Friday, September 18, 2020

Mozambique's Misery

 For decades Cabo Delgado, in the northern corner of Mozambique, has been the country’s El Dorado, promising billions in natural gas and gemstones but delivering its population only violence and displacement. 50,000 people have fled their homes since March and Mozambique’s neighbours are currently debating sending in regional forces to help defeat militants who seized a strategic port in the town of Mocímboa da Praia last month. Those who have fled Cabo Delgado in the past six months take the total number of people displaced in the region to more than 200,000 (10% of its population) since 2017, when Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa launched an insurgency. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the past three years. 

Inocência Mapisse, a specialist in oil, gas and mining based in the capital, Maputo, said the Cabo Delgado reserves could transform Mozambique’s agriculture-based economy, but that the government was still not investing in the region or its people.

“If we look at the budget for Cabo Delgado province in the last 10 years, it’s the same in terms of the percentage of the [national] budget. It does not change,” she said. She described it as an El Dorado, promising transformative riches that cannot be accessed because of the fighting over them.

The chaos is caused by Isis-linked militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa, known locally as al-Shabaab (though it has no links with the better-known Somalia-based Islamist militant group of the same name).

Cabo Delgado has spent decades underdeveloped. Even past decade’s dual discoveries of $50bn (£38bn) worth of natural gas and rubies that sell for hundreds of millions of dollars brought only  misery for local people. More than a fifth of people do not have enough food. Many are forced to seek shelter with relatives and stretch shared resources. Prices for fuel and staple foods such as rice and maize have increased. The fighting this year has seen many humanitarian groups withdraw from the region. Agencies say they can only access some of the worst areas by air, river or sea, and that rural areas have been all but abandoned because of Covid-19.

Over the past 10 years, local people say the government has forcibly removed whole communities from state-owned land after granting ruby, mining and gas exploration concessions to private companies. Human rights campaigner David Matsinhe said that in the absence of government services, people have lost access to the land they relied on for food, shelter and income, due to the expansion of mining and gas extraction, while being deemed unqualified for jobs in these new industries.

“They are not only unemployed, they are also unemployable. They are complaining, they have protested against their expulsion [from the land],” he said. “They are saying … it’s only outsiders who come here to benefit and we’re sitting here watching them.” These grievances had fuelled the conflict more than any influence from international terror groups, Matsinhe said. “When they speak about the radical preacher coming to radicalise young people, they are forgetting that the government has done for the radical preacher about 80% of the job. He just comes to harvest,” he said.

 Last year, the British company Gemfields, owner of the luxury jewellery brand Fabergé, agreed a £5.8m settlement over alleged human rights abuses by security personnel with Mozambicans living in Montepuez, Cabo Delgado’s second-largest city,

 Amnesty International last week demanded an investigation into videos appearing to show soldiers torturing and beheading detainees.

Jasmine Opperman, Africa analyst at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), said, “The insurgency is reliant on youth dissatisfaction and discontent with the government. The SADC cannot and must not think that a military intervention, in isolation from a … project to deal with the root causes, will solve the problem.

Somali money transfer firms 'used to pay arms dealers'

A report into Somalia's popular money transfer systems has found that more than $3.5m ($2.7m) in cash has been moved between suspected weapons traffickers in recent years.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime alleges that a prominent Yemeni arms supplier was able to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in remittances despite being under US sanctions.

The findings could further hinder attempts by Somali transfer companies to work with international banks which fear flouting anti-money laundering regulations.

In response to the report, four Somali companies told the Reuters news agency that they did their best to comply with global regulations.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sudan's Inflation

 Millions of people in Sudan are facing hardship as the cost of food and transport soars amid economic turmoil in the country. The government declared a state of economic emergency last week after a sharp fall in currency. Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Sudanese pound had dropped to 234 against the dollar, from 140 the previous month.

The cost of some staple foods has increased by 50% over the past few weeks, driving inflation to a record high of 167%, up from 144% in July.

The price of sugar had risen from 100 to 150 Sudanese pounds (about £1.40 to £2.10) in the past two weeks, while a loaf of bread can cost two pounds in Khartoum and up to seven times more outside the capital. Beef has increased from 500 Sudanese pounds in June to 800 pounds this month.

