Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oil Pollution

 Amnesty International says Shell and Eni have failed to properly address serious oil spills in the Niger Delta region, worsening an already serious environmental crisis. The organization said the companies were "taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause of and severity of the spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation."

Oil spills in the Niger Delta region have brought misery to locals for many years. The valuable resource which was supposed to be a blessing for their communities has now become a curse.

Tammy Williams also lives in the oil region. She accuses international oil companies of not being considerate of the indigenous population and causing massive pollution in the area.

James Awani, an indigenous resident of Ogoniland — a region which was impacted by a reported 2,976 oil spills between 1976 and 1991 — told DW how the spills have affected his livelihood:
 "You go to our farm and see that oil has destroyed many things. We cannot farm again, so we are very hungry."
Aniko Briggs, an environmental activist in the Niger Delta region, says  "My organization also collects data: we physically go into the areas of spills. We have documentation going back almost 20 years of different spills across the Niger Delta River state Bayelsa and Delta State. From this we can show very clearly that it does not just take weeks but sometimes months for the oil company to respond to reports of spills. If you look at the fact that the pipes were laid almost 60 years ago — those pipes are still underground — they were laid at a time when the technology we have today was not in existence where you can very quickly detect a spill."

Liberia's Poverty

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Williameta E. Saydee-Tarr, has indicated that Liberia has over 300,000 vulnerable households that she classified as “living in extreme poverty.”
This, Minister Tarr said, includes vulnerable groups such as orphans, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV, among others.
“The need in Liberia is much greater than the availability of resources to take the program to scale,” she said.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Expensive Africa

“We feel so hungry,” says Agatha Khasiala, a Kenyan housekeeper, grumbling about the price of meat and fish. She has recently moved in with her daughter because “the cost of everything is very high”. 

The data back her up. The World Bank publishes rough estimates of price levels in different countries, showing how far a dollar would stretch if converted into local currency. On this measure, Kenya is more expensive than Poland.

 The cost of living is generally higher in richer places, a phenomenon best explained by the economists Bela Balassa and Paul Samuelson. They distinguished between goods that can be traded internationally and many services, like hairdressing, that cannot. In rich countries, manufacturing is highly productive, allowing firms to pay high wages and still charge internationally competitive prices. Those high wages also drive up pay in services, which must compete for workers. Since productivity is low in services, high pay translates into high prices, pushing up the overall cost of living.

Among developing economies, however, the relationship between prices and prosperity is less clear-cut. Prices in Chad, for instance, are comparable to those in Malaysia, where incomes are 14 times higher. Fadi Hassan of Trinity College Dublin finds that in the poorest fifth of countries, most of them in Africa, the relationship goes into reverse: penniless places cost more than slightly richer ones. A paper in 2015 from the Centre for Global Development (CGD), an American think-tank, accounts for various factors which could explain differences in prices, including state subsidies, geography and the effects of foreign aid. Even then, African countries are puzzlingly expensive.

The relative cost of food, compared with other goods, is higher in poor countries. In Africa, the absolute cost is sometimes high, too. Nigerians would save 30% of their income if they bought their food at Indian prices, finds a recent study by the OECD, a think-tank. Meat costs more in Ghana than in America.

The CGD researchers note an interesting corollary: manufacturing wages in Africa, though low, are higher than in Asian countries at similar levels of income. African workers need more dough to buy their daily bread. If that is right, then cheaper food may boost manufacturing by making wages more competitive. From 18th-century Britain to 20th-century Asia, industrial revolutions are often preceded by agrarian ones. Poor countries must hope for a repeat.

Nigeria's Food Crisis

Global food agencies have warned against impending food shortage that could affect 3.8 million people in 16 northern states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The agencies, which include UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), listed the 16 states as Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Jigawa, Plateau, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Taraba, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Yobe, Borno and Adamawa.

The results of the March 2018 Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis of food and security situation in Nigeria said that judging from the current situation in the 16 states and FCT, more than 3.8 million people might face acute food shortage if tangible efforts were not made to address the situation between June and August, the next lean period.

“More than 10 million people were analysed and over 3.8 million people need urgent attention of food, while it was projected that 5.8 million people would face extreme food and nutrition deficits. “Most of the analysed households have food stocks that may last only few months before the lean period of June to March and they need urgent attention for the situation not to get out of hand,’’ it said.

It said that household and market food stocks had been depleted in the affected areas, while the residents had no access to markets.

“Four local government areas in Yobe, two in Zamfara, two in Gombe and the central area of Kaduna may go into food crisis if the situation is not properly handled.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Cancer Business

Health officials and experts from across the planet descended on Cape Town, South Africa, on March 7 for a  conference aimed at finding a solution to one of humanity’s deadliest preventable scourges — smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and tobacco use kills about six million people worldwide annually. British American Tobacco estimates that the global tobacco market is worth $770 billion, with cigarettes accounting for $700 billion of that.

