Monday, October 31, 2022

USA Invests in Africa's Fossil Fuels

 Seventeen of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change are found in Africa, with the continent requiring an infusion of funding to help it adapt to the economic and humanitarian challenge of repeated climate disasters. Africa is also home to about 60% of the most solar-rich environments in the world, according to the United Nations, although the west has so far been far less interested in harnessing the continent’s sun than its fossil fuels.

The US government has funneled more than $9bn (£7.7bn) into oil and gas projects in Africa since it signed up to restrain global heating in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a tally of official data shows, committing just $682m (£587m) to clean energy developments such as wind and solar over the same period.

Two-thirds of all the money the US has committed globally to fossil fuels in this time has been plowed into Africa, a continent rich in various minerals but also one in which 600 million people live without electricity and where floods, severe heatwaves and droughts are taking an increasingly devastating toll as the planet heats due to the combustion of coal, oil and gas. 

Last year, the Biden administration ordered a halt to investments in “carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy projects” globally, promising to usher in a new era of renewables. But sources close to the main agencies involved said that there was no plan as yet to adhere to the president’s goal, risking further greenhouse gas emissions.

 “I was thrilled with the promises from the Biden administration but over the last two years its been a slow walk back to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference between Biden and Trump on overseas fossil fuel finance,” said Kate DeAngelis, international finance program manager at Friends of the Earth.  She said, “It’s just business as usual. We are seeing some of the most vulnerable communities in Africa be negatively impacted and they don’t have a voice.”

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Exim) is the official export credit agency of the US, established as an independent body and tasked with bolstering American jobs by facilitating exports through financing that private lenders are unwilling to provide. Over the past decade, the agency has propped up coal mining in South Africa, oil drilling in Nigeria and is now supporting a vast gas project in Mozambique as part of a mission to “increase American exports across the continent”, as Reta Jo Lewis, Exim’s president, put it in September.  Exim is bound by statute to not explicitly favor one sector, such as wind or solar, over another, such as oil or gas.

From 2016 until last year, Exim’s financing of fossil fuels in Africa dwarfed renewable funding by a factor of 51 to one. The billions of dollars in finance provided by Exim and the United States International Development Finance Corporation, which in the past five years has spent $3.4bn (£2.9bn) bankrolling fossil projects such as oil facilities Guinea and Senegal and a gas pipeline in Egypt.  In 2019, Exim made its biggest bet yet on gas, agreeing to provide a $4.7bn (£4bn) loan to finance a project in northern Mozambique overseen by Total, the French oil giant. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world but the push to exploit its deep reserves of gas is only likely to enrich members of the country’s elite and do nothing to bring electricity to the 70% of people who do not have it.

Youba Sokona, a climate scientist from Mali who is a vice-chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),  said there was a “tremendous” opportunity to deploy solar-sourced electricity to shift communities away from practices such as cooking with charcoal but that such decisions were largely not being made by Africans themselves.

He explained, “Unfortunately this investment from the US is not feeding the development of Africa, it’s creating fossil fuels for export, this is the problem. The US isn’t investing for the interest of Africans, it’s investing for the interests of the US. 

Daniel Ribeiro, a campaign coordinator at Justiça Ambiental, a Mozambique environmental group pointed out, “It saddens me that the US continues to say pretty words but do bad things. Whenever there’s a conflict between making money and making a moral decision, we know what is going to win. That is where the US’s ability to produce beautiful narratives that hide the blood on their hands comes in. He added, “At least China doesn’t pretend that they are investing in Mozambique for any other reason than to make money. The US could at least be honest that this project will be terrible.”

Two-thirds of US money for fossil fuel pours into Africa despite climate goals | Cop27 | The Guardian

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Miners and Zimbabwe Forests

Artisanal gold miners in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province have cut down thousands of trees to process gold ore.

In areas like Mazowe, forests have already fallen, thanks to the gold miners, and now the areas look like a mini deserts.

Forestry officials from the Zimbabwean government lament the constant loss of forests every year. According to the Forestry Commission here, this country loses 262,000 hectares of trees every year for different reasons.

Thirty percent of the forest is lost to illegal mining, says environmental activist, Monalisa Mafambirei.

“You speak of Mazowe as a case study, but, of course, this is not the only area losing trees to illegal gold miners. In fact, this problem facing our forests is widespread as gold miners are all over the country where gold is mined, and trees have continued to be the casualties as gold miners cut them down rather carelessly either for use when processing the gold ore or as they clear the land upon which they mine,” a government climate change said.

Environmental campaigners in this southern African country, like Gibson Mawere, blame the artisanal gold miners for fanning deforestation in the country.

“Illegal gold miners are unregulated, and they cut down trees, clearing areas on which they mine for gold, and also they use firewood to then process the gold ore because you should remember that these miners have no access to electricity nor coal to use in place of firewood.”

Gold miners like Makwati and his cousin place the blame on the country’s struggling economy.

“If we don’t cut the trees, we will have no money at the end of the day. We use fire from the trees we cut to process the gold ore before we sell pure gold. With formal jobs, we wouldn’t be harming the environment nor destroying trees,” Makwati, a miner explained.

Artisanal Miners Ruining Already Diminishing Forests in Zimbabwe | Inter Press Service (

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Ending EACOP

 A new analysis released by a climate research firm,  the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI),  reveals environmental assessments used to gain approval for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania failed to fully consider the massive amount of fossil fuel emissions that will result from the project.

Climate campaigners have opposed the project which has already displaced thousands of people and threatens the livelihoods of millions, however, the CAI looked at expected emissions from tanker transport from Port Tanga in Tanzania through the Suez Canal to Rotterdam (and return), refining of the waxy crude oil into petroleum products, and end-use consumption of the carbon fuels," and found that EACOP will be directly linked to 379 million tonnes of carbon emissions—more than 25 times the current annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania. The earlier analysis that was accepted by the host governments detailed just 1.8% of the project's total emissions.

CAI's findings qualify EACOP as a "mid-sized carbon bomb," as Richard Heede, who leads the group's Carbon Majors project, described it. A carbon bomb is defined as an extraction project which has the capacity to emit at least one billion tonnes of carbon.

"It is time for TotalEnergies to abandon the monstrous EACOP that promises to worsen the climate crisis, waste billions of dollars that could be used for good, [and] bring mayhem to human settlements and wildlife along the pipeline's path," Heede explained.

The French oil company TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are behind the project, with Total planning to invest between $3.5 billion and $5 billion in the pipeline.

"EACOP is an ill-advised project whose impact on communities in Uganda and Tanzania, wildlife, and the planet will be devastating, as the project's lead Total Energies stand to gain," said Omar Elmawi, coordinator for the Stop EACOP campaign. and the Stop EACOP coalition are preparing to release a new documentary film, EACOP: A Crude Reality, which features the stories of climate campaigners who are fighting against the project and some of the thousands of people who have been evicted or economically displaced because of the pipeline.

The stories within the film "are a testament to the impunity with which fossil fuel corporations such as Total Energies operate, as they realize huge profits at the expense of people and the environment," said Hilda Nakabuye, a climate campaigner in Uganda. "Harmful projects such as EACOP should have no place in the future of the continent," she added.

Data Reveals Major Africa Pipeline as Climate Killer (

Turkey Joins the Scramble for Africa

 Sales of weapons to African nations are booming after Turkey signed military cooperation deals with dozens of governments on the continent. Turkey's defence and aerospace exports to the continent grew more than fivefold, to $460.6 million, in 2021 — up from $82.9 million in 2020. Albeit, Turkey's share of Africa's arms market is still tiny at 0.5%. But the rapid growth of defense sales is "striking," according to a 2022 study on Turkey's security diplomacy in Africa

Turkey is stepping up its security footprint in Africa after over a decade of strategically expanding its economic and cultural influence on the continent. Turkey is proving a reliable alternative to traditional arms exporters, such as Russia, China, France and the United States. For Turkey, Africa is potentially huge market for Ankara's emerging defense and aerospace industry, which boasted some 1,500 companies in 2020 compared to just 56 in 2002.

Abel Abate Demissie, an associate fellow at the British think tank Chatham House, explained, Turkish arms are relatively cheap, have shorter delivery times and come free of "bureaucratic hurdles" such as political or human rights conditions

"In Africa, wherever we went, they asked us for unarmed and armed drones," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after returning from a 2021 trip to the continent. Erdogan, who has visited more African countries than any non-African leader, has even redefined Turkey as an "Afro-Eurasian state," Eguegu pointed out. "By connecting its identity with Africa, it's a way to make itself almost a neutral partner of African countries."

