Tuesday, December 27, 2011


The African Development Bank defines the African middle class as people who spend the equivalent of $2-$20 (£1.30-£13) a day. It acknowledged that many living on $2-$4 a day are "floating" and could easily slip back into poverty. Taking these people out of the equation, it put the "stable" middle class at 123 million, 13% of the population.

Yet economic growth does not necessarily mean shared growth: in some cases it means widening inequality, most vividly in South Africa.

There are now more than 100,000 Africans with at least $1m to invest. With an estimated fortune of $10.1bn (£6.5bn), the Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote is Africa's richest man and one of the continent's 16 billionaires. The South African diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer – who also owns the country's largest private game park, the Tswalu Kalahari reserve – comes second, with a $6.5bn fortune. Patrice Motsepe, a 40-year-old mining magnate, is South Africa's first and only black billionaire, with $2.5bn. Together, the combined wealth of Africa's 40 richest is $64.9bn – roughly twice the GDP of Kenya ($32bn) or Ghana ($31bn) in 2010.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Nigerian poverty

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has said 90 per cent of Nigeria live on less than $2 per day. 70 per cent are living on less than one dollar a day. Despite being a major oil producing nation, poverty, lack and deprivation reign supreme.

"...how come we have so many women dying in child birth, how come we have so many children that are out of school, how come life expectancy is down to 55 or 54. What has happened to us? We need to ask what have we done ?” Sanusi said.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

charity for who?

Kenya has a history of land-grabbing by senior government officials. Land disputes are common as legal documents of ownership are often missing or have been forged.

Around 2,000 pastoralist Samburu families have stayed squatting on edge of territory after the land they lived on for two decades was sold to two US-based wildlife charities. The two conservation groups gifted the 17,100 acres to Kenya's government in November to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service. NGO Survival International said the Samburu were evicted following the purchase of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation.

There has been an ongoing, constant level of fear, intimidation and violence towards the community

"The displaced community has nothing but their livestock, thousands of which were impounded – with no reason given – on 25 November 2011. This is an urgent and serious violation of the rights of this community, which has been left squatting beside its land with no amenities" Survival said.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

South Sudan's land grab

South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July when it seceded from the north after decades of war. The US-based Oakland Institute (OI) says land deals done in newly-independent South Sudan “threaten to undermine the land rights of rural communities, increase food insecurity, entrench poverty, and skew development patterns”

Deals done prior to South Sudan’s independence this year for almost 9 percent of the new nation’s land will do little to help the nation build itself up from one of the least developed countries in the world.

“In order to meet its developmental challenges, the government of South Sudan has begun promoting large-scale private investments as a short cut to rapid economic development. However, recent data about the rate at which the government is leasing land to foreign and domestic companies” shows questionable benefit, the report says.

Over five million hectares of land had already been signed away for investment for biofuels, ecotourism, agriculture and forestry in the four years leading up to a January 2011 referendum on independence. Evidence from documented deals “suggests that these projects are far more likely to undermine food security by dispossessing people from land and natural resources that are indispensable to their daily livelihoods”, it says, as deals have been struck with individuals with little or no community benefit or consultation.

Jeremiah Swaka, undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice says land deals are another case of “hit and run” by foreigners wanting to exploit the country’s wealth and cannot be called “investment”.

USAID Economist David Gosney said the two classes of investors currently coming to South Sudan were those looking for quick returns or buying speculatively in a murky market.

US-based company Nile Trading and Development's 2008 deal to lease up to a million hectares of land to produce biofuels has been described as “South Sudan’s largest land grab”.

“Evidence suggests that the companies are using the agro-forestry venture as a means of advancing their oil, gas, and mining interests in South Sudan”, OI’s December report said of NTD’s 49-year lease signed with an allegedly fictitious cooperative in a densely populated area.

“If food is going to be produced for export, then there is no way it is going to help the local community…. On the other hand, if fertile land is taken away by foreign companies, it will impact food security negatively,” said Norwegian People’s Aid’s project manager for land and resources, Jamus Joseph.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

land grab - who benefits

AgriSol negotiated tax breaks with the government of Tanzania for income earned on a 325,000 hectare plot, for which the agro-giant will likely net an annual profit of 275 million dollars. This sum surpasses the Tanzanian ministry of agriculture's total yearly budget.

A report by the East African NGO Uwazi estimates that "2009/10 tax exemptions in Tanzania amounted to 425 million dollars. That money could have financed 40 percent more resources for education or 72 percent more resources for health between 2009-2010."


The U.S. leases its land for 16,000 dollars per hectare for just one year, Ethiopia leased 10,000 hectares of land to the Saudi Star for free over a 60- year period, while Mali leased 100,000 hectares for free over a similar time period.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The "new oil"

With food expected to become the “new oil” of the 21st century, the Standard Bank Group says Africa’s agricultural output is set for explosive growth in the coming decade.

According to a research analyst at the South African-based bank, Simon Freemantle, “There could be a doubling in African agricultural output within the next decade.”

“In China, home to 20% of the world’s population and less than 8% of its arable land, total cropland is expected to decline from 135-million hectares today, to 129-million ha in 2020. Almost half of China’s cities face water shortages. Other areas in the emerging world are even more pressed. In 2011, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were ranked as three of the four most water stressed nations in the world. Already, Gulf States import around 60% of their food, and natural water reserves are able to support only 30 more years of agricultural production.”

“Given these threats, attention is increasingly turning to Africa. It is estimated that over 60% of the world’s available and unexploited cropland is in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of Sudan’s 105-million ha of cultivable land, only 16% (or 16.6-million ha) had been cultivated by 2009. A similar ratio is evident in the DRC, where less than 10% of the country’s 80-million ha of cultivable land has been cultivated. The Congo River Basin alone holds 23% of Africa’s irrigation potential, with the Nile River Basin holding a further 19%,” he said.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The US flexes its military muscle.

Having recently committed a 100 combat troops to Uganda to help the Ugandan army track the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in Congo the US are now rumoured to be sending soldiers to Nigeria to help fight the Boko Haram terrorist group.Link.

Friday, November 04, 2011

"You'll Be Fired If You Refuse"

Chinese-run copper mines in Zambia are dangerously unsafe and owners routinely flout the rights of workers, says a report by Human Rights Watch. Chinese mines were worse than at other foreign-owned mines. Pay at the Chinese-run mines was higher than Zambia's minimum wage, but much lower than that paid by other multinational copper mining firms. Also miners are threatened with dismissal if they became involved in union activities.

"Sometimes when you find yourself in a dangerous position, they tell you to go ahead with the work," one miner told HRW. "They just consider production, not safety. If someone dies, he can be replaced tomorrow. And if you report the problem, you'll lose your job."

Miners had to work 12-hour shifts often in fume-filled tunnels. Sometimes shifts were 18 hours long. Zambian law limits shifts to eight hours. Miners in Chinese-run companies have been subject to abusive health, safety and labour conditions and longtime Zambian government indifference.

Many of the poor safety practices in Zambia's Chinese-run mines were strikingly similar to abuses at mines in China. Currently dozens of miners have been trapped in a coal mine in China. Four miners were killed and 50 more are missing after the accident, which happened late on Thursday in the city of Sanmenxia in Henan province.

Hundreds of Chinese miners die every year in pit accidents. The industry is one of the most dangerous in the world, and is notorious for its lax safety standards. Earlier this week a gas explosion at a mine in neighbouring Hunan province killed 29 people.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Land Guidelnes Delay

The adoption of international guidelines to regulate so-called land grabs has been pushed to next year after negotiators failed to agree on conditions for large-scale land investments and enforcement. Once in place, the United Nations’s Committee on World Food Security guidelines are meant to protect people, mainly in poor countries such as Sierra Leone, from “land grabbing”. Olivier De Schutter, the U. N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said in an email following the meetings that details of conditions for large-scale investments remained an unresolved sticking point.

”In general, the development of plantations increases inequality, instead of decreasing it,” said De Schutter. ”The majority will not benefit.” The guidelines on the security of tenure of land, fisheries and forests “could be a significant advance,” said De Schutter. “It can make it more difficult for governments to ignore the demands of the local community.”


Socialist Banner views the success of regulation as unlikely.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nations or Peoples?

The border land between Kenya and Ethiopia is a vast, open plain. There are no fences or other visible boundaries. This land can provide a good living for livestock if it is carefully managed, and the herds are kept on the move across the seasons so they make the optimum use of each area of pasture and each water source. Over the years, the herders have built up a great body of expertise about how best to manage the area's resources.

And the land is also definitely not "empty" in the sense that it belongs to no one - the people of the area are quite clear about whose land is whose, in terms not of individuals, but of different communities.

Sara Pavanello, who has just completed a three-year study of how natural resources are managed in the area, says: "The pastoralists I spoke to very often used collective terms, saying for example, 'Our resources, we decide, we manage…' For pastoral communities, the rangeland as a whole is perceived as one single economic resource that’s communally owned, even if this tract of rangeland has been divided by the international border. At the same time different ethnic groups own, or exercise control over specific territory and the natural resources found within it." This does not mean that they exclude everyone else. They understand that other groups need access to the pasture and water sources at certain seasons. That kind of temporary access is traditionally negotiated between the elders of the different communities. Elders told Pavanello: "Today they need us; tomorrow we will need them."
She describes this kind of sharing as being seen as an "insurance policy for the future".

It is a model that makes perfect sense to the Borana, Gabra and Garri, the three ethnic groups which live along and across the border, but one that the conventional authorities struggle with, both in Ethiopia and Kenya. Land in Kenya is, for the most part, in private ownership. In Ethiopia all land belongs to the state and the moment the state chooses to claim any grazing land, and declare it no longer "free", the pastoralists lose any right to graze. Neither system is designed to cope with land communally owned.

Government authorities tend to want to introduce resource management schemes to make the rangelands more productive, failing to see and understand the subtle and flexible management systems already in place involving elders and community institutions. In their research Pavanello and Levine found cases where local administrators were enforcing ideas of ownership, citizenship and nationality which cut across the communities’ traditional right to manage their lands.

Jeremy Swift, a pastoralist development specialist with a lifetime of experience in the field, said bringing formal and customary regulation together was likely to be difficult. "Formal rules have to be uniform throughout the country; customary rules are place and time specific. This is only likely to work if there is a real delegation of authority, which governments are not usually happy about and not likely to do willingly."

John Morton of the University of Greenwich cautioned against any attempt to bypass formal government structures. "Clearly this border is very fluid, but the states are still real, and you have to respect state authority and boundaries. You don’t do people any favours by over-stressing cross-border action which may label pastoralists as having divided loyalties."

Monday, October 24, 2011

The new imperialists

Socialist Banner has previously described the new imperailsts such as Canada. But others should not be over-looked, Australia being one new arrival in African continent to take advantage of its natural wealth.

30 per cent of global mining resources are in Africa.

At least 230 Australian companies are active in the resource sector on the African continent. Between them, they are pursuing 650 individual projects in 42 countries. Their total investment is estimated at a whopping $24 billion. About 20 companies and 100 projects have been added just since the beginning of 2011. And Intierra Resource Intelligence estimates that the capital expenditure for new projects in the pipeline is about $23bn.


At this week's Commonwealth Business Forum with 300 officials from 40 African countries attending , Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is set to unveil a $30 million initiative to promote mining development in Africa

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nigeria - so wealthy, so poor

The world’s 20th poorest country apparently because most Nigerians (92 per cent) live below the poverty line as they subsist on less than two dollars (N320) a day. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), no fewer than 33 million Nigerians are unemployed, many of them university graduates, while the 2010 Global Monitoring Report of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) puts the number of out of school children at over eight million. Infant mortality rate is 85.8 of 1000 live births, under-five mortality rate is 137.9 of live births, malnutrition prevalence is 41 per cent, insecurity rate is alarming, while life expectancy at birth is 48.1 years.

In 1960, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, about 15 per cent of the population was poor. This rose to 28 per cent in 1980. By 1985, it had risen to 46 per cent, dropping to 43 per cent in 1992. However, by 1996 the poverty incidence had gone up to 66 per cent before climbing further to the current rate of 92 per cent. This rise in poverty rate in the country has been inversely proportional to the petro-dollar wealth of the country; it seems Nigeria makes more money to get Nigerians poorer; the richer the country, the poorer the citizens.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

land grab

What is ‘land grab’. Think of what you can buy with 40 cents if you walk into a grocery store in the U.S., or Europe? Will you be able to buy a piece of candy with 40 cents? Probably not! But if you go to Africa, you can buy an acre of land for money as small as 40 cents for a 99 years lease.

According to Oxfam ‘Land grab’ refers to land acquisitions done in one or more of the following ways:

Violate human rights/women’s rights;
Flout the principle of free, prior, and informed consent of the affected land users, particularly indigenous peoples;
Ignore the impacts on social, economic, and gender relations, and on the environment;
Avoid transparent contracts with clear and binding commitments on employment and benefit sharing;
Shun democratic planning, independent oversight, and meaningful participation.

The corporations grabbing land and governments of Africa refer to land grab in a more humanized terminology; they inaccurately call it “land investment deals.” They claim the goal of such deals is to increase food production and to make involved poor nations food secure. The victims characterize land-grab as ‘neo-colonialism’, ‘modern day slavery’, ‘ethnic-cleansing’, ‘the second scramble for Africa’

In southern Ethiopian regional states, over four million are in need of emergency food aid, while rice and corn produced on lands they were evicted from is shipped overseas to feed India or Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Happy Birthday, Desmond

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu danced with the Soweto Gospel Choir at his 80th birthday party and was feted by the likes of Bono, half an hour's drive away, another churchman had just completed a month-long hunger strike. Xola Skosana is pastor of the Way of Life church in Khayelitsha, Cape Town's biggest township. He went without food throughout September to protest at the treatment of the poor. "It's interesting to me that a woman would make up a bed in a five-star hotel then come home to sleep on the floor," Skosana said from his rudimentary office. "Or cook the best meal for someone else and come back and live off a slice of bread."

Skosana said: "Black people feel this is the old South Africa. If you come to Cape Town, you've come to the last post of the colonial history of this country. Both politically and economically, white people are in power. In other parts of South Africa, black people don't have to wake up and say, 'Yes boss', and feel psychologically oppressed. In Cape Town, they still have to deal with that attitude."

Nobom Nobele, 29, washing clothes by hand, said her shack has no electricity or running water, forcing the family to use candles and a paraffin stove, and walk 10 minutes to a friend's home every time they need to use a toilet. Her children, aged 12 and four, suffer rashes from unclean water. "The government makes promises at the time they want your vote, but after that they forget," she said. "There's been no change since 1994. We're still hungry, we're still living in a dirty place."

From here

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Clearances

New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad. Its investors include the World Bank, through its private investment arm, and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, supposedly all in a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming. The Ugandan government granted New Forests a 50-year license to grow pine and eucalyptus forests. The company expects that it could earn up to $1.8 million a year.

But there was just one problem: people were living on the land where the company wanted to plant trees. The company and government said the residents were living illegally in a forest. Residents were given until Feb. 28, 2010, to vacate company premises while soldiers and the police kept surveillance. Company officials visited, too. From time to time a house would be burnt down. Olivia Mukamperezida said her house was among the first in her community to be burned down.

According to the company’ those living in the area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.

People saw it quite differently.

“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”

Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.

“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”

20,000 people were evicted from their homes.

“Too many investments have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods,” Oxfam said in the report. “This interest in land is not something that will pass... whatever land there is will surely be prized.

Across Africa, some of the world’s poorest people have been thrown off land to make way for foreign investors, often uprooting local farmers so that food can be grown on a commercial scale and shipped to richer countries overseas.

From here

Chinese capitalism

Chinese investment in Zambia, Africa's leading copper producer topped $1 billion last year and came with the promise of 15,000 jobs as well as an additional $5 billion investment over the next few years. Almost all of the money went into Zambia's copper-mining industry, with only 10% invested in construction, agriculture, retail and manufacturing. In a country where almost two-thirds of the 13 million citizens live under the poverty line of $1.25 a day, economic growth is the government's priority but Zambians have begun to realize that "economic growth has not translated into significant poverty reduction," as the latest World Bank country assessment states.

Copper — responsible for 70% of Zambia's export earnings — largely contributed to the country's 7.6% economic growth in 2010. Critics complain that those revenues hardly benefit all Zambians. Unions and watchdogs note that most profits are taken out of the country instead of being reinvested in much needed infrastructure, hospitals and schools. There are also widespread allegations of Chinese firms ignoring environmental and labor laws to reap higher profits — and of the government turning a blind eye.
"The government lets Chinese investors act above the law," explains Edward Lange, coordinator of Southern Africa Resource Watch in Zambia. "Corruption is rife. We have lost control over our resources."
Tens of thousands of mine workers and their families are growing increasingly disgruntled with Chinese-run mining operations. Previous protests against low pay and poor working conditions have shown few results, only worsening tensions among workers and managers. During a strike in April, Chinese managers shot and wounded eleven protesters.
"We are discontent with the political and economic situation," confirms Charles Muchimba, research director of the Mineworkers' Union of Zambia. While Chinese investors have reaped massive profits, workers have borne the brunt of Zambia's free-market economy and suffered salary cuts of up to 40% during the recession, he says.

