tourists wanted to make sure their vacation did not disrupt or damage the local environment. But in the past decade, the term “Sustainable” and “Responsible” travel has been coined to reflect the fact that the people matter as much as the environment and wildlife in Africa.

Involving local communities is in fact an important key to successful conservation efforts. Tourist dollars need to trickle down to local communities that are eking out a living close to wildlife parks, in order to stop poaching of resources.

People going on safari in Africa are also widening their focus beyond just wildlife. Visiting a local school, or going on a walking safari with a Maasai warrior, is just as important as seeing a lion hunt. A trip to Marrakech is not just about admiring the medina and the souks. Visitors are taking cooking courses or visiting local hammams to truly enjoy the local culture and appreciate the Moroccan people, as much as the physical environment.

Throughout Africa, local community involvement is absolutely essential for tourism to be sustainable and successful. And this is what “responsible tourism” aims to promote.

Above all, Just go!

Tourism is the mainstay of many African economies, it supports thousands of local jobs. Just taking a trip to Africa is a good first step. The key is to try and spend your money in the country you are visiting, thereby helping the local economy. If you have paid for your entire trip up front, with all meals included, most of those profits will end up staying with the tour operator. Try and benefit the communities you’re visiting by shopping, eating, traveling, and staying local.

Responsible Travel in Africa — Tip 1: Book With a Responsible Tour Operator

Responsible tour operators specializing in Africa are numerous, my recommendations follow below. The key is to make sure your tour operator is genuinely “responsible” and not just good at marketing. This list should help you make the right choice when planning your trip to Africa. If you are planning an independent trip, read the “How to be a Responsible Traveler” steps that follow.

Can a Luxury Tour be “Responsible”?

The short answer is yes, but only a handful of companies really do this properly.

The high-end tourist brings in lots of money and can really make a difference. A quick visit to an orphanage to soothe the conscience of a $15,000 safari, can easily turn into a client sponsoring a nurse for ten years. This may have more impact than the volunteer who teaches English for 6 months and stays in a local hut. But the luxury tour operator has to pay more attention to the whims of their clients than the needs of the local community. Read my interview with &Beyond for more.

Can a Budget Tour be “Responsible”?

Occasionally a basic hotel will claim it is “eco-friendly” because it has no electricity, and the bathroom is a pit latrine in the back. Beware of this. But most budget tours do a great job of spreading their dollars directly to the local community by shopping at local markets, staying in locally owned hotels and eating at local restaurants. Part of being a “Responsible Traveler” is making sure that local communities directly benefit from your visit.

If you find a “deal” be sure the tour operator is not cutting costs in areas that you would not agree with.

A cheaper Kilimanjaro trek for example can mean that the operator has cut porter salaries in order to protect its bottom line.

Many of the lodges, tour companies and properties that work with local communities, conservation organizations, and practice responsible tourism are linked to through the organizations below:

  • In Kenya – Ecotourism Kenya
  • In Ethiopia – TESFA
  • In Uganda – Pearls of Uganda
  • In Southern Africa – (South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi) – Sustainable Tourism Network
  • In South Africa – Fair Trade in Tourism
  • In Ghana – Nature, Conservation Research Center
  • North Africa — In Morocco and Tunisia you can book your own hotels by e-mail and use local transport to get around. Egypt has such a classic set tour itinerary that almost every tour company follows, so try a tour that gets you off the beaten track, check out
  • There are numerous small-scale, local tour companies that have excellent records when it comes to responsible travel in Africa. For example, Andulela in Cape Town, or Jolinaiko Tours in West Africa. Here are some of the larger companies with offices in Europe and/or the US.

Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 2: Stay in Locally Owned and/or Eco-Hotels

How do you make sure your hotel or lodge in Africa follows “responsible” guidelines? Many mainstream hotel booking sites list chain hotels first. Spend an extra five minutes to see if there’s a hotel that isn’t a Hilton, Sheraton or other major chain, with its headquarters based out of Africa (where the profits go). Book a hotel that is locally owned and run. There are usually good bed and breakfasts or guest houses offering a similar level of service to the big chains.

The service will be more personal and you’ll often get better “insider” tips on what to see and do.

Booking Local/Small Hotels in Africa

Trying to book a guesthouse or small hotel in sub-Saharan Africa is not always easy given the lack of web sites, or an inability to accept credit cards. But most smaller hotels do have an e-mail address and they are listed in guidebooks like the Lonely Planet and Bradt guides. I always e-mail hotels directly to make reservations, and have never run into any problems on arrival. Reading reviews on TripAdvisor is an invaluable tool to find out what the small hotel is like. A change of management can drastically improve or destroy a small hotel, so getting a current review is important. Search for the location you need a hotel in, and check out the B&B or Specialty Lodging sections, it’s a goldmine for smaller, locally owned hotels.

Luxury Lodges and Hotels

You can still enjoy luxury if you stay in a Riad in Morocco, or a luxury eco-lodge in Kenya. It’s a simple matter to check if the lodge or safari camp is eco-friendly, buys from local farmers/markets, and supports/employs the community that lives nearby.

Those factors will have more impact than re-filling a pool every now and again.

In Kenya there are some very nice luxury safari camps that are built on local community lands, where the profits are shared. These conservancies have really helped benefit both wildlife and local communities, read more.

South Africa is filled with eco-friendly hotels, lodges, farms and B&B’s. The range is extensive from the amazing Grootbos Garden Lodge to the simple Tsalanang Township B&B.

Useful Eco-Hotel Listings in Africa

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa – Responsible Travel has a good directory of hotels in Africa listings include properties in: Gambia, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa – World Twitch – A birding site, that lists the best lodging in Africa, lots of farms, small guesthouses and luxury eco-lodges. Some links don’t work, try and Google the property if that’s the case.
South Africa – Fair Trade in Tourism’s Hotel Listing
South Africa – Eco-friendly accommodation list from SA Venues.
Egypt – Ecolodge Listing by It’s a Green Green World.
Ghana – Guesthouses and small hotel listings.
For more hotel listings, check the web sites of responsible tour companies, they’ll list the accommodations they use and will have vetted to make sure their practices are in line with their own ethical standards.

4 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 3: Eat in Local Restaurants, Learn to Cook

Eating in a local restaurant is a no-brainer when visiting places like Cape Town and Marrakech, where wonderful restaurants are abundant. But if you’re spending a few nights in Nairobi, Accra or Kigali, don’t be tempted to eat all your meals in the hotel restaurant. Get out and explore the local cuisine.

While few African capitals offer gourmet fare, many have very good restaurants serving local dishes.

No need to head for the local Italian (unless you’ve been without for a few months), just ask the hotel manager where s/he would dine out. Read up on local specialties before you go. Many East African cities have excellent Indian restaurants for example. Always sample the local beer and wine, it’s one of the joys of traveling. I have been wonderfully surprised by Rwandan beer, Tunisian wine, and cannot spend a day without chewing on some biltong when in Southern Africa.

Of course you want to avoid any stomach issues as you get used to new spices and oils, so start off slowly. If you are sampling street food, make sure it’s cooked well and try to avoid salads and fruits that may be washed with untreated water. More about — Food and Drink in Africa.

Take a Cooking Course While on Vacation in Africa

There are culinary vacations in Morocco for example that include a stay in a local Riad, shopping in markets for ingredients and lessons from locally trained chefs. South Africa is becoming a culinary destination for foodies from around the world.

But you don’t have to limit yourself to the haute cuisine of the Winelands, you can also try a one day cooking course in a township. A small Tanzanian safari operator offers a Tanzanian cooking safari, combining wildlife viewing with a chance to practice local recipes.

Many smaller hotels throughout Africa offer a chance for the curious cook to walk into the kitchen and find out how local dishes are made. Exchanging recipes and sharing a love of food is a great way to connect. In Ghana small hotels can arrange a cooking workshop with ladies from a local community. Mixing a little fufu is wonderful way to immerse yourself in the local culture, and build up your biceps at the same time.

5 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 4: Shop in Local Markets, Take a Craft Tour

A simple way to be a responsible traveler in Africa, is to shop locally. Help the local economy by shopping in markets and stores around town. Buy your gifts from traders and artists directly. Get some clothes tailored locally. Enjoy bargaining for trinkets, it’ll help your local language skills. Visiting a market or souq is one of the most enjoyable things you can do on vacation in Africa. Whether its immersing yourself in the medina of Fes in Morocco and buying a lamp, or getting sandals made at a Maasai market in Tanzania, you’ll love the experience.

If you are unsure of your bargaining skills, or find the hustle a bit over-bearing, most African capitals will have a government or privately sponsored arts and craft shop that sells crafts from all over the country at fixed prices. Just ask your operator, or hotel staff for directions.

Buy Direct from the Artists

If you really enjoy arts and crafts, try to include a visit to a village where crafts are made, and get to meet the artists themselves. There are many communities throughout the continent which specialize in their own unique crafts. For example in Zimbabwe, there’s Tengenenge Village, inhabited by sculptors and their families, all dedicated to creating beautiful Shona sculpture.

Craft villages outside of Kumasi in Ghana offer visitors the chance to try their hand at Adinkra printing, pot making, Kente weaving, brass casting and bead-making. (See sample tour).

Take a Craft Tour

Whether you are an experienced artist or not, a craft tour will certainly get your creative juices flowing and they offer a truly authentic experience.

There are lots of choices out there, examples of craft tours in Africa include:

Weaving Tour in Morocco – Ingrid Wagner, a textile designer/maker, global traveler, and language teacher, offers small-group travel to Morocco. Participants learn how to weave, knot, and embroider in the Moroccan rug-making tradition; visit local dyeing and spinning workshops; and create their own pieces of work. Craft Tour of South Africa – Nancy Crow offers an arts and crafts tour in South Africa. The tours are designed to take visitors off the beaten path to discover the textiles, arts, and crafts of the regions; small groups of travelers meet local people in their homes and studios and visit colorful markets.

Ashanti Craft and Community Tour – A tour of Ghana’s crafting communities, a chance to find out how kente cloth is made, pottery, beads, markets and a little drumming to top it off. Textile Tour of South Africa led by African Threads founder, Valerie Hearder. This two week tour takes in the best of KwaZulu-Natal’s rich crafting heritage, and moves along the coast to end in Cape Town. The tours fill up quickly, and they are now accepting reservations for 2014. Of course there are plenty of opportunities to try your hand at a little crafting, weaving or pottery without taking an official tour. You can try your hand at a little batik in Ziguinchor, Senegal; or spend a day crafting in Cape Town.

If this is all too hands on, you can always just appreciate the mastery of the leather workers at the Fes tannery, in Morocco, or the Cedi Bead factory in Ghana’s Volta region.

6 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 5: Minimise Your Carbon Footprint

Part of being a “Responsible traveler” is to leave as light a carbon footprint as possible. For many destinations in Africa, a long haul flight is unavoidable. Most of the major airlines now run their own carbon offset programs, KLM for example, is making strides in this field. There are several online web sites where you can calculate the carbon offsets you would need to purchase to cover your trip.

Make sure you purchase Gold Standard carbon offsets and read the David Suzuki Foundation’s article for more on this topic.

Take a Direct Flight

The general lack of direct flights to many African destinations (especially from North America) makes this option almost impossible. However, if you can limit the puddle jumpers, try and do so. Business travelers in particular can make efforts in their scheduling so they’re not flying back and forth repeatedly. Given the state of the roads in many countries in Africa, flying is often the most efficient way to get around, but there are plenty of countries with a decent railway system and bus network.

Use Local Transport

Using local transport is a great way to experience Africa and its better for the environment. If you’ve booked a luxury safari, it’s unlikely you will be using local transport at any time. But for other trips find out what the local transport options are like. If you are visiting a country like Morocco, Egypt, or Tunisia, train travel is safe and reliable.

The networks are decent, there is really no need to rent a car or driver, unless you’re heading towards the desert. South Africa also has a fine network of luxury coaches that travel everywhere and the World Cup brought better transport options within the cities.

Ride a Bike

If you are really concerned with your environmental impact when traveling in Africa, you could check into a cycling holiday. Traveling by bike is a wonderful way to experience the “real” Africa. See more about — Cycling in Africa.

Walking Tours and Safaris

If you’re on safari in Africa, you’ll soon get tired of spending hours in a vehicle. Outside of the National Parks there are always options for a nature walk with a knowledgeable local guide. Spare some gas and go walkabout. Even better, opt for a walking safari. The best ones are in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.

If you’re visiting a city or town, stretch your legs and explore on foot, it makes for a much more spontaneous and interesting vacation.

7 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 6: Mix it Up With the Locals, Volunteer

Traveling responsibly in Africa includes respecting the local culture and keeping an open mind. Make an effort to meet people that are not getting paid by you to guide them, carry your luggage, and serve you food. They’re working and will often give you an answer they think you would like to hear. Mix it up by either volunteering some of your time and helping out with a community initiative, or spend time with traditional cultures while on safari.

And just talk to regular people on the train, or in a shop about issues that affect us all — local politics, soccer, education, children, in-laws. You’ll find a lot of common ground.


There are lots of options to volunteer for a few days, a week or several months in Africa that can all be added on to your vacation. The very nature of these programs means you will automatically be eating, sleeping and shopping locally. Africa does not lack labor, and unemployment is extremely high, so expect to pay a program fee for your experience. Find out more about volunteering in Africa and family volunteer vacations.

Traditional Tribes

In both Southern and East Africa you are likely to meet members of traditional tribes, especially when you are on safari. The Maasai, Samburu, and Himba are all nomadic pastoralists whose traditional land use has been affected by the establishment of wildlife parks and reserves. The relationship between the two is complicated to say the least, and will become more so if they do not see any benefits of having tourists drive around gazing at lions who tend to eat their cattle.

So, spend at least an afternoon with traditional Maasai, visit their kraals, buy some necklaces, support a clinic.

In Southern Africa, the Kalahari is home to various hunter-gatherer tribes, collectively known as “San” or “Basarwa”. Tanzania’s Hadzabe tribe follow a similar lifestyle. These traditional hunter-gatherers have also lost land to farms and wildlife reserves. They are seen as “backward” by their own governments and have little power. You can help. As a tourist, the more interest you show in wanting to learn about these cultures, the stronger their voice will be.

Dig a Little Beyond the Surface

It took me just a few hours after landing in Morocco to discover that Arabic was not the first language of my taxi driver, but Tamazight. And referring to his culture as “Berber” instead of Amazigh, basically meant I was calling him a barbarian. When you dig beyond the surface in Africa, you discover a hugely rich tapestry of language, arts and culture. There are thousands of linguistic groups and unique cultures in Africa, it’s not just limited to traditional tribes. South Africa for example is filled with fascinating cultures that you will only begin to comprehend if you get out of your hotel or safari lodge and head into the townships and rural countryside. Taking a craft tour or culinary vacation is a wonderful way to get a taste of cultural variety.

8 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 7: Pack for a Good Cause

Thinking of bringing gifts, or donating to a school while traveling to Africa? Please consider this list so you can give responsibly. It’s important for visitors to respect the community they are giving to, and aim to give in a sustainable manner. The last thing you want to do is perpetuate a cycle of dependency, encourage corruption, or burden a community you are trying to help.

Travelers Philanthropy, a project of the Center for Responsible Travel, has come up with an excellent set of guidelines to help you navigate the best way to give your valuable money and time, so everyone benefits.

Bringing Gifts and Toys

If you are bringing supplies or toys, give them to the head of the school or clinic. You will rarely have enough toys for all the kids and it will just lead to disappointment. Make sure you arrive with a prior appointment so you don’t disrupt the routine. Ask what is needed most before you go. I have a mental image of schools along the main safari route in Kenya enjoying 3000 smiley faced balls from Target, but lacking pencils. Your tour operator should be able to organize a visit and many fund and support schools themselves.

Bringing School Supplies

Old computers are quite useless if there’s intermittent electricity, no internet, no technician, no lab and no one to train pupils how to use them. Supplies like pencils and school notebooks can always be used, but first check with the school you are visiting. There may be supplies you can buy locally that they need more urgently.

School uniforms for example, are a huge expense for many African families and kids cannot attend school without them. Whatever you decide to bring or buy, hand it to the head of school, not the children directly.

Bringing Candy and Trinkets

Nothing wrong with sharing sweets if you’re eating them, but don’t bring them with the purpose of handing them out to local kids. Rural African children have little access to dental care. Also, you would never just hand out candy to kids you don’t know at home. They may have dietary issues, their parents may not want you to give their kids sweets. You will turn kids into beggars and rob them of their self-esteem. There are plenty of villages around Africa where at the first sight of a tourist, the yells for “bon bons” or “give me pen” are deafening. It’s not a great relationship.

Financing a School, Orphanage, or Medical Center

The local community has to be involved in every stage of a project that plans to build or finance a school, orphanage or medical center. If you wish to donate your money or time, go through a local charity or organization that is already established in the area with maximum participation by community members. If the community has no stake in a project, it will fail to be sustainable. Your tour operator should be able to help you locate projects in the area you will be visiting.

9 of 9 Responsible Travel to Africa — Tip 8: Help Promote a Positive Image of Africa

Africa needs marketing to combat what people see in the news. You can really help promote a positive image of Africa by telling others back home about your trip. Tourism is the mainstay for many African economies, it supports thousands of local jobs. When Kenya experienced problems during their 2007/8 elections, it took the tourism sector years to bounce back. This is despite the fact that barely any of the tourist areas were affected by the disturbances.

Of course safety is a big concern for anyone planning a vacation, but Africa’s reputation as an unsafe, poverty stricken destination is unfair for the vast majority of the continent.

Help Promote a Balanced View of Africa

The way many people perceive regular daily life in Africa is not even close to reality. If you can show your friends and family back home photos of people going about their daily business, market places filled with traders, and stalls piled high with food, you’ll already be doing your job as “responsible traveler”. Take videos of churches filled with song and kids running home for lunch in their smart school uniforms.

Yes, there is lots of poverty in Africa, but that doesn’t automatically mean there is misery. I’ve seen more smiling faces and genuine joy coming from barefooted children in Tanzania and Malawi, than from my kids classmates at school in New York. The key is to help promote a balanced view of Africa. If you happen to be in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, of course the Genocide Memorial Museum will be a main attraction, but don’t ignore the vitality you will feel in this pleasant, clean little city.

Encourage Friends and Family to Visit Africa

Some destinations in Africa are easier to sell than others. The fine wines and world class restaurants in the beautiful Cape Winelands beats anything that Napa Valley or the Loire Valley has to offer. Pictures of the Serengeti, the Victoria Falls and other top destinations in Africa will make all your Facebook fans swoon with envy. Keep posting them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go to Africa

There are so many different vacations on offer in Africa, there will always be something to suit you. If you are a woman and concerned about traveling alone in Africa, read these tips. If you are unsure about traveling to a developing country, read these tips. If you are worried about the dangers of traveling in Africa, read these tips.


Could One of These Young African Women Scientists Be the Next Einstein?

A Moroccan woman may have founded the first university in the world that still exists today in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco, but less than a third of researchers in Africa are women, according to data from UNESCO.

When organised by fields of research, the representation is even lower. Nation Newsplex found that science, technology engineering and math (STEM) constitute just 29 per cent of all research done in Africa.

It was this dismal record that led African and world leaders, policymakers, leading scientists and company executives from over 100 countries to the first global gathering of scientists in Africa in Dakar, Senegal, to commit to prioritising the enrolment of women in STEM programmes at tertiary level.

The leaders pledged to target 30 per cent women at the tertiary level by 2020, and increase the proportion to 40 per cent by 2025.

Among the hundreds of delegates who took part in the forum that was held in Dakar, Senegal, were six women scientists under the age of 42, elected for their ground-breaking work.

Cellular immunologist Evelyn Gitau from Kenya, public health specialist Tolu Oni from Nigeria, theoretical physicist Amanda Weltman and hypertension & heart disease specialist Alta Schutte both from South Africa, environmental engineer Sherien Elagroudy and chemistry scientist Ghada Bassioni from Egypt are six of 15 Next Einstein Fellows whose work in science took centre stage at the first ever Next Einstein Forum (NEF).

Having chosen careers in the four fields of science – STEM – the young scientists are walking a career path less travelled by women on the continent. So how have they managed to achieve so much so early in life?

As a student at Kenya High School Evelyn looked forward to spending her free time at the chemistry lab at the University of Nairobi where her best friend’s father was the head of Chemistry department.

She told Newsplex this inspired her to study Chemistry at university even though she had been selected for the inaugural medicine class at Moi University. It also led her to work in the field of cellular immunology at the Kemri -Wellcome Trust Programme Kenya.

Perhaps because of the overwhelming socio-economic problems facing Africa, most research on the continent is in applied science, research that focuses on finding solutions to particular problems e.g. food insecurity, rather than fundamental science, which is driven by curiosity.


Amanda, who has spent her life work involved in fundamental research is therefore a rare breed of scientist. Her current research focus is on explaining and observing the two greatest unknown components of our universe, dark energy and dark matter.

“It is ok to fail in science because it gets us so much closer to the solution,” says the first woman in South Africa to be a math or physics research chair. Her love of solving problems led her to the playground of the universe, theoretical physics.

She is best known for proposing the Chameleon field – a particle that could be responsible for causing the observed accelerated expansion of the universe while also causing interesting, unexpected local and solar system physical effects that could be observed in purpose-built experiments.

Her work has created new research subfields in cosmology and experimental physics. She completed a PhD at Colombia University in the US in 2007.

Both Evelyn and Amanda say that mentorship and making science practical are important ingredients to attracting girls to study science. “I did not have women in my field to look up to when I started my career but I had positive male role models including my PhD supervisor and my husband,” says Evelyn who at the age of 27 was awarded a PhD in cellular immunology by the Open University UK in collaboration with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

She often wonders whether her career would have taken a different path had she not had a great chemistry teacher in high school and opportunity to explore in a well-equipped chemistry lab.

Despite their hectic careers the two NEF fellows are passionate about education and giving a helping hand to girls who are seeking to follow in their footsteps. Amanda served as an elected member of the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS) for 2014/2015, and was involved in founding the multi-blogger, multilingual mathematics blog

She is currently working with the New York Academy of Sciences on the Clinton Global Initiative, “1000 Girls, and 1000 Futures”.

Evelyn is involved in a mentorship program in the counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Taita and Kilifi, where girls in class six are paired up with girls in Form Three and challenged to work on an innovation to take to their communities. “I recently mentored a duo who came up with a way to purify water using solar. One girl’s grandmother helped them to convince people in their community to try their invention. I could see that the Standard Six pupil was picking up the science faster than her high school teammate,” she says.

Evelyn was recently appointed a programme manager at the African Academy of Science – Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) where she is responsible for the implementation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported Grand Challenges Africa initiative, in which AESA is a partner.

Early Predictors

Evelyn hopes to develop cheap, point-of-care diagnostic methods that can better stratify malnourished children, to inform on alternative clinical management for those that remain at risk of death due to infection despite nutritional rehabilitation.

Also working in the areas of public health are NEF fellows Tolu and Alta. Tolu, who earned her her doctoral research degree in 2012 from the Imperial College in London, is working on establishing the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE), a platform to address complex public health challenges through a coordinated and inter-sectoral partnership between academia, civil society and government.

Alta is the principal investigator of the African-PREDICT study aiming to track young healthy individuals for the next 20 years using the latest medical technology in the field, thereby hoping to discover early predictors for the development of hypertension. Alta, who obtained her Doctorate degree at the age of 24 from Potchefstroom University, hopes to turnaround the upward trend in hypertension development in Africa.

According to South Africa‘s Minister for Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, African countries must also come up with progressive policies that address the challenges women face in science and technology. “Discrimination and prejudice are unscientific and so it must be addressed in science,” she says.

Ms Pandor knows all too well the difference policy makers reducing the gender gap in science. When she was first appointed to her current post she was disappointed to learn that only one of the 16 heads of the Centres of Excellence established in her country was led by women. To remedy the situation, she created 43 research chairs and decreed that only qualified women should apply.

At first her staff told her there were not enough qualified women in the country to fill the posts but when she insisted there were, they advertised the posts.

In the end 84 women met the basic qualifications. “There are women in science. We just choose to make them invisible,” she says. One in four of South Africa’s professors (552 out of 1,640) are women, according to data from South Africa’s Department of Higher Education.

The first comprehensive global survey of science academies that investigated women’s global representation in science academy membership, governance and activities found that only 12 per cent of the members of 69 national science academies are women.

The study, released in February this year, found that mathematics had the lowest representation of women as academy members, with six per cent in mathematical sciences, and five per cent in engineering sciences. In 30 of those academies, the share of women members was ten per cent or less, including Tanzania (four per cent), Kenya (seven per cent) and Uganda (13 per cent), according to the report by Global Network of Science Academies and the Academy of Science of South Africa.

The report recommends data collection and reporting on gender, and permanent structures to implement gender-mainstreaming activities in academia.

The representation of women in the Cuban Academy of Sciences, which had the largest share of women, was 27 per cent, almost four times as large as Kenya’s and times larger than Kenya’s and almost seven times as large as Tanzania’s.

Women are ‘best’ represented in the social sciences, humanities and arts with 16 per cent of all members in these disciplines across all science academies being women, followed by the biological sciences (15 per cent) and the medical and health sciences (14 per cent)

Overall, the average share of women on the governing body was lowest, at 17 per cent, for the subset of national academies admitting members in all disciplines, compared to 20 per cent for academies admitting members only in the pure natural or physical sciences. While two of 14, or 14 per cent of Kenya’s National Science Academy governing body members are women, the ratio is one in 11 or nine per cent in Uganda and one in six or 17 per cent in Tanzania. The national academy of sciences in the United States at 47 per cent, together with two European academies in Switzerland and Sweden, both 47 per cent, have the best representation of women as members of the governing body.

Other scientists at the NEF forum recommended the established of more awards that acknowledge the contribution of women in STEM to raise their profile. Indeed many NEF fellows said that the recognition they had received over the years inspired them to greater heights.

For instance, Sherien’s work was recognised with the L’Oreal UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science in 2013, and she was honored as a young scientist at the World Economic Forum in China in 2013. A fellow of the Global Young Academy as well as a steering committee member of Egypt’s Young Academy of Science, she holds a PhD from Ryerson University in Egypt.

Sherien, who is currently engaged in several research grants of more than $3.5 million in the fields of solid waste management, biochemical waste treatment technologies and waste to energy, hopes to transform waste materials into new materials or products, towards the upper end of the innovation scale.

Although she works in a continent which contributes on two per cent of research publications Ghada has over 50 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. Ghada, who was award a PhD by the Technische Universität München TUM, im Munich, Germany, hopes to use interdisciplinary approaches to solve societal challenges like fresh water supply.

power for africa

A new road map for Power Africa

An ambitious new road map released last week lays out how Power Africa, the United States government initiative to increase power generation capacity and access to electricity in Africa, will achieve its targets by 2030. The report outlines areas of new emphasis for the initiative, including a greater focus on energy access and on renewables.

And the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which codifies the work of the initiative and should ensure its longevity. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, which differs a bit from Power Africa goals — it sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation, on Dec. 18 and it now awaits approval from President Barack Obama, which should be forthcoming.

In 2013 when it announced Power Africa, the U.S. committed $7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about $43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.

6 initiatives tackling African electrification

Here’s the run down on six initiatives that tackle Africa’s electrification needs.

The initial goals were for Power Africa to increase installed power capacity by 30,000 megawatts and create 60 million new connections by 2030. To date, the 13 Power Africa projects that have reached financial close are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts of power, according to the road map.

It’s important to note, and Power Africa does so in the road map, that some of those projects were underway before the initiative launched. While they didn’t come about under the auspices of the program, they met other criteria, including U.S. government involvement and meeting environmental and social safeguards.

Power Africa spent its first year focused on grid-scale generation deals, but leaders of the initiative are now looking ahead to ambitious connections targets — Power Africa-supported projects have the potential to lead to more than a million direct connections — and making changes based on lessons already learned.

Generation and access goals, for example, are “actually two totally different things,” Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator, told Devex. As a result, the road map lays out specific plans for each goal, and progress will be measured in actual connections.

“We’ve learned a ton,” Herscowitz said. “We don’t just trust everything people say at conferences. We focus on analysis and data.”

The road map

That knowledge has been poured into the road map, which has three main pillars: achieving the goal around generation; increasing the number of people with access; and driving regulatory and policy changes to improve investment opportunities and speed project timelines.

A breakdown of new power generation by type:

Natural gas: 26-30,000 megawatts
Solar: 18,000-22,000 megawatts
Wind: 5,000-6,0000 megawatts
Geothermal: 2,000-5,000 megawatts

Power Africa is tracking projects in the Power Africa Tracking Tool, an app built for the initiative, that would total about 45,000 megawatts if the projects all came online, though the road map estimates that only between 18,000-21,000 megawatts will reach financial close by 2030.

In order to meet its 30,000 megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals, which are likely to support natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.

The majority of projects in the pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems natural that one of Power Africa’s focuses will be on early stage transaction support. Many project developers say it’s also where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.

Reaching the goal of extending access to 60 million people will take a mix of relying on old technology — expanding existing grids, and new — developing innovative off-grid solutions.

One interesting prediction in the road map is that 8 million to 10 million of the new connections will come through the currently underdeveloped microgrid segment of the market, though this raises questions about how to build the appropriate structures and frameworks for those projects to succeed.

Work on the third pillar aimed at building capacity and driving regulatory reforms may be able to help some of those issues. A number of Power Africa programs or partner programs are working to help countries create solid, transparent regulatory and policy environments to help them attract investment and structure good projects.

That capacity building can also help citizens get a fair deal — a single negotiated deal between a company and a government not only takes a long time but is unlikely to provide the country good value for money, in part because African government officials often lack expertise, said Jamie Fergusson, the chief investment officer and global sector lead for renewables, infrastructure and natural resources at the International Finance Corp.

South Africa sets an example

Examples of what’s working are quickly emerging. While in many ways South Africa may not be representative of the rest of the subcontinent, it has risen as an example of a success story, particularly in scaling up grid-connected solar projects.

It’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program developed a clear structure and transparent bid process that has led to more than 2,000 megawatts of solar between 2011 and 2014 and cheaper bids over time.

Extending access

• 1 million reached so far, most off-grid

• 35-40 million new connections through scaling grid roll-out

• 25-30 million from intensifying Beyond the Grid program efforts

Solar Reserve, global developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has won several bids and built grid-connected solar projects in South Africa. The latest, a 100 megawatt project with 12-hour storage, is set to start construction in the next two months.

