Tuesday, January 30, 2018

African Migration

African migration is predominately within the continent, particularly between neighbouring countries. In 2013, 65 percent of the 20 million sub-Saharan African migrants, who had left their countries, were still living in the region. Migration within and outside of Africa is expected to increase, in part because of continued population growth, with the working-age population of Africa expected to double to 1,3 billion by 2050.
The leading host countries for migrants in Africa are Côte d’Ivoire (with 2,3 million African migrants), South Africa (2 million) and Nigeria (0,9 million). Gabon, Algeria and Morocco are emerging as African migration destinations.
Meanwhile, Uganda and Ethiopia host the largest refugee populations on the continent. In December 2017, Uganda was home to over 1,4 million refugees (75 percent of them from South Sudan). Ethiopia currently hosts over 890 000 refugees (most of whom are from neighbouring South Sudan and Somalia). 
Drivers of African migration include the desire for a better and safer life, and the search for work. People are also forced to move by war, harsh economic climates, bad governance and environmental degradation. Remittances – money sent by migrants to their home countries – are one of the biggest benefits of migration for African countries. n 2008, they overtook foreign direct investment and international aid as the largest source of foreign exchange earnings for sub-Saharan African countries. 
However, Africa’s loss of skilled and educated people remains a major negative consequence of migration. There are some policies and legal frameworks in place in Africa.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Xenophobia in South Africa still persists

The African Diaspora Forum (ADF) is worried that attacks on migrants could spread to Pretoria. “The mere fact that you are not a South African by birth puts you in danger,” said Marc Gbaffou, the chairperson of the organisation representing foreigners living in South Africa.
Attacks on foreigners started two weeks ago in Rustenburg, when six buildings believed to be owned by Nigerians and allegedly used as brothels and drug dens were torched.
The ADF said there was growing concern that areas with a concentration of migrants might be the next target. Gbaffou said the attacks had spread to Mogale City, where a satellite police station in Krugersdorp was set alight and police vehicles stoned during a protest against foreigners.
“A similar thing happened a number of months ago in Rosettenville, where community members went on a rampage to attack migrants they believed were criminals, and that quickly spread to Mamelodi, Atteridgeville and many other places in Gauteng.” Gbaffou said migrants living in Pretoria had a reason to be concerned. “They are not only attacking Nigerians, but all foreigners and that’s a cause for concern.”

Corruption Throughout the Continent

 Speaking at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union,  Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat has disclosed that a $50 billion is lost annually to corruption and Illicit financial flows in the continent.

Mahamat expressed concern that the continent has continuously relied on external assistance because of huge financial loss through corruption.

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms. Vera Songwe, underlined the need for African countries to collectively conquer corruption. Songwe added that it is only through this that the continent can achieve lasting independence and sustainable development.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Call for Action

The capitalist crisis in the world economy has remained intense, deep and prolonged. It is primarily borne out of contradictions of capitalism, in which production is social and the fruits of labour are appropriated privately by a handful of people. This capitalist crisis has driven down standards of living and the livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world.
Unemployment has risen and wages remain depressed. Although often coated with relatively short-lived, anaemic, upward or recovery cycles, all major western economies are experiencing a long downward drag.
As workers, we know that in both economic boom and crisis, it is the bosses that benefit and the workers that suffer. Throughout the world, the ruling elites have imposed extreme sacrifices upon the workers. They have often succeeded where the unions are weak or are divided along narrow sectarian lines. In this unfolding capitalist crisis, trade unions need to respond with militancy and programmes of the mass-line in defending the working class and this must continue even though global capitalism seems to have started to recover.
We now know from the last report released by Statistics South Africa that more than half of the South African population live in poverty. In fact, the number of people living in extreme poverty (i.e. persons living below the 2015 Food Poverty Line of R441 per person per month) has increased by 2,8 million, to nearly 14 million. Women, children and the elderly are the hardest hit by poverty. This reality of the deepening and widening poverty was also confirmed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), which reported that 'in per capita terms South Africans are poorer than they were in 2014'

During this round of wage negotiations, unions need to take up the fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers in a disciplined and fearless way. Unions should go out there and fight strong and hard for decent wage increases that will bring about meaningful change to the lives of the workers.
We need to realise that for us to fight back we need to be united as workers across union lines and adopt the idea of sympathy strikes and solidarity rallies embracing the widest sections of workers. A failure by trade unions to unite and collectively work together to defend the interests of our members in the face this widening social and economic crisis would be reckless and a form of cowardice that we would live to regret.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The “second scramble for Africa”.

With crime, corruption, conflict and  uncertainty as well as dismal employment figures, higher costs of living and the inevitable fallout of these, moods are generally grim across Africa.

Nevertheless, Africa, as we know, is very attractive to foreigners and demand for investment in African real estate is expected to reach a fever pitch in 2018, and beyond, API Events,  Africa’s leading provider of real estate development and investment conferences, said.