China is on a resource grab. Beijing doesn't do gifts; it does deals. The ambition, speed and scale of Chinese involvement in Africa is extraordinary. According to Chris Alden, author of China in Africa, two-way trade stood at $10 billion in 2000. By 2006, it was $55 billion, and in 2009 it hit $90 billion, making China Africa's single largest trading partner, supplanting the U.S., which did $86 billion in trade with Africa in 2009. Today the Chinese are pumping oil from Sudan to Angola, logging from Liberia to Gabon, mining from Zambia to Ghana and farming from Kenya to Zimbabwe. Chinese contractors are building roads from Equatorial Guinea to Ethiopia, dams from the Congo to the Nile, and hospitals and schools, sports stadiums and presidential palaces across the continent. They are buying too. Acquisitions range from a $5.5 billion stake in South Africa's Standard Bank to a $14 million investment in a mobile-phone company in Somalia. What's happening is a new scramble for Africa.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

there is enough

Meredith Alexander argues that global hunger is not a result of food shortages, but poverty and inequality. Food itself is almost never the problem. Instead, people are hungry because they lack money and power. Even now in the Horn of Africa where 10 million people are at risk of starvation, food is available in the markets. It is just too expensive for poor people to buy. Production is vital, but the question of how food is distributed is more important. Increasing the size of the pie means nothing to people who aren’t allowed near the table. There are proven policies that could ensure every man, woman and child on the planet gets enough to eat. Ultimately, hunger has little to do with food and everything to do with justice.

Full article here

But yet again the proposed policies and reforms suggested does not address the root problem - capitalism's drive for profits and their accumulation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

its not drought and its not over-population

Macalester College geography professor William Moseley has conducted research into food insecurity and violence in the famine-stricken Horn of Africa and spoke to Minnesota Public Radio.

Moseley: I think you have to be very careful not to just assume that famine is a natural consequence of some meteorological event. I think a great comparison is in the U.S. In Texas and Oklahoma right now we're experiencing a terrible drought but we don't have a famine there because there are government programs in place to prevent that from happening.

Moseley: I think there's a lot of misunderstanding in the U.S., we've already discussed one, that this is a result of drought. I think a lot of Americans attribute this problem to overpopulation. I've argued elsewhere that many parts of Africa are not densely populated, including this area. There's about 13 Somalis per square kilometer, which is much lower density that what we're seeing in our own drought-stricken state of Oklahoma. Yet we tend to focus on the population issue, and I don't think that's what's really driving this issue

Moseley: Once we get beyond this crisis in the short term, we have to think longer term: How do we prevent this from happening again? The U.S. Agency for International Development has been very focused on increasing food productivity and through a new "green revolution" approach, so using improved seeds, insecticides, chemical fertilizers to increase food production. That may make sense in some areas of the world but I'm very skeptical of that working in the Horn of Africa. And that's largely because the poorest of the poor, the people who are hungry, don't have the resources to sustain that strategy. I think added on top of that, that type of approach is highly linked to energy prices, which are forecasted to keep increasing. What I favor is a much more locally focused approach, one that works on enhancing traditional techniques to increase food production.

Moseley: People have farmed grains in this area for centuries. One could try to enhance productivity through increasing use of manure to better fertilize their fields. Or to be mixing creatively different crops together that complement one another, so mixing legumes with grains, for instance — the legumes fix nitrogen and increase grain productivity. But one that is not so dependent on fossil fuel inputs from outside of the area.

Moseley: Since 2007-2008, when global food prices spiked, prices went up about 50 percent and for some commodities, like rice, they went up 100 percent. So in that period there were a lot of food riots around the world, especially in developing areas of the world. There's very much a concern on the part of the U.N. about social unrest, which is connected to food scarcity, high food prices. I'm skeptical of the way that's been framed. I'm skeptical of calling this social unrest "food riots." I think it gives an image of this violence spontaneously erupting, a bit like dog fighting over scraps of meat. I prefer to call them food demonstrations, because what the public is really upset about is government policies that have often resulted in these high food prices. I think there are people that want to bring the attention of their government to the fact that there are a lot of vulnerable urban people who are having trouble accessing food.

Moseley: ...I'm going to present a study that we published in 2010 in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on this social unrest that occurred in West Africa. What we showed is that you had policies through the '80s and '90s which were pushed on these countries by the World Bank for free market reform. What that meant is that they ceased to provide subsidies to their own farmers and they removed import duties on food that was imported. What you see during this period is a decrease in food production and an increased reliance on food imports. That was fine as long as global food prices were cheap, but global food prices have been rising since 2007. They spiked in 2007-2008 and they're spiking again in 2011. So you're exposing your population to volatile global food prices and that was a result of a series of policy decisions.

Full interview here

The Oil Curse in Uganda

In 50s, some economists suggested that natural resource-abundance would help the backward States to overcome their capital shortfalls and provide revenues for their governments to provide public goods and lift citizens out of the doldrums of poverty. However, since then, a growing number of researches have established a link between resource-abundance and a number of social and economic problems. Natural resource-abundance has been associated with slow growth, greater inequality and poverty for a larger majority of a country’s population, corruption of political institutions, and more fundamentally, an increased risk of civil conflict. At the same time, there is an established link between resource motivated conflict and economic collapse. Of all natural resources, oil has been found to have the highest risk. 23% of states dependent on oil exports have experienced civil war in any 5-year period, a figure that dwarfs the 0.55% for countries without natural resources.

Recently oil has been discovered in Uganda. Oil experts estimate Uganda’s Albertine Basin has at least two billion and as many as six billion barrels of recoverable oil, positioning Uganda to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil producers and potentially doubling current government revenues within 10 years. The resource could become Uganda’s curse rather than a blessing. In Uganda the agriculture and fishing sectors provide approximately 80% of employment. Uganda is Africa's second-leading producer of coffee, which accounted for about 23% of the country's exports in 2007-2008 and 17.9% in 2009. Exports of nontraditional products, including apparel, hides, skins, vanilla, vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and fish, are growing, while traditional exports such as cotton, tea, and tobacco continue to be mainstays. Most industry is related to agriculture.

Most of Uganda’s known oil reserves are located along Lake Albert and the D.R.C. border, in one of Africa’s most ecologically sensitive areas. Wildlife based tourism and scenery dominates Uganda’s hospitality industry with more than 70% of the visitors coming to the Albertine rift. Incidents of land grabbing and migration towards oil sites are already taking place. Many multinational companies backed by their foreign “interest”, are already scrambling for oil exploration in Uganda. Lukoil, for example is Russia’s largest oil company, and the second largest private oil company worldwide by proven hydrocarbon reserves, with about 1.1 per cent global oil reserves, and 2.3 per cent of global oil production. Interesting question to ask; what are the implication of this to “little” Uganda? The same oil will be sold back to Uganda at a higher cost and additionally employment opportunity will be limited since most of its exploration and production activity is located in Russia. The higher costs of fuel are then reflected in the hiking costs in transport sector which in turn is shifted to the public in terms of high commodity prices, and the costs of environmental management (Pollution) should be noted.

it’s important to acknowledge that the existing conflicts are real and that small conflicts may escalate. This is true with the current conflicts in Uganda. The conflicts include: scrambling over land, multinational companies scrambling over oil exploration licenses, and associated consequences like corruption, contracting a monopoly or medium firm which may use sub-standard materials, political tensions which may explode into violence and creating ethnic and cultural differences, propaganda, migration of wildlife, and environmental threats such as clearing forests, digging of trench during survey.

From here

Monday, September 26, 2011

to aid or not to aid

An interesting interview on Der Spiegel with Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa," and "How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly -- and the Stark Choices Ahead."

Dambisa Moyo: ... Africa is the only continent on which there continues to be famines again and again. Between 400 and 500 million people don't have enough to eat even though the continent has more fertile arable land than any other. Something's wrong about that.

SPIEGEL: Catastrophes like the one in Somalia are one thing. But don't you think Africa needs long-term aid programs to get its problems under control?

Moyo: I'm opposed to continuing to automatically pump billions into Africa each year in the form of cheap loans and budgetary assistance. This money has bred dependence and inflation; it doesn't allow people to ever really become productive. The West has been reliably supplying aid for 40 years. But, even so, Africa continues to have poor infrastructure, bad education and a lousy health-care system. Poverty has actually increased since development aid started being supplied. In 1970, 10 percent of Africans lived in poverty. Since then, that figure has grown to roughly 50 percent.

SPIEGEL: Why haven't African governments been able to put to good use the roughly $2 trillion (€1.45 trillion) that has flowed into their coffers over the last 50 years?

Moyo: Because this aid has hardly ever been tied to conditions. Donor countries allow African leaders to put this money in Switzerland, only to go shopping with it later on the Champs-Élysée.