The company continue to bid on projects in South Africa because the government built a program that commercially makes sense, has political support at the highest levels and a committed team that carries out the work, is transparent and keeps its word, said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve.

While South Africa has some advantages — it’s size, local expertise, a strong banking system lower currency risks —other countries can learn from their example, he said. Governments need to put together commercial documentation that makes sense, provide clarity around the offtaker and how it works, needs to abide by international arbitration and devise a transparent and open bidding process that sticks to a set schedule, Smith added.

Working together

Since Power Africa was launched, a bevy of other organizations focused on electrifying the continent have emerged and the initiative has amassed some 120 partners, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian government and many private developers, financiers and foundations. Managing that many groups is not always easy.

Coordination amongst the donor and development finance institution community takes long, patient conversations, and some head banging, Ferguson said.

“There’s politics and good intent and different organizations with their own mandates,” he said. “It is not all perfectly coordinated. Lots of sensible people, but still those conversations have to be had.”

Herscowitz said he is proud of the initiative’s efforts, especially in bringing the various actors together. The level of coordination among the donor organizations is “unprecedented,” he said, citing the example of household solar, where Power Africa, the AfDB and the U.K. Department for International Development got together to discuss their work on in the space and decided to have DfID take the lead. That cooperation helped shape what U.K.’s Energy Africa initiative does, Herscowitz said.

There are organizations stepping up to lead on other issues as well, like the World Bank and AfDB on grid rollout, organizations like the U.S. Trade Development Agency on project preparation, and the IFC on grid-level solar.

With so many players, determining how each player slots in and where donor and DFI capital should be used is important.

The IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, for example, emerged to fill a gap in helping to structure and simplify the process of developing grid-connected solar projects. The program developed a template process and document set to help a government run through a process determining how much solar they want on their grid, where it should go, if appropriate sites can be developed and how it could run a competitive process to identify an independent power producer.

“Scaling Solar is designed with collaboration in that donor and DFI ecosystem in mind,” Ferguson said.

Governments will need help paying for advisory work and in financing the projects themselves, which is where donors can step in. For example, in Zambia, the first country to sign on to Scaling Solar, DfID and Power Africa are helping pay for advisory costs.

Donor financing helped many of the rapidly expanding home solar companies get off the ground — one of the most exciting development to Herscowitz personally. Super efficient fans, irons and televisions are allowing off-grid customers to “live an on-grid life,” he said, which can change the market and impact the climate change discussion.

“Donors and public money is limited and precious and, I would argue, should be targeted where you can’t attract private capital — transmission lines, distribution companies, public utilities, all of those things that you can’t attract private capital for,” Ferguson said.

But every market where Power Africa is tracking deals has some role for the public sector to play — it’s role is to “bridge market imperfections,” test new models and get first-of-a-kind deals done, Herscowitz said.

How well Power Africa picks the places or types of projects it invests in and how that translates to achieving its goals will certainly be measured against the road map, which may well serve as a blueprint as the U.S. and it’s big coalition of partners work to push things along.

africa resaearch

How Africa-EU research cooperation is improving energy access in Africa

Energy in Africa is a scarcer commodity than in the developed world. Fifteen percent of the world’s population lives on the African continent, yet they represent only 3 percent of global electricity consumption.

On average, electricity consumption per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is less than that needed to power a 50-watt light bulb continuously. The 48 sub-Saharan countries have a combined installed generation base of only 68 gigawatts, according to the African Development Bank. This is roughly equal to the generation capacity of Spain, a country whose population is less than 5 percent of that of sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2011, the international community initiated a drive toward achieving universal access to modern energy services by 2030 under the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

Substantially increasing energy access rates has the potential to significantly lift people out of poverty, create more dignified living conditions and expand economic opportunities. The current high level of energy poverty across  Africa undermines the economic and social development of the continent. It can also fuel political instability and can even have an influence on the creation of failed states. Indeed, worldwide there appears to be a strong correlation between political stability and higher electrification rates.

The importance of modern energy technologies

Historically, access to and utilization of modern energy technologies have played a huge role in improved quality of life. Much of human activity revolves around securing adequate and appropriate food and accessing conditions of thermal comfort.

Access to modern energy services — defined by the International Energy Agency as household access to electricity and clean cooking facilities — makes it much easier for individual households to meet these needs.

They help individuals to feed themselves and their families, to feel secure, comfortable and healthy in their homes, to communicate more effectively and access information and entertainment and to take advantage of opportunities to develop income generating activities and thus improve family livelihoods.

Improving the reliability and coverage of energy systems is absolutely crucial for a successful industrialization process that can foster the growth of new industries with meaningful value addition. Lack of access to modern energy systems has slowed down the socio-economic development of African countries, and their participation in the global economy remains marginal due to inflexible and inadequate energy systems.

What’s needed to improve energy access in Africa

How then should we go about meeting the energy needs of the continent? The two additional goals of the SE4All are to achieve the radical transformations in energy access while actively driving down global carbon emissions via the promotion of low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency. It is important that the “global north” and “global south” work together to support all African countries to achieve the ambitious goals encapsulated within the SE4All.

Encouragingly, recent international agreements — such as those announced at the Paris climate conference in December  — have committed the world’s richer countries to investing significant resources to the rapid acceleration of renewable energy across the countries of the global south. This will ultimately help mitigate climate change and promote sustainable local development.

The role of capacity building and applied research in accelerating this uptake cannot be underestimated. This includes development, optimization and dissemination of new technologies; innovative mechanisms for financing renewable energy projects; and evidence for formulating efficient policies for renewable energy.

This is why the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Program, which supports renewable energy market development in Africa, has recently launched efforts to provide a scientific platform for renewable energy research cooperation between the continent and the European Union.

The role of international scientific and development communities

Earlier this month, the inaugural Africa-EU research symposium was held in Tlemcen, Algeria. The event was attended by 135 international experts, representing universities, research institutions, public sector, industry associations, and international organizations from 30 countries in Africa and Europe. The symposium highlighted three action areas for the international scientific and development communities.

First, while the role of academia in advancing renewable energy market and policies cannot be underestimated, it is unfortunate that most research projects end with the publication of a scientific paper.

Researchers need to build closer partnerships with the private sector in order to translate science into practical and bankable solutions that will have a positive impact on markets and livelihoods while also contributing to the financial sustainability of research institutions. Private sector players, on the other hand, should also be involved in all stages of a research project, ensuring that research meets actual market needs.

Second, access to energy is not just a question of physical access to energy sources; it is also about people’s ability to pay for them. Many communities across Africa live within meters of national grid systems and yet have no access to the electricity passing so close to their homes. It is therefore important to take a people-centered approach in every research project on renewable energy in Africa. This includes the need to focus on cost-effective, household level off-grid solutions and the acknowledgment of the role of women in energy use, entrepreneurship, policy making and research.

Last, although funds are available, financing renewable energy research in Africa remains a challenge. Lack of awareness, difficult application procedures and limited capacities often hinder access to available funding sources such as Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation funding program. Joint research proposals with international partner institutions can substantially increase chances for successful applications and increase the quality of research output.


Analysis towards Effective Policing in Nigeria





Security of life and property is the bedrock of social, economic and political stability of any nation. Man as a unique creature with peculiar and complex nature could be instinctively unpredictable and uncontrollable. And this explains why humans are the major determinant and provider of security in a society. Governments of nations are therefore saddled with the responsibility of internal security through established agencies empowered by law.  This duty is distilled into standard policing to enforce



law and order in the wake of a secured/safe environment. The standard of policing available to nation determines the level of development of that country. Unfortunately, the Nigeria police has not been able to live up to expectation in providing adequate security to the nation. In carrying out the research, the secondary source of information and data was utilized. The findings reveal that several factors are responsible for police inefficiency and ineffectiveness, which include corruption, poor funding by government and lack of confidence by the general public. The paper recommended some important strategies for effective policing which includes re-orientation of the police, proper training, provision of firearms, motivation and public responsibility.




Evolution of Nigeria Police Force


The Pre-Colonial era in the West Coast of Africa witnessed a policing arrangement that was purely indigenous to the community of people involved. Emphasis was however on service, as traditional rulers used well able bodied men for the administration of justice. Although, no semblance of official organization characterized the policing arrangement on ground before the annexation of Lagos as a British Colony in 1861. The Colonialist however introduced warrant Chief through the Emirs in the North and Obas in the West to protect colonial trade and commerce. The economic constraint experienced by the British official between 1840 and 1861 then led to the emergence of the Lagos Consular Guard that comprise a 30 man guard to enforce law and order, and to maintain sanitary regulations.


In 1863, the 30 member Consular Guard was renamed Hausa Guard, So-named after ethnicity of the men recruited into the unit. It was further regularized in 1879 by an ordinance creating a constabulary for the Colony of Lagos. Thus, the Hausa Guard became known as Hausa Constabulary. On January 1, 1896, the Lagos Police Force was created and armed like the ”Hausa Constabulary” While the South-South which includes the states of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers states were declared the oil River Protectorate in 1891 with Headquarters at Calabar where an armed Constabulary was formed. (Obaro 2014).


In 1900, the Royal Niger Constabulary was later divided into the Northern Nigerian Police and the Northern Nigeria Regiment. In the Southern Region, the Lagos Police Force and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary collapsed into the Southern Nigeria Regiments. Although Nigeria amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorate took place in 1914, it was not until 1930 that the Southern and Northern regional Police forces were brought together to form the Nigeria Police Force. Their Headquarters was to be in Lagos.


The new Police Forces were in addition to normal civil police duties, responsible for dealing with internal disturbance and external aggression.   In 1960



under the first Republic, these forces were first regionalized and then nationalized. In 1943 the Northern and Western Regions of Nigeria established their arm regional police. There existed a local government police. They were all merged into the Nigeria Police Force in 1968. The Nigerian Police Force graduated from Colonial policing machinery to a national security outfit (Olong and Agbonika 2013).


Successive Nigeria Constitutions since 1979 have provided for the existence of the Nigeria Police Force as the national police of Nigeria with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country.




The Nigerian Police Force maintains a three-tier administration structure of departments, zonal and state commands. Table below shows the administrative structure.


1. Department of

Finance and Administration

Finance and


General Administration
2. Department of


Operations Crime prevention , public

order, public safety

3. Department of

Logistics and Supply

Logistics and supply Works and Public Estate


4. Department of

Training and Development

Training Human Resources
5. Department of

Research and Planning

Planning, Research

and Development

Statistics and Data
6. Department of

Criminal Investigation

Force Criminal

Investigation Dept (FORCID)

7. Department of

Information Technology

Information and

Communication Technology



Wikipedia (2015)



A Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) was to be set up as the successor to the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation; three directorate were established for operations, administration and logistics, each headed by a deputy inspector general.


The Directorate of Operations was subdivided into four units under a deputy director operation, training, communications, and the mobile police.


The Directorate of Administration was composed of an administration unit headed by an assistant inspector general (AIG), and budget and personnel units under commissioners.


The Directorate of Logistics had for units – procurement, workshop/transport, supply and work/maintenance – under AIGS were authorized to transfer officers up to the rank of chief superintendent, to set up provost units, to deploy mobile units, and to promote officers between the ranks of sergeant and inspector.


The above three Directorates were renamed Departments. Department of Criminal Investigation

The Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is divided into sections, with most of them headed by Commissioners of police (CP). The Sections are:


  1. Administration
  2. Anti-Fraud Section
  • The Central Criminal
  1. Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)
  2. X-Squad
  3. General Investigation
  • Special Fraud Unit (SRU)
  • Legal Section
  1. Forensic Science Laboratory
  2. Interpol Liaison
  3. Homicide
  • Anti-Human Trafficking Unit
  • Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB)
  • DCI Kaduna Annex


Police Mobile Force


The Police Mobile Force was established as a strike or Anti-riot unit under the control of the inspector-general of police to counter incidents of civil disturbance. There are presently 12 Mopol commands, 52 police squads which are spread amongst 36 state commands and Federal Capital Territory (FCT)



Supervision of Nigeria Police


Three major Governmental Agencies oversee the control and supervision of the Nigerian police.


  • The Police Service Commission
  • The Nigeria Police Council
  • The Ministry of Police Affairs


Inspector General of the Nigerian Police


Name                                       Period of Office


  1. IGP Louis Edet 1964 – 1966
  2. IGP Kam Salem 1966 – 1975
  3. IGP Muhammadu Dikko Yesufu 1975 – 1979
  4. IGP Adamu Suleiman 1979 – 1981
  5. IGP Sunday Adewusi 1981 – 1985
  6. IGP Etim Inyang 1985 – 1986
  7. IGP Muhammadu Gambo-Jimeta 1986 – 1990
  8. IGP Aliyu Atta 1990 – 1993
  9. IGP Ibrahim Coomassie 1993 – 1999
  10. IGP Musiliu Smith 1999 – 2002
  11. IGP Mustafa Adebayo Balogun 2002 – 2005
  12. IGP Sunday Ehindero 2005 – 2007
  13. IGP Mike Mbama Okiro 2007 – 2009
  14. IGP Ogbonna Okechuku Onoro 2009 – 2010
  15. IGP Hatif Ringim 2010 – 2012
  16. IGP Mohammed Dikko Abubaka 2012 – 2014
  17. IGP Suleiman Abba 2014 – 2015
  18. IGP Solomon Arase Inspector General of Police


Functions of the Police


It is problematic to define contemporary police mainly in terms of their supposed role and function (Kurian, 2006). According to Sullivan (2005), the uniting feature of police work is not a particular social function, whether it is crime, control, social service, order maintenance or political repression. Rather, it is that all demands on the police involve something that ought not to be happening and about which someone had better do something now.


The Nigeria Police Force performed conventional police functions and responsible for internal security generally; for supporting the Prison, Immigration and Customs Services and for performing Military duties, within or outside Nigeria as directed. (Nigeria Police Watch, 2011).



Society through its law gives its government wide powers for the purpose of efficient and effective preservation of law and order, protection of citizens from suffering, fear and loss of life and property produced by crime and violent conflict. The police is inherently, the most visible symbol of any government power and authority and primary enforcement of its law; an institution of social control in the hands of those who are managers of the state. (Obaro, 2014).


The Problems of Nigeria Police


The integrity of the Nigeria police has been eroded by the ineffectiveness and inefficiency in their constitutional responsibilities to the society. As a nation, our security report has now been worse. Terrorism visited their targets at will; armed robbers hold up towns to ransom for hours as if in stubborn defiance while reports of ritual killings are on the increase, and kidnappings continue unabated. Standing between the wave of crime and the people is the police force that seems to have caught unprepared; a force that is poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly paid and deeply corrupt. (Nwachukwu, 2012).


The Nigeria Police suffer deficit of public legitimation and support, the public do not trust and support the police because their performance is poor. Also the public regards the character and level of accountability of the police as grossly unsatisfactory. The police in the nation are generally feared but not respected, distracted and despised by the Nigeria public (Ibidapo-obe, 2003).


According to Olong and Agbonika (2013) one sad aspect of the Nigeria Police under the present dispensation is that the police have become a tool for the perpetration of electoral malpractice and an instrument in the hand of the ruling government to frustrate popular democracy.


