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I had not intended to come back to the Africa Rising debate for a while. But on my recent trip to Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda I was shocked at how angry the young professionals are. These are highly educated, ambitious young men and women who could be found working in the corporate sector anywhere in the world. They should be taking Africa to the Promised Land. Instead, I found them frustrated and furious with many calling for coups and revolutions.
Coming from London where we had been basking in a warm bath of Afro-optimism, I had expected to find a similar feeling in Africa itself. Growth has remained strong despite the economic problems in Europe, Africa’s biggest trading partner, and the prices for the continent’s abundant commodities have remained high. Governance is said to be improving.
There is no doubt that Africa has come a very long way from where it was in the 1980s and 90s. My prime piece of evidence for that is traffic jams. At that time you could drive into Nairobi, Kampala or Johannesburg at any hour and rarely be held up by anything except a red light. Now, you have to leave hours earlier to be sure of getting into the city centre on time. Outside the towns and cities you can now actually drive in a straight line on many roads. As they used to say of the potholes in Uganda: “if you see a man driving in a straight line, you know he must be drunk.”
But the questions about Africa’s dozen years of strong economic growth remain:
Firstly, has Africa’s growth been driven by a long commodity boom or is it now self-sustaining? Where is the large scale manufacturing?
Secondly, has governance really improved? Are the figures about numbers in school, clinics being built, power, water and sanitation delivered true?
Thirdly, are there two Africas? One in a bubble of western-style wealth inhabited by the rich and powerful and another Africa on the other side of the security fence – barefoot, one torn shirt, no money, no prospect of a job – “suffering and smiling” as Afro Beat musician Fela Kuti sang, but with big and increasingly angry eyes.
What shocked me in Lagos, Kampala and Nairobi was the fury of the young middle classes – the very people who are supposed to be driving the new Africa into the 21st Century. They were angry about the poor levels of education, about the lack of electricity, but above all about corruption at the very top. And they see the growing ranks of ill-educated, unemployable young people being churned out of badly-managed state education systems.
In Nigeria, they have all but given up on the government. But what about people such as Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister? I pleaded. Their reply was: Of course, they do what they can but their space is limited. They are not allowed anywhere near the real money – the oil. That, I was told, was managed in complete secrecy by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Vice-President and the oil minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. They are filling a huge war chest so that Jonathan can run for president again in 2015.
Two remarks struck me. One was how utterly out of touch the President is. When street protests broke out a year ago in reaction to the sudden removal of the fuel subsidy, he claimed that people were being paid to demonstrate. My informant pointed out that all the evidence was that people had reacted in spontaneous fury to the government’s removal of the only benefit it delivers to the Nigerian people. Yes, the only one.
One said: “I am extremely optimistic about the future of Nigeria – once there has been a revolution and the current ruling elite is removed”. No one in the room showed dissent or even surprise.
In Uganda, the entire middle class – except for those in government – realises that the country is heading for a crash or a coup. Even President Yoweri Museveni himself warned that if his own ruling party does not stop bickering, the army may step in. That is the most extraordinary statement I have ever heard from an African president. The reaction of many Ugandans (under their breath) was: “Bring it on”.
Museveni has stayed too long and he has cultivated no obvious successor. He is trapped, talking now about installing his deeply unpopular wife and or his son in his place. Twenty seven years ago he did a good job and ruled well (except in the north) and this lasted for a decade. But now he has turned into the very president he criticised so severely as a young man – the one who stays too long in power.
Meanwhile, in Nairobi the population is battening down the hatches for the election next month. Most are optimistic that their new constitution will curtail the worst excesses of the professional politicians, although these people still made up about 80 per cent of the winners in the recent party primaries.
So, where exactly is The New Africa flourishing? Botswana? But it was always successful and never suffered from the political and economic catastrophes that hit Africa in the 20th Century.
The fact is that the five big African countries: Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in political turmoil or stasis. None of their governments has the vision or the capacity to position their countries to develop rapidly and sustainably as Indonesia, Malaysia and China have. The good things that are happening in many African countries – with the possible exception of South Africa – are happening in spite of their governments, not because of them.
Secondly, two of the most successful countries in terms of human development – Ethiopia and Rwanda – are dictatorships which allow minimum democracy and freedom of speech. This makes it difficult for Western governments to support them. Aid has been cut to Rwanda and if the next election in Ethiopia is not free and transparent, Western allies and donors may have to turn a blind eye or step away.
Some countries are doing reasonably well: Ghana, Senegal, Namibia and Zambia are OK. Cameroon and Gabon are quiet but not dynamic, still run by small wealthy elites who do not spread the new wealth. Cote d’Ivoire has emerged from its civil war and Somalia may bounce back quickly if the new government is strong enough to crush al-Shabaab and smart enough to manage clan politics. But meanwhile, Mali, a former favourite of western countries, has imploded and both Sudans are in an increasingly bad way. It is hard to imagine Mauritania, Niger and Chad will not also be affected by Islamic militancy.
China has been the main player in Africa’s economic transformation, but how long will it be before Africans react against the growing power and exclusive behaviour of the Chinese and their total disregard for Africa’s environment and culture? Africa rising? Bits of it yes, but watch out for Africans’ rising anger.
- Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.
During the past 30 years tourism has been one of the fastest growing industries in Africa, so much so that it has become an important driver of economic growth and a key strategy for regional cooperation among African economies.
Though Africa has been blessed with abundant tourism resources, the industry was previously largely confined to North Africa. The real impetus for the industry came during the 1970s when sub-Saharan African destinations started appearing in tourist itineraries. Since then the industry has gone from strength to strength and Africa is a must-see destination for most global travelers.
Looking at tourist footfalls over the years, it is not surprising to see that Chinese tourists to Africa have not only played a big role in the development of tourism, but also risen significantly in numbers in the past few years. As far as Chinese tourists are concerned, the biggest growth has been spurred by the deep pockets of the rising middle-class population.
According to industry estimates, there are 17 African destinations that are quite popular with Chinese tourists. The most sought-after African destinations are the tourist attractions in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. However, some Chinese travel agencies have recently added Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia, with most of the attractions catering to the tastes of middle-class tourists.
There are four reasons as to why more Chinese tourists are now flocking to Africa.
First, the continent's natural landscape, warm people, long history and rich and unique flora and fauna have captivated many Chinese tourists. For most of these tourists, Africa is a captivating destination that has no parallels in Europe or the US. Undoubtedly there is a growing desire among Chinese tourists to build closer relations with their African brethren.
With the continuous improvement of education levels, especially the growing popularity of English education, middle-class tourists from China, especially those from the second and third-tier cities, are increasingly opting for "do-it-yourself" itineraries in Africa. These tourists do not want to be confined by the rigid package tours of travel agencies, and instead want to explore the vast continent's forests, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, rivers, swamps and deserts in their own way and interact with the African people.
The annual Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and other major meetings also promote and motivate more tourist flows to Africa.
The second major reason for growing tourist numbers is the good connectivity and easy timing of travel to most African destinations.
With the deepening of China-Africa relations and the development of economic and trade ties, most of the major African carriers have started non-stop flights to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. It takes only 10 hours from Mauritius to reach Hong Kong, similar to a non-stop flight from Beijing to London. In addition, destinations like Johannesburg, Nairobi, Cairo and Addis Ababa are connected through daily flights from Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou. In other words, in 12 to 14 hours a Chinese tourist can reach Africa.
The extra emphasis that most African countries are putting on tourism development is the third major factor for more tourist flows. In addition to the multiple-entry visas for Chinese tourists launched a year ago, many African countries now have reduced their visa processing period to between five and seven days. This makes travel to African countries easier and faster.
Compared with traditional European and US visa procedures, Chinese travelers only need to submit some basic information to African embassies. African countries have no demanding requirements over proof of property ownership, financial guarantees and personal privacy.
African countries such as Benin and Mauritius have even accorded a visa-free status to Chinese tourists. Tourism bureaus in many African countries have developed publicity strategies tailored specially to the Chinese market.
Some African countries use their celebrities and new media to attract tourists. Others like Egypt, Kenya and South Africa have increased their advertising exposure on China Central Television and several other provincial TV stations to draw more Chinese tourists.
Growing health awareness is the fourth and most compelling reason that is helping grow tourism in Africa. Most middle-class tourists from China are those who live in the cities and hence do not get much chance for outdoor activities like mountaineering, parachuting, trekking in the tropical rainforest, desert adventures and cross-country competitions. Africa has all of these and many more other attractions.
Due to natural and historical reasons, many countries in Africa have gone through long periods of underdevelopment. The financial, material and technical conditions are often weak and the transportation system is not perfect.
Despite the rich tourism resources, the lack of sufficient human, material and financial resources has often hindered large-scale systematic development. It is difficult to carry out effective marketing for existing tourism resources, resulting in a considerable number of high-quality tourism resources not living up to their names.
Africa has not yet formed a complete transportation network. Though its international ocean shipping network is relatively comprehensive, it is still limited mostly to the eastern coastal regions that are closer to the Eurasian continent.
In recent years, the aviation industry in Africa has been growing rapidly, but the number of connections between African countries and other countries is still limited. Airports with large passenger aircraft are mostly concentrated in a small number of relatively developed countries and cities.
As far as road traffic is concerned, most of the intra-African traffic lines extend from the coastal ports, but some of these highway systems are out of date and easily jammed, thereby posing challenges to travel.
Tourism plays an irreplaceable role in promoting employment, reducing poverty and improving foreign exchange earnings. Due to the lack of funds and the lack of development in the service economy, scenic construction, tourism product development, tourism facilities and service standards show some deficiencies, and have more room for improvement in terms of food, accommodation, transportation, shopping and entertainment.
Africa is also home to thousands of languages (of course, the main languages are French, English, Portuguese and Arabic). Multilingual tour guides are rare in Africa, with tour guides who can speak Chinese even harder to find.
Natural disasters and occasional armed conflicts in Africa, coupled with its lack of financial and human resources, also pose a threat to many of the world heritage-listed sites in Africa. Although the number of world heritage sites in Africa accounts for 13 percent of the global total, in terms of endangered World Heritage sites, Africa accounts for more than 50 percent.
Overall, with its unique tradition and culture, the continent is bound to attract more Chinese tourists.
Zhang Qizuo is professor of economics and vice-president of Chengdu University, who specializes in China-Africa trade and investment.
The year 2013 is an important year for the African Continent. It marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU); the 11th year of the launching of the African Union (AU) and a decade of coming into being of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). These are indeed very giant efforts embarked upon by African leaders aimed at attainingunity and security of the African Continent, and advance the material and physical developmenther states and peoples. Although appreciable progress had been made, however, in comparison toother parts of the world, Africa lacks far behind in development and progress. Many factors account for this failure, but in my opinion, central of them all has been that of poor leadership; i.e.lack of good, visionary and purposeful leadership.
Given the realization of this deficiency under the light of globalization, we must make deliberate efforts to start a historic march towards creating a new political order. Globalization today has imposed on Africa the dire need for good governance as the prerequisite to her economic and political development. And within the context of our transitional and emerging economies this necessity becomes even more ardent; whether or not we live up to it, is nonetheless today a defining issue for African states.
2. FOCUS OF THE PAPER
One most important feature of our generation is the globalization of the world – the world, they say, has become a global village! As a point of entry, globalization officially registered in English lexicon in 1930. In today’s usage, its context basically facilitates the mechanisms for unrestricted global relationships with the attendant transfer of trade, cultures, politics, norms and values amongst world societies. With the advancement of Science and Technology and the breaking of barriers of time and space in human relations, activities of societies became opened, known and accessible to all across the globe. This glaringly brought to light the disparities that exist between peoples and Nation-states of the world in their economic, political, bureaucratic, cultural, social, scientific and technological developments and standards. On this score, the disparities are seen to have tilted heavily against African States in relation to the rest of the world, especially to the West. These disparities are so deep and so serious that their continuous existence constitutes a grave problem that threatens global peace. There is therefore an urgent need to solve the crisis by bridging the disparities.
This need has, however, also given rise to some conflicting view points with regard to the position and fate of African States vis-à-vis the emergent globalization process and how to approach it. On the one hand, there are those who see the process as representing the most secure way of bridging this gap and make the ambitions and dreams for a politically stable, economically prosperous and socially safe and sound Africa come true. But on the other hand, for others, the New World Order is replete with such perverse effects that no matter what is done it would continue to render the ‘developing’ countries of Africa more economically dependent, technologically stagnant, socially confused and politically irrelevant in the new global village.
However, in-between these two extreme positions lies the truth. Globalization, which I define more or less as the spread and dominance of Western Civilization across the globe, has as its main features the ascendancy of global free trade, laissez-faire capitalist economy, science and technology, condensation and availability of knowledge through the WWW, connectivity of people through multiple global systems, literacy and education, liberal democracy, constitutionalism, high standard of human organization, sound administration, effective leadership skills and human rights and the rule of law. These features, now the basic indices for measuring the material development of nations and societies, are on their own worthy development implements. They have today defined the new world order and African states can and should strive to attain them. What is needed is good leadership and right strategy to drive the process. Thus, globalization has created for Africa the imperatives for good governance and alternative public policy options.
3. GLOBALIZATION AND AFRICA’S UNDERDEVELOPMENT
The underdevelopment of Africa vis-à-vis the rest of the world spans a period of over 500 years. From 1479 when Europe came into ‘active’ contact with Africa, the slavery era of the 16th – 19thcenturies, the ‘legitimate trade’ of the 19th century, the colonial domination of the 20th century, to the period of neo-imperialism of the late 20th century, the continent of Africa remained a subject of foreign exploitation. Since the end of colonialism (which was actually a central starting-point of the globalization process), African countries had desired, tried and failed to achieve the “progress” they observed in the developed countries. Not unexpectedly, after “failing” to achieve development by themselves, the African countries continued to depend on the 1st World countries for guidance. Their economic dependence level led to the recommendation of policies encapsulated as Austerity Measures and Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) by the IMF and World Bank. On the political level, they were also subjected to the United Nations’ resolutions on democracy, constitutionalism, human rights and the rule of law.
The IMF and World Bank thus prescribed economic policies to African countries, and our leaders accepted those policies wholesale and swung into action to implement them in the 1980s and well into the 1990s in the hope that it would build our economies and lead them unto prosperity. Thirty years after, when it became obvious that this developmental approach had failed, the IMF and World Bank then finally admitted that Austerity Measures and SAP were the wrong policies to have applied to the economies of African states as they were largely responsible for the resulting deprivation sweeping through the continent. In a report titled “The effect of IMF and World Bank Programmes on Poverty” the Breton Woods Projects revealed in 2000 that “poor nations are better off without structural adjustment”.
But the damage had already been done. World Bank and IMF Reports for 2005 – 2009 paint a very gory picture of the pathetic conditions of the Continent. African countries became so indebted that they practically lost their sovereignty. The issue of debt relieves then came out as a major concern in world politics and African states became beggar nations in the international community. Domestically, there was a collapse in both human and physical infrastructures. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of the population depends on solid fuel for cooking and through its indoor air-pollution, kills more than 1.5 million people each year with more than half of them being below 5 years old. Globally, this is 4000 deaths a day, a figure that is more than the total deaths from malaria. Also, the number of poor grew from 200 million in 1981 to 380 million in 2005. By 2001, according to the World Bank, when poverty was reducing in other regions of the world, it was increasing in Africa and Nigeria had the highest rate and number of poor people. The level of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 was higher than in 1992. It was the highest across all regions of the world and Sub-Saharan Africa was the only region where this indicator had actually increased between 1992 and 2002. The future is even bleaker because, based on current trends, by 2015, 90% of those living in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) in the world will be in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Today, three quarters of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas, where there is no health care, no electricity, no potable water, no schools, and with millions of deaths and high risk of death due to poor sanitary conditions, epidemics and armed conflicts. In these rural areas, the children are the worst hit. A child dies every 3 seconds, one child dies nearly every minute from measles, six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday, 200,000 child-slaves are sold every year in Africa, about 120,000 African children carry arms in conflicts; some are as young as 7 years old. There are between 12 and 14 million African child- orphans due to HIV/AIDS, close to 2 million children below 14 years are themselves HIV positive, 43% of children do not have safe accessible drinking water; only 57% of African children are enrolled in primary education and less than 17% complete their schooling.
Twenty to thirty years after SAP and Austerity Measures, infrastructure stories are bleak too. By 2009, only 30% of African rural settlements have direct access to an all-season road, 35% must travel at least 2 kilometers to their primary source of water and Africans pay more than 200% extra for basic services compared to the rest of the world. The 2009 World Bank reported that poor infrastructure in Africa reduces national economic growth by 2% annually and reduces productivity by 40 percent. The entire installed power capacity of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a 2009 World Bank Report revealed, is a mere 68,000 gig watts, which is not up to that of Spain, one of the smallest countries in Europe. As it stands today one quarter of Africa’s installed power capacity is not operational. Africa needs $93 billion to close its infrastructural gap in energy, ICT, transportation and water. These are the facts of Africa’s underdevelopment.
4. SOME IMPLICATIONS OF AFRICA’S UNDERDEVELOPMENT
The underdevelopment of Africa, driven from operating an unequal relationship in trade and commerce, is fraught with many implications. It led to the greatest peace time transfer of wealth from the nations in the periphery to the imperial countries in the center. In turn, the implication of this wealth transfer is the creation of wide gap between the richest and poorest countries of the world. In 1820, the rich imperial countries were 3 times richer than their poor colonial spheres of interest, by 1913 they were 11 times richer, by 1950 they were 35 times richer, by 1973 they were 44 times richer, by 1992, they were 72 times richer, and by 2001 they were 85 times richer. This represents 2,350% growth in wealth disparity between the rich and poor countries from 1820 to 2001 and nearly 50% of the growth in disparity occurred in the 28 years between 1973 and 2001. This means that the period of globalization alone accounts for more than 50% of the wealth gap between the rich and poor nations.
But after the colonial domination in the 1960s and prior to the economic crisis of the 1980s, there were positive attempts by post independence leaders to protect the economies of the states. But soon they were replaced by the policies from the IMF and World Bank. The main implication of this is that the IMF and World Bank policies and their wholesale adaptation and implementation are the central cause of this disparity more than anything else under the globalization process. Clearly, African leaders seemed to have dried the pond in order to catch the fish, as Mao Tsetung would say. This supports the contention that such policies were merely intended to help the economies of the imperial countries and more often add to the personal wealth of the African ruling class. But on the whole, the African states are the end-losers.
5. GLOBALIZATION AND OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, etc. were by 1930 poor third world countries like African countries, but today they are major players and centers of commerce and technology in the globalized market place. They have successfully navigated their economic crisis and progressed on a path of sustainable growth and development. China and India account for most of the global reduction in poor people. For example, the World Bank reported that in 1990 there were roughly 375 million people in China living in extreme poverty; on less than $1 per day. But by 2001, the figure reduced to 212 million people, and by 2015, if the current trend holds, there will be only 16 million out of the 1.2 billion Chinese living on less than $1 a day. In South Asian countries, the numbers go from 462 million in 1990 down to 431 million in 2001 and further down to 216 million in 2015. In achieving this feat, these countries took selective and favorable approach to the application of policies designed to open them up for globalized trade. Their leaders refused to totally accept the policies of the IMF and World Bank in the 80s. Instead, they skillfully seized the positives of the globalization process to focus in improving education and infrastructure and, in particular, adopting good governance.
In Sub-Saharan African States, by contrast, the poverty level is actually increasing with a corresponding fall in educational and infrastructural standards. World Bank Report shows that there were 227 people living on less than $1 a day in 1990, 313 million in 2001, and an expected rise to 385 million in 2015. The key reason accounting for these differences between the former countries and African States can be centered on the type of persons, leaderships, policies and strategies employed to govern these countries in the face of the changing world order.
In other words, by reason of bad governance and poor policy options, Africa failed to overcome the challenges of globalization to develop its societies. Hence, about half a century since independence, African countries are still stagnantly underdeveloped, with all the attendant traits – illiteracy and ignorance, poverty and deprivation, famine and starvation, epidemics and health crises, child labour, mortality and low life expectancy, corruption and dishonesty in leadership, decaying infrastructure and moral decadence, crime and violence, or simply outright failure of states.
6. THE OPTIONS FOR AFRICA (AND NIGERIA)
These are challenges that are beyond the scope of the current prevailing strategic methods employed by most African leaders. In my view, it is the lack of clear understanding of the issues confronting us over the years by our policy makers (either by design or default), itself therefore leading to poor policy choices and implementations, that inevitably led to Africa’s developmental failures. Increasingly, therefore, the option is for Africa (and Nigeria) to pursue a more sophisticated line of inquiry for a more complete view across the fields of government policy, trade and commerce, science and technology, human and physical infrastructures, etc. With their rich aptitudes and talents of large populations and their abundant untapped natural resources, African States can also seize the positives of globalization, overcome its challenges and attain rapid material development for the people. Only the entrenchment of good governance with creative strategies and alternative policy options based on a deep understanding of our history, society, culture and the global environment can make us achieve this laudable goal for our people. This requires the creation of the right kind of leadership that would in turn create the conditions in which our people can realize their potentials by getting their talents expressed and their resources harnessed. Since leaders are products of history, culture, values and circumstances of their societies, concerted and conscious efforts on the part of the people can create the desired leadership for our countries. I believe this to be the key option for Africa to meet the challenges of development under the new global reality.
For the last 4 decades, Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa have been under the World Bank and IMF Economic Policies which have turned out to be total failures. The next 30 years are again already being defined by the Poverty Reduction Programmes (PRP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the UNO. The PRP and MDGs concepts and principles are just the same old policies from the same old multi-national bodies that earlier prescribed debt relief, aid, privatization and trade liberalization as the basis for faster development for Africa. These kinds of externally originated policies examine economic realities of Nigeria and other African States decoupled from politics and geo-strategic relations, thereby creating false economic pictures for our countries. Let us not lose sight of the fact that over the years, leadership in Nigeria failed to stand its ground on the side of its citizens but rather accepted ridiculous ideas to sell off national assets and open up the country for plundering. It had not worked then; and this too will not work now.
