Monday, August 24, 2009

poor africa !!

Why is Africa poor? Africans as a people may be poor, but Africa as a place is fantastically rich - in minerals, land, labour . "We have oil and many other minerals - go name it"
"Our leaders, they just want to keep on being rich. And they don't want to pay taxes" Almost every African , who was not actually in government, blamed corrupt African leaders for their plight. "The gap between the rich and the poor in Africa is still growing,"

Slavery impoverished parts of Africa and that colonialism set up trading patterns which were aimed at benefitting the coloniser, not the colonised.
Hajia Amina Az-Zubair, the Nigerian president's senior adviser on poverty issues, said that colonialism "was all about take, not build", and that this attitude "transferred itself into a lot of mindsets". "You sit round a table and ask 'What are your needs?' and you get an absolute blank. Because for years, they've been told what they're going to have. So even the ability to engage has been difficult for us."

poisoning children for capitalism

Children picking tobacco in the fields of Malawi for consumers far beyond the African country's borders are being poisoned as they absorb up to two cigarette packs' worth of nicotine each day, a children's rights organization said.

The "extremely high levels of nicotine poisoning" produces not only nausea, headaches, dizziness, difficulty in breathing and other symptoms but "long-lasting changes in brain structure and function," London-based Plan International said in a report.

More than 78,000 children, some as young as 5, work on tobacco estates across the southern African country, some up to 12 hours a day for less than 1.7 cents an hour and without protective clothing.Large-tobacco production has shifted from the United States to developing countries like Malawi, where "children are being exposed to exploitative and hazardous working conditions." Malawians are so poor that many families send their children to work in the fields.Tobacco is an important cash crop in Malawi, generating 75 percent of foreign exchange income. More than 80 percent of Malawians are directly or indirectly employed by the tobacco industry, which contributes up to 30 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coke or drugs

In Uganda and across Africa people are dying of diseases such as malaria and TB because they can't get the drugs to treat them.

Malaria, the commonest killer in Uganda, takes more than 300 lives every day, mostly under-fives and pregnant women. There are pills that can stop malaria in its tracks at an early stage before the sufferer succumbs to a high fever, delirium and, in the worst cases, coma.But go to many health centres and you will be disappointed. Nursing staff shake their heads. "We don't have," they say.

On tables in huts in Uganda and all over Africa, they sell Coca-Cola. The drinks giant has reached into the darkest corners of the continent. Coke is everywhere. Essential medicines, many of them paid for by governments , are not.

Tiriri health centre in Katine , which should have the capacity of a small hospital, has no Coartem, an anti-malarial and the most needed drug in the region. Frequently it has virtually no medicines at all, even paracetamol. Stock-outs are the norm all over Africa. You can get Coke but you can't get a painkiller, an antibiotic or a drug to save your child from malaria.
Tiriri health centre is short of many other drugs – antibiotics, paracetamol, aspirin, quinine injections (a second-line treatment for malaria too severe to be treated by Coartem), diclofenac for pain and inflammation. The empty shelves in government clinics drive people to private drug shops, which have mushroomed in the villages and towns. But because they have to pay and are poor, families can only buy a small handful of pills – not necessarily the right ones and, quite possibly, fakes. Poor people may buy six pills when they need 30, or they will buy 20 and stop after 10 when they feel better, saving the rest for another crisis. That's how resistance grows to antibiotics and to TB and Aids drugs, which can then spread around the globe. In this way, poverty and the inadequacies of public sector drug supply in Africa threaten us all.

Novartis, the huge Swiss drug company , owns the market-leading anti-malarial Coartem . Novartis has dropped its price over the years from $1.57 to 80 cents, but that's still too much in countries such as Uganda. To improve the situation, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) in Geneva channels money donated by affluent governments including the UK and US to poor nations to buy supplies of the drug. But in Uganda in 2005, it all went wrong. GFATM suspended all its grants to the country: money was being siphoned off and officials in the ministry of health were blamed. Corruption trials are ongoing.The GFATM scandal has had a huge impact in Uganda. While few doubt the fund had to act to stop its money being diverted into people's pockets, the people who really suffered are those where the anti-malarials ran out.

