Posts tagged "Africa"

Mo Farah pleads with Barclays not to end remittances to Somalia

Mo Farah pleads with Barclays not to end remittances to Somalia

Olympic medallist urges bank not to withdraw facilities to send money transfers to Africa and Asia, including his native Somalia. Read more…

Posted by admin - July 27, 2013 at 09:53

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

UK aid to Africa falls sharply

UK aid to Africa falls sharply

Anti-poverty group ONE says UK aid to sub-Saharan Africa plummeted following drop in its multilateral contributions. Read more…

Posted by admin - June 25, 2013 at 08:50

Categories: News   Tags: , ,

Labour vows to lift trade with Africa as Umunna warns of missed opportunities

Shadow business secretary says Nigeria visit revealed potential and warns against focusing solely on Bric nations such as India

A future Labour government would seek to stimulate Britain’s trade with Africa, the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, has said, as he warned of the risks of missing out on the opportunities from the fast-growing continent.

On a visit to Nigeria, Umunna warned ministers against an over-concentration on the bigger emerging market economies – the so-called Bric nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China – as they sought to diversify exports away from a sluggish Europe.

“A lot has been talked about the Bric economies and the vast opportunities they offer,” Labour’s business spokesman said. “And they do. But this must not be at the expense of talking about Africa – what it offers today and potential that it has for tomorrow.”

Umunna said that Britain had been “behind the curve” in attempting to break into the Brics and it was important that the same mistakes were not made again. He called for an active industrial strategy to help UK companies and the City of London address the infrastructure needs of countries such as Nigeria, which will require $12bn (£7.8bn) of public investment in each of the next five years.

Umunna identified Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and Ethiopia as four of the biggest growth markets in sub-Saharan Africa, none of which currently feature in the top 30 destinations for UK exports. Umunna said he was also keen on a suggestion proposed by Labour’s shadow business taskforce for “export hubs” in key cities in emerging markets that would help small and medium-sized companies to do more business.

Government figures show that in 2012, only five African countries featured in the top 50 list of markets for UK exported goods – South Africa (22), Nigeria (34), Senegal (40), Egypt (41) and Morocco (46).

Just under half of UK goods exported go to the European Union, but the deep and prolonged recession has made life more challenging for UK firms. Between the first three months of 2012 and the first three months of 2013, exports to the EU dropped by almost 4%, prompting government efforts to forge closer trade links with the Brics.

Daniel Solomon, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “Accessing high-growth emerging markets could help offset weak demand from the eurozone, supporting the economy through its impact on exports. However, this is an area where UK goods exporters have struggled. Of the important Bric economies, China is the UK’s largest goods export destination – ranked seventh. Russia, India and Brazil are ranked 12th, 18th and 27th respectively. The UK exports more goods to Ireland, the UK’s fifth most important export partner, than to any of these key emerging Bric economies.”

Umunna said: “Britain is in danger of missing out on the huge opportunities here in Africa. I was very struck by the warning given last year by former president Olusegun Obasanjo on how, in relation to Africa, Britain risks falling behind and how the energetic approach of the Chinese, the Indians and even the Brazilians risks trumping the strong historical and cultural ties we have. There can be no room for complacency.”

He added: “In the first decade of this century, China’s trade with Nigeria increased by a whopping 800%. By contrast, Britain exports more to the Czech Republic – a small country less than a 10th of the size and less than a 15th of the population – than it does to Nigeria. We are talking about the seventh largest country in the world. One in five of all Africans are Nigerian. Lagos is one of the largest cities in the world. Nigeria is not waiting around for anyone. It is closing in on South Africa to become the largest economy in Africa.

“As Europe’s economies struggle to see any growth the IMF expects Nigeria’s economy to grow by 7% next year alone,” he added. “The Nigerian middle class is growing fast. With it is coming rapid growth in demand for consumer goods. The export opportunities for British firms are vast and growing.”

Larry Elliott


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin - May 14, 2013 at 00:02

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

ENRC investigated for bribery in Africa and Kazakhstan

Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, the FTSE-listed firm

Allegations of cash payments to African presidents are to be investigated as part of the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into corruption at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, the FTSE-listed mining firm.

The financial watchdog last week launched a criminal investigation into ENRC, at the same time as the resignation of Mehmet Dalman, the chairman brought in to clean up the company, and the sacking of a legal firm which had spent more than two years looking into the miner’s operations in Kazakhstan and Africa.

In an eight-page letter sent to ENRC following its sacking, seen by the Sunday Times, legal firm Dechert claims to have found “documentary evidence regarding the making of cash payments to African presidents” in connection with the purchase of a copper smelter in Zambia.

While looking into the acquisition of a copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the firm also found “evidence that documents had been falsified, the CFO of ENRC had been misled, and that $35m [£22.6m] had been misappropriated”.

A spokeswoman for ENRC said: “There is no evidence to substantiate these allegations.”

Dechert has been served with a Section 2 notice, meaning documents gathered during its inquiry into ENRC’s African operations must be handed over to SFO investigators. The firm has already handed over its report on the Kazakh operations, examining more the $100m of payments to offshore accounts held in the British Virgin Islands, Latvia and Hong Kong.

In 2012, ENRC’s bill for external advisers including lawyers rose by $51m to $143m, including payments for advice on acquisitions. Dechert declined to comment.

ENRC originally appointed lawyers to conduct an independent investigation when a whistleblower made allegations against the company.

In a statement last week the SFO said: “ENRC [has been accepted] for criminal investigation. The focus of the investigation will be fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and Africa.”

ENRC said: “ENRC confirms that it is assisting and co-operating fully with the SFO. ENRC is committed to a full and transparent investigation of its procedures and conduct.”

