Growing African economies that will work for African people

African market
Women at an African market

Tanzania just announced that it will dump English as its official language in schools, opting for Kiswahili instead. This morning, I read this article that somehow appears to suggest that this is a bad idea.

I must say I disagree, and below I’ll try to explain why.

When the colonial powers came to Africa, one of the first things they did was to impose their own languages as the language of learning in their territories. France imposed French in the various west African territories it colonised, Portugal imposed Portuguese, Holland imposed Dutch and Britain imposed English and so on. This had the effect of dividing communities which were otherwise related. The overall effect was to stop any hope of large countries the size of the Democratic Republic of Congo from ever emerging out of Africa. It was divide and rule of the purest form. Fragmentation – a cruel tactic designed to tie the future of those then colonies forever to the colonial powers.

So the english taught was not necessarily to be a conduit of knowledge transfer that would empower the colonies as some people would have you believe. Instead, it was a move to make sure that schools produced compliant subjects which could easily be manipulated, and do the bidding of the colonial masters in Europe.

And that is reason enough in my view for Tanzania to change the official language to Kiswahili, because the motive of colonised Tanzania having to communicate in foreign languages was entirely driven by foreign interests.

Secondly, groups of people often associate and define themselves as an ethnicity on various terms, but one of the most common denominators, other than ancestry is language. You identify as Chewa because your parents are Chewa and they spoke Chichewa, they lived in the land of the Chewa, their village was in the Chewa belt. Therefore you are Chewa.

This is the norm, not the exception.

So as Tanzanians, the question which the above article answers is that Kiswahili is a unifying force in Tanzania. It holds together the people, even though they are made up of 130 different ethnicities.

So why then should they conduct their lives based on an imported language when they have a language of their own?

Who’s interests does having English as an official language of education ultimately serve?

Why teach in English when students could learn in their own African language? Are people not proud of being African?

If the US, Britain or Spain is unlikely to begin teaching their students in Nyanja or Kiswahili which are African languages, why is it somewhat acceptable or expected for Africans to teach their students in foreign languages?!?

In any case, shouldn’t Tanzania develop an economy that first and foremost works for Tanzanians (if you can allow me to temporarily step out of my usual Pan-African shoes), people who are citizens of a sovereign country?

In the above article, the author quotes Ahmed Salim, a senior Associate at Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consultancy that works with U.S investors, who makes what I consider to be a hopelessly narrow-minded point:

However, in terms of overall impact, the main challenge will be felt long-term when companies set up shop in Tanzania and are left with hiring staff that are either bilingual Tanzanians or from neighboring Kenya or Uganda. This will somewhat hinder Tanzania’s competitive advantage in the future.”

Now, I’m not saying they should stop teaching English altogether, or that English isn’t an important international language. That’s not what I’m saying. Instead the argument for English is tied to this over-emphasis on foreign investment (money coming from the outside of Africa) to help and rescue Africans, to give them jobs and create an economy – as if Africans themselves couldn’t use their own resources to create economies that work for the benefit of African countries.

Tanzania has many natural resources including natural gas (See the following links Tanzania’s Natural Gas Reserves Almost Triple on New Finds ; Statoil makes another natural gas find offshore Tanzania ;  BG Group touts Pweza as its largest Tanzania gas find ). The country’s economy is growing at a rate of 7% which is quite high and above the international average. If those resources are utilised properly by the government of Tanzania for the benefit of the country’s citizens (as opposed to liberally auctioned-off to the highest corporate bidder) they could be a source of some serious economic development that would create jobs for young Tanzanians, investment into security, and used for infrastructure development, investment in Education, Healthcare and women’s issues.

That investment, derived from wholly Tanzanian owned resources, could be a serious game changer if utilised wisely.

But if some corporation is allowed to own a majority stake, or lions share of Tanzania’s Natural Gas resources, I can tell you now what difference it will make to the Tanzanian economy in the long run:

NONE.

The profits that corporation makes will be wired out of Tanzania to already developed and rich countries. Countries that needs the benefit of the resource much less, and that have billions in cash reserves to fall back on. And those profits will find their way into the fat pockets of already rich shareholders in those rich countries. Ultimately such funds will trickle down to contribute to the tax system of those already rich countries, benefitting their economies.

