Saturday, October 31, 2015

Africa's Mythical Middle Class

According to a recent report by Credit Suisse that considers broad measures of wealth, rather than just income alone, only 3.3% of Africans should be considered middle class, or about 19 million people. That’s a far cry from previous estimates from the African Development Bank, based on income that put the figure closer to 300 million in 2011. Pew Research Center also found that the global middle class is likely smaller and poorer than previously believed, with many families on the cusp of slipping back into poverty. Pew estimates that just 6% of Africans earn between $10-$20 a day, thus qualifying as middle class.

Credit Suisse’s researchers set the equivalent of $50,000 in the US as the threshold for a person’s wealth to classify them as middle class. That translates to about $22,000 in South Africa, where almost a quarter of the continent’s middle class live. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, is home to 922,000 middle-class adults.

It is not puzzling why Africa’s middle class remains small when wealth on the continent has grown quickly, more than doubling over the past 15 years to some $1.63 trillion. The reason is that Africa’s growth has not been distributed evenly—the continent’s richest, 0.2% of the population, control over 30% of the region’s wealth.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The African Standby Force

From January 2016, the African Standby Force (ASF) will be able to intervene in cases of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity if an African Union member state requests assistance or if the AU itself considers the situation serious enough. This multidisciplinary force will be made up of five brigades - each with police, military and civilian components that could be deployed within 14 days in their own regions. The Cameroonian city of Douala will host the logistics base, where equipment will be stored, but the ultimate power remains in Addis Ababa, at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.

At the moment, 5,000 troops from around the continent are taking part in an ASF field training exercise in South Africa to help evaluate how ready the force is to deploy. The number of personnel is expected to rise to 25,000 by the time the force is operational in January. The AU says it still needs $1bn (£650m) to properly finance the force. Without donor support it will be difficult for a mission to actually be deployed.

German Genocide

In 1884, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck convened a meeting of European powers known as the Berlin Conference. Though the conference determined the future of an entire continent, not a single black African was invited to participate. Bismarck declared South-West Africa a German colony suitable not only for trade but for European settlement. Belgium's King Leopold, meanwhile seized the Congo, and France claimed control of West Africa.

The German flag soon became a symbol of fear for local tribes, who had lived there for millennia. Missionaries were followed by merchants, who were followed by soldiers. The settlers asserted their control by seizing watering holes, which were crucial in the parched desert. Like Belgians in the Congo and the British in Australia, the official German policy was to seize territory that Europeans considered empty, when it most definitely was not. There were 13 tribes living in Namibia, of which two of the most powerful were the Nama and the Herero. 

Germany's behavior in South-West Africa was a precursor of German actions in the Holocaust. The boldest among them argued that South-West Africa was the site of the first genocide of the 20th century. “Our understanding of what Nazism was and where its underlying ideas and philosophies came from,” write David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen in their book The Kaiser's Holocaust, “is perhaps incomplete unless we explore what happened in Africa under Kaiser Wilhelm II.”

German researchers treated Africans as mere test subjects. Papers published in German medical journals used skull measurements to justify calling Africans Untermenschen — subhumans. If these tactics sound chillingly familiar, that's because they were also used in Nazi Germany. The connections don't end there. One scientist who studied race in Namibia was a professor of Josef Mengele—the infamous “Angel of Death” who conducted experiments on Jews in Auschwitz. Heinrich Goering, the father of Hitler's right-hand man, was colonial governor of German South-West Africa. What they did in Namibia, they did with Jews.

Many German farmers felt that South-West Africa was theirs for the taking. Disputes with local tribes escalated into violence. In early 1904, the Germans opened aggressive negotiations that aimed to drastically shrink Herero territory, but the chiefs wouldn't sign. They refused to be herded into a small patch of unfamiliar territory that was badly suited for grazing. Colonial leaders sent a telegram to Berlin announcing an uprising, though no fighting had broken out.

Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha took over as colonial governor, and with his arrival, the rhetoric of forceful negotiations gave way to the rhetoric of racial extermination. Von Trotha issued an infamous order called the Vernichtungsbefehl—an extermination order.
“The Herero are no longer German subjects,” read von Trotha's order. “The Herero people will have to leave the country. If the people refuse I will force them with cannons to do so. Within the German boundaries, every Herero, with or without firearms, with or without cattle, will be shot. I won’t accommodate women and children anymore. I shall drive them back to their people or I shall give the order to shoot at them.”

German soldiers surrounded Herero villages. Thousands of men and women were taken from their homes and shot. Those who escaped fled into the desert—and German forces guarded its borders, trapping survivors in a wasteland without food or water. They poisoned wells to make the inhuman conditions even worse—tactics that were already considered war crimes under the Hague Convention, which were first agreed to in 1899.

80 percent of the Herero tribe died, and many survivors were imprisoned in forced labor camps. After a rebellion of Nama fighters, these same tactics were used against Nama men, women, and children. About 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama were murdered.

