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Avoiding a Jobs Crisis in Africa is a Global Responsibility



This month, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim shocked the international aid community with his announcement that he will leave his post on 1 February — more than three years before his term expires. With his departure, Kim emphasised that “the work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world…” But as Kim steps down, many of the Bank’s current efforts to end poverty and meet these aspirations are still ramping up.

In Africa, the biggest threat to poverty reduction is an imminent shortage of jobs. The World Bank estimates that Africa’s working-age population will grow by 70% (450 million) between 2015 and 2035.Where will Africa find the jobs needed for such a rapidly growing, young population?

In the past, the answer has been industry. In East Asia for example, large numbers of workers left agriculture and moved to manufacturing — boosting economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. But Africa has deindustrialized; its share of global manufacturing is smaller than in 1980. Today, 75% of new labour market entrants are self-employed or find work in microenterprises, 20% work in the service sector, and just 5% work in industry. If these trends continue, less than a quarter of Africans expected to reach working age over the next two decades can hope to find decent work.

This jobs crisis is emerging against stiff competition from East Asia’s highly productive — and relatively low-wage — manufacturing sector, and a global decline of industrial employment and output. And while resource-abundant economies, like many of Africa’s, have difficulty industrializing, the continent must also adapt to the growth of global value chains that depend on the capacity to move goods cheaply and efficiently — an area in which Africa has not excelled.

But there is also good news. Research by the United Nations University and the Brookings Institution shows that the same trends that limit Africa’s opportunities in industry also create a growing number of tradable services and agri-businesses — including horticulture — that share the ability to create jobs.

These “industries without smokestacks” are among the most dynamic sectors of Africa’s economies. And, because tradable services (e.g. tourism and remote office services), agro-industry (e.g. fruit juices), and horticulture (e.g. cut flowers and ready-to-consume vegetables) share many characteristics with manufacturing, policies designed to promote the growth of manufacturing — such as improving trade logistics, investing in infrastructure and skills, and promoting exports — promote them as well.

The international community has a major stake in creating jobs in Africa. Solving the looming jobs crisis is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to achieving social and political stability across the continent. The good news is that with modest support from the international community, industry — with and without smokestacks — can create good jobs in Africa.

There are three actions for trade and one for aid, that would help support the needed job creation.

First, collective action is needed to boost African manufacturing and services exports. The small size of Africa’s economies means that exports are essential to the growth of jobs. The first order of business is to resist the rising tide of protectionism. The World Trade Organization negotiations on agricultural and manufactured goods trade have faltered and the United States has retreated from its leadership on trade. In its place, China, India, and Brazil have begun to play more prominent roles in world trade talks. They must step up to defend the multilateral rules that keep markets open.

Second, Africa’s main trading partners — especially those in Asia — should ease the entry of non-traditional African exports. A major step would be to reduce the tariffs on processed commodities that discourage the formation of agro-industrial value chains. China could play a leading role by shifting its preferential trade agreements with Africa from country-by-country bilateral deals to a single well-publicized Africa-wide initiative, and by pushing its Asian trading partners to offer similar preferences. Existing preference systems, such as the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act and the EU Economic Partnership

Agreements can be strengthened, and if there is a bright spot to “Brexit”, it may be the opportunity for the UK to develop its own system of preferences for African exports.

Third, fully implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is a priority. By reducing the costs of exporting, trade facilitation supports the growth of existing exporters and enables new firms to export for the first time. The WTO estimates that full implementation of the TFA could reduce trade costs for Africa by more than 16%. After a slow start, the WTO Aid-for-Trade initiative is finally mobilising additional resources for trade-related infrastructure and deploying them where most needed. This momentum should be sustained.

Finally, infrastructure — particularly electric power, roads and railways — is essential to industry. Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been a key source of infrastructure finance, but in recent years, financing through the concessional windows of the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) has declined. Governments in Africa from Angola to Zambia have turned to private borrowing, and there are early warnings of debt distress in some. A better alternative would be to allow creditworthy countries to borrow from the non-concessional windows of the World Bank and other MDBs. Blend financing — using concessional and non-concessional loans — and guarantees of private lending to finance infrastructure would yield higher benefits to Africa’s economies than recourse to private markets.

If these four steps are taken, the looming jobs crisis in Africa can be avoided, bringing stability and prosperity to the continent and beyond.

Jim Kim is leaving his position with the job of global poverty eradication unfinished. It’s now up to the international community to pick up the reins and continue this work where it is most needed: Africa

John Page is a senior researcher at the UN University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and the Brookings Institution. He has spent the last decade doing research on structural change, jobs, and industrial development in Africa.

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Torture is ‘widespread’ and likely underestimated in DR Congo

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School children in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, take part in a parade ceremony of the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organized by the UN Joint Human Rights Office. (file) MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh

Torture is “widespread” and underestimated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the abuse involves armed groups and State forces, UN investigators said on Wednesday.In findings issued in a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in DRC (UNJHRO) and the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), the authors indicated that 93 per cent of the 3,618 registered cases of “torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” affecting 4,946 victims had happened in areas experiencing conflict.

Of that total, covering the period between 1 April 2019 and 30 April 2022, there were 492 cases of sexual violence, affecting 761 victims.

Torture can never be justified, no matter the circumstances or the context. The DRC authorities must act with urgency and determination to put an end to this scourge,” said Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, in a statement.

Responsibility shared

Members of the DRC’s defence and security forces were responsible for 1,293 cases, according to the report, while 1,833 cases were attributed to armed groups. “In certain contexts, (they) subjected victims to torture in collusion with members of the security forces,” it said.

Victims suffered torture and ill-treatment either during detention or “while exercising their fundamental rights, such freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or during detention”, the report’s authors continued.

Highlighting the low number of complaints filed against perpetrators and the “widespread nature of torture” compared with the “magnitude of the violations”, the report explained that only two army officers, 12 national police officers and 75 members of armed groups were convicted of torture during the reporting period.

‘Hate speech’ surging

The development comes amid concerns that the DRC has been gripped by a ‘proliferation’ of hate speech, just 12 months ahead of presidential elections.

In a scheduled debate at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, also expressed deep concern about the alarming security situation in the east of the country, where two provinces have been placed under military rule since May 2021.

Withdrawing UN peacekeepers MONUSCO from the country “could have serious consequences on the human rights situation in the east of the country and the sub-region”, said Christian Jorge Salazar Volkmann, Director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at OHCHR.

Member States at the Geneva forum heard that although armed groups carried out most rights violations and abuses between 1 June 2021 and 31 May 2022, DRC security personnel were responsible for over four in 10 cases, out of an overall total of 6,782.

The military rule in Ituri and Nord Kivu provinces which came into effect on 6 May 2021 “do(es) not appear to have deterred armed groups from attacking civilians, particularly in internally displaced persons sites”, said Mr. Volkmann.

Some 2,413 people – 1,778 men, 471 women and 164 children – had been killed by armed groups in the first year of military rule in the two provinces, he said, compared to 1,581 people (1,076 men, 365 women and 140 children) during the previous 12-month period.

Nearly 5.5 million people had been forced from their homes by the violence, amid a resurgence of the M23 armed group in Nord Kivu’s Rutshuru province, which has attacked DRC “defence and security forces, civilians and (UN peacekeeping Mission) MONUSCO”, the OHCHR official added.

Militia rule

Other attacks by militias the ADF and CODECO against civilians and humanitarians “may constitute serious crimes under international law”, Mr. Volkmann said, in an appeal for an end to the violence and a nationally-led demobilization and reintegration plan. 

While welcoming the life sentence handed down to Mihonya Chance Kolokolo, leader of militia group Raïa Mutomboki, for crimes against humanity and war crimes including the recruitment and use of children, rape, murder and the violation of natural reserves in South Kivu, the UN human rights official highlighted the “slow pace” of justice for “almost all” priority cases committed by Kamuina Nsapu armed group between 2016 and 2018 in the Kasai region.

To tackle hate speech, OHCHR has recommended practical measures to the authorities in the DRC.

These include implementing a proposed law on racism, tribalism and xenophobia which is under discussion in Parliament.

