Monday, April 28, 2014

20 years later

Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu said “I'm glad that Madiba is dead. I'm glad that most of these people are no longer alive to see this.”

“We dreamt about a society that would be compassionate, a society that really made people feel they mattered. You can't do that in a society where you have people who go to bed hungry, where many of our children still attend classes under trees.”

Tutu made it clear he will not be voting for the ANC in South Africa’s elections next month.

I have already said that I will not vote for them; that is something that I have said,” he explained during a recent press conference. “And I say it with a very sore, very heavy heart because on the whole they have tended to be close to the kind of things we dreamt about.” He added: “We have to admit that not too many of the successors of those leaders [from his and Mandela’s generation] have been able to fill their shoes. But the shoes were enormous.”

While at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema says that South Africans, especially those in the Western Cape, are not yet free, where he says the province still resembles the apartheid era.

“You have one common enemy, and that enemy is the protector of white monopoly capital, not white people... white monopoly capital!" said Malema, addressing thousands of EFF supporters on the Cape Flats."So everytime we say we are fighting against whites don’t be confused ... we are referring to white monopoly capital -- it’s too long, we shorten it."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ghana's Growing Inequality

The rich in Ghana are getting richer and the poor, poorer. That is the findings of a report authored by the Tax Justice Network Africa and Christian Aid.

Between 1999 and 2006, the number of rural poor in Ghana increased from 2.2 million to 2.6 million people despite a seeming decline in poverty.

"The report also highlights the fact that the top ten per cent of the rich are getting richer while the bottom 40 per cent sees their income declining.

Gyekye Tanoh of Third World Africa Network in an interview with Joy News' Dzifa Bampoh cited examples of how money is given to investors, majority of whom, are foreigners in the hope that they will create more jobs for the poor in society. Such a policy, Mr. Tanoh indicated, had failed because the investment in most cases does not trickle down to the poor as originally intended.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Expensive Angola

Sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer, Angola’s capital Luanda already ranks as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, with the presence of thousands of foreign workers, many involved in the oil industry, helping to drive up prices.

In Luanda’s Jumbo supermarket, a half-litre tub of imported vanilla ice-cream used to cost $25 (£15), testament to the Angolan capital’s rank as one of the world’s most expensive cities.
With new import tariffs imposed last month, that price has jumped to $31, enough to make even wealthy locals and expatriates pause and putting the treat even further beyond the reach of millions of poor Angolans struggling to feed their families. Angola imports three quarters of the goods it consumes.  The south-west African nation’s agriculture and industry are relatively undeveloped. They make up 17 percent of gross domestic product, compared with oil’s 41 percent.

“The tariff increases will create inflation, at least in the short term, and affect consumption, especially for those with low incomes,” says Salim Valimamade, an economist at Luanda’s Catholic University. Shopkeepers say the import tariff hikes have forced them to hike prices by up to 20 percent.

Dos Santos, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, has been accused by critics of widening a dangerous gap between the rich and the poor that risks causing social unrest.  Santos estimated last year that 36 percent of Angola’s 18 million people live in poverty, but dismissed the risk of income inequalities causing social upheaval, saying most people supported the government’s policies.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had a different view, urging Mr Dos Santos to reduce the inequality gap and warning about the high cost of living.

The average national salary in 2010, the latest year for which official data is available, was around $260 per month. In the finance sector the average was 10 times higher and in the oil business over 20 times higher, or around $5,400.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gay in Africa

Homosexual acts are illegal in 78 countries. Of these, 21 are small island nations, 20 are in the Islamic world, and 33 are in sub-Saharan Africa. In all three categories, almost all anti-gay laws are a vestige of European colonialism, and date back approximately 150 years.  In several countries, the prohibition against “sodomy” is still known as Section 377, the old British code provision. Ironically, anti-gay leaders—politicians, clergy, journalists—in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone have all, within the last month, called gay rights, and homosexuality itself, a “Western” innovation that must be resisted in order to preserve “traditional African values”. It is ironic that cultures with rich traditions of sexual diversity now asserting that sexual diversity is Western, and that Western anti-gay bias is a traditional cultural value.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma, said that “we have to take into consideration our culture, tradition, religious beliefs and all that…  I think the country should be led by what it believes is right for the country and not what is necessarily right for the international community because of the variations in our traditions.’’

In fact, pre-colonial African traditions varied widely. Over 20 cultural varieties of indigenous African same-sex intimacy have been recorded by anthropologists. There are Bushmen paintings of men having sex with one another. There are countless examples of cross-dressing and cross-gender behavior. There are instances of female warriors marrying other female warriors, such as in the kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin—unsurprisingly, the Europeans called them ‘Amazons.’  There are even cases of male homosexuality being seen as possessing magical properties, such as the transmission of wealth from one person to another. And, like the hijras of India, there are examples in several ethnic groups of men who took on women’s roles and dress to have sex with men. These people were not “gay” or “homosexual.” Those are Western terms, laden with connotations of culture and medicalization. They had names of their own: Chibadi (Southern Africa), Mukodo Dako (Uganda), and many others.

Pre-colonial Africa was not some queer paradise. Many of the gender-variant male types were stigmatized; being regarded as women was hardly an elevation in social status. And some forms of African sexual diversity, such as pederasty, are hardly models for contemporary morality but the notion that homosexuality is un-African is not historically grounded.

“African” ideas about homosexuality are often those spread by American Evangelicals, out to colonize Africa spiritually rather than politically.  Lou Engle, Scott Lively, Human Life International—these are not household names in the United States, and that’s precisely the point. Like has-been basketball players dunking baskets in Europe, the leftovers of the American Evangelical scene have found new life in Africa. These Westerners bring money and influence, and are gladly met by opportunistic African leaders. Each group is using the other: Evangelicals shift policy and are able to raise money back home, and their African collaborators can posture against Western imperialism and get rich.

At the same time, the notion of gay rights as Western is also reinforced by Western gay rights activists.  By scolding countries like Uganda and Nigeria for getting gay rights wrong (even as the United States itself has only “gotten it right” for the last few years) American liberals reinforce the notion that LGBT equality is Western, and, even worse, remind many in Africa of the patriarchal colonialist attitude that we Westerners are advanced, and you Africans are backward. Each time Americans and Europeans threaten to cut off aid to an African country because of its anti-gay laws, another African leader can “stand up to the West” and look powerful for resisting the pressure. The notion that developing world countries should leapfrog 40 years of social history, and the corresponding one that Western sanctions should whip them if they don’t, only feeds the flames of anti-Western sentiment and bolsters the political position of anti-Western posturing.

Meanwhile, LGBT people on the ground become victims of the backlash.

Full article here 

Capitalism V Nature

Weak Laws and Capitalist Economy Deplete Kenya’s Natural Wealth

Kevin Kinusu, the climate and energy advocacy officer at Hivos, the Dutch organisation for development, tells IPS that the weak laws have proved ineffective in the face of the country’s capitalist economy.

“Market forces have overlooked the importance of sustainable management of natural resources. Due to the current craze to develop real estate, wetlands in areas in Nairobi County, parts of Kiambu County and indeed in many other parts of the country have been converted into settlements.” He says the real value of such protected areas has been ignored and “the market forces and extreme hunger for a cash economy has been given dominance at the expense of our environmental and natural resource health.”

While the 2010 constitution demands that communities be at the heart of natural resource management, many are still left out of the country’s multi-billion dollar mining industry.

