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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid