Wednesday, October 31, 2012

South Africa - the inequality didn't go away

South Africa’s first census in a decade shows wealth disparities between race groups that persist 18 years after the end of apartheid. While incomes for black households increased an average 169 percent over 10 years, their annual earnings are 60,613 rand ($6,987), or a sixth of that for whites.

Population growth and life expectancy have been curbed by one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics. About one in nine people in South Africa are infected with HIV, the virus that causes the disease, according to the government. The census found 3.37 million children under the age of 17, or 19 percent of the total, had lost one or both parents, with AIDS cited as a major contributor.

“These figures tell us that at the bottom of the rung is the black majority who continue to be confronted by deep poverty, unemployment and inequality,”
President Jacob Zuma said.

The business of charity

A British charity which builds wells in Africa was refused overseas aid funding because its bid was not “innovative” - but the consultants who decide which charities should be helped were paid a million pounds.

 It is a small British charity with a simple goal – to supply clean water to villagers in some of Africa’s poorest countries.Just £3,000 can build a well  serving 4,000 people. A further £170 provides a latrine. Such straightforward schemes can save and transform lives. Operation WellFound has so far built more than 25 wells in four countries. WellFound has worked in Kenya, Senegal and Guinea Bissau, building sealed wells with hand pumps in areas where families previously sent their children many miles to fetch fresh water, or risked contracting dysentery, typhoid and cholera from contaminated shallow wells. WellFound requested £250,000 to build wells and latrines for 60,000 people in Burkina Faso, one of the most impoverished nations on Earth. The bid for funding was referred by the Department for International Development (DfID) to Triple Line Consulting, a London-based company which advises on overseas aid, to be examined in detail. The application was rejected. In an email sent by Triple Line to WellFound, the consultancy gave three reasons why the charity should not receive funding. The bid was considered not “sufficiently innovative”; it did not clearly explain how poverty would be alleviated; and it did not provide evidence of how the work could be replicated on a larger scale in the future.

 £29 million was paid in the past 12 months to Triple Line, whose main contract is to assess applications for grants from DfID’s Global Poverty Action Fund. The company passed on £27.1 million of the funding to aid providers it had vetted, while keeping the remaining £1.9 million as a fee for its services. Charities which are approved by Triple Line do not qualify for funding straight away. Instead, they are subjected to a second round of scrutiny by a different consultancy – this time a specialist branch of the global accounting firm KPMG. In the same 12 months, DfID paid KPMG more than £35 million. According to KPMG sources, most was passed on to aid providers and £3.5 million was kept as a fee.  

 Triple Line, based in Putney, south-west London, is owned by two directors who founded the company in 1999: Lydia Richardson, 42, a “socio-economist”, who lives with her husband in a £1 million house in Southfields, south-west London, and David Smith, 54, an economist, who lives with his family in a £750,000 house a few streets away. Triple Line – which states on its website “We operate on the principles of openness, transparency, accountability and trust” – is registered as a small company, meaning it is not required to publish its accounts. Last night its owners declined to disclose what the company’s income or profits were last year, or how much they were paid in salary or dividends.

A DfID spokesman said: “Operation WellFound was one of 238 applicants for a grant under the Global Poverty Action Fund. The top 20 will be awarded a grant. The nature of a competitive process means there will necessarily be a number of organisations that will just miss out.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

private schools - private profits

Gems Education, a private school group operating in 10 countries, is embarking on a major expansion in Africa. In September, the company opened its first secondary school in Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Further schools are planned in Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.

With fees starting at $1,700 a term, tuition at the Gems school in Nairobi will certainly be out of reach for the poorest people.

"Gems schools are geared to provision of high-cost education for Kenya's elite. Doubtless they will provide Mr Varkey and his shareholders with a healthy profit."
Kevin Watkins, a senior fellow at the Centre for Universal Education, declared.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The new slavery

If current trends continue the UN says there will still be about 190 million child labourers in eight years' time.  In the poorest parts of the world, the UN says, the numbers will rise: child labourers in sub-Saharan Africa will jump by around 15 million over the next decade, reaching 65 million by 2020.