“One year before the next presidential elections, it is important that the alleged perpetrators of these messages be brought to justice and held accountable, and to prevent the security situation from further deterioration,” said Mr. Volkmann.

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Five years of violence in northern Mozambique has forced nearly a million to flee

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Nearly one million people have fled extreme violence perpetrated by non-State armed groups in northern Mozambique over the past five years, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday. As the conflict in Cabo Delgado province has not subsided, UNHCR is appealing for both an end to the bloodshed and greater international support for the displaced and local communities hosting them. 

The situation has had a devastating impact on the population, Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh told journalists in Geneva. 

Beheadings, rapes and burnings 

“People have witnessed their loved ones being killed, beheaded, and raped, and their houses and other infrastructure burned to the ground,” he said

“Men and boys have also been forcibly enrolled in armed groups. Livelihoods have been lost, and education stalled while access to necessities such as food and healthcare has been hampered. Many people have been re-traumatized after being forced to move multiple times to save their lives.” 

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate, with displacement figures increasing by 20 per cent, to over 946,000 in the first half of this year. 

Neighbouring province affected 

The violence has now spilled into the neighbouring province of Nampula, where four attacks were reported in September affecting at least 47,000 people and displacing 12,000. 

“People displaced during those latest attacks told UNHCR that they are scared and hungry. They lack medicine and are living in crowded conditions – with four to five families sharing one house,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

“Some sleep under open skies. Lack of privacy and exposure to cold at night and the elements during the day, create additional safety and health concerns, particularly for women and children.” 

Meeting the needs

UNHCR has been responding to the needs of displaced populations in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces, through humanitarian assistance and protection support. 

Staff are providing shelter and household items, helping survivors of gender-based violence with legal, medical, and psycho-social support, and supporting displaced people to obtain legal documentation. UNHCR also supports those at higher risk, including children, people with disabilities, and older persons. 

The agency requires $36.7 million to deliver life-saving protection services and assistance in Mozambique but has so far received around 60 per cent of the funding. 

Promoting safe returns

Despite ongoing displacement in Cabo Delgado, some people have returned to their homes in areas they perceive as safe, said Mr. Saltmarsh.

Last month, UNHCR and partners conducted the first protection assessment mission to Palma, a town in the far north-east which saw deadly attacks in March 2021. Most of the 70,000 residents were displaced and the majority have returned in recent weeks.

“People who have lost everything are returning to areas where services and humanitarian assistance are largely unavailable. UNHCR is concerned about the risks people face should they continue to return to their areas of origin before conditions are stabilized,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

Danger remains 

While UNHCR is in favour of returns when they are voluntary, safe, informed and dignified, current security conditions in Cabo Delgado are too volatile for people to go back to the province. 

“However, growing protection needs and limited services for those who have chosen to return home must still be urgently addressed by relevant stakeholders, including authorities and humanitarian actors,” he said. 

In the interim, UNHCR is working closely with the Mozambican government and other partners to support and advocate for the inclusion of all displaced populations in national services.  

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Critical Views On Russia’s Policy Towards Africa Within Context Of New World Order

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In September WhatsApp conversation with Matthew Ehret, a Senior Fellow and International Relations Expert at the American University in Moscow, he offers an insight into some aspects of Russia-African relations within the context of the emerging new global order. 

In particular, Matthew gives in-depth views on Russia’s valuable contribution in a number of economic sectors including infrastructure development during the past few years in Africa, some suggestions for African leaders and further on the possible implications of Russia-China collaboration with Africa. Here are important excerpts of the wide-ranging interview:

What are the implications here and from historical perspectives that Russia is looking for its allies from Soviet-era in Africa…and “non-Western friends” for creating the new world order?

Russia is certainly working very hard to consolidate its alliances with many nations of the global south and former non-aligned network. This process is hinged on the Russia-China alliance best exemplified by the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union with the Belt and Road Initiative and the spirit of cooperation outlined in the the Feb. 4 Joint Statement for a New Era of Cooperation.

