Africa Thinking Digital To Revolutionise Her Reinsurance Sector

With the proliferation of mobile phones, users of social media in Africa, experts say that the reinsurance sector on the continent is still underutilising technology. Odimegwu Onwumere unearths that reinsurers in Africa are however thinking what the sector might be like in 30 years from now and not what they have in hand; they are thinking digital reinsurance for the future; they are thinking that the social media has impacted the ways of life of their potential target market so they must rise to bridge the digital divide between them and their potential target market in order to stay relevant; they are thinking of a continent where buying insurance will no longer be associated with questions but the big data will provide enthusiastic and accurate predictors of risk


{2018 Africa Insurance Summit}

It was a sadistic voice approaching from Kigali, Rwanda. The vicious voice was heard at the 42nd annual general meeting for the Federation of African National Insurance Companies (FANAF) held on February 12 2018. The ferocious voice harangued that re/insurers in Africa were not utilising the Information Communication Technology (ICT), upon that examination has it that approximately 80.8% of Africans own a mobile phone today. The 80.8% is contained in a 2016 data of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. Those who know better said that this was 10% skip from 71% in 2014. Also, Kenyan Insurance Industry Strategy Report arranged by Transector International, September 2017, said that Kenyan mobile saturation was at 88%; Internet penetration was at 90%. Passages from the report buttressed that the country had towering rendezvous on social media of 6 million Facebook accounts; 2 million dynamic users on twitter; 10 million Whatsapp vigorous users; 3 million Instagram and 1.5 million on LinkedIn. When some analysts believed that there were 66 per cent population of Africans without bank accounts, no email address (causing difficulties for reinsurers to control their policyholders), there were over 32 million mobile money subscribers in Kenya. It was noted that the number was on the increase, not only in Kenya, but across Africa.

On the other hand, observers did not mince words in clamouring that Africa sways as the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world and by 2020, this emerging continent in the reinsurance markets is expected to have 725 million smartphone users, as according to a 2016 report by a trade body representing the welfare of mobile operators worldwide: Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA). According to the GSMA, mobile services gave in 6.7% of the continent’s GDP in 2015 and by 2022, 80% of Africans on the continent will be connected to 5G internet networks.

A 2014 World Bank Group account had opined that digitisation of economies donates to extensive economic growth, individual monetary authorisation, and financial enclosure. Nonetheless, the voice from Kigali was full of fears that apart from the proliferation of mobile phones, reinsurers in Africa were not utilising breakthrough technologies that aid easy services in the re/insurance business in the areas of measuring, controlling, and pricing risk, connecting with customers, trimming down cost, increasing competence, and swelling insurability. They were not utilising Cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, telematics, the global positioning system (GPS), mobile phones, digital platforms, drones, block chain, smart contracts, and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are believed to help in the creation of new products, services and business models.

Still In The Old Way

The supposed underutilisation of technologies on the continent’s reinsurance hurts stakeholders. For the manager life business department at Kenya Re, Peter O Angweny, at the event “The industry is still stuck in the old ways of doing business, which has slowed service delivery.”

The African Union chairman, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda grimaced that glaring obstructions in the sector on the continent reached $75 billion few years ago in the value of contracts, indicating a rough business.

But the Allianz SE CEO Oliver Bäte while at the 44th annual Insurance Conference in Sun City, South Africa, last year believed that in today’s fast changing world, “It’s critical to innovate quickly and to change course rapidly if necessary.

“The insurance industry, like other customer service industries, is transforming because of the all-encompassing impact of digitalisation on our lives.”

Recuperating Economies

In 2016, the continent was not shut down when Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, the Republic of Congo and Uganda launched infertile entrée to social media for their citizens.

This was applicable in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania, where censorship legislation was fiercely introduced. While this happened, President Kagame feared that Africa had obstructions in the value of contracts to the tendency of $75 billion due to poor utilisation of technology.

But Bäte surmised in a different fora, saying, “While traditional markets, such as Europe, are struggling with their digital transformation process, Africa is digital by nature. Mobile is the fastest growing sector and innovation enabler on the continent with an expected (1.2 billion African subscribers by 2018?)”

Still, Kagame was counting loss in the insurance sector in Africa, whilst officials from German’s Reinsurance Company, Munich Re, expressed ecstasy that the global premium volume reached $5 trillion in 2016 and reinsurers scheme the attraction to resolve at $5.6 trillion in 2018.


This is being determined by recuperating economies in a number of proliferating emerging markets using technology.

A Drop In The Ocean

Conversely, investigations revealed that the worth of reinsurance industry in Africa is only $6.8 billion. To opinion leaders on the field, “It is just a drop in the ocean. How can this be turned around?”

Notwithstanding, lack of innovative solutions, limited financial capability and insurance wakefulness, proper products for different market segments, easy methods and under-pricing limit growth of profits are factors fingered to be hindering the reinsurance sector on the continent.

