Africa, a continent endowed with immense natural and human resources as well as great cultural, ecological and economic diversity, remains underdeveloped. Most African nations suffer from military dictatorships, corruption, civil unrest and war, underdevelopment and deep poverty. The majority of the countries classified by the UN as least developed are in Africa. Numerous development strategies have failed to yield the expected results. Although some believe that the continent is doomed to perpetual poverty and economic slavery, Africa has immense potential.
|Picture Credit: Curt Carnemark / World Bank
This page contains articles, speeches, reports and papers which examine the issues and problems of Africa's development.
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More than 30 Mozambican civil society organizations have committed to take concerted action against privatization of land and looting of natural resources. Mozambique’s National Peasants Union (União Nacional de Camponeses, UNAC) reports with other participating organizations that the decision to launch a nationwide campaign was taken in response to the government failing to manage land and the country’s rich natural resources justly. According to the organizations, this is a result of corruption and concentration of wealth and power in the hands of few. The campaign will include various activities ranging from protests and resistance to complaints and education campaigns. (União Nacional de Camponeses, UNAC)
South Africa’s mining sector recently witnessed an illegal strike by an independent union of mine workers, which resulted in the death of 34 persons. These illegal labor unions sprung up following the weakening of the formal union, NUS, which is legally protected by collective bargaining agreements. The event triggered strikes in other platinum and gold mines, transport sector and disruptions to its agricultural sector. These disruptions led to supply shortages and profit reductions up to 50%, feeding foreign investors views that South Africa is increasingly becoming a risky investment option. Wages in South Africa are set by the public sector, and a recent wage agreement could create future unemployment for mine workers if the industry cannot keep up with rising wages. These strikes highlight South Africa’s failure to address employment and poverty in line with its rapid economic growth. (YaleGlobal)
The growing urban middle class in Africa is driving the expansion in the private insurance market. The market has been traditionally limited to domestic national health insurance programs and top-end private insurance for expatriates, but nothing in between. Many people have no access to health insurance; out-of-pocket payments in hospitals cripple families and damage the economy. As more private capitals flow into the “highly profitable” insurance sector and monopolize the solution to healthcare, it is worrying that African governments have complete faith in free market to provide universal access to affordable healthcare. (This Is Africa)
On his tour of the African continent, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been promoting the promise of ‘growth out of poverty’ through pan-African free trade and entrepreneurship. Cameron argues that these instances of “fresh thinking” will be more successful than development aid and debt-relief in taking advantage of the potential for growth. In making his case for free-trade, the PM points to the successes of South Korea - a country that he argues thrived on inter-Asian free trade - and presses for an array of national (macroeconomic) policies that support free-trade and entrepreneurship. It remains unclear, however, how Cameron’s squarely neo-liberal, and thus not-so-fresh, ideas can be reconciled with South Korea’s recent history of government sanctioned export subsidies and import substitution: the “unfree” policies that allowed it to attain gains from trade. What is more, if African countries would truly follow South Korea’s example, their developmental trajectories would alter, but certainly not along Cameron’s preferred lines. (Business Day)
A new ECA-AU report says that increasing continental trade and improving regional infrastructure has facilitated African development and interaction in international markets because there is a high global demand for African resources such as oil and metals. However, the authors argue that continued, sustainable, and equitable development requires Africa to re-examine its “bias toward external trade.” Africa should focus locally and increase exchanges between African states. Drawing on regional models such as the mobile telecommunications revolution, which empowered local industries and created a more equitable work force, is a good place to start.
