Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fact of the Day

In sub-Saharan Africa, where only 16 percent of roads are paved and 24 percent of people have access to electricity,

Containing the Cartels

Six of the world’s biggest container shipping companies were raided by South African on suspicion of colluding to inflate rates between Asia and South Africa, the country’s Competition Commission said. The companies under investigation are involved in the transportation of cargo for import and export purposes across the globe‚ including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods‚ garments and footwear.

The development comes as global container lines struggle in the worst-ever market conditions, caused by a glut of ships and slowing global trade, which has battered earnings and forced at least one out of business. The six companies raided comprise local subsidiaries of Denmark’s Maersk, Swiss-headquartered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), France’s CMA CGM Shipping, Germany’s Hamburg Sud, Singapore-based Pacific International Line and Maersk unit Safmarine, the commission said in a statement. It said the firms were suspected of engaging in collusive practices to fix incremental rates on the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa.

“Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said. 

In July, EU antitrust regulators accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. 

United States of Africa

In July 2016, Idris Deby, the Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Republic of Chad, and Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, received the first AU passports. The full roll-out of the passport for ordinary citizens is slated for the end of 2018. The AU is, however, pushing for citizens of its member states to have the possibility of travelling and staying visa- free in member states for up to 30 days before the formal rollout of the AU passports in 2018.

Is the idea of a common passport a pathway to the United States of Africa

The idea behind a common passport is to make it possible for all African citizens to be able to travel throughout the continent without visas.  In fact, a report by African Development Bank on visa openness found that only 13 out of 55 African countries allow all Africans to enter their countries either without a visa or to get visa on arrival.

Proponents of a common African passport argue that it will foster regional integration in Africa. The argument is that free movement of people along the lines of what the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECWOAS.)

"Free" Trade ?

 Six African countries who had been threatened with losing access to the European single market have finally agreed to sign the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). But the continent may suffer as a result. In July, the EU had upped the pressure on six African governments, threatening to suspend their single market access if they had not ratified the new agreements by 1 October.

 Faced with a tax on their EU exports if they failed to cooperate, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya all finally agreed to ratify their Economic Partnership Agreements.  

Kenya’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Adan Mohamed, said that if he had allowed the EU’s October ultimatum to pass, “Kenyan products would have become un-competitive on the European market, as they would have been taxed at 22%”.

The EPA, obliges it to progressively open its own market to European products.

Critics say the dice are weighted in favour of the EU. The loss of customs revenue, coupled with competition from European products arriving on less development markets, is a major cause for concern.

Wage Drop in South Africa

South African workers took home much smaller disposable salaries in August 2016 than they did in August 2015, as inflation accelerated but growth in wages slowed.

The BankservAfrica disposable salary index, released on Wednesday, shows employees took home 2.5% less in August than a year earlier — the third consecutive month of declines in real disposable salaries. "For the first eight months, real take-home salaries declined by 0.4%," it said.

"While workers received salary increases in nominal terms, the real value for these ended up being lower due to the higher rate of inflation," BankservAfrica head of knowledge and risk services Caroline Belrose said.

The Palm Oil Land-grab

Palm oil is the planet's new "super oil and  is present in about half of all products in supermarkets in Germany. It's in cakes, margarine, make-up and ice cream. It is also used as a bio-diesel in the European Union (EU). The global consumption of palm oil is growing and is forecasted to continue to grow.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that consumption will double by 2050. The oil is versatile and is cheaper to produce than other plant oils such as canola or sunflower. So it is not surprising that investment in palm oil is climbing. However, the oil is controversial. Sierra Leone possesses massive amounts of land where oil palm production could thrive and a government that is willing to hand over this land to investors for not that much money.

When a multinational palm oil company expanded into Sierra Leone, rainforests were leveled and local livelihoods disappeared. Some say that this is the price of development while others want their land back.

"People say that even our elders want to give the land away," said Crespo. "They also say that the company has also offered to buy our lands as well. But then we would be suffering just like the people from Sahn Malen." In Sahn Malen, oil palm plantations dominate the landscape with their low, uniform shape for as far as the eye can see. "All of this land was taken by the company," said Crespo, "all of it."