Hence, African reinsurers are summoned to hug digital technology. It is believed that this will drive growth in the industry.

Changing From Analogue To Digital

Preparatory to the Organisation of Eastern and Southern Africa Insurers (OESAI) and Insurance Information Bureau (IIB), dubbed Africa Insurance Summit 2018, before the next Africa Insurance Summit in 2019 to be hosted in Accra, Ghana, issues on capacity and resources to instigate the flight towards a double-digit insurance penetration, how the African market will utilise technological modernism to considerably increase insurance penetration, are the key issues raising eyebrows.

Bäte sued for digitalisation in a different presentation, saying, “Digitalisation allows us to gain considerably better insights into our individual and institutional customers and thereby to better serve their needs.”

With this, those who know better are saying that the thinking of reinsurers and insurers who are mostly regarded as conservatives is drastically changing for progressiveness all over the world and the sector in Africa is not exempted.

Critical Success Or Failure

The Chairman, Board of Directors, Law Union and Rock Plc, Remi Babalola, a former Minister of State for Finance, while speaking on the theme “Millennials: Digital Transformation & The Nigerian Insurance Industry” at the 2017 Quarterly Breakfast Meeting of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), in Lagos, said the millennials have either negative or positive impact on the insurance industry.

Hear him, “The Millennials are either a critical success or failure factor for the insurance industry both locally and globally, depending on how proactive the sector is in harnessing its positive characteristics.

“Proactive adaptation of their lifestyle or behaviour to innovate products by insurers to match their lifestyle needs will significantly change the landscape of the insurance industry.”

The Big Data

Reinsurers in Africa are however thinking of a continent where buying insurance will no longer be associated with questions but the big data will provide enthusiastic and accurate predictors of risk. For example, an authority in the sector in America known as Aviva, where one Andrew Brem is the chief digital officer, the company prices its car insurance using data to find the numerical connection between the purchase of life insurance policies and safer driving, making life insurance policyholders obtain lower quotes unlike in the traditional way where a lot of questions are involved ranging from the type of the car, the location and the driving history.

According to Babalola, “If your brand doesn’t show up in online search, Millennials are not likely to take you seriously. Information available shows that the Millennials have the capacity, and are in fact influencing purchasing decisions as well as how companies conduct business. Insurers must therefore be ready to tailor their marketing strategies to align with the digital natives in order to achieve improved performance.

“We need to be where the customer is, and be part of the conversation where they interact, exchange opinions, and levy complaints. Insurance companies would need to allocate resources to study millennials’ habits and employ effective marketing strategies to sell multiple strands of insurance. Since they engage in a sharing economy, we may need to think of how to insure space and time.”

Reinsurance In Africa In 30 Years

On the continent, reinsurers are thinking what the sector might be like in 30 years from now and not what they have in hand. They are thinking digital reinsurance for the future.

For instance, some reinsurance companies in climes like Hoxton Square in east London are expending millions into innovation and research and building what they call “digital garage” and a company like the Continental Re in Africa is on top of its voice telling practitioners on the continent that retailing is where the re/insurance business is, not in corporate.

What this means is that Africa needs “insurtech” startups in order to challenge the big players in the Americas and Europe, where according to CB Insight, $1.7bn went into insurance startups in 2016, across 173 deals.

The President, CIIN, Funmi Babington-Ashaye, said, “The emerging generation of workforce and consumers are now tech-savvy, and require online real time information on products and their offerings.

“Put simply, the social media has impacted the ways of life of our potential target market, so we must therefore mount to bridge this digital divide between us and our potential target market in order to stay relevant.”

Using Technology For Penetration

With a doctorate in statistics from the University of Manchester in the UK, a Master of Science degree in statistics from Imperial College, London, and a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics and operational research from the University of Manchester, the managing director of Continental Re, Femi Oyetunji was of the philosophy in January this year that while the global reinsurance companies are expected to be coming into the African market, there will be tremendous competition.

But for Bäte, “Insurance companies have much to offer to the African economy. Therefore, digitalisation allows us to gain considerably better insights into our individual and institutional customers and thereby to better serve their needs.

“We believe deeply in Africa’s huge long-term growth potential and we will leverage our global footprint and extensive expertise to strengthen our market position and to attract African talent.”

Oyetunji who is also a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries, UK, and has attended several management development programmes locally and overseas, expressed dismay that the sector on the continent has not spent profoundly in “brick and mortar meaning we are best placed to leapfrog in technology.” Oyetunji showed apprehension that in the heralded competition that will challenge Africa, the continent can do more if it adopts technology to help the reinsurance on the continent drive penetration.

Why Reinsurers In Africa Need Technology

“For example, by using the mobile phone to sell insurance products we can reach more people,” Oyetunji said. “To some extent African players lack the technical capacity, which is a challenge companies must address. The shortage of skills can be addressed but we are not doing enough.