Let us also further take note of the fact that since independence each leadership cycle in Nigeria has been characterized by the shifting of developmental milestones; starting from the National Development Rolling Plans 1st, 2nd and 3rd, to the projection of the Year 2000 for the provision of housing, health, education, food, transportation and jobs for all; followed by the era of Vision 2010, NEEDS, then Vision 2020, Vision 20:2020 and now the Transformation Agenda. Nigeria hasconsistently failed to meet these developmental goals and objectives on account of failure of leadership. If this continues Nigeria will bequeath to the next generation only poverty, hunger, illiteracy, desertification, environmental degradation, erosion, coastal encroachment and depleted natural resources; an unprepared generation that will not be able to use today’s technologies and energy sources to provide for its own needs. The children of the succeeding generation will have to beg for new technologies to harness renewable energy sources. They will be prone to conflict and manipulation because survival will be the only thing on their minds.
Our politics must be hinged on economic development of the society and separated from the current individual, group and regional supremacy contest, because this is the old way. If we continue to do things the old way we will only get the same old results all the time. The youth, women and the educated must be mobilized for Good Governance. The youth, because the future belongs to them; the women because the family is the nucleus of every society; and the educated because they are the light of the society. The welfare of people is the gauge for the effectiveness of any government and it is time to make their welfare the subject of politics. It is time for a positive change to responsible leadership.
7. SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSION
Clearly, the present generation needs to induce in the people the appropriate qualitative change in their thinking process so as to re-organize their productive forces for economic self-reliance and veritable political and social renaissance. Africans must be made to think anew, to decide how best to restructure their polities, economies and education, and to re-engineer social changes that would lead to economic prosperity and a truly democratic and free society for a better and greater tomorrow. This is basically what our generation owes our people and the next generation.
My suggestion for attaining this goal is to create Research Centres of Excellence to do in-depth public policy research into domestic and global issues as they affect Africa’s material development - centres with articulate, media-savvy, home-grown intellectuals and analysts working as independent think-tanks to advocate and provide for alternative public policy options and strategies; while at the same time developing African perspectives on global trends and creating policy research frameworks on issues that require deeper interpretations, analysis, understanding and dissemination. As policy roles of government agencies and political parties are progressively diminishing, it is imperative that think tanks move in to fill the void and proffer viable solutions, strategies and alternative public policy options to meet the globalization challenges and opportunities.
As globalization has made it ever more clear the essential role of personal forces in shaping destinies of societies, such centres will need to focus and to put greater attention on the critical issue of leaders; to provide new perspectives on good leadership, accountability and transparency in governance, honesty and selflessness in public service, economic, social and educational plans, budgetary priorities, milestones and implementations’ diagrams, etc. The centres will thus provide better understanding to academics and journalists, strategic ideas to opinion molders and public policy makers and enlightenment to the general public.
I strongly believe that this approach will help create for African States, and Nigeria in particular, a high level of organization, a sincere and purposeful leadership, an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry, and an honest and responsive political class working purely for the sole benefit of the people within popular-based democratic cultures relevant to our environment, compatible with our mores and benefiting from diligent application and absorption of the traditional knowledge and practices of our people. Accomplishing this will no doubt help break our failure syndrome and bring about the much desired but seemingly elusive dream of moving the continent to an advantageous position within the new global order capable of restoring the pride and dignity of Africa and Africans.
Umar Ardo, Ph.D
While contributing to the discussion - “De-risking Africa”, during the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, President Paul Kagame said: “The major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else and not by Africans themselves. That is why the rest of the world looks at Africa and Africans and wants to define us. They want to shape the perception about Africa. The best thing we can do for ourselves is own our problems, own our solutions and write our own story.”
The deliberate misrepresentation of Africa has been going on for decades. Ask our generation where civilisation started and you will most likely be told it is Europe. Few know that the Nile Valley was the intellectual, spiritual, educational and industrial center for the ancient world. The areas of science, medicine, mathematics, engineering, philosophy and religion, and so many other human activity areas were created there and were distributed throughout the world by various conquerors and travellers.
Most of what is written about Africa has been written by non Africans from their own perspective which is often clouded with neo-colonialism mentality and not in line with the African point of view. A clear example for us in Rwanda is the story of the Rwandan genocide. Numerous books by Western authors have been written some with clear distortions and inaccuracies of what actually happened. Understanding that this is done by purposeful design is the beginning of developing counter measures. In this era of globalisation it is critical that we write our own stories to suite our interests. This is what happens elsewhere.
There are many reasons – economic, political, and not least, our own dignity, that should drive us to write our own stories. If not for our economic and social development, writing our own stories frees us from being portrayed in someone else’s perspective and it gives us a sense of liberation. As President Kagame has pointed out, this can only be reversed by Africans taking charge and telling their own story, and unless this is done now, we will continue to be disrespected and preyed upon. Are Africans capable of writing their own stories? Yes, they can. Do they have the intellectual capacity to do so? Of course they do. What then, is preventing us from writing our own stories?
Knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of one race. Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that 99.9 percent of the human DNA is exactly the same in all races. Africa has great thinkers, academics, scientists, artists and writers. Some have done great things and their achievements have been recognized by honouring them with the prestigious Nobel prize. So, why is it that with such a wealth of knowledge and abundance of intellectuals, the African story continues to be told by non Africans?
The solution to the problem of writing our own story is not a difficult one. The requirements are: talent, writing skills and time. These we have in abundance. The rest is organisation and some resources, which we also have.
I have been impressed by the number of talented contributors to The New Times. I am especially thrilled by the increasing number of young contributors like Nathalie (Munyampenda), Alline (Akintore), Diana (Mpyisi) and others who are writing interesting articles on various subjects. Then there are seasoned writers like Pan (Butamire), Joseph (Rwagatare), Sunny (Ntayombya), Arthur (Asiimwe) and others. We are not short of talent and writing skills.
In order to support our President so that a couple of years from today his message at Davos is that of hope and self-assurance, a few things must be put in place. Firstly, a strong association of writers and potential writers (I believe there are many) must be created. If I recall well, a few years ago Dr. James Vuningoma, while at KIE (Kigali Institute of Education), started a writers association. Without reinventing the wheel, this association could be revived. The association should be a forum for members to share experiences, provide guidance, mentorship and resource mobilisation.
Writing is time and energy consuming and often not financially rewarding. Many writers write for personal fulfillment. To write researched articles needs resources. If we are going to be serious about writing our own stories, we should be ready to invest in our people, motivate them, recognise and reward their achievements. This could be achieved through a public-private-partnership. In the West, writers make a living out of writing. Publishers pay writers well and also provide incentives to encourage them to write more. This would be a good thing to emulate.
A critical element that is often ignored in Africa is the role of think tanks in development. Empowered think tanks in addition to coming up with creative and innovative ideas, also carry out research and development (R&D) work. We need to create and empower think tanks. The think tanks become the source of what to write on including positive propaganda. The West understands the critical role of think tanks and R&D and has been using them for centuries. Here, I would like to challenge our academic institutions to take the lead. The R&D within our institutions of higher education should produce ideas that can be turned into practical solutions to benefit the citizens.
Telling our own stories has a ripple effect in that it recognises achievement, motivates and creates heroes. We need to create heroes and idols for our children to have something to look up to with pride. Success stories motivate the young and lift the spirit.
While there are many answers to the question as to why we do not write our own stories, my take is that we have not yet completely overcome some of the neo-colonialism mentality. We need to completely liberate ourselves from mental enslavement. There is need to redefine our lifestyles, our priorities and our goals. In essence, a mindset change.
Gerald Mpyisi is a former Math teacher and IT professional turned successful business man.
Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo do Santos, is Africa's first woman billionaire, according to research by American financial magazine Forbes.Isabel dos Santos bought shares in several Portuguese companies in recent years, including a bank and a cable television firm.
