In a small black town, a black man was selling ice to the people of the town. He was making a good living from his ice selling business. A white man from a neighboring town, seeing the profit in such a venture started a competitive ice selling business in the black town. The Blacks in the town, now wanting to be seen as racist, began to buy their ice from the white man. When the black man asked his townspeople why did they change and begin to patronize the white ice seller, they answered "the white man's ice is colder."
Here we go again
The Scramble for Africa was the invasion, occupation, colonization, and annexation of Afrikan territory by European powers during the age of New Imperialism (1870–1914), between 1881 and 1914. In order to avoid conflicts over the scramble, Europeans convened the Berlin Conference of 1884. The last 60 years of the 19th century saw the transition from "informal imperialism" by military influence and economic dominance, to the direct rule of colonies in Afrika. It began with the occupation of Egypt, and the acquisition of the Congo. Then in 1884–85, Otto von Bismarck convened the Conference to discuss and resolve the "Africa problem." The diplomats used a humanitarian guise for the meeting, claiming to be concerned about the slave trade, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and firearms in certain regions, and by expressing concern for missionary activities. But their main concern was the acquisition of colonies. The diplomats in Berlin laid down the rules of competition by which the great powers were to be guided in seeking colonies.
Today, Afrikan nations are willfully giving their lands and water rights away. These resource grabs often proceed in the name of development, but all they develop are gains for foreign countries, and a few corrupt local leaders. In the process, they make every problem that the continent already faces a lot worse.
Free the Land!!!
Politics as usual
President Obama signed his name to H.R. 933, a continuing resolution spending bill approved in Congress several day ago. However, buried 78 pages within the bill exists a provision or rider that protects biotech corporations such as the Missouri-based Monsanto Company from litigation. Hence, the provision or rider has been dubbed “The Monsanto Protection Act.” Though the bill was ostensibly written by freshman Senator Roy Blunt, who according to The Center for Responsive Politics received $64,250 from Monsanto towards his campaign committee between 2008 and 2012, Monsanto practically crafted the exact language of the document. The maligned corporation will benefit greatly and directly from the bill, as it essentially gives companies that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds immunity to the federal courts, among other things. Moreover, the bill states that even if future research shows that GMOs or GE seeds cause significant health problems, cancer, etc, that the federal courts no longer have any power to stop their spread, use, or sales. The one caveat concerning this bill is it will only remain in effect for a limited time.
Obama had no problem signing it into law and for reasons you will see in this blog. He was well aware of the controversy regarding the rider. Once a concerned public became aware of the rider, realizing that congressional approval was likely, more than 250,000 people signed a petition asking the president to veto the spending bill over the biotech rider tacked on. “But Obama ignored [the petition],” as the International Business Times (IB Times) notes, “instead choosing to sign a bill that effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GMO or GE crops and seeds, no matter what health consequences from the consumption of these products may come to light in the future.”
There are those experts that argument not enough research has been done yet to accurately determine the effects that GMOs have on human and animal health. But much of the independent research done thus far should be cause for alarm. This bill sidesteps that completely though, and simply states that even if there are problems, that the federal courts can no longer do anything about it. And this bill is now law, thanks to President Obama and the U.S. Congress. Furthermore, while GMOs may or may not cause problems for human health, they present problems for a number of additional reasons. One being, that many do not even do that they were supposedly designed to do. For example, new research from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has found that genetically modified Bt cotton crops, which contain the Bt toxin poisonous to the primary enemies of cotton, have considerably weaker defenses against their secondary enemies, when they were suppose to have more.
President Obama has made no efforts to lead America towards healthier food production. He has made no temporary halts to GMO foods while further comprehensive research is conducted to determine their long term side effects. In fact, he has not even pushed to simply label GMO to protect babies, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases. Moreover, his presidency has filled key posts with Monsanto people, many in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, such as the USDA and the FDA. The following are all Obama appointees along with their background and accomplishments thus far: at the USDA, as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center; as deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, the infamous Michael Taylor, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. (Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone); as commissioner of the USDA, Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack (Vilsack had set up a national group, the Governors' Biotechnology Partnership, and had been given a Governor of the Year Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto); as the new Agriculture Trade Representative, who would push GMOs for export, Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist; as the new counsel for the USDA, Ramona Romero, who had been corporate counsel for another biotech giant, DuPont; as the new head of the USAID, Rajiv Shah, who had preciously worked in key positions for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of GMO agriculture research; and we cannot forget that Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, once worked for the Rose law firm. That firm was counsel to Monsanto. And last but not least, Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court. Kagan, as federal solicitor general, had previously argued for Monsanto in the Monsanto v. Geertson seed case before the Supreme Court. It seems that from the very beginning, Obama was in Monsanto's pocket! Either he and Michelle were on different pages, or they both were lying. I believe they were on different pages.