The Nigeria Police are becoming notorious for right of abuse, corruption and lack efficiency. The Police personnel are poorly paid. They do not get proper training, the politicians treat them like private. (Lukman, 2014)


The Nigeria police under the present dispensation is that the policy have become a tool for the perpetration of electoral malpractice and instrument for victizing political opponents and parties. (Oteh and Alexander 2012).


There is today a widespread feeling of fear and insecurity in the land. Nigerians do not feel safe anywhere; at home, at work, on the highways, at the airports and even within the hallowed precints of places of worship. It is possible to link the unprecedented rise in violent crimes and the alarming new dimensions of organized terrorist activities to the refusal of the authorities to engage in meaningful dialogue with significant segments of civilian population. Some Nigerians see this development as the only available option to express deep-seated frustration and anger, for violence invariably begets even further violence.



According to Okeineme (2010) another area where the force seems to have performed below expectation in the past and needs to improve upon is the area of violence control and management. Some Nigerians especially the youths have been felled by police bullets in the name of controlling crowd violents. In such cases, many of such culprits attribute such unfortunate occurrence to accidental discharges.


The Impediments to Effective Policing in Nigeria


Nigeria police performance is unsatisfactory; the police are ineffective and inefficient in their job of crime prevention, criminal investigation, and response to distress calls by citizens. The poor performance is due to several factors, but mainly to lack of development of productive and social infrastructure in society; inappropriate policing strategies; inadequate intelligence gathering, analysis and utilization skills and facilities, inadequacy of officers in terms of quality and training at various ranks; poor training and conditions of service; lack of public co-operation; grossly inadequate logistics (especially transpiration; telecommunication, arms and ammunition etc); poor remuneration and lack of motivation by the force and superior officers. The challenge is that an ineffective police force cannot command the respect of the public. (Adeyemi, 2001) Ididapa-Obe,


  • Dearth of Manpower


One of the glaring problems of the Nigeria police force is lack of manpower. The force is the principal law enforcement agency in Nigeria with a staff strength of about 371,800 consisting of 36 commands grouped in 12 zones and 7 administrative organs. (Wikipedia, 2015). This manpower strength is definitely too minimal to cope with the policing of the population of Nigeria which is estimated to about 150 million.


  • Corrupt Practices


Policing in Nigeria cannot be discussed without using corruption as a conceptual framework of study. Corruption is a problem since the practice is increasing and not reducing in the police force. Policing in the country has been characterized by a culture of corruption and lack of accountability. Police men engage in the various forms of extortion of money from the public i.e. money is demanded from suspect to secure bail at the police stations.


  • Insufficient Funding by the Government


Many Nigerians don’t know that the only thing the Nigeria Police officers don’t buy for themselves is perhaps their guns and bullets. Most times they have to commandeer a commercial bus to convey them to their destination. Most times even the guns are fastened around their shoulders with whatever ropes they can hands upon. In most cases these officers buy the cloth materials for their uniforms and sew them with their personal money, buy their shoes, buy recharge cards to make calls on cases,



buy petrol for their vehicles, buy torches and candles to use in their offices, buy biros and writing materials they need for their work. As if that is not enough, if they are lucky to be provided with living quarters in barracks, the environment is so deplorable that only pigs can live in such places without being demoralized or even contacting diseases. They have no meaningful insurance cover that will make them rest assured that their family will not suffer in case they die in service. When a colleague is killed in service, his living colleagues are the ones who contribute money to bury their dead colleague and support his family (Onwuka, 2011).


  • Lack of Public Confidence


A lot of people are seeing the police as an enemy and as such cannot report crime to them. Policing in any nation is by the consent of the people and the police must win back their consent.


People are scared to giving information of hoodlums, kidnappers, armed robbers within their street to the police for the fear of being sold out. There are series of cases in which the information given to the police later traced to the informants. And apart from the released of the culprits who walk feely in the street, the police sources of information are also released to them.


  • Lack of effective Community Policing


According to Oyegoke (2003), a well-integrated community based policing could be a veritable source of security information to the police and other ancillary security agencies, to counter various acts of criminality. The grass roots people have distrust for Nigeria police and as such giving vital information becomes an onerous task.


Strategies for Effective Policing in Nigeria


In order to have effective policing in Nigeria several strategies need to be put in place by the government.  The following are some important strategies toward effective policing in Nigeria.


  • Re-orientation of the Police


To improve the image of the police and enhance the public cordial relation, symposia, seminars and workshops should be organized by the police authority to change the minds of its personnel on corruption as to enhance their integrity.


  • Manpower Training


According to Arase and Iwuofor (2007) training is an invaluable tool for the effective policing of any society. An untrained or ill-trained police officer lacks the requisite knowledge, skill and attitude for effective crime control and is also a threat to the  society.     Regular  training  programmes  should  be  organized  to  enhance



professionalism and productivity of the Nigeria police in the critical areas of investigation, guard duties, surveillance/intelligence gathering, conflict resolution and management, prevention of cases etc.


  • Infrastructural development


First and foremost, the government should embark on the reconstruction of barracks and the renovation of the existence as the accommodation of more officers and men at the barracks will enable speed response to distress call from citizens. Functional vehicle, patrol motorcycle and helicopters will enhance a wider aerial surveillance and patrol activities, patrol boats for the water ways security, should be provided by the Government. Also the introduction of closed circuit television (CCTV) in every nook and cranny in the country.


  • Provision of Firearms


The Government should purchase modern firearms and ammunition to replace those obsolete arm being paraded daily by the Nigeria police force. The provision of more bullet proof vests, helmets will help the force to withstand any case of insecurity at anytime in the country.


  • Motivation


Police professions is known to be an enduring one but this could not be considered as the total absence of motivation and incentives to members of Nigeria Police Force. Therefore, police men should be highly motivated for higher performance. The following are considered important incentives for the police.


  1. Salary payments should be regular.
  2. Police insurance programmes should be revitalized and be expanded to cater for the family of those who died in active servic
  3. Police pension scheme should be made pensionab
  4. Police Uniform (Dressing Kit): Police uniforms, boot, shoes and other kits should be supplied by the Government.


  • Public Responsibility


It is of old that policing is exclusively left in the hand of law enforcement agent alone. In this modern era, effective policing is collective responsibility of all member of the public. The government, the governed and the police personnel themselves are duty band to have a stake in the country policing system.


Agreed that God is the ultimate security provider, nevertheless, it is suicidal to live a careless life. Therefore, it is advisable to be mindful of the activities of criminals in one’s place of work, place of worship, home, while travelling and anywhere are may find oneself.   Give useful and timely security information to the police for prompt



attention. Information is an engine to the vehicle of security management. Criminals are not spirit; they are human beings, so expose them. Police officers are neither magicians nor miracle workers. Therefore, they need information to work with.


The Organization of an Ideal Community Based Policing


Grassroots people and lovely individuals such as villagers, drivers, messengers, farmer, prostitutes etc. could prove useful in gathering vital security information, especially if such individuals enjoy police confidence and support. In order to ensure the success of a community base policing, the following should be taken into consideration:


  1. The people should be encouraged to cultivate the habit of passing security information to the police without delay.
  2. Members of the group should voluntarily subscribe to the rules and regulations

put in place in the community.

  1. The group should have strange sense of patriotism.
  2. The group  should  have  genuine  desire  to  assist  the  Security  agencies, especially the polic


Community based policing in a security system where people living in one place or district are sensitized, encouraged and empowered to appreciate and take part in the joint effort for the protection of lives and property in their domain. The system of community based policing is more desirable in less developed countries where the instrument of conventional security management are lacking or inadequate. Conventional security arrangements alone cannot guarantee the desired security where community based policing is relegated to the background.


The Role of Traditional Rulers


Traditional rulers at all levels wield enormous influence over their subjects. They possess authorities that, if judiciously used, could help in no small measure to guarantee security of lives and properties in their domains. They occupy the position of middlemen between their subjects and the police.


The traditional ruler can be of help to the police in the following ways.


  • Attending or sending representatives to the Police Community Relations Forum.
  • Organizing vigilant and other community services in their ar
  • Enlighten their subjects on security matter.
  • Passing relevant security information to the polic
  • Identification of criminals in their comm
  • Mobilizing their subjects to support the police financially, materially and in other areas they may deem fi





Considering the factors that hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nigeria Police, expecting miracle in their performance amount to unrealistic imagination. Security cannot be compromised, it is the life wire of any nation and is ranked the highest amongst the basic needs of human beings. Effective policing gives the people the confidence and vigour to pursue their legitimate activities. It is the greatest legacy any government has for the people. The Nigeria police should be repositioned to measure up with the modern day policing by retraining towards attitudinal change, professional efficiency and effectiveness among the officers and rank and files. There is a great need for cordial relationship between the police and the public. The government should encourage the Nigeria Police by proper funding and welfare activities.




Adeyemi, A. A. (2001). “Corruption in the Administration of Justice.” Paper at the National Conference on the Problem of Corruption in Nigeria, organized by Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos and held at the Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, March 26 – 29


Alemika E. E.O. and Chukuma, I. (2000). Police community violence in Lagos, Lagos: Center for law enforcement education. In Arase, E.S., Iheanyi P.O.I (Eds.) (2007). Policing Nigeria in the 21st Century. Ibadan Spectrum Books Limited. P xxiv


Ibidapo-obe, (2003). Forward. In Jike, V.T. (Ed.). The Nigeria police and the crisis of law and order, A Book of Readings, Lagos: NISS Publications, p 111


Kurian, T.G. (2006). Police – Encyclopedia. World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems.  Detroit Mich: Thomason Gale.


Lukeman, A.O. (2014). Why Nigeria police remains a failure in our democratic setting.

Leadership:    ng/opinions/Nigeria    pshc-democratic   setting.     Accessed November 2014


Nigeria         Police         Watch         (2011).         Policing         your         police. Accessed 10/10/2014.


Nwachukwu, E. (2012). “Security Challenges and the reform of Nigeria Police”.

File.11H: the police 7. Ltn


Obaro, A.O. (2014). The Nigeria police force and the crises of legitimacy: Re-defining the structure and function of the Nigeria police. European Scientific Journal, March 2014 edition Vol. 10 No 8.  ISSN 1857-7881 (print) e-ISSN 1857 –




Okeieneme, G. (2010). – “Challenges of effective policing in Nigeria.” Retrieved 31/11/2015…/challenge


Olong, M.A. & Agbonika, J. A.C. (2013). Re-awakening the state police controversy in Nigeria: Need for rethinking. International Journal of Asia Social Science. 3(II):2307 – 2314


Onwuka, A. (2011). Why Nigeria Police is Corrupt and Ineffective. Nigeria Police Watch.  August 9, Htt://Nigeria.profilewatch


Oteh, C.O. & Mexander F.N. (2012). The Nigeria politics, safety and public policing: An Overview. International Journal of Asian Social Science. 2(7):79


Oyegoke, O. A. (2003). Private security management in Nigeria.  Benin: Petersam Books (Publisher) p. 25.


Sullivan,  L.E.  (2005).  Encyclopedia  of  Law  Enforcement.  Thousand  Oaks:  Saga Publications, New York (cited in Obaro)


Tamuno, T.N. (1970). The police in modern Nigeria. Ibadan: University Press p.164.


Umeagbalasi, E. & Ijeoma, J. (2013). Nigeria police force:  The good versus the bad & ugly. Nigeria Master Web Citizen info@intersociety- accessed 11/12/2014


Wikipedia          (2015).         “Nigeria          Police          Force”:                    Intepol.


Analysis towards Effective Policing in Nigeria

Oyemwinmina, Christopher

Security Department, University of Benin,

P.M.B. 1154, Benin City Edo State, Nigeria


GSM: +2347056022224


Aibieyi, Stanley

Institute of Public Administration and Extension Services

University of Benin, Ekehuan Campus,

Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria E-mail: GSM: +2348050283517


The Microfinance Revolution in East Africa

After many of its big nations became independent in the 1960s,1 sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and development record was disastrous for decades. Much of Africa suffered negative per capita growth. By 1990, the typical African mother had only a 30% chance of all of her children surviving to the age of five.2 Such appalling facts led to the widely shared view, reflected in the following quotation, that Africa was a hopeless case. “There should be no doubt that the worst economic disaster of the twentieth century is the dismal growth performance of the African continent.” Elsa Artadi and Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 20033 In contrast to that gloom, the facts on the ground have changed rather dramatically. For example East Africa has witnessed a faster fall in child mortality than any recorded anywhere else. In the case of Kenya:

■ Postneonatal deaths per 1,000 live births fell by half over a five-year period, dropping from 44 to 21 between the 2003 and 2008-09 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS).

■ Infant mortality dropped by 32%, from 77 deaths per 1,000 in the 2003 survey to 52 deaths per 1,000 in the 2008-09 survey.

■ Under-five mortality declined by 36% from 115 deaths per 1,000 in the 2003 survey to 74 deaths per 1,000 in the 2008-09 survey.4 Uganda and Tanzania show similar improvements (see figure 1). A World Bank study interpreting this data concludes that no specific factor or intervention, but rather economic growth, leading to generally better living conditions, was the cause of the improvement.

Real GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 5.5% and inflation 10% since the millennium, compared to an average of 2.4% and 22% respectively between 1980 and 2000.7 There is ample evidence that living conditions have improved even more than these GDP growth figures suggest, as the percentage of people with electricity has more than doubled,8 the percentage with flush toilets more than tripled, and the percentage with a telephone has shot up from just about nothing to 60%.9 While the pattern across the continent is heterogeneous, there is much evidence that private-sector development has been the driver of this prosperity, in particular in East Africa.

This contradicts the notion that the private sector cannot flourish in adverse conditions such as East Africa’s, and overlooks the progress made through reforms over time. Doubtlessly the business environment in East Africa is still arduous, but no longer worse than in more mainstream, emerging markets. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 report ranks Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania as 121st, 120th and 134th of 185 countries, which means they are on par with other emerging markets such as Brazil (130th) or India (132nd). Similarly, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2012 ranks Kenya 139th, Uganda 130th, and Tanzania 102nd, similar to Russia (133rd) and Mexico (105th). Despite the persistent challenges, private enterprise has played a more salient role than ever in the region’s history.

Economic opening in East Africa

Kenya (population: 43 million) has traditionally been the leading economy in the region. The country was a fief of the Imperial British East Africa Company, which invested in infrastructure and, together with a substantial foreign population of chiefly Europeans and Indians,10 fostered trade. After independence in 1963, the government sought rapid economic expansion. But the strong initial results soon petered out as the private sector was crippled by the usual misallocations and administrative excesses in state-led development. Serious reforms were only adopted after President Arap Moi stepped down in 2002. After several setbacks, not least the post-election violence in 2008, President Kibaki launched the ambitious “Kenya Vision 2030” reform program.

The peaceful 2013 elections with enormous voter turnout resulted in Uhuru Kenyatta becoming President. Uganda (population: 36 million), a country in ruins after the fall of the Idi Amin dictatorship in 1986, was much more forceful in embracing reforms than its neighbors. As a result, landlocked Uganda managed to catch up considerably with them over the following two decades. Today, expecting an oil boom, Uganda can afford a large increase in infrastructure spending, focusing on the energy sector, where plans include the building of an oil refinery, an oil distribution network, and large-scale hydroelectric power projects.

