US-Africa Strategy Should Focus on Long-Term Development for the Continent’s 2.4 Billion People

Lawrence Freeman giving a lecture on Africa. He teaches several courses on African history in Maryland.

December 25, 2020

Below is a lengthy year end interview with me by Pan African Visions, published on December 21, 2020, entitled: “Most US Administrations Have Not Had Good Policies On Africa.” In this interview, I discuss a number of issues facing the Africa continent, as well as the past and future of US-Africa policy.

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Pan African Visions: We end with the last word on how you see 2021 playing out for Africa, what are your hopes and fears?

Lawrence Freeman: If you look at the problems we have now if we do not implement certain measures today, we are going to have problems 10 or 20 years from now. If you have an approximate population of two and a half billion and approximately one billion may be young people; if those young people do not have jobs, see their nation as providing for them then you can have very nasty operations and demonstrations, regime changes on the continent. On the other hand, we have all these very bright people, if we implement policies today that will bring about the kind of economic growth that is needed then you will not have an increase in alienation, anarchy and protests.

I would like to see the United States join with China and probably Russia to help Africa. They have to unite and assist Africa and not tell them what  to do, and not seize anything. I estimate that Africa needs at least a thousand gigawatts of power to give people access to electricity. These things are primary. If we can begin in 2021 with a robust commitment to developing, then I think Africa will have a very interesting and beautiful future. If we do not, then we could be facing more serious challenges over the years ahead. I am approaching 70 years and I am going to put everything I have to make those things happen. If more people in the United States, Europe, and Africa will work with me on that then I think we can make some improvements that will benefit billions of people that are not only living today but those who will be born in the future. And that is my goal and commitments.

Read the entirety of my interview: Pan African Visions Interviews Lawrence Freeman on US-Africa Policy

Read the entire issue of Pan African Vision for December 2020: PAV-News-Magazine-Dec.-2020-Edition-27

As I am sending out this post on Christmas Day, I would like to wish everybody an enjoyable Holiday Season. At this time of the year, it is important for me to emphasize that ending poverty and hunger in Africa is not an idealistic dream. It is an accomplishable strategic vision for the African continent. All men and women are endowed by the Creator with the power of creative reason. This unites all peoples of all nations as part of one human culture. If we exercise this uniquely human power of creativity with the good will of governments, there is no limit to the qualitative and quantitative growth of civilization. The same brute-force commitment that utilized our creative scientific capabilities to develop vaccines for the COVID-19 virus in record time, can be applied to feeding the world.

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

Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to Djibouti Railway: A Model for the Role of Infrastructure in Fighting Hunger

Below is a useful article from EIR magazine that correctly emphasizes the role of infrastructure in providing food for Africa. The authors highlight Ethiopia, an East African nation that has aggressively pursed the expansion of infrastructure to advance their economy.

November 16, 2020

Click to access 19-25_4745.pdf

World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize. WFP Dir, Beasley Responds With “Call to Action” to Stop Starvation

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, visiting Sanaa, Yemen, September 2018, where the world’s worst hunger crisis continues to unfold. (courtesy WFP/Marco Frattini, September 2018)

October 19, 2020

I whole heartedly congratulate the World Food Program (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Noble Peace Prize “for its efforts to combat hunger.” I also full support WFP Executive Director, David Beasley’s call for action to prevent starvation. Speaking in Niger on October 9, Beasley said: “Just in the last three years, the number of people on the brink of starvation had risen before COVID, from 80 million to 135 million. And now, with COVID, the number of people—and I’m not talking about people going to bed hungry—on the brink of starvation is now up to 270 million people…we are on the brink of disaster.” Earlier this year, Beasley reported that Beasley warned that from 150,000 to 300,000 people could die a day from starvation.

Fifteen African nations account for half of that 270 million. The WFP has identified the following nations as being in dire need of food: Burkina Faso (4.8); Cameroon (5.2); C.A.R. (3.1); D.R.C. (21.8); Ethiopia (18.0); Liberia (0.84); Mali (3.5); Mozambique (3.3); Niger (5.9); Nigeria (23.8); Sierra Leone (2.9); Somalia (6.3); South Sudan (10.2); Sudan (17.7); Zimbabwe (6.3); totaling 133.64 million people.

