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
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
April 9, 2018 Africa: Storybooks in African Languages
The African Storybook project, which launched only five years ago to make books
available to teachers and students in African languages, already has made available
903 storybooks in 136 different languages, including English, French, Portuguese,
Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, and a host of other languages spoken on the continent.
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
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
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
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 13, 2017 Africa/Global: Counterproductive Counterterrorism
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
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
September 25, 2017 Africa/Global: How Women Lose from Tax Injustice
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
August 8, 2017 Africa: Bridge to Education, or to Nowhere?
"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?
"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
"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
"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"