 In Ethiopia almost 60% of children work. US chocolate companies had promised to educate all children in areas where it grew cocoa in west Africa – a commitment that would cost the industry $75m or 0.1% of annual sales. Instead it spent about $20m over eight years and reached just 4% of children in cocoa-growing communities in Ivory Coast and 30% in Ghana.

 Kevin Watkins, a former UN official who now works at the respected Washington-based thinktank the Brookings Institution, said: "The conditions of millions of child labourers would shock even the most hardened Victorian social reformers. National governments and international agencies are failing these kids, and reneging on their commitments."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Africom's remote control war

Deadly US drone attacks in the Middle East and Northern Africa have greatly escalated in the past few years, thanks largely in part to a quickly expanding, yet remote, US base in the Horn of Africa.

Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has operated as a central command for US attacks in the region for ten years, but in the past two years it has become the center of drone operations in the region. It is the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone.

Camp Lemonnier, is home to over 1,666 drone and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet flights per month, double that of two years ago. 16 drones and four fighter jets take off or land at the Djibouti airfield each day on average. Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen where they are being used in that increasingly deadly war.

Such flights are expected to increase. For the past decade, the Pentagon has labeled Lemonnier an “expeditionary,” or temporary, camp. But it is now hardening into the U.S. military’s first permanent drone war base. $1.4 billion in construction projects are now planned, including a massive housing compound holding up to 1,100 Special Operations forces. Last month, for example, the Defense Department awarded a $62 million contract to build an airport taxiway extension to handle increased drone traffic at Lemonnier, an ammunition storage site and a combat-loading area for bombs and missiles. It also awarded a contract to install portable lighting at the  backup site: a tiny, makeshift airstrip in the Djiboutian desert, several miles from Lemonnier. It represent the clear example of how the United States via AFRICOM is laying the groundwork to carry out these operations overseas for years to come. The U.S. military also flies drones from small civilian airports in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, but those operations pale in comparison to what is unfolding in Djibouti. The U.S. military pays $38 million a year to lease Camp Lemonnier from the Djiboutian government

 The UN's special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights announced that the Human Rights Council at the UN will likely initiate an investigation into civilian deaths caused by the CIA and US military's use of drones and other targeted killing programs, and said that if certain allegations against the US prove true, he considers them serious enough to call "war crimes". Since Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.

Details from here

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Africa can feed its people

Africa could feed itself if trade restrictions were reduced and fertile land was put to good use, according to the World Bank.

Just 5% of African cereal imports come from other African countries, it said. “The potential to increase agricultural production in Africa is enormous,” the bank said in the report. “Yields for many crops are a fraction of what farmers elsewhere in the world are achieving and output could easily increase two to three times if farmers were to use updated seeds and technologies.”

 "Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat," said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice-president for Africa.

Born-again robber baron

A hero of South Africa's struggle who is now a business tycoon has been accused of having the blood of Marikana mineworkers on his hands after the release of emails he sent to mine management and government ministries. Cyril Ramaphosa, who 25 years ago led the National Union of Mineworkers in a key strike against the white minority regime, was criticised for betraying the very people he used to represent.

 His business interests include a seat on the board of Lonmin, the company that owns the platinum mine where, two months ago, a wildcat strike led to a police massacre of 34 workers. Ramaphosa sought to intervene with senior government figures on Lonmin's behalf. On the eve of the killings, he called for action against miners engaged in "dastardly criminal" conduct.  Ramaphosa had called for action to deal with the "criminals", whose crime was to seek a wage increase. Ramaphosa warned the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, to come down hard on the strikers, and was lobbied by Lonmin management to "influence" Shabangu and advised her that "silence and inaction" on the events was "bad for her and government". E-mails showed a direct collusion between Ramaphosa, Lonmin, mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu's department, the police ministry and state security agencies.