Alexander Machkevitch, one of three co-founders of ENRC who control the company, announced on 19 April that he was working with the Kazakh government and fellow shareholders Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov on making an offer for the company. The three men control 44% of ENRC between them.

The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2006, hoping a combination of respectable British corporate governance and access to natural resources from far-flung regions would attract investors. In 2011 the former chairman, Sir Richard Sykes, and an independent director, Ken Olisa, were ousted in a boardroom coup backed by the founding directors. At the time Olisa described ENRC’S behaviour as “more Soviet than City”.

As well as Dalman, recent resignations from ENRC include the company secretary, head of human resources and the chief commercial officer. Dieter Ameling and Sir Paul Judge have also announced that they will not be standing for re-election as directors at the group’s annual meeting in June.

Juliette Garside


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin - April 28, 2013 at 19:35

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

‘So-called experts arrive Africa thinking they knew what the solutions are’

On World Health Day, we speak with Stella Anyangwe about her career at the World Health Organisation and her thoughts on how to improve cooperation between global health organisations

You are currently the programme area coordinator for disaster preparedness and response in the African region of World Health Organisation (WHO). What have you learnt in this role?

I’ve learnt that disaster risks are very rarely unknown. My biggest surprise has been that even though we know so much about disaster preparedness, very few countries are ready for them. So disasters are always an ‘emergency’. It is something that shouldn’t take countries by surprise. People call for assistance for things they should be prepared for.

I’ve also discovered that some countries have not yet mapped out their risks, so we are helping them do this. We are also moving away from ‘preparedness and response’ to the term ‘disaster risk management‘, because this captures the entire cycle from preparedness, response, recovery, back to preparedness again.

Prior to taking up this position in Congo Brazzaville, you were a WHO representative (WR) for 13 years. What was that like?

The WR is the head of WHO at country level, so you are the face of the organisation and it is your responsibility to make sure your work is relevant to that country. It is a tough job because you are trying to make sure your organisation fulfils its mandate.

The job of representative is not only technical, it is also a diplomatic and this made it much more complex. You had to be multiskilled and knowledgeable about all the core functions of the organisation. Now I am in a purely technical position and the knowledge I need is specific programme of work.

Happy World Health Day! Tell us, why is the focus this year on high blood pressure?

Statistics from the previous year inform the theme of World Health Day. In May 2012, we published our World Health Statistics report, which showed that there was a growing problem with noncommunicable diseases and one of the major ones was high blood pressure. The report revealed that worldwide about one in every three adults has high blood pressure and one in every ten has diabetes. That was a clarion call for action.

High blood pressure is an issue across the board. As more and more countries in Africa become ‘developed’, people can afford what they might call ‘better foods’ and these are often fast foods. With increasing westernisation comes the effects of a change in lifestyle and diet. We have become more like the developed world and consequently we are increasingly having the diseases of the developed world.

As a leader within WHO, what would you say the organisation’s vision is?

Our vision is that if we fulfilled our six core functions well (from shaping the research agenda to articulating evidence-based policy choices), we would be doing good for the world. We are currently working through our 11th general programme of work, where we outline our goals for a defined period of time. This ends in 2015, at the same time as the Millennium Development Goals, so a lot of the work is aimed at meeting these goals. We do have challenges, for example, we don’t have nearly as much funding as we should have to carry out all these core functions. Our vision is that we continue to have enough human, financial and logistical resources to be able to carry out our core functions.

What is the future of development?

We need to see harmonious development as a choir where everyone has different parts. If everyone sang soprano you wouldn’t have a choir. When I first joined WHO there were not nearly as many players in the health field as there are today. Now more people want to help because they recognise that health is primordial.

It would be ideal if everyone worked to their comparative advantage. Unfortunately this isn’t happening, so we are all falling over each other. We now need to look at how to coordinate ourselves better as a health sector, and WHO is trying to lead the way in this field. If we all worked according to our mandate and area of expertise, then the world would be a much better place. This is what the future of development should be. We must also remember there can be no development without the voices of those you want to develop.

What do you think makes a good leader in development?

A good leader doesn’t come with solutions up their sleeves; they come to listen. We used to see people who were said to be experts on Africa arrive thinking they knew what the problems and solutions were. Those were not leaders at all. Good leaders should listen to the people who have the problem: they might not be well educated, but they are the ones suffering and they know what they are talking about.

Who is your development hero?

I have two: Bill and Melinda Gates. These are people who could have sat on their money and had everything they wanted. Instead they looked at the world and said: “We are all in this together”. They have taken the time to come to countries to listen to what the problems are. They ask: “What do you think could be done about this?” You give them options and they help you carry them out. How selfless could you be? Still, I’m sure there are development heroes at community level who are doing exactly the same thing at a smaller scale.

You retire from WHO at the end of April 2013. What do you still want to achieve?

I may be retiring but it will not be the end of working life for me. Before getting into WHO and international health, I taught in medical school. I love teaching and I love teaching public health. Now that I am ending my career with WHO, my aim is to contribute towards building the competencies of health workers in disaster risk management. It is clear that even many health professionals do not know about disaster risk management. So I would like to work in training institutions improving these competencies. My last job has fired me up to do this.

Editor’s note: Would you like to see someone featured in our ‘View from the top’ series? Send us an email with their details.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up free to become a member of the Global Development Professionals Network


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin - April 7, 2013 at 07:30

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

”Experts’ arrive Africa thinking they knew what the solutions are’

On World Health Day, we speak with Stella Anyangwe about her career at the World Health Organisation and her thoughts on how to improve cooperation between global health organisations

You are currently the programme area coordinator for disaster preparedness and response for World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa. What have you learnt in this role?