The African Economic Outlook 2011 report has found that African states experienced high economic growth during the 2000s due to good macroeconomic management, growth in trade, and foreign investment into oil-rich states. However, this growth did not coincide with poverty elimination, because it was not linked to activities and economic sectors that affect the poor. Further development plans must make economic opportunities available for a greater portion of the population, by creating jobs and supporting local production. (IPS)
Submarine cable linking Europe and Africa will expand West African broadband access in December 2012. Although the consortium of operators and the governments in partnership promise development and progress, this article argues that broadband access should not be a funding priority because there is little evidence that suggests broadband’s positive impact on development, economic growth, education, or governance. Diverting scarce resources for universal access to high-definition YouTube videos is not a solution to global poverty. (Foreign Policy)
On December 17, protests broke out in Tunisia over bleak economic and political conditions. In spite of high unemployment, high inequality and civil unrest, the IMF is pushing Tunisia's government to implement further austerity programs. Western governments consider Tunisia a "progressive North African Muslim Nation," and the present condition of the country is underreported in the western media. (Global Research)
The costs of hosting the World Cup in South Africa were said to be justified by the economic growth that the event was supposed to generate. Expenses are expected to surpass original estimates by 757 percent. The expected growth in infrastructure and small local businesses has not come close to offsetting the funds that have been diverted from long-term priorities such as healthcare and education. FIFA and international corporate sponsors such as McDonald's and Coca Cola are the biggest beneficiaries of the event with much of the local South African population unable to even attend the matches. (AlterNet)
The adoption of universal education programs has increased the number of African children attending school. However, there are still 43 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who do not have access to education. As the number of children in school is increasing, there is a widening gap in quality. Policies must address the inequalities that reserve the best resources and education for the wealthiest and leave other children with ill-equipped and poorly financed schools. (IPS)
Road infrastructure is being blamed for a malaria outbreak in the Binga district in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland North province as anti-malaria spraying teams were unable to reach the area. Spraying and the distribution of mosquito nets have drastically reduced the cases of malaria in the country, but Zimbabwe's exposure to the flight of speculative capital and its vulnerability to international commodity markets has crippled its ability to maintain infrastructure. (IPS)
In response to numerous pessimistic reports on DRC, the author argues that with better governance Congo could unleash its potential. The article proposes that progress will not come from outside aid "but from what the Congolese do for themselves" and from "long-term investment by businesses - foreign and local." Congo's vast natural resources and burgeoning young population, in particular, are seen as having the potential to transform DRC from a failed state to a functioning one. However, future investments in the mining sector may cause even more problems. (The Christian Science Monitor)
Africa has the fastest growing population in the world: by 2050 the numbers are predicted to double - to1.9 billion. With an escalating and increasingly young population the continent will face a range of new challenges. Urbanization and an increase in 'mega-cities' is likely to bring problems caused by bad roads (and road accidents), crime and smoking-related health problems. Against prevalent pessimism, this article documents the hope that with investment in education, healthcare and professional training, the emergent African population will know a better future. (Guardian)
Rwandan President Paul Kagame criticized Western countries for not making any industrial investment in the continent and limiting their contributions to humanitarian aid. Admitting the need for aid, Kagame added that the aid should be "implemented in such a way as to enable trade and build up companies." The president praised China for its role in providing aid money and investment. (BBC News)
The Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, strongly opposes the argument of Zambian economist Moyo, that aid in Africa brings only corruption. To support his opinion, Kufuor gives the example of a school feeding project, funded by the Netherlands, which provided one hot meal a day for more than 600,000 children. The ex-president worries that development aid in the region will decrease due to the financial crisis. (NRC Handelsbad)
A coalition of aid organizations has tried a new approach to aid. The experiment is taking place in Otjivero, Namibia, in a settlement of 1000 inhabitants. The organizations hand 100 Namibia dollars (13$) to each village citizen, every month. The money is distributed without expecting anything in return. The experiment has proven to be a success in lifting the citizens out of poverty. Many villagers have started their own firms and are now able to sustain their own livelihood. This suggests that people can find a way out of poverty, provided they get the right kind of help. (Spiegel Online)
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 88 percent of the assaults and murders affecting civilians are committed by the police or the army. DRC needs new institutional solutions to reduce the violence and the corruption in the country. This article urges strong international corporations, as well as a newly created watchdog committee in DRC, to make sure that the government spends the income from the country's large mineral wealth on delivering basic services such as health care, education and transport infrastructure. (Policy Innovations)
The food crisis intensifies as Western biofuel companies are acquiring large amounts of land in Africa – sometimes free of charge. By removing farm land from food production to produce energy crops, the companies increase African dependency on food imports and drive up food prices. The biofuel companies promise to invest in infrastructure and education in return for using the land. But, say local farmers, the companies have acted in secrecy and failed to pay resettlement compensation to the people who have been forced to leave their homes. (Der Spiegel)
NGOs and richer nations often criticize China's policies in Africa that promote economic growth at the cost of the environment and human rights. However, Chinese investments in oil and mining are not necessarily different from those of France, South Africa or the US, says Pambazuka. Rather than criticizing China's policies, the author suggests that richer countries should "strengthen the standards ruling their own overseas investments."
