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GDP is like a speedometer: it tells you whether your economy is going faster or slower. As in cars, a speedometer is useful but doesn’t tell you everything you want to know. For example, it won’t tell you whether you are overheating, or about to run out of fuel.
Above all, the speedometer doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re going in the right direction. If you suggest to a car driver that you might be on the wrong road, and the response is “then we must go faster”, you might think that’s pretty stupid. Yet this is what happens whenever complaints about the state of the economy elicit a commitment to boost growth.
So what is the right direction for a modern economy? That’s a relatively easy question to answer: when you ask people, they say much the same things. A good economy meets everyone’s basic needs. It means people are healthy and happy with life. It avoids storing up potential sources of long-term trouble, such as extreme inequality and environmental collapse.
It is, of course, entirely possible for an economy to go faster and faster without getting closer to meeting these goals – indeed, while heading in the opposite direction.
Now the trickier part. What would be the economic equivalent of a compass? We need to measure the direction of economic travel in a way that’s comparable to how GDP measures its speed – easy to communicate, and amenable to being influenced by policy decisions.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF), where I was the Executive Director until December 2015, proposed five indicators in an October 2015 report. Imagine them arrayed like dials on a dashboard that you can glance at for an overall picture, as well as study in more detail if you want. Why five? It’s hard to capture everything that matters in one metric, and psychological research demonstrates that people struggle to hold more than five things in their heads at once.
1. Good jobs. Employment statistics tell us what proportion of people have jobs. They don’t tell us what proportion of those with jobs are paid too little to afford a decent standard of living, or worry about whether they’ll still have work next month.
According to UK government figures, 94% of people were in work in 2014 – up nearly two percentage points in four years. However, the NEF calculated that only 61% were in secure jobs paying a living wage – down a similar amount in the same period.
2. Wellbeing. A growing economy is not an end in itself – it’s a means to improving people’s lives. Few would disagree that the ultimate aim of public policy is wellbeing; we care about GDP because we assume it means more wellbeing. So why not also measure wellbeing directly?
The validity of research into measuring wellbeing, by asking people about their life satisfaction, is now widely accepted. Such measures capture a range of things that people care about and that policies can influence – from income and health to housing and social connections.
Some governments do measure life satisfaction, including the UK (it increased from 7.4 to 7.6, on a scale of 0-10, in the four years to 2014). However, it remains at the margins of policymaking.
3. Environment. The NEF propose a national indicator of lifestyle-related carbon emissions, relative to an allocation calculated from global targets for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.
In four years, the UK’s position deteriorated from using 91% of its allocation to 98%.As climate is a global problem, this indicator is effectively a measure of responsible global citizenship.
4) Fairness. Research increasingly shows that high income inequality has negative social consequences, while casting doubt on the idea that it incentivises hard work.
Comparing the average incomes of the top and bottom 10%, inequality in the UK has been worsening by an average of 0.8% a year for the last four years.
5) Health. The NEF proposes “avoidable deaths” as a simple, easily-understandable measure that captures the quality of health interventions – not only treatment, but also prevention.
Here, the UK shows a positive trend, but with plenty of room for further improvement – the latest figures suggest 23% of deaths need not have happened.
The NEF designed these measures with the United Kingdom in mind, working with the UK’s Office of National Statistics. But they are, in principle, just as meaningful for other countries.
The shortcomings of GDP, as a measure of what we want from an economy, are not a new discovery. The NEF and others have been making the case for years. But while various proposals for alternatives have engaged the interest of policymakers and technocrats, they have not yet taken hold among politicians.
That’s understandable: any politician who suggests new ways to judge their performance is also creating new ways to fail, and many policies that will pay long-term dividends on these indicators will also impose short-term costs.
More broadly, there remains a reluctance to move away from viewing economics as a hard, mathematical science, and accept the need to incorporate more of a social science mindset. In effect, we need another value shift in economics, comparable to those that shaped the last century – Kenyesianism and neoliberalism.
However, while the problems with the current economic system are increasingly widely appreciated, we still lack a compelling, coherent, simple alternative narrative. I hope these indicators can help that narrative to develop.
“…UN now warning that without action some “15 million people will require food assistance” next year, more than inside war-torn Syria. ….Hardest-hit areas are Ethiopia’s eastern Afar and southern Somali regions, while water supplies are also unusually low in central and eastern Oromo region.” Unicef
Millions hungry as Ethiopia drought bites
(Unicef, News24, October 22, 2015): The number of hungry Ethiopians needing food aid has risen sharply due to poor rains and the El Nino weather phenomenon with around 7.5 million people now in need, aid officials said on Friday.
That number has nearly doubled since August, when the United Nations said 4.5 million were in need – with the UN now warning that without action some “15 million people will require food assistance” next year, more than inside war-torn Syria.
“Without a robust response supported by the international community, there is a high probability of a significant food insecurity and nutrition disaster,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a report.
The UN children’s agency, Unicef, warns over 300 000 children are severely malnourished.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which makes detailed technical assessments of hunger, predicted a harvest “well below average” in its latest report.
“Unusual livestock deaths continue to be reported,” FEWS NET said. “With smaller herds, few sellable livestock, and almost no income other than charcoal and firewood sales, households are unable to afford adequate quantities of food.”
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, borders the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, where some 855 000 people face need “life-saving assistance”, according to the UN, warning that 2.3 million more people there are “highly vulnerable”.
El Nino comes with a warming in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and can cause unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.
Hardest-hit areas are Ethiopia’s eastern Afar and southern Somali regions, while water supplies are also unusually low in central and eastern Oromo region.
Food insecurity is a sensitive issue in Ethiopia, hit by famine in 1984-85 after extreme drought.
Today, Ethiopia’s government would rather its reputation was its near-double-digit economic growth and huge infrastructure investment – making the country one of Africa’s top-performing economies and a magnet for foreign investment.
Still, nearly 20 million Ethiopians live below the $1.25 poverty line set by the World Bank, with the poorest some of the most vulnerable to weather challenges.
Ethiopia’s government has mobilised $33m in emergency aid, but the UN says it needs $237m.
Minster for Information Redwan Hussein told reporters at a recent press conference that Ethiopia is doing what it can.
“The support from donor agencies has not yet arrived in time to let us cope with the increasing number of the needy population,” he said.
Drought, food crisis and Famine in Ethiopia 2015: Children and adults are dying of lack of food, water and malnutrition. Animals are perishing of persisting drought. The worst Affected areas are: Eastern and Southern Oromia, Afar, Ogaden and Southern nations.
The tale of two countries (Obama’s/TPLF’s Ethiopia and Real Ethiopia): The Oromo (Children, Women and elders) are dying of genocidal mass killings and politically caused famine, but Obama has been told only rosy stories and shown rosy pictures.
Although the grievances voiced differed from country to country and from region to region, the belief that the incumbent economic and political system was characterised by inequity and injustice was common to all.
If we are to avoid large-scale societal upheavals in this ultra-connected world, government, business and civil society must come together to rework the current economic system to serve all of humanity rather than just an elite few.
– Fergus Simpson, The Guardian
Widening inequality gap proof of outdated growth model
We need to rework the current economic system to serve all of humanity rather than an elite few, writes Xyntéo’s Fergus Simpson
January saw leading figures from business, government and civil society gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos. A broad spectrum of subjects were debated, including the prospect of a legally binding climate change agreement in Paris this December, Ebola and the nefarious advance of the Islamic State in Mesopotamia. I was particularly encouraged to see one topic keep cropping up – the crisis of burgeoning disparities in wealth.
In a report released in the runup to Davos, Oxfam predicted that within two years the richest 1% of people will have accumulated more wealth than the remaining 99%. The same study found that the wealth of the richest 80 billionaires has continued to increase since 2010, while the wealth of the poorest half has decreased over the same time period. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing.
History has taught us that there are moments when people rise up to make a point and say that enough is enough and times must change.
On 25 January 2011, the world witnessed one such moment – pro-democracy protesters occupied Tahrir square in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, demanding self-determination, equality of opportunity and freedom from the shackles of tyranny and oppression. Some 17 long days of demonstrations and civil disobedience followed, bringing the moribund autocracy of longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to an end.
This event formed part of a much broader social movement that swept across North Africa and the Middle East, toppling sclerotic regimes and corrupt dictators. Before long people in Spain, Greece, the UK and US took to the streets as well. Although the grievances voiced differed from country to country and from region to region, the belief that the incumbent economic and political system was characterised by inequity and injustice was common to all.
And it isn’t just the poor who have been affected – the middle classes have also borne the burden of mushrooming inequalities. Companies have tended to become more productive since the 1970s, but the incomes of middle class workers have remained largely static. Returns from higher productivity have tended to go to owners and investors, not to the workers.
In many ways, inequality has become the defining issue of our time. The popular uprisings that shook the Arab world at the start of this decade were just symptoms of this most elemental of societal ills.
Fortunately, there is no reason to suppose this state of affairs is inevitable.
A promising step forward was announced at Davos, when Ajay Banga, CEO of GLTE partner MasterCard, and Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, revealed that they intend to collaborate to foster inclusive growth in Africa.
The MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion, funded by an $11m (£7.24m) grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to enable more people to access banking services – generating greater equality of opportunity across the world, in developed and developing countries alike. The initiative will soon begin operations in Nairobi, Kenya, and aims to reach over 100 million people globally.
Technological advancements can support the implementation of projects designed to promote inclusive growth, such as the MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion. Digital innovations in payment systems and social media, for example, have enabled people to access markets, ideas and information to an extent that is unprecedented in human history.
Indeed, it has been said that the Egyptian revolution started when Whael Ghonim, a marketing executive at Google, saw the bloodied remains of Khaled Mohamed Said – a young man bludgeoned to death by the Egyptian police – pictured on Facebook. Incensed by the injustice that confronted him, Whael created the Facebook page “Kullena Khaled Said” – “We Are All Khaled Said”. Three months later 250,000 people had joined the page. Just one year later the Mubarak regime was no more.
If we are to avoid large-scale societal upheavals in this ultra-connected world, government, business and civil society must come together to rework the current economic system to serve all of humanity rather than just an elite few.
At Xyntéo, we are convinced that the current growth model has become out of date – incapable of meeting the demographic, climate and resource demands of today. Together with our partners, we believe that global business, with its clout, resources and energy, is uniquely placed to overcome this challenge. To us this means reinventing the current growth model so it brings prosperity to much larger numbers of people.
The western media and its sponsors have gone to great lengths to present Ethiopia as a democratic nation whose economy is growing by “double digits”. The suffering Ethiopian people know better but have been muffled and prevented from expressing their aspirations and dreams by a minority mercenary regime. Over the last decade, Ethiopia has been hailed as the “fastest growing non-oil economies” in Africa, maintaining a double-digit annual economic growth rate. Ethiopia’s Gross Domestic Product may have grown (court is still out on that) but according to Simon Kuznets, “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.” The measure was never intended as much more than a useful accounting device.
Reports on Ethiopia’s GDP say:
“…For the past 10 years, the country has registered an average 10.9 real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate and this trend has shown us that the country…
Consumerism is killing us softly. The catalyst is Advertising. Uniformed citizens are trapped in a vicious cycle. Their Achilles Heel is their illusion.
Advertising is the foundation of Mass Media and its primary purpose of Mass Media is to sell products. It also sells values, images, concepts of love and sexuality, of romance, of success and perhaps most important of normalcy: it tells who we are and who we should be.
Advertising reinforces a deceiving association between the consumer and happiness; it focuses on immediate and short term needs, diverges the focus from its bogus message, eliminates any discussion of the social & long-term needs, and leads into more squandered resources.
When consumers visit the store to buy their brand, they definitely don’t ask who made that product and what resources were used. Unfortunately, some consumers are not aware that huge resources (human and natural) were wasted in the production process. The most common info they know is: Made in China.
Consumers associate with the utility and satisfaction that result from purchasing these products. However, what consumers fail to realize is that utility always decreases as the number of items/products purchased increases. And thus their satisfaction ceases to exist which would lead them into a state of emptiness, that is usually compensated by consuming more.
Realizing that this bogus content can’t be integrated with their happiness might happen at a late stage. But hopefully not too late.
Consumerism is killing us softly. The catalyst is Advertising. Uniformed citizens are trapped in a vicious cycle. Their Achilles Heel is their illusion.
Advertising is the foundation of Mass Media and its primary purpose of Mass Media is to sell products. It also sells values, images, concepts of love and sexuality, of romance, of success and perhaps most important of normalcy: it tells who we are and who we should be.
Advertising reinforces a deceiving association between the consumer and happiness; it focuses on immediate and short term needs, diverges the focus from its bogus message, eliminates any discussion of the social & long-term needs, and leads into more squandered resources.
When consumers visit the store to buy their brand, they definitely don’t ask who made that product and what resources were used. Unfortunately, some consumers are not aware that huge resources (human and natural) were wasted in the production process. The…
‘Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations. Ethiopia, for example, is notable for having long-standing disagreements with the IMF regarding their growth rates. Whereas the official numbers have been quoted in double digits for the past decade, a thorough analysis suggested the actual growth rates were around 5 to 6 percent per annum. More generally, one study used satellite imaging of nighttime lights to calculate alternative growth rates, and found that authoritarian regimes overstate reported rates of growth by about 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points. Another recent study argues that inflation is systematically understated in African countries – which in turn means that growth and poverty reduction is overstated.’ http://africanarguments.org/2014/08/26/why-saying-seven-out-of-ten-fastest-growing-economies-are-in-africa-carries-no-real-meaning-by-morten-jerven/
Why saying ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning
By Morten Jerven @ AfricanArguments
Before, during and after the US Africa summit one of the most frequently repeated factoids supporting the Africa Rising meme was that ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa.’ In reality this is both a far less accurate and much less impressive statistic than it sounds. More generally, narratives on African economic development tend to be loosely connected to facts, and instead are driven more by hype.
The ‘seven out of ten’ meme derives from a data exercise done in 2011 by The Economist. The exercise excluded countries with a population of less than 10 million and also the post-conflict booming Iraq and Afghanistan. This left 81 countries, 28 of them in Africa (more than 3 out of 10) and, if you take out the OECD countries from the sample, (which are unlikely to grow at more than 7 percent per annum), you find that every second economy in the sample is in Africa. It might not give the same rhetorical effect to say: ‘on average some African economies are expected to grow slightly faster than other non-OECD countries,’ but that would be more accurate.
And before we literally get ahead of ourselves (The Economist was reporting forecasts made for 2011 to 2015) there is a difference between forecasted and actually measured growth. According to John Kenneth Galbraith, the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. So how good is the IMF at forecasting growth in Low Income Countries?
According to their own evaluation, IMF forecasts “over-predicted GDP growth and under-predicted inflation.” Another study looked at the difference between the forecasts and the subsequent growth revisions in low income countries, and found that “output data revisions in low-income countries are, on average, larger than in other countries, and that they are much more optimistic.” Forecasts are systematically optimistic all over the world, but in Low Income Countries even more so.
Among those on the list of the fastest growers were countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia. The news that both Nigerian and Ghanaian GDP doubled following the introduction of new benchmark years for estimating GDP in 2010 and 2014 should remind us that the pinpoint accuracy of these growth estimates is lacking. How confident should you be about a 7 percent growth rate when 50 percent of the economy is missing in the official baseline? Recent growth in countries with outdated base years is also overstated.
While Ghana has reportedly had the highest growth rates in the world over the past years, a peer review of the Ghana national accounts noted that “neither a national census of agriculture nor other surveys, such as a crop and live-stock survey, have been conducted…there is no survey to provide benchmark data for construction, domestic trade and services.” It was recently reported that an economic census is being planned for next year. What we do know is that Ghana (together with Zambia, another of the projected ‘top ten growers’) has returned to the IMF to seek assistance following their entry into international lending markets.
Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations. Ethiopia, for example, is notable for having long-standing disagreements with the IMF regarding their growth rates. Whereas the official numbers have been quoted in double digits for the past decade, a thorough analysis suggested the actual growth rates were around 5 to 6 percent per annum. More generally, one study used satellite imaging of nighttime lights to calculate alternative growth rates, and found that authoritarian regimes overstate reported rates of growth by about 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points. Another recent study argues that inflation is systematically understated in African countries – which in turn means that growth and poverty reduction is overstated.
Data bias is carried across from economic growth to other metrics. The pressure on scholars, journalists and other commentators to say something general about ‘Africa’ is relentless, and so the general rule is to oblige willingly. When talking about average trends in African politics and opinion, analysis is influence by the availability of survey data, such as Afrobarometer, and the data availability is biased. According to Kim Yi Donne, on The Washington Post’s ‘Monkey Cage’ blog, of the 15 African countries with the lowest Polity IV rankings, only seven have ever been included in the Afrobarometer, whereas all but one African country rated as a democracy by the same index is included.
Any quantitative study which says something about the relationship between growth and trends in inequality and poverty, relies on the availability of household survey data. One paper boldly stated that African Poverty is Falling…Much Faster than You Think! The data basis was very sparse and unevenly distributed. There were no data points for Angola, Congo, Comoros, Cape Verde, D.R. Congo, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Chad, Liberia, and Sudan. In addition, six countries only have one survey. The database included no observations since 2004 – so the trend in poverty was based entirely on conjecture. Famously you need at least two data points to draw a line. Yet the study included a graph of poverty lines in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1970 to 2006 – based on zero data points.
A result of doubts about the accuracy of the official evidence, and a dearth of evidence on income distributions, scholars have turned to other measurements. Data on access to education and ownership of goods such as television sets from Demographic and Health Surveys were used to compile new asset indices. In turn, these data were used to proxy economic growth and in place of having a measure of the middle class. In both cases the data may paint a misleadingly positive picture. While claiming to describe all of Africa over the past two decades, these surveys are only available for some countries sometimes.
The statement ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning. To utter it is merely stating that you subscribe to the hype. It is particularly frustrating, and it surely stands in way of objective evaluation, that the narratives in African Economic Development switches from one extreme to the other so swiftly. The truth lies somewhere between the ‘miracles’ and ‘tragedies’. It is nothing short of stunning that in a matter of 3-4 years the most famous phrase relating to African economies has turned from ‘Bottom Billion’ to ‘Africa Rising’.
Because of a lack of awareness on historical data on economic growth it was long claimed that Africa was suffering “a chronic failure of growth”, but growth is not new to the African economies, growth has been recurring. There is no doubt that there are more goods leaving and entering the African continent today than fifteen years ago. More roads and hotels are being built and more capital is flowing in and out of the African continent than before. But what is the real pace of economic growth? Does the increase in the volume of transaction result in a sustained increase in living standards? The evidence does not yet readily provide us with an answer. It is the job of scholars to give tempered assessments that navigate between what is make-believe and what passes as plausible evidence.
Morten Jerven is Associate Professor at the Simon Fraser University, School for International Studies. His book Poor Numbers: how we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it is published by Cornell University Press. @MJerven
Since the term “data revolution” was introduced, there has been a flurry of activity to define, develop, and implement an agenda to transform the collection, use, and distribution of development statistics. That makes sense. Assessing the international community’s next development agenda, regardless of its details, will be impossible without accurate data.
Yet, in Sub-Saharan Africa – the region with the most potential for progress under the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals – accurate data are severely lacking. From 1990 to 2009, only one Sub-Saharan country had data on all 12 indicators established in 2000 by the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, of the 60 countries with complete vital statistics, not one is in Africa. While most African countries have likely experienced economic growth during the last decade, the accuracy of the data on which growth estimates are based – not to mention data on inflation, food production, education, and vaccination rates – remains far from adequate.
Inaccurate data can have serious consequences. Consider Nigeria’s experience earlier this year, when GDP rebasing showed that the economy was nearly 90% larger than previously thought. The distorted picture of Nigeria’s economy provided by the previous statistics likely led to misguided decisions regarding private investment, credit ratings, and taxation. Moreover, it meant that Nigeria was allocated more international aid than it merited – aid that could have gone to needier countries.
Contrary to popular belief, the constraints on the production and use of basic data stem not from a shortage of technical capacity and knowhow, but from underlying political and systemic challenges. For starters, national statistical offices often lack the institutional autonomy needed to protect the integrity of data, production of which thus tends to be influenced by political forces and special interest groups.
Poorly designed policies also undermine the accuracy of data. For example, governments and donors sometimes tie funding to self-reported measures, which creates incentives for recipients to over-report key data like vaccination or school-enrollment rates. Without effective oversight, these well-intentioned efforts to reward progress can go awry.
Despite these failings, national governments and international donors continue to devote far too few resources to ensuring the collection of adequate data. Only 2% of official development aid is earmarked for improving the quality of statistics – an amount wholly insufficient to assess accurately the impact of the other 98% of aid. And governments’ dependency on donors to fund and gather their core statistics is unsustainable.
In fact, stronger national statistical systems are the first step toward improving the accuracy, timeliness, and availability of the data that are essential to calculating almost any major economic or social-welfare indicator. These include statistics on births and deaths; growth and poverty; tax and trade; health, education, and safety; and land and the environment.
Developing such systems is an ambitious but achievable goal. All that is needed is a willingness to experiment with new approaches to collecting, using, and sharing data.
This is where the public comes in. If private firms, media, and civil-society organizations identify specific problems and call publicly for change, their governments will feel pressure to take the steps needed to produce accurate, unbiased data – for example, by enhancing the autonomy of national statistical offices or providing sufficient funds to hire more qualified personnel. While it may be tempting to bypass government and hope for an easy technology-based solution, sustainable, credible progress will be difficult without public-sector involvement.
The recognition by governments and external donors of the need for more – and more efficient – funding, particularly to national statistical systems, will be integral to such a shift. Establishing stronger incentives for agencies to produce good data – that is, data that are accurate, timely, relevant, and readily available – would also help, with clearly delineated metrics defining what qualifies as “good.” In fact, tying progress on those metrics to funding via pay-for-performance agreements could improve development outcomes considerably.
One concrete strategy to achieve these goals would be to create a country-donor compact for better data.
The UN claims that its Millennium Development Campaign has reduced poverty globally, an assertion that is far from true.
The received wisdom comes to us from all directions: Poverty rates are declining and extreme poverty will soon be eradicated. The World Bank, the governments of wealthy countries, and – most importantly – the United Nations Millennium Campaign all agree on this narrative. Relax, they tell us. The world is getting better, thanks to the spread of free market capitalism and western aid. Development is working, and soon, one day in the very near future, poverty will be no more.
It is a comforting story, but unfortunately it is just not true. Poverty is not disappearing as quickly as they say. In fact, according to some measures, poverty has been getting significantly worse. If we are to be serious about eradicating poverty, we need to cut through the sugarcoating and face up to some hard facts.
The most powerful expression of the poverty reduction narrative comes from the UN’s Millennium Campaign. Building on the Millennium Declaration of 2000, the Campaign’s main goal has been to reduce global poverty by half by 2015 – an objective that it proudly claims to have achieved ahead of schedule. But if we look beyond the celebratory rhetoric, it becomes clear that this assertion is deeply misleading.
The world’s governments first pledged to end extreme poverty during the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996. They committed to reducing the number of undernourished people by half before 2015, which, given the population at the time, meant slashing the poverty headcount by 836 million. Many critics claimed that this goal was inadequate given that, with the right redistributive policies, extreme poverty could be ended much more quickly.
But instead of making the goals more robust, global leaders surreptitiously diluted it. Yale professor and development watchdog Thomas Pogge points out that when the Millennium Declaration was signed, the goal was rewritten as “Millennium Developmental Goal 1” (MDG-1) and was altered to halve the proportion (as opposed to the absolute number) of the world’s people living on less than a dollar a day. By shifting the focus to income levels and switching from absolute numbers to proportional ones, the target became much easier to achieve. Given the rate of population growth, the new goal was effectively reduced by 167 million. And that was just the beginning.
After the UN General Assembly adopted MDG-1, the goal was diluted two more times. First, they changed it from halving the proportion of impoverished people in the world to halving the proportion of impoverished people in developing countries, thus taking advantage of an even faster-growing demographic denominator. Second, they moved the baseline of analysis from 2000 back to 1990, thus retroactively including all poverty reduction accomplished by China throughout the 1990s, due in no part whatsoever to the Millennium Campaign.
This statistical sleight-of-hand narrowed the target by a further 324 million. So what started as a goal to reduce the poverty headcount by 836 million has magically become only 345 million – less than half the original number. Having dramatically redefined the goal, the Millennium Campaign can claim that poverty has been halved when in fact it has not. The triumphalist narrative hailing the death of poverty rests on an illusion of deceitful accounting.
