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Thursday, May 17, 2012

When super-powered minorities take more than their share

A related report
Majorities go wanting; inequality unjustified, unfair, man-made
A timely report by Africa Progress Panel “Jobs, Justice and Equity — seizing opportunities in times of global change.”

Reports are fine but they go only as far as reports go. Then what?
Notes, editing, commentary
By Carolyn Bennett

 Progress overall “remains too slow and too uneven,” Kofi Annan says in the foreword to the 2012 Africa Progress Report.

Too many Africans remain caught in downward spirals of poverty, insecurity and marginalization.

Too few people benefit from the continent’s growth trend and rising geo-strategic importance.

Too much of Africa’s enormous resource wealth remains in the hands of narrow elites — increasingly, foreign investors — without being turned into tangible benefits for [Africa’s] people.

Africa Progress Panel , et.al. 
Africa Progress Report publisher 
“When assessing nations, we tend to focus too much on political stability and economic growth at the expense of social development, rule of law and respect for human rights.”

While “not all inequalities are unjust, the levels of inequality across much of Africa are unjustified and profoundly unfair. Extreme disparities in income are slowing the pace of poverty reduction and hampering the development of broad-based economic growth.

“Disparities in basic life-chances – for health, education and participation in society – are preventing millions of Africans from realizing their potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process.

“Growing inequality and the twin problems of marginalization and disenfranchisement are threatening the continent’s prospects and undermining the very foundations of its recent success.”

Careless Chasm of inequality

Echoing current events, the Africa Progress Panel, publisher of the report, says that across the world social movements are rising, societies are contesting what they view as “unacceptable levels of inequality.”

Painfully significant in the 2012 Africa Progress Report is that Africa’s “wealth disparities are among the biggest in the world.”

Another report
Twenty-four countries in Africa have higher inequality scores (measured by the Gini index’s higher index equaling greater inequality) than China’s 42 inequality score. In Mozambique, Kenya and Zambia, the Gini index is between 45 and 55. The inequality indexes for Botswana and South Africa exceed 60.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s “poorest 20 percent … typically receive 6 percent or less of national income.”  In Nigeria (home to Africa’s largest population), “the poorest 20 percent receive only 4 percent of national income, while the wealthiest 20 percent receive 53 per cent.”  Two-thirds of Nigerians are estimated to live below the poverty line.

In most cases the poorest 40 percent “receive less than 15 percent.” In many of Africa’s countries, the pattern of economic growth reinforces these inequalities.  Countries such as Kenya and Tanzania “have reduced poverty only modestly, despite the strong economic growth reported in national income accounts.”  Ethiopia and Senegal among other countries “have a stronger track record. Evidence from Rwanda, based on household surveys, “illustrates that a combination of robust economic growth and reduced inequalities can act as a powerful accelerant for poverty reduction.”  

Inequality slows the reduction of poverty and social disparities put the brakes on progress toward meeting UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) other than poverty, the report says.  “High levels of inequality act as a brake on growth, limiting the potential for development of markets and investment.”

Hunger: little change

More than one-third of child deaths in Africa are linked to malnutrition.

The estimated prevalence of undernourishment in Africa (in the years 1990-92 to 2006-08) “fell only from 31 percent to 27 percent.”

The proportion of children registered as underweight, in the 20-year period ending in 2009, “fell from 27 percent to 22 percent.”

An estimated 35 percent of Africa’s children are stunted, short height for their age, a condition that is largely irreversible by the age of two.  

Disease: little change

African inhabitants make up “the vast majority of the one million people killed each year by malaria.”  Children and pregnant women account for most of the victims of this disease.

Somali mother and child
Infant mortality rates for the poorest 20 percent in Nigeria are more than 50 percent higher than for the richest 20 percent. In many countries, living in rural areas magnifies the risk of infant death.”

My sense is that people don’t want charity, a kind of charity that is characteristically doled out by self-important self-centered people cashing in at other people's expense.

Man-made misery
U.S. drones continually
bomb, displace, destabilize
Somalis, Yemenis, Iraqis,
Afghans, Pakistanis, Ugandans ...
People want their fair share, their lives not interfered with by thieves and plunderers, fake humanitarians, proselytizers, and violent interventionists — left to find their own way, seeking equal partners where they choose, developing as they see fit. People have a right to their chance, their fair share; but the world order as it stands is obstructing their progress.

Millennium Development Goals
Basic rights to health, education, shelter and security for every human being on the planet

The current UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said, “Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time” and that ending it requires combined efforts of all sectors, private and public.

“The Millennium Development Goals,” he says, “set time-bound targets by which progress in reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion — while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability — can be measured.”  Ban Ki-moon acknowledges that these Goals are ambitious but they are also “feasible and set the course for the world’s efforts to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015.”

Why? Because we are one.

Mutually responsible
How?  By working together toward a common end – “making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere.”

Or is this just too much to ask of mere human beings? 

I don’t think so. I think we can because we are human beings and in that we are one.   

Sources and notes

“Jobs, Justice and Equity” Africa Progress Report 2012: “Seizing opportunities in times of global change,” Africa Progress Report 2012, May 17, 2012, http://www.africaprogresspanel.org/files/2913/3725/5551/APP_AR_2012_May17low-res_4web.pdf

The Africa Progress Report is the key publication of the Africa Progress Panel and its purpose is to provide an overview of the progress Africa has made over the previous year.

The report draws on the best research and analysis available on Africa and compiles it in a refreshing and provocative manner.

Through the report, the Panel recommends a series of policy choices and actions for international partners and civil society organizations with vested interests in Africa and African policy makers who have primary responsibility for Africa’s progress.

The members of the Africa Progress Panel are:

  • Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, a Nobel Laureate, and former UN Secretary-general
  • Michel Camdessus, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund
  • Peter Eigen, founder and chair of the Advisory Council Transparency International and chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
  • Bob Geldof, musician, business owner, founder and chair of Band Aid, Live Aid and Live8, co-founder of DATA and ONE advisor and advocate
  • Graça Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development and founder of New Faces New Voices
  • Linah Kelebogile Mohohlo, governor of the Bank of Botswana
  • Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria
  • Robert Rubin, co-chair of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Secretary of the United States Treasury
  • Tidjane Thiam, chief executive officer of Prudential Plc.
  • Muhammad Yunus, economist, Nobel Laureate, and founder of Grameen Bank

Africa Progress Panel, P.O. Box 157, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, info@africaprogresspanel.org; www.africaprogresspanel.org



“If these goals are achieved, world poverty will be cut by half, tens of millions of lives will be saved, and billions more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the global economy.”

Adopted by world leaders in 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions.  “The MDGs also provide a framework for the entire international community to work together toward a common end – making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere.

The eight Millennium Development Goals

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
 Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development (http://web.undp.org/mdg/basics.shtml)

Africa: Inequality Dooms 76 Million Children in Continent” (Desie Heita), May 15, 2012,

“Africa: Inequality Threatens Continent's Growth, May 15, 2012, http://allafrica.com/stories/201205150654.html




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