15 June 2021

South Africa: The country’s youth unemployment rate (15 to 24 year olds) is a staggering 63%. The cliché about these young unemployed is that they do nothing and are prone to engage in crime. But in real life, “doing nothing is not a feasible option for most young people”. The article’s author’s research brought to light that most of the young engage in some economic activity, even if that activity may not be recognised as “self-employment” or “informal employment”. Examples are hustling, washing cars, fixing people’s cars as informal mechanics, renting back rooms or shacks, wiring illegal electricity connections for a fee, street-side gambling or acquiring sponsorship from NGOs or local politicians to access educational and economic opportunities. Their “informal livelihoods are embedded in networks and social relations that are critical to young people surviving unemployment.” The system works like an insurance, is based on “flexible reciprocity”, where “those who currently have money, or are employed in some form, help those who are without.”

Ghana: A so-called “Green Revolution” (relying on improved seed varieties, chemical fertilisers and other agrochemicals) started in the 1960s in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the new millennium, there has been a second wave mainly targeting Africa. In Ghana, the government, donor organisations and the private sector focused on the country’s major food producing areas, among them the Brong Ahafo region (now Bono+Bono East+Ahafo regions). But results are poor – according to the two authors of the article, “(d)espite the hopes – and hype – pinned on this second Green Revolution, it has failed to address the needs of poor farmers. It hasn’t reduced poverty. Rather, it has increased farm input costs, farmer indebtedness and inequalities among farmers.” Only large-scale commercial farmers benefit. A new approach with a local focus is needed.

14 June 2021

Baobab trees: Why do some trees (often called “female” locally) produced so much more fruit than others (“male”)? Besides the leaves used for sauces and the bark used for ropes, it is first of all the baobab fruit which are useful to humans: their white pulp is rich in vitamin C and oil (used by the cosmetic industry) is extracted from the seeds. Like most plants, baobabs “are hermaphrodites; flowers have both male and female reproductive organs within the same flower.” The article’s authors’ study “found that the flowers of trees that produce more fruit had better developed female reproductive organs”. “Flowers are bisexual, but biased” and some trees “specialise” in seed production (“female”) and others in pollen production (“male”). Moths or bats act as pollinators. Note that most baobabs are “self-incompatible” i.e., they cannot fertilise themselves, so don’t eliminate the males!

GDP boosts rich countries: Changes introduced over the years (in 1993 and again in 2008) to international measurement rules of GDP have disproportionately benefitted rich countries. With financial intermediation, R&D, the production of weapons newly included in GDP, the (rich) countries that do these things have benefitted (“the US is first in weapons and second in financial services and R&D, while the UK leads on financial services”). If it had not been for these changes in measurement, “non-western economies have in fact caught up with the west to a larger extent than what the GDP data suggest.” And GDP size is not only of theoretical importance – it determines voting rights in IMF and World Bank and shapes investor perceptions, credit ratings, and thus the rate at which a country can borrow. Adding all this to GDP’s problems with the environment and with household word, it is maybe time, the article’s author concludes, “to entirely rethink altogether the indicators we employ to measure economic progress.”

You cannot determine where your feet will land
BBC Africa Live 14 June 2021. 4:32. African proverb of the day. A Tonga proverb sent by Michael in Livingstone, Zambia.

Algeria: The ministry of communication has cancelled the accreditation of French television channel France 24 for having shown “clear and repeated hostility towards Algeria and its institutions”. In the meantime, witing for results of the Saturday parliamentary elections, turnout seems to have been around 30% and the “Islamist MSP has claimed that its candidates are leading in most regions.”
BBC Africa Live 14 June 2021. 6:04

Uganda: 18 Bobi Wine supporters have been released on bail. They were part of a group of 49 arrested six months ago, in December 2020 at a campaign rally. The others had been released in February (13) respectively May (18). The 49 had been charged with possession of four rounds of ammunition. During and after the campaign, there had been “a wave of arrests and alleged kidnaps of what are believed to be hundreds of opposition supporters”. At one point, “the security forces were holding at least 1000 people” according to the Internal Affairs Minister.
BBC Africa Live 14 June 2021. 11:53