Thursday, January 31, 2013

Not all gold glitters

There is no refuge from the blistering heat at this artisanal gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Any trees that might have provided shade have been consumed by the mine, which covers an area the size of five or six football fields. About a thousand people - men, women and some children - swarm across the open-cast mine near Iga-Barrière, about 25km east of Bunia, the administrative town of the Ituri Region. Local NGOs put the numbers of artisanal gold miners in Ituri between 130,000 and 150,000. Women, some with babies strapped to their backs, form human chains to pass plastic basins of mud from men excavating the shafts. They all work 13 hour days, six days a week. Some earn as little as US$0.21 a day.

It can take up to three weeks to dig, by hand, an 8m-deep shaft to where the gold-bearing sands lie at Iga-Barrière. Narrower shafts requiring less work carry greater risks.

A stake at the artisanal gold mine costs about $250, or five grams of gold, and is paid to the Société des Mines d'Or de Kilo Moto (SOKIMO), a public company. SOKIMO is a relic from Belgium, the former colonial power. Created in 1926, the company enjoyed boom years during the 1960s and 1970s, employing about 6,000 people and providing housing, clinics and schools for its employees. However, its nationalization in 1966 by then-Zaire's President Mobuto Sese-Seko, who used the company to support his lavish lifestyle, eventually took a toll. By the late 1980s, the company's only source of revenue was the taxing of artisanal and small-scale miners. Makuza Boniface, SOKIMO director at Iga-Barrière, told IRIN the company imposes a 30 percent tax on all gold produced at the site by the artisanal miners. Gold is being smuggled across the borders by gold dealers exploiting a tax loophole, Kitene said, to maximise profits.

Lobho Faustin, 30, cannot afford his own claim. He is part of a group of eight diggers, earning a wage to support his three children. "It's a job to live and survive on. How much money you make depends on how lucky you are. Sometimes I get $50 in a week and sometimes nothing. You can work for weeks and not get paid. I work for someone else. But it all depends. If we find gold then we get paid. There is nothing else to do," he said.

Artisanal miners face an array of occupational hazards, including: mercury inhalation while extracting gold from ore; tunnel and open-shaft mine collapses; women experiencing spontaneous abortions due to heavy labour; and the complete absence of water and sanitation facilities. "Health and safety is set down in the Mining Code, but most miners don't seem to care. It is very difficult to prosecute people as most are not educated and many were in militias during the war," Toto Bosingaka, the chief of the Service d'Assistance et d'Encadrement d'Artisanal (SAESSCAM), told IRIN.

As elsewhere in the eastern DRC, Ituri encountered a succession of international and local conflicts, and a variety of militias and foreign national armies imposed their own taxation system on the artisanal gold miners. Ndele Tanzi, coordinator for the Bunia-based NGO Honesty and Peace, told IRIN gold mining was a major threat to peace and stability. "The Ituri war was cast as an ethnic war, but if you look carefully it was about resources."
Although Ituri has returned to relative peace, gaining access to Iga-Barrière requires passing through numerous roadblocks staffed by security forces and government officials, who impose random "road taxes" on vehicles and pedestrians alike. The peace dividend has not provided any respite from a culture of backhander payments.

"While the exploitation of artisanal and small-scale miners continues, the identity of those responsible has now changed. They are no longer warlords and militia leaders but government administrators, members of the government's military and security organizations, and many regional traders,"
A November 2012 report, Conflict Gold to Criminal Gold, published by Southern Africa Resource Watch, said.

Louis Bedidj Fuarwingo, coordinator of the artisanal miner organization the Association Exploit dans Mineur Artisnal pur le pacification et reconstruction Ituri (AEMAPRI), told IRIN, "Sometimes authorities harass miners and make them pay for small things to let them work. They can make people very angry and demand as much as $750. "They ask for non-existent certificates, like 'scientific training' and 'expertise in mining'. They just create such lists to pick money from the miners. Police come to the mining camp and go to the mine boss and then all the miners have to contribute."

From here

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Mali

At issue in Western interventions in Africa's wars is the scramble for Africa's resources. They're vast. They're some of the world's largest and richest. They include oil, gas, gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, iron, copper, tin, lead, nickel, coal, cobalt, bauxite, wood, coltan, manganese, chromium, vanadium-bearing titanium, agricultural lands, and offshore fishing.  

Mali is strategically located. It's West Africa's largest country. It's more than double the size of France. It borders on seven nations. They include Algeria, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, and Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Its northwestern area is largely arid desert or semi-desert. The Sahel runs through its central region. Rainfall and rivers make southwestern territory marginally more lush than the rest of the country.The Niger River is its most important geographic feature. It traverses the Sahel and southeastern region. It's a major transportation artery. 

 Mali's resources comprise of gold, diamonds, phosphates, bauxite, lignite, kaolin, salt, limestone, gypsum, granite, marble, diatomite, hydropower, iron ore, manganese, tin, lead, zinc, copper, oil, gas, and uranium. Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. It's rich in uranium. It has an estimated 5,000 tons or more. It's neighbor Niger is the world's fourth largest producer. In 2007, Algeria's state oil company Sonatrach and Canada's Selier Energy signed oil and gas exploration deals. In mid-2012, drilling began.

Pretexts are easy to invent and the war on terror is just another piece of camoflage for  serving French, British and American business interests.

Hunger - the death sentence for many

More than 12million South Africans will go to bed hungry tonight.  The hungriest people are in Cape Town (80%) and Msunduzi, in KwaZulu-Natal (87%). It found that, in Johannesburg, 43% of the poor faced starvation and malnutrition. Researchers believe the figure could be higher.
A five-year study by the University of Cape Town's African Food Security Unit Network has exposed a food crisis that constitutes a "death sentence" for many

 Dr Jane Battersby-Lennard said the University of Cape Town study explained  the problem was access to adequate nutrition, not the availability of food.

"This is because of poverty. People are simply too poor to buy food."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Princess of Angola

Eldest daughter of Angola's president Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', has been named Africa's first female billionaire. President José Eduardo dos Santos, the continent's second longest-serving leader at 33 years and an autocrat accused of enriching his family at the expense of ordinary Angolans. Forbes found that Isabel dos Santos's shares in several Portuguese firms, including a cable television company and an Angolan bank. According to Forbes, Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder in Zon, a Portuguese media conglomerate, with 28.8% of the stock, worth $385m; she also owns 19.5% of the Portuguese bank Banco BPI, worth $465m; and 25% of Angola's Banco BIC, worth an estimated $160m. In addition, she is said to be a 25% shareholder in the Angolan telecoms company Unitel. Most of her businesses in Angola are approved and transferred by her father. The investments in Portugal, De Morais added, were made first by the state firm Sonangol, which manages Angola's oil and gas reserves, with Dos Santos receiving shares. Dos Santos married Sindika Dokolo, Congolese art collector the son of the tycoon Sanu Dokolo, founder of Bank of Kinshasa. The couple, who have three children, divide their time between Luanda, London, Lisbon and Johannesburg,

When someone shows up with a billion dollars you have to ask what is the origin of the wealth? This is not explained. Peter Lewis, an African studies professor at Johns Hopkins University in the US, told Forbes: "The source of funds and corporate governance are very murky. When you tease out the ownership and controlling interests in Angola it reads like a Who's Who of family members and party and military chiefs."

The anti-corruption organisation Transparency International recently ranked Angola 168th out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The farm workers fight

Unions and charities supporting the Western Cape's 500,000 farmworkers say pay and conditions are so bad that South African wines, grapes and Granny Smith apples have called for a boycott of them. Of the Western Cape's fruit production, 58% is exported and, in Britain, one of the main importers is Tesco. For world socialists those calls to boycott South African produce is deja vu of the earlier anti-apartheid campaigns. This may help in this particular case but will not lessen the class struggle in South Africa.

The farmers' "vindictive" response to the latest two-week strike in the £850m-a-year fruit and wine sector is sacking workers by the truck-load.

South African farmworkers  called off the latest round of a strike for a daily wage of 150 rands (£10.65), their union said but warned of a new flare-up in the Western Cape.  Portia Adams, a spokeswoman for the employers' organisation Agri SA, said many farms had continued to operate using non-unionised labour from outside the farming areas.

 "The government should be forcing the farmers to the table but it is not," said Nosey Pieterse, secretary general of the Black Workers' Agricultural Sector Union, (Bawusa). "Our only weapon left is for the foreign retailers to pledge that unless the conditions are addressed, they will no longer import South African products." The government has been silent on the issue, tacitly pointing to ongoing annual minimum wage talks. Pieterse, a lifelong activist for farmworkers' rights, said: "The farmers are intransigent, vengeful and arrogant. Yet they are the beneficiaries of post-apartheid South Africa. In the first 10 years of democracy, the wine industry grew tenfold, from 20m litres output before 1994 to 220m litres. The farmworkers' conditions went the other way. Tenure rights laws were not accepted by the farmers. More than 1  million farmworkers were evicted. They remain slaves on the land of their birth."

 Most farmworkers are not unionised, many are illiterate and face the risk of eviction because they live on their employers' properties.Poorly enforced labour rights and tenancy laws as well as the pitifully low statutory minimum daily wage in the sector – 69.39 rands (£4.92) – perpetuate a culture of paternalism. To go on strike, workers have to stand up to employer.  A 2011 report by Human Rights Watch found widespread exposure to pesticides, lack of access to drinking water or sanitation, and failure to pay sick leave. While the system of dop – payment in alcohol – has largely been abolished, the Western Cape still has the highest rates in the world of foetal alcohol syndrome.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The haves, the have-lots and the have-nots

When Apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa moved from an era of institutionalized racial separation to what many believed was an equal society. But today, the rich-poor divide is starker than ever before. What has been happening is that as businesses have pushed down wages, profit margins have been increasing. The World Bank showed the country to have a Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality) of 63.1 –  which is among the worst globally.

 South Africa is now ‘‘the most unequal country on earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid,’’ said a Oxfam report released just ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Oxfam predicts that if nothing is done at both government and the international level to address the situation, in South Africa alone one-million more people could be pushed into poverty by 2020.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Liberian Land grab

Liberian farmers who survived a 15-year civil war are now fighting lucrative property deals with Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil companies that threaten the land they live on, if not their sacred burial sites. Thirty hours by car from the capital Monrovia, the green and yellow flag of Golden Veroleum Liberia, an Indonesian palm oil giant, floats over deforested hills in Sinoe County, southern Liberia. In 2010, GVL acquired a 63-year lease on 220,000 hectares of land to produce palm oil. It pays annual rent of US$1.50 per hectare for virgin forest land and US$5 per hectare for cleared terrain in the lease, renewable for 30 more years. Palm oil is used for cooking in parts of Africa, Brazil and Southeast Asia, and is an ingredient in soaps and washing powders.

“The Indonesians came here for the first time in September 2010,'' resident Benedict Manewah explained. “They said: ‘We have a concession agreement, your president has sold it to us.’ Three months later they came back... and they started to destroy the properties, farmlands, crops, livestock and houses.’’ Manewah listed the crops he had planted. “I had rubber trees, cassavas, breadfruits, orange trees, cocoas, coconuts and palm trees,’’ for his family. GVL workers uprooted his crops to produce palm oil exclusively, and “they ship everything to their people, at home,’’ in Indonesia, he said.

Saydee Monboe pointed out that farmers now had no choice but to work under contract for GVL, charging: “This is not development, it's modern slavery.’’

Alfred Brownell, a lawyer who founded the organization Green Advocates, added:“The way they operate is almost as mob gangsters; threats, intimidation, illegal arrests,''

Fact of the Day

South Africa more unequal than in 1993.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Namibia child poverty

One in three children in Namibia still grows up in households that are poor.

 Long-term impacts on children, especially if poverty starts at an early age or persists over several years. These impacts include a higher risk of low birth weight and child mortality, stunting and poor educational outcomes. Poverty can also impact on children's emotional and psychosocial wellbeing as the daily struggle to make ends meet can increase stress and tension within a household.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The struggle to live in Mali

While world media attention is focused on the French military intervention to thwart militant Islamist rebels, it is easy to overlook that for most Malians, to just stay alive is, in itself, an everyday struggle.

The country’s birthrate and infant mortality rate are the second highest in the world. Infant mortality exceeds 10 percent. Life expectancy at birth is among the shortest in the world.

With climate change and the Sahara desert creeping ever southward, life for rural and nomadic populations in the north is getting worse; even at the best of times. Drought is now a common reality. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about a quarter of the population faces severe food insecurity.