Such plans will surely attract foreign investors, despite Uganda’s increasingly mixed track-record in managing investor relations. Critics argue that President Museveni’s overstaying presidential term limits11 is putting his legacy at risk. Tanzania (population: 48 million) formally adopted an economic recovery program in 1986, after a dismal economic performance between 1970 and 1985, and following founding President Nyerere’s departure. It has been slow but steady in freeing itself from its paternalistic, socialist heritage, and in making room for the private sector.

Since 1996, Tanzania has stepped up structural reforms, introduced sound fiscal and monetary policies to control inflation, and started attracting foreign investment to upgrade its ports in preparation for commercial exploitation of large offshore gas reserves. China, Tanzania’s closest ally in the 1960s and 70s, has strongly increased its presence. The recent reforms and investments have resulted in Tanzania catching up with its neighbors, a process the International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes is set to continue (see figure 2). Yet Tanzania’s growth has been unevenly distributed and focused on the commodity sector.

The role of the financial sector

Financial sectors matter. An extensive literature spanning 100 years back to Joseph Schumpeter identifies finance as a leading sector in economic development.12 Financial institutions provide vital services for enterprises and households. They evaluate, screen, and allocate capital, monitor the use of that capital, and facilitate transactions and risk management. If they provide these services effectively, capital flows to the most promising firms, promoting and sustaining economic growth.

Microentrepreneurs are traditionally starved of finance, as they cannot provide the collateral required by banks. This is unfortunate, as microentrepreneurs provided with credit typically achieve returns on investment of several dozen to several hundred percent. The absence of a working financial sector severely restricts the capacity of small businesses to grow and the ability of households to save, manage risks, and smooth and diversify income and consumption.

Kenya, for instance, counts 20 million people living on between USD 1.25 and USD 5 PPP a day (see figure 3). In the FinAccess National Survey 2009, one in three Kenyans was found to be excluded from the financial system, while 27% only had access to informal financial-service providers and the remaining 40% had access to formal providers such as banks, MFIs, and savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs). In Kenya’s North Eastern Province, complete exclusion stood at 76%, while another 12% were served by informal providers only.13 Somewhat less reliable figures for Uganda and Tanzania show similar levels of financial access in Uganda and lower levels in Tanzania. Thus, a large number of people with modest purchasing power have very poor access to financial services.

Microfinance: from insight to industry

Well-established and increasingly taken for granted, microfinance has been a groundbreaking innovation itself. Before the ascent of microfinance, people who did not qualify as banking customers were excluded from financial services. Exclusion means that people must store and transfer value in physical assets, such as cash, jewelry, or livestock. It means that people cannot invest, as they cannot borrow. Rural households may, for instance, be unable to buy fertilizer if savings have been destroyed or liquidated to treat a family member’s illness. The absence of access to financial services often translates into hardship and misery.

Microfinance was born when the insight surfaced that credit techniques must be adapted to take account of the necessities of low-income households. Traditional banks require “hard” information from clients, such as audited statements, asset appraisals, tax receipts, and investment plans, and insist on hard collateral against a loan. In contrast, a microfinance credit officer analyzes the cash flows generated by a household’s (often numerous) microentrepreneurial activities. Close and frequent contact between lender and borrower is key. Moreover, credit officers analyze the whole social and economic environment in which microentrepreneurs operate.

Worldwide, an industry of several thousand MFIs serving more than 100 million clients and attracting billions in investment has been built on these insights.14 Driven by end-consumer demand in different geographies and socioeconomic contexts, a large variety of business models has evolved. Over time, there has been a strong tendency of MFIs to become regulated, apply for deposittaking licenses from their central bank or supervising body, or even acquire banking licenses. Peru, Bolivia, and Cambodia are classic examples of advanced microfinance markets.

Microfinance in East Africa: an overview

East Africa has become a hotbed of innovation in financial services. Kenya is fast catching up with South Africa to become the country with the most comprehensive provision of financial services on the continent. Moreover, the business models of champions such as Equity Bank and M-PESA have been studied worldwide. The Kenyan financial sector is broad and well developed in sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya’s financial sector is roughly twice as large as Uganda’s and Tanzania’s (see figures 4 and 5), but all three have tremendous growth potential when compared to developed-country financial sectors. Kenya has 43 commercial banks and boasts the best-developed microfinance segment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Roughly three-quarters of the East African microfinance sector are Kenyan.15 Kenya is also home to Equity Bank, a former building society considered insolvent in 1993 and today one of the world’s most admired retail banks. Another notable institution is Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT), Africa’s largest institution serving women only, with 250,000 active borrowers and – after successful application for a deposit-taking license – a fast growing number of savers. At USD 600, KWFT’s average loan is only a third of the size of Equity Bank’s. As is the case with Equity Bank, three out of four KWFT loans go to borrowers outside the big cities.

Uganda counts 24 commercial banks, of which two (Centenary Bank and Equity Bank Uganda) have a microfinance focus. The country also has five deposit-taking MFIs16 and a few smaller MFIs. Among the larger financial institutions, only the two mentioned banks and the deposit-taking MFIs are not concentrated in Kampala.17 The microfinance sector is regulated by the Bank of Uganda. The use of a credit bureau for both positive and negative reporting is mandatory for all major MFIs. Biometric data is used for identification, as Uganda does not have a national ID system

Tanzania has 50 commercial banks, but less than a dozen major MFIs. Unfortunately, the large number of commercial banks does not reflect a high degree of financial inclusion. Most commercial banks have a narrow, often government and/ or commodity sector-related business focus and do not serve a substantial number of households or businesses. While the MFIs focus on the latter segment, together they still reach a relatively small number of 300,000 active borrowers and 390,000 savers. The leading MFI, with 100,000 active borrowers, is Arusha-based Pride. As the MFIs slowly fill the immense gaps in financial inclusion, new entrants to the market, such as AccessBank, Advans, and Equity Bank bring a new dynamic. In order to access Tanzania’s vast and barely tapped rural areas, more effort to keep pace with the fast evolution in Kenya is needed. Consolidation of the bloated commercial banking sector would help, as would support by the central bank to facilitate the granting of deposit-taking licenses to MFIs.

Institutional development matters

Banks and MFIs are not the only providers of financial services. Even in relatively advanced Kenya, the banks, including the separately regulated Postbank, just serve roughly one-quarter of Kenya’s adult population. Apart from the MFIs discussed previously, semi-formal providers such as savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) or informal providers such as savings and credit associations (ROSCAs and ASCAs), unlicensed money lenders, or family and friends thus play an important role, particularly in rural areas. However, informal finance often has traits of “subsistence finance”, that is it hardly grows and scarcely innovates.

As a direct consequence of scarce or nonexistent regulation, the development potential of informal providers is restricted.18 Moreover, service quality may vary widely, and informal providers are often suspected of being prone to fraud and overindebtedness. Microfinance as financial-sector development pursues the objective of a sound financial sector, consisting of a multitude of formal providers competing for clients from all segments of society.

The evolution towards financial inclusion is driven by MFIs who combine the credit cooperatives’ willingness to serve poor people with the commercial banks’ capacity and professionalism. East Africa is one of the world regions where MFIs have proven that they can handle deposits and grow into full-fledged financial providers. In Kenya, the successful transformation of eight credit-only MFIs into deposit-taking MFIs is a strong signal by the sector.

This new regulatory category, supervised by the Central Bank of Kenya, has separate licensing and transparency requirements, deposit protection, dissolution mechanisms, corporate governance, and accounting standards. The Central Bank is currently processing nine additional applications. The central banks of Uganda and Tanzania also offer deposit-taking licenses to MFIs, but have registered only four and two successful applications respectively so far. MFIs describe the process as challenging, for example, in terms of provisioning requirements, capital requirements, and shareholder-structure prerequisites.

Jumping the queue with branchless banking

Kenya is in the global vanguard of branchless banking. Branchless banking is the delivery of financial services outside conventional bank branches through the use of banking agents and information and communication technology. Banking agents are retail outlets contracted by a financial institution, whereby a shopkeeper is contracted and instructed to conduct transactions on a terminal and let clients deposit, withdraw, and transfer funds, pay their bills, inquire about an account balance, or receive cash transfers from government, relatives or employers.

The regulator decides what institutions are allowed to offer services via agents, what services can be offered, and how operations such as cash transport, customer identification, and consumer protection must be carried out. For customers, agent banking saves long and expensive journeys to brick-and-mortar bank branches. Customers can perform basic transactions in their accustomed, trusted environment and benefit from long opening hours, short distances, and less standing in line.

Retail outlets may gain new customers and higher footfall for their stores, and earn commissions. MFIs can vastly extend their client base at a fraction of the (mostly fixed) cost. Cost per transaction at a point-of-sale (POS)- enabled agent is roughly a third of that in brick-and-mortar bank branches. The disparity is larger if the bank branch is underutilized, and thus fixed costs are distributed over a smaller number of transactions, whereas agents are only paid if transactions are realized.

Lower transaction costs and the transaction-driven revenue model make agent banking the ideal business model to address low-balance, high-transaction microfinance customers.20 Pioneered in Brazil, the agent-banking model has proved a success in several major microfinance markets. There is strong evidence that agent banking enables MFIs to serve rural areas. Kenya adopted agent banking in 2010 and, by end of 2012, counted 14,200 active banking agents who had performed 25 million transactions amounting to a volume of USD 1.65 billion.21 Uganda introduced agent banking in 2011, with Equity Bank Uganda and KCB Uganda rolling out networks. Tanzania passed an equivalent law in 2013, with the Postal Bank the first provider to implement an agency network. Unreliable power supply, poor IT infrastructure, and lack of national ID systems are major impediments.

“In Kenya, we have the platforms, the technology and the mindset to advance financial inclusion at an unprecedented speed.” David Ferrand, FSD Kenya

All money is mobile

Agent banking is a milestone in microfinance. Worldwide, only a limited number of national regulators have implemented it yet, despite unambiguous evidence of success by those who did so. As early adopters, East African regulators have pursued the logic of branchless banking further, by allowing a broad range of services to be offered via mobile phones. While agent banking necessarily relies on a point-of-sale terminal operated by an intermediary, mobile money allows direct service delivery via technology, usually a customer’s mobile phone. There are 1.7 billion people in the world that do not have a bank account but do have a mobile phone.

The rationale for using mobile phones is straightforward, as the case of Kenya shows:

■ Kenya has more than 30 million mobile phone subscriptions. 93% of Kenyan adults use mobile phones. Airtime is among the cheapest in the world.

■ The ratio of mobile phone subscriptions to landlines is 120 to 1 in Kenya, while it is between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1 in most developed countries.

■ Gender and urban v. rural differences in mobile phone use overall are negligible. Women and rural residents are, however, slightly less likely to own their own phones and more likely to use someone else’s.

■ Mobile money usage has become ubiquitous: 73% of Kenyan adults use mobile money, and 23% use it at least once a day.

The rapid advancement of financial-sector development in East Africa is a powerful testimony to the important role microfinance continues to play in emerging economies. The financial sector enables the growth of other industries, and its microfinance segment caters to a large number of selfemployed entrepreneurs, small businesses, and low-income households. East Africa is not the only region seeing such development. MFI portfolios worldwide are expanding steadily by around one-fifth, year after year.

The current phase of microfinance is characterized by the rise of branchless banking and mobile money. Technology enables millions of low-income households to organize their private and business lives just as effectively and flexibly as more affluent ones. Technology allows the cheaper delivery of more services to more people and increases the market potential of microfinance. It is remarkable that private-sector development is happening at all on a continent that was widely presumed a lost cause until as little as a decade ago.

Political risk and regulation risk remain serious threats to the private sector. But entrepreneurs with now established track records in East Africa may catalyze change as they enter nearby countries with large domestic markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (population: 70 million), Nigeria (population: 167 million) or Ethiopia (population: 87 million). Such companies, hardly ever listed on stock exchanges (Equity Bank being the exception) make for an interesting investment universe. The rising purchasing power of a large number of households means soaring demand for other essential services whose supply has traditionally been inadequate.

The emerging consumer class in Africa is a statistical fact. Africa has a large and fast growing share of the population with steady daily income. Just as government-linked banks have failed to deliver financial services to this segment, so also healthcare, education, and energy supply fail to satisfy the respective demand. In each of these areas, private-sector initiative is making headway. Even agriculture, the sector that employs the majority of the workforce in the region, benefits from increased private investment and sees its value chains enhanced by the use of technology. As a result, high-quality produce such as coffee, nuts, fruits, and vegetables is increasingly sold on export markets, with a far higher share of revenue going to smallholding producer organizations. Mobile money and Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah have received much attention in the global media.

Remarkable as technology is, we prefer to consider it a mere instrument in much broader and longer-term private-sector development. We see good reason to concentrate on business model analysis and investment execution. In the last ten years, East Africa has revealed there is more opportunity on the continent than anyone had thought.


M-PESA: The Best of Both Worlds

The lack of financial inclusion in Kenya is fueled by an array of adverse policies and conditions. Many Kenyans live in isolated, rural areas, locations where banks see traditional establishments as extremely unprofitable. The marriage between technology and behavior of the Kenyan population, make M-PESA’s success real. M-PESA, a mobile banking and payment system in Kenya, represents the gold standard for innovative financial services. It creates an environment where even the most poverty stricken resident of a remote African village can become “financially included”.

Units:Financial Inclusion / Geographies:Global / Topics:Financial Inclusion / Tags:Mobile payments Technology

1. Introduction

M-PESA, the mobile banking and payment system in Kenya represents the gold standard for innovative financial services. Tailor-made for the Kenyan society, where many feel formal bank accounts are out of their reach while mobile phone technology has become pervasive, M-PESA creates an environment where even the most poverty stricken resident of a remote African village can become “financially included”. A product of collaboration between mobile phone giant, Vodafone, and local service provider, Safaricom, M-PESA has become ubiquitous to everyday life in the East African nation. All that is needed for participation is a basic mobile phone, technology that almost every household is now able to obtain.

Using data preloaded on the SIM card, M-PESA utilizes a SMS based interface to transmit money virtually to other phones. To load money into one’s virtual account, a customer visits one of Safaricom’s thousands of agents and exchanges currency for e-money that is automatically deposited into their account. Customers can transfer money to anyone who owns a mobile phone. This generates a seismic shift in how money is managed and payments are made in Kenya. The operation is built around convenience, security, and low prices. M-PESA reveals the new opportunities and reduction in risk a competent mobile service can provide to those excluded from traditional financial products and services that the residents of developed nations take for granted. As such it represents a revolution in financial inclusion.

2. The Origins of M-PESA

The lack of financial inclusion in Kenya is fueled by an array of adverse policies and conditions. Many Kenyans live in isolated, rural areas, locations where banks see traditional establishments as extremely unprofitable. Moreover, Kenyan culture embraces strong familial connections and a larger sense of community. This leads to the belief in informal lending practices, fostered by the trust individuals have with their relations. Transferring money between friends, family, and the larger community can be expensive, time consuming, and often dangerous. Furthermore, even those with access to formal financial institutions often do not open accounts due to their lack of trust that decades of questionable banking practices have created. These factors created a fissure between the ease and comfort associated with informal financing and the security and reliability that came with the use of formal financial institutions.