“The production-sharing contracts signed between the government and oil companies are often in favour of the companies since they are signed under the archaic Petroleum Act of 1986,” Samuel Kimeu, executive director of Transparency International Kenya, tells IPS. “Unclear means of awarding mining licences have been used to fleece the public, compromising the terms of the licence against the public interest, thus swindling the public of possible revenue,” he says.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Economic Freedom Fighters

Two EFF actions this week caught attention. Julius Malema, the party's commander in chief, condemned COSATU's continued support of the ANC and announced that the party will form its own trade union to organise workers.[1] And in Cape Town the EFF organised an anti-eviction march to the provincial legislature.[2]

In both these cases the party draws attention to real problems facing the working class, to real instances of the capitalist and state elite's attacks on the poor. At the same time the EFF tries to assert its own leadership and control over the struggles meant to resist these attacks.
Over the last twenty years, the so-called service delivery struggles in the townships and informal settlements were taken up by local resident associations who for many years provided the only source of opposition to neo-liberalism that was prepared to break out of the framework that the state set up to manage protests.[3] In face of COSATU's defence of the ANC and its commitment to the anti-worker labour relations dispensation, struggles in the workplace were taken up by strike committees, local forums and smaller independent unions. [4] These new community and workplace based associations in many cases showed a tendency to practice local autonomy, direct actions and direct democracy.[5] They therefore created opportunities for working class people to fight for control over decision making and oppose the authority of the capitalist state and class. This is why the state responded to it with violence that seems out of proportion to the organisational strength and political orientation (which was often not self-consciously revolutionary) of these groups.[6]

The approach of the EFF is not to support and strengthen the independence and autonomy of these working class formations. It wants to replace them or subordinate them to itself. The EFF has a highly authoritarian internal structure and culture based on military ranks.[7] If they succeed in imposing themselves on the independent workplace and community based groups that have grown out of the struggles of the last few years the working class would lose the limited self-organisation it has won in bloody struggles against the neo-liberal capitalism of the ANC.

[2] 'EFF is not a political party. EFF is a revolutionary movement that believes in people's power not parliamentary power. we shall not wait for laws to defend and advance the interests of the people. last night kwaLanga in Cape Town EFF faced up to the combined evil power of the anc/da and banks and successfully defend the right to housing. the banks mobilized the state just like in marikana and tried to evict and elderly family. EFF said NEVER! the evil forces had to retreat! its so sweet to see how they complaining. EFF stands with the People against Banks! asijiki!' - Facebook post by Andile Mngxitama 14 April 2014.
[3] See for example 'Social movements, COSATU and the "new UDF"' by Oupa Lehulere August 2005.
[4] Documented for example in the booklet 'New forms of organisation' published by the International Labour Research and Information Group in 2009.
[6] The main example of this ongoing violent repression is the Marikana massacre.
[7] See for example the comments of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa on democracy in the EFF.

From here


The spreading tentacles of AFRICOM

10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities. Last year, according AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez, the U.S. military carried out a total of 546 “activities” on the continent — a catch-all term for everything the military does in Africa.  In other words, it averages about one and a half missions a day.  This represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008.

AFRICOM releases information about only a fraction of its activities.  It offers no breakdown on the nature of its operations.  And it allows only a handful of cherry-picked reporters the chance to observe a few select missions.  The command refuses even to offer a count of the countries in which it is “active,” preferring to keep most information about what it’s doing — and when and where — secret.

U.S. troops carry out a wide range of operations in Africa, including airstrikes targeting suspected militants, night raids aimed at kidnapping terror suspects, airlifts of French and African troops onto the battlefields of proxy wars, and evacuation operations in destabilized countries.  Above all, however, the U.S. military conducts training missions, mentors allies, and funds, equips, and advises its local surrogates.

Saharan Express is a typical exercise that biennially pairs U.S. forces with members of the navies and coast guards of around a dozen mostly African countries. Operations include Juniper Micron and Echo Casemate, missions focused on aiding French and African interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic.  Other “security cooperation” activities include the State Partnership Program, which teams African military forces with U.S. National Guard units and the State Department-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program through which U.S. military mentors and advisors provide equipment and instruction to African units.

Many military-to-military activities and advisory missions are carried out by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as part of a “regionally aligned forces” effort that farms out specially trained U.S. troops to geographic combatant commands, like AFRICOM.  Other training engagements are carried out by units from across the service branches, including Africa Partnership Station 13 whose U.S. naval personnel and Marines teach skills such as patrolling procedures and hand-to-hand combat techniques.  Meanwhile, members of the Air Force recently provided assistance to Nigerian troops in areas ranging from logistics to airlift support to public affairs.  Last year, according to a December 2013 document, these efforts involved everything from teaching Kenyan troops how to use Raven surveillance drones and helping Algerian forces field new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, to training Chadian and Guinean infantrymen and aiding France’s ongoing interventions in West and Central Africa.

 A website for Yemen’s Houthi community says the US army is planning to set up a naval base in a strategic area in the country’s southern Lahij Province. According to the recent report by Ansar Allah website, the naval base, which is to be established in Khor al-Umaira in southern Yemen near strategic Bab-el Mandeb, will include a floating dock, a training center and shooting ranges.
US army corps of engineers have said the construction of the naval base can be completed in some 730 days and will cost the government around USD five million.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hey Presto!

Statistics are the magic, and the manna, of the economist. They are less reliable than weather forecasts; the meteorologist has a better chance of forecasting rainfall than an economist of forecasting economic growth.Things get even more testy over the issue of Gross Domestic Product, that great calculator of a nation’s economic output. The proof, in this case, lies outside the pudding, rather than in it. Things get even more testy over the issue of Gross Domestic Product, that great calculator of a nation’s economic output. The proof, in this case, lies outside the pudding, rather than in it....

...A suitable illustration of this statistical gazing comes in the form of assessing Nigerian economic performance. For one, the recent rebasing of its performance seemed to take other countries in the region by surprise. Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy. This hardly seemed to make sense, given that South Africa, with a GDP of $354 billion in 2013, was streets ahead. Nigeria’s statistician-general would have none of that. Figures showed a jump from 4.2 trillion naira to 80.2 trillian naira, the equivalent of $509 billion. Astonishingly, the economy had grown by 90 per cent, effortlessly surpassing their rivals....

...The problem, as ever, is that GDP is one of the greatest tricks in the economist’s manual. In itself, it says nothing. Roy H. Webb of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond offers a definition: “the market value of current, final, domestic production during a specific interval of time.” Already we have our first problem – value includes prices for goods and services actually paid in market transactions. Defense costs may not be available because market prices are not available. What is left out can prove as vital as what is included.

States, on paper, can appear rich yet still have a good portion of its citizens living on less than a dollar a day. The GDP measurement had its origins in concepts of sound and sober management – monitoring the economy the way a doctor monitor’s a patient’s health. That management, as with other systems of accounting, went awry. It has been said that John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was a true catalyst, given its emphasis on matters of national investment and product. The retiring Bureau of Economic Analysis chief Steven Landefeld has issued an appropriate warning: figures like GDP “are eminently useful in macroeconomic analysis if they are not regarded as a precision instrument.” The line between precision and lethality is a fine one...

... economic improvement should never be a race. It should be a matter of genuine growth and poverty alleviation. Economic growth serves as both warning and promise. As well as it might suggest that some things are going well, it gives little indication about distribution. GDP remains a trick.

Full article by Binoy Kampmark on the Dissident Voice website 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Reclaiming the unions

 The South African general election will take place on May 7. In 2009 the ANC won 65.9% support - just short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. The 76% turnout was seemingly relatively high, but not so good when you consider that around seven million adults (23% of those entitled to vote) did not register in the first place.

A campaign calling for no vote to the ANC, which was launched last week by over 100 former ANC stalwarts, of varying prominence. Amongst them is Ronnie Kasrils, for 20 years a member of both the ANC national executive and the South African Communist Party (SACP) central committee,  who was minister for the intelligence services for four years until 2008  and has now jumped ship, much to the chagrin of the SACP.

