May 28th, 2013 6:24 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
As many of you will know, May 25 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African Union and its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. It is now known as Africa Freedom Day.
It was a seminal moment 50 years ago when heads of state from 32 African countries—most of them being newly independent on the world stage—met together in Addis Ababa to chart a unified vision for a free and liberated continent that was still emerging from colonialism. The African Union now counts 54 states amongst its members. This week’s celebrations looked back on 50 years of historic struggle for self-determination and achievement while also acknowledging the very real challenges still plaguing the continent. This was well captured in the 21st African Union Summit’s theme of “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance,” which concluded yesterday.
ONE’s Africa Team was there to take part in this celebration and gathering of all the continent’s leaders. We used the opportunity to engage political leaders and build public support on issues which ONE campaigns on.
Our Agriculture campaign continues to build momentum toward the African Union’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security in 2014. In keeping with the celebratory nature of the week, we worked with the AU Commission (AUC), ACORD and ActionAid to host a panel session in the African Youth Forum on Thursday. We also jointly hosted a press conference with a broad array of African and international media present.
I was joined at the press conference and the panel session by an incredible range of voices, including Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel, the AUC’s Director for Rural Economy and Agriculture; Sara Yapwa, a Nigerian woman farmer; Mr. Biranchi Upadhyaya, ActionAid’s International Programs Director; Boaz Keizerie, Special Advisor to the Rural Economy and Agriculture Commissioner at the AUC; and Vincent Rapeta, a young South African farmer.
We emphasised that it was important for countries to meet the commitment to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture (as laid out in the 2003 Maputo Declaration) to demonstrate accountability. However, the quality of investment and its impact on smallholder farmers is also crucial to track, and my fellow panellists provided each of their unique perspectives.
Dr. Abebe spoke about the importance of African countries developing their rural economies, almost as a precondition to developing agriculture. He said that not only must we provide affordable inputs and resources for agricultural production but also for supporting agro industries as well. This is what’s needed to attract youth in the sector, as the African Union is concerned that youth are not participating sufficiently in agriculture. However, according to Dr. Abebe, the future African farmer will be younger, more educated and possess sophisticated business acumen with access to information and have higher aspirations than today’s farmers.
Sara, the Nigerian farmer, implored governments to keep their commitments. She spoke about the need for farmer’s voices to be included in policy making as they know what hurts most in the risky business of farming. Mr. Upadhyaya further called for a fair deal for small holder farmers and a timetable for African states to meet their Maputo commitments.
Then Vincent, whose full story you can read here, spoke about his own experience of starting a career in agriculture and how he hasn’t turned his back since. He also spoke about the challenges he faces in accessing finance and land while ensuring high quality in his produce. With perseverance he has been able to overcome these challenges and obtain more land for cultivation, but is aware that this is not assured for all young people in South Africa. He mentioned there are times when those who don’t farm—like doctors and teachers—receive land re-distributed by the government. Youth in the audience were inspired and challenged to hear from a youth farmer, as land access emerged as a key issue for them.
On Friday, we joined the Youth Forum again at a plenary with African Presidents from Liberia, Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Senegal along with AUC Chair Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma. The event was an intergenerational dialogue where youth debated with their presidents about the AU’s past, its current challenges and how the AU will provide opportunities for youth to be included in decision-making. The lack of progress on Maputo’s 10% was also raised. It was an energetic dialogue moderated by the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma called on African leaders to have regular interface with young people at national and continental levels.
All in all, the past week was an incredible opportunity to connect, critically take stock and assess the positive gains made in the economic and political development of Africa over the last five decades. We at ONE are honoured to have been a small part of the celebrations and look forward to the next 50 years of progress.
May 23rd, 2013 2:12 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is Vincent Rapeta, a young farmer from South Africa. He is speaking at the African Union Youth Forum in Addis Ababa this week as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.
I’m Vincent and I come from Limpopo Province in South Africa. I’m 28 and a farmer. I grow maize, butternut squash, watermelon, tomato, beetroot and cabbages. I am a farmer by accident but I’m loving it.
I was raised by a single parent and we were very poor when I was growing up. I think that my mother earned R5000 a year. In today’s US dollars, that is just over $500.
I had dreams of becoming an auditor and fighting corruption but we didn’t have money to send me to university. But I did have an opportunity. I was helping my mother while I was in school on our small plot of two hectares. And after I was done with school, I started helping her full time- that’s how I became a farmer.