But there’s more. Not only have the goalposts been moved, the definition of poverty itself has been massaged in a way that serves the poverty reduction narrative. What is considered the threshold for poverty – the “poverty line” – is normally calculated by each nation for itself, and is supposed to reflect what an average human adult needs to subsist. In 1990, Martin Ravallion, an Australian economist at the World Bank, noticed that the poverty lines of a group of the world’s poorest countries clustered around $1 per day. On Ravallion’s recommendation, the World Bank adopted this as the first-ever International Poverty Line (IPL).
But the IPL proved to be somewhat troublesome. Using this threshold, the World Bank announced in its 2000 annual report that “the absolute number of those living on $1 per day or less continues to increase. The worldwide total rose from 1.2 billion in 1987 to 1.5 billion today and, if recent trends persist, will reach 1.9 billion by 2015.” This was alarming news, especially because it suggested that the free-market reforms imposed by the World Bank and the IMF on Global South countries during the 1980s and 1990s in the name of “development” were actually making things worse.
This amounted to a PR nightmare for the World Bank. Not long after the report was released, however, their story changed dramatically and they announced the exact opposite news: While poverty had been increasing steadily for some two centuries, they said, the introduction of free-market policies had actually reduced the number of impoverished people by 400 million between 1981 and 2001.
This new story was possible because the Bank shifted the IPL from the original $1.02 (at 1985 PPP) to $1.08 (at 1993 PPP), which, given inflation, was lower in real terms. With this tiny change – a flick of an economist’s wrist – the world was magically getting better, and the Bank’s PR problem was instantly averted. This new IPL is the one that the Millennium Campaign chose to adopt.
The IPL was changed a second time in 2008, to $1.25 (at 2005 PPP). And once again the story improved overnight. The $1.08 IPL made it seem as though the poverty headcount had been reduced by 316 million people between 1990 and 2005. But the new IPL – even lower than the last, in real terms – inflated the number to 437 million, creating the illusion that an additional 121 million souls had been “saved” from the jaws of debilitating poverty. Not surprisingly, the Millennium Campaign adopted the new IPL, which allowed it to claim yet further chimerical gains.
A more honest view of poverty
We need to seriously rethink these poverty metrics. The dollar-a-day IPL is based on the national poverty lines of the 15 poorest countries, but these lines provide a poor foundation given that many are set by bureaucrats with very little data. More importantly, they tell us nothing about what poverty is like in wealthier countries. A 1990 survey in Sri Lanka found that 35 percent of the population fell under the national poverty line. But the World Bank, using the IPL, reported only 4 percent in the same year. In other words, the IPL makes poverty seem much less serious than it actually is.
The present IPL theoretically reflects what $1.25 could buy in the United States in 2005. But people who live in the US know it is impossible to survive on this amount. The prospect is laughable. In fact, the US government itself calculated that in 2005 the average person needed at least $4.50 per day simply to meet minimum nutritional requirements. The same story can be told in many other countries, where a dollar a day is inadequate for human existence. In India, for example, children living just above the IPL still have a 60 percent chance of being malnourished.
According to Peter Edwards of Newcastle University, if people are to achieve normal life expectancy, they need roughly double the current IPL, or a minimum of $2.50 per day. But adopting this higher standard would seriously undermine the poverty reduction narrative. An IPL of $2.50 shows a poverty headcount of around 3.1 billion, almost triple what the World Bank and the Millennium Campaign would have us believe. It also shows that poverty is getting worse, not better, with nearly 353 million more people impoverished today than in 1981. With China taken out of the equation, that number shoots up to 852 million.
Some economists go further and advocate for an IPL of $5 or even $10 – the upper boundary suggested by the World Bank. At this standard, we see that some 5.1 billion people – nearly 80 percent of the world’s population – are living in poverty today. And the number is rising.
These more accurate parameters suggest that the story of global poverty is much worse than the spin doctored versions we are accustomed to hearing. The $1.25 threshold is absurdly low, but it remains in favour because it is the only baseline that shows any progress in the fight against poverty, and therefore justifies the present economic order. Every other line tells the opposite story. In fact, even the $1.25 line shows that, without factoring China, the poverty headcount is worsening, with 108 million people added to the ranks of the poor since 1981. All of this calls the triumphalist narrative into question.
A call for change
This is a pressing concern; the UN is currently negotiating the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Campaign in 2015, and they are set to use the same dishonest poverty metrics as before. They will leverage the “poverty reduction” story to argue for business as usual: stick with the status quo and things will keep getting better. We need to demand more. If the Sustainable Development Goals are to have any real value, they need to begin with a more honest poverty line – at least $2.50 per day – and instate rules to preclude the kind of deceit that the World Bank and the Millennium Campaign have practised to date.
Eradicating poverty in this more meaningful sense will require more than just using aid to tinker around the edges of the problem. It will require changing the rules of the global economy to make it fairer for the world’s majority. Rich country governments will resist such changes with all their might. But epic problems require courageous solutions, and, with 2015 fast approaching, the moment to act is now. Read more @original source http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/exposing-great-poverty-reductio-201481211590729809.html
*Dr Jason Hickel lectures at the London School of Economics and serves as an adviser to /The Rules.
Global Innovation Index (GII) 2014: This year, the theme of the report is the ‘Human Factor in Innovation’
The fundamental driver behind any innovation process is the human factor associated with it. We observe that some nations take the lead in innovation capability over others. A major factor for this disparity of innovation prowess is the quality of human capital linked to the innovation activities carried out in these nations. Other factors, such as technology and capital, also influence the innovation process; these directly correlate with the human factor. Hence nurturing human capital at all levels and in all sections of society can be crucial for developing the foundation for innovation.
Human-Centric Innovation: Inspired Talent Is the Engine of Innovation.
Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world – and Singapore is Asia’s most innovative economy. No African country made the first 39 spot in the ranking but Mauritius tops the list for African countries coming in at 40. Mauritius (40) and Seychelles (51) beat South Africa (53rd) to the chase in the African continent. The regional winner, Mauritius, has shown an impressive improvement of 13 places from 53rd in 2013. The following Africa countries are in the first 100 rankings: Tunisia (78), Morocco (84), Kenya (85), Uganda (91), Botswana (92), Ghana (96), Cabo Verde (97), Senegal (98) and Egypt (99).
Top 10 in the 2014 rankings:
2. United Kingdom
10. Hong Kong (China)
According to the authors of the report: “These GII leaders have created well-linked innovation ecosystems, where investments in human capital combined with strong innovation infrastructures contribute to high levels of creativity.”
“In particular, the top 25 countries in the GII consistently score high in most indicators and have strengths in areas such as innovation infrastructure, including information and communication technologies; business sophistication such as knowledge workers, innovation linkages, and knowledge absorption; and innovation outputs such as creative goods and services and online creativity.”
11 of the bottom 20 countries are from Africa ( Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Angola, Niger, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Benin, Guinea and Togo). These countries are making the 11 worst African countries.
The Global Innovation Index surveys 143 economies around the world, using 81 indicators – to gauge both their innovation capabilities and measurable results.
‘Debt and Corruption are an awful mix: The appetite for debt by African governments is particularly concerning given that there does not appear to be any serious action to end the gross mismanagement of public funds. Getting into debt only makes sense if you plan to use the money properly. But if substantial sums of money end up in the pockets of faceless politicians, then Africa is ransoming future earnings with no future benefits. This is self-sabotage at its best. There is no need to belabour the point. Don’t take on billions of dollars of debt if corruption is still an untamed beast…the consequences for Africa’s economy and people will be dire….. ‘Many of the Chinese contracts in Africa lay down that repayments be made in natural resources, with complex institutional contracts that make repayments unpredictable in financial terms’.  How can we be comfortable with our governments getting into deals into the billions of dollars and yet these are shrouded in mystery? With no information at hand, we do not really know how deep of a hole we’re digging for ourselves.’
Step away from the debt plate Africa, you need to watch what you’re eating
Africa is bingeing on debt and risks overeating at the buffet of financial offers from China, India, Brazil and many others. Kenya just recently signed a series of financial agreements worth billions with China during Prime Minister Lee Keqiang’s visit to the country this last weekend making it clear that we live in a multipolar world. In this new world order Africa is spoilt for choice with regard to who to partner with to fund development. But we (Africa) seem to have an insatiable appetite for this new money and do not seem to be fully aware of the implications of accepting all these tasty offers of cash. We also don’t seem to be thinking about whether we can, or how we can absorb these volumes of cash. Don’t get me wrong, Africa’s excitement at promises of billions apparently with ‘no conditions’ is understandable. Having spent the past decades grovelling at the doors of donors and investors from Europe and North America, many Africans felt we were giving away our pride for monies tied to what many felt were onerous conditions. So now, we are whistling our way to the bank with our new financials ‘partners’.
But is this truly smart? The reality is that all borrowing has conditions. So allow me to digress briefly and go slightly further with this point. China enjoys talking about about how it provides money with ‘no conditions’, but closer analysis reveals that this is not strictly true. The Chinese government, like any other government, will protect its investments; investments made almost exclusively with African governments…which seems to suggest that if China has to back up (even unpopular or despotic) African governments to protect its investments, it will. Look at the incriminating allegations that China funded Mugabe’s election ‘victory’ last year. Documents from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization suggest that the success of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, ‘reflected direct intervention by the Chinese Communist Party’. (See more here and here). Perhaps for Zimbabwe the conditions that make China feel most secure in its investments is if Mugabe is in power. So maybe there are some conditions tied to money from China. The point I’m making is that it is important Africans analyse reality and not get spellbound by the rhetoric. But that is an aside; let’s get to the real problems behind Africa’s debt binge
1. We don’t really know the scale of the debt we’re getting into
By ‘we’ I mean Africans not on the inside corridors of power, but on whose behalf these deals are being made. It is absolute madness that in the case of countries such as China, we actually don’t know how much debt we’re getting into. Over the weekend Kenya and China signed several agreements but, ‘The two leaders did not disclose the actual financial value of most of the agreements and protocols signed but their aides said the deals run into billions of Kenya shillings.’ Why the secrecy? How much of this money from China is grants vs debt? What are the interest rates (there are references to ‘concessional loans’ but that’s about it), what are the terms of repayment, what are the penalties for defaulting? Also bear in mind that in the past, ‘Many of the Chinese contracts in Africa lay down that repayments be made in natural resources, with complex institutional contracts that make repayments unpredictable in financial terms’.  How can we be comfortable with our governments getting into deals into the billions of dollars and yet these are shrouded in mystery? With no information at hand, we do not really know how deep of a hole we’re digging for ourselves.
2. Do we have the absorptive capacity to handle all this money?
We are getting into debt to fund numerous development projects that range from infrastructure to agriculture, to security and wildlife but, pray tell, do we have the absorptive capacity to soak up these billions? Because whether we can absorb the money or not, we will be paying it back. Absorptive capacity here relates to the macro and micro constraints that recipient countries face in using resources, in this case money, effectively. Does Africa have the physical, intellectual and systems-related infrastructure, expertise and culture to competently implement all these projects? For example, do county governments have the technical savoir faire to implement agriculture projects worth millions? One of the issues of serious concern is that investment in educational infrastructure rarely features prominently in these deals. There are very limited (if any) provisions for building the educational capacity of African countries especially at tertiary and vocational levels. So great, we’re getting money to build railways, but how many Africans can be effectively put to task on this, especially at managerial positions? Bear in mind that already, with regards to China, Africa has fallen into a trap where, 1) China is allowed to bring in Chinese nationals to provide labour and, 2) When African labour is used, it is cheap, unskilled labour. This situation is untenable. Africa should be using every single government- funded project to hire Africans and build the capacity of Africans to do the job competently in the future. Africa cannot continue to so fundamentally rely on outsiders to do the basics for us such as building roads. But sadly, African countries seem to be happy with outsourcing all the large-scale projects, sometimes back to companies from the country that gave us the loans in the first place. This leads to the next point.
3. With limited absorptive capacity, Africa will continue to outsource big contracts
Africa is not being very bright. We get loans then outsource the implementation of the projects back to companies from the donor country. In short, we’re paying China to pay itself. Why? Generally however, using outsourcing as the default strategy for large-scale project implementation is problematic in at least two ways: 1) It hides and exacerbates Africa’s skills deficit and, 2) It pumps money out of the country. The first point is obvious, if we continue to rely on others to build our roads, we will continue to lack the skillsets and capacity to competently build and maintain our roads ourselves. But since the roads are being built, we never feel the weight of our incompetence in this area and therefore have no sense urgency to rectify this problem. Secondly, companies implementing projects in Africa make a profit then expatriate the profit. So we’re getting into debt and then haemorrhaging some of that expensive money out of the continent through outsourcing. This makes no long-term sense. Ideally we should use local contractors to implement projects however, as elucidated in point 2, we do not seem to have sufficient volumes of companies capable of absorbing this workload. But rather than fix that, African governments go to the default setting labelled ‘outsource’. We’re getting into a vicious cycle as follows: We don’t have the capacity to implement large-scale projects → we outsource but fail to ensure skills transfer → exacerbates the skills deficit → we don’t have the capacity to implement large-scale projects. African governments should essentially use the development projects led by non-Africans as structured training opportunities for newly qualified professionals as well as building more seasoned professionals into the management structure of projects.
4. Debt and Corruption are an awful mix
The appetite for debt by African governments is particularly concerning given that there does not appear to be any serious action to end the gross mismanagement of public funds. Getting into debt only makes sense if you plan to use the money properly. But if substantial sums of money end up in the pockets of faceless politicians, then Africa is ransoming future earnings with no future benefits. This is self-sabotage at its best. There is no need to belabour the point. Don’t take on billions of dollars of debt if corruption is still an untamed beast…the consequences for Africa’s economy and people will be dire.
This issue relates to point number 1. There is limited information on the scale of the debt Africa is getting into with certain parties so at what point will we in Africa know when we’re overleveraged? It seems like the answer to that is ‘not any time soon’. The scary part is that some African governments seem to think debt will fix all our problems with Heads of States expecting hearty praise when they secure even more debt for the continent. It is true that structures such as the Debt Sustainability Framework (DSF) exist which seek to stop lenders from lending more money to countries that have exceeded their debt ceilings. But, ‘to work well, the DSF needs close co-ordination between all creditors. This is hard enough to do between public and private lenders from the traditional partners, but is even more difficult with the new lenders [such as China].,Sadly, African countries do not seem to be keen on tabulating public debt figures at either national or pan African levels, and sharing them.
There are over 870 million people in the world who are hungry right now. I’m not talking about could use a snack before lunch hungry, not even didn’t have time for breakfast hungry, but truly, continually, hungry. Of these 870 million people, it’s been estimated by the World Food Programme that 98% live in developing countries, countries that perversely produce most of the world’s food stocks. So why is this the case?
In Ethiopia an alarming 40.2% of population are undernourished.The 2011 Horn of Africa drought left 4.5 million people in Ethiopia in need of emergency food assistance. Pastoralist areas in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia were most severely affected by the drought. At the same time, cereal markets experienced a supply shock, and food prices rose substantially, resulting in high food insecurity among poor people. By the beginning of 2012, the overall food security situation had stabilized thanks to the start of the Meher harvest after the June-to-September rains resulting in improved market supply — and to sustained humanitarian assistance. While the number of new arrivals in refugee camps has decreased significantly since the height of the Horn of Africa crisis, Ethiopia still continues to receive refugees from Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. The Humanitarian Requirements Document issued by the government and humanitarian partners in September 2012 estimates that 3.76 million people require relief food assistance from August to December 2012. The total net emergency food and non-food requirement amounts to US$189,433,303. Ethiopia remains one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 174 out of 187 in the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index.
An Ethiopian farmer has been given legal aid in the UK to sue Britain – because he claims millions of pounds sent by the UK to his country is supporting a brutal regime that has ruined his life.
He says UK taxpayers’ money – £1.3 billion over the five years of the coalition Government – is funding a despotic one-party state in his country that is forcing thousands of villagers such as him from their land using murder, torture and rape.
The landmark case is highly embarrassing for the Government, which has poured vast amounts of extra cash into foreign aid despite belt-tightening austerity measures at home.
Prime Minister David Cameron claims the donations are a mark of Britain’s compassion.
But the farmer – whose case is set to cost tens of thousands of pounds – argues that huge sums handed to Ethiopia are breaching the Department for International Development’s (DFID) own human rights rules.
He accuses the Government of devastating the lives of some of the world’s poorest people rather than fulfilling promises to help them. The case comes amid growing global concern over Western aid propping up corrupt and repressive regimes.
If the farmer is successful, Ministers might have to review major donations to other nations accused of atrocities, such as Pakistan and Rwanda – and it could open up Britain to compensation claims from around the world.
Ethiopia, a key ally in the West’s war on terror, is the biggest recipient of British aid, despite repeated claims from human rights groups that the cash is used to crush opposition.
DFID was served papers last month by lawyers acting on behalf of ‘Mr O’, a 33-year-old forced to abandon his family and flee to a refugee camp in Kenya after being beaten and tortured for trying to protect his farm.
He is not seeking compensation but to challenge the Government’s approach to aid. His name is being withheld to protect his wife and six children who remain in Ethiopia.
‘My client’s life has been shattered by what has happened,’ said Rosa Curling, the lawyer handling the case. ‘It goes entirely against what our aid purports to stand for.’
This study critically discuses the “Africa rising” story and the sub-narratives it carries, including the rise of the African woman, the rise of the African middle class and the power of innovation. The articles included inform that, in too many cases, it is not the wider population but small segments and interested parties, such as the local political elite and foreign investors, who are benefiting from economic growth and resource wealth. Social cohesion, political freedom and environmental protection carry little importance in the comforting world of impressive growth statistics. The glamorous images of Africa’s prominent women and rising middle class produced and re-produced in the media prevent the less attractive and more complex stories about ordinary people’s daily struggles from being heard.
GDP tells us nothing about health of an economy, let alone its sustainability and the overall impact on GDP is simply a measure of market consumption, which has been improperly adopted to assess economic performance. Rebuilding Libya after the civil war has been a blessing for its GDP. But does that mean that Libya is on an enviable growth path? When there is only one brick left in a country devastated by war or other disasters, then just making another brick means doubling the economy (100 percent growth). Another problem is the reliability of GDP statistics in Africa. Economic growth figures for most African countries are incomplete, thus undermining any generalisation about overall economic performance in the continent. Besides statistical problems, there are important structural reasons why one should be suspicious of the ‘Africa rising’ mantra. Most fast- growing Africa economies are heavily dependent on exports of commodities.
Africa’s youth will protest to remove self-seeking and repressive elites
“Some examples: authoritarian regimes, as in Ethiopia and Rwanda, are consolidating their positions. In Zambia, Angola and Mozambique, the press, civil society organisations and the opposition are under threat for demanding that the proceeds from raw material exports and billion dollar multinational corporate investments should benefit everyone. ….Short-term greed is, once again, depriving the African populations of the right to share in the continent’s immense riches. No-one can predict the future, but what can be said with certainty is that the possibility of a sustainable long-term and fair development that is currently at hand in Africa is being put at risk. The frustration that is fuelled among populations that are hungry and feel ignored by their rulers will bring about increasingly strident and potentially violent protest. In the near future, this will change the political climate, not least in urban areas. Utilising the internet and their mobile phones, Africa’s youth and forgotten people will mobilise and act together to remove self-seeking and repressive elites. But the situation is not hopeless, on the contrary. Civil society is growing stronger in many places in Africa. The internet makes it possible for people to access and disseminate information in an unprecedented way. However, I get really disappointed when I hear all the ingenuous talk about the possibilities to invest and make quick profits in the ‘New Africa’. What is in reality new in the ‘New Africa’? Today, a worker in a Chinese-owned factory in Ethiopia earns one-tenth of the wage of an employee in China. Unless African governments and investors act more responsibly and ensure long-term sustainable construction for people and the environment ‒ which is currently not the case ‒ we must all ask ourselves if we should not use the consumer power we all possess to exert pressure. There are no excuses for letting African populations and their environment once again pay for the global demand for its raw materials and cheap consumer goods.” – Marika Griehsel, journalist, film-maker and lecturer
“Thousands of people are demonstrating on the streets to protest against low salaries, the highcost of living and an insufficient state safety net. A reaction to austerity measures in Greece? Or a follow-up to the Arab Spring? No, these are protests for greater equality in Sub-Saharan Africa, most recently in Burkina Faso. The widening gap between rich and poor is as troubling in Africa as in the rest of the world. In fact, many Africans believe that inequalities are becoming more marked: A tiny minority is getting richer while the lines of poor people grow out the door. The contrast is all the more striking in Africa since the poverty level has been at a consistently high level for decades, despite the continent’s significant average GDP growth. Some take a plane to get treated for hay fever, while others are pushing up daisies because they can’t afford basic malaria treatment.”
It is now evident that the African ‘lion economies’ have hardly even begun the economic and democratic transformation that is absolutely necessary for the future of the continent.
The largest movement ever in Africa of people from rural to urban areas is now taking place. Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya, are among the world’s fastest growing cities.
The frustration that is fuelled among populations that are hungry and feel ignored by their rulers will bring about increasingly strident and potentially violent protest.
Soon, this will change the political climate, not least in urban areas. Utilising the internet and their phones, Africa’s youth and forgotten people will mobilise to remove self-seeking and repressive elites.
This piece was written in Namibia, where I was leading a tour around one of Africa’s more stable nations. There are several signs confirming the World Bank’s reclassification of Namibia as a middle-income country, which in turn means that many aid donors, including Sweden, have ended their bilateral cooperation.
I see newly constructed, subsidised single-family homes accessible for low-income families. I drive on good roads and meet many tourists, although this is off-season. I hear about a growing mining sector, new discoveries of natural gas and oil deposits. I read about irregularities committed by people in power, in a reasonably free press whose editors are not thrown into jail. There is free primary level schooling and almost free health care.
Most people I talk to are optimistic. A better future for a majority of Namibians is being envisaged. This is in all probability the result of the country having a small population ‒ just above 2 million ‒ and a functioning infrastructure despite its large area.
In Namibia, economic growth can hopefully be matched by implementing policies for long-term, sustainable social and economic development that will benefit more than the élite.
But Namibia is an exception. Because it is now evident that the African ‘lion economies’ have hardly even begun the economic and democratic transformation that is absolutely necessary for the future of the continent.
Some examples: authoritarian regimes, as in Ethiopia and Rwanda, are consolidating their positions. In Zambia, Angola and Mozambique, the press, civil society organisations and the opposition are under threat for demanding that the proceeds from raw material exports and billion dollar multinational corporate investments should benefit everyone.
The International Monetary Fund, IMF, predicts continued high growth rates across Africa with an average of over 6 per cent in 2014. That is of course good news for the continent. Perhaps the best, from a macroeconomic viewpoint, since the 1960s, when many of the former colonies became independent. This growth is mainly driven by the raw material needs of China, India and Brazil.
Meanwhile, the largest movement ever in Africa of people from rural to urban areas is now taking place. Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya, are among the world’s fastest growing cities. But, in contrast with China, where the migrants from the rural areas get employment in the manufacturing industry, the urban migrants in Africa end up in the growing slums of the big cities.
In a few places, notably in Ethiopia, manufacturing is beginning to take off. But the wages in the Chinese-owned factories are even lower than in China, while the corporations pay minimal taxes to the Ethiopian state.
Short-term greed is, once again, depriving the African populations of the right to share in the continent’s immense riches. No-one can predict the future, but what can be said with certainty is that the possibility of a sustainable long-term and fair development that is currently at hand in Africa is being put at risk.
The frustration that is fuelled among populations that are hungry and feel ignored by their rulers will bring about increasingly strident and potentially violent protest. In the near future, this will change the political climate, not least in urban areas. Utilising the internet and their mobile phones, Africa’s youth and forgotten people will mobilise and act together to remove self-seeking and repressive elites.
But the situation is not hopeless, on the contrary. Civil society is growing stronger in many places in Africa. The internet makes it possible for people to access and disseminate information in an unprecedented way. However, I get really disappointed when I hear all the ingenuous talk about the possibilities to invest and make quick profits in the ‘New Africa’.
What is in reality new in the ‘New Africa’?
Today, a worker in a Chinese-owned factory in Ethiopia earns one-tenth of the wage of an employee in China. Unless African governments and investors act more responsibly and ensure long-term sustainable construction for people and the environment ‒ which is currently not the case ‒ we must all ask ourselves if we should not use the consumer power we all possess to exert pressure.
There are no excuses for letting African populations and their environment once again pay for the global demand for its raw materials and cheap consumer goods.
Some examples: authoritarian regimes, as in Ethiopia and Rwanda, are consolidating their positions. In Zambia, Angola and Mozambique, the press, civil society organisations and the opposition are under threat for demanding that the proceeds from raw material exports and billion dollar multinational corporate investments should benefit everyone.
Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains strong with growth forecasted to be 4.9% in 2013. Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at 6% and more, and African countries are now routinely among the fastest-growing countries in the world […] [however the report] notes that poverty and inequality remain “unacceptably high and the pace of reduction unacceptably slow.” Almost one out of every two Africans lives in extreme poverty today.
Africa’s largest and second-largest economies, South Africa and Egypt, are Africa’s two most active Twitter countries. Accra, Cairo, Johannesburg and Nairobi are the tweets capitals of Africa. With 344,215geo-located tweets, Johannesburg is the most active city in Africa.
According to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) latest report on information and communications technology in Ethiopia, the country is among the least developed and most expensive in the world. The report placed Ethiopia 151st in ICT development, out of 157 countries, and 152nd out 169 countries in the price of fixed broadband connection. After a decade, in 2012, the internet penetration rate in Ethiopia was a mere 1.1 percent, or 960,331 users and out of this 902,440 are Facebook users. Neighboring Kenya, however, reached a 41 percent penetration rate, with 16.2 million users. As part of its active engagement in curtailing free media, the Ethiopian state is known in making citizen’s use of micro social networkings illegal and blocks internet connections and sites to public.
In a follow up to its 2012 study, the London- and Nairobi-based public relations and strategic communications agency Portland analysed geo-located tweets originating from Africa during the final three months of 2013. The second How Africa Tweets study dives deeper into Twitter use on the continent, looking at which cities are the most active, what languages are being used the most and what issues are driving the conversation online.
How Africa Tweets found that, during the final three months of 2013:
Johannesburg is the most active city in Africa, with 344,215 geo-located tweets, followed by Ekurhuleni (264,172) and Cairo (227,509). Durban (163,019) and Alexandria (159,534) make up the remainder of the top five most active cities
Nairobi is the most active city in East Africa and the sixth most active on the continent, with 123,078 geo-located tweets
Accra is the most active city in West Africa and the eight most active on the continent, with 78,575 geo-located tweets
English, French and Arabic are the most common languages on Twitter in Africa, accounting for 75.5% of the total tweets analysed. Zulu, Swahili, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Portuguese are the next most commonly tweeted languages in Africa
Tuesdays and Fridays are the most active tweeting days. Twitter activity rises steadily through the afternoon and evening, with peak volumes around 9pm
The day of Nelson Mandela’s death – 5 December – saw the highest volume of geo-located tweets in Africa
Brands in Africa are becoming increasingly prevalent on Twitter.
Portland tracked major hashtag activity from top brands such as Samsung (#SamsungLove), Adidas (#Adidas) and Magnum ice cream (#MagnumAuction)
Football is the most-discussed topic on Twitter in Africa. Football was discussed more than any other topic, including the death of Nelson Mandela. The most mentioned football team was Johannesburg’s Orlando Pirates (#BlackisBack, #PrayForOrlandoPirates, #OperationFillOrlandoStadium)
Politically-related hashtags were less common than those around other issues, with only four particularly active political hashtags tracked during the time period. This included #KenyaAt50 – celebration of Kenya’s independence – and the competing #SickAt50
Allan Kamau, Head of Portland Nairobi, says: “The African Twittersphere is changing rapidly and transforming the way that Africa communicates with itself and the rest of the world. Our latest research reveals a significantly more sophisticated landscape than we saw just two years ago. This is opening up new opportunities and challenges for companies, campaigning organisations and governments across Africa.”
Mark Flanagan, Head of Digital for Portland, says: “As well as adding diversity of perspective on political and social issues, Africa’s Twitter users are also contributing linguistic diversity. Twitter is now established on the continent as a source of information and a platform for conversation.”http://allafrica.com/stories/201403120080.html
How development experts have empowered dictators and helped to trap millions and millions of people in poverty
“Ethiopia, for example, reaps money and plaudits from development giants such as the Gates Foundation while remaining a bastion of authoritarian rule. Economic growth and other positive development outcomes in such states are a mirage, the author argues. His central claim is that no matter how much international aid is poured in, the lives of citizens won’t durably improve without freedom.” -SARAH CHAYES, Book Review, Wall Street Journal
‘The international professionals perpetrate an illusion that poverty is purely a technical problem, distracting attention away from the real cause: the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights. The dictators whom experts are advising are not the solution — they are the problem. The individual economic and political rights crucial to development include all those we take for granted at home, such as the right to your own property, the right to trade with whomever you wish, the right to protest bad government actions (don’t burn down our houses!), and the right to vote for politicians who do beneficial actions (clean our water!). Technical experts in development sometimes concede some rights and deny others, which disrespects rights for what they are: unalienable. The Uganda story shows the Mubende farmers’ lack of both economic rights (rights to their own property) and political rights (prevented at gunpoint from protesting). The tyranny of experts that neglects rights is first of all a moral tragedy. It reflects a double standard in which we respect rights for the world’s rich — is it conceivable that we would forget these farmers if the story had happened in Ohio? — but not for the poor.
The technocratic approach of dictators advised by experts is also a pragmatic tragedy, because it does not actually work to end poverty. New research by economists on history and modern experience suggest that free individuals with political and economic rights make up remarkably successful problem-solving systems. Such systems based on rights reward a decentralized array of people: Economic entrepreneurs with property rights get to keep the rewards of solving the problems of their consumers. Political entrepreneurs at many government levels and in many departments get rewarded with a longer tenure in office if they solve the citizens’ problems, and they are driven out of office if they don’t. …Focusing on rights yields two perspectives on how development success happens. First, societies that have already attained individual freedom are likely to have already escaped poverty. Economists have gone back deep into our own history to confirm this widely-accepted story for how we in the West escaped our own poverty, but we seem unwilling to consider that the same story could play out in the rest of the world. Second, societies in which there is a positive change in in freedom will likely see a positive change in prosperity (ergo, rapid economic growth and fall in poverty). So what should we do about rights for the poor? Possible starting places for Western policy changes are to not fund dictators, to not support projects that torch farms, to not break promises to investigate rights abuses, and to not let us forget such abuses and missing investigations. But obsessing too much on the “what should we do?” question should not hand the agenda back to the same technical experts who have showed so little interest in the rights of the poor in the first place. The danger of such a tyranny of experts is illustrated by a long history of politicians using technical poverty debates as an excuse to avoid debating rights for the poor. The danger of such a tyranny of experts is illustrated by a long history of politicians using technical poverty debates as an excuse to avoid debating rights for the poor.’ – Read the details and analysis at the original source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/10/the_new_tyranny
Book Review: ‘The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor’ by William Easterly
The notion of development assistance was born in a period of unabashed racism.
By SARAH CHAYES
March 7, 2014 (The Wall Street Journal) — Why does poverty persist across so much of the world, despite billions of dollars in international aid and the efforts of armies of development professionals? That is the question that William Easterly explores in “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor.” His answer: a lack of respect for liberty—not just on the part of governments of impoverished countries but also, more provocatively, on the part of the would-be developers themselves.
Mr. Easterly, an economics professor at New York University, joins other students of international aid in decrying the preference for technical fixes when the political structures of recipient states are built to deny political participation and economic opportunity to most of their citizens. “The technocratic illusion,” he writes, “is that poverty results from a shortage of expertise, whereas poverty is really about a shortage of rights.”
Ethiopia, for example, reaps money and plaudits from development giants such as the Gates Foundation while remaining a bastion of authoritarian rule. Economic growth and other positive development outcomes in such states are a mirage, the author argues. His central claim is that no matter how much international aid is poured in, the lives of citizens won’t durably improve without freedom.
Mr. Easterly recalls that the very notion of development assistance was born in a period of unabashed racism, out of a conjunction of two opposing demands. One was the need for late colonial empires to provide a different rationale than racial superiority for their continued domination of the Third World. The other was the desire of Third World leaders to legitimize seizing authoritarian power themselves.
Touting the virtues of development designed by “experts” and delivered by autocrats proved to be a useful strategy for both camps. “Sun Yat-sen,” writes Mr. Easterly of China in 1924, “suggested the idea of technocratic development to resist European imperialism in China, while at the same time in Versailles, the Allies suggested technocratic development to expand European imperialism in Africa.” And, a few decades later, “the new African leaders found state-led technocratic development to be a justification for their own aspirations to unchecked power.”
This marriage of convenience may have sabotaged democracy’s chances of emerging from the rubble of empire, Mr. Easterly suggests, drawing on evidence from China, Colombia and West Africa. The bias in favor of technocratic fixes, and against fundamental political reform, has certainly helped enable autocratic regimes, which, now as then, capture development aid like any other rent. In Yemen, for example, before counterterrorism security cooperation grew to its current scale, aid was a key source of funding for the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime.
Mr. Easterly’s alternative to the autocrat-driven, technocratic model of development is simple: Apply abroad what we know has worked at home—bottom-up solutions, a free flow of ideas leading to innovative experiments and democratic politics. His positive examples aren’t drawn from the international-assistance realm but rather from the organic emergence of economic prosperity in such environments as 12th-century Italian city-states or the Korean auto industry. Hyundai’s rise is presented as an example of an efficient division of labor engineered almost as a matter of course by free-market forces. Unable to farm his infertile land, Chung Ju Yung, who liked tinkering with cars, set up as a mechanic, thereby exchanging “his problem-solving talents . . . for the problem-solving talents of others in producing food for him.” He would go on to found Hyundai.
Mr. Easterly is hardly the first to criticize the international-development community for its avoidance of politics and fixation on technical solutions. But his belabored insistence that freedom and democracy are the only reliable paths to economic prosperity is too general and thus not very helpful for anyone thinking seriously about how to reform development assistance. While he is right to castigate the many aid efforts undertaken in autocratic contexts, few serious Western development professionals today actively promote dictatorship. Indeed, acceptance of much of Mr. Easterly’s reasoning has driven, from the 1990s on, a sharp increase in support for grass-roots development and democratization efforts.
But Mr. Easterly fails to acknowledge such evolutions. And he thereby misses an opportunity to highlight the obstacles that this approach, in turn, has encountered: the tendency of such grass-roots organizations to respond to the desires of donors rather than their own constituencies, their inability to live up to outsize expectations or, when successful, their tendency to suffer repression at the hands of authoritarian states. Nor does Mr. Easterly contend in detail with the fundamental question raised by his book: What explains the persistence of such a “momentous double standard on rights for the West and not for the Rest?”
Some explanations do emerge in passing. Geostrategic priorities, for example, have impelled the U.S. to use foreign aid to reward autocratic allies in the fights against Communism and terrorism. Racism, blatant or otherwise, has made Westerners doubt non-white non-Westerners’ desire for rights and ability to handle them. The desire to self-perpetuate has also been a powerful motive to stick to the status quo for an industry as large as international assistance—a motive Mr. Easterly doesn’t emphasize. Challenging entrenched power structures is a good way to get thrown out of a country, as a number of democracy-promotion organizations recently learned in Egypt.
Apart from these gaps, and the book’s lack of explicit recommendations, its analysis raises some philosophical problems. It draws too sharp an opposition between individualism and collective values. By depicting a global “East” caught in a feedback loop of autocracy and “collectivist values,” Mr. Easterly falls into Samuel Huntingtonesque generalizations. Similarly, he seems to suggest that geography and climate predisposed the Southern Hemisphere to slave-based or extractive economies.
The generalizations, moreover, evade a lot of contrary nuance. The Nordic countries are widely seen as more respectful of community values than the U.S. or Britain. And many of their health and development outcomes outstrip ours. Some might argue that these are smaller, more homogeneous societies, but so are some of the negative examples of “collectivist values” that Mr. Easterly cites, such as the “Maghribi” network, a 10th-century Cairo-based Jewish trading community. And the world economic meltdown of 2008, with devastating development effects for tens of millions, was the result not of excessively collectivist values but the reverse. Poor development outcomes, in other words, aren’t only a matter of rights, as Mr. Easterly argues. At issue is also the distribution of power—justice as well as liberty.
The book’s argument about the power of freedom and democracy to beget development is made by way of a vast historical tableau. From the 12th-century Italian city-states, the narrative winds past the slave trade, expounds the virtues of migration, explores the ideas of Adam Smith and ruminates on the structure of technological innovation. Supporting anecdotes include a Senegalese religious trading community, the Korean automotive industry and an evolving Manhattan neighborhood.
It is hard to trust an author to command such a welter of detail. And indeed, the result is too often haphazard, self-contradictory or erroneous. For example, while the Maghribi traders are said to demonstrate self-sabotaging collectivist values, the Mourides, a modern Somali religious brotherhood that is organized along nearly the same principles, is cited to illustrate the virtues of migration. The Korean auto industry, depicted as embodying “the amazing potentials of specialization and trade,” emerged under an autocratic government applying protectionist laws.
By my count, finally, about 15% of Mr. Easterly’s text recaps what was just said or announces items from later chapters. Subheadings like “Another Key Moment in This Book” suggest an argument that isn’t tight enough to convince on its own merits. And that’s too bad. Mr. Easterly calls for a profound overhaul of the way powerful nations conceive of and implement aid—and, more important, of the broader foreign-policy decision-making of which aid is a component. That change is needed. It’s just not clear this book is crisp or cogent enough to help advance it.
—Ms. Chayes is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“In the early 80′s, Bob Geldof of the band called The Boomtown Rats saw in the news the massive famine engulfing the African country of Ethiopia. He felt guilty because he couldn’t believe that while the Western world was suffering from an abundance of wealth and food, a continent just below them were a people that did not have anything at all. He organized Band Aid, enlisting the help of other stars like Bono, George Michael and Sting, to raise funds for Africa through a song entitled “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Their counterparts in the United States followed suit, with Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie writing a song called “We are the World.” They then banded together for Live Aid, that added stars like Madonna, Paul McCartney and Elton John in a two-continent concert. Yet, almost three decades after, Africa remains a veritable wasteland. Out of the 20 poorest countries in the world, 17 comes from the continent, including nine out of the top 10. Based on the different countries’ gross domestic product purchasing power parity, here are the 20 poorest countries in the world in 2013.”
‘Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and has the second largest population in Africa. Poverty means the health system is weak, which means:
The average life expectancy is just 59
Out of every 40 women that go in to labour, one dies
Over a third of children are malnourished
90% of Ethiopians have poor health, a low level of education, and inadequate living conditions
Only 200 doctors are trained per year to serve a country with a population of over 80 million.
Ethiopia has suffered periodic droughts and famines, a long civil conflict in the 20th century, and a border war with Eritrea. This brought millions to the brink of starvation in the 1970s and 1980s.’ http://www.healthpovertyaction.org/where-we-work/africa/ethiopia/
About 29 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Ethiopia ranks 174th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index, and average per capita incomes are less than half the current sub-Saharan average.
Ethiopia has enormous potential for agricultural development. At present only about 25 per cent of its arable land is cultivated, and agriculture is dominated by subsistence rain fed farming, using few inputs and characterized by low productivity. The vast majority of farmers are smallholders. About 12.7 million smallholders produce 95 per cent of agricultural GDP. These farmers are extremely vulnerable to external shocks such as volatile global markets and drought and other natural disasters.
Smallholder farmers form the largest group of poor people in Ethiopia. More than half cultivate plots of 1 hectare or less and struggle to produce enough food to feed their households. A large number of poor households face a prolonged hunger season during the pre-harvest period. Herders, like farmers, are vulnerable to increasingly frequent drought, which can wipe out their livestock and assets and bring on severe poverty.
The persistent lack of rainfall is a major factor in rural poverty. Drought has become more frequent and severe throughout the country over the past decade, and the trend shows signs of worsening. The impact of drought is most severe for vulnerable households living in the pastoral areas of lowlands and the high-density parts of highlands.
In addition to their vulnerability to climatic conditions, poor rural people lack basic social and economic infrastructure such as health and education facilities, veterinary services and access to safe drinking water. Among the more specific causes of rural poverty in Ethiopia are:
• An ineffective and inefficient agricultural marketing system;
• Underdeveloped transport and communications networks;
• Underdeveloped production technologies;
• Limited access of rural households to support services;
• Environmental degradation;
• Lack of participation by rural poor people in decisions that affect their livelihoods.
The intensity of poverty varies at the household level in relation to the land’s size, quality and productivity, climate conditions and production technologies. Households headed by women are particularly vulnerable. Women are much less likely than men to receive an education or health benefits, or to have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. For women, poverty means more infant deaths, undernourished families, lack of education for children and other deprivations.
Ethiopia has an estimated 1.3 million people living with HIV and AIDS. Rural areas have low prevalence rates, but available data suggest that the incidence could increase in these areas. With the support of development partners, the government has embarked on major programmes to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS, and assist poor rural households in coping with the social and economic consequences of living with the disease.- IFAD
‘A Unicef report states that in Ethiopia there are at this moment 4.5 million orphans on a population of some 90 million. The 4.5 million means that 5 percent of the total population is an orphan. Orphans are in Ethiopia defined as children under 18 whose both parents died. They died of AIDS, untreated illnesses, hunger, draught and war.’
“Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal.” Ethiopia: in 1972 not free, in 1991 partly free and in 2013 not free.
See chart by the Economist through the link and read the analysis@ http://www.economist.com/news/essays/21596796-democracy-was-most-successful-political-idea-20th-century-why-has-it-run-trouble-and-what-can-be-do
The protesters who have overturned the politics of Ukraine have many aspirations for their country. Their placards called for closer relations with the European Union (EU), an end to Russian intervention in Ukraine’s politics and the establishment of a clean government to replace the kleptocracy of President Viktor Yanukovych. But their fundamental demand is one that has motivated people over many decades to take a stand against corrupt, abusive and autocratic governments. They want a rules-based democracy.
It is easy to understand why. Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal.
Yet these days the exhilaration generated by events like those in Kiev is mixed with anxiety, for a troubling pattern has repeated itself in capital after capital. The people mass in the main square. Regime-sanctioned thugs try to fight back but lose their nerve in the face of popular intransigence and global news coverage. The world applauds the collapse of the regime and offers to help build a democracy. But turfing out an autocrat turns out to be much easier than setting up a viable democratic government. The new regime stumbles, the economy flounders and the country finds itself in a state at least as bad as it was before. This is what happened in much of the Arab spring, and also in Ukraine’s Orange revolution a decade ago. In 2004 Mr Yanukovych was ousted from office by vast street protests, only to be re-elected to the presidency (with the help of huge amounts of Russian money) in 2010, after the opposition politicians who replaced him turned out to be just as hopeless.
Between 1980 and 2000 democracy experienced a few setbacks, but since 2000 there have been many
Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.
In the second half of the 20th century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstances possible—in Germany, which had been traumatised by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and, in the 1990s, in South Africa, which had been disfigured by apartheid. Decolonialisation created a host of new democracies in Africa and Asia, and autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece (1974), Spain (1975), Argentina (1983), Brazil (1985) and Chile (1989). The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledgling democracies in central Europe. By 2000 Freedom House, an American think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies.
Representatives of more than 100 countries gathered at the World Forum on Democracy in Warsaw that year to proclaim that “the will of the people” was “the basis of the authority of government”. A report issued by America’s State Department declared that having seen off “failed experiments” with authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government, “it seems that now, at long last, democracy is triumphant.”
Such hubris was surely understandable after such a run of successes. But stand farther back and the triumph of democracy looks rather less inevitable. After the fall of Athens, where it was first developed, the political model had lain dormant until the Enlightenment more than 2,000 years later. In the 18th century only the American revolution produced a sustainable democracy. During the 19th century monarchists fought a prolonged rearguard action against democratic forces. In the first half of the 20th century nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy. By 1941 there were only 11 democracies left, and Franklin Roosevelt worried that it might not be possible to shield “the great flame of democracy from the blackout of barbarism”. Read further @ http://www.economist.com/news/essays/21596796-democracy-was-most-successful-political-idea-20th-century-why-has-it-run-trouble-and-what-can-be-do
Poverty-as-rule-not -exception is difficult to bend our minds around because we tend to base our views about the world on direct experience. If people around us seem mostly well-fed and content, then why shouldn’t everybody else be? We still don’t know as much as we should about poverty and we try to ignore poor people. Most people’s experience of the global poor is the waiter at their table or the pool attendant, the ones lucky enough to have jobs. Only by direct experience and immersion in local circumstances is it possible to have a vague inkling of what it might be like to be genuinely destitute. There’s no obligation on holidaymakers to go wandering around in slums, but anybody who claims knowledge about deprivation should experience or observe it first-hand for themselves, ideally for a long time.
Which undermines my first four points. As Morten Jerven says in his book Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled By African Development Statistics And What To Do About It, “the most basic metric of development, GDP, should not be treated as an objective number but rather as a number that is a product of a process in which a range of arbitrary and controversial assumptions are made.” Jerven finds that the discrepancy between different GDP estimates is up to a half in some cases. This supports my experience from working in the least developed countries, where statistics offices are usually underfunded and don’t have the resources to collect data often or well enough.
There’s a kind of false scientism: foreign academic economists spend ages refining complicated econometric models despite the raw material being rubbish. In the absence of good numbers, the only immediate alternative is to live in a country, to use good theory and to rely where necessary on case studies and even anecdote.
A report from Oxfam last month pointed out that 85 people, about as many as would fit on a double-decker bus, own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.
The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson shows that equality is good for everyone. Redistribution reduces poverty and makes life better for the rich in the form of less crime, better education and a more cohesive society. Global inequality is getting worse, not better. If we don’t radically reduce inequality the poor will eat us, so aid isn’t an option, and it’s not about the rich world “saving” the poor. It’s essential for everyone.
Although things are improving, a huge chunk of the world’s population remain poor. Over a fifth of humans, 1.29 billion, are considered extremely poor . In effect the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Europe, the United States and the Middle East scrape by on 75 British pence a day adjusted for the cost of living in each country. About a third of the world lives on less than $2 a day. The poorest half of the world – 3.5 billion people – own only 0.71% of the world’s wealth between them.
A billion people live in chronic hunger. Nearly a third of all children are chronically malnourished, which unless addressed before the age of two often leaves them stunted and mentally impaired. A sixth of the world’s adults can’t read or write and many more have only rudimentary literacy. Sub-Saharan Africa has only two doctors for every 10,000 people, which is partly why on average its inhabitants live to an average age of 56.
Rather than a term like “developing” to describe these people and countries, the travel writer Dervla Murphy’s phrase “majority world” is more accurate.
“The four basic needs: food, housing, clothes and medicine must be cheap and easy for everybody. That’s civilisation”, says Jon Jandai, a farmer from northeast Thailand. I’d add primary, secondary and tertiary education, too.
Lower income countries have leapfrogged some technologies. For example many will never install fixed telephone lines because mobile coverage is so good. Vast numbers of people will never touch a PC, doing all their computing on a smartphone or tablet.
The governments of poor countries should be more adventurous, leapfrogging ideologies too. Some proponents of economic growth argue that environmental sustainability and a focus on happiness will handicap poverty reduction. But it could enable some countries to prioritise the important things in life. Endless growth is impossible and undesirable.
Beyond a certain point rich inefficiency is the real problem. Why do developing countries ape the development paths and economic structures of the West? We are wage slaves who perform bullshit jobs so that we can service our mortgages. The advance of the car ruined everyone’s quality of life so that a minority can sit in air-conditioned metal boxes in jams. Clever though-leadership in the majority world could lead the way for the rich. Bhutan’s idea of Gross National Happiness is an example.
There’s plenty of food to go round. World agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago despite a 70% population increase, due to rising yields, higher farming intensity and more use of land. The real problems are the system of distribution and energy use. If the rich world didn’t hog all the food and produce it inefficiently there’d be enough for everyone.
The amount officially spent on each poor person globally is US$20 a year, according to the World Bank. The amount has doubled in the last decade following a dip in the late 1990s. But several opinion polls show that rich country inhabitants think they’re much more generous than they really are. Americans think that their government spends 28% of the budget on aid when it’s really about 1%. Brits are almost as bad. The result of this widespread overestimation of generosity is that many people in rich countries want to cut aid.
Prompted by Bill Gates’s annual letter and the response from the Overseas Development Institute I thought I’d list some of the things that in my experience seem to be less understood about poor countries. (I wanted to list 23 things like Ha-Joon Chang on capitalism but I couldn’t think of another two). I use the word poor on purpose because although the word risks sounding patronising or dismissive, euphemisms like developing and less-developed can be worse. Thoughts are welcome.
1. Poverty is the rule, not the exception.For most people life just isn’t as good as it is for you and I, the comfortable people from a country rich enough to allow us the literacy, time and Internet access to read blogs written by well-meaning left liberals. Poverty-as-rule-not -exception is difficult to bend our minds around because we tend to base our views about the world on direct experience. If…
‘Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to 200,000 agro-pastoralists, is under development for sugar plantations and processing. The early stages of the development have resulted in the loss of land and livelihoods for thousands of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens. The future of 500,000 agro-pastoralists in Ethiopia and Kenya is at risk.’ – Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/node/123131
(Nairobi) – New satellite imagery shows extensive clearance of land used by indigenous groups to make way for state-run sugar plantations in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, Human Rights Watch and International Rivers said today. Virtually all of the traditional lands of the 7,000-member Bodi indigenous group have been cleared in the last 15 months, without adequate consultation or compensation. Human Rights Watch has also documented the forced resettlement of some indigenous people in the area.