Co-author of the post-apartheid constitution, a patrician figure in the governing African National Congress Ramaphosa has been touted as a possible deputy to President Jacob Zuma in an ANC leadership election in December.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Greasing their palms

In a quiet amendment added to the Finance Bill late Thursday, members of Parliament approved a golden handshake of $110,000 each to be paid after their term ends early next year. The sweetener comes on top of an annual package worth $125,000, which is 70 times more than the average Kenyan worker takes home each year. It would take an average Kenyan worker 61 years to earn the sum that each of the country’s 222 lawmakers would be given under the bonus. The average annual per capital income is roughly $1,800.

 The move comes less than a fortnight after Kenya’s government said it could not afford to cover pay increases demanded by teachers and doctors, who had been on strike for three weeks in September. When the government said it had no money to pay them higher salaries, to then give themselves $25 million is beyond unreasonable. 

Southern Africa's food shortages

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that food insecurity and shortages continue to be a chronic problem in southern Africa. 

 “Southern Africa is facing a silent food insecurity emergency,” UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg said
“In Lesotho, about a third of the population does not have enough food to eat or sell. In Zimbabwe, 1.6 million people are expected to be food insecure and many families are selling their own livestock to cope with this dire situation," Bragg noted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Growth? What Growth?

Innumerable Kenyans continue to wallow in abject poverty even as others swim in money. As a few drink Sh85,000 in posh restaurants, the majority live in slums. In Nairobi, for instance, while some are buying houses worth tens of millions of shillings, others continue living in informal settlements where the rent is around Sh800. Millions around the country cannot afford a meal every day. They have to trek long distances to look for menial jobs. 46 per cent still live on less than a dollar a day.

“I earn Sh5,000 and Sh1,200 goes to rent. The fare is Sh50 and there are no trains on my route. Where is this growth you people are talking about?”  Martin Kirema, a security guard, asked.

Silvia Wangeci, a shoeblack in the city, says she is yet to feel the growth. “You mean there are Kenyans who are drinking Sh85,000 in a night? I have never held Sh20,000 at once in my hands,” she said.

Her colleague Naomi Kilonzo says the money has gone into a few pockets. “That money has gone to the MPs and their business partners. If there are ordinary Kenyans who have gone from poverty to riches then it was by fluke,” she said.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Botswana inequality

Various studies have shown that Botswana is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Botswana's income inequality, with a Gini Index in excess of 0.5, is one of the highest in the world.

At present, the highest paid senior public servant is the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Eric Molale, who earns P47,380 per month. With the three percent increase, Molale will earn about P48,801.40. Permanent Secretaries currently earn P41,200 per month. With the three percent salary increase, they will smile all the way to the bank to rake in P42,436. This is in contrast to what the lowest paid public workers are remunerated. If these workers are lucky to get the three percent, they will have only P41 more than what they have been earning. At present, these workers earn about P1,351.67. With the increment, their earnings will total P1,392.67.

The CEO of the National Development Bank earns about P1,172.608 per annum or about P97,717.333 per month.

It was reported earlier this year that two executive directors at Choppies earned P11 million while former president Festus Mogae - who is the company's chairman and non-executive director - pocketed half a million Pula in salaries and bonuses for the year ended June 30, 2011. The deputy chairperson of the Choppies Group, Farouk Ismail, raked in P5,057,000 in salaries and bonuses and a further P628,000 in benefits and bonuses, all of which total P5,685,000. Choppies director Ramachandran Ottaphathu pocketed P5,354,000 while former president Mogae was paid P529,000 in what is characterised as fees.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Sierra Leone Election

Albert Margai left office in 1967, after three years as prime minister of Sierra Leone, he was worth an estimated US$250 million – despite receiving an annual salary of just US$4,000. In 1985, when President Siaka Stevens stood down, he is said to have amassed a fortune of US$500 million. The Bank of Sierra Leone, in contrast, held US$196,000 in its foreign reserve accounts. In the late 1980s, a common joke told on the streets of Freetown was: ‘What did Sierra Leoneans read by before they had candles? … Electricity!’ By then, life expectancy in Sierra Leone was one of the lowest in the world. Infant mortality was amongst the highest. The literacy rate was just 15 percent.  In 1991, the United Nations ranked Sierra Leone last of 160 countries in its Human Development Index.  A common joke told on the streets of Freetown was: ‘What did Sierra Leoneans read by before they had candles? … Electricity!’