Only after Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990 did the German government really begin to acknowledge the systematic atrocity that had happened there. Although historians used the word genocide starting in the 1970s, Germany officially refused to use the term. The German government used a technicality to avoid formally apologizing for genocide in South-West Africa saying that the Genocide Convention was put in place in 1948, and cannot be applied retroactively. Nevertheless, more and more German politicians have begun talking openly about genocide. In July, the president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, in an article for the newspaper Die Zeit, described the killing of Herero and Nama as Voelkermord. Literally, this translates to “the murder of a people”—genocide.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fact of the Day

There are just 79 scientists per million Africans, compared to 4,500 per million people in the United States. Of those scientists and engineers who are trained in Africa, most work elsewhere due to the lack of infrastructure and resources.

According to the World Economic Forum, Africa produces only 1.1% of global scientific knowledge.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Was Slavery All Black and White?

Mali only legally abolished slavery in 1960 and hundreds of thousands of people are still enslaved there in 2015, despite the law.

The early 20th-Century black writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, bitterly complained that "the white people held my people in slavery here in America. They had bought us, it is true, and exploited us. But the inescapable fact that stuck in my craw was: My people had sold me....My own people had exterminated whole nations and torn families apart for a profit before the strangers got their chance at a cut. It was a sobering thought. It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed."

African kings were willing to provide a steady flow of captives. When France and Britain outlawed slavery in their territories in the early 19th Century, African chiefs who had grown rich and powerful off the slave trade sent protest delegations to Paris and London. Britain abolished the slave trade and slavery itself against fierce opposition from West African and Arab traders. African slaveholders and slave traders didn't think of themselves or their slaves as 'Africans'. Instead, they thought of themselves in tribal terms and their slaves as foreigners or inferiors.

According to Basil Davidson, a celebrated scholar of African history, in his book ‘The African Slave Trade’ explained: "The notion that Europe altogether imposed the slave trade on Africa is without any foundation in history...Those Africans who were involved in the trade were seldom the helpless victims of a commerce they did not understand: On the contrary, they responded to its challenge. They exploited its opportunities."

Tunde Obadina, a director of Africa Business Information Services, has acknowledged the importance of Britain, and other Western countries, in ending the slave trade. "When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807," he has written, "it not only had to contend with opposition from white slavers, but also from African rulers who had become accustomed to wealth gained from selling slaves or from taxes collected on slaves passed through their domain. African slave-trading classes were greatly distressed by the news that legislators sitting in Parliament in London had decided to end their source of livelihood. But for as long as there was demand from the Americas for slaves, the lucrative business continued." Obadina goes on to say, "Slave trading for export only ended in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa after slavery ended in the Spanish colonies of Brazil and Cuba in 1880. A consequence of the ending of the slave trade was the expansion of domestic slavery as African businessmen replaced trade in human chattel with increased export of primary commodities. Labour was needed to cultivate the new source of wealth for the African elites. The ending of the obnoxious business had nothing to do with events in Africa. Rulers and traders there would have happily continued to sell humans for as long as there was demand for them."

Ghanaian politician and educator Samuel Sulemana Fuseini has acknowledged that his Asante ancestors accumulated their great wealth by abducting, capturing, and kidnapping Africans and selling them as slaves.

Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Awoonor has also written: "I believe there is a great psychic shadow over Africa, and it has much to do with our guilt and denial of our role in the slave trade. We, too, are blameworthy in what was essentially one of the most heinous crimes in human history."

In 2000 officials from Benin publicised President Mathieu Kerekou's apology for his country's role in "selling fellow Africans by the millions to white slave traders…We cry for forgiveness and reconciliation," said Luc Gnacadja, Benin's minister of environment and housing. Cyrille Oguin, Benin's ambassador to the United States, acknowledged: "We share in the responsibility for this terrible human tragedy."

A year later, the president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, who is himself the descendant of generations of slave-owning and slave-trading African kings, urged Europeans, Americans, and Africans to acknowledge publicly and teach openly about their shared responsibility for the Atlantic slave trade.

In the Arab world, which was the first to import large numbers of slaves from Africa, the slave traffic was cosmopolitan. Slaves of all types were sold in open bazaars. The Arabs played an important role as middlemen in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and research data suggest that between the 7th and the 19th centuries, they transported more than 14 million black slaves across the Sahara and the Red Sea, as many or more than were shipped to the Americas, depending on the estimates for the transatlantic slave trade.

Both the slave sellers and the slave owners made money from the slave trades. However, the slave owners made significant more money.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

