Foreign Aid FAQs – #6 “Their own government should help them”

Foreign Aid FAQs – #6 “Their own government should help them”

It is without a doubt true that governments should help their own people. However, this phrase is often used to mean that the welfare of people living overseas is a problem for their own government to deal with and no-one else.

The problem with this idea is that the concept of each government having absolute responsibility for taking care of their citizens only really works if each state is equally capable of doing this. In reality, because of accidents of geography and the course of history, some states have more capacity to look after their citizens than others.

For example, in 2009 the UK was able to collect the equivalent of $13,806 in tax per person. Compare this with even a relatively affluent developing country like Brazil which – with an almost identical tax rate – collected just $3,957 per person.[1] This enormous difference in tax receipts means that the UK is far better placed to take care of its citizens than Brazil is. The point of foreign aid is to get all countries to the stage where they can collect enough tax to ensure the welfare of all their citizens.

In many cases, developing countries are struggling to overcome poverty because of the actions of developed countries such as the UK. Climate change, disproportionately caused by developed countries, is disproportionately affecting developing countries. Climate change adaptation is already a significant cost for many developing countries, costing Sub-Saharan African countries a total of $10.6 billion a year.[2] It seems only fair that the UK assists with this cost.

Furthermore, the present wealth of the UK is built on the profits of imperialism, which held back the development of many present-day developing countries. Foreign aid is not just an act of charity, but well-deserved compensation for these wrongs.

There are also pragmatic reasons why the UK should continue to send aid to developing countries. It is an excellent way to improve foreign relations and, after all, the aid recipients of today are the trading partners of tomorrow. Helping other countries to develop also contributes to the creation of a more stable world, as states plagued by poverty and inequality are much more likely to be unstable.

Additionally, it is a way to reduce immigration. People born in poor countries are driven by the perfectly natural impulse to seek out a better life for themselves and their family, which often leads them to attempt to move to a wealthier part of the world. Improving the quality of life in their home country therefore reduces the incentive for them to emigrate.

“But what about corrupt dictators and despots?”

Given the examples of Robert Mugabe and other dictators dripping in wealth while the majority of their population struggles to get by, it’s tempting to think that if only these tyrants were toppled, their countries’ problems would be solved. However, more often than not they would simply be replaced by an equally corrupt dictator and these countries would still be poor. Dictators don’t just occur because of individual immorality, but because there are structural factors in place in poor countries which allow dictatorships to easily take hold.

The leader of a poor country essentially has two choices as to what to do with the limited amount of public money at their disposal: use it to improve the lives of their citizens (building roads, hospitals, etc.) or use it to enrich themselves and their key supporters. A good leader would of course use it for the former, but these kinds of leaders tend not to last long. All money spent on helping the public is money which an opportunistic rival can promise key supporters should they replace the current leader. If all dictators around the world were immediately deposed and replaced with benevolent rulers, there would still be plenty of rivals waiting in the wings to take the reins of power – and the opportunities for self-enrichment that come with them.

Part 1 (clip ends at 4.30)

Part 2 (clip ends at 13.30)

When we talk about ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ countries, it doesn’t refer to how much currency they have. Rather, it refers to how productive their economies are. Developed countries like the USA and Japan are rich because their economies have a large proportion of high-productivity industries such as manufacturing, which produce a comparatively large amount of value in a short period of time. This means that workers receive higher wages and the government collects more tax which it can then invest back into the economy.

Developing countries are poor because a greater proportion of their economies are occupied by low-productivity industries such as textile production, agriculture and mineral extraction. One of the objectives of foreign aid is to help developing countries to transition from low-productivity economies to high-productivity ones.

Improving the productivity of developing countries’ economies can actually help to reduce the chances of despots hoarding the nation’s wealth for their own benefit. In a relatively poor country which relies on a few low-productivity industries (e.g. oil or mineral extraction), rulers can get by just keeping the small number of people which run these industries happy. As economies become more productive and therefore reliant on a greater number of industries, rulers must keep a greater number of people happy in order to remain in power, and are therefore set on the path from dictatorship to democracy.

By giving developing countries the nudge they need to reach this productivity threshold, foreign aid can pave the way to democracy and bring about a world where every government is willing and able to help their own people.

[1] fusiontables.google.com/DataSource?docid=1cWAzCSaIBlgUpWJBFXslH31NLh6bCfrn6mvtCA#rows:id=1
[2] www.healthpovertyaction.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/08/Honest-Accounts-BRIEFING-webFINAL.pdf


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Freedom from Tyranny

Freedom from Tyranny

Two armoured vehicles were parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km from the city.  The news was received with scepticism and confusion. A military coup taking place in Zimbabwe seemed premature at best. But it was true. Reports that after 37 years, the Mugabe regime had come to an end were greeted with celebrations all around the world. Only a few days earlier, Zimbabweans had been infuriated when one of the President’s sons filmed himself pouring hundreds of pounds worth of champagne over his diamond-encrusted wristwatch, all the while unemployment remains high and the health system collapses.

Reactions from politicians were muted and calm at the time. Britain’s foreign minister refused to be drawn into the Mugabe succession debate, but instead called for free and fair elections to be held as scheduled next year. Chair of SADC (Southern African Development Community) and South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma sent an envoy into Zimbabwe and is believed to have talked to Mugabe whilst calling for calm and restraint. African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat urged the crisis to be resolved in a responsible manner, but also argued that the AU was against “any unlawful takeover of power anywhere on the continent.”

Zimbabwe celebrates as Robert Mugabe resigns / BBC News

Amid the joy of now having ended the 37-year rule of Mugabe, there was some sense of caution. Zimbabwe’s armed forces commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, had kick-started a process that means Zimbabwe is now one of 40 African countries that have seen coups. Chiwenga held a press conference attacking the manoeuvres by Grace Mugabe that took Emmerson Mnangagwa from the post of vice-president proclaiming that, “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.” Three days later, General Sibusiso Moyo read out a statement on the state broadcaster stating, “What the Zimbabwe defence forces are doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in a violent event.”

The rationale the army is using to justify their actions creates more questions about the future of Zimbabwe than answers. Zimbabwe has been in free fall politically and economically since the late 1990s, reaching fever pitch in 2008 after it is believed Mugabe had lost the presidential elections. Why did the army not intervene during the 2008 general election period, to pacify an unstable political situation which left more than 100 … dead, 200-plus abducted and missing, hundreds more jailed on spurious charges, thousands beaten and tens of thousands forced from their homes? Was the death of so many people in 2008, not a “degenerating political, violent event” as stated by Major General Moyo? There were also a number of reports that in 2008 instead of stopping the violence during that period, Chiwenga reportedly told Mugabe, ‘We can’t lose elections. We can’t hand power to the MDC. We are going to obliterate them,” amid reports that Mr Mugabe was going to accept defeat.