In April, the government raised the minimum wage from 245 to 3,000 Sudanese pounds, the largest increase in salaries in the country’s history. But the move was “funded by printing more money, because there are no resources”, said Hafiz Ibrahim, an economist based in Khartoum.

The country is also grappling with recent devastating floods, which killed at least 99 people and affected more than half a million, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Reuters, the government is still waiting for the promised $400m financial package from donors that is to be administered by the World Bank.

El Obaien, 38, who works at the ministry of health in Khartoum, said he’s eating less and has stopped going out as often due to the rise in transport costs.

“I reduced the meals that I have per day, and I stopped thinking about the quality of food. I just eat anything that would be cheap enough and I can afford,” he said. “I don’t go out except when necessary, and when I do so I try to do all the things on the same day just to reduce the expenses of the transportation.”

Monday, September 14, 2020

Corruption and Inefficiency in South Africa's Hospitals

 Suspected Covid-19 patients were routinely left for hours in an open tent, in sub-zero temperatures, outside a South African hospital during the mid-winter peak of the pandemic, leading to "many" people dying of suspected hypothermia.

"It was freezing in that tent. As soon as night falls it's horrible, you can see the patients declining. Hypothermia is one of the major causes of death here. Especially in that tent," said a doctor at Sebokeng Hospital. "We're tired and sad and fearful for our patients. I ask myself how many people need to die unnecessarily for there to be an adequate investigation," she said.

The marquee-sized tent was erected in the car park and used by the hospital as a makeshift triage and waiting room - over the course of several cold and hectic weeks in July, with elderly patients collapsing after being left for two days or more without sanitation, food or proper heating. The doctor said sick people were forced to crowd around three small electric heaters that frequently broke.

"We don't have drugs. No ventilator equipment. There was PPE lying all over the place, waiting to infect more people," said the doctor, who complained that a number of medical staff had caught the virus as a result of the conditions.

Leaked messages have revealed that the decision to use tents provoked an angry backlash from experts in the provincial health department. Medical advisers urged management not to use the tents, precisely because of the risk to patients.

The revelations have emerged as South Africa's government has acknowledged and condemned widespread corruption and mismanagement during its response to the pandemic. The pandemic has also exposed deep institutional weaknesses, including a widespread culture of corruption and apparent nepotism, and the dangers of a system of "cadre deployment" that has seen key departments led by allegedly incompetent political appointees from the governing African National Congress (ANC). 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has angrily condemned the corruption, citing examples of price hikes of 900%, and lashing out at "hyenas" seeking to profit from disaster.
A number of senior officials and ministers have been criticised for instances where their relatives have secured large contracts from government. The South African authorities say they are now investigating government departments over irregularities in coronavirus-related tenders worth 5bn rand ($290m; £220m).

 Staff had repeatedly complained about conditions, and inquired about how special Covid-19 relief funds were being disbursed.
"We haven't seen that money. I do know management is aware of our struggles. We've tried multiple times as doctors and nurses to try to ask management where the money is being allocated," the doctor said. "Are we going to get more staff, more resources? And we don't really get answers, and that is devastating for us."

Friday, September 11, 2020

South Africa - Another Failed State?

 South Africa faces a precipitous economic and political collapse by 2030 unless it changes its economic model and implements growth-friendly policies, according to Eunomix Business & Economics Ltd.

"Bar a meaningful change of trajectory, South Africa will be a failed state by 2030," Eunomix said in a report.

 The Johannesburg-based political and economic risk consultancy forecasts the country will rank near the bottom of a table of more than 180 countries in terms of security, similar to Nigeria and Ukraine, and have prosperity akin to Bangladesh or Ivory Coast. 

The consultancy blames a structure created during the White-minority apartheid era that was designed to exclude the Black majority, creating one of the world's most unequal societies. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the ruling African National Congress perpetuated that situation by rejecting job-intensive growth policies and instead raising wages and subsidizing the poor through welfare, Eunomix said.

While less than a quarter of the population is in work, South Africa's wage bill as a percentage of gross domestic product significantly exceeds that of countries such as India, Thailand and the Philippines.

