Saturday, February 27, 2016

The struggling poor in Ghana

In Ghana the Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Professor William Otoo Ellis has expressed concern over the present high cost of living in the country indicating that it is likely to further widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

According to him, this has negatively affected the quality of education in the country, warning that the situation could worsen if measures are not immediately adopted to reverse the rising cost of living in the country.

“There are many who gained admission into higher institutions but are unable to pursue their education in these institutions because they do not have the resources,” he disclosed.

According to him, some SHSs in the country which are science bias do not also have the necessary logistics including teaching and learning materials to facilitate knowledge acquisition, having a toll on education. He indicated that these were but a few of the reasons resulting in the yawning gap between the poor and rich 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kings of the World

The Intercept website has a story on a secret US base at Garoua in northern Cameroon, near the Nigerian border. Garoua represents the newest expansion of America’s stealth war against Boko Haram jihadists in Africa.

Piloted and unmanned aircraft have flown from bases in Djibouti — the center of U.S. drone operations on the continent — as well as Ethiopia and Kenya, in addition to ships off the coast of East Africa. Predator MQ-1 drones and their larger cousins, MQ-9 Reapers, have been based in Niamey in Niger, N’Djamena in Chad, and Seychelles International Airport. There is plenty more to come. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 appropriated $50 million for construction of an “Airfield and Base Camp at Agadez, Niger … to support operations in western Africa.”

A detachment of Gray Eagle MQ-1C drones and their military support team became freed up from other surveillance operations last year, Africom looked for a base in the heart of the combat zone. The U.S. military already had a relationship with the Cameroon military — Special Forces work with Cameroon’s rapid response brigade, known by the French acronym BIR, an elite unit based primarily along the border with Nigeria — and was familiar with Garoua. The newest drone base constitutes a high-cost, high-tech military enterprise plunked down in a poor, under-developed country in Africa. In early February, the base became fully operational, hosting a fleet of four Gray Eagle drones, a successor to the original Predator, manufactured by General Atomics. The four drones, which can carry out surveillance missions in rotation 24 hours a day, allow U.S. intelligence analysts to gather detailed information about Boko Haram’s movements, bomb-making factories, and military camps.

The alliance is with an unsavory African strongman: Cameroonian President Paul Biya, who has clung to power for 33 years, almost as long as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and is regarded as a corrupt, remote, and authoritarian leader. A Human Rights Foundation report in 2014 stated that “Biya has built a system of corrupt and autocratic power, using the legal and justice system to imprison and bankrupt dissidents, opposition leaders, and journalists. … The secret police prowl university campuses, the army regularly patrols urban centers, and state permission is required for public assembly.” Biya had reportedly amassed a personal fortune of more than $200 million — compared to the average Cameroonian income of $1,350 a year.

The US drones soaring overhead reminds them of Cameroon’s poverty and powerlessness, and heightened their sense of being pawns in a global game. “You Americans are kings of the world, you have no borders,” Djonga said. “All we can do is go along.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A safe haven in Malawi?

Imagine fleeing from your home because you feel unprotected by the people who are required to so by law. And when you get to where you feel safer, the very same people come to persuade your keepers to let you come back with them, claiming you are running away from nothing! Well, this is the situation some 5,800 Mozambican nationals have found themselves in. Hundreds of them, including unaccompanied children, have been fleeing from Tete Province, near the Malawi border, since late last year following renewed fighting between government forces and opposition Renamo fighters.

The province is said to be one of the strongholds of Renamo, and the people say they are running away because allegedly government forces have been attacking them for supporting Renamo. They have since fled to Kapise village in Mwanza district in Southern Malawi, 300 meters from the border. About two-thirds of the refugees are women and children mostly below five years old, as well as the elderly. The refugees, whose numbers continue to steadily rise every day, are living in desperate conditions at the camp scrambling for necessities with 150 local families there.

A statement from Medicines San Frontiers (MSF) says that refugees do not have enough water and sanitation facilities, have poor housing, and are at risk of diseases. They are also in fear of getting attacked by soldiers from their country. A two month-old baby died of diarrhoea at the camp last month. And last week alone, MSF, which set up a clinic at the camp, treated over 380 malaria cases. Even worse, the Malawi government is under pressure from Mozambique not to recognize the people as refugees, according to MSF. Doctors without Borders says Mozambique sent several delegates to the camp to try and persuade the displaced people to come back, arguing that there was no conflict back home. However Mozambican media reports indicate that tensions have increased in recent weeks in Tete, Zambezia and Sofala provinces, with daily attacks and shootings. MSF, which started its intervention there in November 2015, has since appealed to the Malawi government to move the people to a more spacious camp, 50 kilometers from Kapise, and also away from the border as required by international humanitarian standards.

The alternative location, Luwani, a former refugee camp, is said to be the best option for the displaced people as it has plenty of space, a school, medical centre and a better road. Furthermore, the move, according to MSF, would also allow humanitarian actors such as the UNHCR, to plan appropriate services to meet the needs of the displaced community. At a recent press briefing in Blantyre, MSF’s head of mission to Malawi, Maury Gregoire, said they are treating about 159 people every day, with half diagnosed with malaria and the rest having respiratory infections and general body pain. He said the refugees only have 14 latrines whereas the respect of minimum humanitarian conditions requires that at least 20 people have one latrine or in worst case scenarios one latrine for 50 people. According to Gregoire, people have only two boreholes for both domestic and general use: “Each person has on average eight litres of water a day, barely enough to drink and cook and well below the minimum 15 to 20 litres are recommended as a humanitarian minimum in emergency settings.”

MSF has since warned that the strain by the refugees could cause tensions with Malawian families living in the village, especially on access to water. But Malawian authorities are not yet decided on whether to move the refugees or send them back home. Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Beston Chisamile told The Nation newspaper on Thursday that they were still discussing the matter with Mozambican authorities. “Our friends in Mozambique want these people to go back home, so unless a decision is made between the two parties that they should remain in Malawi, then we can start thinking about moving them to a different place,” he said.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR representative to Malawi Monique Ekoko recently appealed to donors and other humanitarian organisations for more funding to help the refugees. Malawi has hosted refugees from Mozambique before. The Luwani Camp hosted over one million Mozambican refugees who fled from their country’s 16 year civil war between 1977 and 1992. The country is currently facing a tough economic situation of high inflation and interest rates which has left many people struggling to survive. It is estimated that about 2.8 million Malawians themselves are in need of food aid following last season’s dry spell and floods. A report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee says about K23 billion (about US$18 million) is needed to feed such people up to the next harvest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tax-free exploitation

Tax treaties are legal agreements between two countries on how each can tax capital flowing from one jurisdiction to another. In theory they are established to prevent double taxation – where income is taxed in two jurisdictions – but in practice many agreements limit the tax poorer nations can place on companies doing business within their borders. Since 1970 the UK has signed a number of treaties with developing African and Asian countries, 13 of which severely restrict their ability to tax foreign companies operating in their country through corporation tax, withholding tax on dividends and capital gains tax. This is among the highest number of harmful treaties signed by any country since 1970, according to ActionAid research.