Chiwenga’s statement read at the press conference blatantly reinforced the army’s argument which they have repeated every election year since the rise of the opposition in Zimbabwe, that they will not accept, let alone support or salute, anyone without liberation war credentials. The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai criticised this logic in 2002, saying it was tantamount to intimidation.

Many people will argue that the country has got rid of the biggest obstacle to democracy and peace by the ending the Mugabe regime. However, the replacement chose by ZANU-PF assisted by the army could continue the situation Zimbabwe has been in for the last few decades. The belief among academics and analysts who know of Emmerson Mnangagwa is that there is a little chance that he will walk away from power after two terms (according to Zimbabwe’s constitution) after he is sworn in today in Harare.

Zimbabweans will celebrate the end of the Mugabe regime and rightly they should after all these decades. For many Zimbabweans, Grace Mugabe becoming president would have been the worst thing to happen for the country. However, the army has taken away a raw moment of celebration and freedom from the Zimbabwean people and given them an illusion which could dissolve into more years of despair. Emmerson Mnangagwa did not receive the nickname ‘the crocodile’ for his pacifist persona. As history has shown us, coup leaders don’t always live up to the promise of instilling democracy, and many coups result in an upturn in human and constitutional rights abuses.

Find out more:

Zimbabwe is free of Robert Mugabe, should the world celebrate? | The Economist
https://youtu.be/UOmtHF_61DE

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Africa Rising: a long and bumpy road is still to come

Africa Rising: a long and bumpy road is still to come

There have been watershed moments and great achievements over the last few years on the continent of Africa but more needs to be done. Benevolence Butawo looks at the notion of Africa rising and examines where more work needs to be done with the aim of creating socioeconomic development projects and self-sustaining programmes that can enable a truly independent Africa which can work for its peoples.

Jack Zalium/Creative commons license
Jack Zalium/Creative commons license

Africa moving forward or the idea that Africa is moving in the right direction is a belief that many people rely on unless you are a “sceptic” or a “doubter”. The usual evidence tends to be the men in suits, the expensive cars being driven around the continent, the success of the Millennium Development Goals and numerous opportunities for growth and wealth including how Africa now has Wi-Fi access. A deep look beneath all this and we see that Africa’s place in the international system is far from the positive and idealistic view which a majority are taking. Take for example two facts that not many people know of or if they do know, tend to brush them aside as irrelevant. Foreign donors currently pay for 73 percent of the $781 million (708 million euro) budget of the African Union and there are reports that as of 2014, there were 14 countries paying colonial tax to France. Looking at the African Union budget issue, this means that any decision the African Union takes, it has to be approved by the very same countries the continent’s member states got their independence from.

However, Africa has come a long way and that should never be disputed. A few years back, only a few “idealists” would have anticipated a President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the ripple effects of the actions taken by Mohamed Bouazizi and Goodluck Jonathan walking away after losing an election. These events show that Africa has made important steps towards achieving that elusive notion of democracy and the dream that men such as Kwame Nkrumah had. However, Africa needs to continue on the path it is on but focus on unity, security and self-reliance especially after the Libya debacle where a sovereign nation state was bombarded under the guise of democracy and liberty then left to the pleasure of bandits, chaos and the Islamic State.

The rest of the world has noticed the resources and capability that the continent has and for the past few decades have been walking in and taking whatever they want. Take for example the report by the UN economic commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union’s (AU) high-level panel on illicit financial flows which claimed that in total, the continent lost about $850bn between 1970 and 2008. The blame of course does not solely lie on the oil companies and mining organizations, but also the African leaders who continually waste revenues instead of pumping this money into social programmes. For example, it is astounding how the Zimbabwean President claims his government lost $15 billion dollars’ worth of revenues generated by the diamond industry. Better yet, how a giant country like Nigeria with billions of dollars earned from oil revenues as of 2012 had almost 100 million people living on less than a $1 (£0.63) a day.

Former UN General Sec. Kofi Annan in the Africa Progress Report 2014 foreword

United States Mission Geneva/Creative commons license
United States Mission Geneva/Creative commons license

points out that “Africa is […] losing billions to illegal and shadowy practices [and] storing up problems for the future. While personal fortunes are consolidated by a corrupt few, the vast majority of Africa’s present and future generations are being deprived of the benefits of common resources that might otherwise deliver incomes, livelihoods and better nutrition. If these problems are not addressed, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest”.

The responsibility to build a truly independent and self-sustaining Africa is on African leaders of today and tomorrow, not on charities or the UN security council. African peoples need to take charge of their destiny rather than rely on foreign interventions which most of the times have hidden agendas. The problem is that most of the African leaders of today have so far failed to put the interests of their people on the forefront of the political agendas by focusing on sustainable development projects and socioeconomic programmes. Africa is rising, but not at a pace it should and this should worry policymakers on the continent and anyone genuinely concerned about Africa and her people.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Taking the Ideology out of Development

Development is a vision. A vision of how to make people’s lives ‘better’. But sometimes the vision overtakes the results. This is the problem of ideology in development.

The most important aspect of politics and governance is policy. Policy is tangible, you can see the effects- depending on implementation time. Policy should be defined by results however this can often become undermined by the ideological underpinnings of the policymakers.

Development at the end of the day is about policy. Development has become an umbrella term for the, at times, experiments of governments, International Government Organisations (INGOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Sometimes it seems that the ideological colouring of the message is more important than what it actually says.

Many postcolonial states have gone through what I will call the typical move towards a greater monitoring of government expenditure. This is now linked to so-called neoliberal policies. Tanzania is a prime case study of this journey. The first President of an independent Tanzania Julius Nyerere adopted a social and economic policy known as ‘Ujamaa’- ‘familyhood’ in Kiswahili. The Ujamaa policy drew its inspiration from socialism and called for a rejection of capitalism and a self-reliance at both the individual and national level. The key tenet of Ujamaa was that of Villagisation.  saw the creation of larger agricultural settlements in replacement of the traditional smaller, more isolated, rural settlements. Ultimately villagisation and therefore Ujamaa are regarded as having failed given that the expected result- the increase of productivity- did not occur and there was rather a drop in productivity.

