News in Africa this week has been dominated by the South African riots. A statistic that plays a huge part in this story is the unemployment rate in South Africa; around 25%. Those rioting believe that foreign migrants take jobs from natives. This compared with the fact that South Africa is Africa’s second largest economy often leads to incredible amounts of antagonism. The GINI coefficient (a measure of income inequality, the lower the more equal) puts South Africa at about 65 – higher than most other African countries. To put it into perspective most western countries are about 30, whilst other African countries are around the mid 40s. Of course, the riots seem wholly focused on migrants. In particular Congolese and Bangladeshi ‘spaza’s’ which are effectively small convenience shops with gated fronts.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say the antagonism placed on the migrants is purely based on the superficial, the anecdotal and xenophobia rather than the true causes of South African inequality. Responses across the rest of Africa condemn the practice calling it completely ‘xenophobic’. In response there have been protests in Zambia, Mali and Zimbabwe. As of writing, the South African army has been brought in to deal with the issue, although ministers assure the public that they are there as a deterrent rather than an active force which could lead to violence.ISIS most recent video uploaded shows 30 Ethiopian Christians being executed. Reported to be filmed in its Libyan holdings holds a worrying message for inroads that IS make into both North and West Africa. Libya, still in open conflict between various factions after the 2011 intervention, has left room for Islamic militia to gain a foothold within the country. This development is even more troubling when looking at the allegiance pledged to IS by Boko Haram. The 29-minute video depicting the execution of two groups of 15 titled “Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence” is seemingly a response to Egyptian airstrikes on believed ISIS holds. The Egyptian airstrikes came after 21 Coptic Christians were executed back in February. Coptic Christians around Northern Africa often migrate for work. In both of these circumstances it appears that they were kidnapped whilst in transit. The Christians that find themselves in IS territory are often met with the message either pay for protection (known as a jizya), convert or face execution.
Returning to North Africa, the migration from Libya across the Mediterranean has reached an even higher death toll. The Italian coastguard confirming that over 700 in a boat had capsized whilst not being able to confirm the actual death toll involved. The Italian Prime Minister himself was also unable to give a figure, although did say it was likely a ‘dramatic amount’. As well Matteo Renzi described a ‘new slave trade’ of sorts going with the factions that try to smuggle. The problem of illegal immigrants attempting the crossing from North Africa has been a problem since 2011. Shaw and Mangan in a USIP report citing both the contraband and weapons smuggled in, as well as the profits made from smuggling people out has been a major hurdle for Libyan statecraft. The profits that Libyan gangs make from desperate immigrants often go back into funding militia activities. Despite the problem being since 2011, the large death tolls this year as well as migrants rescued has attracted media attention.
Foreign Update Editor
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/south-africa/unemployment-rate [unemployment rate SA]
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI [GINI coefficient]
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/19/isis-video-purports-to-show-massacre-of-two-groups-of-ethiopian-christians [IS execute Ethiopian Christians]
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/isis-welcomes-boko-harams-allegiance-and-plays-down-coalition-victories [IS and Boko Haram allegiance]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-31481797 [Egyptian Coptic Christians executed by IS]
http://www.startribune.com/world/300779661.html [Smuggling profitability]
http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/PW96-Illicit-Trafficking-and-Libyas-Transition.pdf [Shaw and Mangan USIP report]