I believe, Michelle Obama in earnest launched the Let's Move campaign, which gave facts, tips and advice on how schools and families can create healthier meals and incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives. Mrs. Obama has modeled behaviors such as planting gardens, exercising and talks about what she does at home to keep her children healthy. Eating wholesome organic food was part of her diet. In fact, Mrs. Obama insisted, during Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, that their family has been on an organic diet for the past few years. However, she was forced to change her tone. Just a few days after Michelle Obama invited local fifth graders to help plant the White House Kitchen Garden, the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA), a group which represents and is comprised of former executives from Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and DuPont Crop Protection, sent the White House a letter expressing their disappointment that she had not “recognize[d] the role conventional agriculture plays in the US.” Moreover, the group went on to provide a dose of propaganda educational information, including little known fact that “technology allows for farmers to meet the increasing demand for food and fiber in a sustainable manner.” The lobbyists instructed Michelle Obama to use “crop protection products” meaning using Round Up, Monsanto GMO seeds and non-traditional chemicals. In effect Michelle Obama's organic crusade was squashed. We have to conclude from Mrs. Obama's run-in with biotech companies, that one cannot even have an organic garden. We commend the First Lady's efforts. And yes, exercise is good but you can't exercise off a bad diet, and especially one that contains GMOs, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup (made from GMO corn), which although it is a sugar, is metabolized as fat, and contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes. I wonder what Michelle Obama said to Barack after he signed the bill. I guess nothing, after all, they had silenced her already.
In the final analysis, and incorporating an Afrikan centered perspective, we must beg the questions, “When did traditional methods of producing food stop working?” (Can't they be upgraded or improved rather than humans tampering with plant DNA?) “Why does Western science want to continue to play “God?” “Hasn't the Supreme Being done a superb enough job thus far?” “Why do some people believe they can do a better job creating food than the Creator?” (“How do you even think you can out-create the Creator?”) Oh well.
Have you ever received money from a Chinese person for anything other than them making change for you? No, is the answer I have been receiving when asking this question as part of an informal survey to Black People. The follow up question is, "Have you ever given money to a Chinese person?" The answer invariably is yes. This imbalance of give and take is reflective of the consciousness of Black people and consequently our relationship with ourselves and others.
There is a reason why every Black Ghetto has a Chinese food restaurant, but there are no Soul Food restaurants in Chinatown. In fact, the most popular Soul Food restaurant in Harlem, New York on 135th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard is owned and operated by a Chinese family. Again, there are no Soul Food restaurants in Chinatown and there certainly is no Chinese Food restaurant in Chinatown owned and operated by a Black family. If a Black person tried, the business would be shut down, before it started. Why? Economic Violence.
Every group of people understands, practices, and strategically utilizes the concept of economic violence, except Black people. In fact the economic violence that we, as Black people, practice is economic violence against ourselves. Economic violence is the art and science of using the exchange of money for goods and/or services as an aspect of ethnic warfare, survival and prosperity. The Chinese will not support a Black business over their own, because they are not interested in ethnic suicide. The Chinese are logical, as self preservation is the most basic of human instincts. So not only will a Chinese person not support a Black business over a Chinese business, they take it one step further and plant their business in a Black community and implement plans to take Black people's money. This ideological posture is pure and scientific economic violence. Replace Chinese with any other ethnic group besides Black, and the picture becomes clearer.