The campaign is entitled ‘Sidikiwe! Vukani! Vote no!’ - the first two words being translated as ‘We are fed up! Wake up!’ As for ‘Vote no!’, that has been interpreted as a call to abstain, to spoil your vote, or to vote for anyone but the ANC. This movement is typical of the widespread, but largely passive, disillusionment with the ruling party. Disgruntled residents in a small South African town booed President Jacob Zuma. Rally-goers reacted angrily at Zuma,  left early and pelted stones at cars. In March, the crowd booed him again at a friendly soccer match between South Africa and Brazil in Johannesburg. 

 It is absurd to claim that the current period of neoliberal privatisation and capitalist stabilisation represents a “national democratic revolution” that is the “most direct route to socialism” in South Africa as the SACP desperately argues.  “The ANC has had 20 years to prove itself,” says Kasrils, but has failed to do so. He makes the obvious equation of Marikana, where 34 miners were shot dead by police in August 2012, and Sharpeville, when 69 peaceful protestors were mowed down by the apartheid police in 1960.

the SACP ‘communist’-led National Union of Mineworkers defends its members who are scabbing against strikers led by the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the platinum belt: “we urge the law enforcement agencies to crack down on the sponsors and the perpetrators of butchery”: ie, strikers, who have attacked NUM scabs.

 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and its general secretary, Irvin Jim, voted unanimously to break from the ANC and not to support it in the general election, making it clear that  the ANC is an agent of the bourgeoisie and that the SACP has betrayed the working class. Although their own politics remain those of left reformists such as former Brasilian president Lula.

While, of course, it would be highly desirable for trade unions to be “socialist”, first and foremost,  we need a united union movement that includes all workers, irrespective of their political affiliation.

Adapted from a Weekly Worker article

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Activists Banned From Student Union Elections- Nigeria

Recently, the Obafemi Awolowo University management, through the Division of Students Affairs, sent a blacklist to the electoral commission and expressly ordered that those whose names are on the list must not be allowed to vote, be voted for, or act as agents in the forthcoming union elections. Five students are affected by this vicious list, and the only offence they have committed is their participation in the genuine struggles of students for unbanning of their union. For OAU administration, dissenting opinions over unlawful proscription is not allowed, and hence criminal. For us in the DSM, this blacklist is only a witch-hunt aimed at preventing student activists from holding union offices. It is also a calculated scheme to weaken the OAU students’ union and establish it under the direct manipulation of the university administration. We condemn this undemocratic, unlawful and vicious interference of OAU management in the internal affairs of a students’ union. We call for the conduct of elections in line with the provisions of the union constitution and decisions of the congress of students.

First, that OAU administration is establishing this disenfranchisement through a kangaroo indictment is unintellectual. In the opinion of the administration, indictment is not to make a formal accusation against someone, but to presume that the alleged is guilty before the charges are substantiated. This is the height of intellectual contradiction in an institution of learning, where regards for democratic laws and dissenting views should have been entrenched. However, we in the DSM are not surprised that the OAU management is wielding another instrument of jackboot absolutism to prevent questions and checks on its oppressive activities.

This was the same management that constructed a N500 million swimming pool when the university water supply system remains unclean and diseased, amid wide condemnation. Prevention of student activists, who have boldly condemned such impropriety of spending and policies, from holding union offices is meant to further sustain arbitrary and corrupt policies of the university administration. This will also ensure that the union itself is tied to the apron string of the university management, while the right to protest obnoxious policies of the university administration will be criminalized.

For us in the DSM, a union that cannot advance the interests of its members is irresponsible. And this is the reason why the affairs of such a union should be determined by members of the union, and not forced down its throat by a self-serving university authority. The OAU students’ union has a constitution which has articulated procedures for election, and a legislative organ which is the congress. Hence the right of members to vote or to be voted for is a subject for determination by the students, and not the university administration. If Nigerians do not condemn and resist this arbitrary imposition, then the OAU management – and other university managements – will see student unionism as a system of secondary school prefecture. This fact is observable in the current National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), whose leaders have turned into cronies and sycophants of corrupt politicians. While Ife student unionism still jealously guides the philosophy of students as an instrument against oppression and anti-people policies, the current effort of the university administration threatens the further existence of this tradition.

The DSM calls on peace-loving Nigerians, alumni of OAU and ex-students’ leaders to call the OAU administration to order and stop its excessive interference in the forthcoming students’ union elections. Witch-hunting students for taking dissenting opinion over an unlawful proscription of the union is inimical to intellectual growth and damaging to the future of Nigeria.

Adabale Olamide
General Secretary

From here with links

We Have The Vote But No One To Vote For - South Africa Elections

Elections should be a season of hope. Steve Biko declared that our fight was for an open society, a society where the colour of a person's skin will not be a point of reference or departure; a society in which each person has one vote.

We have the vote but the political parties do not represent the aspirations of the people. Millions of black people remain poor and oppressed. When we organise outside of the ANC we are violently repressed.

This election is not the season of hope. It is the season of deception, slander, gutter politics and lies. There are campaigns to encourage our people, and in particular young people to vote. We are being told every day that voting is the way to express our hopes and to build a better society. Politicians are leaving the comfort of their fortresses and frequenting our townships. They all say that they are disgusted that we are still living below the poverty line in squalid conditions, with no water and electricity. They all say that voting is the way to restore the dignity of our people.

Those who claim to be so disgusted with how the people are living include the same ones that have been stealing from the people. There is the Nkandla Chief who has made his own family rich while the rest of us remain poor. There is also Malema who dismantled a house of R4m to build a mansion of R16m.

Another feature of our politics is that it has become about messiahs. John Block tells us that walking with Zuma is like walking next to God. According to Andile Mngxitama Julius Malema has become Maolema. Helen Zille has been given the name Nobantu (people's person).

In the black consciousness movement we read a lot. Some of us started as teenagers. At a young age we read Frantz Fanon's warning about leaders that send the oppressed to their caves and tell them to leave politics to the professionals or the messiahs. We understood clearly that a radical politics is a democratic politics and that a democratic politics is a politics in which the oppressed control their own organisations and participate in all decision making.

The media also reduce us to spectators of politics rather than participants in politics. We are reduced to those who must clap hands and cheer for our 'leaders'. At times the noise is so high that you hardly hear your leader.

We are in the struggle to kill the idea that one kind of person is superior to another kind of person. We want to abolish racism. But we also want to abolish the idea that politics is about choosing between Zuma, Zille and Malema.

The formation of the Black Consciousness Movement in this country was a realisation by black people that we could no longer stand and be spectators of the game we are supposed to be playing. This election season continues to demonstrate the relevance of Biko's teachings. We are expected to cheer the politicians as they play the game. We are expected to cheer the BEE millionaires as they play the game. If we want to play the game ourselves we end up like Andries Tatane, the Marikana martyrs or Nkululeko Gwala and Nqobile Nzuza.

Today our generation has to encourage people not to accept the hardships that they are facing. We have to find a way, even in the environments we are forced to live in, to have hope for ourselves and our country and to organise to confront oppression. That is what black consciousness is all about. It is not about supporting one corrupt messiah against another corrupt one. It is about taking a side with the people.

After the murders of Tatane, the Marikana miners, Gwala and Nzuza it is immoral to vote for Zuma. After Nkandla it is immoral to vote for Zuma. After Blikkiesdorp and Hangberg it is immoral to vote for Zille. After Malema forced his way into the leadership of the ANC Youth League and he and his friends plundered the organisation, as well as Limpopo government and the National Youth Development Agency it is immoral to vote for him too. Zuma must go on trial for Marikana and Nkandla. Zille must go on trial for Hangberg. Malema must go on trial for his plunder and unpaid taxes.

But corruption and repression are not our only problems. There is no doubt that the ANC is rotten but it is a grave mistake to divorce corruption from the rotten form of crony capitalism that we have in South Africa. Both the ANC and the DA are proponents of the kind of capitalism that always makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. They are both proponents of the Youth Wage Subsidy which is a false solution to unemployment. We need a subsidy for the people, not for capital.