David Beasley alerted the world, that 7 million people have already died of hunger this year and that figure could increase by“3, 4, 5 times or more.” The WPF calculates that it needs $6.8 billion to prevent famine. With $1.6 billion received so far, $5 billion more is urgently needed. “The $5 billion that we’re talking about is additional money, because we feed 100 million people. It literally is—the starvation rate is spiraling because of COVID and economic deterioration,” he said. “And quite frankly, with the billionaires making hundreds of billions of dollars with COVID, we’re facing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. They need to step up. We need an extra $5 billion to save millions of lives around the world….This is a call to action. With all the wealth in the world today, no one should be dying from hunger, not a single person.”

Referring to the most severe cases, the Beasley warned: “There are literally about a dozen or two dozen places around the world that, if we don’t get the support that they need, three things are going to happen. One, you are going to have famine, I mean, literally of biblical proportions. Number two, you’re going to have destabilization. And, number three, you’re going to have mass migration. And we can solve all that. We have a cure against starvation, and it is called food.” (all emphasis added)

South African activist, Phillip Tsokolibane has called for a “military mobilization” to provide logistics to stop the spread of hunger in Africa. He said last week from South Africa:

“While various charitable and other organizations have sounded alarm bells and have appealed for money, the issue we face, if we want to save lives, is securing massive amounts of food, as soon as possible, to hungry and starving people. Given the state of infrastructure on the continent and the fact that much of this starvation is occurring in isolated, rural areas, the distribution that must take place is well beyond the means of individual governments and those of relief agencies.

“I believe we must mobilize the logistical capacities of the world’s most capable military forces and design a strategy to bring food supplies from such food-producing nations as the United States and Canada, and bring them directly to those who need them. Let allies and adversaries alike, join forces, in this greatest of all humanitarian efforts.”

Emergency Action Required

  1. We must urgently deliver food to starving people. One single human being dying from starvation is intolerable. Every creative soul that perishes is a loss to the human race.
  2. Nations producing food surpluses must allocate food shipments to feed starving people in Africa.
  3. Logistics for delivery will have to done in a military fashion or directly by qualified military personnel supported by governments.
  4. Roads, railways, and bridges constructed for emergency food delivery can serve as an initial platform for expansion to a higher plateau of infrastructure required for economic growth
  5. Debts must be suspended to enable nations to direct money away from onerous payments of debt service to growing and distributing food.
  6. A new financial architecture-a New Bretton Woods must be established with a facility to issue credit to finance critical categories of infrastructure necessary for economic growth and food production.

Read my earlier posts:

COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

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

Will IMF Austerity Policies Lead to More Deaths in Africa? The Answer is Obvious

African nations must have infrastructure to develop industrialized economies .
October 16, 2020

An October 12, 2020, Oxfam International press release, IMF Paves Way for New Era of Austerity Post-Covid-19, exposes the danger of African nations following the dictates of the International Monetary Fund. A major reason that African nations have fragile healthcare systems is the IMF insistence on countries servicing their yearly debt service at the cost of under funding healthcare. Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, emphasized the cost service service early this year: “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…” Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: Debt Cancellation for the World to Survive. Read my post: IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers: Africa Suffers.

Africa has the highest number of people working in the informal economy. In some countries-over 80% of its people have to live hand to mouth each day to provide for their families. Millions are struggling every day just to survive, with no health and unemployment insurance safety-net. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven more Africans into poverty, and hunger is increasing across the continent. It is criminal and immoral for the IMF to to insist that nations implement austerity, when hundreds of millions are already suffering from lack of income, lack of food, and lack of healthcare. In fact, IMF policies have never helped nations develop their economies. African nations have yet to recover from the infamous IMF dictated “Structural Adjust Program” (SAPs) that destroyed their economies in the 1980s and 1990s. It may be difficult for people to hear, but the truth is; IMF’s Insistence on maintaining debt service and IMF conditionalities are killing Africans. Read my post: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants

In the history of modern economy, austerity measures have never led to economic growth. All honest economists, and even the IMF and World Bank, know this. The only solution is the creation of a New Bretton Woods system that must include: 1) suspension of debt service, 2) a new financial mechanism to issue credit for economic development 3) upgrading of healthcare infrastructure, 4)  massive investments in hard physical infrastructure of roads, energy, and railroads.

Excerpts from Oxfam:

“84 percent of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) COVID-19 loans encourage, and in some cases require, poor countries hard hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic to adopt more tough austerity measures in the aftermath of the health crisis, warned Oxfam today.

