Tuesday, February 21, 2017


The pace of urbanisation in Africa is bewildering. In 1950, no city in sub-Saharan Africa had a population greater than one million. It is now estimated that over 50 cities have a resident population of over one million people. As a consequence of this dizzying population growth, city and municipal authorities are overwhelmed. City leaders and managers are unable to respond, with sufficient planning and regulatory tools as well as services, to harness this phenomenal demographic change.

Our cities are drowning in garbage. Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam are a gridlocked disaster. Commuting in our cities is miserable and expensive. Housing is scant and squalid. It is estimated that about two-thirds of Nairobi’s residents live in just six per cent of the city’s land. These informal slum neighbourhoods lack basic services such as water and sanitation, schools and hospitals.

New urban growth is essentially unmanaged, disastrous sprawl. Owing to the lack of planning and inefficient land markets, urban neighbourhoods have turned into bourgeois slum cities. In Kenya, Kitengela, Ongata Rongai, Ngong Syokimau and Ruiru are perfect examples of shanty-towns. They lack roads, public schools, open public spaces and sewerage services.

Many of Africa’s youthful urban workers are in the low wage service sector. You see them in food markets, on the street or traffic-choked highways, where young men and women weave through dense jams under the gray cloak of vehicular emission, selling chewing gum, water, fruits, car accessories and pornographic videos compact discs. Many young urbanites are low-skilled construction workers. A sizeable proportion of workers in our cities are in the semi-skilled low technology fabrication sector known as jua kali industry. Africa’s urbanites work so hard and so long for so little. Hence, a defining characteristic of Africa’s urbanism is low productivity and low income. A majority of Africa’s urban workers live below the poverty line.

Rapid urbanisation has not been accompanied by economic growth. Cities in this continent are largely metropolis of concentrated consumption. Our urban centres are the epicenter of non-tradable goods — public service, big hotels, plush suburbs and fancy retail shops, with imported cloths and shoes, and fancy schools. Hence, it is easy to understand why rapid urbanisation has not been associated with economic growth.

World Bank economists found Africa's cities are among the costliest in the world for businesses and households. African cities are 29% more expensive than cities in countries with similar income levels. African households face costs relative to their per capita GDP that are 55% higher than in other regions, with city dwellers paying about 35% more for food in Africa than in other low-income and middle income countries and forced to pay high commuting costs - if public transport is available. Africa was urbanising at income levels much lower than those of many other developing countries, so that there were fewer resources available for public investment - East Asian countries could invest 40% of GDP in infrastructure while in Africa the ratio is only about 20%. 

Feeding Africa

Africa, with most of the world’s arable land and a large and growing workforce, spends $35bn a year importing food.

Africa has a young workforce in an ageing world, with an estimated 226 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than 70 percent of those youngsters are believed to live on less than $2 a day, most of them relying on vulnerable or unpaid employment for their survival.

