1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Africa, Africa

  • Africa’s Energy Transformation: Rewriting the Global Rules (1 Dec 2016) | Caroline Kende-Robb
    Africa is undergoing a remarkable energy transformation. But African governments and their international partners have to accelerate that transformation if we are to achieve our collective ambitions. Access to clean modern energy, especially in Africa, where 620 million people have no electricity, is critical to the success of global efforts to tackle poverty and achieve the SDGs.
  • Making Women’s Rights a Reality in Africa (2 Feb 2016) | Paola Cagna
    Over the last 10 days, men and women leaders came together at the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa to discuss, among other topics, how African countries can realize human rights, especially women’s rights. Fortunately, there is no lack of ideas, and evidence supporting those ideas, on how to make women’s rights a reality in Africa and elsewhere. This blog suggests four ideas just for a start.
  • Promoting Tax Bargains in Uganda and Beyond: The Importance of Civil Society and Parliamentarians (20 Jul 2015) | Jalia Kangave
    While developing countries have acknowledged the importance of domestic resource mobilization in development, in practice, not enough attention is being paid to the importance of tax bargains. Attempting to increase tax-to-GDP ratios without promoting negotiations between the taxing authorities and those being taxed is bound to undermine sustainable tax collection and promote poor governance. Successful domestic resource mobilization requires that (1) tax bargains are made more open; (2) civil society organizations (CSOs) and parliamentarians are given more political space in the bargaining processes; (3) systems are put in place to ensure the accountability of CSOs and parliamentarians; (4) governments introduce or reintroduce personal taxes at the local government level (such as the graduated tax – a direct tax that mostly affected poor and vulnerable households – which Uganda abolished in 2005) and (5) indirect taxes are made more visible.
  • Revenue Bargains Key to Financing Africa’s Development (16 Jul 2015) | Yusuf Bangura
    Africa has enjoyed a growth momentum since 2000 after the wasted years of the 1980s and much of the 1990s. However, eradicating poverty will require huge resources, which existing funding strategies will be unable to generate. Global commodity prices have fallen sharply; capacity to mobilize domestic revenues is waning; and aid has been insufficient in plugging funding gaps. Revenue bargains in which states extract revenues from citizens in exchange for investments that impact positively on well-being may be key to financing Africa’s development. They can substantially increase revenues, nurture effective state-citizen relations, force companies to pay correct taxes, push fragmented systems of service provision in the direction of universalism, improve policy space and make aid more effective.
  • Collective empowerment? Producer cooperatives versus women’s groups in Kenyan ethical trade (29 Apr 2015) | Kiah Smith
    Part of the rationale behind fair and ethical trade is to improve the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers in the South, but also contribute to environmental sustainability, more equitable trading and decision-making relationships, and often, gender equality. However, the extent to which women’s participation in particular schemes contributes to their empowerment is highly variable. This think piece considers in particular the extent to which women’s empowerment is enhanced or reduced through their participation in ethical and fair trade decision-making structures, such as producer cooperatives, as well as other collective strategies, such as women’s groups.
  • Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: An African Perspective (2 Mar 2015) | Faiza Jama Mohamed
    Twenty years have passed since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), a comprehensive roadmap to advance women's rights and achieve gender equality. This piece will reflect upon achievements made but also persisting challenges to the successful implementation of the BPfA within the African context, ahead of the review process in March 2015. Discussed in detail are the issues of sexual violence, women's political participation, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), education and maternal health. Additionally, this piece discusses the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and successful regional strategies pursued by the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition that have helped to push for particular achievements pertaining to women's rights, especially at the African Union level.
  • Women, War and Peace in Africa: A Reflection on the Past 20 Years (2 Mar 2015) | Meredeth Turshen
    This contribution takes the analysis of wartime violence against women out of an individualized context and puts it into the realm of war economies, which are highly criminalized and globalized. Yes, wartime rape was long a neglected topic deserving of our attention. But the protracted wars on the African continent have created a “durable disorder”, wrenching women, children and men from their everyday productive activities, rites and celebrations and pitching them into states of violent turmoil, confused movement, precarious existence and deep grief unrelieved by the normal symbols of mourning. These wars, which include lengthy and intermittent civil strife, ethnic and communal violence, disruptive political discord, internal disturbances, states of emergency and suppression of mass uprisings, occur under global neoliberal regimes in an environment of the so-called war on terror. Their impact on women’s security deserves an expanded feminist analysis that reaches beyond interpersonal violence to encompass the political economy of the “new wars”.
  • 'Crops' or 'Carats'? Interaction between gold mining and cocoa production and the livelihood dilemma in Amansie Central District of Ghana (30 Oct 2014) | Stephen Yeboah
    Gold mining and cocoa production co-exist and interact as vital livelihood strategies in Ghana. While gold mining and agriculture complement each other in terms of income and labour flows, they also compete significantly for land and water resources. Drawing upon qualitative fieldwork in the Amansie Central District of Ghana, this think piece argues that despite its substantial income-generating potentials, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is not a complete substitute of agriculture because predominantly young farmers (those below 50 years) choose to mine. ASM complements the income of these farmers. Cocoa production remains an important economic activity for a majority of the farmers, as the one that they have long lived with. Farming is also more sustainable than ASM. I argue again that though ASM generates income for some farmers, the costs of its activities in terms of collective loss of vast agricultural lands and water pollution diminish these benefits.
  • African Mining, Gender and Local Employment (10 Oct 2014) | Anja Tolonen
    Large scale mining operations have been accused of being economically isolated enclaves, with few positive benefits to nearby communities. In addition, it has been argued that extractive industries hinder women’s labour market participation by increasing reservation wages (the lowest wage rate at which a worker is willing to accept a job) and decreasing demand for female labour, thus reinforcing gender inequality. This think piece builds upon original research performing the first cross-national study using micro-data testing these important hypotheses. We treat mine openings and mine closings in sub-Saharan Africa as natural experiments to explore local labour market changes. We partly refute and partly confirm the above arguments. Industrial mines generate local structural shifts. Subsistence farming becomes less important for both men and women: men shift to skilled manual labour, and women shift to service sector jobs or leave the labour market. The effects are not persistent and mining risks creating local ‘boom-bust’ economies.
  • What Does Privacy Have To Do With Social Protection? (8 Oct 2014) | Robert Maganga Mwanyumba
    The right to privacy and the right to social protection intertwine in more ways than one. This commentary considers how these to rights relate to issues such as the use of technology, the consequences of targeting in terms of data collection, and the impact of poverty on attitudes to privacy.
  • Using Human Rights in the Courts to Broaden Social Protection—The South African Example (19 Sep 2014) | Beth Goldblatt
    This article discusses the case of South Africa where the courts have been a significant site of contestation over the nature and extent of the social assistance system. The combination of the right to social security and the right to equality has been of central importance in a number of key cases concerning social security brought to the South African courts.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and Oil in the Niger Delta: Solution or Part of the Problem? (23 Jul 2014) | Michael Marchant
    Much recent development thinking has considered the ability of the private sector to play a developmental role in areas lacking a state presence. This think piece casts doubt onto this perspective by assessing the obstacles that the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) has faced in enacting CSR policies in the Niger Delta. It suggests that the complex nature of conflict in the Niger Delta, along with Shell’s organizational structure and culture have been two primary obstacles. However, it also argues that Shell’s reluctance to acknowledge its own role in the conflict within the Delta has undermined its CSR. Ultimately, it is suggested that this speaks to a fundamental problem with the belief in CSR as a solution to the current absence of state institutions in many areas; namely that it ignores the corporation’s own contribution to the social, political and economic problems facing the communities that they operate in.
  • Kenyan Businesswomen Transforming Slum Economies through Complementary Currencies (24 Jul 2013) | Morgan Richards, William Ruddick
    Are complementary currencies the next step in building the Social and Solidarity Economy and could Kenyan women be demonstrating a new development model for a failing global monetary system? This think-piece examines the case of the Bangladesh community, an informal settlement in Kenya, using a complementary currency system which enables female business owners to build resilience, avoid economic downturns and juggle family care and business profits. After promising initial outcomes, the Central Bank of Kenya initiated charges for forgery in May 2013.
  • “It is the powerful farmers who really enjoy the group”: Inequality and Change in Uganda’s Coffee Cooperatives (10 Apr 2013) | Karin Wedig
    Despite the recovery of agricultural cooperatives in sub-Saharan-Africa since the 2000s, knowledge about their social and economic effects in liberalized agricultural markets remains inadequate. Evidence from Uganda’s coffee sector indicates that today’s cooperatives create net benefits for small producers by contributing to an improved capacity of disadvantaged groups to defend their interests. However, high risks and inadequate financial services in weakly regulated agricultural markets create barriers to economic organization for small producers, and some become too poor to organize. Furthermore, intraorganizational inequalities limit access to cooperative benefits for some members. New evidence from Uganda (Wedig, forthcoming) indicates close linkages between existing inequalities and the lack of a larger institutional framework which would allow disadvantaged members to defend their interests vis-à-vis stronger economic actors at the local level. Thus, community-based organizations seem to be particularly vulnerable to alliances between better-off producers and primary-level cooperative managers, which contribute to the reproduction of elite bargains.
  • Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Which Way for the Informal Economy? (23 Jul 2012) | Fredrick Otieno Dawa, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
    This think piece argues that the informal economy should be included in discussions on green economy. The informal economy represents three-fourths of non-agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa, making it an important component in the social, economic and political arenas in Africa. The authors draw on a case study on the informal sector in Kenya, known as the Kamukunji Jua Kali cluster, to make their case. The cluster is an initiative by subaltern groups that supports rural agriculture, creates jobs, recycles industrial waste and has an association that runs its own affairs. It is an example of how the informal economy in Kenya is linking social and environmental concerns. The likelihood that this sector will persist requires rethinking the informal economy in terms of community economies that secure livelihoods, cultural identity and employment while moving toward green economies more generally.
  • Security Sector Reform Needs Inclusive Politics and Jobs for the Poor (19 Mar 2012) | Yusuf Bangura
    Security sector reform has gained prominence in recent years as the international community seeks solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. However, in order to achieve sustainable peace, security sector reform needs to be grounded in inclusive government and growth strategies that deliver jobs to the poor.
  • Biofuels and Food Security: Green Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (22 Nov 2011) | Chike Jideani, Chinney Kennedy-Echetebu, Chizoba Chinweze, Gwen Abiola-Oloke
    The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardizes the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. UNEP defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. Yet the inclusion of biofuels as part of this green economy agenda ignores ecological realities as well as the social dimensions of food insecurity.