The land clearing is part of a broader Ethiopian government development scheme in the Omo Valley, a United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, including dam construction, sugar plantations, and commercial agriculture. The project will consume the vast majority of the water in the Omo River basin, potentially devastating the livelihoods of the 500,000 indigenous people in Ethiopia and neighboring Kenya who directly or indirectly rely on the Omo’s waters for their livelihoods.
“Ethiopia can develop its land and resources but it shouldn’t run roughshod over the rights of its indigenous communities,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The people who rely on the land for their livelihoods have the right to compensation and the right to reject plans that will completely transform their lives.”
A prerequisite to the government’s development plans for the Lower Omo Valley is the relocation of 150,000 indigenous people who live in the vicinity of the sugar plantations into permanent sedentary villages under the government’s deeply unpopular “villagization” program. Under this program, people are to be moved into sedentary villages and provided with schools, clinics, and other infrastructure. As has been seen in other parts of Ethiopia, these movements are not all voluntary.
Satellite images analyzed by Human Rights Watch show devastating changes to the Lower Omo Valley between November 2010 and January 2013, with large areas originally used for grazing cleared of all vegetation and new roads and irrigation canals crisscrossing the valley. Lands critical for the livelihoods of the agro-pastoralist Bodi and Mursi peoples have been cleared for the sugar plantations. These changes are happening without their consent or compensation, local people told Human Rights Watch. Governments have a duty to consult and cooperate with indigenous people to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.
The imagery also shows the impact of a rudimentary dam built in July 2012 that diverted the waters of the Omo River into the sugar plantations. Water rapidly built up behind the shoddily built mud structure before breaking it twice. The reservoir created behind the dam forced approximately 200 Bodi families to flee to high ground, leaving behind their crops and their homes.
In a 2012 report Human Rights Watchwarned of the risk to livelihoods and potential for increased conflict and food insecurity if the government continued to clear the land. The report also documented how government security forces used violence and intimidation to make communities in the Lower Omo Valley relocate from their traditional lands, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods.
The development in the Lower Omo Valley depends on the construction upstream of a much larger hydropower dam – the Gibe III, which will regulate river flows to support year-round commercial agriculture.
A new film produced by International Rivers, “A Cascade of Development on the Omo River,” reveals how and why the Gibe III will cause hydrological havoc on both sides of the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Most significantly, the changes in river flow caused by the dam and associated irrigated plantations could cause a huge drop in the water levels of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake and another UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lake Turkana receives 90 percent of its water from the Omo River and is projected to drop by about two meters during the initial filling of the dam, which is estimated to begin around May 2014. If current plans to create new plantations continue to move forward, the lake could drop as much as 16 to 22 meters. The average depth of the lake is just 31 meters.
The river flow past the Gibe III will be almost completely blocked beginning in 2014. According to government documents, it will take up to three years to fill the reservoir, during which the Omo River’s annual flow could drop by as much as 70 percent. After this initial shock, regular dam operations will further devastate ecosystems and local livelihoods. Changes to the river’s flooding regime will harm agricultural yields, prevent the replenishment of important grazing areas, and reduce fish populations, all critical resources for livelihoods of certain indigenous groups.
The government of Ethiopia should halt development of the sugar plantations and the water offtakes until affected indigenous communities have been properly consulted and give their free, prior, and informed consent to the developments, Human Rights Watch and International Rivers said. The impact of all planned developments in the Omo/Turkana basin on indigenous people’s livelihoods should be assessed through a transparent, independent impact assessment process.
“If Ethiopia continues to bulldoze ahead with these developments, it will devastate the livelihoods of half a million people who depend on the Omo River,” said Lori Pottinger, head of International Rivers’ Ethiopia program. “It doesn’t have to be this way – Ethiopia has options for managing this river more sustainably, and pursuing developments that won’t harm the people who call this watershed home.”
Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley is one of the most isolated and underdeveloped areas in East Africa. At least eight different groups call the Omo River Valley home and the livelihood of each of these groups is intimately tied to the Omo River and the surrounding lands. Many of the indigenous people that inhabit the valley are agro-pastoralist, growing crops along the Omo River and grazing cattle.
In 2010, Ethiopia announced plans for the construction of Africa’s tallest dam, the 1,870 megawatt Gibe III dam on the Omo River. Controversy has dogged the Gibe III dam ever since. Of all the major funders who considered the dam, only China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) provided financing (the World Bank, African Development Bank, and European Investment Bank all declined to fund it, though the World Bank and African Development Bank have financed related power lines).
The Ethiopian government announced even more ambitious plans for the region in 2011, including the development of at least 245,000 hectares of irrigated state-run sugar plantations. Downstream, the water-intensive sugar plantations, will depend on irrigation canals. Although there have been some independent assessments of the Gibe dam project and its impact on river flow and Lake Turkana, to date the Ethiopian government has not published any environmental or social impact assessments for the sugar plantations and other commercial agricultural developments in the Omo valley.
According to the regional government plan for villagization in Lower Omo, the World Bank-supported Pastoral Community Development Project (PCDP) is funding some of the infrastructure in the new villages. Despite concerns over human rights abuses associated with the villagization program that were communicated to Bank management, in December 2013 the World Bank Board approved funding of the third phase of the PCDP III. PCDP III ostensibly provides much-needed services to pastoral communities throughout Ethiopia, but according to government documents PCDP also pays for infrastructure being used in the sedentary villages that pastoralists are being moved to.
The United States Congress in January included language in the 2014 Appropriations Act that puts conditions on US development assistance in the Lower Omo Valley requiring that there should be consultation with local communities; that the assistance “supports initiatives of local communities to improve their livelihoods”; and that no activities should be supported that directly or indirectly involve forced evictions.
However other donors have not publicly raised concerns about Ethiopia’s Lower Omo development plans. Justine Greening, the British Secretary of State for International Development, in 2012 stated that her Department for International Development (DFID) was not able to “substantiate the human rights concerns” in the Lower Omo Valley despite DFID officials hearing these concerns directly from impacted communities in January 2012.
Ethiopia: Land, Water Grabs Devastate Communities | Human Rights Watch
“Africa Rising” is now a very popular story – a near-universal belief that the continent is the next investment frontier after more than a decade of sustained high growth rates and increased foreign direct investment.
We even now have memes for this new narrative.
But some people have their doubts about this whole “Afro-optimism” talk – they say Africa isn’t really rising.
They argue that Africa’s low levels of manufacturing and industrialisation discredit the continent’s “growth miracle”. Its share of world trade is remains very small compared to Asia.
Well, Africa cannot be reduced to a single narrative. We have been victims of this before – for hundreds of years the continent has always been seen in a kind of Hobbesian way – where life is poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Now, there is a minority global elite working round the clock trying to turn this long-held view of a continent.
While I do not begrudge them for their PR efforts – we cannot mask the glaring inequality in Africa by developing a new optimist narrative about the continent.
There are many stories about Africa. Not just one.
While the sun shines bright in Namibia, not the same can be said of Malawi where the government is bankrupt or the Central African Republic (CAR) where sectarian violence is increasingly becoming genocidal.
Pretty much everyone else in the world seems accustomed to the living hell that is Somalia.
But we have also come to a consensus that Botswana and Ghana are the model countries in Africa.
South Africa is a member of the BRICS. While the petro-dollars are changing the fortunes of Angola – it has grown its wealth per capita by 527 per cent since the end of the civil war in 2002.
Not much can be said of South Sudan. Oil has not done anything despite pronouncements by the liberation leaders that independence holds much promise for the young nation’s prosperity.
The country imploded barely three years into into its independence.
This is the problem of a single narrative – it is indifferent to the growing and glaring inequality in Africa and its various political contexts.
Many Africans still have no access to the basic necessities of life. Millions go to bed without food and die from preventable diseases.
Others live in war-ravaged countries in constant fear for their lives. You can bet the last thing on their mind is not a blanket “rising” narrative about Africa and the promise it holds. That is not their Africa, its someone else’s.
Yes. “Africa Rising” may be real. But only to a small minority.
A report by New World Wealth highlights the variations in wealth distribution across the continent’s 19 wealthiest countries.
Africa’s total wealth stood at $2.7 trillion last year down from $3 trillion in 2007 after taking a hit from the global financial crisis.
These 19 countries control 76 per cent while the remaining 35 scrape over $648 billion. And most of this wealth is concentrated in northern and southern Africa.
The western, central and eastern regions have some of the poorest individuals on the continent with the highest per capita wealth from this group – with the exception of Angola – coming from Nigeria at $1,350.
Compare that with the mean wealth of a South African at $11,310, Libyan ($11,040) and Namibian ($10,500).
While the average Ethiopian has his asset base standing at a mere $260 despite years of economic growth and foreign investment – wealth has not filtered through to the people.
With this kind of glaring inequality between and within countries, the “Africa Rising” narrative risks masking the realities of millions of Africans struggling to get by in continent said to be on the move.
The sun may be shining bright in Africa – but only in favoured parts of it.
“Nations fail economically because of extractive institutions. These institutions keep poor countries poor and prevent them from embarking on a path to economic growth. This is true today in Africa, in South America, in Asia, in the Middle East and in some ex-Soviet Union nations. While having very different histories, languages and cultures, poor countries in these regions have similar extractive institutions designed by their elites for enriching themselves and perpetuating their power at the expense of the vast majority of the people on those societies. No meaningful change can be expected in those places until the exclusive extractive institutions, causing the problems in the first place, will become more inclusive.” http://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/how-to-end-poverty/#
I was always wondering about the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity. More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? As J.W. Smith points it, with the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question giving them money as such ‘donations’ rarely ‘reach the target’. Building industries instead? While that approach seems to provide better results (see few examples described by Ray Avery in his book ‘Rabel with a cause‘), it still did not provide a silver bullet solution, as it does not address the roots of poverty and prosperity.
In their book ‘Why nations fail?‘, that examines the origin of poverty and prosperity, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or the lack of it). Therefore only the development of inclusive…
As the current economic growth did not result from value addition and increased manufacturing, but instead from increases in world commodity prices, it makes the region susceptible to commodity price volatility. If commodity prices fall, Africa’s impressive economic growth might grind to a halt — thus, the dire need for diversification through industrialization. Even if commodity prices stay high, natural resources are not infinite and they must be managed with sagacity.
As recommended by the 2013 Africa Progress report, it is advantageous for African governments to fully implement the Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA) plan, signed in 2008 in Addis-Ababa. The AIDA is a comprehensive framework for achieving the industrialization of the continent. If Africa can successfully steward its natural resource wealth, investing it wisely and using some to industrialize, then whether the resources run out or not or whether commodity prices fall, Africa would be on a good economic footing.
Moreover, not only will industrialization create the environment for adding value to Africa’s natural resources, but it will also provide much needed employment at various stages of the value adding chain for Africa’s 1.1 billion people — leading to wealth creation.
Industrialization will address many development gaps in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of these gaps, as noted in a UNECA Southern Africa Office Expert Group Meeting Report, include:
Africa’s high dependence on primary products
Low value addition to commodities before exports
High infrastructure deficit
High exposure to commodity price volatility
Limited linkage of the commodities sector to the local economy
Poorly developed private sector, which is highly undercapitalized
Limited commitment to implement industrial policies
Limited investment in R&D, science, innovation and technology
Low intra-Africa trade
Slow progress towards strengthening regional integration
The Time is Now
Is Africa ready? The answer is an emphatic yes. The phenomenal growth is one reason why Africa is ready, but growth on its own is not enough. Other conditions need to be considered: Does the continent have access to enough raw materials for production? What is the proximity of these natural resources to the continent? Is there adequate land, labor, and capital? These are the traditional factors of production or inputs to the production process.
Yes, Africa has access to the raw materials necessary for production. Unlike already industrialized nations who have to import raw materials from Africa and elsewhere over long distances, Africa enjoys close proximity to these resources.
With regards to the factors of production, Africa is the world’s second largest continent and therefore is home to plenty of land — most of which is arable.
Africa is also the world’s second most populous continent. The average age of an African in Africa is under 19 years. This means Africa has enough manpower or labor to industrialize.
Capital refers to man-made products used in the production process such as buildings, machinery and tools. Africa does have a measure of this, but instead needs to do more in this area — hence the need for greater infrastructural and skills development. In fact, African policymakers as well as their counterparts in the developed world should realize that it is high time for a shift in the nature of aid to the continent — from primarily monetary aid to the type of capital aid needed for industrialization.
Finally, when Africa successfully undergoes industrial development, its huge populace will serve as a market for the outputs of its production processes; any excess supply can be exported and swapped for foreign exchange. Africa is ready and the time for it to industrialize is now.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
“Agribusiness feeds the rich; small farmers feed the rest. Yet we have a strong interest in feeding the world and are concerned that food conferences dominated by agribusiness directly threaten our ability to produce affordable, healthy, local food.Solving world hunger is not about industrial agriculture producing more food – our global experience of the green revolution has shown that the drive towards this industrial model has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor. Feeding the world is about increasing access to resources like land and water, so that people have the means to feed themselves, their families and their communities. Small family farms produce the majority of food on the planet – 70% of the world’s food supply! If conferences, like this one, exclude the voice of small farmers, then the debate about feeding the world is dominated by the rich and the solutions proposed will only feed their profits.”
A farming revolution is under way in Africa, pushed by giant corporations and the UK’s aid budget. It will surely be good for the global economy, writes Sophie Morlin-Yron, but will Africa’s small farmers see the benefit?
Many millions of small farmers that were once merely poor, will be propelled into destitution, the chaff of a neoliberal market revolution as pitiless as it is powerful.
World leaders in agriculture and development gathered in London last week at the The Economist’s ‘Feeding the World Summit’ to discuss global solutions to tackling Africa’s food security crisis.
At the event, which cost between £700 and £1,000 to attend, industry leaders spoke of new innovations and initiatives which would help fight poverty, world hunger and malnutrition, and transform the lives of millions of farmers worldwide.
Just one farmer
But there was only one farmer among the speakers, Rose Adongo, with barely a handful more in the audience. A Ugandan beef and honey farmer, Adongo was unimpressed by the technical solutions offered by the corporate speakers.
For her, the main issue was land ownership for farmers – and desperately needed changes in Ugandan law, under which women have no right to land ownership even though 80% of the country’s farmers are women, and they produce 60% of the food.
If only a woman could own land – currently passed down from father to son “she can produce more food”. Besides that she wanted cheaper fertilisers and an end to the desperate toil of hand working in the fields. Much of the land is currently plowed by hand which “can take weeks to do”.
Among the excluded …
But many were excluded from the event – and desperately wanted their voices to be heard. Among them was Jyoti Fernandes, from The Landworkers’ Alliance (member of La Via Campesina), a producer-led organisation representing small-scale agroecological producers in the UK.
“Agribusiness feeds the rich; small farmers feed the rest”, she said. “None of our members could afford to attend the Feeding the World Summit.
“Yet we have a strong interest in feeding the world and are concerned that food conferences dominated by agribusiness directly threaten our ability to produce affordable, healthy, local food.
Solving world hunger, she insisted, “is not about industrial agriculture producing more food – our global experience of the green revolution has shown that the drive towards this industrial model has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor.”
Improving access to land and water
“Feeding the world is about increasing access to resources like land and water, so that people have the means to feed themselves, their families and their communities.
“Small family farms produce the majority of food on the planet – 70% of the world’s food supply! If conferences, like this one, exclude the voice of small farmers, then the debate about feeding the world is dominated by the rich and the solutions proposed will only feed their profits.”
As Graciela Romero of War on Want commented in The Ecologist last week, it is that small farmers are feeding the world – not corporations:
“Millions of small-scale farmers produce 70% of the world’s food. Yet they remain excluded and forgotten from exchanges which affect their livelihoods or concern how to end world hunger.”
Among the 27 speakers at the event were Nestlé Head of Agriculture Hans Joehr, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, Cargill Vice-Chairman Paul Conway, UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition David Nabarro, and representatives from the World Food Program and World Vision.
And despite the involvement of some NGOs, academics UN officials, the main topic of discussion was private sector investment in agriculture.
Lynne Featherstone, a junior UK minister for International Development, said the way forward is newly developed efficient fertilisers, pest tolerant crops and private sector investment:
“There is substantial room for improvement, and helping farmers increase productivity while consuming fewer inputs is a priority. With partners such as CGIAR we have developed more efficient fertilisers and pest tolerant crop varieties.”
UK spending £280m to support private sector engagement
She also outlined the Government plans to invest £280m from its aid budget funding in businesses and organisations under the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (AFNC).
This private sector initiative – which has also involves 14 Governments – ostensibly aims to lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty by 2022, by attracting more private investment in agriculture. Featherstone explained the rationale:
“Economic growth in these countries is best achieved through agricultural growth, which has the power of raising incomes and getting people out of poverty. And the private sector can catalyse that agricultural growth with sustainable agricultural investment.”
But is it really about land grabs?
But critics fear that is has rather more to do with getting governments on-side so corporations can carry out land grabs – taking the best watered and most fertile land away from African farmers and delivering it up to investors to plant cash crops across the continent, while turning once independent small farmers into a a proletarian underclass of landless plantation workers and rootless urban workers.
Paulus Verschuren, Special Envoy on Food and Nutrition Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands attempted to strike a balance:
“We are not going to fix the zero-hunger challenge without involving the private sector, but we need to set the criteria for these transformational partnerships. They need to have a business outcome and a development outcome.”
Corporations keen to help small farmers …
Representatives of major food corporations also insisted that they wanted to work with small farmers and help them to produce their crops efficiently while meeting development objectives.
Nestlé’s Corporate Head of Agriculture, Hans Jöhr, claimed to be willing to work with small farmers as well as large to fulfil development objectives and improving resource efficiency:
“The issue of feeding the world has to been seen in perspective of rural development, and not only technology”, he said. “And it’s definitely not about talking small versus big farmers, I think that was really the yesterday talk. It’s about people, individuals, it’s about farmers.
We cannot go on polluting and destroying
“So in this meeting about farmers, when we are talking about farmers, we are going back to what we have listened to, the restrictions we all face in business is natural resources, natural capital. It’s not only about the land, it’s mainly about water.
“This leads us to looking into production systems and methods and understanding that we cannot continue to go on with polluting destroying and depleting natural resources and with wasting them.
“Farmers who don’t know how to farm waste a tremendous amount of natural resources and agricultural materials because they don’t know how to store, and are not linked to an outlet to markets. That means that we have to help them better understand the production systems.”
Productivity must be raised
Vice Chairman of Cargill, Paul Conway, emphasised the importance of secure land ownership: “The number one thing here isn’t technology, it isn’t finance, it’s security of tenure of the land, which is absolutely critical.”
And Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant played down the importance of genetic modification in improving crop yields in Africa, from 20 bushels of grain per hectare to India’s typical level of 100 bushels.
“There is no reason Africa shouldn’t be close to India, it’s all small-holder agriculture. Why is it 20 today and not 90? Now forget biotech, that’s eminently achievable with some sensible husbandry and land reform ownership, the tools are in hand today.”
“We have set goals to double yields in the next 30 years with a third less water, agriculture gets through an enormous amount of water. The first 70 per cent of which goes to agriculture, the next 30 per cent goes to Coke, Pepsi, swimming pools and everything you drink and all of industry, and that isn’t sustainable.
We believe our sole focus on agriculture is vital as the world looks to produce enough nutritious food to feed a growing population while conserving, or even decreasing, the use of precious natural inputs such as land, water and energy.”
Farmers ‘invisible and irrelevant’
But Mariam Mayet, Director of African Safety for Biosafety – which campaigns against genetic engineering, privatisation, industrialisation and private sector control of African agriculture – was not convinced.
To the constellation of famous speakers and corporate representatives, she said, small farmers were a simple obstruction to progress:
“We know that all of African farmers are invisible and irrelevant to those at this summit. These producers are seen as inefficient and backwards, and if they have any role at all, it is to be forced out of agriculture to becoming mere passive consumers of industrial food products.
“Africa is seen as a possible new frontier to make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular.
“The recent investment wave must be understood in the context of consolidation of a global food regime dominated by large corporations in input supply such as seed and agrochemicals especially, but also increasingly in processing, storage, trading and distribution.
“Currently African food security rests fundamentally on small-scale and localised production. The majority of the African population continue to rely on agriculture as an important, if not the main, source of income and livelihoods.”
Can the chasm be bridged?
If we take the sentiments expressed by corporate bosses at face value – and why not? – then we do not see any overt determination to destroy Africa’s small farmers. On the contrary, they want to help them to farm better, more productively and efficiently, and more profitably.
And perhaps we should not be surprised. After all that suits their interests, to have a growing and prosperous farming sector in Africa that can both buy their products and produce reliable surpluses for sale on global food markets.
The rather harder question is, what about those farmers who lack the technical or entrepreneurial ability, the education, the desire, the extent of land, the security of land tenure, to join that profitable export-oriented sector? And who simply want to carry on as mainly subsistence farmers, supporting their families, producing only small surpluses for local sale?
The small subsistence farmer has no place
Stop and think about it, and the answer is obvious. They have no place in the new vision of agriculture that is sweeping across the continent, with the generous support of British aid money.
Their role in this process is to be forced off their land – whether expelled by force or by market forces – and deliver it up to their more successful neighbour, the corporation, the urban agricultural entrepreneur, to farm it at profit for the market.
And then, either to leave their village homes and join the displaced masses in Africa’s growing cities, or to stay on as landless workers, serving their new masters.
This all represents ‘economic progress’ and increases in net production. But look behind the warm words – and many millions of small farmers that were once merely poor, will be propelled into destitution, the chaff of a neoliberal market revolution as pitiless as it is powerful.
Is this really how the UK’s aid funds should be invested?
A landmark G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers.
Ten countries made more than 200 policy commitments, including changes to laws and regulations after giant agribusinesses were granted unprecedented access to decision-makers over the past two years.
The pledges will make it easier for companies to do business in Africathrough the easing of export controls and tax laws, and through governments ringfencing huge chunks of land for investment.
The Ethiopian government has said it will “refine” its land law to encourage long-term land leases and strengthen the enforcement of commercial farm contracts. In Malawi, the government has promised to set aside 200,000 hectares of prime land for commercial investors by 2015, and in Ghana, 10,000 hectares will be made available for investment by the end of next year. In Nigeria, promises include the privatisation of power companies.
A Guardian analysis of companies’ plans under the initiative suggests dozens of investments are for non-food crops, including cotton, biofuels and rubber, or for projects explicitly targeting export markets.
But small farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the programme, have been shut out of the negotiations.
Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said governments had been making promises to investors “completely behind the screen”, with “no long-term view about the future of smallholder farmers” and without their participation.
He described Africa as the last frontier for large-scale commercialfarming. “There’s a struggle for land, for investment, for seed systems, and first and foremost there’s a struggle for political influence,” he said.
Zitto Kabwe, the chairman of the Tanzanian parliament’s public accountscommittee, said he was “completely against” the commitments his government has made to bolster private investment in seeds.
“By introducing this market, farmers will have to depend on imported seeds. This will definitely affect small farmers. It will also kill innovation at the local level. We have seen this with manufacturing,” he said.
“It will be like colonialism. Farmers will not be able to farm until they import, linking farmers to [the] vulnerability of international prices. Big companies will benefit. We should not allow that.”
Tanzania’s tax commitments would also benefit companies rather than small farmers, he said, adding that the changes proposed would have to go through parliament. “The executive cannot just commit to these changes. These are sensitive issues. There has to be enough debate,” he said.
Million Belay, the head of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), said the initiative could spell disaster for small farmers in Africa. “It clearly puts seed production and distribution in the hands of companies,” he said.
“The trend is for companies to say they cannot invest in Africa without new laws … Yes, agriculture needs investment, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bring greater control over farmers’ lives.
“More than any other time in history, the African food production system is being challenged. More than any other time in history outside forces are deciding the future of our farming systems.”
‘Much of the “Africa Rising” narrative is based on the cyclical growth in income revenues from commodities. But who knows how long this will last? Dr Moghalu wants African governments to grasp hold of their future by creating industrial manufacturing so that Africans can consume what they produce. If that could be achieved, the continent will have moved away from being an import-driven consumer-driven economy. It is only then, he argues, that we can say Africa has truly risen.’
The term “Africa Rising” is on the lips of many these days particularly as seven of the world’s fastest growing economies are believed to be African. But can this current wave of Afro-optimism bring genuine prosperity to the African continent? Dr Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria thinks not.