SPIEGEL: Why doesn't anybody rebel against the corrupt rulers in Africa?

Moyo: Why should we normal Africans call our elites to account when people keep coming from the West and saying: "Don't worry. We'll keep paying no matter what you do with the money." An African president once said to me: "You can do what you want. You can swindle. You can kill your own countrymen. As long as there is hunger and disease where you are, the West will take care of you." That's why African governments steal and swindle.

Socialist Banner however finds it disappointing that Moyo can only call for more capitalist investment, particularly from China, as a solution. Africans, as she argues, indeed "need to finally take responsibility for themselves."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

gold dust deaths

Former gold miners in South Africa are suing industry giant Anglo American in the London High Court for allegedly damaging their health. The ex-workers contracted lung diseases because of bad ventilation in the UK-based company's South African mines. The 450 ex-miners allegedly suffered from silicosis - an incurable lung disease - because of high dust levels in mines.

"Black miners at South African mines undertook the dustiest jobs, unprotected by respirators or - unlike their white counterparts - with access to on-site showers" the firm said, in a statement. "Dust levels were high and they suffered massive rates of silicosis, a known hazard of gold mining for the last century."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Zambia: The seeking of political alternatives

Zambia goes to the polls on the 20th September and Socialist Banner posts a background article by its regular Zambian contributer

The demise of the second republican president Fredrick Chiluba has robbed the MMD of one of its outstanding founder members.

Chiluba will be remembered for his political charisma other than for his economic policies. He died an innocent man after having been acquitted of money laundering crimes levelled against him by the lat president Levy Mwanawasa. Chiluba was given a full state funeral which lasted for seven days. When the MMD came to power in 1991 Chiluba started to dismantling the state capitalist economy then existing under the UWIP government of Kenneth Kaunda.

The MMD introduced economic liberation characterised by the liquidation of state-owned parastatal firms. Economic liberation led to the privatisation of Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, United Bus Company of Zambia, Zambia Railways and Zambia Airways. The demise of these prestigious firms led to massive unemployment and social misery. It was only when Mwanawasa came into power in 2001-2008 that Zambia experienced some form of economic revolution.

But after having been in power for twenty years, ordinary Zambian voters are vying for a change in government – it is time for the MMD to retire. But to contemplate political change in conditions where a viable political alternative does not exist is a dangerous option.

Zambian voters are going to vote in a presidential election on 20 September this year. This year’s general election must be reckoned in terms of a political duel between the ruling MMD and the PF. Indeed the Patriotic Front has become the second largest political party in Zambia today. Thus for those who support the PF – it is now or never. In the 2008 presidential election the PF lost on a bare margin of 3690 votes against the ruling MMD.

The PF president Michael Sata is a controversial politician. He was notable when he was appointed Minister of Decentralisation in the UNIP government of Kaunda in 1980. And when the MMD came to power – Sata was able to win the confidence of Chiluba – and was appointed as Minister without Portfolio.

Thus it was a lamentable surprise when Chiluba appointed Levy Mwanawasa to be the successor in 2001. Fearing vengeance Sata resigned from the MMD and formed a new political party, the Patriotic Front. But Sata is a political nuisance – his failure to attend Chiluba’s funeral is a case in point. It completely portrayed his lack of sympathy and political virtues.

There exists a rumour that Zambia – especially Lusaka and the Copper Belt mining towns will be plunged into political uprising when the PF fails to win the election. The move by the MMD to have ballot papers printed in South Africa has been received with suspicion by the political fraternity.

But it was the presence of Kaunda of the first-ever PF political convention that sent shivers among the MMD. Kaunda himself has failed to give a public statement. The presence of Canadian and British ambassadors at the PF convention helped to boost the political profile of the Patriotic Front president Michael Sata.

The MMD president Rupiah Banda is confident of winning the election on the strength of the economic developments taking place in Zambia today. Indeed the MMD government is building roads in and sending mobile hospitals to every corner of Zambia. But the dismissal of high-ranking MMD political stalwarts (Silvia Masebo, Ngandu Magande, George Mpombo and Gabriel Namulambe) does not augur well for Banda. The PF is strongly encouraged by the Catholic clergy through Radio Icengelo and its literary periodicals.

Ethnic considerations apart – the PF has managed to penetrate Western and North-western provinces in terms of parliamentary seats.

The third and only other viable political party comes from the UPWD. Hakainde Hichilema, its president is a corporate accountant – at 44 he is the youngest and least experienced presidential aspirant. He is the adopted leader of the UPWD – he is the nephew of the late UPWD president Anderson Mazoka (disputed winner of the 2001 general election). The upped is a tribal party in the sense that it is mostly comprised of Tonga-speaking politicians. The untimely collapse of the PF-upped political pact has only helped to distance the upped.

There exists deep suspicions concerning the conduct and announcement of elections. The Environmental Council of Zambia is a state-controlled institution and therefore cannot be trusted or expected to be impartial.

We may surmise that Zambia will be plunged into a political and economic nightmare if the PF win the general election. Zambia will forfeit its short-lived economic growth gained under the leadership of Mwanawasa. Given the controversial of Michael Sata, critics of the PF will be detained or dismissed from government. Foremost among those to be intimidated will be the Chinese investors. We in the World Socialist Movement do not seek political alternatives to capitalism – apart from socialism and we urge our fellow workers in Zambia to abstain from voting for capitalism.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The colonialists paid better!

Uganda was governed by British colonialists for almost a century. Casual wisdom would suppose that the colonialists had more income inequality than Museveni. Sorry; look again: Just before independence in 1962, the office cleaner, the porter – the lowest government employee – was earning Shs150. Excluding the governor, the highest-paid employee got around Shs6,000. Professors, medical consultants, ministers, permanent secretaries, district commissioners, boarding secondary school headmasters; all those senior people (Ugandans or white expatriates) were in the relatively narrow bracket between Shs2,500 and Shs6,000. Full primary (P6) school teachers got about Shs400. University graduates in teaching and most other government jobs started at around Sh1,300. A doctor got Sh1,700. All annual increments were predictable.
Let us compute: The highest official (Shs6,000) got only 40 times as much as the porter (Sh150), and less than five times as much as a fresh university graduate (Sh1,300).

Under Museveni, the lowest office attendant gets about Shs150,000. A primary school teacher gets Shs260,000, and a fresh university graduate in teaching or mainstream civil service gets about Shs450,000. A fresh doctor gets about Shs600,000. Up to that point, the ratios are close to the colonial model. But above Shs2 million, salaries have become wildly arbitrary. With Shs30 or 40 million per month, each of the best-paid government officials hauls away 200 times as much as the lowly officer gets in his slave pay packet. This has far-reaching socio-political implications; because, however packaged or disguised, the wealth being dished out comes from the collective effort of our people. Glancing at the colonial salary ratio of fourty-to-one, the departed British governors must be smiling in their graves.

Allan Tacca
From here

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Palm Oil Fuels Land Grab

By next year palm oil is forecast to be the world's most produced and internationally traded edible oil. India and China are the world's biggest palm oil users. Apart from its use as a cooking oil, it's also found in a of processed foods and cosmetics. One in ten supermarket products contains palm oil. Government targets for the use of agrofuels in Europe, China and North America are making palm oil, which can be used to produce biodiesel, an even hotter commodity.

In Liberia, a country that was ravaged for years by war, an estimated 5.6 per cent of the total land mass has been leased out to foreign investors for palm oil production. Sime Darby has a 63-year lease for 220,000 hectares of land for oil palm plantations in the country. Singapore-listed Golden Agri Resources has another 220,000 hectares for palm oil estates, and Equatorial Palm Oil, a UK-listed palm oil developer has another 170,000 hectares. This, in a country that still has to import 60 percent of its staple rice needs.

In Sierra Leone European and Asian firms are securing long-term (50 year) leases on at least half a million hectares of farmland, almost 10 percent of the country's arable land. Of that amount, close to 300,000 hectares have been acquired for oil palm plantations by corporate investors from Europe and Southeast Asia.

In Cameroon, foreign investors from Asia, the US and Europe are rapidly securing enormous land banks, often in fragile forested areas, for palm oil estates. The same is true in Benin, Nigeria, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a Chinese company is reportedly working to secure 2.8 million hectares for oil palm for biodiesel production.

