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Maroc : sevrée de touristes, Marrakech a le blues

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C’est une crise sans précédent que vit la ville ocre orpheline de ses millions de touristes bloqués dans leurs pays respectifs par la crise sanitaire du Covid-19. Joyau du patrimoine marocain avec sa médina classée par l’Unesco, Marrakech est tout simplement en train « d’étouffer », pour reprendre l’expression utilisée par les voix de plus en plus nombreuses qui s’élèvent contre les mesures gouvernementales anti-Covid-19. Grouillante avant que la crise sanitaire ne se déclenche en mars dernier, Marrakech a perdu ses foules de visiteurs qui faisaient le bonheur des hôtels, des restaurants et des échoppes de produits artisanaux. « Avant, il fallait attendre son tour pour avoir une table », peste Bachir, serveur, en montrant la grande terrasse de café déserte où il s’active depuis vingt ans, au cœur de la célèbre place Jemaa el-Fna, le symbole de Marrakech. La situation n’est guère meilleure pour son voisin Mohamed Bassir : « C’est la première fois que je vois Jemaa el-Fna aussi vide, cela me rend triste », murmure ce marchand de jus d’orange posté derrière sa roulotte décorée de fruits en plastique. Cette célèbre place datant du XIe siècle est donc désertée par les charmeurs de serpents, les musiciens de rue, les marchands de souvenirs et les diseuses de bonne aventure. Quant aux taxis et aux calèches, ils tournent à vide ajoutant à l’angoisse des Marrakchi qui constatent l’atmosphère inhabituellement calme des ruelles labyrinthiques de la médina voisine qu’encadrent des souks colorés proposant habituellement babouches, des joailleries ou des boutiques d’épices dont les rideaux sont baissés.

Lire aussi Maroc : ce masque que le Covid-19 fait porter à l’économie

Des espoirs de reprise déçus…

« Les commerçants ont pour la plupart fermé boutique, les autres ouvrent pour tuer le temps, car il n’y a rien à faire à la maison », affirme Mohamed Challah dans sa boutique de caftans où il « ne vend plus rien ». Au sortir d’un confinement des plus stricts en juillet, commerçants et opérateurs touristiques avaient tout misé sur le tourisme national pour atténuer leurs pertes. Mais l’annonce surprise de nouvelles restrictions, dont la fermeture de Marrakech et de sept autres villes fin juillet, a fait voler en éclats leurs espoirs de relance. « Les annonces de dernière minute ont fait beaucoup de mal aux professionnels du secteur », déplore un consultant en tourisme basé dans cette ville qui a attiré l’an passé 3 des 13 millions de touristes venus au Maroc et en tire l’essentiel de ses revenus. « Des hôtels ont fermé, des milliers d’employés se sont retrouvés au chômage et toute la ville est désormais à l’arrêt », poursuit ce consultant qui a requis l’anonymat. Pour Jalil Habti Idrissi, qui dirige une agence de voyages vieille de 45 ans, dont le chiffre d’affaires s’est écroulé, il sera « très difficile de rebondir ».

Lire aussi Maroc : les vulnérabilités du royaume

… à la crainte de la faillite définitive

Sur les réseaux sociaux, les appels se multiplient pour « sauver » la ville impériale et assouplir les restrictions à l’arrivée de visiteurs. « Il faut apprendre à vivre avec ce virus et arrêter ce blocage, cette phobie », s’insurge M. Idrissi. La semaine dernière, des professionnels du secteur ont organisé plusieurs sit-in pour appeler les autorités à mettre fin à leur calvaire. « Le coronavirus n’aura pas le temps de nous tuer, la faim s’en chargera avant », pouvait-on lire sur une banderole déployée vendredi.