Feans/Creative commons license
Feans/Creative commons license

Tanzania is not alone in implementing a socialist post-independence development policy. Particularly in sub-Saharan Africa many liberation movements and anti-colonial movements drew their inspiration from socialist ideology. However, while a case can certainly be made for the failure of socialism as a developmental ideology one has to be aware that this does not mean that any other alternative will work ‘better’. In response to this perceived failure we have been bombarded with the rhetoric of ‘neo-liberalism’. Neo-Liberalism has quickly gained traction as one of the most controversial policy/ ideological programmes. The key tenets of neoliberal economic development are those of reducing the role of the public sector in economic development via a greater role for the private sector. This has been seen as controversial in some developing countries given that the state can often be the biggest employer. There has also been a growing controversy over whether neoliberalism actively encourages austerity and cuts in government expenditure, as well as the fact that private sector investment from abroad does not always result in benefits for the majority of the population.

What the above should highlight is that there is no one size fits all development model. At its core development is about what is best for the society and individuals. Ideological models do have value but we should be wary of the dangers of dogma in ideology. Labels such as socialist or neo-liberal can serve to divide stakeholders and create opposing camps. Policy should not be driven by ideology but rather by what works- in this case what produces the best possible outcome for the population of a country- and this will more often than not be an amalgamation of several different ideological positions.

 

 


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East Africa’s Entrepreneurs Turning to Crowdfunding for Growth Capital

East Africa’s Entrepreneurs Turning to Crowdfunding for Growth Capital
The World Bank estimates that 60 million jobs need to be created annually to keep employment rates steady and to keep up with population growth. In the developing world, 4 out of 5 new jobs are created by SMEs; these firms, however, are often cash-strapped and are unable to access the financing they need to start up and grow their operations. Unable to prove their creditworthiness to banks, entrepreneurs in developing countries are increasingly looking at new, alternative forms of finance to raise capital. In the following article, Anton Root of AlliedCrowds examines how entrepreneurs in East Africa are turning to the newcomers, focusing specifically on crowdfunding.

Growing up in the west Kenyan town of Awendo, Tom Osborn experienced a problem familiar to many Africans: respiratory health issues caused by his indoor charcoal stove. Instead of carrying on, the entrepreneurial then-teenager teamed up with two friends and created 30 kilograms of an alternative biomass fuel source which burns longer and hotter than firewood and produces almost no smoke. In addition to reducing cooking fuel consumption and improving the health of his family, his briquettes — made out of sugarcane waste — help to protect the local environments by reducing the need to cut down trees for firewood.

Rocío Lara/Creative Commons License
Rocío Lara/Creative Commons License

Osborn has sold over 160 tons of the stuff since launching in February 2015. His company, GreenChar, produces the briquettes at a factory that employs 7 workers; the raw materials for the fuel are gathered by a team of 30. The company has recently launched a product aimed at businesses.

GreenChar has grown tremendously since launch, winning multiple grants and awards for its innovative solution to a serious problem; Forbes named Osborn as one of its 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs in 2015. Despite this success, however, the company is still having trouble securing growth capital.

 

The crowd unlocking access to capital

This is another problem familiar to Africans — and entrepreneurs in most countries across the developing world. Osborn, an innovator at heart, has not shied away from trying out new ways to secure capital. Earlier this summer, he created a crowdfunding campaign on the Kenyan platform M-Changa. The campaign was a hit, raising over KES 3 million (around $31,000), of which Energy4Impact (formerly GVEP International) matched $30,000.

GreenChar’s is the second-most successful campaign on M-Changa to date, and this hit may inspire more Kenyan entrepreneurs to experiment with crowdfunding as a way to raise growth capital. Indeed, it’s not the only successful crowdfunding campaign for a Kenyan startup this summer — the footwear company Enda raised over $125,000 on Kickstarter, receiving international media coverage in the process.

While tapping into Kickstarter’s largely American audience worked for Enda, homegrown platforms have a key advantage over their international competitors in the developing world: they’re highly localized. M-Changa, for example, makes use of Kenya’s sophisticated mobile money ecosystem. According to Energy4Impact, over 120 contributions to GreenChar’s campaign came via mobile phones.

M-Changa is not the only mobile crowdfunding company in East Africa. Fellow Kenyan platform PesaZetu — currently in beta — allows people to borrow and lend to one another, aiming to reduce interest rates for small borrowers, while providing a solid return to the lenders. Its secret sauce is an innovative mobile credit scoring model that allows the company to assign appropriate interest rates to each borrower. And neighboring Uganda is home to Akabbo, another mobile-friendly crowdfunding platform.

Global demand

It’s easy to imagine, in the not-too-distant future, East African crowdfunding platforms facilitating the flow of capital among individuals, enabling businesses to grow, and laymen to lend to each other, bypassing middlemen.

Until then, international crowdfunding platforms are filling the gap. Among the most exciting breed of platforms are P2P lending sites that allow donors from around the world to finance loans for solar projects. One of the emerging leaders in this space is Trine, a Swedish platform that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for projects across Africa since launching at the end of last year.

The global demand for such opportunities is not difficult to explain. Investors are increasingly focused on the triple bottom line: the desire to do social and environmental good while making a return. And in a world of low yields, projects that expect to return up to 6.75% on an annual basis are not a bad investment, even for those who don’t value the social and environmental impacts.

Viewport/Creative Commons License
Viewport/Creative Commons License

Innovative finance filling the gaps

For East African SMEs, innovative solutions to a lack of available business financing are quickly becoming the norm. In addition to crowdfunding platforms, invoice trading firms like Umati Capital are making it easy for agribusinesses to finance operations; and mobile-enabled micro insurance schemes are allowing farmers to invest more in their businesses. Impact investors, VCs, and angel investor groups are an ever more present part of the picture. (To help entrepreneurs make sense of the potential sources of funding available, AlliedCrowds recently launched the Capital Finder, a tool to connect developing world entrepreneurs with capital providers.)

GreenChar’s experience shows that African entrepreneurs are tackling the continent’s biggest challenges. A lack of financing shouldn’t hold them back.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Tax avoidance and International Development: An Elephant in the Room

Tax avoidance and International Development: An Elephant in the Room

Following the Panama Papers, Aaron Cohen-Gold examines the need to put international tax avoidance at the heart of the development agenda.  