Socfin, which is registered in Switzerland but has its headquarters in Belgium, in the past four years has planted 12,432 hectacre (30,720 acres) of oil palms in Sierra Leone. The company came to Sahn Malen in 2012 and leased swaths of land. It planted oil palms and built an ultra-modern processing plant. Before Socfin arrived, farmers used to grow palm oil but also cocoa, cassava, potatoes, pineapples, beans and rice. Most were able to provide for their daily needs with their own harvests. But these times have passed since the local chief sided with the newcomers.

"The chief pressured us to sell our lands," said Fascia. "We did not have a choice. Even if we said no, he still handed it over." said Fascias in Kasseh, a village in Sahn Malen. When the bulldozers came, Fascia stood in front of her house and was able to save this small plot of fertile land that helped feed her family and send her children to school. She is the only one in the whole village who did so.

Mattia Limbe, one of the founders of the Malen Land Owners Association (MALOA) which formed after protests against Socfin in 2012 said there is another reason why the people are quiet. "My people are scared," he said. "The chief would not tolerate any opposition," said Mattia. Many people are scared of being arrested so they meet in secret. Mattia has already been arrested numerous times.

The spread of palm oil plantations is a threat to rainforests and the indigenous people who live there. Greenpeace has been warning for years against the clear-cutting of rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil. More recently they have expanded their warnings to Africa.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Somalia's Tragedy

The UN just announced that due to drought and famine over 300,000 Somali children are suffering from severe malnutrition. This means that over 100 children are already dying everyday from starvation. Soon the number will reach many hundreds a day, bringing back memories of the most recent Great Horn of Africa drought in 2011-12 when the UN admitted that 250,000, almost entirely children, died from starvation. And this drought and famine is worse.

The reason so many Somali children are starving to death is triggered by the latest climate disaster in the form of the El Nino drought. But the fact that Somalia itself, this meaning from the former capital Mogadishu south to the Kenyan border, is in a state of foreign occupation and war is exacerbating the situation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Protecting oil business not nature

The British government has offered support to a multi-billion pound plan to drill for oil in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. The UN has cautioned against drilling for oil in national parks due to the potential damage to ecosystems and the well-being of people living nearby.

The project, involving British company Tullow Oil; French firm Total and Chinese oil company CNOOC, could see dozens of wells drilled in Murchison Falls national park in Uganda. Tullow, together with its partners, would be investing $8 billion and drilling 500 wells in the three blocks, over the next 25 years. The park is home to one of the last remaining populations of the world’s most endangered species of giraffe, leading to warnings by experts that if the park is damaged the species could be at risk. Damage to the park has already occurred. The most intensive development lies within Exploration Area 1 (EA1), operated on behalf of the group by Total. Seventy percent of EA1 overlaps with the national park, including savannah habitat used by the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, lions and elephants.

Small scale but irreparable damage has already occurred to the park as a result of a geological survey. An ecological compliance study found 283 instances of damage, 159 of which were found to be “non-restorable”. This included oil leakage; damage to trees and riverbanks and the destruction of termite mounds.

British trade officials have classed Tullow’s operations in the park as an “opportunity” worth over £1bn to UK businesses and have been keen to offer the firm financial backing. The government has held talks with Tullow about providing UK taxpayer-backed loans and insurance for its operations in the country.

Uganda is not the only example of British firms wishing to drill in national parks and other protected areas. British companies hold the rights to explore for oil in national parks and protected areas all over sub-Saharan Africa. Six British companies hold exploration licences covering at least 29 protected sites in eight countries.

This trend is at odds with the position of international institutions.

 A UN Environment spokesperson warned that: “Highly protected areas are protected because of their ecological value or vulnerability. In common with all industrial activity, mineral activity in such areas has the potential to impact this value adversely and/or enhance vulnerability with serious consequences to both biodiversity and human well-being.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN has a strict “no-go” policy regarding mining activities in protected areas. Kathy MacKinnon, Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas said the organisation: “encourages responsible companies not to seek exploration and production concessions within protected areas.”

Irene Ssekyana of Kampala-based NGO Greenwatch Uganda, stated, “It is a very sensitive ecosystem. We’re talking about a globally important area of biodiversity that supports a vibrant tourism industry. The government says they are going to minimise the footprint of the activities, but it’s not very convincing… as long as issues of corruption and governance are not dealt with, I do not think that the ordinary Ugandan will benefit…”

Tullow has refused to rule out drilling in protected areas, although it said it does have a policy against drilling in world heritage sites. The firm holds oil licence blocks overlapping 15 protected areas in Africa, said: “We don’t rule out drilling in protected areas full stop.” According to Tullow 40% of Uganda’s oil lies beneath Murchison Falls national park.

Fact of the Day (Zimbabwe poverty)

More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, with others going abroad where they are doing menial jobs after industry collapsed, rendering millions jobless and hungry.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Food Power

As a young university student of agriculture, Edie Mukiibi believed the latest hybrid seeds which promised bumper crops were the answer to improving the lot of maize farmers in his part of Uganda. He persuaded many to buy the seeds, while working part-time promoting them in Kiboga district in central Uganda. But the consequences were "terrible", he said. It was 2007, a year of drought, and the new seeds turned out to be less resilient than traditional varieties. "The farmers lost almost everything - every bit of maize crop they had. When I went back to talk with the farmers I could feel their pain," Mukiibi said. Even worse, the new crops could not be grown with any other crops, so the farmers were left with nothing to fall back on except the bills they had run up for the pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers the maize required, he said. "This is when I started working with farmers ... to diversify their farming," said Mukiibi, now vice president of Slow Food International, a grassroots movement of farmers, chefs, activists and academics campaigning to improve the quality of food and the lives of producers.

Large companies are increasingly taking charge of food production in Africa and pushing for greater quantities of food - but these are not the answer to cutting hunger in Africa, he said. "We need to encourage small-scale producers that they are still important in the world of food," he said, adding that thousands in Uganda have lost access to land bought by foreign companies producing food for export.

“We need to think more about the real causes of malnutrition in developing countries, and we need to realise the problem is not production, the problem is how do we keep the food we have in circulation."

Traditionally, Ugandan farms grow different crops on the same piece of land. Five acres may be planted with coffee and in between the coffee plants, bananas and cocoa are grown, as well as yams and beans for the family to eat, he said. The crops support each other - in times of drought coffee plants extend their roots to banana plants which naturally hold more water, he added. "This is a very, very productive farming system in Africa." 

In Africa, food lost during or after harvest could feed 300 million people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. People can go hungry in one part of Uganda while bananas are rotting in the fields and in stores in another part.

Population Projections

The world’s population of 7.4 billion is growing at 1.1 percent per year – about half the peak level of the late 1960s. The sizeable differences in rates of future population growth are primarily due to the level of fertility.
29 countries whose populations are expected to at least double by the middle of the 21st century.
38 countries whose populations are expected to be smaller by the middle of the 21st century.

The decliner’s proportion of the world’s population is projected to fall from close to 30 percent today to nearly 20 percent by the year 2050. The country with the most rapid decline among the decliners is Bulgaria (27 percent), followed by Romania (22 percent), Ukraine (21 percent) and Moldova (20 percent). China, is expected to decrease by more than 2 percent by 2050, with the Chinese population peaking in less than a decade. Other large populations projected to experience demographic declines by midcentury are Japan (15 percent), Russia (10 percent), Germany (8 percent) and Italy (5 percent). Moreover, some of the decliners have already experienced population decline for a number of years in the recent past, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. The population projections for the decliners assume some immigration in the future. For some decliner countries, such as Italy, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Russia, immigration lessens the expected declines in their future populations. For example, while Italy’s population with assumed immigration is projected to decline by 5 percent by mid-century, without immigration Italy’s projected population would fall to 13 percent.

The doublers are nearly all located in sub-Saharan Africa. The largest countries among the doublers are Nigeria (187 million), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (80 million) and Tanzania (55 million). The largest doubler population, Nigeria, is expected to increase by 112 percent, reaching just under 400 million by 2050 and thereby displacing the United States as the world’s third largest country after India and China. The Democratic Republic of the Congo whose population of 80 million is projected to increase by 145 percent, or an additional 116 million people, bringing its total midcentury population to nearly 200 million.