I’ve learnt that disaster risks are very rarely unknown. My biggest surprise has been that even though we know so much about disaster preparedness, very few countries are ready for them. So disasters are always an ‘emergency’. It is something that shouldn’t take countries by surprise. People call for assistance for things they should be prepared for.

I’ve also discovered that some countries have not yet mapped out their risks, so we are helping them do this. We are also moving away from ‘preparedness and response’ to the term ‘disaster risk management‘, because this captures the entire cycle from preparedness, response, recovery, back to preparedness again.

Prior to taking up this position in Congo Brazzaville, you were a WHO representative (WR) for 13 years. What was that like?

The WR is the head of WHO at country level, so you are the face of the organisation and it is your responsibility to make sure your work is relevant to that country. It is a tough job because you are trying to make sure your organisation fulfils its mandate.

The job of representative is not only technical, it is also diplomatic and this made it much more complex. You had to be multiskilled and knowledgeable about all the core functions of the organisation. Now I am in a purely technical position and the knowledge I need is specific to the programme of work.

Happy World Health Day! Tell us, why is the focus this year on high blood pressure?

Statistics from the previous year inform the theme for World Health Day. In May 2012, we published our World Health Statistics report, which showed that there was a growing problem with noncommunicable diseases and one of the major ones was high blood pressure. The report revealed that worldwide about one in every three adults has high blood pressure and one in every ten has diabetes. That was a clarion call for action.

High blood pressure is an issue across the board. As more and more countries in Africa become ‘developed’, people can afford what they might call ‘better foods’ and these are often fast foods. With increasing westernisation comes the effects of a change in lifestyle and diet. We have become more like the developed world and consequently we are increasingly having the diseases of the developed world.

As a leader within WHO, what would you say the organisation’s vision is?

Our vision is that if we fulfilled our six core functions well (from shaping the research agenda to articulating evidence-based policy choices), we would be doing good for the world. We are currently working through our 11th general programme of work, where we outline our goals for a defined period of time. This ends in 2015, at the same time as the Millennium Development Goals, so a lot of the work is aimed at meeting these goals. We do have challenges, for example, we don’t have nearly as much funding as we should have to carry out all these core functions. Our vision is that we continue to have enough human, financial and logistical resources to be able to carry out our core functions.

What is the future of development?

We need to see harmonious development as a choir where everyone has different parts. If everyone sang soprano you wouldn’t have a choir. When I first joined WHO there were not nearly as many players in the health field as there are today. Now more people want to help because they recognise that health is primordial.

It would be ideal if everyone worked to their comparative advantage. Unfortunately this isn’t happening, so we are all falling over each other. We now need to look at how to coordinate ourselves better as a health sector, and WHO is trying to lead the way in this field. If we all worked according to our mandate and area of expertise, then the world would be a much better place. This is what the future of development should be. We must also remember there can be no development without the voices of those you want to develop.

What do you think makes a good leader in development?

A good leader doesn’t come with solutions up their sleeves; they come to listen. We used to see people who were said to be experts on Africa arrive thinking they knew what the problems and solutions were. Those were not leaders at all. Good leaders should listen to the people who have the problem – they might not be well educated, but they are the ones suffering and they know what they are talking about.

Who is your development hero?

I have two: Bill and Melinda Gates. These are people who could have sat on their money and had everything they wanted. Instead they looked at the world and said: “We are all in this together”. They have taken the time to come to countries to listen to what the problems are. They ask: “What do you think could be done about this?” You give them options and they help you carry them out. How selfless could you be? Still, I’m sure there are development heroes at community level who are doing exactly the same thing at a smaller scale.

You retire from WHO at the end of April 2013. What do you still want to achieve?

I may be retiring but it will not be the end of working life for me. Before getting into WHO and international health, I taught in medical school. I love teaching and I love teaching public health. Now that I am ending my career with WHO, my aim is to contribute towards building the competencies of health workers in disaster risk management. It is clear that even many health professionals do not know about disaster risk management. So I would like to work in training institutions improving these competencies. My last job has fired me up to do this.

Editor’s note: Would you like to see someone featured in our ‘View from the top’ series? Send us an email with their details.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up free to become a member of the Global Development Professionals Network


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin -  at 07:30

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

The solution to Africa’s woes lies with Africans, not the west | the big issue

Bob Geldof should understand that political gestures and NGO activism are not the way to beat poverty in Africa

The famine that catapulted Bob Geldof’s Band Aid to prominence had more to do with Ethiopian government policy to withhold food shipments to rebel areas than the weather and to spend nearly half of its gross domestic product on its military. Aid became a tool of the government’s counter-insurgency strategy, being left to rot or distributed according to political objectives (“Stimulus for an entire continent – and Tony Blair deserves the credit“, News Commentary).

The same political issues shape African development choices today and these, not external activism on aid, are key to understanding the continent’s future trajectory. Geldof still seems to battle to understand that African development solutions, like the problems, are principally domestic, and also have to be founded in sustainable business logic, not political gestures or NGO activism.

“Aid,” he wrote, “sent money into basic health, education and agriculture, providing stability at a fundamental community level and allowing stretched societies a moment to pause… while helping governments acquire the capacity they needed to govern.” The timing, he claims, was critical, since it was exactly at this moment the Chinese became interested in Africa and a digital take-off occurred. What aid had to do with Chinese investment and its demand for natural resources is beyond me and I suspect most other Africans.