According to FORBES, "Isabel dos Santos studied engineering at King’s College in London, where she lived with her mother, who is divorced from President dos Santos. She opened her first business in 1997, at age 24, in Luanda in Angola– a restaurant called Miami Beach...buying more shares of publicly traded companies in Portugal, including shares in a bank and a cable TV company. Those stakes, combined with assets Isabel dos Santos owns in at least one bank in Angola, have pushed her net worth over the $1 billion mark, according to research by FORBES, making the 40-year-old Africa’s first woman billionaire."
Dos Santos is the main shareholder in ZON Multimedia, Portugal's largest cable television company. She owns 28.8 percent through two other companies, Kento and Jadeium, according to Forbes' research. Her 19.5-percent stake in Portuguese bank BPI, one of the largest trading on the country's stock exchange, is worth $465 million.
Dos Santos also owns a quarter of Angolan bank BIC, estimated at $160 million, and a quarter of local telecommunications firm Unitel.The Unitel stake alone is worth over $1billion, analysts told the magazine.Isabel was born in 1973 to President Dos Santos' first wife, Tatiana Kukanova, an Azeri. The two have since separated.
Dos Santos became the oil-rich country's president in 1979 and today is Africa's second-longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who beats him by a month. Angola is the second-biggest oil producer in Africa, but its people are among the world's poorest. Most survive on less than two dollars a day.
The eldest Dos Santos daughter grew up in London, where she studied mechanical and electrical engineering at King's College. Her first business venture was a restaurant, Miami Beach, which she opened as 24-year-old in Luanda.
She speaks several languages and is married to Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo. Discreet and media shy, she rarely appears in public. - Sapa-AFP
Prior to the advent of Islam and Christianity, most Africans practiced traditional African religion. Christians and Muslims were in the minority. Even after 1900 when Christian and Muslim expansion reached its peak, traditional African religion still maintained relevance. Very much misunderstood, the religion has been called all kinds of derogatory names, from animism to paganism. Traditional African religion is much more than Westerners give it credit for. It is a global framework of life, encompassing every human situation and governing the whole society. Over 100 million Africans or 10% of the population still practice the religion full time.
Unlike other religions, African religions have no sacred texts or creed comparable to the Torah, Bible or the Koran. Their expressions are found in oral traditions, rituals, myths, festivals, symbols and shrines. The primary role of Traditional African religion is to provide for human well being in the present, as opposed to offering salvation in a future world. Though beliefs and practices differ and vary across ethnic groups and regions, they have unifying themes. One single faith with local differences. For example, the Igbos of Southeastern Nigeria worship differently from the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria. The Akans of Ghana worship differently from the Dioula of the Ivory Coast. But they all believe in one super god, lesser divinities and in honoring the ancestors.
In a nutshell, traditional African religion is characterized by belief in a supreme being, who created and ordered the world, but is often experienced as distant and unreachable. Therefore, lesser divinities who are more accessible act as intermediaries with the super god. Violations of taboos or social norms are widely believed to result in hardships or illness for individuals or communities and must be countered by ritual acts to reestablish order, harmony and well being.
Believers of the religion hold that ancestors sometimes act as emissaries between living beings and the divine, helping to maintain social order and withdrawing their support if the living behave wrongly. If there are infractions, the oraculists are called upon to discern what is wrong and make recommendations on how to resolve it.
It is very significant, that most Africans who adhere to Islam or Christianity also incorporate elements of indigenous African religion into their daily lives. Most Africans still believe in the power of Jujus to protect them. Most Christians and Muslims in Africa still consult traditional religious healers when someone is sick, and participate in ceremonies to honor their ancestors. In short, Christianity and Islam coexist harmoniously with traditional African religion. The reason for this harmony is because of the capacity of traditional African religions to tolerate and accommodate alternative religious cultures.
This accommodation and tolerance is because African traditional religion is not export oriented, non hegemonic and non proselytizing. Unlike Christianity and Islam, these traditional African religions did not have the ambition to conquer the world. It was a domestic religion for Africans and Africans only. Therefore, it was not in competition with Christianity or Islam in the marketplace of creeds and souls, thereby avoiding conflicts and tensions. When African slaves came to the Americas, they carried their religious practices and beliefs with them. These beliefs evolved into Voodoo in Haiti and Santeria in Cuba.
Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.
There are three religious systems in Africa. Traditional African religions, Islam and Christianity. Before the arrival of Islam and Christianity, majority of Africans practiced traditional African religions, while Christians and Muslims were in the minority. Africa was the first continent into which Islam expanded from Arabia. In 639 AD, seven years after the death of Prophet Mohammed, the Arabs advanced towards Africa and reached the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Maghreb region. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a massive Christian and Muslim expansion began, at the expense of traditional African beliefs. North Africa has more Muslims, while Black Africa has more Christians.
During the 20th century, almost 40% of Africans moved from traditional African religions to different shades of Christianity. This represents the largest religious movement that has occurred in history. Today, about 488,800,000 Africans are Christians or 47% of the population. Of this number, about 350,000,000 are Catholics. In 1902, there were about 1 million Catholics. Currently, Black Africa is home to about 21% of the world's Christians. It is reported that currently over 6 million Muslims are converting to Christianity every year in Africa.
Islam has also kept place with the Christian expansion in Africa. In 1900, there were about 11 million Muslims in Africa. Today there are over 421,900,000 Muslims in Africa, majority of them in North Africa. They presently constitute about 40% of the population. There are about 150,000,000 Muslims in Black Africa or 15% of the World's Muslims. Africa has the highest percentage of Muslims in the world-52%. It was easier for Islam to make inroads into Black Africa than Christianity, because it left the African way of life undisturbed, while Christianity did not.
Black Africa is one of the most religious places in the world. In sharp contrast to Europe, Russia and the United States, very few people in Africa are religiously unaffiliated. Atheism is seriously frowned upon. Africa is the only continent that harbors Christians and Muslims in almost equal numbers. In a sense, one can say that Islam is an Afro-Asian religion in that almost all Muslim nations are in Africa or in Asia. There are few Muslims in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Russia. Christianity on the other hand can be said to be an Afro-Western religion in that most Christian nations are in Africa or in the Western world. Although there are millions of individual Christians in Asia, the Philippines can be said to be the only Christian nation in Asia. In this regard, Africa can be said to be the most ecumenical continent in the world. This ecumenism arises out of the capacity of traditional African religions to tolerate and accommodate alternative religious cultures. In most countries in Africa, few evidence of widespread anti- Christian or anti-Muslim hostility can be observed.
In the 1960s, when most countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas were still struggling to divorce religion from its politics, Africans were setting the trend. It should be remembered that the first President of Senegal-an overwhelming Muslim nation-Leopold Senghor was a Christian intellectual. Gambia, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, three nations that have a Muslim majorities saw no problems in electing David Jawara, Julius Nyerere and Maurice Yameogo respectively as its first presidents. All three were were Christians. Also, most African families are multi religious including mine. The father could be Muslim, the wife Catholic, the daughter Baptist, the son Methodist, the brother Buddhist and the in laws traditional African religion.
The late King Mutesa 11 of Uganda was a Christian, but his uncle and chief adviser, Prince Badru Kakungulu was a Muslim. Most Christians and Muslims still consult traditional religious healers, believe in jujus, observe African rituals and participate in events to honor their ancestors. The Yoruba ethnic group of Southwest Nigeria symbolize this religious tolerance to its core. Split evenly between Muslims and Christians, the Yorubas make no distinction whatsoever between both religions when it comes to their daily lives, and the accommodating powers of traditional African religion manifests itself more within this ethnic group than with any other group in Africa.