The current conflict makes the misery worse. Very often the popular response is flight–to anywhere else. Oxfam estimates that 30,000 so far have fled since the French began their campaign last week. They join some 345,000 previously internally and externally displaced persons due to the ongoing unrest. The Catholic Information Service for Africa estimates that the number of displaced persons could reach 700,000. Already it estimates that about a third of Mali’s population of more than fifteen million is affected by the interrelated crises involving food availability, nutrition, and military conflict. This extreme privation plays a major, if often hidden, role in refugee flows and the availability of children to fight as soldiers as the only means of obtaining a meal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poverty Facts

Most people in the world are poor.  There is no part of the world where traces of poverty do not exist. Poverty is a situation where a person lacks basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter as well as access to healthcare and education or where the access to these basic needs is unsustainable. Relative poverty is more of a social definition which tends to measure inequality, social exclusion and dependency.  Poverty is indicated by economic and human development indices such as GDP per capital income, life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy rate, employment, gender inequality as well as level of democracy or political participation. Other indicators of poverty by the World Bank  include precarious Livelihood, physical limitations, lack of security, misuse of power by those in authority by creating dis-empowering policies, institutions and structures as well as weak community self help organizations. The World Bank recent quantification of extreme poverty defines poverty as one living on less than $1.25 (PPP) per day and moderate poverty as one living on less than $2 per day. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) simply refers to the equivalent of local currency needed to obtain what $1.25 can purchase in the United States. The United Nations regards poverty as a violation of human dignity.

 The greatest negative outcome of poverty is hunger and disease. Hunger results from under nutrition as well as malnutrition which increase the incidence of diseases such as malaria, headaches and a general decrease in body immunity and susceptibility to disease. In both humans and animals, hunger leads to anger, aggression, hatred and even violence. Food insecurity, another expression for hunger as a manifestation of poverty is a situation where persons lack adequate food of the right quality (balanced diet) quantity as well as at the desired time.

In 2008 about 1.345billion people mostly in developing countries lived on less than $1.25 a day and 1 .02 billion people where under nourished.  World Bank reports also show that out of the world population of 6.8 billion, 925 million or 13.6% are hungry most of who live in developing countries especially Asia, the pacific and sub - Saharan Africa. Children are the most unfortunate victims of under nutrition as evidence has shown that children who are under-nourished encounter about f60 days of illness within the 365 days of the year and accounts for six million deaths every year or 17000 deaths per day. Malnutrition affects 33% of children in developing countries. Africa accounts for 26% of the world’s malnourished children which stems from their, mothers during pregnancy. It is estimated that undernourished mothers deliver one out of every six under weight babies with high incidence of neonatal death as well as other health problems leading to disabilities, mental retardation, blindness and poor life time health conditions.

The poverty situation in Nigeria has been described as a paradox — poverty in the midst of plenty. The high poverty level in Nigeria which stood at 74.2% in year 2000 was unjustifiable as the country is endowed with rich natural resources. Poverty level in Nigeria rose from the minimal of 15% in 1960 to 28% in 1980, 66% in 1996 giving 76.6 million poor persons while the United Nations Human Development Poverty Index rated Nigeria among the 25 poorest countries in the comity of nation. In 2004, the poverty rate for Nigeria however declined to 54.4% compared to the figures for Malaysia with 12.3% and Kenya 40% during the same year. Life expectancy is 48 years, infant mortality rate per 1000 is 90.4 and literacy rate 65.3%, though the poverty is said to be estimated at 34.1%, this still gives a poor population of about 55 million persons in absolute figures. In Nigeria, less than 40% have access to good drinking water while less than 30% have access to good toilet facilities.

Over $300 billion oil and gas wealth which is in abundance in Nigeria is controlled by about 0.1% of the population.

Monday, January 14, 2013

the Mali mess

Only last month, asked about intervention in the strife-torn Central African Republic, the French President François Hollande replied: “Those days are over”. But apparently not. France (and Britain) appear to be embroiled in yet another war. French planes attacked targets,  The mayor of Konna, says the dead included children who drowned after they threw themselves into a river in an effort to escape the bombs. Britain has provided transport planes. Americans provides intelligence and logistical support, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria agreed to send soldiers to join hundreds of French troops. France, the only European country still to have a permanent military presence in Africa with several major military bases. French involvement in Mali dates back more than a hundred years. The current unrest erupted in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they had mounted the coup in response to the government's failure to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

A secular separatist Tuareg, National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad,  wants an independent state in northern Mali called Azawad. National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. The group which once controlled the cities of Gao and Kidal has largely melted back into the population awaiting its next chance. The MNLA is generally disregarded and underestimated because it has receded and allowed al-Qaeda-linked groups to take over the field. But it's important to remember the genesis of this crisis was an action by the MNLA to take over northern Mali, and all that is happening can be seen as a kind of reaction. The aspirations of the MNLA are deep-rooted going back to the first Tuareg rebellion in 1963. Their demands are not going to go away and those demands will continue to be the deep root of the northern Mali crisis.