African governments that are endorsing and enabling this wave of large land acquisitions. They are not just allowing but actively encouraging the foreign industrialists and speculators to repeat the same grave injuries committed by colonists and capitalists of yesteryear. Governments and traditional rulers seem indoctrinated by the myth that allocating large tracts of land to foreign investors will lead to 'modernised' agriculture. They and others promoting the land deals as a form of agricultural investment would have us believe that anyone who defends smallholder production is succumbing to 'romanticism'. They appear equally oblivious, wilfully so, to the enormous risks these land deals incurs for their people and their nations. When foreign corporations and nations descend on Africa to get at the continent's oil, they tend to cause massive environmental, social and political disruption, and also conflict. But when they descend on the continent to get hold of massive amounts of arable land to produce palm oil for the world market, they are doing something even more egregious. They are taking control of the land and water on which the local people depend for their food production, livelihoods - their very survival.

Local growers and consumers in Africa do not refine, bleach and deodorise the oil into the commodity that industry produces for the world market.

In West and Central Africa the indigenous oil palm is invaluable in the region. Oil palm is often grown by rural people in 'tree-crop plantations' just one or two hectares in area, in diverse stands of other important trees in and around their farmland and at forest edges. The tree flourishes in natural association with other key food crops such as cassava and yam. It grows well in forest fallows and in agroforestry stands that include kolanut, citrus, indigenous fruit and timber trees, banana and plantains, and cocoa and coffee. The rich red oil that is extracted manually from the palm fruit is a staple in diets, second in importance only to rice or other staple grains or cereals. It is used in soups and sauces, for frying, and in dough made from customary foods such as cassava, rice, plantains, yams and beans. The fruit can even be boiled and roasted with a bit of sugar, tasting very much like a delicious date. It is an excellent source of Vitamins E and K and full of carotenes, which can be converted in the body to Vitamin A. It is also medicinal. Wild and cultivated stands of oil palm in West and Central Africa are also the source of one of the region's great delicacies - palm wine. The clear oil that is extracted, mostly manually, from the palm kernel is used to make soap. The pressed cake left after extraction can be used for fodder. Palm fronds are used for thatch.

Grown and used the way it traditionally has been in Africa, the oil palm also performs environmental services. It can help reclaim degraded lands, as a valuable shade tree in biodiverse cocoa and coffee tree-crop plots, and the residue left in boilers after oil extraction can be used to fertilise soils. But all of this relates to oil palm only as smallholders grow and use it. Once the foreign industrialists got their hands on it and took it away, the oil palm became something very different. In the hands of corporations, palm oil was transformed into a highly profitable commodity for the world market and its industrial production has caused immeasurable environmental damage in Southeast Asia. It appears poised to do the same in Africa. Prevailing economic dogma emphasises economies of scale and increased profitability through sheer size of oil palm estates. It does not take into consideration what is lost from the land when it is transformed into endless rows of oil palm clones, or the environmental damage caused by heavy pesticide and fertiliser use required in monoculture plantations. Massive amounts of productive smallholder farmland and precious woodlands, forest fallows and biodiversity reserves are being taken over by Asian, European and North American investors. They're keen to capitalise on the latest oil boom - one involving the humble African oil palm that is, sadly, threatened by the push to cultivate its 'improved' varieties on millions of hectares of precious African farmland.

The burgeoning demand for palm oil is fuelling a new scramble for land in Africa.

Adapted from here , an article by Joan Baxter

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Union Lessons

More than 200,000 Kenyan teachers went on strike Tuesday to protest the diversion of government funds meant to hire more teachers and ease classroom overcrowding. The money has instead gone to the ministry of defense, whose spending is not publicly scrutinized.

"Children of this country are not enjoying equal opportunities," Wilson Sossion, who heads the Kenya National Union of Teachers said. "This is the struggle. We are not doing it this time around for a salary increment. We are doing it for the poor child of this country and for the poor parent of this country."

The union wants the government to give full-time jobs to 18,000 teachers hired on temporary contracts and hire an additional 9,040 teachers. Some 79,000 teachers are needed to reach the internationally recommended teacher to student ratio of one teacher to 35 students. Kenya's public schools see an average of 50 students for every teacher, though some classes have only one teacher for 100 pupils. The union projects a shortfall of 115,000 teachers in the next couple of years as the population increases.

Nearly 10 percent of 13-year-old Kenyan students cannot complete a math problem meant for 7-year-olds, according to research done earlier this year by Uwezo, a pressure group that aims to improve literacy among children in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Britain suspended payments to the Kenyan government intended to help poor schoolchildren after $45 million in international donor money went missing.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Literacy day

International Literacy Day was celebrated on 8 September.

According to data from UNESCO's Institute for Statistics, 793 million adults – most of them girls and women - are illiterate. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education.

More than half the adult population of the following 11 countries are illiterate: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

Praying for health and death

The newly appointed health minister, Dr Christine Ondoa Dradidi, since her appointment has promoted the claim advanced by Oyet’s Life Line Ministries, that HIV/AIDS can be cured through prayer. She told The Observer that prayer heals HIV/AIDS, and that she knows three people who were once positive but turned negative after prayer for deliverance.

“I am sure and I have evidence that someone who was positive turned negative after prayers,” Ondoa told The Observer , promising to ask colleagues in Arua hospital, where she once worked, to find the relevant documentation. She spoke of her time as a doctor in West Nile when she handled cases of people who claimed to be negative after ARV treatment and prayers “While there [West Nile], we did thorough testing and saw all documentation of three people who were once positive. We tested them in different laboratories and the results were negative,” .

Dr. Christine Ondoa as the new head of Uganda’s Ministry of Health. The position will give Ondoa authority over a significant portion of Uganda’s foreign HIV/AIDS mitigation funding, which in the year 2010 included over $270 million dollars from the United States. Along with her role as a medical professional, Christine Ondoa also serves as pastor in the Life Line Ministries of apostle Julius Peter Oyet, one of the most powerful clerics leading Uganda’s ongoing crusade against gay rights. Apostle Julius Oyet has stated that “even animals are wiser than homosexuals”, forthrightly declared that homosexuality should be a capital crime, and claimed to have co-authored the internationally condemned, so-called “kill the gays” bill–submitted in 2009 by a member of Oyet’s elite “College of Prayer” group in Parliament.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Hope Peddlers

God is good....business. Nigeria's religious pastors run multi-million dollar businesses which rival that of oil tycoons. The joint wealth of five pastors was at least $200m (£121m).
Mfonobong Nsehe, who blogs for Forbes business magazine, says pastors own businesses from hotels to fast-food chains. Pastors are no longer solely interested in getting people to Heaven; they’ve devised ways to make good money while reaching out to souls.
"Preaching is big business. It's almost as profitable as the oil business," he said.

The richest pastor, Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, was worth about $150m. Oyedepo owned a publishing company, university, an elite private school, four jets and homes in London and the United States.

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Believers' Loveworld Ministries was worth between $30 and $50m. Oyakhilome's interests include newspapers, magazines, a local television station, a record label, satellite TV, hotels and extensive real estate. He is the founder and lead pastor of the Christ Embassy, a thriving congregation with branches in Nigeria, South Africa, London, Canada and the United States. His publishing company, Loveworld Publications, publishes ‘Rhapsody of Realities,’ a monthly devotional he co-authors with his wife. It sells over 2 million copies every month at $1 apiece.

Others are Temitope Joshua Matthew of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations worth between $10m and $15m; Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre worth between $6 million and $10 million) and Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church worth between $3 million and $10 million.

"We have Nigerians who are desperate, looking for solutions to their problems. They go to church for salvation, redemption and healing and pastors sometimes take advantage of them,"
Mr Nsehe said.

Millions of Nigerians search for miracles, signs and wonders. They have continued to attend religious crusades to seek miracles to their numerous problems such as barrenness, unemployment, financial difficulties, deliverance from ancestral curses, sickness and more. In Nigeria today, there are more than 50 of such powerful pastors in whose areas of speciality are miracles, prophecy, healing, teaching, preaching, marriage counselling, and are attracting people with such problems.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

From bad to worse

The famine in Somalia has spread to new regions, the UN will announce. Some four million people – more than 50 per cent of the population – are now in crisis, and the famine is expected to spread further in the coming months. In Somalia fewer than one in five in the south are getting help.

After a visit to southern Somalia last week, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said that the peak of the crisis had not yet been reached. "From the point of view of the food security of the people, obviously, as time goes by, until the next harvest is possible, the situation will become worse and worse," he said.

The international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Dr Unni Karunakara, returned from Somalia last week and said that, even though there was chronic malnutrition and drought across east Africa, hardly any agencies were able to work inside war-torn Somalia, where the picture was "profoundly distressing". He condemned other organisations and the media for "glossing over" the reality in order to convince people that simply giving money for food was the answer. According to Karunakara "We may have to live with the reality that we may never be able to reach the communities most in need of help"

Karunakara said that the use of phrases such as "famine in the Horn of Africa" or "worst drought in 60 years" obscured the man-made factors that had created the crisis and wrongly implied that the solution was simply to find the money to ship enough food to the region. "...glossing over the man-made causes of hunger and starvation in the region and the great difficulties in addressing them will not help resolve the crisis."