Facing dwindling fortunes in Europe and America due to strong regulations, the tobacco industry has made Africa the new front line in its pursuit of profits.

Michael Bloomberg said, “Philip Morris International continues to aggressively market tobacco to children. They are fighting back against policies aimed at fighting smoking, including suing countries when they pass measures warning people about the dangers of tobacco.”   The continent is home to the largest youth population in the world, making it the most vulnerable to tobacco industry tactics.

Though the overall prevalence rate of smoking in Africa is still relatively low at 14%, it also demonstrates the highest growth rate in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, consumption increased by 52% between 1980 and 2016, or 164 billion cigarettes to 250 billion. Lesotho has seen a significant spike in smoking from 15% of its population in 2004 to 54% in 2015. The authors attribute this to aggressive marketing by tobacco companies. A 2010 survey by The Lancet showed a 220% increase in cigarette consumption in Mozambique over the prior 16 years, while Nigeria’s consumption rate grew by 60%. A 2013 Preventing Tobacco Epidemic in Africa expert committee report warns that “without comprehensive tobacco prevention and control policies, it is estimated that smoking prevalence in the African region will increase by nearly 39 percent by 2030, from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 21.9 percent — the largest expected regional increase globally.”

Tobacco prevention and control are two major weaknesses for most African states. While the continent still has the fewest tobacco-related deaths in the world, 90% of its population remained unprotected by smoke-free laws in 2009. Africa is bound for an entirely avoidable health crisis if things do not change. Unfortunately, the industry has resorted to its tried and tested series of (often unethical and even patently illegal) tactics to expand and solidify their market. Like in other parts of the world, the global tobacco firms use their influence — through lobbying, litigation, and undermining of scientific evidence — to interfere with regulations and law enforcement mechanisms.

 Many African politicians and public office holders are themselves complicit in deliberately weakening or leaving unimplemented tobacco laws. Some are reputed to receive bribes or other material gratification from companies in exchange for this “service,” while others are allegedly active participants in illegal tobacco trading and tax evasion. In South Africa, the son of erstwhile President Jacob Zuma has been accused of manipulation and fraud in connection with his cigarette manufacturing business.In 2015, for example, British American Tobacco (BAT) was accused of bribing a Kenyan politician with £50,000 ($70,000) to prevent a company, which was not under its control, from providing the country with technology that could stamp out tobacco smuggling. Compared to some of BAT’s other alleged misdeeds, the Kenya scandal seems downright tame. According to whistleblowers, BAT has also exploited instability in countries such as Somalia and South Sudan to sell its products and even built a secret town in the Democratic Republic of Congo to secretly grow tobacco crops.

“Low- and middle-income countries represent over 80% of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths, placing an increased share of tobacco-related costs on those who can least afford it,” said the report authors in a statement. The anti-tobacco activists, from the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies, said that if African governments do not intervene,” a growing proportion of that burden will fall on countries across Africa in the future”.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Nairobi's Rich Housing Boom

 Demand for luxury penthouses in Kenya’s capital is set to rise as the super rich seek to avoid traffic jams on their way to work amid a shortage of decent housing for the majority living in slums.

Africa has the fastest growing cities in the world, with 40 percent of its one billion people in towns and cities, but most new homes target the upper class as it is easier to make a profit from high-end sales.

Kenya has the fourth highest number of wealthy individuals on the continent and is one of the top destinations for real estate investments by Africa’s super-rich.  The number of people living in Kenya worth more than $5 million will grow by 60 percent by 2022 to more than 2,000 individuals, both Kenya and foreign, boosting demand for luxury housing. Kenya is a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security, with economic growth forecast at more than 6 percent next year and a growing middle class.

Nairobi is one of Africa’s most expensive cities for housing, with 2013 prices almost triple those of 2000, according to the World Bank. Kenya needs to build 2 million affordable city homes to meet its housing deficit and stem the growth of its sprawling slums, which are home to six out of 10 urban households, it said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Oil Money Funding South Sudan's Civil War

Global Witness, an organisation that fights exploitation of natural resources, details how the country’s state-owned oil company has fallen under the direct control of President Salva Kiir. who is channelling millions of dollars to fund the ongoing four-year civil war. 

It linked the national oil company Nile Petroleum, or Nilepet, directly to arms transfers and the financial benefit of Kiir’s closest advisers.
The company, it says, operates in secrecy, and the report details how this secrecy has been used to finance military operations, arms transfers to ethnic militias, and conceal the looting of millions of dollars meant to help imports of essential goods.
South Sudan produces crude oil but lacks the capacity to refine the fuel. Nilepet depends on international refineries and fuel traders to raise its revenue. The investigation is now challenging these trading partners to hold the company accountable.
Michael Gibb, the campaign leader of Global Witness, says indifference to the malpractice amounts to complicity in the face of clear evidence of Nilepet’s role in the war economy.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Africa's Migration

Migration from African nations has increased dramatically in the last three decades, going from just 1% in the 1990s to 31% by the 2000s, a new study shows.
As of 2017, some 25 million sub-Saharan migrants lived outside their nation of birth.  With the exception of Syria, where a violent conflict has created a humanitarian disaster since 2011, the region accounted for nine of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations since 2010. With a global average growth of just 17%, emigration from sub-Saharan nations grew by 50% or more between 2010 and 2017.
A majority of those leaving is forced out by conflicts, leaving their homes in countries such as South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. Many of them are also children and women, who are fleeing inter-communal violence, economic decline, disease, and hunger. But some people are also moving from peaceful and economically stable countries too, like Namibia (190,000), Botswana (80,000) and Sao Tome & Principe (80,000). The sub-Saharan region also continues to host a large and growing number of refugees, which exerts enormous pressure on public services and local infrastructure in neighboring nations.
Over the last three decades, the number of African migrants in Europe and the United States has also increased—albeit at a slower pace. Many of those leaving the continent have also used dangerous routes across the Sahara, with some being auctioned off as slaves in car parks, garages, as well as public squares in Libya. Many Eritreans and Sudanese migrating to Israel have also survived torture and extortionwhile fleeing persecution and conscription at home.
Over the last three decades, the number of African migrants in Europe and the United States has also increased—albeit at a slower pace. Many of those leaving the continent have also used dangerous routes across the Sahara, with some being auctioned off as slaves in car parks, garages, as well as public squares in Libya. Many Eritreans and Sudanese migrating to Israel have also survived torture and extortionwhile fleeing persecution and conscription at home.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Corruption – origin of local African capitalist class

Corruption defined as the pilfering and shameful mismanagement of state resources first reared its ugly head after the MMD came to power in 1991. During the one-party state under Kenneth Kaunda members of the UNIP central committee were forbidden from amassing the private wealth of any kind.

When the MMD came to power under President Chiluba it pursued a rigorous policy of economic liberalisation defined as privatization. State-owned companies were auctioned off at prices below their book value. Corruption as a political vice first came to public attention when the third republican president Levy Mwanawasa slapped corruption allegations against former MMD president Fredrick Chiluba in 2002. It was alleged that Chiluba had swindled the government of millions of dollars through Access Financed Services and the Zamtrop state security account operated in the UK. The MMD government under Dr. Chiluba was afterward wound blamed for having instituted a culture of graft and impunity that stalled Zambian economic development.

Creating a capitalist class
The main task the MMD government set itself when it came to power was the social and economic empowerment of indigenous Zambians. The MMD went on to create what was a capitalist class dominated by economically empowered Zambian entrepreneurs. To quote from the late Dr. Chiluba speech when defining the new capitalist society:

'Ours is a capitalist society. It is therefore inevitable that in part and I repeat in part we must address the goal of privatization within the context of the people's relations characteristic of a capitalist economy. As part of the realization of our aim to eradicate poverty in our country, we must strive to create and strengthen a Zambian capitalist class – the new culture. Because we come from the disadvantaged many of us feel embarrassed to state their goal as nakedly as we should. All this frightens and embarrasses all of us who are Zambians and might be part of the rich. Accordingly, we walk as far and faster as we come from the nation that the struggle against poverty in our country must include the objective of creating a new Zambian bourgeois. As part of our continuing struggle to wipe out this legacy of poverty, we must work to ensure that there emerges a Zambian bourgeoisie whose presence within our economy and society will be part of the process of privatization of the economy and society. (quoted Daily Nation, 14 February). 

The task of privatizing the economy proved to be a nefarious and blatantly corrupt affair which had a triple effect on the poor and marginalized working class. Unemployment trebled due to the abrupt liquidation of state-owned companies and the once economically vibrant Copperbelt mining towns of Kitwe, Chingola, Mufulira, Ndola, and Chililabonbwe became ghost towns. In most cases, workers retrenched from parastatal companies have until today not received their retrenchment packages. President Chiluba went on to surrender council houses to sitting tenants in a move designed to socially empower the Zambian citizens, a move that had dire social economic consequences upon local authorities. Privatization dubbed 'economic empowerment' gave rise to social squalor and urban poverty of a severe kind.

