Africa is rising … but for whom? Great talk by Winnie Byanyima

Winnie-Byanyima-Duncan-Green
Dr Duncan Green, LSE and Oxfam GB, and Ms Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International
Photograph taken directly from LSE blog

This Monday, together with Hannah from nepalilovestory, I went to Winnie Byanyima’s talk at London School of Economics. Winifred Byanyima is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She has worked for the World Bank, UNDP, UN and since 2013 in Oxfam as an Executive Director. She’s admired in the world specially for her human rights work, grass-roots activism and expertise on women’s rights.

The full coverage of the talk together with some podcasts can be found on LSE blog here.

A couple of key insights below on what I think is either fundamental for Africa (and not just for Africa) in order to lift itself out of poverty or thought-provoking:

  • Tax competition: not surprised to hear about how Africa is losing billions from fraud and tax avoidance. Governments and private sector – oil, mining and other commodities but also accounting and banking – are all involved in avoidance of paying corporate taxes. Winnie emphasised how competition for foreign investment makes African Governments promise tax havens to private investors which in turn creates the ‘race to the bottom’: tax havens exist to provide a way for the rich West to get around the taxes that pay for the infrastructure and services people rely on. This has become one of the key driver of the vast inequality between counties and continents.
  • Resource-rich curse which leaves citizens disempowered and not to mention poor or even poorer. Rather than pumping the revenues from commodities into infrastructure and education, governments pocket the wealth. Instead of creating prosperity, resources have often fostered corruption, undermined inclusive economic growth and damaged the environment.This natural resource dependence also insulates leaders from public pressure and accountability. And ‘our leaders will only be as good as we hold them accountable’ Winnie said.
  • Big round of applause went for the relocation of Oxfam’s International HQ to Nairobi, Kenya. Thumbs up – why do we have most of the NGO’s HQ so far removed from the grounds where all the work takes place?
  • Inequality – only by tackling inequality and aiming towards inclusive growth will we reduce poverty.
  • Globalisation and its effect on culture & language – super interesting point made by Winnie on how language preservation is crucial for cultural identity of the people of Africa. Need to explore this more in depth.

You can find out more about LSE free talks here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/eventsHome.aspx

Marta

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