Africa:Why are we so poor? Yet we are so rich?

 

O

 

 

Africa’s poverty persists in the midst of a wealth of natural resources, estimated by the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa as including 12 percent of the world’s oil reserves, 42 percent of its gold, 80 to 90 percent of chromium and platinum group metals, and 60 percent of arable land in addition to vast timber resources.

 If these were idle, unexploited resources, it would be one thing.
 

However, the reality is that they are increasingly being exploited: investment and trade in Africa’s resources sector is on the rise, largely accounting for the sustained GDP growth rates witnessed over the last decade. The Economist magazine has reported increased foreign direct investment into Africa, rising from U.S. $15 billion in 2002, to $37 billion in 2006 to $46 billion in 2012.

 

While trade with China alone went up from $11 billion in 2003, to $166 billion in 2012, very little can be pointed to in commensurate changes in human development and fundamental economic transformation. It is multi-national corporations and a few local elites which are benefiting disproportionately from the reported growth – exacerbating inequality and further reinforcing the characteristic “enclave economy” structural defect of most African economies.

 
 

The disparity between sustained GDP growth rates and Africa’s seemingly obstinate and perverse state of underdevelopment, extreme poverty and deepening inequality brings to the fore issues of inclusivity and responsible governance of domestic resources. The question that is being asked by many – especially Africa’s young people who have assumed the agenda for economic transformation as a generational mandate – is this: Why are we so poor? Yet we are so rich?

Read more @http://allafrica.com/stories/201408120664.html

 

 

Africa: Illicit Financial Flows Drain US$55.6bn Annually from the Continent

O

Illicit Financial Flows Drain US$55.6bn Annually from African Continent

Only Ethiopia has lost $11.7 billion to illicit fund outflows in the last decade.  

A climate of corruption, Ethiopian edition

corruption-in-africaWorking Group Must Address Trade Misinvoicing and Role of U.S. Business and Government in Facilitating Illicit Finance to Be Truly Effective, Warns GFI

Illicit Financial Flows Drain US$55.6bn Annually from African Continent, Sapping GDP, Undermining Development, and Fueling Crime, Corruption, and Tax Evasion

August 7, 2014, WASHINGTON, DC (GFI) – Global Financial Integrity (GFI) welcomed the announcement from the White House and African leaders today regarding the establishment of a bilateral U.S.-Africa Partnership to Combat Illicit Finance, but the Washington-DC based research and advocacy organization cautioned that any effective partnership must be sure to address deficiencies in both the U.S. and in Africa that facilitate the hemorrhage of illicit capital from Africa.

“We welcome the move by President Obama and certain African leaders to form this partnership on curbing illicit financial flows from African economies,” said GFI President Raymond Baker, who also serves on the UN High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa. “Illicit financial flows are by far the most damaging economic problem facing Africa. By announcing the creation of the U.S.-Africa Partnership to Combat Illicit Finance, President Obama and African leaders have taken the first step towards tackling the most pernicious global development challenge of our time.”

GFI research estimates that illicit financial outflows cost African (both North and Sub-Saharan African) economies US$55.6 billion per year from 2002-2011 (the most recent decade for which comprehensive data is available), fueling crime, corruption, and tax evasion. Indeed, GFI’s latest global analysis found that these illicit outflows sapped 5.7 percent of GDP from Sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade, more than any other region in the developing world. Perhaps most alarmingly, outflows from Sub-Saharan Africa were found to be growing at an average inflation-adjusted rate of more than 20 percent per year, underscoring the urgency with which policymakers should address illicit financial flows.

The problem with illicit outflows from Africa is so severe that a May 2013 joint report from GFI and the African Development Bank found that, after adjusting all recorded flows of money to and from the continent (e.g. debt, investment, exports, imports, foreign aid, remittances, etc.) for illicit financial outflows, between 1980 and 2009, Africa was a net creditor to the rest of the world by up to US$1.4 trillion.