“Hope is good,” he says. “But hope must be based on concrete substantive strategy going forward, so I pour a little bit of cold water of the Africa Rising phenomenon. I think it could lead to illusionary thinking. I recall that when African countries became independent that there was a huge sense of euphoria around the continent that independence guaranteed economic growth, political development and stability. But this did not happen in the following 30 to 40 years.”
In his latest book, Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ can prosper and matter, Dr Moghalu presents his own ideas on how Africa can become truly prosperous. He describes it as “a vision for Africa’s future based on a fundamental analysis of why Africa has fallen behind in the world economy”.
In doing so, the LSE alumnus discusses some fundamental misunderstandings about which African states need to revise their assumptions.
The first is the idea that globalisation is automatically good. Rather, Dr Moghalu describes it as a huge and influential reality which Africans must engage with a sense of sophistication and self-interest. It is important to find a way to break that stranglehold because globalisation is neither benign in its intention nor agnostic in its belief. It is driven by an agenda and there are people who drive it.
Economist Dambisa Moyo caused controversy with her first book, Dead Aid: Why foreign aid isn’t working and how there is another way for Africa. Dr Moghalu echoes some of her arguments describing foreign aid as one of the leading reasons why Africa is impoverished. “It has removed the incentive of many African nations to seek solutions for their economic challenges and create wealth for their citizens,” he argues. “Instead it has perpetuated poverty because they are simply content to survive from one day to the next.”
Foreign aid does have its place, Dr Moghalu admits, but “it should always be within a limited time frame and it should focus on economic wealth creation activities rather than just helping people survive”. On the day we meet, the UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening is in the news revealing that there will be a radical shift in future UK aid into economic development, concentrating on economic growth and jobs. Dr Moghalu expressed great pleasure at this announcement remarking that “it is very interesting that British policy is catching up with the recommendations in my book”.
Another fundamental understanding that the central banker develops in his book is the importance of understanding the four different kinds of capitalism and the implications they have for Africa’s growth. The first is state capitalism which is not very common, although it is practised by China. It is, in fact, an oxymoron. Many African states do not have the capacity to run state capitalism because you need an all-knowing state with a huge reserve of strategic thinking capacity to be able to direct wealth creation for the purposes defined by the state. There is also oligarchic or crony capitalism in Russia and some African states. This can be turned into strategic activity if cronyism is not rampant. South Korea did that by creating the Chaebols, the family-held businesses which today dominate the South Korea economy. Welfare capitalism is the norm is Europe. Some African states have practised welfare capitalism without generating the type of revenue that will sustain it into the future. Now it is out of favour. Entrepreneurial capitalism is what made America wealthy and this is what Dr Moghalu recommends for most African economies because it suits the African culture. Along with a certain amount of oligarchic and welfare capitalism, it would do Africa a world of good, he adds.
Much of the “Africa Rising” narrative is based on the cyclical growth in income revenues from commodities. But who knows how long this will last? Dr Moghalu wants African governments to grasp hold of their future by creating industrial manufacturing so that Africans can consume what they produce. If that could be achieved, the continent will have moved away from being an import-driven consumer-driven economy. It is only then, he argues, that we can say Africa has truly risen. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2014/02/12/afro-optimism-will-not-transform-africa/
Oakland, CA – In a historic move, the US Congress has taken a stance on land grabs-related human rights abuses in Ethiopia. The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill contains provisions that ensure that US development funds are not used to support forced evictions in Ethiopia.
The bill prevents US assistance from being used to support activities that directly or indirectly involve forced displacement in the Lower Omo and Gambella regions. It further requires US assistance in these areas be used to support local community initiatives aimed at improving livelihoods and be subject to prior consultation with affected populations. The bill goes further and even instructs the directors of international financial institutions to oppose financing for any activities that directly or indirectly involve forced evictions in Ethiopia.
According to Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, “We welcome this move as it aims to address one major flaw of US assistance to Ethiopia. The step taken by the US Congress is very significant, as it signals to both the Ethiopian government and the US administration that turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the name of development is no longer an option.”
Several reports from the Oakland Institute have raised alarm about the scale, rate, and negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia that would result in the forced displacement of over 1.5 million people. This relocation process through the government’s villagization scheme is destroying the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and pastoralist communities. Ethiopian security forces have beaten, arrested, and intimidated individuals who have refused to relocate and free the lands for large-scale agricultural plantations.
Ethiopia’s so-called development programs cannot be carried out without the support of international donors, primarily the US, one of its main donors. Oakland Institute’s on-the-ground research has documented the high toll paid by local people as well as the role of donor countries such as the US in supporting the Ethiopian policy.
This language represents an important first step towards Congress initiating a comprehensive examination of US development practices in Ethiopia. As the oversight authority of the State Department, Congress must now ensure that the law is fully upheld and implemented. This warrants thorough scrutiny of USAID programs to Ethiopia and their contribution to forced resettlements and human rights abuses.
With this bill, USAID, the State Department, as well as the World Bank, will have to reconsider the terms and modalities of the support they provide to the Ethiopian government. According to Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s Policy Director, “This is a light of hope for the millions of indigenous people in Ethiopia who have sought international support from the international community to recognize their very destruction as communities and people.” Read Further @
USAID’s cover-up of Ethiopia abuses overruled by Congress 12 February 2014
The United States Congress has acted to prevent its aid to Ethiopia being used to fund forced evictions of tribal peoples in the south west of the country.
The provisions in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for 2014 represent a slap in the face for USAID, which last month said that ‘there are no reports of widespread or systematic human rights abuses’ in the region.
In fact, tribes of the Lower Omo Valley are being violently evicted from their villages by the government to make way for lucrative cotton, palm oil, and sugarcane plantations whose irrigation will be made possible by the controversial Gibe III dam. Transferred to designated resettlement areas, the once self-sufficient tribes will be left with no access to their livestock or lands and, consequently, will be unable to sustain themselves. Intimidation tactics, such as rape and beatings, have reportedly been used against those who resist resettlement.
One Mursi man told Survival International, ‘We are waiting to die. We are crying. When the government collects people into one village there will be no place for crops, and my children will be hungry and have no food.’
The Ethiopian government has not consulted any indigenous communities over its aggressive plantation plans in the Omo Valley, and very few were consulted over the construction of the Gibe III dam.
This sugarcane plantation, part of a government sponsored land grab, now occupies land used by tribes of the Lower Omo Valley since time immemorial.
Although the provisions in the recent spending bill will force USAID to reevaluate the funding given to Ethiopia, it will ultimately be the responsibility of Congress to guarantee that the terms are upheld.
Survival International Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This bill is a huge step in the right direction, and shows that USAID’s shameful denials of the human rights abuses being committed in the Lower Omo simply haven’t been believed.
‘American taxpayers want to be sure that their money isn’t going toward the destruction of tribal peoples’ lives. Hopefully the historic provisions in this year’s spending bill will ensure that’s the case. It is now high time that British parliamentarians follow suit and ensure that DFID does not use UK taxpayers’ money to fund human rights violations in the Lower Omo.’ http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/9983
Further References on land grabs in Africa
Around 90 percent of the population of 87 million still suffers from numerous deprivations, ranging from insufficient access to education to inadequate health care; average incomes are still well below $1500 a year; and more than 30 million people still face chronic food shortages.
And while there are a number of positive and genuine reasons for the growth spurt – business and legislative reforms, more professional governance, the achievements of a thriving service sector – many critics say that the growth seen in agriculture, which accounts for almost half of Ethiopia’s economic activity and a great deal of its recent success, is actually being driven by an out of control ‘land grab’, as multinational companies and private speculators vie to lease millions of acres of the country’s most fertile territory from the government at bargain basement prices.
At the ministry of agriculture in Addis Ababa, this land-lease programme is often described as a “win-win” because it brings in new technologies and employment and, supposedly, makes it easier to improve health care, education and other services in rural areas.
“Ethiopia needs to develop to fight poverty, increase food supplies and improve livelihoods and is doing so in a sustainable way,” said one official.
But according to a host of NGO’s and policy advocates, including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and the Oakland Institute, the true consequences of the land grabs are almost all negative. They say that in order to make such huge areas available for foreign investors to grow foodstuffs and bio-fuels for export – and in direct contravention of Ethiopia’s obligations under international law – the authorities are displacing hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples, abusing their human rights, destroying their traditions, trashing the environment, and making them more dependent on food aid than ever before.
“The benefits for the local populations are very little,” said renowned Ethiopian sociologist Dessalegn Rahmato. “They’ve taken away their land. They’ve taken away their natural resource, because these investors are clearing the land, destroying the forest, cutting down the trees. The government claims that one of the aims of this investment was to enable local areas to benefit by investing in infrastructure, social services … but these benefits are not included in the contract. It’s only left up to the magnanimity of the investor.”
And those investors, he continued, are simply not interested in anything other than serving their own needs: “They can grow any crop they want, when they want it, they can sell in any market they want, whether it’s a global market or a local market. In fact most of them are not interested in the local markets.”
He cited as an example a massive Saudi-owned plantation in the fertile Gambella region of south west Ethiopia, a prime target area for investors: “They have 10,000 hectares and they are producing rice. This rice is going to be exported to the Middle East, to Saudi Arabia and other places. The local people in that area don’t eat rice.”
But the most controversial element of the government’s programme is known as ‘villagisation’ – the displacement of people from land they have occupied for generations and their subsequent resettlement in artificial communities.
In Gambella, where two ethnic groups, the Anuaks and the Nuers, predominate, it has meant tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon a traditional way of life. One such is Moot, an Anuak farmer who now lives in a government village far from his home.
“When investors showed up, we were told to pack up our things and to go to the village. If we had decided not to go, they would have destroyed our crops, our houses and our belongings. We couldn’t even claim compensation because the government decided that those lands belonged to the investors. We were scared … if you get upset and say that someone stole your land, you are put in prison. If you complain about being arrested, they will kill you. It’s not our land anymore; we have been deprived of our rights.”
Despite growing internal opposition and international criticism, the Ethiopian government shows no sign of scaling the programme back. According to the Oakland Institute, since 2008, an area the size of France has already been handed over to foreign corporations. Over the next few years an area twice that size is thought to be earmarked for leasing to investors.
So what does all this mean for the people on the ground? In Ethiopia – Land for Sale, filmmakers Veronique Mauduy and Romain Pelleray try and find out.
Farming and food in Africa and the battle over land, water and resource rights
Africa is being heralded as the new frontier for commercial farming but, as governments and investors sign deals, a counter movement of family farmers is promoting alternative pathways to development.
The International Year of Family Farming is now underway, and never before have family farmers in Africa been more under threat.
Large land deals between African governments and usually foreign (and sometimes domestic) investors have seen swathes of the countryside leased or conceded, often for as much as 50-99 years. From Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia in the Horn, and down to Mozambique in the south, land considered idle and available has changed hands, with profound implications for local people and the environment.
‘The second poorest country in the world according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multidimensional Poverty Index,  Ethiopia consistently ranks extremely low upon a variety of socioeconomic, development and human rights indicators.  Recently, however, Ethiopia has experienced economic growth – making it amongst ‘Africa’s best performing economies.’  This development reiterates the Ethiopian government’s lofty ambitions to attain ‘middle-income status by 2020.’  The validity, sustainability, and possible ramifications of Ethiopia’s purported and ambitious economic transformation in the near future – which could prove beneficial domestically and regionally – merits closer analysis.’ – http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/90435
To begin with, it is important that Ethiopia’s economic growth translate into broad scale development. While Ethiopia has reportedly witnessed tangible progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),  the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that there still remains ‘a pressing need for policies to translate positive growth outcomes into stronger employment gains and further reduction in poverty and set off a dynamic, virtuous cycle of self sustaining and broad-based growth.’ Further challenges include high levels of youth and female unemployment, greater efforts being required to identify and address the needs of those in severe and chronic poverty (approximately 25 million or 27 percent of Ethiopians live in extreme poverty), and pervasive malnutrition. 
Ethiopia’s economic growth also arouses questions of equitable growth and redistribution. Handley et al. (2009) outline that, although essential, economic growth is not always wholly sufficient to reduce poverty or inequality. Rather, an assortment of measures must be undertaken to ensure that poorer strata of society are incorporated into national economic growth.  Even with Ethiopia’s past reduction of much national inequality, dramatic inequities in education and employment – and broad discrimination – along rural-urban, gender, and ethno-religious lines are starkly apparent. 
Another critical issue emanating from Ethiopia’s economic growth and general developmental efforts is the manner in which they have been pursued. For example, a vital component of Ethiopia’s agricultural development strategy is the ‘villagization’ program that entails the relocation of millions of people from locations reserved for industrial plantations.  Ethiopia is an agrarian-based society in which more than 80 percent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture and pastoralism for subsistence. Issues arising from the program have led to greater food insecurity, a destruction of livelihoods and the loss of cultural heritage. Additionally, the program, which frequently utilizes forced evictions, has been plagued by a plethora of human rights violations. A variety of human rights groups have documented beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation and political coercion by the government and authorities. 
While Ethiopia has suggested that leasing land to foreign investors is necessary to modernize farming, enhance domestic food production and generate employment,  it continues to struggle mightily with hunger, under-nutrition and stunting.  Further, a UN report has even suggested that such investment deals negatively impact local populations. 
Importantly, projections of Ethiopia’s forthcoming evolution into a middle-income country must address the fact that Ethiopia remains overwhelmingly dependent on foreign aid. Long unable to produce enough food for its population, the nation has been dependent on foreign food aid for decades;  recent World Food Programme data illustrates that the country remains one of the largest recipients of food aid in the world. 
Siyoum, Hilhorst, and Van Uffelen (2012) also note that more than 8 million Ethiopians rely on food aid. Furthermore, the authors find that Ethiopia’s food insecurity stems from government failures in addressing major structural problems including poor soil fertility, environmental degradation, population pressure, fragmented landholdings and a severe lack of income-generating opportunities outside of agriculture. 
In addition to its reliance on food aid, Ethiopia is highly dependent on external economic assistance. In 2011, Ethiopia was the world’s fifth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.6 billion in total assistance,  the latter figure representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget.  Additionally, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan.
According to Finland’s Country Strategy for Development Cooperation in Ethiopia, published by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia’s dependency challenges include the fact that its ‘…humanitarian support programmes are fragmented,’  an outcome likely influenced by the expansive network of foreign development, religious, and charity organizations (2000-4000 in total).  The Finnish report also notes that ‘a large proportion of the Ethiopian people have limited coping mechanisms at their disposal.’ Furthermore, the country is faced with ‘an immediate need [to] transition from humanitarian aid to development [and]…without a range of dynamic and comprehensive activities to promote effective private sector development, particularly in agriculture, it will be very difficult to achieve the anticipated growth rates under the [growth and transformation plan].’ 
In fact, recent years have seen Ethiopia’s vaunted annual GDP growth rate decrease.  Utilizing World Bank data, which reports Ethiopia’s 2012 GNI per capita as $380 (current US$),  Ethiopia’s transition to lower middle-income status (between $1,036 – $4,085)  would require an annual growth rate of approximately 20 percent. This would appear to be highly unlikely, even if overlooking its recent descending economic trend or the negative effects of inflation.
These issues may be exacerbated by an array of financial risks. According to the IMF, Ethiopia faces growing external debt,  even though it was the beneficiary of debt cancellation in 2005 via the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiatives (MDRI) programs.  Additionally, it is has experienced a worsening of its foreign exchange shortage, and a lack of sufficient financing for its growth and transformation plan. 
Beyond the aforementioned developmental challenges, issues of aid dependency and financial risks, domestic governance and external geopolitical factors represent critical concerns for Ethiopia. A multicultural, ethnically-diverse country with a state-structure built along institutionalized ethnic entrenchment in a nominal federal arrangement dominated by a single minority group; rising tensions with a resilient, large and historically repressed Islamic constituency; and troubled ties with neighbours are both challenges and possible impediments to Ethiopia’s projected economic growth unless adequately addressed.
Currently, political oppression, ethnic discrimination, extrajudicial executions, torture and other abuses in detention,  in addition to economic factors, have led hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians to flee the country. Many fall prey to human smugglers and traffickers who engage in a variety of the most depraved forms of abuse or exploitation. 
Additionally, Ethiopia has been at the forefront of a variety of conflicts. The separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) continues to wage an insurgency against the central government,  while terrorism – largely arising from Ethiopia’s policies and interventions in neighbouring regions – has been a constant threat. According to Global Humanitarian Assistance, in each of the years from 2002-2011 Ethiopia was engaged in some form of active conflict.  Prior, the 1998-2000 period saw Ethiopia wage a costly war against Eritrea. Since then, Ethiopia has failed to abide by its obligations as ruled by the international Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission,  and instead continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories – thus posing an unnecessary problem to both countries and the surrounding region.  Ethiopia’s recent tension with Egypt regarding the construction of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam is an additional dimension that complicates an already tenuous regional political landscape. 
Last, a potential crisis within or outright collapse of the Ethiopian state calls into question any projections of Ethiopia’s impending transition to middle-income status. Since 2006, Ethiopia has experienced a downward trend in the Fund for Peace (FFP) Failed States Index, while for 2013 it received amongst the lowest rankings.  This outcome is buttressed by Marshall and Cole’s (2011) State Fragility Index and Matrix which classifies Ethiopia as one of the eight ‘most fragile’ states in the world. State fragility is reported as an aggregate score of an array of governance categories including state effectiveness, legitimacy, security, armed conflict and other socio-economic and political factors.  Finally, the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (2012) suggests that Ethiopia is among the top 15 ‘high risk’ nations slated for state failure by 2030. 
In conclusion, Ethiopia’s recent economic growth and developmental progress are respectable achievements, particularly within a region long plagued by a variety of ailments. However, suggestions of Ethiopia’s socioeconomic transformation may prove fanciful if they fail to consider and address a variety of significant concerns.
‘Recognising that poor countries are poor because they have extractive institutions helps us understand how best to help them. It also casts a different light on the idea of foreign aid. We do not argue for its reduction. Even if a huge amount of aid is siphoned off by the powerful, the cash can still do a lot of good. It can put roofs on schools, lay roads or build wells. Giving money can feed the hungry, and help the sick — but it does not free people from the institutions that make them hungry and sick in the first place. It doesn’t free them from the system which saps their opportunities and incentives. When aid is given to governments that preside over extractive institutions, it can be at best irrelevant, at worst downright counter-productive. Aid to Angola, for example, is likely to help the president’s daughter rather than the average citizen. Many kleptocratic dictators such as Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko have been propped up by foreign aid. And it wasn’t foreign aid that helped to undermine the apartheid regime in South Africa and got Nelson Mandela out of prison, but international sanctions. Those sanctions came from pressure on governments — including the British government — that would have preferred not to see them implemented. Today it is no different. Governments don’t like cutting their ties to dictators who open doors for international business, or help their geopolitical agendas. Pressure needs to come from citizens who do care enough about international development to force politicians to overcome the easy temptation of short-run political expediency. Making institutions more inclusive is about changing the politics of a society to empower the poor — the empowerment of those disenfranchised, excluded and often repressed by those monopolising power.’ –Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, The Spectator magazine, 25th January 2014
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their articles in The Spectator put forward the following interesting analysis regarding what is really at stake and leading issues in Africa’s development problems. They brought to our attentions why aid has failed and proposed how the predicaments can be tackled:-
David Cameron speaks compellingly about international aid. Eradicating poverty, he says, means certain institutional changes: rights for women and minorities, a free media and integrity in government. It means the freedom to participate in society and have a say over how your country is run. We wholeheartedly agree and were flattered to see the Prime Minister tell this magazine that he is ‘obsessed’ by our book on the subject, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. But diagnosing a problem is one thing; fixing it another. And we don’t yet see the political will — in Britain or elsewhere — that could turn this analysis into a practical agenda.
The British government is strikingly generous in foreign aid donations. It spent £8.7 billion on foreign aid in 2012 — which is 0.56 per cent of national income. This is to rise to £11.7 billion, or 0.7 per cent of national income, next year. But if money alone were the solution we would be along the road not just to ameliorating the lives of poor people today but ending poverty for ever.
The idea that large donations can remedy poverty has dominated the theory of economic development — and the thinking in many international aid agencies and governments — since the 1950s. And how have the results been? Not so good, actually. Millions have moved out of abject poverty around the world over the past six decades, but that has had little to do with foreign aid. Rather, it is due to economic growth in countries in Asia which received little aid. The World Bank has calculated that between 1981 and 2010, the number of poor people in the world fell by about 700 million — and that in China over the same period, the number of poor people fell by 627 million.
In the meantime, more than a quarter of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are poorer now than in 1960 — with no sign that foreign aid, however substantive, will end poverty there. Last year, perhaps the most striking illustration came from Liberia, which has received massive amounts of aid for a decade. In 2011, according to the OECD, official development aid to Liberia totalled $765 million, and made up 73 per cent of its gross national income. The sum was even larger in 2010. But last year every one of the 25,000 students who took the exam to enter the University of Liberia failed. All of the aid is still failing to provide a decent education to Liberians.
One could imagine that many factors have kept sub-Saharan Africa poor — famines, civil wars. But huge aid flows appear to have done little to change the development trajectories of poor countries, particularly in Africa. Why? As we spell out in our book, this is not to do with a vicious circle of poverty, waiting to be broken by foreign money. Poverty is instead created by economic institutions that systematically block the incentives and opportunities of poor people to make things better for themselves, their neighbours and their country.
Let us take for Exhibit A the system of apartheid in South Africa, which Nelson Mandela dedicated himself to abolishing. In essence, apartheid was a set of economic institutions — rules that governed what people could or could not do, their opportunities and their incentives. In 1913, the South African government declared that 93 per cent of South Africa was the ‘white economy’, while 7 per cent was for blacks (who constituted about 70 per cent of the population). Blacks had to have a pass, a sort of internal passport, to travel to the white economy. They could not own property or start a business there. By the 1920s the ‘Colour Bar’ banned blacks from undertaking any skilled or professional occupation. The only jobs blacks could take in the white economy were as unskilled workers on farms, in mines or as servants for white people. Such economic institutions, which we call ‘extractive’, sap the incentives and opportunities of the vast mass of the population and thereby keep a society poor.
The people in poor countries have the same aspirations as those in rich countries — to have the same chances and opportunities, good health care, clean running water in their homes and high-quality schools for their children. The problem is that their aspirations are blocked today — as the aspirations of black people were in apartheid South Africa — by extractive institutions. The poor don’t pull themselves out of poverty, because the basic ability to do so is denied them. You could see this in the protests behind the Arab Spring: those in Cairo’s Tahrir Square spoke in one voice about the corruption of the government, its inability to deliver public services and the lack of equality of opportunity. Poverty in Egypt cannot be eradicated with a bit more aid. As the protestors recognised, the economic impediments they faced stemmed from the way political power was exercised and monopolised by a narrow elite.
This is by no means a phenomenon confined to the Arab world. That the poor people in poor countries themselves understand their predicament is well illustrated by the World Bank’s multi-country project ‘Voices of the Poor’. One message that persistently comes across is that poor people feel powerless — as one person in Jamaica put it, ‘Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.’ Another from Nigeria put it like this: ‘If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi [poverty].’ Like black people in South Africa before 1994, poor people are trapped within extractive economic institutions.
But it is not just the poor who are thus trapped. By throwing away a huge amount of potential talent and energy, the entire society condemns itself to poverty.
The key to understanding and solving the problem of world poverty is to recognise not just that poverty is created and sustained by extractive institutions — but to appreciate why the situation arises in he first place. Again, South Africa’s experience is instructive. Apartheid was set up by whites for the benefit of whites. This happened because it was the whites who monopolised political power, just as they did economic opportunities and resources. These monopolies impoverished blacks and created probably the world’s most unequal country — but the system did allow whites to become as prosperous as people in developed countries.
The logic of poverty is similar everywhere. To understand Syria’s enduring poverty, you could do worse than start with the richest man in Syria, Rami Makhlouf. He is the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad and controls a series of government-created monopolies. He is an example of what are known in Syria as ‘abna al-sulta’, ‘sons of power’.
To understand Angola’s endemic poverty, consider its richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, billionaire daughter of the long-serving president. A recent investigation by Forbes magazine into her fortune concluded, ‘As best as we can trace, every major Angolan investment held by dos Santos stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the president’s pen that cut her into the action.’ She does all this while, according to the World Bank, only a quarter of Angolans had access to electricity in 2009 and a third are living on incomes of less than $2 a day.