The executives at Vodafone and Safaricom recognized that a mobile financial service could address many of the problems present in Kenya’s financial sector. Unsurprisingly, this breakthrough came from the mobile phone industry, an industry built on connecting people through new ideas and technology. M-PESA, sought to address the gap that separated the unbanked from the advantages of financial inclusion (Hughes and Lonie, 2007). Although this was a novel idea, in no way did it seek to overhaul the existing payment structure. Jack and Suri (2011) have instead posited that “M-PESA is not designed to replace all payment mechanisms, but has found and filled a niche in the market in which it provides significantly enhanced financial services”.

M-PESA was originally branded as an alternative remittance system. Kenyan cities are full of individuals moving in from small towns, looking to make money and send it back to assist their families in their hometowns. Although these individuals may have left their ancestral home, they are expected to maintain a strong relationship and still contribute to their extended families, leading to approximately 21% of Kenyan adults relying on a form of money transfers for survival (Johnson et al., 2012). At its core M-PESA’s goal, and corporate slogan, is to allow individuals to “send money home” (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). In March 2007, when M-PESA was officially launched, there were only “poor alternatives for making domestic money transfers, particularly in the absence of technology-enabled or retail-based alternatives with a broad network” (Mas and Morawczynski, 2009). At that time, there were two options to sending remittance payments: using a secure, but very expensive formal service or delivering the money in person, a low-cost, but risky method. M-PESA’s service was marketed as the best of both worlds. M-PESA promotions claimed that with the punching of a few keys, one could now easily transfer monthly remittances from the comfort of their couch. This service had bridged the gap between the two alternative forms, providing the benefits of each.

Bank fees were also unreasonably high by any standard. In 2012, the “withdrawal fee of Kshs 30 (around $.40) from an ATM represented the price of a kilo of unmilled maize which would feed three people for one meal” (Johnson et al., 2012). Yet, the alternatives weren’t much better. If one saves their excess money in their house, they run a substantial risk of loss or theft. There is an estimated $3.4 billion being stored by the unbanked, “stuffed in jars or mattresses” (Economist, March 30, 2013). Customers were looking for a way to have liquidity available, but not pay the high fees associated with the traditional financial sector or risk keeping their savings in cash and making transfers through often unscrupulous agents. Like in the remittance industry, M-PESA sought to provide a middle ground, essentially to secure, short term liquidity at a reasonable price. This solution was not a process intended to eliminate cash altogether. In fact, “Safaricom has not set out to replace cash in day to day life, they simply offered a new solution” (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010).

3. The Implementation of M-PESA

With much of the infrastructure for M-PESA already in place, making the transition from an idea to a reality was relatively easy. Five key areas needed to be addressed to ensure a successful launch of the program: A financial institution to hold their money, cooperation with regulators, a supply of agents, Cellular towers and servers, and creating demand among consumers. All of these aspects were masterfully tied together by Safaricom and Vodafone, ensuring a growing demand with facilities to produce sufficient supply for their innovative platform. The launch occurred on a massive scale and set the trajectory to the ascension as the preeminent mobile money service. The coupling of a reliable infrastructure with credible marketing was the perfect recipe for creating the widespread adoption of in Kenya.

Before the development of M-PESA, Safaricom comfortably enjoyed a large lead in market share in the robust Kenyan cellphone market. Safaricom reportedly controlled approximately 80% of the market, meaning the service for their phones was already reaching nearly the entire population (Jack and Suri, 2014). There was no need for the renovation of these towers or acquisition of new ones. On the demand side, this extensive coverage allowed the company to build good relationships with its large customer base. The new goal was to expand this network and create as much market penetration as possible. For the first year after the launch, Safaricom’s intention was to create as much customer growth as possible, overshadowing the push for the creation of agents or increases in the frequency of transactions (Mas and Morawczynski, 2009). Safaricom aggressively marketed their new product as an extension of their phone service, solidifying its reputation as a “strong service brand” and a reliable corporation.

M-PESA was simple, but elegant, connecting all of Kenya financially. Presented as a financial tool for the wealthy that was also accessible to the poor, a certain prestige was attached to the service, driving up demand (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). Research shows that new technology excites individual and creates desire for the product (Mas and Kumar, 2008). To make their product even more attractive, Safaricom developed a platform that was accessible to all phones. To mitigate the confusion that accompanies a switch to new services, M-PESA offered free SIM card upgrades, creating the first interaction between customer and agent, and establishing a platform to clear up any confusion surrounding the service (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). With the demand side of the equation taken care of, the next key issue to resolve was once Safaricom convinced all of these individuals to sign up, where would the deposits go?

Safaricom knew that M-PESA was going to be operating in uncharted regulatory territory. Was this a financial service or a telecommunications company? Since Safaricom operated as a telecommunications company, and Kenyan “telecommunication regulations require that a mobile network operator offer only the telecommunications service listed in its license and mobile banking falls under the definition of telecommunication service in the law”, M-PESA was granted permission to operate by the Kenyan administration (Sultana, 2009). These multifaceted regulations proved to be quite complex and required a large amount of cooperation with financial and telecommunication regulators. Fortunately, an early, mutual relationship was struck up with the financial regulators. The Kenyan regulator served as an advisor, playing an active role in the development of the service from its inception, and ensuring it stayed in line with current requirements (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). The regulator also set up certain ground rules to ensure that customers would be protected against a potential default. One of the most important measures requires Safaricom to store equal amount of currency as there is e-money in a formal financial institution, in addition to the inability to loan, invest, or profit from these holdings (Sultana, 2009).

The most important parts of the M-PESA operation are their agents in the field. Without competent and consistent agents, the development of M-PESA would prove futile. An agent can create demand and is the corporate representative of M-PESA, making them the cornerstone of the service-oriented platform. Safaricom actively recruited a large base of agents that already operated small stores, compiling a network of 750 agents for the launch (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). Although these agents are not directly employed by Safaricom and are given large amounts of autonomy, their daily actions provide the maintenance and ensure the smooth running of the operation. Third party agents are entrusted to “predict the time profile of net e-float needs, while maintaining the security of the operations” (Jack and Suri, 2011). One of the biggest features of M-PESA was the ease of access to convert e-money into cash. Liquidity is the linchpin of M-PESA, a process dictated almost exclusively by the agents, effectively making them “Human ATMs” (Mas and Kumar, 2008). The presence of a human face who personally recorded every transaction assuaged many of the fears customers had about security. This expanding network of agents proved to be cost effective and created a friendly, familiar face for disgruntled or confused customers.

4. The Explosion of M-PESA

M-PESA has become the benchmark for successful mobile money launches and operations. New mobile financial service operators seek to emulate the success and market penetration Safaricom has been able to achieve. M-PESA has been inextricably woven into the daily life of Kenyans, rich and poor, rural and urban. It would be hard to find a person in Kenya who was unaware of M-PESA. According to di Castri (2013), over 18 million Kenyans use the mobile service, with an 86% penetration rate amongst families. Between the years 2008 and 2011, M-PESA grew at 88% annually (Deb and Kubzansky, 2012.). Now, upwards of two-thirds of the adult population transfers a proposed $1.6 billion a month on the mobile platform (di Castri, 2013). The transactions can even amount to “as much as 60% of the country’s GDP” (The Economist Intelligence Unit, May 13, 2014). Never before has there been such a take up of mobile financial technology. Jack and Suri’s survey (2011) revealed that only 2% of the population in Kenya claims that the closing of M-PESA would have no effect on them at all. M-PESA is also maintaining growth at an astonishing rate, with competitors having a negligible effect on their vast market penetration. M-PESA has leveraged its status as a mobile phone operating network to create a profitable mobile financial system by fundamentally altering the credit system in place. The spreading of “informal credit” has created financial benefits to those involved (most notably in cost reduction), has introduced a wide range of benefits and diminished much of the risk present that is present in an unbanked society.

Nick Hughes, one of the men behind the idea and creation of M-PESA, attributes the rise to two factors, “targeting the unbanked” and learning “to keep it simple” (Hughes and Lonie, 2007). Before M-PESA, formal financial institutions struggled with find appropriate means to connect with the general population in developing countries. Hughes and Lonie (2007) attributes this to every previous financial service platform being constructed for and by western banks, something M-PESA broke away from. Instead, M-PESA turned towards its potential customers and addressed their wants and needs. Jack and Suri (2011) describe the result as the facilitation of “the safe storage and transfer of money”. The trade unlocked a new medium for transfers and created an easier way to receive credit. In addition, it also improved and accelerated avenues for trade, created a higher demand for saving, as well as allowed risk to be spread out amongst a larger network (Jack and Suri, 2011).

The transference of money has never been easier in the East African nation. In 2010, close to 50 % of adopters of M-PESA claimed they saved upwards of three hours and $3 by using M-PESA rather than delivering the cash themselves (McKay and Pickens, 2010). Furthermore, the ease in which individuals can now save has improved the informal credit market. With an increase in transfers, individuals are now able to better smooth consumption, receiving aid from friends and family in times of hardship or economic shock (Jack and Suri, 2011). As empirical evidence has shown, the access to credit generally raises the wealth and consumption of individuals. Research by Jack and Suri (2014) showed that during times of economic shock, individuals using M-PESA saw negligible drops in consumption. Also, in 2010, the average daily expenditure of registered users was $11.67, 67% higher than consumers without the mobile service (McKay and Pickens, 2010).

Not all the benefits went to the customer, as the agents and Safaricom still turn a tidy profit. This is derived from the high volumes of activity as well as cost cutting techniques. M-PESA was able to achieve unprecedented volume, creating a familiarity and a high level of comfort for its customers. Mas and Morawczynski (2009) credit the uniformity of the brand to its booming success, asserting that “it is consistency among all elements of the customer proposition and Safaricom’s attentive monitoring of the entire system that best explains its success”. A key element of this success is that the agents presiding over the cash in/cash out stores are the cornerstone of the operation. If the customer feels comfortable making transactions with the agent, the more likely they are to increase use of M-PESA. To create familiarity with the system, Safaricom purposely kept its tiered tariffs for transfer the same, even in the face of rapid inflation (Mas and Morawczynski, 2009). Even though household proximity to the closest agent has grown by a factor of five in an 18 month period, between 2008-2010, customers can expect the same reliable service with each new agent (Jack and Suri, 2014). Safaricom can count on the market to regulate the service expected; “competition between agents can be relied upon increasingly to ensure proper service at the store level” (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010).

With every peer to peer transaction or withdrawal of funds (depositing cash is free of charge), Safaricom receives a nominal fee from the customer. With over 1.6 billion dollars transferred per month, Safaricom makes a considerable profit despite the low margin. In fact, almost all of their revenue is generated by commissions on peer to peer (P2P) transfers (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). The fee for consumers on any P2P on the M-PESA network is 35 Kenyan schillings ($.40), a negligible fee compared to other money transfer services (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). This fee is charged solely to the sender. Safaricom shares their commissions with their agents, creating incentives for agents to promote the use of the service. The area in which agents generally generate the most revenue is from cash out operations. On average stores make around 130 transactions per day, netting them a substantial $12 (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010).

5. Drawbacks and Unintended Consequences of M-PESA

M-PESA’s upside is undeniable, however there are several considerable risks associated with the program. Using the product as a means of saving represents a huge opportunity cost due to the lack of design as a saving mechanism. Since the program operates in a gray area, between a financial and mobile service, the uncertainty surrounding it creates a level of systemic risk. With an increasing reliance on the service, a breakdown of the system could be catastrophic to the overall economy. Furthermore, it also has the potential to have negative consequences on the behavior and attitudes of those who use the service to receive remittance payments. Consumer safety has also recently become an important issue. Regulators must be wary to ensure that its growth does not come at the cost of many of Kenya’s most vulnerable individuals.

Although research has shown that M-PESA increases the likelihood of savings, its initial design was not intended to be a long term saving mechanism. Since M-PESA is not allowed to invest or profit from any of their customers deposits, they pay no interest on money stored in the system. If an individual had large amounts of money stored in the system, it would be irresponsible to let it remain. In addition, Kenya has experienced high rates of inflation in the last decade, eroding value of stored money. In the year 2011, Kenya experienced over 14% inflation, imposing significant costs for savings.

There is also the risk that unintended behavioral consequences could arise due to the ease in which money is received. A large number of rural workers remain dependent on the remittance payments from family members in urban areas. The convenience and inexpensive nature of M-PESA has created larger number of people receiving payments; “the ‘send money home’ tag line embraces a wider concept of ‘home’ than the nuclear family to the extended family and even the network of kin and clan that now geographically spreads beyond the village” (Johnson et al., 2012). Critics are worried that these receivers may become lazy and lack the ambition to work harder as remittances come more frequently and in larger amounts as a result of the cheap transaction prices (Jack and Suri, 2011). Regulators are also worried that this extended credit may facilitate people falling into the ‘moral hazard trap’. With lack of visibility on how the receivers are using the money (often due to differing locations), individuals may start to use the remittances in a more risky manner. Also, during the pilot period, there was a noticeable drop off in attendance of weekly group meetings for loan repayment (Hughes and Lonie, 2007). Consumers saw the ease in which they could repay loans to MFIs and didn’t see the need in attending the meetings, a place where prudent financial behavior is reinforced.

The biggest cloud surrounding the mobile money service concerns consumer protection. Never before had a service combining finance and cellular phones existed in Kenya. There was no precedent for regulation, and doubt surrounded the platform as regulators were unsure of the stability and potential fallout from a mobile money system. Government officials saw it as the combination of all the risks that banks and telephone companies face (Ashta, 2010). Regulators were initially hesitant to approve M-PESA as they were uncertain of the consequences should it fail (Makin, 2010). The deposits were not insured since Safaricom is not a bank, making some wary of potential access to one’s money should the company go under. This has been partially assuaged by the government’s insistence that all company funds and deposits remaining separate and stored at the Central Bank.

Another key issue that could potentially cause problems for M-PESA is the Know Your Customer (KYC) laws necessary to create an account or receive money. When M-PESA began, it did not require necessary forms or documents that a formal bank did (Demirgüç-Kunt and Klapper, 2013). Although Safaricom worked hand in hand with the regulators in the creation of the platform, the laxer registration requirements created a new vehicle for money laundering and financing terrorism. Thankfully, there have been no major issues with this, and the checks and balances of the system appear to have enough preventative measures.

6. M-PESA Moving Forward: Competition and New Services

With success comes competition. Seeing the profits that M-PESA is earning, $302.51 million in net revenue in the last fiscal year, mobile and financial institutions clamor to enter the lucrative industry (Reuters, May 26, 2014). Safaricom is doing everything it can to retain the largest share of the market. Their monopoly status is being questioned, and other platforms are working together to attempt to dethrone Safaricom. Nevertheless, Safaricom has rolled out a new service along the same lines as M-PESA. This platform, M-Shwari, was also designed around the needs displayed by potential customers. However, this project relies on a partnership with a commercial bank and creates even more opportunities for what unbanked Kenyans value the most, credit. Although the competition in Africa is ramping up, Safaricom looks poised to remain at the pinnacle.

Following the launch of M-PESA, the next biggest three mobile service providers fashioned their own version of the mobile financial service. Airtel developed Airtel Money, Yu mobile created Yucash, and Orange produced Orange Money. All three services are in the mold of M-PESA, yet none have had the success of Safaricom’s product. M-PESA’s presence in neighboring Tanzania has also come under recent threat. In June 2014, Tigo, the second largest service provider in Kenya agreed to create interoperability between themselves, Airtel, and Zantel, allowing mobile money to flow freely across all three platforms (Reuters, May 26, 2014). The providers hope to create a network that will rival the Safaricom’s strangle hold on the market. In addition, Tigo is also tapping into the international market, creating a system to transfer mobile money between Tanzania and Rwanda (Reuters, May 26, 2014). Since mobile money “will be optimized to serve the mass market”, this combination of services should prove to be a credible alternative (Makin, 2010). Safaricom is shying away from interoperability, seeing it as detrimental to their revenue.

