Friday, February 28, 2014

Land Deals In Africa: Senegal

The Ndiaël Collective, CNCR, ENDA Pronat, ActionAid Senegal, ActionAid Italy, Peuples Solidaires, Re:Common, GRAIN and The Oakland Institute

Senegalese farmers and herders demand shady transnational corporation Senhuile SA get off their land

Farmers and herders from northwestern Senegal have travelled to Europe to demand the scrapping of a land deal that threatens the lives and livelihoods of some 9,000 people. A murky international conglomerate, Senhuile SA, has leased 20,000 hectares of land in the Ndiaël Reserve, land which has been used for decades by residents of some 40 villages in the area. The villagers want the project stopped, saying it will cut off their access to grazing land, water, food and firewood – ultimately forcing them off their homes and land.

Senhuile SA is a joint venture controlled by Italy's Tampieri Financial Group, Senegalese investors, and Agro Bioethanol International, a shell company registered in New York. The herders, along with representatives of the Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux (CNCR) and the Senegalese non-governmental organisations ENDA Pronat and ActionAid, are in Europe from today to 6 March 2014 to mobilise citizens to call on Tampieri, Senhuile's majority shareholder, to close down the project. The project was initially established in another location, Fanaye, where violence resulting from local opposition led to the death of two villagers and dozens more injured in 2011.

A new report released today by the Oakland Institute exposes the numerous flaws with this project, including the lack of consultation with and consent from local communities, the opaque nature of Senhuile's operations, as well as the devastating impact of the project on people's livelihoods. Some 6,000 hectares have already been cleared and planted with different crops. The company has built irrigation canals and fences that restrict locals' access to grazing land, water and firewood. "Villagers complain of harassment, intimidation and physical assault by the police and private guards hired by the firm," said Frédéric Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute.

According to Ardo Sow, spokesperson for Ndiaël Collective of villages resisting the Senhuile project: "The disdain for local communities is far too obvious. An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was only conducted months after the start of the project, and was never made available to the public. Moreover, the map produced by state technicians before the start of the project identified the existence of only 6 of the 40 villages and hamlets using the land to be leased to Senhuile."

The Ndiaël Collective, CNCR, ENDA Pronat, ActionAid Senegal, ActionAid Italy, Peuples Solidaires - ActionAid France, Re:Common, GRAIN, and The Oakland Institute are launching today an Urgent Appeal to get Tampieri to withdraw from the Senhuile project. "As concerned international organizations, we support the call of the communities for the project to be stopped and the land to be returned to the people," said Katia Roux, of Peuples Solidaires in France. "Local farmers and pastoralists need recognition and support to develop their own sustainable, small-scale food systems."

Also see here

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fish Farming

We are all eating more fish nowadays — except in Africa. Fish farming has been around in sub-Saharan Africa for more than half a century, yet still contributes little to the region’s food and nutrition security.

Catching more fish isn’t really an option, as most wild stocks are fully exploited if not depleted, while imports have become increasingly costly. The way forward is fish farming.

Egypt produces over one million tons of farmed fish, supplying 60 percent of all fish eaten by its people. It is by far the cheapest source of animal protein, affordable to all but the very poorest. Egyptian aquaculture took off in the 1980s and employing over 100,000 people and providing each Egyptian around one fish per week. It produces two-thirds of the farmed fish on the African continent despite the fact that Egypt is desperately short of water and suitable land for fish farming, while temperatures are too low for fish growth in winter.

Resource Rich But Poor People

Out of twenty “resource rich”—most of these resources are minerals such as iron ore, gold and bauxite—countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 14 have some of the lowest per capita income.

Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan says that governments are selling mining concessions too cheap. The Democratic Republic of Congo alone lost $1 billion selling five mining assets, a comparison between the actual selling price.  An independent assessment points outbecause most of these countries don’t have the required geo-data to peg a rational value to their resources; in fact, the governments often possess much lesser information than the companies.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cocoa Capitalism

Cocoa is crucial to the Ivory Coast's economy and is mainly grown around the deep green and undulating lands in the south, centre and west of the country. These areas help the country produce around 40% of the world's entire cocoa supply, and the crop is responsible for 15% of the Ivory Coast's GDP, 20% of its tax revenue, and 35% of its exports. Ivorian cocoa typically ends up at ports like Amsterdam - the biggest cocoa harbour in the world.

The idea that millions of young children are being trafficked, enslaved, and forced to work 16-hour days in dire conditions makes for dramatic and emotive story, and one that campaigners can easily rally around. The concept of inequitable state pricing, misguided economic policies and distorted value chains makes for a much less rousing tale. However, while the former is thankfully a myth, it is the latter that is all too real. There is no shortage of problems within the Ivory Coast's cocoa industry. But despite the headlines, child slavery doesn't seem to be one of them.

Child labour has been a staple of Western campaigners in recent years. In late 2012, for example, this website published an article citing estimates that some 1.8 million child labourers are working in Ghana and the Ivory Coast as well as a US Department of State guesstimate that over 100,000 children are working under "the worst forms of child labour" on Ivorian farms. Meanwhile the Dutch journalist-turned-activist-turned-ethical-chocolatier Teun van de Keuken has claimed there are 460,000 people "working in conditions that have been declared illegal" in West Africa. Figures citing hundreds of thousands of child slaves make for sensations headlines, but they don't chime with the reality.

A 2013 background paper on forced labour and trafficking in Africa, the International Labour Organisation explained that "there are many clear examples where the assumption of forced labour has proved wrong. This is especially the case with cocoa production." The paper cites a range of studies that have disproven the idea of large numbers of child slaves and of widespread exploitation in West African cocoa fields, concluding that "an absence of good quality, accurate, empirical data has allowed for the perpetuation of sensationalist and often misplaced claims."

The Ivory Coast's cocoa industry is wrought with problems, most of which can be traced back to its hasty, ill-considered and poorly executed liberalisation in the late 1990s. Before then, the industry had been regulated by the Caisse de stabilisation et de soutien des prix des productions agricoles, more commonly known as Caistab.

Caistab was a state agency that offered farmers a guaranteed market at set prices. The organisation facilitated the buying and selling of the crop and removed many of the risks and uncertainties associated with cocoa farming. However, Caistab also worked to siphon illicit extra funds into the pockets of the ruling party and its leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny. It was partly this corruption that led the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to call for its abolition. Ivory Coast eventually acceded to its wishes.

Liberalising the industry, however, proved to be a hugely problematic. The cocoa industry disintegrated into a large number of cooperatives and private operators; government oversight and management of the sector lost its coherence as it fractured into various smaller bodies; and a few large multinational buyers were able to use their financial leverage to muscle in on the hitherto protected market and gain a stranglehold on exports.  Prices plummeted to the point that growing and selling cocoa sometimes cost them money.

With cocoa prices differing between neighbouring producers, particularly Ivory Coast and Ghana, many exporters try to get higher profits by smuggling crops across the border. The amount smuggled can be as high as hundreds of thousands of tonnes each year, leading to significant losses in tax revenues for the Ivorian or Ghanaian governments.

Furthermore, the new system hardly rooted out opportunities for corruption. In fact, one could argue that it deepened and intensified it, with vast amounts of embezzled cocoa revenues being used to fund the country's civil war in the mid-2000s. Farmers claim they are still extorted, over-taxed and short-changed by the current system. "With Caistab we had to support a director, his family, his home, his car, his mistress and so on," says one farmer from Sikensi. "With the new system in place, we've got to support four of five of these."

From a report by Bram Posthumus, an independent press and radio journalist with more than 20 years of experience living and working in West and Southern Africa.

Promises ...always promises

Soaring economic growth in many African countries is coming at the expense of the poor, according to a new report, ‘Africa Rising?’ Despite a decade of high growth across the continent, the wealth created is not being equally shared and so progress in human development in Africa has been disappointingly limited, according to the report by Christian Aid and Tax Justice Network-Africa.