India and Africa

Exports and Imports figures for India in relation to each country.
MOROCCO (Rabat): Joint venture in fertiliser sector operational since 1999; Tata builds bus bodies in Casablanca. In 2014, exports $ 500.5 mn; imports $ 855.8 mn
ALGERIA (Algiers): Trade grew from $ 55 mn in 2001 to $ 3.33 bn in 2011; fell to $ 1.82 bn in 2014 due to fall in crude prices. Exports: auto spares, machinery; imports: oil and its products
MALI (Bamako): LoCs worth over $ 300 million. Among the world’s poorest, wracked by Tuareg rebellion and jihadi activities
NIGERIA (Abuja): Each other’s largest trading partners in Africa. Over 100 Indian owned/operated companies
NIGER (Niamey): In 2014-15, exports $ 78.22 mn; imports $ 0.55 mn
TUNISIA (Tunis): In 2014, exports $ 283.92 mn; imports $ 148.45 mn
 LIBYA (Tripoli): Since August 2014, 3,592 Indians have been evacuated, mission temporarily relocated to D’jerba
CHAD (N’Djamena): Imports in 2014-15 $ 62.77 mn, mainly crude. Airtel acquired Zain Telecom in 2010, now Chad’s biggest network
EGYPT (Cairo): India sixth largest trading partner; in 2014-15, imports $ 1.74 bn (crude, rock phosphate); exports $ 3.02 bn
SUDAN (Khartoum): 30-odd bilateral agreements. In 2014-15, exports $ 882.47 mn; imports: $ 569.66 mn
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (Bangui): War-torn country; trade relations minuscule. LoCs totalling nearly $ 90 million
SOUTH SUDAN (Juba): India did not take sides in Sudan’s civil wars; carries no baggage. ONGC Videsh Ltd has invested $ 2.5 bn in Sudan and South Sudan
UGANDA (Kampala): Modi visited Kampala in 2007 as Gujarat CM. In 2013-14, exports: $ 1.27 bn; imports $ 18.76 mn
ERITREA (Asmara): Former Italian and British colony, gained independence in 1993. In 2014-15, bilateral trade $ 244.73 mn
ETHIOPIA (Addis Ababa): Ties dating back 2000 years. At over $ 1 bn, single largest recipient of Indian LoC in Africa. Indian firms among top three foreign investors
KENYA (Nairobi): Old ties, strong Indian disapora, many Kenyans receive education in India. Trade $ 4.23 bn in 2014-15
SOMALIA (Mogadishu): Longest coastline in Africa. In 2014-15, exports: $ 352.81 mn; imports $ 38.25 mn
RWANDA (Kigali): Engagement at African Union, Regional Economic Communities and bilateral levels. Many Rwandans visit for medical treatment and education
MADAGASCAR (Antananarivo): In 2014-15, exports: $ 167.19 mn (cereals, apparel); imports $ 95.29 mn (coffee and spices)
BURUNDI (Bujumbura): Modest trade ($ 30.89 mn in 2013-14), heavily skewed in India’s favour
DR CONGO (Kinshasa): Several Indian LoCs, donations and grants. Huge possibility of cooperation in exploitation of natural resources. In 2014-15, exports $ 254.16 mn; imports $ 126.45 mn
TANZANIA (Dodoma): In June, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete became first continental African leader to pay a state visit under Modi government. In 2014, exports $ 2.46 bn; imports $ 1.29 bn
MALAWI (Lilongwe): In 2014-15 exports $ 214.02 mn (textile yarn, fabrics); imports $ 36.78 mn (pulses, chickpea)
MOZAMBIQUE (Maputo): Several ministerial visits recently; LoCs worth over $ 600 million. Trade in 2014-15 $ 2.39 bn; exports $2.07 bn
ZIMBABWE (Harare): Series of visits at highest level up to late 90s. Bilateral trade volumes small, under $ 180 mn in 2014-15
SWAZILAND (Mbabane): Only contact at the highest level in Addis Ababa in 2011. Two LoCs worth $ 57.9 million
BOTSWANA (Gaborone): In 2013-14, exports $ 72.2 mn; imports $ 1.10 bn. Botswana’s main export is diamonds, but has huge deposits of other minerals
LESOTHO (Maseru): Landlocked country almost entirely surrounded by South Africa. Bilateral trade much below potential
SOUTH AFRICA (Johannesburg): Ties historical and friendly, Gandhi and Mandela are shared icons, countries part of BRICS. In 2013-14, exports $ 5.07 bn; imports $ 6.07 bn
NAMIBIA (Windhoek): Relations traditionally warm; volume of trade small. Spike in Indian investments over last five years
ANGOLA (Luanda): India is second largest trade partner after China, 15% share in total external trade. In 2014-15, imports were $ 4.61 bn; exports: $ 552 mn
REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Brazzaville): Lines of Credit worth over $ 200 million, assistance in development and capacity building programmes
GABON (Libreville): In 2013, OIL discovered 41 million barrels of “in place” oil. Second largest producer of manganese
EQUATORIAL GUINEA (Malabo): Former Spanish colony, no high-level bilateral visits so far
CAMEROON (Yaoundé): Potential for cooperation and investment in oil and gas, mining, telecom, fertilisers, agriculture. In 2014-15, exports $ 249.13 mn; imports $ 745.35 mn
BENIN (Porto Novo): Expansion in ties since President Boni Yay’s visit in 2009. Trade in 2014-15 $ 720 mn.
TOGO (Lomé): Four LoCs totalling $ 144.35 million. Exports in 2014-15 $ 688.42 mn; imports $ 195.65 mn
BURKINA FASO (Ouagadougou): Trade $ 264.40 mn in 2014-15; imports (gold, cotton) growing faster than exports
GHANA (Accra): Personal friendship between Nehru and Nkrumah. Investments of $ 998 million by Indian corporates in more than 600 projects from 1994-2014; India second largest foreign investor country by number of projects
COTE D’IVOIRE (Abidjan): Wracked by conflict. Main import cashew; India imports around 80%
LIBERIA (Monrovia): President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conferred Indira Gandhi Peace Prize in 2012
SIERRA LEONE (Freetown): Trade volumes are limited, hit badly in 2014-15 by Ebola outbreak
GUINEA BISSAU (Bissau): Cashew bring more than 90% of export earnings; almost entire crop processed in India
THE GAMBIA (Banjul): Smallest country in mainland Africa. In 2014-15, exports: $ 73.53 mn; imports $ 36.08 mn (raw cashew, cotton)
MAURITANIA (Nouakchott): Virtually no economic relations, but considerable potential
CABO VERDE (Praia): Small trading relationship. Main exports: pharmaceuticals, drugs and plastics
SAN TOME AND PRINCIPE (São Tomé): Island in Atlantic; ONGC Videsh has oil block stake
DJIBOUTI (Djibouti City): Historical ties; trade in 2013-14 was $ 311.19 mn

Friday, October 23, 2015

Where are the middle class?

