Creativity Is The True Source of Economic Wealth

Libro — The Creative Wealth of Nations - Andres Valenciano - Medium
Cambridge University Press, 2018.  Hardback, Softback 330 pages, and Kindle

June 26, 2020

Creativity Is the True Source of Economic Wealth

Lawrence Freeman

(I promised Patrick Kabanda over a year ago I would write a review of his book, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: Can the Arts Advance Development?” and I always keep my word.) 

With his book, Patrick Kabanda makes a significant contribution to examining the subject of economics with a new and refreshing approach. Rather than being stuck in a maze measuring monetary values, he looks beyond the financial structure of prices and export-import figures, to the relationship of the human mind to economics. While I do not agree with everything in this book, its principal value to me is that it elevates the discussion of the importance of creativity in economics. The title of Mr. Kabanda’s book caught my eye, because it provocatively alters the title of Adam Smith’s well known, wicked book, “The Wealth of Nations.” Contrary to what is commonly accepted by the majority of my fellow citizens, and what is taught in our institutions of learning, the United States was not founded on the tenets of Adam Smith. In fact, no economy ever was, or ever could be successful by following Smith’s canons.  President George Washington and his brilliant Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, rejected Smith’s doctrines, as did every follower of the American System of Political Economy, including many American Presidents and foreign leaders. (Read Alexander Hamilton’s Credit System Is Necessary for Africa’s Development)

 While it is useful that Kabanda calls attention to the function of culture (art, music, drama) in contributing to economic progress, he errs in properly pinpointing the relationship. It is not culture per se that contributes to economic progress, but rather only a culture that fosters and nourishes human creativity. More precisely, it is those compositions of art, music, and drama, which stimulate creative thinking, an aptitude uniquely bequeathed to the human species, that we should revere. It is this potential for creative thought that makes us truly human, which society’s culture should cherish and nourish.

 Creativity in Economics

Machinists set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically-controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Before proceeding with my review, it is necessary to discuss the genuine role of creativity in the science of economics. Improving the conditions of life for an expanding population is not based on money. To understand real economic growth, it is important to comprehend that it is physical (not monetary) inputs injected into an economy that yield improvements in the productive powers of society, which causes an increase in aggregate of wealth.  It should be evident that the augmented capacity of a nation to ensure a prosperous future for those living and their posterity is not the result of the silly creeds of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

Putting aside cult like beliefs in monetarism, let us focus on crucial aspect of physical economy. In the broadest yet most accurate terms, economics is humankind’s relationship to the physical universe. Humans act creatively to transform nature lawfully for the perpetuation of our noble species.  Natural resources are not the ultimate source of value. It is true that human labor adds value to resources in the production process.  Thoughtful economists recognize that the productivity of farmers and workers depends on the quality and quantity of infrastructure available to society. However, the crucial concept for our purpose here is the following. Discovery and utilization of resources, productivity of human labor power, and the level of infrastructure for any given economy, are all delimited by the level of existing scientific and technological culture accessible by the population. Improved productivity emanates from the invention of new designs for machines that enable work to be performed more efficiently.  The application of advanced technologies is derived from discoveries of new scientific principles by the noetic process of the human mind.

Let us examine energy from a higher conceptual standpoint. On the simplest level, oil has existed for millions of years. However, it only became a valuable resource to humans when a technology was invented to utilize oil for energy, which became the dominant fuel to power the twentieth century. The attainment of electricity was made possible by a human scientific discovery of electromagnetism. It was the scientist, William Gilbert, whose publication of the “de Magnete” in 1600 that began the process of understanding the correlation of electromagnetism and earth’s magnetic field.

All energy is not equal. Energy is measured by energy-flux density, that is the ability of that energy source to achieve higher concentrations of heat available to perform work.  With that criteria in mind, we can assert with scientific certainty that nuclear fission is the most powerful form of energy we have today. Africa would be well served, if there were hundreds of 1,000 megawatt or modulars of two to four 200 megawatt nuclear power plants dotting its landscape. To achieve nuclear fusion, whose energy flux-density would far exceed fission, requires additional scientific breakthroughs to fuse hydrogen isotopes at temperatures hotter than the Sun. In tragic comparison, large parts of Africa still rely on burning wood and biomass. Not only is this practice primitive, environmentally unsound, but it utilizes energy at the lowest flux density.

Nuclear fission, which has the greatest energy flux density, making it the most powerful energy source, until nuclear fusion energy is developed.

All machines and integrated infrastructure platforms incorporate in their design, principles of scientific   knowledge of the universe relative to that historical period. The greater the density of machine-infrastructure capital in an economy engenders a more productive and educated labor force. The effects of manufacturing, and railroads on the productivity, and level of knowledge in society are brilliantly discussed by Alexander Hamilton in his “Report on Manufacturers” (1791), and Friedrich List in his “The National System of Political Economy” (1841).  Both authors, who identify humankind’s mental powers as a source of economic wealth, should be studied by every competent economists and statesman.

Without going beyond the scope of this article, the history of civilization’s progress can be measured by the increase of total energy throughput and energy flux-density, which is made possible by technologies that encompass new scientific principles. It is the profound ability of the human mind to continuously discover higher principles embedded in the physical universe, which lifts humankind from one plateau of economic activity to the next superior one. Civilizational progress emanates from the human mind, not nature per se.  Even from the few paragraphs above, it is discernible that the source of economic wealth is the metaphysical, non-material creative imagination, not some corporeal “thing” that you can see, smell or touch.  These apparently intangible ideas that spring from the brow of our “mind-soul” have greater force than bodily-physical objects. This conception has profound epistemological implications in economic theory. More can be said about physical economics and how societies develop, but that will have to wait for another time.

Culture and Imagination

Returning to our review, Mr. Kabanda’s book highlights the role of the contribution of culture and creativity to economic development, and contains many useful insights. In his opening chapter entitled, “Overture,” he discusses “the arts ability to emancipate and foster human imagination.” (p. 3) In chapter two, “Arts in Education,” he writes: “…since the arts embody creativity and innovation, they have a major role to play in fostering knowledge for development.” (p. 44) Quoting Theodore Schultz, “advances in knowledge are a decisive factor in economic progress. The increases in the quality of both physical and human capital originate primarily out of the advances in knowledge.” (p. 48) Kabanda quotes cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who advocates changing the curriculum of science, technology engineering and math-STEM to STEAM by adding the arts. (p. 53) Renaissance-man, Leonardo De Vinci is also mentioned for his search “to know what we don’t know” originally espoused by Socrates 2,000 years earlier. (p. 26)

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma said he’s often asked how he keeps his repertoire fresh, even after playing a piece hundreds of times. “I play as if it were the last time I will play that piece,” he said. Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

He includes the creative hypotheses by the towering scientist-astronomer, Johannes Kepler, who unknown to the majority of our society, hypothesized that the ordering of the solar system was derived from musical harmonies. (p. 53) Kepler’s great astronomical discovery of gravity and the spacing of the orbits of the planets is presented in his book, “The Harmony of the World” (1619).