New analysis by Oxfam finds that 76 out of the 91 IMF loans negotiated with 81 countries since March 2020 – when the pandemic was declared – push for belt-tightening that could result in deep cuts to public healthcare systems and pension schemes, wage freezes and cuts for public sector workers such as doctors, nurses and teachers, and unemployment benefits, like sick pay.

“The IMF has sounded the alarm about a massive spike in inequality in the wake of the pandemic. Yet it is steering countries to pay for pandemic spending by making austerity cuts that will fuel poverty and inequality. These measures could leave millions of people without access to healthcare or income support while they search for work, and could thwart any hope of sustainable recovery. In taking this approach, the IMF is doing an injustice to its own research. Its head needs to start speaking to its hands,” said Chema Vera, Oxfam International’s Interim Executive Director…

“Nine countries including Angola and Nigeria are likely to introduce or increase the collection of value-added taxes (VAT), which apply to everyday products like food, clothing and households supplies, and fall disproportionately on poor people. Unemployment in Nigeria has surged to 27 percent, the highest in at least a decade…

“The IMF has contributed to these failures by consistently pushing a policy agenda that seeks to balance national budgets through cuts to public services, increases in taxes paid by the poorest, and moves to undermine labor rights and protections..

“The IMF’s austerity drive will hurt the countries it claims to help.” (emphasis added)

IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers: Africa Suffers

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

IMF Paves Way for New Era of Austerity Post-Covid-19

Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants

Africa Threatened With Starvation: No Objective Reason

Millions ‘on the edge’ in DR Congo now in even greater danger of tipping over. WFP food distribution to Internally Displaced People in Kikuku, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. WFP/Ben Anguandia

There is no objective reason for hunger in Africa. African nations have abundant fertile land and many water systems that should enable them to be not only food self sufficient, but produce a surplus. With proper investment in infrastructure and planning, stockpiles of food would be available to feed the population during difficulty periods like the present COVID-19 pandemic. With manufacturing and agricultural processing sectors, people would have more job security, then living hand to mouth in the so called informal economy. 

WFP Chief warns of grave dangers of economic impact of Coronavirus as millions are pushed further into hunger

Transcript as delivered of remarks by UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley to today’s virtual session of the UN Security Council, September 17, 2020.

“Five months ago, I warned the Council the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It’s a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we don’t continue to act like we’ve been acting…

“As COVID-19 pushed countries everywhere to lock down, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs have been destroyed, and remittances have collapsed. The impact has been felt hardest by the 2 billion people who work in the informal economy around the world – mainly in middle and low-income countries. Already only one day’s work away from going hungry, in other words living hand to mouth…

“Let me turn to the countries on today’s agenda. In the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, conflict and instability had already forced 15.5 million people into crisis levels of food insecurity. These are people on the brink of starvation. The latest assessment indicates that the upsurge in violence, coupled with COVID-19, has sent this total sky-rocketing to nearly 22 million people, an increase of 6.5 million people. And I should warn you these numbers assume WFP is able to maintain current levels of food assistance. If we are forced to scale back operations, the outlook is even worse

“NIGERIA: COVID-19 is also forcing more people into food insecurity. Analysis shows measures imposed to contain the virus reduced incomes in 80 percent of households. You can imagine the devastation with that alone.

“In the northeast of the country, 4.3 million people are food insecure, up by 600,000 largely due to COVID-19. While in the large urban area of Kano, the number of food insecure people during that lockdown period from March to June went from 568,000 to 1.5 million people – an increase of 1 million people. Very troubling.

“SOUTH SUDAN: The outlook there is similarly worrying, where even before the pandemic, 6.5 million people were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season, made worse by the violence in Jonglei State in recent months. This has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, a large number of abducted women and children, and widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods. In addition, virus outbreaks in urban areas such as Juba could put as many as another 1.6 million people at risk of starvation.

Finally, even though it is not on today’s agenda, I also want to highlight the disaster unfolding in Burkina Faso, driven by the upsurge in violence. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID compounds the situation…displacement, security and access problems. For 11,000 of these people living in the northern provinces, famine is knocking on the door as we speak.

Read: WFP Warns Grave Economic Dangers From COVID-19

Food Is Now Up to 250 Percent More Expensive Across Africa

‘With crop reduction comes food scarcity, and prices go up with demand. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network found that Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mauritania, Nigeria, Guatemala and Haiti are the countries that have been most affected by the drop in crop production.

