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Newsletter (in English)

Poverty in Africa

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Over the last thirty years there has been no growth in income for the average African. There are between 350 and 500 million malaria cases diagnosed each year, resulting in more than 1 million deaths annually. Malaria remains the number one killer of children under the age of five in Africa. Life expectancy is forty-six years. Twenty-three of forty-seven sub-Saharan states have currently a GDP of less than $3 billion (ExxonMobil’s net profit in the first quarter of 2006 was $8 billion).

In Tanzania public service expenditures per capita fell by 10 percent a year in the 1980s; in Sudan structural adjustment programmes created one million “new poor”; and urban poverty in Nigeria almost tripled between 1980 and the mid 1990s. No wonder that 85 percent of urban growth in Nairobi, Kinshasha, and Nouakchott in the 1980s and 1990s was accommodated in the slums barracks of sprawling and ungovernable cities. Lagos grew from 300,000 to 13 million in over fifty years and is expected to become part of a vast Gulf of Guinea slum of 60 million poor along a corridor stretching 600 kilometers from Benin City to Accra by 2020.

The impact of HIV/AIDS with an 8 percent adult prevalence and 28 million infected, has transformed life expectancy in southern and eastern Africa. Africa accounts for 2.3 million AIDS deaths per year. Twenty years ago, a male child could reasonably expect to live to sixty in Botswana; currently it is about thirty. By 2010 there will be more than 50 million orphans in Africa.

Life is cheap in Africa. Yet according to Fortune magazine, “American companies are enjoying the most sumptuously profitable period in the 500’s 53-year history. Last year post-tax profit margins hit 7.9%. That’s 27% higher than the 6.2% posted in 2000, then lauded as exceptional.”

But it costs only $10 to buy a bed net, deliver it, and educate a family on proper use.

A World Bank report this month states that global aid to poor countries fell to $103.9 billion last year from $106.8 billion in 2005. The International Monetary Fund describes ‘vulture funds’ as companies which buy up the debts of poor nations cheaply as they are about to be liquidated, and then sue for the full value, plus interest. In a recent case a firm name “Donegal” paid $3.3 million for a debt Zambia owed Romania and sued for a $42 millions repayment in the high court, the judge “limited” its claim to $15.5 million and cut its award of costs because of its ‘dishonesty.’”

Yet by 2005, thirty-eight of the top fifty-nine priority countries that failed to make headway toward the Millennium Goals were sub-Saharan states, and according to the Chronic Poverty Report 2004–05, all sixteen of the most “desperately deprived” countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 300 million people live on less than $2 per day – and this is expected to rise to 400 million by 2015. One-third of the population of the continent is undernourished; stunting rates run at almost 40 percent. According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization assessment in January 2006, twenty-seven countries are in need of emergency food relief.

Capitalism means poverty, oppression and death. That’s why it must be destroyed.

by Bill from Manchester,

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