The Guardian has found 21 treaties between developed and developing countries that limit the maximum withholding tax rate on dividends at 0% and a further 114 treaties that limit the maximum withholding tax rate on dividends leaving a developing country to 5%. According to business databases, the Guardian has identified at least 1,500 companies based in developing countries that have a US or Europe-based parent that are able limit their tax rate on dividends to 5%. The structures, which are completely legal under the treaties, allow companies to avoid taxes on dividends earned from activity in a developing country. That income is then routed back to parent companies in developed nations, where tax rates are often much higher. In some cases the treaties can lead to double non-taxation, where profits are untaxed in either country. In the case of a 0% tax rate, companies can send profits derived from their businesses in a developing country to a parent company in an OECD or G20 nation, paying no tax as it leaves the country. It is then up to the parent country to tax the income.

The current UK treaty with Gambia has a 0% withholding tax rate on dividends paid to a UK company.

There are also a number of colonial era tax treaties between the UK and its former colonies still in operation. An agreement between Malawi and the UK signed in 1955 while the African nation was under colonial rule is still in operation today. The treaty states that companies operating in Malawi, which are owned by a UK parent, can send dividends back to their home country untaxed.

“The global web of tax treaties is tying the hands of governments and severely limiting the ability of poor countries to tax global companies. It’s deeply concerning that the UK his one of the countries with the largest number of harmful tax treaties which make it possible for multinational companies to slash their tax bills in poor countries,” Savior Mwambwa, ActionAid tax campaign manager said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Protect Africa's Forests

Africa's tropical forests are threatened by a palm oil bonanza that has already razed millions of old-growth hectares in Southeast Asia, Greenpeace France warned.  The NGO called on European palm and rubber plantation giant Socfin, which controls vast tracts of tropical land in more than half-a-dozen African nations, to join other multinationals in adopted so-called "zero deforestation" policies. So far, Socfin—majority controlled by Belgian businessman Hubert Fabri, with French billionaire Vincent Bollore holding 38.8 percent of the company's shares—have failed to make a commitment.

 The core provision of a zero deforestation policy is to identify and protect so-called "high carbon stock" areas. These are forest regions that store huge quantities of carbon dioxide in living wood mass. Once it is cut down and burned, CO2 is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Another key provision is the protection of peatlands which—when drained to make way for a plantation—also spew CO2 into the air. Zero deforestation likewise includes guarantees that local populations are fairly compensated for lost land, and not otherwise adversely affected.

Palm oil, soy, paper pulp, and beef drive nearly three-quarters of deforestation in tropical areas, according to studies. Deforestation from all sources is responsible for 12 percent of the greenhouse gases driving global warming. Clear-cutting and burning to make way for palm oil plantations causes health-wrecking air pollution, exacerbates climate change, and destroys some of the planet's richest "hotspots" for biodiversity. The transformation of great swathes of rainforest to monoculture farming is also a mixed blessing for local populations, providing a source of low-wage employment but often displacing indigenous peoples and disrupting established livelihoods.

Currently, only a small percentage of palm oil comes from Africa, but Socfin operates numerous plantations there with others in the pipeline. "Africa has become the new frontier for palm oil, the new battleground of oil palm and rubber tree companies," the Greenpeace report said.

The company has sought a 150 million euro ($165 million) loan via the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an entity of the World Bank, to finance certification under environmental norms upheld by the IFC. But Socfin does not meet even these modest standards—described by Greenpeace as "insufficient to prevent deforestation"—according to the IFC, which signalled "major gaps" between the palm and rubber giant's operations and "good international industry practice." Greenpeace said "The IFC must urgently suspend the ongoing corporate loan procedure and condition the granting of this loan on the company's publication of a credible zero deforestation commitment."

Socfin currently has 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) in rubber plantations, and 80,000 hectares (198,000 acres) in palm oil trees in Africa. The forests in the Congo basin cover some 200 million hectares (500 million acres) across six countries, and are home to more than 500 species of mammals, 400 reptiles and thousands of plants. Between 1990 and 2010, at least 3.5 million hectares of natural forests were converted into palm oil plantations, mainly in Southeast Asia.

Fact of the Day

The amount of electricity per person in sub-Saharan Africa, when you factor out South Africa, is lower today than it was 30 years ago.

Only 290 million out of 915 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, according to IEA analysis published in 2014—and the number without access was increasing.

Monday, February 22, 2016

African heritage

Students at a Cambridge University college have voted that a bronze cockerel that stands in its hall should be repatriated to Africa, from where it was looted in the 19th century. The cockerel – known properly as “okukor”, according to the students – was among hundreds of artworks taken from the Benin empire, now part of modern-day Nigeria, after a punitive British naval expedition in 1897 that brought the empire to an end. Nigeria has repeatedly called for all the Benin bronzes – which it says are part of its cultural heritage – to be repatriated.

As well as looting art, the British killed thousands and set the city of Benin ablaze during the 1897 expedition, which led to the annexation of the kingdom. The mission was intended to avenge the deaths of nine officers during a previous trade mission to Benin.

The British were said to be astonished that a civilisation they considered primitive could be responsible for the Benin bronzes.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Africa and Transportation

Transport is a perpetual problem in Africa. Intra-regional trade accounts for just 13 per cent of total commerce, compared with 53 per cent in emerging Asia, according to The Economist.

Landlocked countries suffer the most. Transport costs can make up 50 to 75 per cent of the retail price of goods in Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda. Shipping a car from China to Tanzania on the Indian Ocean coast costs US$4,000, but getting it from there to nearby Uganda can cost another $5,000.

“Many good mineral deposits are in remote locations and getting them to market requires rail and port infrastructure – this can cost up to $3.5 billion alone to build, just for one operation,” says Haaris Zafar, the principal mining adviser for Africa at Johannesburg’s Nedbank. “I can’t see this happening in the current commodity climate.”

One example is a giant iron ore mine planned by the Australian company Sundance Resources. The project straddles the border of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo in Central Africa in a remote, inland jungle area. The mine would be an enormous lift to the economies of both countries – if it is ever built. Two years ago, Sundance announced a partnership with China Gezhouba Group to finance and construct a 510-kilometre railway and a dedicated mineral export terminal. The project had the backing of the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, following a state visit to Ghana last year. But this January, Gezhouba said it would put the project on hold indefinitely after the collapse in the iron ore price. The project had seemed a good prospect when iron ore reached the giddy heights of nearly $188 a tonne in 2011, and the almost $4bn price tag for transport infrastructure seemed justified. Today, iron ore struggles along at $40 a tonne and the port and railway line are unlikely to be laid down anytime soon. As China slows, project finance will be harder to come by.

