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

 

No More Lies, No More Anti-China Propaganda: There is No China-Africa ‘Debt-trap’

June 20, 2020

China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) presented an interesting and useful webinar entitled : Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics, using research presented from a Working Paper #39 and Policy Brief #46. View: CARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

In response to China’s growing economic and political influence in the world, especially on the African continent, various propaganda outlets located in the West have launched a new assault on China. Their line of attack is to malign China and African leaders with the false narrative that China is intentionally luring African nations into a ‘debt-trap’ in order to seize control of their natural resources. This cynical view of China’s alliance with African nations flows from the age old doctrine of “geo-politics” that only perceives nations as either winners or losers in a fixed zero-sum view of the world.  In this evil world view, stronger powers, hegemons believe they can only maintain their supremacy by having their foot on the neck of weaker nations. The “geo-political” doctrine rejects the notion that all nations share a common interest.

Misinformation or Disinformation

As Deborah Brautigam, director of CARI has stated before, there is no evidence, none, not one single case of China using debt to seize control of an African nation’s assets. “We found no “asset seizures” and despite contract clauses requiring arbitration, no evidence of the use of courts to enforce payments, or application of penalty interest rates.” Despite no substantiation of China using debt as a weapon against African nations, the ‘debt-trap’ mantra is repeated by either misinformed individuals, including Africans, or by those who are deliberately disseminating disinformation with malice.

The CARI working paper reports the following:

“The rating agency Moody’s warned that countries ‘rich in natural resources, like Angola, Zambia, and Republic of the Congo, or with strategically important infrastructure, like ports or railways such as Kenya, are most vulnerable to the risk of losing control over important assets in negotiations with Chinese creditors.’ These assumptions of a malign China were repeated in publications like The New York Times, which contended that Chinese loans “frequently use national assets as collateral” and require refinancing ‘every couple years’ (our Africa data supports neither of these statements).” (emphasis added)

If there is any honesty or integrity left in our duplicitous culture, all claptrap about China’ alleged ‘debt-trap’ as a nefarious attempt to gain control of Africa’s wealth should cease immediately! If one examines the long history of China’s relationship with Africa and the more recent twenty year period, it is clear that China desires to resolve issues with African nations through consultation. China may choose other means of responding to payment difficulties, but there is no evidence that they want to take over African holdings, contrary to prevalent popular opinion. Read: Chinese ‘debt-trap’ Propaganda Exposed-Time to End Ignorance & Prejudice Against China in Africa

Debt Cancellation

As COVID-19 spreads in Africa, nations are struggling to survive economically and simultaneously defeat the deadly virus.  Debt service is onerous and must be suspended indefinitely or cancelled, as leaders of many Africans nation have rightly insisted. According to Dr. Brautigam, from 2000-2018, China has made loan commitments of $152 billion, and of Africa’ total external debt, China holds 17%, while the World Bank hold 18%, and private lenders 31%.  Thus, China will and has already engaged in debt relief, but will do it differently than western institutions like the Paris Club and World Bank.

“Our [CARI] study found that between 2000 and 2019, China has cancelled at least US$ 3.4 billion of debt in Africa. There is no “China, Inc.”: for interest-bearing loans, treatment for inter-governmental debt and Chinese company loans are negotiated separately, and often loan-by-loan rather than for the entire portfolio. While rescheduling by increasing the repayment period is common, changes in interest rates, reductions in principal (“haircuts”), or refinancing are not. We found that China has restructured or refinanced approximately US$ 15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 20190…Chinese lenders prefer to address restructuring quietly, on a bilateral basis, tailoring programs to each situation.”   

China, up this point has only cancelled zero interest loans, which represent only 5% of loans from China, and are issued from China’s Ministry of Commerce. It is unlikely that there will be unilateral debt suspension.  Thus, we can expect that China will negotiate debt relief bilaterally with each nation, and each loan reviewed separately.

Even if debt cancellation is continued into 2021, which has not yet been agreed to, it will be insufficient. The level of investment required to meet Africa’s’ minimal infrastructure needs is in the trillions of dollars, which belies the “geo-political” nonsense of zero-sum assumptions.  Debt relief must be accompanied by issuance of credit for infrastructure and related sectors of production, otherwise Africa and the world will suffer from the spread of COVID-19 and future zoonotic diseases. Poverty is a co-factor for all diseases. Lack of electricity is a co-factor for the spread of disease and hunger, as is the lack of clean water, and inadequate transportation.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative over recent years has begun to address Africa’s infrastructure deficit, but much, much more is required. Collaboration between the U.S. and China on the development of Africa would be consequential for the continent.

I have addressed this issue in earlier posts: World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19, New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

ViewCARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

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

Webinar Invitation: New Bretton Woods to Combat COVID-19 Africa’s Future is its Youth

June 6, 2020

I will be the lead speaker on the first panel at this webinar. Please register to attend and participate. Webinar Registration

Watch 14 minute video interview with Lawrence Freeman below (30 second introduction in French) 

Watch Democracy Grow Webinar Series on The New World Order ushered in by Covid-19

WHERE: TELECONFERENCE/WEBINAR CONFERENCE SERIES.

When: June 16th, 17th, 18th.

Time: 9.30 am – 12.30 pm (EST).

June 16, Panel 1: Prioritizing social Infrastructure Development on the continent (Hospitals, Rural electrification, and Clean water supply).

Time: 9.30-11.20am

1.Dr. Freeman Lawrence. (15 mins on presentation,5 mins Q&A).

2.Dr. Mutisya Masila Philliph. (15 mins on presentation,5 mins Q&A)

3.John Dickson. (15 mins on presentation,5 mins Q&A)

4.Dr. Abdiqadir Yousuf Abdullahi.

  *Moderator: Dr.Samuel Lee Hancock.(Closing remark by Dr.Ayobani )

 

 

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

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

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