In the cafés of Accra’s financial district American-accented entrepreneurs order lattes and ponder spreadsheets. “You couldn’t have imagined this even five years ago,” Joseph Baffour, a local financier, says of his surroundings. “There’s been an astronomical change.”

Just a few miles down the road from Accra’s coffee-connoisseurs are the columns of smoke that billow above Agbogbloshie, a digital dumping ground. Here hundreds of men risk their health burning old electronics for useful parts. Leave the capital altogether and the celebrated middle class grows harder still to spot: high-rises give way to huts, suits to shoelessness.

The Pew Research Centre reckons that just 6% of Africans qualify as middle class, which it defines as those earning $10-$20 a day. On this measure the number of middle-income earners in Africa barely changed in the decade to 2011.

Data from EIU Canback, a consultancy (and sister-company of The Economist), show some growth in the decade to 2014 but it is painfully slow: 90% of Africans still fall below the threshold of $10 a day and the proportion in the $10-$20 middle class (excluding very atypical South Africa), rose from 4.4% to only 6.2% between 2004 and 2014; over the same decade, the proportion defined as “upper middle” ($20-$50 a day) went from another 1.4% to 2.3%. Other surveys are also disappointing.

Standard Bank, a South African lender, thinks that though the number has increased, there are still only 15m middle class households in 11 of sub-Saharan Africa’s bigger economies (excluding South Africa and using a range of $15-$115 a day).

Why is the middle class so small after a decade in which economic growth has averaged more than 5% a year, about twice as fast as population growth. One reason is that the proceeds of economic growth are shared very unequally. In recent years inequality has increased alongside growth in most parts of Africa.

Another reason is that poverty in many parts of Africa is so deep that even though incomes may have doubled for millions of people, they are now merely poor rather than extremely poor. Laurence Chandy at the Brookings Institution, an American think tank, points out that the average person in extreme poverty in Africa lived on just 74 cents a day in 2011, compared with 98 cents in other parts of the developing world. Ethiopia, which is both one of Africa’s most populous nations and best developmental performers, is a good example. Its share of people living on more than $10 a day has increased more than 10 times in the decade to 2014 to 2% of the population: but that still left close to 98% of Ethiopians living below this threshold.

A low wage is better than none at all, but those living on $10-$20 a day are hardly living lives of luxury. For most of them, life is still tough. Africa has failed to develop industries that generate lots of employment and pay good wages. Only a few countries manufacture very much, largely because national markets are small and barriers to trading within Africa are huge. Most people who leave the countryside move into labour-intensive but not very productive jobs such as trading in markets. John Page, also of Brookings, reckons that such jobs are on average only about twice as productive as the ones that many left behind.

For investors who piled in on the promise of a new African affluent middle class has proved false. The commodities boom has ended and all but the richest tend to stop spending at the first sign of economic trouble, as they have done in Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two largest economies. Having overestimated the number of upwardly mobile people, many big firms are expanding far more slowly than they expected. A few years ago, Shoprite Holdings, South Africa’s largest retailer, envisaged opening 600-800 stores in Nigeria. It currently has 12. Across the continent in Kenya, Cadbury and Coca-Cola have closed factories. “We thought this would be the next Asia”, Nestlé’s chief executive for equatorial Africa said earlier this year. “But we have realised the middle class…is extremely small and it is not really growing.”

University - the school of hard knocks

Thousands of South African university students have taken to the streets in the biggest unified student protests since the first democratic elections in 1994. The protests began at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on October 14. Over the following week, students from universities across the country joined the action – in many instances occupying campuses.

South Africa’s universities are underfunded. This isn’t supposition or opinion: it’s a fact borne out by the country’s own Department of Higher Education and Training. Now students have had enough. They have organised themselves into protest groups at universities around the country, in some cases shutting down entire campuses and surrounding public roads.

There is a new student movement sweeping South Africa’s universities. Its enemies? Excessive fee increases and underpaid workers. Black Africans make up 79% of South Africa’s population, yet their participation rate in higher education is “less than 15%

South Africa’s budget for universities as a percentage of GDP, the committee reported, was just 0.75%. That’s lower than the Africa-wide proportion of 0.78% and the global proportion of 0.84%. It also falls short of the proportion of 1.21% spent by OECD countries. The committee also found that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, state funding per full-time equivalent student fell by 1.1% annually in real terms. But each of these students' fees increased by 2.5% annually during the same period.