The above is not a condemnation of Chinese, Korean, Arab or white businesses at all. It is a condemnation of Black people who have forgotten the Honorable Marcus Garvey's mantra of "Race First." Every ethnic group has mastered this concept except Black people. It is in my interest to come from a powerful people. Therefore, my interest is committing economic violence on behalf of Black people. That means purchasing a Black person's service or product "first" before I purchase any other ethnic group or race's service or product. Have you committed economic violence on your behalf or against yourself today?
July, 2014 | Posted by Nick Chiles
While the world's eyes remain riveted on Brazil's World Cup stadiums, most people aren't aware that the country is also the home to one of the world's most progressive reparations movements to repay Afro-Brazilians for their enslavement.
Slavery in Brazil didn't end until 1889, making Brazil the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution, and the legacy of slavery has firmly ensconced Black Brazilians in the lower rungs of Brazilian society.
"By and large, black Brazilians live in the worst housing and attend the poorest schools," writes Roque Planas in a comprehensive two-part series for the Huffington Post that probes Brazil's reparations movement. "They work the lowest-paid jobs, and they disproportionately fill the jail cells of the world's fourth largest prison system. This lopsided state of affairs, Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and the country's social scientists largely agree, is a result of racial discrimination with roots in the country's history of slavery."
In Brazil, the reparations movement is centered on the "quilombos," which are communities said to be founded by runaway slaves. Brazil's constitution -- which was ratified 26 years ago after two decades of a military dictatorship -- dictates that residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors. But as more than 1 million Black Brazilians ask the country to live up to the words in the constitution, the government is showing a reluctance to follow through.
Brazil was such an important stop in the slave trade that more people of African descent currently live in Brazil than in any country in the world besides Nigeria, making up about 51 percent of Brazil's population. What the residents of the quilombos are seeking, Planas writes, is akin to the Native American reservations in the United States, minus the self-government.
Planas refers to the devastating case made for reparations for African-Americans in the U.S. by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic and says, "The idea that the U.S. government would even consider handing thousands of tracts of land to black communities is unthinkable. Few Brazilian conservatives find the idea appealing, either. Many of them have scorned the quilombo movement as an affront to property rights and have tried to overturn the law in court. And despite drafting the quilombo law in the first place, the Brazilian government has been so slow to hand over land titles to the communities in question that many applicants wonder if they'll ever receive them."
As Planas details, many members of Congress weren't entirely aware of what Congresswoman Benedita da Silva, one of 11 Afro-Brazilians in Congress at the time, was doing in 1986 when she managed to convince them to include the language that gave land rights to the quilombo members. The law said they would own the land they occupied, pay no rent and no one, no matter how rich, could legally kick them out.
Planas writes that "most of the assembly members who voted for da Silva's article likely viewed it as a symbolic gesture that would affect only a handful of communities." But the movement has now grown from 29 quilombos in 2003 to more than 2,400 today, comprising more than 1 million people -- with hundreds more communities applying that have yet to be recognized.
"There are quilombos that encompass thousands of people and quilombos that consist of just a few extended families," Planas writes. "There are quilombos in the cities, quilombos along the countryside, quilombos on islands and quilombos in the rainforest. The land claimed by these communities totals about 4.4 million acres, according to the Brazilian federal government -- an area roughly the size of New Jersey."
When asked if she knew her proposal would be applied so extensively, da Silva said, "Of course -- that's what we were working for. [The article] wasn't born just because I was at the Constitutional Assembly. It was born because there existed and continues to exist a black movement that includes academics, includes quilombolas, the universities -- all dedicated to validating black people's land rights."
To be or not to be Human
For some reason, there has always been this silly notion that America has been from its inception a classless society. In America, even to broach the subject is embarrassing. Paul Blumberg in his book, Inequality in an Age of Decline, call it "America's forbidden thought." It may be a forbidden topic and even an embarrassing subject for many, but it is nevertheless, a social reality. And it always has been. I think this myth was popularized by Alexis de Tocqueville, who upon his arrival from France in 1831, was immediately impressed with the lack of social classes as compared to feudal Europe, and popularized the idea in his book, Democracy in America. In contrast to France, he stated that Americans seemed to manage their own affairs with little government control. He became convinced America was the model of reform for France, even though he noted the slavocracy was the closest thing to an aristocracy in the United States. The importance of his book is it helped to establish the United States as the paradigm of the new democratic age and made Americans feel exceptional. Nowhere else in the world was there a government based on democracy, equality and freedom like in America.