He said charities needed to start treating the public "like adults". He went on: "There is a con, there is an unrealistic expectation being peddled that you give your £50 and suddenly those people are going to have food to eat. Well, no. We need that £50, yes; we will spend it with integrity. But people need to understand the reality of the challenges in delivering that aid. We don't have the right to hide it from people; we have a responsibility to engage the public with the truth."

Chronic malnutrition, said Karunakara, is not new in east Africa and needs long-term action. "The Somali people have been living in a country at war, with no government, for 20 years, with several long periods of hardship, of famine and drought. This harvest failure is just what has tipped them over the edge this time, a catastrophe made worse," he said.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Eighty per cent of South African produce still comes from 15 per cent of its farms, most of them large-scale and white-owned. Although whites make up less than 10 per cent of South Africa's population of 50 million, they own about 90 per cent of the country's agricultural land. 40,000 white commercial farmers own 224 million acres of agricultural land. There are about 200,000 small farmers, nearly all black, 2 million to 2.5 million subsistence farmers, and more than half a million farm workers.

Ever since the founding of the African National Congress in 1912, the land question has been at the core of the South African liberation struggle. After the first all-race elections in 1994 to redress the imbalances in land ownership in South Africa the ANC established a target of redistributing 30 per cent of farmland to black farmers by 2014, a total of about 60.79 million acres. Instead, Nkwinti indicated the government has bought only about 14.82 million acres to date, of which nearly 4.94 million have been resold. After several big resettlement failures it then stopped handing out any acquired land in 2008.

Gugile Nkwinti, the minister of land reform, said black farmers have resold nearly 30 percent of the white farmland bought for them by the government, often selling back to the previous white owners.

Advocates for reform argue that the massive inequality in land ownership is a direct result of the colonisation of South Africa by Europeans and the consequent forcing of indigenous people of their land. Activist Andile Mngxitama said "The heart of the issue is that the land was taken by force and must be redistributed. It is a matter of ending apartheid,"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The struggle after the war

Abeja is one of the many women struggling to survive the horrors of war. Her home is a few kilometres from Barlonyo, where the LRA massacred over 200 people in a single attack in February 2004. Abeja was captured in 2002. She was a wife and a mother of six children. She was captured along with a daughter and a son by Uganda's feared rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and was forced to join them. But not before the soldiers made her kill her one-year- old baby girl, by smashing her skull in, and then gang raped her. Abeja can’t remember how many men they were; she says there could have been 10 to 15. She doesn’t know what happened to her son or if he’s still alive. Like many abductees, Abeja had to kill or be killed. In her four years with the LRA she tells IPS she can’t recollect the number of people she was forced to kill, but she puts the number at more than 40.

The LRA fought in the north and north eastern parts of Uganda for 23 years. The war, which forced close to two million people into internally displaced persons camps for decades. Thousands of people died as a result and the war was characterised by its use of child soldiers and the conscription of civilians into the rebel group. The LRA were forced out of the country in 2006 and are currently operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and western South Sudan.

Since the war ended in 2006, people went back to their original homes and depended on emergency aid. A recovery and development plan was put in place in 2009 by the Ugandan government but this has not covered the emergency medical needs of the population. Most of the money went into building new blocks of health units and rehabilitating the destroyed ones.

In Ogur, Lira in northern Uganda, Abeja has come to a temporary medical camp run by Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), a women’s organisation working with women in conflict and post-conflict settings. The camp is specifically for women with reproductive health complications, which they have mostly sustained from being raped during the almost two decades of war. For most of the women here it is the first time they have been offered special medical attention since the war ended in 2006, and for many it is the first time they have been treated by a doctor. It is also the first time that many of these women have ever spoken out about the violence they had to endure. Dr. Tom Charles Otim, a lead gynaecologist at the camp, says Abeja has lived with a prolapsed uterus for years now. Uterine prolapse – the descent of the uterus into the vagina or beyond – is one of the long-term complications associated with sexual violence. In Abeja’s case, her uterus is hanging out. She will need surgery, which costs about 200 dollars, to remove her uterus. She and 39 other women are referred for treatment to a regional hospital many kilometres away. A majority of the women seeking medical treatment at the camp have chronic pelvic pain as a result of pelvic inflammatory infections. "The infections are high here; because of the war, the women were not able to access medical care early," says Otim. This has had an effect on the women’s sexual lives and the majority of them have painful sex. Many women who have come to the camp have fertility problems.

Abeja not only has to live with the physical scars of the rapes but the psychological effects as well. She and women like her have to endure intense stigma from the community. Her husband rejected her after she returned, and left her to raise their four surviving children and her child from the war. Fighting back the tears she wonders: "Do they think I wanted to be abducted and raped by the rebels? Do they think I wanted to kill my own child?" Women like Abeja need more support than just surgery.

The district health officer in Lira, Nelson Opio, says that "When war ends, there’s a silent war that has to be fought.Politicians here think they will just put up structures so they can say ‘This is what I did during my time’ and ignore people’s real needs." .

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wasting Away

A survey around Kampala's urban markets, retialers and restaurants unveiled the stack reality that while food prices are soaring and many people are dropping dead or are going to bed hungry every night, unimaginable huge quantities of food are thrown away.

Food wastage is not unique to Uganda. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says one-third of all food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tonnes per year. In Italy alone, one of the countries with the highest levels of wastage, food worth $53 million is thrown away every year. This would translate into 753 million meals enough to feed the entire East Africa for two years.

Kalerwe is Kampala's largest food market. Located three kilometers north of the city, the place is where many urbanites both rich and poor gather to buy affordable food items. Many city dwellers from the adjoining slums walk up to two kilometers to buy cheap and yet quality food. Even residents from upscale Kololo, Ntinda and Nakasero drive to this market mostly on weekends to buy food. Yet despite the huge turnout of shoppers, some food remains and is either sold cheaply or thrown onto garbage skips.

"Carrots, potatoes and cassava have a short shelf life and so we increase the quantities sold to attract customers" Mr Simon Mukasa who operates a stall at Kalerwe. "If you fail to sell cassava by evening then you can only throw it onto garbage skips." Yet cassava is one food item that easily be dried and processed into flour.

East African Business Week witnessed a lady throwing away tomatoes she said were rotten. "Nobody can buy these," she lamented as the reject joined a pile of ripe bananas, cabbages and stale cassava. In the city, many households especially in the slums keep some cattle and goats and one would think they would struggle to get grass and other feed supplements.
Ironically in the urban townships, many cattle farmers in the neighbouring Wakiso District that surrounds Kmapala city buy a sack of banana peelings at UGshs 3000 ($1.2). This is so because there are many cattle in the villages competing for feeds while in the city, they are just thrown away on skips.

It is estimated that about 80% of restaurants in Kampala throw away at least five kgs of food everyday. "It is easier to just throw it food away in the dustbin than to store it" said Miss Jackie Achieng who runs Palms Restaurant in Nankulabye, 3 km north west of Kampala city. She admitted that she throws away food almost every day.

The problem of postharvest losses is very crucial especially in rural areas. This is due to lack of proper storage facilities and better processing methods to prolong the shelf value. Until serious efforts are made to ensure that global food production is matched with adequate storage, transportation and processing, this life-giving resource will continue to be wasted. Amid such situation it is inevitable to conclude that worldwide hunger is simply a figurative creation rather than a reality. What is at stake is the failure to manage and equitably distribute our food resources.

In the words of Shakespeare: "Distribution should undo excess and each man have enough."

from here

Poor Jo'

Nearly half of the people in major townships across Johannesburg do not have access to proper food, an agricultural expert told a conference in Johannesburg.

“A recent survey showed that 42% of the population in Alexandra, Soweto, and Orange Farm were food insecure,” Florian Kroll, a food security researcher, said at a Health and Poverty Indaba. He also revealed that 97% of those who did not have proper nutrition were TB patients: “That’s a concern because we depend on food to be healthy.”

Another expert, Prof Laetitia Rispel, a professor at the centre for health policy at the school of public health at Wits University, said research also showed that HIV prevalence was almost double in urban informal settlements compared to urban formal areas in Johannesburg. Other statistics are that Joburg has a still-birth rate of 18 per 1 000 births and a tuberculosis cure rate of between 70 and 79 percent, which is below the target of 85 percent.

Life expectancy in South Africa is 45 and, according to Rispel, “it doesn’t compare well to other countries of similar income, such as Brazil”. Maternal and infant mortality rates are alarmingly high, and the maternal mortality rate increased between 2000 and 2005 from 230 to 400 per 1 000 births. Health and poverty went hand-in-hand. The head of social development in Gauteng, Bheki Sibeko explained poverty is the key cause of ill health and the people most affected by poverty are society’s most vulnerable: women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly and the youth. “Poverty is highest in women-headed, single-parent households,” he added.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poverty in The Gambia

Former Permanent Secretary at the Gambian Ministry of Finance, Abdou Touray, said over half of the population in the country still live in abject poverty.

