Saturday, March 31, 2018

No White Genocide

Discussion of farmer-killings remains highly problematic in South Africa, with the South African Human Rights Commission noting that the term "farm killings" is characterized by "divisive" racial stereotypes. These include the stereotype of the "brutal, racist Boer" who dominates his workers through casual violence, despite good relations between farmers and non-white farmworkers on many farms. In addition, the number of farmer-killings -- and specifically white farmer-killings -- remains heavily contested. The Afrikaner-dominated Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) counted 64 murders on farms in 2015, 71 in 2016 and 68 in the first nine months of 2017 alone, whereas the South African Police Service noted that 58 people were killed between April 2015 and March 2016, and 74 between April 2016 and March 2017. Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) noted that the murder rate for farmers (97 per 100,000) was almost triple that of the general population (34 per 100,000) whilst the Belfast Telegraph found that it was four times more likely for a farmer to be killed than a police officer. However, though these sources may make it seem like white South African farmers are being persecuted, the accuracy of these numbers is highly dubious and often misleading.

Inequality and Violence

Both the TAU and the police include farmers' families, farm employees and visitors in their statistics, regardless of race. Any attempt to break down the status of the victims is complicated by the lack of available data, as these are not parameters analyzed by the police. Further, claims of white racial persecution are complicated by the findings of a 2003 police inquiry which found that 38.4 percent of farm-attack victims were non-white.
Similarly, although the TAU performs perfunctory crosschecks, its figures are equally inaccurate, lacking a breakdown of the status or even race of victims. That these figures are widely used by independent bodies such as the ISS is highly problematic, though Gareth Newman, head of the crime and justice program at ISS, has conceded that he does "not really know how one could get an accurate estimate of the murder and attack rate on farms given the complexities involved."
Additionally, claims about farmers being more likely to be murdered than the general populace is simply not supported by reliable data. As Burger from the ISS notes, "We have no idea how many people there are in total on farms and therefore we cannot calculate a ratio for farm murders in general." Any attempt to try to estimate the number of farmers in general, or white farmers in particular, by making a set of assumptions about the rural population would be misleading at best, and grossly misleading at worst. As such, it is increasingly clear that we have no clear idea about the murder rate on South African farms. Moreover, farmer-killings cannot be viewed as a separate phenomenon from violent crime nationally, as rates of violent crime and murder are exceptionally high throughout South Africa, and disproportionately affect poorer Black people. This has led researchers to conclude that the South African people "arguably live in as much peril as farmers do."
"Farm attacks" and killings must be understood within the context of broader inequality and poverty. This can in part be explained by the racially skewed distribution of wealth in rural areas, with over 80 percent of the overwhelmingly Black rural population living in poverty, in contrast to the relatively wealthy Afrikaner farming homesteads. As such, the violence inflicted upon victims may be a secondary and spontaneous outcome resulting from apartheid-era grievances. ISS's Burger suggests this may also be explained by the elderly age of the victims (on average 56 years) and the failure of these farmers to acknowledge the reversal of roles during a farm attack, resulting in an escalation of violence.
Given the lack of available statistical data relating to violent crime in rural areas, it is unclear whether farmers are subjected to heightened persecution or experience a higher-than-average murder rate. Where information is available, it is clear that although there may be a small racial bias, farm attacks and killings affect both Black and white farmers. Further, these attacks are crucially linked to wider trends of rural violence and overwhelmingly motivated by the same economic drivers: poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Taken from here

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Burkina Faso Crisis

 Food shortages and a jihadist uprising in northern Burkina Faso risk plunging the region into a humanitarian crisis if urgent action is not taken, aid agencies said.

Nearly a million people in Burkina Faso are expected to need food aid in the coming months, with one in ten already suffering acute malnutrition in the north. Much of West Africa's Sahel, a semi-arid belt below the Sahara, is facing its worst hunger in years after erratic rains caused little vegetation to grow.

Normally the Sahel experiences a hungry season between July and the October harvest, but this year it has already started or is imminent in most places, said World Food Programme (WFP) regional director Abdou Dieng. "The longer we wait, the more the situation will deteriorate," he said. "If we don't act now, it may get complicated." WFP will start giving out food aid and cash next month, on a larger scale than in recent years, he said

But escalating attacks by a local armed group will make it difficult for aid agencies to help in the remote area about 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of capital Ouagadougou, the Red Cross and the United Nations said. Attacks by Ansarul Islam, a militant group founded by a radical preacher in 2016, are becoming increasingly frequent and deadly, the International Crisis Group said

"There is no optimistic scenario," Christian Munezero, head of mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Neighbouring Mali is also facing food shortages and jihadist attacks, but has been for years. "What is distinctive about Burkina Faso is that this is a new situation for everyone," said Munezero. 