However, this was pure nonsense as American society was based on slavery and the trade and profits derived from it. Although the New England states had abolished slavery, they continued to control the trade, in fact, Rhode Island was the U.S. headquarters for the triangular trade. Moreover, there were distinct classes in America at the time of Tocqueville's visit, albeit they differed in form from those of Europe. Merchants and Planters formed the upper class, small farmers formed the middle class, while newly arriving immigrants and indentured servants formed the lower class, and enslaved Afrikans functioned as an underclass.
Looking at today's class structure we find that that there are six contemporary socioeconomic classes, which are group people according to wealth, income, education, occupation, and membership in a social network. For the sake of our discussion we will identify them as such: 1) an upper or capitalist class (bankers, CEO's) consisting of the rich and powerful, 2) an upper middle class consisting of highly educated and affluent professionals (creative class is part of this group, top entertainers, top athletes, top lawyers and doctors), 3) a middle class consisting of college-educated individuals employed in white-collar industries, 4) a lower middle class, 5) a working class constituted by clerical and blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized, and 6) a lower class divided between the working poor (service class) and the unemployed underclass.
Where does politics fit in this class divide? According to Robert Dahl, “a key characteristic of a democracy is the continued responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens, considered as political equals.” But in real politicks politicians do not considered all their constituents as equal. Wealthier and better-educated citizens are more likely than poorer and less-educated ones to have well-formulated and well-informed preferences. They are more likely to turn out to vote, much more likely to have direct contact with public officials, and much more likely to contribute money and energy to political campaigns. Dahl therefore asks, “In a political system where nearly every adult may vote but where knowledge, wealth, social position, access to officials, and other resources are unequally distributed, who actually governs?” Well, politicians have been answering this question all along, and the answer has never been clearer than in recent years.
We need Healers not Doctors
Medicine is a business and part of a doctor's job is to create customers. Western doctors do two things: cut and prescribe. And it is through the use of fear they get potential customers to let them cut them thereby becoming life-long customers—patients they’re called. I have studied various types of treatment to illnesses and none have diagnostics as good as Western medicine. Their machinery can actually see and test for a plethora of illnesses and diseases. I have no problem with this. It is in the treatment where they fall short. The idea of cures is bad for business. It’s the same thing with crime—the criminal justice system does not want to reform criminals or stop crime—that would impair the micro-economic system that employs police officers, lawyers, judges, court officers, correction officers, and so on and so on. Doctors do not want to cure people—it is simply bad for business.
Let's look at cancer. The rate of cancer death in the U.S. had declined by 20% since its peak in 1991, showing that there were 215.1 cancer deaths for every 100,000 people in 1991, compared to 173.1 cancer deaths for every 100,000 people in 2009. But what happen to the long await cure for cancer. This year, there are expected to be 580,350 deaths from cancer and 1,660,290 new cases of cancer. Might that cure have to wait so that the tremendous profits derived from the various therapies and treatments continue to grow? That cure will wait until you die from the various prescriptions you’re on kill you.
For some time now there have been a number of studied cited that show when doctors go on strike, fewer people die. Those studies consist of the following: The month-long strike by Los Angeles County physicians in 1976; the four-month Israeli doctors' strike in 1983; the 1984 doctors' strike in Varkaus, Finland; an article in June 2000 British Medical Journal written during another Israeli strike, where the author reported that in the three months after doctors walked out death rates fell significantly in affected cities; in 2003 a SARS outbreak closed four hospitals in Toronto, resulting in slight dip in mortality. Of course all of these studies have been refuted or debunked by allopathic doctors. That fine, one would expect them to do that. It would be occupational suicide to do otherwise.
Every time an alternative school of medicine comes up with a cure for cancer, the Western allopaths discredit it. Especially if that cure involves nutrition, something that Western doctors are uneducated about. Only one course in nutrition is required to get your medical degree. Whatever happened to Hippocrates’ “let your food be your medicine” adage?