But the growing gap between rich and poor is not simply the result of the rich getting richer, the authors say. They also point to money escaping offshore in illicit flows as well as tax systems that are failing to redistribute wealth and in some cases even disadvantaging the poor.

“Inequality has been exacerbated by the growth model in many countries which has seen a concentration of income,” said Alvin Mosioma at Tax Justice Network-Africa. “It also reflects the inability of governments to tax the proceeds of growth, either because so much is given away in corporate tax breaks, or has escaped offshore into tax havens. Until tax dodging is tackled effectively, nationally and internationally, and illicit finance flows from the continent halted, economic inequality will continue to rise.”

Standard Chartered said that the 16 percent annual increase in African revenue in the past five years is “sustainable.” Viswanathan Shankar, chief executive officer for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas  of the London-based bank explained “There is huge interest in Africa; it is a continent of hope and of rising world interest,” Shankar said. “If you look at World Bank data 7 of the top 10 fastest-growing economies over the next 10 years are projected to be in Africa.”

Standard Chartered was the biggest arranger of syndicated loans in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, its deals included raising $3.25 billion in a seven-year term-loan for Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote’s Dangote Industries Ltd. and $1.99 billion in three- and five-year financing for Aspen Global Inc., a Mauritius-based company with interests in medical products. Standard Chartered’s operating profit from Africa grew 9.8 percent in the first half of 2013 to $357 million, while revenue climbed 16 percent to $853 million, making up 8.7% percent of overall income. Growth in Africa will be led by Nigeria, Ghana, which has a history of good economic and political governance, Kenya and Angola and the increasing use of financial products like bonds, loans and mortgages.

Meantime while the financial sector boasts of promising profits in the future a lack of electricity continues to be a major problem in parts of Africa. According to the Washington Post, only 14 percent of people get any electricity at all in Tanzania, and across sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 590 million people lack access to power. This problem has had severe effects. Indoor air pollution from wood stoves kills 3.5 million people per year, more than AIDS and malaria combined.

The legacy of Belgium’s empire left just a few dozen Congolese university graduates and an economy built chiefly to supply Belgium with raw materials. Even today, there is just 2,000 km (1,250 miles) of paved road in a nation the size of Western Europe. Millions of Congolese are estimated to have died and the country was decimated between 1885 and 1908 after King Leopold II declared Congo his personal property. The king's troops were ordered to collect the hands of victims, often shot for resisting slave labour, to prove they had not wasted bullets. Leopold even imported Congolese for a human zoo to show life in the country he never visited.
Adam Hochschild, author of "King Leopold's Ghost" describes Leopold's unrestrained plunder of Congo, told Reuters he has been surprised at many Belgians' ignorance of what happened in colonial times. Belgium may not be the power it once was, but its people are among the richest Europeans. Much of that prosperity can be traced to the colonial past, when the country stood among the globe's most successful trading economies. Over the first six decades of the 20th century, ivory, rubber, copper and diamonds all flowed from Africa to Belgium. The royal family's wealth is reflected in its sprawling palace, extended by Leopold and modeled on Versailles.
In the more than half-century that Belgium ran Congo from 1908 to 1960, hundreds of thousands of Belgians worked there in everything from business to colonial administration yet exports from Congo were little more than 280 million euros last year.

Promises turn into lies if they are not kept. It is too easy to come up with an impressive list of things to do, knowing too well that it's just a pipe dream that will fizzle out. For far too long citizens have fallen for those with the rhetoric and have paid dearly. The time has come to interrogate what they say to us. It does not help democracy or our future if we allow politicians to continue making promises they won't honour. We have been told how millions of our people will be employed and how corruption will be squashed, but all the talk is short on detail. In the global world in which we live, it is imperative that we look beyond our borders.

Monday, February 24, 2014

FGM and owning women

Despite international campaigns, the United Nations says millions of girls in Africa remain at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Activists say FGM violates a girl's human rights and puts her at risk for serious health complications, including problems during childbirth. In Liberia, there is no law against it and FGM is still common practice. Speaking out against female circumcision can be dangerous in Liberia. In 2012, an activist's home was burned down after she spoke on the topic before the United Nations in New York. A local journalist got death threats after she published an article on FGM. Vah Tamba, a government social worker at the Margibi County Gender office, frequently receives threats related to his work.

"Sometimes we are threatened not to visit a community. Sometimes they want to harm us. They even want to kill us. It is our work. We have to move forward. We will continue to campaign until there is a change in the practice,” said Tamba. However, he said that rather than banning FGM, the government is focusing on providing jobs skills training for women involved in the practice to give them another way to earn a living. The idea, he said, is to "distract them" from FGM. For the cutters, or "koko mekong", who can earn 2,500 Kenyan shillings (£18) for each girl, it is a livelihood. "The cutters ask me: 'If we leave doing this thing, what will we eat?'" Margaret says. "Tell the government to give us what to eat. If it's just workshops then it will be no use. The circumcisers will not leave their career simply because they're being told to leave it."

Nonetheless, the job of persuasion is slow and dangerous. Activists working on women's rights in Liberia said it is going to take time and dialogue to get these communities to change their way.  A clumsy colonial efforts to ban the practice in Kenya saw it become a cultural cornerstone of the Mau Mau uprising against British rule. The "cut" has been outlawed in Kenya since 2001. A second set of laws passed in 2011 made it illegal to promote or to facilitate what used to be known as female circumcision, and stiffened penalties.  Despite this, a public health survey in 2009 found that 27% of women had been subject to FGM. Among some ethnic groups – such as the Somalis (98%) and Masai (73%) – that figure is much higher.  But the ban has driven it underground.

Changing the law is easier than changing practice. Reformers are accused of criminalising traditional culture.

Underpinning the practice is a sharply divergent vision of the roles of sons and daughters. In Kenya, a dowry is paid by the groom's family. As a result, girls are seen as a valuable asset to their families, if they can be offered for marriage in the "right" condition.
"The daughters are seen as cattle to be sold," said Kipteroi, who added that a bride price would be typically counted in livestock, worth perhaps as much as 30 cows. "No one will even negotiate a bride price for uncut girls."

Uncut girls, sometimes referred to as "raw" as opposed to mutilated "ripe" women, can expect to be shunned by their neighbours. They are forced to walk for miles to fetch water so they don't "contaminate" pumps and wells; local midwives even refuse to deliver their "unclean" babies.

In Liberia, a girl who has not had her clitoris cut off would not be allowed to attend community meetings or participate in local decision-making. She would be seen as unclean, and could even face accusations of witchcraft later in life.

Reuben Orgut,  one of the elders in Sandai, is unapologetic about FGM and the economics behind it. "When I get this dowry it's a way to support the other siblings. It means that when my sons also marry I have something to give out." He says the girls who refuse to be cut and married off are "stealing" from their own families. "It is not fair since they are a source of wealth. Some who have not been circumcised leave the family without us getting the bride wealth."

When men and women cease to be a commodity, bought and sold, then these archaic  practices will disappear.

