Right to Information in Latin America & the Caribbean

By Luis Felipe López-Calva
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2019 – Transparency is a critical element of making governance more effective. By making information available, it creates a foundation for greater accountability to citizens.

In recent decades, transparency has been on the rise across Latin America and the Caribbean. According to data from the Global Right to Information Rating, 23 countries in LAC have laws securing citizens’ right to information.

Colombia was the first country in the region to pass such a law in 1985, and Saint Kitts and Nevis was the most recent country to do so in 2018.

While transparency is a necessary condition for promoting accountability, it is not a sufficient condition. We can think about transparency as a first step.

While transparency makes information available, we also need publicity to make information accessible, and accountability mechanisms to make information actionable.

Information, per se, is nothing without publicity and accountability. If information does not reach the interested audiences, its effect is negligible. Similarly, even if information reaches the public, if it does not lead to consequences, its effect is not only negligible but potentially harmful.

For example, we have seen, unfortunately, many cases in our region where people can access detailed information about corruption cases, but nothing happens to those who are responsible. This leads to frustration and destroys trust.

Luis Felipe López-Calva

We can think about this progression from transparency to accountability as the “information value chain.” Recently, one way in which the information value chain has been broken in Latin America and the Caribbean is the intentional creation and spread of false information (what is known as “disinformation”).

In many cases these pseudo-facts are created for political purposes and target specific audiences, with the intention to induce certain outcomes (for example, by influencing voting behavior).

This system has been called the “fake news” industry—a term widely used by politicians in recent times. It’s important to note that false information can also be spread unintentionally (what is known as “misinformation”).

The rise of disinformation and misinformation has been facilitated by the rise of technology. Technology—particularly the rise of social media and messaging apps—has reduced the cost of disseminating information to massive audiences.

This has made the “publicity” industry more competitive and created a new social dynamic in which people often take access to information as equivalent to knowledge.

While knowledge is difficult to build and constantly update, information has become easy to get, and public debates are increasingly based on false—and often deliberately false—information.

Indeed, a recent study by scholars at MIT found that false news spreads much more rapidly than true news—and this effect is particularly salient for false political news (in comparison to false news about topics such as terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information).

According the 2018 Reuters Institute Digital News Report, citizens in LAC countries are facing high exposure to false information, and are very concerned about what news is real and what news is fake on the internet.

In each of the four LAC countries included in the study (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Argentina), over 35% of respondents stated that they were exposed to completely made-up news in the last week—reaching as high as 43% of the sample in Mexico.

Moreover, over 60% of respondents stated that they are very or extremely concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet when it comes to news—reaching as high as 85% of the sample in Brazil.

This high level of concern is consistent with recent experiences with political disinformation in the region—for example, the use of automated bots to influence public opinion in Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela.

This problem carries with it the concern for broader potential consequences such as deepening political polarization or the erosion of trust in the media. Indeed, over the past few decades years, the dissemination of false information by political parties and levels of political polarization are increasing in tandem in LAC.

This is a challenge not only in LAC, but in many regions around the world. This global preoccupation was reflected in the theme chosen for this year’s World Press Freedom Day—which focused on journalism and elections in times of disinformation.

Several of the countries in Latin America are holding presidential elections later this year: Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Uruguay. There is a concern in the region about how disinformation campaigns, coupled with microtargeting of political messages and sophisticated online advertising through social networks and online platforms, could affect the outcome of elections.

There is a lot we can do in this area to protect the information value chain and the quality of elections—such as “clean campaign” agreements between political parties, the creation of independent fact-checking services, greater enforcement by social media companies, and the promotion of information literacy among citizens.

In Latin America, these initiatives are still nascent, but they are growing. It is important to recognize, however, that combatting the challenge of disinformation campaigns will require the coordinated action of multiple stakeholders such as electoral courts, the media, civil society, academia and tech businesses (such as Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, and Twitter).

Without a strong coalition of actors, it will be difficult to successfully repair the information value chain and achieve accountability.

Industrial Policy Finally Legitimate?

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 9 2019 – For decades, the two Bretton Woods institutions have rejected the contribution of industrial policy (IP), or government investment and technology promotion efforts, in accelerating and sustaining growth, industrialization and structural transformation.