The World Bank's African Development Indicators 2007 show that on average, African countries experience economic growth of 5.4 percent per year. According to the World Bank, this growth rate is high enough to have a significant impact on poverty reduction on the continent. However, the countries still face constraints in infrastructure and high indirect costs in their production, which could reduce their competitiveness on global markets. African countries need more investment to improve the livelihoods of the 40 percent of the Sub-Saharan population that still lives on less than US$1 a day. (Associated Press)
This article from the International Herald Tribune is optimistic about the future of Africa's economic growth. Due to the high demand for raw materials, economic growth in the continent is up by 5 percent for the fifth year in a row. Despite the growth, the author warns that rich countries must continue to help African countries by supplying money and technology, and ensuring a fair trading system. The author also calls on African countries to invest more in health, education and infrastructure to allow for further economic growth.
In this World Economy and Development article, the author considers the data of the 2007 UNCTAD report and calls for a return of the "developmental state" in Africa. The article considers options available for raising domestic funds – such as increased tax rates, improved tax collection, better use of remittances from workers abroad, and control of capital flight – and concludes that these measures would significantly reduce African countries' aid dependence. In addition, the author argues that the African countries should shift away from integration with the world economy and focus on creating internal links between domestic economic sectors, and between urban and rural economic activities.
The 2007 UNCTAD report argues for more regional cooperation between African countries. Agreeing with this idea, some economists suggest that the African economies "are more competitive than complimentary" and that they would benefit from diversifying production and reducing their dependency on primary product exports. To increase mutual trade, the countries should engage in greater monetary cooperation and in developing a common African currency. (Inter Press Service)
World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy and African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka argue that the African continent will benefit greatly from increased trade. They recognize, however, that the infrastructure for large scale industry and trade is not in place in most African countries and consequently call for "Aid for Trade" to finance investments in infrastructure. The two authors argue that the standard of living in Africa will increase simply by increasing trade. This oversimplified "solution'" fails to address other obstacles to development, including low investment in health and education and pressing conflict issues, experienced by governments and citizens of poor countries in Africa. (allAfrica)
East African governments and NGOs question the benefits of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the EU. These trade agreements have not encouraged countries to add value to their exports, so many countries remain dependent on unrefined primary product trade, such as coffee and sugar. They also face further barriers as the EU increasingly hinders imports of industrialized products from outside the Union. The African countries are also concerned that their industries will not be able to out-compete Asian imports. (Inter Press Service)
In spite of their promises at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005, rich countries have failed to double development aid and relieve poor countries of their debt. Africa, in particular, has suffered from the lack of resource inflow. In September 2007, the world's major development banks gathered to mobilize resources for the continent. The African countries severely lag behind the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000, but World Bank chief Robert Zoellick still sees great opportunity for Africa. Economic growth rates are increasing in many countries and poverty is falling among African farmers. However, further improvements are dependent on the rich countries keeping their promises and raising the funds needed for development. (Reuters)
Tanzanian journalist Ayub Rioba argues that since gaining independence, Africa has received billions of dollars in aid, yet the number of poor Africans has doubled. Different schools of thought exist to explain this. The "governance first" group argues that African people, not outsiders, have a responsibility to improve the quality of their own governments. The "poverty first" group, represented by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, believes that the solution to Africa's problems lies in tackling poverty by increasing the amount of aid. Finally, a third group argues that current aid flows are sufficient, but that donor countries must reform the way aid is distributed and administered. (Christian Science Monitor)
This New York Times article highlights China's role in Africa's economy. China's search for resources in Africa has brought investment, technology and jobs into some of the world's poorest countries. While Chinese imports give Africans access to cheaper products, the introduction of Chinese finished and manufactured goods hinders Africa's ability to develop a strong and diverse economy. Across Africa industries such as textile factories have closed down as cheap Chinese goods flood the world market.