National Front for the Liberation of Azawad is an Arab group loosely allied to the MNLA which wants the people of northern Mali to have the right to self-determination. They want northern Malians to be able to decide whether they want to be autonomous, independent or to be a part of Mali, possibly through a referendum similar to what happened when Southern Sudan voted for independence. The FLNA is not asking for the implementation of Sharia law.

Ganda Koy (Masters of the Earth) is a Songhai ethnic self-protection militia which has been around since the second Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s. Ganda Koy has in the past fought alongside the Malian Army against Tuareg rebels. They have allegedly committed massacres against Tuareg civilians. Human Rights Watch recently put out a report warning that ethnic self-protection militias like Ganda Koy and Ganda Izo are compiling kill lists of members of MNLA, Ansar al Din, other groups and their collaborators.

Ganda Izo is a Fulani ethnic militia that was formed in 2008 to perform a similar function to Ganda Koy—providing self-protection to the local Fulani populace and countering Tuareg rebellion.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
is a mostly Algerian and Mauritanian group that has been present in northern Mali since 2003 and which has kidnapped and held more than 50 European and Canadian hostages for ransom in the last ten years earning what is estimated to be well over $100m. Niger's foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum recently said that AQIM's presence in northern Mali was part of a deal between the group and the deposed President of Mali Amadou Toumani Toure. Hostage ransom money from European governments was allegedly spread around to Malian officials while AQIM was given free rein in Tuareg areas, with a wink and a nod from the Malian Army. AQIM is currently holding at least nine European hostages in northern Mali. Over the last decade a few local Ifoghas, Tuaregs and Arabs joined AQIM in Mali, and their members also inter-married with the community. However now that AQIM are openly circulating in the main cities of northern Mali, and thanks to its association with local groups like Ansar al Din, the group has become more mainstream. Now youths from southern Mali, Senegal, Niger and other countries have come to join them under the rubric of the Islamic Police which AQIM has a direct hand in running.

Ansar al Din
is a group of local Ifoghas Tuaregs, Berabiche Arabs and other local ethnic groups who want Sharia law implemented everywhere in Mali and across the Muslim world. The founder and head of Ansar al Din is Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg former leader from the 1990s. Over the past ten years Iyad worked closely with the former president to try and put an end to simmering Tuareg rebellions and to negotiate hostage ransom deals with AQIM. Ansar al Din's spokesman is an Arab from the Timbuktu area named Sanda Ould Boumana who was incarcerated in Mauritania in 2005 for being an alleged member of al-Qaeda. The majority of Ansar al Din fighters are Tuaregs from Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ifoghas tribe and Berabiche Arabs from the Timbuktu area. Ansar al Din avoids fights with the MNLA and FLNA so as not to shed blood of relatives and tribal cohorts which would be de-legitimising. They tend to leave that job to MUJAO and AQIM. Although Ansar al Din denies any links with al-Qaeda, it effectively functions as a local umbrella under which members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) can operate. The relationship between the two groups is analogous to the association between the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghainstan, with Ansar al Din playing host. The two groups work together running the religious police, for example. Ansar al Din keeps its membership Malian, thus keeping their future options open within Mali. Ansar al Din can be found in all three main cities of the north: Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa
is the most opaque of the al-Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali. It is supposedly a dissident group which split off from AQIM, but they told Al Jazeera that they're proud of working with AQIM in Gao to fend-off mutual enemies. MUJAO says like Ansar al Din that they want Sharia law everywhere in the world. Unlike Ansar al Din the group incorporates both locals and foreigners from the Sahel region and North Africa.  MUJAO has been the most aggressive in attacking MNLA elements as well as Arab groups who want self-determination for northern Mali. When the MNLA gain a foothold in a region, MUJAO are known to harrass them until they leave. Tilemsi Arab drug lords from the Gao area are alleged to be involved in funding MUJAO and some of their young people have joined.

The trade routes of the Sahara once made the region now called Mali among the world’s richest. But for the past century, it has been marred by instability and conflict.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ethiopian Migrants

In the last six years around 250,000 Ethiopians have made the dangerous journey into Yemen, gateway to the Gulf, a very poor, deeply divided country besieged with internal problems, which has limited resources, the second highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the world and where 45% of the population live in poverty.

