THE TRUE COST OF UGANDAN DEMOCRACY.
Nangayi Guyson represented to Alliance for National Transformation, the party of Bobi Wine, in the last election in Bungokho Central in Mbale in January. In the course of election day he came across massive ballot stuffing and voter suppression. Armed with evidence he returned to Kampala to contest the vote in court. But before he could he was abducted and driven to the city outskirts where in a minor court he was sentenced to a month in prison for his audacity to challenge the ballot result. After spending 6 days in a police station he was sent to Kitalya Mini-Max Prison with towering perimeter walls and dozens of CCTV cameras. He was immediately told he had no rights there and you either do what you are told or your legs will be broken. The new prisoners were then all strip-searched and given dirty lice-infested uniforms. Inside even the basics of life were unbearable. To go to the toilet you have to ask permission and then kneel in line. And when it is your turn you have just one minute before you are pulled off the toilet. Many prisoners became ill and those who saw a doctor were told there was no medicine and advised to drink water even though the water was unsafe. For meals, with food short, all that the prisoners were given were beans often infested with insects. Sleeping was also a nightmare with inmates lying side-by-side. If you wanted to turn over the whole row would have to agree. Many were political prisoners who were opposed to Museveni, some of whom were there because they had refused to take a bribe to stand aside. But perhaps they are the lucky ones. Many opposition supporters have been abducted by armed men in unlicensed vehicles and later found beaten and torutured or even dead. After 35 years in power Museveni is determined to be president for life no matter what it takes!
KENYAN PRESIDENT ADMITS HIS GOVERNMENT IS STEALING US$18,000,000 PER DAY.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted live on TV that his government is stealing Kenyan Shillings 2bn (US$18m) per day through corruption. This has prompted Kenyans to set up an online petition HASHTAGStopLoaningKenya asking the IMF not to give any more loans to the government citing corruption. In the last few days the IMF has approved a Kenyan shillings 257bn loan for the nation in order to help fight Covid-19. On this serious admission of malfeasance hopefully the IMF will now reconsider. Meanwhile tens of thousands of people in Marsabit and Mandera counties are staring at imminent famine amid a serious drought.
PARITY FOR WOMEN A LONG WAY OFF
According to Africa Barometer 2021 women constitute only 24% of the 12,113 parliamentarians in Africa. Across the world women serve as heads of state or government in only 23 nations (10 women heads of state; 13 women heads of government.) It is reckoned that at the current rate women will not reach parity with men in government until 2150.
President Bashir al Assad - the man who torched his own country. In the 10 years since the civil war in Syria began more than half the population of 22 million are displaced, many of them refugees abroad whilst 500,000 have been killed whilst a third of all homes in the country are damaged or destroyed. And for what? For the country is in effect partitioned - Isis controls much of the east whilst Turkey and the Kurds vie for control of large parts of the north. How can this man look himself in the mirror every morning having instigated such carnage? And how can the UN have sat on the sidelines allowing this civil war to blight the lives of so many innocent people who longed only for a better life?
THE AFRICA OF THE FUTURE - AGENDA 2063
This is the African Union's strategic framework that aims to deliver on the goal of sustainable and inclusive development across the continent by 2063. According to the AU the major impediments to the implementation of Agenda 2063 are conflict, poverty, inequality, unemployment, climate change, illegal financial flows and corruption. No mention at all of hapless government!
INTERNET PENETRATION IN AFRICA IN 2020
Kenya has the highest internet penetration in Africa according to Internet World Stats with 87.2% of the country's population online. Continuing demand for the internet in Africa is being driven by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing reduction in price and the availability of smartphones. The second highest penetration is found in Libya with 74.2% followed by Seychelles in third place with 72.5%. The lowest internet penetration is in Western Sahara with 4.7% followed by South Sudan 7.9% and Eritrea with 8.3%. Nigeria remains the top nation in terms of numbers of internet users with over 126m which equals a penetration of 61.2%. Overall across the continent penetration is estimated at 47.1%. Globally it is 60%.
AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), which all members of the African Union bar Eritrea intend to sign up to, commenced on 1 January 2021. It is the most ambitious trade zone project in the world. No other region has tried to fuse 53 countries into a single market and eventually a full customs union. It will be a market of 1.2bn people with a combined GDP of US$3.0 trillion. To date 34 out of 54 African nations have ratified the agreement. Currently intra-African trade stands at 17% of total trade compared to 59% across Asia and 68% across Europe.
This haunting South African chorus on YouTube, with religious lyrics referencing the Holy City in Zulu, has become the dance sensation of lockdown. Featuring vocals by Master KG and Nomcebo its upbeat tempo seems to capture the unmet aspirations of the African people who for far too long have been let down by their leaders. The music is intoxicating so why not track it down on YouTube and dance the night away like you have never done before, socially distanced of course!
INEQUALITY SEEN AS ROOT CAUSE OF INSTABILITY IN THE SAHEL
According to a survey by the aid group Catholic Relief Services unequal wealth is the main cause of worsening violence in the Sahel - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Here the wealthiest 1% of people, it is estimated, own more than everyone else in the region combined. At the same time this wealth is concentrated in the capital cities leaving most of the rest of each country in despair with rising youth unemployment. At the same time conflict in the Sahel has caused one of the world's largest humanitarian crises causing millions to flee their homes resulting in 24m people seeking aid and 13m going hungry in 2020.
With its porous borders and vast, loosely controlled desert expanses, the Sahel has proved to be ideal soil for the increase in Islamist militancy while climate change is aggravating pastoral life.
SLAVERY - OLD AND NEW
Slavery is not new - the Romans had slaves when they conquered England in 43AD. In the Domesday Book, compiled by scribes for William the Conqueror in 1086, it was estimated that 10% of Englishmen were slaves at that time.
When Britain started to 'rule the waves' and to colonise overseas territories in the Americas in the 17th century, the Crown granted charters to enable settlers to administer and exploit British interests there. But where was the manpower to come from?
British African companies were set-up and given a monopoly to trade in slaves and so the infamous 'virtuous triangle' was born! Under this trading system trinkets from Britain were taken to Africa and given to tribal chiefs in exchange for captured natives. These bondaged men, women and children were then transported to the Americas, often in stark and cramped conditions, where they were put up for auction. In total about 14m people were taken from Africa in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. With the proceeds the slave traders purchased sugar and tobacco before the ships set sail back to Bristol, Liverpool or Glasgow where these commodities were sold on to merchants. Everyone a winner except, of course, the slaves!
Once a slave life expectancy was 8 years. With meagre rations and little in the way of health care, working up to 18 hours every single day soon took its toll. Slaves did not grow old!
Slavery continued throughout the 18th century until in 1807, when thanks to campaigners like William Wilberforce, the slave trade was abolished by the UK. But that did not end slavery. This required the Slavery Abolition Act of 1834 which released enslaved Africans in British colonies freeing 800,000 and giving them their freedom. (Slavery in the US was only abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.) Compensation of £20m was paid by the UK government to the owners but there was no compensation for freed slaves. Here the Church of England was implicated through the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel which had sugar plantations in the West Indies. And amongst those compensated was the Bishop of Exeter who owned 665 slaves.
According to the 'Walk Free Foundation', based on its Global Slavery Index 2018, there are still an estimated 40m slaves around the world today - 22.1m in forced labour, 4.3m in forced sexual exploitation and 13.7m in forced marriage. 70% of these are women and girls. This equates to 1 in 200 people in the world trapped in modern slavery!. Slavery is most prevalent in poor countries and in those with vulnerable minorities mainly in industries like farming, mining and in factory work. And corrupt governments quietly allow it to prosper despite it being outlawed by international treaties. There are many forms of slavery: human trafficking, conscription, prison, bonded and migrant labour, sex slavery, forced marriage, child labour etc.
Today India hosts the most slaves in the world with an estimated 10m followed by China 3.8m, Pakistan 3.2m, North Korea 2.6m, Nigeria 1.4m, Iran 1.3m, Indonesia 1.2m, Democratic Republic of Congo 1m, Russia 0.8m and Philippines 0.8m.
