, Paris, France, Dec 29 – As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.
But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.
Here are some of the key issues:
— Youth ‘explosion’ —
Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.
“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.
“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”
Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.
The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
— Poverty and inequality —
The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.
But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).
“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.
Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”
“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”
— Mega-cities and countryside —
Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.
More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.
In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.
But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.
“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.
“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”
— Lost decades of growth —
Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.
Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.
“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.
The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.
The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”
— New thinking needed —
Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.
“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.
He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.
For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”
“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.
“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.
“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”
— Governance problem —
Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.
Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.
“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.
“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”
Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”
Political power play disrupted as teams formed to lead pandemic war
As the coronavirus crisis deepens, President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to have used the opportunity to solidify the workings of the administrative state — having liquefied the political state for the last one year.
A look at who is who in the newly-formed National Co-ordination Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is an indicator of the people that the President hopes to rely on as the country goes through one of the worst health crisis in recent history.
With most of the politicians cut from the war against coronavirus, it is the government administration structure that has taken over, with regional commissioners being in charge at the county levels.
Internal documents indicate that President Kenyatta has given Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i powers to appoint several ad-hoc committees, which are working behind the scenes to contain the crisis.
Before the coronavirus gust disrupted the political stage and threw the politicos off-balance, Dr Matiang’i had become the dominant face of the administrative state — thanks to his position as the Interior CS and as the chairperson of the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee, whose mandate is to supervise the execution of government programmes.
Dr Matiang’i now has the mandate to chair the co-ordination committee on coronavirus. Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, Treasury’s Ukur Yatani, Monica Juma (Defence), Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Joseph Mucheru (ICT and Youth Affairs) sit on the committee.
Others in this committee include Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe and National Intelligence Service Director General Major-General Philip Kameru.
Also sitting in the committee is Council of Governor Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
On Monday while making the decision by the National Security Council on strict movement into and within Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa, it was apparent that Deputy President William Ruto, who ought to be a member of the council, was missing in action. He has not been included in any of the committees.
Again, the media briefings have been left to Mr Mutahi Kagwe, who is less confrontational with reporters and displays better command and control of the meetings.
At times, Mr Kagwe has been delegating the duty to the Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi with technical support from Dr Patrick Amoth, the director-general of Health.
Previously, the President had appointed a National Emergency Response Committee chaired by Mr Kagwe. It has now been expanded and in the new arrangement, Education CS George Magoha, a medical doctor, will now be sitting in this committee together with principal secretaries Belio Kipsang and Simon Wabukwesi.
Also brought in is Lt Gen Robert Kibochi, the vice-chief of the Defence Forces and Kang’ethe Thuku, the Principal Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Interior.
The inclusion of the military in the arrangement means that the coronavirus pandemic is turning to be a national emergency.
Also established is the National Economic and Business Response working group, which is mobilising resources and conducting household impact assessment. Already, chiefs have been mobilised in various counties to list down the vulnerable members, with fear that the pandemic will take its toll on the poor and the elderly.
The economic team is chaired by National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani and has among its members Industrialisation CS Betty Maina, Adan Mohammed East African Community), Najib Balala (Tourism) and Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge.
The President seemed to indicate that the war on corruption would go hand in hand with the fight against the coronavirus by instructing Treasury to allocate the Sh2 billion recovered by the Asset Recovery to the vulnerable within the community.
“Our fight in this area continues,” said the President.
Besides disrupting the political power play, the pandemic will also leave a major gap in the coffers and might mean that President Kenyatta’s Big Four legacy will be in trouble.
Covid-19: Boris Johnson taken to intensive care
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been taken into intensive care in hospital with coronavirus after his condition worsened, according reports by the UK media.
Mr Johnson had been admitted to hospital for further tests Sunday evening, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus.
Mr Johnson on March 27 said he was experiencing mild symptoms of the virus and had to self-isolate. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he said via Twitter.
Queen Elizabeth on Monday thanked frontline workers in their efforts against the pandemic. “We will succeed. We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again,” she told the nation.
The UK’s death toll has increased to 4,934, as worldwide cases jump to 1,266,782 – 69,177 people have died and 261,132 have recovered.
Parliamentary sittings put off after Uhuru’s movement order
Sittings of the National Assembly and the Senate which had been scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday have been postponed indefinitely, Speakers Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka have announced.
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the Speakers said the move was as a result of a directive announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta banning movement in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Civid-19) pandemic.
Kenya has so far recorded a total of 158 coronavirus cases with 82 per cent of them being reported in Nairobi and another 14 per cent in the counties of Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa.
It is for this reason that the President announced the cessation of all movement by road, rail or air in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area and the three Coast counties.
This has in turn affected the sitting of the Senate scheduled for Tuesday April 7 and that of the National Assembly scheduled for Wednesday.
“In the circumstances, it has therefore become necessary to inform you that it will not be possible to hold the Sittings of the Houses of Parliament as scheduled, until further notice.
“The leadership of the two Houses is consulting and shall advise on the means by which urgent business that is before the Houses of Parliament shall be transacted remotely and members shall shortly be advised on this,” the Speakers said in their statement.
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