With macroeconomic indicators released by the International Monetary Fund in November 2017 pointing to a surge in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 5 percent across 18 economies in sub-Saharan Africa, and the World Bank’s 2018 Economic Outlook predicting overall growth of 3,2 percent, demands for investment opportunities are increasing.  It becomes apparent that Africa’s sleeping ‘lion economies’ are waking up with Ghana predicted to grow at 8,9 percent, Cote d’Ivoire 7 percent and Senegal around 7 plus. Kenya and Mozambique are also predicted to grow substantially.


Unequal South Africa

Shoprite’s chief executive, Pieter Engelbrecht, earned 1 332 times more money than the average salary of an employee.

Naspers’ chief executive Bob Van Dijk earned 264 times more than an average worker.

Steinhoff’s former chief executive Markus Jooste earned 234 times more.

Siphokazi Mthathi, Oxfam SA’s executive director, said this was why she believed capitalism to be a “crime against humanity”, as companies with gaping wage inequalities, which are entangled in graft, continue to reward billionaires at the expense of ordinary workers.
“We outline in the report that the wealth that the marginalised produce, but don’t benefit from, should be considered a crime against humanity. The humanity we are talking about are the 3.7 billion people who continue to be excluded from benefits, yet their labour is extracted to feed and bolster the profits of the wealthy. Free market capitalism has not worked for the majority of the world’s people,” Mthathi emphasised.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Most Nigerians are in Poverty

The Special Advisor to the President on Social Protection, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, says about 67 per cent of Nigerian population live below poverty line.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Soth Sudan and a lost generation

South Sudan risks losing a generation that would make it harder to rebuild after the civil war ends.

Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF's executive director, made the warning after visiting some of the areas most devastated by the war. "70 percent of the children are out of school, that is highest in the world...we are going to lose this generation and that would be tragic for South Sudan because a country cannot build itself without this next generation of young people."
Fore said she had witnessed widespread malnutrition among children and warned: "We are heading into the dry season... we might lose up to a quarter of a million children in South Sudan."

Where is South Africa going? (1993)

From the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

There was a time when the battle-cries of the ANC were “Black Majority Rule" and “Sanctions Now”. But that was when Nelson Mandela was still a political prisoner— in the days when “communism” was seen as a threat to those governments which advocated free-market policies.

We live, however, in unpredictable times. The last 4-5 years have been momentous in shattering illusions, beliefs, notions of what had hitherto been taken for granted. The impossible became possible. There were great shifts in public opinion. Governments have been toppled and national boundaries have moved overnight as if blown by a breeze.

Many believed the breeze reached South Africa when Mandela was released from 27 years of imprisonment on 11 February 1990. Headlines praising the release and eulogizing F.W. De Klerk were flashed around the world, and the 78-year struggle of the ANC seemed finally about to be vindicated.

The dreams of South Africa’s black majority appeared to have been realized in mid-1991, when the parliament in Cape Town repealed the Population Registration Act, and when De Klerk announced to a joint sitting of the country's tricameral parliament that “Apartheid now belongs to history”. Brave words, indeed, from a ruling National Party that had held power and practiced institutionalized racism since 1948.

By September De Klerk was seen to be pushing South Africa towards democracy, by unveiling further constitutional proposals for a new non-racial South Africa. The scheme was lambasted by opponents as an underhand move, designed to allow the white minority to keep the “accumulated privileges of apartheid" (Guardian, 4 September 1991). Although the new proposals would extend the franchise to all adult South Africans, it would in effect, it was argued, give the whites and other minorities the right to veto important policy decisions.

It is hardly a coincidence that De Klerk s decision to free Mandela, legalize the ANC and the South African Communist Party, and begin constitutional negotiations should coincide with the discrediting of international “communism” in the wake of the end of the cold war. The South African government knew full well that any change in the constitution would not upset the country’s economic status quo. Under apartheid the black majority had laboured as wage-slaves, or rather volatile wage-slaves; enfranchised, they would still be wage-slaves but this time a little more contented. Besides, a South Africa seen to be getting its act together would be an incentive for foreign investment.

In February last year, De Klerk announced that white voters would be asked in a referendum to answer “yes” or "no” to the question: “Do you support the continuation of the reform process . . . which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiations?” One month later the white voting population returned an impressive 68.6 percent "yes" vote. It is a fair guess, however, that many voters, voting either way, had their minds set when violence surrounding the campaign left 25 dead.

The entire reform process ground to a halt on 17 June 1992, when Inkatha warriors, with the assistance of the security forces massacred 42 in the Transvaal township of Boipatong. The ANC abandoned constitutional talks and Mandela was "convinced that his [President De Klerk’s] method of bringing about a solution to this country is war" (Guardian, 22 June). All sides were in agreement on the suspending of talks and within a week tit-for-tat killings had left another 70 dead.