African nations that have already taken delivery of Turkish-manufactured drones include Somalia, Togo, Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia — although the drone sales to Ethiopia have attracted Western criticism after the government used them to attack civilians in the Tigray conflict

Turkey has signed military-related pacts with the majority of African countries, mainly in West and East Africa (as shown in the map below). While the deals vary in scope, they can include technical visits to research centers, personnel exchanges between institutions and companies, and training.

 In Somalia,Turkey operates its biggest foreign base, Camp TURKSOM where the Turkish government has boasted of training a third of Somalia's 15,000-strong army in the fight against al-Shabab. Turkey has been training Kenyan police officers since 2020. Turkey gave the G5 Sahel Joint Force (made up of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) a $5 million contribution for the fight against terrorism in 2018. It has since signed military cooperation and defense agreements with Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal. 

The 2021 Turkey-Africa summit attracted 16 African heads of state and more than 100 ministers. This shows that the continent is increasingly attaching strategic importance to Turkey, said Senegal-based peace and security analyst Aissatou Kante, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, an African think tank.

Turkey deepens its defense diplomacy in Africa – DW – 10/28/2022

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Libya's Water Revolution (video)


Sahel is Suffering

 Violence has forced 4.5 million out of their homes in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, a 200% increase in the past two years. With 80% of the population of the Sahel relying on agriculture to survive, being displaced means they lose access to their lands and their livestock.

The suffering of millions of people in Mali and the wider Sahel region is rooted in the deadly combination of conflict and the climate crisis. Caught between advancing deserts, erratic weather and violence, entire communities are being forced to leave their homes, livestock and livelihoods behind.

Climate change is a daily reality for Mali. Entire lakes, such as Lake Faguibine, have dried up, erasing entire ecosystems and forcing communities to move. Desertification is spreading and ground water is becoming increasingly scarce, pressuring farmers. Mali lost 90,000 hectares of yield in 2021 due to drought, impacting the livelihood of more than 3 million Malians. This resulted in a 10.5% decrease in cereal production across the country.

Climate change, conflict force communities in the Sahel region into desperate state - Mali | ReliefWeb

The Curse of the Nation-State

 The population of Lagos, Nigeria a decade ago, was at 11.5 million, but other estimates ranged as high as 18 million. The population was already 40 times bigger than it had been in 1960, when Nigeria gained independence. One local demographer estimated that 5,000 people were migrating to Lagos every day, mostly from the Nigerian countryside. Since then, the city has continued to swell. By 2035, the UN projects that Lagos will be home to 24.5 million people.

Today, Africa has 1.4 billion people. By the middle of the century, experts such as Edward Paice, author of Youthquake: Why Africa’s Demography Should Matter to the World, believe that this number will have almost doubled. 

By the end of this century, the UN projects that Africa, which had less than one-tenth of the world’s population in 1950, will be home to 3.9 billion people, or 40% of humanity. By 2050, about 40% of all the people under 18 in the world will be African.

A stretch of coastal west Africa that begins in the west with Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, and extends 600 miles east – passing through the countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin – before finally arriving at Lagos has become to be seen by many experts as the world’s most rapidly urbanising region, a “megalopolis”. In just over a decade from now, its major cities will contain 40 million people. Abidjan, with 8.3 million people, will be almost as large as New York City is today.  The projected population for this coastal zone will reach 51 million people by 2035.  By 2100, the Lagos-Abidjan stretch is projected to be the largest zone of continuous, dense habitation on earth, with something in the order of half a billion people.

"...Africa is unquestionably the continent that will drive the future of urbanisation. And it is that strip along the coast of west Africa where the biggest changes are coming,” said Daniel Hoornweg, a scholar of urbanisation at Ontario Tech University. “If it can develop efficiently, the region will become more than the sum of its parts – and the parts themselves are quite big. But if it develops badly, a tremendous amount of economic potential will be lost, and in the worst of cases, all hell could break loose.”