The African Union plans to set up an African Investment Bank and is gathering support from African nations which will be the main subsidizers of this institution. Maxwell Mkwezalamba, the AU's Commissioner for Economic Affairs said that the continent requires US$250 billion in the next ten years to double its economy and trade by 2015 and lift thousands of people out of poverty. He also stated that rich countries have not lived up to their promises in terms of economic aid. (Reuters)
China has launched an African Development Fund of US$1 billion which will invest exclusively in Chinese enterprises and their projects in the continent. China has increased its aid and loans to Africa in exchange for access to oil and other resources and to secure new markets for its exports. Development advocates have criticized this policy of "tying aid" to purchasing goods and services from the donor country and accuse Beijing of supporting authoritarian regimes in Africa. (Associated Press)
In the foreword to the book "Escaping the Resource Curse", George Soros describes how countries rich in resources have failed to benefit from their natural prosperity. In Africa many countries rich in natural resources are often poorer than those with fewer natural resources. The author argues that NGO initiatives such as "Publish What You Pay," could provide a solution to the resource curse by requiring oil companies to disclose their payments to governments for extracting natural resources. (Columbia University Press)
This Share the World's Resources article analyzes a UN report on Africa and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which revealed that sub-Saharan Africa will probably not achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The author argues that some African regions have improved their education, healthcare and agricultural productivity but that poverty is not decreasing at the same rate as before. Moreover, evidence shows that neoliberal policies adopted by the IMF, World Bank and WTO have failed in tackling poverty.
's Basic Capabilities Index (BCI) measures poverty based on education, child mortality and reproductive health. This 2007 BCI report
finds that at the current rate of progress, "a minimum set of social services" will not be universally accessible in Sub-Saharan Africa until 2108 – almost a century beyond the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015. Social Watch calls on the world's wealthiest countries to seize the opportunity of the June G8 summit "to fulfill their side of the agreement" by increasing aid and debt relief to Africa.
Inter Press Service highlights the link between extreme poverty and rising infant mortality in Zimbabwe. The country's economic decline has led to "the breakdown of the health delivery system," putting Zimbabwe's under-five mortality rate at 129 per 1,000 live births – a more than 50 percent increase since 1990. Health care workers have called for increased international aid to provide basic food and necessities to "vulnerable groups such as newborn babies."
Although many African countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea enjoyed great revenue increase in the 1990s from the petroleum industry, the oil money benefited the countries' leaders and not the people who still remain in poverty. This Gulf Times article says that while the responsibility of managing oil resources lies with governments, foreign oil companies, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US and other governments should do their part by demanding transparency from African governments.
The African Centre for Biosafety criticizes The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA's projects aim to alleviate poverty and hunger by creating a market-based agricultural sector in Africa, enabling agrochemical and genetically modified (GM) seed companies to enter the market. The Centre fears such agribusiness will undercut traditional agriculture, create dependency on expensive inputs like GM seeds, and weaken African biodiversity. This "Green Revolution" could worsen, rather than address, the structural problems that undermine African farmers.
The Africa Progress Panel (APP), established to monitor the 2005 Gleneagles Summit aid pledges, reports that the G8 countries are "only 10 percent of the way to their target" of doubling aid to Africa by 2010. The APP, headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, further warns that failure to meet these commitments would be a "grotesque abrogation of responsibilityâ€¦and a threat to the lives of the world's poor." (Guardian)
Despite the "dire" shortage of food rations faced by the UN World Food Program (WFP), the US government refuses to change a law that requires most of its food donations be domestically grown and then shipped to recipient countries – an inefficient and costly process. International aid groups such as Oxfam estimate that amending this law to allow cash donations to the WFP could "feed at least a million more people" and "save 50,000 more lives." (New York Times)
This Bretton Woods Project article finds that the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) report "fails to address fundamental questions about the Fund's role" in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report criticized the IMF's African aid program as having a "mismatch" between its reported goals and its actual capabilities. However, the IEO blames this strictly on a lack of "policy clarity," arguing that the IMF's public relations department has given "the impression that the Fund committed to do more on aid mobilization and poverty-reduction" than it had intended. The article calls for a thorough external review of the Fund's policies in developing countries.
