Information and stories about economic growth.

Venezuela’s Rum
Extended hyperinflation continues to cripple Venezuela’s economy with prices of basic groceries skyrocketing to five times the monthly minimum wage from 2015 to 2017. Estimates determined that extreme poverty in Venezuela in 2016 was 82 percent. Yet, there is a shimmer of light with potential economic growth through Venezuela’s rum industry.

Fall in Whiskey Sales

For a long time, people have seen Scotch as a status symbol in Venezuela and often only for the upper-class to enjoy at home or for middle-class friends to have on a night out. In 2007, Venezuelans consumed over three million boxes of whiskey, fifth in consumption worldwide and priced at nearly $151 million in imports. In 2009, imported Scotch whiskey outsold Venezuela’s rum sales nearly two to one.

However, with hyperinflation setting in, reaching over 60,000 percent in 2018 and almost 350,000 percent in 2019, imports experienced restriction and the tightening of currency controls, putting whiskey out of reach for many. At the black market rate, a bottle of Chivas Regal 18-Year-Old Whiskey costs $31, more than the country’s monthly minimum wage.

Rise in Rum Sales

The popularity of whiskey began declining in 2013, with a 29 percent drop in sales. At this point, the country had only recently crossed the hyperinflation threshold of 50 percent, while Venezuela’s rum sales increased by 22.6 percent. During that same time period, domestic rum production increased from 15.8 million to 21.8 million liters.

In addition to the rising cost of imports, the government’s recent introduction of relaxed regulations and loosening price controls has bolstered domestic rum production. This has led to Santa Teresa, one of Venezuela’s rum distilleries, to become the first in the country to release a public offering in 11 years, selling one million shares on January 24, 2020. With banks hesitant to lend, public offerings provide alternative forms of capital that can allow businesses to grow and become more competitive in the global market.

Project Alcatraz

Project Alcatraz, a recreational rugby initiative, launched as a means of rehabilitation and to serve as a deterrent for gang violence after gang members broke into the grounds of the Santa Teresa rum distillery. Now, Project Alcatraz includes vocational training, psychological counseling and formal education, reaching roughly 2,000 adolescents and a few hundred inmates.

Additionally, experts believe that the project has led to a drop in the murder rate of the local municipality. In 2003, the year the project originated, there were 114 murders per 100,000 people; as of 2016, that number had dropped to 13 per 100,000 people.

Cocuy

Venezuelan rum has not been the only liquor that has seen recent success in the country. Cocuy is a liquor similar to that of Mexican tequila because it comprises of fermented agave plants. Cocuy has a long history in the country, with indigenous groups originally making it 500 years ago. The country reportedly outlawed the drink prior to 2006 to boost Venezuela’s rum and beer production and sales. Cocuy production companies regained licensure, resulting in the drink gaining popularity throughout the years. This once stigmatized drink meant for the poor and less refined is now one of choice primarily because of its low price point.

While the rise in domestic liquor sales may be seemingly insignificant, the growth of any domestic industry can play a critical role in the reversal of the economic climate of an impoverished nation. Venezuela’s rum revolution in the past decade could turn the country’s economy around.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Pixabay

Bolivia's Poverty Reduction
Bolivia is a South American country that continues to reduce its high poverty rate. Poverty lowered substantially from 66 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2018. The government of Bolivia took direct action to develop its economy, reduce its poverty and income inequality and increase foreign investment. The Latin American country still has a high poverty rate, yet its progress in the past 20 years shows promise that Bolivia’s poverty reduction and economic development will continue.

Government’s Direct Involvement in Poverty Reduction

The Bolivian government approved the National Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020 to bring about change in its country. Former President Evo Morales fought for income equality and higher wages as Bolivia’s president, and the country is still fighting for his goals. The country intends to help its people live a prosperous life without worrying about the effects of poverty, such as hunger and an inability to afford health care. The main objectives of the plan include eliminating extreme poverty, granting basic services to the entire population and diversifying its economy. The plan set forth a continuation of Bolivia’s poverty reduction progress since 2000 while also lowering income inequality.