Since the civil war officially ended in 2002, consecutive national elections have been won by different parties. When Ernest Bai Koroma and his All People’s Congress (APC) party were elected in 2007, the incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) accepted defeat – albeit reluctantly. For many, elections – and the preceding campaigns – provide the true measure of how Sierra Leone has progressed. As yet the fundamental character of political competition in Sierra Leone has not been altered. Identity, not ideology or policy, remains the paramount factor. Ethnic and regional voting blocs – sustained by entrenched patronage networks and corruption – are as rigid as ever. The APC draws majority support from the Temne, Limba and other northern tribes, and Krios of the Western Area, while the SLPP are favoured by the Mende and tribes of the south-east. Elections are regarded as ‘winner takes all’ contests with defeat entailing exclusion and disadvantage for the losers, and their regions.

Political parties still use violent means to achieve political goals. Election campaigns for the 2007 elections were tarnished by clashes organised by the upper reaches of the APC and SLPP. A return to war was never probable, but President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah threatened to suspend the vote and impose a state of emergency. On 9 September 2011, during a ‘thank you tour’ to SLPP supporters, Julius Maada Bio’s convoy was pelted with rocks by mobs of APC supporters in the southern city of Bo. Maada Bio required stitches to the head. SLPP mobs retaliated by setting fire to the APC district office and residential properties. A public enquiry concluded that the violence was both premeditated and orchestrated by elites of both parties.

Sierra Leone’s 2012 elections are unlikely to reveal anything new about the country and its politics. President Koroma is expected to win a second term, but not because he has transformed the country’s economy. The incumbent has deployed clever tactics, co-opting proxy parties – including the Revolutionary United Front Party – to carry out political dirty work, and enticing high profile SLPP politicians to defect, most notably veteran Tom Nyuma formerly of the NPRC.

While the economy has grown, it is structurally little different to its pre-war incarnation. The purchasing power of low income earners has halved since 2007. Food prices have spiraled. A cholera epidemic concentrated in the slums of Freetown had killed 392 residents by September 2012. Youth unemployment remains endemic.  Sierra Leone’s government budget is minuscule, about US$500 million per annum, most of which is from donors who insist on democratic and liberal economic reforms in exchange. The government is not in a position to adopt political and economic policies that will inevitably be unpopular with donors. Nor does it possess the human capital or institutions to successfully implement such measures.

 Important progress has been made, particularly in the area of electoral management. But legacies of identity politics, violence, corruption and inequality have been – and will continue to be – harder to overcome. the imperatives of how to create employment and distribute wealth more equitably have been keenly avoided by Sierra Leone’s political class.

From here

Thursday, October 18, 2012


In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 56 million people aged 15 to 24 have not even completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment and prosperity. This is equivalent to one in three of the region’s youth population. Women are the most in need of all. In eight African countries, over nine out of ten young women in rural areas have not completed lower secondary school. Without these skills, these women will have their life chances affected forever.

 In sub-Saharan Africa, about 30 million children are still missing out on primary school and 22 million teenagers are out of secondary school, missing out on vital skills for future employment.  In 2010 in South Africa, almost nine out of ten young people were unemployed, with worse rates for those with less than a secondary education.

  In Ghana in 2008, around one-half of young women and one-third of young men could not read a sentence even though they had spent six years in school.

