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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

January 15, 2018  South Africa/USA: Inequality is Extreme and Still Rising http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/sa-us1801.php
    "I came here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America." - Robert F. Kennedy, University of Cape Town, June 6, 1966

January 15, 2018  Africa/Global: World Trends in Inequality http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/ineq1801.php
    "The divergence in inequality levels has been particularly extreme between Western Europe and the United States, which had similar levels of inequality in 1980 but today are in radically different situations. While the top 1% income share was close to 10% in both regions in 1980, it rose only slightly to 12% in 2016 in Western Europe while it shot up to 20% in the United States. Meanwhile, in the United States, the bottom 50% income share decreased from more than 20% in 1980 to 13% in 2016." - World Inequality Report, 2018

December 11, 2017  Africa/Global: Paradise Papers, Plus http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/iff1712.php
    The Paradise Papers investigation, based on a leak of 6.8 million documents from the offshore law firm Appleby, is the largest of recent revelations of the hidden world of financial manipulation used by both multinational corporations and rich (high net worth) individuals from around the world. Like the Panama Papers investigation that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, it is based both on "big data" analysis and on collaborative investigative reporting by teams of hundreds of journalists. But it is based on the records of only one offshore law firm, albeit one of the most prominent. Despite the size of the leak, it still reveals only the tip of the iceberg.

November 27, 2017  Zimbabwe: After Mugabe, Looking Forward http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zim1711b.php
    "While Zimbabweans understandably embraced military intervention because it led to the ouster of Mugabe and prevented his wife Grace from succeeding him, they must also embrace the fact that it comes with further, less palatable consequences. The episode demonstrated once again that the military is a critical arm of the state which has become the kingmaker in Zimbabwean politics." - Alex T. Magaisa

November 27, 2017  Zimbabwe: After Mugabe, Looking Back http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zim1711a.php
    In Zimbabwe, celebration at the departure of Robert Mugabe from office after 37 years in power has been fervent and heartfelt. But almost all of those celebrating also acknowledge the difficulties of the months and years to come. Hope is tempered by recognition that the structures of kleptocratic and military rule remain in place.

October 30, 2017  Africa/Global: Recent Books Read & Recommended http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/books1710.php
    As with other publications largely focused on current events, AfricaFocus Bulletin is confronted with an exponentially increasing bombardment of daily news. My approach as the editor is to select a particular topic of interest, sometimes highlighted in the news and sometimes not, and try to put it into context for readers with excerpts from the most relevant sources. But I also find it essential to try to step back and refresh my understanding of the wider context. For that, I find I must turn to books.

October 9, 2017  Africa/Global: Tobacco Industry Targets Africa Markets http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/tob1710.php
    "British American Tobacco (BAT) and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west, a Guardian investigation has found. ... The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population." - The Guardian

September 25, 2017  Africa/Global: How Women Lose from Tax Injustice http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/iff1709.php
    A new report from the Association for Women in Development (AWID), authored by Dr. Attiya Waris in Nairobi, makes a powerful case that women lose disproportionately from illicit financial flows, which reduce the tax base and deprive states of the resources to invest in critical public goods, and that addressing this issue is key to efforts to combat gender inequality. The point should not be surprising, but too often the impact of tax evasion and tax avoidance is cloaked in jargon that makes it less visible than cases such as overt discrimination against women in employment and wages. In contrast, this report stands out for its clarity. AfricaFocus strongly recommends the full version, which is available on-line at http://tinyurl.com/ych3zce3

August 23, 2017  USA/Africa: No Policy? Bad Policy? Or Both? http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/usa1708.php
    "Africa is terra incognita for the Trump Administration: a continent it cares little--and understands even less--about. With no dyed-in-the-wool Trumpian Africa hands available, the administration appears ready to cede Africa policy making to career civil servants and a few mainstream Republican appointees." - Matthew T. Page

August 8, 2017  Africa: Bridge to Education, or to Nowhere? http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/educ1708.php
    "When Liberia's Minister of Education, George Werner, announced last spring that he was inviting foreign education companies and non-profits to run our public schools, our country came under the international spotlight, both in Western media and for education activists. ... Quickly, Liberia was turned into a battlefield between those who see for-profit 'charter' schools as the solution to the problems that plague public education across the world, and those of us who point to underinvestment and poor management as the true culprits." - Mary Mulbah, president, National Teachers' Association of Liberia

July 31, 2017  Africa: Visa Openness on the Agenda? http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/migr1707.php
    "For now, however, crossing borders remains a painful experience for most Africans. ... On average, Africans need a visa to travel to 54% of the continent's countries; it's easier for Americans to travel around Africa than it is for Africans themselves. So far, the AU has issued its single African passport only to heads of state and senior AU officials." - The Economist

July 24, 2017  Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707b.php
    "As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women candidates. ... The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House." - Beatrice Akala

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