If students continue to ally with underpaid university workers the challenge ahead is crystal clear: target the men who control the finances. Most universities in South Africa now hire executive deans, paying huge salaries to people who may bring an expertise in business management. One major thrust in the “university as business” models is the ranking of universities in a competitive list. We are no longer a public sector working together to achieve a public good by contributing to knowledge and preparing skilled critical citizens. Instead, we are a set of businesses trying to maximise our brand value. The university is just one small social structure. That doesn’t mean it has to replicate the injustices of broader society.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kenya's Inequality

A new report by the World Bank found that  seven of the ten most unequal countries in the world are found in Africa.
In Kenya 8,000 people are estimated to own 62 percent of the country's wealth.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sweden's growing Afrophobia

There are roughly 200,000 Africans and people of African descent living in Sweden, who make up 2% of the country’s 9.6 million population.

There has been a 31% rise in reported “Afrophobic” hate crimes from 2010 to 2014, according to the Swedish National Council for CrimePrevention (pdf). The UN Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent reported “a real fear within the communities, especially for young black men, that they could be violently attacked at any time.” Structural racism means that black people in Sweden have reduced access to health care and education, according to the UN report, while “the police view people of African descent as criminals rather than a vulnerable community that needs protection.”

A xenophobic political party, the Swedish Democrats, won almost 13% of the national vote in 2014 and became the third-largest party.

Obiang Owns the Country

Equatorial Guinea is the wealthiest country on the African continent. This Spanish-speaking nation of just under 800,000 people is not only the wealthiest country in Africa — in terms of gross domestic product per capita (a country’s income divided by the population), with a $14.31 billion GDP — but also ranks 38th worldwide. It’s higher than countries like Chile, Brazil and Poland. The source of its wealth is oil. Almost 60 percent of the country is covered in trees, and forestry (both legal and illegal) used to be its highest source of income. That has plummeted to a paltry 5 percent of total revenue. Now it’s Africa’s third-largest oil exporter, with Exxon Mobil Corp. driving production. But no one knows exactly how much oil revenue the country has — President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo refuses to disclose his earnings.

President Obiang owns mansions from the French Riviera to Cape Town. His son, Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, is a colonel-meets-wannabe-rapper-meets-playboy-meets-trust-fund-baby. Also known as vice president, Teodorin is more famous for partying than politics. He spent a year in an ESL class at Pepperdine University, racking up more than $50,000 in hotel and restaurant bills before dropping out. But he was still living easy; he had a $30 million oceanfront home in Malibu, and one in nearby Bel Air too. In case the short drive between properties was too cumbersome in his Ferrari, Bugatti or dozens of other cars, Teodorin could hop in his $38.5 million Gulfstream jet. The Equatorial Fresh Prince even owned his own record label, TNO Entertainment LLC

The Ethiopian "Miracle"

The World Bank just anointed Ethiopia with the title of the world’s fastest growing economy and not just for 2015, but for 2016 and 2017 as well yet it needs half a billion dollars in emergency food aid to keep millions of its people from starving.

This year the rains failed in southern Ethiopia and some 25% of a country of 90 million people are facing acute food shortages in the coming months. This climate disaster, brought on mainly by western industries damage to the environment, has left the Ethiopian government quietly begging the international community for a preliminary food aid package worth $500 million, desperately needed to start feeding over 7 million people.

Ethiopia is expecting a total net export income of $3 billion this year, depending much on the price of coffee, for the sacred brew and cut flowers make up most of Ethiopian export income. $3 billion dollars a year is all that Ethiopia actually creates, and this to run a country of 90 million? Ethiopia’s “wealth” is almost entirely in the form of foreign aid/investments, something that can disappear even faster than it arrived.

Ethiopia expelled both the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from an entire region/nation, the Ogaden. And this during the worst climate disaster droughts in history. 

A good representation of what life is like for most Ethiopians can be found in the film “Lamb” making the rounds of the international film festivals. Living in a one room hut, no electricity, carrying drinking water on donkeys for long distances, few schools, fewer medical clinics and now at the mercy of climate disaster and famine. Yet this is the fastest growing economy in the world for years to come, one of Africa's success stories.

Even More on the US Military

In recent years, the US has quietly ramped up its military presence across Africa, even if it officially insists its footprint on the continent is light. For years, the United States Africa Command (known by the acronym AFRICOM) has downplayed the size and scope of its missions on the continent, and without large battalions of actual boots on the ground, as was the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, you’d be forgiven for missing its unfolding. US military officials are already starting to see Africa as the new battleground for fighting extremism, and have begun to roll out a flurry of logistical infrastructure and personnel from West to East – colloquially called the “ new spice route” – and roughly tracing the belt of volatility on the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert; the deployment to Cameroon is just the latest of many.

Officially, the US has only one permanent base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Concrete figures on the number of troops stationed there are sketchy, but various reports put it anything between 3,500 and 4,500 soldiers. It provides a vital base for US Special Forces, fighter planes and helicopters, as well as serving as a base for drone operations into Somalia and Yemen, and maritime surveillance in the Indian Ocean.

But the US has numerous other “temporary” bases across the continent, and though on their own they seem small, together they are sweeping and expansive, forming a seemingly endless string of engagements, projects and operations. There are drone ports in the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles, off the eastern coast of Africa, as well as in Ethiopia, in the southern region of Arba Minch, that provide support for flying intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Nzara in South Sudan is another shadowy operating post on the continent where U.S. Special Operations Forces have been stationed in recent years. Other “temporary sites” sites including Obo and Djema in the Central Africa Republic and Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than anything, however, the US conducts military exercises, training missions and advisory assignments with local African armies.