The ANC's strategy is "a dichotomy born of apartheid, resistance and crystallized by ideological puritanism and entrenched interests," the consultancy said. "The country should not choose between imagined opposites. It should adopt a dual-track approach that reconciles them."

"The pandemic is the last nail in the coffin of strategic fiasco," Eunomix said. "The economy is unsustainably narrow and shallow. It rests on a small and declining working population burdened by very high debt and taxes."

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Energy and Africa

 Africa currently accounts for less than 4% of global carbon emissions. But across the continent, standards of living are rising and the entire population is set to double by 2050. Either way, energy consumption in Africa is set to rise.

 Africa is not locked into fossil fuels.  It is the hypocrisy on the part of energy donors and investors, because they want to fund dirty projects in Africa.

Africa is incredibly blessed with renewable energy. The whole continent has access to solar energy. There's huge potential for wind energy. In East Africa we have the huge potential of geothermal energy and different parts of the continent also have access to hydropower. 

Not a single African country that isn't blessed with renewable energy power. What  is lacking is an effective strategy that allows the continent to actually effectively exploit the renewable energy power that exists. 

Those nations that became wealthy while contributing to climate change shall compensate those who did not and who are experiencing the worst effects. That will include compensating Africa and incentivising Africa to keep fossil fuels in the ground and exploit the abundant resources we have in renewable energy.  If we believe that the polluter should pay, then we must argue that those who are responsible for contributing to climate change shouldn't be allowed to shirk that responsibility. 

Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa. A lot of its oil goes out of the country and Nigeria is still energy poor. You still have long queues in every service station for a basic product that the country is producing, but then exporting and then importing the refined product. This is still quite inefficient commercially, because it's characterised by imported, expensive and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuels. So here is an opportunity where we can either go down the path of an old-fashioned energy system that will lock Africa into standard assets. Or pursue a cleaner, sustainable path.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

“Failing Africa’s Farmers, Starving the Continent.”

Africans are demanding answers after a recent report found that Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) strategies have failed spectacularly to meet its goals of increasing productivity and incomes for millions of small-scale farming households by 2020.

The report, “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” found that the 14-year, billion-dollar AGRA initiative has failed spectacularly to meet its self-proclaimed objectives.

The report showed that yields have risen slowly, poverty remains endemic, and there has been an alarming 31% increase in the number of undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries.

 Three African organizations are issuing a public letter to AGRA demanding it release internal documents on its impacts. They demand that AGRA provide “evidence to refute the study’s findings that AGRA and the larger Green Revolution project are failing to meet its goals of doubling yields and incomes for 30 million small-scale farming households by 2020 while reducing food insecurity by half.”
In the public letter, PELUM-Zambia, BIBA-Kenya, and HOMEF of Nigeria ask Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy, to provide evidence from AGRA’s own monitoring and evaluation to address the serious concerns raised in the False Promises report.
They note that AGRA refused researchers’ requests for such data to inform the report. They pose a provocative series of concrete questions about AGRA’s impacts.
“African farmers deserve a substantive response from AGRA to the findings in the report. So do AGRA’s public sector donors, who would seem to be getting a very poor return on their investments. African governments also need to provide a clear accounting for the impacts of their own budget outlays that support Green Revolution programs.”
They conclude with a plea that could be addressed to all the esteemed stakeholders at this year’s Green Revolution Forum: “We hope this request can refocus this important discussion on AGRA’s 14-year record in increasing productivity, incomes, and food security for smallholder farmers in Africa.”
As Zambian researcher Mutinta Nketani told the German outlet DW, when an organization like AGRA “fails to achieve the goals it had set itself, all alarm bells should go off — not only amid civil society, but also amid AGRA itself as well as its donors.”
 AGRA promised that commercial seeds and fertilizers will dramatically increase yields, allowing small-scale farmers to sell surplus crops, increase their incomes, and improve their food security.
According to the False Promises report, none of that has happened as AGRA reaches its self-declared 2020 deadline:
    • • Instead of doubling yields (a 100% increase), yields have gone up only 18% over 12 years for staple crops. Even for maize, heavily promoted by AGRA and subsidized by governments, yields increased a disappointing 29%.
    • • All the subsidies to maize diverted land and investment from other crops, some more nutritious and climate-resilient than maize. Millet production fell 24% under AGRA with yields declining 21%.
    • • Not only did farmer incomes fail to rise, hunger increased dramatically in AGRA countries, rising 31% since 2006 according to United Nations estimates.

