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

Nigeria and Egypt Building Railroads: Great News For Africa

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [PHOTO CREDIT: FMIC Website]
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [PHOTO CREDIT: FMIC Website]

October 7, 2020

For those of us who understand physical economy, these two developments reported below are truly great news for Africa. Africans have suffered from a paucity of infrastructure in rail construction and energy production. When African nations liberated themselves from colonialism beginning in the 1960s, following 400 years of slavery, they were intentionally left with no infrastructure.  By denying African nations rail systems that connected the continent and electricity to industrialize their economies, the African people have been forced to lived in poverty brought about by imposed underdevelopment. Ghana’s founder, Kwame Nkrumah understood this well. He discussed the necessity of infrastructure to achieve true economic independence in his opening speech to the Organizing of African Unity on May 25, 1963 and his his book, Africa Must Unite. It is a crime that 60 years after the liberation from colonialism, African nations remain grossly deficient in basic infrastructure. Therefore let us rejoice in the progress that African nations are making today, in the 21st century to provide vital infrastructure for their people. We should all celebrate all measures taken to rectify the legacy of colonialism, that denied Africans the right to economic development. To their credit, Presidents Buhari (Nigeria) and el Sesi (Egypt) have pursue the expansion of infrastructure in their respective nations.

Why we’re extending rail construction to Niger Republic – Nigerian govt

“The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the explanation on Friday when he featured on Nigeria Television. Authority (NTA) live programme, “Good Morning Nigeria”

“The programme which focussed on “Nigeria at 60: Matters Arising” was monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

“Specifically, the minister said the rail extension is intended for Nigeria to take economic advantages of import and export of Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina Faso which are landlocked countries.”

Continue Reading: Nigeria Extending Rail Construction to Niger

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Egypt to Build High Speed Rail

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and Egyptian companies Samcrete and the Arab Organization for Industrialisation have won a $9bn contract to build a 543-km-long high-speed railway in Egypt, reports newspaper The Egypt Independent, citing “senior sources”.

“Accommodating train speeds of 250km/h, the line would link the Mediterranean coast at El-Alamein to the Red Sea at Ain Sokhna, cutting the journey between the two cities to three hours.

“The scheme’s importance to Egypt was compared to the Suez Canal by the chief executive of Samcrete, Sherif Nazmy, who told Arab-language newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that it would be the first new electric railway in Egypt since 1854.”

Continuing Reading: (Egypt to Build High Speed Rail

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

Water Transfer With Transaqua Will Bring Peace & Development to Lake Chad Basin

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The multi-nation Transaqua water infrastructure project can reverse the shrinking of Lake Chad and bring stability to the region and transform Africa. (picture courtesy of https://menafn.com/

October 1, 2020

This article from {MENAFIN}, The Key to Peace in the Lake Chad Area is Water Not Military Action, excerpted below, makes an important contribution for the need to construct the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project. The Abuja-2018 conference referred to in this article adopted Transaqua as the preferred solution to refurbish Lake Chad. I was a key speaker at the conference in Abuja and have been advocating for Transaqua for over 20 years. There will be no end to instability in the region until poverty is eliminated by transforming the economy. There is no lesser solution. We need bold resolute leaders to aggressively push forward for a feasibility study of Transaqua. Too much time has been wasted and too many lives have been lost due to inaction in the Lake Chad Basin.

Excerpts:

“Lake Chad is an extremely shallow water body in the Sahel. It was once the world’s sixth largest inland water body with an open water area of 25,000 km2 in the 1960s, it shrunk dramatically at the beginning of the 1970s and reduced to less than 2,000 km2 during the 1980s, decreasing by more than 90% its area. It is one of the largest lakes in Africa. It is an endorheic lake – meaning that it doesn’t drain towards the ocean…

“The Lake Chad region, however, is one of the most unstable in the world. According to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index report , countries of the region are among the 10 least peaceful countries in Africa…

“The study found that loss of livelihoods has promoted criminality, easy recruitment by terrorist groups, and migration to urban centres. This has also led to violence and crime in cities and towns. Management of the shrinking lake has caused conflicts among the states that depend on it and this has made it more difficult for them to collectively fight insecurity in the region. The lake is central to regional stability. To achieve peace, countries should focus on reviving the water body rather than on military activities…

“Loss of the traditional means of livelihood leads to widespread poverty and food insecurity. A 2017 report estimated there were about 10.7 million inhabitants of Lake Chad Region in need of humanitarian services…

“Further, Boko Haram has capitalised on the loss of livelihoods and economic woes to recruit people into its ranks. It either appeals to the poor ideologically or directly uses economic incentives…

“The Lake Chad Basin Commission has identified the need to replenish the water body. There was a plan to build a dam and canals to pump water from the Congo River to the Chari River, Central African Republic and then on to Lake Chad [Transaqua]. It was first mooted in 1982 by the Italian engineering company Bonifica Spa, and discussed at the International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja in 2018. Major challenges to this plan include funding, resistance from environmental campaigners and peaceful conditions in which to carry it out.”