‘In the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15 percent, while a similar pattern has emerged in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, with an above-average increase in the price of staple foods.

‘Then there’s the rising cost of sorghum – a drought resistant cereal grain that’s popular across the continent. In July, sorghum prices exceeded the five-year average by 150 to 250 percent in Sudan, 50 to 240 percent in South Sudan, 85 percent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 20 to 55 percent in Southern Somalia

Read: Food Up To 250% More Expensve in Africa

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

New Infrastructure Vital for South Africa to Combat COVID-19 and Save Lives!

South Africa Says Lenders Commit $21 Billion to Building Projects

Banks, development finance institutions and multilateral organizations have committed 340 billion rand ($21 billion) to infrastructure projects in South Africa that could create 290,000 jobs, the government said.

The projects range from water supply to housing, energy, agriculture and roads. They were named in a July 24 government gazette, paving the way for the beginning of private investment in a 2.3 trillion rand program over the next decade.

Infrastructure investment has been identified by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa as a key plank in his bid to revive a stagnant economy that’s been further damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. While the state has traditionally funded most infrastructure in South Africa, surging debt has seen the government turn to private capital.

The projects need sovereign guarantees and an increase in debt limits, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the head of infrastructure investment in the presidency, said at a press conference today.

For more on the initial announcement, click here

Still, the commitments are a step forward in attracting investment into the country, which faces infrastructure deficits ranging from piped water to housing and power plants.

Of the 276 projects being considered by Ramokgopa’s department, the initial list totaled 50 with an additional 12 “special projects.” The projects are “shovel ready,” he said, with work likely to begin within three months.

“We will come with the next wave of projects,” he said. “The state needs to reciprocate by providing those guarantees.”

Private funding

Some of the projects, such as the next stage of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, are already in process. Ramokgopa was not clear on whether the total investment amount included previously announced expenditure.

“What we need are projects that are financed independently by private investors who then earn a return through operating the projects,” said Theobald. “Those are genuinely fiscal neutral and growth positive.”

Ramokgopa did say one project to build 45,000 housing units was completely privately funded.

The commitments are as follows:

  • Transport: 47 billion rand, creating 50,000 jobs
  • Water and sanitation: 106 billion rand, creating 25,000 jobs
  • Housing: 138 billion rand, creating 190,000 jobs
  • Agriculture: 7 billion rand and 4,000 jobs
  • Digital: 4 billion rand and 700 jobs
  • Energy: 58 billion rand, creating 6,000 jobs

Reported by EIRNS, researchers at South Africa’s National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) group released a Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) on Wednesday, July 15, which provided a bleak picture of the reality currently facing that nation under lock down, conditions which are representative of much of Africa and the Global South.

Conducted over a two-month period during May and June, the extensive (20-minute) survey was conducted by phone this year, with 30 researchers contacting over 7,000 people/homes. Of the hundreds of questions asked — with conversations getting personal to the point of provoking tears — the final report breaks the responses into three categories: Employment, Hunger, and Health.

  • On employment: 30% of income earners who had a job in February did not earn an income in April 2020 (the month South Africa’s hard lock down started and before relief efforts kicked in). As could be expected, job losses were highest in already-disadvantaged areas which could least afford it.
  • On hunger: 47% of respondents reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April 2020. 1 in 5 respondents told researchers that someone in their household had gone hungry in the last seven days, and 1 in 7 respondents reported that a child had gone hungry in the last seven days. In households with children, 8% reported “frequent” child hunger (3 or more days in the last 7 days) in their household, and 1 in 25 (4%) reported “perpetual” hunger (almost every day or every day), with cases of “food shielding” (adults not eating so their children could survive), evidenced by “adult” hunger surpassing child hunger by almost 8%.
  • On health: 78% couldn’t (or wouldn’t, whether out of fear or poverty) see a doctor at least once during May or June, while 23% reported they were unable to access needed medications. The situation in South Africa is compounded by the unaddressed crisis of AIDS, with victims being unable to access critical care because of COVID-19 overload, a condition which could only be worse if the patient were pregnant.

While the authors do not note it, the survey is the first known to bring together these three aspects of the crisis, providing an accurate physical-economic picture of this harsh reality.

UN Chief: Virus Could Push Millions of Africans Into Poverty

A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

May 20, 2020

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, warns about the danger of the COVID-19 in Africa, both from the disease itself and causing increased levels of poverty.

