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OXFAM urged world leaders to get “serious” about tackling the global wealth inequality crisis as Boris Johnson schmoozed at the UK-Africa Investment Summit today.
The charity released findings which show that the world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than 325 million women in Africa.
It was published as PM Boris Johnson carved up aid money with 21 African leaders, British and African companies and City finance firms at London’s luxury Intercontinental Hotel.
The meeting, costing £15.4 million in public cash, was targeted by protesters for its profit-making motives.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told the summit that the taxpayer-funded UK Export Finance (UKEF), which helps British businesses win contracts and financial support overseas, spent almost £2 billion in the last two years.
“Africa is home to eight of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world and its economic prosperity matters to the UK,” she said.
Boris Johnson set out his post-Brexit trade pitch to African leaders, pledging to be a partner “through thick and thin” as he eyes fresh trade deals across the globe.
He spoke of a vision to put “people before passports” despite the Tory government’s policies on the hostile environment and refugee children.
But Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said: “This summit shows that we’ve gone back to the bad old days, where aid was really about aiding big business and the City of London, not reducing poverty.
“It’s shocking that the government has used aid money to fund this corporate bonanza, a post-Brexit scramble for Africa dressed up as development.”
The PM’s true colours were also highlighted in a column he wrote for the Spectator magazine in February 2002, republished from the archive when he became foreign secretary in 2016.
The article, entitled “Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism,” begins: “You would need a heart of stone not to have been moved by the little Aids-ridden choristers.”
He wrote: “The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”
“The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty,” he wrote.
Oxfam’s Time to Care report was also published before the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, when some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people descend on Davos in the Swiss Alps.
The charity said its findings illustrate how “inequality continues to be at crisis levels with wealth valued over work and the contribution of women under-rewarded.”
It shows that the world’s 2,153 billionaires owned more wealth than 4.6 billion people in 2019.
And Oxfam found that women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work, such as looking after children and the elderly, every day — which contributes $10.8 trillion (£8.3tn) a year to the global economy.
Oxfam GB chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah said: “When 22 men have more wealth than all the women in Africa combined, it’s clear that our economy is just plain sexist.”
The charity is urging governments to crack down on tax loopholes and get the richest 1 per cent to pay extra taxes.
Oxfam is also calling for investment in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare and public healthcare.
Mr Sriskandarajah said: “One way that our upside-down economic system deepens inequality is by chronically undervaluing care work, usually done by women who are often left little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run and are therefore trapped in poverty.
“If world leaders meeting this week are serious about reducing poverty and inequality, they urgently need to invest in care and other public services that make life easier for those with care responsibilities and tackle discrimination holding back women and girls.”
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