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To join the globalised world, Africa must reform human development

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By JEAN-LUC STALON
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It has been slow but invariably steady. Globalisation of goods and services has continued to drive the spread of capitalism and neoliberalism to all corners of the world.

Only 30 years ago, exports comprised of less than 18 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product. That has risen to more than 36 per cent impacting nations at both the micro and macroeconomic levels.

Indeed, the past two decades have been characterised by the emergence of big giants who have tipped the classic global economic patterns, with more than one billion people out of poverty in Asia, mainly in China, and an annual poverty reduction rate of six per cent since 2000.

The truth however is that this model as it exists today has had negative environmental and social effects.

Carbon-intensive industrialisation continues to damage the environment, exacerbating the vulnerability of people around the world.

On the social front, the current levels of wealth and its distribution has caused an unprecedented levels of increased inequality among humans.

In fact, globalisation has only benefited a minority. The 2018 Global Inequality Report shows that 1 per cent of the richest captured 27 per cent of total global growth between 1980 and 2016 whereas it only benefited 13 per cent for the 50 per cent poorest for the same period.

Average income inequalities between countries has however decreased, with the rise of emerging countries driven by East Asia, particularly China, which has experienced unprecedented growth of its middle class.

China has contributed more than 50 per cent to the growth of the global middle class and that is expected to rise from 48 million to 134 million households between 2010 and 2020.

In the case of advanced economies, inequalities have increased significantly with the “trapped” middle class phenomenon.

Only a tiny rich minority has captured a large portion of the advantages of globalisation.

In Africa, development has been hampered by exacerbated poverty. Poverty remains the most pressing concern, and prevents Africa from effectively contributing to its share of globalisation.

Statistics shows that Africa’s contribution to world trade, production, and investment remains at the margins, with less than two per cent on average.

If the continent wishes to join the globalisation process, it must accelerate its role through a bold reforms package in three main areas of human capital, structural transformation of the economy, and governance and institution building.

African countries must scale-up investment in Human Capital.

If China was able to grow from having a per capita GDP of $190 in 1978 to $5,432 in 2011 and is today the second largest economy in the world, it is largely due to its investment in the education system, which created conditions of competitiveness and skilled labour in a globalised economy.

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The average duration of schooling has increased from 3.8 to 7.5 years in two decades, and while the literacy rate in Africa remains below 65 per cent, this stands at more than 90 per cent in countries such as Brazil.

Africa accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s population and is exposed to 23 per cent of diseases, yet it received only one per cent of global health expenditure in 2015. Without a healthier and better educated population, Africa, will not take off.

Some countries can be cited for increasing investment in education, for example Ethiopia and Kenya, but quality and transition rates deserve strategic priority.

Mauritius and Cape Verde have expanded investment in health sector while others have developed social protection systems such as Cabo Verde’s expansion of pension system, Tanzania’s Social Action Fund, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme, Uganda’s Social Assistance Grant for empowerment.

Second, Africa needs a structural transformation of the economy.

Currently, more than 80 million young Africans are unemployed, about 700 million are working in the agricultural sector, and despite this, more than 80 per cent of exports still consist of primary products and only a very small part of the production is transformed cotton 3 per cent, cocoa 4 per cent and coffee 3 per cent.

African countries must allocate resources to transform primary sectors into high productivity units to stimulate growth and improve people’s livelihoods.

Some countries such as South Africa, Rwanda, Morocco, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire are making efforts to improve global competitiveness but the cost of production on average remains high.

Finally, there must be a focus on good governance and institution building.

Corruption alone causes Africa to lose 25 per cent of its GDP per year, and besides the economic losses, such practices only fuel inequalities and present obstacles to fostering an inclusive society.

African countries must fight corruption, consolidate institutions, and strengthen the rule of law if they want to truly be a part of the globalised world.

Evidence-based studies have shown a strong correlation between good governance, quality of growth and human development.

Most countries with strong control on corruption have high Human Development Index. In addition, sub-Saharan countries must double their tax revenues, which are low at only 15 per cent of GDP, in order to create adequate fiscal space to boost investments in infrastructure and human capital.

Some countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, Tunisia and Senegal have expanded their fiscal space to more than 20 per cent, but this is still low compared with OECD average of 34.4 per cent.

By 2050, Africa will have more than two billion people, representing a considerable asset for the continent’s internal market as well as labour force. But this also poses considerable challenges that require strong political will and visionary leadership.

Jean-Luc Stalon is UNDP resident representative in Senegal and PhD candidate on political economy of growth and inequalities; @JLStalon

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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