Social Pensions in Africa

Older persons' needs should and can be met

Marion O

October 1, 2014

By Marion Ouma, Programme Coordinator, Africa Platform for Social Protection, Nairobi, Kenya

Social protection for older persons in Africa is lacking although the evidence shows that well designed and implemented schemes can be powerful tools for reducing poverty and vulnerability.

Such programmes can be affordable and sustainable for low-income countries; universal social pensions are possible at the current development levels of most countries.

Sweden launched a universal social pension system 100 years ago when average real income was lower than in many African countries now. The provision of social pensions in Africa is a realistic prospect.

The current average African economic growth rate of 5% provides financial means through which governments can develop social protection programmes with effective taxation and political will.

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Rebutting the ‘Africa Rising’ meme

Morten Jerven2

Comments icon 1 comments September 26, 2014

By Morten Jerven, Associate Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, B.C., Canada.

One of the most frequently repeated factoids supporting the Africa Rising meme was that “seven out of ten of the fastest growing economies are in Africa”, from a data exercise in 2011 by The Economist.

In reality this is both a far less accurate and much less impressive statistic than it sounds. Narratives on African economic development tend to be loosely connected to facts, and instead are driven more by hype.

Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations.

The evidence does not yet readily provide us with an answer. It is the job of scholars to give tempered assessments that navigate between what is make-believe and what passes as plausible evidence.

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Eliminating poverty in Africa:

An appeal for more realistic targets

Liesl LV

September 22, 2014

By Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Consultant, The Institute for Security Studies, Johannesburg, South Africa.

New research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) African Futures Project shows that Africa will realistically, only achieve the 1990’s slogan of ‘making poverty history’ by 2063.

The forecast maps out a comprehensive set of policy interventions that will make every African citizen sit up and think again about the sometimes-morose predictions for the continent’s future.

The future is certainly largely unpredictable, and the researchers admit that shocks or unforeseen political interventions – Ebola comes to mind – can steer things in a completely different direction.

Agenda 2063 marks 100 years after the formation of the OAU. The research shows that such a distant time horizon may be appropriate given the deep-rooted nature of Africa’s poverty challenge.

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Not so mega?

The risky business of large-scale PPPs in African agriculture

Robin-Willoughby

Comments icon 1 comments September 17, 2014

By Robin Willoughby, Food and Climate Justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB and leader of Oxfam International's agricultural investment policy work.

At a large summit on the future of African agriculture last week, the buzzwords were ‘investment opportunities’, ‘transformation’ and ‘public-private partnerships.’

Despite the worthy aims of the hosts ‘A Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA)’, discussion of poverty, rights, gender or inequality was rather absent from the plenary.

The risks of large scale public-private partnership (mega-PPPs) are enormous, particularly in the areas targeted for investment. Huge land transfers are a core component of the mega-PPP agenda.

Mega-PPP projects are focussing less on the needs of poor small-scale farmers and more on wealthier, more ‘commercially viable’ farmers and bigger, politically well-connected companies.

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GMOs and food sovereignty

Which way Africa?

Henry Makori

Comments icon 3 comments September 12, 2014

By Henry Makori, editor with Pambazuka News.

A Kenya government agency is to stop the sale of a popular seasoning product because it contains genetically modified ingredients that could harm consumers.

The Government banned production or importation of GMOs in 2012, but is now considering to allow to them in order to boost food production and alleviate poverty.

GMOs are now being touted as a major solution to hunger and mass poverty in Africa. South Africa is a leading proponent, while Nigeria and Tanzania are coming around.

Biotechnology helps boost industrial agriculture, but inadequate food production is not why a billion people are hungry; it is lack of access.

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How to Stop Boko Haram

Curtail Illicit Finance!

Michelle Fletcher

September 9, 2014

By Michele Fletcher, Global Financial Integrity and the University of Pennsylvania.

Boko Haram developed from social unrest, poverty, and a strong disillusionment with the corruption of the Nigerian government. Today, the same factors make Boko Haram lethal.

Funding opportunities for Boko Haram such as kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, and bank robberies arise because of poor security infrastructure and have provided local means for funding and recruitment.

Moreover, high-level corruption and financial opacity breeds larger-scale funding and support opportunities, contributing to illicit financial flows facilitated by banks and corrupt individuals.

ICG: “Unless issues of bad governance and systemic corruption are addressed vigorously and transparently, all other measures [to deal with Boko Haram] will be nothing but stop-gaps.”

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Namibia’s gender zebra

Alexander O'Riordan

September 5, 2014

By Alexander O'Riordan, Aid Effectiveness and Donor Funding Researcher, University of Wisconsin.

A quiet gender revolution the like of which has been unseen in Southern Africa and perhaps anywhere in the world, is now firmly underway in Namibia.

The ruling party, SWAPO, has committed to gender equality in parliament, and a ‘Zebra system’ whereby if a Minister is a woman then the Deputy Minister will be a man and vice versa.

Namibia is likely to elect a man to the presidency in 2014. The new policy implies a SWAPO commitment to appoint a woman to the presidency in 2019.

Namibia’s pushing gender equality is less a sign of progress than of a political leadership blinded by over twenty years of being a ruling party while treated with absolute respect.

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Africa needs time and policy space

GoranHyden

Comments icon 1 comments September 1, 2014

By Göran Hydén, NAI Associate and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Africa is not a country but a many-faceted continent with diverse domestic institutions. They vary due to ethnicity and religion, but increasingly also as a result of different development experiences.

Democratization that has been forced upon African countries by the donors has more often than not engendered its downfall and in some countries even civil strife.

Democratic values need not be irrelevant, but they cannot be expected to functions as magic bullets. Donors should loosen their grip and let a thousand flowers bloom.

In such a diversity, democracy can sprout with greater force than via the turgid transplants that the West is still trying to impose.

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Development First, Democracy Later?

Anna L

Comments icon 2 comments August 26, 2014

By Anna Lekvall, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs; formerly Senior Programme Manager for Democracy and Development at International IDEA.

Across all continents, cultures and religions, 80 per cent of men and women worldwide believe that democracy is the best available form of governance. But there is a raging democracy deficit across the world.

There is wide support for democracy in international agreements and development policy. Yet, only 2 per cent of official development aid goes to democracy support, indicating a low priority in practice.

The much larger aid flows delivered to reduce poverty also affect democratic processes and power dynamics – sometimes negatively.

The binding constraint on development is not always money or knowledge. It is also about political processes. Citizens across the world therefore call for democratic and accountable politics.

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SADC: Another step backwards

Peter Fabricius

August 22, 2014

By Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa.

Was Mozambican President Guebuza being just a tad mischievous when he congratulated Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on his political longevity at this week’s SADC summit?

Or was it just projection between sentimental constitutional democrats, desperately seeking meaning in yet another uninspiring gathering of this listless organisation?

The summit adopted a draft protocol on the SADC Tribunal, which ‘neutered’ the court by stripping it of its real power – which is to hear complaints by SADC citizens against their own governments.

And so, in the end, it was worse than just ‘another hollow summit,’ as one newspaper headline put it. It was another step backwards for the rule of law.

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