“The emergence of an Africa-wide railway network is a dream that will be difficult to fulfil,” John Welborn, the chief executive of Resolute Mining. Welborn has been active in rail developments in west Africa, a region that could potentially rival Australia’s iron-rich Pilbara area in potential for iron ore. He said that the cost of developing rail and port facilities from scratch, however, made it unlikely this would happen soon.

Even if funds were to be found, laying down railway lines that cross multiple borders is a formidable undertaking. At the same time, mining companies are reluctant to share lines with other users, fearing it could harm ore shipping schedules. In Australia, where iron miners are king, rival producers have built their own tracks running parallel to each other to carry ore from up to 1,300 kilometres inland to coastal ports. “Two companies in the Pilbara have two railways running side by side, and third wanting to get in had to build its own,” Mr Welborn says.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Kenya's Sex Industy

According to a 2006 UNICEF report, one Kenyan child in three is involved in underage prostitution. It is a drastic situation caused by incredibly poor living conditions, with around 50% of the population below the poverty line.

Under-age children can’t work legally in Kenya but many have to drop out of school because they can’t afford textbooks and school uniforms. Kids who have no one to care for them often end up in children’s homes where they are easy targets for abuse. At the same time, many NGOs, that are supposed to help children, are actually making money from the problem and doing nothing to solve it. In such dire conditions, a shocking number of children resort to prostitution to survive. Many underage sex workers have their own children at a very young age, continuing the vicious circle of kids born to extreme poverty and taking to prostitution to eat.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Never shall the twain meet

It’s well known that Nigeria’s richest and poorest people are worlds apart

Off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, land is being reclaimed from the sea to host Eko Atlantic, a futuristic new city for the mega-rich. Touted as the ‘Hong Kong of Africa’, it will boast the continent’s largest shopping mall and financial hub, a marina, private international schools and hospitals, and 250,000 residents.

Ten kilometres away is the slum neighbourhood of Makoko, also built on water and already home to 250,000 people. They live along polluted waterways, in densely packed stilted houses, under constant threat of demolition by government.

For the first time, the US think-tank Center for Global Development (CGD) has published figures on the middle (median) incomes of almost all countries. It turns out that the middle earner in Nigeria takes home just US$1.80 each day — below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. The data also shows that in several countries with a similar GDP (gross domestic product) per capita to Nigeria, the middle earner has a more comfortable living: more than US$7 in Tonga and US$9 in Bolivia, for example. Meanwhile, in Nigeria’s northern neighbour Niger — six times poorer as a country per capita — the middle earner lives on US$1.90 per day.

It’s incredible that this data wasn’t published before. We knew Nigeria had an inequality problem, but until now discussions have been steered by per capita (mean) incomes — and these are heavily skewed by the incomes of the mega-rich. But by looking at median income statistics we can see just how poorly Nigeria’s economy is set up to serve most people, and how rampant inequality there is compared to other countries.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kenya and Cancer

In Kenya, cancer treatment is becoming increasingly expensive. Few private hospitals are equipped to provide treatment, which makes it possible for those that are to charge higher rates. According to the Ministry of Health, there are 40,000 new cases of cancer reported annually in the country. Another 27,000 patients succumb to the disease each year. From 2011 to 2014, cancer deaths rose by 23 percent, up from 17 percent in 2010.

According to Faraja Cancer Support, an NGO that works with cancer patients, "the average cost of treatment ranges from $1,600 to $5,000, which is way beyond the reach of many Kenyans". Even the $5 cost of one radiotherapy session at the public hospital can be prohibitively expensive for poor Kenyans who live on a dollar or less a day. Private hospitals can charge around $300, about 60 times more for a single radiotherapy session.

Machines such as the positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance-imaging scanner can be critical to detecting cancer. But such technology is unavailable in Kenya because it uses radiation, and the country does not have laws and mechanisms in place to enable the safe handling of radioactive isotopes. Kenyatta National Hospital is the largest referral hospital not only in Kenya but in East and Central Africa. It is also the only public cancer treatment facility in the country. But it is poorly equipped and over-stretched. In March 2015, hundreds of cancer patients were unable to proceed with their scheduled cancer treatment when the two radiotherapy machines at KNH broke down. When the radiotherapy machines broke down again last September, Fatuma Hamisi, who had travelled to Nairobi from Kwale, about 500km away, was forced to reschedule her appointment for months later. The machines in question have been in use for 20 years, treating up to 100 patients a day - instead of the recommended limit of 50. Cancer victims from all over the country flood the facility to get cheap radiotherapy sessions. But they can sometimes wait almost a year for an appointment.

Dr Catherine Nyongesa, a Kenyan cancer specialist, explainsthe importance of prompt treatment: "Cancer treatment for patients should start as soon as possible. If delayed, it matures from a curable stage to an incurable one, hence making it more painful and expensive to deal with. The main cause [of delays] is a lack of financial support."

Cancer drugs are also expensive since they are not subsidised. Those Kenyans who can afford it often go outside the country for their cancer treatment. According to the country's health ministry, each year 10,000 Kenyans are treated elsewhere - mainly in India and South Africa, which both have more advanced medical facilities. These patients are thought to spend a total of $108m on treatment abroad. One thing you can be sure of, you receive better treatment if you are rich. 

The Urbanisation of Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanising faster than anywhere else in the world. By 2025, Mckinsey estimates that more than 80 cities in sub-Saharan Africa will have populations of over one million. This rapid urbanisation means Africa's big cities will need more roads, hospitals and power stations, while growing numbers of new inhabitants will be buying consumer goods.

Lagos is one of the world's fastest growing cities and with a population of 20 million. In Lagos, plans are in place to develop the multi-billion euro Eko Atlantic city, a Dubai-style gated community that will boast chrome skyscrapers, business parks, palm trees and a marina

Kenya is set to unveil the Two River malls in Nairobi, the continent's largest shopping centre outside South Africa, with brands like Porsche, Hugo Boss and France's Carrefour already booking space.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Another famine threatens Africa

Not so long ago, investment bankers and economic analysts were saying Africa was the next big thing in global growth. Rising foreign investment, soaring GDP rates and an emerging ‘middle class’ were seen as evidence of a new era dawning. But today, much of the continent is again threatened by its familiar enemies of drought and war. By some estimates, over 40 million Africans in a dozen countries are now in need of humanitarian assistance because of food shortages that have expanded from the Horn of Africa to South Sudan and into the farthest corners of southern Africa. The crisis began last year with the El Nino weather pattern. This causes a periodic worldwide shift caused by Pacific Ocean warming, but the latest one has been heightened and intensified by climate change, making it the most extreme in decades. It has brought months of drought to countries across East Africa and Southern Africa, with the effects persisting this year.

In the Horn of Africa, crops are failing and herdsmen are watching their animals die. In Zambia, the drought is causing a major hydro reservoir to dry up, leading to a huge loss of electricity generation, which in turn is resulting in mine shutdowns and layoffs. And in countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, the drought is causing poor harvests, triggering steep rises in food prices and forcing governments to import expensive foreign food or to plead for help.

