Thursday, March 26, 2009

capitalism is the cancer

A third of cancer deaths in Africa were preventable and another third were treatable.

Alan Milburn , UK former health secretary ,added: "And where we can't prevent or treat the cancer, we must at least provide modest forms of palliation - other than giving a paracetamol. Unfortunately all too often that's what you get as pain relief for cancer in an African country."

32 of the 53 countries in Africa have no radiotherapy services, nor prevention or screening programmes.

Vaccine programmes have begun recently in the UK and the US to protect girls against HPV, the virus which causes about 70% of cervical cancers, before they become sexually active.

Mr Milburn told BBC News: "The HPV vaccine is affordable in the US and the UK, but not in Africa. Now doesn't that ring a bell? People used to say that HIV treatments were unaffordable. But then the world acted and the pharmaceutical companies caved in to pressure, and eventually did the right thing. It took a decade to act though.."

Breaking the Curse

Mineral-rich African states have been deprived of huge sums of royalties and taxes by mining firms, a report says. The report, by prominent development charities, blames a lack of legislative oversight and excessively generous tax concessions agreed with the firms.
It says some mining companies have also avoided paying tax through secret contracts with African governments. The study covers South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. Commissioned by development charities including Christian Aid and ActionAid, the Breaking the Curse report calls for reform of the institutional framework that negotiates mining concessions and monitors the royalties paid.

  • Ghana, a top African gold producer, is losing $68m (£46.7m) annually because it is receiving low royalties.
  • Tanzania, the continent's third largest producer of gold, could be losing $30m (£20.6m) a year in potential revenues.
  • Low royalty rates could be costing South Africa, the continent's biggest gold producer, up to $359m (£246m) a year
Mining companies operating in Africa are granted too many tax subsidies and concessions.
There is high incidence of tax avoidance by mining companies conditioned by such measures as secret mining contracts, corporate mergers and acquisitions, and various ‘creative’ accounting mechanisms. These tax subsidies, together with tax avoidance and alleged tax evasion practices by mining companies, have robbed African treasuries of millions of dollars of tax revenue from the mining industry. The citizens of mineral-rich countries continue to live in poverty, and are in some cases subject to violent conflict fuelled by the wealth generated from mineral resources as is the case today in the eastern DRC.

African mining tax regimes are a mix of secret and discretionary tax deals, as well as tax laws enacted through parliament. Most mining tax laws dating from the 1990s have lowered taxes considerably to attract new foreign direct investment into the sector. This shift to lower taxes has been promoted by the World Bank in all its client countries in Africa, as a means to revitalize the mining sector. Many of these laws allow ministers to negotiate tax deals with individual mining companies at their discretion, often leading to lower royalties, corporate taxes, fuel
levies, windfall or other taxes than those stipulated in the law. At their worst, contracts
may completely exempt companies from any taxes or royalties, as was the case in a number of the mining contracts signed between private companies and state-owned enterprises in the DRC
between 1997 and 2003.
Full Report here

“It is surprising how potentially wealthy nations depend, almost at alcoholic proportions, on aid from countries in the West and most recently Asia,” Brian Kagaro, Action Aid Pan African policy Manager said. “If Africa is truly a mineral-rich continent, why are its people languishing in poverty?”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Catholic cant

Pope Benedict XVI said Monday his heart cannot be at peace while people are homeless . Critics highlighted the plight of thousands whom the Angolan government has violently evicted from land owned by the Catholic church.
More than 2,000 families have been evicted since Angolan authorities began returning land to the church that had been seized by the former state, according to Muluka Miti, a researcher for Amnesty International. After a rapprochement with the church, the government of Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos in 1998 gave back lands seized by the state that had become occupied by ordinary Angolans.
The London-based human rights group said people were detained and arrested arbitrarily, and subjected to torture in some cases.

"I hope that the pope's message will be heard by our leaders and by the pope's priests and bishops so that no more people are left homeless as I was," said Damiao, who has received no compensation since authorities forced him from his land."It's very sad. I have lost a way of life. They destroyed our community, they destroyed our homes. Some people have been made beggars. Some people have been maimed... I am a Catholic. I cannot blame my church but I am very angry with the ambassadors of Christ, the priest and the bishop who forced us from our homes,"

Monday, March 23, 2009

who pays the piper , calls the tune

South Africa has denied the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a peace conference . The Johannesburg conference is intended to discuss football's role in fighting racism and xenophobia. The Tibetan spiritual leader was due to attend the meeting, along with fellow Nobel laureates, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and FW de Klerk later this week.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of the meeting in protest and branded the decision "disgraceful".
"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure," Archbishop Tutu was quoted as telling the Sunday Independent. "I feel deeply distressed and ashamed."

Mr de Klerk has also withdrawn from the event, while Mr Mandela's position is not clear.

A government spokesman has denied suggestions that the ban was a result of Chinese pressure. Dai Bing, an official at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria confirmed to Sapa that Beijing had warned the South African government that allowing the Dalai Lama into the country would harm bilateral relations.
Local newspaper, Business Day, quoted an unnamed government official as saying: "The Chinese government would not have been happy had we let him come... We would not do anything to upset the relationship we have with China."
South Africa is China's largest trading partner in Africa, with 2008 trade standing at 100bn rand ($10bn; £7bn).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Failing the mentally ill

Just 0.01 percent of Kenya's health budget is spent on mental health, compared to around 6 percent in the U.S. 10 percent of Kenya's people have mental health issues, and about 1 percent have disorders serious enough to warrant inpatient treatment. Kenya has only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people, compared to one for every 8,000 at most in the United States.The problem is worse in some other African countries .The World Health Organization says up to 85 percent of mentally ill or disabled people in the developing world never get treatment.