 Poor young populations, urban and rural, are the most in need of skills training. In urban areas, the youth population is larger than it has ever been and growing. Today, two thirds of Africa’s urban population live in slums where a lack of skills can confine young people to a life of subsistence work. However, the majority of the poor and least educated live in rural areas. In Cameroon, young people living in rural areas with no schooling are two and half times more likely to be earning $1.25 per day or less than those who have completed secondary education.

Young poor African farmers struggle to make a living. The average size of 80% of African farms is less than 2 hectares. Vulnerable to climate change, many are in desperate need of even the most basic skills to protect their livelihoods. Those not in farmwork urgently need training in business and marketing to find new opportunities and reduce the obligation of migrating to cities in search of a job.
 In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, traditional apprenticeships are the main type of skills training for those not formally employed. In Senegal, young people were more than 40 times more likely to be trained through this route than in formal technical and vocational schooling. These apprenticeships need to be open to all: in Ghana, the poorest and least educated have a much slimmer chance of getting an apprenticeship while in Tanzania apprenticeships are dominated by men.

poverty apartheid contines

South Africa's children still face apartheid-like inequality according to a new report. Sixty percent of children survive on less than 575 rand ($67, 51 euro), or around two thirds of black children 18 years and only two percent of white children.

Most of the poorest children live in rural areas, still locked into apartheid's geography of living in the poor former quasi-independent homelands that were set up for blacks by the racist white minority government.

"It looks just like a map of the old South Africa,"
said Katharine Hall, senior researcher at the University of Cape Town-based Children's Institute describing a map showing the geographical dispersal of the most deprived areas.

"Children who are born to poor parents and grow up in poor households are likely to remain poor, and in this way the inequalities of apartheid are reproduced," states the report.

The Richest Man in all History

Mansa Musa I of Mali – a 14th century African king - With an inflation adjusted fortune of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I would have been considerably richer than the world’s current richest man, Carlos Slim, who ranks in 22nd place with a relatively paltry $68 billion. Mansa Musa I ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire in the early 1300s, making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. Many mosques he built as a young man still stand today.

After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Resource Curse

From Algeria to Angola - and from petroleum to platinum, iron ore to oceans - the scramble for Africa's resources has often caused problems rather than created prosperity. Few African countries process their own raw materials - rather, the value is added elsewhere, to the benefit of others. Much of the profits from resource exploitation leave the continent entirely in the hands of foreign-owned companies which pay low rates of tax.

In Nigeria, the continent's biggest oil producer, at least $400bn (£250bn) of oil revenue has been stolen or misspent since independence in 1960, according to estimates by former World Bank vice-president for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili. That is 12 times the country's national budget for 2011. Meanwhile, 90% of people live on less than $2 per day.

No contenders

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation failed to find any African leader worthy of the $5m (£3.1m) award for excellence in leadership, the third time in six years.

 The value of the prize  a sum equivalent to $10 for every citizen of Cape Verde, ,and is paid in instalments over the first 10 years and followed by a pension of $200,000 for the remainder of the winner's life

Friday, October 12, 2012

oil wars?

Colonialism still haunts Africa. A border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania over the Lake Malawi/Nyasa have re-emerged after a British corporation was given the green light for oil/gas exploration. In the centre of the dispute lies the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1890 delineating the borders of former colonies.

The Berlin Conference on Africa held in 1884-1885 was initiated by the German Chancellor Bismarck and convened by Belgian King Leopold II, and effectively cut the African continent into arbitrary pieces on the basis of colonial spheres of interest, allocating resources between the European powers.  The geopolitical impact of these colonial divisions as an indirect source for regional conflict has been evident in the continent’s post-independence phase.  Intrastate conflicts in Saharan Africa, the Congo Basin, the Gulf of Guinea and the African Great Lakes have been influenced by the entrenched colonial legacies left behind.  Regional divisions and related territorial disputes have re-emerged as flashpoints of instability and conflict in the East African Great Lakes.

 In this case Surestream Petroleum, have re-ignited sparks causing diplomatic uncertainty between Malawi and Tanzania. Lake Malawi/Nyasa is Africa’s third largest lake, with its Western and Southern shore lines in Malawi and Northern and Eastern shoreline across Tanzania and Mozambique.  The disputed waters lie north of the Mozambique-Tanzania borderline, between Malawi and Tanzania.  While Tanzania officially claims fifty per cent of the lake waters along the Tanzanian shoreline, Malawi vehemently opposes these claims, citing full ownership of the questioned waters under the principles of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty signed between the United Kingdom and the German Empire, also known as the Anglo-German Agreement of 1890.  Both sides refer to different provisions of the same treaty to back their national claims over the lake waters.

The prospect of hydrocarbon wealth has created an optimistic mood around Malawi, an economy primarily dependent on small-scale agriculture and foreign aid.  The lake emerges as the only prospective hydrocarbon deposit in Malawi.  Malawi awarded Surestream Petroleum licenses for oil and gas exploration in the eastern section of the lake. Tanzania demanded a halt in exploration activities until the dispute over lake ownership was settled. Negotiations have not resulted in any sort of consensus, even with regards to arbitration.   

East Africa is emerging as the next hydrocarbon frontier in Africa, and a majority of the nations are conducting extensive exploration-related operations.  Oil and natural gas resources, in a majority of the region, have not been commercially exploited.  The region encompasses some of the most sensitive ecosystems in the world and there is a need for a strong and thorough legal framework in order to avoid the infamous impacts of an ‘oil curse’ on society, economy, politics and inter-state relations.

Full article here

Nairobi facts

2.65 million of Nairobi's four million inhabitants live in slums, a city where 67 per cent of the population lives on less than 2 per cent of the land. They are part of what is known as the "invisible majority" of Nairobians who face long-term consequences of land-grabbing and murky title deeds, prey to slum lords who have made vast profits from building shantytowns on contested land and using the notoriously corrupt police and courts system to protect their investments.  Only one in five in Nairobi  have access to electricity. Only 12 per cent own their shanties in the Kenyan capital. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Wednesday was World Mental Health Day

The 20-year-long rebellion in northern Uganda displaced more than two million people. More than half suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and up to 70 percent from clinical depression.

“People here don’t believe mental illness can be cured in hospitals or helped by modern medicine. They rely on traditional healers,” said Herbert Muyinda of Makerere University, Uganda. Those suffering from mental illness are often hidden away. Aunties and uncles will be trained and go into communities to find out about them and help lead them to treatment. "Traditionally, aunties and uncles play an important role in raising children. We want to create ‘mental health aunties and uncles’,” Muyinda told IPS.  Muyinda wants to get the modern and traditional to work together and avoid conflicts. “We want to engage with traditional healers to help them manage their patients better. We’re not going to take their patients away.”

Mobile phones will also have an important role in reducing the stigma of mental illness. Text (SMS) messages can inform people and help those suffering from mental illness to be identified and receive some form of treatment. “We hope to have a number that people can message and then a Wayo-Nero can visit them,” he said.

 Globally, close to 450 million people have mental health disorders, with more than 75 percent living in developing countries. Many are shut away or locked up. Few are ever treated. There simply isn’t enough money to meet the need in poor countries using the same approaches used in richer countries to treat mental illness

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Conservationists have repeatedly warned of dwindling stocks of fish off the West Africa coast, stretching from Mauritania to Guinea. Most point to over-fishing by European fishing fleets, which force small local fishing boats to concentrate their efforts in sensitive coastal areas. Six deep-water large fish species are steadily drifting towards extinction. Harvested specimens show declines in both weight and length.

Cameroon boasts 15,000 square kilometres of continental shelf and four million hectares of inland waters. Yet current local fish production remains around 157,000 tons per year, while demand is around 300,000 tons. As a result, Cameroon's fish imports rose to nearly 200,000 tons in 2011 (up from 150,000 tons the previous year). The Citizens' Association for the Defence of Collective Interests (ACDIC)  blames rampant malpractice by foreign trawlers in the face of stagnant fish supply, especially Chinese-flagged vessels. "They are still doing twin-trawling despite several government warnings, and are using small-mesh nets to fish even in off-limits waters reserved for local artisanal fishermen. And worse still, they dump the smaller fish in Cameroon and take the bigger ones to Europe," claims Albert Njonga, chair of ACDIC.

Sloans Chimatiro, Senior Fisheries Advisor at the New Partnership for Africa's Development explained: "The activities of foreign vessels must be closely monitored possibly with the use of satellites and high-speed patrol boats to check undeclared fishing; corruption by law enforcement officials must be severely punished; countries should set up large marine reserves; EU subsidies must be reconsidered, etc., [or] else the strains on fish stocks in this part of the world will run out of control."

 Along the Cameroon's 400-km coastline, artisanal fishermen and traders are stretching the limits of legality to stay in business. One current practice is the use of chemicals, including pesticides, to indiscriminately kill fish which are then scooped out of the waters. In Senegal, similar troubles have led industrial and artisanal fishing to slump. Experts blame overexploitation and a dramatic rise in habitat-destroying fishing techniques like the use of dynamite and twin-trawling. Foreign companies with fishing licenses bring in money and the sector constituted 13% of Senegalese exports and 1.7% of its GDP in 2009.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Mental health in Ghana

The announcement by the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs on August 21, 2012 of Ghana's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities made it the 119th country in the world to ratify the Disability Rights Convention, the 32nd country in Africa to do so, an international treaty that mandates the protection and promotion of human rights for more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide. More than five million people with disabilities live in Ghana, one-fifth of the total population. Under the Disability Rights Convention, people with mental disabilities have the right to make decisions about their own lives, including where and how they live. They also have the right to be free from torture and other abuses such as forced medication or deprivation of food.

Despite the large number of people with disabilities in Ghana, less than one per cent of the national health budget is spent on mental health services. People with mental disabilities living in the community also reported that there are few support services, including medical care, aimed at helping them integrate into community life. As a result, they lack medication and other basic necessities such as food and shelter. The World Health Organization estimates that close to 3 million Ghanaians live with mental disabilities and 600,000 of these have very severe mental conditions. Ghana has only three public psychiatric hospitals (all of them in the south), 12 practising psychiatrists, and 600 psychiatric nurses.

Human Rights Watch accuses the Ghanaian government of doing little to combat abuses of people with mental disabilities. The report alleges that they face overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in psychiatric hospitals, and are often chained to trees at spiritual healing centers.

Ghana's three public psychiatric hospitals - in Accra, Pantang, and Ankaful - house an estimated 1,000 people with mental disabilities. In all three institutions, Human Rights Watch found filthy conditions, with foul odors in some wards or even feces on the floors due to broken sewage systems. The hospital in Accra was severely overcrowded and many people spent all day outside the hospital building in the hot sun, with little or no shade. In one ward of Accra Psychiatric Hospital in the capital, there are just 26 functional beds for 205 in-patients, according to HRW. Nurses, lacking cleaning equipment, "instructed patients to clean the wards and toilets, including removing other patients' faeces without gloves", said the researchers. Without enough staff to properly restrain aggressive patients, staff routinely turn to violence, patients told HRW. Patients reported physical abuse in the form of beatings, forced seclusion and involuntary electro-shock therapy.