Ogaden and its oil and gas

Ethiopia has been Africa’s fastest-growing economy in recent years and could soon be an oil-producing economy. 
New allegations of scorched earth evictions of the Ogaden people have raised concerns that a lack of benefit sharing could escalate instability in the region and reinforce separatist tensions as foreign energy companies prepare to extract oil and gas from troubled southeastern Ethiopia.
“The resources in this region will make Ethiopia rich but will keep us impoverished. A settlement is all we can hope for to protect our claim to some of the economic advantages of our natural resources,” Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) founder Abdirahman Mahdi told IPS.
  • The confirmation of huge oil and gas reserves in the Ogaden basin is set to spike Ethiopia’s wealth as investment starts to pour in from foreign energy companies.
  • Gas deposits in the Ogaden basin are estimated at 2.7 trillion cubic feet over an area of 350,000 square kilometres.
  • Currently there are three oil companies finalising exploration in the area: Africa Oil (Canada), South Western Energy (Hong Kong) and GCL Poly Petroleum Investment (China).
Chinese oil company, GCL Poly Petroleum Investment, signed a deal with Ethiopia in November 2013 to develop gas reserves at Calub and Hilala in the Ogaden region.  A month later, the ONLF accused government militia, the Liyu police, of burning swathes of pasture belonging to communities close to Calub and Hilala gas fields. A military clampdown in the region has made verifying such reports impossible. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 2012 that the Liyu police had been responsible for extra-judicial killings as a form of collective punishment.
“The Liyu police had summarily executed 10 men during a three-day rampage on a series of villages. These attacks, as previous abuses that get carried out by the Ethiopian government as part of its counter-insurgency campaign, take place in a context of complete impunity,” HRW researcher Laetitia Bader told IPS.
It is very unlikely that the local population will be consulted about local projects. They are not allowed to voice political dissent. How can they be allowed to participate in local decision-making related to development plans,” said Ogaden expert Professor Tobias Hagmann from the Roskilde University in Denmark.

Amnesty International’s researcher on Ethiopia  Claire Beston told IPS that the Ethiopian government’s clampdown on the Ogaden Somali population “has severely restricted access to and within the region, including that of humanitarian agencies, and has also placed major restrictions on information coming out of the region about the true state of the humanitarian and human rights situation there.”

Another war for resources in the offing? 

Africa's Power

“The black man certainly has to pay dear for carrying the white man's burden.” - George Padmore, 1936

“The white man has no kin, his kin is money” - a South African saying

Nothing in nature ordains that African agriculture should be impoverished. Here there is water (a series of rivers whose flow is equal to that of the Nile, exceptional underground water supplies, sources of energy, land suitable for cultivation, and, of course, people. Yet we live in a social system that proves itself incapable of co-ordinating these factors in a way to even feed the people involved, much less offer a decent standard of living . It is a system of society that does not deserve to be described as rational.

What did colonial governments do in the interest of Africans? Supposedly, they built railroads, schools, hospitals and the like. The sum total of these services was amazingly small. The Portuguese stand out because they boasted the most and did the least. Portugal boasted that Angola, Guinea and Mozambique have been their possessions for 500 years, during which time the `civilizing mission' had not managed to train a single African doctor in Mozambique, and the life expectancy in Eastern Angola was less than 30 years. As for Guinea-Bissau, some insight into the situation there is provided by the admission of the Portuguese themselves that Guinea-Bissau was more neglected than Angola and Mozambique!  The southern part of Nigeria was one of the colonial areas that was supposed to have received the most from a benevolent `mother country'. Ibadan, one of the most heavily populated cities in Africa, had only about 50 Europeans before the last war. For those chosen few, the British colonial government maintained a segregated hospital service of 11 beds in well-furnished surroundings. There were 34 beds for the half-a-million blacks. Altogether the 4,000 Europeans in the country during the 1930s had 12 modern hospitals, while the African population of at least 40 million had 52 hospitals.  Often, at local levels of a given colony, there would be discrimination in providing social amenities, on the basis of contribution to exportable surplus. For instance, plantations and companies might build medical facilities for their workers, because some minimum maintenance of the workers' health was an economic investment. Usually, such a clinic was exclusively for workers of that particular capitalist concern, and those Africans living in the vicinity under `subsistence' conditions outside the money economy were ignored altogether.

The combination of being oppressed, being exploited, and being disregarded is best illustrated by the pattern of the economic infrastructure of African colonies: notably, their roads and railways. These had a clear geographical distribution according to the extent to which particular regions needed to be opened up to import/export activities. Where exports were not available, roads and railways had no place. The only slight exception is that certain roads and railways were built to move troops and make conquest and oppression easier. More important still, there were not laid down to facilitate internal trade in African commodities. There were no roads connecting different colonies and different parts of the same colony in a manner that made sense with regard to Africa's needs and development. The story is often told that in order to make a telephone call from Accra in the British colony of the Gold Coast to Abidjan in the adjacent French colony of Ivory Coast it was necessary to be connected first with an operator in London and then with an operator in Paris who could offer a line to Abidjan. That was one reflection of the fact that the Gold Coast economy was integrated into the British economy, and the Ivory Coast economy was integrated into the French economy, while the neighbouring African colonies had little or no effective economic relations.
The most outstanding characteristic of the transportation systems of Africa is the comparative isolation in which they have developed within the confines of individual countries and territories. This is reflected in the lack of links between countries and territories within the same geographical sub-region. All roads and railways led down to the sea. They were built to extract gold or manganese or coffee or cotton. They were built to make business possible for the timber companies, trading companies and agricultural concession firms, and for white settlers. Any catering to African interests was purely coincidental. Yet in Africa, labour rather than capital, took the lion's share in getting things done. With the minimum investment of capital, the colonial powers could mobilise thousands upon thousands of workers. Salaries were paid to the police officers and officials, and labour carne into existence because of the colonial laws, the threat of force and the use of force. Take, for instance, the building of railways. In Europe and America, railway building required huge inputs of capital. Great wage bills were incurred during construction, and added bonus payments were made to workers to get the job done as quickly as possible. In most parts of Africa, the Europeans who wanted to see a railroad built offered lashes as the ordinary wage and more lashes for extra effort. The great cost in African life of the  railroad from Brazzaville to Pointe Noire is explained by the non-availability of capital in the form of equipment. Therefore, sheer manpower had to take the place of earth-moving machinery, cranes, etc. it is customary to credit the imperialists for the existence of what infrastructure there is but it would be much more accurate to say that the people of Africa built it with their own hands under European supervision.

 Neither did the partition of tropical Africa, carried out with no major pre-existing economic motive, give rise to the development that might have been expected. The colonial trade economy  continued to be based on pillage,  animated by the feverish desire to extract from African productive systems as much as possible, as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible. Colonisation continued the old tradition of the slave trade; exploitation by theft that guaranteed neither the long-term reproduction of the labour force, nor the reproduction of the natural conditions of production.

African rulers who were chosen to serve as agents of foreign colonial rule were quite obviously nothing but puppets. The French and the Portuguese were in the habit of choosing their own African `chiefs'.  The British invented `superior' or `paramount' rulers. Very often, the local population hated and despised such colonial stooges. There were traditional rulers such as the Sultan of Sokoto, the Kabaka of Buganda and the Asantehene of Asante, who retained a great deal of prestige in the eyes of Africans, but they had no power to act outside the narrow boundaries laid down by colonialism.  When the traditional chiefs were agreeable, they were kept in office. The recalcitrant were exiled. To achieve greater efficiency in the exploitation of the peasant masses, a colonial administration was added on top of the African aristocracy. Colonial rule meant the effective eradication of African political power throughout the continent.

 It was easier to secure an immediate super-profit at no cost (involving no investment) by forcing the peasants of Africa to perform unpaid - or very poorly paid - surplus labour through forms of indirect control. When capitalism deemed it in its interests the lands of the peasants were seized; labour was removed from areas with a low productive potential to areas with a high potential; money was introduced in order to impose a certain type of production. The expropriation of the peasants led in some regions to the appearance of private ownership of land and hence destroyed, partly at least, its communal appropriation. The introduction of money for the payment of taxes, in particular, forced the traditional formations to enter commodity systems.

The forced removal of labour led in those areas where this had taken place to partial dislocation of the lineage. All of the large states of 19th-century Africa were multiethnic, and their expansion was continually making anything like `tribal' loyalty a thing of the past, by substituting in its place national and class ties. However, in all parts of the world that substitution of national and class ties for purely ethnic ones is a lengthy historical process; and, invariably there remains for long periods certain regional pockets of individuals who have their own narrow regional loyalties, springing from ties of kinship, language and culture.  Colonialism blocked the further evolution of national solidarity, because it destroyed the particular African states which were the principal agents for achieving the liquidation of fragmented loyalties. In the second place, because ethnic and regional loyalties which go under the name of `tribalism' could not be effectively resolved by the colonial state, they tended to fester and grow in unhealthy forms. Indeed, the colonial powers sometimes saw the value of stimulating the internal `tribal' jealousies so as to keep the colonised from dealing with their principal contradiction with the European overlords -- i.e., the classic technique of divide and rule. Certainly, the Belgians consciously fostered that; and the racist whites in South Africa had by the 1950s worked out a careful plan to `develop' the oppressed African population as Zulu, as Xhosa and as Sotho so that the march towards broader African national and class solidarities could be stopped and turned back.

