Africa’s Income Inequalities: The reality of a “A Few Big Men” (And women)

Economic inequality has dominated international economic debate recently, and with good reason. Developmental charity organisation Oxfam International made headlines not too long ago with its report which noted that the 85 richest people in the world own the wealth of half of the world`s population.

The report further suggests that this is no accident either, as more often than not; these wealthy elites “co-opt the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.”

Sub-Saharan Africa sees, nearly 50% of its population live on less than US$1 a day: the world`s highest rate of extreme poverty according to the African Development Bank. What truly drives economic growth is a thriving middle class that spends on goods and services, which in turn stimulates businesses.

This ultimately leads to a robust economy, with solid growth prospects going forward.

Be that as it may, here in Africa, increasingly we are seeing the emergence of an elite obscenely rich section of society; “A few big men” with virtually all control of the economic factors of production. Perhaps unlike in the developed lands of Europe or America, in Africa, usually these wealthy elites have risen to prominence not because of the noble virtues of hard work and innovation.

Of course to be fair, this is a broad generalisation which may not hold true for all the continent`s rich. However evidence would seem to suggest that they have leveraged off their political connections to climb up the economic ladder.

Nowhere else is this fact clearer, than in South Africa which undisputedly, is economically to Africa what America is to the world. Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa, Mathews Phosa among a host of other ANC ‘cadres’ have emerged to be leaders of the pack; enjoying a greater piece of the economic pie.

Read more.

Photos of:

1. Tokyo Sexwale

2. Cyril Ramaphosa

3. Isabel Dos Santos



How It Works: The Highest-Efficiency Solar Cell

Solar cells typically convert no more than 20 percent of incoming energy into electricity, in part because they capture only certain wavelengths of light. Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems have developed a solar cell that converts 44.7 percent—a new record. It consists of a lens that concentrates sunlight onto four stacked subcells, each designed to absorb a distinct portion of the spectrum. The team estimates it will take them another two to three years to scale up the 5.2-millimeter prototype for use in solar-power plants.

1. Sunlight passes through a multifaceted lens known as a Fresnel. The lens focuses direct sunlight, delivering the power equivalent of 297 suns to the solar cell below. 

2. The first subcell, made from gallium indium phosphide, captures photons from the shortest wavelengths of light. The subcells beneath it contain elements capable of capturing progressively longer wavelengths.

3. Each subcell consists of several semiconductor layers, which create an electric field. As photons enter, they excite electrons, freeing them from the subcell. 

4. Once the freed electrons reach the top of the stack, a metal contact funnels them toward an output terminal as a direct current.




Women in Science Interactive

Women in Science, a new interactive tool, presents the latest available data for countries at all stages of development. Produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the tool lets you explore and visualize gender gaps in the pipeline leading to a research career, from the decision to get a doctorate degree to the fields of research women pursue and the sectors in which they work.