The EFF say that they will nationalise the mines and run them for the people. But no one in their right mind can trust Malema to run the mines for the people.

We have to ask ourselves why it is that we now have the vote but there is no one to vote for. Maybe the reason is that the political parties are all funded by elites and so they all work for elites. We need to change the system in which the parties are funded. All parties should receive the same funding from the state and there should be no secret and private funding.

Elections should be an opportunity for the people to choose their representatives from amongst themselves. What we have today is a system whereby we can only choose which group of rich people, working for the big capitalists, we want to rule us.

From here

Monday, April 14, 2014

Accumulation By Dispossession - BRICS and AFRICA

The centuries-old looting of Africa, followed by the conference in Berlin that from 1885 began the ‘Scramble for Africa’, is being repeated now in a predatory attack by BRICS countries on the continent’s resources. Large corporations from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are not committed to development for ordinary people – whether in the homeland or the victim countries. As BRICS penetrate further into Africa, the winners consist of multinational and parastatal corporations, including some based in the industrialised countries – e.g. the Walmart retail empire – which purchase semi-processed inputs or finished goods from BRICS, along with local elites who lubricate the looting through corruption, cost overruns, and access to our cheapest electricity supplies.

Many African countries, if not all, are located at the extreme end of what Immanuel Wallerstein thirty years ago termed the core-periphery relationship, a position which impoverishes them to the advantage of rich and industrialised countries in the core. BRICS countries represent sub-imperialists trying to improve their relative location in the world system, perhaps moving toward imperialist power and thereafter even to imperialist superpower status, as the USSR once enjoyed. These countries have different levels of economic development and political influence, vested interests in the African continent and the DRC in particular, and geopolitical positions in world politics.

But they all share four characteristics. First, BRICS countries present important opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) which, drawn towards mega developments like the Congo River Inga Hydropower Project or towards minerals and petroleum extraction, impoverish the same people that they should empower. Impoverishment occurs through dispossession of natural resources with little or no compensation, unequal shares of the costs and benefits of mega development projects, repayments of debts incurred to build these projects, and structural exclusion from accessing the outcomes of these initiatives.

Second, BRICS countries share the same modus operandi at their different stages of imperialism, either as countries which have been active in Africa for a very long time (Russia and China); newly arrived (India); or playing their traditional sub-imperialist countries (Brazil and South Africa). The pattern is similar: accumulation by dispossession is taking place through abuse of local politics, national elites, warlords, and war economies, as in the eastern side of the DRC, where between BRICS and the West as consumers of the resulting mineral outflows, six million or more deaths have been the result.

Third, BRICS countries share the same interests in natural resources including but not limited to mining, gas, oil and mega-dam projects for water and for electricity to meet their increasing demands for cheap and abundant electricity. They are also actively involved in the search for new markets, and hence they promote construction of roads, railways, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. But this infrastructure is often indistinguishable from colonial-era projects, meant to more quickly extract primary products for the world market.

Fourth, BRICS countries have poor records of environmental regulation. There is virtually no commitment to mitigate climate change and invest in truly renewable energy, to take environmental impact assessments seriously, and to consult with and compensate adversely affected communities.

There is desperation in the air as a result of the following: three BRICS countries having crashed in 2013 (South Africa, Brazil and India) to join the ‘fragile five’ (Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey); Russia crashing in March 2014 thanks to the implications of its Ukranian political and Crimean land grab, following China’s surprising trade deficit in February 2014 as many of its major industrial companies lowered their production. The prices of important commodities such as copper and iron are falling, as a result. The BRICS appear to need new market niches for trade, along with cheap energy through oil, coal and hydroelectricity, which can assist in lower-cost extraction and transportation. But each BRICS country is different.

For details of each BRICS' countries dealings in Africa GO HERE

Uganda and Israeli Racism

 A century ago, Theodor Herzl - the father of modern political Zionism - proposed Uganda as a temporary refuge for persecuted Jews. Uganda is now on the receiving end of other persecuted peoples, this time African refugees who have sought asylum in Israel only to be imprisoned in detention facilities and then returned to the Africa.

 The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in a February 2014 article titled "Israel secretly flying asylum seekers to Uganda", harsh conditions in the detention centres plus nominal financial compensation have facilitated the deportation of many migrants under the guise of "voluntary departure". Uganda's denial of the existence of any deportation agreement with Israel renders accountability for human life even less of an option

The Israeli director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants on this non-solution to refugee plight: "It is known that Uganda deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin." The organisation also said that " 'voluntary departure' is the result of heavy and illegal psychological pressure on detained, isolated and desperate asylum seekers, which more than once has included threats and lies....the position of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees is that people cannot be considered to be acting of their own free will if the choice they have is between detention and being sent back to their country".

One  reason for the disingenuous rendering of a "voluntary" exodus of refugees is, of course, to prevent an already precarious demographic balance in Israel from tipping in favour of non-Jewish non-whites. There has been political incitement to anti-African violence and the forcible injection of Ethiopian women with contraceptives.  The Israeli regime insists on referring to African asylum seekers as "infiltrators", which connotes criminality and facilitates the illusion of a steady stream of enemies that must be combated. Between November 2012 and May 2013 the Jewish state had approved only one asylum application from a population of approximately 60,000 non-Jewish African asylum seekers in Israel. The applicant happened to be an albino.

"When Israel rounds up and deports African refugees, it makes a mockery of the millions of Jews who died during World War II because no one would grant them shelter,"  Israeli-Canadian journalist David Sheen noted.

Apparently so indistinguishable from one another in their blackness that they can be repatriated to any old place in Africa.

 What does Uganda stand to gain from participating in outsourced inhumanity? A 2013 Vice magazine report details the perks of the arrangement: Weapons discounts and military training for African countries willing to take on Israel's dirty work.  Uganda's interest in Israeli weapons is perhaps less than surprising given the behaviour of its own army and security forces, often characterised by torture and other human rights violations. In 2003, Haaretz ran a story on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's visit to Israel for the purpose of "arms shopping", an excursion that was said to have been "arranged by an arms merchant, Amos Golan of the Silver Shadow company, who represents IAI [Israel Aircraft Industries] and other Israeli defence industries in Uganda".

 A Vice magazine article notes that, as of September of last year, approximately 40,000 of the African "infiltrators" were from Eritrea, "a country with one of the worst human rights records on Earth". The author goes on to comment, with well-directed sarcasm, that "these people aren't coming to Israel because they fancy upping their matzah intake or living on Palestinian land illegally; they're genuinely trying to escape persecution and find a way to survive".

From Al Jazeera

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Doing Business" - World Bank Rules

The World Bank measures the "ease of doing business" in different countries and produces a ranking list. Many foreign investors, lenders, and aid donors decide where to deploy their money according to this league table. So if developing countries are to attract foreign investment, they follow the bank's dictates. That creates a "race to the bottom," with countries competing to out-deregulate one another.

Liberia, for instance, implemented 39 recommended reforms between 2008 and 2011, including a reduction in corporate taxes and relaxed rules on environmental impact assessments. Within this period, foreign direct investment increased four-fold. But what the World Bank considers good for business is disastrous for the developing world's residents.

Again, consider Liberia. Following the reforms, British, Malaysian, and Indonesian palm-oil giants secured long-term land leases, which, according to Friends of Earth International, have reached over 1.5 million acres of land formerly held by local communities. Should the World Bank really help foreign investors seize locals' resources - and build plantations instead?

Thanks to reforms guided by the Bank, Sierra Leone has taken 20 percent  of its arable land from rural populations and leased it to foreign sugar cane and oil palm producers. Across the world, land is turning from an ancestral asset with cultural significance into a commodity available to those with the most money and lawyers. The terms of many of these leases - which can run as low as $1 a hectare for 99 years - amount to contractual robbery.