Our produce started being noticed for its quality and in 2006, the local Department of Agriculture selected me to attend an agriculture training programme where I learned about soil quality, when to plant certain crops and also special knowledge about growing tomatoes, which are higher value crops. I eventually got my own plot and started expanding the amount of produce we could grow, and began to employ some local people to help me manage my plots and harvests.
In 2010, I went to school again to learn about the business side of farming and best management practices. I learned about finances, communications, labour and best standards for my produce. In 2011, I won the Best Farmer award in Molemole Municipality. I was so excited.
Last year I decided to expand my operation and was able to obtain 20 hectares from the traditional council in my area and another 20 from the municipality. I am now trying to get those plots of land suitable for farming as they are still covered in bush. I’ve had to spend my savings to clear the land and drill boreholes for irrigation, but hope to be up and running by the end of this year.
Farming is hard work. It is very challenging, but so rewarding. I think there are three main challenges for young farmers like me.
First, we need access to land and financial services. I have been very lucky – an elderly neighbour allowed me to farm her plot and I also had my mother’s plot to start from. Not all of my fellow young South Africans without work have been so fortunate. South Africa is redistributing its land but it often goes to people who don’t make a living from it. A doctor will get a few hectares where I live, but then wake up and go to his job.
Banks require security and collateral for loans. Hail can ruin one season’s harvest. I’ve saved and have been able to use this to expand, but we need insurance and loans to help us move forward. When we take the risk, we need government to meet us half way in managing these costs.
Second, we need to challenge the perception that informal sector farmers like myself provide poor quality produce. I was once told by a buyer for a big market that he wouldn’t buy tomatoes from black farmers. And this was a black man telling me this. He would buy spinach and butternut but not tomatoes. So we must try to promote the real quality of food that informal farmers produce.
And finally, we need access to fair markets. As we plan our crop we need to be sure that it will not go to waste. In Limpopo I am lucky that the food bank buys my tomatoes and my income is assured, other youth farmers in the rest of the country don’t have the same opportunities. We need policies that support the development of crop markets so that farmers can increase their harvest, earn more income and improve their families’ lives.
All I can say is that here is so much opportunity in farming. I think young people all over Africa should look to farming to improve their lives and improve our continent. We’re always crying of not having jobs. Well, we can find land. We’re not disabled. Why can’t we just make our own job? Our governments just need to make it easier by building roads that lead to markets and by providing marketing information and training to farmers.
I dream of owning 1000 hectares in ten years where I can have a herd of cattle and provide so many jobs to contribute to poverty alleviation. I know this is possible and with the right policies from government, all of us here will be farming.
Apr 10th, 2013 6:09 PM UTC
By Mzwandile Sibanda
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Chris Hani, the South African Communist Party General Secretary and Chief of Staff for the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
A hero to most South Africans, the anti-apartheid activist was tragically assassinated on 10th April 1993. It is truly sad that a man who worked so tirelessly in pursuit of seeing a democratic South Africa never got the chance to see the first democratic general election in 1994. It is in this respect that we honour the legacy of Chris Hani today with a heavy heart.
Chris Hani’s killer, Clive Derby-Lewis, made headlines two days ago by stating that he wanted to personally apologise for his crime. This request has been met with little sympathy from the public and Hani’s family. Hani’s widow, Limpho Hani, has distanced herself from this and asked for people to respect her privacy on this day. Whether Derby- Lewis’s apology is genuine or not, it has been viewed as ill timed, coming days before the 20th Anniversary of Hani’s death. Many feel that it takes away from the day and sparks and ignites the wrong type of discourse on a very emotional occasion for many.
Lindiwe Hani, the daughter of Chris Hani said, “Chris Hani was always my hero, but I did not realise he was the whole country’s hero”.
I would like to add to that – he was not only a country’s hero, he was a continent’s hero too. Rest in peace Chris Hani.
Apr 1st, 2013 6:25 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have announced the formation of a multilateral development bank to finance infrastructure projects and drive economic growth.
Assessing the feasibility of a BRICS bank topped the agenda of this year’s BRICS summit, held last week in Durban, South Africa. After a year-long viability study by BRICS Finance Ministers, the bank has received an official stamp of approval and a presidential go-ahead.