      These policies, heavily funded now for 14 years, have failed. Rwanda’s former Agriculture Minister Agnes Kalibata now leads AGRA.  Her appointment by the U.N. Director General to lead next year’s scheduled Global Food Systems Summit is being questioned.
     Rwanda is a very poor example for sustainable and inclusive agricultural development. Under the government’s strict mandates to increase maize production, crop diversity declined dramatically. Kalibata may point to a 300% increase in maize production and a 66% increase in yields, but traditional and nutritious crops like sorghum and sweet potato withered from neglect. Overall yields for a basket of staple crops increased just 24%. And according to the latest U.N. figures, the number of undernourished Rwandans increased an alarming 41% since 2006 in spite of the boom in maize production. The report calls Rwanda “AGRA’s hungry poster child.” A former U.N. official recently decried Rwanda’s approach under Kalibata as “replacing hunger with malnutrition.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Police Against the Poor

Police violence has increased all over the continent. In most cases, perpetrators get away without appropriate sanctions. People are now raising their voices all over the continent to denounce police brutality in their countries.

From Soweto to Nairobi, police brutality cases are on the rise, and citizens are outraged and feel abandoned. Police brutality has become a hot topic globally, with activists and organizations regularly staging demonstrations. In some African countries, violence meted out by security officers worsened after governments imposed curfews to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The South African Police Service has faced unprecedented local and international media attention over several incidents in which people have died or have been assaulted by the police. The country has a history of law enforcement violence due to racial and socioeconomic disparities that have continuously plagued the Rainbow Nation.

A 2019 report by Corruption Watch suggested South Africa's police are the most corrupt public servants — with abuse of power and bribery being ripe. "The trend is systemic and has been institutionalized from the very top," said Wikus Steyl, a lawyer in Johannesburg. Steyl, who represents victims of police brutality, said he wants to see more responsible officers in charge.

According to annual statistics from the Independent Police Investigative Department, South African police officers killed 538 people in the 2017-2018 reporting year, and 440 people in the 2018- 2019 reporting year.  

On March 25, Kenya ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. Shortly after, Human Rights Watch reported that six people had died at the hands of police officers. According to Demas Kiprono, a lawyer at Amnesty International Kenya, 20 people have been killed by police during the COVID-19 curfew. But the numbers of reports of violence are much higher. Five hundred complaints against police brutality have been registered.

"Whenever people see the police here in Uganda, what comes to their mind is impunity, torture and arbitrary arrests, " said Andrew Natumanya, a photographer in Uganda's capital, Kampala.  

"It is bad, really bad. Most people avoid the police intentionally. It is sad that one has to avoid the very people who should provide security," Chineye, a banker in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, told DW.  

The use of force by the police appears to be linked to the criminalization of poverty in Africa, with observers saying illegal use of force is mainly recorded in poor neighborhoods and low-income areas. As a result, police measures and curfews have had a discriminatory and disproportionate effect on the poorest.

Africa's Green Wall

The world’s most ambitious reforestation project, the Great Green Wall of Africa, has covered only 4% of its target area but is more than halfway towards its 2030 completion date.

More funds, greater technical support and tighter oversight will be needed if the plan to plant 100m hectares of trees and other vegetation is to be realised, say the authors.

The Great Green Wall was conceived in 2007 by the African Union as a 7,000km (4,350-mile) cross-continental barrier stretching from Senegal to Djibouti that would hold back the deserts of the Sahara and Sahel. Its supporters said it would improve livelihoods in one of the world’s poorest regions, capture carbon dioxide and reduce conflict, terrorism and migration.

“The Great Green Wall is a new world wonder in the making,” said the UN deputy secretary general, Amina Mohammed. “It shows that if we work with nature, rather than against it, we can build a more sustainable and equitable future.”