Recognising that poor countries are poor because they have extractive institutions helps us understand how best to help them. It also casts a different light on the idea of foreign aid. We do not argue for its reduction. Even if a huge amount of aid is siphoned off by the powerful, the cash can still do a lot of good. It can put roofs on schools, lay roads or build wells. Giving money can feed the hungry, and help the sick — but it does not free people from the institutions that make them hungry and sick in the first place. It doesn’t free them from the system which saps their opportunities and incentives. When aid is given to governments that preside over extractive institutions, it can be at best irrelevant, at worst downright counter-productive. Aid to Angola, for example, is likely to help the president’s daughter rather than the average citizen.
Many kleptocratic dictators such as Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko have been propped up by foreign aid. And it wasn’t foreign aid that helped to undermine the apartheid regime in South Africa and got Nelson Mandela out of prison, but international sanctions. Those sanctions came from pressure on governments — including the British government — that would have preferred not to see them implemented.
Today it is no different. Governments don’t like cutting their ties to dictators who open doors for international business, or help their geopolitical agendas. Pressure needs to come from citizens who do care enough about international development to force politicians to overcome the easy temptation of short-run political expediency.
Making institutions more inclusive is about changing the politics of a society to empower the poor — the empowerment of those disenfranchised, excluded and often repressed by those monopolising power. Aid can help. But it needs to be used in such a way as to help civil society mobilise collectively, find a voice and get involved with decision-making. It needs to help manufacture inclusion.
This brings us back to David Cameron. When answering a question at New York University almost two years ago, he put it perfectly. ‘There is a huge agenda here,’ he said. It is time to ‘stop speaking simply about the quantity of aid’ and ‘start talking about what I call the “golden thread”.’ This, he explained, is his idea that long-term development through aid only happens if there is a ‘golden thread’ of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information.
As the Prime Minister says, this is a very different thing to setting an aid spending target. Promoting his golden thread means using not just aid but diplomatic relations to encourage reform in the many parts of the world that remain in the grip of extractive institutions. It means using financial and diplomatic clout (and Britain has plenty of both) to help create room for inclusive institutions to grow. This may be a hard task — far harder than writing a cheque. But it is the surest way to make poverty history.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson are the authors of Why Nations Fail, which David Cameron last week declared one of his five favourite books of all time.
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The Empire States of Ethiopia is a product of colonial conquest. Ethiopia is formed during the 19the century colonial scramble for Africa after the Abyssinian State, the only Black colonial power that took part in the colonial partition of Africa, conquered the Oromos, Sidamas, Ogadenese and other present day Southern Ethiopian peoples. Because of the conquest, the Oromos and other subject peoples were forcefully incorporated into Abyssinia, which was later on renamed Ethiopia.
As an outcome of a colonial conquest, the essence of the Ethiopian Empire State is the deprivation, oppression, subjugation and exploitation of the conquered peoples’ national, political, civic, cultural, social and economic rights. Stated differently, the defining characteristics of the Ethiopian Empire state, since its formation up to present, are the denial of national rights, human rights, and freedoms to the Oromo and other subject peoples. Furthermore, as the old adage goes, “a nation that oppresses others it not itself a free nation,” the successive Ethiopian regimes did not also respect the human rights and freedoms of its citizens, the Abyssinians.
The successive Ethiopian regimes’ stance on ratification of or accession to International Instruments designed for the promotion and protection of human rights corroborates the Ethiopian Empire State’s long-standing anti-human rights policies. It is a fact of history that the Ethiopian regime led by the late Emperor Haile Sillassie was among few states that did not sign/ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The Emperor Haile Sillassie regime, which was laboring in consolidation of the colonial conquests and Amharization of the conquered peoples, was engaged in gross violation of human rights, including practice of slavery and servitude failed to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that, among others, abolished slavery and servitude and set standard for human rights protection.
It is instructive to note that, the Emperor Haile Sillassie regime declined from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with, among others, the then minority apartheid regime of South Africa, the other notorious regime for being anti-human rights. The Ethiopian regime led by Emperor Haile Sillassie became Member of the United Nations on 13 November 1945, but it did not become a party to any Intentional Human Rights Conventions.
A military regime, known as Dergue, led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam overthrew Emperor Haile Sillaasie’s regime in 1974. As far as respect for human rights and accession to Intentional Human Rights Conventions is concerned, the Dergue regime continued its predecessor’s anti-human rights policy and practice. The Military regime did not become a party to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that have entered into force in 1976.
However, apparently following its patron the now defunct Soviet Union, the Ethiopian Military regime became a party to International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 23 June 1976, Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women, 10 September 1981, and Convention on the Rights of the Child, 14 May 1991.
It is a mockery that the Ethiopian Military regime that failed to be a party to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, became a party to International Conventions that prohibit racial discrimination, discrimination against women and the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. Unlike the incumbent Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front, (TPLF) led Ethiopian regime, the two preceding Ethiopian regimes did not pretend to be champions of human rights and stayed out of the International Instruments and Mechanisms made and established for ensuring the protections of Human Rights and freedoms.
As a result of the proposal and strong push made in 1991-92 by Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) group who were then a member of Ethiopian Transitional Government, the current Ethiopian regime of TPLF was forced to depart from the positions held by its predecessors and has acceded to the following international human rights treaties: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 11 June 1993, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 11 June 1993, and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment, 13 March 1994,
Apparently, accession to International Human Rights Treaties were one of the decisions the TPLF regime made as soon as it came to power as a consequence of two significant factors: (1) the proposal and the push the OLF group made to accept ICCPR and ICESCR and (2) the attempt the TPLF Regime made to please its foreign donors. However, the regime’s gross and appalling human rights violation records in the last fourteen years prove a contrary intention. Stated differently, the TPLF regime’s human rights record proves that the TPLF regime’s position on human rights is not any better, if not worse, than its predecessors that were not parties to the International Human Rights Covenants.
The TPLF regime’s engagement in a gross human rights violation of Oromos and other people is being recognized not only by reputable international non-governmental organizations that monitor states’ compliance with international human rights laws, but also by State Members of the United Nations, including the Untied States of America.
Read more from original source@ http://www.oromoliberationfront.org/Publications/OSvol11Art1003.htm
Oromia Speaks Vol. 11 Issue 1
‘Article 2, paragraph 2 of the ICESCR obliges each State Party to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the Covenant are exercised without discrimination as to, inter alia, ethnic origin. In practice, however, the Government of Ethiopia directly and indirectly discriminates against several disadvantaged ethnic groups, including but not limited to the Oromo and the Anuak.’ –http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/ngos/AHR_Ethiopia_CESCR48.pdf
“Ethiopia history” even as a term continues to be controversial for what has been written so far is based on the idealized views of the leaders and covers only the positive deeds. Many argue history making is a societal issue and involves both positive and negative deeds. The lessons learnt from past history is the single most important benefit of having history. Since Ethiopian history does not acknowledge the negative deeds in the past and does not serve this important benefit many fail to acknowledge it as their history. It is largely based on “what is good for me by choice should be good for you by force and if you don’t obey you don’t belong”. It is based on systematic exclusion and pushing faraway deviant groups as a strategy to pull them in.
This strategy has been designed in a way that it imposes the culture and identity of one group putting in charge generation from the same group to defend it. The assignment of assimilating the others far deep inside and very fast is high on their agenda. However as the history that is systematically constructed to keep the supremacy of one group, it is dressed with myths and far reaching legends which are closely connected to supernatural power and symbolized places. The legend queen Sheba and her mythological relation with King Solomon signifies the same and leaders of the Solomonic dynasty systematically traced their decadency from this legend to load unshakable leadership on the society. The general population in the country, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, obeyed the rules in the chain for violation of their leadership is considered violation of the supernatural power. Societal and individual development in the country has also been stacked in theological stage as the result of this leadership techniques and many issues received their analysis from creationist and supernatural relation perspective even till today.
The radical lefts group that emerged in the 1960s questioned the validity of this connections, between leaders and the supernatural power and whether their leadership is really sacred, however not many extended the question to the sacred history of the country till very recently. Although, the history of the country is more of sacred and holly as some described and describing it, it has caused many dangers that deserve attentions. Over 80 ethnic groups in the country had pain in relation to Ethiopian state formation, Minlik II and subsequent leaders and not few grew up hearing those mind shaking pains. Now wonder that this generation can extend questioning the relationship between leaders and supernatural power to the meanings attached to the entire Ethiopian history and that already happened. This questioning nudes the false statues of Ethiopian history.
There is no doubt that this same act can cause a strong pain on those who nurtured that Ethiopian history has been crafted in a way that serves their personal interest and they should die to defend and maintain their supremacy in the country. As a response to this socialization call, the right wingers are now wagging a movement which can be equated to naked politics, not body based but evidence dressing. The couple of writings I am reading in the news paper, on blogs and social medias reflect this and they are all naked from evidence. They most often try to attack individuals, they publicly discuss how to physically attack people who nudes the history they were socialized to defend and die for, they misname institutions and personalities and assassinate characters, they try to divide and rule over members of movements based on their religion and place of origin and even aiming to oppose people and place name changes and removing monuments constructed to signify the injustice done on ethnic groups by Minilk II. For me this is doing nothing butter and different from their fathers and forefathers and by this techniques all they can achieve and some already achieved is losing their readers and followers. This is also equivalent to trying to attract attention by standing naked.I would like to argue evidence is the best weapon to win public opinion and attentions in this globalized world and standing, jumping and running naked may not help much and there is no much place for them as the son of the 19th century king in Ethiopia now because few (themselves) recalls that and if other do, that brings bad memory. So they better get dressed well with evidence to attract at least their own attentions.
The Human Right Issues and Violations in the Horn of Africa,Ethiopia-Oromia
The modern concept of human rights is rooted in the experiences of ‘legal lawlessness’ when crimes were committed with the authorization of the law, and when some human beings were denied their status as such. An answer to these experiences was the emergence of the international human rights law. The main aim of this branch of international law is to prevent broad violations of fundamental rights from recurring in the future. Appreciating the worth of every human being, the international community decided to eliminate elements that could destroy the individual person, but also to create the conditions that would enable him or her to develop and flourish. Accordingly, the Preambles to the International Bill of Rights provide that the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” is the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966). However, the dictator government of Ethiopia otherwise known TPLF is unable in the enforcement of these rights and remain a headache,mainly due to technical blockades; lack of effective institutions or the existence of weak institutions only; and lack of political will to implement human rights with differing degrees. Therefore asking your rights in Ethiopia will either lead you to be imprisoned or counted you as anti-government.
Instability in Horn of Africa and TPLF
The current crisis in the Horn of Africa is, on the one hand, a struggle between oppressed people who are fighting for self-determination and, on the other hand, the regime of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that is trying to impose its rule by force.
The regime has set loose war, hunger, poverty, and disease to ransack the country. In particular, the regime has been and is systematically violating human rights of the Oromo and other peoples of in the country as well and the neighborings too.
The OLF also believes in peace, democracy and development . As the main organ that is championing the right of self-determination of the Oromo people, it fully realizes the present day global reality. It affirms that the international community does have legitimate concern and interest in political stability and economic development of the Horn of Africa. Moreover, the OLF is cognizant of the fact that the day of carving spheres of influence and promoting clients in superpower rivalry has given way to globalization. Further, the OLF firmly believes in the immediate termination of the vicious cycle of political conflicts, economic backwardness, environmental degradation, natural and man-made disasters that today ravage the peoples of the Horn of Africa.
(http://www.oromoliberationfront.org/PressReleaseArchive/Articles/Liberating.htm) Human Right Issue in Ethiopia
Allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment at the hands of Ethiopianpolice and other security forces are not new. But since the disputed 2005 elections, the Ethiopian government has intensified restrictions on freedom of expression, association,and assembly, deploying a range of measures to clamp down on dissent. These include arresting and detaining political opposition figures, journalists, and other independent voices, and implementing laws that severely restrict independent human rights monitoring and press freedom.
Since 2009 a new law, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, has become a particularly potent instrument to restrict free speech. The law’s provision undermine basic legal safeguards against prolonged pre-charge detention and unfair trials. In this context, Maekelawi has become an important site for the detention and investigation of some of the most politically sensitive cases.
Many detainees accused of offenses under the law—including some of Ethiopia’s most prominent political prisoners—have been detained in the Maekelawi facility as their cases were investigated or prepared for trial (Human Rights Watch, 2013). As a result of enforcement of the FDRE Proclamation 621/2009 that has been intended to impose superior regulation of charities, the party leaders decide who should receive and who should not receive the emergency support at grassroots level in the respective community.
Older Oormo people are usually victims of this type of abuse because of their allegiances to the values of the Oromo Gadaa system, that promotes respect and dignity to people in difficult situation. In so doing, technically, the authorities decide who should die from and who should survive the hunger. http://www.minorityvoices.org/news.php/fr/1381/ethiopiauk-oromo-rally-in-london Endless focus on Oromos by TPLF, why?
The Oromo people constitute the single largest national groups in the Ethiopia empire and the horn of Africa with the total of over 40 million people. The number of the oromo people and the geographical location of their country Oromia make the oromo country ( Oromia) the heart of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian empire mainly survives on the economic resources of Oromia. Although the Oromo people are one of the most impoverished and terrorized indigenous people .Recognizing that Oromia is the richest and largest populous state, the Tigrayan led Ethiopia government has been using collective violence to dominate, control and exploit Oromia which the key in controlling the Ethiopia government has been using political economy. Understanding the situation in Oromia helps in generalizing what is going through the country (Hassen,2011).
The Oromo people are just arrested and accused of being a member or supporter or sympathiser of the Oromo liberation struggle. To the Ethiopian government authorities, every Oromo appears to be a member of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a political organisation struggling for the socio-economic, cultural and political rights of the Oromo people. One has to prove he/she is not a member or supporter of the OLF in order to live in relative peace. The safest proof is one and only one – to become a member of the EPRDF, the ruling party;failure to proove non-affiliation with OLF or any attempt to remain politically indifferent has come to be dangerous in Ethiopia for every ordinary Oromo. Business persons are systematically eliminated from investment and small scale business if they fail to be members of the ruling party in any case. Every student in college or university is required to secure membership of the ruling party at the campus in order for her/him to get job in public institutions or to run private business after completion of the study. The situation is worse for the rural people whereby farmers are required to be members of and demonstrate allegiance to the EPRDF in order to get agricultural inputs and/or have their children learn in school without assault by the government security. It always seems impossible untilit is done – Nelson Mandela
Ethiopia: land of slavery & brutality – the League of Nations, Geneva 1935
An old Abyssinian was shooting with the sight adjusted at more than a thousand
metres. I said to the Dedjiajmatch [dejazmach] that the bullets might fall on the mountain
and kill someone. He burst out laughing and said, “What does it matter if they
do? There is nobody here but Shangalla [shankilla]”.’
Friends at ER:
The above quote was an extract from a document or a memorandum presented by the Italian Government delineating the reasons for the expulsion of Ethiopia from the League of Nations, the forerunner of today’s United Nations Organisation. The main point of their argument was the condition of slavery and gebbar (a slave-like system) to which Abyssinia/Ethiopia had reduced its subject populations in the southern half of its empire, while pillaging their lands.
The change of political masters in Addis Ababa has so far been a mere case of taking turns at abusing the populations of these same southern provinces of Ethiopia to benefit the gun-toting invaders from the “Habesha highlands” of northern Ethiopia (Tigre-Woyane at the moment).
In this light, you may find the following document of great historical significance. It also provides an insight into the unchanged modus operandi of all Ethiopian regimes before or since.
Here is the complete document….
“Geneva, September 11th , 1935. Official No. C.340.M.171.1935.VII.
(I) CONDITIONAL ADMISSION OF ETHIOPIA TO THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
As regards the condition required by Article I of the Covenant [accord]
regarding effective guarantees of a sincere intention to observe international
obligations, the Sub-committee pointed out that, in the past, Ethiopia had not
fully observed her international engagements. During the discussion it was
stressed how difficult it was to reconcile Ethiopia’s demand with the
circumstance that Ethiopia, once admitted to the league, might sit in judgement
on countries under mandate, more civilised than Ethiopia herself and not
stained with the disgrace of slavery…
(II) POLITICAL STRUCTURE AND CONDITIONS OF ETHIOPIA IN RELATION TO ARTICLE I OF
THE COVENANT [of the League of Nations].
Clear distinction between the Abyssinian State and the territories conquered by
it. Difference of religion, language, history, race, and political and social
structure. Negus’s domination over non-Abyssinian populations. The gebbar
system (a form of slavery) applied to subject populations. The Ethiopian
Government’s responsibility for the decimation of the subject populations.
Ethiopia’s incapacity to possess a colony.
ABYSSINIA AND HER “COLONIES”: DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE ABYSSINIAN STATE AND THE
On this subject it is first of all necessary to obtain a fundamental idea of
the position. It is commonly said that Ethiopia is a national State in Africa
which forms a single unit. Nothing could be further from the facts. The
Ethiopian State, in its present form, is composed of two regions which are
clearly distinct both geographically and politically.
(i) The old Abyssinian State, consisting of the regions inhabited mainly by
Abyssinian populations speaking kindred languages derived from Southern Arabic.
But the old Abyssinian State itself could not be called a national State,
because even in those regions there are considerable non-Abyssinian minorities,
such as the Agau in the Tsana and Nile regions, the Falasha of Semien,
professing the Jewish religion …and others. Nevertheless, their common
allegiance to the dynasty of the House of Solomon, and the fact that for ages
they [peoples of the northern half of Ethiopia] had belonged to the same group
of States, have to a certain extent welded all these regions into a political
unit which, though rough and shapeless in structure, might have a position of
its own in the composition of present-day Ethiopia.
This Abyssinian State has well-defined and exact historical, geographical and ethnical boundaries. On the west, towards the Nile basin, and on the east, towards Danakil, the frontier of
the Abyssinian State coincided with the edge of the plateau. The Abyssinians, a
mountain people, are clearly distinguished by race, language and religion from
the populations which inhabit the torrid Danakil plain and the valleys sloping
down towards the Sudan.
To the south, the boundary of the Abyssinian State was marked by the course of
the Blue Nile as far as its confluence with the Adabai, by the watershed
between the Blue Nile and the Awash, and by the course of the river Awash as
far as its entry into the Danakil plain. The territories beyond these
boundaries, in the south, are inhabited by non-Abyssinian populations which,
throughout the centuries of their history, have been traditional enemies of the
(ii) The non-Abyssinian areas recently conquered by the arms of the Negus
Menelik.-Beyond the confines of this nucleus of the Abyssinian State there
were, until forty years ago, other native States, some of which have a long
historical tradition of independence. Among the principal may be mentioned the
Emirate of Harrar, which comprised the regions between the river Awash, the
Webi Shebeli, and the south-eastern edge of the plateau, having the inhabitants
of Ogaden as tributaries.
The Emirate of Harrar is a Moslem State which was
ruled for centuries by the dynasty of its Emirs, and was the cultural and
religious centre of Islam in South-East Africa. The continuous relations
maintained by the Emirate with the Arab countries of the Levant had brought
that state up to a level of civilisation far superior to that of Abyssinia. We
need only mention the fact that, even to-day, Harrar is the only town in the
territory of the present Ethiopian State which is built of masonry and is not
composed of huts hovels made of branches, apart from few buildings in Addis
In the south-west, the kingdom of kafa was founded by the western Sidama
peoples. The political and social constitution of this kingdom and its history
(which comprises at least 600 years of independence, from the fourteenth
century to the Abyssinian conquest) form the subject of various well-known
works published only recently; and, not to quote Italian writers, we need only
refer to the voluminous work of the Austrian traveller Franz Bieber.
In the south, there is the kingdom of Wollamo, founded by the Sidama
populations of the Omo. How this peaceful little agricultural State was
devastated and destroyed by the Abyssinians is described in a work by a
Frenchman, M Vanderheym, which is nothing les than an indictment of the
In the west, there is the Sultanate of Jimma, a Moslem State that became a
centre in Westrn Ethiopia towards which Moslem currents flowed from Harrar and
Egypt. Under the patriarchal administration of its sultans of the local
dynasty, Jimma had reached a high degree of economic prosperity, which it
retained, being the only Moslem State remaining independent of the Abyssinians
until the Negus annexed it to Ethiopia a few months ago.
The Abyssinian State is completely different in every respect from these vast
“colonies” which it has recently acquired:
(a) In religion, because the Abyssinians are Monophysite Christians, whereas
the Somali, Harrari, [deleted] [Oromo], Sidama are largely Moslem, and in part
(b) In language, because the Abyssinians speak Amharic and Tigrai (Semitic
languages), whereas in the conquered regions the languages spoken are totally
different from the Abyssinian languages, but are interrelated among
themselves-e.g.-Galla [Oromo], Somali, Kafi, Wolamo, etc.;
(c) In political and social structure, because the Abyssinian State is based on
the feudal system, whereas the Emirate of Harrar was organised on the model of
the States of the Arabian peninsula, and the Sidama States have a highly
centralised organisation of their own;
(d) In race, because the Abyssinians are Semiticised people, whereas the [deleted],
Sidama, Somali, Tishana, Yambo and the rest are Cushitic and Nilotic peoples;
(e) In history, because the Emirate of Harrar, for instance, has for centuries
waged relentless warfare against the Abyssinian State. Indeed, this warfare
might be said to constitute the whole history of Abyssinia itself; records of
it existed from at least the fourteenth century onwards. The Abyssinian
domination constitutes, in fact, the subjugation of a conquered people by its
DOMINATION OF THE NEGUS OVER NON-ABYSSINIAN POPULATIONS.
The Abyssinian domination in the conquered countries takes concrete form in the
slave trade and the so-called gebbar system. The slave trade will be considered
below. It should be pointed out here, however, that the slave trade is due not
only to a desire for gain, but also to the idea, deep-rooted in the
Abyssinians’ mind, that their victories have left them absolute masters of
populations which, in their eyes, are no more than human cattle.
This conception of the Abyssinians is confirmed b a typical incident narrated by Sir
Arnold Hodson in his work Where the Lion Reigns (page 41): ‘An old Abyssinian
was shooting with the sight adjusted at more than a thousand metres. I said to
the Dedjiajmatch [dejazmach] that the bullets might fall on the mountain and kill someone.
He burst out laughing and said, “What does it matter if they do? There is
nobody here but Shangalla [shankilla]”‘ (Shangalla is the name given by the Abyssinians to
the Nilotic peoples).
The gebbar system is a form of slavery, and is regarded as such by European
writers and travellers. In each of the countries conquered and annexed by
Abyssinia, a body of Abyssinian troops is stationed, comprising the soldiers
themselves and their families. The inhabitants of the conquered country are
registered in families by the Abyssinian chiefs, and to every family of
Abyssinians settled in the country there is assigned one or more families of
the conquered as gebbar. The gebbar family is obliged to support the Abyssinian
family; it gives that family its own lands, builds and maintains the huts in
which it lives, cultivate the fields, grazes the cattle, and carries out every
kind of work and performs all possible services for the Abyssinian family. All
this is done without any remuneration, merely in token of the perpetual
servitude resulting from the defeat sustained thirty years ago. It amounts to
what Anglo-Indians are accustomed to call “the law of the jungle”.
The gebbar can never obtain freedom from their chains, even by ransom. They must not leave
the land assigned for their work, and, if they run away, they themselves are
subject to the terrible punishment which are inflicted in Ethiopia, and to
which we shall refer shortly, while their village is bound to supply the
Abyssinians with another family to be reduced to the condition of gebbar, in
place of the fugitive family.
As to the effects of slavery and the gebbar system, all who know the facts are
agreed: the non-Abyssinian regions of Ethiopia are becoming a vast desert.
Every Abyssinian chief sent to those parts finds it necessary on his arrival to
provide himself with slaves and his soldiers’ families with gebbar. And when he
leaves the conquered countries to be transferred elsewhere, he takes away with
him, and allow his soldiers to take away with them, the greatest possible
number of slaves and gebbar to be employed at his new residence. This constant
draining of the population of the subject territories is particularly terrible,
because the slaves and gabbar are decimated, during the long journeys, by
hunger, thirst and ill-treatment from their Abyssinian masters. We quote
evidence from non-Italian sources.
Sir Arnold Hodson (Seven Years in Southern Abyssinia, London, 1927, page 146)
writes of Kafa: ‘There has recently been a change of Governors in Kafa, and, as
usual, the outgoing official was taking away as much as he could in goods and
slaves’. … Thus the population of Kafa, which Cardinal Gugliemo Massaja
estimated at a million and a half before the Abyssinian conquest, is now
reduced to 20,000. Again, whereas Vittorio Bottego estimated the population of
the Burji in 1895 at 200,000, there are now no more than 15,000 people in the
region. And Sir Arnold Hodson, who was Consul at Gardulla, not far from Burji,
writes as follows (Seven Years in Southern Abyssinia, page 102): ‘Burji had
been sadly devastated quite recently, and very few natives were left there. The
responsibility for this rests with a former Governor of Sidamo, named Ato
Finkabo, who appears to have carried on a very flourishing business in slaves
from these parts. In fact, he became so enterprising that most of the natives
who were left fled to Conso and Boran to escape falling into his clutches’.