In the book’s final chapter “Imagination and Choice,” Kabanda underscores an essential conception to understanding economic progress.

“Now when the people began to search for the wisdom behind progress, in the end it was not whether development came first and then the arts followed. Or some sort of miraculous statistical formula. Much of it was imagination in thought and deed. Imagination was the future, and the future was imagination. It was [and is] the cradle of civilization…this finale is a call to imagine the future we need.” (p. 221 emphasis added)

 Kabanda points to the personality of Albert Einstein to demonstrate the unity of science and imagination. Einstein was known to resort to taking up his violin to kindle his imagination to explore scientific hypothesis. He quotes Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” (p. 223).

All great art and scientific discoveries first emerge in the creative imagination. A true leader, a statesman, also relies on his or her creative-imagination. When he or she implements policies in the present they ought to be derived from a vision of what the future should look like seen through the mind’s eye.

Axiomatic Flaws

Despite many useful and challenging ideas presented in “The Creative Wealth of Nations” there are flaws in sections of Kabanda’s thesis. However, to be fair, these shortcomings are unfortunately endemic to our corroded culture.

Not all cultures i.e. music and art are good for society. Applying the criteria, which we developed above, we should rightly ask; does a particular culture nurture the creative powers of the mind? For example, the rock-drug counterculture ushered into the West in the 1960s was destructive, and its damaging effects still linger in today’s baby-boomer generation. Music is not good because it is music, or art because it is art. Todays’ music is in large part debasing and degrading to the human mind. Profits made from the music industry do not add value to the economy if their music assaults our soul-mind and undermines our creative capacity.

On a deeper level, Kabanda errs in Chapter 3, “The Arts and Environmental Stewardship,” when he writes: “The arts have long had a sense of stewardship towards protecting the environment and mitigating climatic change.” (p. 72) Contrary to present day popular culture, mankind’s relationship to the physical universe is much more than being a steward or custodian. Human beings lawfully transform the physical environment. Consider the injunction given to mankind in Genesis 27: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Humankind is not meant to be a just a caretaker, but has dominion and the power to subdue. The universe is organized to respond to willful human cognition, transforming the biosphere into the nooespshere, according to Russian scientist, Vladimir Vernadsky. Humankind with the unique power of creative mentation, was not put on this planet to act as a glorified groundskeeper. When we exercise our creative potential, we humans are the most powerful living force in the universe.

Scientist Albert Einstein with his violin

Accepting the axioms of Adams Smith’s notions about economy and society leads us down the wrong path. Kabanda alludes to Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments favorably as he does with his Wealth of Nations” (p. 49) It is in the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” that Smith presents his most hedonistic description of human nature, reducing humankind to being governed by animalistic instincts, rather than human creativity. Quoting Smith:

“The administration of the great system of the universe … the care of the universal happiness of rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers, and to the narrowness of his comprehension, they are of his own happiness, of that of his family, his friends, his country…. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts. Hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the sexes, the love of pleasure, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes, and without any considerations of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them.”

Smith’s economic assumptions flow from his degraded, amoral conception of human beings as mere creatures of pleasure and pain. For that reason alone, we know his dogma could never be a successful prescription for how an economy develops. At its core, Smith’s doctrine is antithetical to the lawful relationship between humankind and the physical universe.

Let the Discussion Begin

Kabanda deserves a great deal of praise and credit for focusing our attention on the relationship of culture, and creativity to economics. His endeavor is far more relevant to our economic well-being than the trillions of dollars gambled on the gyrations of the stock market. For civilizations to continue to exist, society’s culture must unceasingly produce creative individuals. If we want a more prosperous and stable world for our children and their children, then we need citizens from all nations to engage in a robust debate of the role of culture in our society. If this book helps spark such a discussion, then Kabanda’s contribution has served an invaluable function.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production

Dieudonne Twahirwa, 30, who runs Gashora Farm, examines chili plants at his farm in Bugesera District in eastern Rwanda on August 23, 2018.(Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win)
June 12, 2020

The article, Africa: COVID-19 Recovery Is a Chance to Improve the African Food System, reprinted below raises important issues concerning Africa’s food supply. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the failures of the global economic system. To wit: The gutting of healthcare in the so called advanced sector over the last half century left nations unprepared for what should have been expected, a new contagious zoonotic disease.  Nations that depended on thousand mile long supply chains for basic necessities, including medical supplies and drugs, proved to be disastrous for their populations. The absence of vitally essential products led to increased rates morbidity and mortality.

Tragically, Africa has been forced to devote large portions of its foreign exchange on debt service rather than building up its healthcare infrastructure. Adequate healthcare requires not only more hospitals, beds, physicians, and modern advanced equipment, but electricity, clean water, sanitation, roads, rail roads, adequate supply of nutrition, and elimination of poverty. A poorly fed population suffering from malnutrition provides an auspicious host for the spread of disease. Poverty is a co-factor of all diseases.

Last month, David Beasley, Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), warned that, if economic conditions continue to deteriorate and endanger the production and distribution of food to impoverished nations, we could witness famines in Africa, and other parts of the world. He said, “You could have 150,000 to 300,000 people die of starvation every day for several months.”

Africa has millions of acres of fertile but uncultivated land. The continent is reported to have over 60% of the world’s land lying fallow that could be developed for food production. It has been known since the early 1970s that the Africa continent has the potential to not only produce enough food for its own population, but could become a net exporter of food to help feed other nations.

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has revealed what was there to see all along; Africa and large sections of the world have remained underdeveloped for decades due to the horribly defective policy of globalization.

To accomplish an agricultural revolution in Africa, we will also need to create an industrial revolution in Africa as well. The failure to industrialize Africa, to build manufacturing industries along with mechanized farming is a major contributing factor in reduced life expectancy, poverty, disease, and instability. The Physiocratic doctrine that all wealth comes from the land was efficiently refuted by President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.* The super productive family farms in the United States matured alongside manufacturing cities, and had access to abundant supplies of energy  for irrigation.

Let is use the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic to initiate a program to develop Africa’s full economic potential that will finally end poverty and hunger. To realize this absolutely achievable objective, we will need to create a New Bretton Woods System to drive economic growth. President Franklin Roosevelt intended the original Bretton Woods to be an institution to export his New Deal for developing nations, as was discussed with the Ethiopian delegation at the 1944 conference. Now, over a half century later we must realize this goal.

*Report on Manufacturers- December 5,1791

The World Food Programme has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause one of the worst food crises since World War II. It predicts a doubling of the number of people going hungry – more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. While wealthier people stay inside and practise physical distancing, the economically marginalised populations risk going out in search of food. They take decisions between livelihoods and life in the most extreme cases. Such food inequities show the need for system-level action.

So far, the global food system has proven to be resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food is still being produced, processed and distributed. Unfortunately, the system’s underlying injustices and inequities continue too. Around 1.58 billion people globally can’t afford healthy diets.

