That is according to David Lane speaking at the Pittsburg G-20 . He reasons that Africa has over 1 billion producers and consumers of services of goods. He calls for G20 to make Africa part of the solution to ending poverty in Africa and further more that the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa.

I must say that I agree with him on all accounts.

Yes  he is right in the first instance that Africa has an awful lot of consumers and suppliers.  Africa is also the producer of some of the high end/value products in the world such as diamonds, gold, petrol, coffee, cocoa etc but these products are merely extracted and taken to consumers elsewhere, and when returned the African’s almost always can’t afford them, and those that can often have to travel millions of millions to be able to consume these products. Does any of this make sense to you?

The next point – the next G20 meeting should be held  in Africa and the campaign has started and if you agree please add your name here

 

Africa is almost always part of the agenda at these summits with leaders of the richest countries in world pledging more help for the continent, however these meetings are never held in Africa, unlike  the COMMONWEALTH HEAD OF STATES

 
I can imagine that a lot of money is spent at these meetings, imagine therefore what such a meeting would do for the economy of a small central African country, like Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda, unless of course the organisers of such a meeting opted to fly in everything that would be used, including food service staff etc. But even then, there would inevitably be a trickle down of sorts.

 The economic benefits aside, if you have a matter to resolve with someone isn’t it best that you go to them and do this face to face. Some of the points that come out these meetings regarding Africa are , MAKE AFRICA LEADERS MORE ACCOUNTABLE, END CORRUPTION, IMPROVE GOVERNANCE,  and so on and so forth, but  if the leaders of Africa only ever here this on TV and radio, wouldn’t they be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with them,  a sort of hearsay, Afterall would you take anyone seriously who talked about you behind your back? The natural reaction is one of IF YOU HAVE  SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME,,,,,,

Obama and Clinton have led the way to going to the leaders of Africa and given them some tough love and I do hope that the G20 will follow in their footsteps. They are currently discussing how to lift the world out of the recession but surely the recession is worse amongst the bottom billion of Africa.

 Can the G20 ever see Africa as a key economic player and not a basket case that needs hand out? Is this indeed the solution to Africa’s  ending poverty? Can a whole continent be lifted  out of poverty by AID? Of course not treating Africa as  an economic partner,  a consumer and supplier of goods would go along way to resolving te poverty. food shortages etc experienced by its people.

 

If you have a view either way, I would like to hear from you as usual

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If you have followed my blog the over the past  week, you are now at the end of my journey through East Africa.

Leaving Africa I headed back to the UK where I live with a renewed sense of I MUST DO MORE TO HELP GET THESE WOMEN HANDICRAFTS AND TEXTILES TO MARKET!

I had seen women in dire circumstances but doing whatever they could to help themselves out of poverty, without feeling sorry for themselves whatever neither did they ask for handouts of money. One by one they asked that we  share our skills with them so that they could improve their products and be able to compete in world markets, they asked for  fair access to world markets and skills to enable them to serve the sick in their communities!

I also felt that although money was important to kick start programmes it was not necessarily the only factor in efforts to end poverty for reasons of exclusion and practices such as those of Vulture Funds amongst other things. In my minds eye the answer lay in Trade as this is a more sustainable route out of poverty and yet Africa lags behind other continents in trade terms and international trade is very low.

It is largely agreed that the economies of countries cannot grow or be sustained on the basis of international loans or grants. This is certainly true for African women too. The governments/economies lending or giving the money do not have an infinite amount from which to lend/give indefinitely. As well as being unsustainable it is undignified.

Consideration should be given to the kind of trade that adds value at source wherever possible to enable governments to generate income through increased tax revenue. The process of value addition must encompass investments in human resources to ensure that women in particular have the right skills to lift their families out of poverty. There are more details about this on www.raisetrade.com

I hope that my recent blogs have given you the reader an insight of what life if like for folk on the ground and that it ahs demonstrated that resolving poverty in Africa is not simply about the money. I would be interested in others’ view points as well as experiences on issues relating to poverty in Africa

Over the past two weeks I have written about my travels in East Africa last year and what poverty in Africa is really like and shared the views of folk I work with on the ground. In the last thread I wrote about the folk in Ruhanga  and the search for clean water

Leaving Ruhanga behind I headed to Kampala the capital city of Uganda and I reflected on a statistic, I had read in that days’ paper

it said “the gap between the rich and the poor has widened in Uganda and life expectancy has dropped to 43 due to HIV and AIDS

If that is the case where is the country headed I wondered and being 43 myself (at the time) that means I am considered very old here whilst the UK where I live  I potentially have another 30 or 40 years of life ahead of me!

