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Apr 26, 2017

Like it or not, we measure the success (or failure) of cities according to broad principles of urban culture inherited largely from the west. This includes quantitative data: infrastructure, transportation, access to health care, education, amenities and so on. Harder to measure, but no less important, are “other” factors like a sense of belonging, community, identity and history.

What makes a good city? Or what makes a city “good”, as opposed to “bad”? In the past 30 years or so, measuring urban success has become an industry in its own right. There are a host of companies willing to answer that question. They use a mixture of factors that include political stability, economic performance, environmental issues, safety and security, transportation and public services. Add to it more nuanced indices like inclusion, diversity, multiculturalism and choice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2017, European cities dominated the top 20, with Singapore, Tokyo, Melbourne and Auckland also in the mix. African cities are always in the bottom quartile of every survey, from Mercer’s Quality of Life Index (QoL) to the UN’s World Cities Report. Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Louis and Durban are the continent’s highest-ranked cities. In Mercer’s 2016 QoL Index, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Africa’s first independent nation, is at # 166, one slot ahead of Riyadh and one behind Cairo.

Partly because Accra and Johannesburg are the only two African cities I can claim to know in detail, and partly because they represent two very different versions of a contemporary African city, this article looks at their slow climb up the urban food chain.

Cities of the same generation

Accra and Johannesburg are roughly the same age. Gold was discovered just outside present day Johannesburg in 1884, triggering the rush that founded the city. The British declared Accra the colonial administrative capital of the Gold Coast in 1877, both events occurring within a decade of each other.

Today, metropolitan Johannesburg’s population is around 5 million, whilst Accra’s is just over 2.5 million. Johannesburg’s brand identity, prominently displayed in its media image, is of a “world class African city”. Accra makes fewer claims to “world class” status, but in 2016, was awarded the title of Africa’s “most expensive city”.

Companies like Mercer Consulting, Moody’s, Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, CNNMoney.com and PricewaterhouseCoopers cover almost every conceivable inch and index of global urbanity. It’s mostly according to the indices covered above. Yet the lived, daily life experience of millions of city-dwellers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is hardly, if ever, captured by this data. So who is this data actually for? There’s an important clue on Mercer Consulting’s website:

These rankings indicate differences in quality of living factors affecting expatriates in popular assignment destinations. These rankings shouldn’t be used as the basis for determining hardship premiums, as many complex and dynamic factors must be taken into account.

Among the indicators used in determining the “value” of a given global city, the price of groceries, transport, utility bills, restaurants and rent are seen as benchmarks. But this says next-to-nothing about wages, recreation (other than restaurants), local class structures, social patterns, language and even “local” culture, most commonly described by expatriates as “traditions”.

Multinational expatriates may not be the site’s only users, but they’re certainly its target market. Presumably, then, the true purpose of the index is to work out how much to pay the average Briton, European or American in far-flung exotic or dangerous locations.

Booming economies

Ghana is classified by the World Bank as a lower middle-income economy with a per capita GDP of $1,100.

In principle, citizens of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi (Ghana’s three largest cities) should be entitled to expect at least a reasonable quality of urban existence in line with their own aspirations and ambitions. One of the least talked-about issues in African city-making discourses, however, is precisely what these aspirations and ambitions are, should be … or even could be.

Expatriate expectations (and their salary scales) hardly ever take local realities into account. For your average Ghanaian, going to a funeral or visiting extended family relatives at the weekend may be infinitely more socially rewarding than sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant a deux, listening to piped musak.

Shopping for food in an open-air market where prices can be negotiated may be more convenient than going to an impersonal mall. Yet funerals and roadside markets don’t feature anywhere on any urban index. Given Accra’s current position (# 166), alongside the vast majority of other African cities, whatever local aspirations and expectations may be, they are neither being articulated nor met.

At the “other” end of the scale is Johannesburg, an African city unlike any other. Narrowly within the world’s top 100, it’s a city undergoing enormous changes, although, like Accra, the pace of transformation is often perceived by its citizens to be too slow.

A man selling coconuts on the streets of Accra. Legnan Koula/EPA

By and large, South African cities are closer in form, behaviour and appearance to their “world-class” counterparts – or at least those portions of the city that conform to the stereotype of ordered, well-organised and consensual urbanity. Informal settlements, squatter camps, inner cities, townships and rural landscapes are markedly different for complex historical, political and economic reasons.