These inequities are especially stark on the African continent. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the African food system was ailing. Food is perennially in short supply. In 2018, more than 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa experienced severe food insecurity, incomes for farmers are lower than anywhere globally in real terms, and more than 30% of children are stunted partly due to poverty and poor diets.”

Read: COVID-19 Recovery: Chance to Improve African Food System  and Repositioning Agriculture for Africa’s Youth

Read my previous posts:

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

China’s Belt & Road Needed to Revitalize World Economy: CGTN

May 18, 2020

Below are excerpts from my article on the strategic role of China’s Belt and Road in today’s world economy, published by CGTN 

The global economic breakdown ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic entails China and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) playing an important role in restoring health to the world economy. While Western nations are still struggling with COVID-19, and are months away from beginning to refurbish their economies, China has already started its recovery, following its earlier success in combating the coronavirus.

The collapse of nations to conditions resembling the Great Depression and the inability to contain the deadly virus have belied the alleged success of globalization. The underlying flaws of the deregulated post Bretton Woods financial system, which has become an international gambling casino to make fast money, are now nakedly revealed. Given the breakdown of the present global financial system, it is urgent that leading nations issue a call to convene a conference to initiate a New Bretton Woods system, which values human life over making money.

For civilization to progress, a new economic architecture dedicated to ending poverty, and promoting productive economic growth is compulsory. Without question, the United States and China will have to perform outsized roles in establishing a new paradigm of political-economic relationships among nations, notwithstanding current tensions.

Read the entire articleBelt and Road Needed to Revitalize World Economy

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari-left and his new Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari-right. (Politics Nigeria)

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

Lawrence Freeman

May 15, 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari has unexpectedly chosen an exceptional new Chief of Staff (COS), Professor Ibrahim Gambari, (his friends call him “Prof”), to replace the recently deceased Malam Abba Kyari. Over these many years, through meetings formal and informal at the United Nations, Washington DC, Abuja, and Darfur, I have come to respect Prof. Gambari as an honorable and thoughtful Nigerian leader. During our many discussions, his depth and breadth of strategic thinking was evident and contributed to my knowledge of Nigeria, Africa, and the United States.

President Buhari and Prof Gambari know each other well. Prof Gambari served as the Minister for External (Foreign) Affairs between 1984 and 1985 under General Buhari’s military regime before it was overthrown in a coup. It should be remembered that during that time period, when the government of Gen. Buhari resisted the “Washington Consensus” and the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), the Naira was worth $1.34 dollars. Following the regime change of the Buhari-Gambari partnership, the Naira was immediately devalued to 25 to $1. As it is said, the rest is history.

Not a career politician or member of the foreign service, Prof Gambari as ambassador headed the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations from 1990-1999 and had the distinction of serving under five heads of state during his tenure. Recognizing his experience and diplomatic skills, Prof Gambari upon leaving the Nigerian Mission was appointed Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2005. He was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2007 under Secretary-General’s Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. Prof Gambari was later appointed head of the Joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) from 2010-2012. As head of the 26,000 man UNAMID force, Prof Gambari navigated a difficult peace keeping operation between the government of Sudan and those international forces who were intent on a Khartoum regime change.

Nigeria in Difficult Times

Nigeria is experiencing multiple tribulations. Its economy is suffering with 40% of its 200 million population living in extreme poverty and the majority of Nigeria’s tens of millions youth are unemployed. Infrastructure is inadequate, especially the lack of daily accessibility to electrical power for consumers and commercial enterprises. Furthermore, the murderous Boko Haram is still operating in the northeastern section of the country. Worsening the condition in Nigeria is the COVID-19 pandemic, which could potentially explode given the insufficient healthcare needed to contain and combat the effects of the coronavirus. The collapse of the price of oil now fluctuating below $30 per barrel has caused significant shortfalls in Nigeria’s revenue and its ability to accumulate foreign exchange. Nigeria’s national budget has been thrown into turmoil because it was predicated on a minimum price of $50 per barrel.

Essential priorities for Nigeria, which I have discussed with government leaders:

  • A national economic growth  plan that benefits all geographical sections of the nation
  • Massive building of physical infrastructure including an urgent mobilization to upgrade and expand healthcare
  • Reverse the shrinking Lake Chad and transform the Lake Chad Basin by implementing Transaqua, an inter-basin water project supported by President Buhari.

Stark weaknesses of globalization have vividly surfaced due to the spread of COVID-19, which has caused devastation, and will likely continue throughout 2020. As a result, the world is crying out for a New International Economic Order to replace the currently defective international financial system. A new paradigm for development that values human life above debt service, prioritizes economic growth, and the elimination of poverty. Nigeria and its people, whose potential has been recognized since the liberation of the continent from colonialism, should play a leading role in this economic transformation of Africa.

To begin the process of accomplishing these goals, President Buhari, in the remaining years of his second term, will need the support of a trusted group of counsellors.  It is my hope that my friend, Prof Gambari, a first-class strategic thinker, and a patriot who cares deeply for Nigeria, will galvanize this effort.

Below I provide excerpts from an article I wrote about Prof Gambari in March 2002, because of their relevancy today.

Professor Gambari discussed the effects of “debt over-hang” on Africa’s development. “The heavy debt burden of many countries is robbing them of their sovereignty, and impeding their pursuit of economic and social policies. The sad part is that debt overhang is hitting generations that had little or nothing [to do] with its contraction. As the UNDP poverty report observes, the ‘truth of the matter is that demands debt servicing are no longer a matter of money, but a source of the excruciating impoverishment of people’s lives.’ ”
While not attacking globalization directly, Gambari diplomatically discussed the consequences for African economies–the unequal benefits from the globalization process.” Globalization, “driven by market and capital expansion, often pays little attention to governance of these markets and their repercussions on people,” and does not guarantee “equity and human development.” The results of globalization are that “Africa’s share of world trade has declined from 40% (1980s) to less than 2% at present.”

Read my outline for the development of Nigeria: Guardian of Nigeria Publishes “Proposal for Nigeria’s Future” by Lawrence Freeman

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: Debt Cancellation for the World to Survive

Coronavirus testing supplies being unloaded at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March.
Credit…Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Lawrence Freeman

May 1, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has made an audacious salient call for debt cancellation for low income countries. It was published in the Opinion section of the April 30, New York Times, Why the Global Debt of Poor Nations Must Be Canceled, (printed in full below). PM Abiy is correct, debt cancellation is absolutely necessary to save lives and for developing nations to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. To compel a nation like Ethiopia to spend almost half of its revenue on debt service, while its people are suffering from a perfect storm of Desert Locust swarms, food insufficiency, and a weak healthcare infrastructure, is immoral if not criminal. PM Abiy wrote:

“At the very least, the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over. It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation…

“These steps need to be taken with a sense of urgency. The resources freed up will save lives and livelihoods in the short term, bring back hope and dynamism to low-income economies in the medium term and enable them to continue as the engines of sustainable global prosperity in the long term.

