SOUTH AFRICA - THE KLEPTOCRATIC UNION
Ordinary South Africans may have rejoiced at the fall from favour of Jacob Zuma but the size of corruption unearthed on his watch is horrifying. Eskom, the state electricity provider, is all but bankrupt as directors and senior managers pillaged its accounts. To compensate electricity rates are about to power ahead hurting the poorest hardest. The head of the country's tax collecting ministry, Tom Moyane, has been suspended and accused of blocking bribery investigations and giving secret bonuses to cronies. The Guptas, a wealthy Indian family, are accused of bribing tax officials under Zuma which resulted in huge profits. The former boss of Transnet, the national rail freight carrier, is accused of inflating the cost of buying 1,000 trains by almost US$1.2bn before awarding the contract to a Gupta-linked enterprise. At the same time vast amounts of money have been illicitly siphoned off budgets for schools, hospitals, housing projects and roads leaving patients without beds and medicines, schools without teachers and books, people without water and roads without maintenance. How could South Africans allow such a man to run Mandela's country into the ground for so long? But it is not just the case in South Africa: corruption pervades almost every African nation on a colossal scale as decadence and depravity take precedence over the general well-being of their peoples.
USA COMES TOP IN TOURISM
The US remains the top tourism destination according to the World Travel and Tourism Council growing by 2.3% with activity generating US$1,500 bn and accounting for 14 million jobs in 2017. However, China grew by 9.8% which if present trends continue will overtake take the US by 2028. Last year tourism grew by 7% in Spain, 6.2% in the UK and by 5.5% in Canada.
TONY BLAIR'S 7 KEY AIMS OF LEADERSHIP
Speaking at a meeting in Addis Adaba in Ethiopia recently, former UK prime minister Tony Blair laid down a list of 7 aims for leadership and government in Africa:-
1) all out
effort in education so that youngsters gain the knowledge which should
offer them the opportunity to achieve their ambitions.
OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT AID (ODA) 2017 [see 'Development Aid']
Figures released from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (DAC committee) indicate that development aid fell by 0.6% from 2017 to 2016. Foreign aid from official donors totalled US$146.6bn in 2017. ODA spent by donor countries on hosting refugess fell by 13.6% to US$14.2bn as refugee arrivals, mainly in Europe, decreased. Overall, total ODA flows rose in 11 countries in 2017, with the biggest increases in France, Italy, Japan and Sweden. ODA fell in 18 countries with the largest declines seen in Australia, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. Five DAC members - Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and UK met the UN target in 2017 for an ODA/GNI ratio of at least 0.7%. Outside of the OECD the United Arab Emirates posted the highest ODA/GNI ratio in 2017 of 1.31% with Turkey reaching 0.95%.
WHITE FARMERS FEAR THE WORST IN SOUTH AFRICA
Few people will disagree that land reform is needed in South Africa where the Whites, who represent 8% of the population, own 72% of private land. In March 2018 MPs from the ruling African Congress backed a plan calling for white-owned land to be seized without compensation prompting fears of a repeat of the land grabs in Zimbabwe after which agriculture production collapsed. President Ramaphosa has promised that the same mistakes as Zimbabwe will not be made in South Africa but farmers are starting to get worried. And when farmers start to fear the worst future investment is curtailed and output starts to decline. There is no doubt that change has to come in South Africa but, at the same time, there will a need to retain expertise so any change should be gradual. The government should reassure farmers that they can retain their land but introduce, say, a system where farmers have to release 10% of their land every 7 years to black farmers. And at the same time be able to offer advice to these farmers for the next three years. This would continue to be done every 7 years until farms were reduced to a certain size. The alternative would be through inheritance/sales tax, where after a farmer died/sold his farm, a certain percentage of the farm would revert to the state. But it is key for the government to offer assurance and to retain the expertise of the current farmers.
AFRICA LOSES US$148bn TO CORRUPTION EVERY YEAR.
A report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has found that Africa is losing annually US$148bn, equal to 25% of Africa's GDP, to the scourge of corruption. The continent loses US$65bn a year from illicit financial flows through a combination of transfer pricing, fake invoicing and corrupt border guards. UNECA also suggests that the continent has lost over US$1 trillion in the last 50 years. Annual ODA received by sub-Saharan Africa is calculated at US$46bn meaning that the continent is in net deficit every year to the tune of almost US$100bn. And this in a part of the world where 40% of the people daily eke out an existence below the poverty line. It is little wonder then that so many mainly younger people want to move north to look for ways of reaching the land of milk and honey which is Europe and the EU.
WHY DO WE IN THE WEST CONTINUE TO FAIL AFRICANS?
In the west we are not slow when it comes responding to humanitarian crises in order to feed the hungry and to provide shelter and clean water along with medical facilities for those in desperate need. These provisions are usually supplied through foreign aid budgets or, in the UK, through the Disasters Emergency Committee or international NGOs like Red Cross, Save the Children, Oxfam etc. These charities, it seems, are always working away quietly, on behalf of their supporters, in so many poor areas of the world providing constant relief for needy people. So we westerners do have a heart and feel for those less fortunate. But we never seem to ask why we have to do this. Why is it that we are asked to put our hands in our wallets/purses to provide support for so many tragedies year in year out?