Finally, two International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff members, Reda Cherif and Fuad Hasanov, have broken the taboo. They embrace industrial policy, arguing against the current conventional wisdom that East Asian industrial policies cannot be successfully emulated by other developing countries.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Miracle economies not miraculous
They argue that IP has been key to East Asian ‘miracles’, offering valuable lessons for sustaining ‘catch-up’ growth. For them, appropriate IP interventions have been key to successful entry into more sophisticated industrial activities, early strong export orientation, and fierce competition with strict accountability.

For over half a century, especially following Asian and African decolonization after World War Two, developing countries have gone their separate ways with very mixed results, with all too many falling behind. Meanwhile, very few economies have caught up with some of the most advanced economies and firms.

Between 1960 and 2014, 16 out of the 182 economies they study achieved high-income status, underscoring the difficulties for middle-income countries reaching high-income status within two generations. They distinguish three types of countries which have ‘succeeded’, namely the East Asian miracles, those discovering considerable oil and gas, and those that benefited from joining the European Union.

Cherif and Hasanov insist on the key role of industrial policy in the Asian miracles, and for the US after the Civil War, Germany under Bismarck, and Japan after the Meiji Restoration. They argue that East Asian industrial policies have much in common despite their many differences.

The conventional growth formula — of improving macroeconomic stability (typically through anti-inflationary policies), strengthening property rights, and providing physical and social infrastructure and basic services to address government failures — was not enough .

Drawing useful lessons from varied country experiences is fraught with difficulty, especially considering the exogenous and conjunctural factors affecting growth, including luck. In contrast with the conventional empirical approach emphasizing averages, their analysis of long-term cross-country growth experiences underscores the value of studying the ‘tails’ or exceptions instead.

Technology and innovation policy
Contrary to earlier formulations of industrial policy as primarily involving investment and technology, Cherif and Hasanov propose three key principles constituting ‘true industrial policy’, summarized as technology and innovation policy (TIP), namely:

    • State interventions to overcome constraints to the early emergence of national producers in more sophisticated industries, beyond conventional notions of ‘comparative advantage’.
    • Export orientation, not import substituting industrialization (ISI); this contrasts with providing effective protection in the national or regional market on condition of early export promotion to achieve export competitiveness.
    • Ensuring both national and international competitiveness with strict accountability.

Hyundai vs Proton
Cherif and Hasanov also contrast the cases of Malaysia’s Proton with South Korea’s Hyundai in support of their three principles. They argue that Proton did not export enough, reflecting failure to build sufficient managerial and engineering skills as well as an innovative automotive cluster.

Hyundai, by contrast, has successfully created a global brand. Cherif and Hasanov insist that allowing several South Korean industrial conglomerates or chaebols to develop rival auto industries and the push to export were key to its success.

Governments have directed capital and labour into industrial ventures that firms probably would not have undertaken without appropriate incentives, but market competition, market signals, and private sector accountability are also recognized as important.

Without conclusive evidence, Cherif and Hasanov claim that due to the government’s push to export, Korean automakers ‘moved first, then learnt and adjusted’. In exchange for very low real interest rate loans, Korean chaebols had to quickly secure foreign market shares, while accountability was enforced by firing senior managers who failed to reach export targets.

Pressure to compete and export forced Hyundai to increase its R&D effort and technology upgrading, producing its own engine in 1991, and later, its first electric car. Korean encouragement of several chaebols in the automotive industry later forced them to restructure, with few surviving.

But would fostering more than one automotive firm have ensured Proton’s success in light of Malaysia’s smaller domestic market and more modest industrial capabilities? And what were the economic costs of Korea’s arguably wasteful automotive industry competition?

Three development policy options
Cherif and Hasanov emphasize the importance of government ambition, accountability and adaptability. Government ambition is seen in terms of a feasible or pragmatic level of sophistication of new sectors and domestic ownership of industrial technology.

Government policy implementation must be subject to accountability, not only for firms, but also policymakers and senior managers responsible. As conditions change and new knowledge becomes available, policy interventions must adapt to continue to be effective and feasible.

* Low gear: The conventional approach to growth — of improving the investment environment, key institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, investments in education, and minimizing other government interventions — is likely to result in relatively slow ‘snail’s pace’ growth.

Such policy interventions typically address government failures, but not necessarily market failures, especially to develop more technologically sophisticated sectors beyond conventional understandings of comparative advantage.

Middle gear: This approach mainly relies on attracting FDI into more technologically sophisticated industries to participate increasingly in global value chains, or by improving the technological level of existing industries. This may accelerate growth for middle-income countries, but is unlikely to lead to sustainable development or ‘high-income status within two generations’ owing to limited national capacities and capabilities.