Largely due to its demographic make-up, there’s no real expatriate culture in South Africa (with the possible exception of Cape Town, which holds large numbers of non-resident Europeans and Americans). In marked contrast to Accra, expressed as a percentage of the total urban population, middle-class Jo'burgers enjoy relatively easy access to a comfortably bourgeois lifestyle without the input or demands of expatriates.

The gentrification of inner city Johannesburg has prompted much debate, including outcry. But the truth of the matter is that in a context where race and class have historically meant the same thing (you’re poor because you’re black and black because you’re poor), it’s neither possible nor productive to talk about gentrification in the same way as it’s in London, New York or Paris.

Some of the up-and-coming inner city neighbourhoods on which architects and urbanists pour such scorn are the few – if not only – places where young South Africans of all races freely mix. Yes, they do so on the basis of bourgeois values and common class interests, but what’s the alternative? Segregated cities? South Africans have had nearly two centuries of those: forgive a foreigner’s assumption, but I’m guessing the answer is “no”.

Up the urban food chain

Both Accra and Johannesburg have some way to go before they make it onto anyone’s top 20. Both cities have considerable challenges to overcome, not least the dramatic and desperate gap between rich and poor, haves and have-nots (which, certainly in most African cities, includes the gap between locals and expatriates).

But inequality is not a uniquely African problem, neither is intolerance, immigration and displacement. As we’ve seen only too dramatically in the past year, these are issues that continue to confound and confront cities across the globe. Developing more nuanced tools and yardsticks to measure the health and wealth of African cities may be more useful to the rest of the world than we currently acknowledge.

Lesley Lokko, Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apr 25, 2017

Further enhancing its commitment to ensuring consistent quality standards, the 4 star “Accra City Hotel” in Accra, one of the iconic properties in West Africa is the first hotel in Ghana to achieve the international standards of ISO 22000:2005 Food Safety Management System and ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System standards certified by international register of certified auditors “Professional Evaluation and Certification Board” (PECB) from Canada.

The Accra City Hotel (former Novotel) is known as the land mark and the place of memories in Accra, and is also recognised as an institution for hospitality professionals where they have learnt the skills and have uplifted the reputation of hospitality business to the highest levels.

“I am extremely pleased that Accra City Hotel has been awarded the ISO certification, the first Hotel in Ghana that has achieved such a prestigious certification, which will re-energize, propel and invigorate our commitment to always deliver and maintain the highest possible quality and standards to our valued guest. The certification is a seal of Accra City Hotel’s compliance to strict, internationally-set standards”, said Roman Krabel, General Manager of Accra City Hotel.

“We have discreetly been pursuing our long sought aspiration of introducing and implementing the ISO System. This important project has been on-going for a year with the valued guidance and assistance of top Consultants from “Quality, Safety, Health & Environment Resources” (QSHE - www.qsheresources.com).

They were on site since February 2016 preparing for the Audit which was conducted by PECB from Canada that carries out audits around the World and is renowned for its reputed Hospitality faculty that carries out Audits and issues certifications”. General Manager Roman Krabel credits his 13-member ISO working team and Managers for the recognition which an accreditation signifies. “They devoted long hours over the past year”, he said.

“Being the first hotel in Ghana and possibly in West Africa, to acquire both certifications is a proud accomplishment for our Accra City Hotel ladies and gentlemen, for consistently upholding uncompromising standards in food safety, assuring our guests with trust when visiting our restaurant, banquets and outside catering. Obtaining ISO 22000 and certifications will continue to strengthen the hotel’s credibility and reputation, build customer satisfaction and trust, reduce operating costs and increase operational efficiency.

The ISO 14001 standard specifies a path for continual improvement and control of Accra City Hotel’s environmental performance. It enables the Hotel to identify and control the environmental aspects and impact of its products, processes, and services and also to improve its environmental performance. I am very convinced that Hospitality has a huge role to play in the future of our Country, and international standards and certifications are major pillars in going forward,” Roman Krabel said.

Accra City Hotel is dedicated to maintaining quality and a high-level of service to exceed guest expectations, including in the area of high-quality food safety and environmental management. 

