Oil in KenyaThe county of Turkana, Kenya, is currently situated over an estimated 750 million barrels of oil. From the outside looking in, the oil is a winning lottery ticket for Turkana, with 90 percent of its 1.3 million people living below the poverty line. Jobs and business opportunities have increased due to the oil wells, and the oil is expected to make billions of dollars annually for Kenya in just a few years, 20 percent of which will go to the Turkana County government.

However, many people in Turkana do not see the oil in Kenya to be a glimmer of hope; rather, they fear that the new wells will contribute to conflicts over scarce pasture and water resources. Turkana is home to millions of pastoral animals that now have no access to pasture due to the oil rig installations, and they must be herded long distances to find drinkable water and a specific type of grass.

The oil in Kenya has also been said to be killing goats in the county and has caused a stench problem throughout some families’ homes, making it hard to live. The Kenyan government must address the consequences of the oil as well as Turkana residents’ feelings toward the oil to avoid intense conflict, violence or even a civil war.

Turkana, as a county, has been struggling with poverty and human development for many years. Turkana County has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in the country, the lowest rates of education enrollment and the lowest life expectancy in Kenya. Turkana also suffers the worst of all the counties in Kenya from the ongoing drought that has now been recognized as a national disaster.

Furthermore, the United Nations and Kenyan government estimate that 2.7 million people in Kenya as a whole are facing a food shortage. With all of these struggles that both the country and Turkana County have been facing, it is easy to see why many people feel the oil in Kenya is a sign of hope for a better future. With regards to the infamous possibilities that could be Turkana’s future, as well as Kenya’s, it is important for the government to have regard for the animals, farmers and land.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Kuwait Poor?Kuwait, a small country located in the Middle East, is a country that tends to be stereotypically characterized as stricken with poverty. A common question that is asked is, why is Kuwait poor?

But this stereotype is not necessarily true. Kuwait is indeed small, but its oil reserves have made it one of the richer countries in the region. In terms of purchasing power, Kuwait’s GDP is ranked 55th in the world by the CIA World Factbook.

Due to Kuwait’s small population size, this success directly correlates to its people’s standard of living. As of 2016, Kuwait’s GDP per capita ranked 11th in the world at $71,900. This figure is much higher than many major economies such as the United States, which ranked 20th at $57,400.

Based on these figures alone, Kuwait appears not to be a poor country, but one of the most prosperous in the world. So, why is Kuwait poor? On the international stage, it is not. When one looks further, however, key figures may legitimize that question.

What is interesting about Kuwait is that the country’s poverty rate is extremely difficult to find. Neither the World Bank, the CIA World Factbook nor UNICEF have access to it, which raises a lot of questions. Why do these trusted international organizations not have this information? Is this information being withheld, and if so, for what reason?

Based on other metrics, it is hard to see Kuwait as a stereotypical poor country. The figures mentioned above related to GDP show that the nation as a whole is seeing economic success, and an unemployment rate of 3 percent suggests that its poverty rate must be low.

Still, the lack of specific data in this area is unsettling. If Kuwait is as prosperous as it seems to be, there should be no issue in providing data relevant to its poverty rate and income distribution. In order for the world to know for certain, the international community needs this data.

So, why is Kuwait poor? It technically is not poor, but that is not necessarily the right question to be asking. By asking questions regarding Kuwait’s poverty rate, its income distribution, and the general livelihoods of its people, we can better analyze the country’s successes, its shortcomings and its opportunities for growth long into the future.

John Mirandette

Photo: Flickr

Saudi Arabia
King Salman of Saudi Arabia traveled to Indonesia in March to promote economic ties, and the visit sparked some discussion on the current state of inequality in Saudi Arabia. The cost of the trip was estimated at $18 million, involving six Boeing passenger jets and a military transport aircraft, which held two electric elevators and a limousine.

The Saudi family is the richest in the world, worth an estimated total of $1.4 trillion, predominately due to its assets in petroleum. However, Saudi Arabia is still relatively poor; with 20 percent of people living in poverty, the problem of income inequality in Saudi Arabia is quite evident.