Read The Key to Peace in the Lake Chad Area is Water Not Military Action

Read my earlier posts: Interview With Lawrence Freeman: The Time is Now For TRANSAQUA-to Save Lake Chad and Transform Africa

Save Lake Chad With Transaqua: Franklin Roosevelt and Kwame Nkrumah Would Concur

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

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

President Buhari and China Collaborate to Build Needed Railroads in Nigeria

July 28, 2020

Nigeria, and the whole of Africa desperately require electrical power and high-speed rail lines to become industrialized economically sovereign nations. Congratulations to President Buhari and China.

Map from Lagos, Nigeria to Maradi, Niger

 

Track Laying of Nigeria`s Lagos- Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Completed.

Russia Bringing Nuclear Power to Rwanda and Other African Nations. Resolving Libya Crisis Requires New Thinking

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands amid African heads of state
In a sign of the continent’s increasing importance for Russia, its president, Vladimir Putin, held the first Russia-Africa summit in October 2019

Ignoring the geo-political overtones from Deutsche Welle (see link below), the article does discuss Russia’s role in helping Africa to build nuclear energy plants, which are vital for the continent. Over 600 million Africans lack access to electricity. Over 1,000 gigawatts of additional power is urgently required. Nuclear power is the most efficient energy to preform work and power an industrialized economy, as well as an optimal energy source to desalinize water. Without abundant accessible electricity, Africa will not develop, and poverty and food shortages will continue. Production of energy and the elimination of poverty are essential for fighting COVID-19 and reducing all diseases in Africa, including cholera.

Excerpts below:

“Rwanda’s parliament has just approved a plan for Russia’s state-owned Rosatom nuclear conglomerate to build it a nuclear research center and reactor in the capital, Kigali.

“The Center of Nuclear Science and Technologies, planned for completion by 2024, will include nuclear research labs as well as a small research reactor with up to 10 MW capacity.

“Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia have signed similar deals with Rosatom, while countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Sudan and DRC have less expansive cooperation agreements…

“Rwanda’s planned research reactor will also be used to manufacture radioisotopes, according to Rosatom. Radioisotopes have many applications from irradiating food to increase its shelf life to helping diagnose tumors or heart disease.

“Such research reactors have “definite advantages” in fields such as nuclear medicine, nuclear scientist Michael Gatari, a professor at the University of Nairobi, told DW.

“In addition, on a continent where where more than half of the population lack access to electricity, there is “immense potential” for nuclear to provide a clean source of energy to meet Africa’s large energy deficit, the Center for Global Development study, Atoms for Africa, found.

“In the long term, a nuclear reactor generates electricity cheaper than we are paying now. It is also stable and produces no carbon emissions,” Gatari said in a phone interview from Nairobi.”

Read: Russia Building Nuclear Power In Africa

In my interview with PressTV, Watch: Ending Conflict in Libya Requires New Thinking, I discussed the necessity for a new approach to end the war in Libya. The West turned Libya into a failed state in 2011. Armies on the ground competing for territorial control will not be able to restore Libya’s sovereignty.

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

Developing Nations Must Have Steel to Industrialize: Congo`s Steel Industry is Ready to Pave the Future

Democratic Republic of the Congo (courtesy of indexmundi.com)

May 20, 2020

I am posting below in English and French, an interesting article by PD Lawton, a journalist and creator of the website: African Agenda-A new perspective on Africa– African Agenda. Lawton’s article  brings to our attention the importance for developing nations to have an iron and steel industry. The lack of steel production along with the absence of a vibrant manufacturing sector has prevented African nations from escaping underdevelopment imposed on them by colonialism.

Maluku Steel : the Time is Now!

Congo`s Steel Industry is Ready to Pave the Future

Excepts:

“The role of the Iron and Steel Industry in national industrialization is pre-eminent. This is because steel remains the basic raw material for a host of manufacturing activities and hence the material backbone for national economic development in general.”

They [ steel industries] are basically strategic industries that serve the long term industrial needs of a nation through their unique role as feeder channels to myriads of other key establishments. No serious programme of industrialization can be contemplated without a strong steel base, at least a steel base that would grow with the visualized scope of general industrialization over a set period.”

The Steel Industry will continue to serve as stimulus to national development and economy booster to industrial development of a country. The industry will serve as the backbone of industrialization of our great country, Nigeria if all the necessary parameters are put in place. The benefits of having a functional steel industry will translate to a functional country. It should also be noted that steel industry will contribute to all the facets of the economy, including the important role steel plays in economic development and growth.”

Read complete article below:

Maluku Steel : the Time is Now!

 

LA SIDÉRURGIE DE MALUKU : LE DÉMARRAGE, C’EST MAINTENANT!

 

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

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

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

Lawrence Freeman

May 15, 2020

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

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

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

Nigeria in Difficult Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethiopian & 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

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