Saturday, April 13, 2024

FGM in Gambia

Comment is superflous.

‘An attempt to repeal a 2015 ban on female genital cutting in Gambia was sent for further committee discussions by lawmakers on Monday. Gambian activists fear the passage of the bill would overturn years of work to better protect girls and women.

The legislation was referred to a national committee for further debate and could return to a vote in the weeks and months ahead.

Activists in the largely Muslim country had warned that lifting the ban would hurt years of work against a procedure often performed on girls under age five in the mistaken belief that it would control their sexuality.

The procedure, which also has been called female genital mutilation, includes the partial or full removal of external genitalia, often by traditional community practitioners with tools such as razor blades or at times by health workers.

It can cause serious bleeding, death and childbirth complications but remains a widespread practice in parts of Africa.

Jaha Dukureh, the founder of Safe Hands for Girls, a local group that aims to end the practice, told The Associated Press she worried that other laws safeguarding women’s rights could be repealed next.

Dukureh underwent the procedure and watched her sister bleed to death.

“If they succeed with this repeal, we know that they might come after the child marriage law and even the domestic violence law. This is not about religion but the cycle of controlling women and their bodies,” she said.

The United Nations has estimated that more than half of women and girls ages 15 to 49 in Gambia have undergone the procedure.

The bill is backed by religious conservatives in the nation of less than 3 million people.

Its text says that “it seeks to uphold religious purity and safeguard cultural norms and values.”

The country’s top Islamic body has called the practice “one of the virtues of Islam.’

Promoted by The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Zimbabwe: New Currency. Same Old Capitalism.

 AfricaNews 6 April reports, ‘Zimbabwe has launched a new currency to replace its previous one that in recent months has been battered by depreciation, and in some instances rejection by the population. Authorities hope the new measure will halt a currency crisis underlining the country’s years long economic troubles.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gov. John Mushayavanhu said the new currency will be called ZiG, and will be anchored on gold reserves and a basket of foreign currencies. 

The Zimbabwe dollar has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks, making it one of the world’s worst performing currencies.

Since January, the Zimbabwe dollar lost over 70% of its value on the official market, and was plunging even further on the thriving but illegal black market.

Inflation increased from 26.5% in December last year to 34.8% this January before spiking to 55.3% in March, according to official figures.

Traders were increasingly rejecting lower denominations of the now scrapped currency, with many insisting on payment only in U.S. dollars, which are also legal tender in the southern African country.

“We are doing what we are doing to ensure that our local currency does not die. We were already in a situation where almost 85% of the transactions are being conducted in U.S dollars,” Mushayavanhu told reporters in the capital, Harare. People have three weeks to exchange the old notes with the new currency, he said.

The announcement is the latest of a cocktail of currency measures undertaken by the Zimbabwean government since the initial spectacular collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.

The period saw the country at one point issuing a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar banknote before the government was forced to temporarily scrap its currency and allow the U.S. dollar to be used as legal tender.

The country re-introduced a domestic note in 2016, marking the beginning of another round of currency volatility highlighted by changes to currency policy that included the banning of foreign currencies such as the U.S dollar for domestic transactions in 2019.

This was followed by the unbanning of the greenback a while later after few ordinary people took heed to the U.S dollar ban and the black market thrived, while the local currency quickly depreciated.’

The following is from the Socialist Standard November 1980

‘A currency unit is always in the end the name for a specific amount of gold (or silver). At one time—when paper currency was convertible on demand into a fixed amount of gold—this was obvious but has now become obscured in the system of “managed currencies’’ which grew up between the wars. In nearly all countries today the currency—the actual medium of circulation—is not gold nor even a paper currency convertible into gold but inconvertible paper notes and coins. Such a currency is said to be “managed” because the amount of it in circulation depends entirely on political decisions.

Before the era of managed currencies the link between a currency and gold was always clear. A law defined the meaning of the name of the currency (pound, mark, franc) in terms of a certain amount of gold (or silver, or both). This is no longer the case but the pound and other currencies continue to represent in economic reality a certain amount of gold. Gold is still today the money-commodity, the only real money, even though it has been replaced as the medium of circulation by paper and metallic tokens.

With a managed currency a government institution (Ministry of Finance, Central Bank) has to decide how much is put into circulation. The amount of currency needed to maintain a stable price level, however, is fixed by economic factors outside of government control, such as the total amount of buying and selling transactions, debts to be settled, velocity of circulation of the currency. The government is of course free to issue more (or less) than this amount, but if it issues more then the currency will depreciate.