Within three months it was the turn of South Africa’s defence forces to have themselves a massacre, opening fire on a demonstration by 70,000 ANC supporters at Ciskei, killing 28 and leaving another 200 injured.The government, who was accused of complicity with the defence forces, awaited an ANC-led backlash, it never came. Instead, in a surprising act of volte-face, the ANC, three days later, agreed to hold peace talks with the De Klerk government.

In September Mandela signed a “record of understanding" with De Klerk, agreeing that a new South African constitution could only be shaped by an elected constituent assembly and that there would be a non-racial interim government in the future. For good measure, and probably as a way of compensation for the recent massacres. De Klerk agreed on the immediate release of 150 political prisoners. Two months later De Klerk was calling for further negotiation to be re-started by the end of March 1993 with a view to holding South Africa's first non-racial general election by April 1994.

On 4 February this year, the ANC again met with the government for a further round of bilateral talks. In a meeting a month previous both sides had agreed there should be an “interim government of national unity”, though no agreement had been reached on the timescale for a new constitution. Nevertheless, it was understood that an “interim government of national unity”, consisting of parties that had secured a minimum percentage of the vote in elections, would hold power for five years following an agreement by a constitutional assembly on a final constitution.

Many in the ANC, however, objected any set-up which would give a disproportionate share of power to Chief Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader. Disagreement also remained on the suggested devolved regional plan. The ANC had pushed for a centralized authority, be it within a federal framework, while De Klerk pressed for regional autonomy on such issues as health and education.

On 1 April delegates from 26 political organizations, extreme left as well as right-wing, attended a round of multi-party negotiations. The talks ended a day sooner than scheduled, with many surprised that negotiations were back on track and to continue at a lower level. A day later secret negotiations began to reincorporate the "independent" homelands back into South Africa. Matters appeared to be going smoothly.

No-one could have anticipated what would happen eight days later when a member of the neo-nazi AWB assassinated Chris Hani, a leading ANC politicians as well as the leader of the South African Communist Party. This had been the first political assassination in almost 30 years, and many believed that previous mutual restraint had signalled an unwritten agreement between blacks and whites not to target one-another s leaders.

The ANC urged restraint on its members, hoping that something fruitful could emerge out of the death of Hani, that his death would at least induce some kind of urgency into negotiations. Meanwhile, ANC Youth leaders rejected peace calls. One speaker announced to a rally in Pretoria: "It is time we told the leadership that enough is enough . . . now is the time to hit back” (Times, 13 April). In a country where peaceful demonstration has been met with violence and force, and where the black majority has for so long been denied the right of the ballot box to voice their wishes, it is little wonder that many still feel that violence can be the only tool of reform.

Hani's murder has a deadly logic for those in South Africa who hope to gain by it. those who are attempting to upset reform and derail negotiations at any cost, who will deny the black majority any rights, even if it means civil war. Thankfully their numbers are few. They include the likes of Eugene Terreblanche, the AWB leader whose hypocritical view of the death of Nani was an “atrocious deed". But whatever the latent motives were for the death of Hani, his assassination does not seem to have dowsed the flame of reform. On 15 April the South African government reacted to the current crisis by tentatively promising to hurry along constitutional reform.

It looks likely that in the near future an electorate with enfranchised blacks in the majority will have voted in a new constituent assembly and a power-sharing government of national unity holding power for five years, headed, probably by Nelson Mandela. The ANC is in favour of a government of national unity of limited duration. but have opposed a five-year power-sharing plan. De Klerk, however, appears to be in the better bargaining position. How smaller factions within South Africa will react remains to be seen. The extreme right-wing AWB will never be placated, neither will comfort be found in the Inkatha camp where Chief Buthelezi has warned of civil war should the ANC and De Klerk's National Party reach an agreement to share power on their own. In any event, a future South Africa will probably be a highly devolved federation, with local and regional rights entrenched.

The negotiations have been taking place against the background of a South African economy in turmoil. Employment between 1991 and mid-1992 contracted by five percent and there is a continuance of capital flight—six billion Rand last year and 40 billion Rand since 1985. It is only a matter of time before the finger of blame is pointed. Should the economy continue to collapse Mandela will be blamed as much as De Klerk.

George Meddemmen.
Courting capitalism
Much has been compromised by the ANC since Mandela was released. Black majority rule has been sacrificed for a share in an interim government of national unity, in which parties with a minimum percentage of support will be given representation. Similarly, the ANC ultimate goal of a “socialist society” has been sacrificed for a share in a government with a proven track record of capitalist management.

There are now claims that the ANC elite are the new South African free marketeers, courting white businessmen and aspiring to their lifestyle. Recently the Johannesburg Weekly Mail ran a piece by a disillusioned ANC supporter, who questioned the contrasting lifestyles of the ANC elite and the black majority they represent: Mandela lives in a lavish suburb of Houghton; Zini Mandela’s honeymoon was financed by a wealthy white businessman; Allan Boesak now enjoys an extravagant lifestyle. “Are there gifts from the South African white economic elite?” asked the ANC member, “is our human suffering under apartheid rule so cheap to be bought by gifts from the white racists?”