Adam Smith, the father of economics, argued over 200 years ago that 'little else is requisite to carry a state from lowest barbarism to the highest degree of opulence but peace, easy taxes and tolerable administration of justice.'
And this maxim still applies today.
Peace, sadly, still eludes too many countries especially in Africa. There, tribal and religious rivalries come to the fore constantly meaning that governance can be a huge challenge and is often irreconcilable. But it shouldn't be for poor countries need a government of all the races, cultures and religions. And it is there in Africa that democracy is struggling to work as tribal rivalries are fought out in party politics meaning that there are winners and losers. And the losers are all too often ready to take up arms to get their voices heard. In poor countries, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, a government of all affiliations, from all areas of the country, for all the people is a necessity if real and sustained progress is going to be made. And this is just not happening in most African countries and is most noticeably absent in South Sudan, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Tolerable even falls short of good but it is all too obvious to Africa watchers that even tolerable administrations are too few in number there. African governments need to strive for little or no corruption, strong national institutions, able leadership, adherence to the rule of law as well as a determination to improve health, education and welfare and to encourage agriculture and industry. Unfortunately, on that continent today, too many governments are maladministrations failing in too many of those areas leaving hundreds of millions of people living hand to mouth and unable to cope with the unexpected.
And just one look at the just1world world governance table 'in a league of their own' shows how far governments in Africa fall short of tolerable administration compared to the rest of the world.
That means we in the west need to go further when it comes to supporting those in need. We really do need to ask our own governments, international NGOs and poverty campaigners why it is that money spent in overseas aid is not used to encourage good governance as well as relieving poverty and hardship. For in the words of Edmund Burke, the 18th century Irish political theorist and philosopher, 'it is necessary only for good men to do nothing for evil to triumph.' And there are a lot of good men in western governments and NGOs along with campaigners who seek to 'Make Poverty History!'
TRUE COST OF A PLATE OF FOOD
In richer countries, most people spend a small part of their income on feeding themselves. In poorer nations, by contrast, buying the ingredients for a single meal can erase a significant proportion of a person's earnings. And where there is conflict or economic collapse, it can exceed these earnings outright, according to World Food Programme (WFP) research. Measuring the proportion of daily income that a person anywhere would spend on a plate of bean stew WFP calculates the cost around the world as the following:-
New York $1.20
The Gambia $53.38
Domocratic Rep. of Congo $82.10
South Sudan $321.70
Whilst someone living in New York might spend just 0.6% of their daily income on the ingredients to make a simple bean stew, someone in South Sudan would need to spend 155% of their daily income. The vast discrepancy in the relative cost of basic foods when compared to income suggests that food systems are not meeting the needs of a large swathe of the world. But in many cases that is down to conflict, poor roads, storage, extreme weather and feckless government.
TEACHERS FAIL TO MAKE THE GRADE
Thousands of primary school teachers in Kaduna in North Nigeria are to be sacked after failing exams they set their 6 year old pupils. Speaking at a meeting with the World Bank in the state capital, Nasir El-Rufai, the state governor said that 21,780 teachers, two-thirds of the total, had failed to score 75% or more in an examination taken by their pupils. He promised to replace them with 25,000 new teachers. Evidently, in the past, the hiring of teachers was politicised but now the aim will be to bring in young qualified teachers to redress any imbalance. He also said the teacher-pupil ratio will also need to be confronted for in some cases the ratio is 1:100.
ONE YEAR ON UN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS ARE FALTERING
In a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation for the UN the ambitious goals aimed at ending poverty and inequality by 2030 are seen as moving more slowly than expected and would struggle to get UN approval today. The survey asked policymakers, campaigners and professionals with an interest in the Sustainable Development Goals how they viewed the progress of the blue print of 17 goals and 169 targets that unanimously won support 2 years ago from all 193 UN member states. The long detailed agenda is a global to-do list on such issues as ending hunger and poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring quality education for all which in total would require an estimated US$3 trillion to be invested annually for success. But the online poll conducted between July and September found two-thirds of the respondents saying that progress on the aims was slower than anticipated with half hinting that they were not confident that they could be met by 2030. Perhaps this huge list of goals and targets was always going to be impossible to reach though so this should come as no surprise. It was just far too ambitious and always likely to be under-funded.
AN AFRICAN BRIGHT SPOT
Ever since the the 1987 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Rome, men born and raised in Kenya or Ethiopia have won 72% of the medals on offer in the 10,000m; 5,000m and 3,000m steeplechase. For cultural reasons, women took a little longer to assert their dominance, but since the 1999 World championships in Seville, Kenyan and Ethiopian women have won an amazing 81% of medals offered in the 10,000 m and 5,000m. So what is the secret of this astonishing success?
According to Adharanand Finn, an editor on the Guardian newspaper, there are several factors which have come together for this perfect storm. In rural areas of the high altitude Rift Valley, in both Kenya and Ethiopia, children grow up leading active lives running to and from school and doing chores, often in bare feet. All of which is supplemented by a diet rich in rice, beans, maize and kale.
These conditions aren't unique to Ethiopia and Kenya, but what is singular to this part of east Africa is a culture that embraces running as a viable life option. Parents will support children wanting to run whilst other runners will pass on shoes, clothing and advice. And kids also see it as a way out of poverty as running is often the only show in town. Coaching, encouragement, passion and a will to win also lie here in abundance in a land full of opportunity for distance runners.
Middle-distance running then is an amazing African success story which has lasted more than 30 years. In this time, though, running successful governments in these 2 countries, like so many others in Africa, has proved more elusive. And that is why the number of Africans living in extreme poverty has increased by 100 million in the last 30 years, according to the World Bank. Too many governments in Africa, it seems, are running on borrowed time!
WORLD'S MOST RESPECTED PERSONS
Forget politicians like Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron for the world's most respected persons today must surely be Bill and Melinda Gates. Together in 2000 they set up the Gates Foundation which focuses on improving people's health and wellbeing, expanding educational opportunities and helping individuals lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty in the developing world. Together and separately, for the last decade, they have travelled the world talking to HIV positive prostitutes, trying to eradicate diseases such as polio and tuberculosis, chivvying leaders of rich countries to increase their overseas aid budgets whilst encouraging governments in developing countries to start to get their act together especially on health matters. The largest area for investment has always been health with large sums given over to control infectious diseases, malaria and TB. Massive sums have also been made available to supply condoms to women so that they should not be forced to get pregnant over and over again. In this way women gain control over their bodies and they will make different choices that will effect not only their families but their communities and, in time, their countries. Organisations receiving the most funding from the Gates Foundation are GAVI Alliance, the public-private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunisation in poor countries; World Health Organisation and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. To date Bill Gates has donated over US$30bn to the foundation. Few people have ever been in the position to change the world but in the case of Bill Gates he has not only done it once (with Microsoft) but twice. And Africa and the developing world owe him and his wife a huge debt of gratitude.
TOWARDS A MORE DYNAMIC UNITED NATIONS
According to Dag Hammarskjold, the second United Nations (UN) secretary-general, the UN was not set up to take the world to heaven but to save it from hell. And in the 70+ years since 1945, with just a few worrying moments, this has certainly been the case. However, although no third world war has broken out in the intervening years there have been numerous occasions when countries have turned in on themselves leading, in many instances, to mass genocide. And the UN has stood by unable or unwilling to intervene. This cannot any longer be acceptable for civil war all too often is calamitous leading to mass destruction and killings which push peoples over borders into neighbouring countries which then have to deal with the problem.
Syria is a case in point. When the Arab Spring was unleashed in 2011 opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad mounted and the country soon found itself with a dictator who would stop at nothing to stay in power. Since then many towns and cities have become devastated battlegrounds where innocent men, women and children have had to withstand cluster bombs, chemical weapons, massacres and rape on an apocalyptic scale with an estimated 300,000 losing their lives. At the same time, out of a population of 20,000,000, 4,800,000 have fled to neighbouring countries whilst 8,000,000 have been internally displaced creating the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. And now Russia has entered the mix and with its air power bombs indiscriminately creating nothing short of Armageddon in cities like Aleppo.
And now there is Yemen where misery is being heaped upon misery in that decrepit land. Here the people are crying out for help and, apart from some brave and determined international aid organisations, the world stands idly by on the sidelines as Saudi Arabia and Iran fight a proxy war.
Civil wars like this cannot be tolerated any longer and a solution needs to be urgently sought.
This is easier said than done, of course, in an organisation where, in matters regarding peace and security in nations, the veto in the UN Security Council by any of the Permanent Members (China, Russia, US, UK, France) means that intervention is difficult if at all. So a way round this situation needs to be found. One way to do this would be to continue to allow Security Council members the use the veto but, if any do and then the UN General Assembly votes by a 2/3rds majority to null that veto, then the UN can intervene in the affairs of a country enduring civil war.
If this had been in place in 2011 a sizeable UN force calling on both sides to lay down their arms may have made a difference in Syria. And in the intervening ceasefire a government of national unity could have been set up at the insistence of the UN. And any party unwilling to accept such a proposal would have been isolated and forced out.
The same result for Yemen would have saved the lives and suffering of countless innocent people allowing a government of national unity to be set up under the authority of an independent UN governor.
The leaked papers made public by the International Consortium
of Investigative Journalists in early April, 2016 connects thousands of
prominent figures to secretive offshore companies in 21 tax havens around
the world, and reveal the opaque workings of the offshore finance industry.
The documents focus on the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, with
its 210,000 clients, and has led to allegations that the firm aided public
officials and multinational corporations to avoid taxes. Mossack Fonseca