The  struggles of the African masses are manipulated for tactical ends by the African ruling classes. Western capitalism had absolutely no desire to continue to bear the burden of colonial administration and take the risk of confrontation with the African masses which might lead to revolutions. Thus the colonial system was  liquidated in order to open up wider scope for modern capitalist exploitation. Far from bringing about an improvement in the conditions of existence of the essentially peasant African masses, independence and  political change has contributed and even accelerated the crisis. This was so because the new African states, in accordance with the interests of the dominant classes, sought to integrate their economies into the capitalist world market. Independence came in response to the demands of the new stage of the globalization of capital (the rebuilding of Europe and the hegemony of the United States) and not in response to the African peasant problem.  The World Bank weeps crocodile tears over the fate of the peasants while its counterpart the International Monetary Fund makes the poorest foot the bill for the bankruptcy of the policies that filled the Swiss bank accounts of the elites. The humanitarian rhetoric has  never prevented Western 'aid' agencies from giving de facto preference to support for agri-business in the name of efficiency.

Capitalism has not only  not 'solved' the problem of African poverty, a problem it created it over the last  200 years (or even over the last 500 years since the slave trade), but truly the powers that be envisages nothing for the next 50 years but the situation actually deteriorating. From their endless public charity appeals for  emergency 'relief' aid  Western  institutions have created the impression that Africa irrevocably condemned. The challenge will therefore only be taken up by the African peoples to recover control and use of its resources, production for use and not for profit of world capitalism or local rulers.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fishing - who has hooked the profits?

The international fish trade is breaking records, the United Nations on Friday reported, but the benefits of the trade are not trickling down to the small-scale fishing communities which make up the majority of the sector’s global workforce.

“The proportion of fish production being traded internationally is significant, at around 37 per cent in 2013,” said Audun Lem, Chief of UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) Products, Trade and Marketing Branch. “This makes the fisheries sector one of the most globalised and dynamic industries in world food production.”

Global fishery production from wild capture fisheries and aquaculture is expected to set a new record in 2013 at 160 million tonnes, up from 157 million tonnes the previous year, while exports will reach USD 136 billion.

The benefits from international trade are not always reaching small-scale fishers and fish farmers, who constitute about 90 per cent of the sector’s global workforce and half of whom are women, FAO reported. 

The Talibanisation of Uganda

 The Ugandan ministerial task team asked by the president to advise him on homosexuality falsified the information contained in the report given by medical and psychological experts, twisting it to show that homosexuality should indeed be further criminalised.

The experts – including academics from Marekere University and officials in the Ugandan ministry of health – said that, in their view and in terms of the best current medical knowledge, "homosexuality has no clear-cut cause", though they adduce some limited genetic evidence, and that "several factors are involved which differ from individual to individual. It is not a disease that has a treatment." The Scientist Consensus Statement concludes that homosexuality is not a disease or an "abnormality", but that it "can be influenced by environmental factors" such as "culture, religion, information, permissiveness". Homosexual behaviour, the statement says, "needs regulation like any other human behaviour, especially to protect the vulnerable", and concludes: "There is need for studies to address sexualities in the African context."

 The report to the president said: "Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behaviour which may be learned through experiences in life." It quotes the experts saying that the "practice should be regulated", following that with the statement: "Presidential Advisor on Science Dr Richard Tushemereirwe stated that homosexuality has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated."  Tushemereirwe was not part of the 10-member scientists' panel.

MP David Bahati, the Bill's sponsor, said it was a "victory for Uganda" and for African tradition against Western influences. But the anti-gay thrust of the Bill has also been driven by Christian evangelical groups working in Uganda. Gay activists from Uganda sued American missionary Scott Lively, under the "alien torts" law, for spreading homophobia in Africa. Other African countries such as Nigeria have recently passed anti-gay laws.

The new law, which awaits Museveni's signature, updates a colonial-era law regulating "carnal knowledge against the order of nature". It extends the penalty of life imprisonment for actual gay sex to all behaviour, including touching, that might lead to or show an intention to have homosexual sex: it penalises "any erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement or any indecent act or behaviour tending to corrupt morals". The law also makes it a crime, punishable by a prison term of up to seven years, for a citizen to fail to report homosexual activity to the authorities. Earlier this year, in a letter to a Ugandan newspaper, Museveni wrote: "You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people." He added that he thought others might become gay for "mercenary reasons" or, in the case of lesbians, a lack of sex with men.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


"We want a foreign market for our surplus products."
- William McKinley, 1880's

"In the interests of our commerce  . . . we should build the Nicaragua canal, and for the protection of that canal and for the sake of our commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should control the Hawaiian islands and maintain our influence in Samoa  . . . The great nations are rapidly absorbing for their present defense all the waste places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization and the advancement of the race."
- Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, 1890s

"It seems to be conceded that every year we shall be confronted with an increasing surplus of manufactured goods for sale in foreign markets if American operatives and artisans are to be kept employed the year around. The enlargement of foreign consumption of the products of our mills and workshops has, therefore, become a serious problem of statesmanship as well as well as of commerce."
- State Department 1898

"Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even of the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process  . . . the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down."
- Woodrow Wilson, 1907

"The real reason that the war we just finished took place was that Germany was afraid her commercial rivals were going to get the better of her and the reason why some nations went onto the war against Germany was that they thought Germany would get the advantage of them."
- President Woodrow Wilson, St Louis, 1919

" . . . our general diplomatic and strategic position would be considerably weakened - by our loss of Chinese, Indian and South Seas markets (and by our loss of much of the Japanese market for our goods, as Japan would become more and more self-sufficient) as well by insurmountable restrictions upon our access to the rubber, tin, jute, and other vital materials of the Asian and Oceanic regions."
- US State Department, 1940

"The real stake in this war is sea control, is the domination of the avenues of world trade."
- United States News, Sept. 13, 1940

"There never was a war at arms that was not merely the extension of a preceding war of commerce grown fiercer until the weapons of commerce seemed no longer sufficiently deadly."
- General Hugh Johnson (1882-1942)

"As you know, we've got to plan on enormously increased production in this country after the war, and the American domestic market can't absorb all that production indefinitely. There won't be any question about our needing greatly increased foreign markets."
- State Department official, April 1944

"In May of 1962, we stand at the great divide; we must either trade or fade. They (the Russians) are ready to take and sell any area in which we leave a gap. And we do not intend to give way."
- President Kennedy, May 4 1962

"What is the attraction that Southeast Asia has exerted for centuries on the great powers flanking it on all sides? Why is it desirable, and why is it important? First, it provides a lush climate, fertile soil, rich natural resources, a relatively sparse population in most areas, and room to expand. The countries of Southeast Asia produce rich exportable surpluses such as rice, rubber, tea, corn, tin, spices, oil and many others . . . "
- Kennedy's Undersecretary of State, U. Alexis Johnson - Early 1963

"My approach to Africa is in some ways like the Japanese approach to Asia, and approach is not necessarily humanitarian. It is in the long-range interest of access to resources and the creation of markets for American goods and services."
- U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, 1977

Africom Versus China

The United States, like its allies Britain and France, has long maintained influence and indirect control in Africa through financial institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and African Development Bank. It has exerted political influence using aid organizations such as USAID and NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House and others.