Djibouti city is the first major stage in the harrowing journey to Yemen, here or at sea all possessions, including mobile phones, cash and clothes are stolen, by smugglers, corrupt police or border guards. The journey to Djibouti’s capital is harsh and dangerous, in which many Ethiopian migrants die of starvation, dehydration or are killed by bandits. The Danish Refugee Council report, ‘Desperate Choices’, states, and wait for days or weeks for favourable conditions to cross the perilous waters of the Gulf of Aden, in flimsy boats manned by vicious criminal gangs. The ordeal of women begins in Djibouti, DRC report an Ethiopian man recounting the sea passage when “four Yemeni smugglers were on board the boat. They raped the girls in front of us, we were not able to move or to speak, and those girls were already sold to Yemeni traffickers.” Many are abducted and held captive, sometimes for months on end, their experiences are harrowing in the extreme.

On arrival in Yemen men and women are separated, wives taken from husbands, daughters from Fathers brothers from sisters. Trafficking and multiple rape of women is widespread, IRIN 12/03/12 state “the majority of the approximately 3,000 women held by smugglers in Haradh [on the border with Saudi Arabia] over the past year were raped, many of them repeatedly.”

 Corruption is endemic, with security officials coordinating with smugglers on the border with Saudi Arabia, “a climate of collusion and low political will to apprehend and prosecute smugglers is allowing the trade and abuse of migrants to flourish” (Reuters). The country is run, a military officer on the payroll of the smugglers to the tune of $2,000 a month says, “by tribes not policemen: these people are my friends.” ‘These people’ are turning a bind eye to the murder, rape and trafficking of innocent migrants seeking work to feed their families.

The innocent men women and children from Ethiopia making an impossible choice, with they see no alternatives, are not the villains in this ongoing human tragedy they are the victims trapped in a terrifying nightmare.

Full article here

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The World Bank

At the World Bank, we have made the world’s most pressing development issue—to reduce global poverty—our mission,” the bank proclaims. Why, then, did the IFC give a Saudi prince’s company an attractively priced $26 million loan to help build the Mövenpick hotel in Accra, Ghana. The five-star Mövenpick hotel opened in 2011, fits the model of a modern international luxury hotel, with 260 rooms, seven floors, and 13,500 square feet of retail space displaying $2,000 Italian handbags and other wares. It was financed by a combination of a multibillion-dollar investment company largely controlled by a Saudi prince, and the poverty-fighting World Bank.

The investment company, Kingdom Holding Company, has a market value of $12 billion, and Forbes ranks its principal owner, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, as the world’s 29th-richest person, estimating his net worth at $18 billion. The World Bank contributed its part through its International Finance Corporation (IFC), set up back in 1956 to muster cheap loans and other financial support for private businesses that contribute to its planet-improving mandate.

The IFC likes to work with huge corporations, funding projects these companies could finance themselves. Its partners are billionaires and massive multinationals, from oil giants like ExxonMobil to Grupo Arcor, the huge Argentine candy-maker. Its projects include not only glitzy hotels and high-end shopping malls, but also gritty gold and copper mines and oil pipelines, some of which end up benefiting the very corrupt, authoritarian regimes that the rest of the World Bank is urging to change. Nearly a quarter of the IFC’s paid-in capital from member governments—now standing at $2.4 billion—came from U.S., and every president in the World Bank’s 69-year history has been an American.
The World Bank’s internal watchdog sharply criticized the IFC’s approach, saying it gives little more than lip service to the bank’s poverty-fighting mission. The report, a major 2011 review by the bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, found that fewer than half the IFC investments it studied involved fighting poverty. “Most IFC investment projects generate satisfactory returns but do not provide evidence of identifiable opportunities for the poor to participate in, contribute to, or benefit from the economic activities that the project supports,” the report concluded. In fact, it said, only 13 percent of 500 projects studied “had objectives with an explicit focus on poor people,” and even those that did, the report found, had a “limited” impact. The IFC did not dispute the conclusions.

Ghana's per capita GDP ranks in the bottom third of the world, with life expectancy in the bottom 15 percent and infant mortality in the bottom fourth. The IFC committed about $145 million in loans and equity in Ghana just in fiscal year 2012. Yet Takyiwaa Manuh, who advises the Ghanaian government on economic development as a member of the National Development Planning Commission, told me she doesn’t think of the IFC’s investments “as fighting poverty. Just because some people are employed, it is hard to say that is poverty reduction.”