In 2014, the combined total of all US Africa Command activities on the continent  reached 674. In other words, US troops were carrying out almost two operations, exercises, or activities—from drone strikes to counterinsurgency instruction, intelligence gathering to marksmanship training—somewhere in Africa every day. This represents nearly a four-fold increase from the 172 “missions, activities, programmes, and exercises” that AFRICOM inherited from other commands when it began operations in 2008.

And it looks like the US is going to be in it for the long haul. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is currently undergoing a  $1.4billion upgrade, expanding everything from aircraft maintenance hangars, ammunition shelters, runway and taxiway extensions and accommodation facilities.
 Since 2002, the camp has grown from 88 acres to nearly 500 acres, and in 2013, 22 projects were underway there,  more than at any other US Navy base anywhere in the world.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More on the US miilitary

The US government has been running a “shadow war” from outposts in Africa using drones and manned aircrafts to strike targets in the region reports the Intercept, citing a leaked internal 2013 Pentagon study.

Through a unit called Task Force 48-4, the US Africa Command, or Africom—the umbrella organization for US army activities on the continent—carried out operations in 2011 and 2012 from its headquarters in Djibouti, targeting terrorism suspects in Somalia and Yemen. Camp Lemonnier, as it is known, was a primary base for such operations. But there were “spokes” elsewhere in the region, the Intercept reports, citing defense secretary Ashton Carter. The Intercept provides a list of 14 other locations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and elsewhere in the region.

The power vacuum that followed in countries such as Libya and Tunisia created an opening for militant extremists to operate more freely. Since then, Africom has been working with African governments to establish “staging areas, cooperative security locations and forward operating locations,” according to the report.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

US troops go into Cameroon

Socialist Banner has been recently blogging about the beefing up US forces in Africa.

Obama has announced that US armed forces have been deployed to Cameroon to help fight against the Islamist militants Boko Haram. The force, which will be 300 strong. Obama said the forces would remain in Cameroon until "no longer needed".

This blog confidently predicts American military presence in Africa to continue to expand.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Environmental Africa

A map shows the different types of environmental and natural resource crimes in different parts of Africa that are contributing to migration flows from the continent.

Monday, October 12, 2015

African Farming and Climate Change (2)

As world leaders gather in Paris this December to hammer out a climate deal at the Conference of the Parties (COP21), those representing Africa need to take a bold stance. Pastoral and indigenous communities across Africa are highly vulnerable to changes in climate. In December, Africa needs to stand together.

Across the continent of Africa, we are already seeing threats to our food supply due to less reliable rainfall patterns, rising temperatures and a greater number of extreme weather events. Millions of Africans are already living with extreme poverty and our future as a continent depends on their survival.

Mary Matupi, a farmer from the Rumphi district of northern Malawi. Matupi grows maize on a small piece of land, with a normal harvest yielding almost 80 bags weighing 50 kg each. However, in the last growing season she managed to produce only 15 bags due to a delay in the rains. Matupi told us that “if we don’t act to stop climate change, harder times are still to come and we will suffer.” African farmers are demonstrating both their resilience and commitment to climate action and they deserve our support.

Many places in Africa could experience even greater warming than the global average – a 4C warmer world could potentially be 6C warmer in some African countries. According to the United Nations’ climate agency, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), changes in water availability and temperature will have a huge effect on African agriculture (where 97 per cent of production is rainfed and 60 per cent of the continental labour force works in this sector). With sea levels rising, many African low-lying countries are at risk of losing their farmland. The financial losses could be especially great in the coastal areas of Mozambique, Senegal and Morocco.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), if global warming exceeds 3C globally, maize, millet and sorghum cropping areas will be unviable across much of Africa. We can also expect more frequent and more severe extreme weather events, with huge social and economic costs. Extreme weather conditions will also affect our diets, and likely result in more under-nutrition and disease – a fact which governments cannot ignore. Therefore financing for technology (i.e. new drought-resistant crops, new farming techniques, early warning systems, seed storage protection programs, etc.), which could help African farmers cope, needs to be top of the agenda in Paris.

Africans must avoid the same path of profit-led, destructive high-carbon development – formerly pursued by rich countries – which brought us to the current crisis. Small-scale farming provides most of the food produced in Africa, as well as employment for 70 per cent of working people. We cannot allow small scale farmers to be forgotten in Paris to ensure the continent is able to feed itself.

The Fate of the Horn of Africa

A new study conducted by University of Arizona (UA) researchers has found that the continued warming of the Earth's climate has turned the Horn of Africa, long considered to be the cradle of early human life, into an increasingly arid region at an unprecedented rate. This African region has also experienced catastrophic droughts every few years over the past several decades.

According to the scientists, if the planet continues to become warmer, the eastern part of the Horn of Africa, which covers the countries of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, will also continue to receive lessening amounts of rainfall during the traditional "long rains" season in the region, from March until May. Such a negative trend could result in the exacerbation of tensions in some of the world's most geopolitically unstable nations.

