AfricaFocus Bulletins with Material on Aid, Poverty, & Public Investment - 2003-2006
Nov 15, 2006 Africa: Global Fund as Legacy of Innovation
After more than 20 hours of deliberations early this month, the
board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
was unable to agree on a new executive director. Despite the resulting delay,
some observers say the failure actually indicates how seriously the
Fund is taking its mandate to build a consensus between developed
and developing countries.
Nov 12, 2006 Lesotho: Anti-Corruption Actions
Search the World Bank's website section on anti-corruption
(http://www.worldbank.org/anticorruption) for "Lesotho" and you
will get the following response: Your search - Lesotho - did not
match any documents. No pages were found containing "Lesotho".
But while the World Bank may not be paying attention, the small
Southern African country has taken the lead in attacking
corruption in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, a giant scheme
financed by the World Bank itself.
Nov 5, 2006 Africa: Economics of Climate Change
"All countries will be affected. The most vulnerable - the poorest
countries and populations - will suffer earliest and most, even
though they have contributed least to the causes of climate
change." - Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
Nov 5, 2006 Africa: Up in Smoke?
"The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is historically a
result of rich world activity. Therefore to be fair, the rich world
should bear the full costs of adapting to climate change, at least
in the early years." - Working Group on Climate Change and
Oct 15, 2006 Africa: Green Revolution?
The Gates Foundation has joined with the Rockefeller Foundation in
promoting a new "Green Revolution" in Africa. But will the new
effort learn from the mistakes of earlier "Green Revolution"
initiatives? Sceptics say that the new proposals still disregard
the interests of small farmers and the environment.
Sep 30, 2006 Africa: Making Aid Multilateral
The current international aid system, says a new UN report, is
chaotic, and suffers from high transaction costs, politicization,
lack of transparency, incoherence, and unpredictability. What is
needed, says the report, is a shift to a multilateral model similar
to the Marshall Plan and to the European Community's regional
Sep 30, 2006 Africa: Innovative Financing
Beginning in July, international air travelers from France have
been paying a 4 euro tax on an economy ticket and 40 euros on a
first-class ticket, with proceeds going to pay for treatment of
children with AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Eighteen other
countries have pledged to implement the tax, including Brazil, the
United Kingdom, Norway, Mali, and South Korea.
Sep 16, 2006 Africa: Migration and Development
"[The] potential benefits [from international migration] are larger
than the potential gains from freer international trade,
particularly for developing countries," notes an extensive recent
United Nations report on migration. But while the liberalization of
the flow of goods and capital continues to increase, restrictions
on the movement of people are leading to thousands of deaths in
border areas such as the U.S. southwest desert and the sea routes
between Africa and Europe.
Sep 16, 2006 Africa: Migration and Rights
Chartered planes started flying illegal African immigrants back
from Spain to Senegal last week, resuming a repatriation program
aimed at stemming the flow of immigrants to this southern European
country. But judging by experience, the return is unlikely to stop
thousands of others from risking their lives in small boats to
reach the Canary Islands from the West African coast, or finding
other perilous ways of reaching the European continent.
Sep 10, 2006 Africa: Africa's Lakes
"For now, the future of Lake Chad does indeed look bleak. With a
high population growth rate, pressures on water resources in the
lake basin will invariably continue. While in the past Lake Chad
has been able to rebound from low to high water levels, climate
change and people's water use may now act in concert to block the
natural forces of recovery." - atlas of Africa's Lakes
Sep 10, 2006 Africa: Environmental Threats/Opportunities
Many of Africa's ecosystems are not just serving the region, but
the whole world, for example, through the carbon soaking value of
tropical forests. This alone probably equals or exceeds the current
or exceeds the current level of international aid being provided to
Jul 17, 2006 Africa: Real Aid?
World leaders gathered at the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia,
gave only token attention to Africa issues that had been a major
focus at last year's meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland. Although they
pledged to keep Africa on the agenda for Germany next year,
evaluations of the summit noted little progress beyond the pledges on
debt relief implemented over the past year.
Jul 17, 2006 Africa: Phantom Technical Assistance
"Technical assistance - donor spending on consultants, training and
research - is one of the most heavily criticised forms of aid. ...
[yet it is] still one of the most heavily used forms of aid,
accounting for between a quarter and a half of all ODA [Official
Development Assistance]." A significant proportion of this aid,
charges ActionAid in a new report, is both over-priced and
Apr 14, 2006 Africa: Stolen Wealth
"Corruption is bleeding Africa to death and the cost is borne by
the poor. ... Much of the money is banked in Britain or our
overseas territories and dependencies. ... We want our government
to get tough on corruption." - Hugh Bayley, MP, Chair of the Africa
All Party Parliamentary Group
Apr 2, 2006 Africa: User Fees
"The government of Zambia today (1 April) introduced free health
care for people living in rural areas, scrapping fees which for
years had made health care inaccessible for millions. The move was
made possible using money from the debt cancellation and aid
increases agreed at the G8 in Gleneagles last July, when Zambia
received $4 billion of debt relief; money it is now investing in
health and education." - Oxfam International
Apr 2, 2006 Africa: Social Transfers
According to a new research report from the UK Department for
International Development says social transfers - that is, regular
and predictable grants to households - can have significant
positive effects on human development for the poor, and
particularly on health and education, even when the grants are not
specifically targeted to those sectors. In other words, one of the
most immediate and effective remedies for poverty is money.