High gear: The East Asian miracle economies are said to be using a ‘moonshot approach’ for governments to create competitive national firms in frontier technologies, and more sophisticated industries with homegrown technologies, creating conditions for high, sustained long-term growth.

The speed and extent of the leaps to more sophisticated industries and technologies created by national firms are crucial for sustaining long-term development. Countries that manage this process well have better chances of soon becoming relatively advanced economies.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

The Libyan Disaster: Little Bits of History Repeating

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jul 9 2019 – The Libyan catastrophe and the suffering of ”illegal” migrants are generally depicted as fairly recent events, though they are actually the results of a long history of greed, contempt for others and fatal shortsightedness. Like former Yugoslavia, Libya was created from a mosaic of tribal entities, subdued by colonial powers and then ruled by an iron-fisted dictator. Now, Libya is a quagmire where local and international stakeholders battle to control its natural resources. The country holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, oil and gas account for 60 percent of GDP and more than 90 percent of exports.1 This is one reason why Egypt, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and many other nations are enmeshed in Libya. Furthermore, European nations try to stop mainly sub-Saharan refugees and migrants from reaching their coasts from Libya. An attempt to understand Italy´s essential role in the struggle over Libya´s oil and attempts to control unwanted immigration may help to clarify some issues related to the current situation.

On the 29th of June Sea-Watch 3 arrived in the port of Lampedusa. The ship carried 40 people who two weeks before had been rescued from an inflatable raft off the coast of Libya. After being denied disembarkation in Tripoli Sea-Watch headed for Lampedusa. The German Captain Carola Rackete´s appeals to the Italian Government to let the migrants disembark on Italian territory were met by deaf ears and she thus steered Sea-Watch dangerously close to a military patrol boat, which tried to hinder her vessel from reaching the port:

      The situation was desperate. My goal was only to bring exhausted and desperate people to shore. My intention was not to put anyone in danger. I already apologised, and I reiterate my apology. They were asking me to take them back to Libya. From a legal standpoint, these were people fleeing a country at war [and] the law bars you from taking them back there.

Captain Rackete was placed under house arrest awaiting trial, accused of “resistance and violence against warships”. Italy´s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, declared:

      Mission accomplished. Law-breaking captain arrested. Pirate ship seized, maximum fine for foreign NGO.2

On the 3rd of July, the Court decided that Rackete had acted out of compassion and after being ordered to return to Germany she was released. Salvini fumed:

      She will return to her Germany where they would not have been so tolerant if an Italian woman had made an attempt on the life of German policemen. Italy has raised its head: we are proud to defend our country and to be different from other small European leaders who think they can still treat us as their colony.3

Italy treated like a European colony? This is doubtful, though it is a fact that Libya once was Italy´s grossing and mistreated colony and that Italy continues to be deeply involved in Lybian affairs.

While Rackete awaited her trial, Tajoura, a “migrant detention centre” east of Tripoli, housing more than 600 people, was hit by two airstrikes, leaving at least 44 dead and more than 130 severely injured. The attack was blamed on Kahilfa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is the Libyan-American commander of armed forces loyal to the Libyan House of Representatives.4 He served under Muammar Gaddafi and took part in the coup that in 1969 brought Gaddafi to power. In 1987, Haftar was captured during Chad´s still smoldering civil war. He was released in 1990 and for two decades lived not far from Langley, Virginia, headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). General Haftar was instrumental in the 2011 downfall of Gaddafi and has been described as Libya’s most potent warlord. During Libya´s recent conflicts he has fought with and against nearly every significant faction.5

At the moment, Haftar is openly supported by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, and more or less clandestinely by France and Russia, with the U.S. waiting in the wings. France supports the interests of Total S.A., ranked as the world’s fourth-largest non-governmental petroleum company (after Shell, BP, and Exxon), while Russia is supporting LNA through weapon sales. Haftar´s forces are currently attacking the Government of National Accord (NAC) with its centre in Tripoli, this transition government is officially supported by the UN and particularly by Qatar and Turkey, though other forces are also present, such as Italy´s Miasit mission with 400 soldiers and 130 “land, naval and air vehicles”. Italy is the European country with the deepest Libyan ties.6 One example is ENI´s activities, an Italian multinational oil and gas corporation, the world´s 11th largest industrial company, which since 1959 has profited from Libya´s oil production.7 However, Italy´s connections with Libya runs even deeper than that.

