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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

December 10, 2018  Africa/Global: Green New Deal Could Be Game-Changer http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1812.php
    “And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.” - Naomi Klein on the Green New Deal

November 12, 2018  Africa: Why Mining is Hard to Tax http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/tax1811.php
    "In Africa as elsewhere in the world, while energy companies might be somewhat undertaxed, mining companies typically are greatly under-taxed. Indeed, it is only a slight exaggeration to say that, with a few significant exceptions, notably Botswana’s diamond mines, mining in Africa is barely taxed at all. One reliable source indicates that contemporary African governments collect about 55% of the total value of energy production in tax revenue, but only 3% of the value of mining production." - Taxing Africa

November 12, 2018  Africa: Africa Mining Vision http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/amv1811.php
    The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) was adopted by Heads of State at the February 2009 African Union summit following the October 2008 meeting of African Ministers responsible for Mineral Resources Development. An action plan was adopted in December 2011, and the African Minerals Development Centre (https://www.uneca.org/amdc) launched in December 2013. The lead role in developing the vision was taken by African professional staff at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in consultation not only with African governments but also with civil society organizations and specialists on the mining sector.

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

April 9, 2018  Africa: Storybooks in African Languages http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/story1804.php
    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, 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

January 29, 2018  Africa/Global: Humanitarian Attention Deficits http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/hum1801.php
    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 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.