Poverty almost reduced by half from 2000 to 2018, which economic growth partly drove after Bolivia transitioned into a democratic society during the 1990s. Income inequality lowered as the Gini coefficient demonstrated. If the Gini coefficient is zero, then income inequality is zero. This income inequality indicator showed a reduction from .62 in 2000 to .49 in 2014. For reference, the U.S. Gini coefficient in 2017 was .39. The 2016-2020 plan sought to continue its efforts in reducing income inequality. Although the Gini coefficient lowered, income inequality still remains an issue in Bolivia.

Poverty Reduction Through Economic Growth

Economic growth is another factor that helped with Bolivia’s poverty reduction efforts. Bolivia’s GDP growth hovered around 4 percent since the early 2000s. From 2000 to 2012, Bolivia increased its exports that consisted mainly of minerals and hydrocarbons. Although hydrocarbons grew controversial in Bolivia, hydrocarbons and minerals accounted for 81 percent of all exports in 2014. In 2000, its exports accounted for only 18 percent of GDP, yet exports grew to 47 percent in 2012. Bolivia’s decision to focus on exports helped grow its economy, add jobs and reduce income inequality. In time, Bolivia may transition to cleaner sources of energy for its future.

Economic growth led to wage increases for many Bolivians, which expressed the idea of poverty reduction through economic growth. Bolivia’s GDP grew by a massive 80 percent from 2000 to 2014, and there were various positive side effects of this growth. Salaries increased after the government took direct involvement in income inequality. The real minimum wage increased by 122 percent in the years 2000-2015. The average labor income also increased by 36 percent during 2000-2013.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to the conclusion that labor income was the number one factor that led to reductions in poverty and income inequality from 2007 to 2013. Nonlabor income such as remittances, rents and transfers contributed a small amount to these reductions. Nonlabor income was an important aid for the elderly though.

Bolivia’s Progress in Income Inequality and Economic Development

Bolivia is an excellent model for what is possible through a government’s direct involvement in poverty reduction. Economic growth helped fuel Bolivia’s objectives in reducing poverty and bringing income equality to its people. Although poverty remains high, Bolivia’s progress in the past 20 years shows promise that poverty will continue to lower. Income inequality remains an issue, and as shown from the IMF’s research, wage increases are key to Bolivia’s poverty reduction.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Investment Zones in Africa
Although populous, rich in natural resources and blessed with an abundance of arable land, many countries in the African continent continue to contend with poverty and food insecurity. That said, the status quo in Africa is far from all doom-and-gloom. More than 400 African companies boast annual revenues of $1 billion or greater, and the continent’s average GDP increased at an annual rate of 5.4 percent from 2000-2010. Meanwhile, a 2018 report from the World Bank noted that six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa, with Ghana claiming the top spot. New markets and investment zones in Africa offer entrepreneurs a host of business opportunities.

Competition for African Business

Africa’s economic revolution and ongoing population boom are an enticing prospect for international companies and foreign investors. China, Russia and India are just three of the nations competing for African business. In 2019, Chinese-African trade accrued $170 billion in profits, more than 20 times what it was in the early days of the current millennium. Foreign powers import Nigerian crude oil and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo or establish utility contracts in West Africa and this is only the beginning – Africa’s fast-growing economies promise even greater profits down the road.

Agriculture

Africa owns more arable land than any other region on earth, but most of that land is unutilized. African agricultural imports account for only 10 percent of the world market, while 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated land lies in African borders. Agribusiness has the potential to become one of the most profitable investment zones in Africa, as cash crops like sugar, tobacco and coffee have already yielded dividends for exporters even at less than optimal production.

Industry and Infrastructure

Given Africa’s generally outdated energy grids and telecommunications networks, infrastructure projects should prove a lucrative investment sector. Egypt initiated a full-scale infrastructure overhaul in 2015, while the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) financed a number of ventures across the continent, including the North-South Power Transmission Corridor project. Some people project Africa’s domestic gas markets to grow 9 percent annually through 2025. African manufacturers are on track to double their production to roughly $1 trillion by 2030, giving the region the capability to undercut traditional (and more costly) manufacturing exporters like China.