Apr 25, 2017

Zambia and Ghana join index family bringing transparency to the most liquid African bond markets

The African Development Bank (AfDB) through the African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) launched its AfDB/AFMISM Bloomberg® African Bond Index (ABABI) in February 2015. Calculated by Bloomberg Indices, the composite index is currently comprised of the Bloomberg South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia local currency sovereign indices and have been joined from April this year by Ghana and Zambia.

"As more African countries are increasingly looking to domestic capital markets to source much-needed financing for economic development, we are delighted to welcome Zambia and Ghana to the index and expect to include more countries to it as soon as reliable pricing information is made available,” says Stefan Nalletamby, Director of the AfDB’s Financial Sector Development Department. The expanded index will now include the eight most liquid sovereign bond markets in Africa.
The AFMI works to deepen the continent’s local currency bond markets and also strives to create an environment where African countries can access financing at variable terms. By providing transparent and credible benchmark indices, the AFMISM Bloomberg® African Bond Index provides investors with a tool with which to measure and track the performance of Africa’s bond markets.

AfDB has approved on the 7th of December 2016 the creation of the first African multijurisdictional Fixed Income Enhanced Exchange Traded Fund (ETF);namely the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF) which will indeed track the performance of ABABI.The ADBF is expected to be launched in September this year.

Source: thebftonline.com l Ghana

Apr 25, 2017

As Ghana looks to diversify its sources of foreign exchange, it has aggressive plans to expand its tourism capacity, with an ambitious proposal for coastline development on the table and an expansion of the main international airport under way.

Tourism was one of the big winners in Ghana’s 2017 budget, handed down by the minister of finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, in early March. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture saw its allocation rise from GHS38.9m ($9.2m) in 2016 to GHS43.9m ($10.4m).

In a speech accompanying the release of the spending plan, Ofori-Atta also outlined plans to increase the private sector’s involvement in the sector.

This engagement is necessary if the country’s economic aims are to be met: Ghana is currently working to reduce a budget deficit equal to 8.7% of GDP, roughly three percentage points higher than the target, which means the state increasingly needs to turn to private investment to fund capital projects in key areas like tourism.

Ghana’s tourism industry is already a key contributor to the national economy, ranking fourth in terms of input, after oil, gold and cocoa. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the sector directly accounted for around 3% of GDP in 2016, with its total contribution rising to 7.1%, in addition to directly and indirectly employing 5.6% of the workforce.

The council expects Ghana’s tourism industry to expand by 5.6% in 2017 and maintain an annual rate of growth rate of 5.1% through to 2027. 

Mega-projects and niche developments

Perhaps the most visible initiative where the state is looking for private sector buy-in is a major redevelopment of sections of Accra’s coastline. Known as the Marine Drive Tourism Investment Project, the plan involves developing nearly 100 ha of land along the shoreline of Ghana’s capital city between the Osu Castle beach front and the Centre for National Culture.

Among the proposed amenities are hotels, shopping malls, theme parks, an office complex and a casino.

The development was initially proposed by the former government and ratified by the Cabinet last October. It is being overseen by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, with projects to be rolled out as public-private partnerships (PPPs) over the course of this year. According to Ofori-Atta, the initiative is a key part of the current government’s policy, which has a particular focus on growing the business tourism segment.

The push to expand private sector participation is not limited to large projects. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the tourism sector also fared well in the new spending plan. Ofori-Atta told Parliament the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture would conduct investment feasibility studies this year on promoting SMEs through PPPs.

Bid to strengthen air links

Ghana is also moving to bolster its transport infrastructure to improve connectivity and increase visitor figures.

Expansion work on a third terminal at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport started in March of last year and is expected to be completed by July, allowing the airport to handle an extra 5m passengers a year, with the capacity to handle up to 1250 passengers an hour.

This would represent a significant increase on the most recent figures from the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), which showed that 2.19m passengers used the airport in 2015, with international travellers accounting for 1.67m of the total. The 45,000-sq-metre terminal – designed for international traffic – will comprise a large retail area, three business lounges and seven air bridges, as well as parking for more than 700 cars, according to the GACL.

In what could be a further boost for the industry, the new government has also announced plans for a flag carrier, utilising a PPP model. Such a move would fill a void dating to 2010, when Ghana International Airlines – the country’s second iteration of a national airline, following the closure of Ghana Airways in 2005 – ceased operations.