Despite renewed promises to double aid to Africa and to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015, a meeting of the G8 development ministers is unlikely to produce any concrete policy changes, reports this Deutsche Welle article. Although some of the ministers claim that the G8 members have made substantial progress toward "democratization, social reforms and economic growth" in developing countries, experts argue that more aid money and increased cooperation between North and South are necessary to reach those goals.
This IMF Independent Evaluation Office
dismisses criticism of the IMF's anti-poverty programs as due to "confusion" and a "lack of clarity" rather than any actual wrongdoing on the Fund's part. The IEO congratulates the IMF on its success in "improving performance" in Sub-Saharan African countries, and blames any perceived shortcomings on "ambiguous" IMF communications that gave "the external impression that the Fund committed to do more" to reduce poverty than it had actually intended.
This Inter Press Service article reports that underdeveloped infrastructure is a leading cause of food insecurity in Africa. Meat imports frequently thaw in transit due to an unreliable supply of electricity and substandard technology, allowing food-borne illnesses like salmonella "to flourish." NGOs and government officials therefore argue that improving domestic infrastructure is "the only way the poorest countries can cope" with international trade.
Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh has announced that a mandate from God allows him to cure AIDS using a combination of Koranic prayers, herbs, and bananas. When a United Nations representative in Gambia questioned the "cure" – which also requires that patients stop taking anti-viral medication – Jammeh promptly "branded [her] persona non grata" and gave her 48 hours to leave the country. However, this Der Spiegel article reports, "hardly anyone in the country dares challenge him and, unfortunately, many actually believe him."
The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that "erratic weather patterns" in Africa may devastate agricultural output and lead to severe food shortages. The failure of donor countries to fully fund the WFP – which currently assists 4.3 million people in southern Africa alone – further threatens food security in the region.
In the face of a US$3.7 billion debt and little relief in sight, many Liberians have turned to "small-scale entrepreneurial activities," such as hairdressing or baking, to earn a living. The 80 percent official unemployment rate does not reflect the 78 percent of the country's workers engaged in this "unregulated, untaxed work." Nevertheless, NGOs and government officials are calling for "fundamental improvements" to Liberia's official employment sector, arguing that "creative entrepreneurialism" is not enough to sustain a country where two-thirds of the citizens live on less than $1 a day. (Christian Science Monitor)
The "overwhelming number of orphans" in southern Africa due to war, hunger and AIDS has led many governments and aid groups to direct resources away from traditional orphanages and toward "community-based care." Under the community-based approach, organizations give funding for food and other expenses to families adopting orphans in their own villages. Organizations such as UNICEF argue this solution is "healthier and more culturally appropriate" than moving the children into institutions. (Christian Science Monitor)
"Vulture funds" buy debt cheaply from developing countries and then sue the governments for the full value of the debt plus interest. One such company, Donegal International, has sued Zambia for US$55 millions over ten times what it paid for the original debt. Although unlikely to uphold the full amount of Donegal's "evasive and even dishonest" claim, the UK judge hearing the case "had little choice but to say the contract was binding." (Guardian)
Joseph Stiglitz summarizes a discussion on "global growth with responsibility" by "a diverse group of concerned citizens from around the world," including leading economists and former government officials. The resulting consensus calls for a reformed G8 process which would enable participation from all countries "to discuss informally the major issues facing the world," with a focus on the four immediate problems of climate change, global imbalances, global governance, and poverty, especially in Africa. (Initiative for Policy Dialogue)
Arguing that the majority of debts in poor countries were accrued under "dictatorial, unaccountable and irresponsible leaders," participants at the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya called for complete debt cancellation by international financial institutions. This Inter Press Service article reports that, without unconditional debt cancellation, impoverished countries will not meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
For only US $3 each a year, argues economist Jeffrey Sachs, the one billion people in the high-income world could finance a comprehensive anti-malaria program for the entire continent of Africa. As malaria decreases worker productivity, increases the rate of population growth and, possibly, the likelihood of transmitting AIDS, this "common resolve" to reduce malaria could be the key to "unlocking Africa's poverty trap." (Time)
At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, the G8 pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010. A year later, however, African nations such as Liberia, "one of the poorest places on the face of the earth," are facing diminishing international aid flows. Liberia had failed to meet the condition of "good governance" at the time of the Gleneagles summit, and therefore did not qualify for debt cancellation. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf fears the aid shortage will further destabilize the already volatile country as it struggles to recover from civil war. (Independent)
The annual Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International has repeatedly ranked African countries as some of the most corrupt in the world. However, this New York Times article argues that a catalyst for change now exists in Africa with the announcement by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim that he will award an annual prize of US$5 million to African leaders - upon retirement from office - who eschew corruption and instead promote democratic processes and good governance.