Today the doublers together account for 10 percent of the world’s population.
By 2050, however, due to the doublers’ rapid rates of demographic growth that proportion is expected to increase to 18 percent of the world’s projected population of nearly 10 billion people.
Among the doublers the country with the most rapid increase is Niger, whose population of 21 million is expected to double by the year 2034 and to experience a 250 percent increase by mid-century, more than tripling its population to 72 million. Other countries with substantial increases of 150 percent or more are Zambia, Angola, Uganda and Mali.

Doublers are generally migrant-sending countries, while many of the decliners are migrant-receiving countries. Given the onerous living conditions for most of the populations in doubler countries, growing numbers of young adults are turning to both legal and illegal migration to wealthier developed countries, many of which are also decliner countries. Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns. As is being increasingly reported, some decliners are erecting barriers, fences and walls to deter unauthorized immigration, while others remain resolutely averse to a sizeable foreign population taking hold within their borders. However, as has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout world demographic history, rapidly growing populations are not easily confined to within borders, eventually traversing deserts, mountains, rivers and seas and spreading out across continents.

The median fertility rate among the 29 doubler countries is 5.3 births per woman, ranging from a low of 4.4 in Kenya to a high of 7.6 in Niger. In contrast, fertility levels among the 38 decliner countries all fall below the replacement level of about two children, with the median fertility rate being 1.5 births per woman. Countries that are approximately a half child below the replacement level include China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia and Spain. Many of the decliners have already passed through the historic reversal, or the demographic point where the number of elderly aged 65 and older exceeds the number of children below age 15 years. The median ages for half of the decliners are above 40 years, with the oldest being Japan, Germany and Italy at 46 years. With the proportion of elderly increasing and more of them living longer, often many years beyond retirement, governments of the decliner countries are particularly concerned about escalating costs for social security, pensions, health and care giving. Options to address those fiscal issues include raising official retirement ages, increasing taxes, redirecting government revenues and reducing benefits. Many decliner countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain, are attempting to alter their projected demographic futures by raising their low fertility levels in hopes of mitigating population decline and perhaps even achieving near population stabilization. Moving to replacement level fertility by encouraging women to have additional children, however, has proved to be difficult and generally not successful.

Doublers face serious development challenges in meeting the basic needs of their rapidly growing and very young populations. The median ages of the doubler countries are all below 20 years, with the youngest being Niger (15 years), Uganda (16), Chad (16), Angola (16), Mali (16) and Somali (16). Many doubler countries, such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger and Uganda, are now facing food shortages. Providing sufficient foods for their rapidly growing populations is expected to be considerably more difficult in the years ahead.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Capitalism kills

Economic hardship is leading to a rise in the suicide rate in Nigeria. The current economic crisis in Nigeria has forced businesses to close. This crisis has now trickled down to the ordinary man and woman. Many are now living below the poverty line which leads to anxiety, depression, and frustration.

Maru Godwin Worlu, an economist and lecturer at the Port Harcourt Polytechnic in Rivers State, said the difficulties are being felt in every corner of the country. He went on to recount the story of a woman with three children who was forced to beg for money to feed them. One day she had had enough and went and bought sleeping pills and gave them to the children. "All three children died in their sleep. They just died," he said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Who polices the police?

Amnesty International said it had investigated facilities run by the Nigerian police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and found multiple cases where “confessions” were allegedly obtained through torture, where people who had not been charged with any crime were claimed to be beaten and starved, and where suspects were detained for months longer than the maximum 48 hours defined in Nigeria’s constitution.

A specialist police unit that was set up to tackle Nigeria’s alarming rise in violent crime has instead become a hotbed for alleged corruption, where suspects are claimed to be detained in horrific conditions and tortured until they or their relatives can pay for their freedom, according to their report.

The unit has become seen as a comfortable posting in the police force where officers allegedly know they can “earn a substantial amount of money in a short time”, in part through extortion and in part through the theft of valuables from suspects.

Somalia's food crisis

Nearly five million people in Somalia are suffering from a shortage of food due to poor rainfall, floods and displacement, the United Nations says.

More than 300,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished and require urgent assistance.

Malnutrition levels in Somalia have increased over the last six months with nearly half the population affected.

The number of people without enough food has increased by 300,000 since February.

Funding for the Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan has reached just 32% of its target.