More than 18,000 people have fled their homes since September and countless clinics have closed, said Munezero.Dozens of schools, frequently targeted, have also shut, said UNICEF.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Africa - Basic Facts

  1. Africa is the world’s second largest-continent in terms of land area. It has an area of around 11.7 million square miles or 30.37 million square kilometers. This means that Africa contains about a fifth of the world’s total landmass. Its size on most maps is altered to get it to fit into a map of the world, in reality, it’s bigger than the United States, China, India, Western Europe and Mexico combined.
  2. About 1.215 billion people live on the African continent, making up about 15% of the world’s population. A vast amount of languages are spoken by these people, with official estimates ranging from between 1500 to upwards of 2000. Arabic is the most widely spoken language on the continent, spoken by about 170 million people. Other common languages include English, which is spoken by 130 million people, Swahili (spoken by approximately 100 million people), and French (spoken by around 115 million people).
  3. There are 54 countries in Africa, according to the UN. This number fluctuates a bit depending on who you ask, and if certain non-self governing territories can be recognized as nations. Most of these borders for these countries were drawn during the “scramble for Africa” a period of colonialism which saw almost of all of Africa colonized by foreign powers except for what is now Liberia and Ethiopia.
  4. China is Africa’s biggest trade partner. Trade with China accounts for about $200 billion dollars a year for the entire continent.
  5. Over half, 55% of Africa’s labor force, is in the food production sector. There are large areas of land throughout the continent dedicated solely to agriculture. Unfortunately, some 90% of the soil in Africa isn’t usable for agriculture, leading to deforestation in attempts to clear land for farming.
  6. Many parts of Africa suffer from water scarcity and food scarcity issues. Around 300 million Africans must deal with water scarcity and about 240 million suffer from undernourishment.

Half of South Africa chronically poor

Forty-nine percent of  South Africans were considered chronically poor during the period of 2008-2014/15.

The World Bank’s Victor Sulla says this rate is astonishingly high.
"It's very high. Half of the people are considered chronically poor or have average consumption below the upper bound poverty line. 78% person of South Africans were in poverty at least once during the 2008-2014/15." 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Angola's healthcare emergency

Apart from a few packs of medicine and plastic jars, the shelves at the Okanautoni health centre in southern Angola are bare and lack basic drugs for saving lives. The clinic has no first-line tuberculosis drugs, no antiretrovirals for HIV, no general antibiotics and just three anti-malarial pills.  At the clinic, plastic gloves, syringes, and disinfectant are in short supply. There's no running water and the only electricity is from a generator that runs sporadically. At night, births are guided by the light of a cell phone. If something goes wrong, patients are driven for two hours down bumpy bush tracks to the nearest hospitals in Chiulo or Xangongo – where conditions too can be precarious.
Okanautoni in Angola is remote but the provincial director for health says clinics without drugs are no exception. "The public health system is losing credibility," said Mendes Esteves at his office in the sleepy provincial capital Ondjiva.
"We ask for medicine but they don't send us anything," said nurse Penitencia Goreti, 33, who said she had repeatedly asked for fresh stock from the municipal government. "The situation is getting worse," she said, as a child, blurry-eyed with malaria, lay on the floor nearby.
Provincial health director Esteves said the sick were starting to shun health centres because they didn't expect them to have any medicine. He said he hoped a batch of first-line TB drugs would come in the next few months, but deliveries had failed to show up before. "We will see," he said with a sigh.
In the one-road town of Chiulo, Cunene, basic medication regularly runs out at the hospital. While Reuters visited wards the last tablets of a vital antibiotic were handed out. The hospital struggles without mains electricity and has a generator that cuts out at 11 p.m. Water is pumped from a dry river bed but ageing equipment often fails. In July, the hospital diagnosed cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis but medication to treat it did not arrive until four months later, despite increasingly desperate requests. For such emergencies, the hospital is supposed to have a small budget of its own to buy drugs, but clinical director Ivo Makonga described the money as a "fiction". Payment, which is centrally controlled in Luanda, takes more than eight months to be processed if at all, meaning suppliers increasingly refuse to accept orders,
In the capital Luanda, ranked the most expensive city in the world for expatriate workers and home to a luxury-loving Angolan elite, public hospitals are similarly stretched. At Cacuaco hospital on the capital's outskirts, two doctors see 400 to 700 patients per day. The hospital suffers power outages, there is no functioning X-ray machine and only the most basic medication. Anti-malarial drugs frequently run out. 
"We just have so many cases, it's never enough," one nurse said as hundreds waited in the humid heat under broken fans. 
Poorer residents in Luanda frequently say they have to pay for medication that should be free at public hospitals. The cost means patients often cut their treatment short, increasing the risk of resistant strains developing.
In 2018, the government committed 4 percent of government expenditure to health, down from 4.3 percent in 2017. By comparison, South Africa spent about 14 percent on health in 2015 and Kenya 6 percent, according to WHO data. According to one former government source, the Ministry of Health has estimated that half the drugs it buys do not reach their intended destination.
Diseases that should be disappearing after more than 15 years of peace are spreading. Tuberculosis has been declining worldwide but in Angola the incidence of TB rose 16 percent from 2002 to 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Angola suffered the world's worst yellow fever epidemic in a generation in 2016 with about 4,000 suspected cases and 380 deaths, and the country is now in the grip of a malaria outbreak with more than 300,000 cases so far this year.
International health workers say the country is leaving itself open to further outbreaks, with some warning of cholera spreading from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and others of a potentially devastating epidemic like ebola - a strain of which struck Angola in 2005.

DRC in Denial

A UN report earlier this month found some 13 million Congolese in need of humanitarian aid — twice as many as last year — and 7.7 million are facing severe food insecurity, which is an increase of 30 percent over 2017. The UN has categorized the situation there as a Level 3 crisis — the organization's highest-level emergency. The UN children's agency first sounded an alarm at the end of last year saying 400,000 children were at risk of dying in the central diamond-rich Kasai region, which has been devastated by fighting.

"The EU is extremely concerned about the worsening crisis in the DRC," the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Christos Stylianides, said at a press conference in the eastern city of Goma. "The humanitarian situation is getting worse day by day, and unfortunately I saw enormous suffering, enormous humanitarian needs and the situation in the country is not business as usual."

The crisis is further exacerbated by what appears to be the DRC's government's state of denial about the deepening crisis. Kinshasa is refusing to attend an international donor conference scheduled for April in Geneva that seeks to put together a $1.7 billion (1.4 billion euros) aid package.  

Prime Minister Jose Makila dismissed such concerns, saying the UN had overreacted and that aid organizations in the country were propagating a "bad image of the Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the world." He said the international community's negativity would discourage investment at a time when the government was attempting to stabilize a volatile economy. "Activating the highest level of humanitarian emergency based on facts that are not real constitutes a hindrance to development," the government said in a statement. The government said it wouldn't cooperate with international aid organizations unless they adjusted their figures to coincide with its own.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What Overpopulation Problem?

Contrary to what people assume, the world isn’t becoming more overpopulated. Not only is world food production growing faster than the world’s population, but it is continuing to increase while world population fertility rates are declining. What is clear is that as a country develops economically, birth rates decline. Thus, if we want to reduce population growth we must promote prosperity.

Malthusians are never wrong about the over-population threat. They simply explain that their pessimistic predictions have only been postponed by several years until the apocalypse arrives. The problem facing us isn’t population. It is economics and politics. The world is not running out of living space or resources. The fact is that the world is easily capable of sustaining populations far in excess of current population figures even without developing any new farming methods or technologies. We actually live in a world of abundance and not one of scarcity. Hard to accept when you look around and witness the deprivation and destitution many experience.

What is behind the preoccupation with “overpopulation”? Is it really the concern for the welfare of the world’s people? It often seems that overpopulation is a term used to describe countries inhabited by non-whites only. Few reference the Netherlands as being overpopulated. The `teeming masses’ aren't located in New Jersey. And should we be surprised at how in India, the Hindus blame the Muslims for their family sizes and high birth-rate? In this age, prejudice is not publicly acceptable, so it is disguised in “scientific” and “environmental” terms.

People often assume that countries are poor because they have too many people and not enough resources. But this just doesn’t hold any water. Look at Africa which is sparsely populated and has vast tracts of unfarmed arable land as well as being endowed with a wide variety of mineral wealth. Africa’s potential is staggering. Once Africa was a food self-sufficient and an exporter. The failure of Africa is the failure of capitalism, not the failure of the African people. Overpopulation is blamed for hunger and famine everywhere, particularly in Africa. But, Africa is the least densely populated of all the continents and has the ability to feed the entire world twice over. Yet still, Africa is impoverished. Poverty is so commonplace that it is expected. A scapegoat must be found. The accepted theory is that it is the fault of the Africans themselves. They reproduce too quickly and that is why they are starving. It is a case of blaming the victim.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cash not food aid

In Somalia’s 2011 famine 260,000  perished.

This time, the drought has been even harsher. Three seasons of rains have failed, instead of two. But none of Mohamed’s other children have died - and the overall death toll, although unknown, is far lower. The United Nations has documented just over 1,000 deaths, mostly from drinking dirty water.

Why the difference in death tolls?

aid agencies are shifting from giving out food to cash - a less wasteful form of aid that donors such as Canada, Europe and Australia have embraced.