Despite an annual oil revenue of more than $200 billion, most Saudis lack adequate housing, healthcare, sanitation and education. Author Karen House highlights these issues in her book On Saudi Arabia. Most of the oil revenue flows right into the hands of the royal family. At least 80 percent of the revenue in the Saudi treasury comes from petroleum, but the average Saudi citizen does not benefit from those gains. The central government in Riyadh, where the royal family is settled, receives most of the oil profits. This sustains a strong monarchy and keeps the majority poor and powerless. The public simply has no say in how the government spends its money.

Moreover, with so much revenue coming in from oil, the government is still unable to provide jobs for its citizens. Saudi Arabia provides one in four barrels of oil exported around the world, yet 40 percent of Saudi youth between twenty and twenty-four are unemployed. The unemployment is partly due to the fact that 90 percent of all employees in the private sector are foreign workers.

The consequences of having a corrupt government are highlighted in times of chaos. In January 2011, during the Cairo revolution, the city of Jeddah flooded because the monarchy failed to establish basic protections against the weather. Ten people died due to improper sewerage and drainage. The inadequate preparation was blamed on corrupt businesses and the government stealing money from both sewer and drain-related construction projects.

Education in Saudi Arabia is of a poor quality and tends to exclude females. The government restricts the economic opportunities of women, who are denied the same rights as men. The lack of economic freedom also correlates with the high rates of poverty, as 40 percent of Saudis live in poverty and at least 60 percent cannot afford a home.

Saudi Arabia is one of the richest nations in the world, yet the majority of the population lacks basic amenities. The poverty rates show clear income disparity in Saudi Arabia and it needs to be further addressed.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Two years ago, young people flooded Facebook with Kony 2012. Today, still awaiting the capture of Joseph Kony, the world has reacted to the April 14 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the now notorious Boko Haram. Whether these trends through social media represent a genuine interest in world affairs, or simply an opportunity to self-promote, #BringBackOurGirls has indeed generated publicity for Northern Nigeria.

An understanding of the origins of the group, which calls itself Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wasl-Jihad, or “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” warrants a brief examination of life in Nigeria.

The paradox of the Nigerian economy has troubled the nation for decades since gaining independence from the British. How can the largest economy in Africa belong to a country in which 70 percent of its population still lives on less than $1.25 per day? Nigeria also has the largest number of children not in school, yet young Nigerians can be found scattered throughout the most prestigious universities in Europe and the U.S.

The answer to this inequality lies in the handling of the nation’s most prosperous natural resource: oil. Petroleum accounts for over 95 percent of all Nigerian exports and generates billions of dollars in profits, yet the Nigerian people receive little benefit for the extraction of their natural resource; instead, most profits never move beyond the select elite of Nigerian society.

This economic mismanagement has hindered the development of a strong middle class in Nigeria and has especially confined the Northern region, where poverty has soared to over 70 percent. Without diversification of the economy, the majority of Nigerians living in poverty are subject to the rise and fall of the price of oil as demonstrated over the past few years.

Another factor that has directly threatened human rights and has spread terrorism in Northern Nigeria is the environment. Global climate change leads to drought and shortages of resources in the North that further burden an already impoverished population. Desperation drives unemployed and young Northerners to join the ranks of the extremists. The Maitatsine sect, widely viewed as the precursor to the Boko Haram, began in the midst of an ecological disaster that displaced thousands of former farmers and herdsmen.

Corruption and inequality in Nigeria has facilitated the emergence of the Boko Haram, which, under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, has waged war in the region for the past five years. The Boko Haram grew after its founding in 2002, with the goal of imposing Sharia law upon all of Nigeria.

Having lost its original leader, who was publicly executed in 2009, the group rallied together and freed over 700 of its followers in a 2010 prison break.

The kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Borno is only the latest of the violent attacks the group has committed. No hashtag trend spread with the same magnitude as #BringBackOurGirls when 50 plus schoolboys died in February, nor when the group shot 40 sleeping students in dormitories at an agricultural college in 2013, nor the April 14 bombing that killed close to 100 people. More recently, at the beginning of May, the group destroyed a bridge near the Cameroonian border, killing 30. The Boko Haram attacked a second bridge on May 9 with an unknown number of casualties.