In 1912, Italy conquered Ottoman Tripolotania and created a colony called Libya. After being defeated in World War II, Italy did in 1947 relinquish all claims to the territory. However, for more than thirty years the stream of people crossing the Mediterranean had moved in a completely different direction than it is doing now. After the Great Depression, Libya´s Italian population increased rapidly; in 1927, 26,000 Italians were living there, by 1939 they numbered 119,140, or 13 percent of the total population. Italian settlers were provided with land and infrastructure, while the local population was driven off to marginal lands, though this did not happen without fierce resistance. Italian colonial troops waged a ruthelss war against the locals, applying chemical weapons, mass executions of POWs and civilians, as well as the establishment of lethal concentration camps. It is estimated that between 1923 and 1932, 80,000 to 120,000 Libyans had been exterminated.8

When Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in 1970 became Libya´s dictator he banished the remaining 12,000 Italian citizens and had their possessions confiscated. After Gadaffi in 1973 nationalized half of the foreign oil production, the country´s GDP rose from USD 3.8 billion in 1969 to USD 24.5 billion in 1979. For a few years, Libya´s average per-capita income was above the average of Italy. Oil money was used to fund welfare programmes; house-building projects, improved healthcare, and compulsory education. However, over time Gadaffi´s erratic behaviour worsened. Any political conversation with foreigners became punishable with at least three years in prison and intents to start a ”political party” could lead to execution. Libya was furthermore supporting terrorist organizations all over the world.

In 2004, Gadaffi visited Brussels and succeeded in convincing the EU to drop sanctions imposed on Libya. Like Turkey, Libya used the plights of refugees and international migrants as a means to extract funds from the EU, which in 2010 contributed with €50 million to stop African migrants from passing through Libya into Europe, while migrants had already been used as a bargaining chip during Gadaffi´s negotiations with Italy, which in spite of recurrent grievances had maintained several of its financial and commercial ties with Libyan leaders.

In 2008, Gadaffi made a deal with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – Italy would through annual installments of USD250 million over a 20 year period compensate Libya for hardships brought about by its colonization of the country. In exchange, Libya would curb illegal migration across the Mediterranean, an encouragement for establishing ”detention centres”, which soon became sources for slave labour and human trafficking.9 The deal was suspended in February 2011 but renewed on 7 July 2018, leading to an intensified Italian-Lybian cooperation.

After a new Italian government came into office in 2018, it refused to take in people from search-and-rescue ships active in the Mediterranean, this included rescue efforts by the EU sponsored Operation Sophia, which since 2015 had saved thousands of people from drowning. After Italy threatened to veto it, EU did on 27 March stop this endeavour. Since then, thousands more international migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been detained in the infamous Lybian detention centres. Various reports did in 2017 estimate the number of inmates in Libyan camps to be between 10,000-20,000, at any given time. 10

The situation has become even worse after Field Marshal Haftar´s recent, massive attack on Tripoli. Both militias and ”regular” army forces tend to use ”detention centres” as ”shields” for their installations. On 3 July, right after the attack on the Tajoura camp, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated:

      I have repeatedly called for the closure of all migrant detention centres in Libya, where UN human rights staff have documented severe overcrowding, torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, rape, and acute malnutrition, among other serious human rights violations. I also repeat my call for the release of detained migrants and refugees as a matter of urgency, and for their access to humanitarian protection, collective shelters or other safe places, well away from areas that are likely to be after been trapped in gruesome facilities.11

Libya´s current misery and the plight of refugees and international migrants languishing in its detention centres, or drown in the Mediterranean, cannot only be blamed on repression in developing countries and the inability of their governments to amend poverty and unemployment. The disaster is also caused and furthered by distortions engendered by colonization and the enduring greed of foreign stakeholders. We are all guilty of the current suffering in Libya.