Christopher Barrett, an expert on food aid at Cornell University, is one of many scholars, politicians and aid agencies demanding reform, explained, “A conservative estimate is that we sacrifice roughly 40,000 children’s lives annually because of antiquated food aid policies.” Sourcing food aid in the United States is expensive and wasteful, said Barrett, who oversaw a study that found buying grain close to an emergency was half the price and 14 weeks faster. Arguments that food aid supported U.S. farmers or mariners were largely false, he said.

In 2011, a few donors gave out cash in Somalia, but the World Food Programme only gave out food. It was often hijacked by warlords or pirates, or rotted under tarpaulins as trucks sat at roadblocks. Starving families had to trek for days through the desert to reach distribution points. Their route became so littered with children’s corpses it was called “the Road of Death”. 

Now, more than 70 percent of WFP aid in Somalia is cash, much of it distributed via mobile phones. More than 50 other charities are also giving out cash to spend as people want: milk, medicine, food or school fees. Cash has many advantages over food aid if markets are functioning. It’s invisible, so less likely to be stolen.  Coopi uses a system that requires a PIN to withdraw money. It’s mobile so families can move or stay put. WFP said it gave out $134 million directly to Somali families to spend at local shops last year. Some charities place no restrictions on the cash; others, like WFP, stipulate it can only be spent at certain shops with registered shopkeepers.

In Somalia, cash aid means 80 cents in every $1 goes directly to the family, rather than 60 cents from food aid, said Calum McLean, the cash expert at the European Union’s humanitarian aid department. Aid groups have been experimenting with cash for two decades but McLean says the idea took off five years ago as the Syrian civil war propelled millions of refugees into countries with solid banking systems. Donors have adapted. Six years ago, five percent of the EU’s humanitarian aid budget was cash distributions. Today, it is more than a third. Most of the initial cost lies in setting up the database and the distribution system. After that, adding more recipients is cheap, McLean said. Amounts can be easily adjusted depending on the level of need or funding. “Cash distributions also becomes cheaper the larger scale you do it,” he said.

Most U.S. international food assistance is delivered by USAID’s Food for Peace Office, which had a budget of $3.6 billion in 2017. Just under half those funds came through U.S. Farm Bill Title II appropriations, which stipulate that most food must be bought from American farmers. The U.S. Cargo Preference Act requires that half of this be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. Despite these restrictions, Food for Peace increased cash and voucher programmes from 3 percent of the budget in 2011 to 20 percent last year.

Cash won’t work everywhere. In South Sudan, where famine briefly hit two counties last year, the civil war shut markets, forcing aid agencies to bring in food by plane and truck. Sending cash to areas hit by earthquakes would drive up prices. But in a drought, where livelihoods have collapsed but infrastructure is intact, cash transfers are ideal, experts say. But if there’s no clean water or health service available, then refugees can’t spend money buying water or medicine.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Give women rights

Women account for nearly half of the world’s smallholder farmers and produce 70% of Africa’s food. Yet, less than 20% of land in the world is owned by women and over 65% of land in Kenya is governed by customary laws that discriminate against women, limiting their land and property rights.

This means that women farmers have to access land through either their husbands or sons. Sometimes these male family members move to the cities leaving women behind to tend the land – land they have no right to own, use as collateral or sell the output without consent from the men.

Research shows that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they would increase the yields of farms by 20%-30% and reduce hunger by up to 17%. In addition, women plough back profits to their households, therefore alleviating poverty from the bottom up.

Given that they have vast indigenous knowledge of local plant species, this helps them provide a wide variety of nutritious food for their family, therefore curbing malnutrition at a household level. This means that by limiting women’s rights to land and other assets, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to increase food production, reduce hunger and limit malnutrition. Most societies remain predominantly patriarchal and women are consistently marginalised due to societal norms. To create change, we need bottom-up solutions that bring both women and men together to come up with solutions. Legislation alone is not enough to change society’s views on women’s property rights.

SA's wealth figures

Credit Suisse estimated that the total net wealth of South African adults amounted to US$0.8 trillion, or R9.5 trillion, in 2017. While broadly speaking the distribution is similar to the world as a whole, the large majority of South Africans (68%) was estimated to fall into the lowest wealth category. These are people with assets of less than US$10,000, or R117,000 at the current exchange rate. The report estimated that the median wealth in South Africa was at US$5,186 (or R60,900), well below the US$10,000 cut-off.
At the other end of the scale, 58,000 South Africans, or 0.2% of the population, were identified as dollar millionaires, while 84,000 would belong to the top 1% of global wealth holders.

Financial services firm Allianz, using data from national accounts, estimates in their Global Wealth Report 2017 that the richest 10% of South Africans owned more than 70% of net financial assets. For comparison, the average of the 53 countries included in the study was 53%.