The World Bank last year actually praised land grabs by foreign companies, saying in a report, "while a smallholder model has a proven track record in promoting equitable development, in some situations access to significant tracts of land must accompany agribusiness investments." So property rights matter - as long as they're exercised by corporate interests.

 Land deals struck with foreigners have disastrous consequences. According to the International Land Coalition some large land deals between 2000 and 2010 amounted to 203 million hectares (500 million acres). This number is expected to be much higher by now. That's a problem, given that family farmers account for 80 percent of all land holdings in Africa and Asia and provide about 80 percent of the developing world's food. If they become dispossessed because their governments are trying to curry favour with the World Bank, they may lose their livelihoods and their ability to provide food for the globe.

The rich are buying up Africa the banks will insist on mono-culture to be the most profitable (Enter Monsanto). Capitalism operating. Arabs will have land to farm and cheap labour to do it, heaven forbid the oil sheiks pick up a hoe themselves. The Chinese are moving in and the Dutch have been growing flowers in Africa for ages. The poor are simply getting poorer and the IMF and the World Bank make sure it happens. Profits instead of people is their motto .

With support from rich countries and NGOs like the Gates Foundation, the Bank is introducing a new programme called "Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture" (BBA). The BBA's goal is to promote "the emergence of a stronger commercial agriculture sector". Its rankings will prize deregulation of agriculture.

For small-scale farmers, such an "emergence" is tantamount to more foreign land grabs.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

African dawn?

For centuries, colonial merchants tussled for access to Africa's raw materials, and huge swathes of Africa's geography became synonymous with the main commodity they exported: Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, the Spice Island of Zanzibar.

Management consultancy McKinsey estimates that African consumer spending will be $1.4 trillion by 2020 and forecasts a more than doubling of the working age population to 1.1 billion people by 2040.

 The continent's booming economic growth and swelling population gives capitalists an opportunity to shift away from the traditional raw material export model towards consuming and transforming its own commodities and selling them to its own expanding local markets.

Hasnen Varawalla, managing director of Investment Banking at Barclays Capital, said "This is not about taking resources out of Africa to the rest of the world, they are seeing the opportunities within the continent and developing them."

Poor land infrastructure is a factor limiting the internal trade in commodities across the continent. A U.N. study last year found that intra-Africa trade represents just 11 percent of the total, compared with around 70 percent within Europe, partly due to insufficient infrastructure.

Another important factor limiting their ability to process locally is power supply, as many African countries struggle to increase generation capacity in pace with demand.  Currently power prices meant production costs were more expensive than China and that this would limit Africa's potential to process raw materials locally.

"For the continent to really make that huge step forward and step up in terms of development, electricity supply is one or two of the basic infrastructure that needs to be in place."  said Mzilane Mthenjane, executive head of strategy and corporate affairs at South Africa-based mining company Exxaro.

Nigeria's False Boom

 One in five people in sub-Saharan Africa is Nigerian. Come 2050, Nigerians, will be far outnumbering Americans.

Nigeria has declared itself the biggest economy in Africa. Overnight, with the wave of a statistical wand, it has added 89% to its GDP, now worth $510 billion, and soared past the previous leader, South Africa, worth $370 billion. Nothing has changed in Nigeria’s real economy, except the way it is measured. The GDP revision is not mere trickery. It provides a truer picture of Nigeria’s size by giving due weight to the bits of the economy, such as telecoms, banking and the Nollywood film industry, that have been growing fast in recent years. Other countries perform similar statistical magic—Ghana, for example, added 60% to its economy in 2010—though few wait two decades, as Nigeria inexcusably did, to update the national accounts. In Nigeria’s case, the new numbers confirm that it really is the colossus of the continent.

 It is rich in resources, especially oil. It has aspirations to be the tech hub of Africa, boasting startups such as Konga and Jumia, budding Nigerian Alibabas. In other industries it has giants such as Dangote Cement, which plans to list in London—as a big oil firm, Seplat, did this week—and is likely to become part of the portfolio of many pension funds. Growing numbers of foreigners wanting to invest in Africa’s rise will buy Nigerian stocks; after Johannesburg, Lagos has the biggest, most liquid market in the region.

The country may be a giant, but it is still poor: Nigeria ranks 153rd out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index. Despite the rapid growth of recent years, unemployment remains high and the number of people in poverty has actually increased. Even with the revised figures, GDP per head is only $2,700.  South Africans are more than twice as rich. Large parts of South Africa have a rich country’s infrastructure, Nigeria suffers from clogged traffic and chronic power cuts.

Nigeria’s growth rate is slipping—to perhaps 6.5% this year. To absorb the millions of young people pouring into the labour market, Nigeria requires sustained double-digit growth.  Tax-collection is woefully inadequate; the bigger GDP number shows tax revenues to be even smaller as a share of the economy than previously thought. Corruption and the barriers to doing business are formidable, from bureaucracy and graft to port delays and murky land rights.

From here 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nigeria: Land, Farms and Outside Interests

Two articles regarding land acquisition in Nigeria. One on a very large scale, disenfranchising thousands of local inhabitants; the other small scale - a trial for greater involvement and supposedly as aid (USAID). Both are examples of why it is wise to 'follow the money' or look into the background of the donor if it is so-called aid. 
The first is in Edo State: 
Stop corporate land bazaar in Edo State, ERA/FoEN cautions

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has cautioned the Edo State Government from going ahead with plans to allocate 410,000 hectares of forest land belonging to community people to corporations without the consent of locals who depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

Companies that are to benefit from the land largesse include Okomu Oil Palm Plc (a member of the Socfin Group) which was previously allocated 30,000 hectares for oil palm expansion, the Dangote Group which is getting 50,000 hectares for rice production, and United Food Industries Ltd representing Indonesia's Salim Group, got 60,000 hectares.  The Salim Group has track record of conflicts with community people in their various areas of operations especially in Indonesia and some parts of Africa.

In a widely publicized interview, The Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abdul Oroh, disclosed that the state government had acquired 410,000 hectares of land in the state, for investments in agriculture by the private sector.

Oroh also revealed that 300,000 hectares had been set aside for other investors interested in farming activities.

With this development of an estimated 410,000 hectares, only 30,000 will be left for the over 170,000 local farmers in the communities who earn their livelihood from farmlands and forest resources. 

The second is from Ogun State and can be read here

The agricultural transformation policy of the Ogun State government will soon get a major boost as the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun launches a 10-hectare cassava pilot farm promoted by Caterina de’ Medici Africa Projects Ltd (CDMA) at Ikenne. 
The pilot farm, which will serve as a prelude to a bigger 4,000 hectares cassava farm to be supported by Thai Farms International Ltd and other investors, is supported by the USAID-Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport Program (NEXTT) and several local banks. 
Foluke Michael, principal partner of CDMA, said the project will adopt modern farming methods, conduct training for local farmers, supply the farmers with agro-chemical to improve farm yield, and provide other extension services to all its partners. “The partnership with the state will also help to build public infrastructure changes in agricultural policy,” she said. 

The Ogun State government is supporting the programme with a total of 4,000 hectares of land, which it has allocated to CDMA, in the belief that the large population of smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs in the state will benefit directly from the programme. The governor is presently encouraging wide participation of farmers to ensure continuous engagement of youths in the host communities.
 Michael said the programme, tagged “CDMA-NEXTT Initiative (CNI),” will contribute to food security and poverty reduction in Nigeria. The project seeks to generate massive employment, especially of youth in the immediate community, creates wealth though investment facilitation and opportunity for export of farm produce. The initiative will also support regional trade and transportation objectives, by facilitating trade flows and complements agricultural productivity improvement efforts under the United States’ government’s food security initiative Feed-the-Future. 
The US initiative has three programme activities, which NEXTT is implementing on behalf of the USAID. These include improvement along the Lagos – Kano –J ibiya (LAKAJI) agro-investment corridor, and reform of government policy to aid investment and trade.

Stop corporate land bazaar in Edo State, ERA/FoEN cautions

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has cautioned the Edo State Government from going ahead with plans to allocate 410,000 hectares of forest land belonging to community people to corporations without the consent of locals who depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

Companies that are to benefit from the land largesse include Okomu Oil Palm Plc (a member of the Socfin Group) which was previously allocated 30,000 hectares for oil palm expansion, the Dangote Group which is getting 50,000 hectares for rice production, and United Food Industries Ltd representing Indonesia's Salim Group, got 60,000 hectares.  The Salim Group has track record of conflicts with community people in their various areas of operations especially in Indonesia and some parts of Africa.

In a widely publicized interview, The Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abdul Oroh, disclosed that the state government had acquired 410,000 hectares of land in the state, for investments in agriculture by the private sector.

Oroh also revealed that 300,000 hectares had been set aside for other investors interested in farming activities.

With this development of an estimated 410,000 hectares, only 30,000 will be left for the over 170,000 local farmers in the communities who earn their livelihood from farmlands and forest resources. - See more at:
Stop corporate land bazaar in Edo State, ERA/FoEN cautions

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has cautioned the Edo State Government from going ahead with plans to allocate 410,000 hectares of forest land belonging to community people to corporations without the consent of locals who depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

Companies that are to benefit from the land largesse include Okomu Oil Palm Plc (a member of the Socfin Group) which was previously allocated 30,000 hectares for oil palm expansion, the Dangote Group which is getting 50,000 hectares for rice production, and United Food Industries Ltd representing Indonesia's Salim Group, got 60,000 hectares.  The Salim Group has track record of conflicts with community people in their various areas of operations especially in Indonesia and some parts of Africa.

In a widely publicized interview, The Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abdul Oroh, disclosed that the state government had acquired 410,000 hectares of land in the state, for investments in agriculture by the private sector.

Oroh also revealed that 300,000 hectares had been set aside for other investors interested in farming activities.

With this development of an estimated 410,000 hectares, only 30,000 will be left for the over 170,000 local farmers in the communities who earn their livelihood from farmlands and forest resources. - See more at:
Stop corporate land bazaar in Edo State, ERA/FoEN cautions

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has cautioned the Edo State Government from going ahead with plans to allocate 410,000 hectares of forest land belonging to community people to corporations without the consent of locals who depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

Companies that are to benefit from the land largesse include Okomu Oil Palm Plc (a member of the Socfin Group) which was previously allocated 30,000 hectares for oil palm expansion, the Dangote Group which is getting 50,000 hectares for rice production, and United Food Industries Ltd representing Indonesia's Salim Group, got 60,000 hectares.  The Salim Group has track record of conflicts with community people in their various areas of operations especially in Indonesia and some parts of Africa.

In a widely publicized interview, The Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abdul Oroh, disclosed that the state government had acquired 410,000 hectares of land in the state, for investments in agriculture by the private sector.

Oroh also revealed that 300,000 hectares had been set aside for other investors interested in farming activities.

With this development of an estimated 410,000 hectares, only 30,000 will be left for the over 170,000 local farmers in the communities who earn their livelihood from farmlands and forest resources. - See more at:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Price is Right

 South African grocer Shoprite and Wal-Mart’s Massmart Holdings are opening stores in Nigeria's second city of Kano. Amid signs proclaiming "lower prices you can trust", Kano consumers can wheel their carts between shelves replete with commercial brands from across the globe in a brand-new, air-conditioned Shoprite supermarket, anchoring a larger $85 million shopping mall development in the city. The mall is designed to house 85 shops and will be among Nigeria's biggest. The power plant standing alongside the mall building - capable of producing 6,000 megawatts - is testimony to another challenge: guaranteeing uninterrupted electricity in a country whose power shortages are notorious. In the coming weeks, Massmart will join Shoprite by opening in the same Ado Bayero mall, named after the local Kano emir.

"I always want to be bold enough to say, you can't be in Nigeria without being in Kano," Massmart Holdings' Africa Director Mark Turner told Reuters, “ The risk reward is there," added Turner, whose company operates in 12 African states. Nigeria, along with Angola and Kenya, is a strategic target market for the Wal-Mart subsidiary.

Bombings and shootings by Boko Haram militants killed at least 185 people, mostly Muslim civilians, in Kano in January, 2012. Explosions in July last year killed 11 people, and police and military roadblocks are now a feature of life in the city. At the mall armed, uniformed guards search vehicles - opening boots, checking the underside for explosives with mirrors - and frisking all shoppers is a sign that this particular mall location faces unusual security challenges somewhat more than your customary shop-lifter.

Africa’s expanding population rapidly approaching one billion includes an emerging middle class of consumers eagerly embracing Western brands, products and lifestyles.

"Africa is brimming with potential for global retailers," consultancy A.T. Kearney said in its first African Retail Development Index report issued last month, which ranked African states in terms of their attractiveness for retail investors. It placed Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with 170 million people, second on its list, citing its rapid urbanization, youthful population and rising middle class. But it ranked tiny Rwanda with its 11.5 million people, first, for its economic reforms and business-friendly agenda.

In a 2013 report, Renaissance estimated Kano State's economy at $17 billion, equivalent in size to the economy of Botswana. Retailers like Shoprite had "clearly recognized the size of the market and the demographics," said mall developer Hayatu-Deen. "Nothing succeeds like success," he said.

Same old story

 Nigeria, despite being notorious for corruption, had no difficulty raising $1bn by issuing sovereign debt. The bond was oversubscribed. High quality global journalism requires investment.

Across Africa billions of dollars have been misspent and diverted into overseas bank accounts. Clinics have been left without medicines, schools without books, villages lack electricity, roads are potholed. Potential is squandered and hopes are dashed. So when investors buy bonds sold by sleaze-ridden governments, it is surely as dubious as giving a bottle of whisky to a known alcoholic. It is not against the law. But at best it is unethical and immoral, and the giver is complicit in the consequences.

What makes the act especially questionable is that it has happened before. Investors helped make Africa a debt junkie in a process that began 50 years ago. It is easy to forget that independence from colonial rule was accompanied by an optimism and a wave of lending reminiscent of the current enthusiasm about the so-called new Africa. Africa’s leaders proved deeply disappointing. Foreign lenders nevertheless indulged big men and their vanity projects. Grandiose power schemes, dams that silted up and irrigation projects that failed – few if any were viable or profitable. All were dependent on foreign loans.

The bubble had to burst. By the early 1970s the continent was unable to service its external debt. Arrears mounted, defaults became common. By the 1990s, Africa was in effect bankrupt. Even then, western governments continued to indulge some of the most extravagant borrowers, such as President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, whom they saw as allies in a cold war in which Africa was a theatre of conflict. But it became clear that the debt burden was unsustainable.

Nigeria, one of the beneficiaries of the Millennium debt relief, decided to borrow afresh, and became one of the first African countries to issue a sovereign bond, followed by a score of other
Foreign investors have piled in, pursuing profit but avoiding responsibility. They do not demand transparency in the award of contracts to the projects they fund, nor do they monitor implementation. “We are competing with China” is an oft-heard excuse from the investors – suggesting an approach that excludes ethics but fails to explain their conduct when they had the continent to themselves. “Anyway,” they add, “why should Africa be singled out? Why subject it to scrutiny not applied to other corrupt borrowers?”

Can Kenya, for example, which is planning a $2bn bond issue, be trusted? Two massive scams that cost the country billions, based on bogus export claims and false invoices, have gone unpunished. Questions are being asked about construction of a $2bn Kenyan railway, with contracts that lack transparency. Will Nigeria’s bond be spent wholly on rebuilding the decrepit power system as promised? Or will a slice go the way of the $20bn the state-owned petroleum company cannot account for?