Coastal west Africa’s urbanisation gathers pace, and populations and regional commerce begin to surge across old imperial borders, the lives of tens of millions of people along the coastal corridor are changing in ways that neither colonial designs nor six decades of independent government seem to have remotely anticipated. In May, the African Development Bank announced it had raised $15.6bn to fund the construction of a new coastal highway from Lagos to Abidjan, the West African Highway.

The needs of west Africa’s booming population collide with the stubborn realities of the nation-state, and specifically with contrasting colonial histories.  

E Gyimah-Boadi, the co-founder and former CEO of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, a thinktank, explained,  “ The nation-state has been a huge curse. It worked very well for some of us, but we have left very little behind for the young. Basically, we have cheated them.”

Megalopolis: how coastal west Africa will shape the coming century | Africa | The Guardian

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Inflation hits Malawi

Severe deforestation in Malawi has over the years degraded the land and most smallholder farmers can only cultivate the same piece of land, so fertiliser had become necessary to replace lost nutrients. But now that is not so easy. The prices of fertilisers and herbicides have gone up. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 50kg of fertiliser was 22,042 Malawian kwacha (about £19). In April it rose to 49,000 kwacha; this month, the price reached 65,000 kwacha. A dish of tomato was at 13,000 kwacha; now  it  is at 28,000. People don’t have money, so it is a difficult situation for everyone.

Malawi is reeling. The economy is predominantly agriculture-based, with farming accounting for 30% of GDP and generating more than 80% of export earnings. Malawi devalued the kwacha by 25% in May to stabilise dwindling foreign currency reserves and return to a market-determined exchange rate regime. However, inflation soon soared; cooking oil doubled in cost, and petrol and diesel prices have been increased at least twice this year.

Almost-forgotten traditional methods have returned to popularity. Farmers have started looking for manure, buying a few chickens and goats to produce it. Some farmers are using neem leaves and the tuberous shrub locally known as mphanjovu (Neorautanenia mitis), as natural pesticides.

Meanwhile, there are more orders for “bionitrate fertiliser” – made from urine from local people. Not only is it claimed the product more affordable but it is more beneficial than chemical fertilisers. Bionitrate is good for vegetative and fruiting crops such as maize, rice, wheat, vegetables, lawns, flowers, and sorghum or millet, and when applied, it is also nourishment for maggot farming. Demand for this fertiliser has grown by 75%.

Frighton Njolomole, the president of the Farmers’ Union of Malawi, says the prices make the cost-of-living issues during Covid seem “mild”. With planting season approaching, he fears things will worsen.

“The farmers with large-scale farms to the medium scale, they always do mechanisation, like hiring tractors to work, so those are equally affected because fuel has gone just too high,” he says. “Even when a farmer foots all these costs, the prices are not going to be the same, and if they raise the price unnecessarily, who is going to buy? I don’t think most of our farmers will survive. If things do not change, survival is going to be a big thing.”

He is in favour of a return to traditional practices to plug the gap.

 “We need to experiment with indigenous methods as well,” Njolomole says. “If they work and help the farmers to maximise their outputs while reducing the cost of production, let farmers use them, as long as they work.”

‘Everything’s gone up’: soaring inflation hits Malawi’s market trade | Global development | The Guardian

Africom Exposed


Nick Turse, Keeping an Eye on AFRICOM

Getting to Yes -

Monday, October 24, 2022

South Africa’s $8.5 Billion Climate Cash Is 97% Loans

 Less than 3% of an $8.5 billion climate finance deal being offered to South Africa by some of the world’s richest countries will come in the form of grants, Climate Home News reported, citing a copy of the financing provisions.

Of the rest of the money 54% will come in the form of concessional loan and 43% will be commercial loans and investment guarantees, the UK-based publication said. The proposed pact was announced at last year’s international climate summit in Glasgow as a package offered by Germany, France, the US, UK and the European Union to help South Africa transition away from coal.

Germany will provide $1.2 billion in concessional loans, money lent to South Africa at attractive rates, through its development finance institutions while France will make $1 billion available, the publication said. A further $2.6 billion will come from Climate Investment Funds, which offers concessional finance from six multilateral development banks including the World Bank.

The US will pledge to lend South Africa $1 billion in commercial loans as will the European Investment Bank, Climate Home News said. The UK will offer $1.7 billion in commercial loans and debt guarantees and just $230 million will come in the form of grants, according to the publication.

