Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Making Tracks?

Among the major planned projects for Kenya is the construction of a 472-kilometre ‘Standard Gauge Railway’ (SGR), linking the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa, to Nairobi, and on to Uganda and Rwanda. The massive $353-million undertaking is financed by China’s Exim bank with a completion date of 2018. 5,000 workers will be shipped in from China for the railway project, allegedly to do ‘skilled’ work that locals have no expertise in. 

The Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has made it clear that all structures, from dwellings to business sheds on the path of the SGR, together with their owners, will have to go. The KRC has made it clear that the residents, some of the poorest in the country, will not be compensated because they are squatting ‘illegally’ on government land. Some have been here for over 50 years. The railway’s human victims will be some 250,000 poor Nairobi slum-dwellers.

They must then brace themselves to start another life. Houses elsewhere in Nairobi are much more expensive, with the monthly rent for an average one-bedroom apartment $150; in the slums, a shack goes for $37 for those who rent, and about half the people live in shanties of their own.  A government project meant to upgrade the slums and build proper houses for its dwellers has been moving at a painfully slow pace. When the first 200 units were completed seven years ago, many were illegally allocated to government officials and their networks, leaving the poor of Nairobi’s slums in their usual place. What’s more, the majority of the people work as labourers in city factories, within walking distance from the three slums, so when they are evicted they will have to begin paying daily fares to work. With daily incomes of $3 and families to support, that’s something they can hardly afford. Those who run their own small businesses will have to look for employment or other sites from where they can conduct their trade

The reality of life under capitalism is a long way from the image we are sold. No matter how hard a lot of people work, they will not bridge the inequality gap. Real life under capitalism is characterized by high levels of obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness. The fact remains that we’d all be a lot better off if we lived in a society that placed less emphasis on the private ownership of the means of production and instead opt for common ownership by people as a whole.  There is a lot of talk about changing society through revolution. Let’s make it happen. 

Realism is needed not myths

Isn’t socialism some sort of utopian fantasy proposal? 

What we do know is that the reality today is 80 people possess the same quantity of wealth as 3.5 billion and there exists many painful truths about economic injustices and the increasing gap between the rich and poor,  the shocking condition of men, women and children and the rise of political corruption. There is now posed a direct threat to the planet itself where capitalism destroys the planet and necessitates the extraction and burning of fossil fuels at a wildly unsustainable rate. Moreover, such policies and practices do not place the blame where it rightly lies but accuses working-class people for personal failure rather than a failure of the system. The machinery of government and its institutions are now commanded and controlled by corporate zombies, the walking brain-dead who have created a world of horror and fear. People are being turned into fools because we believe the lies that are fed to us.

Politics matters only when it changes the way people think, but it must also do more. It must not only inform, but also provoke people to act, to take collective solidarity action. We, in the Socialist Party, should find ways to make education central to politics, to develop new strategies and tactics of collective resistance.

The myth that African agriculture needs help from rich Western countries, is constantly spun out by the media, investors, agribusiness companies and other transnationals. The ‘Africa needs our help’ narrative, the game is played so that a handful of truths are used to smuggle some hugely significant lies past unsuspecting governments, NGOs and civil society.

It is true that one in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, and that Africa has the lowest levels of agricultural productivity in the world, with extremely low levels of inputs like fertilizers, improved seeds and irrigation. It is also true that high population growth rates, high levels of poverty, poor infrastructure and low levels of investment have compounded the problem and made food difficult to access for millions of people. It is certainly true that millions of people in Africa suffer from hunger and malnutrition. But the false conclusion is that with the financial and technical help provided by rich countries and international development agencies – such as the $10 billion of ‘responsible private investments’ committed through the New Alliance to date – employment and food production will receive a huge boost and Africa will finally be able to feed itself. Crucially missing from this analysis is as why this has happened in a continent that used to be self-sufficient in food in the 1960s.

There are two main reasons for this, and they point to a very different solution to the problem of African poverty.

Firstly, Africa’s agricultural production was designed during the colonial era to benefit rich countries in the North with their enormous appetite for raw materials and luxury (non-staple) foods. In 2011, the top five exports out of Africa (by value) were cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, rubber and tobacco; more useful for satisfying rich consumers than feeding poor communities.

Secondly, African countries have been forced to deregulate their trade by rich countries and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These institutions continue to lend money to developing countries while encouraging them to privatize public services and deregulate their economies. So, countries end up importing staple foods like wheat, palm oil, maize, sugar and soya-bean oil – crops largely produced by rich countries in the North, which can afford to heavily subsidize their agricultural sector. They have also opened up Africa to agribusiness companies that are rapidly increasing their control of resources such as land, water and labour.

The media, transnational corporations and government agencies tell us that Africa needs GM technology and chemical fertilizers to increase crop yields. What they don’t tell us is that the use of GM seeds actually leads to falling crop yields in the long term, and the increased use of pesticides and herbicides. Ignored is the fact that more and more evidence has been pouring in which shows that sustainable agriculture – or agroecology – can produce yields comparable to, and often larger than, industrial agriculture. But that’s not all. There are also huge positive knock-on effects of agroecology, such as increasing biodiversity, increasing income and employment opportunities, reducing the gender gap, improving health and nutrition, and helping to mitigate climate change.

What we need to do is challenge the myth of corporate-controlled agriculture or calling for reform of the aid system and unfair trade agreements but instead promote the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty to help people regain control of Africa’s food system and that is only possible by replacing the exploitative global economic system - capitalism. The peoples of Africa and the rest of the world need socialism. It can only be achieved globally. 

Special Ops in Africa

US Special Operations forces in Africa are preparing for one of their biggest exercises of the year, a multinational event that spans several West African countries. Chad announced that it would host the Flintlock 2015 exercise, which kicks off Feb. 16 in the capital N'Djamena, with joint training exercises also taking place in Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Tunisia for several weeks before the event wraps up on March 9. The exercise will bring together approximately 1,300 troops from African and NATO countries, including 673 African forces, 365 NATO forces and 255 US personnel who will take part in a variety of tactical engagements. The operation is almost tailor made for the direction that the US Special Operations Command has set for the troops that it is training and equipping to operate in a post-Afghanistan and Iraq world.

While the SOCOM commander doesn't have operational control over the approximately 70,000 SOF currently on active duty, an initiative led by former commander Adm. William McRaven is helping to inform how the forces operate under the direction of the global combatant commanders, who exert operational control over the SOF under their command. When taking over the helm of SOCOM in 2011, McRaven introduced his plan to keep his forward-deployed operators supplied not only with the latest intelligence on their area of operations, but also to link them up with their SOF brethren around the globe. Dubbed the Global SOF Network, the program connects SOF around the globe to one another as well as with US government interagency partners and regional allies, building on the decade-long relationship that American and NATO SOF had forged through combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Angolan Austerity

With oil prices collapsing over 50 percent in the past six months, Angola -- Africa's second-largest oil producer -- has had to introduce austerity measures. Angola draws about 70 percent of its income from its oil resources. A price collapse, with supply outstripping demand, means a big revenue hit for the government.

"We will go through a difficult time now because the government cannot afford to implement the budget they had adopted for the year," said Jose de Oliviera, an independent consultant in the oil sector.

"There is a risk of even bigger problems, like being unable to pay the salaries of civil servants, or a drop in the quality and quantity of basic social services, which will affect the poorest the most," said Elias Isaac, director of the Open Society Foundation in Angola.
About 54 percent of Angolans live on less than two dollars a day.

 "Youth protest movements, which are viewed more and more favourably, are going to increase," said journalism professor and political analyst Celso Malavoloneke.

 Demonstrations have been held with increasing frequency in Angola since 2011 and are quickly repressed by the police. The young people behind these gatherings are demanding the resignation of Dos Santos -- already in power for 35 years -- while denouncing poverty, inequality, a lack of access to water and electricity, and failures in the health and education systems.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hobson's Choice

Hobson's choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; "take it or leave it".

There is no fear but the fear of hunger. Mosquito nets are widely considered a magic bullet against malaria — one of the cheapest and most effective ways to stop a disease that kills at least half a million Africans each year. An insecticide-treated mosquito net, hung over a bed, is the front line in the battle against malaria. It’s also the perfect mosquito-killing machine. The gauzy mesh allows the carbon dioxide that people exhale to flow out, which attracts mosquitoes. But as they swarm in, their cuticles touch the insecticide on the net’s surface, poisoning their nervous systems and shutting down their microscopic hearts. But many are not using their mosquito nets as global health experts have intended. Across Africa, from the mud flats of Nigeria to the coral reefs off Mozambique, mosquito-net fishing is a growing problem, an unintended consequence of one of the biggest and most celebrated public health campaigns in recent years.

Isabel Marques da Silva, a marine biologist at Universidade LĂșrio in Mozambique explained “That’s why the incidence for malaria here is so high. The people don’t use the mosquito nets for mosquitoes. They use them to fish.”

“I know it’s not right,” Mr. Ndefi said, “but without these nets, we wouldn’t eat.”

“It’s simple economics,” said Carl Huchzermeyer, a fisheries manager for African Parks, a conservation organization in Bangweulu. “You could spend two days making a basket out of reeds, or just use a mosquito net.”

Scientists now worry about the collateral damage: Africa’s fish. But the unsparing mesh, with holes smaller than mosquitoes, traps much more life than traditional fishing nets do. The Malagasy word for these nets is “ramikaoko,” or the thing that takes all things together. A “real” net costs about $50, an enormous expense in a place where many people survive on a few dollars a day. Scientists say that could imperil already stressed fish populations, a critical food source for millions of the world’s poorest people. Many of these insecticide-treated nets are dragged through the same lakes and rivers people drink from, raising concerns about toxins. One of the most common insecticides used by the mosquito net industry is permethrin, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency says is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed orally. The E.P.A. also says permethrin is “highly toxic” to fish. Most scientists say the risks to people are minimal, because the dosages are relatively low and humans metabolize permethrin quickly. But with coldblooded animals, it’s a different story. In many places, fish are dried for hours in direct sunlight on treated mosquito nets. Direct sunlight can break down the insecticide coating. Anthony Hay, an associate professor of environmental toxicology at Cornell University, said fish could absorb some of the toxins, leaving people to ingest them when they eat the fish. “We think we have a solution to everybody’s problems, and here’s an example of where we’re creating a new problem.”

“If you’re using freshly treated nets in a smallish stream or a bay in the lake, it’s quite likely you’re going to kill fish you don’t intend to kill,” said Dan Strickman, a senior program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested heavily in malaria research and development. “That’s definitely an environmental hazard.
Recent hydroacoustic surveys show that Zambia’s fish populations are dwindling. Harris Phiri, a Zambian fisheries official, blamed deforestation, rapid population growth and the widespread use of mosquito nets.
“They are catching very small fish that haven’t matured,” Mr. Phiri said. “The stocks won’t be able to grow.”

People fishing with mosquito nets tend to be those without boats or even tackle, often women and children, the most dispossessed. They work from shore, tugging the nets through shallow waters, precisely where many species spawn, creating another potential problem: the slow, steady destruction of sensitive aquatic breeding grounds.

Jeppe Kolding, a Danish fisheries ecologist, has challenged the conventional wisdom. He advocates a “balanced harvest” approach that calls for catching more juvenile fish and sparing some of the adults, arguing that mosquito-net fishing may not harm fish stocks as much as widely believed.  “Fish are more like plants than other animals,” he said, “in that they disperse millions of seeds.” But even he acknowledges that, for fishing purposes, it would be much better if the nets used were not treated with toxic chemicals.

Madagascar’s industrial shrimp catch plummeted to 3,143 tons in 2010 from 8,652 tons in 2002. Madagascar recently banned the use of mosquito nets at Antongil Bay, a crucial shrimping area.

Big companies like BASF, Bayer and Sumitomo Chemical design the nets. They are manufactured at about $3 apiece, many in China and Vietnam, shipped in steel containers to Africa, trucked to villages by aid agencies, and handed out by local ministries of health, usually gratis. The World Health Organization says the nets are a primary reason malaria death rates in Africa have been cut in half since 2000. But at the end of the line, in poor areas where little goes to waste, mosquito nets become many other things: soccer balls and chicken coops, bridal veils and funeral shrouds. Mosquito nets are literally part of the fabric of a community.

People know all too well the dangers of malaria yet also know loved ones will not last long without food.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa Suffering From Global Warming

Floods and fires across the southern african region are raising alarm bells on climate change once again. These effects are being felt across the globe as sea levels rise, tropical storms smash into coastlines, once-fertile lands battle with floods or drought and permafrost in the polar regions melts.

Although Africa contributes relatively little to global warming, the region is suffering from its effects. Over 180 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die as a result of climate change by the end of the century.

from here

Safari Luxury

Friday, January 23, 2015

South Africa's 'xenophobic' attacks Return

In 2008, more than 60 people were killed in a series of attacks on foreign nationals. In 2013, a 25-year-old Somali man died after being dragged through the streets of Port Elizabeth, and pelted with stones and rocks.