1 Organization of the Pertroleum Exporting Countries (2019) Libya Facts and Figures. https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/166.htm
2 Agence France-Presse (2019) “Captain defends her decision to force rescue boat into Italian port.” The Guardian, 30 June.
3 Tonacci, Fabio and Alessandra Ziniti (2019) “Sea-Watch, Carola Rackete è libera: ´Commossa. Gip annula
l´arresto: ´Agì per portare in salvo i migranti´. L´ira di Salvini.” La Repubblica, 4 July.
4 A UN led initiative established in 2015 a Libyan Government of National Accord (NAC). However, a House of Representatives (HoR) had already been formed after an election in 2014, to replace Libya´s General National Congress. Neither entity recognizes the other, NAC is based in Tripoli, while HoR is in Tobruk, their armies are currently fighting each other.
5 Anderson, Jon Lee (2015) “The Unravelling: In a failing state, an anti-Islamist general mounts a divisive campaign” The New Yorker, February 23 and March 2.
6 Orsini, Alessandro (2019) “Haftar a Roma: L´Italia non pu`lasciare a Libia scivolare verso il Medio Oriente,” Il Messagero, March 17.
7 https://www.eni.com/enipedia/en_IT/international-presence/africa/enis-activities-in-libya.page?lnkfrm=asknow Thirty percent ENI´s shares are owned by the Italian government.
8 Historical information in this article is mainly based on Wright, John (2012) Libya: A Modern History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
9 Human smuggling from the coast of Libya is a multimillion dollar business. In 2015, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC) estimated profits to be between USD 255 – 323 million per year. GITOC (2015) Policy Brief. Libya: a growing hub for Criminal Economies and Terrorist Financing in the Trans-Sahara. Geneva: RHIPTO. p. 2.
10 Amnesty International (2017) Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion: Abuses Against Europe-Bound Refugees and Migrants. London: Amnesty International Ltd.
11 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24535&LangID=E

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

Africa’s Megacities a Magnet for Investors

Sandton Gautrain Station in Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Finbarr Toesland
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2019 – Megacities, cities with a population of at least 10 million, are sprouting everywhere in Africa. Cairo in Egypt, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Lagos in Nigeria are already megacities, while Luanda in Angola, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Johannesburg in South Africa will attain the status by 2030, according the United Nations.

Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and Nairobi in Kenya will surpass the 10 million threshold by 2040. And by 2050 Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Bamako in Mali, Dakar in Senegal and Ibadan and Kano in Nigeria will join the ranks—bringing the total number of megacities in Africa to 14 in about 30 years.

The number of people living in urban areas in Africa will double to more than 1 billion by 2042, according to the World Bank.

The University of Toronto’s Global Cities Institute, which monitors cities’ population growth and socioeconomic development worldwide, forecasts that Lagos will be the largest city in the world by 2100, housing an astonishing 88 million people, up from 21 million currently.

In a 2016 paper titled African Urban Futures, published by the Institute for Security Studies, an African independent research organization that aims to enhance human security on the continent, researchers Julia Bello-Schünemann and Ciara Aucoin wrote: “The current speed of Africa’s urbanisation is unprecedented in history. For some it is the ‘single most important transformation’ that is happening on the continent.” They add that African “cities and towns will increasingly shape the lives of people living on the continent.”

Africa’s demographic transition, caused by the “youth bulge,” an increase in the population of people between 15 and 29 years of age, will continue to fuel a move to the big cities because “young people are generally more prone to migrate to urban areas” than older people, according to Ms. Bello-Schünemann and Ms. Aucoin.

While millions of rural Africans move to cities in search of high-paying jobs and a better quality of life, these burgeoning metropolises also offer strong incentives to investors foreign and domestic.

Power of population

Lagos is a prime example of the economic power in Africa’s megacities. From its technology hub ecosystem—Africa’s largest—to its successful banking sector and prosperous film industry, venture capitalists see many investment opportunities in Nigeria’s commercial capital.

According to a report by the telecom trade body GSM Association, there are 31 tech hubs in Lagos, 29 in Cape Town and 25 in Nairobi. The value of innovative tech spaces to African economies is massive, as investors pump capital into start-ups and hence contribute to countries’ GDPs.

In 2017 outgoing Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode announced that the state’s GDP had reached $136 billion, about a third of Nigeria’s GDP ($376 billion) and more than the combined GDPs of Ghana ($47 billion) and Tanzania ($52 billion).

Steve Cashin, founder and CEO of the private equity firm Pan African Capital Group, believes that investors are focusing on Africa’s megacities because of market size.

“My firm does a lot of business in Liberia, and one of the main constraints to growing businesses and attracting investment there is the population size and density. When the entire country’s population is just about 4 million, and you’re likely only to reach a small fraction of that, it is harder to make a compelling business case,” says Cashin.

A single Lagos district can be a market the size of an entire country such as Botswana. Because people in Lagos are concentrated, companies can benefit from lower fixed costs and easier distribution. “The economics are just more attractive,” he adds.