Safaricom’s 80 percent share of the phone market has been consistently questioned and labeled as a monopoly. Airtel even brought a course case against Safaricom, claiming that the sheer size and restrictive prices when sending money to someone not in the M-PESA system constitutes a monopoly (Business Daily, November 20, 2013). Eventually, the two sides settled out of court, without any compromise on the issue of interoperability. Even more recently, Safaricom sought to expand their reach in Kenya by acquiring Yumobile. However this deal fell through due to requirements from the regulators, fearing that Safaricom would become even bigger. The regulators called for Safaricom to open up M-PESA and promote interoperability, an enormous compromise Safaricom was unwilling to make (Techmoran, April 4, 2014). Safaricom cited the large costs incurred to create the existing infrastructure, something they would not like to allow access to for free (Techmoran, April 4, 2014).

To fend off the encroachment from other operators, Safaricom has partnered with the Commercial Bank of Kenya (CBK) to offer a new credit program. M-Shwari, the Swahili word for calm, acts as an extension of M-PESA and appears as part of the menu when using the M-PESA application. Consumers have the ability to receive credit from CBK, subject to approval. Furthermore, it can also operate as a mode of savings, acting as another location to store one’s monetary reserve. M-Shwari is just as accessible and easy to use as its parent platform, and shares many characteristics. There is no minimum balance required, and enrollment is completely free. Its meteoric rise is also comparable to M-PESA, with over 2.3 million individuals using the system during its first four months (Economist, March 30, 2013). In the first three months of 2014, approximately 15% of active M-PESA consumers used M-Shwari (CGAP, April 10, 2014).

The attribute that sets M-Shwari apart from M-PESA is the partnership with the CBK. This relationship allows consumers to now store their excess mobile money reserves in a CBK account, garnering interest, therefore promoting saving. On average the loans taken out hovered around $12, and were subject to a 7.5% interest rate upon repayment (Economist, March 30, 2013). Credit history is derived from the customers previous interactions with Safaricom, creating instances where individuals are denied due to unpaid phone bills. In addition, the 7.5% rate is viewed as quite fair, as most micro credit loans are accompanied by even higher interest rates (Gitau and Mas, 2013). The interaction with M-Shwari can be seen as another important tool in promoting financial capability. The service allows hands on experience with credit, as well as promoting savings. Furthermore, evidence shows default rates are lower with M-Shwari then the national average for formal institutions, a clear indicator of increasing financial capability (ITweb Africa, February 7, 2014). This also provides customers with interactions with banks, teaching them the importance of interest and planning ahead to repay a loan.

7. Is M-PESA Leading to Financial Inclusion?

There is no doubt that the introduction of M-PESA into the Kenyan market has revolutionized the ways in which transactions occur, however a prevailing question is whether M-PESA promotes financial inclusion and capability? This question is difficult to answer directly, as there are many different definitions of financial inclusion currently in use. Leading financial organizations, such as the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion and Alliance for Financial Inclusion, have pushed the belief that financial inclusion is achieved and defined differently in each distinctive circumstance. For this paper, we define financial inclusion as a combination of access to financial services, financial capability, and active participation in the financial system (Dub and Kubzansky, 2012). Those trapped in the lowest socioeconomic classes face countless barriers preventing the acquisition of even the simplest accounts at formal financial institutions. This initial introduction to the system is the most important, as “the basic bank account can become the first step of integration into the formal financial system and, therefore, of greater social inclusion” (Bold et al., 2012). M-PESA successfully combines the three traits of financial capability in an unconventional sense, promoting inclusion in a manner unique to Kenya. Although using M-PESA may not be considered being “included”, the use of the platform creates avenues that lead to inclusion in the long run.

If use of M-PESA is included in data for financial inclusion, only 12% (compared to 32.7%) of the population is considered excluded (Johnson, et al., 2012). Yet, in the traditional sense of financial inclusion, understood as the use of banking services, M-PESA would not be considered inclusive. Neither Safaricom, nor Vodafone, operate as a bank or formal financial institution. No interest is earned on the balances held with Safaricom, and there is no direct borrowing from the mobile operator. However, the lending environment in Kenya reveals that saving large amounts of money, a benchmark for banks in developed nations, is not a large part of the culture, even for the wealthy. Even if all banks reduced the barriers that prevent prospective consumers from operating an account, many believe the current structure of formal institutions would need to undergo fundamental change to satisfy the customers; “the expansion of bank accounts will tend to follow the need for managing lumpier amounts of funds, and is less clearly related to active small scale saving behavior” (Johnson et al., 2012). For individuals to be more active in the marketplace and economy, access to small amounts of finance in an easy and safe manner is paramount.

The use of M-PESA, and therefore access to financial systems, a keystone of financial inclusion, is made straightforward for the “unbanked”. Nick Hughes claims that the overarching goal of M-PESA was to “be very simple for our customers to get finance”, and that it was “specifically targeting the unbanked” (Hughes and Lonie, 2007). In Kenya, access to finance is more concerned with small loans, indicating that access to formal institutions is often not needed. As stated early, peer to peer finance using M-PESA provides the benefits of both formal and informal modes of lending, reducing the costs of access. Furthermore, banks have seen the creation of M-PESA as direct competition to their service, even resulting in the Finance Minister initiating an investigation into the legality of the system (Makin, 2010). This indicates that M-PESA is operating as a substitute for the financial access that banks can supply.

Once consumers have access to greater pools of finance, the operative question becomes whether they leverage this into use of other financial tools? This is the key linkage to financial capability, the measurement of behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge of financial tools and systems (Holzmann et al., 2013). The current, prevailing theory is that much of this can be addressed through financial education. Johnson and Sherraden (2007) have shown that the most successful examples of this have been through “practice based learning”, the use of real world examples to increase financial literacy. Currently, the majority of financial systems are so complex and confusing, the average individual is unable to comprehend them (Lusardi and Mitchell, 2013). Yet, M-PESA is a rudimentary, straightforward platform making it simple to understand and use. M-PESA provides users with the ability to learn how to manage finances by placing the individual in charge of small, day to day savings.

Although not a direct financial education program, the changes in attitudes and behaviors displayed by users of M-PESA have revealed an increase in financially prudent behavior. Van Rooji et al. (2012) find strong correlations between increases in financial literacy and savings, concluding that the higher levels of financial literacy are correlated with the taking advantage of “the equity premium or stock investments”. The users of M-PESA have been shown to do both. In addition, Demombyrnes and Thegeya (2012) show that use of M-PESA raises the propensity to save by approximately 20%. Furthermore, data shows that individuals using the mobile platform are over three times more likely to have invested in stocks (Jack and Suri, 2011). Levels of participation in the financial systems have also increased dramatically. In Kenya, bank accounts are primarily used to receive payments, not to save, therefore often remain dormant (Johnson, et al., 2012). To the contrary, even while still in its infant phase (2007-2008), M-PESA had an average of 107,200 transactions per month, a volume of transactions exceeded only by ATM withdrawals (Jack and Suri, 2011).

M-PESA’s popularity along with its large reach has created the incentives for businesses and formal financial institutions to offer complementary services. The Kenyan Central banks and the Family Bank of Kenya now allow for direct transactions to bank accounts from mobile phones, making banks accounts more attractive (Mas and Ng’weno, 2010). In addition, M-PESA users also have access to over 110 ATMs where they can withdraw money from their mobile account (Mas and Morawczysnki, 2009). Partnerships with Equity bank and Kilimo Salama have even made insurance policies accessible through M-PESA (McKay and Pickens, 2010). Small scale pension deposit plans and small amounts of credit are also available now through partner programs (McKay and Pickens, 2010). Whether or not M-PESA use directly constitutes financial inclusion, its success has bred opportunities for more inclusive programs through the piggybacking of its incredible success.

8. Mobile Money around the World: Beyond Africa

Why has following the M-PESA model not been nearly as successful elsewhere?

Sub Saharan Africa was the ideal environment for the development and growth of the mobile money industry. It represented an area with a large number of unbanked individuals prone to using informal savings and credit, large barriers of access to formal institutions, and high penetration of mobile phones. There are other regions that suffer from many of these same dilemmas, so why have not we seen the emergence of more services like M-PESA? Could technology created for a third world country be applicable to the modern industrial nations? This would represent a seemingly reverse diffusion of technology, a concept unfathomable in prior decades. However, mobile money initiatives have followed a much different path outside Africa. It would seem that no one size fits all in the world of financial inclusion and mobile financial services.

The appeal of mobile money is not very strong in the majority of developed nations. In fact, many believe that an M-PESA like platform will never reach Western Europe or the United States (The Economist Intelligence Unit, May 13, 2014). These nations do not face many of the barriers that plague less developed economies, and existing services already provide many of the same benefits. Consumers in these countries already have relatively easy access to credit cards, something that provides liquidity, security, credit, and reasonable fees. The use of credit cards is already viewed as providing sufficient convenience and performance. Individuals in first-world countries also have greater concerns about their security following recent data leak scandals. Surveys conducted in Western Europe and the US reveals that consumers feel safer giving information and data to a bank than to other institutions, like mobile service providers (Ahmad, et al., 2014). Until the credit card becomes unsafe, inconvenient, or not widely accepted, M-PESA like services are unlikely become pervasive in modern nations.

The world is trending towards a cashless economy. The Center for Financial Inclusion (2013) believes that “by the end of the decade, we anticipate a major transition toward ‘cash lite’, in which clients carry out many or most of their financial transactions through digital means, reducing their dependence on cash”. Developed nations already have measures in place that have been alleviating the need for cash. Most emerging economies are cash dependent, yet the majority of their residents possess a cellular phone. According to di Castri (2013), of the 2.5 billion “still lacking a viable alternative to the cash economy and informal financial services” around 1.7 billion have access to a mobile phone. Mobile networks have become so pervasive around the world that the implementation of mobile financial services could make a considerable difference. Wireless Intelligence (2009) estimates that mobile networks have “the ability to immediately offer mobile banking to 61% of the world population”. Unfortunately there has been hardly any uptake of this beneficial technology. Only four countries have more than 10% of their adult population using any type of mobile banking, three of which are in sub Saharan Africa (Aggarwal et al., 2011). Mobile banking is essentially nonexistent in Eastern Europe, a region that is known for being reliant on cash transfers. In fact, the first implementation of M-PESA outside of Africa will take place in Europe in late 2014. Vodafone has decided to expand their mobile banking operation into Romania, hoping to “target about 7 million people who transact mainly in cash because they do not have debit or credit cards” (The Economist Intelligence Unit, May 13, 2014).

Why have more countries and financial institutions not taken up the initiative to push for a mobile financial system? Every service offered in a traditional bank setting can be implemented in a mobile banking platform (Makin, 2010). The issues that are holding the emergence back in most countries remain centered on a few salient issues: lack of trust from regulators, not enough interoperability, and the lack of existence of a dominant, quasi-monopoly service. To put it simply, many regulators believe that mobile services cannot remain secure and free from money laundering and terrorist financing (Makin, 2010). Without strong assistance from the public sector a mobile initiative is doomed from the start. Phone services are also built on network externalities, the more people that use the service the more valuable the service is for each individual. The same goes for mobile financial service. Yet this often does not occur, as conciliation between mobile operators and financial services are very rare, both wanting total control over the service. Fragmentation of the market splits potential customers into using different products. If there are a variety of mobile financial services, the only way to optimize them is to have interoperability between the services. A way to get past this is when an institution that has an incredible amount of market share exists. Safaricom in Kenya fits this bill, controlling 80% of the market, yet most nations have nothing close to an institution that powerful. The World Economic Forum has labeled this phenomenon the “lack of a champion”, indicating their belief that “a single entity that can take leadership and provide an end to end delivery mechanism” is essential (WEF, 2012).

9. Conclusion

The marriage between technology and behavior of the Kenyan population, make M-PESA’s success real. M-PESA, a mobile banking and payment system in Kenya, represents the gold standard for innovative financial services. It creates an environment where even the most poverty stricken resident of a remote African village can become “financially included”. There is no doubt that M-PESA builds the basis for deeper inclusiveness, providing users with valuable gains in financial capability and well-being. These kinds of initiatives are beneficial in promoting financial inclusion, an important determinant for poverty alleviation, and also in preventing social exclusion.

Globally, a large proportion of the adult population is prevented from using financial services. Market failures are often responsible for many individuals relying on their own resources or informal instruments to deal with personal finances. M-PESA like systems could help to overcome many obstacles to financial inclusion. It is important for similar attempts to take into account the specific needs of each society and the means to adapt supply to the new markets. Government involvement is also necessary in a regulatory and supervisory role, enabling new products to focus on the most vulnerable groups.


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Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe

Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe

Gérard Prunier

Reviewed by Helen Hintjens (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS))
Published on H-Africa (July, 2012)
Commissioned by Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia
The New African Century: From Rwanda’s Genocide to Congolese Reconstruction, or Africa’s Thirty Years’ War

This is an incredibly impressive account of the emergence of a system of “political control through terror,” especially in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1994, following the spill-over of the Rwandan genocide’s poisonous legacy into what was then Zaire. By tracing events from the genocide onwards, Gerard Prunier supports his central thesis that, more than an inter-Congolese war, this has been “a war fought among foreigners on Congolese territory” (p. 274). Indeed, he sees the war as primarily between Congo-Kinshasa and Kigali. In African Great Lakes scholarship, the same schisms and mutual antagonisms that beset the Rwandan population, have also divided scholars who tend to identify (and identify with) one set or other of “good guys” and “bad guys” in the region. Interestingly, Prunier views himself as both one of the good guys and a bad guy. Best known for having produced a study on the Rwanda genocide in 1995, entitled The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, Prunier now views his own book as partisan, and regrets ignoring some evidence of mass killings by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at that time. His own position has moved from uncritically celebrating the RPF for bringing peace in 1995, to a more skeptical position today. He cannot help being somewhat bitter towards those he previously admired, and this sometimes gives his study a certain “flavor.” He takes allegations of mass killings by the RPF, both in Rwanda during the genocide and afterwards in former Zaire, where fighting continues till this day, very seriously. Everywhere, he sees the heavy hand of Rwanda, not only in communication and information warfare but also in supporting violence by various militias and armed forces in the east. Whilst the United Nations now has 20,000 troops in the MONUSCO force in the DRC, according to Prunier, the Rwandan government still supports an unknown number of armed fighters across the border.

Prunier has a deep understanding of the African Great Lakes region.He lives in Addis Ababa, and speaks English, French, German, and Spanish, with “general knowledge” of Sudanese Arabic, Amharic, Russian, and Swahili. Employed by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique or CNRS (the national research foundation), in Paris, he occasionally works as a journalist, and writes for Le Monde Diplomatique. His writings have covered the conflicts in Darfur, Somalia, Somaliland, Chad, Congo, and Uganda, among others. Prunier knows about some of the events he discusses first- or secondhand. Whilst he is weary at the West for misunderstanding the DRC, in this study he is much more concerned with identifying those forces that seek to violently transform and dominate the DRC and Congolese nationals from within the region. The sins of the West are an important part of the overall picture for Prunier, but the key problem, as he sees it, is a lack of interest in Congo, rather than the self-interest that seems to guide most Western policymaking in the African Great Lakes region.