George Montandon calculates (Au pays des Ghimirra, page 223) that the
population of Ghimirra has declined in a few years from 110,000 to 10,000.
The responsibility of the Addis Ababa Government for this incredible state of
affairs in the non-Abyssinian areas of the south is particularly great, because
it has compelled some of the more warlike non-Abyssinian peoples to arm
themselves in defence of their lives and liberty; and theses foreign peoples,
having acquired arms and ammunition, have in their turn become slave-raiders,
preying upon the unarmed neighbouring tribes, and so have increased the
destruction and the scourge of slavery.
In conclusion we need only quote …Major M Darley, who has had a very long
experience of Ethiopian affairs, and who wrote in 1926, three years after
Abyssinia’s entry into the League (Slaves and Ivory, page 34): ‘Abyssinia
should be the heart of North-East Africa, but all the veins or roads, which
should supply the rest of the starving body with nourishment, are blocked by
the Abyssinian policy, abysmal and suicidal, of depopulation, retrogression and
It will thus be seen that the Ethiopian State, administratively and politically
disorganised as It is, carries the dire effects of its domination (slavery and
gebbar) into vast regions of East Africa which were conquered by the arms of
the Negus only a few years ago. It is surely in the interests of civilisation
that the Harrari, [deleted] [Oromo], Somali, Sidama, and other peoples which have
for centuries formed separate national entities, should be removed from
Abyssinian oppression. To effect an immediate settlement of this grave problem
is, indeed, to act in conformity with the spirit of the covenant, which
requires that colonisation should be carried out only by advanced States which
are in a position to ensure the development and welfare of the native
The documents show:
(a) That Ethiopia recognises slavery as a legal condition;
(b) That raids for the capture of individuals for purposes of slavery are
continuing on a large scale, especially in the southern and western regions of
(c) That the slave trade is still practiced;
(d) that the Ethiopian Government participates directly in the slave trade by
accepting slaves in payment of taxes and allowing detachments of regular troops
to capture new slaves;
(e) That, in addition to slavery proper, there exists the institution known as
“gebbar”, to which the population of non-Ethiopian [sic] regions are subject,
and which is a form of servitude akin to slavery;
(f) That the Ethiopian Government has taken no account of the recommendations
made to it by the committee of Experts on slavery, more particularly as regards
the abolition o the legal status of slave, as appears further from the report
submitted to the League of Nations in May 1935…
By her conduct, Ethiopia has openly placed herself outside the covenant of the
League and has rendered herself unworthy of the trust placed in her when she
was admitted to membership. Italy, rising up against such an intolerable
situation, is defending her security, her rights and her dignity. She is also
defending the prestige and good name of the League of Nations.”
“The government tends to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters, and the EPRDF is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Repression of the Oromo and ethnic Somalis, and government attempts to co-opt their parties into subsidiaries of the EPRDF, have fueled nationalism in both the Oromia and Ogaden regions.” -Freedom House
Ethiopia is not an electoral democracy. Parliament is made up of a 108-seat upper house, the House of Federation, and a 547-seat lower house, the House of People’s Representatives. The lower house is filled through popular elections, while the upper chamber is selected by the state legislatures, with both serving five-year terms. The lower house selects the prime minister, who holds most executive power, and the president, a largely ceremonial figure who serves up to two six-year terms. All of these institutions are dominated by the EPRDF, which tightly controlled the 2010 elections and the succession process following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012. While the 1995 constitution grants the right of secession to ethnically-based states, the government acquired powers in 2003 to intervene in states’ affairs on issues of public security.
Corruption is a significant problem in Ethiopia. EPRDF officials reportedly receive preferential access to credit, land leases, and jobs. Petty corruption extends to lower level officials, who allegedly solicit bribes in return for processing documents. In a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Transparency International (TI) in 2011, 64 percent of respondents reported having had to pay a bribe to customs officials, and 55 percent to a member of the judiciary. Ethiopia was ranked 113 out of 176 countries surveyed in TI’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The media are dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers. One of the few independent papers in the capital, Addis Neger, closed in 2009, claiming harassment by the authorities. Privately-owned papers tend to steer clear of political issues and have low circulations. A 2008 media law criminalizes defamation and allows prosecutors to seize material before publication in the name of national security.
Journalists reporting on opposition activities face serious harassment and the threat of prosecution under the country’s sweeping 2009 Antiterrorism Proclamation. In July 2012, six journalists were convicted of terrorism. While five were convicted in absentia, the sixth, Eskinder Nega, received 18 years in prison. The judge said that he had consorted with the political group, Ginbot 7, a designated terrorist entity in Ethiopia. The United States, European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed dismay at the verdicts. In other cases, the courts reduced sentences handed out to journalists convicted of terrorism. In August, a columnist with the Feteh weekly newspaper had her 14-year sentence reduced to 5 years; while in September, two Swedish journalists who had received 11-year sentences in 2011 for assisting the ONLF were pardoned.
Due to the risks of operating inside Ethiopia, many of the country’s journalists work in exile. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that Ethiopia has driven 79 journalists into exile in the past decade, more than any other nation. The authorities use high-tech jamming equipment to filter and block news websites seen as pro-opposition. Legislation adopted in May criminalizes the use of telecommunications devices to transmit any “terrorizing message.” Critics said the vaguely worded law also effectively banned the use of Skype and other voice-over-internet protocol services that cannot be closely monitored by the government.
The constitution guarantees religious freedom, but the government has increasingly harassed the Muslim community, which has grown to rival the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as the country’s largest religious group. Muslim groups accuse the government of trying to impose the beliefs of an obscure Islamic sect, al-Ahbash, at the expense of the dominant Sufi-influenced strain of Islam. Before his death, Meles said the Muslim community was a source of extremism, claiming it had links to Al-Qaeda.
Academic freedom is restricted. The government has accused universities of being pro-opposition and prohibits political activities on campuses. There have been reports of students being pressured into joining the EPRDF in order to secure places at universities.
The presence of the EPRDF at all levels of society inhibits free private discussion. Many people are wary of speaking against the government for fear of being overheard by party officials. The EPRDF maintains a network of paid informants, and opposition politicians have accused the government of tapping their telephones.
Freedoms of assembly and association are guaranteed by the constitution but limited in practice. Organizers of large public meetings must request permission from the authorities 48 hours in advance. Applications by opposition groups are routinely denied. Peaceful demonstrations were held outside mosques in July 2012, but the security forces responded violently, detaining protestors, including several prominent Muslim leaders. A total of 29 Muslims were eventually charged with offences under the antiterrorism law. They were awaiting trial at year’s end.
The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation restricts the activities of foreign NGOs by prohibiting work on political and human rights issues. Foreign NGOs are defined as groups receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad, a classification that captures most domestic organizations as well. NGOs have struggled to maintain operations as a result of the law, which also requires them to reregister with the authorities. According to Justice Ministry figures, there were 3,522 registered NGOs before the law was passed and 1,655 afterward. In 2010, the Human Rights Council (HRCO) and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association had their bank accounts frozen for violating the rules on receiving foreign funds. An appeal against the ruling by the HRCO was rejected by the Supreme Court in October 2012.
Trade union rights are tightly restricted. All unions must be registered, and the government retains the authority to cancel registration. Two-thirds of union members belong to organizations affiliated with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, which is under government influence. Independent unions face harassment. There has not been a legal strike since 1993.
The judiciary is officially independent, but its judgments rarely deviate from government policy. The Antiterrorism Proclamation gives great discretion to the security forces, allowing the detention of suspects for up to four months without charge. It was used in 2011 to detain more than 100 members of opposition parties; terrorist suspects were denied legal assistance while they awaited trial. A total of 31 people have been convicted under the law, 12 of them journalists. Conditions in Ethiopia’s prisons are harsh, and detainees frequently report abuse.
The government tends to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters, and the EPRDF is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Repression of the Oromo and ethnic Somalis, and government attempts to co-opt their parties into subsidiaries of the EPRDF, have fueled nationalism in both the Oromia and Ogaden regions. Persistent claims that war crimes have been committed by government troops in the Ogaden are difficult to verify, as independent media are barred from the region. However, Human Rights Watch accused government paramilitaries of executing 10 men during an operation in the Gashaamo district in March 2012.
Private business opportunities are limited by rigid state control of economic life and the prevalence of state-owned enterprises. All land must be leased from the state. The government has evicted indigenous groups from various areas to make way for projects such as hydroelectric dams. It has also leased large tracts of land to foreign governments and investors for agricultural development in opaque deals. Up to 70,000 people have been forced to move from the western Gambella region, although the government denies the resettlement plans are connected to land investments. Journalists and international organizations have persistently alleged that the government has withheld development assistance from villages perceived as being unfriendly to the ruling party.
Women are relatively well represented in Parliament, having won 152 seats in the lower house in the 2010 elections. Legislation protects women’s rights, but they are routinely violated in practice. Enforcement of the law against rape and domestic abuse is patchy, with cases routinely stalling in the courts. Forced child labor is a significant problem, particularly in the agricultural sector. Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited by law and punishable with imprisonment.
The state of freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2013, according to the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual survey, ‘Freedom in the World.’
The following is Human Rights Watch World Report 2014 on Ethiopia:
Hopes that Ethiopia’s new leadership would pursue human rights reforms following Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death in August 2012 have been shattered; there was no tangible change of policy in 2013. Instead, the Ethiopian authorities continue to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, using repressive laws to constrain civil society and independent media, and target individuals with politically motivated prosecutions.
Muslim protests against perceived government interference in their religious affairs were met by security forces with arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other mistreatment throughout the year. The trial of 29 protest leaders who were arrested in July 2012 has been closed to the public, media, and family members since January. Others convicted under the country’s deeply flawed antiterrorism law—including opposition leaders and four journalists—remain in prison.
Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation. Security forces have also used violence, threats, and intimidation to force some groups to relocate, such as in the Lower Omo Valley where indigenous people continue to be displaced from their traditional lands, which are earmarked for state-run irrigated sugar plantations.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
Since early 2012, members of Ethiopia’s Muslim community—which constitutes at least 30 percent of the country’s population—have organized regular public protests. Demonstrations were triggered by perceived government interference in the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Awalia mosque in Addis Ababa.
The government has clamped down heavily on the protests, arbitrarily detaining and beating protesters, including 29 prominent activists and leaders who were arrested in July 2012 and charged in October 2012 under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. In January, the High Court closed those hearings to the public, including media, diplomats, and family members. Some defendants have alleged mistreatment in detention and the trials raise a number of due process concerns, including lack of access to legal counsel for some defendants for almost two months, and erratic access to relatives.
The government has also undermined the defendants’ presumption of innocence by broadcasting inflammatory material and accusations against them on state television. In February, the state-run Ethiopian Television (ETV) broadcast a program called “Jihadawi Harakat” (“Jihad War”) that included footage of at least five of the defendants filmed in pretrial detention. The program equated the Muslim protest movement with Islamist extremist groups, casting the protest leaders as terrorists.
Despite the arrests, protests continued throughout 2013. In early August, protests were organized in the capital, Addis Ababa, as well as in other cities to commemorate Eid al Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Witnesses described a heavy police presence in Addis Ababa, and credible sources said that police used excessive force to disperse the demonstrators and detained hundreds, at least temporarily.
The Semayawi Party (“Blue Party”), a newcomer to Ethiopia’s political scene, held a peaceful protest in June—the first large-scale protest organized by a political opposition party in eight years. A planned protest in August was cancelled when the Blue Party offices were raided by security forces, resulting in the arrest of dozens of people and the confiscation of equipment. The Blue Party had earlier been denied a permit by government to hold the protest.
Arbitrary Detention and Ill-Treatment
Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in detention continues to be a major problem. Students, members of opposition groups, journalists, peaceful protesters, and others seeking to express their rights to freedom of assembly, expression, or association are frequently detained arbitrarily.
Ill-treatment is often reported by people detained for political reasons, particularly in Addis Ababa’s Federal Police Crime Investigation Center, known as Maekelawi, where most individuals are held during pre-charge or pretrial detention. Abuse and coercion that in some cases amount to torture and other ill-treatment are used to extract information, confessions, and statements from detainees.
Individuals are often denied access to legal counsel, particularly during pre-charge detention. Mistreated detainees have little recourse in the courts and there is no regular access to prisons and detention centers by independent investigators. Although the government-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has visited some detainees and detention centers, there is no regular monitoring by any independent human rights or other organizations.
In July, a delegation from the European Parliament was denied access to Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa by Ethiopian authorities, despite having received prior authorization.
Freedom of Expression and Association
Since 2009, when the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO Law) were passed, freedoms of expression and association have been severely restricted in Ethiopia. The CSO law is one of the most draconian laws regulating nongovernmental activity in the world. It bars work on human rights, good governance, conflict resolution, and advocacy on the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities if organizations receive more than 10 percent of their funds from foreign sources.
Ethiopia’s most reputable human rights groups have either dramatically scaled down their operations or removed human rights from their mandates. Several of the country’s most prominent human rights activists have fled the country due to threats.
Ethiopian media remains under a tight government stranglehold, and many journalists practice self-censorship. Webpages and blogs critical of the government are regularly blocked, and foreign radio and TV stations are routinely jammed. Journalists working for independent domestic newspapers continue to face regular harassment and threats.
The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation has been used to target political opponents, stifle dissent, and silence journalists. In May, the Supreme Court upheld the 18-year sentence of journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega Fenta, who was convicted in July 2012 for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and participation in a terrorist organization. Eskinder received the PEN Freedom to Write award in 2012. Reeyot Alemu Gobebo, a journalist for Feteh, was convicted on three counts under the terrorism law for her writings. Her sentence was reduced from 14 to 5 years on appeal, but her appeal of the remaining five-year sentence was dismissed in January. Reeyot was awarded the prestigious 2013 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Journalists covering the Muslim protests were threatened and arbitrarily detained. Solomon Kebede, chief editor of the now-defunct Yemuslimoch Guday (“Muslim Affairs”), was arrested in January and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Yusuf Getachew, his predecessor, was charged under the same law in 2012. Several other journalists fled Ethiopia in 2013, making it one of the top three countries in the world in terms of the number of journalists in exile.
Forced Displacement Associated with Development Programs
Both the government of Ethiopia and the donor community have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuses associated with Ethiopia’s “villagization program.” Under this program, 1.5 million rural people are being relocated, ostensibly to improve their access to basic services. However, some of the relocations in the first year of the program in Gambella region were accompanied by violence, including beatings and arbitrary arrests, and insufficient consultation and compensation.
On July 12, the World Bank’s board of executive directors approved the recommendation of the Inspection Panel, the institution’s independent accountability mechanism, to investigate a complaint from ethnic Anuak refugees alleging that the bank violated its own safeguards in Gambella. The investigation was ongoing at time of writing.
Ethiopia is proceeding with development of a sugar plantation in the Lower Omo Valley, clearing 245,000 hectares of land that is home to 200,000 indigenous peoples. Displaced from their ancestral lands, these agro-pastoralists are being moved to permanent villages under the villagization program.
Key International Actors
Ethiopia enjoys warm relations with foreign donors and most of its regional neighbors. Ethiopia has forged strong ties based on its role as the seat of the African Union (AU), its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping, security partnerships with Western nations, and its progress on some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These strong relationships have contributed to the international community’s silence on Ethiopia’s dismal human rights record.
The year 2013 saw Ethiopia continue to play a mediation role between Sudan and South Sudan, while its troops maintained an uneasy calm in the disputed Abyei region. Ethiopia continues to deploy its troops inside Somalia, but outside the AU mission.
Ethiopia also continues to receive significant amounts of donor assistance—almost US$4 billion in 2013. As partners in Ethiopia’s development, donor nations remain muted in their criticism of Ethiopia’s appalling human rights record and are taking little meaningful action to investigate allegations of abuses associated with development programs.
Relations with Egypt worsened in 2013 due to Egyptian concerns that Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam will divert valuable water from the Nile River. An estimated 85 percent of the Nile’s waters originate in the Ethiopian highlands and Egypt is completely dependent on the Nile for all its water needs. At 6,000 megawatts of electricity, the dam will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project. Construction started in 2012 and the dam is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
In addition to Western donors, China, India, and Brazil are increasingly financing a variety of large-scale development initiatives. Foreign private investment into Ethiopia is increasing with agro-business, hydroelectric, mining, and oil exploration all gaining prominence in 2013. Agro-business investment is coming mainly from India, the Gulf, and the Ethiopian diaspora, attracted to very low land prices and labor costs. As seen in several of Ethiopia’s other large-scale development projects, there is a serious risk of forced displacement of people from their land when some of these programs are implemented. The full text of the report is available@:
Japanese premier, Mr. Abe, received a gift from the son of the late Oromo barefoot marathon legend Abebe Bikila, winner of the Tokyo Olympic marathon 50 years ago.
Japan’s rivalry with China is going global. After years of jousting over obscure islands in the East China Sea and competing for Asian influence, the two countries are now battling for power in a new arena: Africa.
It’s a region that Tokyo has long ceded to the Chinese, allowing Beijing to pile up massive economic and political capital across Africa. But on Friday, in a major shift in strategy, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Ivory Coast to begin his first tour of sub-Saharan Africa – and the first by any Japanese prime minister in eight years.
As he has finished a three-nation tour of Africa on Monday in which he offered aid and development projects potentially worth billions of dollars to help his nation catch up with China’s enormous footprint on the continent, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said he wants to expand Japan’s presence in Africa, and tap a region that can serve as both a source of minerals and energy for Japan’s industrial economy and a new market for Japanese goods.
Mr. Abe has made Africa one of the centerpieces of a diplomatic push to complement his domestic growth policies, known as Abenomics, which aim to end Japan’s long economic decline.
By placing more emphasis on Africa, Mr. Abe is throwing Japan into a scramble for resources there that also involves companies from China, the United States and other Western countries. Japan is particularly keen to find new sources of so-called rare earths and metals, raw material used in electronics and cellphones that it currently imports mostly from China.
But Japan also finds itself lagging far behind its rival China, which has been investing heavily in Africa for a decade. As if to underscore that great rivalry, at the same time that Mr. Abe was in Africa, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, was on a four-nation visit to the region. Japan will find it difficult to catch up to China’s political influence here. China’s leaders are frequent visitors to the continent. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa last year on his first overseas trip as President. Beijing has cultivated close relationships with Africa’s ruling parties, routinely inviting their officials on junkets to China.
China’s state media were quick to portray Mr. Abe’s visit as an attempt to challenge Beijing in the African arena. Quoting several Japanese sources, state-owned China Daily said the Japanese leader is seeking to “contain” China’s influence in Africa.
Another Chinese newspaper, Global Times, quoted Japan analyst Geng Xin as saying that Tokyo was “cozying up” to Africa to try to dispel Japan’s image as an “economic giant and political dwarf.” He said Japan is wooing the votes of African countries for its bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, issued a veiled warning to Japan. “If there is any country out there that attempts to make use of Africa for rivalry, the country is making a wrong decision, which is doomed to fail,” she told a press conference this week.
Japanese officials have said that while they cannot match the $75 billion indevelopment aid that China has poured into Africa since 2000, they hope to close the gap in other ways. One is to use Japanese aid to train African engineers and technicians, in order to differentiate Japanese efforts from Chinese projects that have been criticized for employing mainly Chinese workers while offering few jobs to Africans. Japan, he said, prefers to “aid the human capital of Africa.”
The visit also brought an unusual amount of showmanship to Japan’s often drab style of diplomacy. On Friday, Mr. Abe traded jokes and even exchanged soccer jerseys with the president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara. The next day, Mr. Abe attended a tournament of the Japanese sport of judo in Abidjan.
Japan criticizes Beijing for its tendency to build lavish headquarters and office towers as donations for African politicians – including, most famously, the new $200-million headquarters of the African Union in Finfinnee (Addis Ababa), where Mr. Abe is scheduled to give a policy speech next week.
“Countries like Japan … cannot provide African leaders with beautiful houses or beautiful ministerial buildings,” Mr. Abe’s spokesman, Tomohiko Taniguchi, told the BBC.
But while the two countries take verbal shots at each other, the reality is that China has adopted a far more aggressive strategy in Africa, and has been enormously successful so far. China’s investment in Africa was reported to be about seven times that of Japan in 2011, and its exports to Africa were about five times greater.
China has become the top trading partner, or second-biggest trading partner, of about half of Africa’s countries. It is a major investor in Africa’s resources sector, and the biggest buyer of oil and minerals from many African countries. Its construction companies are building roads, highways, railway lines, sports stadiums, transit systems and hospitals across Africa.
Japan has lagged far behind in this race. Most of its engagement with Africa is as an aid donor. Last year it promised up to $32-billion in public and private assistance to Africa over the next five years, but this only confirmed its reputation as a donor, rather than a business partner.
Only a handful of Japanese investors are active in Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Mozambique According to a fact sheet by the Japanese government, there are only two Japanese companies in Ivory Coast and only one in Ethiopia.
Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has kicked off a visit to Ethiopia (Oromia) by meeting the Oromo running stars.The Japanese premier received a gift from the son of late Oromo barefoot marathon legend Abebe Bikila, winner of the Tokyo Olympic marathon 50 years ago. “My name is Abe, but everybody teased me at school, calling me Abebe,” Mr Abe said. “Many Japanese marathon runners would actually collapse after the race but when I saw Mr. Abebe actually stretching afterwards, it was such a surprise, even for a 10-year-old.”
In his visit to Ethiopia (Oromia), the Japansese prime minister was presented with a photo of Bikila winning Olympic gold in Tokyo, a gift from the late legend’s son, Yetnayet Abebe.”Today I had the opportunity to meet famous athletes from Ethiopia as well as the son of Mr. Abebe, as well as wonderful children boys and girls who will one day be gold medalists, or who will one day be winners at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” Mr Abe said. Bikila died in 1973 from complications caused by a road accident four years before, and remains one of the great icons of running, especially in Japan. The Japanese prime minister also met with Oromo female road and track stars Meseret Defar, Tiki Gelana, Derartu Tulu and Ibrahim Jeilan.More can be read from original sources @https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/?s=oromo+athletics&searchbutton=go
Ethiopian is among the poorest in Africa, while South Africa tops the continent’s list of wealth per capita, a new survey released on Tuesday showed.
South Africa’s wealth per person last year was $11,310, according to research by consultancy New World Wealth, which has offices in the UK and South Africa. South Africa’s wealth per person grew 169% from $4,200 in 2000. Ethiopia’s wealth per capita last year stood at $260.
This was very far lower than that of Zimbabwe ($570), Tanzania ($450), Mozambique ($430) and Uganda ($360).
Wealth per capita is a measure of the net assets held by individuals including real estate, shares, business interests and intangibles, while excluding primary residences, according to the research released on Tuesday.
Libya ($11,040 wealth per capita), Tunisia ($8,400), Algeria ($6,250), Morocco ($5,780) and Egypt ($4,350) rank high on the list. Namibia, with per capita wealth of $10,500, and Botswana at $6,580 were among the top-ranked countries in Africa last year. This was, however, well below the global average of $27,600 and a fraction of that of the top-ranked countries such as Switzerland and Australia with wealth per capita of more than $250,000. When it comes to fastest-growing countries by economic growth per capita from 2000 to 2012, Angola tops the continental list, followed by Ghana and Zambia.
“Never mind that Africa receives roughly $50 billion in aid annually from foreign governments, and perhaps $13 billion more from private philanthropic institutions, according to Penta’s estimate. Never mind that Angola’s oil revenues are around $72 billion, and Nigeria’s $95 billion; that Africa boasts at least 55 verified and somewhat detached billionaires. I can testify that Africa is much worse off than when I first went there 50 years ago to teach English: poorer, sicker, less educated, and more badly governed. It seems that much of the aid has made things worse.”
Here is in the following the renowned author Paul Theroux discusses why Africa’s aid industry is in a mess. For the details and original source please refer to:
‘In its naked reality, Africa, the greenest continent, is still the most beautiful, the least developed, the wildest on earth. Vast plains, big animals, hospitable people, who have been enslaved, sidelined, colonized, and converted willy-nilly either to Christianity or Islam. This receptive amphitheater of goodwill and big game, inspires megalomania among its foreign visitors who strut upon it — it has always done so, for those who seek the singularity of a little excitement and glory. I sometimes think that if the poorer counties of America’s Deep South had rhinos and elephants, instead of raccoons and possums, the philanthropists might direct their attentions to those parts, too.A rich white donor in black Africa is a study in high contrast that puts one in mind of the gallery of role models: Tarzan, Mr. Kurtz, King Leopold, Cecil Rhodes, Livingstone, Mrs. Jellyby, Albert Schweitzer, Hemingway, Henderson the Rain King: the overlords, the opportunists, the exploiters, the visionaries, the hunters, the care-givers, the baptizers, the saviors, all of them preaching the gospel of reform and seeking a kingdom of their own, if not an empire.Henry David Thoreau, the 19th-century American author, believed that all such outgoing people had something discreditable in their past that through giving they aimed to expiate. And all are characterized by the rather touching innocence of a billionaire faced with the brutal truth that the relative simplicity of acquiring wealth is nothing compared to the extreme difficulty of giving money away, for the common good.’