“In terms of financial capacity, it is hard to build a strong balance sheet when rating is used against us. This is why 60 to 70 per cent of premiums in Africa are expatriated abroad. It thus becomes hard to build a strong balance sheet when everything is going out.”

Perhaps, this was the reason the Continental Re has chosen to center on modification of technology for the 2018 annual CEOs Summit. “This year the focus is on technology because virtually everything these days is governed by technology. Insurance is about information and data and for the industry to fully optimise, it needs technology,” Oyetunji added.

“The challenge is how to turn this potential around. We are pushing for two things – first creating awareness through collaborations, and secondly getting the regulators to understand how the industry can be stimulated to grow. We must aim at doing at least 10 per cent of the global business in 10 years.”

Embracing Insurtech

Besides, from Allianz and Munich Re in Europe to Manulife in Canada and XL Catlin in Bermuda, they are investing heavily into ICT and digital developments, therefore making their African counterparts to be developing hyper-thoughts.

Well, Allianz is aiming to transform into what it characterised by a truly customer-centric, ‘digital by default’ company, “the Group established a Single Digital Agenda which plans to spend over $800 million annually on revamping the 127-year-old business. Through the Single Digital Agenda, Allianz will conduct changes through initiatives built on five pillars.”

In-any-case, the reinsurance markets in Africa will be growing over the years in the area of investing and applying technology in business to harness big data analytics in order to foster productivity. Already in the Americas, a mobile phone is used to signal or other sensors spot that someone is about to trade on a road path where many had been injured or died (for example, on a snow). When this is detected, the insurer warns the person on the dangerous path he or she is taking. In the event where the person does not listen, the insurer would advise the person to as a matter of urgency increase the premium.

Fear For Cybercrimes

Africa has nothing to fear about cybercrimes in the insurance sector no matter that a country like “Kenya lost $171 million – 0.28 per cent of GDP – to cybercrime in 2016, higher than the continent’s average of 0.07 of GDP,” as according to the 2017 Delloite Telecoms Media and Tech Trends report.

The source went further to highlight that upon the loss, “In April 2017, Kenya approved the Computer Cybercrime Bill, 2016, to handle 3,000 cybercrime cases reported every month. The Bill criminalises cyber offences such as illegal access to computerised systems, child pornography and computer related fraud, attracting fines of up to $200,000.”

{The 42nd Annual General Assembly of the Federation of African National Insurance Companies (FANAF)}

This anti-cybercrimes policies are cutting across countries in Africa and insurance firms are not sleeping on their oars and allow their money stolen, but are mounting policies to guard companies from fatalities consequential from cyber assault. For example, insurance broker Aon Kenya initiated the Cyber Enterprise Solution – a property/casualty and internet of things insurance policy – to safeguard businesses from losses triggered by cybercrime.

In a nutshell, insurtech enthusiasts who would price risk accurately in the absence of harassing the buyer with obsolete questionnaires are advised in Africa. It is believed that technology would make the biggest difference in the reinsurance markets on the continent in say, 10 years to come. That time, what the continent’s reinsurers would choose to cover, how to cover it, would change. A case in study is that many people are being introduced to buying insurance online unlike few years back when they did that through a broker.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State, Nigeria. Email:


Climate change: A battle of interest between industrialized rich countries and Africa

By Odimegwu Onwumere

There is a battle of interest between industrialized countries and Africa on how to alleviate the effects of climate change leading to different conferences being held. The much publicized were the Conference of Parties – known as COP15 – held in 2009; the United Nations, UN, climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, tagged the COP19 – the 19th Conference of Parties 2013; the pre-COP planned for Venezuela in 2014. The most recent is the 21st Conference of Parties, also – known as COP21 – held in Paris in 2015.

{Climate Change picture culled online}
{Climate Change picture culled online}

Lakes are still drying in Africa, unpredictable rainfalls are being experienced, there is continuous rise of temperature, brunting weather molds, water supply and quality shortages, agriculture and food decline, human health worsening, shelter and ecosystems lacerating, erosion taking over landscapes, crop and food shortages and many others characterizing the environment, upon governments and groups are gathering to talk about measures to arrest the effects of climate change

Godwin Ojo on his return to Nigeria from the 21st Conference of Parties (also known as COP21) held in Paris in 2015, which attracted roughly 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from governments, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs, and civil society, lamented about the fight of interest. He is the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action and was one of the representatives of 195 countries that were gathered in Paris to adopt a novel pact on how to conduct mitigation and adaptation measures concerning climate change.

His expression-of-grief after returning from the COP21 stemmed to the fact that there was a battle of interest between the industrialized rich countries and poor countries at the COP21 over economic interest they gain through industrial productions even when such activities undermine the environment. He nearly regarded the COP21 as a talking jamboree, saying that there was dearth of penalty stated in the case where any country fails the reduction of their emission targets; this suggests that the developed countries are meting out unfair treatments to developing countries, with their frail ambition in cutting climate change, and making Africa to lose billions of money to the rest of the world.