The effect will be the same as if, under the old system, the government had passed a law re-defining the meaning of the word pound in terms of a lesser amount of gold—which is equivalent to increasing the prices of all goods expressed in the currency unit. This—overissuing an inconvertible paper currency—is what has caused the inflationary price rises which have gone on continuously in Britain since the beginning of the last world war. Inflation (properly understood as inflating, or overissuing, the currency) means that the currency has come to be defined in terms of lesser and lesser amounts of gold.

A managed currency only has a circulation within the borders of the state which manages it. No state can enforce the use of its paper currency outside its borders, though people there may choose to accept it. Paper currencies, however, can still be exchanged with each other. What determines their rate of exchange?

What we have said about the paper pound being the name for a certain amount of gold applies equally to the other paper currencies. The paper mark and the paper franc are also names for amounts of gold, though different amounts of course. In fact up until the end of 1971 the currencies of the member states of the International Monetary Fund were declared to the Fund in terms of weights of gold. Thus if the French franc was defined as 3gm of gold and the English pound as 39gm, then the rate of exchange between francs and pounds was £1 = 13 francs. The Member states of the IMF were supposed to maintain a more or less fixed rate of exchange between their currencies and those of the other members.

Had it not been for the inflationary policies pursued by all states this would have proved a relatively easy task. But in fact all states inflated their currencies, though not to an equal extent, so that the parities declared to the IMF came to no longer correspond to the economic reality. Those countries which had inflated their currencies more than average were sooner or later compelled to declare to the IMF that their currency should now be officially regarded as representing a lesser amount of gold. This devaluation meant that the exchange rate with other currencies had altered: their currency would now exchange for a lesser amount of all other currencies. On the other hand those countries which had a below average inflation were compelled to up-value their currency, known as revaluation, as happened a number of times to the D-mark and the Swiss Franc.

A devaluation then was a recognition on the international level of a currency depreciation that had already occurred internally. This was why Wilson was in a sense right when he declared in his famous 1967 statement that devaluation left unchanged the value of the pounds in our pockets. It did, because the depreciation had already taken place before! (As the Wilson government continued the policy of currency inflation, the pounds in our pockets did in fact continue to shrink, but because of the continuing inflation of the currency rather than because of the devaluation).

At the end of 1971 the IMF system of fixed parities, with periodic devaluations and revaluations as necessary, broke down. Instead countries just let their currencies float. What this means is that an internal depreciation of a currency resulting from its inflation is now immediately reflected in its rate of exchange with other currencies instead of building up towards an eventual devaluation.

Some countries link their currencies to others, agreeing that they will not let their currencies fall or rise above or below a certain margin compared with the other currencies in the system. One such system was the famous “snake” of European currencies, of which Britain was a member for a short while. The European Monetary System (EMS) is another such system.

For such systems to work each of the states involved has to have more or less the same rate of inflation. For if one state had a greater rate of inflation than the others, then its currency would tend to fall below the lower limit and in order to maintain itself in the system it would have to use up its reserves to buy its own currency so as to maintain its price (exchange rate with the others). The EMS does provide for the establishment of a special fund to help states in difficulty but its clear aim is to try to keep inflation rates down to the German level.

The last Labour government, presumably anxious to have a free hand to continue inflating the pound as it wished, refused to give an undertaking to keep inflation down that much and so Britain didn’t join. The present Conservative government has announced its intention to join, but is waiting for the time when (if!) the rate of inflation in Britain is at a more internationally acceptable level.

All these “systems” in the end are just makeshifts since none of them openly recognise that the only real money in the world today remains gold. Capitalists are more realistic—which explains the rise in the price of gold, and why it likely to keep on rising: nobody wants to be left holding worthless paper money as the international monetary system staggers from crisis to crisis.

Adam Buick

Promoted by The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street,  London, SW4 7UN

Monday, April 08, 2024

Zimbabwe faces famine

 Almost forty per cent of Zimbabweans live in extreme poverty. 

In capitalist terms two billion dollars is small change compared with the sums given to warring states.

‘Zimbabwe declared a national disaster on Wednesday as the El Nino weather pattern continues to cause drought across southern Africa.

The declaration follows a similar move by Malawi late last month. Neighbouring Zambia designated the regional drought a national disaster late in February.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe needed $2 billion (€1.85 billion) in aid to help millions of people who are going hungry.

"No Zimbabwean must succumb or die from hunger," Mnangagwa told a press conference. "To that end, I do hereby declare a nationwide State of Disaster, due to the El Nino-induced drought."

He said that over 2.7 million people, or around a sixth of the country's population, have not had adequate access to food this year due to low yields produced during the drought.

Mnangagwa appealed to UN agencies, local businesses, and religious charity organizations to contribute to humanitarian assistance.