Overstretched infrastructure

But highly populated cities have both positives and negatives. Rapid urbanization strains already overstretched infrastructure and creates complex problems for local governments.

For example, the population of Kinshasa is forecast to grow by 61 people every hour until 2030. People will have to look for jobs and use public transport and other social services.

Bello-Schünemann and Aucoin elaborate: “Most of Africa’s urban residents live in informal settlements or slums, lack access to basic services, face precarious employment conditions and are vulnerable to various forms of urban violence.”

They add: “Global climate and environmental changes, and pressure from water, food and energy insecurities, compound the challenges for human development and the complexities of contemporary urban governance on the continent.”

Around 75% of homes in Kinshasa are in slums, and Lagos has dozens of them: places like Somolu, Bariga and the floating slum of Makoko. If infrastructure growth fails to keep up with increasing population, more slums will develop, experts warn.

To address these problems, Africa’s fast-growing cities require all-inclusive infrastructure development, advises Cashin. “The importance of deliberate and thoughtful urban planning cannot be understated, not only for the efficiency and productivity of these cities but also for the safety of its inhabitants.”

He adds that “proper urban planning requires significant upfront investment” and that “local governments also need to harness the potential of these rapidly growing cities by making strides to formalise the economy.”

Informal economies

In sub-Saharan Africa the informal economy—economic activities that are not regulated and therefore not taxed—represents up to 41% of GDP and provides 85.5% of total employment, reports the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN body that sets international labour standards and promotes social protection.

Without collecting enough taxes, cash-strapped city authorities cannot finance critical infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and power.

Some local administrations depend on foreign direct investment (FDI) or opt for the BOT system—build, operate, transfer—in which investors finance a project (such as a bridge) and recoup their investments by, for example, collecting tolls for a limited period.

Investors who are attracted to densely populated cities are also repelled by a lack of infrastructure and incompetent city authorities.

The State of African Cities 2018, a UN report, says that Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi are the leading FDI attractions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Private investors often accompany financing with technological know-how. For example, smart city projects across South Africa, such as Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, require a diverse range of talent not often found in that country. Foreign investors with expertise in this field can draw on their own experience and contacts to put a skilled team in place.

In sum, the key to urban planning and attracting investors is to plan with an eye toward future population growth, notes Jonathan Hall, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Economics and Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

He adds that, “People will continue to move to the megacities until unemployment is so high, and the infrastructure is so overstretched, that their quality of life is roughly the same in the city and the countryside.”

Authorities managing Africa’s megacities have their work cut out for them. Investors who are attracted to densely populated cities are also repelled by a lack of infrastructure and incompetent city authorities.

“Cities need strong, competent and democratic governments [that can] work with their low-income populations, rather than, as all too often happens, evicting them,” says David Satterthwaite, senior fellow with the Human Settlements Group at the think tank International Institute for Environment and Development.

​Media and Web Freedom Threatened in Sudan Turbulence

The United Nations said the current internet shutdown in Sudan forms part of a larger effort to stifle the free expression and association of the Sudanese population, and to curtail the ongoing protests in the country. In this dated picture, Sudanese journalists attend a press conference. Courtesy: Albert González Farran /UNAMID

By James Reinl
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2019 – The United Nations has condemned an internet shutdown and the blocking of social media channels during Sudan’s political crisis, as fears persisted over a crackdown on media freedoms in the turbulent African country.

The U.N.’s independent expert on the human rights situation in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, and two other officials, said in a statement that web blocking by Zain-SDN and other internet providers was stifling the freedoms of expression and association.

“In the past few weeks, we have continued to receive reports on internet blocking of social media platforms by the Transitional Military Council [TMC],” the experts said, referencing the TMC, which has run Sudan since the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir in April.

“The internet shut down is in clear violation of international human rights law and cannot be justified under any circumstances. We urge the authorities to immediately restore internet services.”

The statement was co-signed by Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and David Kaye, a special rapporteur Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression .

The three officials said mobile operator Zain-SDN was behind the “most extensive blocking scheme” and had closed access to all key social platforms, which are used to share news and to arrange protests. Other providers MTN, Sudatel and Kanartel had also cut web access, they said.

“The internet shutdown forms part of a larger effort to stifle the free expression and association of the Sudanese population, and to curtail the ongoing protests,” the experts said in a statement on Monday.

“Restricting or blocking access to internet services not only adversely affects the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and participation, but it also has severe effects on protesters demands’ regarding economic and social rights.”

