Addressing African Youths’ Periods of Inactivity Between Educational Attainment & Employment

Cross-linked with Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges

Sixty-five percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 24, with over 40 percent of the total population below the age of 16, and about 25 percent between the ages 15 and 24. The issue of education is a recurring theme in conversations about Africa’s youth. World Bank data shows that in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Mozambique more than 75 percent of out-of-school youth have no “education at all.”

In a study of 13 African countries, findings showed that rural youth are less likely to be in school, and urban youth (except in Kenya) tended to have greater educational opportunities. However, rural youth often joined the workforce earlier and were less likely to be unemployed, compared to their urban counterparts (except in Kenya and Ethiopia) who saw longer periods of inactivity as they transitioned from school to work. In a 2008 World Bank executive summary entitled “Youth in Africa’s Labor Market, it was noted that:

In 8 of the 13 countries reviewed (Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, and Zambia), young people face about five years of inactivity before finding work; youth in Uganda are inactive for more than three years on average. Continue reading

The Greater We: The Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance and Africa’s Youth

Cross-linked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges’ site

The World Bank defines governance as “the exercise of political authority and the use of institutional resources to manage society’s problems and affairs.” As we move forward in the second decade of the 21st century, the question of good governance is particularly important.

Defining good governance (a nebulous term) as human development and fair, transparent, participatory management of state resources, it is fair to say that good governance ought to encompass the issues faced by today’s youth. This is especially true for Africa, where 65 percent of the population is below the age of 24, compared to the average age of African heads of state- just over 72.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was founded by Mohammed Ibrahim, a British Sudanese-born mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire, in 2006. The goal of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is to support good governance and leadership in Africa. One method of incentivizing good governance among African leaders is the Mo Ibrahim Achievement in African Leadership, gives $5 million lump sum payment, plus a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state work toward the social (security, health, education) and economic development of their nation and democratically transfer power to their successors.

The inaugural winner of the Mo Ibrahim Achievement in African Leadership award was Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano, who served as president for 19 years before declining to run for a third term in 2004. This year’s winner was Pedro Verona Pires, President of Cape Verde from 2001-2010. The cited reason for his win was his role in making Cape Verde a “model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity.”

The Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance looks at 1) Safety and Rule of Law 2) Participation and Human Rights 3) Sustainable Economic Opportunity 4) Human Development. Continue reading

The Great Land Rush: Land Grabs & Food Security

Crosslinked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization

The Great Land Rush and Food Security

What is land?

Many of us don’t think about what land really means. An economist might define land as the totality  of natural resources in a given area, while a lawyer might focus on  land, water and mineral rights. But a farmer’s answer might be simpler: land is the farmer’s capital. Land is the soil and  water utilized in the production of crops for the local or global market. In the context of an increasingly globalized world, land rights are paramount, particularly in the Global South (Asia, South America, Africa and Australia). As governments and multinational corporations buy up land, small farmers and indigenous groups are edged out.

A Global Phenomenon

A 2010 World Bank study showed that 110 million acres (44,515,420.7 hectares) of farmland worldwide were sold or leased in the first eleven months of 2009 alone;  70 percent of these land deals were concentrated in Mali, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Before 2008, land was sold or leased at an average annual rate of  10 million acres (4,046,856.42 hectares). However, in the last four years alone, nearly 148 million acres (about 60 million hectares) of land on the continent of Africa has been acquired by international investors and government bodies. This surge in land grabbing and speculation deserves attention because it poses a grave threat to regional food security, indigenous land and water rights.

These land deals are not just confined to the continent of Africa (which holds nearly two-thirds of the world’s remaining arable land). In the Middle East,  Bahrain has seen political upheaval and protest in the wake of a major land deal within its borders. White South African farmers are buying up land in Georgia while in the Ukraine, the state is planning to buy up 30 percent of the nation’s land to bolster the country’s food security. In Australia, in a similar move a Chinese company has offered to buy 80,000 hectares of farmland.

In one of Asia‘s poorest nations, 15 percent of Cambodian land has been signed over to private companies (made easier by the Khmer Rouge’s  prohibition of private property and subsequent burning of all land titles). In South America, the Brazilian government has shown its openness to greater foreign investment in rural land. In today’s globalized world economy, these land deals have far-reaching effects.

Why the rush for land?

Factors driving the land grab include population pressure, the burgeoning middle class in the Global South and its heightened demand for foodstuffs, in concert with individual countries’ concerns over food security. As ready access to food is essential to a politically stable nation, food security can have major political effects.

This was seen in 2009 in Madagascar when a land deal with a South Korean conglomerate that would have handed over half of Madagascar‘s arable land was met with mass protests and led to the overthrow of then-President Ravalomanana. Continue reading

Article: The Global Food Crisis & Land Grabs in Africa

[Crosslinked at Future Challenges Organization: Article: The Global Food Crisis and Land Grabs in Africa ]

Land grabs on the continent of Africa are partly driven by recent food crises, which led to food riots all over the globe.  Currently, Africa has about a third of the world‘s arable land.  Long-term land leases and purchases of Africa‘s arable land are increasing as a response to the global food crisis. The implication is that the creation of commercial food plantations on the continent of Africa will not facilitate mutually beneficial arrangements between African nations and people and the multinational corporations that are buying up the land.

The global food crisis is exacerbated by the fact that unsustainable consumption patterns exist in North America and Europe (the „West“). Moreover, it is telling that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pushing Monsanto‘s genetically modified seeds toward African farmers, touting increased productivity, while ignoring their detrimental effects.

„Using strains of crops that required fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation, the Green Revolution methods increased yields. But they also damaged the environment, favored wealthier farmers and left some poorer ones deeper in debt.“ (Seattle Times: Gates Foundation’s agriculture aid a hard sell, 20 January 2008)

The fact remains that much of the land in North America and Europe is not arable because of unsustainable farming practices. These practices include the use of Monsanto’s GMO, single-yield seeds and the cultivation of non-native or invasive species, which essentially strip the soil of essential nutrients. Urbanization and suburbanization is another factor in the decrease in arable land tracts in North America and Europe.

World Bank study released in September tallied farmland deals covering at least 110 million acres — the size of California and West Virginia combined — announced during the first 11 months of 2009 alone. Over 70% of these land deals are concentrated in Mali, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mozambique. These deals usually stipulate the transfer of land ownersship to investors or long-term leases. (NYTimes: African Farmers Losing Land to Investors, 21 December 2010) Before 2008, the average rate was 10 million acres per year. This 1000 per cent increase in land deals is due, in part, to the global food crisis. Governments and multinational corporations buy the land to havegreater control over food prices and production.

In 2009, a land deal with a South Korean conglomerate that would have handed over half of Madagascar‘s arable land was met with mass protests and led to the overthrow of President Ravalomanana. The unpopular former president was replaced by his opposition leader, the former mayor of Antanarivo, Andry Rajoelina.

In Mali, nearly three million acres along the Niger River and its inland delta are controlled by a state-run trust called the Office du Niger. Multinational corporations from China and South Africa are investing heavily into Malian land for the cultivation of sugar cane.  Corporations based in Libya and Saudi Arabia are investing in land for the cultivation of rice. Other nations with heavy investment into African landgrabs includeCanada, Belgium, France, South Korea, India, the Netherlands and multinational organizations like the West African Development Bank.  One problem, for example, is that the Libyan government intends to import its agricultural products (rice, beef, etc.) produced on Malian land into Libya, rather than sell in local markets. This would be good news if the land deals weren‘t displacing Malian farmers. As Mali is still largely agrarian, displaced farmers face a dilemma.  By and large, they do not have the option to migrate to urban centers in search of work. Similarly, they do not have the choice to remain on the land that they tilled for generations.

Here is a map diagramming the buyers and sellers of Africa‘s arable land.

Will this have a disproportionate impact on women?

Traditionally, farming is the domain of women – especially subsistence farming. In some parts of Africa, the cultivation of certain crops, like yams and millet, is gendered. It is estimated that in Burkina Faso, women account for 48 per cent of laborers in the agricultural sector. In Zimbabwe, women comprise 61 per cent of farmers and 70 per cent of the labor force in the agricultural sector.  It makes sense to frame landgrabs as a threat to women farmers‘ autonomy.

As commercial food plantations replace smaller-scale farmers, the concentration of land wealth will place African women at a further disadvantage. Globally, women only own one per cent of land, despite accounting for about 66 per cent of all labor [household, agricultural, etc.]  In Uganda, only 7 per cent of women own land. In Kenya, customary land laws still bar women from owning land.  Senegalese law stipulates that men and women have equal rights to land ownership, but the reality is that economic discrepancies still favor men. It is fair to assert that poverty has a feminine face – and this is particularly true for Africa‘s women.

Land disenfranchisement through land grabs and forced migration from rural-agrarian communities have particularly detrimental effects on women. The majority of Africa‘s farmers are women. The creation of commercial food plantations, the increased concentration of land wealth, and the exportation of foodstuffs produced on African soil will likely have a deleterious impact on emerging economies on the continent of Africa, as well as on the people.


A Short Overview of Chibalo (Forced Labor) in Colonial Mozambique (1938- 1961)

Labor and Cotton Production in Colonial Mozambique, 1938- 1961

History shows that the weakest governments are the ones who rely on force to remain in power, despite the fact that this depletes their legitimacy.  The Belgians in the Congo Basin treated their subjects brutally when they could not control them, and in Mozambique, the Portuguese treated their colonial subjects like chattel.  The Portuguese government was unable to enforce their cotton regime without the help of native Police and Overseers, and concessionaire companies.  This, coupled with the later national debt led to a right- wing coup in 1926.  Previous to 1938, Lisbon’s focus was renting out male labor to the British colonies and ceding large territories to concessionaire companies.

Historically, in Mozambique, Mukume (northern Mozambican household organized work parties) and mafunana (labor exchanges in Southern Mozambique) Continue reading