Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fact of the Day (2)

The average South African has net assets of  R144,000 (US$11,300)

Net assets, or your net worth, includes everything you own of significance, held against your debts. 

South Africa is home to 40,400 high net worth individuals (HNWIs), with combined wealth holdings of US$171 billion. HNWIs are defined as people who have a net worth of US$1 million or more.

Fact of the Day (1)

 Africa spends about $35 billion a year importing food. Yet Africa has one quarter of the world’s arable land. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Colonialists to the barricades (1960)


From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

By one of those transformations common in our society, a group who were the heroes of yesterday have become the traitors of today. The French settlers in Algeria and their sympathisers in the French Army, who played a leading role in De Gaulle's return to power in May, 1958, have become today's dupes of “liars and conspirators"; working against the “Glory and Honour .of France." Revolutionary or rebellious groups who push their efforts too far are always likely to find themselves at the wrong end of a “whiff of grapeshot." Messrs. BiaggiOrtiz, and Lagaillarde and General Massu must now be bitterly regretting their assumption that they could challenge De Gaulle. A study of the careers of the Napoleons would have enlightened them on the methods and ethics of the struggle for power. Monsieur Lagaillarde, a French Parliamentary deputy for Algiers, will probably have ample opportunity for studying the situation at leisure, for he is likely to be imprisoned for his part in the rising.

Positions have been curiously reversed in the past few weeks; many Moslems are supporting De Gaulle, and the French settlers are now against him. French rebels have shown less political astuteness than the Algerian Nationalists; the F.L.N., the Algerian Nationalist Army, have been careful not to take any action during the conflict between Algiers and Paris, although it would have been excellent militant strategy. The French colonists' hopes of dominating Algerian policy have taken a heavy blow, and it seems they must now take a back seat in French political and economic life.

The Algerian war has for over five years been a serious drain on France’s resources. Algeria is a vast, mainly arid country with desert, mountain ranges and few areas of cultivation except in the coastal fringes. Many of its people are adept at living and even fighting on what most Europeans consider a starvation diet. Through the refusal of France to give the Algerians some measure of freedom and independence politically and economically, many among the population have become rootless, having neither soil to till nor trade to work at. They have little prospects other than to work for the colonists at low wages. They have little to lose in joining the F.L.N., and they have the opportunity of hitting back at their oppressors. With the Europeans forming only a tenth part of the population, military operations arc terribly difficult and costly—for France. For hit-and-run raids, for sniping, for sabotage, for acts of terrorism, the nature of the country is ideal. Guerrilla warfare, with a stream of recruits to be drawn from landless, embittered Algerians, is a venture promising great future profit for a Nationalist movement. The F.L.N. has adopted a cold-blooded policy of harassing the Colonists and the Army in every possible way. It is a ruthless war, with no Geneva conventions or consideration for prisoners of war on either side. This appears a hideous situation to us, but it is still a war on the classic Capitalist model with two opposing groups getting workers and peasants to fight for them. The F.L.N. has fought with the methods open to them, and the methods include the slaughter of French civilians (including women and children), and of any Moslems willing to co-operate with the French. The F.L.N. is a “ political” army—the voluntary, enthusiastic fighting expression of Algerian Nationalism. Their activities can be modified to suit the political needs of the moment, as during the colonists' rebellion. The F.L.N. has repaid brutality with brutality, but the process has become too expensive for France. Every strong-point must be guarded, every road watched, every village picketed. And the F.L.N. are probing, probing everywhere, looking for the flaw in discipline, the weak spot, the broken-down truck, the flicker of a match that betrays the careless soldier.

The Colonists have shown attitudes and methods on the face of it repugnant to other nations. The frigid moral disapproval of other bourgeois groups can be taken with a pinch of salt, for any bourgeois group will display a disregard of its own political and ethical “principles" when its back is to the wall. Such mental and moral regression can be found among Kenya settlers, white South Africans, and among followers of the Nazi movement in Germany.