“In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing…

“The dilemma Ethiopia faces is stark: Do we continue to pay toward debt or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods?”

PM Abiy’s analysis of the urgent need for the cancellation of debt service is relevant to the exacerbating effect of COVID-19 in Africa’s rising food insecurity.

image
Smoked fish produced in Ghana is sold all over the country and in neighboring Togo – as long as transport routes and borders can remain open for the movement of food to markets. Credit Jane Hahn/Oxfam America

COVID-19 Worsens Food Crisis

In the month from March 30 to April 30, COVID-19 cases in Africa rose from 4,760 to 37,296-800% increase, and the total of deaths from 146 to 1,619-1,100% increase.  Experts are legitimately concerned, that millions more may die from hunger and poverty as a result of the needed efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Closing borders, stay at home orders, loss of income, interruption of supply chains, and disruption of traditional animal migration cycles inauspiciously contribute to amplifying food insecurity.

“If the pandemic worsens, as many as 50 million more people could face a food crisis in the [Sahel} region,” according to Coumba Sow, Food and Agricultural Organization Resilience Coordinator for West Africa in her interview: FAO: COVID19: 50 Million in Sahel Could Face Food Crisis. Coumba Sow reports that across West Africa, 11 million people need immediate food assistance and that this number could rise to 17 million in the period from June to August. She says that it is “crucial to anticipate COVID-19’s impacts on agriculture, food security and the lives of vulnerable women and children. Ensuring that food systems and food supply chains are maintained is one of the most important action to take at national and regional levels.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) projects that the number of people facing acute food insecurity could rise from 135 million to 265 million in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.  According to the WFP, five of the countries that had the worst food crisis in 2019 were located in Africa; Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Arif Husain, economist for the WFP said: “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat it they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock—like COVID-19 to push them over the edge.”

Mauritanian herders (Courtesy of UN-FAO)

 A New Financial Architecture Required

While debt cancellation is essential, international and federal mechanisms are required to issue i.e. create new lines of credit to build up nation-wide advanced healthcare infrastructure, which all African nations lack. This endeavor should be part of a much larger undertaking to place African nations on a path to become developed industrialized economies.  I discuss the importance of emerging nations  to generate physical economic wealth in my earlier article: World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19. Trillions of dollars of new credit must become accessible for African nations to address the dearth of infrastructure in energy, roads, railroads, and healthcare, that is literally killing Africans, every day. Successful transformation of African nations requires an urgent focus on nurturing combined manufacturing-agricultural processing industries. Speaking at a Johns Hopkins webinar on April 22, Gyude Moore, former Liberian Minster of Public Works (2014-2018) emphasized that creating manufacturing jobs is essential to transitioning to a more developed economy.

What has been glaringly brought to the surface by the combined COVID-19 pandemic and the malnourishment of Africa’s population is; that the global economic-political system of the last five decades has failed. A new financial architecture is compulsory to save lives and put civilization on the trajectory of progress. This new financial architecture should encompass the following essential missions in Africa:

  • Cancellation of debt
  • New credit generation for physical economic growth
  • Massive investment in hard infrastructure
  • Urgent mobilization to establish modern health infrastructure
  • Significant upgrading of manufacturing and agricultural sectors

It is unacceptable in the twenty-first century for every nation not to be equipped with advanced modern healthcare infrastructure.  One of the most egregious defects of globalization is that nations have become dependent on imported food from thousands of miles away because it is somehow construed to be cheaper than producing food at home.

Nations exist to foster the continuation of a human culture moored to the conception that human life is sacred. There is no equivalency between servicing debt and safeguarding human life.  Money really has no intrinsic value. Banks are mere servicing bureaus of an economy.  Governments legitimately create credit to generate future physical wealth to benefit their citizens. When borrowing or lending arrangements fail to benefit society then they should be restructured or cancelled. Such financial reorganizations have been achieved many times throughout history.

PM Abiy has brought to the attention of the world, a profound underlying principle that should govern all national and international policy: the promotion of human life is supreme, monetary instruments are not.

Delaying the repayments to the Group of 20 is not enough.

By rime Minister of Ethiopia. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2019

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — On April 15, Group of 20 countries offered temporary relief to some of the world’s lowest-income countries by suspending debt repayments until the end of the year. It is a step in the right direction and provides an opportunity to redirect financial resources toward dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

But if the world is to survive the punishing fallout of the pandemic and ensure that the economies of countries like mine bounce back, this initiative needs to be even more ambitious.

At the very least, the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over. It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation. Global creditors need to waive both official bilateral and commercial debt for low-income countries.

These steps need to be taken with a sense of urgency. The resources freed up will save lives and livelihoods in the short term, bring back hope and dynamism to low-income economies in the medium term and enable them to continue as the engines of sustainable global prosperity in the long term.

In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing. The International Monetary Fund described Ethiopia as being at high risk of external debt distress.

The dilemma Ethiopia faces is stark: Do we continue to pay toward debt or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods? Lives lost during the pandemic cannot be recovered; imperiled livelihoods cost more and take longer to recover.

Immediate and forceful action on debt will prevent a humanitarian disaster today and shore up our economy for tomorrow. We need to immediately divert resources from servicing debt toward responding adequately to the pandemic. We need to impede a temporary health crisis from turning into a chronic financial meltdown that could last for years, even decades.

Ethiopia must spend an extra $3 billion by the end of 2020 to address the consequences of the pandemic, while our balance of payments is set to deteriorate. Increasing health care spending is essential, irrespective of debt levels, but we have less money on hand, and much of it is due to creditors.

A moratorium on bilateral and commercial debt payments for the rest of this year will save Ethiopia $1.7 billion. Extending the moratorium till the end of 2022 would save an additional $3.5 billion.

Low income countries can use the financial resources freed up by cancellation or further deferment of debt repayments to invest in our battle against the pandemic, from providing necessary medical care to our citizens to ameliorating our financial difficulties.

In October, the I.M.F. reported that the five fastest-growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Ethiopia. In early April, the World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would face its first region wide recession in over 25 years and the region’s economy could shrink by as much as 5.1 percent.

This is not a result of bad policies, mismanagement or any other ill typically associated with developing economies. The recession will be the product of the coronavirus outbreak.

Preventing or at least minimizing the recession is critical to maintaining years of hard-won economic gains across the continent. The current moratorium in bilateral debt collection until the end of the year will help, but it won’t be enough, given the gravity of the challenge we face.

The moratorium must be extended until the coronavirus health emergency is over or canceled altogether. The creditors need to do this unconditionally.

Official bilateral creditors are no longer the principal source of external debt financing for many developing countries. Private-sector creditors, including investment banks and sovereign funds, are. They should play their part in the effort to rescue African economies from permanent paralysis with a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility. It would help avoid widespread sovereign defaults and chaos in the market.

And it would be morally indefensible if resources freed up from a moratorium in bilateral debt collections were to be used to pay private creditors instead of saving lives.