If viable, a new airline could be operational by 2019, Abena Dapaah, minister for aviation, said in February. The government has previously announced it will not finance the venture but will request carried interest. Press reports have indicated a number of foreign carriers have expressed interest in bidding for the project, although there has yet to be any official confirmation.


This Ghana economic update was produced by Oxford Business Group. 

Apr 25, 2017

It doesn't matter how much sense it makes to ordinary Zimbabweans: Zimbabwe will not formally adopt the rand, the central bank governor says.

John Mangudya has told the state-controlled Sunday Mail that he's ruling out "rand adoption". 

Here are his reasons:

Zimbabwe uses the rand already

In theory this is true: you just don't see the rand very much these days.

Mangudya says the rand has been part of the multi-currency basket since 2009 (other currencies supposed to be accepted in major supermarkets include British pounds, Botswana pula and Chinese yuan). "We continued to use it [the rand] until such a time when some unscrupulous dealers started rejecting it," he told the paper.

The reason why the rand stopped being welcome in Zimbabwe - certainly in the capital, perhaps less in Bulawayo - was two-fold: the rand lost value so there were quarrels over the exchange rate of the day and Zimbabwe brought in bond coins, which meant there was much less need for rand coins as change.

The rand will get "externalised" too

The authorities have been laying a fair amount of blame for Zimbabwe's ongoing cash crunch on people, both local and foreign, "externalising" hard cash. The definition of that includes retailers buying goods from outside Zimbabwe for sale inside the country, apparently. Mangudya says there's no guarantee that won't happen to the rand. "What guarantee do we have that if we adopt it as our major currency it won't suffer the same fate of externalisation and hoarding? Worse still, it only takes a few hours to reach South Africa," he said.

What's really important for Zimbabwe is local production

Finally! However much the authorities bluster on about hoarders and externalisers of hard currency, the main reason for Zimbabwe's cash squeeze is that local production is low.

"We have always said that the fundamental problem of this economy is not about currency but localised production, stimulating exports and discouraging imports of finished products at all cost," the central bank chief told the Sunday Mail.

Mangudya did not discuss the reasons why local production is so low. Some of those are to do with high labour costs, very little foreign investment from outsiders worried about indigenisation and how they'll get their money out of the country. But the lack of local production is a huge issue and not one that on its own the rand will be able to sort out.


Source: News24

Apr 25, 2017

The role of “white monopoly capital” in post-apartheid South Africa has been in the news lately. In the South African context, it can be understood as the white population’s extensive control over the country’s economy.

The debate reflects a recanting view against the rainbow nation dream sold when the country gained political freedom 22 years ago. The idea is that white monopoly capital is the source of the problem of multiple failures of the South African political economy.

The response has been a rising chorus of white monopoly capitalism deniers who argue that the governing African National Congress (ANC) is using the concept as a shield against criticism. Instead of addressing its failings such as a faltering economy, widening inequality, unemployment, corruption and incompetence, the argument goes, the ANC is deflecting attention for the country’s difficulties by blaming white monopoly capital.

Some in this camp add that South Africa has recorded significant progress in redistributing the country’s wealth, mainly via the allocation of equity in formerly white companies to black economic empowerment groups. They quote figures that they say reflects rising levels of black ownership on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

But by relying on a single indicator, they ignore other key pointers which are critical to understanding the stranglehold that white capital has over the South African economy. The exclusive focus on the JSE ignores the fact that the stock market is just one of many forms of capital. Others include land – probably one of the most contentious of all forms of capital in South Africa’s history – home ownership and human capital, in the forms of knowledge, skills and education.

A multifaceted enquiry into the state of South African economy that includes all these forms of capital leaves no doubt that white capital continues to dominate the economy.

To reject this reality shows a clear lack of understanding of “capital” and the link between historic and contemporary forms of “capital accumulation”. This is because the historical legacies of colonialism and apartheid – which saw the transfer of a vast amount of the country’s resources into the hands of white European migrants – continue to shape the political, economic and social life of the country.

Persistence of white privilege

Legacies of white privilege still persist. High levels of poverty and rampant unemployment still haunt black communities.