Less than 1% of the total is earmarked for social investment meant to cushion communities dependent on the coal-fired power plants that will be closed while 5% will go toward developing a green hydrogen industry.

South Africa’s $8.5 Billion Climate Pact Is 97% Loans, CHN Says (

The Forgotten War in DRC

 At least 23,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the latest bout of violence that broke on 20 October between the Congolese army and fighters from Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) armed group.  Since Thursday, there have been clashes.

These hostilities risks restricting humanitarian access in certain areas. The closure of the Rutshuru-Goma road, which is of great economic importance, will lead to further impediments on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need.

Since March, clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group have displaced at least 186,000 people, bringing the total number of displaced people in Rutshuru territory to more than 396,000.

Democratic Republic of the Congo - North Kivu, Flash Update #2: Populations Displacement in Rutshuru Territory (23 October 2022) - Democratic Republic of the Congo | ReliefWeb

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Omar's Marshall Plan for Africa

   Africa has over 1.3 billion people – more than double the size of Europe. By 2050, that population is expected to double, giving it more than a quarter of the world’s population – many of them of young working age.

And its economies are poised for more growth. The Centre for International Development projects that seven African countries will be among the 15 fastest growing over the next five years. Improving education systems and increased trade are already improving the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans. The poverty rate continues to plummet and migration is increasing as well – spurring the spread of ideas, entrepreneurship and investment. Africa has more than 60% of the globe’s arable uncultivated land. And a new trade agreement is expected to create Africa’s first continent-wide free trade area, generating economic benefits for the country.

But a third of children remain malnourished. A similar amount do not finish secondary school. The Covid-19 pandemic has made these challenges more difficult, with many officials fearing Africa could lose a full decade of development. Putin’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine has contributed to a devastating famine that is taking lives as we speak. And the climate crisis will make the hurdles for development and flourishing even higher. This is a particular injustice for a continent that contributes less than 4% of global CO2 emissions, but suffers the brunt of the impact.

Russia has signed military deals with at least 19 African countries since 2014 and has become the top arms supplier on the continent. 

Chinese companies have invested heavily in natural resources there, and Chinese trade with Africa was up to $254bn last year. 

A landmark study by the UN development program in 2017 shows that people who join violent extremist groups throughout the continent – from al-Shabaab to Boko Haram – are generally from geographically isolated and socially marginalized groups, and most name the precipitating event before joining one of these groups to be a low-level human rights violation.

So in terms of narrow counter-terrorism policy, support for governments, militaries, and police that violate human rights – rather than local civil society – is self-defeating. Only support for democratic institution building and accountability for human rights violations can remove the root causes of extremism.

Ilhan  Omar

We need a Marshall plan for Africa | Ilhan Omar | The Guardian

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Somalia Famine Warnings go Unheeded

 Somalia faces famine on a scale last seen half a century ago, the United Nations has said. Somalia has suffered four successive failures in its rainy seasons since the end of 2020, and there are fears that a fifth failure is now underway.

“Things are bad and every sign indicates that they are going to get worse,” James Elder, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesman, explained.

In August, 44,000 children were admitted to health establishments with severe acute malnutrition, a condition that means a child is up to eleven times likelier to die from diarrhoea and measles than a well-fed counterpart.

“That is a child per minute,” said Elder. “A child whose mother has walked days to get her child to help. A child whose body is fighting to survive. A child whose life hangs in the balance.”

An estimated 7.8 million people – roughly half of the population – are now affected by drought, of whom 213,000 are at high risk of famine.

“When people speak of the crisis facing Somalia today, it has become common for frightful comparisons to be made with the famine of 2011, when 260,000 people died,” Elder added. “However, everything I am hearing on the ground – from nutritionists to pastoralists – is that things today actually look worse."

“Famine is projected in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts in Bay Region between this month and December if humanitarian assistance does not reach people most in need.” warned , Jens Laerke of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 

Somalia faces worst famine in half a century, UN warns | Hunger News | Al Jazeera

“Kêlê Magni” (“War Is a Plague) Burkina Faso

 In 1984 Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, which means the “Land of Upright People.”

On Sept. 30, Captain Ibrahim Traoré led a section of the Burkina Faso military to depose Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who himself had seized power in a coup d’état in January.