Collectively producing 25% of global gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for 43% of the world’s population, and conducting 17% of global trade, the BRICS nations have signaled their intent to rebuild the world’s financial architecture in line with new geo-economic realities and the interests of emerging markets.
The bank’s ownership structure, governance, operational currency and location have yet to be agreed upon. These are highly political decisions that will continue to be negotiated in Ministerial meetings for months – or years – to come. Its financing is a source of widespread speculation. BRICS leaders aim to inject an initial $50 billion of seed capital, but there is disagreement over whether each country should contribute an equal amount of $10 billion or if contributions should vary by the size of their economies.
The bank’s financing model is a contentious issue, as the group is determined to set up an equitable system that does not allow a country to dominate decision-making on the basis of economic clout. The reality, however, is that the BRICS’ economic balance of power indisputably favors China. Its $3.2 trillion in foreign reserves are three times bigger than those of the four other BRICS countries combined. And with a GDP topping $7.4 trillion in 2011, China’s economy eclipses South Africa’s, whose GDP amounted to $408 billion in the same year.
The BRICS’ economic disparities highlight a key challenge that bank detractors have been quick to point out. These countries are struggling to form a common identity. Despite collectively presenting a potential economic counterweight to industrialized Western countries, individually the BRICS countries are very different. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has likened them to Africa’s “Big Five” – the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros – and some commentators have questioned whether they can run as a herd or hunt as a pack on the global stage. They do not share similar ideological foundations and frequently operate as competitors in different arenas.
However, since their informal grouping in 2009, the BRICS countries have projected a single frustrated voice in their call for reform of Western dominated international financial institutions. First as the BRIC group and then as the BRICS, with South Africa’s entry in 2011, they have relentlessly urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review institutional voting structures and quota systems to better safeguard the interests of developing countries, and have blamed the West for lax monetary policies that they believe could fuel instability in emerging countries.
The resolve of the BRICS to reduce dependence on these institutions and to ensure a policy mandate that is responsive to the development needs of the BRICS countries has been the driving motivation behind the formation of the bank. According to South African President Jacob Zuma, the infrastructure needs of the BRICS countries amount to $4.5 trillion over the next five years, and directly negotiating loans amongst each other, rather than having to access international capital through institutions whose governance and structure they distrust, has decided benefits for the BRICS’ future development cooperation.
The bank also raises the prospect of massive road, rail and construction projects across Africa, a continent currently in the BRICS investment spotlight. Resource-rich African states hold the promise of fulfilling the fast-growing energy and mineral needs of the BRICS populations, whose consumption patterns are set to skyrocket. Improving infrastructure for the extractive industries on the continent will likely be a priority for the new bank. However, whether African emerging economies and other non-BRICS developing countries will be able to join – and under what conditions – are unresolved questions.
It is essential that BRICS leaders take their time to set up a credible institution that is built on strong foundations and does not fall victim to the same pitfalls that have plagued other development banks. Their efforts may well unify a dynamic bloc of nations determined to introduce a new development financing model and an economic paradigm that works for emerging economies.
Mar 27th, 2013 7:28 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
This week, the presidents of the world’s leading emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (known collectively as the BRICS) – are meeting in Durban for the annual BRICS summit.
The “Africanised Agenda” for this year’s summit, where the BRICS’ cooperation with Africa is under the spotlight, means that investment in extractive industries is a high priority on the agenda. And extraction of Africa’s oil, minerals and gas is where the national interests of each of the BRICS nations and those of African governments converge.
This is good news for the huge BRICS’ business delegations that have booked out Durban’s beachfront hotels. But it’s a source of concern for civil society coalitions, whose interaction with governments and the new BRICS business council has been limited by the worrying absence of any formal means of engagement.
Civil society’s concerns center on the veils of secrecy that still plague the extractives sectors of the BRICS – secrecy around corporate ownership, contracts and revenue flows. This secrecy is allowing phantom firms – anonymous “shell companies” created for the sole purpose of shifting profits across borders into low tax jurisdictions or havens – to rob citizens of the revenues to which they’re entitled. In addition, it’s a serious disincentive to foreign direct investment as few astute investors are willing to invest in opaque environments that offer no accurate accessible data with which to make decisions. And without information on what revenues governments are receiving from companies, how those revenues are invested, and what results they’re achieving, parliamentarians and citizens can’t hold government leaders accountable for the use of revenue that they’re managing on citizens’ behalf.