This study has already been extensively reviewed elsewhere, as it is four years old. Even so, it remains a vital addition to our understanding of the background to the Congo wars, and just as important as when it was first produced. For almost twenty years, Congo and the wider region have been involved in what Prunier calls Africa’s “world war,” a war he says is more like the Thirty Years War, as we will later explain. Among the many reviews written when this book was first published, almost all were positive, helping to ensure that Prunier’s study was quite widely read, as it deserved to be. Very few people–even in Congo–seemed to really understand what was going on in this horribly complex war, which ripped apart the entire African Great Lakes region as well as the DRC and involved several countries from outside the region, as well as the UN troops. Even for experts, knowledge of the situation is patchy, usually being confined to one country, such as in the valuable studies of Thomas Turner (The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality [2007]) and Adam Hochschild (King Leopold’s Ghost [2006]). These works offer important insights on the regional and historical backgrounds, respectively, of recent violence in the DRC. A more recent study by Jason Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa (2011), has perhaps built on Prunier, and starts from the same premise that, as the latter writes, “Rarely have ground reality and diplomatic discourse been more at variance” than in DRC today, where the violence represents the last throes of a history of Cold War meddling (p. xxxvii). With great patience, Prunier manages to piece together recent events from the Rwanda genocide in 1994 to the fall of President Mobutu’s ancien regime four years later, right up to the ongoing and increasingly intractable violence of the past few years. Refugees have long been pawns throughout the region, and the continuing chronic weakness of the Congolese state means that in contrast with the high level of state command in neighboring Rwanda, donors appear to have been pouring money into a “bottomless well,” as was noted in a recent and quite depressing study by Theodore Trefon, Congo Masquerade: The Political Culture of Aid Inefficiency and Reform Failure (2011).

Although most reviewers valued this book, one who was very critical, a former U.S. general, quite unfairly described Prunier’s study as “a tale of dark conspiracy woven with incompetence.”[1] Most reviewers hailed Prunier’s work as “meticulously researched,” even claiming that if Prunier “did not exist already, there would be an urgent need for him to be created.”[2] I agree with Zach Warner, who notes that, in spite of many strengths, “the sourcing at times relies solely on confidential informants,” though this is hardly surprising given that this is a study about an ongoing situation of violence.[3] I am unhappy that Prunier relies so heavily on reports of the International Crisis Group (ICG), since this particular organization, being funded by various companies, has for a long time ignored the critical role of mineral trade in fueling the violence in Congo. Certain well-placed Western companies have a vested interest in continued violent chaos, as suggested by a recent study on the eastern DRC by journalist Peter Eichstaedt, Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place (2011). In his review of Prunier’s book, Jeffrey Gettleman summed up the arguments contained in Prunier’s four hundred pages or so, as follows: “According to Gérard Prunier, everything conspired to turn Congo into a killing zone: a dying dictator; the end of the cold war; Western guilt; and a tough, suspicious, post-genocide, Israel-like Rwanda, whose national ethos, simply stated, was Never Again.”[4] In his own conclusion, “Groping for Meaning,” Prunier proposes that the war in the DRC has been more like the Thirty Years War in Europe, than World War 1 or 2. Here, as in the Thirty Years War, one set of structures started to weaken and collapse, as the foundation was being laid–often through violence–for a new society, perhaps going through its birth pangs, not despite, but precisely because of the scale of the violence. This is a Charles Tilly-like conclusion; perhaps the Congolese state will get its act together, given the challenge of pacifying the entire national territory. The Congolese themselves, and those who care about Congo, need to have this hope that things will start to improve, eventually.


Mother Is Gold, Father Is Glass: Gender and Colonialism in a Yoruba Town.

Reviewed by Judith A. Byfield (Cornell University)
Published on H-Africa (December, 2012)
Commissioned by Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia
Byfield on Semley

Relative to other regions of Africa, Yoruba historiography is substantial. Nonetheless important new studies continue to be produced by scholars on and beyond the continent. In the past decade a number of important texts on women and gender relations in Yoruba society have become available and Lorelle Semley’s text, Mother Is Gold, Father Is Glass, is one of them. Semley argues that the Yoruba proverb which introduces the title of the book, “embodies the contradiction of gender relations in Yoruba history and culture,” for it seems to “praise the value of women and challenges the image of patriarchal power in the household” (p. 3). She uses this proverb as an entrée into a nuanced analysis of the power and vulnerabilities of men and women in their gendered roles as mothers/wives, fathers/husbands during different historical periods. This text refines the discussion of gender and historicizes gender relations in Ketu as it was incorporated into global networks of trade and communication through the Atlantic slave trade, French colonialism, and transatlantic travel. Semley draws on actual and symbolic mothers and fathers to establish her argument and offers an important critique of studies that approach the relationship between gender and power ahistorically.

Semley interrogates motherhood’s “naturalness” and tries to understand the historical processes that shape the cultural and symbolic meanings associated with motherhood. She notes that the status of “mother” is not just based on biology, it is also a title bestowed on older women who exercise tremendous power within their households and the larger community. Rather than focusing on motherhood as a function of childbirth, she demonstrates the historical and changing symbolic power of motherhood. Using the concept of “public motherhood,” Semley examines the power of symbolic mothers within the palace structure of Ketu, their demise under colonialism, and their reemergence in the postcolonial period. She argues convincingly that scholars have failed to recognize the dynamic relationship between public mothers and other important women of the court such as wives and sisters, and that the position of public mothers was already in decline in part due to the transatlantic slave trade. In the subtle shifts of these relationships, women’s public political authority was in flux prior to French takeover of the kingdom. Although the rhetoric of the postcolonial period speaks of the rebirth of the Ketu kingship, the power relations and authority embedded in these titles are substantially different from those of their precolonial predecessors. In dialogue with Edna Bay’s The Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey (1998), Semley offers an example that brings the analysis of court women into the postcolonial period.

Mother is Gold, Father is Glass also contributes to the expanding historical literature on marriage. Like the study by Jean Allman and Victoria Tashjian, I Will Not Eat Stone: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante (2000), the collections by Dorothy Hodgson and Sheryl McCurdy, “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa (2001), and Stephan Miescher and Lisa Lindsay, Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (2003), Semley demonstrates the centrality of marriage to both the missionary and colonial projects of social transformation. The French interpreted Ketu marriage practices as being in disarray and in need of change and modification since Ketu women deviated from French expectations. Ketu women did not always remain in one marriage or live with their husbands. However, marriage reveals much more than colonial social engineering. Collectively these scholars demonstrate that marriage is a critical avenue through which we can analyze changing gender and generational relations over time and locate those changes within broader historical processes. In Ketu, it became clear that by the early twentieth century young people were challenging the authority of senior men and women by eloping, and refusing to marry the spouses selected for them. By the 1940s and 50s youthful challenges increasingly took the form of interfaith marriages.

This book is very important to Yoruba studies for Semley has written about a Yoruba community that is sorely understudied. Most scholars of Yoruba society have focused on those Yoruba communities in Nigeria; as a result Yoruba studies is largely wedded to the borders carved out by British and French imperial agents. Dr. Semley is one of a very small group of scholars writing on Yoruba communities outside of Nigeria. The comparative dimension of this work is important for it allows us to see how Yoruba communities under different colonial states maintain and nurture a Yoruba identity and how they engage this identity politically, culturally, and socially. Throughout the text she engages the scholarship on Nigerian Yoruba communities to highlight those aspects of Yoruba culture that remained common while their practice varied. Finally, Semley locates the evolution of Ketu’s Yoruba identity in an Atlantic context, for Ketu is informed by developments in Nigeria as well as Brazil. Mother Is Gold, Father Is Glass joins the important works by J. Lorand Matory (Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble, 2005), Kristin Mann (Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900, 2010), and Bay that demonstrate the contribution of the diaspora to the cultural and social history of West Africa. Integrating the diaspora allows Semley to employ a cross-cultural analysis of “mother” and “public mother” as she illustrates the ways in which the tension between women’s power and vulnerability exist on both sides of the Atlantic.

The seven chapters, prologue, and epilogue are built on a diverse array of sources, including one hundred interviews, European travel accounts, reports of French colonial administrators, court cases, and the unpublished field notes of French photographer and scholar Pierre Verger. One strength of this study is its multiple layers of analysis–from the household to the international. This is also one of its challenges for there are times when the reader would benefit from greater attention to changing gender relations on the household level in Ketu. Nonetheless, Mother Is Gold, Father Is Glass is a wonderful contribution to the literature on gender, African women, French colonialism, and the African diaspora.


Contemplating collaboration: Traditional medicine, biomedicine, and co-ordination of health care in Cameroon

Throughout Africa, reports of national biomedical systems being unable to provide sufficient care for their citizens, especially in rural areas, are increasingly common. In Cameroon, doctor-to-patient ratios and government spending on health are relatively high, although the health system is geographically unbalanced: 40% of doctors practice in the more affluent Centre region, home to just 18% of the population.

The reports of overburdened, underfunded medical systems in Africa are often accompanied by a recommendation for the integration/collaboration/professionalisation of traditional doctors and traditional medicines. It is usually envisaged that such a process entails traditional doctors receiving training in, and then providing, basic biomedical services; and traditional herbal medicines being tested and used within biomedicine.

These widely endorsed proposals for integration may not be realistic or successful when put into practice, as the example of Cameroon demonstrates.

Health care and integration in Cameroon

The 1970s and 1980s witnessed a push to investigate and potentially implement integration of traditional doctors into the national health care system in Cameroon. The central government surveyed and licensed traditional doctors as part of a global strategy, led by the World Health Organization, to provide “Health for All by the Year 2000”. The aim was for traditional doctors to provide basic biomedical services in rural areas.

The survey provided valuable information about traditional medical practices and practitioners, but it did not lead to their incorporation into biomedical institutions. The emphasis on regulation and licensing hindered collaboration; so too did entrenched scepticism regarding the merits and efficacy of traditional medicine.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the development of herbal products derived from traditional medicine attracted attention. For example, the bark of Prunus africana, a major ingredient in traditional medicines for fevers and reproductive ailments in the region, was harvested from Oku and other highland chiefdoms for the manufacture of Tadenan (or Pygeum), sold internationally as a treatment for prostate hyperplasia. In addition to causing over-exploitation of forests, the commercialisation of this traditional medicine did not confer any discernible financial or health benefit on local populations.

Despite these past failures, my research in Cameroon has revealed ways in which traditional and biomedicine systems are interacting in an attempt to improve health care.

Comorbidity and informal collaboration between traditional and biomedical doctors

There is a growing prevalence of chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes in Cameroon and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, comorbidity is common, with patients in rural areas suffering from a combination of infectious diseases, non-infectious diseases and other conditions including malnutrition and anemia.

Comorbidity is a substantial challenge for health systems in Africa. It is difficult to diagnose all of the ailments afflicting a patient, just as it is impossible for all but the richest patients to afford lab tests and treatments for a plurality of illnesses. All too often comorbidity leads to patients remaining ill after receiving uncomprehensive medical treatment. This, in turn, results in simultaneous or alternate use of traditional and biomedical systems in an attempt to find a conclusive cure. It is here that innovative collaborations and synergistic care can be observed in Cameroon.

For example, it is now common for traditional doctors in Oku to send their patients to biomedical institutions to undergo diagnostic lab tests. Traditional doctors explain that they do this – often in conjunction with traditional divination procedures – in order to determine what is ailing the patient before commencing a traditional treatment. Henry Nkwan, a traditional doctor, stated: “Now we are living in a modern world. If a healer needs to know where a patient’s madness [for example] comes from, [we] can send the patient to the hospital for lab tests and the results will show what is wrong with the patient.”


Traditional doctor, David Nchinda, is shown here with a fresh harvest of medicinal plants

At times traditional doctors counsel their patients to repeat a diagnostic test to establish how effective their treatment has been. They may also refer their patients to biomedical practitioners for other services. One traditional doctor in Keyon, Oku – David Nchinda – sent a patient suffering from oedema of the abdomen to the local clinic for surgery to drain accumulated fluid. Meanwhile, he continued administering his own extensive traditional treatments to the patient.

Some biomedical doctors have consciously collaborated with traditional doctors. Dr. Eric Nseme, formerly chief medical examiner at the Oku Subdivisional Hospital explained: “I have some of them [traditional doctors] who are in working partnership with the hospital today. Working partnership means… they bring cases to the hospital. We make some biological tests. We try to diagnose and the [patient] goes now to follow the treatment [from a traditional doctor].”

Dr. Nseme had witnessed patients whose ailments he had diagnosed go on to receive successful traditional treatments. Based on his experience in Oku, he felt that patients benefited from traditional medicine in cases where they thought they would not be cured by biomedicine alone. In his words: “People believe strongly in traditional medicine… Because of their belief, they are thinking that their problem is coming from a spiritual action and they think it is only spiritually [i.e. through traditional medicine] that the problem can be solved.”

Mr. Sah, of the Oku Subdivisional Hospital, performs the diagnostic test for malaria
During my research in Oku, mentions arose of biomedical doctors also referring patients to traditional doctors for counsel, or in cases of terminal illness when biomedical treatment options had been exhausted. The research revealed that patients may find traditional medicine particularly appealing in the context of terminal disease since diseases diagnosed as terminal in biomedicine may be considered curable illnesses with existing remedial therapies within traditional medicine.

Meeting the demands of patients

It is not only practitioners who promote co-ordinated health care. More often than not, the patient brings about collaboration by taking medicines from within both medical systems. Patients in Oku frequently seek out particular traditional tea preparations as a way to supplement and complete biomedical treatments. These teas comprise a (sometimes vast) combination of leaves, roots and fruits and are full of vitamins, minerals and, in many cases, multiple medicinal properties. As such, these teas are known to alleviate symptoms that may persist after biomedical treatment; they target infections and underlying conditions not identified or addressed within prior biomedical consultation.

For example, the tea Ntombang is reputed to “add blood”, thus addressing symptoms of weakness, lightheadedness, and fatigue characteristic of illness and post-illness anemia. Henry Nkwan stated that “Ntombang…makes people feel like they’ve had drip [i.e. an intravenous hydration or blood transfusion].”

The interaction and “integration” of traditional medicine and biomedicine can include an array of practices besides the incorporation of traditional doctors and their medicines into biomedicine. Successful collaborations are those in which the traditional doctors maintain their autonomy, are treated with respect, and retain control and protection of their medicinal knowledge and plants.

It is in the best interest of future collaboration, and the continued use of locally available and often more affordable medical treatments, for the stigmatisation of traditional medicine in communications from religious and biomedical sources to be discouraged. Perhaps a dialogue with religious leaders and medical educators could form part of the government’s effort to prioritise health care access for the poor. Wider recognition, exploration and development of the kinds of collaboration between traditional medicine and biomedicine being practised in Cameroon and throughout Africa may provide the most promising starting place for a much-needed expansion of medical services to meet escalating and evolving health care needs.

Dr. Kelly obtained her D.Phil in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oxford (2014). Her research in Oku, Cameroon commenced in 1999 and has centred on: traditional medicine, ethnobotany, female infertility, children’s ailments (malaria) and chronic illnesses.