The battle is now not just to get HIV medicines to people with Aids, but to get a consistent, affordable supply of essential drugs to all who need them.It's too important to leave to the market.

extracted from here

Royal Rip-off

In Swaziland it is a criminal offence to criticise the king’s private life. The king enjoys a personal fortune of about £145 million. He also receives money from the national budget for his family’s upkeep. Last year this totalled £12 million — more than was set aside for education. In May he bought 20 armoured Mercedes Benz cars at a cost of £150,000 each.

Reports from the kingdom said that the king had dispatched at least five of his 13 wives and dozens of retainers to France, Italy, Dubai and Taiwan on a secret tour last week, using £4 million from the state budget.

Swaziland is home to about 1.2 million people, more than two thirds of whom live in abject poverty on less than 50 pence a day. More than a quarter of the adult population has HIV — the highest ratio in the world.

Campaigners have been accusing Whitehall of double standards. “They shout about Zimbabwe, but keep quiet about what is happening in Swaziland, even though they are one of its biggest aid donors...” Lucky Lukhele, of the Swaziland Solidarity Network , told The Times.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

world cup blues

We read that SOUTH AFRICA'S 2010 World Cup looms in less than a year now at a cost to the host government and FIFA, world football's governing body, of at least £4 billion. When the month-long football fest is over, South Africans will be left with 10 magnificent state-of-the-art stadiums.
Stephen Maseko lives in a corrugated iron and mud shack without electricity, running water or a toilet in the shadow of Mbombela Stadium. He knows his home will be demolished before the stadium hosts the first of its four World Cup matches. "I find it difficult to feel proud that we are hosting this World Cup," he said. "To tell you the truth, I do not have time to think about football. My worries are greater."
The 46,000-seat, billion-rand (£74 million) Mbombela Stadium, bristling with 21st-century technology and supported by 18 giant pylons resembling giraffes, was built on 118 hectares of ancestral land from which the Matsafeni, a Swazi tribal clan, were forcibly removed and offered compensation of just one rand, or 7 pence sterling (raised to 8.7m rand, or £655,000, after a series of prolonged court cases).
Pretoria high court judge Ntendeya Mavundla told Mbombela's African National Congress-dominated council that its treatment of the Matsafeni was not much different from that of "colonialists who usurped land from naïve Africans in return for shiny buttons and mirrors."
When the ANC speaker of the Mbombela Council, 44-year-old Jimmy Mohlala, blew the whistle on a 40m rand (£3m) scam between his fellow ANC councillors and the stadium's commercial developers, senior ANC politicians demanded his resignation.
Mohlala refused to step down and was subsequently shot dead by masked gunmen at his home. His assassins have not been caught and police have not investigated the fraud.

Some 70,000 labourers working on the 2010 stadiums, and other World Cup infrastructure such as the new futuristic railway system with British-built engines and carriages, between Johannesburg Airport and the city centre, went on strike last month for better wages. Some labourers on 2010 projects were earning as little as 800 rand (£60) a month. Mildred Mpundu, a single mother of four, was earning 2000 rand (£150) a month with overtime as a labourer at Johannesburg's Soccer City, where the opening and final World Cup matches will be held. Mildred said she could only give her family meat on Sundays, and she added: "People will come to the stadium and think it is very nice. They won't even know that the people who built it can't afford to go inside."
Union official Lesiba Seshoga, who oversaw negotiations at Cape Town's Green Point, Durban's Moses Madhiba and Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela stadiums, said:"These workers are not going to benefit from the World Cup in that none of them will be able to afford to watch a game."

Andile Mngxitama, a columnist for the mass circulation Sowetan daily newspaper, said he fears the 2010 World Cup will turn South Africa into a big fun park, with foreign visitors enjoying levels of comfort, safety and security that ordinary people can only dream of. "When the tournament is over," Mngxitama continued, "we will be sitting with major world-class stadiums in a country that can't feed or educate its people. The truth is we don't need the World Cup. Politicians and their connections need it."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The African Land Grab

We read
African farmland prices are the lowest in the world.

Susan Payne, the chief executive of Emergent Asset Management is in the process of buying or leasing a total 50,000 hectares in several African countries including Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Countries short of arable land, such as China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Kuwait, have been seeking agricultural investments in Africa.
"As an investor you can take advantage of that," she says.

The International Food Policy Research Institute , a Washington-based think tank, says that bargaining power is often on the side of the foreign firm, especially when it is supported by the host government or local elite.
"Since the state often formally owns the land, the poor run the risk of being pushed off the plot in favour of the investor, without consultation or compensation," the IFPRI says in a recent report.