Professor Heribert Adam, noted South African observer, commented:
On the part of the ANC/SACP, socialism has been reduced to anti-trust legislation and affirmative action. Lenin may still be quoted, but the World Bank, it seems, exerts a stronger pull . . . The more far-sighted sections of the business elite ingratiate themselves with any political leadership. (Guardian. 17 April)
The legalization of the ANC has much to do with this. Once legalized, given legitimacy, they struggled for acceptability and were easily discredited when Winnie Mandela was indicted on charges of kidnapping and murder, and when news broke about ANC detention and torture camps. The government could even use the Inkatha movement and their own defence forces against the ANC in acts of intimidation, knowing that any backlash would damage the new moderate image of the ANC. The only way the ANC could gain acceptability in the eyes of the white minority was by sacrificing some of their long-held views and recognizing the economic system, as run by the white capitalist elite.

For the ANC there is no going back now, only forward, forward with a perspective tainted by the capitalist economic values of the white minority. The ANC now want sanctions lifted, condemn acts of violence and aggression, and frown upon the kind of demonstrations they backed only six months ago at Ciskei.

"Our ideal is a socialist society”, said Chris Hani a few months before his assassination. “socialism is the best and most cohesive system for South Africa” (Guardian, 15 February). Ironic words, true socialists will agree, in light of recent events. Socialism (not the state capitalism Hani had in mind) is indeed a "most cohesive system”, but only on a world scale. Socialists, however, will not fail to welcome recent developments in South Africa. A South Africa with universal suffrage can only bring the realization of world socialism a step closer when the chains of capitalism begin to rust through and the world’s working class begin to voice objection through the ballot box.

John Bissett

Friday, January 19, 2018

Murder of Sengwer protestor in Kenya

"There are criminal elements in the forest which must be flushed out," Judi Wakhungu, Kenya's environment minister, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The security operation has been designed to return the situation to normal, which is what is likely to happen soon." He said this two days after a man was killed campaigning for a halt to the EU's six-year 3.6 billion shilling ($35 million) water conservation scheme in the Embobut forest, which they claim as their ancestral home. Activists welcomed the EU's move but called on Kenya to allow the Sengwer to return to live in the forest. The Sengwer hunter-gatherers have fought for more than five decades for the right to live in the Embobut forest in the Cherengany Hills, from where they were first evicted by British colonialists in the 19th century.
United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed concerns on Monday about reports that indigenous Sengwer had been attacked and evicted from their homes as a result of the EU project. More than 100 armed Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards entered the forest on Dec. 25, firing gunshots and burning at least 15 homes and killing livestock, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said. More than 70 Sengwer houses have been burned and numerous livestock shot dead since the start of January,
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, called on Kenya on Thursday to halt the security operation, which illustrates widespread tensions between indigenous people's land rights and conservation projects around the world.

Capitalism is a cancer

In 2006, Monica Kyotazala was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and her body shows the physical ravages of the condition. Painfully thin and with a faltering voice, she explains how she went without adequate medical treatment for close to two years, after Uganda's only radiotherapy machine broke down. After the machine failed, doctors prescribed two doses of chemotherapy for Ms Kyotazala.

"I didn't have the money," she says, beginning to cry. "I spent a month without getting the treatment. My children were trying to raise the money. So I survived on just morphine, for the pain. I had to go back home and wait."

At the Uganda Cancer Institute at the Mulago National Referral Hospital, radiotherapy is free, but chemotherapy and other cancer treatments are not. The cheapest dose of chemotherapy costs around 300,000 Uganda shillings ($85; £60). More expensive treatments cost as much as 1m shillings ($280; £205), says Rose Kiwanuka, head of the Palliative Care Association of Uganda.
"Sometimes patients cannot even find all the doses prescribed at the national hospital," she adds. "They would have to buy them from private pharmacies if they are in stock, and then bring the drugs to the doctors. That just goes to show the need for radiotherapy."
Those who could afford it went abroad for treatment, including to Kenya and India. Those who couldn't had to pay for alternative forms of treatment, or wait in distress. Some got worse and died.
Friday marks the official unveiling of Uganda's new Cobalt 60 radiotherapy machine. Its predecessor failed in April 2016, after 21 years in operation. The arrival of the new machine is potentially life-saving, even if it remains the only one for a country of more than 40 million people. "Globally, in the best-case scenario, for every 250,000 people you should have one radiotherapy machine," says Dr Jackson Orem, a senior oncologist and director of the Uganda Cancer Institute. He says that even having one machine for 500,000, or one million, people would help.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Parable by Leo Tolstoy

I see mankind as a herd of cattle inside a fenced enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures and plenty for the cattle to eat. While inside the fence there is not quite enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are trampling underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence. I saw the owner of the herd come to them and when he saw their pitiable condition, he was filled with compassion for them and thought of all he could do to improve their condition. So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. And that they called Charity. Then because the calves were dying off and not growing up into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a pint of milk every morning for breakfast. Because they were dying off in the cold nights, he put up beautiful, well-drained and well-ventilated cow-sheds for the cattle. Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence, be put corks on the horns of the cattle, so that the wounds they gave each other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over seventy years of age. In fact, he did everything he could think of to improve the condition of the cattle, and when I asked him why he did not do the one obvious thing, break down the fence and let the cattle out. he answered: “If I let the cattle out. I should no longer be able to milk them."