Mar 9, 2006 Africa: Digital Dumps
Recycled computers and other electronic equipment have the
potential to help bridge the digital divide. But, says a recently
published study by the Basel Action Network (BAN), many quickly
find their way to toxic waste dumps, being not economically repairable or
Feb 26, 2006 Kenya: Githongo Report
John Githongo, who resigned a year ago as Kenya's anti-corruption
chief, this month released a report on scandals he was
investigating that has already forced the resignation of Kenya's
finance minister and threatens to bring down other top officials.
The report is based on detailed records he kept during his
investigation, and spells out how officials used security contracts
worth as much as $1 billion to siphon off government funds into
Feb 21, 2006 East Africa: Dams and Lake Victoria
Low water levels in Lake Victoria, at their lowest point in 50
years, are threatening the livelihood of people dependent on
fishing, raising the prices of fish, and provoking shortages of
water for electricity generation. And now a new report charges that
the crisis is due not only to drought but also to overuse of the
lake's water for power generation by existing powerplants. At the
same time the Uganda government has signed a new $500 million
contract for building a third power plant, on the Bujagali Falls.
Environmentalists charge that the new plant is likely to have more
negative effects and that the hope of providing more electricity
will prove unsustainable.
Feb 8, 2006 Africa: Fix Resource Leaks
"What matters for ensuring that governments have adequate resources
to finance development are net flows. This means factoring in not
just inflows ... but also what is lost to the rest of the world.
Debt servicing is [only] one [such] outflow. ... Indeed, the
reality of Africa is that the resources that leak out far exceed
those that flow in." - Charles Abugre
Jan 31, 2006 Africa: Predictable Emergencies
"Imagine if your local fire department had to petition the mayor
for money every time it needed water to douse a raging fire. That's
the predicament faced by anguished humanitarian aid workers when
they seek to save lives but have no funds to pay for the water - or
medicine, shelter, or food - urgently needed to put out a fire." -
Jan Egeland, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs
Oct 18, 2005 Southern Africa: Food Emergency Shortfall
With attention diverted and disaster fatigue accentuated by
response to the hurricanes in North America, the UN's World Food
Programme (WFP) as well as private agencies are finding responses
slow to the earthquake in South Asia and to food crises in Africa.
The WFP appeal for Niger, which briefly hit world headlines in
July, has still only raised $36 million of its $58 million target;
the appeal for 12 million people in Southern Africa has only raised
$245 million out of an estimated $622 million needed.
Oct 3, 2005 Africa: Whose Energy Future?
With oil prices rising worldwide, African oil-producing countries
are expecting windfall earnings. Global oil companies and consuming
countries are giving even greater attention to Africa's oil. The
World Petroleum Congress, held last month in Africa for the first
time, in Sandton, South Africa, celebrated the potential. But a new
report from South Africa's groundWork questions the fundamental
structure of the oil industry on the continent.
Sep 15, 2005 Africa: Human Development Report
Among the many reports issued as world leaders gather in New York
to discuss their commitment to fighting world poverty, the annual
Human Development Report is among the most blunt in concluding that
the "promise to the world's poor is being broken." In addition to
documenting the failures and presenting its annual measurement of
the Human Development Index (HDI) for 177 countries, this year's
report identifies specific actions that could begin to reverse the
Sep 6, 2005 USA/Africa: Call for Food Aid Reform
On August 26, just before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of
the United States, the World Food Programme called for the
international community not to turn away from Niger, as food
contributions began to tail off with less than half of the budget
funded. As subsequent images of devastated New Orleans both
displaced and evoked comparisons with "Third World" catastrophes,
there was abundant material for reflection on U.S. and international
responses to entirely predictable disasters.
Jul 22, 2005 Niger: Background to Famine
With a BBC film crew in Niger broadcasting images of starving
children to the world, food aid shipments to the country are
starting to pick up. But UN under secretary-general for
humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland, who has repeatedly warned of
neglected emergencies in African countries, told reporters that if
donors had responded to earlier appeals, a child's life could have
been saved for little more than a dollar a day. Now the estimated
cost has risen to 80 times that, and for many it is too late.
Jul 13, 2005 Africa: G8 Reaction, Perspectives
"Outside of British officialdom," writes Sanjay Suri of Inter Press
Service from the Gleneagles summit, "celebrations of increased G8
aid for Africa were confined mostly to a population of two - rock
stars Bob Geldof and Bono." Non-governmental groups in the Make
Poverty History campaign, in contrast, were generally skeptical.