ONE is urging BRICS’ Finance Ministers to open up their extractive sectors. We’re calling on them to mandate all oil, gas and mining companies listed on the national stock exchanges of the BRICS countries to disclose their payments to governments in the countries in which they operate, and to publish the names of the people who ultimately own or control listed companies and their subsidiaries.
We’re calling on securities exchanges to put in place regulations to ensure that extractives companies submit country-by-country and project-by-project reports on their payments to governments in all operational jurisdictions, to align their reporting with open data standards, and to make this information publicly available online.
It makes good economic sense. Not only do disclosure regulations help improve investment climates, combat corruption and reduce tax evasion, their application by securities regulators can help improve the functioning and attractiveness of BRICS’ stock exchanges and draw more companies to list in these emerging financial centres. Harmonised rules and standards across the BRICS’ exchanges can help level the playing field, reduce corporate costs associated with following different practices in different jurisdictions, and lower reputational risks for companies should they be accused of bribery and fraud in host countries. Transparent reporting also strengthens companies’ social license to operate by making clear to host communities how much state and local level revenue companies are paying to extract resources.
And what responsible government would turn down the opportunity to improve collection of owed revenue and to better track the massive incoming and cross-border capital flows their countries’ resources are generating? It’s an essential step towards higher public savings and better domestic resource mobilisation for the BRICS and for all resource-rich countries. And it’s a golden key to securing the critical development finance needed to deliver public services to populations in need.
Mar 25th, 2013 9:25 PM UTC
By Nachilala Nkombo
As the current Millennium Development Goals meet their goal-line in 2015, it’s more important than ever to ensure the world’s poorest people have a say in the development of the next set of goals to eradicate extreme poverty.
Working with more than 20 NGO, faith and private sector partners across Africa, together with some of the continents best-known celebrities including Hugh Masekela, D’banj, Benni McCarthy and Chris Katongo, we are urging people to join the fight against extreme poverty and send their views on what issues matter most to them.
And as the UN High Level Panel meets this week in Bali, we have published our preliminary findings based on the early stages of the campaign.
Our interim results show that more than 130,000 citizens have offered valid responses in the three target countries.
You can download the initial findings here.
Check out the ONE blog in the coming weeks for more news on the campaign, which runs until the end of April.
Feb 20th, 2013 3:22 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
Musician and ONE member HHP has a special video message for you today.
Our You Choose campaign launches in Malawi today, where millions more people will be invited to have their say about how world leaders tackle global poverty by sending an SMS message.
New goals to fight extreme poverty are being set in the next few months so ONE has come together with the United Nations and other organisations to make sure that everyone has a say in what the targets are.
We’ve already had thousands of responses from across Africa, but there is still time to make sure your voice is heard.
Tell us which issues world leaders should prioritise and we’ll pass your message on.
If you’re in South Africa you can send a free SMS message to 30667, and if you are in Malawi the number is 57111.
If you are anywhere else, have your say at www.one.org/youchoose.
Feb 15th, 2013 3:13 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
Beautiful. Sophisticated. Elegant. Intelligent. Creative. Bold. But above all, humble.
I remember meeting Goldie for the first time right after the 2012 Big Brother Africa show had concluded. I had gone to drop both Prezzo and Goldie to meet Prezzo’s Mum’s at her flat in Sandton, Johannesburg, to say hello.
When Goldie met Prezzo’s mum, she moved from being a sophisticated posh girl, to her knees to show respect and acknowledge being in the presence of someone she highly regarded. While this is traditional in many African cultures, it is not common practice. We all fell in love with her immediately.
We met a few more times after that, in South Africa and the United States. I personally admired how Goldie had mastered the art of being a modern African woman. She was proudly Nigerian, no doubt, yet the pop culture world she had embraced, had done nothing to erode her African values.
Goldie had a naturally nurturing nature, and she took care of those she cared about without a second thought. After spending a few days with her, you could tell this was a God fearing, well bred girl, and her future had the sky as the limit.
Goldie’s unexpected death is shocking. Africa has been robbed of a lady full of passion and a relentless spirit to change her own world, and the world of those who live in it for the better.
Jan 30th, 2013 9:03 AM UTC
By Hugh Masekela
As a young man growing up in Witbank I dreamed of becoming a musician and using my voice and my music to bring happiness to others.