“It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.  Already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining…. millions could be pushed into extreme poverty

“The U.N. said the low numbers could be linked to minimal testing and reporting, pointing to a World Health Organization warning that the pandemic “could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in 47 African countries in the first year, mostly depending on governments’ responses.”

“To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” unable to service their debt, “followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.”

“These are still early days for the pandemic in Africa, and disruption could escalate quickly.  Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative – now and for recovering better. Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world.

“I have been calling for a global response package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.  For Africa, that means more than $200 billion as additional support from the international community.

“I also continue to advocate a comprehensive debt framework — starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.” 

 

Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

ReadUN: Impact of COVID-19 in Africa

Read my earlier articles 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

 

 

WFP’s David Beasley Warns of Potential Famines in Africa & Mideast Due to COVID-19

The COVID19 virus arrived in Africa weeks after it hit Asia, Europe and North America. But now, says Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, the virus poses grave risks for Africa and its 1.2 billion people. (AP photo by Patrick Ngugi)

The effects of COVID-19 on food supply chains in developing nations that are already suffering from hunger and acute food insecurity could be more deadly than coronavirus itself, according to David Beasley, Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC on May 8, via teleconference, Beasley told his audience 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. “You could have 150,000 to 300,000 people die of starvation every day for several months—at a minimum,” he said. In a six-month period of time that equals between 27 to 54 million deaths. Beasley reported, as he did last month to the United Nations Security Council, that 821 million people around the world go to bed hungry and another 135 million are on the verge of starvation.

The fact that almost 1 billion of our fellow human beings are suffering from these levels of food insecurity is proof of the failure of globalization and an indictment of the current monetarist based financial system. With an abundance of fertile land, growing food and delivering food is a matter of investment in infrastructure. There are no valid objective reasons for any human being to go without food. The world needs a New Bretton Woods System, designed to lift all nations out of poverty, as President Franklin Roosevelt has intended. Nothing short of a global rebuilding of our world economy is required.

WFP’s David Beasley warns of dire famines in Africa, Mideast if COVID-19 supply chains damage continues

Watch video presentation below by World Food Programme Director, David Beasley 

A warning from the World Food Programme

Reuters published on May 7, a graphic report: Virus exposes gaping holes in Africa’s health systems, which quantifies the shortages in Africa of physicians, ventilators, intensive care beds and tests for COVID-19.  This deficit in healthcare infrastructure endangers millions of African, who are already suffering from food insecurity, poverty, lack of clean water, and lack of adequate electricity and other basic necessities of life. From March 30 to May 10, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has increased from 4,760 cases and 146 deaths to 64,214 cases and 2,344 deaths. That is an increase of 1300% and 1600% respectively in six weeks. If Africa is at the beginning of the  coronavirus curve, and the virus grows exponentially, as it has in other nations, then Africa will not be equipped to handle the magnitude of the crisis.

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 and 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

Ethiopian & Nigerian Leaders Want Debt Cancellation; UNGA President: Infrastructure for Food and Health

Informal economy in Africa (courtesy Grandmother Africa)

May 7, 2020

Human life in Africa is threatened more by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other continent due to the appalling living conditions for the majority of the population.  During lock-down conditions, millions of Africans are faced with the choice of trying to just subsist day by day working in the informal economy to make enough money to feed one’s family or stay home and go hungry.  However, the informal economy itself is part of the problem, since it no health insurance, no unemployment insurance, and income is precarious at best. The very existence of the informal economy is a malignancy that should have been eliminated decades ago, and replaced with an industrialized economy.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), estimates the total world labor force is 3.3 billion people, and about 2 billion of them, or 61% of the total, are working in the informal economy. The vast majority of such informal workers (93%) are to be found in the Third World. In the first month after the pandemic hit their countries, laborers in the informal economy suffered an average 60% drop in their income. Now, 1.6 billion of those 2 billion informal workers—almost 80% of all informal workers—have lost their jobs or are about to. Tragically, Africa has 86% of its labor force working in the informal economy-the highest of all continents.

RFI reports that Nigeria, with over 200 million people, has 40% of its population living in life threatening poverty. According to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), from September 2018, to October 2019, 82.9 million Nigerians earned less than 400 Naira-($1) per day. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which compromises the majority of the continent with almost 1 billion people, 41% live in extreme poverty-$1.90 per day or less. The NBS reports that poverty in Nigeria’s rural areas is more than 50 percent. The economic cruelties of life in Nigeria typify conditions throughout SSA.