Profit for a Purpose

Continued industrialization and population growth in Africa should lead to an influx of new markets and future generations of consumers. Importantly, the locals also stand to benefit from new revenue streams and investment zones in Africa, not just multinationals. African investors are increasingly trying their hand in the international stock exchange, contributing $13.39 billion to global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects, and $10.2 billion to FDI funds in Africa itself. Africa, it seems, should become the next big player at the international economic table.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Economy in Croatia
While beautiful, Croatia is not the most affluent in terms of economic standards. As of 2015, 19.5 percent of the Croatian population was below the poverty line. The financial crash of 2008 stunted the development of gross domestic product the country experienced since 1998. The convergence gap widened by 3 percent, launching the country into a recession. Luckily, RIMAC and its car, the Concept Two, is impacting the economy in Croatia in a positive way by offering Croatian’s jobs and allowing Croatia to compete in the international market.

Croatian Economic Slump

Various key issues lead to a poor economy in Croatia including labor shortages, minimal pay, lack of adequate education and subsequent lack of skill. Such domestic problems are integral to why many Croats are unable to find opportunities that match up to wealthier Western European countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and/or Switzerland. According to the Croatian Employers Association (HUP), firms in Croatia are unable to fill some 30,000 jobs. Most of these openings exist in the tourism industry, making up at least 20 percent of Croatia’s gross domestic product.

Potential for a Great Economy

Despite the current state of the economy in Croatia, an emerging market may turn it around. Croatia, along with many other European Union member states, has benefited from the integration and trade of modern goods and services, specifically in technology.

Concept Two’s Impact

In 2018, a zoomer of a car sped onto the world’s tech radar at the Geneva Motor Show called the Concept Two. This car may support the development of a thriving economy in Croatia. Some have deemed the vehicle as “alive with technology,” elevating the bar as the fastest electric car around the globe.

The CEO of RIMAC, Mate Rimac, developed the lightning-fast vehicle. Mate Rimac began the development roughly 10 years ago when he turned his gas-powered vehicle into an electric car. The CEO has also discussed his desire to create opportunities in Croatia, “a country where people usually emigrate from,” to keep citizens from leaving. Further, Mate Rimac has already hired individuals of 22 different nationalities to work at his company.

The company manufactures all components of the Concept Two in-house. With the pricey, technologically loaded unit selling for more than $2 million, the average Croat would not be able to afford such a speedster. although, this hefty price tag could bring in a large influx of stimulation for the economy in Croatia.

RIMAC’s Impact

According to recent reports, the manufacture and production of the Concept Two are now employing many. The company has listed 429 full-time employees as of October 2018. Prior to this report in 2017, a venture capital funding organization noted the availability of 100 new jobs at RIMAC. These efforts have resulted in a growth of nearly double.

Further, the European Investment Bank (EIB) notes RIMAC as a good investment. In 2018, the EIB provided a direct loan to expand the research and development department, in part due to RIMAC introducing jobs and growth of the economy in Croatia.

Investment in Innovation

Often, the best way a country can improve the national economy is to grow business that can compete on an international level. Countries in the Baltic have been able to improve the internal business climate by increasing competition at the global playing field. One can promote allowing businesses to start and grow through investment in innovation, much like the Concept Two with RIMAC. One of the most productive methods to increase economic growth is through research and development in modern technology.

Companies like RIMAC should improve the business climate and economy in Croatia. With enough investment and support, companies with bravery and innovative force have the potential to be a major player in promoting Croatia into the international economy.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Wikimedia

The Transform Africa SummitThe Transform Africa Summit is a global forum that SMART Africa created in 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda. The summit is an annual event that brings together global and regional government officials and international organizations and businesses that meet to discuss how to shape and sustain Africa’s digital future. Here is more information about the Transform Africa Summit.

Purpose

The purpose of the summit is to further push Africa into a knowledge economy where member states are able to become more competitive on a global scale by increasing innovation and boosting job opportunities and improvements in sectors such as health care, education and agriculture. Overall, it strives to transform African cities into smart societies. The summit has had five editions since 2013, the last of which Kigali, Rwanda hosted in May 2019.

What is SMART Africa?

SMART Africa is both a solution and a commitment from African Heads of State and Government to grow the continent’s socio-economic developments and create affordable access to broadband. The overall goal is to increase Africa’s lagging economy through systems such as information and communications technologies (ICT).

Within SMART Africa is the Alliance, a group of 24 countries representing over 600 million people, that works to implement and maintain the pillars of the SMART Africa Manifesto and make sure its vision moves into action. These pillars include Policy, Access, e-Government, Private Sector/Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development. These pillars further break down into four enablers that ensure the effective establishment of economic growth and job creation.