“The time for business as usual is over,” said the African Union’s commissioner for rural economy and agriculture, Josefa Sacko, in a call for more sustainable agriculture, clean energy and water management to deal with the drylands of Africa.

In terms of the target area progress was far less impressive. After an investment of more than $200m, only 4m hectares have been planted in the past decade. To achieve the 2030 target, more than twice that area will need to be restored every year at an annual cost of $4.3bn. The results varied enormously from country to country. Ethiopia, which started reforesting earlier than other nations in the region, is a frontrunner, having reportedly planted 5.5bn seedlings on 151,000 hectares of new forest and 792,000 of new terraces. Other countries have lagged due to different geographies, levels of governance and economic development. Burkina Faso planted 16.6m plants and seedlings and Chad 1.1m, though both nations received more financial support for the project. A major problem is monitoring. Individual nations provide their own estimates, but there are doubts as to how many of the 12m trees planted in Senegal, for example, have survived.

Some scientists have expressed scepticism about creating walls of trees when grasslands can be more effective in certain regions. Shifting climate patterns have also slowed or reversed the expansion of some deserts. There is also greater political support for investing in soil restoration and water management of productive areas rather than planting trees in remote, sparsely inhabited areas. This has affected the objectives, if not the enthusiasm and effectiveness, of the project.

Chris Reij of the World Resources Institute said the modest results until now showed the need for more focus on what has and has not worked.

“I’m a fan of the GGW. It’s a very useful initiative, which shows the political will of governments to fight land degradation,” he said. “At the same time I’m quite critical. The original idea of planting a green wall in areas of less than 400mm [of rainfall] to stop the advance of the Sahara has largely been abandoned, although not in the rhetoric. “It is now much more about creating great green and productive landscapes, even though they don’t express it in these terms. There is a ton of good experience across the Sahel upon which it is possible to build. There are many more smaller and bigger successes than often assumed, which can be scaled.”

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Niger's Extrajudicial Executions

International rights groups have accused the armies of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso of carrying out dozens of extrajudicial executions during campaigns against jihadists and other armed groups in the Sahel region.
Niger's national human rights commission has accused the army of executing dozens of civilians during counterinsurgency operations. It said it had discovered more than 70 bodies in six mass graves in Tillaberi in the north-west of the country, an area affected by jihadist violence. The killings allegedly happened earlier this year. One of the investigators said the civilians had been killed with bladed weapons and small arms.
"There have indeed been executions of unarmed civilians and the mission discovered at least 71 bodies in six mass graves," said Abdoulaye Seydou, the president of the Pan-African Network for Peace, Democracy and Development, which took part in the investigation. "It is elements of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) which are responsible for these summary and extrajudicial executions," he added.
But Mr Seydou said it was not possible to say whether top levels of the army were responsible.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Ethiopian sweatshops and cancelled orders

The largest childrens' wear retailer in the US has cancelled millions of dollars worth of clothing orders from suppliers in Ethiopia because of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing companies into debt and leaving employees facing pay cuts. The Children’s Place is one of four leading US apparel brands sourcing goods from Ethiopia, alongside PVH, JC Penney and H&M. In its annual report last year, TCP cited Ethiopia as a “key sourcing region”. The Worker Rights Consortium said at least seven factories in Ethiopia were producing clothing for TCP stores, employing about 15,000 workers.

The Children’s Place (TCP), which has more than 1,000 stores in the US and 90 around the world and had a turnover of $2bn (£1.5bn) last year, cancelled orders from Ethiopia in March and delayed payments by six months for orders completed in January and February. Ethiopian suppliers claim that TCP has demanded retroactive rebates on products that had been shipped before the crisis. They said the company cited the force majeure clause (which frees companies from contractual obligations in the case of certain extreme events) in its contracts as a reason not to pay, due to Covid-19.

Suppliers said the cancellations have had serious consequences for their businesses. Some producers said they have been unable to pay their lenders due to the cancellations, which has left them crippled with debt after already buying raw materials and paying workers. Others have said the cut in orders was enough to wipe out their profits for the year. One supplier told the Guardian his company had lost its credit line after losing nearly $1m because of contract cancellations.

 “We are a company with 95% women workers. Some of the workers are mothers,” the supplier said. Asked what the company could do legally to recoup the hundreds of thousands of dollars lost, the supplier responded: “How do you fight such a big US corporation? They have endless pockets.”

Scott Nova, executive director at the Worker Rights Consortium, said: “We understand that The Children’s Place faces real financial challenges during this time. But this just represents a small fraction of their total cancellations globally. There are other brands, like PVH and H&M that have stepped up to pay. So can TCP, and they should.”

Ethiopian workers are the lowest paid in the global garment supply chain. Most of the country’s garment workers are young women who have migrated from poor rural areas.

According to a report by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, the minimum wage for Ethiopian garment workers is $26 a month, compared with $95 in Bangladesh and $326 in China.

'Aida', 20, who has worked for a factory that produces clothing for TCP for three years, said her wages had been cut from $26 a month to $10 since March. 

“I am afraid I am going to lose my job because of the crisis and get expelled from my house when I can’t afford to pay my rent. Since the factory has stopped providing transportation I get up earlier and walk to work. It takes me around 50 minutes to get to the factory. The days I skip meals has become more frequent … I used to eat vegetables but now I usually consume only cornflour meals.”

'Tamru', 22, who works at the same factory, usually makes $27 a month, working nine hours a day, six days a week. He must pay for his own housing. Since orders were cut, the company stopped supplying buses to transport workers to the factories, and his wages have been cut in half. He told the Guardian that this had made buying basic food unaffordable.

“I can’t eat whenever I want to eat,” he said. “I sometimes skip dinner. I walk from home to work every day because the factory has stopped providing transport service and I can’t afford to pay for a bus. My work is so exhausting, I never sit, and the pay is very small to cover my expenses.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Congo Defeats Measles

 Congo (DRC) declared the end of the two-year outbreak of measles that claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children aged under five.

The outbreak was countered by vaccination on a massive scale, in which millions of children and infants were immunised.
"For the past month, we are able to say that this epidemic has been eliminated from across our territory," Health Minister Eteni Longondo told a press conference.
The first cases of measles in the latest outbreak were recorded in June 2018. As of January this year, the WHO had recorded more than 335,000 suspected cases of the disease, of which 6,362 were fatal. By way of comparison, the DRC -- a vast country the size of continental western Europe -- has recorded 9,891 cases of coronavirus, of which 251 were fatal.
"We can say that measles [in the DRC] no longer exists."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Africa - Polio free

Africa has been declared free from wild polio by the independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission. Nigeria is the last African country to be declared free from wild polio, having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago.
Polio usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis. Death can occur when breathing muscles are affected. Polio is a virus which spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water. Two out of three strains of wild polio virus have been eradicated worldwide. On Tuesday, Africa has been declared free of the last remaining strain of wild poliovirus.
Twenty-five years ago thousands of children in Africa were paralysed by the virus. More than 95% of Africa's population has now been immunised.
The disease is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ivory Coast's Despot

According to the Economist’s 2019 Democracy Indexmore than half of Africa’s 55 countries are ruled by a “life president” or – in the words of the report’s authors – “authoritarian regimes”.

 Just five months ago,  Ivory Coast's 78-year-old Alassane Ouattara had announced his retirement, pledging to “transfer power to a new generation”.  Now he has announced he would seek a third term in office after all.

What makes Ouattara’s decision to run for a third unconstitutional term particularly troubling is that the political climate in Ivory Coast is ripe for electoral crises. A full-scale civil war could make parts of the country’s south-east regions, where opposition to Ouattara is strongest, ungovernable, leading to further deterioration of socioeconomic conditions in the country.
This is especially worrying for a country ravaged by on-off civil unrest since the 2010 civil war that killed 3,000 and displaced approximately 300, 000 people. Last week at least five people were killed and more than 100 injured in three days of pre-election street clashes between opposition and security forces, heightening the tense atmosphere.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top producer of cocoa beans, should be one of the most economically prosperous countries in Africa. According to data from the International Cocoa Organisation, the country produces 45% of the cocoa in the $100bn (£76bn) global chocolate industry.
 Poverty levels remain high, with nearly half of the 25 million Ivorians living on $1.22 a day. Life expectancy stands at 54. Women make up more than 50% of those who are unemployed and at least 12% of the population is food insecure. Out of 189 countries, Ivory Coast is ranked 165 on the 2019 UN human development index, and 165 out of 189 on the gender inequality index.
Ouattara, who still enjoys the support of France, is defiant; becoming the latest in a long line of African leaders to push past a constitutionally imposed two term limit, a well-trodden path for life presidency. He believes he is indispensable to the welfare of his people and wellbeing of Ivory Coast, that there is no one among the 25 million Ivorians better suited for the job than him. It’s reminiscent of Cameroon’s ailing president, Paul Biya, who holds Africa’s record for the longest-serving “life president” at 42 years. 
Ouattara’s refuses to reform the electoral commission – long considered biased in his favour – to even up the playing field and spare the people potentially horrific electoral violence.
Ouattara doesn’t want to relinquish power because he doesn’t trust those around him and he is worried about accusations of the funnelling of government funds, among other things. The businesses that he and his family have built up in Ivory Coast and abroad have brought them millions of dollars.

Lesotho - Sweatshops and sex abuse

At one of the biggest garment factories in Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho, the managers never hired enough regular workers to complete the clothing orders that flooded in from Europe and the US. Instead, every morning, a few hours after the sewing machines had started whirring, a male supervisor would stroll out to the factory gates where dozens of women waited. As he approached, they would surge forward, pressing themselves close to the railings and calling out their names.
These women were known as the “dailies” – unemployed cutters and machinists who went from factory to factory looking for a few hours of casual work. Everyone knew what the women had to do to get picked from the crowd. Many would endure repeated harassment and sexual assault to secure a daily wage of just over £6 a day.

