Saturday, March 03, 2007

How Africa 419s itself

David Seaton's News Links
Nigeria could be one of the richest, most advanced countries in the world: floating in oil with a large, lively, hardworking and intelligent population (as all the people all over the world who have fallen for a "419" can testify), however they live in the most miserable, chaotic squalor. The article below gives the full flavor of the contradictions involved.

Why, with all the resources, natural and human is Africa a metaphor for misery? The best analysis of Africa's maladies that I know of was that of a recent documentary, "Darwin's Nightmare", which I strongly urge all of my readers to locate, rent or purchase and view. I would even suggest pooling together to buy the DVD and to showing it to groups of friends, in schools or even church basements, whatever.

"Darwin's Nightmare" is a must see for anyone concerned, distressed and horrified by the misery of Africa. It gives the beginning of a deeper understanding than facts and figures can transmit. The film takes place on the other side of Africa in Kenya, but it contains allegories and insights that illuminate the entire "dark" continent. DS

Lights out in Nigeria, African oil giant - Business Week
Abstract:(...) With corruption and mismanagement leaving Africa's oil giant chronically short of electricity, businesses and walled residential compounds run diesel generators that clatter around the clock, spewing dirty fumes skyward.For the vast majority of Nigeria's 140 million people who don't have the means to provide their own juice, that means added din and filth and lives in near-perpetual gloom, illuminated only when the power grid flickers on.(...) In the markets of Lagos, Africa's biggest city with a population of 14 million, people are getting along as well as they can.Tailors hunch over foot-pedaled sewing machines, their knees pistoning as their fingers ease fabric beneath a flashing needle. Knives are sharpened on hand-spun grinding stones. Children study near open windows, while inside concrete hovels, wicks smoke in pots of kerosene. The power failures -- called "lights out" -- come frequently and unpredictably. Even jobs that don't need electricity can be onerous, without fans or air conditioners in noontime temperatures nearing 100 degrees. Despite low labor costs, Nigeria has little manufacturing due to the high price of energy, among other factors. Across Lagos, Nigerians blame their notoriously corrupt government for the electricity problems, saying their leaders steal funds earmarked for the country's generators.(...) In 1979, Nigeria had 79 generating stations. Twenty years later, after a series of ruinous military governments, only 15 were working, producing 1,500 megawatts of power. The government hopes to increase that nearly 100-fold within 25 years.(...) Across the energy sector in Nigeria, which produces some 2 million barrels of crude oil per day, shortages are common. Nigerians say this is emblematic of their country's defining paradox: Such great potential riches, such extensive poverty. After years of neglect, many Nigerian oil refineries are rusting hulks, with little refining capacity. One of the world's biggest oil producers must import most of its gasoline, which is sold at a deeply subsidized price. But demand frequently outstrips supply, leaving motorists parked in fuel lines that can last all day. Unscrupulous gas station owners buy subsidized gasoline and ship it to other countries, where it's sold for huge profits. Attempts to end the subsidies -- which Nigerians view as one of the only benefits derived from a government that fails to provide clean water, decent health care, streetlights and many other public services -- have caused riots. Nigerians, in the end, are forced fend for themselves. And the lack of electricity is particularly rankling for many, for without it they say they're living a preindustrial existence. "Light is a general thing. It makes jobs and when it's not there, we're useless," says Alfred Elegbe, a television repairman in a Lagos slum. The 35-year-old father of three estimates he could earn about $200 per month fixing televisions and DVD players if there was reliable electricity. He now clears only about $30. At night, Nigerians say, their children must study by candle or kerosene-lamp light. The heat and motionless air makes it difficult to sleep. Without electricity, water can't be pumped through taps. Meat spoils in refrigerators. There's little entertainment. "When the lights go, everything becomes so quiet," says Elegbe. "It's so boring." READ IT ALL

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