The agriculture sector is set to create an additional 8 million stable jobs by 2020, a figure that could be significantly increased through increased investment in education, infrastructure, technology and various other support services. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Barely a month after President Lungu swore in his new-look cabinet into office in September last year the country was hit sudden hike in field pump prices. A liter of petrol jumped up to K13.70 from K11.50 and diesel is now selling at K11.50 from K8.70 a liter. The rise in fuel prices has translated into the rise in other prices – especially mealie-meal which shot up from K75 per 25kg bag of breakfast to Kl10.
Subsidies on fuel were removed by the late President Sata way back in 2012 in order to disadvantage fuel vendors who were deemed the main beneficiaries. But the removal of subsidies on fuel in particular gave rise to unanticipated economic and social problems.
Indeed consumption subsidies by their nature only benefit the rich in society given the fact that the majority of Zambian workers and peasant farmers get a meagre income of K1200 (minimum wage).
The 'poor oriented' budget came in 2017 annual budget presented to parliament by the newly appointed Finance Minister Felix Mutati on 11 November in what was dubbed 'Zambia plus'. The 2017 Budget seems to be a plan to change Zambia stalled economy. The economic recovery programme sets out to restore economic stability and aims to scale up government social protection programmes so as to protect the most vulnerable in society from the negative impacts of macro-economic programmes. To quote from Felix Mutati's budgetary speech: 'The government aims to improve economic and fiscal governance by raising levels of accountability and transparency in the allocation and use of public money.'
The 2017 budges (K64 billion) is believed to be a self-grown budget mostly funded by internal borrowing. It holds a lot of promise to the workers earning K3000 and below who are exempted from paying PAYE.
The Finance Minister Felix Mutati is a veteran MMD president and was recently appointed by President Lungu to replace PF Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda. The appointment of Mutati was foreshadowed by his support of the PF during the 11 August presidential election. More or less it is an infusion of new blood into the PF of whose original members have mostly resigned.
The fight against corruption
During the past years President Lungu has been blamed among other things for having been too silent on corruption. The President came out now into the open during the inauguration speech that he was going to stamp out corruption from the PF. The first victim of the fight against corruption was the former Minister of Broadcasting and Information, Mr. Chishimba Kambwili, who was recently dismissed on allegations of corruption.
Far back in 2012 the late President Michael Sata had cautioned the anti-corruption Commission against investigating and indicting serving cabinet ministers. It is alleged that Chishimba Kambwili, the most outspoken and versatile of politicians, has amassed large amounts of wealth. It has been revealed that Kambwili recently purchased a fleet of thirty articulated trucks worth billions of kwacha. It is also on record that he owns a construction company that has failed to complete the construction of clinics and schools despite having been paid in full by the government.
In Zambia must cabinet ministers and members of parliament own private enterprises that are awarded tenders to supply building materials, food to hospitals and uniforms for nurses and police offices etc. It is also on record that the government has been in most cases failing to pay private contractors in time – thus the failure to complete public projects. More or less the fight against corruption is in most cases a jaundiced political tactic as most ministers who have been indicted for corruption have not yet been imprisoned. People were not surprised when President Lungu recently announced that he was forgoing 50 percent of his salary to sacrifice for national development.
The fall of the Post newspaper
The sensational and notorious Post newspaper was finally liquidated and placed under receivership in October after having had filed to remit K80 billion owed to the Zambia Revenue Authority in taxes. It is also alleged that the Post had accumulated debts and outstanding salaries totalling some K228 billion. The paper was a thorn in the flesh of most politicians ever since it was founded in 1992.
The Post newspaper was part of the culture of political democracy, defined as the right to media freedom and political transparency. Though claiming for speaking on behalf of the silent majority and politically non-partisan, the newspaper took sides in Zambian domestic political. It was a tool of political propaganda.
It was owned by Mutembo Nchito and partners and it may not appear as a surprise to many people that its liquidation brought to the conclusion the embittered political career of Mutembo Nchito after he was fired as director of public prosecution on 10 August last year. This was after the tribunal appointed to investigate him had presented its recommendation to President Lungu.
The tribunal concluded that terms of reference number 2 – alleged grave misconduct or misbehaviour by the DPP – when on February 20, 2015, the DPP temporarily took over prosecution of a case before senior resident magistrate Jack Mwale. In the afore-mentioned case the DPP was the accused person and proceeded to enter a nolle prosequi in his own recognition, thereby defeating the ends of justice which has been proved against him.
During the past three years the Post was a mouthpiece of the UPND in terms of political propaganda (coverage). This was especially evident during the 11 August presidential political campaigns. The former Information Minister, Chishimba Kambwili, will be remembered for having threatened the Post with liquidation during the recent past year. The liquidation of the newspaper was precipitated by its employees who had sued the company for bankruptcy for non-payment of accumulated salaries.
Tribalism at the helm
During the presentation of his inauguration speech on 11 September President Lungu went on to assure the people of Zambia that he was going to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to find out the people behind an ethnic fracas that look place in Namwala when a mob of Tonga tribesmen descended upon some Bemba-speaking residents ransacked and evicted them from their homes. This was after it was announced that PF president Lungu had won the elections. It was an expression of political dissatisfaction and UPND leader Hichilema had disputed the election results. President Lungu had defeated Hichilema by a slim margin of 100,530 votes during an election that has left Zambia divided in terms of political and tribal loyalties (regional) tribalism in Zambia today is perceived to be a cultural traditional and political antagonism between those who voted for the PF and UPND respectively.