Hosting a conference on European aid to Africa in November 2006, the EU aimed to prevent loss of influence on the continent after "recent Chinese overtures of trade and aid to Africa," says the Associated Press. Against Chinese lack of concern for human rights and sound governance in dealings with African countries, the EU confirmed its conviction that tying aid to political and economic reforms "is the best way of improving the lives of Africans." The EU pledged to increase in annual aid to Africa from 17 to 25 billion euros by 2010. Meanwhile NGOs argued that the policy of conditionality "has never worked," and criticized the EU lack of attention to businesses' role in African corruption.
Despite the general focus on Africa's failings, the region also has many success stories, argues this afrol News article. Cape Verde, Botswana and Seychelles amongst others have achieved a level of development moving them out of the category of Least Developed Countries. These countries now feel "penalized for progress," as donors disengage while investors are still not convinced, bringing "new hardships" to governments trying to move their nations from a middle-income level "to a wealthy state of general welfare." While the UN does not consider assistance to middle-income countries to be development aid, there is a well documented opposite practice of "rewarding" countries whose failed policies has made them slide down the development index, says the article.
As the 2006 United Nations Climate Change Conference commences in Nairobi, the Christian Science Monitor
reports on the findings of a September 2006 UN report
on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Africa. The report finds rising sea levels could inundate 30 percent of Africa's coastal infrastructure, while 25-40 percent of the continent's natural habitat could be lost by 2085. According to the article, "climate change is a present reality for many Africans," as a tight link exists between Africa's many violent conflicts – often viewed by the West as stemming from ethnic or religious differences – and the increasing climate-induced scarcity of water resources.
Speaking at the November 2006 China-Africa summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao, pledged a US$5 billion increase in loans and credits to Africa over the next three years, thereby doubling Chinese aid to the continent. The summit also produced several natural resource investment deals between Chinese companies and African countries, thus further boosting recent years' enormous increase in China-African trade, which consists primarily of oil, minerals and other natural resources along with Chinese-made weapons. Meanwhile, critics say China "extracts what it needs from the continent, while ignoring environmental and anti-corruption standards." (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
With Chinese trade and foreign direct investment in Africa "skyrocketing" in 2006, China has become a major player in Africa's economic development, and a widely cited "ideal development model" among African leaders. Many African leaders frustrated by Western policy conditionality have welcomed China's "strictly business" involvement in their countries. But the Chinese lack of concern for good governance and social responsibility produces a "backlash in several African countries." This International Herald Tribune article argues that whether China signs on to the principles of transparency and good governance "will be critical for the continent's long term development and stability."
This Oxfam report
details the history and damaging consequences of the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) praxis of pushing privatization and liberalization reforms in poor countries, as well as the continuous failure to reform this â€˜conditionality.' The report looks closer at the case of Mali, where the World Bank has forced liberalization of the cotton industry by withholding funds desperately needed in the country's neglected education sector. The resulting exposure to the world market cotton price – significantly driven down by rich countries' subsidies – decreased the price Malian farmers received for their cotton by 20 percent in 2005. This could increase country-wide poverty by 4.6 percent, says the report.