However, this is not to say that there are no tensions between the two faiths once in a while, but most of the time what appears to be religious strife on the surface, may indeed reflect another kind of strife underneath. The Boko Haram in Nigeria say they are fighting to install an Islamic state, but most Nigerians believe it is a secret political and ethnic movement wearing a religious garb. The conflict in Sudan was not between the Muslims and Christians as some people thought, but a conflict between the non Arabized Black Southern Sudanese on one hand, and the Arab and Arabized northern Sudanese on the other.
In Mali, the current rebellion by the Tuaregs has more to do with ethnicity than with religion. Though the rebellion has a religious connotation, it is an attempt by the Tuaregs to get a fair share of power now monopolized by the Bambara ethnic group. The opposition to Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast was not because of his Muslim religious background as some people have insinuated, but because of his northern Dioula ethnicity. The Baoule's from the South see themselves as the natural rulers of the country, and thus they see Ouattara as an interloper and outsider.
The conventional wisdom has been that Africans lack sensitivity and tolerance for people of other faiths and religions. Nothing can be further from the truth. Africa is an ecumenical continent, accommodating and tolerating religious pluralism. Africans are more likely to kill each other because of ethnicity, than religion.
Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.
In May 2000, The Economist magazine declared that Africa was “the hopeless continent.” Eleven years later, in 2011, it referred to Africa as “the hopeful continent.” And on October 20, 2012, the magazine stated: “In recent years investors have been piling into Lagos and Nairobi as if they were Frankfurt and Tokyo of old.”
Clearly, gloomy skepticism has given way to glowing optimism about Africa, and for good reason—over the past 10 years, many of the economies within Africa are outpacing economies anywhere else in the world. In fact, according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook released in October 2012, 11 of the world’s 20 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and this booming economic growth has helped create the fastest-growing middle class in the world.
Of course, the major trends driving this growth—changing policy environments, a growing middle class that expects equitable social and economic policies, high commodity prices, robust domestic demand, and rapid mass urbanization—have not affected all countries on the continent equally. Here’s a quick look at five economies that have especially benefited from recent developments, and those that pose some of the best potential for the future.
1. South Africa: The Continent’s Largest Economy
Africa’s southernmost country has a mature economy with strong industrial, financial, and transportation sectors. With GDP estimated at $408 billion and per capita income estimated at $11,000 for 2012, the country sits firmly in the World Bank’s Upper-Middle-Income category, along with Brazil and China. In 2010, South Africa joined the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), an association of top emerging economies distinguished by their fast growth and burgeoning influence in regional and global matters.
Despite its developed infrastructure and abundant natural resources, South Africa does face challenges in the areas of governance and inequality. Protests, strikes, and instability have hindered foreign investment in the country. And compared to Africa’s Middle-Income Economies—or MICs, as defined by the World Bank—South Africa’s 2.6% economic growth rate is sluggish. (This has partially been because closer ties to the global economy and substantial exposure to the Euro zone mean South Africa has been more affected by the global economic slowdown.)
That said, the country is a major regional powerhouse. It has large investments in neighboring countries. And South African companies—particularly its financial services, retail, fast food, supermarket, service station, and textile firms—are flooding the continent with consumer goods and services. This has given the country an outsize influence on the continent, and a firm stake in the success of economies across Africa.
2. Nigeria: A Waking Giant
Nigeria, in West Africa, tops most lists of African countries to watch over the next decade. Traditionally known as “the sleeping giant of Africa,” the country has a huge population of more than 167 million, over 50% of which lives in urban areas like Lagos and Kano. According to the state-run Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, exporting 2.5 million barrels per day. Economically, it has registered a solid 7% growth rate for the last decade, and politically, with its second civilian transfer of power in less than a decade, the country has begun to consolidate its democratic reforms.
In many ways, Nigeria’s current status resembles that of Brazil before political and social reforms turned around its economy in the 1990s. Nigeria may be able to replicate Brazil’s success by adopting similar policies, including investing in infrastructure, reducing poverty and inequality, and reforming institutions.
According to an October 2012 report by Standard Chartered Research, Nigeria’s challenge is to replicate its success in technology (mobile telephony) in the utilities, refining, and agricultural sectors. The report urges Nigeria to move away from the “system of patronage” that has held the country back for decades. It also calls for greater emphasis on diversification and long-term planning that will change Nigeria from an “allocation” to a “production” state. The report states that, “Oil and gas, even given Nigeria’s vast resources, are not going to determine development in the future.”
Nonetheless, there is a great deal of optimism surrounding Nigeria. The Economist even suggested recently that Nigeria’s economy, messy as it still is, has the potential to overtake South Africa within a few years.
3. Angola: A China-Fueled Surge
Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy after South Africa and Nigeria, with a GDP of $107 billion and per capita income of $8,200. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, Angola’s economy has been growing much faster than the continent’s two powerhouses, and the World Bank recently reclassified it as an Upper-Middle-Income economy. Unlike South Africa, however, Angola has a young economy that lacks diversification. And the country is still recovering from that 27-year-long civil war, which devastated its economy and people.
Angola is the continent’s second largest exporter of oil. Its economy was expanding at a rate of 15% before the global recession of 2009. Despite the current contraction, its economy is still expected to expand by 6.8 % this year thanks to the export of oil and diamonds, as well as uranium, iron ore, gold, and copper. (Most of Angola’s oil goes to China; Angola is China’s biggest trading partner on the continent.)
Since the end of the war, Angola’s civilian government has instituted aggressive economic and social reforms that are beginning to bear fruit, and it claims to have reduced poverty from 68% to 39% over the last decade. It has also asserted an infrastructure development program to build thousands of miles of roads and railroads, and hundreds of bridges and reconstructed airports. Most of these infrastructure projects involve Chinese firms under an oil-for-infrastructure deal that some criticize as favoring China.
4. Ghana: Africa’s Next Economic Star?
Another emerging African “lion” is West Africa’s Ghana, which is still classified as a Lower-Middle-Income country by the World Bank. Its economy grew at 14.3% in 2011, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (and tops on the African continent), though the World Bank expects its growth to slow to 7.5% for 2012.
Ghana’s growth can largely be attributed to increased oil production, although diamond, iron ore, and cocoa exports also contributed to the bottom line. After decades of mismanagement, Ghana began to turn its economy around in the early 1990s, when it instituted wide-ranging economic reforms with the support of the IMF and World Bank. In 2007, oil was discovered, which led to faster economic growth. Today, Ghana has been a stable democracy since 1992, and is considered a model for prudent political and economic reform.
5. Ethiopia: Public Sector Investment
Ethiopia is an example of a non-resource-rich country with an economy that nonetheless grew at an average of 11% between 2004 and 2011. According to the World Bank, this is based on its government’s public sector investments in agriculture, industrialization, and infrastructure. Government investments in hydropower have made Ethiopia a net exporter of electricity to neighboring countries such as South Sudan and Djibouti. And with a population of 85 million, Ethiopia is sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country, after Nigeria.
With that population expected to reach 100 million by 2020, Ethiopia represents a huge market that is expected to drive economic integration in the region and growth for its neighbors. In addition, the country has been praised for making progress in all areas of the Millennium Development Goals (ending poverty, hunger, and disease). The Ethiopian government estimates that poverty declined from 38.7% in 2004 to 29.6% in 2011. As a result, Ethiopia has laid the foundations for sustainable growth and even emerging economy status.