While Geldof lauds the continent as the “coming economic giant”, it’s still a very poor place, with per capita income around a tenth of the global average. Rapid population growth means that youth education, which lags behind other developing regions, is critical, as is providing the governance context to attract investment to create the jobs so necessary for political stability and, in a virtuous cycle, the right policy choices to be made.

For this reason, Gleneagles was important. Not for being the moment that aid was doubled and debt relieved, but the moment when external largesse as the solution for African development was taken off the table. Not by Blair, Gordon Brown or Sir Bob, but by Africans.

Dr Greg Mills

Brenthurst Foundation

Johannesburg

Tony Blair and Bob Geldof did a good job of showing how the G8 Gleneagles summit and Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 had a decisive impact on Africa’s fortunes. As the UK prepares to host the G8 in June and the trade versus aid debate is hotting up, it is timely to be reminded how important well-directed aid can and will be.

However, both men missed a historic opportunity to explore Africa’s green economy as the only viable way to keep the positive momentum going and fulfil the continent’s vast potential. Africa’s rise coincides with unprecedented challenges from climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, inequality and rapid population growth within still fragile democracies. Add to this a volatile global economy and increased competition for diminishing resources and Africa’s continued growth is by no means assured. This was thrown into focus in Africa’s Consensus Statement to the UN’s Rio+20 Earth summit last June, where the need for a green economy as a tool for achieving sustainable development was the main theme. Unfortunately this document, which is the culmination of 20 years’ green progress in Africa, was virtually ignored by the rest of the world.

Michael Street

Noto, Sicily

Tony Blair’s article (“Aid has transformed Africa. Now is the time for growth and governance“, Comment) is as usual self-justifying in order to promote his statesman image. Africa continues to be plagued by wars. Sudan, Congo and Mali have civil wars and foreign intervention. Rwanda and Uganda are both intervening in Congo’s civil war. Foreign multinationals are providing almost all of Africa’s investment, eager to exploit the continent’s natural resources at tremendous cost to its people. Poaching is on the increase, with record numbers of rhino and elephant slaughtered and bush meat being eaten to avoid starvation. In Nigeria, northern separatists are fighting the government and the oil companies.

Poverty is endemic in Africa. Blair’s statistics are meaningless to the mass of Africa’s population.

Ian Hughes

Bridgend

 

guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin - March 10, 2013 at 09:21

Categories: News   Tags: , ,

Aid has transformed Africa. Now is the time for growth and governance | Tony Blair

Africa has made huge advances since the 2005 Glenagles summit – but it still needs our support

Prime ministers and presidents generally don’t like global summits. They are a necessary part of the ebb and flow of international diplomacy. But frankly, the majority of summits don’t achieve that much – they usually end in a bland bureaucratic statement which nudges things forward to the next summit. Summits with genuine, long-lasting outcomes are rare. But as we started planning for the Gleneagles G8 meeting in 2005, I saw that it could be one of these rare ones – a summit about changing the world, not changing the wording on a communique.

I decided to put Africa at the top of the agenda for Gleneagles, helped immeasurably by the incredible Make Poverty History campaign and particularly Bono and Bob Geldof, who assisted and prodded and kept everyone on their toes. And it worked. Today, the positive legacy of that summit is still being felt across Africa: aid was doubled and developing world debt dropped.

Yet for me, half of the Gleneagles story remains untold. The Commission for Africa, and its championing of good governance and growth, was overshadowed by the immense achievements on aid and debt. After leaving office, I set up the Africa Governance Initiative to continue my work on that forgotten half. Here, I would like to explain why. But first, I want to answer the aid sceptics – those who think aid doesn’t work or is all swallowed up in corruption. Look at the facts. In Africa since 2005, the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has fallen by 18%. The proportion of people in Africa living in extreme poverty is down by nearly 10%. Aid from the UK alone has in the last two years helped more than 5 million more children go to primary school and 6 million people to access emergency food supplies.

If the statistics don’t convince you, visit Africa and see the change for yourself. Take Liberia. In the same year as we hosted the G8 at Gleneagles, this once war-torn country was holding its first presidential election in a generation. Today, when I visit the capital, Monrovia, I can see tangible examples of the impact of well-used aid money, from an airport which now handles flights from commercial capitals such as London and New York to new roads and street lights.

And dropping the debt worked too. In its report to be launched this week, Bono’s ONE Foundation sets out the difference the debt relief has made. So far, 35 countries, mostly in Africa, have had their debts completely cleared – adding up to over $ 35bn. And the money that would once have gone on interest payments has been well used in most cases – increasing the amount spent on reducing poverty in these previously indebted countries by an average of 3% of GDP.

But when I look back at what we achieved in 2005, I believe the most important story is yet to be told. The financial commitments made by the rich countries in 2005 were historic and, while they haven’t always been fully met, the money which has arrived has improved hundreds of thousands of lives. Yet when my government looked at what would deliver real and sustainable change, and when I spoke to African leaders before Gleneagles, it was clear that aid alone wasn’t the answer. It couldn’t simply be about the money. That is why a year before the summit I set up the Commission for Africa to look at this bigger picture, including – most crucially for me – effective governance and economic growth.

If the last decade of development progress was defined by aid, the next will be defined by governance and growth. By governance, I don’t just mean transparency, as important as that is, but also the ability of governments in developing countries to get things done. To deliver the life-changing improvements their citizens expect. Since leaving office, I have focused on this issue through the Africa Governance Initiative, which works alongside political leaders to help them reform their systems to implement development plans and tackle poverty.