This inequity is also evident in patterns of ownership. Despite claims to the contrary, a study of black ownership on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange shows clearly that black South Africans remain small time players. According to a recent study, only 23% of the shares traded on the exchange are held – directly and indirectly – by black South Africans.

On top of this, capital, in its varied forms such as the land, property and human capital, remains heavily skewed to white ownership. The land is particularly important in the South African context as it carries most colonial scars. The country’s colonial and apartheid regime (both white minority) used expropriation to remove people from their land. They then used this stolen land to accumulate capital in the forms of mining and agriculture.

At the time of apartheid in 1994, more than 80% of the land was in the hands of white minority. Data from the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies suggest that just under 60,000 white-owned farms accounted for about 70% of the total area of the country in early 1990s. Land reforms programme has been slow. Some suggest that less than 10 % of the total land has been redistributed from white to black ownership since 1994.

Another cornerstone of the colonial as well as apartheid designers was to deny all black people access to economic opportunities as well as to limit their scope in both education and jobs. These developments have had sequential implications and generational effects. The result is that racial inequalities continue to be reproduced.

There are a great many examples that can be cited to show this. For example, white people continue to be more skilled and attain higher education levels than their black counterparts. They are, therefore, more likely to attain higher positions in the labour market and, on average, earn higher wages.

Black South Africans remain heavily under-represented in the skilled jobs market because they are largely unskilled and hence most affected by the country’s high unemployment.

The colonial and apartheid legacy can also be seen in asset ownership. White people own houses, hotels, resorts, shops, restaurants, savings, cash, foreign assets and other forms of complex financial products. They leverage their ownership and control to extract rents and increase their wealth, while majority of the blacks are still poor.

Capital accumulation and wealth creation

The adoption of the market-based reforms in post-apartheid South Africa meant that the already skewed distribution of wealth in the country got worse. Whites continued to reap the rewards of their previous privilege under the new economic system.

There’s no doubt that the country’s new ruling party elite has also benefited from the political system, many through black economic empowerment deals. The alliance between the white monopoly capital and corrupt ANC government afflicts devastating consequence on the poor.

The South African government needs to do more to address widening inequality, rampant unemployment and deliver on the promises of development for all and not just few. It needs to prove its detractors wrong – that it’s pursuit of what it terms “radical economic transformation” fulfils the promise of addressing the country’s skewed economic ownership patterns.

Mohammad Amir Anwar, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apr 24, 2017

Nigeria’s central bank will let the market determine the naira’s rate in a new foreign-exchange window for portfolio investors as the nation struggles to revive its economy amid a dollar shortage. Naira forward contracts and banking stocks rose.

Governor Godwin Emefiele told senior bankers that he would tolerate the naira weakening in the window, which started today, according to a person who attended meetings with the policy maker over the past two weeks. While that may cause the currency to depreciate to its black-market level, the central bank probably won’t devalue the interbank exchange rate, the person said, declining to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Isaac Okorafor, a spokesman for the central bank, didn’t answer calls to his mobile or immediately respond to a text message.

Nigeria has suffered from a dearth of foreign exchange after the price of oil, its main source of revenue, collapsed from 2014. While crude prices have since risen, some investors say the central bank’s capital controls and attempts to stop the naira from weakening are exacerbating the crisis. The nation’s economy contracted last year for the first time since 1991.

The naira has traded at around 315 per dollar on the interbank, or spot, market since August. The black-market rate plummeted to a record 520 against the greenback in February, but recovered to 390 after the central bank sold $3 billion to $4 billion on the forward and spot markets.

Three-month non-deliverable forward contracts on the naira rose 0.9 percent to 355 per dollar at 4:14 p.m. in Lagos, the highest on a closing basis since March 6, suggesting traders see the currency weakening about 11 percent in that period. Six-month contracts rose 0.7 percent to 374.5.

Nigeria’s banking sector stock index rose 3 percent, the most since Jan. 9, with lenders’ earnings expected to be boosted by increased dollar liquidity.

FX Window

The foreign-exchange window will be for bond and stock investors as well as exporters, the central bank said in a statement late on April 21. The Abuja-based regulator said it “reserves the right to intervene.”

The FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange, the Lagos-based trading platform, will publish the rate for the window, know as Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing, or NAFEX, each day. The first indicative closing rate on Monday was 377.11 per dollar.