Lire aussi Maghreb : regain de Covid-19

Lire aussi Maroc : une rentrée scolaire bien « covidée »

Les rues de Marrakech sont loin d’avoir retrouvé leur animation d’avant la période du confinement en mars dernier. 
© FADEL SENNA / AFP

Lueur d’espoir : les autorités du royaume ont récemment accédé à une requête du patronat qui consiste à autoriser les voyageurs non soumis aux formalités de visa à se rendre au Maroc à bord de « vols spéciaux » opérés par les compagnies aériennes nationales, sur présentation d’une réservation d’hôtel et de deux tests sérologiques et PCR négatifs de moins de 48 heures. Mais il s’agit d’une « ouverture partielle », fait remarquer Ibtissam Jamili, qui dirige un cinq-étoiles et accuse des « pertes colossales ». L’enthousiasme pourrait par ailleurs être de courte durée, car avec plus de 2 000 cas quotidiens enregistrés ces derniers jours, le royaume de 35 millions d’habitants fait face à une flambée des contaminations.

Lire aussi Baverez – Le décollage de l’Afrique freiné par le Covid-19

Marrakech, comme Casablanca, la capitale économique, figure parmi les villes les plus touchées et quand les professionnels du tourisme appellent à sauver le secteur, de nombreux internautes s’inquiètent eux de la situation sanitaire et de l’engorgement des hôpitaux. Au 14 septembre, le royaume chérifien est le troisième pays le plus touché d’Afrique avec 86 686 cas ayant entraîné le décès de 1 578 personnes (le 4e nombre le plus élevé du continent). De quoi en inquiéter plus d’un au moment où, sur les réseaux sociaux, circulent des photos de patients dormant à même le sol du principal hôpital de Marrakech sous le hashtag « Marrakech étouffe ».

Lire aussi Maroc : « Cet Aïd-el-Adha que le Covid nous a gâché ! »

Lire aussi Maroc : « Confinement, quand tu nous tiens encore ! »

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30th anniversary of World Summit for Children – Today Children Need a New Initiative

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Today when children are under serious threat from Covid-19, the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Summit is a highly appropriate time for countries to renew and update the vows they made then. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Richard Jolly
BRIGHTON, United Kingdom, Sep 28 2020 (IPS)

On the eve of the UN’s 75th anniversary, Antonio Guterres, the UN’s Secretary-General has declared that the coronavirus pandemic is the world’s top security threat. He has called for action – for greater international co-operation in controlling outbreaks and developing an affordable vaccine, available to all. Such action is needed and possible -even in the absence of a large gathering of world leaders in New York to celebrate the anniversary.  But children today in every country need more.

Richard Jolly

Thirty years ago, on 29/30 September 1990, the largest gathering of world leaders that had ever taken place, met at UN Headquarters under the auspices of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF. This was The World Summit for Children. It was an enormous success, gathering headlines around the world-and leading to worldwide action for children.

The Summit set goals for improving the situation of children everywhere, in health, education and their needs in especially difficult circumstances. Every country in the world adopted and agreed to these goals and, since then, all but the United States has– ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The World Summit for Children was the brainchild of the American James P. Grant, the charismatic head of UNICEF. After initial doubts about whether more than a handful of presidents or prime ministers would come for a high -level meeting on children – as opposed to one on trade or the economy – The World Summit for Children took place with 71 heads of State, including President Bush and Prime Minister Thatcher.

Though children are much less likely to suffer direct effects from the virus, the indirect effects are already serious -in disrupted education, in neglect of essential medical care, in disturbed relations with family, relatives and friends

Such was the success of the event that the idea of holding Summit meetings soon caught on – the Earth Summit in 1992, the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, the Millennium Summit in 2000, and the Summit for Sustain able Development in 2015.  agreed at the Summit for children.

More importantly, following the goals, child survival has improved dramatically: the number of children dying under five has been reduced by 60%, from 12 million in 1990 to well under 6 million today. Immunization, growth monitoring and other actions have improved the health and life expectancy of millions of children in the developing world, and all countries have accepted that “the best interests of a child shall be a primary consideration.”

Today when children are under serious threat from Covid-19, the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Summit is a highly appropriate time for countries to renew and update the vows they made then.