The bigger the gap between the mean and the median, the more unequally wealth in a country is distributed. In South Africa, the mean wealth figure was six times the median – the maximum figure reached at the national level for any of the countries studied. For comparison, the average in the 53 countries studied was 2.5.

The Gini coefficient for incomes in South Africa was reported as 0.7 (where 0 is total equality, and 1 is total inequality), whereas for wealth it was 0.95. (The most equal societies tend to have income coefficients of around 0.25.) These figures show wealth is even more concentrated among the rich than income in South Africa.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Robots are Coming

Within less than two decades it will be cheaper to operate robots in US factories than hire workers in Africa, a new report warns.
Falling automation costs are predicted to cause job losses as manufacturers return to richer economies.
It has been suggested that poorer countries will not as be affected by automation because they have less money to invest in it.
"Our research shows that this is overly optimistic. Currently the cost of operating robots in furniture manufacturing is still higher than labour, but this will not be the case within 15 years", Dirk Willem te Velde, director of the Supporting Economic Transformation programme at ODI, said in a statement. 
ODI's report, Digitalisation and the Future of Manufacturing in Africa, found that in furniture manufacturing, the cost of operating robots and 3D printers in the US will be cheaper than Kenyan wages by 2034. In Ethiopia, ODI predicts robotic automation will be cheaper than Ethiopian workers between 2038 and 2042.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oil Pollution

 Amnesty International says Shell and Eni have failed to properly address serious oil spills in the Niger Delta region, worsening an already serious environmental crisis. The organization said the companies were "taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause of and severity of the spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation."

Oil spills in the Niger Delta region have brought misery to locals for many years. The valuable resource which was supposed to be a blessing for their communities has now become a curse.

Tammy Williams also lives in the oil region. She accuses international oil companies of not being considerate of the indigenous population and causing massive pollution in the area.

James Awani, an indigenous resident of Ogoniland — a region which was impacted by a reported 2,976 oil spills between 1976 and 1991 — told DW how the spills have affected his livelihood:
 "You go to our farm and see that oil has destroyed many things. We cannot farm again, so we are very hungry."
Aniko Briggs, an environmental activist in the Niger Delta region, says  "My organization also collects data: we physically go into the areas of spills. We have documentation going back almost 20 years of different spills across the Niger Delta River state Bayelsa and Delta State. From this we can show very clearly that it does not just take weeks but sometimes months for the oil company to respond to reports of spills. If you look at the fact that the pipes were laid almost 60 years ago — those pipes are still underground — they were laid at a time when the technology we have today was not in existence where you can very quickly detect a spill."

Liberia's Poverty

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Williameta E. Saydee-Tarr, has indicated that Liberia has over 300,000 vulnerable households that she classified as “living in extreme poverty.”
This, Minister Tarr said, includes vulnerable groups such as orphans, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV, among others.
“The need in Liberia is much greater than the availability of resources to take the program to scale,” she said.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Expensive Africa

“We feel so hungry,” says Agatha Khasiala, a Kenyan housekeeper, grumbling about the price of meat and fish. She has recently moved in with her daughter because “the cost of everything is very high”. 

The data back her up. The World Bank publishes rough estimates of price levels in different countries, showing how far a dollar would stretch if converted into local currency. On this measure, Kenya is more expensive than Poland.

 The cost of living is generally higher in richer places, a phenomenon best explained by the economists Bela Balassa and Paul Samuelson. They distinguished between goods that can be traded internationally and many services, like hairdressing, that cannot. In rich countries, manufacturing is highly productive, allowing firms to pay high wages and still charge internationally competitive prices. Those high wages also drive up pay in services, which must compete for workers. Since productivity is low in services, high pay translates into high prices, pushing up the overall cost of living.

Among developing economies, however, the relationship between prices and prosperity is less clear-cut. Prices in Chad, for instance, are comparable to those in Malaysia, where incomes are 14 times higher. Fadi Hassan of Trinity College Dublin finds that in the poorest fifth of countries, most of them in Africa, the relationship goes into reverse: penniless places cost more than slightly richer ones. A paper in 2015 from the Centre for Global Development (CGD), an American think-tank, accounts for various factors which could explain differences in prices, including state subsidies, geography and the effects of foreign aid. Even then, African countries are puzzlingly expensive.

The relative cost of food, compared with other goods, is higher in poor countries. In Africa, the absolute cost is sometimes high, too. Nigerians would save 30% of their income if they bought their food at Indian prices, finds a recent study by the OECD, a think-tank. Meat costs more in Ghana than in America.

The CGD researchers note an interesting corollary: manufacturing wages in Africa, though low, are higher than in Asian countries at similar levels of income. African workers need more dough to buy their daily bread. If that is right, then cheaper food may boost manufacturing by making wages more competitive. From 18th-century Britain to 20th-century Asia, industrial revolutions are often preceded by agrarian ones. Poor countries must hope for a repeat.