Congo - A Catastrophe Looming

In a stark warning, three UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) – say time is running out to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Farmers – who fled due to conflict - have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced. Around 630,000 people have returned to their burned down villages after hiding in the forest, they must be helped to resume food production. Over ninety percent of rural communities depend entirely on agriculture.
The nutritional status of children is particularly critical. “At least 400,000 children under five have severe, acute malnutrition,” said UNICEF’s Acting Representative in the DRC, Tajudeen Oyewale. “They are likely to die unless they urgently receive health, water, sanitation and nutrition support. Longer-term food security must be restored and feeding and care practices improved so that children can have access to the adequate quality food they need.”

South Sudan's Misery

Each time Patrick Okello goes to tend his crops, he has to tell the soldiers or face 50 lashes with a whip when he returns. They’re “always watching and very suspicious,” said the 43-year-old who grows cassava and corn on the outskirts of Pajok, his hometown in South Sudan’s Greater Equatoria region. 
 Equatoria was once South Sudan’s breadbasket, producing the corn, sorghum and vegetables that fed the nation including the oil-rich north where famine hit last year. Since fighting spread to Equatoria in mid-2016, output has collapsed, adding to what charity Oxfam International says is the likelihood of the country’s worst-ever hunger this year. The civil war that began in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives. An estimated 5.1 million people -- almost half the population -- are expected to face acute food shortages in the first quarter as insecurity limits access to farms and markets.
“Fighting and insecurity in Greater Equatoria means that food production is dropping every year,” said Ranjan Poudyal, Oxfam’s South Sudan director. “Farmers who have managed to stay are only able to cultivate land around their homesteads for fear that lands further afield are too great a risk.” That contributed to unprecedented hunger even during the recent harvest season, normally the most plentiful period.
Former residents describe many of Equatoria’s settlements as ghost towns, with buildings stripped of their iron roofing, doors, and windows by looters; all that remain of some villages are burnt ruins. Civilians have fled to neighboring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, raising the number crossing borders to escape South Sudan’s war to 2 million and exacerbating what the United Nations in March called the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
In Equatoria, as elsewhere, non-combatants are bearing the brunt of the violence. Government forces routinely respond to rebel ambushes with “unlawful reprisals against civilians who live in rebel areas and share their ethnicity,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in August. It reported a “climate of fear” and tactics including arbitrary arrests, torture and restricting movement between towns and villages. Amnesty International in July said both government forces and rebels have used hunger as a weapon of war in Equatoria, cutting supplies, looting from markets and homes and targeting civilians for perceived allegiances.
Joseph Nangi, a 36-year-old father of four, is trying to ward off hunger in Yambio, the capital of one of Equatoria’s nine states. Yet he’s sheltering just a half-day’s walk from his crops, which he had to abandon when fighting engulfed his village in December 2016. He described the risk of being killed or abducted if he returns. “Our crops are being eaten by wild animals and looted by armed men,” he said.

Eritrea's diaspora tax

The Netherlands have declared Eritrea's charge d'affaires "persona non grata." Eritrea has been enforcing a tax on expatriates amounting to 2 percent of their earnings, according to Dutch officials.

The Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra warned the African country's to end the practice of enforcing a so-called "diaspora tax" on Eritreans.

"In light of the continuous intimidation and force used in the collection of diaspora tax and its resulting social and political unrest, the cabinet is forced to give the Eritrean government a powerful signal."

Eritrean refugees make up one of the largest groups of foreign nationals in the country, second only to Syrians. Tens of thousands of Eritreans have fled their country since strongman Isaias Afwerki came into power following a decades-long war for independence from Ethiopia. Afwerki's rule has been characterized by severe human rights violations and suppression of dissent.

 According to a study published by the University of Tilburg last year "Those who are reluctant or refuse to pay… are ostracized as pariahs and consequently intimidated and harassed."

Italy sends troops to Africa

Italy's parliament approved a bill to beef up the country's military mission in North Africa, as well as in the West African nation of Niger. 

In December, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni first announced the new mission in Niger, which will see 470 Italian troops join the French and US soldiers already stationed there. At the same time, some Italian soldiers stationed in Iraq will be redeployed to northern Africa, particularly Libya.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Counterfeit Medicines

 Selling counterfeit medicine is the scourge of Africa and the cause of around 100,000 deaths annually on the world's poorest continent.