Funding and visiting AIDS orphans projects in Malawi, pop icon Madonna joins the growing list of celebrities putting resources into Africa. Christian Science Monitor reports that most aid agencies welcome the arrival of celebrities in the world of humanitarian aid, appreciating the press attention that "these A-listers" can draw to development in Africa. Other analysts, however, fear that too many donors preoccupy themselves with projects that make them "look good," rather than promote long term development.
British climate scientists from the Met Office give "one of the most dire forecasts so far" of the potential effects of global warming. Their study predicts that by year 2100 one third of the planet will be desert, "uninhabitable in terms of agricultural production," and that already drought-stricken Africa will experience the most severe effects. While stressing that the findings contain uncertainties, the scientists deem the result "significant" and possibly even an underestimation. According to this Independent article, the study will be "widely publicized" by the British Government at the November 2006 UN negotiations on "a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty" in Nairobi.
The 2006 "Least Developed Countries Report" found that although the world's poorest countries have enjoyed the highest growth rates in two decades, human well-being in these mainly African countries has not improved. The author of this Foreign Policy In Focus piece argues that the lack of rural communities' participation in governing their natural resources largely accounts for that imbalance. He warns that initiatives such as the UN Millennium Development Project, the US Millennium Challenge and Oxfam International's "Trade not Aid" campaign will not promote development unless they focus on creating accountable countryside democratic institutions.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, strongly criticizes Europe's policy towards Africa. Ziegler highlights the obvious, but vastly ignored, connection between EU agricultural subsidies and the large flow of African migrants to Europe. While Europe destroys African agriculture by dumping subsidized food, Europeans want their borders closed to poverty-stricken Africans and respond with security measures to a problem which is in fact about "hunger refugees." Ziegler calls for a halt to the "deadly dumping." (AlertNet)
In this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, agricultural development specialist Peter Rosset criticizes the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations' US $150 million initiative to bring a "new" green revolution to Africa. Rosset finds that an "apparent naiveté about the causes of hunger" has led the Gateses to invest in technology packages that will likely only benefit seed and fertilizer industries, have "negligible impacts" on total food production and worsen countryside marginalization. Rosset holds much higher hopes for the "Food Sovereignty" approach focusing on ending "free trade extremism," improving land access for the poor, and increasing support for family farmers and ecological farming methods.
As Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer offloaded 400 tons of toxic waste at a landfill near the Ivorian capital of Abidjan in August 2006, the generated fumes killed six people and forced 15,000 to seek treatment for nausea, vomiting and headaches. The incident illustrates that the practice of Western companies dumping toxic waste in poor countries continues. As rich countries' consumption of electronic equipment keeps increasing, so does the amount of electronic waste shipped to poor countries for "recycling," but ending up in landfills posing significant health risks to local residents. (Independent)
This powerful New York Times article highlights the experience of a nine-year-old quarry worker in Zambia. The child labor problem in sub-Saharan Africa not only deprives young workers of their childhood, but also furthers a cycle of poverty where they remain illiterate and sometimes turn to illegal or dangerous activities to survive. The author notes that child labor goes beyond a legal issue, since poverty and disease contribute to the growing incidence of child labor and many families can barely afford to eat.