The Panama papers revealed many secrets. The tax affairs of the Cameron family; the hypocrisy of the Icelandic President; the gross behaviour of select Multi-National Companies (MNCs); and the complicity of British territories in tax avoidance schemes worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

But one revelation, conveniently overlooked, encapsulates the tale of global inequality better than any other: the sheer number of African businessmen, officials and Western MNCs willingly cheating the world’s poorest continent out of billions of dollars. Consider Uganda, where oil and gas companies diverted $400 million of tax through offshore accounts in Mauritius; or the corrupt Tanzanian ring of officials and businessmen who leaked $120 million of tax from national energy providers; or Kenya’s second most senior judge, linked to 11 different companies in the British virgin Islands worth over $100millions dollars. All this on a continent where 414 million people live on less than $1 a day.

Those on the political right use such observations to call for disengagement from Africa; they question why we should provide aid to a continent being plundered, often most ruthlessly, by its own leaders. On a purely economic plain, divorced from the very real social, health and economic benefits of aid, their frustration is justified.

Matthew Straubmuller / Creative Commons License
Matthew Straubmuller / Creative Commons License

Though estimates vary – often due to a lack of government data – almost every African country loses more than 5% of its GDP in illicit financial flows; indeed, several African countries leak almost 20% of their annual GDP through avoidance and evasion schemes.  For perspective, a similar rate in Britain would mean the annual loss of more than $500bn – enough to fund our NHS five or six times over.

Rather than withdraw from the African continent, the entire world has a responsibility to act for two reasons. Firstly, as a recent UN report discovered, developing countries lose roughly £100bn of tax every year through offshore financial hubs – many of which exist in places like Panama, Ireland, and the British virgin islands. Put simply, as the African Union recently lamented, all the money that leaves Africa illegally ends up somewhere else in the rest of the world.  It is not, in other words, purely an ‘African problem’ from which we can disengage; it is the institutions, countries and laws of the wider world that facilitate this gross injustice. Indeed, the average African tax rate wouldn’t need to be so high on ordinary Africans if the wealthiest paid their fair share and if the world invested in effective tax-monitoring systems in Africa. This is fundamental to the sustainable development of African states. 

Secondly, while the holes in Africa’s financial system threaten to drown ordinary Africans in poverty, it also threatens to render our enormous investment in foreign aid and international development unsustainable. In 2014, a UN Sponsored investigation found that at least twice as much money seeps out of Africa every year through tax avoidance, evasion and criminal activities than enters the continent through foreign aid. Focusing only on offshore tax havens, for every $1 gained through aid programmes, Africa loses $1.30 through offshore trading. In macro terms, the developed world is financing its own tax inequalities – while Africans and African states are plunged into ever-deeper poverty. To be clear, this does not mean that we should cease giving aid. We should do the opposite and invest in the future of ordinary Africans even more. But we can no longer afford to do so without tackling the tax elephant in the room.

Emergency aid, vaccinations and educational programmes are clearly invaluable – and Britain has much to be proud of in this area, particularly in its work under the last Labour government. But unless we empower governments in poor and developing countries to collect the taxes they are owed – without which governments can only borrow more debt to finance public services – we will impose a glass ceiling on the enormous benefits of grass-roots development projects. A healthier and increasingly aspirational population won’t want to remain in countries plundered by global inequalities – they will, as Europe can testify, seek a better life elsewhere. It is for this reason that the UN General Assembly recently described reform of the world’s finance and tax laws as the number one means of implementing the promises in last year’s Sustainable Development Goals.

allispossible.org.uk / Creative Commons License
allispossible.org.uk / Creative Commons License

In turn, this necessitates two conclusions. First, if we are serious about tackling global poverty and inequality – and if we want to successfully develop the world’s poorest countries – international tax reforms have to be at the centre of the world’s agenda. Second, and this cuts to the heart of an issue currently in the minds of many Britons, no one country – not even one continent or free trade area – can tackle this problem in isolation. Indeed, no single problem in today’s world exists in a bubble; we already recognise that poverty rates are intricately connected to conflict, terrorism, corruption, health, and education levels. The same principle should now be applied to how we view international tax avoidance and evasion.

The world of 2016 is interconnected; inequalities are now produced on a global scale. Whether in relation to war, migration, tax or terrorism, this demands more international cooperation than ever before. In the interests of international development, tax avoidance should now form the centre of this discussion. It is in all our interests – especially for those of us committed to social justice – to ensure that we learn this lesson from Panama sooner rather than later.

 

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Crisis in the Central African Republic – The regional impact

Crisis in the Central African Republic – The regional impact

In this article Ben Jackson discusses the regional impact of the Central African Republic crisis.

The Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked state in the middle of the African continent, has been in crisis since 2012. Formerly a French colony, CAR gained independence in 1960, immediately becoming a one party state. A series of coups followed, culminating in the 2012 Seleka group claiming power. Ideologically Muslim, once in power Seleka targeted Christians, who responded by setting up the anti-balaka movement. Religious violence become commonplace and the crisis engulfed the entire country, with many civilians caught in the crossfire. As of now, CAR has just held relatively peaceful elections in February, and there is genuine hope that new president Faustin-Archange Touadera will be able to ensure religious violence becomes a thing of the past. Yet its geographical position, at the heart of the continent, means that countries bordering CAR have felt the effects of the crisis.

Hdptcar / Creative Commons License
Hdptcar / Creative Commons License

Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are three of CAR’s neighbours. All three countries have experienced conflict themselves over the last decade or so, creating a flow of refugees fleeing into CAR. Violence in the DRC and Sudan was taking place before 2012, meaning that CAR already had a substantial amount of refugees prior to the current crisis. Therefore the effect of the crisis in CAR on Sudan and the DRC was that those fleeing conflicts in these countries were running straight into another conflict. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Furthermore, the violence created an estimated 900,000 internally displaced civilians, with estimates that over 450,000 people have fled CAR as refugees, heading to neighbouring countries. This melting pot of refugees in central Africa creates issues for neighbouring countries in how they deal with these people, as well as making sure the violence doesn’t follow them across the border.

Many refugees have fled CAR and moved into Cameroon or Chad. For Cameroon this may well exacerbate current issues, as refugees enter into the northern section of the country. Northern Cameroon is currently experiencing a spill over of violence from neighbouring Nigeria’s efforts to combat Boko-Haram, with the extremist group targeting Cameroon as a result of its loses in Nigeria. CAR refugees in an area of instability in Cameroon is hardly ideal, and may well cause further problems as the fight against Boko-Haram continues. Communities in northern Cameroon have increased in size with the influx of those fleeing CAR, meaning that provisions have become scarcer as these communities have to share what they have. Cameroon hosts the most refugees from the crisis, as well as some from Nigeria. Therefore the conflict puts the biggest strain on Cameroons resources as opposed to other neighbouring states. Aid has been sent to help Cameroon deal with the issues, yet a 2015 EU report claimed that there were still gaps which needed addressing.