 Ethiopia despite its reputation as a country of famine in the early 1980s, rebounded to become one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies in recent years. But now hunger is making a comeback. The most severe drought in a half-century has swept across huge swaths of Ethiopia, and an estimated 10.2 million Ethiopians now need humanitarian aid. One charity, Save the Children, has classified the Ethiopian situation as a “code-red emergency” – as serious as the war in Syria. But despite urgent appeals, only about half of the needed $1.4-billion (U.S.) in food aid has arrived so far.

“The present situation here keeps me awake at night,” said John Graham, country director in Ethiopia for Save the Children. “If these emergency funds do not arrive in time, there is no question that there will be a critical fracture in the food-aid supply pipeline during the main ‘hungry season,’ which peaks in August,” he said in a statement. “The situation here is as grave as I have ever seen it in the 19 years I have spent in Ethiopia and we now only have a tiny fraction of time for the international community to help to stop this. Families should not be put in a position where they need to make heartbreaking decisions about what they use precious water for – to drink and cook with, or to bathe their children and prevent the spread of disease,” Mr. Graham said.

With a population of 95 million, Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa. But about 80 per cent of its population is rural, leaving it highly vulnerable to drought. More than 400,000 children will suffer from severe malnutrition in Ethiopia this year, according to projections, while a further 1.7 million children, pregnant women and young mothers are at risk of falling into severe malnutrition if they don’t get help soon. More than 2.5 million children are likely to drop out of the education system because of the drought. In addition, there are 5.8 million Ethiopians who need urgent access to drinking water. The water shortages have left them vulnerable to disease and illness.

In neighbouring Somalia, an estimated 4.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. In some regions, the drought has killed up to 80 per cent of the livestock, and pastoralists are desperately searching for pastures and water for their animals.

In South Sudan, where one of Africa’s most catastrophic wars has been raging for more than two years, at least 40,000 people in one region are already on the brink of starvation. Only the remoteness of their region has prevented an official famine declaration – it is considered too dangerous for aid workers to visit. In total, about a quarter of South Sudan’s 12 million people are facing a hunger crisis and in need of humanitarian aid – primarily because of war, not drought. In some districts, people are surviving by scavenging for fish and water lilies in swamps, but the water will soon dry up as the rainy season ends.

Southern Africa, traditionally less prone to malnutrition than the Horn of Africa, has been severely hit by the latest drought. From Botswana and Namibia to Mozambique and Madagascar, much of the region is suffering the lowest level of rainfall in 35 years. In Mozambique, prices were 50 percent higher than last year.
“Over the coming year, humanitarian partners should prepare themselves for food insecurity levels and food insecure population numbers in southern Africa to be at their highest levels since the 2002-2003 food crisis,” a statement last week by United Nations and European Union researchers said.
Even a country such as South Africa, with one of the continent’s most advanced economies, is suffering badly from the drought. Lack of rainfall has led to declarations of agricultural emergencies in five of the country’s nine provinces, and the government will be forced to import maize. Soaring food prices are pushing thousands of South Africans into poverty. In Lesotho, and Swaziland planting delayed by two months or more has severely impacted maize yields

The country is experiencing its first maize deficit in a decade, pushing the price 73 percent higher than the December 2015 average.

The drought is particularly bad in southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, where an estimated three million people (about 30 per cent of the population) are in desperate need of food aid. Animals are dying and harvests are failing in the worst drought in a quarter-century. Food production in Zimbabwe had fallen by half compared to last year and maize was 53 percent more expensive. President Robert Mugabe’s government has appealed for $1.5-billion (U.S.) in emergency humanitarian aid, mostly to pay for food imports and to repair irrigation equipment. The government says it will need to import 1.5 million tonnes of maize, the main food staple.

The drought has wreaked havoc on Zambia’s economy, not only by hurting its farmers but also by damaging the supply of electricity to its copper mines. Almost all of Zambia’s electricity is generated by hydro power, mainly from the huge Kariba Dam. But the dam’s reservoir has fallen to just 12 per cent of its capacity, forcing Zambia to cut the power supply to its mining companies by 30 per cent. This, in turn, has led to higher costs and layoffs at the mines.

South Africa

Food prices are soaring in South Africa because of the drought, with the cost of maize rising by about 75 per cent over the past year. The World Bank estimates the drought pushed 50,000 South Africans into poverty last year. The country will need to import 3.8 million tonnes of maize this year, forcing prices even higher. Five of the country’s nine provinces have declared agricultural emergencies and food prices are expected to rise by a further 20 per cent this year.

Monday, February 15, 2016

South Sudan - a failed state?

South Sudan is on the verge of famine and there is $6bn missing. More than four million people, a third of its population, face serious food shortages and tens of thousands are on the cusp of catastrophic famine. South Sudan is in economic crisis – and is approaching the status of a failed state. South Sudan has run out of money, having squandered the billions of its own oil wealth and that of international donors that were intended to help give the young, and supposedly oil-rich, state a chance, but not everyone is suffering.

In Juba smart black SUVs can be seen parked outside the handful of smart hotels and restaurants, or driving along the pot-holed roads that lead to grand residences, government ministries and military compounds. The Cadillacs. Mercedes GLs and luxury Hummers would not look out of place in a Belgravia or Knightsbridge square. In neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, property records show some of the best houses in the smartest suburbs are registered under the names of high-profile South Sudanese politicians and bureaucrats. Many such homes are worth more than $1m. In Washington DC the names of South Sudanese individuals or holding companies are publicly listed against homes worth more than $3m. In Colorado, where the world’s rich ski, and in Melbourne, Australia, rated one of the world’s most “liveable” cities, it is no secret that a small number of elite South Sudan business and political leaders have properties. Details of this hidden wealth appropriated by South Sudan’s elite have been collated by United Nations investigators.

The UN’s special representative in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said last year that the government was struggling to pay for even the most basic necessities; under its own rules the IMF is not allowed to intervene while the civil war continues. Sources within the Paris Club group of creditor nations that provide debt relief to developing countries, estimate that some $4bn is missing, unaccounted for. One of them told The Independent: “There may simply be no books to examine.” Other agencies that have tried to calculate the scale of embezzlement in what is now South Sudan say it could amount to as much as $10bn over the past 11 years.

President Salva Kiir appointed and paid 745 generals who each had their own network of loyalists to finance. By 2013, when the civil war erupted, the military payroll had climbed to 240,000, six times its size a few years earlier. Supposed defence spending may now consume close to half the national budget. Meanwhile senior commanders commonly steal the salaries of low-ranking personnel, while others pocket the pay of “ghost soldiers” who exist only on paper, investigators say.

Over the past two years, the US has spent more than $2bn; China has offered extended lines of credit; and last year Qatar offered $500m to help South Sudan’s struggling banking system. Britain has contributed £242m for humanitarian aid and a further £93m to help refugees and displaced people over the past two years, with a further £200m in aid earmarked for this year. The World Bank approved a $38m loan to build rural roads and highways, but almost none of that promised work has even been started, and a country almost the size of France still has barely 60 miles of metalled roads.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Hell of South Sudan

South Sudan is the world's newest country. In a country almost the size of France there is only 100 kilometres of tarmac road. A two-year bloody conflict between mainly Dinka and Nuer groups, allied to warring government and opposition forces, and now spreading into other inter-ethnic struggles, is destroying the country’s once potentially oil-rich future. With the 2015/16 harvest non-existent, and nothing being planted because of the conflict, all of South Sudan’s food has to brought in from neighbouring states.

2.3 million people, one in five of the population, have been forced from their homes. 185,000 people have sought refuge in UN-designated protection camps. The International Crisis Group estimates 100,000 people, possibly more, have been killed. The UN estimates that 2.8 million people are currently facing "acute" food and nutrition insecurity in South Sudan’s Greater Upper Nile states. 25 per cent of South Sudan’s population who are in urgent need of food aid. Just over 6 million require basic humanitarian help.

Canals for Africa

The Nile River has been navigable since the time of the pharaohs some 4,000 years ago, as have sections of the Niger, Benue, Congo and Zambezi Rivers. Boats today carry passengers and freight across Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria and Lake Tanzania while riverboats provide essential services along sections of the Niger, Benue, Congo and Nile Rivers. There may be scope for to connect navigable rivers to develop an inland, canal-based transportation network. Such a system would benefit the African continent, which remains largely dependent on fragmented land transport systems. The headwaters of several rivers that empty into Lakes Tanzania and Victoria originate in the same geographic area between the lakes, in sufficiently close proximity to each other to perhaps warrant linking them by building navigable canals to transit shallow draft vessels. Lake Victoria empties through a series of smaller lakes and waterfalls into the White Nile River, perhaps with the potential to build navigation locks to connect the Upper Nile River to Lake Victoria. Lake Tanzania empties into the headwaters of the Congo River that has several navigable sections. There may be scope to develop river navigation between Lake Tanzania and the navigable sections of the Congo River, allowing access to Lake Victoria. It may also be possible to develop future canal navigation between navigable sections of the Congo River and its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. In the southeastern region, a section of the Zambezi River is navigable with the potential to develop canal navigation north to Lake Malawi. There may be a basis to construct a navigable canal between Lakes Malawi and Tanzania, using the beds of several rivers and streams that flow in the area between the lakes, in northeastern Zambia. It may further be possible to develop navigation between two large dams on the Zambezi River, Kariba and Cabora Bassa. Construction of special canals along a series of rapids could provide river navigation to the Indian Ocean.

In the U.S., inland waterway freight transportation can move bulk and container shipments of over 100 TEUs at lower cost per unit distance than either truck or railway transportation. African railway networks remain regional with their own distinctive railway gauge. Paved road networks are to be found in major cities and in certain regions, but only a network of unpaved roads is available for most of the continent’s long distance connections for the truck transport industry. Trucks carry most of Africa’s long-distance freight. A navigable inland waterway system could offer a much shorter sailing distance than an ocean voyage through the Strait of Gibraltar. In southern Sudan and northeastern Congo, headwaters flow from the same region into the White Nile and Congo Rivers, allowing for possible evaluation of building a navigable canal to link the two rivers.

Black Pride?

Men and women bleach their skin to look white. According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigerians have been graded as the nation with the highest consumption of bleaching products: 77% of Nigerian women bleach, followed by Togo with 59% while South Africa with 35%; and Mali at 25%, making it the top four nations that bleach their skin.

A lot of it is down to low self-esteem. Cosmetologists are making a lot of money off the bleachers even though the risks of contracting skin cancer on the long run is high. The business of whitening lotion is a multi-million dollar business. Many of the components of the skin-lightening creams are not only fake but also harmful to the skin. Some years ago, products that contains hydroquinone and mercury were banned in Nigeria but somehow they found their ways back to the shelves with women using it.

According to Paul Orhii, the director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Nigeria, bleaching creams are not approved but one way or the other, they are smuggled illegally into the country:
“The use of Glutathione as a skin whitener is not approved. The alarming increase in the unapproved use of Glutathione administered intravenously as a skin-whitening agent at very high doses is unsafe and may result in serious consequences. Furthermore, other chemicals that have been medically proven to be injurious to health such as Hydroquinone above 2%, and topical Corticosteroids have also been incorporated into cosmetic products for skin lightening or skin toning. Banned chemicals also include Boric acid and Lanolin in baby products. The use of these chemicals in cosmetic products can cause various ranges of skin deformation, injury to skin and cancers. This unethical practice by manufacturers, coupled with ignorance on the part of consumers, has left many skins permanently damaged.”

Recently, Ivory Coast, banned bleaching creams in the country. Despite this directive, the business thrives illegally in the country.

“The number of people with side effects caused by these medicines is really high,” said Christian Doudouko, who is a current member of Ivory Coast’s pharmaceutical authority. He also added that such products causes skin cancer.

“Mercury is the very dangerous chemical that medical officials found in the skin lightening creams that sickened the women. It can damage the kidneys and wreak havoc on the nervous system,” Dr. Susan Taylor, dermatologist said.

“Skin cancer and hyperpigmetation will catch up with them sooner than later, they cannot escape it, what do you expect when you have removed the different layers of the skin over the years, the epidermis – which is the protective wrap that serves as a barrier to infections. Bleaching is harmful to the skin and also the organs,” explained Dr. Eunice Chukwu, an Abuja-based dermatologist.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Changing the economy

South Africa’s mining sector faces a bleak future. Falling commodity prices have led to more than 70,000 job losses and more job cuts loom. A further 50,000 employees face the risk of losing their jobs if no urgent action is taken. This is according to a statement released by the Mining Industry Association of Southern Africa (MIASA)

South Africa’s mining sector is grappling with its toughest period in the last 20 years. Mining firms in Africa’s most industrialized economy are struggling due to weakening global commodities prices for the country’s platinum, gold, iron ore and coal exports.

Experts attending the 20th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) said yesterday that price decreases in oil and other commodities had shown many economies that they needed to diversify the economies. African countries have been advised to transform their economies through industrialisation to avoid shocks created by declines in commodity prices.

Resource rich African countries are addicts that are in need of rehabilitation now that the good days are over, according to former Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti. Resource poor countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia are experiencing growth, while resource rich countries like Nigeria and Angola are battling, Biti told the Investing in African Mining Indaba. "They [resource poor countries] have moved to fully diversify their economies," he said. "Diversification is key, but African leaders [in resource rich countries] don't learn. The boom and slumps have been with us for a long time. It [the lessons] should have been learnt a long time ago." He used the example of the Zimbabwean Marange diamond field, which has seen $2bn worth of diamond extraction per annum since being discovered in 2006. The state only got a small slice of the revenue and the community got even less. Biti said there are 76 000 women in India polishing the diamonds of Marange, an operation that should surely be done by the local community in Zimbabwe, he said. "You see poverty where the diamonds have been extracted," he said. "It is the most underdeveloped societies."