“COP21 was almost a talking jamboree, except that a historic treaty was signed. The outcome was long predicted. It was a continued fight between industrialized rich countries of the world and the poor countries of the world. Despite the energy and time put into the talks, the governments represented the voice of corporations far more than the citizens they govern,” Ojo said.

Africa is said to be at the centre stage of feeling the ruins of climate change while the rich countries are gearing towards a new global measures on emissions, due to their economic interest. Where the developed countries made the notion known is called the Kyoto Protocol – where they wanted to strike a deal on the new laws for emission. But countries that include Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, China, Venezuela called “the like-minded developing nations” kicked hard against the deal that the developed world was striking on emission.

After the Kyoto Protocol, Nnimmo Bassey, well-known environmental activist from Nigeria and founder of Home of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, said that in the COP, as at others, Japan, Canada, the USA and Australia continued an alarming climate-operational quartet, locking the planet on the unpreventable path of fugitive global warming.

Bassey said, “We recall that Japan was the first country to signify that they would not go ahead with another period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only piece of global legally binding, albeit weak, agreement aimed at curtailing emissions to save the planet.

“A further downside of the COP was pointed by the chief negotiator for China who noted that a developed country delegate gave ‘multiple signs that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized.”

Empty talk on climate change

Without doubt, there are the ghastly effects of climate change affecting the rise of the global population without access to electricity, whereas the developed countries body language suggests that they love their industries that contribute to the menace on the environment instead of cut down their emission. But when conferences are held to cushion the effects of climate change, heavy polluters and corporations are fingered to dominate the conference, as according to Jagoda Munic, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, “with their empty talk”.

Munic was among the persons that walked out at the Conference of Parties – COP15 in 2009 – in Copenhagen. He lamented, “While people around the world are paying with their lives and livelihoods, and the risk of runaway climate change draws closer, we simply could not sit by this egregious inaction. Corporate profits should not come before peoples’ lives.”

What Ojo was crying about today – of the industrialized countries not interested in curbing climate change – led to activists walking out of the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, tagged the COP19 – the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which ended on November 23 2013, with delegates not reaching a far compromise on how to fight global warming. Bassey said that the walk out sent a strong signal that “the days of empty talks must come to an end.”

“They sent a strong signal that the pre-COP planned for Venezuela in 2014 and COP21 planned for Paris in 2015 must be different significantly from the climate games being currently played in these events,” Bassey, said. Many rather saw the conference as a waste of energy.

Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany, said, “The climate conference in Warsaw was a waste of energy. It was already clear by midweek that small steps forward would be sold as successes but would not help us to negotiate a global climate protection agreement by 2015.”

Simon Anderson, Head of climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, IIED, said, “There is no sense from the outcomes of Warsaw that climate justice is any closer than before the COP was inaugurated. The delays in countries disclosing how they will address reducing greenhouse gas emissions continue. It would seem that we are moving almost inevitably to a 4C degree warmer world.”

While there was an agreement that recognized limiting temperature rise to under I.5 degrees at the COP21, as was harangued by scientists and pushed by global civil society groups, it has been assisted within a 2 degrees development alleyway. This was even as Ojo gave his nod that heavy polluters of the COP should be shown the exit door in order to demonstrate a point and bar shoddy energy companies that are in the business of colossal emissions not to be among the team of decision making process. Ojo frowned that the COP21 ended in talks without concrete measures put in place to the “legally binding and universal agreement on climate”, which was what the conference was meant.

The same was the fate of the Conference of Parties – COP15 in 2009 – in Copenhagen; it dashed the hopes of many. Dr. Anderson said, “The need for both finance and disbursal mechanisms that genuinely reflect and respond to the needs of countries and people that need to adapt and become more climate resilient become even more important. In the absence of agreement on a mid-term target and a clear pathway, poor and vulnerable countries are unable to understand how the developed countries are going to deliver the promised target of US$100 billion annually by 2020. Looking at decisions related to long term finance, developing countries can see a few gains, but there were reassuring words and little else.”

Effects of failed talks on Africa

Talks have been made in different quarters among stakeholders that countries in the West like the United States, China, and the European Union account for almost 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the globe, whereas Africa suffers the brunt most. While speaking in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates in February 2016 during the 2016 World Future Energy Summit, Major General Muhammadu Buhari lamented of how Africa was already doomed from the outcomes of climate change.