Ever since he succeeded the late Anderson Mazoka as president of the UPND in 2005 Hichilema has been championing tribalism by parading himself as a political spokesman of the Tonga tribe. The UPND leader is renown for promoting, organizing and inciting political hooliganism during election campaigns. It is Hichilema who has been spearheading the culture of political and ethnic antagonism (defined as tribalism) between Tonga, Lozi and Bemba tribe. The UPND alleges that the Tonga in particular has been politically marginalized ever since the dawn of political pluralism.

The veteran Zambian politician and member of the UPND Daniel Mukombwe even went to the extent of advocating the rotation of the presidency between Tonga, Lozi and Bemba tribe's every after four years. The reluctance of Hichilema to accept the results of the 11 August presidential election gave vent to heightened feelings of ethnic and political marginalization among UPND supporters throughout Zambia.
Because Zambia is dubbed a Christian nation, the extent to which Christianity is helping to restrain ethnic and tribal prejudice needs to be appreciated. The moral and ethnic value of Christianity blends well with the PF slogan of 'One Zambia One Nation' and is visible among the street vendors that congest along Chisokone Avenue in Kitwe town centre who seems little affected by the hike of fuel and mealie meal price.

The Labour movement in Zambia seems to be far removed from awakening class political struggle in that the trade unions play a minor role in the day-to-day social problems facing the working class. Because the social and economic problems Zambia is experiencing originate from capitalism, they cannot be resolved from within the social and economic programme implemented by government. Social poverty is here to stay.


Friday, February 17, 2017

South Sudan's Crisis

The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has "deteriorated dramatically," said Eugene Owusu, the U.N. aid chief in South Sudan, who described the country as troubled by the threat of famine and widespread sexual violence. "We are facing unprecedented needs, in an unprecedented number of locations,"

More than 1.5 million South Sudanese have become refugees and their humanitarian needs are overwhelming aid efforts during the country's civil war, according to the United Nations.
South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 and roughly 3.6 million people have fled their homes or become refugees, according to the U.N. The country is Africa's largest refugee crisis and the third largest in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan.

Roughly 7.5 million people are in need of assistance and protection, a majority of the country's estimated 12 million population, according to the U.N. Around 4.6 million people are expected to receive food assistance in the first part of 2017, according to the World Food Program.

South Sudan's government spends roughly half of its national budget on defense spending.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

South Africa's Shame

More than 100 people have died and the death toll is still rising after a government decision to transfer psychiatric patients from hospitals to unlicensed private care homes in South Africa.  Senior officials were repeatedly warned of the risk of the patient-transfer scheme, yet they pushed ahead with it anyway.  

South African health ombudsman Dr. Malegapuru Makgoba's investigation found a range of troubling factors in the scandal: a government cost-cutting campaign that went wrong, private homes that saw the psychiatric patients as a business opportunity, appalling living conditions that sometimes resembled those of a concentration camp and senior officials who ignored all warnings of looming disaster. The senior officials who pushed for the patient transfers “knew of the risks before embarking on this project and watched as the tragedy unfolded,” said Section27, a public-interest law centre in South Africa.They did nothing to stop it. They should be held to account to the fullest extent of the law."

Some patients were transferred to the private homes in the back of pickup trucks or were tied with bedsheets during their transfer, the report found. They were sent to homes without doctors, nurses or other qualified staff. Some of the homes lacked proper food, water, medicine and even heating in the winter. Many patients died of dehydration, heart attacks, diarrhea and pneumonia. Some had become emaciated from hunger. In many cases, the causes of death are still unknown.