The coups in the Sahel are coups against the conditions of life afflicting most people in the region, conditions created by the theft of sovereignty by multinational corporations and the old colonial ruler.

The World Bank notes that 40 percent of Burkinabé live below the poverty line. 

Burkina Faso is not a poor country. It is the fourth-largest producer of gold on the African continent.

With a minimum of $2 billion per year in gold sales, it is extraordinary that this country of 22 million people remains mired in such poverty. 

Instead, the bulk of the revenue is siphoned off by mining firms from Canada and Australia — Barrick Gold, Goldrush Resources, Semafo and Gryphon Minerals — as well as their counterparts in Europe. These firms transfer the profits into their own bank accounts and some, such as Randgold Resources, into the tax havens.

The Malian singer Oumou Sangaré released a wonderful song, “Kêlê Magni” or “War Is a Plague,” in February, which speaks for the entire Sahel:

War is a plague! My country might disappear!
I tell you: war is not a solution!
War has no friends nor allies, and there are no real enemies.
All people suffer from this war: Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire… everyone!

Taken from here

When Will the Stars Align Again for Burkina Faso? – Consortium News

Zimbabwe's Land Reform Failed

 In 2000, the late former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned the country’s agricultural sector upside down with his extremely contentious fast-track land reform program, parcelling land to farmers. Over seven million hectares (17.3 million acres) of land were redistributed to the country’s now poor resettled farmers like Dewa and Murewa.

For the late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, parcelling out land to his black citizens was compensation for colonialism. About 4,500 white farmers were dispossessed, often violently, resulting in one million black Zimbabweans being resettled on the seized white-owned farms. Yet, that for many has not made their lives any better. Resettled farmers in Mwenezi were beneficiaries of agricultural inputs like fertilizer and maize seeds, for years, but they have had no success in farming on the seized pieces of land as they get next to zero yields each harvest season. Many of Zimbabwe’s resettled farmers like Murewa are having to contend with gruelling poverty.

Agricultural experts blame a lack of technical skills for resettled farmers’ failure on the land they seized from white farmers.

“The resettled farmers suffer because they allocated themselves large farms without technical know-how in terms of serious farming, and that’s why most of them are now very poor,” Denzel Makarudze, an agricultural extension officer in Masvingo, Zimbabwe’s oldest town, told IPS.

Climate change experts like Happison Chikova also blame growing climate change impacts for the continued failure of many of this country’s resettled farmers.

“Unpredictable weather patterns owing to climate change have worsened the poverty situation of the resettled farmers who have limited understanding of the changing climate,” Chikova told IPS.

Poverty Haunts Land Reform Resettled Farmers in Zimbabwe | Inter Press Service (

More Calamities for West Africa

 Above-average rainfall and devastating flooding across West and Central Africa has affected five million people in 19 countries across the region, claiming hundreds of lives, upending livelihoods, displacing tens of thousands from their homes and decimating over a million hectares of cropland - in a region already in the grips of an unprecedented hunger crisis. This climate-related disaster is one of the deadliest the region has seen in years and is likely to deepen the already worrisome hunger situation for millions.

"Families in West Africa have already been pushed to the limit in the wake of conflict, the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic, and skyrocketing food prices. These floods act as a misery multiplier and are the final straw for communities already struggling to keep their heads above water," said Chris Nikoi, the UN World Food Programme (WFP)'s Regional Director for Western Africa.

In many countries across the region, food prices are still on the rise compared to the 5-year average. Maize prices, for example, rose by 106%, 78%, 42% respectively in Ghana, Niger and Nigeria. In Burkina Faso, sorghum prices increased by 85%. In Mauritania, wheat is up by 49%, while in Sierra Leone, imported rice is up by a staggering 87%. The spiralling food, fuel and fertilizer prices not only aggravate the hunger crisis but also foment socio-economic tensions -- as governments struggle to respond to the crisis due to heavy debt burdens and limited fiscal space.

West Africa hard-hit by climate crisis as deadly floods decimate lives and livelihoods - Central African Republic | ReliefWeb

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The market fails again (2005)

The Cooking the Books column from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Within a month of the Live8 concerts that were supposed to influence the leaders of world capitalism to do something about poverty in Africa, the charities had to get their begging bowls out again. This time for a famine in Niger, an ex-French colony to the north of Nigeria with a population of over 11.6 million.