In the UK research from the Home Office suggests there are 13,000 people living in slavery today, some of whom are trafficked into the country from abroad. However, the National Crime Agency suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there could be as many as 100,000 living in modern slavery in the country. The main occupations they are found in are construction, farming, hospitality, car washes and prostitution whilst others are domestic slaves. At the same time a growing form of slavery is the trafficking of vulnerable children by 'county line' gangs as mules into delivering drugs.
The Civicus Monitor rates the state of civil society freedoms in every country in the world based on various sources of updated data. To this end it places countries in one of five broad bands - open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed. For Africa the highest rating is 'narrowed' and includes 4 nations: Ghana, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. Those countries which are rated 'closed' are Libya, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti and Eritrea. Civicus agrees that it alone will not cause governments to stop violating citizens' rights nor compel the international community into action.
DECLINING POPULATIONS IN RICH COUNTRIES WILL ONLY SLOW WORLD POPULATION GROWTH
Fertility rates across the rich world had started to fall rapidly even before the pandemic. The reproduction level needed to sustain populations is 2.1 children per mother but in many developed countries this level has been left behind. In Sweden, Ireland and France the fertility rate is 1.85; US, Denmark and Iceland 1.75; UK 1.70; Germany 1.60; Finland and Japan 1.35; and 1.30 in Spain, Italy and Portugal. But the lowest growth of all is South Korea with 0.88. In Hungary, where the fertility rate is only 1.50, Prime Minister Victor Orban is worried and has offered potential mothers income tax exemption for life if they produce 4 children. At the same time IVF treatment is free there. It seems then that women in wealthy nations are thinking twice about producing children. Why? Perhaps, through years of schooling, they feel the need for a career of their own, where they don't need to rely on their husband whilst they don't want to take time out to look after kids in their early years. Or maybe it is because of equality or the fact that childbirth is now considered so painful and even-life threatening. On the other hand, in poor countries in the developing world, the birthrate continues at high levels. Africa's population in 2050 is expected to grow from 1.3bn to 2.0bn helped by high birth rates in countries like Niger with 6.1 children per mother and Nigeria with 5.5. The world population is currently 7.87bn and is growing at a rate of 1.05% per annum. At this rate the planet's population will hit 10bn in 2057. However, recent growth rates have been falling so it might take longer than forecast for us all to be rubbing shoulders with 10bn others across the globe.
A report by the Nigeria Natural Resources Charter has revealed that the country has the highest reported crude oil theft in the world with the country recording losing a staggering 400,000 barrels a day. This equates to US$8,700,000,000 per annum. How can any nation, even Nigeria, tolerate this gargantuan loss? In contrast in second place is Mexico which loses an average of 7,500 barrels per day.
MOST UNEQUAL COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
In trying to measure inequality across countries the Gini Coefficients takes the richest 10% of the population's share of Gross National Income (GNI) and divides it by the poorest 40%'s share. Under this system (0=perfect equality; 100=total inequality) the most unequal country in the world is South Africa (63) followed by Namibia (61) and Botswana (60). The rest of the bottom nations scoring over 50 are Suriname (57), Zambia (57), Central African Republic (56), Lesotho (54), Belize (53), Swaziland (51), Brazil (51), Colombia (51) and Panama (51). In contrast the most equal countries on the planet are :- Ukraine (25), Iceland (25), Slovenia (25), Czech Republic (25), Slovak Republic (26), Kazakhstan (26), Belarus (26), Norway (26), Finland (26), Moldova (27), Sweden (27), Romania (27) and Algeria (27). The most equal countries in sub-Saharan Africa are Sao Tome/Principe (30), Mauritania (32), Mali (33), Ethiopia (33), Liberia (33) and Guinea (33). Other scores - Germany (31), Japan (32), France (32), Switzerland (32), UK (34), Australia (34), India (35), Russia (37), USA (41), China (42).
A NEW KIND OF TOURISM - SLUM SAFARIS
Coronavirus notwithstanding, visiting foreign countries can lead to many vivid experiences but now there is a new kind to which many tourists are signing up to - slum safaris. In Nairobi, capital of Kenya, three former street kids have come up with their own walking tour which includes crossing fetid rivers, visiting ramshackle houses, spots for the easiest muggings and stopping off at glue bars to chat to glazed-eyed customers. Also confronted are numerous homeless street urchins, many begging by the roadside who, if they fail, stand or fall on their own ability and determination to survive. It is estimated that there are 60,000 hungry and homeless street kids living in Nairobi - a damning statistic in a country where politicians are more concerned with amassing wealth rather than looking after the needs of their peoples. The three former street kids who set up the venture are now doing very well and should be congratulated in finding a successful business opportunity. As for Uhuru Kenyatta and his government - they need to take that walking tour too! But of this there is NO chance.
NEW GLOBAL MULTIDIMENSIONAL POVERTY INDEX (MPI)
jointly developed by the United Nations Development Programme and the
Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative gives data for 101 countries
covering 76% of the global population. The index aims to shine light on
the number of people experiencing poverty at regional, national and sub-national
levels, and reveal inequalities across countries and among the poor themselves.
The MPI provides a comprehensive and in-depth picture of global poverty
looking beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple
ways. It tries to identify how people are left behind across 3 key dimensions:
health, education and standard of living, using 10 indicators. People
who experience deprivation in at least one third of these weighted indicators
fall into the category of multidimensionally poor.
calculations the countries with the largest percentage of the population
living in multidimensional poverty are:-
[Nigeria (population 190,000,000) has now succeeded India (population 1,339,000,000) in hosting the largest number of poor people in the world.]
It is ridiculous and iniquitous that leaders of those countries still cannot find the road to prosperity after 60 years of independence. They plainly lack the inclination, aspiration, determination or any consideration whatsoever in striving to improve the lot of their people. As such, these governments and the African Union should feel embarrassed and ashamed.
is in sharp focus to the to the story below.
PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA, AND THE COUNTRY'S FUTURE
Addressing a meeting of 2,000 leaders from across Rwanda, President Paul Kagame told them that 'integrity, competence, willingness to learn and having a sense of purpose on what they want to achieve for the common good are virtues that all impactful leaders must embrace.' He was joined on the platform by Pastor Rick Warren, the American evangelist, who himself 'urged leaders to always have a dream of what they want to achieve, to take action to implement it and to constantly learn about how to improve what they are doing. The moment you stop learning you will stop leading.' The forum comprised 300 government officials, 300 business leaders and 1,200 church leaders. Pastor Warren then went on to 'urge leaders in all three sectors to always consult each other and work together to improve their services to the people.'
Surely one of the most positive and constructive gatherings to be held anywhere in Africa which shows Paul Kagame's leadership really is changing lives in Rwanda. Which begs the question as to why he has to resort to allowing serious civil and political rights violations, according to a recent EU report, with critics being allegedly killed, physically attacked, jailed or forced into exile. Sadly, it seems, there are still few true success stories coming out of Africa.
RICHEST 1% OF AFRICANS OWN MORE THAN OTHER 99%
According to Oxfam, the international aid charity, inequality is at crisis levels in west Africa where the wealthiest 1% own more than everyone else in the region combined. It goes on to say that the combined wealth of Nigeria's 5 richest men - US$29.9bn/£24bn - is more than the government budget in a country where Oxfam estimate that 69% of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. The least committed countries to reducing this inequality are Nigeria, Niger and Sierra Leone whilst the report found that the 3 most determined were Cape Verde, Mauritania and Senegal. To address this problem Oxfam suggests that west African governments should promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labour market protection, invest in agriculture and seek land rights for smallholder farmers.
WORLD POVERTY CLOCK
The World Poverty Clock - https://worldpoverty.io - is a wonderful way to watch those escaping poverty, second by second, by running away from it. Sadly it also shows those running into it and in which country, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The serious side to it is that the UN Millennium Development Goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is way off track already. But with 17 goals and 169 targets perhaps that is not surprising!
AN AFRICAN BRIGHT SPOT
Ever since 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 10,000m 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 setting. 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 older 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 still 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. And now they are investing much in research into the coronavirus. 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.