News / Africa

Arab and Sub-Saharan Countries Share Issues of Poverty, Unemployment

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Sub-Saharan African countries are closely watching developments in North African and Middle East countries, according to a South African foreign policy analyst.

Thomas Wheeler, who’s with the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, is a former ambassador.

In Libya, where violence has perhaps claimed hundreds of lives, Wheeler says, “It certainly is in one sense unexpected because up until now they’ve managed to avoid becoming involved like so many other countries in the region.  And now they seem to be deeply into it and it’s come about really rather quickly.”

Similarities

He says some of the issues that sparked the spreading protests in Arab countries are similar to those in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

“One of our more prominent commentators here has opined in one of the major newspapers, Business Day, that South Africa could soon have its own Tunisia moment.  Now this doesn’t refer to Libya, but it refers to the whole situation because in South Africa we have some of the similar problems that the Arab countries have.  We have a great deal of poverty and a great deal of wealth in the same country.  There’s a lot of discontent about local service delivery,” he says.

That discontent has been playing out in the small, poor South African town of Wesselton, east of Johannesburg, where riots lasted for days.  Residents there are angry over high unemployment, poverty and a lack of basic services.

“And also about the candidates,” he says, “who will be standing later this year, about May I think, in a local government election.  And they feel that the candidates are being imposed on them from above and they are not being consulted,” he says.

Wheeler says the incident is by no means on the scale of what’s happening in Arab countries.  Nevertheless, he says, “You have some of the same sort of characteristics that play here, that ordinary people are fed up with governance and they’re taking to the streets to show their dissatisfaction.”

United States of Africa

During his more than 40 years in power, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has tried to exert influence on sub-Saharan countries.  He once proposed a United States of Africa.  But Wheeler says Gadhafi’s influence has been minimal.

“In fact,” he says, “former (South African) president Thabo Mbeki was very strongly opposed to this idea.  There’s a sort of pan-African sense that you should have a closer union in Africa.  But he (Mbeki) certainly didn’t agree to the idea of a United States single government for the whole of Africa, which was Gadhafi’s idea.”

Other sub-Saharan leaders were also lukewarm to the idea.  “Who gets the big car? To sum it up in one sentence. If you have one president of Africa, what happens to all the other 53, who don’t happen to become head of state?  They lose all their perks.  And, of course, none of them are going to agree to that,” says Wheeler.

Religion

While poverty and high unemployment are helping to fuel the Arab protests, religion may play a role as well.  The analyst believes it would have less of a role in most sub-Saharan countries.  But he says it could be a factor in Ivory Coast and western countries with large Muslim populations.

“It’s certainly not an issue in southern Africa.  South Africa has freedom of religion.  It’s a secular state.  And we have the lowest level of anti-Semitism in the world allegedly, even though we have a large Muslim community here.  So there is a great deal of tolerance on religious grounds in southern Africa,” he says.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid