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Economy and Development

This page updated on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/intro-econ.php.

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Talking Points

  • Politicians and investors in Africa and around the world speak of creating good jobs. In practice they most often promote a market-fundamentalist development model that sheds jobs while increasing profits for the 1%.

  • The "Africa Rising" narrative celebrating rapid economic growth in many African countries contains a partial truth. New investment in extractive industries to serve world markets is growing, and there is rapid growth in information and communication technology as well.

  • But most Africans, whether in the rural areas or the burgeoning cities, have little access to the wealth created. Jobs in the formal sector do not come close to keeping up with expansion of the labor force. And government policies marginalize the interests of workers and small farmers.

  • Sustainable development depends on public investment in health, education, and infrastructure, but these investments fall far short of what is needed.

  • Significant change in economic policies, in Africa and around the world, will only come if there is active transnational mobilization for economic justice for the 99%. Such action must include not only political groups, but also unions, farmers' organizations, human rights groups, churches, and others in all sectors of society.

South African platinum miners organize a wildcat strike in October 2012.
T-shirts refer to massacre of striking miners at Marikana in August that year.

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Most recent bulletins on economy and development

October 16, 2018  Africa/Global: Drug Company Profits vs. Public Health http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/drug1810.php
    "Oxfam examined publicly available data on subsidiaries of four of the largest US drug companies and found a striking pattern. In the countries analyzed that have standard corporate tax rates, rich or poor, the corporations’ pretax profits were low. In eight advanced economies, drug company profits averaged 7 percent, while in seven developing countries they averaged 5 percent. Yet globally, these corporations reported annual global profits of up to 30 percent. So where were the high profits? Tax havens. In four countries that charge low or no corporate tax rates, these companies posted skyrocketing 31 percent profit margins." - Oxfam, September 2018

October 1, 2018  Africa/Global: Professionals Enabling Corruption http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/iff1810.php
    "Lifting the veil of corporate secrecy reveals a simple principle: Offshore is actually a set of professional services that specialize in enabling businesses and individuals to effectively retreat from legal, regulatory, and public scrutiny, empowering them vis-a-vis those who have remained 'onshore' without access to such services." - Hudson Institute

August 27, 2018  Africa: Migration Reports Show Complex Realities http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/migr1808.php
    "In the case of Africa, the very idea that the situation to be faced is a rapidly increasing “migration crisis” driven by a growing number of young men and women desperately trying to enter Europe denies the basic facts [such as that] the vast majority of Africans move within the continent; most Africans move for reasons of work, study and family; and most Africans living abroad are not from the poorest sections of their societies of origin." - UN Economic Commission for Africa, Situation Analysis

August 15, 2018  West Africa/Europe: From Cocoa to Chocolate http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/choc1808.php
    "Cocoa growing communities, particularly in West Africa, are facing poverty, child labour and deforestation that have been made worse by a rapid fall in prices for cocoa. Widely touted efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment made in the past decade are having little impact. In fact, the modest scope of the proposed solutions does not even come close to addressing the scale of the problem." - Cocoa Barometer, April 2018

June 4, 2018  West Africa/Global: Tax Evasion without Borders http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/wa1806.php
    "On paper, the company that engineered and built the [$50 million mineral sands] processing plant [in Senegal] was SNC Lavalin-Mauritius Ltd, a local division of SNC Lavalin [Canada]. In reality, SNC Lavalin-Mauritius wasn’t involved. It was a shell, created for the specific purpose of helping the engineering giant avoid tax payments. The company had no construction equipment and no office of its own. It operated from inside the Mauritius office of the offshoring law firm Appleby, which helped SNCLavalin create the shell company." - West Africa Leaks

May 21, 2018  Namibia/Africa: Afrobarometer Insights http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/nam1805.php
    In Namibia in 2014, the ruling SWAPO party decided to adopt a 50-50 gender quota for its representatives in the National Assembly. This brought the representation of women in the National Assembly to 41% in the election that year (more than twice the current 19% of women in the U.S. House of Representatives). Recent survey results show that the move has proved highly popular in Namibia, with 71% of women and 68% of men saying that such a quota should be mandated for all political parties.

May 7, 2018  USA/Africa: Renewable Energy Advances on Many Fronts http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805a.php
    Resistance to rapid renewable energy expansion is still high, despite the acknowledged costs in climate change. The U.S. Power Africa initiative still funds predominately natural gas, although its investment in renewables is growing. In Kenya, the Kenyan and Chinese governments are pushing ahead with a coal-fired generation plant in Lamu, despite strong resistance from local environmentalists and the fact that China is rapidly abandoning coal at home. Nevertheless, technological changes and rising awareness of the damage done by fossil fuels are propelling new advances on many fronts.

May 7, 2018  USA/Africa: Achieving 100% Renewable Energy http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805b.php
    "We can’t have a working nation or a world if we don’t stop the climate from careening out of control. That’s been clear for decades now, but what’s been less clear is precisely what we should do about it. Happily, that’s no longer the case. We now know exactly what to do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done. We have to switch off of coal, oil, and gas, and on to 100% wind, water, and sun energy sources." - Bill McKibben

March 26, 2018  Zimbabwe: Women Continue Protest at Hwange Coal http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/zim1803.php
    At a meeting on February 11, two weeks into a protest by hundreds of women in the mining community outside the company's offices, still continuing in late March, the Hwange Colliery Company Ltd. (HCCL) admitted that the company owed its workers a total of $70 million. HCCL management said they did not have the money to pay, although many workers had not been paid full wages for almost five years.

March 12, 2018  Africa/Global: Charting Where They Hide the Money, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/fsi1803b.php
    "Overall, the City of London and [its] offshore satellites constitute by far the most important part of the global offshore world of secrecy jurisdictions. Had we lumped them together, the British network would be at the top of our index, above Switzerland." - Tax Justice Network

March 12, 2018  Africa/Global: Charting Where They Hide the Money, 1 http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/fsi1803a.php
    "Switzerland, the United States and the Cayman Islands are the world’s biggest contributors to financial secrecy, according to the latest edition of the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index (FSI). ... Kenya, which this year set up its own tax haven in the form of the Nairobi International Financial Centre, is an example of how interests of western financial service lobbyists have successfully lured governments into a race to the bottom. Kenya, which has been assessed for the first time in the 2018 FSI, has an extremely high secrecy score of 80/100." - Tax Justice Network

February 26, 2018  Nigeria/Global: Promising Potential for Solar Mini-Grids http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/sol1802.php
    In contrast to fossil fuels, which require transportation of fuel to generation plants to produce electricity, and distribution networks to reach end-users of the power, solar energy is eminently scalable and flexible, from portable lanterns all the way to utility-scale photo-voltaic solar farms. Stand-alone off-grid systems can power a single home or a school, and mini-grids can serve small communities.

Complete listing of bulletins on the economy and development, 2003-present