"To sell fake medicines, you need a clientele. The ailing poor are more numerous in Africa than anywhere in the world," said Marc Gentilini, an expert on infectious and tropical diseases and a former head of the French Red Cross. The WHO estimates that one out of 10 medicines in the world is fake but the figure can be as high as seven out of 10 in certain countries, especially in Africa.

The illicit sector has a turnover of at least 10 percent of the world pharmaceutical business, meaning that it earns tens of billions of dollars a year, the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum estimates, adding that the figure has nearly tripled in five years. 

Geoffroy Bessaud, the head of anti-counterfeit coordination at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, said fake medicines were biggest illicit business in the world. "This phenomenon is spreading: it's financial attractiveness draws criminal organisations of all sizes," he said. "An investment of $1,000 can bring returns of up to $500,000 while for the same kind of investment in the heroin trade or in counterfeit money the amount will be around $20,000." Sanofi said it had in 2016 helped dismantle 27 clandestine laboratories, including 22 in China and the rest in Indonesia, Ukraine and Poland.
Gentilini said some meningitis vaccines sent a few years ago after an outbreak in arid Niger were fake. The disease kills thousands every year in the arid west African nation.

he American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated in 2015 that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarials in sub-Saharan Africa, which, along with antibiotics as the two most in-demand, are the medicines most likely to be out-of-date or bad copies.

Interpol in August announced the seizure of 420 tonnes of counterfeit medicine in West Africa in a massive operation that involved about 1,000 police, customs and health officials in seven countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. Ivorian authorities in May burnt 40 tonnes of fake medicines in Adjame, the biggest street market of fake medicines in West Africa which accounts for 30 percent of medicine sales in Ivory Coast.

Offenders remain largely unpunished worldwide and are mainly targeted for breaching intellectual property rights instead of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicine says.

In countries where medical expenses -- from drugs to hospitalisation -- are not even partly reimbursed by the state, the relatively cheap price of street medication trumps the risk factor for many.


Commodifying Food

Professor Saa Dittoh, a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University for Development Studies (UDS) has stated that food production all over the world should be aimed providing nutritious food and not a making money venture.

“I can assure you that the moment you try to make money out of food, the less it becomes for nutrition”, he emphasized.

“That we are not producing food to feed but rather to make money is a worldwide tragedy”, he further emphasized.

Prof. Dittoh also blamed the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the Agriculture Training Institutions for training farmers and students on how to engage in agriculture and make money and not how to produce good food for people to consume.

He said the problem with getting good nutrition was in two folds with the first one being genuine ignorance and the second being the silent opposition, stressing that “The world was so criminal that people can kill others just to get money”.

“Those who have money and can invest in agriculture were not interested in what interest the poor countries but rather interested in selling their chemicals”, he stressed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shithole? Who can deny it?

After attaining independence from colonial rule many countries in Africa were filled with hope, joy, and euphoria. A new dawn had arrived and there was a sense of optimism for a better tomorrow. Sadly, the honeymoon was short-lived. Hopes were soon dashed. Wealth bequeathed to the continent by nature were mismanaged with impunity. Despots ruled without an iota of decency, respect and sympathy for their people with the only object to amass wealth with the support of their western accomplices while the ordinary people lived in abject poverty without access to fundamental social facilities. Many African nations with huge potentials are bedeviled with civil conflict, recurring epidemics,  deep levels of poverty, and entrenched corrupt practices. Africa has been robbed of a great opportunity to harmonise its resources for the good of its people.

Africa continues to produce a significant proportion of the world’s mineral resources. Nigeria and Angola are the leading oil producers in Africa, Ghana and South Africa follow suit with gold, Ivory Coast and Ghana are the largest cocoa producers in Africa and both in the top 10 producers in the world. Diamond, iron ore, bauxite and other minerals are extracted in large quantities as well. Regrettably, with all these vast wealth, Africa remains the poorest continent. Unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the youth is widespread and remains the continent’s biggest challenge. Food security, erratic power supply, high rates of infant mortality and inefficient healthcare, lack of sanitation and other basic social amenities all exist. Foreign aid constitutes a substantial portion of a number of national budgets.

Indeed, no matter how reluctant we may be, but the description "shithole" may well be appropriate 

South Africa's Gupta Corruption Scandal

Peter Hain, a former Labour cabinet minister and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, told the House of Lords   “It should be a matter of shame that companies headquartered here in the UK have aided and abetted money laundering, corruption and state capture in South Africa – including Bell Pottinger, KPMG, McKinsey, SAP, and banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and Baroda – in total betrayal of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. I have just referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority Hogan Lovells, the international law firm headquartered here in London, for enabling a corrupt money launderer to be returned to his post as second-in-command of the critically important South African Revenue Service (SARS).”

Hain has reported Hogan Lovells to the UK’s Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over concerns that the firm produced a “fatally flawed whitewash” report into claims of money laundering at the South African tax agency.  Hogan Lovells, a global law firm with more than 2,500 lawyers. Hain said the flawed report made the firm “complicit in undermining South Africa’s once-revered tax-collection agency, and thereby effectively underpinning President Jacob Zuma and his business associates, the Gupta brothers, and others, in perverting South Africa’s democracy, damaging its economy and robbing its taxpayers”.

Hain’s claims against Hogan Lovells relate to the firm’s investigation into allegations of corruption against the SARS deputy commissioner, Jonas Makwakwa, who, along with his lover, was alleged to have siphoned off about R1.7m (£100,000). Makwakwa denies any wrongdoing.
“The law firm issued an incomplete, fatally flawed whitewash of a report, which ultimately cleared Makwakwa, despite reams of evidence to the contrary,” Hain said. “Most damning of all, Hogan Lovells failed to include crucial evidence from the PwC report and the status of the Hawks [economic crime police] investigation in their own report.” Hain said Hogan Lovell’s report led to the reappointment of Makwakwa. He accused him and his boss, the SARS commissioner, Tom Moyane, of continuing “their looting and dirty work of robbing taxpayers”.
South African politicians and campaigners accuse the billionaire Gupta brothers of exploiting their close friendship with Zuma to take control of some government affairs and win big state contracts for their family businesses. The public relations firm Bell Pottinger which collapsed into bankruptcy last year following revelations that it sought to stir up racial tension in the country on behalf of the Guptas.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Ghana Visit (1961)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ghana Visit
It has finally been decided, after many comings and goings, that the Queen's visit to Ghana is still on. Mr. Duncan Sandys, the British diplomats in Ghana, the Prime Minister himself—-all have been called on to take some part of the responsibility, all have had a hand in the final decision along with the other members of the Cabinet. The only person who doesn't seem to have been consulted is the person whose safety, after all, is at stake—the Queen herself. There could hardly have been a more striking illustration of the position the monarchy now holds as against the ruling class. The Capitalists having taken over the state and the machinery of government, they have either converted the governmental instruments of the old landowner-ruled society to their own uses, or have allowed them to survive merely as powerless ceremonial appendages. Even though at the beginning of the visit it seemed not improbable, after several recent anti-Nkrumah bomb explosions, that there would be some attempt at violence as the Queen and Nkrumah rode together through the towns of Ghana, the Queen had no choice in the matter. The Government, the Capitalists' executive committee, had decided that she was to go. And since the monarch in Capitalist society is no more than a puppet, she was constitutionally bound to “take her minister's advice"—i.e., do as she was told.

Recently Nkrumah, as the chosen right hand of the Ghana ruling class, has been revealing more and more clearly what kind of society the Ghana rulers have decided on. It is now an offence punishable with jail to ”defame" the President, which seems in practice to cover any kind of criticism of him. It is not the first time a Capitalist class have decided that a dictatorship suits them best in a given set of circumstances, nor will it be the last.

But what can be said of some of the newspapers, such as the Daily Express. who are now deploring Nkrumah's dictatorial methods? Only a decade ago, when there was just as much of a dictatorship in Ghana as there is now— the only difference being that the dictatorship was then run by the British ruling class instead of the Ghanaian ruling class — the Daily Express had no objection to the dictatorship at all. It seems that it isn’t the dictatorship itself that they object to: only the particular set of people who happen to be running it. The record of the Daily Express on the matter deprives it of the right to criticise. Only those who criticised the British dictatorship of the past can logically now criticise the Nkrumah dictatorship of the present.
Alwyn Edgar

Another Debt Crisis Looms

Global interest rates are rising. Poor countries are finding it tougher to pay back money borrowed from banks in anticipation of a commodity windfall that never materialised. Stir in some corruption that has seen funds stolen and what do you have? Another potential debt crisis.  The warning signs are there. The IMF and the World Bank both know it.
Africa needs more private-sector investment because debt relief and western aid have not been enough on their own to bring about economic modernisation. And in the years immediately after the 2008 financial crisis investing in Africa was attractive. Debt relief and better financial management meant African countries looked more stable. The money creation process known as quantitative easing meant western banks and other financial institutions were awash with funds. Ultra-low interest rates in the developed world meant investors were scouring the world for higher yields than they could obtain at home. Many African countries were also exporters of commodities that were in high demand due to China’s rapid growth. Deals were done in which western banks lent money for projects in African countries, with the debt to be paid off by the proceeds of rising commodity prices. That was the theory. In practice, very questionable an very dubious  deals were done.
 A prime example is the one made in London five years ago between Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB bank to lend $2bn to two companies in Mozambique backed by the government in Maputo. The money was supposed to be for a tuna fishing fleet and for a navy to protect the boats operating in Mozambique’s territorial waters. Credit Suisse and VTB trousered $200m between them in fees, but the loans were never revealed to the Mozambique parliament, the IMF, the financial markets or the Mozambique people.  A report into the deal by the corporate investigations company Kroll concluded that the two companies were inadequately managed and had generated no meaningful revenue. At least a quarter of the money is unaccounted for, with some suspicion that it was spent on military equipment. 
Jamie Drummond, the director of the development campaign group One says that it is not clear the money ever turned up in Mozambique after being sent to two offshore companies in Abu Dhabi. For sure, though, not a single tuna has been landed. Mozambique has paid a heavy price for defaulting on the debt, which has been sold on to vulture funds. The IMF, miffed at being lied to, has suspended its programme and the loss of financial support has meant public services are being cut.  The tuna deal stank in every way. It was bad for Mozambique.
Mozambique is not the only country in difficulty. The Jubilee debt campaign said that at the end of 2017, 28 countries were rated as in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress, up from 22 at the end of 2016, and 15 in 2013. The number of countries classified as low risk has more than halved – from 24 in 2013 to 11 currently.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fact of the Day

The Africa regional manager, International Road Federation (IRF), Dr Patrick Amoah Bekoe, has lamented that over 85 million Nigerians residing in rural areas are grappling with high unemployment, poverty, income inequalities, high rural-urban migration, poor health care, high maternal and infant mortality rate and among others.

With respect to consumption shares in 2004,the bottom 10% (poorest of the poor) of the population consumed 2.56% of goods and services, while the top 10% (super rich) consumed 26.59% of all goods and services. 

The richest 10%, however, is said to be responsible for 26.59% of national expenditure or income in 2016. This increased to 33.72% in 2013 but decreased to 31.09% in 2016. 

According to NBS, the top 20% were responsible for 42.40% of national income/expenditure in 2004. ‘‘This increased to 48.28% in 2013 but declined to 46.63% in 2016. While no agreed standard definition of the Nigerian 'Middle class' exists, for the purpose of this report we have classified Decile 01-03 as the lower class, Decile 04-07 as the 'middle class' and Decile 08-10 as the upper class,’’ it stated.

 Accordingly, the report indicates that upper class was responsible for 58.39% of national income/expenditure down from 59.42% in 2013. The share of the upper class in national income had been rising between 2004 and 2013 before reducing in 2016. 

The 'middle class', on the other hand, accounted for 30.26% of national income/expenditure in 2016, higher than 29.14% in 2013. The share of the middle class had been declining between 2004 and 2013 in favor of the higher class but that reversed in 2016. The lower class, on the other hand accounted for 11.35% of national income/expenditure in 2016, lower than 11.43% in 2013.

The Batwa Conservation Refugees

The Batwa in Uganda live in 11 settlements in Kanungu and Kisoro districts – and they are mired in extreme poverty.

In Kebiremo, there is no hospital nearby, and many Batwa have been dying prematurely over the past few years. Within the 25 Batwa families that reside here, at least 20 young people have died in the past five years. And they have all died from “simple” diseases such as “malaria, ulcers and even headache.”

 For ages, the Batwa sustained their lives only from the biologically rich forests in which they lived. The forests provided them with food (plants and animals) and medicine (herbs).

But their lives took a dramatic turn in 1991 when the Ugandan government gazetted Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga forests to save the iconic mountain gorillas from extinction and also boost the country’s tourism. The Batwa were forced out of the forests at gunpoint and were not compensated since they never owned permanent structures. They left their ancestral home empty-handed and have since lived with the consequences of being born in the wrong part of the country.

Mark Dowie writes in his book Conservation Refugees, “eviction inevitably forces adults into intractable poverty, alcoholism, and prostitution, leaving their children with malnutrition, disease, and death.”

“Intractable poverty” is evident in Kebiremo as the Batwa lack basics such as adequate food and medical care. They say the land where they live now is infertile and the nearest hospital is about 15 kilometres away – the Bwindi Community Hospital that is located near the entrance to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

 Scott Kellermann, an American medical doctor and an Episcopalian missionary first arrived in Uganda 18 years ago to medically survey the Batwa, he was rattled by the conditions in which they lived and decided to permanently live in Uganda and aid these unfortunate people. But perhaps what he didn’t know at the time was the tough task that awaited him.

Kellermann began by surveying the life expectancy of the Batwa, a people whose plight is rooted in the indifference with which they have been regarded since they were evicted from the Bwindi forest in 1991. His survey yielded saddening results: in 2000, 18 per cent of Batwa children were dying within one month of birth while 40 per cent of them never lived past five years. The adults’ life expectancy was just 28. Yes, 28! Treatable ailments were – and still are – claiming the lives of these misfortunate ‘conservation refugees’ who live in the home district of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

Despite the fact that the Batwa were kicked out of the forests to give way for the creation of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, authorities have never done anything about their plight. Yet, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), 10 per cent of the money collected from gorilla permit sales goes to the communities around the two national parks. The Batwa have never received anything from UWA’s revenue sharing scheme. And that the money goes to other people while bypassing the Batwa – the “rightful owners” of these national parks – has been a source of disillusion for the former hunter-gatherers.