In a previous study, Tierney and fellow researcher Peter deMenocal revealed that the Sahara desert, which was once teeming with vegetation because of regular rainfall, suddenly dried out in just one to two centuries around 5,000 years ago. The findings of the UA scientists show that shifts in climates can occur suddenly.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

African Farming and Climate Change

Tribal cultures have lived sustainably, with plenty of leisure time, more or less happily and in stable social groups for millennia. Since money came into the picture, all former tribal cultures know is work and more work, conflict and more conflict and a lower and lower standard of living defined by the endless search for more in a deteriorating environment.

Already battling against the impacts of climate change, temperatures in Africa will rise faster than any other continent. In fact, they are expected to exceed 2 C and may reach as high as 6 C greater than 20th century levels. These rapidly rising temperatures foreshadow increased drought, famine and disease. The most vulnerable populations – of which millions are smallholder farmers – need solutions, and they need them now.

These rising temperatures brought on by climate change affect not only yields, but also food quality, safety and the reliability of its delivery to consumers. By 2050, child malnutrition could increase by as much as 20 per cent and food shortages could lead to losses of up to 7 per cent of GDP followed by corresponding food price hikes.

Maize, rice and wheat prices in 2050 could rise by 4 per cent, 7 per cent and 15 percent respectively, nullifying progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa.

Agriculture generates carbon emissions primarily from livestock, but also poor land use and improper soil management. Agriculture and land use accounts for nearly one-third of Africa’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is as high as 80 per cent. Ensuring global temperatures do not rise above 2 C will be very difficult without leveraging the potential of the agriculture sector, and helping smallholders to reduce and offset GHG emissions.

Soil carbon sequestration is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil indefinitely. The sequestration process takes time (between five and 50 years) to reach its optimum rate, and then continues until the soil has reached its full storage capacity. The process minimizes emissions by adding organic matter to soil faster than the rate at which it decays. This can be achieved in many ways: no-till farming (primarily minimum disturbance of the soil), planting cover crops, manure and sludge application, improved grazing techniques, water conservation and agroforestry. Agroforestry systems can in fact capture carbon in the range of two to four tonnes per hectare per year – which is much higher than conservation farming alone. The potential to sequester carbon worldwide through better land management has been estimated at around three Gt of carbon per year. Collectively this has the potential to offset between 5 and 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and increase annual grain production in developing countries by 24 to 32 million tonnes, leading to improved food security for many farmers and their families.

In Niger, government policies that strengthened local farmer rights for planting trees, coupled with training from aid agencies to improve land management through soil and water conservation and agroforestry resulted in the revitalization of more than 5 million hectares. Today, smallholders in Niger benefit from enriched soils, increased crop yields and lower emissions.

The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) involves 60,000 farmers on 45,000 hectares to increase the organic matter in their soils by sustainable land management. In January 2014, the project issued its first carbon credits to participating smallholders who captured 25,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to more than the annual emissions of 5,000 vehicles.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The USA in CAR

The Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds, timber and uranium. The landlocked state has a landmass equivalent to that of its former colonial ruler France, yet a population less than 10 percent of France’s. Since gaining independence from France in 1960, the country has witnessed five coup d’états, some with French covert involvement. It is teetering on the brink of catastrophe, with millions of people cut off from vital humanitarian aid amid a renewal of deadly sectarian clashes. In the past week, dozens of civilians have been killed in clashes between Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui. The latest round of violence was sparked after a Muslim taxi driver was attacked and decapitated by machete-wielding gangs. That in turn led to reprisals against Christian communities. UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien warned that the country was on the brink of disaster with more than 40,000 people having fled the capital in recent days. In total, some 2.7 million people – half the country’s population – are at risk of being cut-off from the humanitarian aid upon which they depend for survival. The worsening sectarian strife is simply making it too dangerous for relief agencies to operate. Thousands of civilians have been killed so far in the two-year sectarian cycle of violence, with millions of people displaced, often seeking shelter in makeshift hideouts.

Potentially adding fuel to this crisis is the disclosure last week that US Special Forces are liaising with one of the militia sides in the Central African Republic (CAR). The group the US forces have struck up a liaison with are known as the Seleka rebels, whose members are mainly Muslim. For the past two years, the Seleka have engaged in a low-intensity war with the rival Christian “anti-Balaka” faction in a power struggle for control of the country. Last week, the Washington Post reported that American special forces had set up a base in the northeast of CAR, where the Seleka militia has their stronghold. “The Pentagon had not previously disclosed that it is cooperating with Seleka and obtaining intelligence from the rebels. The arrangement has made some US troops uncomfortable,” according to the Post. The stated objective of the US military is to hunt down a notorious warlord, Joseph Kony, who runs a guerrilla outfit known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony and his LRA are believed to be responsible for mass atrocities and the recruitment of child soldiers. Originally from Uganda, Kony and his LRA gained notoriety when a US-based charity Invisible Children released a video nearly four years ago publicizing the group’s violations. With various American celebrities endorsing the video, US President Barack Obama sent Special Forces to four African countries with the mission of tracking down Kony and his accomplices. Those countries include Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. In this elusive hunt for warlord Kony and his LRA, the US military are turning to the Seleka militia for “intelligence”. But, as noted, that liaison with the Seleka is causing some disquiet among the US troops on the ground. This is because the Seleka have gained a reputation for atrocities on par with those of Kony and the LRA, including murdering civilians, raping women and recruiting child soldiers into their ranks. The Christian anti-Balaka has carried out as many atrocities against the minority Muslim community in the country.