But your voice is even more powerful. Alone we may go unheard, but if we stand together, our leaders can’t ignore us.
That’s why ONE has joined forces with the United Nations to find out what matters to you. We want to capture the voices, priorities and views of people across South Africa, which we will share with world leaders as they begin to create a new plan to end extreme poverty.
It will only take a few minutes and the results will be shared with world leaders.
What would make the most difference to you? You choose.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Musician and ONE member
Jan 23rd, 2013 4:37 PM UTC
Today, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) – ONE’s key partner for efforts to promote open and transparent budgets in developing countries – released their 2012 Open Budget Survey. The 2012 Survey assesses 100 countries on 125 questions; 95 about the availability to the public of documents related to the budget cycle, and 30 about how citizens may participate in their country’s budget process. The Survey was carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2010, but has evolved over time. This year, IBP has partnered with the Open Knowledge Foundation on a Data Explorer, where you can see maps and rankings of Open Budget Index scores, sort questions by topic, or look at how the rankings have changed over time. Check out the data – the results may surprise you!
Click the infographic to make it larger
Participation in Focus
New for this year’s Survey is a series of questions on participation, something which IBP and ONE agree is essential if budget transparency is to pay dividends in terms of accountability and improved development results. The average score for the 100 countries surveyed in the 2012 survey is just 19 out of 100 on the 30 questions that measure participation. We’re excited that IBP is focusing on improving participation, and about the innovative ways the survey shows countries are getting citizens involved – including South Korea’s finance ministry field trips, Trinidad and Tobago’s public forums, and New Zealand’s tax hotlines – which allow citizens to report tax evasion or fraud anonymously. Sharing these stories helps to show that not all participatory budget processes have to look the same.
The Open Budget Index
The Survey includes the 2012 Open Budget Index, where countries are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the 95 budget questions. Countries score zero by making no budget documents public, or 100 by being completely transparent and making public all documents.
For 40 countries, data illustrates that progress has been made since 2006; those countries’ average Index scores increased from 47 in 2006 to 57 in 2012. The Index also shows that countries that start from a low baseline of transparency improve faster than those whose scores are nearer the middle of the ranking. Similarly, it’s even harder for countries that score well to improve significantly. Since the 2010 Index, countries that had been the least transparent, with scores of 40 or less, improved from 19 in 2010 to 26 in 2012, a 36 percent increase. Otherwise, however, progress was limited between 2010 and 2012.
How is Africa Doing?
Among African countries, South Africa leads the way with a score of 90 on the Index. This score is 2nd overall, behind only New Zealand, and ahead of the United Kingdom. Uganda also scores well, with 65, in the “significantly” transparent category. Unfortunately, 14 of the 26 countries in the index that provide “scant or no information” on budget documents are African. However, bad Index scores are relatively cheap and easy to fix. By simply making public budget documents that countries already produce, Index scores would improve significantly. And making those documents public is crucial for citizens in those countries to see how their governments are spending money.
There are seven countries where transparency has improved significantly (by more than 15 points) since 2010: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mozambique, Pakistan and São Tomé e Príncipe. However, in Egypt, Zambia, Sri Lanka and Serbia, scores decreased by more than 15 points since 2010. So while improving budget transparency can be easy in the short term, institutionalizing participatory budget processes is more difficult, but necessary to ensure that progress is maintained and built upon by civil society.
South Africa: Africa’s Star Achiever
South Africa maintained very high levels of budget transparency in the 2012 Index, and while their rank dropped from 1st to 2nd in this year’s Index, their very high level of budget transparency – higher than that of the UK, France, Norway, Sweden and the United States – is very impressive. And the information that the South African government makes available has been used in successful budget advocacy. IBP’s website has multiple cases studies of local organizations using information about the budget to execute effective campaigns. One, by the Treatment Action Campaign, resulted in a National Treatment Plan for HIV/AIDS, putting 1.6 million HIV+ South Africans on ARV treatment. Another campaign focused on improving access of a social security grant to poor children increased access from 2 million in 2001 to nearly 11 million in 2012.
The IBP’s Open Budget Survey and Index are incredibly important to us, and to citizens around the world who need information in order to hold their leaders to account for the money they spend. We commend IBP on another job well done, and look forward to hearing more stories about how transparency is helping civil society around the world make the changes they want. Open Budgets, Transform Lives.
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The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.