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Continent-Wide and Global Issues

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

About these pages|Climate Change and the Environment|Peace and Security|Economy and Development|Illicit Financial Flows and Tax Justice|Food and Agriculture|Health

AfricaFocus Bulletin pays special attention to issues which are both Africa-wide and global. Today's global issues take different forms in different countries and on different continents. But the most critical issues transcend geographical boundaries and demand common action.

The talking points included in this set of pages were first prepared in July 2014, prepared for use at the Empowered Africa Forum at Howard University in Washington, DC, on August 4, 2014. Health as a Human Right was added in September 2014. Others for which talking points are in preparation include Migration and Information and Communication Technology.

Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

Inequality and tax evasion are growing both within and between countries, while the rich on all continents funnel their wealth into secret bank accounts scattered around the world. This erodes the public sector, starves countries of funds needed for development, and drives up deficits.

In responding to internal conflict, terrorism, and criminal violence, leaders in Africa and around the world most often rely on militarized responses that are ineffective and abusive of human rights. Although leaders give lip service to addressing the root causes, it is standard formulas of repression and funding for security forces that take priority in practice. Politicians and investors 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%.
International agencies agree that small farmers are key to addressing poverty and food insecurity in Africa. But commercial monopolization of seeds and land grabs by both foreign and domestic investors make a mockery of international pledges. According to international law, health is a fundamental human right. Both national governments and the international community have the responsibity to ensure that this right is guaranteed in practice to everyone. Rich countries in particular have the responsibility to contribute their fair share to achieving this goal.

Most recent bulletins on continent-wide and global issues

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 13, 2017  Africa/Global: Counterproductive Counterterrorism http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/cve1711.php
    What strategies work to counter terrorism effectively, whether in Africa or anywhere else in the world? Few would claim to have a convincing answer to that question. However, there is some real evidence of what strategies do not work and are even counterproductive. For example, a new UNDP study studying recruitment to violent extremism, based on interviews with former extremists in Nigeria, Kenya, and Somalia, found a number of factors underlying the growth of violent extremism. Particularly striking was the finding that 71 percent of recruits interviewed said that it was some form of government action that was the 'tipping point' that triggered their final decision to join an extremist group.

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 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 10, 2017  Africa/Global: Following the Money http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/iff1707.php
    "As an important tool in our fight against corruption, tax evasion, terrorist financing and money laundering, we will advance the effective implementation of the international standards on transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons and legal arrangements, including the availability of information in the domestic and crossborder context." - G20 Summit Communiqué, Hamburg, July 8, 2017

June 19, 2017  Africa/Europe: Mediterranean Trajectories http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/migr1706.php
    "On July 5, 2016, a 36-year-old Nigerian asylum seeker named Emmanuel Chidi Nnamdi was beaten to death by Amedeo Mancini, a 39-year-old Italian soccer ultra associated with a local chapter of the neo-fascist CasaPound Italy political movement. Emmanuel and his wife Chinyery had fled the violence wreaked by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria after losing their parents and a two-year-old daughter when their village church was set on fire. They undertook the dangerous journey through Libya and across the Mediterranean on a smuggler's boat, during which Chinyery suffered a miscarriage, finally arriving in Palermo. The harrowing story of Emmanuel and Chinyery is far from an isolated case, however." - Camilla Hawthorne, "In Search of Black Italia"

May 17, 2017  Africa/Global: Whose Energy? http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/clim1705.php
    "We, the undersigned representatives of African civil society, express our deep concern regarding efforts by the European Union and France to hijack the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), an African-owned and African-led initiative endorsed by all 55 African Heads of State to scale up renewable energy on our continent." April 6 statement by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and over 200 civil society networks and groups from 34 African countries.

May 8, 2017  Africa: World Bank Financing Land Grabs http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/land1705.php
    "The World Bank Group has indirectly financed some of Africa's most notorious land grabs, according to a report by a group of international development watchdogs. The World Bank's private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is enabling and profiting from these projects by outsourcing its development funds to the financial sector." - Oakland Institute

April 25, 2017  Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0 http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/med1704.php
    "In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn't exercise direct control of the airwaves. ... New information technologies-- the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media platforms; smart phones with cameras--were supposed to make censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more complicated." - Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists, April 25, 2017

April 17, 2017  Africa/Global: New Reports Show Massive Tax Losses http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/tax1704.php
    On April 15, "tax day" in the United States, tens of thousands of demonstrators in over 200 communities around the country marched to demand that President Trump make public his tax returns ( http://taxmarch.org/home/). Protesters also denounced his use of taxpayer funds for his personal profit and military escalation while his administration continues its assault on spending for urgent public needs at home and around the world. There is no sign that the President will comply with the demand for transparency. But the award of a Pulitzer Prize last week to the international consortium that exposed the Panama Papers was only one indicator that the drive to expose tax evasion, tax avoidance, and corruption around the world will continue.