He remarked, “The objective of Vision 2020 is to get out of this, but it is getting late. We have achieved 6% growth rate, but growth is not sufficient to reduce poverty. The growth levels are not impacting on poverty."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Land-grab Report

Indian agribusiness companies are ready to spend $2.5bn buying, or renting for decades, several million hectares of cheap land in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in what could be some of the largest farming deals struck in Africa in the last 50 years, according to a Guardian report.

A delegation of 35 Indian investors, including food conglomerates McLeod Russel, Kaveri Seeds, and Karuturi Global, has been touring Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda for the last week to seek land to grow palm oil, maize, cotton, rice and vegetables, largely for the burgeoning Indian market. The deals, if concluded, would swell growing concerns for the "land grab" phenomenon now taking place. There has been growing alarm at some of the handouts and tax exemptions in favour of the companies, potentially at the expense of local communities. Many of the projects have barely started producing food, but tens of thousands of people are expected to be evicted, and land traditionally used by pastoralist farmers is being fenced off. In addition, many companies are being allowed to grow food primarily for export despite increasingly hungry home markets.

Karuturi said in Dar es Salaam that it was ready to spend $500m acquiring and developing 200,000 hectares of land for palm oil, 150,000 for cereals and 20,000 for sugarcane. This is in addition to $400m the company is spending to develop 100,000 hectares in Gambella province in Ethiopia. The investors have said they are each ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on what is some of the cheapest land in the world, being offered on decades-long leases for as little as $1.50 per hectare per year.

"There is huge potential for the agriculture sector in east Africa," said Karuturi's managing director, Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi. "The region has 120m hectares of arable land, the same size of arable land India has."

According to the UN, at least 60m hectares of land, mostly in Africa , have been bought or leased for up to 100 years as western hedge and pension funds have moved to buy land as an alternative investment to property, and wealthy Middle East countries have sought land to grow food after food riots and droughts. China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as many smaller Middle East countries have led the deals.

"No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security," said Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia. "These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors."

Meanwhile, the same situation has manifested itself in South America where the US-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, has concluded that much of Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia has been acquired by foreign companies to farm."In Paraguay, Argentine firms and individuals own about 60% of the 3m hectares of land used to cultivate soy. Foreigners own 19.4% of all Paraguayan land and Argentines own almost all of the 500,000 hectares of Uruguayan soil designated for soy cultivation, while foreigners own 25% of the country's total arable land," say the authors. Foreign agribusiness investors own or rent over 1m hectares of Bolivia, according to the report.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kenyan hunger

The food crisis that is devastating lives and killing children throughout the Horn of Africa is not restricted to the arid lands. Over the past five months, Concern Worldwide has recorded a 62 percent increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) at clinics it supports in Nairobi slum areas. Part of the reason malnutrition in slums is paid relatively scant attention is that it rarely reaches the emergency level. In Turkana, 15 percent GAM would translate to 13,000 children. But in Nairobi district, 13,000 malnourished children would reflect just a 3.45 percent GAM rate.“Emergency thresholds for malnutrition applied in rural areas are not applicable in poor settlements where population density overrides the health indicators used in rural areas,” said Thandie Mwape, a humanitarian affairs officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “This is not as visible as cattle and goats dying,” said Amina Abdulla, programme manager for urban livelihoods and social protection at Concern. “But the crisis is as severe".

“They live in a fixed crisis, day to day,” said communications manager Elizabeth Wright. “Because there’s poverty all the time, it’s hard to know when they reach a tipping point."

"Malnutrition in the urban areas of Kenya is there all of the time, it doesn’t get the attention it should, and some of the background causes of malnutrition rising in the north are the same in the urban areas,” said Peter Hailey from the UN Children’s Fund.

In Korogocho, a Nairobi slum, Rabaha Mohammad is responsible for feeding herself and 10 other people who share her rented room. “There are days when we don’t have anything to eat, but we might borrow some money or buy food on credit to have something for that day,” she said. Mohammad owes her creditors KSh5,000 - more than US$50. She and her children subsist on one meal a day - some rice with cabbage and tomatoes, and sometimes tea and bread. “They don’t complain of hunger much,” she said of her children. “They only cry about it once in a while.”

Alice said “many more” women have turned to sex work since the drought started and food prices went up. With the KSh50 ($0.90) she makes most days, Alice can buy a little rice for herself and her three children, and maybe some water. She has not paid rent in two months. Her children were chased away from school a month ago when the money ran out to pay the fees. Alice said the baby she held in her arms was crying because she had not been fed all day. Alice has so little food to eat she can no longer produce breast milk.

People living in slums are especially vulnerable to food price changes because so much of their income goes on food, and the lack of regular employment makes planning and saving difficult. To survive the “alarmingly volatile” increases in food prices, said Wright, people have reduced their food intake and turned to negative coping strategies such as engaging in sex work, taking children out of school, or selling assets.While international assistance is focused on the swelling numbers of refugees and devastated pastoralists, slum conditions often fall far short of the minimum shelter and sanitation standards established for responses to humanitarian crises.

Pauline Wangoi Mungai came to Korogocho 30 years ago, when the place was still being built. She sells vegetables in a small shop on the roadside. “People used to come and buy a bucket of potatoes,” she said. “Now they come with KSh10 [1 cent] and buy one potato.” Mungai said she would probably have to raise the price of her vegetables even more to make a profit. In her 30 years in the slum, she had never seen things so bad. “This is the worst. This is the big one.”

From here

Its not bad luck , its the system

Nigeria is one of the most unequal nations in Africa and the world. And like many other resource-rich nations, 'growth’ has not led to sustainable job opportunities. The so-called economic growth only benefits a narrow band of Nigerians – whether under dictatorships or democratic rule.

Nigeria’s population is three times that of South Africa, its economy is second to theirs in Africa. Nigeria are the 37th largest economy in the world, and 11th in terms of labour force (about 48 million, according to 2010 estimates). So how come its one of the most impoverished countries in Africa and the 25th poorest in the world? Global average income is about $25 per person per day. In Nigeria, about half live under $2 a day – on the threshold of poverty. Two-thirds of the population lives under or around $1.25 a day – in extreme poverty. Twenty centuries after the development of scripts and the numeric systems, about 44% of the population still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.

While the economy grew, the incomes of the poor have not, even with the new minimum wage. This is especially true of the rural and urban poor who together, account for much of Nigerian poverty. At current rates, it is estimated that by 2015, Nigeria will have more poor people than India and China who have more than a billion people each. In fact, the World Bank includes Nigeria in the list of top 15 places with the highest incidence of poverty. Of our 162 million people, 90 million live below the poverty level of $2 a day, despite billions of dollars in oil revenues. Of that 90 million poor people, 60 million are dependants.

In 1980 only an estimated 27 percent of Nigerians lived in poverty. By 1990, it had grown to 70 percent. In 2010, over 58 percent of the population lived under the new poverty threshold of $1.25 a day.

Nigeria’s poor are in two distinct groups: the working and non-working population. Poverty is prevalent in both rural and urban areas, though large numbers of rural folk constantly migrate to urban areas in search of work. This is not unconnected to the fact that typical households in rural areas only cultivate 1 hectare of land annually which is only capable of producing about N80, 000 worth of food crops. From this, the household may earn N80, 000 ($500) or N219 per day, for a family of 6-7 people. Each member of that family lives on approximately N32-37 per day. Supplementary income from cattle, fishing or other wage labour, does not amount to much. There are few activities in the rural areas that create jobs apart from labour intensive agriculture; even this is seasonal. The landless farm labourers have little to do in the off-season, unless they seek work in the urban areas.

The urban poor – mostly uneducated and unskilled migrants from rural poverty – only have their physical bodies as capital. Urban wages may be higher than the rural, (for the same kind of work, urban wage rate can be 50–100% higher), but workers sometimes end up poorer because most of their meager earnings is consumed by the higher costs of living. With the new minimum wage, the typical urban poor earns between N18,000-20,000 (or N240,000 annually). This translates to approximately N658 per day and in the smaller urban household of 4 would amount to N164 per person per day - less than the poverty line of N200 a day.

Charity, welfare and aid initiatives are not enough, nor do they work. Even if poverty alleviation funds were collected through taxation or voluntary contributions, it is highly doubtful if they can be efficiently delivered. Reliance on luck will not take us any further than where we are.