Police have arrested at least 121 people in connection with violence and looting of foreign-owned stores in Soweto  township  in Johannesburg that resulted in the death of at least two teenagers , prompting fears of renewed xenophobia in the country. Residents of the township attacked foreign nationals after a teenager was allegedly shot dead by a Somali shop owner earler in the week. The 14-year-old was allegedly part of a group that had tried to rob the shop. Riots and looting spread to other parts of Soweto, and another teenager was killed amid the violence. Locals targeted Somali, Ethiopian and Pakistani-owned shops in the area, forcing foreign shop owners to leave the area out of fear.

Homegrown V Homeflown

As South Africa take on Senegal in Group C in the African Cup of Nations, it will be Africa versus Europe.

Of South Africa’s 23-man squad, 18 play in their own country. Senegal have none: every footballer in their squad plays in Europe.

Censored Ethiopia

We’re getting a distorted picture of the Ethiopian story – a story that is a vital one in the context of African development. Ethiopia, along with Rwanda, is advocating a very specific developmental model, one that prioritises economic growth and socio-economic rights ahead of liberal luxuries such as democracy, participation and human rights. It sees the stifling of a free press as a justified causality in this process.

“Ethiopia’s government has systematically assaulted the country’s independent voices, treating the media as a threat rather than a valued source of information and analysis,” says Leslie Lefkow, Human Rights Watch deputy Africa director. “Journalists critical of government policies and their families live in constant fear of harassment, arrest, and losing their livelihoods,” writes Lefkow, as “the state controls most of the media, and the few surviving private media self-censor their coverage of politically sensitive issues for fear of being shut down.”

Reporters Without Borders said at least six publications had been forced to close in recent months and 30 journalists forced to flee abroad as the result of the biggest crackdown on privately-owned press since 2005.
“Most print publications in Ethiopia are closely affiliated with the government and rarely stray from government perspectives on critical issues,” said the findings from HRW, which explain how publications critical of Ethiopia’s government are regularly shut down, and printers and distributors of critical publications closed.

Social media is also heavily restricted, and many blog sites and websites run by those living in the diaspora are often blocked inside Ethiopia. In April 2014 authorities arrested six people from the Zone 9 blogging collective, who have now been in prison for more than 260 days under antiterrorism laws. Human Rights Watch says that this particular case has had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in the country, “especially among critically minded bloggers and online activists.”

It’s not just media, either. Ethiopia keeps a close eye on NGOs and think tanks working in the country too, even those with continental mandates, and has the power to grant or deny access to the African Union by manipulating visas – if you don’t get a visa for Ethiopia, you don’t get to visit. The result? Researchers and advocacy organisations are wary of being too critical of the current Ethiopian administration, even if they shout loudly about the failings of other African governments.

Ethiopia’s GDP is growing at about 10.4%. Over the past decade, the country has registered statistically significant growth in the welfare, education and health categories of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. But can we trust these figures? But in the absence of a free press, or a free civil society, this data goes unchallenged. In the absence of any kind of independent information we cannot gauge its effectiveness.

Leaked Report - World Bank Violated Own Rules In Ethiopia

Internal watchdog finds link between World Bank financing and Ethiopian government's mass resettlement of indigenous group

The World Bank repeatedly violated its own rules while funding a development initiative in Ethiopia that has been dogged by complaints that it sponsored forced evictions of thousands of indigenous people, according to a leaked report by a watchdog panel at the bank.
The report, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, examines a health and education initiative that was buoyed by nearly $2 billion in World Bank funding over the last decade. Members of the indigenous Anuak people in Ethiopia’s Gambella province charged that Ethiopian authorities used some of the bank’s money to support a massive forced relocation program and that soldiers beat, raped and killed Anuak who refused to abandon their homes. The bank continued funding the health and education initiative for years after the allegations emerged.
The report by the World Bank’s internal Inspection Panel found that there was an “operational link” between the World Bank-funded program and the Ethiopian government’s relocation push, which was known as “villagization.” By failing to acknowledge this link and take action to protect affected communities, the bank violated its own policies on project appraisal, risk assessment, financial analysis and protection of indigenous peoples, the panel’s report concludes.
The bank has enabled the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands,” said David Pred, director of Inclusive Development International, a nonprofit that filed the complaint on behalf of 26 Anuak refugees.
The bank declined to answer ICIJ’s questions about the report.
Ethiopian officials who carried out the villagization program “always went with armed policemen and soldiers,” Kurimoto said. “It is very clear that the regional government thought that people would not move happily or willingly. So they had to show their power and the possibility of using force.”
Inclusive Development International’s Pred said it is now up to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to decide whether “justice will be served” for the Anuak.  “Justice starts with the acceptance of responsibility for one’s faults – which the Inspection Panel found in abundance – and ends with the provision of meaningful redress,” he said.