The billions of money that Africa loses to the rest of the world was captured by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, 15 July 2014, saying, “New research published today by 10 UK and African NGOs reveals Africa is losing $192 billion every year to the rest of the world – almost 6 and a half times the amount of ‘aid’ given back to the continent. This research is the first attempt to calculate Africa’s losses across a wide range of areas. These include: illicit financial flows; profits taken out of the continent by multinational companies; debt payments; brain drain of skilled workers; illegal logging and fishing and the costs incurred as a result of climate change.”

Ojo made a proposal for unrestrained de-carbonization of the Nigeria’s economy and the energy sector. He wanted Nigeria to acknowledge and encourage an energy changeover from oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels by 2030, by the governments divesting public finance, subsidies and loans for oil, gas and coal.

He believed that renewable energy development was the key to helping the environment if the governments could channel the money into this sector. Buhari’s evidence was that there are droughts and floods in Africa as a result of climate change.

The bewildered President of Nigeria showed expression in the areas of the extreme drying up of the Lake Chad to just about 10% of its original size. He said that this is having depressingly crash on the livelihood of millions of people.

“With all due respect to our neighbours, Nigeria has been worst hit by the drying up of the Lake Chad and we are hoping that the global community will support the process of halting the drying up of the lake,” Buhari said. The president outlined that land erosion is threatening farming, forestry, town and village peripheries in the middle and southern part of Nigeria and in some areas, major highways.

“Desert encroachment in Niger, our northern neighbour and in far northern Nigeria, at the rate of several hundred meters per annum, has impacted on the existence of man, animal and vegetation, threatening to alter the whole ecological balance of the sub-region,” Buhari added.

As climate change goes on in Africa

About $16.9 billion, as according to the Federal Government of Nigeria Report of a Post Disaster Needs Assessment conducted between November 2012 and March 2013, was lost to infrastructure, physical and strong assets and diagonally economic sectors due to the effects of a 2012 flood adversity in Nigeria.

There is apprehension that that over 180 million people in sub-Sahara Africa alone risk death by the end of the century as the climate change goes on. What this means is that they are pronto the effects of change in rainfall, lower crop yields, heat wave and so many others that are yielding to human tension, mitigation and conflict. The population of people without access to electricity is rife in Africa with the unrepentant characteristics of energy challenges.

The 2014 Africa Energy Outlook, the International Energy Association, gave a rough estimation of 620 million living in the absence of electricity and many in the number of 730 million using risky methods as means of cooking. This does not leave about 600,000 people from dying as a result of indoor pollution from over-dependence on biomass for cooking. In looking for ways to curb the menace of climate change and make provision for energy, there have been different alliances the United Nations, including Africa, had formed to develop sustainable energy.

There have been the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative; Sustainable Development Goals (particularly Goal Seven on energy); UN Climate Change Conference Paris 2015; African Energy Leaders Group (AELG) at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos 2015; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Others are Friends of the Earth International; the International Trade Union Confederation; Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Jubilee South (APMDD),; Greenpeace; WWF; Oxfam; ActionAid; and the Philippines Movement on Climate; Africa’s Renewable Energy Initiative at COP 21, the AfDB’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA); global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Yet, Africa is still grappling with energy difficulties and the effects of climate change.

The long years establishment and investment in fossil fuel energy which is led by the public sector, have not produced the desired result. For instance, there is a stance that about $16 billion was spent by Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 on energy alone. Many of such huge sums of money were expended on the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) without it yielding the expected power supply.

Diplomatic rows

Since the developed world have been said to be more interested in what becomes of their industries which contribute to climate change, Africa may be losing in the diplomatic rows for a strong international leadership and futuristic policies. This makes Africa more susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

Apart from the West that has been said that contributes 50% of the emissions in the world, South-Africa with her addiction to coal and problems of debt might not be having it fair with the change. There is a herald that Eskom with the construction for Kusile, regarded as “the monstrous coal-fired power plant”, with the cost of the R60.6 billion, would have been beneficial that the country invested in renewable energy as alternative to energy.

Africa is not learning from the past mistakes in these times of climate change as many countries on the continent are gearing towards establishing nuclear energy, investing in renewable energy and not, leaving gas flaring, coal mining as means of energy utilization, when it is clear that experts have said that the global carbon bank that should hold developed countries answerable has not been used to generate solutions.

On May 18 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said at forum in Abuja, that Nigeria had secured the necessary certification from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). How to safeguard against catastrophic climate change is the bane, no matter the numerous jobs that such feat portends to create. In many of the African countries, energy security is not guaranteed.

For instance in Nigeria where the ears were deafened for liberalization of the Nigerian power sector at the peak of the millennium, the people are still praying for power. But this is not the case with a place like England where the 1989/1990 reforms, brings to the world’s glare as the epicentre of contemporary day electricity market liberalization, when most African countries are lagging in the development of key power generation sub-sectors.

It is observable that with all the gas flaring and coal mining in the sub-Sahara Africa, energy poverty remains rife. The developed world with its hyper-industrialized activities is not helping the continent of Africa for energy sufficiency, except “the lack of access to modern energy services”.