We have been here before but no lessons have been learnt. Two things are certain: the bond buyers will make their money on their loans, irrespective of how they are spent, the continent’s elite will take their cut – and Africa’s long-suffering people will pay the price.

From the Financial Times

Monday, April 07, 2014

Nigeria - Africa's Biggest Economy But 70% Suffer Extreme Poverty

Barely days after being listed by the World Bank as one of five countries with the highest number of extremely poor people, Nigeria has declared a Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of N80.3 trillion ($509.9bn), pushing ahead of South Africa as the continent's biggest economy.
The new figure was announced Sunday by the National Bureau of Statistics after a rebasing that nearly doubled Nigeria's GDP from N42.3 trillion.
The new GDP compares with South Africa's GDP of N60.7 trillion ($370.3bn) at the end of 2013.
The GDP index is the total value of a country's goods and services over a period of time.

Rebasing is carried out to give the most up-to-date picture of an economy as possible. Many countries rebase their GDPs after every few year but Nigeria's was last computed in 1990 when there was limited growth in most economic sectors.
The new calculation, released by the statistics bureau, now includes previously uncounted industries like telecoms, information technology, music, online sales, airlines, and film production.

The new figure shrank Nigeria's debt-to-GDP ratio to 11 percent for 2013, against 19 percent in 2012, the Statistician-General, Yemi Kale, said on Sunday.
But many Nigerians and economists believe such numbers do not bring any change to a country with about 70 percent of its population in extreme poverty.
Last week, the World Bank listed Nigeria alongside four others as countries with the world's extreme poverty- a rating the Nigerian government rejected.
On a per-capita basis, South Africa's GDP numbers are three times larger than Nigeria's. Analysts say Nigeria's output is underperforming with its population three times South Africa's.

Analysts say the rebasing is to enable the government come up with figures to support claims of the superlative performance of the country's economy, said to be growing at about 6.5 to 7 per cent annually.
But, the pronouncement by the World Bank President appears to have removed the sail from government's wind, as it highlighted the disconnect between government's statistics and economic reality.
The World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, who was addressing participants at the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, meeting in New York, named India, China, Bangladesh, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as the other countries in the new global poverty categorization.

"The fact is that two-thirds of the world's extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries - India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the Democratic Republic of Congo," he said.
"If you add another five countries -- Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya - the total grows to 80 percent of the extreme poor."
Mr. Kim, who defined extreme poverty as "people living on less than $1.25 a day", said "more than a billion people in the world live on less than that each day."

from here

Healthcare = Profits in Lesotho

A hospital built in Lesotho using public/private financing with advice from an arm of the World Bank threatens to bankrupt the impoverished African country's health budget.

More than half the country's entire health budget (51%) is being spent on payments to the private consortium that built and runs the hospital in the capital, Maseru, led by South-Africa-based Netcare, the biggest private healthcare provider in the UK.

Oxfam says the healthcare of the poorest people is at risk, as the Queen Mamohato memorial hospital draws off money that is badly needed for clinics in rural areas. The government is spending $67m a year on the hospital complex, which includes several primary care clinics, in loan repayments and the cost of patient care. It quotes the minister of development planning, who said: "Health is increasing but this will be at the expense of something else. We may be able to treat people if they get ill but we will not be able to ensure they have enough to eat."

Public/private partnerships to build hospitals have a poor track record even in the wealthy west. PFIs (public finance initiatives) have proved a heavy financial burden on the NHS in England, where 22 hospital trusts in 2012 said repayments were endangering their clinical and financial future and one has since gone into administration because of PFI debts.

Oxfam says this is a dangerous model for low-income countries in Africa. In Lesotho, it warns that the situation is unsustainable. It is sharply critical of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, which advised Lesotho on the deal and is now discussing similar projects with Nigeria and Benin. Oxfam says the IFC has acted irresponsibly, "both in terms of its role as a transaction adviser to the government of Lesotho and in its marketing of the Lesotho health PPP as a successful model for other low-income countries to replicate." It quotes a senior ministry of health official, who said: "The IFC were transaction advisers. We're in this because of them. They should have done better and they must help us to get out of this mess."

The contract runs for 18 years, at the end of which the hospital passes into government ownership. Tsepong Ltd's return on its investment is 25%. The IFC received a fee of $723,000 for its work on the deal.

Lehlohonolo Chefa, director of the Lesotho Consumer Protection Association, which is joint author of the report, said: "Our government is piling more money into healthcare but not enough of it into rural areas where most people need it. It's going instead into this otherwise important tertiary facility in the city and from there into private pockets including of one of the world's biggest health companies. Lesotho was promised a better health service for the same price – and that just hasn't happened. Other countries in Africa and indeed all over the world need to look closely at this experiment in Lesotho and be very wary of repeating it."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Uganda's Healthcare Disrupted By Aid Cuts

Since the enactment of a draconian anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda just over a month ago, donors have been slashing or suspending aid to the country in protest. Health officials, activists and NGOs warn that this could have a major impact on healthcare services, particularly for HIV/AIDS patients.

Project and budget support worth about US$140 million has been suspended or redirected by the World Bank, US and several European countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the act into law on 24 February 2014.

Under the new law, persons found guilty of “homosexual acts” can be jailed for up to 14 years, and up to a life sentence for “aggravated” cases, such as those committed by someone who is HIV-positive, or those involving minors, the disabled and serious offenders.

Publicly, the government has appeared unfazed by the donor cuts, with President Museveni speaking at a “thanksgiving” parade to celebrate the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) organized by religious leaders on 31 March and describing donor cuts at “contemptuous”.

But privately a senior government official told IRIN that the consequences have been “dire.”

“We have a crisis. The government has been forced to review its priorities and make readjustments as donors have withheld aid,” the official said. “We are seeing stagnation of social services and public investments. The civil servants have not been paid their salaries [in February].”

IRIN looks at what exactly has been cut, and what this means for Uganda.
For details of funding cuts go here: Who’s cut what funding?

Africa's Migrant Problem

Did you know that there are more Europeans in Africa, than Africans in Europe?

In South Africa only, there are 6million-plus Europeans. France which is the biggest European country with African immigrants has 4.5 millions Africans (more than 70% are from North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia).

In Zimbabwe only there are more than half a million British and other europeans, which is about 25% of the 2million-plus African immigrants in UK coming in from 55 countries!

Also, did you know that there are more Arabs in Africa than in the Middle East. And, there are more Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Africa than in UK and all Europeans countries combined.

The World Bank estimates that Africa has about 30 million international migrants, but the size of its diaspora, including unrecorded migrants and second- and third-generation migrants, is significantly larger.

Mawuna Remarque KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace and social activist and editior of, You can reach him directly by emailing at

Full article here

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The European Union And Africa

Beyond the handouts of free money to few people in the elite as corruption tool, the EU is an imperialist organization.

The EU is the Union of European countries.
The AU is the Union of African countries.
Tomorrow, there will be an EU-Africa Summit in Brussels.
Now here comes how rogue the EU is.
1. The EU refused the meeting to be between EU-AU, because the EU doesn’t want to deal with Africa as a unified continent, but each individual states.
2. The EU sent individual invitation to each african country, then the AU asked its members not to attend the meeting, because of the way the EU is trying to divide and conquer.
3. The EU first refused to invite Mugabe, a democratically elected president, but sent an invitation to the president of Egypt who is excluded from the AU because of taking power by a coup.
4. When Many Africans sided wit Mugabe, the EU then granted him a visa, but refused to give visa to his wife to come with him.
5. When Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa expressed his concern over the dubious methods of the EU in Africa, he got shunned.
Regardless of the fact that the AU (African Union) asked its members states not to attend the meeting, over 40 puppets Africans president will be tomorrow in Brussels to get instructions on how to let multinationals loot their countries in exchanges of some gifts.
Now, you may ask, how could the EU force Africans to act against their own interest. They can because before anything EU is a war machine, they have guns and they can make a coup in any country when they want. Most of the presidents are afraid to be victim of coup.
In fact, During the last 50 years 21 African presidents were Killed in office, and since 2008 altogether 13 presidents died in office in the world, 10 were African presidents.
Even the logo of the so called partnership shows the EU swallowing Africa, a continent 3 times bigger than the whole Europe, and million times richer.
Here is the propaganda website for the EU colonial pact with Africa :
They say they will open EU market 100% to african products, but … But … Africa does not produce “anything” except exporting raw materials (which the continent doesn’t have any problem selling anyway). In exchange Ecowas 16 countries will open their 300 millions consumers market 75% during the next 20 years to EU multinationals to crush the soul out of local producers (like they are already doing in agriculture) and kill any dream of african industrialization and economical infrastructure building.
It’s just plain stupid deal, but to make it easy to accept by the puppets african leaders, EU promised about 6 billions euros corruption money (also called aid) for the local elite to get new cars, new houses, etc.
While we were focused on the Ukrainian crisis, the EU tried to bribe 16 governments in West Africa to sign a colonial pact that will help its multinationals to loot more Africa, and impoverish the average african.
In fact the EU succeeded to bribe about 15 governments, who were ready to sign the so called new partnership with EU, but fortunately for us the big Nigeria refused to sign such a deal.
I suspect the EU would prepare a coup in Nigeria soon (with the help of France) to trow the nigerian government, and ask the new puppet to sign the colonial pact.
Africa is not poor, Africa is constantly agressed and impoverish by Europeans.

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin

from here

Quote of the Day

 “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.”  - King Leopold II of Belgium in 1877

The "cake" is still being sliced up and dished out.

The Military Powers of Africa

1. Egypt is put over the top with regard to military strength due to the sheer size of its armed forces. Nearly 500,000 personnel serve on its active frontline force, far surpassing all of its African neighbours, as well as its nearly 10,000 armoured fighting vehicles, 60,000 logistical vehicles, 900 aircraft, and large oil reserve from which to draw. Again, the military has been somewhat undermined in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution, but some argue that its increased role in government has made it stronger than ever. Whether or not this is a cause for celebration or concern will remain debated for some time to come.

2. South Africa –
As it hasn’t been embroiled in an international military conflict for some time, South Africa uses its highly advanced military for more peacekeeping and international cooperation purposes. Its aircraft and naval vessels are well-equipped with the latest technology, and though the country has less than 100,000 active frontline personnel, it has the capabilities and manpower for much more. Add to that a vast array of land system technology, and the South African military is indeed a force to be reckoned with.

3. Nigeria –
Due to its size, it’s no surprise that several hundred thousand troops comprise the Nigerian Armed Forces, through its army, navy, and air force. Like Algeria, an abundant domestic oil supply eases the financial burden to be involved in military conflict, and it has more than 1,400 armoured vehicles, 360 tanks, and 6,000 logistical vehicles at its disposal, as well as nearly 300 aircraft and 25 high-powered naval vessels.

4. Algeria –
As Algeria has a large maritime border, it has developed all of its military capabilities to an impressively modern degree, including its land, sea, and air forces. Algeria’s active frontline personnel numbers more than 127,000 troops and it has nearly 2,000 armoured fighting vehicles at its disposal. Algeria also has the added benefit of its own oil reserves, allowing it to use its own fuel to power tanks, aircraft carriers, naval vessels, and more.

5. Kenya –
Kenya has established itself as a vital participant in international peacekeeping missions, and is able to do so due to a high merchant marine strength and an enormous labour force – resulting in high available manpower. Though it doesn’t possess as much of its own equipment, its role as a member of international teams allows the Kenyan military to share resources with other countries, strengthening its own capabilities at the same time.

6. Ethiopia –
As a landlocked country, Ethiopia has focused its resources on developing its army and air force to an impressive degree (the GFP doesn’t penalise landlocked countries for not having a naval force). Several hundred thousand personnel make up its current force, and they have significant numbers of land and air systems at their disposal. Furthermore, an enormous population that is fit for service allows Ethiopia to maintain the capacity to turn out an even larger fighting force, and gives the country one of the greatest militaries on the continent.

7. Libya –
The strength of Libya’s military comes mainly from its large cache of equipment, despite a relatively small number of active troops. Further hampering Libya’s abilities is the continuing violence and unrest stemming from the revolution begun in 2011 which has yet to see a stable government emerge from it. Regardless, the country still has available 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles, 500 tanks, 600 towed artillery pieces, 6,500 logistical vehicles, and much more.

Friday, April 04, 2014

How to Dance (poem)

How to Dance 

"Next time you see me walking on the street
Know there's a story that hides in me
Don't look away and pretend that l'm not there
All l want is for someone to care for me

I too have dreams of a better life
That someone will love me as I am
To hold my own child in my arms
And make sure she's safe from harm

What l'd like is some of your affection
Not your pity, just some kind of attention
You think l'm worthless,
You don't even know me
It's not my fault that this
Blood flows through me.

I want you to know that we're just kids
Even though we were born with HIV
Prenatal, virgin contraction
The first of a fighting generation,
We fight against AIDS and discrimination
We're God-made, put there for a reason
It's time to change and now's the reason
Yes, we're special but we're no different

But in the Storm
We've learned how to dance"

From here 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Dare To Invent The Future

Hankering over the ‘glorious’ past as we confront our present struggles is not really helpful. Rather we should dare to invent the future, as Thomas Sankara challenged us
Too often our people look to the past thinking it is better than now

Thinking that the era of military dictatorships had no corruption,

That things were better in the past, that things worked,

There was no inflation in the idealised past.

Too often our people only look at the now in the struggle to survive,

To eat

To pay expensive school fees

To buy expensive medicine

To bury a relative

The future is a luxury they dare not invent as Sankara heeded them to do.

Some dare not indulge the future

Some have no time for the future

Yet others dream for a better life for their children as Cabral once said.

Our people must no longer live in the past but seek to control and determine the future for there is hope in the future that things can be different

from here

UK Aid Money Finances 'Corporate Scramble For Africa'

£600 million in UK aid money is going to a scheme to help big businesses increase their profits in Africa, a report by the World Development Movement reveals today. The campaign group has slammed the scheme as fuelling a ‘corporate scramble for Africa’.
The UK government is channelling £600 million in aid to the G8-sponsored ‘New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’, claiming it will lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022. But campaigners say the scheme is set to benefit multinational companies like Monsanto and Unilever at the expense of millions of small-scale farmers, and is likely to increase poverty and inequality on the continent.
In return for receiving aid money and corporate investment through the New Alliance, the African countries involved have to change their laws, making it easier for corporations to acquire large tracts of farmland, control the supply of seeds, and ship agricultural produce to other parts of the world. The World Development Movement believes the scheme will lead to increased land-grabbing, higher costs for small-scale farmers, and the prioritisation of crops for export instead of to feed local populations.
The conditions imposed on African countries appear to contravene UK aid policy, which states, “We will not make our aid conditional on specific policy decisions by partner governments, or attempt to impose policy choices on them.”
The New Alliance aims to increase food production in Africa. But the World Development Movement has argued that increased production on its own is not the solution to hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa produced ten per cent more food per person in 2011 than in 1991, but the numbers of undernourished people rose by 40 per cent in the same period.
The campaign group has also accused the New Alliance of targeting African countries where companies can make the most money, instead of the poorest countries.
Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, said:
It’s scandalous that UK aid money is being used to carve up Africa in the interests of big business. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is support to small-scale farmers and fairer distribution of land and resources to give African countries more control over their food systems.
Africa can produce enough food to feed its people. The problem is that our food system is geared to the luxury tastes of the richest, not the needs of ordinary people. Here the British government is using aid money to make the problem even worse.”
Read the report ‘Carving up a continent’.
from here