In October last year various international agencies including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation signalled that, due to a bad harvest and an invasion of locusts, cereal production in Niger in 2004-5 was likely to be 7.5 percent below normal. In accordance with the law of supply and demand the price of millet, the main cereal grown and consumed in Niger, began to rise, with the result that the farmers whose crop had failed were unable to afford to buy enough food for their families. Malnutrition, especially amongst children, grew.

The government reacted by bringing in a scheme to sell millet at a reduced price, but although this was below the market price it was still two times higher than the price the farmers had received for their 2003-4 crop.

Dr Isabelle Defourny, of Médicins Sans Frontières, takes up the story:
“In early June, Niger’s prime minister acknowledged that the government’s response was ineffective when he noted that hundreds of thousands of the 3.5 million people threatened by the food shortage were too poor to be able to purchase cereal, even at a low price. Those most severely affected by the food crisis have the least resources, including farmers whose harvests were poor and cattle producers and craftsmen. Many had already exhausted their resources, selling goods and animals to feed themselves.” (Messages, MSF newsletter, July-August, )
MSF urged that “free food distribution is the only way to keep the situation from worsening and to prevent large numbers of deaths”, a perfectly reasonable proposal if we were living in a society geared to serving human needs and welfare. But we’re not. The authorities took a different view, for reasons explained by social researcher, Jean-Hervé Jezequel, in an interview in the same issue of Messages:
“ . . . in early June, at a meeting of the Joint Commission for Consultation, the decision-making body of the ‘action plan’ which includes representatives of the state and of institutional donors, the government of Niger declared that despite the seriousness of the food crisis, it would not set up free distribution operations. The only political reaction from the institutional donors came from the ambassador of France, who was glad there was a ‘policy that will not destabilize the markets’. The ambience was almost surreal: ignoring the emergency food situation, economic considerations were, without hesitation, given priority over the fate of endangered people.”
The French newspaper Libération reported that some cereal merchants had held back stocks to drive up prices further and that others had “disposed of their stocks in neighbouring Nigeria where the population has a higher purchasing power” (9 August).

So, yet again, as in every “food crisis” since the Great Starvation in Ireland in the 1840s, the workings of capitalism have produced the obscene spectacle of the export of food from an area where people are starving because, not having money, they don’t constitute a market and so don’t count.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Cobalt and the Congo

 Cobalt is critically important to the global economy as it is a key component in rechargeable batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo supplies almost three-quarters of the world’s cobalt, with about 20-30% extracted by an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 artisanal and small-scale miners who toil under arduous conditions.

Unfortunately, given its often hazardous, exploitative and informal working conditions, DRC’s artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) cobalt sector is also particularly vulnerable to modern slavery. Across DRC, approximately one million people are estimated to be living as modern slaves,  including forced labour, debt bondage, human trafficking and child labour 

An estimated 35,000 children work in DRC’s cobalt mine sites. Child labour in mining under international law it is considered one of the worst forms of child labour because of its extreme health, safety and developmental risks. Mining exposes children to dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions, physical injury, mental stress, disease and disenfranchisement.

Cobalt’s use in electronic semi-conductors, circuits and lithium-ion rechargeable batteries makes it critical to the Green Industrial Revolution. Besides renewable energy storage, cobalt is used in powerful magnets found in wind turbines, as an additive to improve biogas production, and more. The move to decarbonise economies across the world is significantly boosting demand for clean energy minerals and metals and will require a massive increase in mining them. The World Bank, for example, estimates an additional 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed for wind, solar and geothermal power generation and energy storage.

Six reasons why industry must end slavery in cobalt supply chains | Context

Thursday, October 13, 2022

30,000 flee the DRC

As of 6 October, some 27,000 – most of them women and children – have been displaced by the violence and need urgent assistance in Kwilu and Mai Ndombe provinces.

 Another 2,600 people have sought refuge in the Republic of the Congo after crossing the Congo River in canoes. 

Many have become separated from family members during their flight.

A surge of deadly intercommunal violence started over customary taxes on agricultural land use between the Teke and Yaka communities. More than 142 people have been killed, including some who were beheaded.

Families, traumatized by the sudden and violent clashes that erupted in the past weeks, fled for their lives and found refuge in the surrounding forest with their children. Many have left their farms and fields and abandoned their harvests in the granaries. 

