South African Pres. Ramaphosa Calls For End to Poverty and a New Global Deal

UN General Assembly celebrating 75th anniversary virtually - YouTube

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the United Nations calls for the necessity to end poverty in Africa and the need to establish a New Global Deal that provides affordable credit. I fully support these goals. I have advocated for the creation of a New Bretton Woods for decades. Without a new international financial architecture that provides long-term low-interest credit to developing nations for infrastructure, African nations will not be able to fulfill their ambition to end poverty.

Address by President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 75th United Nations General Assembly Debate, September 22, 2020

Excerpts below:

“When the Secretary-General António Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in July 2020, he called on the nations of the world to forge a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal.

“He said we must create equal opportunities for all, that we must advance a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, that debt architecture must be reformed, and that there should be greater access to affordable credit for developing countries…

“As the African Union we are encouraged by the collaboration of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank and the UN towards finding solutions to debt sustainability in developing countries.

“It is a call we as South Africa wholly endorse.

“This pandemic has highlighted the urgency with which we must strive to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals, but more importantly Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

“For until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realizing the vision of the founders of the United Nations…

“Together, we must raise our level of ambition to ensure that every man, every woman and every child has an equal chance at a better future.

“It is a future free of hunger, disease, insecurity and war.” (emphassis added)

Read full speech: South Africa Pres Ramaphosa Address to the UN

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

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

UN Sec-Gen Guterres: “The Winds of Hope Are Growing in Africa”

August 30, 2019

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama, Japan, on 28 August 2019

Let us remember what Pope Paul VI wrote in his 1967 encyclical; “On the Development of Peoples”: the new name for peace is development.  UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ support for development of Africa at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development-  (TICAD) conference is salient. Japan’s motivation to invest in Africa’s infrastructure is not to counter China. And China is not attempting to build a new colonial empire in Africa. These false characterizations are expressions from the old geo-political financial system that is losing its control over global policy. Witness the the utter failure of the G-7 Summit of so the called advanced sector nations. The Western banking system is about to collapse again as a result of the central banks pumping in into the financial system $17 trillion of “quantitative easing” over the last ten years.  The US should stop attacking China’s new paradigm of development typified by its Belt and Road Initiative-(BRI), and President Trump should end his stupid, counter productive tariffs. The world needs leadership to lift the planet onto a new scientifically driven economic platform that will not only end poverty and hunger in the developing sector, but also raise the standard of living of all nations. 

In this spirit, one concrete initiative that should be taken up at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly-(UNGA )is; funding for recharging the shrinking Lake Chad. The Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project has the support of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin and UN Sec Gen Guterres. This project, which has been called, “A Kwame Nkrumah Pan- African Infrastructure Project,” would transform the Lake Chad Basin. With the head of the Nigerian Mission to UN, Ambassador Tijjan Muhamed-Bande, presiding over this year’s UNGA, and Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari  an ardent supporter of recharging the lake, we are at a propitious moment for the UN take bold action for the Lake Chad Basin.   

Excerpts: 

“African nations have made ‘significant progress’ in developmental efforts in the last few years, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday, kicking off the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), taking place in Yokohama.

“I see Africa as a dynamic continent of opportunity where winds of hope are blowing ever stronger,” Mr. Guterres expressed

“Africa needs peace for its development” the Secretary-General said in closing.

“I look forward to productive discussions over the next days that will culminate in a common understanding of the priorities for common and coherent action to promote peace and sustainable development across Africa.

ReadFor Africa the Winds of Hope are Growint Stronger

ReadUnited Nations Conference: The Lake Chad Basin Should not be ‘Managed’; it Should be ‘Transformed.’

Nigeria Working to Save Lake Chad. Russia Powering Africa With Nuclear Energy

Proposed Transaqua Navigable Canal to Refurbish Lake Chad in blue

May 20, 2019

Nigerian Water Minister Adamu’s ‘Battle To Reclaim Lake Chad’

May 16, The {Daily Trust} of Nigeria has published an article on the efforts by  Nigeria’s Water Minister Suleiman Adamu for the inter-basin water transfer to reverse the shrinking Lake Chad with Transaqua.