Previous Summits

More than 1,200 delegates attended the first summit in 2013, including top executives from groups such as Facebook and Google. The 2013 summit resulted in the creation of the SMART Africa Manifesto, which was the first time Africa planned to put the private sector first and create a more open economy through ICT and advanced telecommunication. The 2018 summit hosted in May showcased the continent’s first Transform Africa Economic Forum which proposed ways to boost Africa’s economy by connecting cabinet secretaries with business leaders for collaboration.

The 2019 summit focused on the theme of “Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy.” This summit culminated in efforts to engage business leaders and high net worth investors in areas where collaboration and investment opportunities were possible, mainly in public-private partnerships. The newest summit is scheduled for April 2020 in Conakry, Republic of Guinea and projections determine that it should host over 4,000 participants from around the world.

Key Ideas

One of the unique features of the Transform Africa Summit is the member state’s drive to put the private sector first, which could further increase investments and productivity. Prior to the summit, Africa previously underdeveloped this notion. Through digitalization and creating a “One Africa Network,” leaders of the summit hope to rid Africa of the vast fragmentation that exists between countries.

Also central to the summit’s mission is to bring Africa from merely being a consumer of ICTs to its own producer. By operating on the premise of shared prosperity, creating supportive policies and doing away with monopolies, Africa can take great strides toward developing a successful knowledge-based economy.

Transformations

All four summits have been incredibly successful in ushering in connectivity in African cities and villages. All 53 governments of the African Union have accepted the SMART Africa Manifesto. This is a huge leap from the seven original members. Also successful was the push for the “One Africa Network” which paved the way for the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and proposed the establishment of a single market for all goods and services in 54 countries, a feat that would not have happened without SMART Africa’s digital push.

The 2018 summit noted that Africa’s mobile usage had increased to 80.8 percent, falling just behind 99.7 percent usage at the world level. Summit leaders also noted how new technology prices were able to go down due to the rise of technology that was popping up.

Overall, the Transform Africa Summit has created a more connected, open and successful economy for Africa. Africa has experienced job increases, industry expansion and economic growth since the original creation of the SMART Africa Manifesto in 2013 and its implementation by members of the African Alliance. The World Economic Forum speakers projected that numbers for 2020 will show that Africa’s consumer spending will be over $1.4 trillion.

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

World Problems To Write About
Across the world, many disasters have left poor legacies for many to deal with. Currently, organizations such as UNICEF and the United Nations Foundation are making efforts to eliminate global problems like climate change and global poverty. With this being said, many individuals are not aware of the full extent of these issues. It is time for journalists and writers to focus on today’s most prevalent issues to educate the public to take action. Here are five world problems to write about.

5 World Problems to Write About

  1. Climate Crisis: Right now, many news publications have been reporting on one of today’s most known issues: climate change. Affecting millions of individuals around the world,  the current climate crisis is a problem that many activists and scientists are trying to solve. Some people like Greta Thunberg have made it their mission to educate the public on what is going on and how to involve themselves. First, it is important to write about this issue because it has drastic consequences on human lives. For example, studies show that climate change will displace about 200 million people by 2050, leaving them with no home. Second, climate change also has repercussions on the planet itself. Sea levels have risen approximately eight inches in the past century, and the Earth’s surface temperature has risen almost 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit as well.
  2. Food Security: Quite a lot of today’s agriculture relies heavily on quick and easy access to water; however, access to natural resources such as water has grown limited due to its exploitation for other purposes. The lack of food security has contributed to the sharp increases in world hunger as people are not meeting their dietary needs. According to the United Nations, approximately 925 million people around the world go hungry either because they cannot afford food or because it is just too scarce. People need education about food security from the news, as many personal choices, such as wasting food, contribute to the problem.
  3. Lack of Education: Another important issue to write about is the lack of education that is so persistent in many low-income areas. Currently, more than 759 million adults are illiterate and do not properly understand the consequences of lacking education. Not only does it limit the number of job opportunities available in the future, but it also has drastic effects on future generations. Many organizations such as the Association for Childhood Education International have identified the source of the issue and are determined to alienate it in the coming years. By empowering children and adults to pursue an education, it hopes to shed light on its importance and help individuals grow.
  4. Gender Inequality: As the world progresses, it is important for society to acknowledge the age-old issue of gender inequality. Consequences such as wage discrepancies and stereotypical gender roles have limited many women across the world from achieving their full potential. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take almost 108 years to fully solve this issue; however, it is important that people write about gender inequality more often and educate the public to speed up that time. By understanding the full scope of the problem, men and women everywhere will have the empowerment to take action and fight for equality.
  5. Global Poverty: Finally, one of the largest world problems around the world is global poverty, affecting almost half of the world’s population. Global poverty, in general, has economic and social consequences. Not only can it be very dangerous for one’s health, but it also has dire effects on the environment and physical landscape. To add, poverty can negatively affect economic growth by limiting the amount of money available to invest and increasing crime rates. The Borgen Project has been a key player in writing on this issue, raising money and spreading awareness globally. It has also been very active in legislature, advocating for certain bills to alleviate global poverty. Writing on this issue can increase its urgency and push for more individuals to involve themselves.