 

United Nations Photo / Creative Commons License
United Nations Photo / Creative Commons License

Chad, CAR’s northern neighbour, has also taken in refugees from the crisis. Many Chadians lived and worked in CAR, so for some it was just returning to their homeland. For many though it was leaving their own land or origin behind. The influx of refugees to Chad has created a shortage of important resources, with refugees and local inhabitants competing for the limited resources on offer. Many of the refugees from CAR were farmers, who brought their cattle with them across the border. Man and beast require food and water, something which is in scarce supply in Chad for the locals anyway, let alone for the thousands of refugees who need humanitarian assistance. Competition over resources could potentially lead to conflict between those who inhabit the region and those coming in search of safety, which would mean violence spreading from CAR into Chad. Additionally, in 2012 Chad itself experienced a crisis in the Sahel region, with a drought leaving millions in need of emergency aid. Coupled with the crisis in CAR, Chad has witnessed a significant strain on its resources, having to turn to external partners in order to provide what is needed.

It is obvious to see that the crisis in CAR put a strain on neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, while it also has impacted upon the instability in the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. Hopefully the recent elections will bring an end to violence in CAR, allowing refugees to return home to a peaceful environment, thus lessening the strain on its neighbours.

 

 

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Lessons from Africa (Part Two)

Lessons from Africa (Part Two)

China’s investment in Africa has useful lessons for Pakistan. In the second part of Lessons from Africa, Asad Abbasi takes a closer look at how Chinese investment has affected Africa and who has benefited from this investment. 

Africa is a continent with more than 50 countries, each with different legal and political institutions, so comparison with Chinese investment in Pakistan— at first sight— does not seem appropriate. Yet, the impact of Chinese investment in Africa holds potentially important lessons for the South Asian nation.

In 2003, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences warned that China is facing resource shortages. The report recommended that in order to meet current and future demand, China need to import additional three billion tons of iron, half-billion ton of copper and hundred million tons of aluminium in next twenty years.

It was around this time that China’s interest in Africa re-emerged. In 2002, trade between China and Africa was £10bn, by 2013, it was more than £170bn. China has become ‘Africa’s largest trading Partner’.

Though trade represents large proportion of China-Africa relations, it is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that acts as a guide for shifts in global investment.  It is therefore interesting to study China’s investment in Africa. According to Premier Li Keqiang, China will raise its Foreign FDI in Africa to $100 billion by 2020. China has diversified its investment in Africa since 2003, but significant portion has always been channeled into fulfilling the demand for resources. Furthermore, the recent slowdown in Chinese economy has brought a reduction in overall investment from $3.54bn to $568m— declines of 84 percent compared to last year. However, investment in the extractive industry, during the same period, has doubled. After all these years, who in Africa has benefited from China’s investment?

Antonio R. Villaraigosa / Creative Commons License.
Antonio R. Villaraigosa / Creative Commons License.

 

Growth and inequality

China’s need for resources, according to Ha Joon Chang, is the biggest factor of high growth rates in Africa since 2000. During this time, there has been a hundred percent increase in number of millionaires living in Africa.  However, the number of people living under poverty line (less than $1.25) have also increased from 411.3 million in 2010 to 415.8 million in 2011- a difference of 4.5 million people (equivalent of the entire population of New Zealand)
According to Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, African ‘development’ has made the rich richer, while the poor have remained poor. He points out that African development has raised growth and poverty together, because the benefits of increasing wealth are ‘gobbled up by super rich’.  A World Bank report has also acknowledged that inequality in ‘unacceptably high’ and warned that inequality is unlikely to subside anytime soon. One of the main problems is the lack of proper distributive institutions.  According to Joseph Stiglitz, countries like Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, need to build ‘institutions, policies and laws needed to ensure that resources benefit all of their citizens’.

Due to the high levels of Chinese FDI, African markets are now pegged to China’s internal demand. Any fluctuation therefore causes job losses and uncertainty in many African countries. Take Zambia, for example. Copper accounts for 70% of Zambian exports, so the recent decline in Chinese demand means that price of copper has halved since 2011.  As a response, Glencore plc, Swiss mining company, announced to halt the production of copper for 18 months at Mopani mine, resulting in a 26 percent reduction of copper production and around 4000 job losses.

Furthermore, due to the decrease in copper exports, the Zambian Kwacha dropped 4.6 percent against the US dollar. Commodities are priced in US dollars and therefore decrease in Zambian Kwacha against the dollar has increased the prices of commodities across Zambia.

So what does the story of Chinese investment in Africa tell us? Yes, there has been rapid growth and rise in employment. But it is accompanied by rise in high inequality, fluctuations in employment and only a small increase in actual wages. Can this be classified as ‘economic revolution’?

Jubilee Debt Campaign / Creative Commons License. Picture of Nick Dearden.
Jubilee Debt Campaign / Creative Commons License. Picture of Nick Dearden.

 

Conclusion

China’s investment in Africa raises questions around whether the euphoria for CPEC is justified at this point in time. It highlights that for economic stability, government cannot be reliant on one industry; it shows that growth does not necessarily mean development. It also indicates that when economic opportunity arises, particularly in the form of substantial FDI, the government has to take steps to ensure that the benefits are distributed as equally as possible.

There are policies that Pakistani government can implement that would increase the likelihood of equitable distribution. For example, Pakistani government could impose a windfall-profit tax on Chinese corporations extracting minerals in Pakistan and channel the income into developmental projects. Windfall profits are ‘sudden and massive profits’ that can happen due to changes in price. The profits depend on the fluctuation in prices and therefore cannot be ‘foreseen’ by concerned parties.

But the argument against imposing such a tax is that windfall tax policy is counter-productive. At present, Pakistani government should do everything to ‘attract’ Chinese investment. By imposing a tax on profit, Pakistani government will scare the incoming investment. This objection, though, a good political tactic, has, a bad rational basis. With windfall profit tax, additional tax will be result only of sudden and massive profit. If there is no additional, massive and unforeseen profit, then there will be no additional tax. How will this scare Chinese investment?

This is just one policy. If Chinese FDI injection is to support Pakistan’s development, it is essential to get the policies right, no matter how cumbersome they may seem in the face of the current euphoria.

This article was originally published on the London School of Economics South Asia Blog and is reproduced with the writers permission.