The numbers could go higher if the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is closed down and thousands are forced to return to Somalia where they have no homes or livelihoods.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Capitalism profits from the rag trade

Around the developed world many thousands altruistically donate their unwanted used clothing to charity. But a number of countries Africa are fed up with the onslaught of second-hand items they receive from Western non-profits and wholesalers, and want to ban such imports altogether. The global wholesale used clothing trade is valued at about $3.7 billion. Suppliers like Global Clothing Industries, for example, solely send and ship used clothing, shoes and other items overseas. GCI exports to 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America. Even nonprofits like Oxfam and Salvation Army aren’t giving away secondhand clothes for free. When supporters drop off unwanted goods, those organizations often deliver donated clothing to the developing world and sell them to traders. They, in turn, sell the items in their local markets

In 2014, a handful of East African countries imported more than $300 million worth of secondhand clothing from wealthy countries. The used items have created a robust market in East Africa and thereby a decent amount of jobs. But experts say the vast amount of these imports have devastated local clothing industries and led the region to rely far too heavily on the West. Uganda alone imported 1,261 tons of worn clothing and other items from the U.S. last year. And secondhand garments make up 81 percent of all clothing purchases there.

In March, the East African Community (EAC), which is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, proposed banning all imported used clothing and shoes by 2019. The goal is to stop relying on imports from rich nations, boost local manufacturing and create new jobs. However, the law is unlikely to pass. There is resistance from the U.S., which unloads hordes of secondhand clothes all over the world, and from sellers in East Africa whose livelihood depends on these shipments, as well as from experts who think an outright ban won’t be enough for these countries to restore production at home. Deborah Malac, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda warned that enacting it would “negatively impact” the benefits Uganda gets from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which aims to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa in order to stimulate economic growth in the region. That law also gives African countries duty-free access to the U.S. apparel market. To qualify and remain eligible, each country must make an effort to improve its rule of law, human rights and respect for core labor standards.

Once these discarded clothes hit East African shores, they sell for extremely low prices: For example, a pair of used jeans can be as little as $1.50 in the Gikomba Market, East Africa’s biggest secondhand clothing market, located in Nairobi, Kenya.  Rock-bottom prices make locally made clothes look too expensive by comparison, Joseph Nyagari of the African Cotton & Textiles Industries Federation told Think Progress last year. “The average cost of a secondhand garment is between five and 10 percent of a new garment made in Kenya, so local industries can’t compete,” he said.

In the early 1990s, Kenya had about 110 large-scale garment manufacturers. By 2006, that number dropped to 55, the study found. 10 years on, and East Africa is still limited in its production of clothing and textiles. Kenya currently has just 15 textile mills, according to Fashion Revolution, a U.K.-based group that promotes sustainable clothing manufacturing. The Uganda Manufacturers Associations has about 30 garment and footwear producers among its members.

A Malaise in Malawi

The World Atlas ranked Malawi as the poorest country in the world. Just last month, the Center for Strategic & International Studies reported that Malawi is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in its history as widespread maize harvest failures have created massive food shortages. Over half the nation’s population needs food relief to survive through the beginning of next year. In Malawi, poverty and hunger go hand in hand. In many ways, the nation is quite blessed — it has natural resources, a climate that isn’t extreme, a large and bountiful lake, and a peaceful history without threat of war. And still, Malawi forever clings to the top of the list of the world’s poorest countries.

The enemy is not poor maize harvests, poor healthcare, poor education, or even poor government. These are serious problems, but they aren’t the enemy. Thousands of Malawi villages are struggling with water sources that are close to disappearing and food supplies that have already run out. People are starving. Four decades of intervention, and look how far we haven’t come.

The real enemy is how the world tries to help. Specifically:
1. The system that demands foreign aid be funneled through the government or large NGOs
2. The system that creates a hierarchy of aid and government workers whose job security and quality of life depends not on their wanting what is good on the ground, but pleasing whoever is above them in rank
3. The system that discriminates against on-the-ground, local initiatives because of a lack academic credentials, English-speaking skills, and the ability to complete unwieldy applications and fulfill misguided metric targets

If Malawi is to win the war against poverty, it needs to face the truth and admit that the system has not not worked in Malawi.  In a country where local government clinics have no malaria medicines because it all gets siphoned off before it reaches the people on the ground, isn’t it crazy to stick to a system that hasn’t worked for decades? The world helps Malawi’s hungry population by distributing hundreds of thousands of bags of food. It’s a shame that the system is too unwieldy to accommodate a long-term, local, and low cost solution, no matter how well it has proven to work.