Countries rich in mineral and energy resources are infamous for catching the so-called Dutch Disease. This is an economic term that explains the negative consequences caused by an unnatural focus on a specific sector, to the detriment of all other sectors. African countries, especially ones with extractive institutions, are often prone to this dilemma.

Prof Humphrey Moshi from the University of Dar es Salaam's Economics Department said agriculture had to be given priority for the continent's meaningful industrialisation. "We need to invest in agriculture so that we produce to feed the regional markets and produce more goods for processing," he said.

As the politicians and academics try to solve Africa's economic problems, they should note that only  a change of social system will benefit actual people. 

Forgetting All About Africa Again

Africa has achieved much progress, but many challenges remain - including inequalities in income, politics and between groups. Far from a continued scramble for Africa, as some analysts exalted only a few years ago, we're far more likely to see a potential re-marginalisation of sub-Saharan Africa in the years ahead. Three factors underpin this.

The first is changes in China - today Africa's largest trading partner, but a country whose own economic rebalancing has reduced its thirst for commodities. This is, of course, temporary. Eventually India's economic awakening should drive the next commodities super-cycle and Africa should regain some of its lost momentum. But that is still some years hence. In the meantime, global growth elsewhere remains anaemic and insufficient to replace China's previous demand for Africa's natural resources.
Saudi Arabia's determination to protect its global share of the oil market, resulting in an oil price per barrel hovering below US$30, has hit Africa's oil producers very hard. Large oil producers such as Nigeria and Angola have seen their main source of revenue slashed and others, including aspirant and marginal producers - such as Ghana - face strong headwinds. Countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique, who were counting on the potential of huge oil and gas incomes, have discovered that interest in exploiting their natural bounty has waned.
Together with the impact of the shale revolution in the USA, Africa's oil is not in current demand and this has translated into economic pain and strategic marginalisation, particularly for West Africa.

Secondly, development assistance aimed at promoting inclusive growth, poverty alleviation, infrastructure development and good governance (traditionally from the West) is being decimated as Europe scrambles to respond to crises in Syria and elsewhere. Millions of poor Africans stand the risk of losing the sustenance provided by humanitarian and development assistance at a time when their own governments do not provide. Sub-Saharan Africa faces large constraints on the capacity of governments to deliver on development .Business and the private sector, we are told, have to step up and assume their rightful place as the drivers of poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance and employment creation. By default, the private sector is interested in profit. Without appropriate regulation and oversight, its role exacerbates divisions rather than promoting inclusive growth.

The third factor relates to a change in global patterns of political violence. Great power games have shifted to the Middle East. The Sunni/Shia divide now pits Saudi Arabia against Iran in an ever-widening series of proxy wars, in a region that is geo-strategically important, heavily armed, politically unstable and already host to an important number of proxy wars. Subsequently, for the next few years, sub-Saharan Africa may get less attention and less money. Rather than providing a breathing space for autocrats who believe in their right to govern indefinitely, we believe that the pressure from below will increase. Instability is moving from rebellions in distant rural districts to urban areas as social protest and violence around elections continue to rise. Expectations from African citizens are high and leaders will inevitably struggle to respond to the demands of their young, restless and connected urban populace; who are better educated than before, but with few employment prospects.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Sharing out the billions?

The wealth gap between the world's richest and poorest has continued to widen in recent years. About 15 percent of Africa's population lives on less than $1.00 per day, according to the Brookings researchers .

Researchers at the Brookings Institution suggest that the generosity of just one billionaire would completely restructure the poverty landscape in Swaziland, whose economy is nearly 4,000 times smaller than that of the U.S. More than 40 percent of Swaziland's 1.3 million citizens live below the global poverty line of $1.90 per day, but these people could be hauled over that benchmark by a single individual's act of philanthropy, according to the report.

The Brookings researchers calculated the net worth of the richest billionaire in a handful of emerging and developing economies. In Swaziland's case, that billionaire was international business icon Nathan Kirsh, whose net worth clocks in at about $3.9 billion. If Kirsh pledged to give half of his wealth to the citizens of Swaziland over the course of the next 15 years (not entirely unlike Bill and Melinda Gates' Giving Pledge), extreme poverty would be eradicated from the country. South Africa's richest billionaire would only be able to lower the country's poverty rate from 18 percent to 14 percent, even with a net worth of $7.4 billion.

Findings from the study was that it's much harder to pull African countries out of poverty than it is countries elsewhere, thanks in part to "the depth of poverty in Africa" and the region's relatively high prices for basic necessities.

Of course Swaziland's despotic monarch could also make a huge difference by giving up his wealth. Socialists don't call for the rich to share with the poor but call for the expropriation of the expropriators. 

Somalia's children in need

The United Nations has warned that over 58,000 children would starve to death in Somalia if they are not provided with urgent humanitarian assistance. 
UN aid chief for Somalia Peter de Clercq said that more than 300,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. The UN official also said that they urgently need medicalfood, and other humanitarian support.
"The level of malnutrition, especially among children, is of serious concern, with nearly 305,000 children under the age of five years acutely malnourished," the official said, adding, "We estimate that 58,300 children face death if they are not treated."

The UN has said that nearly one million people are struggling every day to meet their food needs. 4.7 million people, or nearly 40 percent of Somalia, stand in need of humanitarian aid.

The grim assessment comes as severe drought continues to hit several regions in the impoverished war-torn country. Northern Somali areas are especially hard hit by the ongoing drought. The drought has been exacerbated by by an exceptionally strong El Nino weather pattern.

"The food security and malnutrition situation in Somalia is alarming, especially in parts of Puntland and Somaliland, which have been hard hit by drought exacerbated by El Nino," the UN said in a statement, adding "We are deeply concerned...with severe drought conditions intensifying in Puntland and Somaliland, many more people risk relapsing into crisis."

The UN has appealed for urgent support and humanitarian assistance. The world body is calling for USD 885 million in aid to assist people in conflict- and disaster-affected regions.  

Monday, February 08, 2016

Africa's Non Green Revolution

One of the major strategies to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is through policies to increase and modernise agricultural production. Up to 90 per cent of people in some African countries are smallholder farmers reliant on agriculture, for whom agricultural innovation, such as using new seed varieties and cultivation techniques, holds potential benefit but also great risk.

Agricultural policies aimed at alleviating poverty in Africa could be making things worse, according to research by the University of EastAnglia (UEA). The study finds that so-called 'green revolution' policies in Rwanda - claimed by the government, international donors and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund to be successful for the economy and in alleviating poverty - may be having very negative impacts on the poorest.

In the 1960s and 70s policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asian countries. These became known as "green revolutions". The new wave of green revolution policies in sub-Saharan Africa is supported by multinational companies and western donors, and is impacting the lives of tens, even hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers, according to the study's lead author Dr Neil Dawson.