Meanwhile, poor Tanzanians already struggling with poverty, low incomes, unemployment, high cost of living, government corruption, who do not own property, poor healthcare in hospitals and the lack of medicines, no electricity in most areas, deforestation, poaching and lack of clean water in the villages will not have benefitted proportionately from such natural gas deals. Instead they will have to continue receiving handouts, breadcrumbs from aid organisations – when their country possesses the natural resources that could be used to create wealth for them…all just because of greed of some corporations

How absurd and stupid is that?

So the scare mongering self-serving attitude against Tanzania choosing to teach their students in Kiswahili is wrong, It’s anti-African and I vehemently disagree with such dishonest views.

Africans and other developing countries have been stamped on for too long. We must end this corporate driven theft and madness and begin to create economies which are designed to serve and benefit us as Africans, just as others have been building economies to benefit their own economies, and their own people.

The Last Words of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

If there was a country in Africa that had an admirable social welfare system, it was Libya. At the height of Gaddafi’s rule, Libya was the richest country in Africa and fewer people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands. However, recent reports about the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya, exposes the magnitude of lawlessness which has plagued the country since the fall of Gaddafi. Libya is currently ruled by militia groups who were once the united rebels who managed to topple Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. In early January 2015, the head of US Defense intelligence warned of the growing influence of ISIS in countries like Libya, which are compounded with governance issues. Currently, Libya has two governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk. And Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, is controlled by Islamist fighters with links to al-Qaeda.
In 2011, the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, travelled to Libya in the wake of a defeated Gaddafi. A jubilant crowd received Cameron and Sarkozy as the liberators of Libya that was to begin a new lease of life after Gaddafi’s tyrannical regime.

Cameron addressed the crowd saying “It is great to be in a free Benghazi and in a free Libya”.

Sarkozy also addressed the crowd and in his speech he had this to say, “You wanted peace, you wanted liberty, you want economic progress. France, Great Britain and Europe will be on the side of the Libyan people”

Cameron and Sarkozy reassured the population of Libya that Gaddafi was cornered and that Libya was to be free of his despotic rule.

The last minutes of Gaddafi’s life were captured on video by one of the rebel fighters Ali Algadi, who filmed a captured bloody and dazed Gaddafi. Both Gaddafi and his son Mo’atissim were captured alive, but were later reported to have died at the hands of the rebels who captured them in Sirte. Amnesty International and UN human rights officials raised concerns with the dubious way that Gaddafi and his son died, when conflicting reports of their deaths surfaced.

This should have been the first indication of what was to become of Libya which was once a prosperous and peaceful country. However, Libyans and the West hailed Gaddafi’s death as a victory for freedom and democracy, but what they did not realise is that some of the rebels they were aiding were Islamic radicals with known links to terrorist organisations.

Since the fall of Gaddafi, it is difficult to talk about Libya as a nation-state because the country has broken up into city-states. The central government which is supposed to be based in Tripoli has little control of affairs in a country which is ruled by about a 1000 militias. In 2012, the US ambassador to Libya was killed in Benghazi when a group of militants stormed his compound. In early 2014, there were attempts to unify Libya through a draft constitution, but the process failed miserably due to minimal support by the Libyans. Only 500,000 people participated in the votes of the draft constitution, when about 3 million people turned out to vote in the parliamentary elections in the previous year.

Since the fall of Gaddafi, Libyans have bemoaned the greed for power and money that has consumed militia groups who have reined terror in the once prosperous country. GlobalPost engaged with civilians on the streets of Tripoli and all of them complained about the current situation in Libya. On the streets, no one openly embraced Gaddafi’s rule, but in private many spoke fondly of the period before the revolution that was under Gaddafi’s rule. One rebel fighter said:

“I would say the majority of Libyans used to like Gaddafi and they still like Gaddafi especially now they see the chaos…But none of them can say this in public. In Gaddafi’s time we were all afraid of the regime, but now we have multiple powerful groups in Libya. Now you don’t know who could arrest you, detain you, beat you or even kill you without shame”

Another Tripoli native refused to believe that Gaddafi’s tenure was better even though a lot of people in Tripoli thought so. He believes that it is normal for a country to go through turmoil after a war, and he is optimistic that things will change in Libya.