With programs such as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, later broadened into the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, Washington managed to provide military and financial assistance to compliant countries in North Africa – a policy whose practical application meant that the US military became the dominant force in the Sahel region, supplying the human and material resources for which the governments of the region were starved. Naturally, this meant an implicit subservience to US military command.  In 2013 alone, AFRICOM conducted joint exercises with fourteen African nations, leading land, sea, and air-based operations.

In 2007 the Bush administration created US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to act as the umbrella organization under which all US military activity in Africa would fall. AFRICOM became an officially independent command a year later, and in the seven years its scope of activity has broadened tremendously, with its direct or indirect presence extending into nearly every country on the continent. “AFRICOM advances US national interests and promotes regional security, stability, and prosperity.” Ostensibly, the US military acts to defend ‘democracies’ in Africa for the collective betterment of the people of the continent. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan stated in 2007, “AFRICOM is about helping Africans build greater capacity to assure their own security.”

 However, a more critical analysis would question exactly how Washington defines “security, stability, and prosperity,” and perhaps most importantly, whose prosperity they’re principally interested in. Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller, military deputy to former commander of AFRICOM General William ‘Kip’ Ward, provides the answer when he  told an AFRICOM conference in 2008 that AFRICOM’s goal was “protecting the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market.” Furthermore, Moeller wrote in 2010, “Let there be no mistake. AFRICOM’s job is to protect American lives and promote American interests.”

 AFRICOM is to provide a military presence to ensure the continued exploitation of Africa for the enrichment of finance capital, and the maintenance and expansion of US hegemony on the continent. China is rapidly challenging US economic hegemony in Africa. Having invested in a variety of sectors from mining and oil, to telecommunications and banking, China has made itself into a viable alternative to US, World Bank, and IMF investment and aid. Naturally, this has upset the political and corporate establishment in the US who see in China a threat to their power.  Professor and China scholar Deborah Brautigam noted in 2013,“Chinese imports and exports, outbound investment aid, and export finance are all sharply on the rise. For example, trade between China and Africa rose from $10 billion in 2000 to $166.3 billion in 2011… [In 2012] Chinese leaders announced a goal of $20 billion in finance to African countries by 2015. If carried out, an average of between $6 and $7 billion would flow to Africa per year.” Brautigam’s numbers illustrate the fact that it is only slightly below yearly US total investment in the continent ($9 billion) and so US policy in Africa  should be understood within the context of checking China’s growing power and influence.

 One  example is the US-sponsored break up of Sudan and the creation of South Sudan. n order to power its massive industrial sector and population, China has become the world’s leading energy importer, with lucrative contracts all over the world. However, Beijing’s primary oil source in Africa was Sudan, which accounted for 8 percent of China’s total oil imports (China being the recipient of a whopping 78% of total Sudanese exports). With the oilfields being located primarily in the south of the country, the US led the charge to dismantle Sudan and create a South Sudan that would be dependent on US finance and military muscle (provided by AFRICOM and US clients such as Uganda and Rwanda) for its very survival. The continuing violence and bloodshed in South Sudan – a result of internal power struggles between competing US aligned factions – is merely collateral damage in Washington’s growing proxy war with China.

All over Africa, the United States has tried to check the growing influence of China [ who choose to prefer the tactic of money in the banks of those it courts rather than boots on the ground - Socialist  Banner]. From Nigeria to South Africa, Angola to Sudan, the US is engaging in a widespread proxy war with the expressed intention of maintaining its dominant position in Africa. Using its vast military resources, Washington seeks to cement its African hegemony using the same colonial tactics as every other empire that came before it.

African History (2)

Mansa Musa of Mali was the wealthiest individual in the history of the world. After adjustment for inflation, Mansa Musa had a personal net worth of around $400 billion. When Mansa Musa went on the Hajj, the gave away so much gold that the price of gold in Cairo went into freefall and did not recover for a decade.

The Mali Empire was a great African medieval kingdom that lasted over 400 years with its own schools of Mathematics,Astronomy and Philosophy. Sub-Sahara African empires had written languages just like any other. The Mali Empire was known for its high quality manuscripts, and the city of Timbuktu was a major learning center. Even as south as the Kongo and its Kingdom that rose had establish relations with Europe. Not to mention the Christian Ethiopia. Most of the history of south of the Sub-Sahara is unknown due to the rapid spread of Islam in North Africa (which is part of African history and its civilizations) in the 9th century. The religious division, and lack of navigation technologies prevented direct contact with those regions. Its not till the 14th century that we have European beginning to explore that they regain direct contact.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Development Or Fraud? Another Coastal Paradise To Die For Big Oil

A new 32 berth port, to ship South Sudanese oil to China, is planned for the Lamu archipelago, a stunning green field heritage site in northern coastal Kenya, teeming with rare species, coral reefs and marine biodiversity and, of course, people. But none of this richness, or the indigenous people for whom this is home, seem to matter to the Government of Kenya and private developers.

In April 2013 the Kenya government granted a $484 million contract to a Chinese firm to put up the first three berths for the new Lamu Port in the first phase implementation process of the project. This followed the uprooting of prime mangrove trees in February, to pave the way for the construction of the first three berths and port administration office at Kilalana, a clearance that is nearly complete. The land was created from the felling of mangrove trees, comprising 30% of tree cover in Kenya.

 However, the developers and their government cronies paid scant regard to an environmental impact assessment, while those who lost their land are still waiting for compensation a year later. Indeed, only fraudsters are getting rich, while the port development has already made thousands of families destitute and hungry. With another 100,000 people potentially in the way of the gigantic development, the first phase portends badly for the rest of the development, since neither project affected persons nor the natural capital and biodiversity have been give the respect they are due by right, and by international law and convention.

Read the full, detailed article here

Planning Violations, Not Natural Disaster, Cause Of Deaths In Burundi

Building and planning code violations were largely to blame for the deaths - amid torrential rain earlier this month - of dozens of people in Burundi’s capital, and the destruction there of 3,500 homes, according to a leading urban planning expert who noted that numerous reports had warned of just such an eventuality.

Children accounted for most of the 68 deaths on 10 February in a city that is surrounded by very steep hills. Some 15,000 people have been left homeless and are now staying in five centres around the city where the government and Red Cross are providing food and other essentials.

“Most of the victims had built their homes in the beds of major water courses, whereas construction is forbidden in these locations,” Bernard Sindayihebura, a professor at the University of Bujumbura, told IRIN. Much of the recent construction in the city was haphazard and did not follow regulations, he said.

And while quarry businesses have since 1993 been obliged by law to rehabilitate areas worked, including by planting trees, the professor noted that the once-forested hillsides around the capital are bare, exploited anarchically with no effort made to fill holes dug.

Another problem he noted was that some drains become narrower rather than wider as they descend the steep hillsides and this, coupled with maintenance failures, led to catastrophic overflows into inhabited areas when there was heavy rain.

Deputy Mayor of Bujumbura Remy Barampama said the drains had been badly designed, in some places resembling funnels which were “incapable of coping with all the water from the mountains and households of the city”.

Some of the destroyed houses had been built on “loose soil mainly composed of deposits left by streams or previous floods”, which was washed away during the latest heavy rains, taking the houses with it, explained Sindayihebura.

“With these kinds of slopes, no habitation, no building or settlement should be at the bottom [of the hill]. If there is a settlement we are inviting death at times of heavy rain,” he said.

“If there are floods today, landslides are possible tomorrow,” he added, explaining that floodwaters had gouged out ravines and that further flooding should be expected in Bujumbura, notably near the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the depth of which, he said, had increased by a full two metres since 2005.

from here

 Yet another 'natural disaster' exacerbated by poor planning and official disregard for violations of regulations. Rich world, poor world - similar stories continue to be told and it always seems to be connected to someone, somewhere making a profit, legally or illegally.