Conversely, while the industrialized countries and Africa are logged in the clash of interest, experts have pointed out that individuals can contribute to the fight against climate change. Elizabeth Landau of the Cable News Network, CNN, on May 6, 2014, talked about five steps individuals can take at home to take action which include 1. To become informed. 2. Make changes at home. 3. Be greener at the office. 4. Reduce emissions in transit. 5. Get involved and educate others about the big picture.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Rivers State based poet, writer and consultant and winner, in the digital category, Nordica Media Merit Awards 2016. Tel: +2348057778358. Email:


Causes And Constraints of The Failure of The UN To Protect The Safety and Welfare of The People

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945, during the Second World War. It is perceivable that the fear of fighting another World War may have been the major compelling factor for a man like Franklin Roosevelt to commence with the UN idea, intending to create an avenue for countries to engage in dialogue first, and desist from the temptation to take up arms against each other when provoked.

Although, the UN has been of a mind to reduce violence, poverty, inequality, human rights abuse and hunger among other issues, since its inception; its responsibilities have also been on the increase, and this may have down-spiralled the objectives of this organization.

Terrorism is one form of global problems today that the UN has not been able to stem, and this has exposed the organization to ridicule, in spite of its attempts at showing-off in the area of foreseeing peacekeeping, arms control, and disarmament and human rights activities in general.

Apart from the fact that the nations of the world have so far managed to avoid another World War, the UN has not achieved as much as it could in its endeavours, of which Africa has shared much in the ugly banquet. The United Nations failed to thwart the deaths of almost a million people in the gruesome Rwandan genocide of 1994, as well as the wars in Somalia, Darfur, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, the Biafra-Nigeria war, the Second Congo War and, some other crises across the continent of Africa and indeed, the world at large.

But these failures did not just occur. There are several factors that are responsible for the UN not being able to protect the peace, safety and welfare of the people it is supposed to protect. These factors may be beyond the current organisation that is called the UN and go a long way to expose the underlying despotic tendencies that characterise the UN. There is no gainsaying the fact that the organisation’s underpinning was political, which has affected it so much, in the negative. Divergently, the origin of the UN was political, and this issue seems to have spread its ugly wings in recent times to affect the UN negatively.

In what can be perceived as Roosevelt’s favouritism, his major concern was for the USA, when the UN was established. His paramount preconceived-notion was that with the creation of the UN, the tendency of US, perhaps, losing in balance again as was the case in the 1930s, could be avoided. A most saddening aspect of all these is that the United Nations is a sovereign state, only in name. One example of this point is that the UN hardly runs a military of its own, except the troops that allied nations redeploy in the event of international peace keep.

The organisation earns its existence by the help of the member states, especially from some European countries and one in Asia, which is otherwise called the G-5., namely, USA, UK, France, Russia, China. It is surprising that these five countries have held the affairs of the UN unequal with the rest 188 member states, of which the mass of UN member states are not full-grown democracies. Just 87 of the UN member states are full-aged democracies, bringing the percentage of UN member states, which are full-fledged democracies to about 45 percent.

Another surprising factor is the issue of only the countries in the Security Council voting on issues bothering on security. Apart from the Big-5, there is also one rotating country that is changed every year in the Security Council. As if this is not enough, any of these five countries can veto a bill that is presented at the UN. For instance, it is evident that the United States of America vetoes any bill that is perhaps not agreeable to what Israel does in the Middle-East’s aged-long war with the Palestinians.


In the UN Charter, Article 39 of Chapter 7 suggests that the Security Council must first determine if there is a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Such undemocratic norms in operation at the UN have made the so-called Big-5 to be ranked high above other member states. The question now is what actually separates the Big-5 from the rest member states? Politics, of course!

Unlike what was obtainable in the League of Nations (which was the major organisation of this sort before the creation of the UN), the strength of the United Nations has continued to grow so much on a global scale into the mischievous leprechaun of an organisation for whom opinions are formed hierarchically among the Big-5 nations. These 5 super powers have gone so far as to use might and suppression as tools of influence on the other member countries, because of the fact that they are deemed to be permanent members of the UN Security Council. As a result of this, the UN has failed to wield and ordinance enough corporeal and officially-permitted power to deal with various objectionable situations.

This is clearly evident in the situations of the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, where troops under the UN supervision turned a blind eye to the mayhem and atrocities that were being perpetrated, even though they kept the UN flag flying to denote the presence of the United Nations in the area.