The regression is complete, entering into the very nature of their thinking. This failure of whole groups (or “ herds" to use Trotter's more scathing word) to assimilate changed situations and ideas takes on the character almost of mental disorder, as compared with the “norms" prevailing in more secure sectors of Capitalist enterprise. As in white South Africa, the Colonists continue to use senseless, brutal methods in spite of the triumphs of African nationalism all around them. Underneath the moral and ethical armour of all Capitalist groups there lurks the terrible brutality of “Mine, mine, mine!" a brutality that turns normally sane, reasonable people into torturers and murderers; a brutality that when it comes into the open makes a mockery of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity "; and at the first threat of insecurity turns Liberty into Dictatorship, Equality into the Police State, and Fraternity into the terrible comradeship of the Army uniform.

Oil
There are several reasons for France to retain a hold in Algeria; and uppermost till now have been the interests of the Colonists. They dominate the fertile coastal strip, they hold much of the trade, and are the rulers in administration and local Government. There are other French interests in Algeria that are becoming more important than the Colonists' dates, wine and raisins. These other interests have always been a powerful, but somewhat hidden factor in French Government policy; with the opening of the oil pipeline, however, these interests are now in the open, and overriding. Oil-production is estimated this year at 1,500,000 tons, and by 1965 it is hoped will be 50,000,000 tons annually. There arc certain economic difficulties in marketing this oil, but the French Government and ruling class are hoping that there will be a sufficient increase in world demand to absorb Saharan production. The reserves have been estimated as being of Persian-Gulf standards. There are also enormous reserves of natural gas that could be of great use to French industry and also in developing industry in Algeria. But these outsize oysters are-likely to remain shut unless the war can be brought to an end.

De Gaulle's return to power can only be understood against the background of colonial and economic trouble. De Gaulle was ostensibly returned because of rebellion in the Army and among the Colonists. "Committees of Public Safety,'' consisting frequently of right-wing organisations and individuals, sprang up everywhere in France and Algeria. But De Gaulle came to power not merely because of the Army's dissatisfaction with the corruption and ineptitude of successive French Governments, nor because of the scheming of reactionary politicians like Soustelle, but because French political parties were prepared to surrender an already tattered democracy in the interests of “National Unity.’' De Gaulle was the only political leader with sufficient prestige to command enough support to guarantee a period of stable Government. The issue was not “Algeria for the settlers,” but “National unity in order to place France once again among the front rank of European nations."

The Colonists have become the dupes of the Soustelles, Biaggis, and Lagaillardes. These incipient demagogues hoped to achieve a right-wing solution in Algeria; the suppression of Algerian Nationalism and the complete and forcible integration of Algiers with France. In the process they no doubt hoped to find themselves in power, not merely in Algeria, but in France. The recent rising has shown the true position; De Gaulle wants a settlement of the Algerian war—even at the expense of the Colonists. He would like to see Algeria firmly united to France, but he can also see the political realities. He appreciates that the F.L.N. is something of a brickwall, a brickwall that it is ruining France merely to chip. A successful, even if temporary, settlement would mean the end of ruinous war, the possibility of peaceful exploitation of Saharan oil— with French capital and technical assistance, and a secure testing-site for France’s atomic bomb.

The first indications of actual rebellion among the Colonists to reach outside observers were first the interview given by General Massu to a German correspondent; and secondly the meeting of the Mayors of the Algiers department. General Massu, whose tactlessness can only be interpreted as an attempt to sound the trumpet for a second, and much more drastic, May, 1958, expressed his dissatisfaction with De Gaulle's policy in Algeria—and said it in similar terms to those used by the Mayors. These gentry demanded the execution of Algerian Nationalists, and clearly stated the view, put into practice a few days later, that Algeria must remain French even if Paris decreed otherwise. M. Lagaillarde said, "Only one policy succeeds in Algeria, that of rebellion. We are ready to defend ourselves in arms.” (Quoted in The Guardian, 20/1/60.) General Massu was being in his reactionary way the starry-eyed dreamer. The conditions of May, 1958 no longer obtained. Even the Army, with a professional interest in the War, have shown themselves willing to obey De Gaulle. The Mayors were of course clinging tightly to their vineyards. Their premature rebellion has severely damaged their political prestige. Next time—if there is one—there will be much less confidence and enthusiasm. The cry of defiance may in the near future be replaced by the whine of the special pleader: open defiance for the more subtle and probably futile intrigue of the lobbyist. Still, the Colonists remain an important, but declining, factor not so much for themselves as for the use that may be made of them by demagogues like Soustelle.

De Gaulle's Intentions
Many interpretations have been made about De Gaulle's intentions, and his own statements contain contradictions, so that it is difficult to foresee precisely the course of events in Algeria. De Gaulle is trying to gain sufficient support among the Algerian leaders to make a settlement possible. He could offer, in return for co-operation, withdrawal of the Army to certain base areas and an increase of Algerian participation in economic and political life. He is seeking to achieve a settlement that will leave France with a limited, but important, hold in Algeria. A settlement would "pay” much better than the continuance of the war, which involves the possibility that the F.L.N. will be able to hold a position long enough to blow up the buried pipe-line. For the present, the war will drag on, with Dc Gaulle hoping that the deadlock with the F.L.N. can be broken. His policy can be summed up as “Profit for both sides." He has already achieved some “success”: the latest casualties among Moslems were reported to be among those demonstrating in favour of De Gaulle. The F.L.N. are hoping for a De Gaulle victory over the Colonists, and their lack of activity during the Colonists' rising points to a willingness to accommodate De Gaulle. The rank-and-file do not have very much to gain from either French Colonists or Algerian Nationalism. If an agreement was reached, however, and economic development went forward, they could hope for some improvement of their living standards. At least there might be the possibility of trade union action, which scarcely exists at the moment. The fate of any Algerians pushing their revolt too far would be the traditional “ whiff," this time administered by a legal Algerian Army backed up with French guns. The old cry of “Communist” will be heard and another section of the world's workers will discover the error of taking their leaders too seriously. The Algerians will find that they have but exchanged one set of oppressors for another.
F. R. Ivimey

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Africa's New Debts

Mozambique is the first major African nation in recent times to become unable to meet obligations to international creditors. In 2012, Mozambique's obligations to its creditors amounted to 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they now total 130 percent. Banks and investment funds were keen to lend Mozambique money believing it would be safe because the country possesses huge reserves of coal and natural gas. Those investors have been left empty-handed.

A decade after the last major debt write-down, African states are again in difficulties.

 The German NGO Erlassjahr.de (Jubilee Germany), which campaigns for debt relief,  has identified as many as 40 African countries which are showing signs of heavy indebtedness.
"This is not surprising because today's economic indicators are telling a story very similar to the situation in the late 1970s and early 1980s which led to the Third World debt crisis," said Jürgen Kaiser, political coordinator at Jubilee Germany. In the wealthy industrialized countries, interest rates are very low, but in Africa investors can fetch returns of between seven and 15 percent.  This leads to large capital flows from the North to the South." 
"The low interest rates encourage countries to take out big loans which they then have difficulty paying back," Kaiser said. The situation becomes particularly precarious when commodity prices fall. This leads to a subsequent decline in tax revenue in economies that are dependent on oil, natural gas, coal or other raw materials.
This latest debt crisis may come as a surprise to some people because numerous developing countries had a large share of their debts written down under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.  However, commentators who were convinced at the time that that this initiative launched by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G-8 group of leading industrialized nations, including Germany, would solve the developing nations' debts problems turned out to be wrong.
"Mozambique is a very dramatic case. It is the first country to cease repayments in such an abrupt significant manner since HIPC debt relief," said Jürgen Kaiser. "But countries such as Gambia or Ghana, which also have an abundance of natural resources, are in a very critical situation as well. Senegal, which does not have much in the way of natural resoures, is also in difficulties once again," he added. On analyzing World Bank data of African nations' indebtedness with foreign countries, it quickly becomes apparent that a large number of  African economies have recently acquired dramatic levels of new debt. Between 2005 and 2015 - the most recent year for which figure are available - Angola, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa have witnessed a threefold increase in their debt levels. Smaller countries such as Cape Verde also borrowed fresh capital during this time frame.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nigeria's water crisis

Lagos, Nigeria, is surrounded by an abundance of water, but millions of inhabitants in Africa’s most populous city can’t drink it. The state is not providing water and they’re also not allowing people to fend for themselves to survive.

Water shortages, fueled in part by recurrent drought and violence, has been decimating Nigeria for years. The charity WaterAid has said the water crisis had killed more people across the country than the militant group Boko Haram. While the terrorist group had claimed more than 4,000 lives in 2014, the nonprofit said a lack
of running water had killed more than 70,000. Water has long been a source of tension in Lagos, it added.

The coastal city that’s bordered by a lagoon is in the throes of a water crisis. Only1 in 10 people have access to water that the state utility provides. The rest — some 19 million residents — rely on informal water sources, eitherdrilling their own boreholes to drink from or fetching water from lakes or rivers. Those that can afford it pay exorbitant amounts to local “mai ruwa,” or water vendors, who peddle their wares in often-unsanitary jerry cans, or bottles and cellophane sachets.

Yet, activists say, the Lagos House of Assembly passed legislation last month that could threaten even this last-resort source of drinking water — an imperfect, but critical lifeline for most Lagosians.

Opponents of the Lagos Environment Bill say politicians did not follow due legislative process before it was signed into law on March 1 ― and its final language has still not been made available to the public two weeks after the fact. It could criminalize the private extraction of water, including the drilling of boreholes and purchasing water from private sellers, activists warn.

“One of our rights as citizens is to live, to have good water to drink, good environment,” said Agnes Sessi, president of the African Women Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Network, this month in reaction to the new law. “If government has failed to provide water for us, they do not have the right to take away our efforts to
provide for ourselves. Do they want us to die?” the United Nations issued a strong-worded statement last month condemning the water bill.


“When the State fails to provide adequate access to drinking water, no one should be criminalized or fined for fetching water from lakes, rivers, or any other natural sources,” said Léo Heller, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, on Feb. 27. “The government is taking a step too far by imposing fines of
the equivalent of $310 on ordinary individuals fetching water for survival, when the minimum wage stands at approximately $60.”

As the metropolis ballooned in size over recent decades, growing from an estimated 1.4 million people in 1970 to more than 21 million today, Lagos’ public water system has struggled to keep pace. Pipes, many of them decades old, have rotted through and taps now often run dry.

The two major water treatment plants in the city have fallen into disrepair; workers there have complained of non-functioning pumps, poor power supply and production rates well under capacity. And that only applies to the 10 percent of households in the city that actually receive piped water from the state. For everyone else, finding any means to attain water — unsanitary or not — is an everyday battle. 

In Lagos, 60 percent of Nigerians earn less than $1 a day, yet the country is now home to almost 16,000 millionaires, most of them in Lagos. And the discrepancy is acutely felt when it comes to water, according to Bragg.

Some poorer communities don’t have access to clean water themselves but have pipes running over-ground through their neighborhoods to the more wealthy ones. “The contrast is stark,” he said. “They can’t get water, but there’s water literally passing right by them.”

Buying water from private vendors is a common practice and Lagos residents have called the service a “saving grace,” but it can be inaccessible for the poorest Lagosians. The average family may needs to buy seven or eight jerry cans of water daily, which could cost $50 or more a month, according to a 2016 report from the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. In Nigeria, the average middle class family income is between $230 and $300 monthly.

The more severe the water shortage, the brisker the business for some water sellers. Abubakar Audu, a long-time mai ruwa, told local paper Eko Trust last year that he sets his price “depending on how desperate the customer is” and whether or not there’s light (blackouts are an everyday occurrence in the city). 

With proper sanitation practically non-existent across Lagos and most residents drinking water from untreated and unreliable sources, the city’s water problems have had a dire impact on public health. Water-borne diseases including cholera, dysentery, as well as typhoid and malaria fever, are a concern. In February last year, 25
children under the age of 6 died in one Lagos community after drinking pathogen-infected water.

Long-term exposure to toxins is also a concern. A 2012 investigation found high concentrations of heavy metals like lead and cadmium at levels far above World Health Organization standards in borehole water samples extracted in Lagos.

The city’s government has precipitated the water crisis in Lagos by years of inaction, according to activists.

For decades, the state has “neglected to invest into the infrastructure,” said Corporate Accountability International’s Bragg. Instead, it has chosen to prioritize the possible privatization of Lagos’ water utility through public-private partnerships — a plan that has repeatedly failed, he added.


“Lagos is very key to the African continent; it is the heart of Nigeria,” he said. “If water privatization is successful in Lagos, it could spread across Nigeria and across Africa. Quality will go down, sanitation will be impacted and the poorest of the poor will not be able to get adequate water.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lagos-water-crisis-bill-nigeria_us_58c8b63ce4b01c029d7758b7?





Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bullets or Bread?

A proposal for an arms embargo upon South Sudan in December, was rejected by the UN Security Council.

A confidential UN report slams the government of South Sudan for spending more than half its budget on weapons and security as 100,000 people are dying of starvation.   Salva Kiir's government has continued to make arms deals even as a famine was declared in parts of Unity state, where the famine is most acute.
The human misery is the result of famine caused primarily by ever-increasing government attacks in the area. Experts say another 1.1 million are near starvation. In addition, the number of people desperately needing food is expected to hit 5.5 million in the "lean season in July ... if nothing is done to curb the severity and breadth of the food crisis."
The government is compounding the food crisis by blocking access for humanitarian aid workers. Significant population displacement has helped exacerbate the famine.
"The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine in Unity state has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of repeated military operations undertaken by the government in southern Unity beginning in 2014," according to the report.
"Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighboring countries," said the report by a panel of experts who also found a "preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba" for the army, the security services, militias and other "associated forces."
From late March to late October 2016, oil revenues totaled about $243 million, according to calculations from the panel. At least half - "and likely substantially more" - of its budget expenditures are devoted to security issues including arms purchases.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

South Africa's Poor Whites

White colonists and the white ruling class used to skim the riches of South Africa. Black townships became symbols for resistance and poverty. Since he end of apartheid, government policies gave priority in getting jobs and receiving benefits to non-whites. Still more than 11 millon non-white people live in poverty, but there are also thousands of white families living in the slums now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Global Capitalist

Kenya's super rich in search of a second home are likely to make the investment outside the country with most preferring to buy the residences in Europe, a global realtor says in new findings.
The United Kingdom (UK), according to the 2017 Knight Frank Wealth Report, is the most preferred location by the dollar millionaires.
South Africa features is the second most sought-after place as Mauritius, Spain and United States close the top-five preferred list.

The Man-made Famine

There is a myth in circulation which says that hunger in Africa is a climate phenomenon. It is really a myth, nothing else. Hunger, especially on the Horn of Africa, is man-made. It is the work of politicians and elites. 

When United Nations agencies appeal for aid for Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and Uganda, then one cannot but notice that these very countries are governed by corrupt and cynical politicians who have scant regard for democracy. They ride roughshod over human rights and ignite ethnic and religious conflicts to shore up their hold on power.

Somalia? It can no longer be described as a state any more and languishes at the bottom of the global corruption indices. South Sudan? Has oil reserves, but instead of exporting crude, it displaces millions of civilians in an orgy of ethnic violence. Tiny Eritrea? Where there was once hope, there now stands the North Korea of North Africa, hermetically sealed off and governed by a clique that has its finger in the pie of traffickers smuggling people to Europe. Ethiopia is a potentially rich, but depressed country No country illustrates the link between bad governance and hunger more clearly than Ethiopia. The strategically located country on the Horn of Africa is the home of the coffee bean for a very good reason. Two rainy seasons and the Blue Nile could spell record harvests for Africa's second most populous nation. But this doesn't happen. Instead, the country has faced hunger since the 1970s and a flow of departing refugees. More recently, hundreds of demonstrators have been killed and opponents of the regime thrown into jail.

Nobody doubts that there are numerous external factors at work which are exacerbating food insecurity on the Horn of Africa. Climate change and the ensuing degradation of once fertile soil are triggering more disputes over pasture and water supplies. The exodus from rural areas by pastoralists and farmers is causing the cities to burst at the seams. The terror spread by Islamist Stone Age warriors, such as al-Shabab in Somalia, is stopping farmers from cultivating the land. But all these factors - especially in the presence of properly coordinated aid from abroad - could be brought under control, assuming power was in the hands of responsible politicians. But in Africa these days, they can be counted on the fingers of one hand

This current hunger crisis, like previous ones, will pass. The machinery of international aid, a well-established multi-billion dollar industry in the donor countries, has already sprung into action.  Temporary clinics for undernourished children have been set up and high nutrition biscuits are being handed round. But in a few years time, there will be another hunger crisis. And local people, livestock and the soil will have less and less time to recover as the cycles become shorter.