Credit: Bloomberg

Apr 24, 2017

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently launched BreatheLife, a campaign to make people more aware about the fact that air pollution – which it calls the invisible killer – is a major health and climate risk.

“Invisible” may refer to the lack of awareness that air pollution is a major health risk. In fact, air pollution levels exceeding the WHO air quality guidelines are often very visible, particularly in developing countries. This is especially true for billions of people living in close contact with air pollution sources. Those who, for example, cook on inefficient stoves with fuels such as coal. Or live in an industrial area.

The WHO has air quality programmes for most of the world’s regions. These review the effects of air pollution on health and help countries develop sustainable air quality policies. But none exists for sub-Saharan Africa. It is not clear why. A possible explanation may be that environmental health risk factors are overshadowed by other risks like malnutrition, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Despite this, we do know something about the continent’s air pollution levels. In the first major attempt to estimate the health and economic costs of air pollution in Africa, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report found that air pollution in Africa already causes more premature deaths than unsafe water or childhood malnutrition. It warned that this could develop into a health and climate crisis.

But how bad are air pollution levels in Africa? Which countries have the worst air pollution levels? What are the main sources and drivers of air pollution? Are the main sources and drivers of air pollution different from those on other continents?

The answers to these questions are severely hampered by a lack of data as well as poor regulation and laws in African countries. The only country on the continent that has ambient air quality standards enforced by air quality laws and regulations is South Africa. Other countries have either ambient air quality standards or air quality laws and regulations, or none at all.

What’s known

Air pollution is a complex mixture of many components.

The WHO’s air quality guidelines, as well as country-specific laws, have identified a few air pollutant components: particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometer (PM2.5) and 10 micrometer (PM10) in aerodynamic diameter, sulphur dioxide (SO2), ground-level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene, lead and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The most dangerous are PM2.5 and ultrafine particles (UFP); the latter are smaller than 100 nanometer in aerodynamic diameter. PM2.5 and UFP penetrate deeper into the lung alveoli and may pass into the bloodstream. PM10 and PM2.5 are important indicators of long-term air quality and of health risks.

Based on data of ground measurements conducted in 2008-2015, Africa’s PM10 levels are not the highest in the world.

The database is the largest of its kind and covers over 3,000 human settlements – mostly cities – in 103 countries. The number one spot belongs to the Eastern Mediterranean region, followed by the South-East Asia region and then Africa. But the WHO acknowledges numerous limitations to the data sources. Fewer sites globally measure PM2.5, hence the focus is on PM10.

The PM2.5 data based on the WHO air quality model show that the number one spot again belongs to the Eastern Mediterranean region, followed by the South-East Asia region and then Africa. Given the lack of PM2.5 ground measurements in Africa, the PM2.5 data derived from the WHO air quality model for Africa should be viewed with caution.

Where is the air worse in Africa?

It is hard to say what the real picture is. The modelled PM2.5 data supplements the data from ground monitoring networks, especially in regions with no or very little monitoring, as is the case in Africa.

The PM10 data, based on ground measurements conducted between 2008 and 2015, show that all African countries with PM10 data exceeded the WHO annual guideline of 20 microgram/cubic meter (µg/m³).

Onitsha in Nigeria had the highest yearly PM10 level of 594 µg/m³ globally, nearly 30 times higher than the WHO annual guideline. But the quality of the data is questionable. The level for Onitsha is based on PM10 data collected only in 2009 and only at one site. The database also does not mention on how many days the 2009 yearly level is based as missing data can lead to a distorted yearly level. The lowest yearly PM10 level was recorded at Midlands in Mauritius (20 µg/m³). But this is based only on 2011 data collected again at only one site without mention of how many days in 2011 were measured.

It is also difficult to know exactly what the contribution of different sources of air pollution are in Africa.

The amount of air pollution in any given location is affected by a combination of local, regional and distant sources. It is also affected by the dispersion of pollutants, which in turn depends on numerous weather conditions such as wind direction, temperature and precipitation.

A recent review indicated that very few studies in Africa conducted source apportionment of PM2.5 and PM10. The review concluded that (based on the few studies) 17%, 10%, 34%, 17% and 22% of PM2.5 levels in Africa are due to traffic, industry, domestic fuel burning, unspecified source of human origin and natural sources - such as dust and sea salt. For PM10 the corresponding source distribution is 34%, 6%, 21%, 14% and 25%, but should be viewed with caution due to the few studies.