Who owns the ocean?

For years, Kenya and Somalia have argued over where their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean runs. The International Court of Justice in The Hague could now decide who owns the sea, a decision that will only suit one. A narrow triangle off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention.

For Kenya, however, the boundary is quite clear. It lies line parallel to the line of latitude. That gives Kenya the larger share of the maritime area and it has already sold mining licenses to international companies. But Somalia disagrees. It wants the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border.

In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The court represents one way of solving border conflicts in maritime areas if bilateral or regional attempts fail. Somalia wants the ICJ to define the boundary as laid down by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international sea laws. In disputed cases, a temporary boundary is drawn along a line that is at the same distance from both coastlines, if there are no physical obstacles to this. A test period is then implemented to see if this boundary is fair to both sides or if it benefits or disadvantages one or the other.

Kenya's government, however, is sticking to its preferred border demarcation. For nearly 100 years, it had considered this line to be its border.

Timothy Walter, a maritime border conflict researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, explains, “Both countries could share the area and the mining of raw materials.. He said there is a good example in West Africa, where Nigeria and the archipelago of Sao Tome and Principe teamed up to produce oil. But for Somalia and Kenya, Walker does not see any chance. "Both countries do not want to make any compromise when it comes to their own sovereign rights. That can change, of course, but at the moment, it looks like an either-or decision."

Experts like Walker are observing a growing trend for states, especially in Africa, to take an interest in setting their maritime borders. Walker calls it the "end of the sea-blindness."
He says "Most African states lack a substantial navy or a coastguard and many conflicts have spilled over land boundaries or land borders. So historically, there has always been a focus on what is happening on land. Now, that's changing because what we can see more and more is the resources from the sea are more accessible now through better technological processes," Walker said. 

To the west of the continent, Ghana and Ivory Coast are engaged in a similar conflict about their boundary in the Atlantic Ocean. The two countries are currently awaiting a decision by the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea, an alternative to the International Court of Justice, which resolves border disputes between conflicting countries.

East African neighbors Malawi and Tanzania also have a boundary dispute, this time located in a lake. Lake Malawi borders Tanzania and holds huge amounts of oil deposits. But the colonial-era border for Tanzania ends on the bank of the lake.

End Xenophobia

Xenophobia doesn’t exist in isolation. It needs social problems and economic hardship to flourish. In many parts of Africa, xenophobia is not necessarily an immigration issue.

 Discrimination can stem from linguistic, ethnic, and religious differences among a state’s own citizens. For example, migrants from Zambia may be relatively welcome in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province, where they share ethno-linguistic connections with local people, while Congolese nationals from elsewhere in the country have been violently excluded.
 In South Africa, a country that has received some of the world’s highest numbers of asylum seekers, about a third of those killed in ‘xenophobic’ violence are citizens from elsewhere in the country. Xenophobia feeds on perceptions, and one of the most enduring is that South Africa is flooded with “foreigners” – code for non-white migrants, more specifically other Africans.

And in Kenya, citizens of Somali descent often bear the brunt of police discrimination along with refugees from Somalia. While immigration can certainly exacerbate tensions or bring its own dynamics, broader patterns of mobility and exclusion are an important part of the problem.

Whether aimed at addressing exclusion of ‘local’ minorities or international migrants, anti-xenophobia campaigns must account for the reality that the most violent and fraught displays of xenophobia are often rooted in local – state, municipal, or even neighbourhood – battles for land, jobs, or political office. For example, South Africa’s highly visible 2008 xenophobic attacks, which killed more than 60 people in the space of two weeks, were in part a response to state policy widely perceived as being too welcoming to Zimbabwean migrants. This response was not led by national political parties, but by local gang leaders, councillors, and shopkeepers who mobilised to further their own interests.

 Similarly, across Europe and the US, politicians often employ hateful talk in an effort to win elections.