Some of the facilities were just double-storey houses, and some were run as a business venture, the ombudsman said. None of the homes had valid licences, and many were overcrowded and lacked the resources to care for the influx of psychiatric patients, he said.

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the private homes chose the patients “like a cattle auction,” without regard to the specialized care that the patients would need. “How could they take patients without medical records into their care?” he asked.

 The Treatment Action Campaign, said it was shocked by the “inhumanity and callous disregard for the lives of others”  The report “paints a picture of a government with no regard for the lives of some of the most marginalized people in our society – people with severe mental-health problems,” it said. “The report also paints a picture of a health-care system that is grossly mismanaged and has been entrusted to people incapable of effectively serving the public interest.” 

African Robbery

Many people ask: “Why should we spend funds on Africa when we are suffering?” The developed world have actually been ripping off Africa for the past 700 years, ever since the Portuguese began the slave trade, all the while insisting that Africa has been the beneficiary of this relentless exploitation. 

Slavery and the slave trade, upon which Western Europe and the United States developed their economic superiority, were said to be positive for Africans, whose innate inferiority meant they had no capacity to run their own lives.

 Colonialism, in turn, was the West’s ostensibly philanthropic attempt to gift Africa with “Christianity, Civilization and Commerce,” in return for making possible Europe’s assorted empires.

Neo-colonialsm, which has operated for the past 65 years since the West first “gave” their African colonies freedom, is the stage we have all lived through. During this period, according to Western mythology, Africa has been the problem to which the generosity of the rich world is the solution. You know – a goat at Christmas, the “adoption” of an unknown child, meagre foreign aid and neoliberal economic policies.
Africa’s multiple woes were a function of deliberate policies of exploitation by Europe’s colonial regimes. espite mounting evidence, mass ignorance in the West, cultivated by both elites and aid agencies, remained dominant. Yet excellent research by sophisticated NGOs have made indisputably clear the manifold ways in which foreign interests consistently ripped off African countries, not least through tax evasion and the investment privileges gained by Western corporate interests. urces that get transferred between rich countries and poor ones each year, including aid, foreign investment and trade flows, as well as debt cancellation, workers’ remittances and unrecorded capital flight. The conclusion was categorical: The flow of money from rich countries to poor countries, including most of Africa, pales in comparison to the flow that runs in the other direction.
In 2012, the last year of recorded data, poor countries received a total of $1.3-trillion (U.S.), including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3-trillion flowed out of them. In other words, developing countries sent $2-trillion more to the rest of the world than they received. Since 1980, these net outflows add up to a staggering total of $16.3 trillion. That’s how much money has been bled out of the global south, including Africa, over the past few decades. Add in the massive corruption, enabled by Western interests, plus the violent coups and conflicts that Western interests facilitated, and there’s only one conclusion: Rich countries aren’t developing poor countries; poor countries are developing rich ones. Canada is a pretty good example. On the one hand, its government sends them paltry amounts of foreign aid. On the other, to take only one example, Canadian investment in African mining ventures, many of them deeply destructive to locals, are often actively promoted by Canadian politicians and bureaucrats.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Maji Maji War

Germany’s colonial record is Africa was a cruel one. This blog has already revealed the genocide they tried to commit in Namibia of the  Herero and Nama people  but they also massacred many tens of thousands in other colonies.

The Maji Maji ("sacred water". Maji was a drink of water mixed with millet given to the warriors before they went to fight.) War was an armed rebellion against German colonial rule in German East Africa and lasted from 1905 to 1907. The war was triggered by a German policy designed to force the indigenous population to grow cotton for export. Villages were ordered to grow cotton as a cash crop for expor). Each village was charged with producing a quota of cotton. The headmen of the village were left in charge of overseeing the production, which set them against the rest of the population.