Of course this is more than simply gaining spheres of influence as many analysts try to interpret the process now underway, but has much more to do with a common vision for instituting a new system of cooperation, creative growth and long term thinking uniting diverse cultural and religious groups of the globe around a common destiny which is a completely different type of paradigm than the unipolar ideology of closed-system thinking dominant among the technocrats trying to manage the rules based international order.

Soviet Union, of course, enormously supported Africa’s liberation struggle and resultantly attained political independence in the 60s. What could be the best practical way for Russia to fight what it now referred to as “neocolonialism” in Africa?

Simply operating on a foundation of honest business is an obvious but important thing to do. The African people have known mostly abuse and dishonest neo-colonial policies under the helm of the World Bank and IMF since WW2, and so having Russia continue to provide investment and business deals tied to the construction of special economic zones that drive industrial growth, infrastructure and especially modern electricity access which Africa desperately needs are key in this process.

African countries currently need to transform the untapped resources, build basic infrastructure and get industrialized -these are necessary to become somehow economic independent. How do you evaluate Russia’s role in these economic areas, at least, during the past decade in Africa?

It has been improving steadily. Of course, Russia does not have the same level of national controls over their banking system as we see enjoyed by China whose trade with Africa has attained $200 billion in recent years while Russia’s trade with Africa is about $20 billion. But despite that, Russia has done well to not only provide trains in Egypt, and has made the emphasis on core hard infrastructure, energy, water systems, and interconnectivity a high priority in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit and the upcoming 2023 Summit.

Generally, how can we interpret African elite’s sentiments about Russia’s return to Africa? Do you think Russia is most often critical about United States and European Union’s hegemony in Africa?

I think the over arching feeling is one of trust and relief that Russia has returned with a spirit of cooperation. According to all the messaging from Lavrov who recently completed an important Africa tour late July, I can say that Russia is very critical of the USA and EU approach to hegemony in Africa. As Museveni and the South Africa Foreign Minister have recently emphasized, they are sick of being talked down to and threatened by western patronizing technocrats, whereas we see a sense of mutual respect among the discourse of Russian and Chinese players which is seen as a breath of fresh air. 

While the west is obsessed with “appropriate green technologies” for Africa while chastizing the continent for its corruption problems (which is fairly hypocritical when one looks at the scope of corruption within the Wall Street- City of London domain), Russia supports all forms of energy development from coal, oil, natural gas and even nuclear which Africa so desperately needs to leapfrog into the 21st century.

Understandably, Russia’s policy has to stimulate or boost Africa’s economic aspirations especially among the youth and the middle class. What are views about this? And your objective evaluation of Russia’s public outreach diplomacy with Africa?

So far Russia has done well in stimulating their youth policy with expanded scholarships to African youth touching on agricultural science, engineering, medicine, IT, and other advanced sectors. Additionally the Special Economic Zones built up by Russia in Mozambique, Egypt have established opportunities for manufacturing and other technical training that has largely been prevented from growing under the IMF-World Bank model of conditionality laced loans driven primarily by the sole aim of resource extraction for western markets and overall control by a western elite. Russia has tended to follow China’s lead (and her own historic traditions of aiding African nations in their development aspirations) without pushing the sorts of regime change operations or debt slavery schemes which have been common practice by the west for too long.

Sochi summit has already provided the key to the questions you have, so far, discussed above. Can these, if strategically and consistently addressed, mark a definitive start of a new dawn in the Russia-African relations?

Most certainly.

Geopolitical confrontation, rivalry and competition in Africa. Do you think there is an emerging geopolitical rivalry, and confrontation against the United States and Europe (especially France) in Africa? What if, in an alliance, China and Russia team up together?

China and Russia have already teamed up together on nearly every aspect of geopolitical, scientific, cultural and geo-economic interest imaginable which has created a robust basis for the continued successful growth of the multipolar alliance centered as it is upon such organizations as the BRICS+, SCO, ASEAN and BRI/Polar Silk Road orientation. This is clear across Africa as well and to the degree that this alliance continues to stand strong, which I see no reason why it would not for the foreseeable future, then an important stabilizing force can not only empower African nations to resist the threats, intimidation and destabilizing influences of western unipolarists. 

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