"The community does not see these people as human beings. They do not see their suffering," says Edah Maina, who heads the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

ecological destruction of Africa by China

Some may believe that Socialist Banner unfairly emphasises the expansion of Chinese capitalism in Africa . However , it is China that is demonstrating Marx's maxim that capitalism must accumulate , accumulate , accumulate .

We have another story about the effect on Africa of China's craving for raw material .

China's thirst for natural resources including wood and minerals is leading to massive deforestation in Africa and the destruction of crucial wildlife habitat, world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall . The scientist warned that Beijing is pressing governments in central Africa's Congo basin to sign over forest concessions in return for infrastructure and healthcare aid.She said the process is helping decimate some of the largest populations of wild chimpanzees and gorillas in the world.

"These areas containing unlogged forests are very desirable to, particularly today, China, with China's desperate effort for economic growth.Basically, they have almost exhausted their own supplies of wood and minerals so they go to Africa and offer large amounts of money or offer to build roads or make dams, in return for forest concessions or rights to minerals and oil," Goodall, said.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

world capitalism 2 - babies die

In studying economic, health and governance data for 45 sub-Saharan African countries from 1975-2005, World Bank senior economist Jorge Arbache found that during multi-year economic collapses, infant deaths increased on average by almost three percent, from 86 deaths per 1,000 live births to 114.
The World Bank calculates that some 28 million children are born in Africa every year, which would mean up to 700,000 more deaths because of the recession, which is caused in part by risky US mortgage lending, said Arbache. But even by conservative estimates, “Some 200,000 more babies may die in sub-Saharan Africa this year because of the economic fallout,” the economist said.
“I know these days it seems economists are blaming everything on the recession,” said Arbache. “But there is historical proof that sustained periods of deceleration [economic slump] have a direct impact on governance, small conflicts, life spans and, also, mortality.”

“Economic growth collapse in sub-Saharan Africa may mean more than a financial downturn – it can be deadly,” Arbache said.

world capitalism

"Low income countries are more exposed to the current economic downturn than previously, as they are more integrated in the world economy"

At the town of Luanshya over 3000 copper miners, directly employed and on contracts, lost their jobs at the end of January after the owners announced that the mine was no longer economically viable.

Copper mining is the most important industry in Zambia, accounting for 90% of Zambia's exports and directly employing 50,000 workers. But the price of copper has slumped on global markets, falling from a high of nearly $9,000 per ton last year to just over $3000 per ton now. Zambia has already been forced to abandon its windfall tax on copper mining, which was set to add $450m per year to its anti-poverty budget . Zambia is still one of the world's poorest countries, with 60% of the population living below the $2 per day poverty line .

The collapse of the kwacha, down 36% against the dollar so far, has spread the economic pain even more widely.

The International Monetary Fund says that, because of its dependence on copper, Zambia is one of the poor countries that "highly vulnerable to the adverse effects associated with the global recession." The IMF warns that "commodity prices are unlikely to recover while the global economy remains weak" and says that "low income countries are more exposed to the current economic downturn than previously, as they are more integrated in the world economy."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tea and sex

Tea accounts for about 20 percent of Kenya's gross domestic product and is one of its main exports.

"Tea pickers are paid very little and the working conditions in the farm can hardly be friendly; can you imagine waking up to face the cold weather and morning rain to pick tea without any protection?" asked Peter Obiero, an official at the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union. "The houses they live in are also very tiny and can hardly contain a family with children; this forces most of them to leave their families in the rural areas..."

Underpaid and living in poor conditions far from home, tea pickers in Kenya's vast plantations are trying to boost their income by selling sex. Kenya's Rift Valley has a general HIV prevalence of seven percent .

Consolata Awuor, a single mother of two who works on a large tea farm, says her job as a tea picker does not bring in enough to pay her rent, feed and clothe her family, and pay her sons' school fees, so she moonlights as a sex worker in Kericho town."For us women, we get even less pay because we cannot pick as much tea leaves as the men," she said. "Together with a few friends, we have rented a tin room in town where we provide sex and sell alcohol ... most of our clients are our fellow tea workers."

Other tea workers like David Wanjala "When I came here seven years ago I brought my family with me, but I later realised I couldn't afford to keep them here; I took them back home and I now live alone...The money I am paid here is too little even for one person ... because of these frustrations, I used it to buy sex and alcohol. Sex is cheap here because even the women who work here are paid little and they use their bodies to get extra income."

Many large tea companies distribute condoms to employees and hold regular forums to educate them about HIV. One such company is Unilever Tea, one of Kenya's largest. But their concern is not a humanitarian one but simple cold economic facts.
"We realised that the company was losing tremendously due to high HIV prevalence amongst employees, especially those in the lower cadres, into which tea pickers fall," said Irene Cheruiyot, who runs the HIV programme. "Most employees living with the virus cannot be productive because of the toll it takes on their lives. If they pick less tea it means that the factory will have to operate at below optimum, so they will be forced to bring in more manpower, which leads to additional costs,"

HIV/AIDS worry businesses because the disease eats into their profits . But the simpler solution , remove the poverty conditions of their workforce that promote prostitution , would also eat into their profits - but more so .