Jul 13, 2005 UK/Africa: The Damage We Do
"The African Union estimates that the continent loses as much as
$148 billion a year to corruption. This money is rarely invested in
Africa but finds its way into the international banking system and
often into western banks. The proceeds of corrupt practices in
Africa ... are often laundered and made respectable by some of the
most well known banks in the City of London." - Royal African
Jun 28, 2005 Africa: "Aid" Reality Checks
The world's richest nations greatly exaggerate the amount they
spend on aid to poor countries, says a study released by ActionAid
International. The report says that between 60%-90% of aid funds
are 'phantom' rather than 'real' with a significant proportion
being lost to waste, internal recycling within donor countries,
misdirected spending and high fees for consultants.
Mar 18, 2005 UK/Africa: Commissioning Development?
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report,
released earlier this month and intended to galvanize common action
by rich countries on African development, has received mixed
reviews. The report is largely a composite of frequently repeated
but not yet implemented proposals on issues such as increasing aid,
reducing rich-country trade subsidies, canceling debt, and
improving governance. It did, however, also feature new stress on
how rich countries themselves fuel corruption in Africa through
failure to stop money-laundering and bribery by their own
Feb 20, 2005 Chad: Oil Transparency Loopholes
Oil revenues for Chad are now beginning to increase rapidly from
the long-debated "model project" involving World Bank financing, a
pipeline through Cameroon, and a consortium of major oil companies.
A new report from two U.S.-based groups says the mechanisms for
transparency and accountability, while welcome, are still full of
Feb 11, 2005 Kenya: Corruption Fight Stalling
The resignation of respected anti-corruption campaigner John
Githongo from the Kenyan government has touched off new political
furor that seems certain to escalate in coming weeks. In its two
years in office, President Mwai Kibabi's government has initiated
numerous anti-corruption investigations. But there is widespread
skepticism that it has the will to deal with high-level corruption
within its own ranks.
Dec 14, 2004 Africa: Oxfam Poverty Report
In one of the first reports from a global coalition to make 2005 a
year of action against poverty, Oxfam International has issued a
report calling on rich countries to live up to their promises to
provide resources and opportunities to achieve the "Millennium
Development Goals" adopted unanimously by the United Nations in September 2000. Making
this finance available, Oxfam noted, is "both a moral obligation
and a matter of justice."
Apr 27, 2004 Africa: Learning to Survive
Universal primary education is "the single most effective
preventive weapon against HIV/AIDS," says a new report by Oxfam
International. But donor countries are failing to come up with even
the minimal funds they have pledged to support African countries
under an optimistically named "Fast Track Initiative" to expand
Apr 13, 2004 Africa: World Bank Industry Review
In 1996, in a report on Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa,
World Bank researchers wrote that poverty assessments "have done a
reasonably good job of identifying ... options that will assist the
poor ... " They added, however, that "these options, typically, are
not being reflected in the Bank's assistance strategies or
operations." This spring, as the World Bank delays consideration of
the report of its own Extractive Industies Review, there is a
similar disconnect between Bank-fostered proposals for internal
change and ongoing operations.
Apr 13, 2004 Africa: World Bank Protests/Policy
Controversies about the World Bank, which marks 60 years with its
spring meetings this month, are attracting less attention than the
high-profile debates about Iraq and terrorism. The Bank's policies
and programs, nevertheless, have profound effects on countries
around the world, and particularly in Africa. Both protesters and
other critics remain skeptical of this powerful institution's
claims to be fighting poverty and contributing to development.
Dec 15, 2003 Africa: Digital Solidarity Gap, 1
Delegates from 176 countries and as many as 10,000 representatives
of civil society and the private sector attended the World Summit
on the Information Society in Geneva last week. They dispersed
having filled dozens of web sites with documentation of the vast
digital divide between rich and poor, declarations of good
intentions, examples of promising initiatives, and decisions to
postpone controversial decisions on internet governance and a
proposed Digital Solidarity Fund.
Dec 15, 2003 Africa: Digital Solidarity Gap, 2
Meeting in Lyon, France just before the World Summit on the
Information Society, representatives of cities and local
authorities decided to take their own initiatives to address the
global digital divide. When the World Summit failed to make a firm
commitment to a new Digital Solidarity Fund, the mayors of Lyon and
Geneva joined with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to commit 1
million euros to launch the fund themselves.
Nov 16, 2003 Africa: Agriculture Strategic, Neglected
"Unfortunately, development partners have paid much less attention
to agriculture and rural development over the past two decades,"
commented Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a speech last week. "The World
Bank, the major funding source for Africa, targeted 39 percent of
its lending in 1978 to the agricultural sector in Africa. By 2002,
this proportion had dropped to 6 percent."