It should be disheartening for some of the Libyan people to witness the destruction that has engulfed Libya since the fall of Gaddafi. NATO played a pivotal role in defeating Gaddafi, but they have chosen to ignore the chaos that is Libya today and leading western countries such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom, have all shut down their embassies. The task of brokering peace between the many militia factions in Libya has been left to the UN mediator, Bernadino Leon who has called it a difficult task.

Thus, it is not rash to suggest that the West should therefore bear a large part of the responsibility for the destruction of Libya because they were the ones who supported the rebels to topple Gaddafi. In fact some intellectuals have suggested that Western countries were at the forefront of orchestrating regime change in Libya, primarily because they were after oil, and profit from trading arms with the new regime that would be installed (see another source here). Whichever way one chooses to view the intervention, it was very premature for the West to support rebels they knew very little about, and evidently, we can all see now that their involvement in the Libyan civil war has helped to hand the country over to militias and Islamic fundamentalists of all shades.

The change the West promised the Libyan people is a far cry from the benefits that the Libyan citizen used to enjoy under Gaddafi’s rule. Under Gaddafi’s rule some of the benefits for a Libyan citizen included free electricity, no interest on bank loans, all newlyweds would receive US$50,000 from the state to buy an apartment, the country had no external debt and 87 percent of the population was literate. Gaddafi was indeed a dictator, and like all dictators, had a long list of imperfections and human rights abuses to his name. No one sensible can condone that list of errors.

But if you take an objective view of the situation from then and up till now, then it is clear that recent events in Libya prove that the country was far better off under Gaddafi’s rule, than under the so-called NTC government (and subsequent governments of the General National Congress and Council of Deputies), which again and again have demonstrated their failure to govern or unite the country.

The last words of  a bloodied Gaddafi did not make sense when he posed the question to his captors,

“Do you know right from wrong?”

After all the bloody chaos (recently the beheading of Coptic Christians by Isis), one would hope that some of those militants who blindly fought Gaddafi’s rule under some misguided anti-dictator cum liberation sentiment now know right from wrong.

Links

Inequality in graphs and images

Lately, talk of inequality has dominated the media. Everybody is talking about it. Probably because of this year’s Davos Summit, but everyone seems to be keen on reminding us just how economically unbalanced the world is. Just how a few people own huge amounts of wealth, while the rest live on breadcrumbs.

Global Wealth 14Yesterday, it seems Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England entered the fray, when he said:

“Without this risk sharing, the euro area finds itself in an odd position,”

While the context of Mr Carney’s statement may have been different to the subject of this post, and directed more to institutions on a country level, on a personal level, I don’t believe in the RobinHoodesque notion of ‘stealing’ from the rich to give to the poor. I don’t believe that such an approach works because it’s a dangerous idea that is not only open to abuse, but that can backfire. And before you jump on me and criticise my socialist credentials, let me qualify it.

I know inequality is real, and I know its crippling effects on people and communities across the world, especially in poor countries.

My contention is that if people work hard to earn their money, if they pay their taxes and do not accrue wealth using dodgy (or outright illegal means); if they do not use tax havens or other immoral ways of depriving governments of the much-needed lifeblood of corporation tax; if these business magnets are no more than scions bequeathed of inherited blood money (money tarnished with the proceeds of slavery and colonisation), if they have earned their way to the top, why should anybody sensible think it is a good idea to take it away from them?

Why!?

wealth-gap-2I believe in fairness, I believe that corporations must pay their fair share in taxes. That the government must act in the interests of the people, not just working for the interests of corporations. I believe that those who are rich, or who have the means, must do more to help the disadvantaged – whose spending ironically often drives the profits. Doing all these things will likely lead to less inequality, less strife, and better social harmony.

And here’s why:

If you look at recent events, not only comments made at Davos, what you find is that it’s not so much that the money isn’t there. Instead the problem is that the money which is made on the back of extremely liberal national and international tax regimes – is stashed away in enclaves where cash-strapped governments be they in Africa or elsewhere cannot get to it.

As a result the government cannot sufficiently invest in services, cannot create jobs or help those at the bottom of the pyramid improve their lives. This increases inequality, including spurning side effects such as crime and social unrest.