The study reveals that only a relatively wealthy minority have been able to keep to enforced modernisation because the poorest farmers cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the approved inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. Their fears of harvesting nothing from new crops and the potential for the government to seize and reallocate their land means many choose to sell up instead.

The findings tie in with recent debates about strategies to feed the world in the face of growing populations, for example the influence of wealthy donors such as the Gates Foundation, initiative's such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, and multinational companies such as Monsanto in pushing agricultural modernisation in Africa. There have also been debates about small versus large farms being best to combat hunger in Africa, while struggles to maintain local control over land and food production, for example among the Oromo people in Ethiopia, have been highlighted.

Dr Dawson, a senior research associate in UEA's School of International Development, said: "Similar results are emerging from other experiments in Africa. Agricultural development certainly has the potential to help these people, but instead these policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants. Many of these policies have been hailed as transformative development successes, yet that success is often claimed on the basis of weak evidence through inadequate impact assessments. And conditions facing African countries today are very different from those past successes in Asia some 40 years ago. Such policies may increase aggregate production of exportable crops, yet for many of the poorest smallholders they strip them of their main productive resource, land. This study details how these imposed changes disrupt subsistence practices, exacerbate poverty, impair local systems of trade and knowledge, and threaten land ownership. It is startling that the impacts of policies with such far-reaching impacts for such poor people are, in general, so inadequately assessed."

The research looked in-depth at Rwanda's agricultural policies and the changes impacting the wellbeing of rural inhabitants in eight villages in the country's mountainous west. Here chronic poverty is common and people depend on the food they are able to grow on their small plots. Farmers traditionally cultivated up to 60 different types of crops, planting and harvesting in overlapping cycles to prevent shortages and hunger. However, due to high population density in Rwanda's hills, agricultural policies have been imposed which force farmers to modernise with new seed varieties and chemical fertilisers, to specialise in single crops and part with "archaic" agricultural practices.

Dr Dawson and his UEA co-authors Dr Adrian Martin and Prof Thomas Sikor recommend that not only should green revolution policies be subject to much broader and more rigorous impact assessments, but that mitigation for poverty-exacerbating impacts should be specifically incorporated into such policies. In Rwanda, that means encouraging land access for the poorest and supporting traditional practices during a gradual and voluntary modernisation.

Breaking Free

Afrobarometer is based on face-to-face interviews with more than 52,700 citizens in 33 countries in 2014-2015.

Poverty remains widespread in Africa. Almost half of all respondents say they went without enough food (46 percent), clean water (46 percent) or needed medical care (49 percent) at least once or twice during the previous year. And many of them did so “many times” or “always.”

 But Africa isn’t uniformly poor; countries differ enormously in their levels of lived poverty. People in Gabon and Togo went without basic necessities at about 18 times the rate of those in Mauritius, and four times as frequently as residents of Cape Verde and Algeria.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

End female genital mutilation

The real scale of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide has been revealed in alarming new statistics on the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM. At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, half of them living in just three countries, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency. The UNICEF data covers 30 countries, but half of the girls and women who have been cut live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. The new global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than UNICEF estimated in 2014. About 44 million victims of FGM around the world are aged 14 or younger, and the majority of girls who have had their genitals mutilated were cut before they were five years old, Unicef’sresearch found.

Somalia has the highest prevalence of women and girls who have been cut—98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49.

In Guinea, where 97% of girls aged 15 to 49 are FGM victims despite the practice being outlawed, Unicef staff described seeing girls taken away from their families against their will to be cut, on the orders of village authorities. One five-year-old died from her wounds.

Other countries FGM rates were , Djibouti 93%; Sierra Leone 90%; Mali 89%; Egypt 87%; Sudan 87%; Eritrea 83%; Burkina Faso 76% and The Gambia 75%

Unicef said the picture was optimistic in some countries, with FGM prevalence rates declining by 41% in Liberia, 31% in Burkina Faso, 30% in Kenya and 27% in Egypt over the last 30 years.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Africom Prepares the Ground

US Special Operations Forces will participate in another training exercise in Africa later this month, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced. It is scheduled to take place in Senegal and extend into Mauritania. 1,700 Special Operation Forces from more than 30 nations are expected to participate in the exercise

Later in June another military exercise called Central Accord is planned. The event will be the second Central Accord exercise hosted by the Gabon’s Armed Forces.

Africom’s campaign blueprint is a five-year plan with five lines of effort:
The first is neutralizing the terror group al-Shabab in Somalia, officials said, and transitioning this effort from a mission led by the African Union Mission in Somalia to one in which the Somali government secures its own territory.
The second line of effort centers around the failed state of Libya, officials said, adding that the effort focuses on containing the instability in the country.
The third line of effort is to contain Boko Haram in West Africa.
Fourth, officials said, Africom will focus on disrupting illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea and in Central Africa.
Fifth, the command looks to build African partners’ peacekeeping and disaster assistance capabilities, officials said.

The only permanent location the United States have is Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti but they do possess “cold bases” that would only be used in the event of an emergency. The bases allow the command to protect American lives and property in the high-risk, high-threat posts. There are 15 of those posts in Africa, US officials said.

Meanwhile, naval personnel from Eastern Africa, Western Indian Ocean island nations, Europe and the US, as well as several international organisations have commenced the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express. Cutlass Express tactical commander and Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60 deputy commodore Captain Tate Westbrook said: "Security of commerce, protection of maritime economic assets, and the prevention of piracy and illicit trafficking is a critical mission that directly affects all maritime nations. Once again Djibouti was a key base. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

African Hothouse (1966)

From the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1957 Ghana became the first of many Colonies to achieve independence within the Commonwealth. Much has been said and written about these new Nations in the intervening period and those who were loudest in their support and praise have usually seen their hopes drowned in a welter of dictatorship and suppression.

Certain conditions must be fulfilled before the idea of Socialism can arise. Of paramount importance is a highly developed industrial society in which the propertyless mass of wage-slaves is increasingly forced into the consciousness that its interests are in conflict with those of the owning class. Some workers, hearing us say this, consider the backward areas throughout the world. They see those millions of primitives whose way of life has never changed in a thousand years and feel that all this renders Socialism, if not impossible, something for the distant future.

Is it really so hopeless? We think not. Therefore, a progress report is required to see whether things are as unchanging and permanent as they seem to be. A comprehensive survey of all the new States is beyond the space at our disposal and a skimped attempt would simply defeat our purpose. So we shall look at one country only, and the question now arises—which one? Ghana, with its 400 years of western influence, would be the easiest choice, but we are looking for something less obvious This presents itself in —the Federation of Nigeria.

Here, the barriers to Socialism seem insurmountable. The most densely populated African National—55 million according to hotly disputed Government figures—it was, if anything, even more backward than Ghana in the days of Empire and generally had little contact with the West until recent years.

In the more developed South (East and West Regions combined) the inhabitants are distinct from those of the Moslem-dominated North. The Southern City has many modern features, with the motor vehicle a common sight. The North, in contrast, is from the world of Arabian Nights with its Minarets and feudal Emirs. A Nation where, instead of one people sharing the same life, speech and background, there are over 250 different tribal groups with no common language and with vastly assorted stages of development.