“Perhaps, the most cheering moves by the present administration in the last three years in the water sector is the renewed interest to save the drying Lake Chad,” says the article, reporting that Adamu organized the International Conference on Lake Chad, Feb. 26-28, 2018 in Abuja.

“Experts at the conference, including the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agreed with the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria that it was time to find workable solution to recharge the drying Lake, which they said had depleted from its original size.

“One of the workable solutions suggested at the conference was to transfer water from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad Basin [Transaqua, ed.], which Nigeria’s water minister says is technically feasible based on earlier studies conducted by a Chinese company, PowerChina….”

“Experts agreed that transferring water from Congo Basin down to the Lake Chad is a herculean task that requires huge money and time and thus its impact cannot be felt immediately,” the article says, quoting some engineers who say feasibility studies might take years. This is the view of those who put the cart before the horse, and want to first see whether the color of flamingos will be affected or if rare species of snakes would be threatened, before proving the technical feasibility of the project.

However, as concerns financing, “Hope rises recently, when the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres agreed to help raise $50 billion for a project to help raise $50 billion for a project to help revive the drought-stricken Lake. President Muhammad Buhari was said to have written to the UN scribe to co-chair the fundraising session with him and his acceptance response was delivered by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in Abuja. With this many believe that if the current efforts to reclaim the lake are sustained or intensified, glory days lie ahead.”

Read entire article

Nigeria’s President Buhari Continues Organizing Support for Transaqua

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari won the support from the President of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, for the “inter-basin water transfer” to save Lake Chad, the technical name for the Transaqua project. Meeting Espinosa in Abuja, May 7, Buhari “stressed the role the international community needed to play in the endeavor, since recharging the lake was beyond the financial power of the affected countries,” says a statement issued by Buhari’s spokesman Femi Adesina.

In a separate meeting with Espinosa, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said: “We are looking to have the support of the UN and your support in particular, to address this challenge. One of the mechanisms we have identified is to recharge the Lake and it is going to be capital intensive efforts and something in the order of $40-$50 billion estimated and clearly, we are going to leverage on the international community because this is a huge resources and we look for your support.”

On her side, the UNGA President Espinosa, a native of Ecuador, said:  “It is a huge thing. And as a geographer, I can tell you. When I look at the map of Lake Chad and that in less than 40 years, this lake went from 24,000 something to 2,000 square kilometers, I have concluded that this is one of the major climate change disasters in this continent.

“So, that is a very touching example of how we need to tackle development and security together.  President Muhammadu Buhari has told us also that  there is no peace and security without development and there is no development without peace,” she said.

President Buhari had described the combined effect of the impoverishment and terrorism in the Lake Chad region. “The condition of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country is pathetic. We have at least a million children who neither know their parents nor where they come from.”  Damage to infrastructure, particularly in the Northeast, has been horrendous: “Bridges have been blown up, schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, and other buildings have been destroyed. All these will be rehabilitated, and every form of international help is welcome.”

Russia’s Growing Involvement in Africa’s Nuclear Power Projects

In an article in OilPrice.com today, Vanand Meliksetian, an energy and utilities consultant, points out the growing Russian interest in Africa’s energy development in general, and in establishing nuclear power in Africa in particular.

After showing that energy poverty is a significant problem in Africa in holding back its economic potential, he writes: “Russia’s energy industry, in comparison, is booming. Its state-run nuclear energy company Rosatom has an order book of 34 reactors in 12 countries worth $300 billion. Recently, Moscow has set its eyes on Africa where most states have either already struck a deal with the Kremlin or are considering one.”

The lack of access to a reliable and affordable source of energy is a severe impediment to Africa’s economic development. Also, Africa is urbanizing much faster than the rest of the world. African cities are expanding by 8% every year compared to 2% globally — which puts even more pressure on the existing energy systems.

In view of this development, Russia is keen to offer nuclear power to the African countries by working out deals which would allow them to adopt nuclear power. “The Russian deal is particularly appealing to countries lacking nuclear know how, due to Moscow’s comprehensive offers regarding financing, construction, and operation of the facilities. Currently, Rosatom is experimenting with a contract known as build-own-operate, under which ownership of the plant remains in Russian hands while energy is sold to the host country. This new type of contract is appealing to several African states which lack the means to finance construction.