This week the world’s rich and powerful will be gathering in the Swiss town of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. 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 garbage dumps and mine-pits- to demand for an end to this age of greed. On Saturday the 27th, a concert will be held in Dandora, the home of Nairobi’s main dumping grounds and ‘office’ to many of the slum’ s inhabitants. Many similar activities will be taking place across the world in a show of global unity against the growing crisis.
Unrivalled natural- resource wealth and a burgeoning labour force has 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 approximately 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 great risks of contracting diseases such as cholera and typhoid. This is just but the tip of the challenges that people across this great continent face on a daily basis. 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 very same wealthy powerbrokers 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 frontlines 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 to stash clean and in the end, the rich hold entire countries at ransom and at the end of the day, the burden of coughing up 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.
This Op-ed was drafted by Michelle Mbuthia, Tax Justice Network Africa’s Assistant Communications Officer.
Photo credit: Anthony Kinuthia (42) with the money he received for a sack full of cans that he scavenged from the Dandora dumpsite.