Saturday, June 16, 2018

Kenyans' budget woes

Kenya's economy has grown on average by 5 percent annually over the last decade, but  the gap between rich and poor is rising. The number of super-rich in Kenya is among the fastest growing in the world, and the charity Oxfam predicts the number of Kenyan millionaires will grow by 80 percent over next decade. Yet while a minority of Kenyans are accumulating wealth, the benefits of economic growth have not trickled down. According to Kenya Fight Inequality Alliance, just 8,300 individuals in Kenya own the same wealth as the rest of the country's 44 million people - and the richest 10 percent earns 23 times more than the poorest 10 percent.

Poor-quality education and a lack of job opportunities have bred high rates of drug and alcohol abuse and crimes such as robbery, rape and domestic violence are common 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Migration in Africa

In 2017, 19 million international migrants moved within Africa and 17 million Africans left the continent. Africa is also a migration destination for 5.5 million people who came from outside the continent.
"Population movements across borders often offer individuals a chance for a better life with the social and economic benefits extending to both source and destination countries, as well as future generations," Kituyi said in the report.
"Our analysis shows this to be true for millions of African migrants and their families… Yet much of the public discourse, particularly as it relates to international African migration, is rife with misconceptions that have become part of a divisive, misleading and harmful narrative." Kituyi is a Kenyan development expert.
She said Africans identified countries where opportunities are better: "So, you see [people from] many countries going to South Africa, going to Kenya, going to Ghana today, to Senegal, to all those places that are perceived to be a prosperous country, as there the opportunities are ample."  She added: "Countries with relatively higher levels of economic and human development such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Ghana and Senegal tend to have comparatively higher emigration rates outside the continent than poorer countries."
In 2017, the top five intra-African migration destinations (receiving countries in descending order) were South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia (all exceeding a million migrants), the report says. South Africa's position as the top destination, despite the hostility it often displays to migrants, indicates the perceived strength of the economy, say UN experts.
The contribution of international migrants to GDP was measured at 19 percent in Côte d'Ivoire (2008), 13 percent in Rwanda (2012), nine percent in South Africa (2011) and one percent in Ghana (2010).
UNCTAD says both intra- and extra-continental migration are needed for supporting Africa's structural transformation.
Remittance inflows to Africa rose on average from U.S. $38.4 billion in the 2005–2007 period to $64.9 billion in 2014 to 2016. These accounted for 51 percent of private capital flows to Africa in 2016, up from 42 percent in 2010.

Nigerian Poverty News

A civil rights group, ActionAid has said that although the Nigerian economy is out of recession, most Nigerians have slipped into extreme poverty.

"In 2016, the prevalence of people living below the poverty line ranged between 54 per cent -60 per cent but today, 82 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line of 1.9 dollars a day,"

Friday, June 08, 2018

African Slavery

In 1981, Mauritania made slavery illegal, the last country in the world to do so. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of people – mostly from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian groups – still live as bonded labourers, domestic servants or child brides. Local rights groups estimate that up to 20% of the population is enslaved, with one in two Haratines forced to work on farms or in homes with no possibility of freedom, education or pay.

Slavery has a long history in this north African desert nation. For centuries, Arabic-speaking Moors raided African villages, resulting in a rigid caste system that still exists to this day, with darker-skinned inhabitants beholden to their lighter-skinned “masters”. Slave status is passed down from mother to child, and anti-slavery activists are regularly tortured and detained. Yet the government routinely denies that slavery exists in Mauritania, instead praising itself for eradicating the practice. Mauritania is a bridge between the Arab Maghreb of north Africa and darker-skinned sub-Saharan Africa. The ruling Arab-Berbers have higher paid positions in jobs and government, while the darker-skinned Haratines and Afro-Mauritanians are under-represented in leadership positions and face many obstacles in society, from access to education to well-paid jobs.

The Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), hope to oust the majority Arab-Berber government in national elections next year. The IRA leader, Biram Ould Abeid – a former slave who was imprisoned for years before coming second in 2014’s national elections – has vowed to remove President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who came to power in a 2008 coup and has since dismantled the Senate in what critics see as a bid to broaden his powers.

Fatimatou and her daughter Mbarka were slaves to a family in the Aleg region, roughly 250km from the capital, Nouakchott. “They called me ‘Fatma the servant’: I looked after the cattle, prepared food, and fetched water from the well,” says Fatimatou. “I lost two babies to this family because they prevented me from taking care of my own children. I was forced to work when I had just given birth.” Fatimatou was freed with her children in the early 1990s by the organisation SOS Slaves. Today, she lives with her family in one of Nouakchott’s working-class neighbourhoods.

Former slaves Habi and her brother Bilal were both slaves to a family east of the capital, but Bilal fled suddenly one day after his master beat him. After several attempts to rescue his sister, who was a victim of sexual abuse and forced labour, she was finally freed with the help of SOS Slaves in 2008. Today, the pair live in a poor neighbourhood on the periphery of Nouakchott. 

Mabrouka, 20, was a child when she was taken from her mother, also a slave, to serve with a family in the south-western Rosso area. Around the age of 11, when she was cooking for her masters, she was badly burned on her left arm. She still suffers from the pain. Mabrouka was 14 when she was freed in 2011 but was never able to go to school. She got married at the age of 16 and is now the mother of Meriem, four, and two-month-old Khadi. A Tarhil neighborhood resident outside her house, where she was relocated by the state when her slum in Dar Naim was demolished to make way for the construction of a road. Married, with two children, she sells biscuits to passersby while her husband holds small jobs in the city. “If we had the budget, we would have rented a room in Nouakchott. Here, we don’t even have water – we have to pay for a cart to deliver water,” she says.

Moctar was born into slavery in an Arab-Berber family, where he was forced to work alongside his mother and brother. In 2012, after several attempts, he managed to escape and met an activist from the anti-slavery movement. He tried to liberate his mother and brother, but they refused to go with him. His mother even criticised his escape and testified against him. “When I was younger, my mother told me every night that we must respect our masters, because their caste is higher than ours, and they are saints,” says Moctar. He started school at 13 and hopes to become a lawyer, in order to fight for the rights of the Haratines.

Meryem  lives in Znabeh, a small village comprised of former slaves. In 2014, following the death of their father, the children of slavemaster Sheikh Mohammed freed four women and their children: Meryem, Aïcha, Beïga, and Merine. They all fled with their children and grandchildren and settled near a water source. They now survive off of their smallholding and the little food it brings.

Salma served for more than 50 years as a slave in a white Moorish family in northern Mauritania’s Chagar region. Her children were also born into servitude. In 2013, Salma and her daughter Yema were released by her two sons, Bilal and Salek, who had escaped a few years earlier. But Yema twice ran back to her master’s family. Today, she is married and has two children. Salma, Yema and her brothers now live together in a slum in Dar Naim.

Aichetou Mint M’barack was a slave by descent in the Rosso area. Like her sister, she was taken away from her mother and then given to a member of the master’s family to be a servant. She got married in the home of her masters and had eight children, two of whom were taken away from her to be slaves in other families. In 2010, Aichetou’s older sister was able to free her with the help of the IRA Movement, after she herself fled her masters when they poured hot embers over her baby, killing it. Aichetou and her eight children are now free and live together in Nouakchott.

Jabada is over 70. She fled her master after he tied both her hands to a tentpole, which cut off one finger entirely and deformed the others. She is now unable to use her hands. Taken in by another family who helped heal her wounds, Jabada stayed with them until her freedom in the 1980s. She now lives with her children and grandchildren in one of Nouakchott’s poor neighbourhoods.

Haratines work in certain professions that are designated for their caste alone, such as butchery and rubbish collection. Haratines do many jobs that Arab-Berbers consider dirty or degrading, such as working in local markets. Sos Slaves provides workshops to help empower Haratine women, most of whom are unemployed, poor and have little or no education. Some workshops teach recently freed slaves about money – what it is and how it is used.

Forgotten and Neglected

Six of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises are in Africa, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. The charity makes the annual list based on lack of political will, media coverage, and aid. In long-running conflicts, international donors experience funding fatigue even as millions of displaced people remain in need of basic necessities, healthcare, shelter and schooling, the NRC said.  The media also often turns its attention away from covering the human side of large-scale humanitarian crises, the NRC said.  When the media does report about conflict, coverage of human suffering is often overshadowed by war strategies and politics, it said. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo, where decades of conflict has left more than five million people displaced, topped this year's list of the world's most neglected displacement crises, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said.

"Most people would be surprised to learn that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in DR Congo now has reached the same level as in Syria. Still, the world's attention on these two crises are miles apart," said Egeland.

Other African displacement crises making the annual list were in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Several of the conflicts in Africa have been raging for years, creating millions of internally displaced and refugees spilling across borders. New clashes have also emerged on top of long-running conflicts, creating further human suffering that gets insufficient attention.

"There seems to be little willingness, both locally and internationally, to find a way out of too many of these crises. In some places, this is due to a lack of geo-political importance, while in other places there are too many parties and actors with conflicting interests, and too few willing to protect the interests of the civilians," said Egeland. "...The fact that we do not see these people suffer, does not make their suffering any less real, and it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act," Egeland said.

Other countries making the list of the top 10 neglected crises include Yemen, Venezuela, and Myanmar; the Palestine territories were also mentioned.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Class Not Colour in South Africa

Thabo Mbeki referred to South Africa as being a country divided into two countries, inequality was defined as an inter-racial phenomenon. But its dynamics have changed over the past two decades. Intra-racial inequality – inequality within race groups – has grown substantially, especially among black South Africans. 

Inequality is no longer simply a black and white issue. The richest 10%, who account for 70.9% of all wealth, is increasingly multi-racial, while around half of the population is considered chronically poor, and another 27% live with the threat of poverty.

Racial disparities in employment continue to prevail. Black South Africans are most likely to be unemployed and poor, while white South Africans are least likely to be unemployed and poor. But the South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB), a nationwide public opinion survey by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), shows that South Africans consistently identify “inequality” – the gap between rich and poor – as the greatest division in society.

A recent World Bank report titled Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa confirmed that “inequality has increased since the end of apartheid”.

Richer households, according to the report, are almost 10 times wealthier than poor households. South Africa remains among the most unequal countries in the world, with a Gini coefficient for income per capita at 0.68. Stats SA records the Gini coefficient for income per capita among black South Africans at 0.65. The income gap among black South Africans is only slightly smaller than the national income gap. The University of Cape Town’s Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) shows the share of black South Africans in the top income decile has increased from 13.87 per cent in 1993 to 30.79 per cent in 2008. There has been little demographic change in the lower income deciles, and new research predicts the rich may yet get richer.

In 2001, Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings claimed ‘inequality is driven by two income gaps: between an increasingly multiracial upper class and everyone else; and between a middle class of mostly urban, industrial or white collar workers and a marginalised class of black unemployed and rural poor.’

Friday, June 01, 2018

A Population Opportunity

The decline in fertility rates combined with increased life expectancy in most parts of the world means not only a slowing of population growth but also an older population. The UN report predicts that the number of people aged 60 and over will more than triple by 2100, accounting for 3.1 billion people. The World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Health and Aging report attributes the increase in elderly population to a change in causes of death, from infectious to non-communicable diseases. Treatment of these diseases, which include hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and congestive heart failure, add pressure to the health care system.

Prof Mark Collinson of the South African Population Research Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN), the Medical Research Council and the Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), says that in the last 20 years fertility rates in Africa have dropped, the working age population has risen and dependency ratios (the number of dependents supported by the working age population) have declined. 

Collinson, who will be speaking at the Africa Health Congress 2018 at Gallagher Estate today (29 May) says that this demographic dividend is a potential developmental gain created by window of time where fertility has fallen for several years but the ageing population has not yet risen significantly. This can usher in a golden moment when there are relatively few young and few old, and hence a large working age to non-working age ratio. Collinson says that this demographic dividend could account for 11-15% gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2030 in many African countries, but that policies are needed to enhance the education and employability of young adults, as well as to create greater access to contraception and financial systems.

Royal Wealth

Swaziland is a lower middle-income country, but its income distribution is highly skewed, with an estimated 20% of the population controlling 80% of the nation's wealth. With an estimated 28% unemployment rate and about 63% of the population living below the poverty line, there is a desperate need for the country to increase the number and size of small/medium enterprises and attract foreign direct investment.
The contrast between rich and poor is harsh, yet the lavish spending of the royals continues unrelentingly. In 2009, Forbes named King Mswati among the top 15 wealthiest royals in the whole world and, in 2014, one of Africa's richest kings. In the later article, the publication stated about King Mswati that "his personal net worth is at least US$50 million, based on the annual US$50 million salary that he is paid out of government coffers." He also controls Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment holding company that owns stakes in sugar refining giants Ubombo Sugar and Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), dairy company Parmalat Swaziland, spirits manufacturer Swaziland Beverages and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings. The company has assets worth over US$140 million.
The dire state of the Kingdom of eSwatini's economy has not slowed down its king's spending and lavish lifestyle. King Mswati's latest purchase is a further extravagance imposed on the country's ailing economy.
Aside from renaming the country on its 50th Independence Day celebrations, the King of eSwatini also saw fit to gift himself a R2,7 billion Airbus A340-300 for his 50th birthday, which coincided with the former. Not only did the plane cost the royal R200 million to buy and an additional R500 million to refurbish but there is also a hangar to keep it in at the newly constructed airport in eastern Swaziland, which cost a whopping R2 billion.
The Airbus, previously the property of China Airlines in Taiwan, was sent to Hamburg, Germany, for all its new fittings and trimmings. With a plane that seats 277 people, the King can be accompanied by all his 15 wives, 23 children, personal chef, bodyguards and aides. The plane has a range of 7 400 nautical miles (13 500km).
In 2012 the king had to plead with South Africa for a financial bailout and in 2013 his country had to withdraw from the African Cup of Nations, citing a lack of money as the major factor. Both of these are examples of the scale of the country's financial mismanagement.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Minimum wages

South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it is outraged and disgusted - but not surprised - after the country set its first-ever minimum wage.

The bill sets the wage at a minimum of 20 rand ($1.59; £1.20) an hour, which, for a 40-hour week, sets the wage at about $278 per month. The union said parliament missed an opportunity to free workers from the oppressive wage gap.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Food to grow

Two-thirds of the uncultivated arable land in the world is to be found in Africa. Yet the continent is a net food-importer to the tune of €35 billion a year, with a third of all calories consumed in Africa imported.

Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050, from 1.2 billion people to 2.4 billion, predominantly young. The International Monetary Fund estimates that it needs to increase sixfold to 18 million the new jobs yearly up to 2035, to absorb new labour market entrants. Deteriorating food security will mean a projected increase in the undernourished by one-quarter to 320 million by 2025. Agriculture will be key, Hogan says, insisting the group’s work is not about importing European solutions, or, as in the past seeing Africa as an untapped market, but assisting Africa to find its own solutions. “Nowhere is this potential stronger,” he argues, “than in the agriculture and agri-food sector, which employs up to 75 per cent of the African labour force while representing less than 33 per cent of African GDP”.