Some African History (1)

Some of the world's greatest cities during the Middle Ages were on the eastern coast of Africa. Throughout the Middle Ages, great civilizations ringed the Indian Ocean. From Egypt, people could travel the Red Sea to reach the ocean, then sail south to Africa, or continue east to the Arab world and India. They were the superpowers of the Swahili Coast.  They were cosmopolitan cities whose cultural diversity would have made places like New York and Sao Paolo look like monocultures. Among those great medieval cities were places like Songo Mnara, a gorgeous and bustling Swahili city built on an island off the coast of Tanzania in the fourteenth century. It's been preserved so well because archaeologists from an earlier era didn't believe it was a legitimate African ruin — they believed the architecture was too sophisticated, and therefore had to have been crafted by Arab traders who wanted an outpost. That idea has long been disproven, and now the archaeological community accepts that the vibrant Swahili culture was purely African in origin, and that the cultural influences from the Middle East cut both ways. The Swahili Coast and its luxurious arts and goods were an enormous influence on their neighbors ringing the Indian Ocean.

At a time when European cities were getting wiped out by plagues and famines, Songo Mnara was thriving. Today, Songo Mnara is a ruin that had been almost forgotten. It was built by the people of Kilwa Kisiwanti, an ancient city on a nearby island, and they did it the way today's best city planners might. Though no one is sure why, they wanted to erect this city quickly. So they drew up a city plan and organized the homes, palace, and town's mosques around graceful open areas, with generously-sized courtyards that the locals used to greet traveling merchants. Swahili towns didn't have marketplaces like comparable cities in Europe, the Middle East and China. Instead, archaeologists are learning, trade was conducted in the courtyards, which were halfway between public and private space. Similar kinds of public/private areas were common in ancient Rome as well.

The people who lived in Songo Mnara were part of a Sultanate, or city-state, connected to their parent city of Kilwa. They spoke Kiswahili (related to today's Swahili), and were part of an enormous cultural network that spanned the coast from Somalia to Tanzania. Like the Arab peoples they traded with, the people of the Swahili Coast were Muslims and some of their most breathtaking architecture can be seen in the towers that crown their mosques.

Swahili society is traditionally matrilocal (meaning that a man, after marriage, moves in with his wife's family), which doesn't seem to jibe with the more socially conservative form of Islam practiced on the Swahili Coast today. It is thought that the later Omani occupation of the region imposed a stricter version of Islam with regard to women, overwriting what could have been a brand of Swahili Islam with greater gender equality.

University of Bristol archaeologist Mark Horton believes he's uncovered a mosque that was purpose-built for women. Horton is an expert on mosque architecture and believes that such a mosque would be unique in the Islamic world and would have reflected the importance of women in Swahili society of the middle ages. It's possible that women prayed alongside the men in the many other mosques of the town, and eventually were segregated into their own mosque as their roles changed over time. We don't know for sure, and Horton says that it's always possible that the building was for some other purpose — perhaps a Koranic school — they still haven't figured out yet.

But the power of the Swahili Coast fell as European powers rose. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese arrived and Indian Ocean trade changed. Many stone towns were abandoned around this time, often hastily. Through the ensuing 500 years of colonial occupation—Portuguese, Omani, British—the Swahili culture that coalesced in the medieval period has persisted. Today, more than a million people in East Africa still identify as Swahili (from Sawahil, an Arabic word meaning "people of the coast").

Kilwa in the sixteenth century, a century after the city's heyday.

Climate Changes for Africa

"We will witness instability in rainfall, disease spreading, sea level rise and floods. One other effect of climate change is to send Africans further and further to seek water. This brings them into conflicts with other Africans. We will face wars on African soil that are not created in Africa."

These words by Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, the former chairperson of the Africa Group at the ongoing United Nations climate change negotiations provides a striking reminder and warning that climate change is more than just about floods or droughts but rather a serious phenomenon that has the capacity to destabilize Africa.

For example, in the Darfur region, climate change has escalated the crisis with competition for scarce water in refugee camps, and scarce land between farmers and herders sparking serious conflicts in the arid region. According to the United Nations, more than 1.4 million people have been displaced, while thousands others have died since the crisis erupted in the Darfur region in 2003.

In the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya, climate change and human pressures on natural resources have induced violent pastoral conflicts that have resulted in some locals migrating to new lands.

The complexities of climate change also saw Kenya and Uganda at one point coming to an agreement to demarcate Lake Victoria using bright beacons so that fishers from both countries do not cross into another border. This was after longstanding clashes between fishers "encroaching into another country's waters" in search of better and bigger fish.
Although tension has been fairly well managed, increased migration, droughts and livestock disease may spark grazing wars, as communities fight over existing and new lands.  Over the next 50 years, the continent is expected to suffer from more frequent and intense droughts and floods, more unpredictable growing seasons, and higher average temperatures. This global challenge was not caused by Africa, but by industrialized countries, yet the continent is the hardest hit due to limited financial resources to adapt to such changes. There is also the need for the global community to honour its pledges to provide climate change finance in the form of grants and not loans. Increased aid was promised in 2009 to help developing countries to cope with climate change, to reach $100 billion a year after 2020, from $10 billion annually 2010-12. However, few have met the pledges,

Africa and other countries of the South want the highly polluting nations of the north to cut emissions to at least 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020 - demands that are also being challenged by the highly polluting countries. UN climate talks held in Warsaw, Poland in late 2013, industrialized countries rejected calls to set targets for 2013-19, meaning that progress towards a proposed new global climate treaty will be stalled.

Africa has made a commitment to speak with one voice at the ongoing climate change negotiations, because disunity could leave the continent exposed to manipulation which would leave the continent prone to climate change induced effects of migration and conflicts, which have the capacity to destabilize.

Africa has an abundance of renewable energy sources which, if fully harnessed, could boost power generation in the region. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the continent has the potential to become a "gold mine" for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now hugely sought after by international investors in their quest for clean energy. Africa is slowly turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind - which are less polluting to the environment compared to other forms such as coal.

African famers are making changes to their crop and livestock varieties that are more variable and tolerate to extreme conditions. For example, farmers in Zimbabwe are using new varieties of locally developed maize that matures faster than traditional varieties, as they require less water.  Local communities in the Zambezi River Basin have developed systems of gathering, predicting, interpreting, and decision-making in relation to weather. The communities are timing the fruiting of certain local trees, the water level in streams and ponds, the nesting behaviour of small quail-like birds, and insect behaviour to forecast any changes in the environment such droughts or floods.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who told African leaders at the recent Summit  "By the intelligent application of centuries-old indigenous knowledge, acquired and conserved by African women who have tended crops in all seasons, within the first few years bumper harvests were being reported. Agronomists consulted women about the qualities of various grains - which ones survived low rainfalls and which thrived in wet weather; what pests threatened crops and how could they be combated without undermining delicate ecological systems."

Another key intervention for Africa is improving access to accurate information about climate change and climate change induced conflict. The African media has been identified as an important player in the global effort to combat the impacts of climate change, particularly in early warning, management and resolution. Empowering journalist on reporting climate change has resulted in more people knowing the various measures that are available to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It is a start and demonstrates the possible potential for the future - but we all understand that the hurdle is always capitalism and the need to make profits. For real change for the better we need socialism

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tanzania: Investors Assured Of State Support

Mwanza — GOVERNMENT has assured local and foreign investors that there shall never again be nationalisation in Tanzania as it seeks to promote private investments in key sectors.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng Christopher Chiza said that government is committed to promote private sector investments in its key economic sectors and there would be no policy reversal.

"Government has no plans to nationalise your assets," the minister said in his closing remarks of the Lake Zone Investment forum that was organised to promote investment opportunities in the Lake Zone region.

He said government is keen to ensure that the rights and assets of investors were protected.

Policy predictability was mentioned in the forum as among key requirements in attracting local and foreign investments.

Participants said investors would not go where policies cannot be predicted. The minister, who represented the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, said government is committed to continue improving trade and investment climate and promote the growth of the private sector in the country.

The minister further said despite attracting foreign investments in the agricultural sector, there would be no land grabbing in the country. He said land to be used for investments would be acquired through proper channels. "Send this message to all that Tanzania's government has no plans to grab land," he said.