While the Big-5 functions like the Lord of Manor, the body activates a dangerous clause in its charter. This charter restrains the UN from intervening in any domestic crises of its sovereign member states. The UN intervenes in any crises only when there must have been killings and destructions of property in-the-offing, which will attract global denunciation. One instance of such crises is the continued activity of the dreaded Islamic terrorist sect called Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Not until recently was this Islamic terrorist sect perceived as a hazard to the West, as the West has indirectly fussed into African nations not to understand how to surround domestic issues to get the attention of the West. A case in point, an issue like oil larceny in Nigeria that is mainly run by some dubious Nigerians with the foster of some companies in Europe, has been poorly handled by the UN. Consequently, it is now seen as a Nigerian thing. Some void diplomats in the UN think that this is the optimum way to be patriotic and not be a marionette of the West. Therefore, the contention that the UN is a full-size tool that is being used by the Big-5 to control the rest of the countries of the world is not a ruse, while making it appears as if the decisions of the UN are made by many and for the benefit of the world.

The overpoweringly uneven relationship of developing nations with the West, say, after 500 years, is a succinct indication that the rest of the world doesn’t have the same decisive factor of what is good or bad in the UN, just like the issue of the Big-5. There are acutely deviating interests in the UN. If not, how can the three sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon not depreciate the ‘Yes’ votes within the UN? It was the resolution of 1973 that inaugurated the latest form of colonisation of the developing countries in the name of ‘the protection of peoples’. It is believed that this norm has given a nod to the racist’s theories that have up-to-date helped Europeans since the 18th Century against the African world. These theories have given the North Africa upper hand and positioned the region to have nothing to do with sub-Saharan Africa, with the view that North Africa has progressed more, and is more civilised than the rest of Africa. The UN makes it look as if the countries in North Africa like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria, are not part of Africa.

Due to the fact that the United Nations is championed by the Big-5, there has been a seemingly repulsive compass of the UN to ignore and undermine the position of the African Union (AU) in the affairs of its member states. This is hinged on the false pretence that it is ‘United Nations’, whereas detachment pervades sub-Saharan African countries from the UN, so that the Big-5 will continue to isolate and control the rest member states. In Africa, the North African countries are given an edge above the countries of the sub-Saharan countries, because of the economic derivations from the different countries. For instance, the biggest and most populous country in the sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria, followed by South Africa, are far behind Algeria, Libya, because the sub-Saharan African countries contribute only 3 billion dollars each to the UN, while Algeria contributes about US$16 billion, and Libya contributes about US$10 billion, giving a Gross Point (GP) of 62 per cent of the US$42 billion, which constitutes the capital of the African Monetary Fund (AMF). It is disheartening that the UN is based on the idea of selective affordance of peace, security and welfare to the people. Instead of using collective force as the most efficient means to fighting for the peace, safety and welfare of the world, it is rather using a selective method that is destructive to the future of any nation who sought after definitive power and take-over. The Balance of Power system holds that no nation should become as strong as to be able to overshadow all the others. The UN does not operate on any theory of the Balance of Power system under the Big-5 nations. There is no playing of the balancing role, and so maintaining the balance of power in the UN has proved to be elusive. The Big-5 nations, to a large extent, can be perceived to be an empire that has so far beleaguered the United Nations as a whole.

It is a crying shame that in the contest of the above, a section of Africa does not, in consideration, belong to the UN. If it does, how can Nigeria and South Africa always vote ‘Yes’ to everything the West says, which its countries are dominant powers that are in the UN? There is a glaring truth that there is nothing ‘united’ about the United Nations. Is it a United Nations when subhuman and unpretentiously practices are meted out to the less powerful member states? One example of this is the pseudo-promises always given to the Sub-Saharan African countries that the more they vote ‘Yes’ to any bill presented to the UN, the closer they would be to achieving a permanent seat at the Security Council with similar veto rights, but this is farfetched.

On the other hand, this subhuman practices by the Big-5 suggest that there is no collective agenda in the UN, but selective. The hoary demand of the developing countries has not been met in the UN, which is a seat for the entire African federation. The proposition is that for all the 50 African nations in the UN to make their demand home, they should approach the Chinese method or quit the body. It has thus been exposed that the UN only operates reforms that benefit the Big-5 nations on its security council, and not an agenda that will embrace all the 193 member states.

When Africa had a divergent opinion with the military action in Nouakchott, it is till date surprising, how the opposing opinion was purely overlooked by the so-called big wigs in the UN, hence bombs started tumbling on the African people and on their soil.

The disregard of Africa in the UN symbolises what happened to China at the end of the World War II. Mao’s China was downsized and Taiwan was chosen by a select worldwide community to be the sole representative of the Chinese people. While the UN has continued to make its African member states to continue to wallow in the misery of folly, after 26 years when on 25 October 1971, the UN was to pass resolution 2758, China was admitted and on its terms, but she rejected to be a member of the UN, if she would not have a veto right in the Security Council.

