File photo: Reuters
File photo: Reuters

Rich and powerful are meeting in Davos, but will poor of Africa profit?

By Michelle Mbuthia Time of article published Jan 25, 2018

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The wealthy will decry the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots and the powerful will condemn the structural problems that facilitate the growth of the gap.

Around the world ordinary people will be gathering on mountains of their own - of rubbish dumps and minepits - to demand an end to this age of greed.

On Saturday, a concert will be held in Dandora, home of Nairobi’s main dumping grounds and “office” to many of the slum’s inhabitants.

Unrivalled natural resource wealth and a burgeoning labour force have positioned Africa as the continent to watch.

Foreign direct investments are at an all-time high and multinational companies are flocking to various parts of the continent in a renewed scramble for Africa.

However, the general upswing in the continent’s fortunes does not seem to be having an impact on the lives of those who need it most, at the bottom of the pyramid.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to reliable sources of drinking water while another 695 million live without access to proper sanitation, exposing them to the risk of contracting diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

This is just the tip of the challenges that people across this great continent face daily.

Challenges that directly affect their access to basic human rights, like proper housing, nutrition (not just food), safety and security as well as education.

The wealthy power-brokers who will be sitting in Davos making decisions on behalf of the millions are the same ones who have deliberately led us to this point.

People on the front lines of the struggle against inequality need to step up and say that enough is enough.

The age of greed must come to an end. Multinationals are offered multi-year tax incentives, laws allow for the use of tax havens, and in the end the rich hold entire countries to ransom.

The burden of finding funds for state spending continues to weigh ever more heavily on the shoulders of the poor, who never seem to benefit from any of the numerous “development projects”.

The kind of changes that would reduce inequality are not big mysteries. We need an overhaul of the global financial architecture, equitable taxation, an end to tax havens, open company registries and stricter enforcement of laws, particularly those pertaining to public finance management.

The talking heads at Davos can wax lyrical about all that is needed to fix inequality, but at the end of the day it comes down to people power. This week we are showing that together we can.

* Mbuthia is Tax Justice Network Africa’s assistant communications officer.

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