“A woman whose babies are going hungry will do anything to put food on the table,” said Thebelang Mohapi. The supervisors knew they held all the power. “Nobody ever stopped them. They did whatever they wanted to do.”
Last year, a report by an NGO, the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), revealed a widespread incidence of rape, sexual assault and harassment at multiple garment factories in Maseru. More than 120 women from three different factories testified that they had been forced to have sex with male supervisors in order to keep their jobs. Some alleged that they had been raped on the factory premises. Some said they had contracted HIV from supervisors who withheld their salaries until they agreed to have unprotected sex. Those who complained were sacked.
Outside the factories, Lesotho has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual violence in the world, and most women do not trust the police. “Inside our factories women didn’t report, because the management didn’t care and the women saw what happened to people like me who did speak out,” said Mohapi. “The people from the WRC were the first to ever ask us what was really happening, and to listen to what we had to say.”
These factories in Lesotho supply some of the most famous denim brands in the world. The Taiwanese company Nien Hsing, which owns the factories investigated by WRC, is a major supplier to Levi Strauss, Wrangler and US retailer The Children’s Place. The brands had all carried out social audits and factory inspections, which are supposed to detect human rights and labour violations, but none had picked up the degrading and abusive conditions the female workers endured.
The WRC report was the first to link major brands directly to sexual violence in Lesotho, but garment workers in India, Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Turkey, China, Bangladesh and Vietnam have also reported being assaulted, stalked, groped, harassed and raped in factories making clothing for international brands. An ActionAid report in 2019 estimated that 80% of all Bangladeshi garment workers had faced sexual violence in the workplace.
“Sexual harassment is the fashion industry’s dirty secret. Brands are rarely called to account for what is happening to women making their clothing,” said Aruna Kashyap, a campaigner and legal advocate for Human Rights Watch.
Compared to the multi-billion pound garment powerhouses of Bangladesh and China, the small, landlocked country of Lesotho, an enclave within South Africa, is an industry minnow, exporting just 90m pieces of clothing a year, compared with the 10bn pieces of clothing exported by Bangladesh each year. Yet one thing that Lesotho specialises in is denim. More than 26m pairs of jeans are made here every year, many of them for Levi’s, and this has become the fuel that keeps the country’s faltering economy running.
“Without the garment industry, the economy would just break down,” said Sam Mokhele, from the National Clothing and Textile Workers Union (NACTWU) union in Lesotho. The export garment industry accounts for more than 20% of the country’s GDP. “The Taiwanese clothing companies are now our biggest employer. There are 46,000 people working in the factories, most of them women whose families wouldn’t be able to eat if they closed.”
The vast majority – about 80% – of garment workers in Lesotho are female. Women are the main breadwinners for many families in Lesotho, often supporting extended families. Since the factories came to Maseru, the number of women employed in Lesotho has doubled. Yet the garment industry has not delivered the economic emancipation for women that it promised. Most of the women in Lesotho last year were paid less per month than the cost of a single pair of Levi’s jeans – about £60. And yet, for many, it is either this or nothing.
“At the end of the day, garment workers across the world are stigmatised and marginalised because they are poor women,” said Bobbie Sta Maria, a senior researcher at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. “It is overwhelmingly women who do the badly paid, low-skilled manual labour, and almost universally men who are in positions of power over them. The brands benefit from this model and its lower production costs, because they know that women will accept poorly paid work to support their families.”
The fashion industry’s fast-moving production model exerts relentless pressure to produce more for less. The burden falls on suppliers in some of the world’s poorest countries, where there is high unemployment and little enforcement of labour and human rights standards. Now, as brands struggle to claw back lost profit from the coronavirus pandemic, that pressure is only likely to get worse. As workers get more desperate to keep their jobs, they will be less able to speak out
In March, when the pandemic hit, brands immediately started refusing to pay for orders already in production in factories. The knock-on effect has been swift and brutal: more than 1 million workers have alReady lost their jobs in Bangladesh. Many are already facing destitution. As wages are slashed and factories close, there has been a wave of attacks on labour rights campaigners and vulnerable workers, including pregnant women in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar. Already, the sexual abuse of women garment workers who desperately need jobs is on the rise. Now things are re-opening,  retailers are expecting to get significant discounts.
Even before the pandemic, factory supervisors were always stressed by the constant pressure to hit targets, and often took it out on the women. They would walk up and down the line screaming at them to work harder. It was a process of dehumanisation. “They would abuse us, calling us prostitutes and dogs,” she said. “If we had a big order, it got worse.”
The culture that allows sexual harassment and violence against women is deeply troubling for some of the male workers. Joseph Tlali, a father of four with more than 20 years of experience on the factory floor, is a supervisor at one of the factories exposed by the WRC report. “The supervisors just did what they wanted,” he said. “Even the junior managers were abusing women during their lunchtime. The factory manager would actually be watching them having sex on CCTV, but would not do anything to stop it. It was more like watching porn, you know? I would go home and look at my daughters sleeping and think: ‘You will never work in one of these places.’” He said the Taiwanese bosses didn’t care about how the supervisors were treating the women as long as they completed the orders, and the brands didn’t care as long as they got their clothes. “Nothing was done to keep the women safe,” he said. “They couldn’t tell their husbands because they thought they would be blamed. So really, they were completely on their own.”
The solution, Tlali said, had to start with fair pay. “The women need to be paid more, so that they feel they have a choice, and are not constantly just days away from destitution.”
Levi Strauss & Co is celebrated across the industry for its ethical procurement, and was one of the first fashion brands to demand that suppliers uphold human rights and labour standards. Yet its supply chains in Lesotho had still become infested with sexual violence. As one campaigner put it to me: “If it’s happening in Levi’s supply chain, then it’s happening everywhere.”
For years campaigners have been warning that codes of conduct and social audits not only don’t work, but can be misleading. By creating a veneer of corporate accountability, they allow brands to palm off responsibility for bad working conditions on to suppliers.
“These audits are not there to protect the worker – they are there to protect the reputation of the clothing companies,” said Aruna Kashyap of Human Rights Watch. "...If audits can’t pick up that a building is about to collapse then there is no way they could identify something as hidden and nuanced as gender-based violence,” Kashyap said. Regardless, when it comes to sexual harassment, fashion brands are not even asking the questions. “They simply don’t want to know.”
“When the inspectors come, they only ever talk to us in groups, and usually in front of our managers,” said Kabelo Sello. “Even if they talk to us alone, the management is watching, so if there is a complaint afterwards they know who who has talked. They never ask us any questions – they only say, “Are you happy at work?”, and we all nod.”