A Look To The Future
While these five economies represent some of the brightest spots on the continent, others are waiting in the wings, particularly those that are rich in resources. The World Bank notes that the combined benefits of a peace dividend and iron ore exports in Sierra Leone, for example, have led to a 25% growth rate over the course of 2012. Similarly, in Niger, uranium and oil exports have led to a 15% growth rate this year.
According to the October 2012 edition of Africa’s Pulse, a World Bank publication, at least 10 countries are expected to join the 21 in sub-Saharan Africa that the bank classifies as MICs. Among those predicted to be upwardly mobile are Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, where the discovery and development of new reserves of oil, gas, and other minerals, is expected to accelerate growth.
Terra Lawson-Remer, a Fellow for Civil Society, Markets & Democracy at the Council for Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., cautions not to paint Africa’s growth story with “too broad a brush stroke.” She notes that most of the countries that have registered rapid growth rates are resource-rich, and have benefited from high commodity prices in recent years.
Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, also cautions against focusing too much on growth rather than equity. She notes that, “We are seeing growing inequality both within and among countries.” This inequality is compounded by the rising expectation among the poor for wealth-sharing that, if not met, could lead to political instability.
“This is the reason we have protests in Nigeria, Tahrir Square [in Egypt], Sudan, and Tunisia,” Woods said. “The current labor uprising in South Africa also shows evidence of the problem of expectations [and] of inequality.”
Nevertheless, there are strong signs for the continent as a whole. Lawson-Remer suggests the downturn in Europe’s economic fortunes means that “capital looking for investments has to go elsewhere.” Thanks to Africa’s growing economies, high rate of return, and abundance of natural and human resources, Western conglomerates like IBM, Nokia, and Nestlé are investing heavily. And China’s interest shows no sign of waning. The country’s trade with Africa is expected to hit $220 billion in 2012—a 25% growth rate annually—and its former vice-minister of commerce, Wei Jianguo, told China Daily that Africa will surpass the U.S. and the E.U. to become China’s largest trading partner.
Woods argues that, across the continent, technological development will be the “way of the future.” She points to innovations such as mobile banking and the massive penetration of mobile phone technology, as positive developments. “The combination of the fast-growing youth bulge—workers aged 16 to 30—and technological innovations are positive and bode well for the continent,” Woods said.
Considering these factors, there is reason to believe that, despite challenges, Africa will continue to produce dynamic, emerging market economies. South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, and Ethiopia may just be the first wave—with many more to follow.
Francis Njubi Nesbitt is an associate professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University. Previously, he worked as a reporter and editor at the Daily Nation in Nairobi, Kenya; the Seattle Skanner in Seattle, Washington; and the Union-News and Sunday Republican in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is the author of Race for Sanctions (2004) and Politics of African Diasporas (2012). His writing has been published in numerous journals including African Affairs, International Journal of Southern African Studies, African Issues, African World, and Africa World Review, and he is a regular contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus.
When the oil rigs started pumping crude off the coast of Ghana’s Western Region in December 2009, many people hoped for better living standards and development. But some worried that the country did not have the necessary laws to properly manage the new revenues. They wondered whether Ghana would be able to break the “curse” that has often marked Africa’s oil and mining industries: decades of extraction that often saw only a few getting richer but the majority getting poorer, economic distortions caused by improperly managed resource wealth and hardly any money set aside for times when commodity prices dip or the wells dry up.
For Ghana, examples of such problems are very close to home. Nigeria, its West African neighbour — and the continent’s largest crude producer — saw successive governments deplete the estimated $400bn earned from crude oil sales since the 1970s. Besides, Ghana’s own record in managing mineral revenues after a hundred years of gold mining was not the best.
But it seems that a new dawn has broken. Steve Manteaw of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas — a coalition of civil society groups that promotes transparent and accountable management of oil and mineral wealth — said “Ghana is on the right path because it has in place a law that governs how the oil revenue is collected and managed.”
Experts have described Ghana’s Revenue Management Act — passed more than a year after the first oil was pumped from the country’s Jubilee Field — as an ‘innovation.’ The law outlines clear mechanisms for collecting and distributing petroleum revenue. It specifies what percentage should help fund the annual budget, what should be set aside for future generations and what should be invested for a rainy day.
Petroleum revenue contributed four per cent of the government’s total capital spending in 2011. The funds went mainly to investments in road infrastructure, but also to building the capacity of the oil and gas sector, repaying loans and strengthening agriculture, most notably for fertiliser subsidies.
In devising its law, Ghana borrowed from best practices in Norway, Timor-Leste and Trinidad and Tobago, which have developed laws to better govern oil and gas exploration and production, and to manage the revenues.
Rarely are citizens’ groups given a chance to oversee how natural resource revenue is managed in Africa. That is why experts have hailed the creation of Ghana’s Public Interest and Accountability Committee under the provisions of the petroleum revenue law. Civil society groups lobbied vigorously for the 13-member committee. With membership drawn from organised professional bodies, think tanks, pressure groups and traditional institutions, among others, the body serves as a platform for public debate on how petroleum revenues are spent.
The PIAC also monitors and evaluates compliance with the law by the government and other institutions, provides an independent assessment of petroleum production and receipts, and publishes its findings in half-year and annual reports.
A report issued in May 2012 covering oil production in 2011 found that its revenues provided the government with considerable fiscal relief, thereby enabling it to shift more funds into development programmes. But it also noted that the government did not fully comply with all the law’s provisions. The Revenue Watch Institute commented that the report “sets new standards for accountability.”
The law alone, experts say, does not solve all the problems. Mr. Kuyole notes that it needs to be backed by appropriate regulations determining how the government spends its annual budgetary allocation, among other things.
African governments often lack the capacity to effectively monitor resource production, and thereby to determine accurately how much revenue they are owed. Yusupha Crookes, the World Bank’s Country Director in Ghana, recently said, “A mining fiscal regime is only as effective as the combined administrative capacity of the government institutions charged with enforcing it.”
Mr. Crookes argued that “it is important to have systems and processes in place to effectively address oil, gas and mining tax payments administration,” since “the general tax system may not be efficient enough for the extractive sector.”
Mr. Emmanuel Kuyole of the Revenue Watch Institute agrees. In Ghana’s case, he stresses the need to put in place all the various committees provided for by the law, and to strengthen institutions like the Petroleum Commission and the unit of the Ghana Revenue Authority involved in monitoring production and the determination of revenue.
Ghana may need to look at how revenue paid by mining companies is determined and at who is calling the shots, says Kwaku Boa-Amponsem of Boas and Associate, the lead consultant for the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s multi-stakeholders group.
Sometimes, all that is needed is to make the law clearer. In Ghana, complexities under the tax law in computing mining royalties meant that firms paid the lowest rate for many years. After a review of the law last year, revenues are now expected to increase substantially.
Across Africa, new oil fields are being discovered. Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Mauritania have all discovered oil in commercial quantities. And in the last couple of years, new discoveries have been made in Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Niger and Sierra Leone, while extensive exploration is ongoing in a number of others. East African neighbours Kenya and Uganda are poised to become major oil producers in the near future.
Dr. Manteaw of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas thinks there are lessons for Ghana and for African oil-producing countries more generally. “Where countries have effectively used natural resources to transform their economies and the lives of their people,” he points out, “the countries themselves have been active participants in the sector and work towards ownership by buying shares in the producer firms or reinvesting the revenue and living off the dividends, like Botswana.”
Professor Paul Collier, director of the International Growth Centre, a UK research institute, expressed similar views during a recent visit to Liberia. He said that the discovery of oil there could either end poverty or increase it, depending on which road Liberians follow: “If you find yourself at the crossroads, it’s your determination that can lead you to the case of Botswana or Ghana and not other worse oil scenarios in the world.”