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Development and Infrastructure: Post 2015 Development Agenda and Long Term Solutions

Development and Infrastructure: Post 2015 Development Agenda and Long Term Solutions

Infrastructure such as roads, water supply networks, electricity and robust public institutions play a central role in development and the distribution of poverty. Here, Lydia Baker draws on her own experience in rural Tanzania to emphasise the importance of links between roads, access to water and development. 

The post-2015 development agenda is coming up as we move towards the expiration of the MDGs.  The MDGs have achieved a great deal, but they focused on the symptoms of poverty, such as disease prevention and child mortality.  Whilst the symptoms of poverty do undoubtedly need to be relieved, the real issue at hand is to uncover and solve the causes and the persistence of poverty. My experience in Tanzania brought to light two very simple issues that are crucial drivers of development, yet are often overlooked: roads and water.

Roads provide a network

©Gerald Davison/Creative Commons License
©Gerald Davison/Creative Commons License

The main hubs of activity in the rural Tanzania were based alongside main roads.  This, for obvious reasons is logical, roads provide a network with which people pass through and goods and services can be provided.

The post-2015 development agenda in its current format covers some of the key issues facing the world. Investment in infrastructure could provide a ripple-down effect to communities who are in need of vital services and facilities. Without roads the people who most need essential things such as vaccines will not be able to get them.

Investment in roads would also help to boost economies for developing nations and local communities. The area would see an influx of workers and provide locals with jobs, emerging as an economic hub.  In Tanzania, the hubs of activity, as I have said, were alongside main roads, and if these roads were to be invested in then the resulting development could be massive.

Water

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.  Water is essential for livelihoods and survival: a person needs water to survive.  The quality of this water, however, is essential to a person’s livelihood – a clean water source can reap huge benefits in terms of lifespan. Unclean water spreads diseases and is responsible for a large rate of diarrhoea in children in sub-Saharan Africa, killing on average 4000 children a day.  Of those worldwide who do not have access to clean drinking water, many live in remote rural areas.

Development and settlements usually occur near a clean water source so people do not have to travel great distances to collect water.  I witnessed that in rural areas in Tanzania, clean water was provided to the community in the form of rain water collected in a large (approximately 10,000 litre) container.  There is one thing that links the rain water and the container – a road.  How else would it reach its final destination?

©U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/Creative Commons License
©U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/Creative Commons License

Investment in sound quality roads, especially in rural areas where many of the most vulnerable people live, is crucial to reducing poverty worldwide.  Investing in infrastructure from a bottom-up level, using local communities could have a ripple-effect helping to address many of the MDGs.  The post-2015 agenda needs to make this a top priority that could be crucial in creating a sustainable future in the developing world.

However, Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and the scale of investment needed to develop a sound infrastructure system would require a level of spending that would absorb 20% of the country’s GDP.  So, where would the money come from?

Foreign investment could provide the answer, however it’s not always this simple as foreign investment can often have drawbacks.  For example, Chinese funded dams in Lesotho have increased the supply of water in South Africa and boosted economic growth in Lesotho by one third, yet have also raised negative environmental and social grievances.  One of the greatest consequences is that over 25,000 people have been affected by the dams either by losing their homes or farm land, resulting in a loss of livelihood for the local population.

Whilst foreign investment could certainly aid infrastructure projects, the ramifications for the local population also need to be considered. Building awareness of the potential dangers of foreign investment could ensure that projects do actually benefit the local population thus ensuring that investment in infrastructure in both sustainable and ethical.

 


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The Politics of Band Aid

The Politics of Band Aid

Does the backlash against Band-Aid centre attention upon the politics of celebrity activism? Charlotte Fraser looks at the role it has in detracting attention away from broader, structural and long-term factors which have contributed to the Ebola crisis

Band Aid is a charitable enterprise which brings celebrity artists together to record music and send proceeds raised by sales of the tracks to combat humanitarian crises. Traditionally fronted and organised by Bob Geldof, Band Aid has come together multiple times over the last 30 years, has attracted some major names in the music industry and has raised billions in aid.  In November 2014, the 4th reincarnation of the original Band Aid group from 1984 released Band Aid 30 in order to raise money for the Ebola crisis in Africa. Geldof presented the campaign to the public as “the most anti-human disease” but, with the public’s help, as a combatable problem, “we can stop it, and we will stop it.”

©Matthias Muehlbradt/Creative Commons license
©Matthias Muehlbradt/Creative Commons license

Band Aid 30 has elicited criticism and galvanised debates across media platforms. Whereas past releases of Band Aid singles passed with relatively little controversy, this current one has unleashed a debate about Band Aid and its effects. Critics argue Band Aid and its lyrics are patronising and perpetuate a singular image of Africa. Others focus on celebrity responses and their reasons for refusing to participate in the record. Lilly Allen, Adele, Fuse ODG among others have openly announced their turning down of participating in the record and even Emeli Sande has noted her dissatisfaction with the lyrics and has admitted that her edits were rejected for the final version.

This debate on the politics of Band Aid opens a space for alternative perspectives on the nature of international aid and counters some generalised perceptions of Africa. Indeed, Africa is a diverse continent with some of the world’s fastest growing economies and should not be singularly represented through the lens of poverty and destitution. However, for all the merits of the backlash against Band Aid, it has largely been overtaken by two opposing trends.

The trend towards collectivism

Critics note that Band Aid is in danger of perpetuating damaging binary structures of “us” and “them”. This ‘othering’ is a relic from colonialism whereby the ‘civilised’ Westerners went to educate and save the, non-western, ‘others’ of non-Western societies. This myopic stance sustains perceptions of Africa as somehow below Western civilisation. Such a simple differentiation leaves no room for a multiplicity of voices. It is reflected in the less-than-nuanced lyrics of the Band Aid song, and although it would be myopic to boil down a broader problem of power relations to one song, there is a danger that these lyrics reflect and perpetuate damaging and misconceived perceptions of Africa. This is an important consideration and is parodied for example in the Radi-Aid, Africa for Norway satirical video.

The trend towards hyper-individualisation

However, there is an additional element to this which needs to be teased out. Whilst on the one hand the concept of “us” suggests some kind of commonality and unity, the response to Ebola through Band Aid demonstrates a simultaneous yet converse  trend towards hyper individualisation.