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Life is More Precious Than Debt

Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, African nations required a debt moratorium to save the lives of their people. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic intersecting the existent conditions of poverty, food insecurity and lack of healthcare infrastructure, Africa leaders are demanding debt cancellation, to prioritize addressing the economic and health needs of their nations. Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria are asking for debt relief.

Following Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s op-ed in the April 30 edition of the New York Times, PM Abiy wrote  on May 1, that there is an “urgent need for the Global Health Pledging Conference.” In his essay, “ PM Abiy: A Pledge to Combat COVID-19 in Africa, he  outlines the urgency for debt cancellation.

Up to now, there has been a huge disconnect between the rhetoric of rich-country leaders – that this is an existential, once-in-a-century global crisis – and the support for the world’s poor and developing countries [is more] than they seem willing to contemplate. Indeed, until last week, African countries were spending more on debt payments than on health care.”

“In 34 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 45 countries, annual per capita health spending is below $200 – and barely reaches $50 in many of these countries. Such low levels of spending make it impossible to fund acute-care hospital beds, ventilators, and the drugs needed to confront diseases like COVID-19. Paying for doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians, and other health professionals, together with their equipment, can seem almost like a luxury.”

Nigerian President Mahammadou Burhari, echoed PM Abiy’s demand for debt cancellation, in a May 4 meeting with heads of state from the Non-Aligned Movement. President Buhari “urged official lenders to help cushion the pandemic fallout with outright debt cancellation,” according Alonso Soto of Bloomberg. The article reports that, “nearly half of Nigeria’s outstanding external debt is with multilateral lenders, led by the World Bank Group with $10.1 billion. Beijing-based Export-Import Bank of China is the second-biggest creditor with loans totaling $3.2 billion, while Eurobonds account for $10.86 billion or 39% of external debt.”

The author with Amb Tijjani Muhammad-Bande at the Nigerian Mission to the UN-August 2019

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the United Nations General Assembly, discussed how the spread of the coronavirus is a threat to those already suffering from poverty and food insecurity in a May 1, op-ed by published by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In his statement, Preventing a Pandemic Induced Food Emergency, Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, head of the the Nigerian Mission to the UN, wrote: “two billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.  Indeed, hunger has been on the rise globally for the past four years

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities, putting immense strain on tenuous systems; and plunging those in the most precarious contexts deeper into poverty and hunger.

“In many places, travel restrictions aimed at containing COVID-19 has reduced access to markets; and the purchasing power of millions of people has been decimated as a result of an exponential increase in unemployment rates.  Moreover, school closures have disturbed the main source of nutrition for over 370 million children around the world.

“Those suffering from hunger are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms as a result of associated health conditions, such as malnutrition and non-communicable diseases, which compromise the immune system. Compounding this is the fact that those who are hungry are often trapped in poverty and do not have access to health services, water and sanitation facilities, or indeed the space to quarantine or practice social distancing.

“In both our rapid response to the pandemic, and our long-term planning, it is imperative that we link food security to health interventions and investment in infrastructure.” (emphasis added)

 

For more analysis of COVID-19 and Africa, read my previous posts below:

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

Food Shortages and COVID-19 in Africa: Interviews With Lawrence Freeman

Breaking the cycle of food shortage in Africa with fertilizer and technology (courtesy of Global Farmer Network)

April 7, 2020

UN warns of food shortages across globe

Please view this 7 minute interview with Lawrence Freeman on PressTV. Watch: Interview: COVID-19-Hunger in Africa

In this interview with PressTV, Mr Freeman discusses the implications of the food shortages in Africa as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. He said: “The morality of world is on trial. Life has to be put above everything else.”

According  to The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the coronavirus pandemic could cause food shortages for hundreds of millions of people across the globe. The WFP said “Africa is the most vulnerable continent. It added that for many poor countries, the economic consequences of COVID-19 outbreak will be more devastating than the disease itself.”

COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

In the first 15 minutes of this programs, Mr. Freeman discuses the implications of the coronavirus in Africa. Watch: COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

Africa Union Needs to Demand More

The communique released by the African Union on April 3, does not go far enough. The AU should be leading an all out effort to save lives in Africa and a full mobilization to build-up Africa’s weak healthcare infrastructure. Read: African Union: COVID-19

For more on COVID-19 read my two recent articles below.

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