- See more : 

Africa - Made in China

Chinese intervention in Africa is nowhere near the scale practiced by the United States or France. But when civil war broke out in Libya four years ago, Beijing had to evacuate 36,000 Chinese nationals living in the country. China certainly didn’t want to ask Western powers to help rescue its citizens.

“China had to do the entire evacuation on its own without any assistance whatsoever,” recalls David Shinn, a former American ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso “That was a wake-up call for the Chinese.”

Since China’s initial contribution to anti-piracy activities, the country greatly increased maritime cooperation in with Africa, holding exercises with Tanzania and providing warships to the Nigerian navy. In 2013, South Sudan collapsed into civil war. China soon embarked on its first major military intervention in Africa—deploying 700 soldiers as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. While China had far more peacekeepers deployed to Africa than any other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the South Sudan mission is the first that explicitly includes Chinese combat troops.

The main thing is that China wants to be an economic and diplomatic superpower in Africa. Beijing’s most important businesses with African countries is the arms trade. China has exported massive amounts of heavy and light weapons to the continent in recent years. The Chinese government is signing security-related partnerships with Egypt

“If you go back to the ’60s and ’70s, Chinese weapons were somewhere about three percent of all arms going into Africa,” Shinn recalls. “If you look at it up until 2010 or ’11, around 25 percent of all arms going Africa, by dollar value are Chinese.”

Chinese companies don’t really care who they sell their merchandise to. “A lot of those arms go to effectively pariah countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan,” Shinn says. Both countries are under European Union and U.S. arms embargoes, and look to China as a no-questions-asked weapons supplier. In early 2014 media outlets began to report on a massive delivery of small arms and ammunition to South Sudan government troops from Chinese state-owned arms manufacturer Norinco. China is also arming South Sudanese troops with anti-aircraft missiles. China heavily invests in South Sudan’s oil infrastructure, and wants to protect it.

French Africa - Francafrique

Currently, France has over 3,000 troops spread across five countries in Africa — Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — as part of Operation Burkhane, based in Chad. France also pushed heavily for intervention in Libya during the the country's uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, and has been involved in peacekeeping operations in various African countries. France was decisively behind the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya during the Arab Spring uprisings against Muammar Gaddafi. France's interpretation of UN Resolution 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone over the country, was bolder than either the US's or the UK's position.

On January 11, 2013, France launched airstrikes against jihadist positions in northern Mali as part of Operation Serval. French involvement in Mali eventually morphed into a larger operation that involved ground troops and French special forces.

In 2008, France moved 300 troops into the Central African Republic's (CAR) capital of Bangui. The soldiers were involved in helping to helping to stabilize the country in the face of rebel attacks spilling over from the conflict-torn Darfur region of neighboring Sudan. In December 2013, France began reinforcing these soldiers in an attempt to stabilize CAR after a rebel coalition overthrew the country's government, sparking a brutal sectarian conflict between Muslim and Christian armed groups. France increased the number of soldiers in the country to 2,000.

French troops have played some role in Chad since the late 1986 as part of Operation Epervier. The operation was designed to help Chad maintain its territorial integrity according to a bilateral agreement signed after Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's failed invasion of the country.  However, French troops never fully left Chad. Instead, the French established a base at N'Djamena, Chad's capital. A contingent of approximately 800 French soldiers remained at the base and helped provide Chadian authorities with aerial surveillance on the advance of Sudanese government-supported rebels, acting as a crucial force multiplier for Chadian dictator Idris Deby during battles in the capital in 2006 and 2008. As part of a global mission to tackle militancy across Africa, France launched Operation Barkhane in 2014 as a continuation of Operation Epervier and Operation Servel. Operation Barkhane will be headquarted at N'Djamena and 1,200 troops will be stationed in Chad.