Take the plan to deliver free health care for pregnant mothers and young children in Sierra Leone. Previously, the money and the vision were in place, but the institutional capacity to implement reform was lacking. But with the support of donors, not least the Department for International Development, President Ernest Bai Karoma was able to put strong monitoring processes in place and ensure that the policy was driven from the centre of government until delivery was achieved. The result was more efficient and cost-effective drug procurement and dissemination, more health centres equipped and staffed and, ultimately, more lives saved. For example, there has been a 60% reduction in maternal mortality in government health centres since the reforms.

Alongside governments that work, Africa needs markets that deliver – creating jobs and improving living standards. Every country that has achieved rapid reductions in poverty has done so with a growing economy and high levels of private sector investment. Africa is now at this stage – the development tipping point. As the west struggles to get single digit growth, African countries are nearing double digits. Africa is among the fastest-growing regions in the world. The Gleneagles agreement can claim some credit for this; bilateral aid for trade to sub-Saharan Africa has almost doubled between 2005 and 2011. Foreign direct investment in the continent has increased by 87% in the past 10 years; in East Africa alone FDI was $ 1.7bn in 2010. African countries no longer depend on foreign aid to keep their heads above water; now they are investing to grow – particularly in areas such as roads and energy. If Africa continues to grow and continues to improve its governance, we have the chance to fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world. We can end the old donor-recipient relationship and replace it with a genuine partnership.

This is what African leaders want. The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda, for example, have all set out plans to move beyond aid dependence. And it is achievable. Since 2000, aid dependency has fallen in Ghana from 46% to 27%, in Rwanda from 86% to 65%. Looking at low-income countries specifically, on average their aid dependency has fallen by a third in this period. Ghana, for example, is on track to be totally free of aid in the next decade. I have said I believe Africa can be free of dependence on aid within a generation. I stand by that. It’s ambitious but achievable.

The very fact that people are still talking about Gleneagles eight years on shows that we were right to be ambitious, to change the debate. Of course, the arguments on development have got even tougher since, as budgets are squeezed across Europe as a result of the financial crisis. But it is to the great credit of the British people and David Cameron’s government that even in these circumstances they have kept up their support for Africa and development.

The communique after Gleneagles said: “This is a moment of opportunity for Africa. Its leaders have embraced a new vision for the continent’s future which recognises their leading role in addressing the continent’s challenges and realising its opportunities.” The journey from Gleneagles to long-lasting development in Africa is not over. But Africa is on the move and if we keep going on the whole Gleneagles agenda – maintain aid but remembering governance and economic growth – the continent will be transformed. So I’m proud to say that Gleneagles has turned out to be that rare thing – a summit that matters.

Comments will open later this morning


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds




Politics news, UK and world political comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk

Posted by admin - March 3, 2013 at 09:41

Categories: News   Tags: , , , , , ,

Bob Geldof: Gleneagles G8 summit was a triumph for Africa – and Tony Blair

The Gleneagles summit helped pave the way for a new world order – and saved millions from needless suffering

Of all the G8 summits, Gleneagles in 2005 has been the most significant. It achieved so much, the breadth of its success is extraordinary and still reverberating in astonishing ways that shape not only our politics but that of the world. It was also perhaps the first and last time the leaders of what were still then the richest and most powerful nations acknowledged the flaws of “globalisation one” and its negative effects on the poor of Africa. It was the first to recognise that a new world had dawned and a new world order needed to be accommodated. Indeed it was for the continent what Kofi Annan called “the Rubicon-crossing moment”.

What Tony Blair realised through the findings of his Commission for Africa was that those things that had been lobbied for so intensely, for so long, by the NGO activists were critically necessary, not just in a humanitarian sense but in a profoundly political way also. Cancelling debt and doubling aid (the trade part was never going to be discussed at Gleneagles as the WTO round was happening two weeks later and the leaders only wanted to deal with the issue in that forum, which of course failed) would release tens of millions of children into schooling, setting off an intellectual stampede in the continent with the fastest growing middle-class in the world, the fastest urbanising, the youngest continent with teenagers being the average age, the fastest growing telecoms industry and the brainpower to fuel seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. It also of course crucially helped prevent the unnecessary deaths of millions of children through easily preventable diseases amongst other things.

It seems odd now that editorials and columns were stuffed with finger-wagging bromides on “moral hazard”. We don’t hear much of that these days as we all do the Debt Forgiveness Rag in our part of the world. The aid, though never completely fulfilled, also sent money into basic health, education and agriculture, providing stability at a fundamental community level and allowing stretched societies a moment to pause and take a breath while helping governments acquire the capacity they needed to govern. This was especially critical as just at that point Chinese investment in commodities and infrastructure became massive and billions of dollars rolled through the continent: all of this at the moment of digital takeoff. Connectivity was the glue that made it all coherent. People, even though they had no roads or rail or air now, had virtual digital infrastructure. They could begin to talk and trade. They could join the global economic loop on their own terms. They could and did talk to us as equals and not through some artificial filter or third-party interpretation. They began to breathe, to live, some to thrive and to grow. Gleneagles was half of that stimulus package.

This steady commitment has been matched through the Brown government and, to its great credit, the Cameron one. It is an example of coherent, predictive, thought-through government policy, its success all achieved with the extraordinary consistent support of the British electorate who on survey after survey see no problem in the the development budget increasing by one third of a penny in the pound. And they are right. Of course the motivation was to stop innocents from needless suffering, to give people a better chance but the payback has been immense not just for the people and government of Britain but also for the economy. British investment into Africa is 50 times that of Germany and four times that of the US. We are the acknowledged political leaders in the area of development which gives us not just vast soft power, influence and leadership on a global stage on the issues but also makes us leaders in economic investment in the rising giant. If you had put $ 1 into a British Unilever investment on the London or New York stock exchange last year it would have returned you something around $ 8. If you had put that same $ 1 into an African Unilever affiliate on a local exchange you would have returned north of $ 27.