Mental disability in Ghana is widely considered to be caused by evil spirits or demons. When "orthodox" psychiatric treatment does not work, some resort to prayer camps which enact so-called spiritual healing. The report found even worse conditions in prayer camps than in psychiatric institutions. Human Rights Watch found that at least hundreds - and possibly thousands - of people with mental disabilities are institutionalized in prayer camps associated with Pentecostal churches. Managed by self-proclaimed prophets, these camps operate completely outside of government control. People with mental disabilities at these camps do not receive any medical treatment - in some, such treatment is prohibited even when prescribed by a medical doctor. Instead, the prophets seek to "cure" residents through miracles, consultation with "angels," and spiritual healing. At the eight prayer camps inspected, nearly all residents were chained by their ankles to trees in open compounds, where they slept, urinated, and defecated and bathed. Some had been at the prayer camps for as long as five months. As part of the "healing process," people with mental disabilities in these camps - including children under age 10 - are routinely forced to fast for weeks, usually starting with 36 hours of so-called dry-fasting, denied even water.

Sour capitalism

Mauritania is flooded with cheap milk products imported from Europe. Sixty percent of the population depends on the livestock sector in some form for income, and the sector contributes almost eight percent to the country's GDP, yet the country imports 65 percent of its milk requirements.  European milk products continue to stifle domestic dairies. Between 30 and 40 percent of locally produced milk in West Africa is wasted or lost because pastoralists do not have the knowledge or the capacity to process their surplus, pointed out Anthony Bennett, a dairy expert at FAO.

Poor producers in Mauritania are unable compete with the heavily subsidized milk sector in developed countries in Europe and elsewhere, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted it is report Why has Africa Become a Net Food Importer? Between 1986 and 2007, industrialized countries provided at least $20 billion worth of support to their milk sectors, the report noted.

Across West Africa, customs duties are low, and "local farmers are squeezed out of the dairy value chain by subsidized European milk powder," said Concord, the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development, in its 2011 report. "Regional production is therefore unable to meet domestic market demands. In Burkina Faso, nearly one out of every two litres of milk consumed in the country was imported in 2006, and in urban areas the figure was as high as 9/10 litres. European subsidized milk powder accounted for half of the cheap imports. Today, unfair market conditions continue to undermine local milk production," the report noted. The European Commission, in an effort to mitigate the impact of its subsidies, in 1984 introduced a quota on the amount of milk that it could produce, which would inhibit dumping surpluses in developing countries’ markets. The Commission also banned export subsidies for dairy farmers in 2008. However, in 2009, when production slumped and milk prices hit a record high, it reintroduced export subsidies for dairy farmers, and its quota arrangement is expected to be eliminated in 2015. "Combined with the EU’s current practice and further market-orientation of the sector, the external impacts of the EU’s milk policy may even worsen," said the Concord report.

From here

Friday, October 05, 2012

Somali choices

Poverty and unemployment drives Somalis to migration or terrorism. According to a recently-released United Nations, the unemployment rate for Somalis between the ages of 14 and 29 is 61 per cent for men and 74 per cent for women. The UN’s Somalia Human Development Report 2012 shockingly states that 82 per cent of the population is poverty-stricken, with 73 per cent struggling to exist on less than $2 a day. Somalis under 30 form the bulk of the population, with 66 per cent desperate to leave by any means to escape poverty and deprivation.

Deputy director of the Somali Youth Association Osman Moalim Ibrahim states that poverty is the driving force behind the despair and resulting violent tendencies of the country’s young people. He adds that the pirate gangs and criminal groups are mostly composed of young Somalis who have given up the struggle to find work and better themselves. Only 40 per cent of those unemployed are actively seeking jobs, with the remainder prey to recruitment by criminal gangs and pirate groups.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

no work, no future

Africa - were it one country - has a 72 percent unemployment rate.

 Without work, millions of poor and poorly educated young Africans will sit at home trying to make sense of why they spent so long in school and why their parents made huge sacrifices to send them there. Why did they bother if it means a never ending time waiting for life to begin when they will have a job, can get married and have a family.

  Alcinda' Honwana writes in The Time of Youth, "Could this represent the beginning of an era in which young people will no longer allow themselves to be manipulated by the elites into fighting ethnic and religious conflicts but instead choose the fight for their own socioeconomic and political rights? Could this mean that the waithood generation in Africa is shifting the battlefield from identity-based conflict into class inequality and rights-based conflict?"