London School of Economics | Africa is rising – but for whom? Winnie Byanyima captivates a full house at LSE

Posted October 25, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Charity ~ 9,312 views


London School of Economics — Times are changing, and so too must charities. After 75 years in Oxford, Oxfam International will soon be relocating its headquarters to Nairobi, the charity’s executive director Winnie Byanyima announced last night.


Addressing a sold-out Old Theatre, Ms Byanyima spoke about her experience growing up in Uganda and the problems that still beset the continent, before announcing that the company headquarters would be moving to Africa to remain dynamic and relevant.

Determined not to be ‘Afro-pessimist’, she spoke of her pride as an African woman, coupled with her concerns about poverty and income inequality that maintain gender and wealth division.

Born to parents who were both schoolteachers, the home in which she was raised became a stronghold for resistance against oppression. Her father ran for parliament, but as the opposition party gained influence it was soon suppressed. Allies of her family were seduced towards the majority government and the country became coerced into a one-party rule.

Within a decade of independence in Uganda, it had become clear that this independence was a false dawn, she said.

Rising for whom?

On the day when Angus Deaton received a Nobel Prize for his focus on economic inequality and poverty reduction, Ms Byanyima was keen to highlight how prevalent these problems still are across Africa.

Looking at the issues that the continent now faces, she highlighted a strong rate of growth across African economies – reportedly an average of 5% – but questioned what the benefits were for African people.

One in two Africans still lives in poverty, she said – four times the global average. That number is projected to increase by tens of millions by 2030 if the continent’s growth trajectory remains the same.

What this shows is a clear disparity in income inequality, which is compounding both poverty and gender inequality. Fewer than a dozen people have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the African population.

In countries such as Angola, where income inequality is widespread, strong growth has had little impact on the problem. However, in countries where income inequality has been reduced, figures suggest that poverty levels fall by a factor of three or four times.


Some solutions are blatantly obvious. Serious investment in agriculture, for example, would reach 75% of the rural poor. But the dynamics of power are making it difficult to achieve such far-reaching gains.

Instead, African nations are finding themselves at the whim of corporate giants, who are offering huge investment opportunities in exchange for tax breaks. Offers typically come with ruthless time pressures and a warning that if the country does not accept, their neighbours will.

This brand of tax competition is both unhealthy and unsettling, Ms Byanyima said.

Minerals and other major sources of wealth are too easily captured by elites, meaning that inbound cash benefits only the wealthiest and further perpetuates income inequality. Such structures also create little in the way of quality employment, which is more likely to keep people trapped in poverty than alleviate it.

The power of multinational corporations means that much of Africa’s riches are going back to rich countries.

To those ends, Africa is rising, she concludes. But rising for whom?

Global Powers, and Speaking Truth — I love this job, because I can speak truth to power.  Winnie Byanyima

Having listened to discussions involving the World Bank, the IMF and other major organisations, Ms Byanyima says it’s clear that what is missing is a proper analysis of global power dynamics.

Consequently, at the top of Oxfam’s agenda is a focus on international tax reform to stop the exploitation of African nations.

There is also a need to address the relationship between states and corporations in Africa, she said, to ensure that good investments for companies also represent good investments for the countries involved.

Speaking about the relocation and her role in Oxfam, she notes (with shades of fellow Ugandan expert Tim Allen), “I love this job, because I can speak truth to power”.

“It does get me in trouble from time to time”, she adds, though she also points out that leaders will only be as effective for their people as we are able to hold them accountable. We shouldn’t hold out too much hope in rich people, she jibed.

“Two words”, quipped Duncan Green, who chaired the evening. “Donald Trump!”

Source — London School of Economics and Political Science

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    Maggie kigozi

    Welcome to East Afica Oxfam. We can reduce inequality by encouraging the educated to go back to the land – do agriculture throughout the value chain as a business. They will become the informed, entrepreneurial, tech savvy nucleus that will pull communities out of poverty by providing markets for rural farmers produce.

    Peter Kamalingin

    Thank you Winnie, Our own governments in the South give in too easily and so dihonestly to the corporates and enter into deals that disadvantage citizens. We must focus on citizen agency to transform governments and governance more than expect selfish corporates to be generous and nice- they wont .


    Tax reforms are needed indeed, so as reach the goal of equality.

    Obed Kambasu

    As long as the cancer of corruption and political gluttony continues to grow in Africa, the chasm between poor and rich will continue to grow even bigger. Our leaders do not care about the common man. All that matters to them is their own survival. The money that would be directed into value-addition is distributed to legislators to influence them to protect the strongmen’s power grip. For example, how much money are African states spending on useless wars with their neighbors or on teargas canisters to suppress internal opponents??


    At last someone is telling it like it is. I often wondered the sense in giving investors tax breaks in poor counties such as Uganda. While the ordinary guy pays the little they earn back into an economy which cannot even sustain sanitation, drinking water for all its pple, basic education & nutrition / health education, or even universal healthcare for the most vulnerable of its own ie babies, women and ageing. 5 ?years is too long and a massive loss to our country economy why is it a good thing for Ug my simple brain cannot get this! Investors do not need these tax incentives in poor countries surely! Respect to your speech Ms Winnie byanyima, one day Africa will get the prosperity its pple deserves! Hopefully in my lifetime.


    Practical Education, Technical Education, Leadership Development. #reapingtheyouthdividend.


    Run for President, WB!

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