Trade Misinvoicing at the Heart of Illicit Outflows

According to GFI’s research, most of the illicit outflows from Africa—US$35.4 billion of the US$55.6 billion leaving the continent each year—occur through the fraudulent over- and under-invoicing of trade transactions, a trade-based money laundering technique known as “trade misinvoicing.” As GFI noted in a May 2014 study, trade misinvoicing is undermining billions of dollars of investment and domestic resource mobilization in at least a number of African countries. The organization emphasized the importance of ensuring that the new U.S.-Africa partnership prioritizes the curtailment of trade misinvoicing.

“The misinvoicing of ordinary trade transactions is the most widely used method for transferring dirty money across international borders, and it accounts for the vast majority of illicit financial flows from Africa,” said Heather Lowe, GFI’s legal counsel and director of government affairs. “While it is easy to place the blame for this on corrupt officials or transnational crime networks, the truth of the matter is that the bulk of these fraudulent trade transactions are conducted by normal companies, many of them major U.S. and European companies.”

Ms. Lowe continued: “Just yesterday, President Obama announced the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, a U.S. government initiative focused on boosting trade between U.S. and African companies, without a signal mention of the elephant in the room: trade misinvoicing. Increasing trade is important to boosting economic growth across Africa, but only if the trade is done honestly and at fair market values. The single most important step that wealthy nations like the U.S. can take to help African economies curtail illicit flows is to trade legitimately and honestly with Africa. While this topic was not addressed at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum yesterday, it must be on the table as the U.S.-Africa Partnership to Combat Illicit Finance commences its work.”

U.S. Must Clean Up Its Own Backyard

GFI further emphasized the need to address the role of the U.S. financial system as a major facilitator of such outflows.
“For every country losing money illicitly, there is another country absorbing it. Illicit financial outflows are facilitated by financial opacity in tax havens and in major economies like the United States,” said GFI Policy Counsel Joshua Simmons. “Indeed, the United States is the second easiest country in the world—after Kenya—for a criminal, kleptocrat, or terrorist to incorporate an anonymous company to launder their ill-gotten-gains with impunity.

“While governance remains an issue for many African countries, structural deficiencies in the U.S. financial system are just as responsible for driving the outflow of illicit capital. This initiative cannot place the onus entirely on the shoulders of African governments. The burden for curtailing these illicit flows must be shared equally by policymakers in the U.S. and in Africa for this partnership to be effective,” added Mr. Simmons.

http://ayyaantuu.com/africa/illicit-financial-flows-drain-us55-6bn-annually-from-african-continent/

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/01/25/ethiopia-reflecting-on-corruption-in-ethiopia/

Is Poverty the fault, crime, of the poor?

 

Odaa Oromoo

 

 

Poverty

 

 

The truth is that humanity must now confront, not just poverty, but a convergence of mega crises, all of which are deeply interconnected: Government corruption; ecological destabilization; structural debt; and hyper-consumerism established in the west and rapidly expanding worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

Right now, a long and complicated process is underway to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015, with new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These will set the parameters for international development for the next 15 years and every government, UN agency, large corporation and NGO, not to mention billions of citizens on the planet have a stake.

Judging by what’s being produced, though, we have a serious problem. The best way to describe it is with an old joke: There’s a man driving through the countryside, trying to find a nearby town. He’s desperately lost and so when he sees a woman by the side of the road he pulls over and asks for directions. The woman scratches her head and says, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.”

The best evidence of where the SDGs are starting from is the so-called “Zero Draft” document, first released on 3 June and currently undergoing exhaustive consultation.

First things to note are the big differences with the MDGs. Most strikingly, the SDGs suggest an end to poverty is possible in the next 15 years, whereas the MDGs aimed at halving it. The implication is that we’ve made amazing progress and are now on the home stretch. Secondly, the SDGs get serious about climate change. This is a major paradigm shift and, what’s more, they aim squarely at the heart of the problem: patterns of production and consumption. Impressive. Thirdly, reducing inequality “within and between” countries is included, with a goal of its own. This suggests another paradigm shift, and a controversial one because it opens the door, just a crack, to the idea that the extremely rich might be making an undue amount of their money off the backs of the extremely poor.

Of these three goals, it is fairly certain that two will disappear before the process concludes. There is no way the world’s rich governments and corporations will allow a meaningful challenge to production and consumption patterns, or a focus on reducing inequality. This is a given.

However, there is an even more important problem in the Zero Draft document which is that the very starting point of the issue is profoundly misconceived. How do we know? Because of the language. Language is a code that contains a lot more than its literal meaning, and an analysis of semantic frames in the Zero Draft exposes the logic upon which it is built.

Let’s take the opening paragraph:

“Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. We are therefore committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.”

Poverty can be conceptualised in many ways and in this passage it is presented as both a preventable disease (“to be eradicated”) and as a prison (“to free humanity from”). In both, the framing reveals the framers’ view, conscious or otherwise, on causation. Diseases are just part of the natural world, so if poverty is a disease, it suggest that it is something for which no-one is to blame. The logic of a prison meanwhile is that people are in it for committing a crime. The former denies the idea that human actions may be a cause of inequality and poverty; the latter invokes the idea that poverty is the fault – the crime – of the poor.

Also note the phrase: “the greatest global challenge.” This asserts a logic in which there is a hierarchy of individual issues based on relative importance, with poverty at the top. The truth, however, is that humanity must confront a convergence of mega-crises all of which are deeply interconnected. Government corruption, ecological destabilisation, structural debt, hyper-consumerism established in the West and rapidly expanding in the east and south, for example, are all closely linked. But framing poverty as “the greatest global challenge” conceals the web of interconnected systems and removes them from consideration. The result: No systemic solutions can arise from a logic that denies systemic problems.

There is a good reason for this: it protects the status quo. This logic validates the current system and ordering of power by excusing it of blame and says it can, indeed must, continue business as usual. This is the logic of the corporate capitalist system.

There’s no denying that some excellent progress has been made since 1990 – the year the MDGs measure from – but you don’t need to deny that to know there is something fundamentally wrong with a global economy in which, at a time when wealth grew by 66%, the ratio of average incomes of the richest 5% and the poorest 20% rose from 202:1 to 275:1. Or that the reality masked by the ratios is that one third of all deaths since 1990 (432 million) have been poverty-related. Using UN figures, that’s more than double the combined deaths from the Two World Wars, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Stalin’s purges, and all military and civilian deaths from the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. What’s more, even though we are now seeing around 400,000 deaths every year from climate change, we are pumping 61% more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere annually than we were in 1990.

The point is that, in light of the logic the language exposes – and we have mentioned just two of many possible examples telling the same story – any glorification of the SDGs we hear over the next year must be seen as reinforcing the logic their language contains.

To really tackle poverty, inequality and climate change, we would need to change that logic to one that is built on an acceptance of how much these problems are the result of human actions. And that the fact of living in poverty makes no inherent comment whatsoever on the person or people concerned, other than that they live in poverty. This in turn would make a wholly different type and scale of change feel like common sense. For example, it would feel obvious to work towards taxing carbon emissions at source and putting in place sanctions against those responsible for hoardingat least $26 trillion in tax havens. We would instinctively reach to introduce laws that give local authorities everywhere the right to revoke corporate charters for serious social or environmental misdeeds anywhere. And the big one: money. Ridiculous though it may sound, right now we allow private banks to control the supply of US dollars, euros and other major currencies that surge through the global economy. These banks charge everyone, including governments, interest on every note, thereby guaranteeing that a constant river of money flows into their coffers, along with immense power. But unfortunately, none of these issues will make it into the SDGs because they contradict the current, dominant logic, and what’s more, because they might actually work and redistribute power and wealth more equitably.

We compound our problems when we allow ourselves to be drawn into processes like the SDG-design are turning out to be. Every ounce of credence given to their frames helps weigh down the center of debate far from where it needs to be. Until the UN can use its powers, resources and privileges to promote policies that grow from the logic of its highest ideals, we may help it, the planet and each other best by divesting our attention from it and finding avenues for change that can.

This article was originally published by Common Dreams.

Read more @ http://commondreams.org/views/2014/08/06/hidden-shallows-global-poverty-eradication-efforts