In 2002, a civil war split the Ivory Coast in half and the French intervened in Operation Unicorn. Peace was largely brokered in the Ivory Coast by 2007. But the country remained effectively divided and French soldiers continued to stay in the country. In 2011, violence again flared as Gbagbo refused to hand over power to his democratically elected successor, Alassane Ouattara. French troops played a key role in removing Gbabgo from power. Under France's reorganization of its military in Africa, the French plan to reinforce their base at Abidjan, Ivory Coast's capital. The base will be used as an entry point onto the continent as well as a logistical support post.

From 1999 to 2001, Djibouti fought an insurgency that was eventually put down with French assistance. Following the war, Djibouti became increasingly stable. France gave operations of Camp Lemonnier, a former Foreign Legion post, over to the government of Djibouti, which then leased it to the US in 2001.  France maintains over 1,500 troops in Djibouti as part of a security force. The French forces in Djibouti have taken part in operations in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Ivory Coast. A French battle group that includes the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle are currently operating in the area.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Africa's Land and Seed Laws Under Attack

The lobby to industrialise food production in Africa is changing seed and land laws across the continent to serve agribusiness corporations. The privatisation of land and seeds is essential if a corporate model of agriculture is to flourish in Africa.

This means pushing for the formal demarcation, registration and titling of farmland, crucial to allowing foreign investors to lease or own land on a long-term basis. With regard to seeds, it means introducing intellectual property rights over plant varieties and criminalising farmers who ignore them.

In all cases, the end goal is to turn what has long been held as a commons in Africa into a marketable commodity that the private sector can control and extract profit from at the expense of small holder farmers and communities. The thinking is that this will make Africa more attractive to business. But this will only erode the rights of rural communities prevent them from continuing to serve as the backbone of the region's food and farming systems.

Together, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and GRAIN have investigated who is pushing which legislative or policy changes on land and seed laws in Africa right now.

see full report here

Protesters Killed in Democratic Republic of the Congo

According to human-rights groups, 42 people have been killed in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after security forces clashed with protesters over legislation that would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his 14 years in office. The government claims 10 “looters” and one policeman have been killed. Clashes also broke out in the east, where protesters demonstrated over cut off Internet and text-messaging services in the area. This week, the Catholic Church called on the Congolese to oppose the president’s attempt to stay in power.

from here

A growing child is a growing people

 The new Global Nutrition Report is a first-of-its-kind evaluation of food security in 193 countries produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute. More than two billion people around the world still suffer from poor nutrition. The effects of malnourishment during childhood last a lifetime, even if one’s food situation improves in adulthood. No matter how much better our local schools, hospitals and economy become, malnourished children can’t flourish. If a child’s brain isn’t properly fed, he or she can suffer irreversible cognitive challenges. Global investments in nutrition represent only 1 percent of aid spent each year. It’s simply not enough. Dollars directed toward education and healthcare and other critical development initiatives risk being wasted if we don’t create a solid foundation for proper nutrition early in life. The investigation into this problem found that the average adult that suffered from stunting as an infant has a much lower IQ compared to a consistently well-nourished adult, completes about four fewer years of school, and is significantly less likely to be employed in a white collar job. The deficits created by childhood malnutrition can permanently suppress an individual’s long-term earnings potential. The World Bank estimates that early-life food insecurity drops the average person’s lifetime wages by about 10 percent.

In South Africa -- arguably the most economically advanced country on the continent -- one in four children still goes to bed hungry every night. And as the South African economy has stalled, the proportion of kids under five suffering from “stunting” – physical deficiencies caused by chronic malnutrition -- has grown.

The situation is much worse in other African countries. In Madagascar, for example, half of all children under five suffer from stunting. In Congo, Liberia, Burundi and other low-income African countries, malnutrition by itself can compress GDP by up to three percent.

Africa is home to over half of the fastest growing economies in the world. This development is not exclusively a function of natural resources. Smart governments are cultivating high-tech sectors and setting the foundations for sustainable growth. Just look at Africa’s booming telecommunications sector, with more than a half-billion mobile connections on the continent today. Without proper nutrition, children will struggle to contribute creatively to Africa through the 21st century. Simply put, improving nutrition is the key to accelerating Africa’s growth and empowering our people. Effective nutritional support can be simple and inexpensive. Key programs include: fortification of staple foods with micronutrients; the addition of iodine to local salt supplies; and the creation of robust distribution systems for critical supplements like vitamin A and iron.