A letter which didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘thank you’, but spelt out assurances that were required for China’s self-esteem to be reverenced, was sent to the UN Secretary General on 29 September 1972, by the Chinese foreign minister. About a year after the demand was made, a resolution was reached. It can be deduced that the Big-5, as it is called today, wants Africa to achieve what China achieved through a more severe approach. In a country where there is a UN bureaucrat as president, it is very hard to uproot the fellow at the expiration of his or her tenure. Africa perceivably experienced this in Cote d’Ivoire, when a UN bureaucrat saw himself to be above the constitution of the country, hence there was an (un)civil war that took many lives and property.

The role that the Nigerian government could not play in the Ivorien crisis that followed the difference-of-opinion in the country’s election of November 28, 2010, is what it has been playing out in Mali in 2013, even though the ECOWAS, which resolved to renew President Jonathan’s tenure as Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government till December 31, 2011, resolved in its meeting of December 7 to accord formal recognition to Alassane Ouattara as President-elect of Cote d’Ivoire, while urging his rival, Gbagbo, to make a peaceful exit from power in the best interest of the Ivorien people.

As the chair state of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, the only solution that Nigeria could offer about the Ivorien crisis in its Resolution A/RES.1/03/11 signed by President Jonathan, was to tell Gbagbo, as armed supporters of the two men continued to fight one another, that: ‘The time has come to enforce Decision of 7 and 24 December 2010 in order to protect life and ensure that transfer of the reins of power to Alassane Ouattara without further delay.’

In its extraordinary session in Abuja on December 24, following Gbagbo’s refusal to yield power to his ‘successor’, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government under President Jonathan, said it regretted that its previous resolutions were ignored by Gbagbo, and warned him against this. President Jonathan later requested the UN Security Council to authorise the immediate implementation of these decisions to stem the tide of the rapidly deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation in Cote d’Ivoire. And the resolutions had since been endorsed by the (AU) and the (UN); but the UN did not perform and didn’t sanction AU to implement its numerous policies in the Cote d’Ivoire crisis.

While President Jonathan condemned the widespread violence against civilians in the Ivorien country, he did not sue for war as he has done in Mali, because of France’s presence in the Malian war. The military junta in Mali, headed by Captain Amadou Sanogo, had seized power on March 22, 2012, accusing the democratic government of President Amadou Toumani Toure of failing to deal effectively with a Tuareg rebellion that had started in January.

Former parliament speaker, Diouncounda Traore later emerged as interim president, following international heaviness on the military junta to relinquish power. The following comment by President Jonathan will further expose the Big-5 parading itself as the United Nations. Jonathan apparently said: ‘The crisis in Cote d’Ivoire has now become a regional humanitarian emergency. We request the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to strengthen the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to enable it use all necessary means to protect life and property and to facilitate the immediate transfer of power to Mr. Alassane Ouattara.’ President Jonathan was urging the UN Security Council to adopt more stringent targeted sanctions against Gbagbo and his collaborators, and not war. So, how come Jonathan is involved in the Malian war?

It is this man-made complex that is created against the developing nations of the world that has made Africa, unlike China, to enlist in the UN, by agreeing to be following the Big-5 sheepishly, like slaves in the hand of their imperial masters. This is just as funny as it is also melancholic to the suitability of peace, safety and welfare of all the people.

The question has been that when the African Union endorsed Ouattara’s conquest and buffed over opposing reports from its own electoral spectators simply because it wanted to please the imperialists, how then can Africa say that it has been enjoying peace, safety and welfare in the UN. The endorsement of the AU was against the South African president Jacob Zuma’s stance that Ouattara didn’t win the elections. But Zuma later took an opposite stance during a trip to Paris.

It is evident that the UN is simply serving its Big-5 interest more than the interest of the world. The UN is always speedy when the interest of Big-5 domination it is serving is threatened, and it goes with the speed of the snail when it is not. Although from the biblical background, there is estimation that the United Nations can’t bring about peace, safety and welfare to the people, because man is not peaceful himself and cannot bring peace. Man on the other hand, has dominated man to his injury (Eccl. 8:9).

The United Nations is under the close supervision of the Big-5, which is a man-made government that the Bible said will soon come to an end (Dan. 2:44). It is believed that the world in general is lying under the power of the Wicked One – Satan (1John 5:19). And so, because it is under the control of someone who is alienated from God, nothing positive can be expected to come out of its leadership.

Another viewpoint suggests that only ‘God’s Kingdom’ can bring the hard-to-pin-down peace, safety and welfare to the people. The UN uses arms to fight arms, weapons to fight weapons, corruption to fight corruption, injustice to fight injustice, and evil to fight evil, which is simply not good enough.

If we agree on this, it has become palpable that the inefficiency of the United Nations to bring peace, safety and welfare to all the people is because it hinders the success of the smaller and less powerful countries, as the organisation has not accomplished most of its projects in a transparent manner. The UN’s treacherous tendencies have proved it feeble, as an organisation that has never enforced the rules and sanctions it had ever imposed simply because it feigns having real power.

Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.

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