Based on the limited number of PM10 and PM2.5 source apportionment studies in Africa, these tentative conclusions can be drawn. Traffic is a major source of PM10 levels in Africa as in many other global regions. The other two major sources of PM10 in Africa are domestic fuel burning and natural sources. In other regions of the world, industry and the ambiguous “unspecified source of human origin” contribute more.

Domestic fuel burning is the major source of PM2.5 in Africa, followed by traffic and natural sources such as dust. In other regions of the world, traffic, industry and the ambiguous “unspecified source of human origin” contribute more to PM2.5 levels.

Air quality interventions

Regardless of the exact global source contributions, the main sources of air pollution should be tackled globally in management plans and interventions.

Obvious interventions include clean energy technology such as solar power, to minimise domestic fuel burning and emissions from coal-fired power plants. Other initiatives include clean public transport, bicycle lanes to cut traffic emissions, recycling and controls on industrial emissions.

Air pollution does not stop at country or continental borders. It is a major risk factor for climate change. A disregard for air pollution levels in Africa may have a major impact on global climate change in the years to come.  – Janine Wichmann is an Associate Professor and the University of Pretoria – The Conversation

Apr 24, 2017

The middle classes in the Global South gained growing attention since the turn of the century, mainly through their rapid ascendancy in the Asian emerging economies. A side effect of the economic growth during these ‘fat years’ was a relative increase of monetary income for a growing number of households.

This also benefited some lower income groups in resource-rich African economies. Many among these crossed the defined poverty levels, which were raised in late 2015 from US$ 1.25 a person a day to US$ 1.90. As some economists had suggested, from as little as US$2 they were considered as entering the “middle class”.

The ominous term was rising like a phoenix from the ashes to characterise this trend. It added another label to the packaging of a neo-liberal discourse. By emphasising the free market paradigm as creating the best opportunities for all, it suggests that everyone benefits from a laissez-faire economy.

But the middle class concept remained vague and limited to number crunching. The minimum threshold for entering a so-called middle class in monetary terms was critically vulnerable to a setback into impoverishment. After all, one sixth of the world’s population has to make a fragile living on US$ 2 to 3 a day.

The African Development Bank played a defining role in promoting the debate. Using the US$2 benchmark, it declared some 300 million Africans (about a third of the continent’s population) as being middle class in 2011. A year later it expanded its guesstimates to 300 million to 500 million. It also set them up as being very important.

Such monetary acrobatics aside, the analytical deficit which characterises such classification is seriously problematic. The so-called middle class appears to be a “muddling class”. Rigorously explored differentiation remained largely absent – not to mention any substantial class analysis. Professional activities, social status, cultural, ethnic or religious affinities or lifestyle as well as political orientations were hardly (if at all) considered.

But lived experiences matter if one is in search of how to define a middle class as an array of collective identities. Such necessary debate has in the meantime arrived in African studies. And the claim to ownership is also reflected in a just published volume that documents the need to deconstruct the mystification of the middle class being declared as the torchbearers of progress and development.

Politics, economic growth and the middle class

As alerted in a paper by UNU-WIDER, a new middle class as a meaningful social actor does require a collective identity in pursuance of common interests. Once upon a time this was called class-consciousness, based on a “class in itself” while acting as a “class for itself”. After all, which “middle” is occupied by an African “middle class”, if this is not positioned also in terms of class awareness and behaviour?

Politically such middle classes seem not as democratic as many of those singing their praises assume. Middle classes have shown ambiguities - ranging from politically progressive engagement to a status-quo oriented, conservative approach to policies (if being political at all). African realities are not different.

In South Africa, the only consistency of the black middle class in historical perspective is its political inconsistency, as political scientist Roger Southall has suggested. They are no more likely to hold democratic values than other black South Africans. In fact, they are more likely to want government to secure higher order needs such as proper service delivery, infrastructure and rule of law according to their living circumstances rather than basic, survival needs.

It remains dubious that middle classes in Africa by their sheer existence promote economic growth. Their increase was mainly a limited result of the trickle down effects of the resource based economic growth rates during the first decade of the 21st century since then in decline. This had hardly economic potential stimulating productive investment that contributes towards sustainable economic growth.