The Football's Goal

 Question: Which is the richest country, per head of population, in Africa? Theoretically at least, each citizen there should be more than three times richer than the average South African.

Answer: Equatorial Guinea, the continent's third-largest producer of oil after Nigeria and Angola.

Its population of just 650000 people in this tiny country should enjoy a standard of living approximating that of the average citizen of Portugal, which it closely matched in terms of GDP per capita, at more than $20000. South Africa's GDP per capita is just over $6600.

Instead, 80% of Equatorial Guinea's population live in abject poverty? According to the UN, fewer than half its population has access to clean drinking water. About 15% of Equatorial Guinea's children die before reaching the age of five. According to a recent article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs journal, it is "one of the deadliest places on the planet to be young".

The reason for the wealth gap is simple. Energy revenues, derived from pumping around 346000 barrels per day, have flowed into the pockets of the country's elite, but virtually none has trickled down to the poor majority. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo seized power in 1979 and enjoys, along with his great riches, the title of being Africa's longest-lasting dictator. Obiang and his dictatorship was once described by George W Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice as "our good friend".

Reporters Without Borders, which monitors the state of media freedom in the world, described Obiang as a "predator of press freedom'', and Transparency International places Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of the "most corrupt states in the world".

If you think the father’s corruption is bad, the son is even worse. Teodoro Jnr, recently installed by his dad as the country's vice-president, is also a prodigious collector of real estate across the world. His mansion in Malibu Beach, California was seized, along with a Gulfstream jet, and eight Ferraris by US Justice Department officials. In court papers, the prosecution averred that his riches were a consequence of corruption and were "inconsistent with his state salary of less than $100000 per year". Last year, to settle the criminal indictment, Obiang forfeited some $34-million of these assets to the US government.

We can expect silence upon the reality that exists outside the football stadium and nor can we expect any remarks by the football commentators during this African Nations tournament. But indeed it is a circus to camouflage the poverty and deprivation. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Boko Haram - Would The West Care More If Nigerians Were White?

The UN has called on Nigeria to restore law and order in the northeast and investigate mass killings alleged to have been carried out in the past few weeks by the militant group, Boko Haram.
Boko Haram’s the same lot that last spring kidnapped 276 girls, most of whom have never been recovered. This January, while world attention was focused on the killings in Paris, Boko Haram waged an assault on two northern towns. Satellite imagery "before and after" shows Bega and its neighbor razed to the ground.

The Nigerian government says 150, human rights groups say more than ten times that many were slaughtered. The exact numbers are hard to confirm. But one thing’s pretty certain: if what's been dismissed as a religious squabble in the north was taking place in Nigeria's oil pipeline territory in the south, neither the government in Ajuba, nor the world's most powerful nations, would be watching the violence escalate.

Black lives don’t matter as much as white to the West, that’s clear. But everywhere #profitsmattermost.

Western media stereotypes notwithstanding, Nigeria’s not some tin-pot state. The largest economy on the continent, a founding member of OPEC, one of the world's leading oil producers, it's not the government that's poor, only the vast majority of its people. Nigeria's seen billions of oil dollars flow through it, the lion’s share to corporations including Chevron, Exxon and Shell, but the oil giants have kicked back plenty to Nigerian leaders, elected and not, in exchange for protection.
As a result, the military’s annual budget today exceeds $6bn, and they've never been reluctant to use it to protect pipelines.

In the mid 1990s when demonstrations by the people of Ogoniland threatened to shut down oil production, much of the Niger Delta was put under military rule and "maintaining law and order" led to the killing of leading Ogoni activists including Ken Saro Wiwa.
Nigerians are going to the polls in mid February. President Goodluck Jonathan may be replaced. But it’s the wealth that needs shifting, not just the politicians in Nigeria. More oil money going to taxes, and things the Ogoni activists were demanding, like schools and clean water, might have produced more democracy and less corruption, and perhaps less of that military budget would be ending up in generals' pockets. Who knows? If poverty was a bit less dire and popular discontent a bit less severe, Nigeria just might be less fertile territory for misogynist maniacs promising power and vengeance.

Would the West care more if Nigerians were white? No doubt. But one thing's for sure, if you could make money from school girls, the most powerful people in the world would be all over this.

from here