Most of our countries managed to borrow funds on the back of solid economic performance and highly promising and evidence-based development programs and trajectories. Nobody foresaw this promise being derailed by a once-in-a-century event such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Under these circumstances, there is no room for traditional arguments such as moral hazard. Low-income countries are seeking relief not because we squandered the money but because we need the resources to save lives and livelihoods.

It is in everybody’s enlightened self-interest that the borrowers be allowed breathing space to get back to relative health. The benefits of rehabilitation of the economies of the hardest-hit countries will be shared by all of us, just as the consequences of neglect will harm all of us.

Read: New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

 

International Cooperation and Collaboration Needed to Save Lives in Africa From COVID-19

COVID-19 consequences will be ‘profound’ in Africa: WHO (courtesy of Anadolu Agency)

International Collaboration and Cooperation is Necessary to Fight COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

April 26, 2020

While the current number of total cases of COVID-19 in Africa is comparatively low, the potential for mass deaths across the continent is ominous, according to a study issued by the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA): UNECA COVID-19 Response: Protecting Lives and Economies in Africa

If Africa, is to stem the elevated projected rate of morbidity and mortality from the coronavirus, it will require a massive infusion economic and medical assistance. In the last week COVID-19 cases in Africa increased by 46% from 16,000 to 26,000 with 1,200 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

With civilization experiencing a pandemic that has upended all normalcy, affecting the very fabric of our social, economic, and political life on this planet, only a collective international effort will succeed in defeating this deadly invisible enemy. No alliance is more important in this war against death than that of the United States and China, which have the two largest economies.

 

(Courtesy Development Reimagined)

COVID-19 and Poverty Killing Africa

According to the analysis by the UNECA, COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies, a low estimate of .3 million to as high as 3.3 million lives could be lost due to COIVD-19. The study also estimates that from 2.3 million to 22.5 million could require hospitalization, and .5 million to 4.4 million would require critical care. A minimum of $44 billion will be required for emergency healthcare.

The causes for these horrifying projections include:

  • 56% of the nearly 600 million Africans who live in urban areas-336 million, live in slums
  • 66% of Africans do not have access to household hand washing facilities
  • Prevalence of underlying medical conditions especially HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malnutrition
  • An average of only 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people
  • 94% of Africa’s stock of pharmaceuticals are imported

I have written that Africa has a deficit of an estimated 1.8 million healthcare workers. The average for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is an absurdly low 0.21 doctors for 1,000 people compared to Italy with 4.2 physicians per 1,000. Twenty SSA nations have .08 doctors or less per 1,000 of their citizens, with several at levels of 0.03 and 0.02 doctors. Over twenty-five SSA nations have 1 bed or less to treat 1,000 of their population

In addition to the conditions listed above, the informal economy is another major factor contributing to the projected high rate of African fatalities, the informal economy. Africa has an extraordinarily large percentage of its labor force, between 70-80%, employed outside of conventional hourly wage, and salaried employment. These jobs, if you can call them that, primarily involve hawking consumer goods on the street, selling in congested markets or from makeshift store fronts, barely provide a living, and have no health or unemployment insurance. For the majority of Africans, if you do not work, you do not eat. Thus, Africans are faced with the life threatening dilemma of obeying sheltering in place or starving their family.

Informal economy in Africa (courtesy Grandmother Africa)

According to the UNECA study, the economic consequences for Africa from COVID-19 could be devastating.

  • Economic growth could drop from 1.8% to -2.6%
  • From 5-29 million pushed into extreme poverty-$1.90 per day
  • 19 million jobs lost
  • Increased borrowing, devaluation of currencies, and plummeting commodity prices

“To protect and build towards the Continent’s shared prosperity, $100 billion is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations,” reiterates Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, according to Africa Renewal

Poverty, and lack of basic infrastructure, especially electricity has been killing Africans for decades. In the current conditions of this deadly pandemic, poverty, unarguably will be the biggest factor in the death rate from COVID-19. According to a recent report Strategy to Defeat the Pandemic, released in EIR magazine, SSA has:

  • 14% of the world’s population
  • 60% of the world’s extreme poor
  • 70% of those worldwide lacking access to electricity
  • 20% of urban dwellers worldwide living in slums

They highlight the case of Nigeria, which typifies the conditions throughout SSA. Nigeria has 200 million people, 41% living in extreme poverty, 55% with no access to electricity, and 55% of their urban population living in slums. Citing Time magazine, EIR reports that Nigeria has only 500 ventilators per 2.5 per million people, 200 times less per capita than the US that has 170,000 ventilators for 330 million people.

Africa and the world cannot afford to lose millions more of our fellow human beings to death and poverty. Our failure over the last half century, to eliminate poverty, hunger and install a quality healthcare system, following the liberation of African nations from colonialism, has proved fatal.

Slum in Nigeria (Courtesy of Global Village)

Slums in Nigeria (courtesy Global Village)

End Geo-Political Warfare Against China 

For humanity to defeat this deadly virus, global cooperation is imperative. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump, for opportunistic reasons, has succumbed to appalling and unjustified attacks on China. President Trump has placed a higher priority on his re-election, by appealing to the prejudices of his base of supporters, than leading a worldwide military style  campaign against COVID-19. While not as extreme as some in his administration, President Trump has joined the chorus from both the Republican and Democratic parties in blaming China for the spread of COVID-19. His recent attacks on the WHO, alleging collusion with China, and subsequently cutting off funds to the WHO, is a case in point. The WHO is being unfairly scapegoated as part of geo-political crusade vilifying China.

Not surprising, the instigation against China comes from British Secret Intelligence MI6. On April 15, John Sawers, former chief of MI6 (2009-2014) told Reuters, “China concealed crucial information about the novel coronavirus outbreak from the rest of the world and so should answer for its deceit.” He told BBC, “There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China, and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially.”

Since then, more wild unsubstantiated claims from the Trump administration have been launched accusing China of creating the COVID-19 at its virology lab in Wuhan. President Trump has vacillated in deciding whether China created the virus intentionally or accidently, with no evidence at all presented to substantiate these allegations.

Africa’s Survival

If, the projections of fatalities resulting from COVID-19 are correct, Africa will need assistance from all its partners. The scale of this crisis demands it. The United States and other Western nations must extirpate the geo-political ideology that treats African nations as pawns in countering China. Africa needs basic infrastructure. Roads, power, railroads, clean water, hospitals, etc. are crucial for Africa’s survival. Speaking at a Johns Hopkins webinar on April 22, Gyude Moore, from the Center for Global Development, and former Liberian Minister of Public Works (2014-2018) unequivocally recognized that China is performing a unique task in Africa. He told his audience that if China were to stop building infrastructure in Africa, there would be no one to fill that vital role. Contrary to many Africans who foolishly believe that China is colonizing Africa, Moore stated, “China should not leave the continent.”

As I and others understand, including Gyude Moore, Africa’s infrastructure requirements are so enormous, that all of Africa’s partners can share in developing this huge continent, whose population is expected to double to 2.4 billion in the next 30 years.