‘The real helpers are not the schemers and grandstanders of the eponymous family foundations or charities; they are nameless ill-paid volunteers who spend years in the bush, learning the language and helping in small-scale manageable projects, digging wells, training mid-wives, teaching villagers that unprotected sex spreads HIV; and among these stalwarts are the long-serving teachers who have liberated Africans by simply teaching them English, and are still doing so, even as they make the local governments lazier. The so-called White Fathers (the Society of Missionaries of Africa) I met in Malawi who ran upcountry clinics used to say, “I guess I’ll be buried here.” No one ever says that now, and significantly none of the people I spoke with for this piece ever expressed a wish to spend any serious length of time in Africa. None speaks an African language. To the detriment of their aims, they are on better terms with the African politicians than the common ruck of African people. Years living simply on the ground in Africa convinced me that there was more for me to learn from Africans than to teach. I saw there were many satisfactions in the lives of people who were apparently poor; many deficits in the lives of the very wealthy. I saw that African families were large and complex and interdependent; that old age was revered, that Africa’s link to the distant past — to the dawn of the world — was something marvelous and still intact in many places. Most of all, I was impressed by the self-sufficiency of ordinary people. Without much in the way of outside help, the people in the countries I knew managed to endure, usually through the simplest traditional means, and finally to prevail. Africa has the schools, the money and the resources to fix its own problems; it’s appalling to think of donors telling them otherwise, of the whole continent terminally indebted and living on handouts.’
‘Never mind that Africa receives roughly $50 billion in aid annually from foreign governments, and perhaps $13 billion more from private philanthropic institutions, according to Penta’s estimate. Never mind that Angola’s oil revenues are around $72 billion, and Nigeria’s $95 billion; that Africa boasts at least 55 verified and somewhat detached billionaires. I can testify that Africa is much worse off than when I first went there 50 years ago to teach English: poorer, sicker, less educated, and more badly governed. It seems that much of the aid has made things worse. I am not alone observing this fact. In his new book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, economist Angus Deaton questions the usefulness of all aid, and describes how the greater proportion of the world’s poor are found not in Africa but in the booming, yet radically unequal, economies of China and India. Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo calls aid a “debilitating drug,” arguing that “real per-capita income [in Africa] today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population — over 350 million people — live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.” The Kenyan economist James Shikwati takes this same line on aid, famously telling the German magazine Der Spiegel, “For God’s sake, please stop.” There have, of course, been a few successes. For all his faults, Bill Clinton’s strong-arming of pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of one-a-day AIDS medications, to less than a dollar per pill, has delivered real relief to Africa’s most vulnerable. But we also need to be honest about such grandiose ambitions: Most fail. (For lessons on what to avoid and what to do in order to execute effective philanthropy in Africa, see the box at end of story.) The most recent example of a Westerner running amok in Africa appears to be the celebrity-economist Jeffrey Sachs and his $120 million effort to end extreme poverty there. Nina Munk documents in her book The Idealist (see Penta Sept. 12) how, among other things, Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project poured $2.5 million over three years into a sparsely populated community of nomadic camel herders in Dertu, Kenya, and trumpeted its success. In actual fact, the charity’s paid-for latrines became clogged and overflowing, the dormitories it erected quickly fell into disrepair, and the livestock market it built ignored local nomadic customs and was closed within a few months. An incensed Dertu citizen filed a 15-point written complaint against Sachs’s operation, claiming it “created dependence” and that “the project is supposed to be bottom top approached but it is visa [sic] versa.” ‘
African Philanthropy Done Right
Foundation Source is the philanthropic advisor and partner to over 1,100 family foundations. Penta asked the organization’s chief philanthropic officer, Page Snow, to provide some basic guidelines on how to successfully execute philanthropic projects in Africa. Her advice:
“Beware the panacea. Millions of dollars are wasted on overly ambitious projects claiming to be a ‘killer app.” Projects that employ tried-and-true interventions, narrower in scope, usually have far greater impact. Demand responsible management. Ask tough questions if money is flowing into a charity, but isn’t flowing out to charitable causes. Avoid duplication. Be aware of other efforts already on the ground and make sure that your program isn’t a wasteful repeat but, preferably, leverages off what’s there. Support local, sustainable solutions. Avoid short term fixes by always seeking input from locals; plan for them to run the project on their own in the long-run. Beware of poor infrastructure projects. Make sure wells are dug where they’re actually needed, that the bridges and roads are integrated into existing plans by government or other NGOs.Use technology intelligently. Over 90% of households across sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity for their everyday needs, let alone power for laptops. Make sure locals have the skills, resources, and necessary tools to keep tech-dependent elements of your philanthropic project running. Be prepared to face corruption. Even when a project has been granted governmental approvals, there’s no guarantee of official cooperation; corruption and regional conflicts pose considerable challenges. Be culturally appropriate. Put on your anthropologist’s hat. Africans have their own process for dealing with grief and loss; Western-style grief counselors following a natural disaster or war aren’t appropriate.”
Afrobarometer which is a research project that has been coordinated by institutions in African countries and with partners in thirty-one countries. In its recent survey of public opinion across thirty-four African countries in the continent it validated the popular skepticism about the “Africa Rising” narrative.
In its 1st October 2013 research out come report, Afrobarometer’s data show that 20 percent of Africa’s population often goes without food, clean water, or medical care. More than 50 % of those surveyed think that economic conditions in their country are bad or “very bad.” Some 75% thought their government was doing a bad job in closing the gap between rich and poor. ‘John Allen, writing on AllAfrica.com, suggests that the results indicate that higher benefits of growth are going to a wealthy elite or that official statistics are overstating growth, or possibly both. Morten Jerven, in his recently book Poor Number, has shown the shortcomings of African statistics. In its report on the Nigerian economy, the World Bank observed that Nigeria’s high growth statistics could not be squared by increasing rates of poverty. These, and other inconsistencies, make Allen’s hypothesis on where the majority of Africa’s wealth is directed, look credible.’ For further readings refer to the following original sources:
Prosperity Index 2013
75.6% say gov’t is corrupt.
Satisfaction with gov’t efforts to address poverty: 21.2%.
The Governance sub-index dropped two places, to 118th, because of decreases in political rights, political constraints, the rule of law, and regulatory quality. http://www.prosperity.com/#!/country/ETH
The recent and frequent reports on outstanding economic growth in Africa have quickly turned this into mainstream ‘knowledge’, but African economic statistics are very weak. Growing inequality is a key issue that needs to be in focus if all of Africa is to enjoy ‘growth’. Links between social, environmental and economic development are being downplayed. A key issue in today’s discussion on land is that governments consider unfarmed lands to be ‘unowned, vacant, idle and available’, which is completely misleading. Small scale farming in African countries has been persistent, despite efforts to replace it with ‘more efficient’, large scale agriculture.
The Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EEFORT) is known for its over reach way beyond its regional government borders and micro managing and being the exclusive beneficiary of the major resources of the empire.
“Yes, economics is a science”, says Harvard Professor, Raj Chetty.
The point is said Paul Krugman “while Chetty is right that economics can be and sometimes is a scientific field in the sense that theories are testable and there are researchers doing the testing, all too many economists treat their field as a form of theology instead.” and he coined: ” May be economics is a science, but many economists are not scientists.’
Of course, not every science is experiment based. According to Prof. William Easterly of NYU: “Evolution is an example of a non-experimental science; don’t need experiments to defend economics.”
In Chetty’s economics: ‘It is true that the answers to many “big picture” macroeconomic questions — like the causes of recessions or the determinants of growth — remain elusive. But in this respect, the challenges faced by economists are no different from those encountered in medicine and public health. Health researchers have worked for more than a century to understand the “big picture” questions of how diet and lifestyle affect health and aging, yet they still do not have a full scientific understanding of these connections. Some studies tell us to consume more coffee, wine and chocolate; others recommend the opposite. But few people would argue that medicine should not be approached as a science or that doctors should not make decisions based on the best available evidence. As is the case with epidemiologists, the fundamental challenge faced by economists — and a root cause of many disagreements in the field — is our limited ability to run experiments. If we could randomize policy decisions and then observe what happens to the economy and people’s lives, we would be able to get a precise understanding of how the economy works and how to improve policy. But the practical and ethical costs of such experiments preclude this sort of approach. (Surely we don’t want to create more financial crises just to understand how they work.) Nonetheless, economists have recently begun to overcome these challenges by developing tools that approximate scientific experiments to obtain compelling answers to specific policy questions. In previous decades the most prominent economists were typically theorists like Paul Krugman and Janet L. Yellen, whose models continue to guide economic thinking. Today, the most prominent economists are often empiricists like David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who focus on testing old theories and formulating new ones that fit the evidence. This kind of empirical work in economics might be compared to the “micro” advances in medicine (like research on therapies for heart disease) that have contributed enormously to increasing longevity and quality of life, even as the “macro” questions of the determinants of health remain contested.’ Read the interesting argument on the subject further at:
RE: Joint Appeal Letter of OYSA, OCO, OSA, HRLHA and OSG on Eviction of Oromo Farmers and Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia
Dear Honorable Secretary,
We the undersigned associations, namely: the Oromo Youth Self-help Association (OYSA), the Oromo Community Organization (OCO) of Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), and the Oromia Support Group (OSG) are a diverse group of scholarly, community and human rights organizations focusing on Ethiopia, particularly Oromia, the Oromo regional state in Ethiopia. We are writing this joint appeal letter to you to express our deep concern about the widespread human rights violations that continue unabated in Ethiopia and to request that the U.S. Department of State, under your able leadership, uses its enormous influence with the government of Ethiopia to stop its arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, tortures and killings of innocent Oromos and other peoples of Ethiopia. The Oromo, who constitute more than forty percent of the population of Ethiopia, have been the target of attack by the minority Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) dominating the Ethiopian regime for over two decades.Pressure Ethiopia to Stop Killing and Evicting Oromo Farmers from their Ancestral LandsOn July 7, 2013 three innocent Oromo civilians namely: Mr. Ibrahim Henno (age 38), Mr. Mahammed Musa (age 26) and Mr. Mohammed Yusuf (age 27) were killed and two others – Mr. Nuredin Ismael (age 25) and Mr. Ali Mohammed (age 27) wounded in Eastern Oromia’s Regional State, in Ethiopia in a violence that involved the Federal Government’s special force known as Liyyu Police. According to the Human Rights League of Horn of Africa, the three dead victims of this most recent attack by Liyyu Police took place in Gaara-Wallo area in Qumbi District of Eastern Hararge Province in Eastern Ethiopia. The two wounded victims of this same violent action have since been treated at the Hiwot Fana Hospital in the city of Harar. More shocking was that the bodies of the three dead victims were eaten by hyenas, because there was nobody around to pick and bury them as the whole village had been abandoned when the Liyu Police forced the villagers to leave the area.The Ethiopian government-backed violence that has been going on in the name of border dispute around the Anniya, Jarso and Miyesso districts between the Oromia and Ogaden regional states has already resulted in the death of 40 Oromo nationals and the displacement of more than 20,000 others along with looting of their cattle and valuable possessions.In January 2013, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, Claire Beston told the Guardian, “There have been repeated allegations against the Liyu police of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and other violations including destruction of villages and there is no doubt that the special police have become a significant source of fear in the region.” In a similar dispute last May, the Voice of America reported that at least five Oromos were killed in an inter-ethnic clash near the town of Dabus, Bidigilu county in the Benishangul Gumuz region. Manasibu county administrator in West Wollaga zone, Mr. Malkamu Tujuba, confirmed the death of civilians and destruction of properties to the VOA’s Afan Oromo program.
Oromo Political Refugees need UNHCR protection
Oromo Political refugees in Egypt who fled tyranny and subjugation in Ethiopia are facing another round of attack and human right abuse from Egyptians, who have been angry at the construction of the renaissance dam on the Nile River by Ethiopia. The UNHCR and Egyptian government couldn’t provide protection to these political refugees per the UN convention. Consequently, on July 6, 2013, one young Oromo was attacked by a knife as he and his friend were looking for dinner. His friend survived the knife attack by running away.
On May 22, 2013 nine Oromo/Ethiopian refugees were arrested in front of the UNHCR Office, Djibouti branch, where they had been for the renewal of their refugee identification cards. The families and friends of those refugees have not been able to see and/or communicate with them since they were arrested and detained. Based on related past experiences and the involvement of Ethiopian security agents in the arrest and detention of those refugees, there is a high level of fear that the government of Djibouti might deport the detained refugees back to Ethiopia exposing them to detention, torture and death. Similar human rights abuses have been reported on Oromo refugees in Yemen.
Pressure Ethiopia to Release Oromo Political Prisoners in Ethiopia
In May 2013 six Oromo civilians and artists were incarcerated by the TPLF security agents from their respective homes and work places. They are Tesfaye Lammuu, Addisu Mengistu/Karrayyu (Artist), Dasse Lamu, Birraa Margaa, Dhaba Abdulqadir, and Shasho Idosa.
On November 1, 2012, two well-respected Oromo opposition politicians, Mr. Bekele Gerba (professor) and Mr. Olbana Lelisa, along with seven other Oromo nationals, Welbeka Lemi, Adem Busa, Hawa Wako, Mohamed Melu, Dereje Ketema, Addisu Mikre and Gelgelo Gufa were convicted and later sentenced to long term imprisonment under the charge of “working underground to secede Oromia from the federal government” and other concocted charges after being kept in jail for more than a year. The two opposition leaders were arrested in August 2011 after speaking with Amnesty International officials.
Dear Honorable Secretary,
Over the past 21 years, the TPLF-led and dominated Ethiopian government, has imprisoned tens of thousands of political opposition and citizens, mainly Oromos. As the result of the government’s repressive policies, thousands of innocent citizens have been languishing in prisons and secret camps, and many have been severely tortured, deformed and/or killed. Others have been abducted and made to disappear. Hundreds have been murdered in broad day-light. Well respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and US State Department’s own annual reports have documented rampant arrests, unlawful killings, abductions, tortures and other human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government. These reports are consistent with our own reports and direct experiences. We are frustrated because, despite these glaring facts, Ethiopia’s allies and Western donors are reluctant to restrain the government and halt its flagrant human rights abuses. Some donors even go on record to support the government’s wrong claim that Ethiopia is “on the road to democracy.” It is troubling that despite these well documented human rights abuses, the Ethiopian government continues receiving billions of dollars of aid money every year. Using over one third of its budget from foreign aid, Ethiopia has built one of the biggest and best-equipped armies in Africa, while millions of its citizens seek food aid. In fact, the aid money is used to impose the Tigrayan dictatorship and autocratic regime on Oromos and other peoples in a multinational society.
Observing the painful agony and sufferings of the ordinary people and the political prisoners, we specifically request that you and the US government:
Use your influence and international responsibilities to force the Ethiopian Government to stop the killing of Oromo nationals, bring the violence to end and facilitate the return of the displaced Oromos back to their homes.
Use your influence and international responsibilities to force the minority regime in Ethiopia to stop the politically motivated eviction of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land and illegal selling of Oromo land immediately.
Use your enormous influence to put political, economic and diplomatic pressures upon the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release Mr. Bekele Gerba, Mr. Olbana Lelisa and thousands of Oromo political prisoners.
Influence the Ethiopian government to respect the current Ethiopian constitution and stop the regime’s extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention of innocent people without trial.
Insist on the unconditional release of all political prisoners before providing economic aid to the regime.
Demand that the regime is committed to respecting human rights of the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia and allow freedom of expression and assembly.
Demand the repeal of all new laws that violate the fundamental freedom of citizens: particularly the so called Anti-terrorism Law, Press Law, the current law that prevents charitable organizations from freely moving in the country and the most recent law that criminalizes the usage of Skype and other media tools.
Demand that the regime respect freedom of religion and stop interfering in religious affairs.
Finally, we believe that unless international donors, mainly the US government, use their leverage and make meaningful pressure, the Ethiopian government will continue with political repression of the Oromo and other nations and nationalities. Therefore, we humbly request you to exert your energy and diplomatic skills to create conducive political environment for establishment of the rule of law in Ethiopia. We earnestly believe that as America’s top diplomat and principal voice on international issues, you have an extraordinary opportunity to alleviate the incredible human sufferings of the Oromo and other peoples in Ethiopia. We thank you for your interest in the wellbeing of the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia.
“Recent high growth rates and increased foreign investment in Africa have given rise to the popular idea that the continent may well be on track to become the next global economic powerhouse. This “Africa Rising” narrative has been most prominently presented in recent cover stories by Time Magazine and The Economist. Yet both publications are wrong in their analysis of Africa’s developmental prospects — and the reasons they’re wrong speak volumes about the problematic way national economic development has come to be understood in the age of globalization.Both articles use unhelpful indicators to gauge Africa’s development. They looked to Africa’s recent high GDP growth rates, rising per capita incomes, and the explosive growth of mobile phones and mobile phone banking as evidence that Africa is “developing.” Time referred to the growth in sectors such as tourism, retail, and banking, and also cited countries with new discoveries of oil and gas reserves. The Economist pointed to the growth in the number of African billionaires and the increase in Africa’s trade with the rest of the world. But these indicators only give a partial picture of how well development is going — at least as the term has been understood over the last few centuries. From late 15th century England all the way up to the East Asian Tigers of recent renown, development has generally been taken as a synonym for “industrialization.” Rich countries figured out long ago, if economies are not moving out of dead-end activities that only provide diminishing returns over time (primary agriculture and extractive activities such as mining, logging, and fisheries), and into activities that provide increasing returns over time (manufacturing and services), then you can’t really say they are developing. despite some improvements in a few countries, the bulk of African countries are either stagnating or moving backwards when it comes to industrialization. The share of MVA in Africa’s GDP fell from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2008, while in developing Asia it rose from 22 percent to 35 percent over the same period. There has also been a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa’s exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa’s total exports having fallen from 43 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2008. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries had negative MVA per capita growth during the period 1990 – 2010, and only five countries achieved an MVA per capita growth above 4 percent.” http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/04/the_myth_of_africa_s_rise?page=0,1
This book is an important contribution to the study of identity politics, a subject hotly contested by many Africanists. Bulcha’s discussion the state-centered bias in the much of academic work on Ethiopia and its denial of the history and pre-colonial autonomy of indigenous non-Abyssinian peoples aught to lead to some serious debate. (Kajsa Ekholm Friedman, Professor Emeritus, Lund University, Sweden).
This work by Mekuria Bulcha is the most comprehensive and innovative work on the Oromo of Ethiopia ever to be written. Identity politics, he argues can be a positive challenge to the development of the state. As it has been the case of Southern Sudan states can also evolve, disappear and change. This work outlines the history, the traditions and politics of the Oromo people summarized and critically assessing all scholarly work done previously. It will remain a seminal work for scholars of Africa and the Oromo for many years to come. It is master peace and sets new challenge for all of us researching on the Oromo nation and people. (Mario I. Aguilar, Professor, Chair of Religion and Politics & Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP), University of St. Andrew, Scotland, UK).
Based on empirical evidence and relevant theories of nationalism Bulcha convincingly argues that the pre-colonial Oromo were a pre-modern nation. He revisits the representation of the Oromo identity in Ethiopian history and proposes the innovative and stimulating thesis that the 16th century Oromo ‘invasion’ of the Ethiopian highlands was the result of a conscious effort to regain control of a territory that was lost and contended since the 14th century Abyssinian expansion into the region. Mekuria Bulcha’s presentation of new evidence of the Oromo resistance to the 19th century conquest, his description of the international appeals by the Oromo elite in the colonial phase, his analysis of the activities of the Oromo social movements for the cultural and linguistic rights in the 1960s, and his account of the history of rebellion and armed struggle from the 60s, up to the current ethnic federalism are likely to make this book a classic reference for the studies on ethno-nationalism. (Marco Bassi, Ph.D. Research Associate, African Centre, University of Oxford, UK).
In his important and interesting discussions on the Gadaa System Mekurian Bulcha argues that:
The Oromo People created Gadaa, and Gadaa created the Oromo nation (Legesse, 2000 as quoted in Bulcha 2012)
The Gadaa system is the matrix of the Oromo culture and society: in the past it stood for several related ideas and practices encompassing cultural, political, economic and religious elements. Many of the basic elements of traditional Oromo culture that are anchored in the Gadaa system have withstood the exigencies of time and still today influence the values, attitudes, and social practices of Oromo people irrespective of, region, religion and social class. Oromo worldview and way of life was shaped by Gadaa system (Bulcha,, 2012 & Legesse, 2006).
The unity of the Oromos that is crystallized in the Gadaa culture is not a nostalgic memory of a glorious past or illusory of vision of the future paradise. Gadaa is a reality embedded in the Oromo psyche that constitutes what is to be Oromo as an individual and as a nation. Gadaa underpins the cohesive or corporate Oromo history that scholars who have not studied the Oromo fail to recognize (Gebissa, 2008).
The most important organ of the Gadaa system is the federal assembly known as Gumii Gayoo in Borana and Caffee in other places. These assemblies were very large and attended by councillors called hayyuu, drawn from different sections of the society. These assemblies made laws which defined the essence of Oromo democracy. In short, the specificity and similarity of the myriads of norms, rituals and political practices around which it was organized throughout the Oromo country make Gadaa a unique pan- Oromo institution of great historical depth (Bulcha, 2012, Legesse, 2000).
From historical perspectives, the urgency underlying the contemporary development quest of developing economies has been recognised for the last seven decades. Of course, this should not be considered as that there were no problems of development prior to 1940’s. However, paralleling the increasing for economic self-determination and development of developing economies, there has been a tremendous growth in intellectual activity concerning the development problems.
The past 70 years have also witnessed a gluttony of models, theories, and empirical investigations of the development problem and the possibilities offered for transforming Asia, African, Latin American, and Caribbean nations. This body of knowledge as come to be known in academics and policy circles as development economics.
In these perspectives development is discerned in the context of sustained rise of an entire society and social system towards a better and ‘humane life’. What constitutes a better and humane life is an inquiry as old as humankind. Nevertheless, it must be regularly and systematically revised and answered over again in the unsteady milieu of the human society. Economists have agreed on at least on three universal or core values as a discernible and practical guidelines for understanding the gist of development (see Todaro,1994; Goulet, 1971; Soedjatmoko, 1985; Owens, 1987). These core- values include:
the ability to meet basic needs: food, shelter, health and protection. A basic function of all economic activity, thus, is to provide a means of overcoming the helplessness and misery emerging from a lack of food, shelter, health and protection. The necessary conditions are improving the quality of life, rising per head income, the elimination of absolute poverty, greater employment opportunity and lessening income inequalities;
which includes possessing education, technology, authenticity, identity, dignity, recognition, honour, a sense of worth and self respect, of not being used as a tool by others for their own exigency;
Freedom from servitude:
to be able to choose. Human freedom includes emancipation from alienating material conditions of life and from social servitude to other people, nature, ignorance, misery, institutions, and dogmatic beliefs. Freedom includes an extended range of choices for societies and their members and together with a minimization of external restraints in the satiation of some social goals. Human freedom embraces personal security, the rule of law, and freedom of leisure, expression, political participation and equality of opportunity.
Sustained and accelerated increase and change in quantity and quantity of material goods and services (both in absolute and per capita), increase in productive capacity and structural transformation of production system (e.g. from agriculture to industry then to services and presently to knowledge based (new) economy), etc. hereinafter economic growth is a necessary if not a sufficient condition for development.
As elaborated in Hirischman (1981) and Lal (1983), this corpus of thought and knowledge denotes economics with a particular perspective of developing nations and the development process. It has come to shape the beliefs about the economic development of developing countries and policies and strategies that should be followed in this process. While development economics goes beyond the mere application of traditional economic principles to the study of developing economies, it remains an intellectual offspring and sub discipline of the mainstream economics discipline. The growth in economic knowledge and the corresponding intellectual maturation of development thought and policy debate has led to the appearance of various perspectives of thought on the theory and reality of development and underdevelopment within the same discipline of development economics. The two main paradigms are neo-classicals (orthodox), and Political economy (neo-Marxists). There are also eclectics.