Released a week before the UN International AIDS Conference in Toronto, this Tearfund report
calls attention to the work done by millions of church volunteers "tackling Africa's AIDS crisis head on." With their immense presence and extensive reach, African churches could become "one of the single most effective strategies for tackling the HIV and AIDS pandemic." International donors need to "urgently" recognize and act on the churches' potential. Churches, for their part, must acknowledge the stigma and discrimination of their attitudes towards sex and gender. (Tearfund
In "New News Out of Africa," former CNN-reporter and South Africa resident Charlayne Hunter-Gault argues that the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and "courageous" journalists contribute significantly to both a decline of violence and advancement of democratic reform in Africa. External observers, however, tend to overlook these positive trends, Hunter-Gault says. And aided by the "mountain of negative press" on Africa, they increasingly avoid directing resources to the continent. Africa needs "fresh new news' reporting" along with debt relief to free resources to finance initiatives like NEPAD - according to Hunter-Gault "one of the most effective forces of change" in Africa. (Inter Press Service)
This New Times article labels poverty as the "oldest and most devastating disease in the third world." With six billion people living on less than one US dollar per day, one sixth of the world's population suffers from inadequate provisions of food, medicine and shelter. The author cites the spread of AIDS, population growth, lack of education, and geographic disadvantage as obstacles to aid and debt relief efforts.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has convened the Africa Progress Panel, an organization that monitors whether G8 governments fulfill their pledges of international aid. The panel will produce an annual report for the G8, UN, and Africa Partnership Forum to maintain international awareness of development progress. Still, some organizations doubt the capacity of yet another monitoring organization to affect G8 policies. (BBC)
This BBC article discusses the challenges of growing populations in urban centers throughout the world and especially in Africa. Although Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the world's highest rate of urban migration, cities and governments fall short in providing basic social services. The UN Millennium Declaration addressed this issue, and UN-Habitat will continue to discuss potential solutions in the biannual World Urban Forum. Still, without more funding and investment in infrastructure the number of people living in urban slums could double by 2020.
Under the guidance of Jeffrey Sachs, the UN Millennium Project established 78 so-called Millennium Villages demonstrating how little spending in fields like health and education can "dramatically accelerate" Africa's rural development. Since 2000, the initiative has shown that villages can meet many of the Millennium Development Goals if empowered by international aid and practical technologies such as fertilizers or insecticide-treated bed nets. While many of these villages seem capable to gain self-sufficiency in the near future, rich countries have to provide more aid to allow all of the poor areas to follow these examples. (Inter Press Service)
Based on a report
by the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER), this article looks at the efforts of various donor countries to provide more independent and predictable aid to Ghana. As aid programs conducted directly by rich countries firms "have had limited success" in reducing poverty, the Multi-Donor Budgetary Support (MDBS) approach directly funds development programs chosen by the Ghanaian government. Although major donors such as Japan still refuse to participate, the initiative could help untie aid flows from rich countries' commercial interests. (ID21
Uganda, as many other sub-Saharan African countries, has achieved increased economic growth accompanied by moderate inflation rates. However, this "macroeconomic stability" has failed to improve the living conditions of the country's poor. At a meeting organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ugandan government officials pointed out that, although the country receives more aid flows "on paper" they have little impact "on the ground." (New Vision)
In this interview, Director of Programmes of Third World Network-Africa Tetteh Homeku explains how predominant trading rules hinder Africa's development. Although foreign direct investment (FDI) can generate growth, the region requires strong local industries and better access to foreign markets to foster development. In addition, Mr. Homeku encourages the UN Agencies and Programmes that work in the region to support existing developing campaigns instead of "reinventing the wheel." (Inter Press Service)
A small group of donor countries, including the US, contracted the private insurance company AXA to cover the risk of droughts in Ethiopia. In this pilot project developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank, an annual amount of US$930,000 would lead to immediate payments of US$7 million if rainfalls drop "significantly below historic averages." However, neither the WFP nor AXA provide details regarding the deal. Furthermore, opening humanitarian aid activities to corporate interests is a "risky business."
The 50 Least Developed Countries (LDC), primarily located in sub-Saharan Africa, represent 11% of the world population but only 0.6% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This report provides a wide range of data for each LDC, on topics such as population, health, education, official development assistance and external debt. (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development)
This BBC article looks at the main factors causing Africa's continuous struggle for agricultural self sufficiency. Decades of underinvestment in rural areas, hundreds of armed conflicts, HIV and high fertility rates turned Africa from a net food-exporter in the 50s into a continent dependent on foreign aid and food imports. Furthermore, many rich countries destroy local agricultural markets with subsidized food exports while abusing aid for their own corporate interests.
This article supports top UN adviser Jeffrey Sachs' urgent call on all governments to fulfill their aid promises made in the seventies. Sachs points out that there are promising practical solutions to lift the poorest countries out of this "seemingly endless cycle of disaster." In addition, Sachs argues that governments and international institutions need to increase transparency and accountability to guarantee that the help really reaches the people in need. (Mail & Guardian)