Nigeria's Food Crisis

Global food agencies have warned against impending food shortage that could affect 3.8 million people in 16 northern states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The agencies, which include UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), listed the 16 states as Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Jigawa, Plateau, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Taraba, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Yobe, Borno and Adamawa.

The results of the March 2018 Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis of food and security situation in Nigeria said that judging from the current situation in the 16 states and FCT, more than 3.8 million people might face acute food shortage if tangible efforts were not made to address the situation between June and August, the next lean period.

“More than 10 million people were analysed and over 3.8 million people need urgent attention of food, while it was projected that 5.8 million people would face extreme food and nutrition deficits. “Most of the analysed households have food stocks that may last only few months before the lean period of June to March and they need urgent attention for the situation not to get out of hand,’’ it said.

It said that household and market food stocks had been depleted in the affected areas, while the residents had no access to markets.

“Four local government areas in Yobe, two in Zamfara, two in Gombe and the central area of Kaduna may go into food crisis if the situation is not properly handled.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Cancer Business

Health officials and experts from across the planet descended on Cape Town, South Africa, on March 7 for a  conference aimed at finding a solution to one of humanity’s deadliest preventable scourges — smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and tobacco use kills about six million people worldwide annually. British American Tobacco estimates that the global tobacco market is worth $770 billion, with cigarettes accounting for $700 billion of that.

Facing dwindling fortunes in Europe and America due to strong regulations, the tobacco industry has made Africa the new front line in its pursuit of profits.

Michael Bloomberg said, “Philip Morris International continues to aggressively market tobacco to children. They are fighting back against policies aimed at fighting smoking, including suing countries when they pass measures warning people about the dangers of tobacco.”   The continent is home to the largest youth population in the world, making it the most vulnerable to tobacco industry tactics.

Though the overall prevalence rate of smoking in Africa is still relatively low at 14%, it also demonstrates the highest growth rate in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, consumption increased by 52% between 1980 and 2016, or 164 billion cigarettes to 250 billion. Lesotho has seen a significant spike in smoking from 15% of its population in 2004 to 54% in 2015. The authors attribute this to aggressive marketing by tobacco companies. A 2010 survey by The Lancet showed a 220% increase in cigarette consumption in Mozambique over the prior 16 years, while Nigeria’s consumption rate grew by 60%. A 2013 Preventing Tobacco Epidemic in Africa expert committee report warns that “without comprehensive tobacco prevention and control policies, it is estimated that smoking prevalence in the African region will increase by nearly 39 percent by 2030, from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 21.9 percent — the largest expected regional increase globally.”

Tobacco prevention and control are two major weaknesses for most African states. While the continent still has the fewest tobacco-related deaths in the world, 90% of its population remained unprotected by smoke-free laws in 2009. Africa is bound for an entirely avoidable health crisis if things do not change. Unfortunately, the industry has resorted to its tried and tested series of (often unethical and even patently illegal) tactics to expand and solidify their market. Like in other parts of the world, the global tobacco firms use their influence — through lobbying, litigation, and undermining of scientific evidence — to interfere with regulations and law enforcement mechanisms.

 Many African politicians and public office holders are themselves complicit in deliberately weakening or leaving unimplemented tobacco laws. Some are reputed to receive bribes or other material gratification from companies in exchange for this “service,” while others are allegedly active participants in illegal tobacco trading and tax evasion. In South Africa, the son of erstwhile President Jacob Zuma has been accused of manipulation and fraud in connection with his cigarette manufacturing business.In 2015, for example, British American Tobacco (BAT) was accused of bribing a Kenyan politician with £50,000 ($70,000) to prevent a company, which was not under its control, from providing the country with technology that could stamp out tobacco smuggling. Compared to some of BAT’s other alleged misdeeds, the Kenya scandal seems downright tame. According to whistleblowers, BAT has also exploited instability in countries such as Somalia and South Sudan to sell its products and even built a secret town in the Democratic Republic of Congo to secretly grow tobacco crops.

“Low- and middle-income countries represent over 80% of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths, placing an increased share of tobacco-related costs on those who can least afford it,” said the report authors in a statement. The anti-tobacco activists, from the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies, said that if African governments do not intervene,” a growing proportion of that burden will fall on countries across Africa in the future”.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Nairobi's Rich Housing Boom

 Demand for luxury penthouses in Kenya’s capital is set to rise as the super rich seek to avoid traffic jams on their way to work amid a shortage of decent housing for the majority living in slums.

Africa has the fastest growing cities in the world, with 40 percent of its one billion people in towns and cities, but most new homes target the upper class as it is easier to make a profit from high-end sales.

Kenya has the fourth highest number of wealthy individuals on the continent and is one of the top destinations for real estate investments by Africa’s super-rich.  The number of people living in Kenya worth more than $5 million will grow by 60 percent by 2022 to more than 2,000 individuals, both Kenya and foreign, boosting demand for luxury housing. Kenya is a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security, with economic growth forecast at more than 6 percent next year and a growing middle class.

Nairobi is one of Africa’s most expensive cities for housing, with 2013 prices almost triple those of 2000, according to the World Bank. Kenya needs to build 2 million affordable city homes to meet its housing deficit and stem the growth of its sprawling slums, which are home to six out of 10 urban households, it said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Oil Money Funding South Sudan's Civil War

Global Witness, an organisation that fights exploitation of natural resources, details how the country’s state-owned oil company has fallen under the direct control of President Salva Kiir. who is channelling millions of dollars to fund the ongoing four-year civil war. 

It linked the national oil company Nile Petroleum, or Nilepet, directly to arms transfers and the financial benefit of Kiir’s closest advisers.
The company, it says, operates in secrecy, and the report details how this secrecy has been used to finance military operations, arms transfers to ethnic militias, and conceal the looting of millions of dollars meant to help imports of essential goods.
South Sudan produces crude oil but lacks the capacity to refine the fuel. Nilepet depends on international refineries and fuel traders to raise its revenue. The investigation is now challenging these trading partners to hold the company accountable.
Michael Gibb, the campaign leader of Global Witness, says indifference to the malpractice amounts to complicity in the face of clear evidence of Nilepet’s role in the war economy.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Africa's Migration

Migration from African nations has increased dramatically in the last three decades, going from just 1% in the 1990s to 31% by the 2000s, a new study shows.
As of 2017, some 25 million sub-Saharan migrants lived outside their nation of birth.  With the exception of Syria, where a violent conflict has created a humanitarian disaster since 2011, the region accounted for nine of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations since 2010. With a global average growth of just 17%, emigration from sub-Saharan nations grew by 50% or more between 2010 and 2017.
A majority of those leaving is forced out by conflicts, leaving their homes in countries such as South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. Many of them are also children and women, who are fleeing inter-communal violence, economic decline, disease, and hunger. But some people are also moving from peaceful and economically stable countries too, like Namibia (190,000), Botswana (80,000) and Sao Tome & Principe (80,000). The sub-Saharan region also continues to host a large and growing number of refugees, which exerts enormous pressure on public services and local infrastructure in neighboring nations.
Over the last three decades, the number of African migrants in Europe and the United States has also increased—albeit at a slower pace. Many of those leaving the continent have also used dangerous routes across the Sahara, with some being auctioned off as slaves in car parks, garages, as well as public squares in Libya. Many Eritreans and Sudanese migrating to Israel have also survived torture and extortionwhile fleeing persecution and conscription at home.
Over the last three decades, the number of African migrants in Europe and the United States has also increased—albeit at a slower pace. Many of those leaving the continent have also used dangerous routes across the Sahara, with some being auctioned off as slaves in car parks, garages, as well as public squares in Libya. Many Eritreans and Sudanese migrating to Israel have also survived torture and extortionwhile fleeing persecution and conscription at home.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Corruption – origin of local African capitalist class

Corruption defined as the pilfering and shameful mismanagement of state resources first reared its ugly head after the MMD came to power in 1991. During the one-party state under Kenneth Kaunda members of the UNIP central committee were forbidden from amassing the private wealth of any kind.

When the MMD came to power under President Chiluba it pursued a rigorous policy of economic liberalisation defined as privatization. State-owned companies were auctioned off at prices below their book value. Corruption as a political vice first came to public attention when the third republican president Levy Mwanawasa slapped corruption allegations against former MMD president Fredrick Chiluba in 2002. It was alleged that Chiluba had swindled the government of millions of dollars through Access Financed Services and the Zamtrop state security account operated in the UK. The MMD government under Dr. Chiluba was afterward wound blamed for having instituted a culture of graft and impunity that stalled Zambian economic development.

Creating a capitalist class
The main task the MMD government set itself when it came to power was the social and economic empowerment of indigenous Zambians. The MMD went on to create what was a capitalist class dominated by economically empowered Zambian entrepreneurs. To quote from the late Dr. Chiluba speech when defining the new capitalist society:

'Ours is a capitalist society. It is therefore inevitable that in part and I repeat in part we must address the goal of privatization within the context of the people's relations characteristic of a capitalist economy. As part of the realization of our aim to eradicate poverty in our country, we must strive to create and strengthen a Zambian capitalist class – the new culture. Because we come from the disadvantaged many of us feel embarrassed to state their goal as nakedly as we should. All this frightens and embarrasses all of us who are Zambians and might be part of the rich. Accordingly, we walk as far and faster as we come from the nation that the struggle against poverty in our country must include the objective of creating a new Zambian bourgeois. As part of our continuing struggle to wipe out this legacy of poverty, we must work to ensure that there emerges a Zambian bourgeoisie whose presence within our economy and society will be part of the process of privatization of the economy and society. (quoted Daily Nation, 14 February). 