As long as the response to Ebola remains centred on the actions of a few individuals, the effect will be that Band Aid becomes more about the politics of charity and celebrity activism than efforts to  combat the disease. Thus, criticism and counter-criticism concerning the politics of Band Aid actually serves to focus attention on the West, rather than what is, or is not, being done on the ground to combat Ebola. For example, much attention has been centred on Adele, her refusal to participate in Band Aid and instead to quietly contribute money to the appeal. The media frames this as a singular response to a very complex problem when it is widely agreed that combating Ebola requires a coordinated response at an international level. The danger with the politics of Band Aid debate is that it has the effect of centring the response to the Ebola crisis on a few individuals.

The broader problem with this trend towards hyper-individualisation is that it presents Band Aid as a panacea, when it really is a plaster to cure a few short-term problems without engaging in serious and nuanced debate about why the outbreak developed into the crisis it now is. Furthermore, it allows a sense of altruism for those artists and the people who buy the single allaying the ‘white man’s burden’.

The distraction of Band Aid

The reasons are far more complex and long-term than discussions around who has sung for Band Aid, really engage with. As Harman shows, the health systems of countries suffering under the current Ebola outbreak and their problems with containing it can partly be explained by a lack of government investment in public health infrastructure or heath surveillance.

©DFID - UK Department for International Development/Creative Commons license
©DFID – UK Department for International Development/Creative Commons license

The reasons for this failure should be explored and rectified. Is it governmental incompetence? Or perhaps the sheer number of actors such as NGOs and bilateral aid agencies playing a role in national strategic plans? A lack of funding and flexibility to respond to needs on the ground, enhanced by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) prioritisation of HIV/AIDS, malaria and reducing child mortality? In truth it is probably a mixture of all these factors, and more.

These factors all points towards a recognition of long-term, structural problems which have contributed to the current crisis. There is a very real danger that the debate surrounding Band Aid presents this Ebola outbreak as a one-off, short-term problem that can be funded and solved; it does not encourage engagement in the broader issues of international politics. And it does not encourage thinking around more nuanced, thought-provoking questions as to why Ebola has escalated to the problem it currently is.

Band Aid is any fundraisers dream and it is raising money for a highly worthwhile cause. There is, however, a need to engage with the debates that Band Aid opens up to ensure that the attention remains upon the real issues, rather than on the politics of charity and celebrity activism.


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Ebola: ‘Africa’s problem’

Ebola: ‘Africa’s problem’

How does the developed world respond to crises in the developing world? Sabrina Marsh explores the current Ebola outbreak in light of inequality, international aid and globalisation. 

We have seen the news stories and read the sensationalist headlines about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. However, with only a handful of deaths outside of the three main West African countries where the outbreak is concentrated, is this response misplaced? It is easy to put Ebola in a box along with other ‘African problems’, such as poverty, starvation and HIV/AIDS.  We in the West need to seriously reconsider our approach to Ebola, not because it is an African problem that threatens us, but because it underlines a significant flaw in how we view international problems, both politically and socially. With globalisation and the increased interconnectedness of the world, this schism between issues that affect ‘us’ and ‘them’ is narrowing.

©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser/Creative Commons license
©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser/Creative Commons license

The current Ebola epidemic is deadly and is the worst recorded outbreak since its discovery in 1976. It has killed over 5000 people with 14000 reported cases worldwide.  These numbers are likely to be much higher, hiding the true extent of the devastation. Most of these are confined to West Africa, with Liberia recording the highest death toll. Ebola is easily transmitted and an effective killer with the mortality rate estimated to be at 70 per cent. The first reported case for this Ebola outbreak dates back to December last year. This may come as a surprise to some with media reports making it seem this current outbreak has only recently cropped up. Such a lag in the Western world’s concern and attention highlights our biased view of what counts as a crisis.

Ebola is now on many politicians’ minds as the virus rises up the international priority list, dictated by the West. The exact causes of Ebola are not understood, although there is a general consensus that it derives from fruit-eating bats which are a West African delicacy. A lack of resources, including basic healthcare services, across many countries in Africa has done little to negate the quick spread of the virus.  By way of example, Guinea has 10 doctors per 100,000 people while the US has 245 doctors for the same number. With a number of potential cases and deaths reported in Spain and US, panic across Europe and North America is on the rise.

The current approach towards ‘African’ problems by the West is unlikely to change soon. Future crises in Africa will be met with the same delayed response. This trend has been seen with other concerns originating from Africa, such as the ongoing crisis in the DRC which continues to kill many. Even now the frenzied media attention on Ebola has been met with lukewarm responses by policymakers, with cases of refusal to send medical personnel. This is especially shocking when the WHO estimates that it will cost $1 billion to combat the disease. European governments have reacted merely by pouring millions of pounds into controls which will do little to dent Ebola’s spread. Although Ebola is unlikely to ever become a real threat in the rich West where we have access to advanced medical care facilities needed to treat and care for the sick, it is time we began to recognise these huge global resource inequalities.

©The Speaker/Creative Commons license
©The Speaker/Creative Commons license

The inequality between citizens in parts of Europe and those in sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely to change dramatically in our lifetime. However, crises such as Ebola should be used to draw attention to the need for greater equality between the developed and developing world. Heightened equality would ultimately benefit us all through greater innovation, social mobility and better education. Many governments have spent too many resources putting in place screening facilities and border controls – scare tactics – which are unhelpful for a number of reasons, including cutting off Ebola victims from aid. However, some benefits have come about due to the media attention on Ebola. Increasing amounts of funds and help have been sent to devastated regions in Africa. A significant reduction in new reported Ebola cases is reassuring.

Ultimately parts of Africa will be devastated by this virus and the economic and social consequences in the region will be overlooked by the West as a problem somewhat detached from our own concerns. However, this crisis marks a growing consensus that threats to the West are no longer simply military in form. Ebola shows us that the problems in far-flung lands are no longer remote. It is time we all looked at global problems in a more effective way, recognising the inter-dependency of citizens worldwide. We have a history of turning away from Africa’s problems, but it is time such crises are seen in a new international light which focuses on the underlying causes.

 

 

 


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Preaching hatred: US evangelicals and homophobia in Africa

Preaching hatred: US evangelicals and homophobia in Africa

As the crackdown on LGBT communities intensifies in many African nations, Konstantinos Chatzigeorgiou discusses the contribution of certain U.S. evangelical Christians and vote-hungry politicians to the continent’s attitudes towards homosexuality.

