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Economy and Development

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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.


Most recent bulletins on economy and development

March 12, 2018  Africa/Global: Charting Where They Hide the Money, 1
    "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

March 12, 2018  Africa/Global: Charting Where They Hide the Money, 2
    "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

February 26, 2018  Nigeria/Global: Promising Potential for Solar Mini-Grids
    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.

February 12, 2018  Sudan: Perilous Crossroads on Refugee Map
    Sudan is one of the central crossroads for African migrant journeys, particularly for refugees from Eritrea and other counties in the Horn of Africa. The international media spotlight falls most often on the deadly crossing of the Mediterranean or slave auctions in the Libyan dessert. But the vulnerability and deadly perils facing those forced to flee by war, repression, or the struggle for economic survival extends to a far wider terrain, of which Sudan is one example.

January 29, 2018  Africa/Global: Humanitarian Attention Deficits
    The international system of response to humanitarian crises is flawed. And the often-repeated call to focus on addressing causes of crises and structural flaws in the system, instead of only providing short-term relief, is undeniably justified. But current trends, paralleling austerity programs and cuts in services at domestic levels in the United States and around the world, are not moving in the direction of fundamental reform. Instead, they are further diminishing the already inadequate resources devoted to saving lives.

January 15, 2018  Africa/Global: World Trends in Inequality
    "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

January 15, 2018  South Africa/USA: Inequality is Extreme and Still Rising
    "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

December 11, 2017  Africa/Global: Paradise Papers, Plus
    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
    "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
    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
    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
    "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

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