Sudan’s military rulers ordered the internet blackout as a security measure on Jun. 3, when security forces also killed dozens of protesters as they cleared a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry in the centre of the capital, Khartoum.

The web blackout has affected most ordinary users of mobile and fixed line connections and is reportedly harming the economy and humanitarian operations in the African nation of some 40 million people.

Sudanese journalists have also raised concerns about the treatment of reporters during the ongoing political crisis.

On Jun. 20, journalist Amar Mohamed Adam was arrested and detained by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary outfit under the TMC, before being handed over to the intelligence services, according to the Sudanese Journalists Network.

At the end of May, the TMC also ordered Qatar-based Al Jazeera Television offices in Khartoum closed, with officers from various Sudanese security branches turning up at the premises and seizing broadcast gear.

Sherif Mansour, a regional coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog and campaign group, described a “worrying sign” designed “to suppress coverage of pro-democracy events”. He urged the TMC to “reverse course”.

Protesters had been demanding the restoration of internet services as one of their conditions for getting back around the negotiation table with the TMC and forming a transitional administration made up of civilians and military officers.

Hopes were raised of a breakthrough last week, after Sudan’s military chiefs and protest leaders announced they had struck a deal on the disputed issue of a new governing body in talks aimed at ending the country’s months-long political crisis

The two sides reportedly agreed on a joint sovereign council to rule for a little over three years while elections are organised. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the United States and its Arab allies was key to ending a standoff that had raised fears of all-out civil war.

Japan Boosts Complex Fight to Eliminate Leprosy in Brazil

Yohei Sasakawa (C), president of the Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, shakes the hand of Sebastião Miranda Filho, the mayor of Marabá in northern Brazil, where the foundation finances a project to distribute food to poor families affected by the disease, to encourage them to complete treatment. Credit: Artur Custodio/IPS

Yohei Sasakawa (C), president of the Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, shakes the hand of Sebastião Miranda Filho, the mayor of Marabá in northern Brazil, where the foundation finances a project to distribute food to poor families affected by the disease, to encourage them to complete treatment. Credit: Artur Custodio/IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Jul 9 2019 – When cases of Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, increase in Brazil, it is not due to a lack of medical assistance but to the growing efficacy of the health system in detecting infections, contrary to the situation in other countries.

This unique aspect of the disease was highlighted during a Jul. 2-7 visit by Nippon Foundation President Yohei Sasakawa to the northern Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão, to learn about and reinforce efforts to reduce the incidence of the disease.

Sasakawa continued his tour of this Latin American country on Monday Jul. 8 in Brasilia, where he will meet with President Jair Bolsonaro and other authorities from the executive, legislative and judicial branches, before returning to Japan on Wednesday Jul. 10.

The Nippon Foundation funds several projects in Brazil, one of which facilitates telephone and Internet communications, to expand and improve information about this chronic disease and combat the prejudice, stigma and discrimination surrounding it.

Early detection is one of the recommendations stressed in Sasakawa’s meetings with authorities in the Amazon jungle state of Pará, according to Claudio Salgado, a professor at the Federal University of Pará who is president of the Brazilian Hansenology Society.

“Hanseniasis (as the disease is called in Brazil) doesn’t manifest itself in acute outbreaks of fever, chills and confusion, like malaria,” he told IPS from Belem do Para.

Symptoms, such as numb spots on the skin, often take years to appear, when the effects are already irreversible, including loss of fingers and crippling or paralysis of the hands or entire limbs.

In addition, the cases are widely dispersed, making it even more difficult to identify patients, even though there are means of early detection, such as the screening of household contacts of leprosy patients.

An estimated 95 percent of people have natural immunity to infection. Hansen’s disease is not as contagious as many people believe. It takes prolonged, close contact over many months with an untreated leprosy patient to catch the disease, and patients are no longer contagious after only a few days of antibiotic treatment.

For all these reasons, it could be deceptive to set quantitative goals, such as the target adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “eliminate” leprosy by the year 2000, Salgado argued. “Elimination” is defined as a prevalence rate of less than one case per 10,000 persons a year.

The battle against Hansen’s disease gained a key ally in 1982, when multidrug therapy became available. More than 16 million people have been cured since then, according to WHO.

Brazil is the only country in the world that did not formally meet the goal. In 2017 there were 26,875 new cases in a population of 200 million, translating to 1.35 cases per 10,000 people, according to a WHO report.