It is imperative that saving lives and defeating this coronavirus be the foremost concern of all citizens, leaders, and institutions. Let us use the occasion of this perilous time in our history, to jettison all prejudices, grievances, ideologies, and small mindedness, to aspire to be the noble and generous human beings the Creator intended us to be.

Read my two earlier reports on COVID-19 in Africa:

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

 

 

 

The World Needs Scientific and Cultural Optimism: President Trump Speaking In Davos Concurs

Brunelleschi’s Dome-1436, sits on top of Cathedral of Sainta Maria del Flore, in Florence Italy.

January 23, 2020

The excerpted portions below of President Trump’s address to the otherwise useless World Economic Forum in Davos, touch upon profound principles of culture, science, and political economy. The extremists in the mis-named environmentalist movement adhere to the Malthusian ideology; that an expanding human population would overwhelm the fixed resources of the planet. This false axiom of belief has been extended to the fraudulent notion that the growth of civilization itself will cause the destruction of our world. These extremists believe human beings are inherently evil, because of human nature’s inexorable devotion to progress.

President Trump’s reference to the construction of Brunelleschi’s Dome, that embodies the great Italian Renaissance, directly counters the pessimism that has infected large portions of Western culture. Our civilization has always progressed by realizing the fruits of creative labor. Through unique contributions by scientists and artists, society leaps forward and upward to new levels of evolution. The true underlying wellsprings of real-physical (non-monetary) economic growth are new scientific discoveries, and the capacity of society to apply them through advanced technologies. Our culture, if properly nurtured, should be a never ending font of discovery. Great creative artists stimulate our minds and souls, propelling society to new peaks of optimism and imagination.

One does not know, if President Trump is fully conscious of the implications of this exceptional portion of his presentation. However, we do know, that with his historical optimism, he challenged the prevailing anti-growth ideology espoused by the “green-billionaire” movement to halt the industrial development of our planet.  

I will be writing more on this subject-follow my blog.

Excerpts from the concluding section of President Trump’s speech in Davos Switzerland, January 21, 2020

This is not a time for pessimism; this is a time for optimism.  Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.

But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.  They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen.  They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.  These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives…

The great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century — from penicillin, to high-yield wheat, to modern transportation, and breakthrough vaccines — have lifted living standards and saved billions of lives around the world.  And we’re continuing to work on things that you’ll be hearing about in the near future that, even today, sitting here right now, you wouldn’t believe it’s possible that we have found the answers.  You’ll be hearing about it.  But we have found answers to things that people said would not be possible — certainly not in a very short period of time.

But the wonders of the last century will pale in comparison to what today’s young innovators will achieve because they are doing things that nobody thought even feasible to begin.  We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it.  When people are free to innovate, millions will live longer, happier, healthier lives.

For three years now, America has shown the world that the path to a prosperous future begins with putting workers first, choosing growth, and freeing entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life.

For anyone who doubts what is possible in the future, we need only look at the towering achievements of the past.  Only a few hundred miles from here are some of the great cities of Europe — teeming centers of commerce and culture.  Each of them is full of reminders of what human drive and imagination can achieve.

Centuries ago, at the time of the Renaissance, skilled craftsmen and laborers looked upwards and built the structures that still touch the human heart.  To this day, some of the greatest structures in the world have been built hundreds of years ago.

In Italy, the citizens once started construction on what would be a 140-year project, the Duomo of Florence.  An incredible, incredible place.  While the technology did not yet exist to complete their design, city fathers forged ahead anyway, certain that they would figure it out someday.  These citizens of Florence did not accept limits to their high aspirations and so the Great Dome was finally built.

In France, another century-long project continues to hold such a grip on our hearts and our souls that, even 800 years after its construction, when the Cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames last year — such a sad sight to watch; unbelievable site, especially for those of us that considered it one of the great, great monuments and representing so many different things — the whole world grieved.

Though her sanctuary now stands scorched and charred — and a sight that’s hard to believe; when you got used to it, to look at it now, hard to believe.  But we know that Notre Dame will be restored — will be restored magnificently.  The great bells will once again ring out for all to hear, giving glory to God and filling millions with wonder and awe.

The Cathedrals of Europe teach us to pursue big dreams, daring adventures, and unbridled ambitions.  They urge us to consider not only what we build today, but what we will endure long after we are gone.  They testify to the power of ordinary people to realize extraordinary achievements when united by a grand and noble purpose. (emphasis added)

China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not

Courtesy of Global Research

January 16, 2020

China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not.

By Lawrence Freeman

It is as clear as day and night, the difference between China’s approach to Africa and that of the United States. There is no equivalence. Historically, China has viewed African nations as part of the developing sector from which China emerged.  This has contributed to China’s distinct attitude to partnering with African nations in promoting economic growth. Over the last two decades especially, the ties between China and Africa have grown stronger, with Africa’s East Coast materializing as an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The US has not always dismissed the importance of contributing to Africa’s growth. President John Kennedy, following in the footsteps of President Franklin Roosevelt, was a strong opponent of colonial subjugation of Africa. President Kennedy, as US Senator advocated Africa’s liberation movement, and as US President supported President Kwame Nkrumah’s plans to construct the hydro-electric dam and bauxite smelting complex on Ghana’s Volta River. By the end of the 1960s the US had lost its optimism and vision for the world, adopting in its place, a British inspired cynical “geo-political” doctrine.

Geo-politics divides the world into two categories; winners and losers in a zero sum game. Today’s unfounded attacks against China’s involvement in Africa, alleging that China is deliberately entrapping nations into debt and stealing their natural resources flows from this perverted world view. Chinese President, Xi Jinping promotes a different philosophy; it’s called “win-win.”

Building, Not Extracting

Unlike British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and degenerates like King Leopold II, China is not raping Africa for its resources. Since Royal Dutch Shell discovered oil in southern Nigeria in 1956, the West has focused its investment chiefly in oil and gas-i.e. hydrocarbon extractive industries. China in recent decades has become the leading nation in financing and building infrastructure in Africa.  It is well known that investment in extractive industries do not expand the economy nor provide a large amount of jobs. However, it does yield large streams of revenue.  China has chosen a different business mode; one more beneficial to the African people.

According to McKinsey consulting company’s publication, Dance of the lions and the dragons, released in June 2017, China in 2015 financed $21 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Africa. That is three times the combined total of France, Japan, Germany, and India. US financing of infrastructure in Africa was too minimal to even mention. Detailed in the same document, China’s export and import trade with Africa is quantified as $188 billion in 2015, compared to the US at $53 billion. Deloitte’s 2017 Africa Construction Trends, further documents China’s role in expanding Africa’s infrastructure. As of June 2017, China was only second to African governments in funding large infrastructure projects, 15.5% and 27.1% respectively. The US was listed at 3%, the UK and France at 2%. When it comes to who actually builds these projects the figures are more shocking; China constructed over one quarter or 28.1% of these projects, the US 3.3%, and the UK 2.3%.