In Accra, Mary-Jean Moyo, the IFC’s in-country manager for Ghana, told me the new hotel fights poverty by creating jobs. To illustrate, she recalled how the Mövenpick’s manager “noticed that a few boys roller-skate on Sundays outside the hotel. The manager decided to hire them to work at the pool. That is development and helping local people.” How many were hired? Six, Moyo responded. There is no hotel school and no vocational training in the country. As a result, all the top staff members among his 300 employees are foreign.
The IFC’s booming list of business partners reads like a who’s who of giant multinational corporations: Dow Chemical, DuPont, Mitsubishi, Vodafone, and many more. It has funded fast-food chains like Domino’s Pizza in South Africa and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jamaica. It invests in upscale shopping malls in Egypt, Ghana, the former Soviet republics, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. It backs candy-shop chains in Argentina and Bangladesh; breweries with global beer behemoths like SABMiller and with other breweries in the Czech Republic, Laos, Romania, Russia, and Tanzania; and soft-drink distribution for the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and their competitors in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mali, Russia, South Sudan, Uzbekistan, and more.

But the IFC’s money-generating strategy has at least one benefit: It sustains the jobs of the people who work for it. The “more money the IFC makes, the more the bank has available to invest,” says Griffiths, the director of Eurodad. “Staff is incentivized to make money.” The IFC sets annual targets for the number, size, and types of deals employees should complete, and it awards performance bonuses for reaching these targets, according to several current and former IFC staffers. “If you don’t reach the target, you don’t get a bonus,” says Alan Moody, a former IFC manager

Francis Kalitsi, a former IFC employee recalls of his time at the IFC. “The IFC is very profit-focused. The IFC does not address poverty, and its investments rarely touch the poor.”

R. Yofi Grant, executive director of Databank, one of Ghana’s largest banks, told me that the IFC’s practice of providing loans at attractive terms to multinational companies “crowds out local banks and private-equity firms by taking the juiciest investments and walking away with a healthy return.” The IFC recently organized a $115 million financing package for global telecom giantVodafone to expand its operations in Ghana, even though six telecom companies already operate in the country. Despite such robust private investment, the IFC’s loan package for Vodafone was its second in two years. “That is not poverty reduction, and these are not frontier investments,” Grant says, referring to the IFC’s refrain that it invests where other financiers might not. “The IFC says all the right things and does all the wrong things.”

The example of Chad and Cameroon, however, offers a more complicated picture. In 2000, the IFC invested roughly $200 million with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others, along with the governments of Chad and Cameroon, to support the construction of a nearly $4 billion oil-pipeline project that experts estimate will generate more than $5 billion in revenue over the 25-year life of the project from wells mainly in landlocked Chad to a port in Cameroon.

The two countries are even poorer than Ghana to the west. Per capita income in Chad ranks 193rd in the world, compared with 185th place for Cameroon and 172nd for Ghana. Life expectancy at birth in Chad, at 48.7 years, is the world’s absolute worst, and the country has been ruled for the last two decades by heavy-handed dictator Idriss Déby.  The bulk of the oil revenue was supposed to be set aside for food, education, health care, and infrastructure. But in the face of attacks from rebel groups supported by neighboring Sudan, and asserting a need to defend the pipeline, Déby instead channeled substantial chunks into arms purchases.

Just in 2012, the IFC announced investments in mining projects for gold, copper, and diamonds in places like Mongolia, Liberia, and South Africa, as well as investments in oil and gas projects in Colombia, Ivory Coast, the Middle East, and North Africa.

In Accra, not far from the new Mövenpick, the IFC’s posh offices—sporting a lawn, flowers, and private parking—sit amid a slum, surrounded by an imposing concrete wall topped by coils of barbed wire. The only paved part of the road to the IFC is directly in front of the guarded complex, which has no sign announcing its identity. The rest of the road is a winding, dusty dirt path filled with potholes and surrounded by hovels erected out of battered metal or wood. Barefoot children sit amid goats and roving chickens, on ground dotted by garbage and litter. Women cook tiny fish strung onto sticks over an open fire, ignoring the near-100-degree temperatures. Some of them said they had lived there for 15 years. When asked whether they knew what the World Bank is, they said no. When told that it fights poverty, many of them laughed.