It is important for writers and journalists across the world to report on these world problems that are most prevalent in today’s society. The world problems to write about above are some of the most urgent problems to address, affecting many politically, economically and socially. By reporting on these topics more frequently, people have the education and empowerment to take action. After all, action can only happen after awareness.

– Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

House Resolution 599
On September 26, 2019, Mississippi Rep. Trent Kelly introduced House Resolution 599: Expressing support of independence and further development of the strategic partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan (H. Res. 599). This resolution affirms the U.S.’s continued partnership with Uzbekistan as it transitions to a more economically and politically democratic country. With a population of 27.9 million, Uzbekistan is home to more than 50 percent of the Central Asian people. Because of this, it is poised to be a leader in regional affairs. The dominant ethnic group in the country is Uzbek (78.3 percent), and the dominant religion is Islam (76.2 percent), specifically Sunni Islam. Uzbekistan was a Soviet satellite state until the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1992, the newly-established Republic of Uzbekistan adopted a new constitution, which called for a national, bicameral legislature, a powerful executive and a judiciary.

The Situation in Uzbekistan

Since it gained independence, Uzbekistan’s government has taken measures to bolster the economy and increase economic development. As a result, its gross domestic product has been growing. However, at least 25 percent of the Uzbek population lives in poverty and much of Uzbekistan’s working-age population has gone abroad to find work. Uzbekistan also lacks quality health care. People can largely attribute the problems with its health care system to the uneven allocation of services during the Soviet era as well as environmental contamination.

Moreover, despite positive democratic developments, the government of Uzbekistan still perpetrates serious human rights abuses according to a State Department report. The Uzbek government commits arbitrary arrests and detentions of its citizens, denies them due process, restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press and frequently tortures prisoners. The regime has violated religious freedoms and has forced adults and children to harvest cotton.

U.S.-Uzbek Relations

Since Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. and Uzbek governments have cooperated in a wide range of areas, including regional security, economic development and trade and issues concerning politics and civil society. Specifically, the U.S. has collaborated with Uzbekistan in dealing with the illegal trafficking of both narcotics and people and in countering terrorism and extremism. According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan is a key partner in providing electricity and economic aid to Afghanistan and in assisting in the development of Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

The resolution comes on the heels of Uzbek President Skavkat Mirziyoyev’s first visit to the U.S. in May 2018. During the visit, U.S. and Uzbek companies signed bilateral business deals worth $4.8 billion and contracts valued at $2.5 billion. According to the resolution, the newly-formed Congressional Uzbekistan Caucus “has led to unprecedented levels of dialogue” between the U.S. and Uzbek governments.

House Resolution 599

Rep. Kelly introduced H. Res. 599 on September 26, 2019. The resolution then went to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On October 8, 2019, the resolution went to the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment, where members of the committee will consider whether they should bring it to the whole House.

The U.S. benefits from economic development and democratization in Uzbekistan since both will bring stability to Central Asia. H. Res. 599 would increase U.S.-Uzbek trade and open up new business opportunities for U.S. firms. Furthermore, cooperating with Uzbekistan protects U.S. national security interests. As H. Res. 599 notes, Uzbekistan’s government was “crucial to the expulsion of al-Qaida from Afghanistan” after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The resolution states that the U.S. will “share burdens” with Uzbekistan on regional issues such as stability in Afghanistan.