So then, where’s a good place to start, when addressing this problem of inequality?:-

1. Change the laws to ensure that companies pay a fair share in taxes from the revenues they generate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Essentially, it also means being firm with tax havens to reveal the sources of blood money or any untaxed funds.

offshore_tax_jurisdictions

2. Crack down on corruption, and stop illicit financial outflows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. Streamline services (a streamlined small government that is cheaper and efficient to run is preferrable to an inefficient large and bloated government that is expensive to run).

4. Stop unnecessary privatisation. But encourage responsible Investment

US_Africa_Summit_Day_1If you privatize everything, from where will the state earn its income??

Everybody knows that employment tax revenues are not a sufficient revenue source. That’s why there are so many governments across the world that have budget deficits, simply because all the tax companies pay plus the tax their employees pay – IS NOT ENOUGH to sustain all the functions of government. From Britain, the US, France, Ireland, Italy and Greece to South Africa, Malawi,  Ethiopia and Mozambique, and many others, budget deficits and debt are commonplace. As a consequence most of these countries fail to adequately invest in healthcare, in poverty alleviation, in education, in job creation for young people, in women’s health and advancement…because there isn’t enough money coming into the government coffers for them to spend on these things.

Simply put, the state has no full-time job and is only employed part-time. So how the hell can it spend, or raise its family properly?

5. Instead of privatisation, countries should enter into joint venture partnerships with businesses, for win-win deals because these will not only provide tax revenues from employment tax, and corporation tax,  but will additionally earn the government dividends (which can be significantly higher than corporation tax and employment tax combined).

CossartDevelopment_webfg2

It also means deals that involve raw materials should principally benefit the people of the country in which the raw material is first (NOTE I’m not using ‘politicians’ or a country’s leaders here. Contracts must benefit the people not a handful of politicians). As I like to put it, when was the last time an African mining company was given a 70% mining/ oil drilling stake in Europe or the Americas?

africas-natural-resource-wealth6. Empower young people by training them to acquire advanced entrepreneurial skills so that they become assets capable of adding real value to communities.

Providing Aid is not good enough, emphasis on ‘Trade not Aid’ (other than Fairtrade or better) is becoming cliché. Further, I think the advantages of possessing a first degree are overstated. In my experience they rarely equip students with entrepreneurial skills.

business-paper-clipWhat is required to begin denting inequality is to train young people to be ‘go-getters’. And that is a different ball game altogether over and above merely providing a quality education.

7. Finally invest in services (hospitals, transport, policing and security, infrastructure, the youth and women, etc) including investing in things like ecofriendly energy. Because if everybody paid their dues, such investment would create jobs. And they’d be enough funds for people to receive living wages.

14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax

Its anybody’s guess how true some of the allegations in the link below are, but probably not something to read on a Saturday morning 😐 .

What is clear is that Western Countries like France have had a huge and unfair economic advantage over non-western countries, and some of their policies (which are precisely the policies which gave them that unfair economic advantage) towards former colonies were clearly and undeniably oppressive.

The reason I don’t buy the BS which goes something like:”Stop moaning, others like South Korea have moved on from the colonial bashing….and are now prosperous” is that unlike any of the African countries, South Korea got a huge grant of at least $3 billion dollars (others researchers say it was tens of billions of dollars: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/1/3/6/7/p113675_index.html ) between 1965 -73 to build up its economy.

So South Korea was given huge amounts of money to build its economy. It didn’t just happen accidentally. It is an ignorant fallacy to claim that with the problems facing African countries can just be transformed using aid, diplomacy or education.

I think, considering that western politicians have failed miserably to use aid to solve Africa’s major problems the last 60 years (not that it was their call to do so – but their predecessors were part of the problem that created unquantifiable damage to Africa), in so far as sustainability is concerned, so as to remedy Africa’s problems, it is most probably time for educated African entrepreneurs (not Politicians) to be given ‘reparatory grants’ to rebuild their countries’ economies. Anything short of massive and reparatory investment into Africa is unlikely to create sustainable economies where the Africans themselves are in charge, and in control of their countries economies. After years of study, observation and obsessive inquiry, I’m convinced this (or a derivative form thereof) has to be part of the equation to rectifying the troubles in Africa.

14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax via Systemic Capital.com