Though children are much less likely to suffer direct effects from the virus, the indirect effects are already serious -in disrupted education, in neglect of essential medical care, in disturbed relations with family, relatives and friends.

Many are also suffering the consequences of domestic violence and child abuse. Countries are turning away from collective national and international action just when it is needed most.

Today’s COVID crisis could be an opportunity -for a new impetus to invest in our children and in the next generation of doctors, nurses, scientists, statisticians and carers, who will need to be well prepared to deal with future crises and emergencies.

Though a collective meeting is not possible, every country needs to consider and plan for its children, both to recover from the immediate effects of the virus and to set new paths for the next five and ten years.

Prime ministers and heads of state should take the lead, citizen’s assemblies should add to the specifics and communities and governments should make the commitments. A World Summit is not possible nor necessary, -but every country needs to consider the new priorities for its children and make serious plans and policies to respond to them.

 

Richard Jolly is Honorary Professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. From 1982-95 he was Deputy-Executive Director of UNICEF when Jim Grant was Executive Director. Among the books he has written are “UNICEF- Global Governance that works” and “UN Ideas that Changed the World”, which he co-wrote with Tom Weiss and Louis Emmerij.

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Congolese ‘Kings’ of Art on Exhibition in Paris

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The show “Kings of Kin” – brings together the work of Chéri Samba (pictured above), Bodys Isek Kingelez and Moké, known affectionately as the kings of Kinshasa, as their art is closely linked with the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their home and work base. Credit: AD McKenzie

By SWAN
PARIS, Sep 28 2020 (IPS)

Chéri Samba has a sly sense of humour, both in person and in his work. Standing in front of his 2018 painting “J’aime le jeu de relais” (I Love the Relays) – which criticizes politicians who cling to power instead of passing the baton – Samba is asked about the resemblance of one of his subjects to a famous statesman.

“Oh, I was just portraying a politician in general. I didn’t really have a particular person in mind because they all have certain characteristics,” he responds. Then he adds mischievously, “Isn’t it me though? Doesn’t it look like me?”

In this case it doesn’t, but the Congolese artist sometimes depicts himself in various guises in his paintings. Visitors to the current exhibition in Paris featuring his work and those of two of his equally acclaimed countrymen will have fun trying to spot him on canvas.

The show – Kings of Kin – brings together the work of Samba, Bodys Isek Kingelez and Moké, known affectionately as the kings of Kinshasa, as their art is closely linked with the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their home and work base. All three have participated in numerous exhibitions around the world, in group and solo shows, but this is the first time they’re being shown together in galleries.

Kings of Kin is being held jointly at the MAGNIN-A and the Natalie Seroussi galleries (running until Oct. 30) and features some 30 works, including Samba’s latest paintings. He is undoubtedly the star attraction with his bold, massive canvases commenting on social and political issues in Africa and elsewhere, but the others command attention as well.

Samba also is the only surviving “king” as Moké died in 2001 and Kingelez in 2015.

On a recent unseasonably hot afternoon, the artist is present at the MAGNIN-A gallery, speaking with a visitor who’s wearing a mask, although he himself is without one. He says he came to Paris in January, then got caught in the lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic spread in France. He has used the time to complete several paintings for the current show.

Asked if he doesn’t miss the “inspiration” that Kinshasa provides, Samba replies that all artists should be able to produce work wherever they find themselves.

“I live in the world, and I breathe as if I’m in Kinshasa,” he says. “In my head, I want to live where I can speak with people and where they understand me. I travel with the same brain. I would like to be in Kinshasa, but this doesn’t prevent me from creating. The world belongs to all of us.”

His new paintings fill the entry and the main hall of the MAGNIN-A gallery, with bright greens, reds, blues – inviting viewers into his mind or current state of world awareness. 

The first work that strikes the eye is “Merci, merci je suis dans la zone verte” (Thank you, thank you I’m in the green zone), which depicts a man – the artist – seemingly caught in a vortex of some sort. Painted this year, the painting reflects the current global upheavals with the Covid-19 and other ills. It could also be referencing the DRC’s past under brutal colonialism and the difficulties of the present.