House Resolution 599 calls for a strengthening of ties between the U.S. and Uzbekistan. The resolution encourages the Uzbek government to improve the economic conditions and political freedoms of its people.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has internally displaced half a million people. Many are seeking refuge in forests with little access to medical care and portable water. Only recently has the world acknowledged the crisis, despite three years of growing human rights abuses driving the country to the brink of civil war.

The Makings of a Disaster

French and English are the official languages of Cameroon, which consists of 10 semi-autonomous regions. However, the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions have felt marginalized by the central government for decades.

Anglophones make up 20 percent of the population and have long complained of few job opportunities and the predominance of Francophones. When the government assigned French-speaking teachers and judges to anglophone schools and courts, anglophone lawyers and teachers felt that it violated their rights, leading to peaceful protests in 2016.

Government security forces responded by killing four protestors and arresting around 100, including several anglophone leaders. The government even banned civil society groups seeking a peaceful solution.

Escalating the Crisis

In 2017, an anglophone separatist group declared a new independent state called Ambazonia. In a pro-Ambazonia demonstration, security forces killed 17 people. The Borgen Project interviewed Mausi Segun, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Africa, who said, “If anyone is putting the abuses on both sides on a scale, the government has the upper hand. They have the most effective military equipment.”

Security forces have killed unarmed civilians and burned down villages. Meanwhile, authorities are arresting civilians on suspicion of supporting or belonging to the separatist movement. A number of those held on suspicion are undergoing torture.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, a Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute told The Borgen Project that authorities are catching civilians in a web of violence and mistaken affinity. “They can be arrested for not having their identification card,” he said.

As authorities hold anglophones in detention without trial, lose property and loved ones, resentment and distrust in the government is growing, fueling the grievances of the separatist movement. “We’re concerned the government is throwing the military, and arms and ammunition at a problem that is beyond just a military one,” Segun said.

Armed separatists have committed unlawful abuses as well, including killing security forces, kidnapping students and burning down approximately 36 schools. The International Crisis Group reported the killing of 235 soldiers, along with 1,000 separatists and 650 civilians.

Although one can blame the Anglophone Crisis on a failure of governance, Fomunyoh said that it is no longer a governance issue, “It’s now one of political insecurity.”

International Response

Cameroon now has the sixth-largest displaced population in the world. A wider conflict could threaten the entire region, impacting bordering countries such as Chad and Nigeria, who are fighting Boko Haram alongside Cameroon.

In March 2019, after three years of growing systematic violence, the U.N. human rights chief told the Cameroon government that its violent response will only fuel more violence and the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held its first meeting on the crisis in the following May. The E.U. called on Cameroon’s government to initiate a dialogue with armed separatists and Switzerland agreed to act as a mediator.

Fomunyoh said that countries may have been slow to respond because they expected African organizations to intervene. The African Union (A.U.) is one such organization, which has intervened in precarious situations before, including South Sudan’s recent crackdown on protestors. The A.U. called on Sudan to restore civil law and expelled the country from the Union. Although the A.U. has endorsed Switzerland’s peace talks, it has yet to take further action.

Solutions

Fomunyoh said that there are three divided propositions to the Anglophone Crisis, “The Amba boys who want separation, those who want a federation and those who believe the status quo is fine the way it is,” however, the first step should be to end this violence.

All parties need to agree to a cease-fire, separatists need to allow children to go back to school and the government should release anglophone prisoners so they can be part of finding a solution. Although the idea of federalism has almost become taboo, Human Rights Lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho strongly believes it would appease all sides.

“People would have a separation of powers. People would have the autonomy,” said Nkongho. However, the government has made promises in the past it did not keep.

Cameroon’s previous federation dissolved in 1972 under the same government. So, promises to implement any agreement will not mean anything unless the government regains trust. Segun believes this can start by holding those guilty of human rights abuses accountable. “To sacrifice justice on the order peace would only lead to more violence and a crisis later, if not immediately.”

Preventing a future crisis also requires healing from the trauma, which is Fomunyoh’s biggest concern. If the country does not make investments in healing, it could threaten future security by creating an environment where corruption thrives.

“When you have dead bodies in the street when that becomes the norm, then other abuses like assault, rape, theft, are pale in comparison,” said Fomunyoh. The Anglophone Crisis can become much direr and have unintended long-lasting consequences.

International solidarity helped South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The AU and UNSC helped resolve Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis. There is no reason that Cameroon cannot stop its Anglophone Crisis.

Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

 

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr