Learn about the Issues from UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

I shared the following with the Ashesi Community and thought I might also share it with my readers:

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Prof. Philip Alston has concluded his visit to Ghana and will fast-track his full rapport to come out in June (as opposed to often a year after the visit). While we wait for the full rapport on the situation for the most vulnerable Ghanaians, we can read his press statement.

I believe this statement is important anyone who:

  • Wishes to be well-informed on the situation on the ground for Ghanaians when it comes to extreme poverty.
  • Would like a well-respected human rights professor’s view on the most pressing human rights issues of Ghana (Prof Alston earlier visited USA and Nigeria to do similar reports).
  • is planning impactful research, as the press statement is a good starting point for current and relevant data and for pointing out pressing areas for intervention.

Some highlights from the press statement:

Issues where the topics of human rights and extreme poverty intersect: Gender, Criminal Justice, Urban Poverty, people living in informal settlements, sexual orientation and gender identity, persons with disability.

GOOD NEWS: “Ghana remains a champion of democracy in Africa, and its record in achieving certain Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is impressive. It met the targets for halving extreme poverty and halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, and it achieved the goals relating to universal primary education and gender parity in primary school. Today, it is set to become Africa’s fastest-growing economy in 2018.”

BAD NEWS (echoing the poverty research carried out by Dr. Cooke) “Inequality is higher than it has ever been in Ghana, while almost one-quarter of the population lives in poverty and one person in every twelve lives in extreme poverty. Spending on social protection is very low by the standards of most comparable African countries, and very little is spent on social assistance. Ghana has many admirable programs, but no discernible plans for funding many of them adequately. As a result, a large number of Ghanaian do not enjoy their basic economic and social human rights and the prospects for meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals are not encouraging.”

I had the opportunity to interact with Prof Alston and his team while in Ghana and look forward to the full-text report in June and also the debate his visit to Ghana will spur ( I have already seen headings where the government “slams back” etc), hopefully to the benefit of the most vulnerable in our country.

Afropositivism and Biggest Ever Inequality Between Rich and Poor

Today, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) (and often called the rich countries’ club) releases a report “Divided We Stand” (click here for more information and summary of Divided We Stand). It says that even though we have seen a period of growth, inequality between high income earners and low income earners in the OECD is on the increase and it is the biggest since 30 years.

See a summary – along with a great description of the Gini coefficient in this video:


However, what if we make that comparison outside the OECD…?

A few days back the Africa Governance Initiative, led by Tony Blair organized a high level forum to discuss Africa from a positive, forward-looking and empowered perspective. In the write-ups for the lovely website, Africa’s countries’ growth rates are positively discussed:

“there is a new story about Africa that is less familiar. It tells of an Africa in which poverty fell from 52% in 1990 to 40% in 2008. An Africa in which economic growth averaged 4.9% from 2000-2008”

The Economist in its Africa Rising issue (out now!) shares the view:

“Over the past decade six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of the northern hemisphere’s slowdown, the IMF expects Africa to grow by 6% this year and nearly 6% in 2012, about the same as Asia.//Africa now has a fast-growing middle class: according to Standard Bank, around 60m Africans have an income of $3,000 a year, and 100m will in 2015.”

I am not saying they are wrong, actually it is ever so nice with some Afropositivism, but living in Ghana, a country where economic inequality stares me in the eye every hour of every day, I would like to say that looking at macro growth rates is not very informative.

Also, in saying that 60 million Africans, out of the 1 billion Africans in total, have a specific annual salary is not saying much (by the way, who in Europe be glad about USD 3000 per annum?) Without mentioning the cost of living, where African cities actually are among the most expensive in the world (Luanda, Njamena and Libreville in the top 10), food is getting more expensive by the day and did I mention clean water is a large share of weekly expenses in Ghana? Further: inflation is high, there is lack of credit, falling exchange rates, stagnating salaries – that USD 3000, does not go very far.

In light of these events, I suggest looking at the income equality between rich and poor, world wide, using the Gini index (courtesy of Wikipedia).

We see on this map that Africa is extremely unequal, ranging from green (0.35) to dark red (>0.60), but with also many countries not even being able to report data (gray).

It is easy to conclude, that without spreading the wealth, that celebrated economic growth is worth very little to the average African.

(…and possibly also to the rich who then need to invest heavily in security, but that is a different story).

After World Cup What Is There for Ghana?

I got this very poignant comment on my last post from fellow blogger AntiRhythm:

And that, Kajsa, is all there really is about it. The only prize in participation is not to win. When the best in the world turned up, Africa was there. And for a long time, we competed well. We were in the final 8. We were 1 kick from the final 4. Being number 1 in the football world would have had only limited (emotional) benefits. Now, let us compete favourably with the rest of the world in:

Ending poverty;
Growing our economies;
Deepening democratic values;
Restructuring education to ensure real social development;
Fighting health scourges, especially Malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB;
Eradicating neo-geopolitics (ethnocentricism)
Harnessing the powers Information Technology to accelerate development, etc.

I could not have said it better myself. All in all, there is a lot to do also after the World Cup in South Africa is over.

Ghanaians in Ghana Can Vote in the UK!

Ghana election give your vote
Borrowed from GiveYourVote.org

“While many Ghanaian farmers struggle to fight poverty, the staple rice is American, water is sold through Dutch companies, telecommunications are run through the UK, and Ghanaian tomatoes fail to compete with heavily subsidied European counterparts. A vote in a national election alone is not enough to give Ghanaians a say in the processes that decide this.”

This is the motivation between the interesting initiative Give Your Vote offering UK citizens to give their vote to a citizen of Bangladesh, Afghanistan or  – yes, thats right, to a citizen of Ghana!

How to vote in the UK elections?

First read up on the BBC election site, then learn more about the Give Your Vote /Use a Vote for Ghana initiative and finally, vote by text message! Text your name, location, and party of choice (LABOUR, CONSERVATIVE or LIBERAL DEMOCRAT) to +233241561918 or visit a UK election centre in Accra on 30th April.

Read more: Give Your Vote website, the Independent, the Guardian, Ghana Web/Diasporan News.

World Bank Does Good: Opens Free Data Website

On April the 20th 2010, the World Bank announced they would be making their statistics on development available on the Internet, free of charge. Before you needed to pay to have access to these data sets or buy a CD-ROM. At the same time a new website was opened to easily disseminate the information – data.worldbank.org (see pic).

The Swedish organization Gapminder has been working for some time now with making it happen and. In 2006, was lucky to work with one of their board members, Gun-Britt Andersson and was by her introduced to Gapminder’s mission of “unveiling the beauty of statistics for a facts based world view”. Since then, I have seen Director of Gapminder Hans Rosling’s TED speeches many times and played around with the data on their website.

Now even more data is available. Gapminder commented on the World Bank releasing some of its development data on its website calling it a “bold and long awaited step”.

Free statistics, what does it mean?

Well, to start out with, information is now available all over the world. All decision makers can now afford to inform themselves. Researchers and students can find more data to test theses and critique current data collection, indicators and methods. Developers can play around with the data and make it even more accessible. An app-competition is to be organized soon.

Read Owen’s blog and Privat Sector Development Blog for more info on its uses.

Faced with this statistical opportunity,  what did I do?

I first checked out the country page for Ghana. It was easy to overview, but unfortunately the additional indicators took a while to load. Still most recent information on GDP, GNI, Poverty, Literacy, Debt, Education, Infrastructure and Unemployment lay in front of me in seconds.

Second, I looked at topics. I was looking for migration, but as I couldn’t find it, I chose Education as I also have a research interest in Higher Education. As the page loaded, my first feeling was confusion. How can total enrollment be 106% for primary school?

After thinking about it for a while and realizing primary enrollment has dramatically increased over the last years , I can only think of one explanation. Is it because now also older students get a chance to catch up?

What else did I find?

For higher education I found two interesting indicators – enrollment on tertiary level and public expenditure on tertiary students per student as percentage of GDP per capita. For the first one, Ghana has 6,2% of an age group that officially corresponds to tertiary level enrolled in tertiary education. Sweden has 74,5%. Public expenditure on education, especially higher education is an interesting number, so why not give it to us in a more comparable format?The data can with a click be seen as a map instead of a table. The sets can also be saved or shared.

All in all, I recommend visiting this website. The data being released is long overdue – imagine the “open market” supporters clinging on to their own data! Actually, this information raises more questions than it answers which is a pretty awesome outcome.