To see this, indeed to have been in Gleneagles, to have been part of it, to have helped with Live8 and MPH is extraordinary for me. I have no doubt that it is because of Gleneagles that I and colleagues were able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in Africa and create jobs. Who’d have thought? The people you kept alive all those 30 years ago are now being invested in to create the skills, trades and jobs that go with growth. And their children will hopefully never have to go through the disgrace and agony of that terrifying period in the mid-80s. But it is a vast continent and there is still vast poverty and still millions that need some of our assistance. But surely now the model has been proved. Surely now there are no more specious arguments over the economic, humanitarian, political aims of Aid, Trade, Debt, Investment, Health, Growth. And as it grows Africans themselves will gradually put in place the economies and systems that will allow each of the 54 countries to deal with their own social and humanitarian issues, as some are already doing. This will happen and is happening. Africa is, according to the economic analysts, the coming economic giant. This following on from and accelerating previous British policy was made solid, coherent and structural at Gleneagles. Whatever one thinks of Tony Blair, it is unfair not to credit him with this immense political and diplomatic success. I was there and I must tell you it was not easy. They didn’t want to do it. But he got it done. Gleneagles was many things amongst the murderous bombs, the triumph of the Olympic bid and the thunderous roar of Live8 but aside from the global leaders waking up to the new reality of Africa, China, the modern age of communication and its implication, it is Tony Blair’s great lasting legacy – one of which he should be immensely proud. As should Britain.


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds




Politics news, UK and world political comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk

Posted by admin -  at 09:41

Categories: News   Tags: , , , , , ,

Ending global poverty: the fight goes on

Before a pioneering series of documentaries under the banner Why Poverty? is released globally, we ask experts how they would alleviate the plight of the destitute

‘Focus on the concrete steps we can take now’
ABHIJIT BANERJEE AND ESTHER DUFLO

Professors of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-authors of Poor Economics, which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs business book of the year award in 2011

The goal of ending poverty is elusive, and those in the aid business seem to oscillate between giddiness and despair, between the excitement of the latest miracle cure and accusations of failure or worse. As the critics never fail to point out, billions of dollars have been spent on aid but the poor are still with us.

There is no one thing that can end poverty. And certainly no one thing that is within the capacity of you, or us, or any particular person or institution. The fight against poverty is not a crusade, with a well-identified and specific enemy, be it unbridled capitalism, rogue governments, over-regulation, hunger or malaria. All of these probably have something to do with the persistence of poverty. But none are easy to fix and, more importantly, even if they were fixed, poverty would still be with us.

Fighting poverty is to fight, with patience and deliberateness, the many problems that make the lives of poor people difficult: bad schools, dirty water, infectious diseases, the vagaries of weather and other natural disasters, poor sanitation, lack of skills, petty corruption, potholes, etc. The list goes on.

These problems are concrete but hardly glamorous, possible to solve, but often without a known solution. No one person can solve all of them and, in any case, getting them all fixed will not end poverty tomorrow and maybe not even in 50 years. But if we could give up the lofty goals and empty promises, and focus all our energies on the concrete steps we are able to take here and now to improve the lives of the poor worldwide, we would at the very least bring some real comfort to the lives of many millions.

And perhaps out of all that, in some unexpected corner of some unheralded economy (after all, who in 1979 thought the world economy one day would rise and fall with growth in China?), there will be a spark that will make the entire economy catch fire, unleashing the growth that will eventually end poverty as we know it.

‘Ensure the market works more efficiently’
DAMBISA MOYO

Economist and author whose books include the New York Times bestseller Winner Take All

In Obama’s inaugural speech in 2009, he noted: “Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.” I agree.

History has shown us that if it works correctly, only a market-based system, no other, is able on a consistent basis to deliver economic growth and put a meaningful dent in poverty. In this regard, I believe that we should dedicate our time, efforts and policy-making to the removal of barriers, including corruption, cronyism, opaque processes and subsidies, that prevent capitalistic mechanisms from working.

Combating the ills that undermine the efficient workings of a market economy is essential to transforming a country from desperately poor to an economic powerhouse that meaningfully reduces poverty. Furthermore, a properly working economic system, without the deadweight losses associated with these barriers, drives substantial investment in education, healthcare and infrastructure, all of which reduce poverty.

Such a system does not exist at present, as virtually every nation is guilty of perpetuating these ills, albeit to varying degrees. The use of multibillion dollar farm subsidies in the US and Europe, which hurt poor, agricultural-based countries, and pervasive corruption and cronyism, which hamper growth and prove distortional in developing and developed economies alike, are just some of the barriers that limit trade and hinder investment and capital flows and thus ensure that poverty persists across the world. Thus, in the absence of these barriers economies will flourish and poverty will be banished.

‘Support charities that make people mobile’
JOHN BIRD

Founder of the Big Issue and author of The Necessity of Poverty, published in December by Quartet Books

Capital created the working class. It also created the workless class. Once, capital needed workers to work its mills and factories. But 200 years later, many of them needed to be laid off. It needed the quick movement of capital into countries with cheaper labour and into new technologies: cheaper coal, containerisation rather than dockers. Capital needed governments that would “buy off” these abandoned workers. So they modified the benefit system to warehouse them, the great unneeded, turning Britain into, among other things, a land of abandoned communities, abandoned families, abandoned factories and abandoned opportunity.

The morale of millions was atomised. The skills and solidarity of their forefathers, honed in colliery, factory and mill, were lost. Warehoused, these new poor became the butt of every moraliser and do-gooder, and each politician declared they would rescue or drive out these people from their failed lives.

For welfare to work, it has to be seen as a springboard, not a concrete safety net. You have to fare well on welfare in order to say farewell to welfare.

The one thing that would bring poverty to its knees would be the reinvention of the welfare state so that work once more became central to wellbeing. Investing in education and communities would help overturn more than 30 years of social reversal and end the separation of the poorest among us into ghettos of need.

Make sure that work skills, education and social training are increased while on welfare, not diminished. Celebrate those who have escaped benefit and poverty so that others can be encouraged by their example. Support the charities and projects that get people mobile rather than just holding their hands and commiserating with their plight. Remove the able-bodied from the benefit equation so that those who are less capable can have more done for them. And free people up so that they do not suffer the human rights abuse that is the reality of poverty.

‘Redistribute resources of the richest countries’
FRANCES STEWART

Professor emeritus, Oxford Department of International Development

Poverty can be eliminated. Essentially, what is needed is a significant reduction in the quite obscene levels of inequality that prevail today. These inequalities are to be found between nations and within them. The average incomes of high-income countries (in Europe, North America and Japan) are more than 70 times the average income of low-income countries. Redistribution of 10% of the incomes of the richest countries would increase the incomes of the poor group of countries by more than ninefold per head, clearly providing poor countries with enough resources to eliminate poverty.

Moreover, within both rich and poor countries, poverty is perpetuated by inequalities between classes, among wage and salary earners, by gender, and between ethnic and racial groups. A fairly modest redistribution of resources from the privileged to the deprived would be enough to eliminate poverty in high- and middle-income countries. Such a redistribution should not consist just of a cash transfer (though obviously this would help), but should include redistribution of resources to improve the health, the education, the assets and the productivity of the poor so that the improvement in their lives can become self-sustaining.

A range of policies is known to be effective in reducing inequality and eliminating poverty – land redistribution, cash transfers, food subsidies, employment and credit schemes and minimum wages, among others. It is not knowledge but the decision to introduce them comprehensively and generously that is needed. If every country could reduce their inequalities to those experienced, for example, by Sweden, this would be sufficient to eliminate poverty and to create conditions for truly inclusive growth. Yet unfortunately, as a result of the way the global economy is organised, inequality is not falling but rising in most countries today.

‘Monitor developments using real-time data’
JEFFREY SACHS

American economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

The end of extreme poverty is in sight and feasible by 2025 to 2030. Success in this fight will require the application of advanced technologies (information, communications, transport, agronomy, genomics, materials science, among others), management and a mix of private markets and public initiatives. The millennium development goals have helped tremendously. The next set of goals making up the post-2015 agenda can help to complete the job.

From the point of view of development practice, the most important single step will be to develop rich and reliable information systems that use (nearly) real-time data on vital events, disease incidence, school attendance, crop performance and other factors to monitor developments. In the public sector, fighting poverty is increasingly a public management challenge. Health and education systems need to deliver real services in real time. Infrastructure – safe water, sanitation, roads and power – needs to function and to be repaired when broken. Smart subsidies (eg for agricultural inputs) or lifeline tariffs (for water and power) need smart metering and pricing strategies. All of this depends on quality information and feedback from data into revised actions.

There are now more than 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa and this information revolution has brought breakthroughs in mobile services such as banking and community-based health delivery. The current GSM networks will be 3G or higher in the next few years. This step up will make possible a far higher level of reliability and sophistication of services and data collection and processing. E-education, e-government, e-health, e-banking and e-agriculture will all play their role.

The information revolution will also make possible the introduction of smart grids in poor countries even ahead of the more complex incumbent systems in rich countries, with time-of-day pricing for solar power and other highly effective ways to cut costs through smart energy delivery. We are now introducing smart metering for water and other services as well, all made possible by breakthroughs in information technology, metering and systems design.

A key weakness of the international millennium development goal process was the lack of timely data. The development community has traditionally lived on the processing of household surveys typically with a several year lag. This time lag, where data on mortality rates, school attendance and the like is several years old by the time it is released, is unacceptable and unworkable and, most importantly, no longer necessary. We need data not for reports but for management. Data that is two or three years out of date by the time it arrives is nearly useless for management, at least if we take seriously our objectives to end poverty. With timely and reliable data, public management can be greatly strengthened and public agencies, within the countries and globally, can be better held accountable for their parts of the development puzzle.

‘Big companies could donate surplus goods’
CAMILA BATMANGHELIDJH

Founder of Kids Company

Child poverty remains a national challenge. In London, it is thought that four in 10 children live in poverty, though the capital houses the headquarters of more than 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies, generating one of the largest economies of the world.

Families living in poverty usually have only £10 per person per day to fund their basic needs, including gas, electricity, food, travel, TV licence, clothes and toiletries. Many children lack a winter coat. This want of basic resources, set against a backdrop of cultural abundance, makes children feel profoundly humiliated. We need to see this issue not only in terms of fundamental human rights, but also in terms of neurodevelopment. Children living in chronically distressed households, deprived of any positive stimulation, are being psychologically, as well as biologically, damaged.

The current government is focusing its distribution of state benefits on forcing parents to take jobs. If the parent fails to gain employment and benefits are withdrawn as a sanction, the most adversely impacted will, yet again, be the children, who become pawns in the power play between government and the perceived “workshy”. With housing benefit capped and politicians suggesting under-35s remain at home with their parents if they can’t afford independent living, families are being significantly endangered. What happens to the young person being maltreated at home if they can’t leave?

The propensity to be judgmental about poverty is blinding us to the potential solutions within our grasp. Our tendency to perceive poverty as a by-product of, say, addiction, stupidity or laziness, shifts society’s focus on to producing prolific theoretical and explanatory reports, while practical, immediate, solution-focused interventions are rarely considered.Why not set up “exchange stations” within local authorities? Wealthy companies and individuals donate their surplus goods, which are then redistributed to those in need. All restaurants and food outlets could donate surplus food to the local authority dining room, where the most disadvantaged turn up for meals or takeaway boxes of food. Through specialist membership schemes, the poorest families could have low-cost or free gas, electric and TV licence access. Schools could be given specialist budgets to tackle poor children’s basic needs.

A poor child doesn’t lie in bed wondering which policy paper is going to best meet their needs. They require immediate and practical interventions to soothe their rumbling bellies and burning shame.

‘Empower people by giving them the facts’
JAMIE DRUMMOND

Co-founder and executive director of One, which fights extreme poverty and preventable disease in Africa

If more people became evidence-based activists and looked at the raw data about what actually works in the fight against extreme poverty, and what doesn’t, and campaigned to scale up what works, then we would help beat back poverty far faster than we are today.

So let me give a supremely dull answer: invest in far better open data systems. Give people the facts and they’ll do the right thing. Some of the facts we need to know are – what do poor people really think are the priorities in their lives, when asked? The development bunch rarely asks that question. If polled, what people say is, I want a decent job or I want to not have to pay the corrupt policeman on the corner a bribe today. Then if the international community worked to tackle the things the poorest actually say are their real everyday concerns, that could be transformative.

The open data that matters to the poor also includes things like: how much is the local government supposed to spend on schools or healthcare or infrastructure? If they know this they can see whether that money is actually getting through. If the poorest were armed with this information it would be vastly and practically empowering. It’s a bit scandalous this is not a greater focus already of development. We need to get with the times – mobile telephony has accelerated the ability of even the most marginalised to access data.

Open data can empower people here in the UK also. When One and ComRes asked the British public how much will be spent on aid next year, more than 60% overestimated the amount by some distance, with a quarter estimating it to be between 5% and 20% of total government spending. It is just over 1%. And they think it achieves nothing because that’s what the Daily Mail spends a lot of money trying to tell people. In fact, smart aid has helped save 5.5 million kids’ lives through vaccines, by halving malarial deaths in eight countries in Africa and increasing the number of people on lifesaving anti-Aids medicines from 50,000 to 6.2 million, and by increasing education enrolment by 50 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. These kinds of facts are impressive and empowering, but scandalously nobody knows them.

So if you want to do one thing, then fight for free facts and get that into the hands and heads of those who will fight for the poorest, or, better still, get the facts into the hands of the poor and they’ll fight their way out of that state of injustice called extreme poverty.

‘A good education has to be available to all’
LORD BOATENG

Former Labour MP and high commissioner to South Africa, he serves on the board of Food for the Hungry

Poverty has more than one cause, so no single easy answer presents itself. Nevertheless, as a child growing up in newly independent Ghana in the early 60s, and as a black boy parachuted into a council estate in West Herts in the aftermath of a coup d’etat at home several years later, one answer always seemed relevant to me. The way forward to a brave new world free from the ever-present fear of poverty was signposted by education.

Now in my 60s, with a lifetime in the law, politics and diplomacy behind me, equal access for all to a good education still seems to me to be the best starting point in the fight against poverty. Cultural oppression, global imbalances in human and technological capacity and structural injustice are all challenged by education. And not just primary education, which, in recent decades, has all too often been seen as a goal in itself. My paternal grandfather was illiterate but wise enough to prioritise higher education for all his children regardless of gender.

He was also a skilled enough farmer to know that maximising the yield and quality of his cocoa meant embracing change prompted by the nearby West African Cocoa Research Institute. Africa’s R&D capacity is now unsustainably low. Agriculture and higher education have been neglected, including by our own Department for International Development, with disastrous consequences that threaten progress on a continent containing 60% of the world’s remaining unused arable land as well as its most youthful population and its fastest-growing potential market.

The early 20th-century African educator James Emman Kwegyir Aggreycorrect put an emphasis on supplementing the 3Rs with the 3Hs, a holistic education with a place for the head (wisdom), the hand (practical delivery) and the heart (the life of the spirit). That prescription is still relevant today, not just to Africa and the next-generation millennium development goals, but to the complex forms of poverty, not least of aspiration, that afflict so many closer to home.

‘Equalise life chances in the pre-school years’
FRANK FIELD

Labour MP for Birkenhead and the government’s poverty tsar

As pupils reach the end of their school lives, poorer children are generally outperformed by their richer peers. Horrifyingly, this gap in attainment is not only present throughout the whole 12 years of school, but emerges after as little as 22 months of life. In a way, this makes sense as later attainment tends to be heavily influenced by early development: a building is only as sound as its foundations.

Poorer children therefore grow up to become poor adults; an intergenerational cycle of poverty is the result.

The best anti-poverty strategy we can therefore employ must centre on equalising life’s chances in those crucial early years before children go to school. Our efforts must focus on ensuring the gap in outcomes does not even emerge. Only then will poorer children enjoy the same life chances as their richer peers. How can this be achieved?

Parents play the most significant role in influencing their children’s futures. A combination of positive parenting and a good home learning environment can transform children’s life chances. Parents should therefore be supported by the state and community to ensure they have the capacity to bring about such transformations. Support, naturally, needs to build first on parents’ strengths.

More information at whypoverty.net


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds





Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by admin - November 18, 2012 at 09:14

Categories: News   Tags: , , ,

Next Page »