The World Food Organization (WFO) has already rolled out an assistance program for 2.7 million people in Zimbabwe from January to March.

More than 60% of Zimbabweans live in rural areas. Much of the country's rural population lives off subsistence farming, occasionally selling small surpluses.

Zimbabwe was once a major grain exporter, but has in recent years increasingly relied on aid agencies to avert famine.’

Promoted by The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Friday, March 15, 2024

Chad: No such thing as a free lunch?

 The republic of Chad is a landlocked country in Africa. From 1900 to 1960 it was a French colony. Following independence civil wars and dictatorship followed. Idriss Déby ruled as President until his demise in 2021 when  General Mahamat Déby, his son, took power. 

Over a third of Chad’s eighteen million population live in extreme poverty.

World Bank Date has only 11.3 per cent of Chadians having access to electricity (2021)

It’s now being reported that;  ‘Chad's government has announced that it would provide free water and electricity for households until the end of the year.

The monthly household consumption payable by the government is capped at 15 cubic metres (15,000 litres) of water and 300 kWh of electricity.

The government said it would also clear water and electricity bills for residents with outstanding arrears.

It also announced a cut in transport taxes that could lower transport costs, which hiked last month with a rise in fuel prices.

Chad's junta leader and interim President Mahamat Déby sanctioned the policy "to assist households", a joint statement by the presidency and finance minister said.

Some Chadians perceive the move as Mr Déby's attempt to endear to voters.

He will be vying for the presidency when Chad holds elections between May and June.

Some residents also say that the move is meaningless as several parts in the capital, N'Djamena, have faced a power outage for the past two weeks.

But some Chadians have welcomed the measure as a much-needed relief to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.’

A further report states, ‘The authorities stated that they would as well settle water and electricity bills for residents who have unpaid bills.“

A system will also be put in place in agreement with the Ministry of Energy and the Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNE) to guarantee the free electricity consumed by households during the same period from March 1, 2024 for all two social tranches or equivalent, a total of 300 kWh per month and per subscribed household, including for subscribers in prepayment of the SNE,” Finance Minister Tahir Hamid Ngulin said.

“The requirements of this circular must be rigorously observed, and any difficulty in their application must be submitted to my attention,” the minister stated.

Additionally, the authorities announced a 50% decrease in various taxes on passenger transport. This has the potential to lower transportation costs, which increased last month due to rising fuel prices.

The transitional government’s announcement occurred after a month-long energy crisis in Chad, marked by frequent water and electricity supply cuts. The interruptions left many areas of the capital N’Djamena plunged into darkness for weeks.

This initiative comes two months prior to a presidential election scheduled for May 6, 2024. The leader of the military, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Kaka, and Prime Minister Sukkes Masra are candidates for the top post.

Mahamat Kaka  made a commitment to give power back to civilian authority after an 18-month transition period, but then increased it by two years.

’Whilst any alleviation of suffering by a population would be a positive there is not enough public information so far to conclude whether these are pie crust promises served up by a politician looking to hold on to power. 

For real jam today, and for tomorrow, the abolition of global capitalism and its replacement by Socialism is the only panacea that is practicable.

Promoted by The  Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

DRC-Rwanda crisis

 This is taken from The Conversation.

‘In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),South African, Burundian and Tanzanian troops are fighting against the Rwandan army, which has deployed in support of the rebellion by the March 23 Movement, or M23.

Soldiers from South Africa and Burundi, as well as from the United Nations peacekeeping mission, have recently suffered casualties. In the crossfire, civilians have fled: seven million Congolese are now displaced due to this and multiple other crises in the DRC.

Diplomats are concerned: the conflict in the eastern DRC was the subject of a special meeting at the United Nations Security Council on 20 February 2024 and a mini-summiton the sidelines of the African Union annual meeting of heads of state on 16 February.

Rwanda, which has denied backing M23,says the Rwandan rebel group – Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) – which includes combatants who participated in the 1994 genocide, has been fully integrated into the Congolese army. It also claims that the Congolese government is engaged in “massive combat operations” aimed at expelling Congolese Tutsi civilians.

The Congolese government has mounted a campaign against Rwanda. In December, while he campaigned for re-election, President Félix Tshisekedi compared his Rwandan counterpart to Adolf Hitler and accused him of expansionist aims.

In January, the Burundian president Évariste Ndayishimiye closed his border with Rwanda and accused the country of backing rebels against him. He stopped just short of calling for Kagame’s ouster.

We have been working on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for around 20 years. This wave of violence resembles previous ones, but is also different. At the root of the M23 conflict are countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, intent on projecting power and influence into the eastern DRC, while the Congolese government seems incapable and often unwilling to stabilise its own territory. Donors and United Nations peacekeepers provide humanitarian aid, but do little to transform these dynamics.

Resolving this crisis will require less hypocrisy from foreign donors, the end of Rwandan aggression, and a more accountable Congolese government. But the hopes of a grand bargain are far off, for now. The current peace processes – a ‘Nairobi process’ for domestic negotiations and a ‘Luanda process’ for regional talks – are dead or on life support.

The upcoming elections in Rwanda (July 2024) and the US (November 2024) will likely not help cool heads or focus minds. But it is clear that ending the violence will require a new approach, one that places the lives of innocent Congolese civilians at its centre.

During the early days of his presidency, Tshisekedi’s army collaborated intensely with the Rwandan army, allowing troops to conduct operations against the FDLR on Congolese territory in 2019 and 2020. In late 2019, his government even recommended dropping charges against the M23 commanders, then in exile.

Less than three years after winning power, however, Tshisekedi changed his approach, breaking his coalition with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, and moving to cement his position in power. He declared a state of siege in two eastern provinces, shuffled generals around in the army, and sidelined key securocrats. He also shifted gears in his regional relations.

By mid-2021, Tshisekedi had begun to privilege relations with Uganda, then a bitter rival of Rwanda. Notably, Tshisekedi gave permission to the Ugandan army to deploy somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 troops to hunt down Allied Democratic Forces rebels, an Islamist Ugandan rebellion based in the eastern DRC. Shortly after that, he did the same for the Burundian army, which had its sights on RED-Tabara, rebels based in the DRC seeking to overthrow the government of Ndayishimiye.

Rwanda suddenly felt isolated, even vulnerable, surrounded by hostile neighbours. According to United Nations investigators, it probably resumed throwing its weight behind the M23 in November 2021. It is above all these regional tensions, coupled with its goal of maintaining influence in the Congo, that pushed it to move.

Since then, the regional fault lines have shifted. Rwanda has patched up relations with Uganda, and the East African Community intervention force – Kenyan, South Sudanese, Burundian and Ugandan troops – that deployed in 2022 to help quell the violence was asked to leave just a year later. This is because their hosts saw them as dragging their feet, if not complicit with the M23. Tshisekedi, who came into office seeing east African countries as allies, has now turned southwards.

Military changes in eastern DRC

Beginning in late 2023, a new force from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began deploying troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi to take the fight to the M23, alongside the Burundian army.

Already, these forces have begun to take casualties. Two South African soldiers were killed on 14 February by a mortar strike; two others were injured when their helicopter took fire. Some sources indicate that Burundian soldiers have taken heavy losses.

The rising degree of military sophistication also raises eyebrows. The US government has accused Rwanda of deploying surface-to-air missiles, UN officials have reported armed drones striking their bases, while Tanzania has sent Soviet-era BM-21 Grad rocket launchers. The DRC has bought nine Chinese CH-4 combat drones (three of which have reportedly been shot down already).

Meanwhile, the Congolese army has partnered with private security contractors as well as with an array of local militia, collectively dubbed Wazalendo (patriots), who are poorly trained and disciplined. There are credible reports from late 2023 that, as in the previous year, they are also partnering with the Rwandan FDLR rebels.

And yet, the Congolese government has been unable to make much headway. In early February, M23 forces surrounded the lakeside town of Sake, just 30km west of the provincial capital Goma. This most recent push has displaced another 135,000 people toward Goma; there are around half a  million displaced people around the town now.

Unlike the previous M23 crisis, influential foreign actors have sent mixed signals. At the UN Security Council on 20 February, the US and France called on Rwanda to withdraw their troops from the DRC. The US has gone the furthest of all of Rwanda’s donors, sanctioning a Rwandan general, suspending all military aid, and attempting to broker a ceasefire in December 2023.

And yet, the US remains, by far, the largest donor to Rwanda, which receives the equivalent of around a third of its budget in aid. Other countries have pushed much less or not at all. While the M23 rebellion was going on, the 

British Commonwealth held its big biannual meeting in Kigali in 2022 and the UK struck a controversial asylum deal with Rwanda.

The EU gave US$22 million to support the deployment of the Rwanda Defence Force in Mozambique. On 19 February, the EU announced a deal to boost mineral exports from Rwanda.

This last piece of news caused an uproar in the DRC, touching on the popular belief that minerals are the root of the crisis. While the causes of the violence are far more complex than that, they have a point: the largest export tfrom Uganda (56% in 2021), Rwanda (23%), and Burundi (29%) in recent years has been gold, almost all of which is smuggled to their countries from the DRC.