Another equally compelling work features the faces of six girls of different ethnicities, produced in acrylic with particles of glitter, and titled: “On Est Tout Pareils” (We’re All the Same). Samba says that his daughter served as the model and that the painting is a call for peace, equality and the ability to live together without discord.

The oldest of his paintings on display dates from 1989 and reveals a very different style, with softer colours and intricate workmanship, as he portrays a Congolese singer – the late feminist performer M’Pongo Love – wearing an attractive dress. Here the broad strokes are absent, and the designs on the dress are meticulously captured.

He says that although viewers may notice variations between his earlier output and the new works, he tends not to take note of such differences.

“All the paintings are like my children,” he says. “I can’t make distinctions between them.”

In contrast to Samba, the paintings by Moké comprise softer hues and have a more earthy feel, but they also compel the viewer to see into the lives of those depicted. Moké’s subjects nearly always elicit a certain empathy, a certain melancholy, and sometimes hope – whether these subjects are performers or an older couple simply having dinner together.

Moké lived for only 51 years, but his output was impressive – dating from the time he arrived in Kinshasa as a child and began painting urban landscapes on cardboard. He considered himself a “painter-journalist” and portrayed the everyday life of the capital, including political happenings. One of his paintings from 1965 depicts then-general Mobutu Sese Seko waving to the crowds as he came to power in Zaire (the previous name of the DRC).

In the Paris show, Moké’s paintings depict boxers, performers, frenetic city scenes, and portraits of women staring out with expressions that are both bold and solemn.

Meanwhile, the work of Kingelez takes viewers into a sphere of colourful towers and other “weird and wonderful” structures with a utopian bent, as he imagines a world that might possibly rise from the ravages of colonialism, inequity and bad urban planning.

The first Congolese artist to have a retrospective exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (“City Dreams” in 2018), Kingelez used everyday objects such as paper, cardboard and plastic to produce his first individual sculptures before creating whole fantastical cities.

His futuristic urban settings, which also address social issues, thus form a perfect companion to the “surreal earthliness” of Samba and Moké in Kings of Kin.

“These are artists who worked because of deep necessity, because they had something to say. It wasn’t about the art market or commerce,” said French gallery owner and independent curator André Magnin, who first encountered their work in the 1980s in Kinshasa.

The author of several books on Congolese art, Magnin said he hoped visitors to the exhibition would discover the unique “artistic richness” of the Congo region as exemplified by the “kings”. As for “queens”, he said that there weren’t many women artists working at the time, but that more are now becoming known and should be the focus of coming shows.

Dorine, a French art student of African descent who visited the exhibition, said she admired the artists and particularly Samba because he “speaks of African reality”.

“Their work is very interesting, and the message is extremely strong,” she told SWAN.

 

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How to Make Nutritious Food Affordable for the 1 Billion Africans

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The UN estimates that 74% of Africans cannot afford healthy diets. That is nearly 1 billion Africans. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Dr Lawrence Haddad and Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko
ADDIS ABABA, Sep 28 2020 (IPS)

One of the biggest revelations of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that people with pre-existing, diet-related conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, are more at risk of suffering severe forms of the disease leading to a need for intensive hospitalization.

In Kenya, for instance, the Ministry of Health in July reported that 16 percent of seriously ill COVID-19 patients had diabetes, while diabetes and hypertension alone accounted for 47 percent of the COVID-19 deaths linked to pre-existing conditions.

According to WHO data, these chronic diet-related conditions were among the main risk factors for illness and mortality in Africa prior to COVID-19. The current crisis is simply throwing fuel on the fire. It has highlighted the criticality of diet as the key determinant of health of individuals and populations, particularly in urban areas, where an increased uptake of highly-processed and unhealthy foods is increasingly undermining regional nutrition goals.