100 years ago, the five leading causes of death in the U.S. were Pneumonia, Influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart disease and Stroke, while today they are Heart Diseases, Cancer, Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases; Stroke (Cerebrovascular Diseases), Diabetes, and Influenza and Pneumonia. But doesn’t diet or nutrition play a role in these diseases, after all what has really changed in the past 100 years more than the production of food, including thee introduction of GMOs. The aforementioned are actually diseases of Western civilization. Clearly, Western medicine has failed us. Under its watch, the number of diseases has risen. They have demonstrated an inability to cure or even prevent diseases. But the medical profession led by Big Pharma has increased its profits. The 11 largest global drug companies made an astonishing $711 billion in profits over the 10 years. This is capitalism at its best! Western medicine is driven by it and it is devious and profit-driven. Healing is the last thing on the physician mind. In truth, Western medicine like Western man is imperialistic. It invades the body, defeats its defense, then establish colonies via the chemicals they outpost in the body, that will keep you dependent on their doctors. Allopathy controls your life, imposes on your finances, and keeps you tie to them. Your life is no longer in your hands but theirs. In our restoration mission taking back our diet and nutrition is key.
During the colonial era, European countries set up outposts in Africa where they could get cheap labor and natural resources. And today Europeans build solar farms in Africa, extracting sunlight from the Sahara to power high-tech cities in the north. If just one percent of the Saharan Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels it would create enough energy to power the entire world . . . The EU has a mission to take at least 20% of their entire energy from renewable resources by 2020. Last year they announced that they would lay a series of highly-efficient cables across the Mediterranean, build a series of solar power plants in the Sahara, and import renewable energy from across the sea. The initiative is being financed by a group of European companies and is supported by the EU government. The plan is to cover 6,500 square miles of the desert in photovoltaic systems and wind parks.
Supposedly the energy-extraction could start as early as 5 years from now, but the project as a whole probably won't be finished until 2050.
Why hasn't any Afrikan nation taken the lead in such a project to provide solar energy for the land of the sun, Afrika? Our restoration as a people means we must restore the continent to a state of health and balance. The fact remains that even though Afrika is largely under industrialized, the disruption to its ecosystems outpaces those in highly industrialized nations. Present leadership in no small way must be held accountable for accepting waste — nuclear, chemical, and refuse — from Western governments. The traditional practice of balance that we witnessed with the San, Mbuti, and other Afrikans has been usurped. Progressive thinking Afrikan governments need to limit and even outlaw those offending industries and nations. Also, Afrikan scientists need to develop technologies and logical approaches that can repair damage done during colonial occupation. Afrika’s wildlife as well as other natural resources need protection. As long as the West and East provide markets for the poached goods, illicit acquisition and sale will continue. Take the case of the Afrikan black rhino that has been hunted to near extinction. Understand that these are complex issues and until Afrikan governments, leadership, industry, and agriculture provide sustainable jobs for its people, an underground economy will continue to hamper legitimate development.
Tied to Afrikan conservation are the types of energy we develop for the vision of a unified Afrika. Diop in Black Afrika has outlined the many sources of energy that we can harness without detriment to the planet, or fear of resource depletion. Solar, Wind, Hydroelectric, and the like, have to replace petroleum, coal, and eventually natural gas. Issues of well and system-wide water pollution of aquifers with methane gas and other toxins, not to mention the possibility of earthquakes, threaten municipalities and lurk as ominous side effects due to mining for natural gas in the shale layer of the earth using a very dangerous and corporate-secret process called hydrofracking. Nigerian oil spills of 2009 in the Niger Delta and the British Petroleum devastation of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico reveal the environmental hazards of petroleum-based energy exploitation. Afrika’s abundance of sunlight demands the development of solar energy. Every Afrikan government should dedicate research and development to this field of endeavor.
The U.S.A. will have to develop solar energy for domestic, industrial and, if need be, military power. As we further industrialize, and our various nations begin to come together toward a unified Afrika, we will need to secure our resources. Consequently we will have little choice but to maintain military preparedness for defense against aggressor nations.
By DAMBISA MOYO Reprinted from the NYT Opinion Page | June 27, 2012
In June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech in Zambia warning of a “new colonialism” threatening the African continent. “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she said, in a thinly veiled swipe at China.
In 2009, China became Africa’s single largest trading partner, surpassing the United States. And China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011.
Since China began seriously investing in Africa in 2005, it has been routinely cast as a stealthy imperialist with a voracious appetite for commodities and no qualms about exploiting Africans to get them. It is no wonder that the American government is lashing out at its new competitor — while China has made huge investments in Africa, the United States has stood on the sidelines and watched its influence on the continent fade.
Despite all the scaremongering, China’s motives for investing in Africa are actually quite pure. To satisfy China’s population and prevent a crisis of legitimacy for their rule, leaders in Beijing need to keep economic growth rates high and continue to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And to do so, China needs arable land, oil and minerals. Pursuing imperial or colonial ambitions with masses of impoverished people at home would be wholly irrational and out of sync with China’s current strategic thinking.
Moreover, the evidence does not support a claim that Africans themselves feel exploited. To the contrary, China’s role is broadly welcomed across the continent. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial. In virtually all countries surveyed, China’s involvement was viewed in a much more positive light than America’s; in Senegal, 86 percent said China’s role in their country helped make things better, compared with 56 percent who felt that way about America’s role. In Kenya, 91 percent of respondents said they believed China’s influence was positive, versus only 74 percent for the United States.
And the charge that Chinese companies prefer to ship Chinese employees (and even prisoners) to work in Africa rather than hire local African workers flies in the face of employment data. In countries like my own, Zambia, the ratio of African to Chinese workers has exceeded 13:1 recently, and there is no evidence of Chinese prisoners working there.
Of course, China should not have a free pass to run roughshod over workers’ rights or the environment. Human rights violations, environmental abuses and corruption deserve serious and objective investigation. But to finger-point and paint China’s approach in Africa as uniformly hostile to workers is largely unsubstantiated.
If anything, the bulk of responsibility for abuses lies with African leaders themselves. The 2011 Human Rights Watch Report “You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse,” which described a series of alleged labor and human rights abuses in Chinese-owned Zambian copper mines, missed a fundamental point: the onus of policing social policy and protecting the environment is on local governments, and it is local policy makers who should ultimately be held accountable and responsible if and when egregious failures occur.
China’s critics ignore the root cause of why many African leaders are corrupt and unaccountable to their populations. For decades, many African governments have abdicated their responsibilities at home in return for the vast sums of money they receive from courting international donors and catering to them. Even well-intentioned aid undermines accountability. Aid severs the link between Africans and their governments, because citizens generally have no say in how the aid dollars are spent and governments too often respond to the needs of donors, rather than those of their citizens.
In a functioning democracy, a government receives revenues (largely in the form of taxes) from its citizens, and in return promises to provide public goods and services, like education, national security and infrastructure. If the government fails to deliver on its promises, it runs the risk of being voted out.
The fact that so many African governments can stay in power by relying on foreign aid that has few strings attached, instead of revenues from their own populations, allows corrupt politicians to remain in charge. Thankfully, the decrease in the flow of Western aid since the 2008 financial crisis offers a chance to remedy this structural failure so that, like others in the world, Africans can finally hold their governments accountable.
With approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population under age 24, foreign investment and job creation are the only forces that can reduce poverty and stave off the sort of political upheaval that has swept the Arab world. And China’s rush for resources has spawned much-needed trade and investment and created a large market for African exports — a huge benefit for a continent seeking rapid economic growth.
By H.E. Jean-Baptiste Natama,
Chief Of Staff Bureau of the Chairperson African Union Commission.
State of Africa Africa, this year, celebrates the Golden Jubilee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). During these 50 years the continent has progressed steadily. Let me, therefore, take this opportunity to brief you on the current status of the continent as follows:
Peace and Security
Up to the early 1990s, the continent was plagued by numerous conflicts and the cost of these conflicts on Africa was incalculable. However, since the late 1990s, conflicts and violence have decreased substantially on the continent. Africa has experienced a dramatic decline in the number of violent conflicts as compared to other developing regions. A large measure of stability is being restored in many conflict afflicted parts of the continent such as the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region, although some challenges remain in places like Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and some parts in West and Central Africa. We have worked closely with our Peace and Security Council to expeditiously address conflicts, prevent crisis as well as the management and resolution of volatile situations on the continent.
The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the Panel of the Wise and the Continental Early Warning System, are some of the instruments being utilized, in this regard. Others include, post-conflict reconstruction and development support programmes, the African Standby Force and the Peace support missions. What is required now is to mobilize more resources for the functioning of the APSA so that Africa can take full "ownership" of it, and optimize the use of the various instruments that have been created. This will help to better manage the different stages of conflict situations, from prevention to reconstruction, making full use of mediation and, if necessary, preventive deployments. We are confident that promoting peace and security in Africa will enable the continent to take full advantage of its immense potentials.
The African continent is making good strides on the road towards democratization and good governance. In spite of some challenges, free, fair and transparent democratic elections are increasingly the norm with several examples of peaceful handover of power. In the 1960s and 1970s, Africa averaged only 28 elections for the decade. By the 1990s, this had increased to 65 per decade. Between 2000 and 2005 alone, African countries held 41 elections. In 2011, 18 countries in Africa were considered electoral democracies as compared to only four in 1991. Impunity is also being progressively reduced.
Another positive development is that increasingly, more elections are achieving the minimum standard of democratic fairness, signaling improved quality of the electoral process. Other aspects of the governance picture in Africa relate to the rule of law and corruption, and improved citizen participation and accountability, all of which clearly show signs of improvements and a rejection by Africans of the old ways of doing things.
As one way of enhancing democracy on the continent, the African Union established the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) where African countries peer review each other on four components: democracy and political governance; economic governance & management; corporate governance; and socio-economic development. Some 32 of the 54 African countries have joined and 16 so far have been voluntarily assessed. The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance adopted by the AU in 2007 whose purpose is to deepen commitment to democratic principles, elections, the rule of law and respect for Human Rights, has also been developed. In addition, the African Governance Platform has also been put in place on the continent aiming at establishing in a near future an African Governance Architecture.
Between 2002 and 2008 the continent grew at an annual average rate of 5.6 per cent. This growth was interrupted in 2008 by the global financial crisis and fell to 3.1 per cent. However, despite the crisis, on average, Africa grew at around 6 per cent during the past decade, making it one of the fastest growing regions of the world after East Asia. This was mainly due to the commodity price boom, increase in domestic demand and consumption, improved macroeconomic management and governance, a rising middle class and urbanization, increased global trade links, favorable weather conditions and reduced political conflicts and civil unrests. Between 2000 and 2009, eleven African countries grew at an annual rate of 7 per cent or more, which is considered sufficient to double their economies in ten years.
Between 2000 and 2011 six of the fastest growing economies were African. Africa’s collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at US$ 2 trillion today is roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s. Despite the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the subdued growth in North America and China, Africa’s medium-term growth prospects, projected at 4.8 per cent in 2013 and 5.1 per cent in 2014, remain strong.
The business climate on the continent has also improved and there is a nascent and growing middle class which stands at 355 million people or 34 per cent of the total population in 2010, thereby increasing the continent’s consumer base and providing an impetus for investment by foreign investors such as those from Mexico.
Africa’s external debt has fallen significantly in recent years, from 53.6 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2000 to 20.6 per cent of GNI in 2011 largely through the adoption of prudent macroeconomic strategies, including tighter fiscal policies and an increased emphasis on domestic resource mobilization, amongst other strategies. Another fact has been the extensive international agreements on external debt forgiveness, including the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to cancel outstanding debts of Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), as agreed at the 2005 Gleneagles Summit, and the Paris Club’s Evian Approach for non-HIPC countries. However, increased borrowing to finance development and infrastructure projects still presents a challenge to Africa’s debt performance in the medium- and long-term.
Foreign direct investments (FDI) inflows to Africa have experienced a boom over the past ten years, increasing from US $9.6 billion in 2000 to a pre-crisis high of US $58.9 billion in 2008, and have since rebounded to US $50 billion in 2012. Investment flows have been driven by high returns across all sectors in Africa, particularly with respect to commodities and the construction sector, as well as the marked improvements in the ease of doing business and the global perception of Africa as an investment destination. Flows from traditional European and North American sources have been complemented by new investments from Southern partners such as Turkey, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, etc. These are important for diversifying sources of investment to mitigate future FDI decreases due to economic crisis. Between 2006 and 2010, gross capital formation as a per cent of GDP fluctuated between as low as 21.4 per cent to as high as 24.5 per cent, and gross domestic savings between 19.3 per cent and 24.4 per cent.
For Africa to sustain its current positive economic growth performance, a key priority is to accelerate the depth and pace of regional integration in order to facilitate greater levels of trade, boost diversification and sustainable growth, create larger markets, pool human capital and natural resources, and leverage the different comparative advantages of African countries for the achievement of the continent’s industrialization goal.
The OAU Charter and the Constitutive Act establishing the AU identifies regional integration as one of the foundations for Africa’s Unity. The Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty elaborate the specific economic, political and institutional mechanisms for attaining this goal.
The AU has over the last few decades, supported the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) aimed at consolidating markets, taking advantage of economies of scale and promoting sustainable development. These regional economic communities are: the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD); the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); the East African Community (EAC); the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU); and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
These RECs have focused on eliminating tariffs, promoting free movement of people, goods, services and capital and creation of a monetary union under the aegis of the Minimum Integration Programme (MIP). Intra-African trade in agriculture and manufacturing has reached twice the level of overall trade, creating a solid basis upon which intra-African trade can be deepened through the development of regional value-chains. All these have assisted the continent to make headway in its integration agenda. Efforts are also underway to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.
Africa’s growth has been aided by the quality and quantity of available infrastructure. The continent’s infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s growth performance and has the potential to further contribute to Africa’s future growth. African governments and the private sector are investing about $72 billion annually in new infrastructure on the continent. Governments contribute 65% while the private sector contributes 25% and Official Development Assistance (ODA) contributes 4%.
In order to enhance infrastructure provision, the AU has established a flagship programme called the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). Africa needs to invest US$ 118 billion yearly over the next few years to address the continent’s infrastructure needs and keep pace with economic growth.
Power is by far Africa's largest infrastructure challenge with 30 countries facing regular power outages and many paying high premiums for emergency power. It should be noted that the continent has 1/3 of the Global Energy potential and this suggests that this challenge can be tackled.
It has become clear that for Africa to increase the rate of infrastructure delivery, a greater focus has to be placed on project preparation and development as well as specialized financial tools to address specific socio-economic development needs and market challenges. In this context, and in collaboration with the African Development Bank, a new infrastructure delivery vehicle called Africa 50 Fund has been established and will be launched in January 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Africa 50 Fund aims at mobilizing private equity fund to accelerate infrastructure delivery in Africa. It focuses on high impact national and regional projects in energy, transport, ICT and water sector. It will be structured as a development-oriented, yet commercially operated entity. Its initial objective is to shorten the time between project conception and financial close. As a commercially operated financial institution, Africa 50 Fund will preserve and grow its capital base, as well as provide high returns to its shareholders. It will have three broad groups of investors, namely, African countries, the African Development Bank and other major development financial and institutional investors such as sovereign wealth and pension funds.
With respect to ICT, the continent has made progress although challenges remain. Africa is faced with inadequate broadband network development, weak inter-state broadband connectivity and Internet Networks and the absence of Internet Exchange Point (IXP). Access to several types of digital content is, therefore, a prerequisite for building an African information society. Africa’s telecommunications penetration rate stands at 3 percent compared to an average of 40 percent for other geographical zones.
Africa’s needs in the ICT sector exceed US$9 billion. This, therefore, provides an investment opportunity which could be exploited by the Mexican private sector. Specific areas of investment include, among others, the establishment of specialized broadband networks, development of inter-continental connectivity, upgrading of national ICT infrastructure, establishment of Internet Exchange Point Network, and establishment of data centres and building Integrated Fibre Optics in all road and energy transmission projects, as well as, fibre optic access to at least two different submarine cables.
Access to energy is critical for the continent’s growth and development. In this regard, the continent’s energy needs, amongst others, include: interconnection of regional power pools into a continental network, integrated development of major hydropower potential, development of Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline as well as the operationalization of Regional Gas Pipelines and petroleum products pipelines; and the establishment of an African Electrification Fund. Enormous potential also exists for the development of renewable and clean energy such as geothermal, wind and solar energy. With special reference to geothermal energy, efforts are underway to develop geothermal facilities in eleven countries on the continent.