Once in Kampala I called in on the Mbuya Charity who are based in the slums of Kampala and support women affected by HIV and AIDS.

Mbuya is a suburb of Kampala and on the face of it is pretty affluent, it is home to some in the expat community, local celebrities as well the rich of Uganda. But dig deep and you come across appalling slums especially with an area referred to as zone 6.

The Chair person of Mbuya charity Jolly Wako lives in zone 7 this too has pockets of slums especially where Jolly lives incredibly her house borders a trendy bar is separated by a fence ironically called Zone 7, this bar belongs to a local celebrity and his brothers.

Jolly’s husband died in a motor accident and she has had to bring up their children single handily and against all odds  2 have made it to University and she expects the third to follow suit.

I came across this charity through an online registry calling itself Uganda Women’s network. As it was not possible for me to visit in person a company representative went to check them out and reassured me that this is a group that we could work with

I am therefore here to meet the group for the very first time and learn about their work, hopes and fears, successes and challenges. When arrive Jolly is at home alone and explains that this being a Wednesday it is a day for outreach work and as such most of the women are out in the field.

Jolly in Blue with a straw mat weaver

Jolly in Blue with a straw mat weaver

I ask what is involved in the outreach work.

Jolly: most of the 120 women are HIV positive and are on medication as well as receiving counselling. The out reach workers ensure that the women take their medication correctly,  are well fed as well as encouraging slum dwellers to go for HIV tests.

The group aims are to encourage peer support especially as regards to income generating activities. Jolly informs me that they have no support from anyone.

I ask her what sort of support/help the group is looking for?

Jolly: our biggest challenge is lack of counselling skills! Most of the women we work with need a trained counsellor to help them come to terms with their diagnosis. We do our best but we are hardly qualified for the task at hand. It would be great if we could access such training so that we can do the much needed work.

We are grateful to our friends who are helping us access external markets with our handcrafts and beads. Are aware that as soon as people realised that we were making beads suing old calendars and magazines they started selling them to us?
No I wasn’t aware I was surprised but realised too how naïve I was. Of course old calendars and magazines are raw materials for Jolly and her group who require them in their business in order to produce beads for sale and quite rightly those that have this raw material would sale it to them as this is income for them too. This got me thinking about all the magazines and old calendars that are thrown away in the UK perhaps a subject for another article

Before I left Jolly, I put in a call to a contact of mine at the Saatchi and Saatchi branch of Kampala who agreed to give Jolly and her group the free paper they need for the beads.

He was surprised when I told him where I was calling from the owner of the trendy bar next door is his best friend but he had no knowledge of the poverty beyond the perimeter wall!

housing poverty Mbuya zone 6 Uganda

housing poverty Mbuya zone 6 Uganda

The contrast between the homes of the poor and the rich here is astounding. The rich people’s homes are set in large grounds with perimeter walls along with large dogs to keep the undesirables out. over the fence are rusty tin houses with no running water or inside toilets, the people in these slums share a  communal latrine, (the two door shed in the above picture)  children run around with shoes on their feet these are the very people that clean and scrub the homes of the rich they  are grateful to have such work as it brings in a much needed income and they are fed

better housing beyond the perimeter wall

better housing beyond the perimeter wall

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by some of the things I see during the course of my work, but my visit to this Ugandan Charity pulled a few heart strings. As an individual there is very little I can do to change these women’s circumstnaces. What they asking for is simply someone to shae skills with them  is that too much?

If you would like to help Jolly and the Mbuya charity please get in touch. If you have views or thoughts you would like to share regarding any of the issues raised here, it will be a pleasure to here from you

I haven’t written much lately, as I have been nursing a nasty summer bug. Any how before all that happened I had the chance to attend a networking event organised by the good folk at Business Fights Poverty . This was one of a number of events that they have put on since January 2009  and the idea was to bring together practitioners, academics and other interested people from the business world to discuss how business can contribute to poverty alleviation in developing world.

The event on 14 July considered the subject of doing business in areas of conflict,  and the topic  we were invited to consider was

Peace and economic growth are closely related. How can policy makers maximize the impact of private sector for both peace and development?

At this stage  if you are like me you may wonder and in fact ask whether

  1. Business has any role to play in bringing about peace in areas of conflict
  2. What business opportunities could possibly exist in war torn areas
  3. What about safety implications?