The rise of the Boko Haram generates concern within the international community, and yet that same community has allowed for the conditions conducive to such violence for years. Without addressing poverty in Nigeria, groups like the Boko Haram will continue to flourish.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: CFR, The Guardian 1, UNESCO, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, Al Jazeera, Time, Oxford Journals, BBC, CIA

Photo: BBC

Rural Sudan Drought
Conflicts over oil in Sudan, North Africa’s largest country, caused a series of price inflations that have greatly affected the population. As Sudan’s largest natural resource is oil, the country experienced years of turmoil and conflict with bordering countries over the rights to oil fields. The increase in the price of oil is further reflected in transportation, and the isolation gap between urban and more rural areas has grown. As a result of this isolation, rural areas are unable to access necessary resources and economic growth. These areas have experienced low human development and according to the World Bank Sudan ranks 171 out of 187 countries on the human development indicator. In order to better human development the country must focus more on social and economic factors, especially in these rural communities.

Sudan is mostly made up of rural areas, which are drastically affected by drought, famine and conflict. In particular, the region of Darfur has suffered considerably and is currently the poorest area of the country. In fact, the land in Sudan is unfit to farm because of unreliable rainfall and the area faces major drought. Due to these circumstances, more than half of the population of Sudan lives in poverty and isolation.

Sudan also faces inequality and underdevelopment for most people living in these areas. For instance, access to health services is scarce, leaving more than half of the population without access to health resources. Due to the lack of resources in the health sector the child mortality rate in Sudan is extremely high, with  111 child mortality deaths per 1,000 births. In addition to a high child mortality rate, more than half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Instead, these communities rely on rivers, wells, and lakes as their drinking source.

In addition to these factors, there is an extreme lack of education in Sudan, especially for young girls. Even if a young girl does have the option to attend school, she becomes at risk of rape and other forms of violence.

There is an obvious need for social and economic development in rural areas to increase Sudan’s overall human development. Children in rural communities must have equal opportunity for a safe education to improve these areas. Also, while there is a substantial focus on oil, the country should instead shift to agriculture so that proper farming practice can be promoted in rural communities. This would foster economic development and lessen the isolation gap that these rural areas currently face.

– Rachel Cannon 

Sources: The Guardian, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Energy Forecast 

In recent years, the nation of Yemen has been mired in strife, partially due to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Al-Qaeda factions within the country. The National Dialogue Conference established by the current president, President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, not only led to Saleh’s departure in 2012, but also aimed to eradicate the territorial strife created by a centralized government.

The establishment of six federal regions in Yemen (Aden, Hadramawt, Saba, Janad, Azal and Tahama) created a sense of equality.

With their own political autonomy and a fair distribution of the oil resources in Yemen, the southern states of Aden and Hadramawt can profess egalitarian footing with the other four northern regions. The former capital of Sana’a will remain neutral; the port city of Aden will maintain its own level of autonomy.

Despite agreement from all delegates to create the six federations, southern secessionists are still displeased.

The possibility of the north arresting the oil reserves instills fears among southern separatists. Yemen’s political past stems from Saleh’s forced centralization of both the southern and northern regions in 1994 despite an initial union with the north in 1990.

After independence from the British in 1967, the southern region of Yemen remained independent laced with Marxist ideology.

An impoverished nation, Yemen has a dearth of food supplies. The Global Food Fund donated $36 million in order to raise food initiatives ranging from livestock to agriculture. The four-year plan aims to change the lives of small-scale farmers in rural region: 31 percent of these rural farmers produce a mere 10 percent of the amount of food they need.

From research to supply to guidance to construction, the initiative proposed by the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture aims to combat malnutrition.  The initiative includes better irrigation, high-quality seeds and land development to facilitate farming methods.

Among struggles with food security, Yemen reported that 2.5 million children do not continue their education. Beyond education,  the Yemeni population is vulnerable to high infant and maternal mortality rates as well as infectious diseases.

With a hopefully better political climate, the government can focus on the undernourished Yemeni population, with reports that 46 percent of the population survived on scarce food supply in 2012.

Whether the formation of the six federal regions will placate external political figures also remains to be seen.

 – Miles Abadilla

Sources: Al-Jazeera, Al-Shorfa, BBC, Thomson Reuters
Photo: Alarabiya