Blog 3: Changing cultures

Much like the United States, Subsaharan Africa went through a time calling for change in government. About 50 years ago, many countries pushed for more democratic governments. They were ready for equality and freedom. Several of the candidates promised exactly that. However, not long into their reign power made the leaders greedy. The “Big Man” or hippo generation refers to this time period. Democracy was not present in Africa by any standard except for the three countries: Botswana, The Gambia, and cheetahMauritius. The dictators cared little about hiding their power. The countries wanted more freedom and were given even stricter and more corrupt regimes focused on little more than personal gain. Man were able to stay in power for years or even decades because of their prosperous economy.

Today that is not the case. The “Big Man” generation could not hold up long after their main source of power ran dry. As the elites eyes were opened to the economic problems of their country, they began to notice the political and social problems as well. The end of the Cold War and Apartheid brought about a movement of change. The “Cheetah” generation is this new idea coming out of Africa embracing the movement of change. It is not necessarily defined by an age group, but by a wave of new thinking. This new generation is fed up with the dictators of the past. Many are calling to the Africans abroad to come back to their home countries and help rebuild democracy.

Both of these terms has a focus on internal change. It was not because the Western world wanted to change African countries, but African countries that went through a change. They decided on their own that their countries needed a new start. The civil society is grouped around bettering their countries.

As I said in my last blog post, most of us think of Africa as a place that needs our help to feed their starving children. In some cases we might send money for individuals to buy food. Other times we might send over our own food. Either way, we want to help get the starving individuals out of the “hunger-based poverty trap”.

In Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo, the very idea of such a poverty trap is debated. The basic idea is that by not getting enough calories, an individual does not have enough energy to work for money to buy food for more energy. The simple solution seems to be to give more food or money so that the individuals can afford food.

As discussed in the book, that is not always where surplus money goes. Humans often take their extra money and spend it on other things. We see this even among college students in America. We all complain about being broke and living off ramen noodles, but many go out and buy drinks with their friends on the weekend. The poor may not have the luxury of partying, but when they get a little bit of surplus, they have things they have dreamed of purchasing. By growing accustomed to a certain diet, it makes it easier to justify using the money to buy delicacies.

witch-refugee
Refugee Camp for accused witches

Modern day Witch hunts are an interesting phenomenon. I personally had no idea that the medieval practice still existed. It appears, though, that the idea of witches are still very much apart of several African cultures. They may not fully believe witches are real, but the cultural context is used to benefit society. There is no proof to say exactly what motivates and individual to accuse a woman of being a witch, but the timing is hardly a coincidence. During droughts, for example, when food is scarce, there happen to be several more “witches” “discovered”. One theory is that these women are removed in order to limit the amount of mouths needed to be feed in the poor community.

An update on Lesotho:

SDG Goal 1: No Poverty

Lesotho was doing rather well in 2011 but seems to be on a downward track on several indicators of poverty. Overall, they are much better off than they were in 2002 by a long shot. The GDP for example was just short of 776 million in 2002, but jumped to 2.8 billion in 2011. By 2015 it has dropped slightly to 2.3 billion. The Poverty head count ratio actually shows a higher ratio for recent years than in 2002. So the country may be richer, but the individuals in poverty has not gotten any better.

SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well beinglesotho

In 2004, Lesotho was at an all time low for life expectancy after birth. Ever since then, the expectancy has been on a gradual rise. From 2007 to 2012, after several projects to refurbish hospitals, the country is doing a much better job at providing general health care.

SDG Goal 4: Quality Education

Enrollment into primary schools seems to be on a downward trend. This could be of course due to the smaller amount of children eligible for primary school. It is not yet a concern, but should be watched.

SDG Goal 7, 13, and 15: Clean Energy, Climate Action, and Life on Land

CO2 emissions have made a massive jump from 2007 to 2008. This may be an indicator of more production, but it also goes against the quality of the climate.

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