The rebellion spread throughout the colony, eventually involving 20 different ethnic groups all of whom wished to dispel the German colonizers.  As such it was the first significant example of interethnic cooperation in the battle against colonial control.

The German army adopted famine as a weapon and starved their opponents to death by destroying fields and killing livestock. It is estimated that over 50% of the Matumbi people died, and 75% of the Pangwa people died.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Tax Cheats

 A World Bank report has raised concerns about tax compliance by mining companies in Africa, tax loopholes and the illicit flow of funds in a range of African countries. The report, ‘Transfer Pricing in Africa, with a focus on Africa’, has shown that several countries on the continent have struggled to achieve a tax to gross domestic product ratio of 15%, against an average of over 33.6% for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries since 2000.

“While some tax practices may be technically legal, it may be argued they are ethically questionable,” says the report.

The report says multinational enterprises (MNEs) often undercharge for mineral products they export and overpay for routine corporate services and specialised goods and services, such as insurance and logistics. By doing this, they reduce the profit of the mining subsidiary and the tax collected in the host country.

MNEs have tended to structure their businesses by consolidating high-value functions and related intangible assets in hubs that provide goods and services to their global operations. They locate them in low-tax jurisdictions or in jurisdictions allowing the establishment of preferentially taxed special purpose entities.

The way MNEs organise their global corporate structures often leads to the eroding of the tax base of the host country as profit is shifted abroad. The functions of the mining subsidiaries are often stripped down to mostly routine activities using primarily less skilled employees and tangible assets, the report reveals.

 The report says few mining companies are fully vertically integrated, while, increasingly, mining companies are entering into cross-border transactions which provide for high-value, specialised services and assets and financing.

 The report says the “extreme complexity and artificiality” of some multilayered structures shows evidence that some conduit companies are effectively just “mailboxes” with no clear business purpose, adding little or no value. There are indications that they are primarily designed to cut the tax paid by multinational companies at the consolidated level.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Jobs Famine

Sub-Saharan Africa is fast becoming a place of unemployment, vulnerable jobs and poor workers, a reality that is making the aspiration of most countries to transform into middle-level economies a mirage.  Research has shown that sub-Saharan Africa is not only grappling with run-away unemployment but the majority of the jobs are in the informal sector and the few employed people are actually living in poverty.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reckons that the informal economy contributes 50-80 per cent of gross domestic product, 60-80 per cent of employment and 90 per cent of new jobs. Worse, about nine out of 10 workers in both rural and urban areas hold only informal jobs, leaving the majority of the population living from hand to mouth.

"In sub-Saharan Africa, poor-quality employment - rather than unemployment - remains the main labour market challenge. This problem is compounded by rapid population growth, specifically growth of the working-age population," states the ILO's World Employment Social Outlook 2017 report.

The problem of poor quality jobs is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where over 70 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment against the global average of 46.3 per cent. The informality of employment is exerting pressures on economies because only a few people can afford vital services like medical cover or saving for retirement.  The lack of productive opportunities for the youth and adults alike mean that 247 million people were in vulnerable employment in 2016, equivalent to around 68 per cent of all those with jobs. Over the next four years, the region will pump an additional 12.6 million youth into the same precarious labour force market.

The reality of vulnerable employment is worsened by working poverty, considering that 33.6 per cent of all employed people in sub-Sahara Africa were living in extreme poverty -- that is living on less than $1.90 per day -- in 2016. An additional 30.1 per cent were living in moderate poverty at between $1.90 and $3.10 per day, which corresponds to over 230 million people living in either extreme or moderate poverty. The rate of moderate working poverty is rising and is projected to be 30.5 per cent in 2017, representing an increase of approximately five million people in one year. The challenge is particularly dire for youth considering that almost 70 per cent of them in 2016 were in jobs characterised as working poverty.

 Unemployment and low quality jobs is worsening in East Africa despite the region's being expected to post economic growth of 5.4 per cent in 2017 against a continental average of 2.5 per cent.