But Salgado calls into question statistics that point to a sharp reduction in cases, which he said is epidemiologically impossible. He also throws doubt on the claim that Brazil accounts for 92 percent of all new cases in the Americas, as recognised by the Brazilian Health Ministry in its National Strategy to Confront Hanseniasis 2019-2022.

The governor of Maranhão, Flavio Dino, held a dinner for the delegation of the Nippon Foundation, which funds projects for those affected by Hansen's disease in several cities in this state in Northeast Brazil. The visit and meetings with health officials bolstered new efforts to combat the disease and its consequences, such as disabilities, stigma and discrimination. Credit: Artur Custodio/IPS

The governor of Maranhão, Flavio Dino, held a dinner for the delegation of the Nippon Foundation, which funds projects for those affected by Hansen’s disease in several cities in this state in Northeast Brazil. The visit and meetings with health officials bolstered new efforts to combat the disease and its consequences, such as disabilities, stigma and discrimination. Credit: Artur Custodio/IPS

He says this indicates that very different situations with respect to leprosy, between Brazil and its neighbours, in spite of similar economic, social and environmental conditions.

An apparent paradox: a country where diagnosis and treatment of Hansen’s disease is reduced would have favourable statistics, in contrast with the likely expansion of leprosy. In other words, fewer cases would be detected, even if the situation was actually getting worse.

In Maranhão, the second Brazilian state visited by Sasakawa, the rate is high: 4.4 new cases per 10,000 persons.

“We detect 3,125 cases per year on average,” reported Lea Terto, superintendent of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the local Health Ministry.

The fact that Maranhão is the state with the largest number of infected children and adolescents under 15 is a concern, because it indicates that they are living with untreated adults, he told IPS from the regional capital, São Luís.

Sasakawa was welcomed by health workers at the clinics, former leprosariums and cities he visited, who celebrated the benefits of projects funded by the Nippon Foundation.

Maranhão was the state that benefited the most from a project implemented since 2017, aimed at strengthening detection and treatment of Hansen’s disease in the 20 municipalities with the highest prevalence of the disease, Artur Custodio, national coordinator of the Movement for the Reintegration of Those Affected by Hanseniasis (Morhan), told IPS from São Luís.

The visit was “very positive” in terms of strengthening the disposition of those involved in the issue and bolstering the local government’s commitment to combatting the disease and the problems that hinder its prevention, Terto said.

She was impressed by Sasakawa’s statement that “people who are prejudiced are sicker” than patients with Hansen’s disease.

“Active search and exams of household contacts” are the priorities of her work, to “reduce prevalence in a concrete and responsible way,” which means a slow reduction of about two percent of new cases a year, said Terto, who has been a nurse for 37 years.

It is actually better if more cases appear than expected, she said, because it means that new untreated patients have been identified.

In addition to the difficulties of making leprosy visible, there are concerns about people quitting treatment, which can last from six months to more than a year depending on the severity of the case. In the most complex cases, a major effort is required to ensure that the patients stick with the treatment until the leprosy bacteria is eliminated.

To encourage patients to complete the multidrug therapy, the Foundation is funding the distribution of baskets of basic foodstuffs to affected families in Marabá, a city in the interior of the state of Pará, visited by Sasakawa on Jul. 3.

Better nutrition gives a boost to the treatment, which is effective if the infected person takes the antibiotics for the prescribed period of time.

Sasakawa began his tour in northern Brazil with a visit to the Marcello Candia Clinic, a dermatology reference unit in Marituba, a city of 108,000 inhabitants in Pará.

A former leprosarium marked the history of the city and of José Picanço, head of Morhan in Pará. He and his two siblings were separated from their parents, who had the disease and were isolated in the institution in 1972. Picanço and his siblings were also treated like “lepers”.

Children of people with leprosy were taken away from their parents and placed in orphanages. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 people in Brazil suffered – and still suffer – the social and psychological consequences of hanseniasis, because of the former law for the segregation of people with the disease.

Picanço’s parents, who lived until 2007, at least achieved the right to compensation for the violence perpetrated against them by the State. But their grown children continue to fight for this right as victims.

“There are states, such as Minas Gerais and Ceará, that are working towards recognition of this right, by government decree or bills making their way through parliament. But since the problem resulted from a national policy, it is up to the federal government to compensate us,” Picanço told IPS from Belem.

He said Sasakawa’s visit strengthened the struggles for early diagnosis of the disease, the rights of those affected and the need for greater coverage of hanseniasis in the media, which is currently limited to an annual campaign in January.