Doubt shrouds claims that a growing middle class benefits the poor. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

There’s also little evidence of any correlation between economic growth and social progress, as a working paper of the IMF concludes. While during the “fat years” the poor partly became a little less poor, the rich got much richer. Even the African Development Bank admits that the income discrepancies as measured by the Gini-coefficient have increased, while six among the ten most unequal countries in the world are in Africa.

Nancy Birdsall, president emeritus of the Centre for Global Development, is among the most prominent advocates and protagonists of the middle class. She argues in support of a middle class rather than a pro-poor developmental orientation. But even she concedes that a sensible political economy analysis needs to differentiate between the rich with political leverage and the rest.

She remains nevertheless adamant that the middle class is an ingredient for good governance. This is based on her assumption that continued economic growth reduces inequalities. She further hypothesises that a growing middle class has a greater interest in an accountable government and supports a social contract, which taxes it as an investment into collective public goods to the benefit of also the poor. Dream on!

Time to lift the ideological haze

It remains necessary to put the record straight and lift the ideological haze. Already the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development 2013 report, which also promoted the middle class hype, predicted that 80% of middle classes would come from the global South by 2030, but only 2% from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent assessments claim that it’s not the middle of African societies which expands, but the lower and higher social groups. According to a report by the Pew Research Centre only a few African countries had a meaningful increase of those in the middle-income category.

And the Economist, which earlier shifted its doomsday visions of a “Hopeless Continent” towards “Africa Rising” and the “Continent of Hope”, now concludes that Africans are mainly rich or poor but not middle class. Fortunately, the debate has created sufficient awareness among scholars to explore the fact and fiction of the assumed transformative power of a middle class. This also includes the need to be sensitive towards ideological smokescreens which try to make us believe that a middle class is the cure. In reality, little has changed when it comes to leverage and control over social and political affairs.

The current engagement with the African middle class phenomenon is nevertheless anything but obsolete. Independent of their numbers, middle class members signify modified social relations. These deserve attention and analysis with the emphasis on social relations.

Cambridge Economist Göran Therborn stresses that discourse on class is always of social relevance. The boom of the middle class debate is therefore a remarkable symptom of our decade. Social class will remain a category of central importance, and bringing the class back in can do no harm.

Henning Melber, Extraordinary Professor, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apr 23, 2017

A Congolese rights group has written to the attorney general to demand a criminal investigation into a Reuters report that most of the money from fees for printing new passports goes overseas.

Documents reviewed by Reuters of a 2015 deal between Congo's government and a Belgian company called Semlex to produce biometric passports show that most of the $185 price for a new passport goes to Semlex and a small company called LRPS in the United Arab Emirates.

The Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) wrote to Attorney General Flory Kabange Numbi on Wednesday to demand he investigate the passports deal, "which has brought about enormous losses to the public treasury", the letter seen by Reuters said.

Numbi did not immediately reply to a request for comment on whether he had seen the letter and how he planned to respond.

"We have written to the attorney general asking him to open an inquiry," ACAJ President Georges Kapiamba told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

"They need to produce an explanation. How do they explain to the Congolese what has happened to this money?"

Last Thursday Brussels prosecutors said they were investigating the deal with Semlex. Opposition leaders have also called on Congolese authorities to investigate.

In its article on Semlex published on April 13, Reuters reported that the UAE-listed firm LRPS - which receives $60 for every passport issued - is owned by Makie Makolo Wangoi, believed to be a close relative of President Joseph Kabila.

Neither the Congolese presidency nor Wangoi or Semlex responded to requests for comment on the Reuters story.

"It is very important that they identify this third person who has received the sum," Kapiamba told Reuters. "And if it is established clearly that this is corruption, they need to reimburse the Congolese state."

The vast, resource-rich Central African state has been plagued by corruption almost since independence from Belgium in 1960. Kabila's counselor on graft and money laundering said in 2015 that the country loses up to $15 billion a year to fraud, or roughly three times the annual fiscal budget.

Kabila also faces calls from the opposition to leave power this year after he did not step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December. His supporters say delays to an election for his successor meant he had to stay on.

By Tim Cocks | DAKAR (Additional reporting by William Clowes in Kinshasa; editing by Susan Thomas)


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