It would appear that to a certain extent your fears/ concerns would not be unfounded as we soon found out from the guest speakers on the night Diana Klein from Peace, Building issues programme, International Alert, Andrew Bone Head,  International  Relations De Beers  and Lisa Curtis, Adviser, ManoCap. What is important to note  is that they also  provided solutions to some of these concerns,  and if all else fails there is INSURANCE

I found Diane’s presentation especially interesting. According to Diane business can thrive in conflict areas so long as they comply and are not seen to be contributing to the unrest. One of the ways in which businesses maybe unknowingly contribute to the unrest would be to employ foreign workers Diana went on to say!

I found this interesting as not so long ago our Prime Minsiter here in the UK was quoted to have said  something along the lines “British jobs for British workers” in response to strikes in the oil industry here in UK.  That being the case is there any wonder that folk in the developing countries would take to the streets in similar circumstances?

On the issue of compliance, I recalled a situation in Uganda where Mehta  an Asian owned business group was allocated some land in Mabira Forest an ancient forest in Uganda and the locals didn’t agree, here is what happened next .

What is interesting about this forest is that many years ago it was a 7 mile forest with numerous species of tress and you could not see beyond a few yards, today the locals have moved in and started subsistence farms, and there are holiday chalets for hire, but the locals were up in arms over the thought of their forest being given away to a foreign business company. If you are a company  what do you do in a situation such as this?

I understand that, that wasn’t the end of the story and here is the latest discussion on the matter

At the event there was a man whose job involves getting Palestine and Israel to do business together!  He had an interesting tale about getting all sides to work together as well as the results that ahve beena cheived thus far.  Earlier this year I wrote about the experiences of an olive farmer on my other blog

So do you think there are business opportunities in areas of conflict?

 As someone that lived through 20 years of civil wars in Idi Amin’s Uganda etc, I can say that my experience of both poverty and absence of peace is hard earned. Business needs certain conditions or the right environment to thrive. One those conditions as I see them are effective institutions and these in turn thrive on consensus.

The situation in Uganda for instance roughly from 1975 to 1985 was that there were no effective institutions to speak of and as such the infrastructure failed as well as the economy. Typically regardless how much money you had it was near impossible to set up and or run a viable or sustainable business, some days there was simply nothing available to buy in the shops, nor people to transact business with.

The buildings that housed shops and other institutions in the capital city got burnt out during one of the civil wars and people got rounded up and taken away for no apparent reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. First forward to the current day Uganda and at this point I would urge you to get hold of a copy of Bob Geldof’s DVD entitled Geldof in Africa by way of illustrating my point. The documentary is a tale of two cities, where the north of the country is war torn and children are on the run during the night to avoid being captured and taken into bush to fight.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geldof-Africa-DVD-NTSC-Bob/dp/B000B9PW8K .

The South is stable and has been since 1986, and to date there are institutions in place that oversee enterprises and this has enabled investors to etc. You would indeed be forgiven for thinking that you were in two different countries if you compared the north and the south Therefore from my personal experience I would argue that economic development would be near impossible without peace in any given country.

A peaceful environment from a political point of view provides for confidence in would be investors as well as building on local enterprise. The Uganda that I grew up in was far from this and as such we tended to live in the present moment as we had no confidence that we would still be alive that afternoon let alone the following day. It is this confidence that is a building block for sustainability, in my opinion.

 Going back to the central question: How can business contribute to sustainable peace? I would have to draw from my personal experience again and say Yes, But to a certain extent and this would be premised upon perception, specifically perceived inequality.

If I can just take you back to Idi Amin’s Uganda There was a perception that the Ugandan Asians had monopolised Business and enterprise generally that by getting rid of them the Africans would have a chance at running successful businesses/enterprises. On my recent visit to Uganda (September 2008) this perception was still alive in some quarters, although I am unclear as to how wide spread it is. However this may go some to illustrating my point please follow this link

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6548107.stm.

The manner in which businesses/corporations conduct themselves, may feed this type of perception leading to unrest, riots etc, and from that point of view Businesses can contribute to peace by ensuring that their practices are equitable, inclusive and transparent.

Strange question you might think  and like my friend Margs you would probably think I have lost the plot, her answer to this question was “I would make a beef Casserole”!!

But when Helen Kongai a woman  in a remote African village in Easterrn Uganda it literary changed her life.  Helen’s story is typical of a lot of women that escaped the war in nothern Uganda, with her husband, mother and son dead, Helen  faced a bleak life until the charity SEND A COW came to her rescue by giving her a cow.

I listened to Helen’s story on BBC Radio 4 with great interest. her story should give some comfort to those who support the charity SEND   A COW as they can hear first hand the impact of their contributions on other’s lives. The reason this story interests me is two fold, I am a great believer in “giving people the tools to face day to day challenges” or helping them help themselves out of poverty.