As late as 1920, the Governor of the day, Sir Hugh Clifford, ridiculed the idea ‘That this collection of self-contained and mutually independent Native States separated from one another by distance, history and tradition, political, social and religious barriers, were capable of being welded into a single homogeneous Nation”. This was the picture up to Independence.

Independence was the culmination of half a century of demanding freedom from the shackles of Colonialism. The driving force was the urbanised African who had come to work in Lagos, the big trading centre. By 1896 he was protesting that most of his taxes were going towards improving European residential areas. Down the years he found himself debarred from real advancement because of his native origin and he resented serving under white men whom he considered his inferior. Strict segregation, plus the fact that everything luxurious was for Europeans only, heightened the desire to be rid of the British. The absence of a reactionary settler class—it really was the white man’s grave—prepared the ground for the inevitable. After the war the rising tide of Nationalism engulfed Nigeria just as it did almost everywhere and degrees of Self-Government were demanded and won until, in October 1960, British Rule came to an end.

In 1947, outside of textiles and palm-oil, only one factory existed in the whole of Nigeria. Between then and 1960 there was a dramatic increase in unbanisation, with an estimated half-million wage and salary earners. But the vast majority were, and to a lesser degree still are, subsistence Farmers. Some of them worked part of the year in the Towns or Mines, but living off the land was the main way of life. Unlike today, there was nothing else for it

In his increasing contact with the modern world it becomes clear to the native that there is more to life than the Village can offer. He may hear that the earnings for a few hours work in Town bring a return the equal of many hours of back-breaking toil in the fields. This, or the desire for education, among other reasons, send him into the City to begin the process of losing his backward past—that of “de-tribalisation”.

It starts the moment he parts from the controls of the Tribe and the ties of the Village. He must adapt himself to the new conditions in order to survive, and the changes are great. He walks on different ground and keeps different hours. The tools he uses have changed and with them his idea of himself. The traditional life of the Village with its protections and comforts are no longer his; instead, he is in a jungle where those things do not exist. New associations must be sought and these usually present themselves at work and are seldom from his particular background. Thus, new interests are created and when problems arise they may not be treated as personal or Tribal in nature but as social issues which demand new thinking. More, these new associates have different Gods from his own—or no God at all—so his acceptance of conventional superstition is challenged. To sum up, there is enormous pressure for re-examination of his beliefs, standards, values and aspirations. At the same time, the contradiction of a wage-worker’s life and the spectacle of immense wealth displayed in Stores, etc., leads to the development of the idea of crime. No longer can the Village expatriate simply pick up anything he wishes to make use of. Those things are now privately owned and must be paid for. He is living in a money economy.

What protection has he? The same as anyone else; he joins a Trade Union. Here again the story is one of a mushrooming under the conditions of emergent Capitalism. Pre-war, only Clerks and Administrative workers in Nigeria were organised. There was little compulsion to work for wages and jobs were only taken to supplement agricultural income while the depression reduced demand for labour in both Government and private sectors.

In 1940 only five Unions existed, claiming 3,500 members between them. By 1956 they numbered almost 200 with 170,000 members. Progress, if swift, was erratic with many Unions vanishing as quickly as they came. There were reasons for this.
(1) Poor communications between Branches separated by great distances.
(2) The small scale of industry—some Unions had only 50 members!
(3) Seasonal nature of many jobs.
(4) Large labour surplus.
Today, although still split by factional squabbles, the Movement continues to grow. In July 1964, a major strike involving a million workers took place over wage-rates and lasted two weeks despite everything the Government could throw at it. Threats to dismiss all strikers were ignored and with the country at a virtual standstill the Government was forced to accede to many of the strikers’ demands.

This growth in trade union strength has occurred in the face of Tribal loyalties and animosities. Does this mean Tribalism is a spent force? Far from it. In fact it has staged something of a come-back in recent times. Before I960, when Nationalist aspirations were rampant, differences of Tribe and Region were submerged in the unity of aim—independence. Nowadays, the political leaders, jockeying for position and power, are having to invoke all the old antagonisms—although the dangers of this are obvious and recognised. Also, as the demand for the more skilled type of labour—administration, education, etc.—slackens off, then those who have not yet landed a good position must exert pressure wherever they can.

In the long run the past will lose out to the demands of the new social order. Those who have spent much of their lives with the Tribe will remain under its influence to some extent, but the generations who know only City life and who receive a uniform education will have little interest in the ancient ties.

In any case, Tribalism is not confined to primitive peoples. It is present, although in modified form, throughout modern society and can be seen among Scots, Irish, Jews, etc. These groups who consider themselves different because of Nationality or Religion will still unite with outsiders for political or economic reasons.

And capitalist education is in Nigeria forging ahead. The Ashby Commission, set up at the time of independence to map-out the necessary rate of expansion, recognised that lack of skilled manpower was the biggest obstacle to development, and put forward “massive, expensive, and unconventional” recommendations which included four new Universities by 1980. Today, that target has been beaten. Four million children are already receiving Primary schooling and the plan is for an additional half million each year.

Everywhere the story is one of rapid “Westernisation''. The Lagos Sunday Times (19/9/65) provides the following sample. “The sleek Mercedes Benz saloon glides out of the corner. At the same time, august lady at the Bus stop flips out a miniature looking glass from the dazzling' bag slung over one arm and after applying another layer of lipstick. smoothens down her skirl. With a screech of brakes the car stops and a not-too-young face smiles at the lady . .. Want a lift madam , . . and so begins yet another etc., etc. . . " The article goes on to deplore faithless women in WIGS who leave “whimpering infants” and ‘‘good husbands" to indulge in affairs. True, this is more a picture of upper-crust life but the trend is unmistakably away from the old values and standards.

Ultimately, the greatest factor in the development of Nigeria's working-class is that it is part of a world economic system, the effects of which it cannot escape. The catastrophic fall in prices on the world market of its chief export. Cocoa, has meant a large and increasing balance of payments deficit. The result has been to cut imports drastically of manufactured goods from those countries mainly responsible for the adverse trade balance, such as Japan. Thus, favourable conditions are created for the expansion of home-grown industry and one Company exulted in a full-page ad. in the Daily Times (21/9/65), “With the recent decision of the Federal Government to restrict the 'importation of imitation jewellery from Hong-Kong and Japan, our factory has taken positive action to increase its capital investment by ordering more machinery, resulting in increased production capacity to cope with this restriction”.

The political upheavals which have been part of the Nigerian scene lately have brought forth suggestions that the Federation may be in the process of breaking-up into several smaller units. Even if this should happen the developments outlined above will continue to a greater or lesser degree, but the conclusion must be the same. That the part of Africa now known as Nigeria is advancing towards the image held out to it by the older, established Nations—that of an industrialised, class-divided. Capitalist society.
Vic Vanni