He said government will work on challenges that were discussed in the forum as it seeks to promote private sector investments in various areas.

He said improving the business and investment climate in the country was on top of government agenda so as to speed up the growth of the economy and poverty alleviation.

Earlier, the chairman of Lake Zone Investment Forum, Mr George Kahama had asked government to work on their request for the six lake zone regions to be considered as special economic zones. He said the area had the potential of becoming the business and financial hub of Africa's Great Lake region.

Mr Kahama also noted that the six regions making up the Lake Zone deserved to be made special economic zones with a view to attract more local and foreign investments. He said that attracting more investments would help to alleviate poverty through job creation and opening up of more business opportunities.

The Lake Zone Investment Forum was organised by the six regions making up the zone, which are Mwanza, Geita, Shinyanga, Simiyu, Kagera and Mara in collaboration with the Tanzania Investment Centre to promote investments opportunities in the regions.

About 1,000 local and foreign investors as well as major regional players in business and investments participated in the forum.

By Henry Lyimo

Source:Tanzania Daily News


One Infamous Landgrabber Under Receivership - Africans Pay The Price

Karuturi Ltd, the Kenyan flower production unit of Karuturi Global, is in financial collapse and been put under receivership. One of the world's most infamous landgrabbers is in its deepest trouble yet.

On 11 February 2014, CfC Stanbic Bank in Nairobi took over the Karuturi farm in Naivasha while management was assigned to The Business Advisory Group Ltd. The new managers will assess the true financial situation of the firm, which has stopped paying its workers, suppliers and utility providers since many months, and settle the company's outstanding debts, which reportedly exceed US$ 5 million. Until now, the flower farm in Naivasha was its cash cow, responsible for three-quarters of the Karuturi empire's annual global earnings.
Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd is one of the largest foreign agribusiness conglomerates in Africa. In 2007, it began expanding its operations to Kenya and Ethiopia to take advantage of generous tax breaks and cheap land, water and labour. It soon became the world's largest cut rose exporter and acquired over 311,000 ha of fertile land in southern Ethiopia for food production.

Now, this leading example of foreign direct investment in African agriculture is on the verge of collapse -- and Africans are paying the price.
Karuturi's overseas business ventures are causing untold suffering. In Kenya, the workers have been living in inhumane conditions without pay, water or electricity since months. In the last six months, their medical services have been shut down and the school for their children has been closed.[1] On top of this, Karuturi owes the Kenyan government millions of US dollars in unpaid taxes that it hid through doctored invoices and transfer pricing.[2]

In Ethiopia, the Anywaa and other communities that were violently displaced from their lands without consultation to make way for Karuturi's farming operations have lost their livelihoods and been living in exile without proper compensation. Karuturi, however, has been unable to cultivate more than a small fraction of those lands and local sources report that the farms have stopped operations. Last month, the Ethiopian government issued a warning to Karuturi to clarify the standing of its agricultural investment project or see its permit withdrawn.
From tax fraud to labour violations, Karuturi must pay for its crimes, immediately. And the international community must stop supporting such egregious corporate malfeasance in the name of "foreign investment", or worse "development".

From here with more information

Africa's Shameful Homophobia

Cameroonian Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, being gay came with a prison sentence, and ultimately, a death sentence. He died at the age of 35 in his home village of Ngoumou due to complications from a hernia he developed while in prison that never got proper treatment. Jean-Claude was imprisoned after he sent a text message to another man, which read: "I think I am very much in love with you." In Cameroon, because of homophobic laws that were personally championed by President Paul Biya, that was enough to be considered a criminal offense, punishable with time in prison.

The same weekend that Jean-Claude died, Nigeria enacted a new law that criminalizes freedom of speech, association and assembly as well as the activities of many human rights and civil society organizations working on behalf of members of the LGBTI community. The law provides for a 10-year prison sentence for anyone who supports, meets with or forms a group advocating for human rights for LGBTI people. Reports are already surfacing of arrests of those suspected of being gay. Similar legislation in Uganda needs only the signature of President Yoweri Museveni before becoming yet another repressive law which will even make it a crime not to report gay people to the police. In Liberia, a religious gathering has been collecting signatures pushing the government to sign a law banning same-sex marriage. In South Africa, the past five years have seen the rise of hate-crimes against gay people, including a phenomenon known as "corrective rape" - rape committed with a view to alter the victim's sexual orientation.  Homosexuals have been branded “vermin” by Gambia’s president Yahya  Jammeh in a new low over its anti-gay rhetoric. “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” Jammeh said “As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhoea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence,” he added. 

 Homosexuality is a crime in 38 of 54 sub-Saharan countries but there exists a strain of cultural relativism that has allowed the apparent misconception among some people, both in Africa and the west, that homosexuality is an imperialist import and that those opposed to the human rights of gay communities are simply reclaiming their pre-colonial cultural values. It has become something of a catechism to proclaim that homosexuality was introduced to Africans by European colonisers. In August 2013, in his seventh inauguration speech, President Robert Mugabe was particularly derisive of the gay community. He urged young Zimbabweans to shun homosexuality as an abomination of humankind "that destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease". That speech relied on an unhealthy dose of homophobia, effectively using existing public disdain for homosexuality as a means to delegitimise the political opposition - with its liberal economics and politics - as part of the evidence that it was merely a puppet of the West. But Mugabe is certainly not alone in abusing the gay community for political gain.

Any person with the time to study the history of sexuality in traditional African cultures will discover that this claim is baseless. Indeed, the history of sexuality in traditional African societies has always been characterised by diversity in sexual practices and identities. Homosexual practices and identities are not new to Africa. What is new is the campaign for LGBT rights that has arisen in reaction to the revival of a homophobic legal and religious tradition inherited from European colonialism. For many, the apparent surge in anti-gay sentiment is only a response to the pressure being put on African governments by western governments, to, ironically, "act a certain way".

The movement against LGBT rights in Africa has brought together very strange bedfellows, African Muslim and Christian preachers with strong backing from rightwing American Christian organisations. This has culminated in the steps taken recently by the governments of Uganda and Nigeria, for example, to pass laws that criminalise same-sex relationships and impose very stiff penalties for anyone found guilty under such laws. The dehumanisation of members of the gay community across Africa has been justified by invoking both God and traditional African culture. However, for over a century the same religious groups now claiming to be the custodians of traditional African cultures have been at the centre of programmes to systematically efface Africa's traditional cultures on grounds that, in their view, such cultures are un-Christian and un-Islamic. Thus, the position adopted by many of Africa's political and religious elites on issues relating to LGBT rights owes more to their colonial religious education than it does to their traditional African roots. The very existence of "sodomy laws" imposed on many African cultures by British colonial rulers in an attempt to stem what they thought of as the sexual immorality of African cultures point to the presence of diversity in sexual practices among Africans prior to their encounter with Europeans.  So to suggest that Africa has no place for homosexuals is to imagine the continent's history as beginning when prude missionaries brought Bibles, long skirts and umbrellas as a marker of civilisation. The construction of sin and categorical notions of sexuality over the past four centuries on the continent are inextricably linked to colonialism, the Church and the ambitions of the state.

Some opponents of gay rights in Africa have consistently tried to argue that since there is no word for homosexuality in their African languages it must mean that gays did not exist in African societies until recently. This claim would first have to be proved through a kind of "linguistic archaeology" on all such languages. This has not yet been done. It is also unlikely to work on languages and meanings that evolved as they were passed down from one generation to another through oral means. The absence of words for homosexuality in some African languages, if this is true, is in itself proof that gay people were never considered as existing outside of the norm in such traditional African societies. Thus, it is more likely that the language of "othering" now used to discuss and describe gay communities in Africa is a remnant of colonialism. The move to specifically target homosexuals, the way Nigeria and Uganda have done, legitimises homophobia. And in so doing, it washes away actual history, and creates a new one, just as colonialism bid us to do.