The idea that public property belongs to no one, in particular, is an entrenched feeling among ordinary Zambian, especially those who work in the civil service. It makes them solicit money from people seeking to obtain things like a visa, a passport or a driving licence. The police are the most corrupt civil servants in the sense that they set free criminals upon receiving money, It is very rare for a magistrate to convict a rich person in Zambia today. The vice of corruption has spread into Ministry of Education where examination leakages are the thing of the day. Under the new capitalist culture  'social and economic empowerment' is a political slogan that legalised street vending, prostitution and crime. The privatization of ZCCM led to the emergence of self-styled copper dealers called “jerabos” who steal copper cathodes and concentrates from the privately owned copper mines were security became lax after the dissolution of ZCCM mine police unit.

Thus corruption in Zambia has been a matter of accumulating wealth and social status in the sense that most of the Zambian capitalist class derived its wealth through outright corruption.
Anti-corruption campaigns.

When Levy Mwanawasa passed away in 2008 he was succeeded by his vice-president, Rupiah Banda as acting president. In 2010 Banda had to squash the pending corrupt allegations against Chiluba because he was cognizant of the fact that corruption was a means to economic empowerment under the MMD government. Corruption was at its highest peak during the time Banda was head of state. It was president Banda, acting with his son Andrew, who milked millions of dollars from the Zambian government under a dubious contract to purchase oil from Nigeria in 2009. The task force created by President Mwanawasa proved toothless when it comes to arresting and convicting of politicians alleged to be corrupt.

'Anti-corruption' campaigns
'Anti-corruption' is used as a weapon of political victimization against political opponents and as such is not transparent. In his inaugural address when he was sworn in as president of Zambia in 2016 President Lungu promised the people of Zambia that he was going to continue the legacy of the late President Sata through creating more jobs and fighting corruption. President Lungu is not a domineering and abrasive leader when compared to the late Michael Sata-without rigidly and defined ideological convictions. Ascending to the leadership of the PF without a flamboyant political background Lungu has come to rely on the political goodwill of the masses and his closest stooges. 

After the initial political blizzard of 2014, the PF government under Lungu has presided over the recovery of the Zambian economy. Favourable copper prices from demand in South East Asia (mostly China and Malaysia) boosted investor confidence in the mining sector. The release of the UNPD leader Hicilema helped to cast a positive image of political tolerance and the rule of law. In Africa and overseas Lungu seems to have won a lot of political and economic accolades. The European Bank, World Bank, Amnesty International have expressed satisfaction with his style of leadership.

But from within the stable political and economic outlook looms the ugly revelations day in and day out of corruption taking place high echelons of the PF government, fuelled by allegations from former Minister Chishimba Kambwili who was himself dismissed for corruption. The report of the auditor-general on the estimates of capital expenditure reveal gross irregularities in the procurement and implementation of government programmes. The erring ministries or public officers are not prosecuted.

Policing corruption (politicians), as with the recent forced resignation of President Zuma in South Africa, will not resolve the dilemma of social poverty and corruption. Corruption is just another face of capitalist society. It is just another problem that cannot be resolved unless money, government, and leaders are dispensed with.

The one-party state is a feature of state corruption in which a handful of individuals exploit the majority workers. Parliamentary democracy is made up of wealthy and ambitious politicians trying to reform capitalism. They hoodwink the working class to vote for them through promising them with a heaven on Earth. But once the politicians win elections and become leaders the workers remain mere spectators at the political changing and economic issues taking place in society. Socialist ideas need a revolutionary class behind them to become practical. The problems feeing capitalism requires conscious political action by socialists and the democratic capture of political power. Everything else is reformism and total disappointment.


A diagnosis of cancer in Africa is “nearly always fatal.”

There is no place on Earth that is immune from the dread of a cancer diagnosis; wherever the news is delivered, it is often devastating to recipients and their families. But geography should never be the deciding factor in patients’ fight to survive the disease. Cancer has been Africa’s silent killer for far too long, and the global health community must no longer remain quiet in the face of this crisis. While significant progress has been made in halting the spread of communicable diseases in Africa, rates of non-communicable illnesses, especially cancers, are rising. Just 5% of global funding for cancer prevention spent in Africa.

Every year, some 650,000 Africans are diagnosed with cancer, and more than a half-million die from the disease. Within the next five years, there could be more than one million cancer deaths annually in Africa, a surge in mortality that would make cancer one of the continent’s top killers.
Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, tremendous progress has been made in combating deadly infectious diseases. In recent decades, international and local cooperation have reduced Africa’s malaria deaths by 60%, pushed polio to the brink of eradication, and extended the lives of millions of Africans infected with HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, similar gains have not been made in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer. Today, cancer kills more people in developing countries than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. But, with Africa receiving only 5% of global funding for cancer prevention and control, the disease is outpacing efforts to contain it. 
On average, African countries have fewer than one trained pathologist for every million people, meaning that most diagnoses come too late for treatment. According to University of Chicago oncologist Olufunmilayo Olopade, a diagnosis of cancer in Africa is “nearly always fatal.”