The task of privatizing the economy proved to be a nefarious and blatantly corrupt affair which had a triple effect on the poor and marginalized working class. Unemployment trebled due to the abrupt liquidation of state-owned companies and the once economically vibrant Copperbelt mining towns of Kitwe, Chingola, Mufulira, Ndola, and Chililabonbwe became ghost towns. In most cases, workers retrenched from parastatal companies have until today not received their retrenchment packages. President Chiluba went on to surrender council houses to sitting tenants in a move designed to socially empower the Zambian citizens, a move that had dire social economic consequences upon local authorities. Privatization dubbed 'economic empowerment' gave rise to social squalor and urban poverty of a severe kind.

The idea that public property belongs to no one, in particular, is an entrenched feeling among ordinary Zambian, especially those who work in the civil service. It makes them solicit money from people seeking to obtain things like a visa, a passport or a driving licence. The police are the most corrupt civil servants in the sense that they set free criminals upon receiving money, It is very rare for a magistrate to convict a rich person in Zambia today. The vice of corruption has spread into Ministry of Education where examination leakages are the thing of the day. Under the new capitalist culture  'social and economic empowerment' is a political slogan that legalised street vending, prostitution and crime. The privatization of ZCCM led to the emergence of self-styled copper dealers called “jerabos” who steal copper cathodes and concentrates from the privately owned copper mines were security became lax after the dissolution of ZCCM mine police unit.

Thus corruption in Zambia has been a matter of accumulating wealth and social status in the sense that most of the Zambian capitalist class derived its wealth through outright corruption.
Anti-corruption campaigns.

When Levy Mwanawasa passed away in 2008 he was succeeded by his vice-president, Rupiah Banda as acting president. In 2010 Banda had to squash the pending corrupt allegations against Chiluba because he was cognizant of the fact that corruption was a means to economic empowerment under the MMD government. Corruption was at its highest peak during the time Banda was head of state. It was president Banda, acting with his son Andrew, who milked millions of dollars from the Zambian government under a dubious contract to purchase oil from Nigeria in 2009. The task force created by President Mwanawasa proved toothless when it comes to arresting and convicting of politicians alleged to be corrupt.

'Anti-corruption' campaigns
'Anti-corruption' is used as a weapon of political victimization against political opponents and as such is not transparent. In his inaugural address when he was sworn in as president of Zambia in 2016 President Lungu promised the people of Zambia that he was going to continue the legacy of the late President Sata through creating more jobs and fighting corruption. President Lungu is not a domineering and abrasive leader when compared to the late Michael Sata-without rigidly and defined ideological convictions. Ascending to the leadership of the PF without a flamboyant political background Lungu has come to rely on the political goodwill of the masses and his closest stooges. 

After the initial political blizzard of 2014, the PF government under Lungu has presided over the recovery of the Zambian economy. Favourable copper prices from demand in South East Asia (mostly China and Malaysia) boosted investor confidence in the mining sector. The release of the UNPD leader Hicilema helped to cast a positive image of political tolerance and the rule of law. In Africa and overseas Lungu seems to have won a lot of political and economic accolades. The European Bank, World Bank, Amnesty International have expressed satisfaction with his style of leadership.

But from within the stable political and economic outlook looms the ugly revelations day in and day out of corruption taking place high echelons of the PF government, fuelled by allegations from former Minister Chishimba Kambwili who was himself dismissed for corruption. The report of the auditor-general on the estimates of capital expenditure reveal gross irregularities in the procurement and implementation of government programmes. The erring ministries or public officers are not prosecuted.

Policing corruption (politicians), as with the recent forced resignation of President Zuma in South Africa, will not resolve the dilemma of social poverty and corruption. Corruption is just another face of capitalist society. It is just another problem that cannot be resolved unless money, government, and leaders are dispensed with.

The one-party state is a feature of state corruption in which a handful of individuals exploit the majority workers. Parliamentary democracy is made up of wealthy and ambitious politicians trying to reform capitalism. They hoodwink the working class to vote for them through promising them with a heaven on Earth. But once the politicians win elections and become leaders the workers remain mere spectators at the political changing and economic issues taking place in society. Socialist ideas need a revolutionary class behind them to become practical. The problems feeing capitalism requires conscious political action by socialists and the democratic capture of political power. Everything else is reformism and total disappointment.