This latest displacement in the DRC exacerbates an already severely underfunded response to assist the 521,000 refugees and more than 5.5 million internally displaced people from the country. Just 40 percent of the US$225.4 million required has been funded. In the Republic of the Congo, UNHCR has only received 16 percent of the requested US$37.4 million needed for its refugee response in 2022.

Violence erupts in DR Congo’s west as nearly 30,000 flee clashes - Democratic Republic of the Congo | ReliefWeb

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Somalia - Famine has come.

 While there has been no official declaration, famine has come to Somalia. 

UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said last week decried the injustice of the climate crisis-induced disaster.

 “Nobody in Somalia is responsible for the catastrophe – this fourth failed rainy season, this fifth and sixth to come.”

At least 41% of Somalia’s population of nearly 16 million people will face acute food insecurity between now and December.

With Somalia on track for a fifth failed rainy season, there have been no crops in the fields for more than two years. Some people in El-Jaalle refugee camp say they will return to their farms when the rains come, but it is likely many of them will be stuck in the camp for years.

The situation is not uniformly catastrophic. Despite Somalia enduring its worst drought in four decades, the district of Afgoye remains green. In Afgoye, a town near the capital, Mogadishu, crops are still growing. While livestock die and crops fail in most other parts of the country, farmers here continue to grow food to sell in the capital but farmers are worried. They are not immune to the effects of the drought, which are being exacerbated by rising costs. The war in Ukraine and lingering supply-chain problems after the coronavirus pandemic have led to high inflation and shortages of essential items. They cannot afford to buy seeds, fertiliser or fuel to pump water from the river. 

As one Afgoye farmer puts it: “Everybody is a loser in this situation.”

Falling water levels in the Shabelle River, which runs through Afgoye, have forced farmers to reassess what they plant.

“I cannot grow all my usual crops,” says Saida Mohamed Hassan, a farmer who lives in Afgoye with her husband and five children. “Although we are blessed compared with people living in other parts of Somalia, we face our own challenges.” Hassan is planning to grow fewer varieties of produce this season, forgoing water-hungry crops such as bananas and tomatoes. “I will only plant sesame, maize and watermelon,” she says. “I usually grow many different types of fruit and vegetables but they will shrivel and die.”

With its finances already stretched by the effects of drought and inflation, al-Shabaab has started demanding higher taxes to fund its war effort. The group is active in parts of Afgoye and has threatened to kill farmers and businesspeople if they do not pay the higher levy. The farmers are afraid that the fighting will spread to their fields. There has been an intensification in troop movements by the Somali National Army and al-Shabaab has stepped up attacks in the area in recent months.

Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the presidential envoy for Somalia’s drought response says that countries such as Somalia were being left without support to face “the new climate reality”.

“If we had not had Ukraine, Covid and the locust invasion then the effect might be less, but the drought is caused by climate change. We have had four failed rainy seasons now. The cycle of drought used to be every 10 years, now it’s four years and soon it will be two years. That is not caused by Somalia – that was caused by the climate crisis.”

 The international community was ignoring impending famine and failing to meet the longstanding pledge of letting poorer nations access an £87.5bn climate fund to mitigate the crisis.

“We are living with the deadly consequences of climate change in Somalia,” he said. “Millions of children are malnourished, many will die, and we don’t have one penny of that climate fund.” Abdishakur continued, “Everyone has been saying, ‘When you have famine declared you will have attention,’” he said. “We are facing more than the scale of 2011, when we lost a quarter of a million of our people. But in 2011 half the people died before famine was declared.”

Abdishakur said access to climate crisis funds would enable Somalia to bring in technology and infrastructure to support and build farming and fisheries.

“Somalians are resilient people. They cope with all the pressures of insecurity and drought, and the world can learn from them how to be resilient in the face of such pressure,” he said. “There is a strong sense of community and clan. The remittances from the Somalian diaspora going into the country are holding people up, families together – $2bn [£1.8bn] a year is sent home, more than any aid or donations.”

‘We need urgent help’: Somalis displaced by drought and famine fight to survive | Global development | The Guardian

UK’s lost leadership role hurts Somalia’s fight against famine, says drought envoy | Global development | The Guardian