The dubious mission of US special forces in the jungles of Africa – allegedly to catch a warlord – is having the effect of aligning Washington in a festering civil war, and alongside elements whose hands are dripping with blood. The scene is being set for an even bloodier escalation. Washington’s involvement may so far appear to be a clandestine factor but it is no less incendiary.

Tax scams

First came the slave traders, then the colonisers carrying off rubber and diamonds, then the mercenaries of the cold war years. Today, it is the accountants. Of the estimated $50bn that illicitly departs Africa annually the bulk, according to the most widely used calculations, is neither the proceeds of corruption nor of organised crime. Instead, the biggest drain is via accounting fiddles by multinational companies. The data are inherently vague but the broad figures are vast — equal to the entire annual shortfall in African infrastructure investment.

Transfer pricing is at the heart of the illicit financial flows. When one arm of a multinational transfers goods or services to another arm of the group in a different country, it must record a price for that transaction. Under the “arm’s-length principle”, the price should be the same as that which would have been paid had the transaction been with an unrelated company at market rates.  But trade statistics and increasingly frequent challenges by tax authorities suggest that these numbers can be manipulated to shift profits out of countries with normal tax rates and into tax havens such as Switzerland, Luxembourg or assorted Caribbean islands.
“Multinational corporations take an awful lot of advantage over the lack of capacity of African governments to police transfer pricing,” says Raymond Baker, president of Global Financial Integrity, the US think-tank that coined and popularised the notion of illicit financial flows. “You have to go through all sorts of gymnastics to show that money was illegally taken out.”

After auditing dozens of multinationals, Kenya’s tax authority demanded Ks25bn in tax it says was avoided mainly through abusive transfer pricing. But Kenya is seeking to establish itself as a financial centre, potentially creating new loopholes.

Quote of the Day

. “I traveled once with a client, arriving at Heathrow Airport. He was obviously very wealthy and very self confident. We stood at immigration, myself behind him, when he was called up. They asked him how long he was going to be in the country, and he says "I don't know, I haven't thought about it." The immigration officer says "you haven't? So what do you do here?" And he says to the chap: "I don't 'do'. I own." That rather put the officer in his place!” - Bimpe Nkontchou, a leading wealth management expert.

There are immigration rules and then there are immigration rules. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Flag of Florida Flies in Djibouti

The State Flag of Florida is flying over Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa where a Florida Army National Guard unit, 2-124th Infantry Regiment and 153rd Cavalry Squadron, is deployed.

The 600 soldiers are in the Horn of Africa for one year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where they are providing training to other African nations as well as conducting security operations for troops already deployed in the Horn of Africa.

Piketty on Africa

 Economist Thomas Piketty has warned that international aid could be "undermining" Africa as the continent struggles to lift millions out of poverty despite robust economic growth.

Piketty criticised international aid organisations for needlessly replicating government services, adding that African nations should also work to take more control of revenues created by their vast natural resources. International aid was "in some cases undermining the state building process," he told AFP in Johannesburg. "[Aid] is a way to deliver social services... without going through the public education or health system which, in the long run, is the most important."

"South Africa is one of the only countries where we actually have no data on the concentration of wealth, and how this has been changing since the fall of apartheid," said Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics. "We have policies that have been put in place supposedly to spread the wealth -- there's a lot of suspicion this has not worked so well."

Friday, October 02, 2015

Heritage or Profit?

Mining, oil and gas exploration poses a threat to 61% of Africa's Unesco-approved Natural World Heritage Sites.

"We are going to the ends of the earth in pursuit of more resources," said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF in Britain, adding that minerals, oil and gas "are becoming more difficult and more expensive to extract."

World Wildlife Fund's findings flagged Tanzania's 50,000km2 Selous game reserve, a World Heritage Site since 1982 that "covers an area larger than Denmark and is one of the few remaining examples in Africa of a relatively uninhabited and undisturbed natural area." But legislation passed in 2009 allowed licensing of mineral extraction inside Tanzania's game reserves. Since then, five active mines, more than 50 mining concessions and six oil and gas concessions have sprung up that "could potentially impact the Selous game reserve," according to the report. "The reserve was added to the World Heritage danger list in 2014 in part due to concerns regarding extractive activities within the reserve," it said.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Fact of the Day (2)

The world produced $77.9 trillion (R1.08 quadrillion) in 2014 – and South Africa contributed 0.45% of that making it the 33rd biggest economy in the world with a GDP contribution of $349.8 billion (R4.83 trillion), though this is down from $366 billion (R5.06 trillion) in 2013. The US state of Maryland has the 15th highest GDP output of all American states at $348.6 billion, coming in a few billion dollars shy of South Africa’s GDP.

 Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria is the 22nd biggest GDP contributor in the world at $568.5 billion (R7.86 trillion).

However, split among its 178.5 million people, the country carries a much lower GDP per capita of $3,185 (R44,027). South Africa has GDP per capita of $6,480 (R89,574).

Fact of the Day (1)

Depending on the variable used to measure inequality, the time period, and the dataset, South Africa’s Gini coefficient ranges from about 0.660 to 0.696. The Gini coefficient is the measure of income inequality, ranging from 0 to 1. 0 is a perfectly equal society and a value of 1 represents a perfectly unequal society. 

This would make South Africa one of the most consistently unequal countries in the world.