Even as economies continue to grow (or at least the GDPs) and middle classes emerge sporadically, rampant inequality burns holes in the aspirations of the continent. Where then does this leave the gay community? They've merely become a red herring,  to divert attention from the failing economies and the many weak democracies across the continent and the need for many governments to seek support in alliances with religion. Gays are the new scapegoats for the problems of capitalism

Adapted from here

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

For Sale - Africa

The Rich look for business opportunities in poor countries. Investors have increasingly targeted African farmland since the 2008 food, fuel and financial crises.

Doug Hertzler, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA, warned that the New Alliance project "Is all about creating markets for the chemical and the seed companies that are owned by the international companies rather than public services, which is the best way for smallholders to grow and expand," he said, adding that big changes in access to land, with more going to commercial firms, could create "unequal land tenure patterns which will last for generations".

Zitto Kabwe, the chairman of the Tanzanian parliament's public accounts committee, says "With large-scale farming, you are turning small farmers into mere labourers.” Outgrower schemes, under which companies buy produce from small farmers, are not enough on their own, Kabwe said. "Who determines the contracts? The fear is at the end of the day you have small-scale farmers being exploited. To prevent that you need strong local organisations for farmers and led by farmers."

A Food Sovereignty spokesman said. "Ghana's current pattern of agricultural investment and growth is clearly not succeeding in addressing food and nutrition insecurity … The New Alliance document manifestly emphasises private investment, but there is little corporate profit to be made in the type of agriculture that can address these issues."

The New Colonialism

A G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers. Ten countries made more than 200 policy commitments, including changes to laws and regulations after giant agri-businesses were granted unprecedented access to decision-makers over the past two years. But small farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the programme, have been shut out of the negotiations. The pledges will make it easier for companies to do business in Africa through the easing of export controls and tax laws, and through governments ring-fencing huge chunks of land for investment. The CEOs of companies including Unilever and the agribusiness giants Syngenta, Yara and Cargill have had seats on the leadership council. Companies have refused to make their full investment plans under the New Alliance available for public scrutiny, and freedom of information requests to the UK government were rejected on the basis of commercial confidentiality.

Colin Poulton, a research fellow at the centre for development, environment and policy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told the Guardian  “ The New Alliance is so far primarily an initiative to commercialise agriculture in Africa."

Zitto Kabwe, the chairman of the Tanzanian parliament's public accounts committee, said he was "completely against" the commitments his government has made to bolster private investment in seeds. "By introducing this market, farmers will have to depend on imported seeds. This will definitely affect small farmers. It will also kill innovation at the local level. We have seen this with manufacturing," he said. "It will be like colonialism. Farmers will not be able to farm until they import, linking farmers to the vulnerability of international prices. Big companies will benefit. We should not allow that."

The Ethiopian government has said it will "refine" its land law to encourage long-term land leases and strengthen the enforcement of commercial farm contracts. In Malawi, the government has promised to set aside 200,000 hectares of prime land for commercial investors by 2015, and in Ghana, 10,000 hectares will be made available for investment by the end of next year. In Nigeria, promises include the privatisation of power companies. Tanzania's tax commitments would benefit companies rather than small farmers.

Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said governments had been making promises to investors "completely behind the screen", with "no long-term view about the future of smallholder farmers" and without their participation. He described Africa as the last frontier for large-scale commercial farming. "There's a struggle for land, for investment, for seed systems, and first and foremost there's a struggle for political influence."

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa has also denounced the G8 initiative as ushering in a new wave of colonialism on the continent. Million Belay, the head of the AFSA, said the initiative could spell disaster for small farmers in Africa. "It clearly puts seed production and distribution in the hands of companies," he said. "The trend is for companies to say they cannot invest in Africa without new laws … Yes, agriculture needs investment, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to bring greater control over farmers' lives. More than any other time in history, the African food production system is being challenged. More than any other time in history outside forces are deciding the future of our farming systems."

Critics of the New Alliance have questioned how it will help poor farmers. A document shows the initiative is based on assumptions about how investment can reduce poverty and has set no specific targets for its stated goals of boosting food security and nutrition on the continent.

Kato Lambrechts, Christian Aid's senior advocacy and policy officer, said: "Governments have signed on to promise to fast-track or implement policies, regulations or laws that need to be further discussed and debated in-country. The concern is that these are being pushed through in exchange for new private sector commitments to invest in agriculture value chains, which cannot be a substitute for well-developed and comprehensive policies that address the needs of poor farmers to allow them to move out of poverty."

Benito Eliasi, from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, which has represented civil society on the leadership council, said: "The implementation of legislation is one of the biggest problems facing farmers in Africa. We need to safeguard farmers … Farmers need to be involved. If they are not involved, this will fail."

Gawain Kripke, Oxfam America's policy director, said insufficient consultation with civil society and farmers was a fatal flaw. "There's a 100-year history of failed development projects in Africa and around the world …”

Even Tony Burdon, Department of International Development's head of growth and resilience, admitted that more consultation could have taken place with civil society and farmers' groups, and that companies could be more transparent about their investment plans, which he described as "light on detail" in some cases.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SA Politicians Fill Their Pockets

34 Ministers, 33 Deputy Ministers, 52 Parliamentary Chairpersons, 53 Parliamentary Whips, leaders of opposition parties, around 200 MPs, 9 Premiers, 90 MECs and 331 MPLs will pad their already hefty pay packages with another 5% windfall (backdated to April last year).

Deputy President Motlanthe gets an extra R118 000 for a R2, 5 million yearly package while Ministers will receive an additional R100 000 to raise their annual salary to R2,1 million. National MPs and MPLs will have to make do with R45 000 and R43 000 yearly increases respectively, taking their corresponding annual salaries to R934 000 and R904 000.

Local politicians have followed suit. In late January the City of Johannesburg announced that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli had approved over R122 million in salary hikes for the city’s 230 councillors, 17 committee chairpersons, 10 mayoral committee members as well as the city council’s Chief Whip and Speaker. Accordingly, councillors in this oft-claimed ‘world class’ city will receive a R28 000 annual increase, elevating their yearly salary to R458 000 while committee chairpersons get a R39 000 hike which ups their annual salaries to just under R825 000.

All of these pay hikes are, in formal terms, separate from the incredible array of benefits and perks enjoyed by  politicians but which are, in reality, part of the overall salary ‘package’. Despite repeated warnings by the Treasury to reign-in such ‘nice-to-haves’ alongside promises by the self-same politicians to practice self-restraint, Minister Tsenoli recently approved increased monthly cell phone allowances for South Africa’s 10 000+ local politicians of up to R3 300 for metro mayors and R1 650 for councillors.

Let’s put this all into perspective. The median wage of those South Africans fortunate enough to actually have a job stands at R2800 per month or R33 600 per year. With respect to the lowest paid South African politician, a local councillor, the pay hike for the Johannesburg variety is only slightly less than a worker’s median yearly wage.  Even the monthly cell phone allowance of metro mayor’s is R500 more than what an average South African worker earns in the same period.

A comparison of worker and politician wage increases only further confirms the huge wage gap. Worker demands for wage increases, which politicians and capitalists continually decry as excessive, have, according to the Labour Research Service delivered an average increase since 2007of R957 per month. Meanwhile, a quick calculation of the same average for national politicians rings in at 5 times that of the workers.

When DA leader Helen Zille boasts about the DA-run Western Cape refusing the latest salary increases, we must ask her and her party why they have readily accepted all previous hikes and have nothing to say about the astronomical wage gap between DA politicians and the black majority that they so desperately want to vote for them.

While President Zuma or Minister Nzimande tells us that ANC/SACP politicians have an enduring commitment to redress wage inequality and are simply servants of the people, Zuma earns more than British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande. South Africa’s national Ministers edge out their British peers by a cool R300 000+ and have raced ahead of the French by almost R1 million per year. Even if by smaller differentials, our national MPs are also better paid than their British and French counterparts.

From Here