In the long term, the DRC government will need to undertake a host of reforms to quell these cycles of conflict. They include reforming the Congolese army, a new demobilisation programme for armed groups, an economic development programme that would allow Congolese to benefit from their resources, a plan for communal reconciliation, and an end to discrimination against Kinyarwanda speakers. But none of that can happen as long as Congo’s neighbours continue to destabilise it.’

Promoted by The Socialist party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Friday, March 08, 2024

Nigerian women

 Further to this post from SOYMB, 5 March, comes news that women in Nigeria are being targetted to become more capitalism friendly and contribute toward the profits of Nigerian capitalists.

‘The World Bank, formed at the 1944 Breton Woods Conference is meanwhile concerned that women's rights and gender equality need to progress at a faster pace. Lest anyone think that this organisation’s motives are exclusively altruistic the World Bank says, ‘Closing the gender gap could boost global GDP by over 20%, doubling the world’s growth rate over the next decade.’

‘Women have the power to turbocharge the sputtering global economy,’itother said.

Further, ‘Today, barely half of women participate in the global workforce, compared with nearly three out of every four men. This is not just unfair – it’s wasteful,’

‘The development organization argues that the transition to a gender-equal world could be fast-tracked through accelerating efforts in reforming laws and enacting public policies that empower women to work, as well as to start and grow businesses.’

In other words, on behalf of the global capitalist class the World Bank wants a situation where, along with men, more women can be exploited to produce more surplus value (profits) for capitalists. Women are also part of the majority working class and their interests are best served by working toward the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a social system where quality goods and services are produced for free use not profit.’

‘An initiative to promote the role of women in local Nigerian businesses will receive a grant of 600 million naira ($376,000) that will benefit 1,000 female entrepreneurs, a foundation run by major mobile operator MTM Group has announced. 

During the launch of phase two of what is called the Y’ellopreneur Initiative in the city of Lagos on Tuesday, Odunayo Sanya, the executive director of MTN Nigeria Foundation, highlighted gender inequality as a significant cause of hunger and poverty.

The initiative aims to decrease female unemployment and promote women’s development as entrepreneurs by offering capacity-building programs and providing access to loans, grants, and advisory services to ensure long-term business sustainability.

“MTN is investing 600 million naira in the second phase of the initiative. The sum of $282,000 (N450 million) is available at $1800 (N3 million) each for the top 150 qualified Y’ellopreneurs to access as equipment loans at a low 2.5% flat interest rate. Upon full repayment of the loan, the sum of $70,000 (N112 million) will be refunded between all 150 Y’ellopreneurs as grants,” Sanya explained.

The initiative is tailored to support female entrepreneurs at medium-sized enterprises who possess at least a secondary education and prefer self-employment. Eligible applicants need to have been operating an existing business for at least two years in sectors such as manufacturing, processing, agriculture, ICT, digital services, waste management, and energy generation.

Sanya emphasized that sustained female participation in entrepreneurship and business administration will not only generate income for their families but also significantly contribute to Nigeria’s socioeconomic progress. 

The submission period for applications for the Y’ellopreneur program commenced on Tuesday and will run through March 30. 

MTN Group Limited, formerly known as M-Cell, is a South African mobile communications company that operates across numerous African and Asian nations but derives a third of its revenue from Nigeria, where it holds an approximately 35% market share.

The MTN Foundation was established in 2004 and, according to its website, works with “disadvantaged and rural communities” to help them “become self-sufficient.”’

Promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Africa's digital divide

Whatever one thinks about the content of the World Wide Web, it’s a valid opinion to think that not all the content available on the Internet is of a positive nature, nevertheless the Internet is an important resource of modern liafe. 

In comparison to the rest of the world,  Africa, as a whole, appears to be at at a disadvantage in being able to use the assets that the Internet provides.

‘Less than 40% of people living in Africa have internet access, a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has shown.

While connectivity has been increasing globally, with about 5.4 billion people or 67% of the world’s population currently online, only 37% of the population in Africa use the internet, according to ITU’s Facts and Figures 2023 study. 

This represents a decline in internet users compared to 2022, when the figure was around 40%. The continent currently has the lowest internet penetration in the world.

Meanwhile, about 90% of the population in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and North and South Americas use the internet, the data showed.

“Steady but uneven progress in global internet connectivity highlights the disparities of the digital divide and is leaving people in low-income countries behind,” the authors of the report noted.

The researchers cited lengthy power outages and a lack of digital infrastructure coverage in Africa as the main reasons for the poor connectivity.

The ITU study also revealed that in low-income countries not only do fewer people have internet access but those who are connected use less data.’