Infrastructure Is Essential

Infrastructure is critical for every economy to expand, grow and develop. Africa’s deplorable lack of infrastructure is literally killing its people. There is no more crucial single element of economy that must be addressed for African nations to develop. Infrastructure adds value to the entire economy by augmenting the productive capability of every farmer and worker. More capital intense economies will be affected by technologically advanced infrastructure platforms.

The history of humankind demonstrates that progress of civilizations emanates from the realization of scientific discoveries transmitted through more efficacious technologies. Infrastructure reflecting more advanced machinery is a primary means of transferring technology (science) to the economic production process.

There is nothing wrong with African nations using their resources for collateral or payment of loans for infrastructure. Wealth is not the monetary value of natural resources extracted from the earth. Economic wealth is understood to be that which contributes to the increase of the power of society to provide the material wellbeing of its citizens and their posterity. Infrastructure performs that function.

China’s contribution to building new railroads in Africa, replacing century old British and French antiquated rail lines, and constructing new hydro-electric dams, and ports, is precisely what African nations need to develop.  China is providing indispensable assistance; the US and Europe are not. An experienced former US ambassador to Africa told me bluntly; the US stopped investing in infrastructure in Africa in the early 1970s. Sadly, today, the US continues to repeatedly proclaim, “we don’t build infrastructure.”

 

Debt-Trap or Claptrap?

In her latest paper, A critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy: the rise of a meme, Deborah Brautigam, China-Africa scholar and Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at SAIS*, puts a nail in the coffin regarding false accusations of China deliberately entrapping African nations through debt.

She writes: “…for over a decade Western politicians and pundits have warned that China is a rogue donor with regard to its finance, is a new colonialist, and a predatory and pernicious lender that snares vulnerable states in a debt trap leveraging its loans in order to have its way with weak victims.”

Brautigam responds to these allegations by asking: “However, does evidence exist for this kind of debt leverage?” Then she answers: “It [SAIS database] has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberatively entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’.” (emphasis added)

With the population of 55 African nations projected to reach 2.4 billion in the next three decades, the continent needs trillions of dollars in new infrastructure. Presently, the US is more concerned in countering China in Africa, than developing Africa. Many African leaders are hopeful the US will establish a more robust economic relationship with their nations. As has been the case with previous administrations, the lack of vision, and adherence to “geo-politics” is preventing the US from engaging with Africa in a win-win relationship. This can and should change.   

*Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

By Lawrence Freeman

January 8, 2020

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on a bold effort to transform the political terrain of Ethiopia while simultaneously launching new economic reforms. The creation of the new Ethiopian Prosperity Party (PP) replaces the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front-(EPRDF), founded in 1988. Dissolving the reigning EPRDF and fashioning a new national party, or what some refer to as a Pan-Ethiopian party, is a courageous and daring move, essential for Ethiopia’s future.  This emerging nation of over 105 million people, already a leader in economic development, is now embarking on a challenging path to create de novo a national party.

The EPRDF, which had governed Ethiopia since May 1991, was composed of four Regional States, plus the cities of Addis Ababa (the capital), and Dire Dawa. The four regional parties are: the Tigray People’s Liberation Front-(TPLF); the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization-(OPDO) (renamed early this year as Oromo Democratic Party-(ODP); the Amhara National Democratic Movement-(ANDM), (renamed early this year as Amhara Democratic Party-(ADP); and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement-(SEPDM), (a coalition of the 56 ethnic groups).

The EPRDF was fashioned to address Ethiopia’s earlier history of dictatorial and monarchical rule. The designers of the governing party believed that acknowledging ethnic identity, which was not recognized for centuries, would solve the tensions of that time. Recent conflicts in Ethiopia have shown this arrangement to be ineffective.

Of the four parties that comprised the EPRDF, only the TPLF has refused to join the new PP.  Already the governing parties representing 5 regions, which were not members of the EPRDF, but were recognized as allies of the EPRDF have joined the PP in preparation for May 2020 elections. They are: 1) Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP); 2) Benishangul-Gumuz Democratic Party (BDP); 3) Somali Democratic Party (SDP); 4) Gambela People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM); and 5) Harari National League (HNL). The PP will be inclusive, intending to represent all communities, inviting Tigrayans, who live in and outside the region to join. The PP program will have Amharic as its working language as per the constitution. However, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Somali and Afar will also be the working languages of the new PP.

Prime Minister Abiy’s founding of the PP on December 1, just six months before Ethiopia’s national elections, is fraught with personal risks for the new Prime Minister. However, this endeavor is bursting with the potential to transform politics and social relations in Ethiopian society. Ethiopia has a splendid history thousands of years old, rich with a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds. The PP is intended to harmonize the diversity of the nation with a national non-ethnic based party.

Chair Persons of the eight parties who also represent eight Regions as governing parties worked under the umbrella of the EPRDF coalition signed a document for the establishment of Prosperity Party. Photo Credit OPM

Nationalism: Not Ethnic Nationalism

A sovereign nation-state is not a mosaic of diverse groups competing with each other for control of the government or pursuing administration posts to obtain economic and financial rewards. A sovereign nation should have a national identity and a mission orientation for its people; all its people, regardless of ethnic heritage. Contributing to the distinctive identity of Ethiopia was its military defeat of the Italian Empire in the battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. Consequently, this victory, uniquely allowed Ethiopia to remain free from colonialism. Although this triumph occurred over one century ago, it is part of the psychological composition of the identity of all Ethiopians; whether they are conscious of its effects or not. Ethiopia’s decades’ long determination to develop from a disadvantaged nation to an aspiring lower middle-income nation with nascent light manufacturing industry is another feature of Ethiopia’s national identity.

Professed ethnonationalism errs in that it attempts to substitute the demands, often for legitimate needs, of one particular group above the interests of all the citizens. A nation-state cannot survive in a Hobbesian war of all against each other to obtain the most goodies for “my people.” Dare we forget the horrors of the ethnically driven tragic Biafran war in Nigeria from 1967-1970, and how geographic-ethnic distinctions have determined every unhealthy aspect of political and social life in Nigeria today?

Recriminations from the past are no excuse for actions today. Decisions concerning the best strategy for securing the future of Ethiopia must be based on how that policy will benefit the well-being of all citizens.

Medemer and Synergy

In his acceptance speech for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Abiy spoke of the philosophy of the Medemer.

He said: “Medemer, an Amharic word, signifies synergy, convergence, and teamwork for a common destiny. Medemer is a homegrown idea that is reflected in our political, social, and economic life. I’d like to think of ‘Medemer’ as a social compact for Ethiopians to build a just, egalitarian, democratic, and humane society by pulling together our resources for our collective survival and prosperity…At its core, Medemer is a covenant of peace that seeks unity in our common humanity.”  One could appropriately, add for the “common good” of humankind.

Our “common humanity” exists in all of us. We are all born in the image of the Creator. All human beings are universally related by our endowed powers of creative mentation, more commonly known as reason. What distinguishes all human beings from the animal species is our mental power to discover new scientific and cultural principles embedded in our universe. All of us homo sapiens, regardless of where we were born, or any physical characteristics, are substantially more alike than we are different.  Therefore, our needs, desires, and aspirations in life are similar. All human beings not only share a common interest to enhance our lives, but we also share a desire for a better future for our posterity. There is no class of superior people, who have more rights than others due to privileges of birth, religion, or skin color. Each of us are placed here on earth to contribute to the common good of our common humanity using our individual talents.

If we accept synergy to mean cooperation and collaboration to achieve an enhanced effect, then let us act synergistically to ensure a prosperous Ethiopia that provides for all its citizens.

The Constitution and Sidama

Inherent problems of the 1995 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are evident in the November 2019 referendum conferring autonomy to Sidama. Ethiopia’s constitution stipulates that with this lawful vote, the people of Sidama, the fifth largest ethnic group, will become the tenth ethnic regional state. Eight of the existing nine regional states are governed by the dominant ethnic group of that geographical region. However, the Sidama people reside in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region–(SNNPR), where many other small ethnic groups (around 56) also exist.

The Preamble of Ethiopia’s Constitution properly emphasizes the conception of a united nation with a common purpose and goal for all its people.   It deliberates on “advancing our economic and social development,” “common interest….and the emergence of a common outlook,” and “to live as one economic community.” Article 14 resonates with the US Constitution, stating: “Every person has the inviolable right to life the security of person and liberty.” The same principle is echoed in Article 43 of the Constitution: The Right to Development. “The basic aim of development activities shall be to enhance the capacity of citizens for development and to meet their basic needs.”

The drawback to the Constitution begins in Article 8:Sovereignty of the People, where sovereign powers are divided up between “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.” This is an obvious compromise to ethnicity. In truth; there is only one Ethiopian people and only one Ethiopian nation. The divisions in Ethiopian society are made explicit in Article39: “Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right of secession……the right to a full measure of self-government…” This separation of Ethiopians into multiple groups, outlined in the Constitution, is the seed for the tensions gripping Ethiopia today.

In the aftermath of the Sidama referendum, Ethiopia potentially faces a conundrum. Will other ethnic minorities now choose to follow the same path as Sidama in calling for autonomy as delineated in the Constitution? It appears so. In addition to Sidama Zone*, which is now claiming to be the 10th state, there are other Zones in the Southern Region that want to follow the same route to statehood. To quote William Shakespeare, “there’s the rub.” Clearly the Ethiopian Constitution, despite the best intentions, has proven to be unsuccessful in governing this multi-ethnic nation.

The Challenging Course Ahead

The emergence of a national party such as the PP can commence the process of uniting the nation by moving away from a society where ethnic interests are placed above the welfare of the nation. Ultimately the problematic features of the Ethiopian Constitution will have to be revisited. Not to address this thorny issue will allow instigators to use ethnicity to disrupt what is most necessary for Ethiopia to move forward; a healthy process of dialogue and debate on the future of Ethiopia.

This discourse should include a discussion by the Ethiopian people on changing the structure of ethnic-based parties. For example, Ghana’s Constitution stipulates that “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” That no political party shall be formed “(a) on ethnic, gender, religion regional, professional or other sectional divisions; or (b) which uses words, slogans or symbols which could arouse ethnic, gender, religious, regional professional or other sectional divisions.”

The lack of vibrant Ethiopian nationalism creates a fertile environment for those who want to manipulate misplaced ethnic passions. The danger presents itself during times of social or economic stress, when the population’s frustrations can be channeled along ethnic fault lines, manipulating Ethiopians to act against their true self-interest: progress for the nation of Ethiopia. Opportunistic ringleaders will attempt to misdirect the population against each other via competing ethnicities, instead of uniting society behind a national policy. A policy of economic growth that includes a strategy to generate employment opportunities for the millions of youth preparing to enter the workforce is in the vital interests of all citizens.

Of course, it will take time for people to shed their desire to control policy making through ethnic-based parties. It is an existential moment for Ethiopia, and a national grounded PP is a needed first step.  It should be understood, that a sovereign nation, whose national mission is to promote the general welfare of its people does not require the elimination of historical cultures. On the contrary, the uniqueness and beauty of each ethnic culture can be synergistically woven into an elevated national character that transcends ethnicity.

*Zone is the middle tire next to the regional state in the governing structure that is also formed under ethnic lines the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR).

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Ethiopia Celebrates Launch of First Satellite-Science is the Driver of Economic Growth

Ethiopia Launches First Satellite into Space from China
Ethiopia’s satellite orbiting the earth. (courtesy of africanexponent.com)

December 22, 2019

Space exploration is an essential driver of economic growth. Mankind’s discovery of new physical principles of the universe leads to the creation of new technologies, which transform economies to higher levels of production of physical wealth.  It is science and assimilating new technologies like fission and fusion energy that are the  engines of real economic growth; not money or stock values. Exploration of space stimulates the mind and breeds optimism.  

“Ethiopia’s first satellite was sent into space on Friday, a landmark achievement for the ambitious country that also caps a banner year for Africa’s involvement in space.

“A Chinese Long March 4B rocket hoisted the first Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite (ETRSS-1) aloft from the Taiyuan space base in northern China.

“Scores of Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Centre outside the capital, Addis Ababa, early Friday to watch a live broadcast.

“The 70-kilogramme (154-pound) satellite was developed by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology with the help of 21 Ethiopian scientists, according to the specialist website africanews.space…

“For us as a society, we are valuing this launch as something which lifts our national pride,” Paulos said.

“You know, this is a very poor country. Many in the younger generation don’t have big hopes of reaching space. But today we are giving this generation hope, helping this generation to think big and have self-esteem.”

Read: Ethiopia Celebrates Launch of First Satellite

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Nuclear Energy is Necessary for Africa’s Growth

Russia’s Rosatom already is building a $29 billion nuclear plant complex for Egypt, and the company is also helping Nigeria, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda establish nuclear facilities. The El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt will have four VVER-1200 reactors, or water-water energetic reactors, which are Russian-designed Generation III+ reactors. Russia is financing 85% of the project with a loan of about $25 billion to Egypt, and Egypt is paying the remaining 15% over a period of 13 years, wrote Darrell Proctor in Power on Dec. 2.

Africa’s only current operating nuclear power plant is the 1.8 GW Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, north of Cape Town, which is owned and operated by Eskom, South Africa’s power utility. The plant recently had its operational period extended for another 20 years from 2024 when it was originally supposed to be decommissioned.

African nations are trying to increase their power generation capacity on a continent that has long struggled to sustain reliable power. The International Energy Agency recently reported that 57% of Africa’s population still does not have easy access to electricity, and those with access to power deal with frequent power outages.

African nations desperately  need nuclear power for their survival. Without access to plentiful energy,  people will die and nations will not develop.