Helen said something that resoanted with me: in certain parts of Africa women are still treated as personal property of men. This might mean   when the husband dies  the woman’s  place in society may die with that man or that as in Helen’s case she loses her material possesions since her inlaws may not regonise her as a person in her own right.

Projects such as SEND A COW or ETHNIC SUPPLIES LTDgive such women a sense of identity, the right to be who they want to be, a chance to earn an income using their skills and best of all diginity. 

Helen was given a voice and a chance to share her story and in her own words and incredibly she does not ask for more AID. Helen is currently touring UK farms and is sharing her skills on sustainable farming in the light of increased climate change

If you would like to change people’s lives, the way that Helen’s life was changed please get in touch http://www.ethnicsupplies.co.uk/contact/

These were the questions put to a panel made up of Kate Allen from Amnesty International, Andy Atkins from Friends of the Earth and Barbara Crowtherfrom the Fairtrade Foundation last Saturday( 28 February 2009) night in Woking Surrey.

These are all important issues that face us all but perhaps more so folk in the developing world. My take on this is poor people suffer the worst human indignity known to man, live in the most appalling environments, (if you have been to shanty towns  South Africa you may know what I am talking about) and pay the most for services and goods. The question is what can be done to correct all this?

In terms of fairtrade, I must agree that a lot has been done to highlight the plight of developing country producers and having met one of them on Friday 27 Feb 2009, I realised how important it is to have someone that advocates for these folk. you can read more about that farmer here .

The question I had for Barbara, was “why is it that cotton is certified as a FT product but the textile out of the cotton isn’t” another was “why can’t value be added to Coffee for instance at the country of origin so that the farmers can earn more and those governments can collect more by way of tax revenue? Credit where credit is due, Barbara acknowledged that the FT foundation could do more work in this area and that they have started looking at it especially in South Africa.

Human rights, I must admit Kate’s job can’t be easy and possibly takes her and her colleagues in some of the msot dangerous places one earth. My interest in this area is premised on property rights for women. In my view women are very important to the economic development of African economies in particular,  but the lack of property rights especially agricultural land and housing rights lives them and their children vulnerable to abuse an potentially a life time of poverty.  Kate’s job cannot be easy in this area in particular especially as in some part of the world women are still perceived as the personal property of the man and over the last two years I have met an awful lot of women in that situation, without a voice or anything to call their own. How do we change this? One way would be an increase of formal education for women.

Andy had a sense of urgency about him that left you in no doubt that if we don’t do anything about climate change today then we are heading for some tough and frightening times ahead.  He called for the World Trade Organisation rules to be re written and with emphasis on social and environmental consideration as well as for business to behave more sensibly. He made an interesting note too, it appears the recession has had the impact of reduced emissions as factories have closed. But how are those people that used to work in the factories managing financially.

Do you feel like we are in a Catch22 here? I certainly  do  and have more questions on this matter

Can climate change /environmental degradation be avoided altogether? How easy would that be? Can the poor afford to care about the environment? these are not easy questions and I certainly do not have the answers to them.

When I lived in Uganda and worked in a town called Jinja I used to drive through a forest that seemed to go on for ever before I got my destination, and one could hardly see beyond  a few yards for the thickness of the forest. I went back to Uganda in August 2008 and had the chance to head east and drove through the same  forest.

http://www.ugandatourism.org/Mabira%20Forest.php

I was surprised at what I saw, most of the trees had been cleared and some of the land was  being used for food growing, another reason the trees had disappeared I was told was people cutting them down for fire wood and charcoal. Although folk here could use solar energy as opposed to cutting down an entire forest they do not have the means  to tap into such technology.

What they do is entirely reasonable as far as they concerned, they are using whatever is available in their environment to stay alive, earn a living etc.  We here in the west may not have such concerns but the actions of these folk may have implications for us. It therefore appears to me that one way forward would be to work with such folk and help them develop technology that would help them use what is in their environment without damaging  it.

Travelling further east towards the town of Jinja at the source of the River Nile and you find remnants of what was the Owen falls dam a source of hydro electricity, but with water levels so low, not enough electricity can be generated, to export to neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, consequently power outages are very common in most towns in Uganda.

Imagine if you will a barber who would earn more money cutting hair with an electrical trimmer as opposed to a pair of scissors. It is Saturday when he can expect to make the most money but at 12 noon there is a power cut for 4 hours!  The poor chap has no access to a power generator as he can’t afford one, but a another barber down the road whose shop is located inside a 5 Star Hotel has no such problems as the Hotel has a power generator.

What are you are views

Is there a time to be Fair? Is climate change more urgent than global poverty or human rights?