In fact, data from countries in East and Southern Africa published in the Journal of International Development show that highly-processed foods now account for more than one third of the purchased food market. Not all of these foods are unhealthy, but many are, and combined with the availability of cheap, convenient and tasty street foods, the result is cheap food that is high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar.

Long-term solutions must be sought, a process that demands the involvement of all the world’s leaders from communities, governments, civil society and the private sector. The challenge is clear: how to incentivize food producers, processors, distributors and marketers to make nutritious food more available and affordable? 

To change these devastating trends fresh foods such as vegetables, fruits, high-protein legumes, nuts, eggs and fish must become more widely available and much more affordable in Africa’s food markets. Healthy diets are often inaccessible to most of Africa’s population.

The UN estimates that 74% of Africans cannot afford healthy diets. That is nearly 1 billion Africans. This is shocking and unacceptable. These numbers are only likely to rise during this time of a pandemic, where job cuts have greatly reduced people’s spending power and lockdowns have broken food supply chains, further increasing food prices, especially the prices of perishable fresh foods.

Temporary and very partial workarounds include the expansion of social protection programmes such as in Nigeria providing targeted transfers to poor and vulnerable households. These financial packages help the vulnerable to meet their minimum dietary and nutritional needs, but they are not a complete or sustainable solution.

Long-term solutions must be sought, a process that demands the involvement of all the world’s leaders from communities, governments, civil society and the private sector. The challenge is clear: how to incentivize food producers, processors, distributors and marketers to make nutritious food more available and affordable?

First public policy needs to be aligned with this goal. Too many policies are working against this aim. For example too few food production and consumption subsidies are going to nutritious foods; too little public agricultural research development and farmer extension focuses on these foods; too often public food procurement disfavours these items and infrastructure development ignores cold chain development.

Agriculture in Africa is a key economic driver and supporter of livelihoods. Productivity needs to be increased, biodiversity promoted and climate resilience attained. Is this possible? Yes. Already, farmers in countries like Zambia are recording up to a 60 percent increase in yields through the application of ecosystem-based adaptation techniques.

Elsewhere, in Burkina Faso, farmers have reclaimed 200,000 to 300,000 hectares of degraded lands by digging shallow pots in barren land and filling them with organic matter. The reclaimed land now produces an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 additional tonnes of cereal for the Burkinabe. The challenge is to replicate these successes throughout the continent.

Second, private investment into these more nutritious foods needs to be incentivised. Of the $200 billion impact investment fund industry, GAIN estimates less than 0.3% goes to nutritious foods in Africa. Fund facilities that stimulate private investment in small and medium sized companies that produce nutritious foods for low income populations need to be established that offer loan rates that are lower than market while targeting nutrition outcomes.

Institutional investors such as pension funds need to signal to the bigger companies with extensive value chains in Africa that they will favour companies producing more nutritiously beneficial foods.

Third, consumer demand needs to be shifted towards healthy foods. Too often healthy food campaigns pale in comparison to private sector campaigns for highly processed foods: they lack imagination, humour and flair.

Healthy eating campaigns must be engaging, aspirational and memorable. Food environments—where consumers come face to face with food—are stacked against the consumption of healthy foods which are often consigned to unattractive spaces in markets and stores. This needs to change too.

Fourth, civil society campaigns can hold businesses and governments accountable for promoting healthy foods. Civil society activism is particularly essential to focus attention on silent crises such as unhealthy diets.

Together these four levers can incentivize businesses and other stakeholders to innovate and develop business models, products and services that make nutritious and safe foods more available, affordable, desirable, and sustainable. Africa cannot move ahead smoothly if 1 billion of its people cannot afford a healthy diet.

The approaches defined above are not exhaustive, but if well implemented will bring the continent closer to better nourishment, further improving the prospects of properly fighting emerging health challenges such as COVID-19, both from a health and economic perspective.

The post How to Make Nutritious Food Affordable for the 1 Billion Africans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Lawrence Haddad is the Executive Director, GAIN and H.E. Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko is Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission

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