 

Ancestral Elders:  Decolonizing the Mind
Clipping from Out Magazine, 1990s. © Climbing Kilimanjaro/Creative Commons licence

On 13 January 2014, Nigerian president Jonathan Goodluck signed a bill condemning homosexuals to 14 years in prison, banning gay marriage as well as same-sex non-marital relationships and, lastly, prohibiting people from joining gay rights groups. One month later, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni signed a similar bill, which goes even further by instituting life imprisonment and allowing the government to prosecute as ‘conspirators’ those who are aware of an individual’s homosexual activities but fail to inform the authorities.

By African standards these laws are not unique. In a continent where 38 out of 54 countries have outlawed homosexuality they might even seem like a natural progression. However, some view this recent escalation in legislation to be the result of an ever-increasing involvement of U.S. conservatives in African politics. Keep reading →


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Power Africa: the ethics of electrification

Power Africa: the ethics of electrification

The face of aid is changing; However, when energy is involved, sustainable solutions remain as elusive as ever. June Sun questions U.s. plans to power Sub-Saharan Africa with renewable energy while the richest country in the world continues to enjoy the dirty benefits of coal.

 

Power to the city
Sunset over Johannesburg, South Africa: one Sub-Saharan country that has benefitted greatly from electrification. © J Endres/Creative Commons

Power Africa, a U.S. government initiative, was announced by Barack Obama in June 2013. Its aim is to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has six initial partners: Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. It has the support of a number of U.S. government bodies, including USAID and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. development finance institution.

Supporters of the initiative have argued that electrical power – or the lack of it – is the single greatest obstacle to Africa’s development. 70 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa lack electricity. The costs of this are enormous. An estimated 3.5 million premature deaths occur every year due to health risks from burning solid fuels. The time available each day for work and study is limited by natural light and there are obvious limitations on economic growth. Even something as basic as keeping food fresh is impossible.

Efforts such as Power Africa are thus incredibly important. The scheme has generally been lauded as innovating on traditional humanitarian aid, by encouraging private sector investment in the continent’s energy sector. Yet, despite all the positive press surrounding the initiative, it fails to recognise the dirty side of the electrification issue. Keep reading →


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New Year’s Resolutions: Mandela’s Lessons

New Year’s Resolutions: Mandela’s Lessons

Historical figures pass away, but the world – after mourning – moves on. As we enter the second month of 2014, Sabrina Marsh examines what today’s political leaders can learn from the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela by David Flores
© JulieFaith/Creative Commons

Nelson Mandela was a worldwide symbol of the apartheid struggle and a key transformative figure of the last century. As the world continues to pay tribute to one of the great leaders in human history, Africa’s heads of state should use this period of reflection to learn from his legacy. Mandela taught the world much about leadership, forgiveness and courage. However, we must recognise, too, his inevitable limitations. Africa faces many challenges: the people of South Africa, and Africa as a whole, continue to suffer from internal violence and economic dislocation, and pressing poverty remains. The continent’s leaders would do well to take on board these three resolutions for 2014. Keep reading →


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Nelson Mandela: celebrating 95 years

We’ve been lucky enough to be granted access to this incredible graphic outlining the life of Nelson Mandela. Enjoy!
Nelson Mandela: Before Prisoner, Beyond President
Source: BestMSWPrograms.com


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Coping with climate change: The Uganda story

The effects of climate change are hitting Uganda hard. What are ordinary people doing to adapt to extreme conditions? Ugandan journalist and guest DiA blogger Mubatsi Asinja Habati finds out

Lake Bunyonyi faces silting. Photo by snowflakegirl/ Creative Commons
Lake Bunyonyi faces silting. Photo by snowflakegirl/ Creative Commons

Every time Joseph Musoke visits his ancestral home in Mubende in rural central Uganda, he leaves it a sad man. “My village is no longer the same as 20 years ago when we grew up. The steady rain and thick forests are no more. Too much sunshine and erratic rains have reduced the once plentiful village to a hungry one,” he says. Keep reading →


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In the Shadow of a Man – film review

Last month, DocHouse Documentary Festival screened In the Shadow of a Man, a film about four Egyptian women and their lives both before and after the revolution.  Here, DiA blogger Saara Jaffrey-Roberts reviews the film

Post-revolution, has the situation changed for the women of Egypt? Photo by  Gigi Ibrahim/ Creative Commons
Post-revolution, has the situation changed for the women of Egypt? Photo by Gigi Ibrahim/ Creative Commons

“As the old saying goes… better the shadow of a man than that of a wall…”

In the Shadow of a Man, directed by Hanan Abdalla, turns its lens towards Wafaa, Suzanne, Shahinda and Badreya: four Egyptian women from distinct socio-economic backgrounds who span different generations. The film presents a series of intimate conversations with these women, and we learn that, despite their differences, they are all connected in trying to determine their own destinies and break from traditional codes of Egyptian society.

Keep reading →


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The impact of climate change on the developing world

Climate change is a problem that has mostly been created in developed nations and exported to the developing world. DiA blogger Adam Routledge explores the challenges facing developing countries

flood india
Flooding is becoming more common due to climate change. Photo by barry.poussman

The effects of the rapid alteration of our climate vary across the world. There’s no doubt that the weather in the UK has become more sporadic in recent years: colder and more dramatic winters than previous decades; more frequent floods with greater ferocity. This, however, is little compared to the impact that climate change is causing, and will continue to cause, on parts of the developing world. Keep reading →


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Kenya elections: ethnicity and sovereignty stand out

In March, the world stood by, shocked as Uhuru Kenyatta, due to face trial at the International Criminal Court, won the presidential elections in Kenya. DiA blogger Rashlin Bhachu explores the strategy behind Kenyatta’s campaign and what this says about the east African country

Kenyans queue to elect in this year's polls. Photo by DEMOSH
Kenyans queue to elect in this year’s polls. Photo by DEMOSH

Never before has an election in recent African history been watched with such close scrutiny.  The political strata was keen to see who would lead the East African nation after the Kibaki era, the development sphere feverishly prepared for any violence that would erupt and the business sector hoped for a smooth running to protect a steady GDP. Keep reading →


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Human Rights Watch Film Festival: Tall as the Baobab Tree

In the fourth of our series of reviews from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Holly Young reflects on the issue of child brides through a film documenting the practice in a village in Senegal.

 

TallastheBaobab_Coumba_thinking
© Jeremy Teicher

On the face of it, Tall as the Baobab Tree is a film about child marriage. Through the moving relationship of two Senegalese sisters – Debo, the 11 year old consigned to an arranged marriage by her father following the injury of her older brother, and Coumba, her older sister committed to trying to rescue her – the film sensitively illustrates the economic, cultural and emotional context to child marriage. Keep reading →


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