Adapted from an article by Nasir El-Rufai, a former federal minister, in the Daily Independent

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dependence Syndrome

In the past, it was said and often repeated that Africa was inflicted by three crippling scourges, namely poverty, hunger and disease. Unfortunately, the three severely handicapping scourges are still prevalent.

Most African leaders have steered their governments into the unpredictable and costly dependence syndrome. Many of these leaders and their bureaucrats continue to be seen in the capitals of the developed and developing worlds with begging cups in hand. On their return home, they jubilate and exhibit their triumphs in having convinced their counterparts in the former worlds to part with crumbs under their rich tables, in exchange for the surrender of local raw materials which consist of wealth.

Today, the dependence syndrome in Africa has come to mean the surrender of valuable national assets in return for cheap trinkets and poorly designed and manufactured transient goods and equipment. The African continent continue to rely heavily on expatriate experts and money with their programmes of participation, personnel and paraphernalia, sometimes alien models of development have been thrust upon Africa while implementing international or bilateral agreements. These are agreements that invariably favour the donor rather than the receiving host country.

Consequently, the dependence syndrome exacerbates instead of reducing the three scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease.


Friday, August 19, 2011


Eastern and northern Uganda could be staring at famine. The worst hit districts are Bulambuli and the region of Karamoja where 1.2 million people are facing food shortage. Following the persistent drought that reduced pasture and food production, Karimojong cattle keepers are selling their few remaining cows and goats in order to survive. Others who lost their animals to cattle rustlers have resorted to breaking stones and selling them to Tororo Cement Industries while some gather wild fruits to survive. As food scarcity worsens in many districts of northern Uganda, many households have resorted to rationing the available foodstuffs they have in their family stores. To survive, some families have resorted to borrowing food from friends, hunting, selling their land and animals.

"We are just selling off our animals to survive but traditionally cows in Karamoja are only meant for marriage," said Timothy Koryang, an elder in Moroto.

Ms Anastasia Among, a 40 year-old widow in Ocorai village in Serere and her family, depend on farming for survival but for the last three months, there has been no rain in her area and the crops have withered. "I depend on growing crops for sale and consumption at home. This year the harvest is very poor and we fear there is going to be a serious food shortage," Ms Among said.

In West Nile region, families have one meal a day as a result of food shortage that has pushed prices up. Mr Clement Adrabo, a resident of Ediofe, said: "We now take one meal per day because food is expensive and there is no money. I have even stopped drinking alcohol and the money should rather be used for feeding my family," the father of four said.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

food prices

Low- and middle-income earners across eastern and central Africa are reeling from the mounting cost of living brought on by a sharp increase in commodity prices in the past few months. Protests and demonstrations against the rising cost of food and fuel have swept across several towns in Kenya and Uganda; violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces have been reported on several occasions in Uganda.


According to Ethiopia's Central Statistical Agency, the annual inflation rate reached 39.2 percent in July, from 16.5 percent in February 2011. Food prices rose by 47.4 percent in July against 12.8 percent in February.

"Buying meat and butter is unthinkable; meat has gone up from 40 to 45 birr [US$2.60] a kilo four months ago to 90 birr [$5.20] a kilo now," said Solomon Bekele, 55, who supports a family of five in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. "Butter is now around 120 birr [$6.95] a kilo from just 60 birr [$3.47] in October 2010." - Solomon, who makes 4,000 birr [$231] a month, says he spends about 60 percent of his income on food.


"We eat one or two of the usual three meals every day because of the high price of food; two months ago, half a kilo of rice cost 20,000 shillings [$0.66], but now it costs 40,000 shillings [$1.32]," said Fadumo Hassan Abdi, a mother of six in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. "Until two months ago, I had a small business in Bakara Market in Mogadishu, but it was lost during the war between the Transitional Federal Government and Al-Shabab militia."

Mustafe Mohamed, a father of three in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, said: "Four months ago one 50kg sack of rice was only $28, compared with $34.50 now, while a 50kg sack of sugar that cost $40 now costs $50. Before, $90 was enough feed the family, but now you can't even buy food for $200 - we don't know what to do."

Shaqlan Jama Ismail, a grandmother, says food prices have never been so high in her lifetime. "We used to buy food with cash, but now we have to borrow money," she said. "We are waiting for the almighty Allah to help us."

"In late July 2011, a litre of petrol was 5,800 Somaliland shillings [$0.96] but now it is about 7,200 shillings [$1.20] - if the situation continues like this we may stop driving," said Mohamed Abdalla, a taxi driver in Hargeisa.


According to Tanzania's National Bureau of Statistics, the annual headline inflation rate for June 2011 was 10.9 percent, against 9.7 percent the previous month.

"We used to buy rice for 1,200 shillings [$0.74] for a kilo but now, you have to pay 1,500 shillings [$0.92]," said Sitti Pilula, a resident of Kariakoo, a suburb of Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.


"I could not eat ugali (maize meal) without meat; even when I had it with vegetables, it had to be mixed with beef," said Francis Muruli, a teacher in Nakuru, in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. Muruli and his family now eat vegetables with their ugali, saving an average of 80 shillings [$0.83] on every meal.

A 90kg bag, which cost about KSh1,200 [$12.50], now costs as much as KSh4,000 [$41.70]. According to government officials

Wanjiku Kamau, a resident of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, says the high prices of food and other commodities means she is unable to save any money.

"I am paid 10,000 shillings [$104] per month; my rent is 3,000 [$31.30] while almost all the rest goes to feeding my children," said the single mother of three. "Everything has increased in price; two litres of cooking oil which I used to buy for 280 shillings [$2.90] is now 470 shillings [$4.90]."

Francis Kamunya, a secondary school teacher, now goes directly to producers and buys in bulk to reduce the cost of running his household. "Rather than buy maize in single packets, I now prefer taking about 5kg of maize to the posho mill, leaving me with at least some savings," he said. "I buy at least 20kg of rice from the Mwea (rice scheme) traders. It is enough to last three months."

Abdi Ndenge, a night-watchman at a guest house in Isiolo town, works as a porter during the day yet he can barely make enough to feed his two children. "I was comfortable until December last year; I used to work at night, sleep during the day and could afford to feed my family; this is not possible now with the food prices having gone so high."

The pump price of petrol in Nairobi is about KSh115 ($1.20) against KSh97.1 (about $1) in January 2011. The shilling has dropped 18 percent against the dollar in 2011, trading at a new low of 95.10 on 9 August.


According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, headline inflation reached 18.7 percent in July from 15.7 percent in June.

"Life is becoming unbearable because I have to struggle every day to be able to put food on the table for my family. Today, the largest bunch of matooke (plantain) costs up to 20,000 shillings [$7.30]; I used to pay half the price in January but my income has remained the same from that time," said James Mukwaya, a father of four with a household of eight people. "We would resort to maize flour but that too has risen to 3,200 shillings [$1.16] per kilo instead of the 1,500 shillings [$0.54] we used to pay."

A sugar shortage - caused by drought and the temporary closure of a major sugar factory for maintenance - has seen prices soar: 1kg is retailing at about 5,800 shillings [$2.11] in urban areas, and costs up to 10,000 shillings [$3.65] in rural areas.

"Prices are rising night after night; I have to hold my breath when entering the market because of the rising food prices," said Sara Lamunu, a resident of Gulu, northern Uganda. "Last Wednesday a kilo of sugar was 6,000 shillings [$2.19] but this morning the price has risen to 9,000 shillings [$3.30]."

"I no longer fry food because a litre of cooking oil costs 4,500 shillings [$1.64]," said Alice Atto, another Gulu resident.


According to the National Institute of Statistics, the increase in the consumer price index of 1.54 percent is attributable primarily to the increase in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages (2.41 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (0.95 percent) and transport (3.08 percent). The cost of local goods increased by 5.12 percent, according to the institute, attributed to a 1.7 percent price increase in vegetables and a 6.12 percent increase in bread and cereals prices.


According to a first-quarter report by Burundi's Central Bank, "The rise in food inflation is mainly due to the increase in rice prices (8.7 percent); fresh fish (17.3 percent); dried fish (9.6 percent), palm oil (29.7 percent) and dry beans (14.1 percent)." Antoine Gahiru, a communication officer for the Institute of Economic Studies of Burundi, said annual inflation in June was 8.6 percent

"We fear we could have a famine like the one in Somalia," said Aminata, a banana vendor in the capital, Bujumbura. "I take care of a family of five children and I am spending at least five times more than what I spent in 2005 to feed them. Today, beans cost 1,300 francs [$1.03] whereas it was only 600 francs [$0.50] in 2005."

Ciza Leocadia, 29, a mother of twins, said: "I came to Bujumbura in search of food because I was not able to raise my twins in my rural home; I have nothing to eat." She said her husband had gone to neighbouring Tanzania in search of food.