After decades of oil production and billions of dollars in revenue unaccounted for, Nigerians are hoping that the country’s new Sovereign Wealth Fund — if managed well — will improve living standards. Angola, Africa’s second largest oil producer, is also considering setting up such a fund.
•Efam Dovi, a journalist, wrote from Greater New York Area.
Upon taking office, President Obama committed to supporting strong, open, and accountable governments and sustainable development in Africa. In his speech before the Ghanaian Parliament in July 2009, the President asserted that Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world, and called for a partnership with Africa that is “grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.” The National Security Strategy, released in May 2010, reinforces this vision, and calls for partnership with African nations as they grow their economies and strengthen their democratic institutions and governance. In June 2012, the President approved a Presidential Policy Directive that outlines his vision with respect to U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. This document is drawn from and reflects that Directive.
Over the last three and a half years, we have worked to translate the President’s words to the Ghanaian Parliament into action. We have supported democratic development by strengthening institutions and challenging leaders whose actions threaten peaceful political transitions, including in Cote d’Ivoire. We have advanced peace and security by playing an integral role in the birth of South Sudan, supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia, and working with regional partners to counter the predatory Lord’s Resistance Army. We have engaged young African leaders who will shape the continent’s future. We have invested in development partnerships to foster sustained economic growth, promote food security, increase resilience to climate change, and improve the capacity of countries and communities to address HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other health threats. We have been the world’s leader in responding to humanitarian crises, including in the Horn of Africa, while at the same time working with our African partners to promote resilience and prevent future crises.
The economies of sub-Saharan Africa are among the world’s most rapidly growing. An increasing number of African governments and regional organizations are taking a lead role in addressing the security and political challenges within their borders and beyond and are increasingly influential players in international fora. The African Union serves as an important leader on political, diplomatic, and peacekeeping issues across the continent. At the same time, urbanization and a burgeoning youth population are changing the region’s demographics in profound ways, and young people are increasingly making their voices heard.
While the continent has made important gains on democracy and institution building, those gains are fragile. There are still too many countries where the transition to democracy is uneven and slow, and leaders who resist relinquishing power. In many countries, corruption is endemic, and state institutions remain weak. In addition to eroding the legitimacy of governments, these factors impede local business activity and foreign investment. Despite having much of the world’s arable land and many of its richest fisheries, the agricultural sectors of many sub-Saharan African states are underperforming, and poverty still cripples the lives of too many. Transnational security challenges pose threats to regional stability, economic growth, and U.S. interests.
As the United States addresses these opportunities and challenges, we will be guided by our core interests in sub-Saharan Africa: ensuring the security of the United States, our citizens, and our allies and partners; promoting democratic states that are economically vibrant and strong partners of the United States on the world stage; expanding opportunities for U.S. trade and investment; preventing conflict and mass atrocities; and fostering broad-based, sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation.
Given the growing strategic importance of sub-Saharan Africa to the United States, over the next 5 years we will elevate our focus on and dedicate greater effort to strengthening democratic institutions and spurring economic growth, trade, and investment, while continuing to pursue other objectives on the continent. Stronger democratic institutions lead countries to achieve greater prosperity and stability; are more successful in mitigating conflict and countering transnational threats; and serve as stronger partners of the United States. Additionally, promoting sustainable, inclusive economic growth is a key ingredient of security, political stability, and development, and it underpins efforts to alleviate poverty, creating the resources to support health care, education, and other public goods.
The Four Pillars of the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa
The United States will partner with sub-Saharan African countries to pursue the following interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade, and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development. Across all objectives, we will: deepen our engagement with Africa’s young leaders; seek to empower marginalized populations and women; address the unique needs of fragile and post-conflict states; and work closely with the U.N. and other multilateral actors to achieve our objectives on the continent.
I. Strengthen Democratic Institutions
As the President said in Ghana, “Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institutions.” We will work to advance democracy by strengthening institutions at every level, supporting and building upon the aspirations of Africans for more open and accountable governance, promoting human rights and the rule of law, and challenging leaders whose actions threaten the credibility of democratic processes. As the National Security Strategy states, our support for democracy is critical to U.S. interests and is a fundamental component of American leadership abroad. We will pursue the following actions:
• Promote Accountable, Transparent, and Responsive Governance. The United States will expand efforts to support and empower key reformers and institutions of government at all levels to promote the rule of law, strengthen checks on executive power, and incorporate responsive governance practices. We will also seek to expand African membership in the Open Government Partnership and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which promote sound governance, transparency, and accountability.
• Bolster Positive Models. The United States recognizes that Africans must forge lasting solutions, and build their own democracies. To this end, we will support those leaders and actors who are creating vibrant democratic models, including elected leaders as well as young Africans who are leaders in civil society and entrepreneurship. We will use the facilitating power of the United States Government to help young African leaders network with one another, share innovative solutions, and demonstrate America’s support for their efforts.
• Promote and Protect Human Rights, Civil Society, and Independent Media. The United States will amplify and support voices calling for respect for human rights, rule of law, accountability and transitional justice mechanisms, and independent media. Further, we will continue to focus on empowering women and marginalized populations, and opposing discrimination based on disability, gender, or sexual orientation.
• Ensure a Sustained Focus on the Credibility of Democratic Processes. The United States will take a strong and consistent stand against actions that undermine democratic institutions or the legitimacy of democratic processes. We will evaluate elections against the highest possible standards of fairness and impartiality. The United States will seek to expand adherence to the principle of civilian control of the military, and will support strong measures against individuals or groups that threaten legitimately elected governments.
• Promote Strong Democratic Norms. The United States will support efforts by regional and international bodies to enforce the consistent application of democratic practices, particularly the African Union’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance and other multilateral standards. We will support basic and civic education to ensure future generations are active, informed, and committed to the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship.
II. Spur Economic Growth, Trade, and Investment
It is in the interest of the United States to improve the region’s trade competitiveness, encourage the diversification of exports beyond natural resources, and ensure that the benefits from growth are broad-based. We will pursue the following actions as we seek to accelerate inclusive economic growth, including through trade and investment:
• Promote an Enabling Environment for Trade and Investment. Building on U.S. programs such as the Partnership for Growth and New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, as well as international programs such as the Open Government Partnership and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, we will encourage legal, regulatory, and institutional reforms that contribute to an environment that enables greater trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa. We will also encourage sub-Saharan Africa’s private sector to engage governments to undertake these necessary reforms.
• Improve Economic Governance. We will help to build the public sector’s capacity to provide services and improve protections against illicit financial activity. Greater economic governance facilitates effective management of public finances, more efficient and transparent use of (and less reliance on) donor aid, and increased transparency and accountability. In turn, strong public financial management helps increase transparency and effectiveness in government operations and broaden the revenue base.
• Promote Regional Integration. Increased African regional integration would create larger markets, improve economies of scale, and reduce transaction costs for local, regional, and global trade. We will work with regional economic communities, including through the U.S.-East African Community Trade and Investment Initiative, and national governments to reduce the barriers to trade and investment flows across the continent. In particular, we will promote trade facilitation, customs modernization, and standards harmonization; support regulatory coherence and transparency; improve infrastructure that strengthens regional trade and access to global markets; and explore ways to remove impediments to efficient operation of supply chains in the region.
• Expanding African Capacity to Effectively Access and Benefit from Global Markets. Notwithstanding the tariff advantages afforded by the United States to sub-Saharan Africa, non-oil exports from Africa to the United States continue to grow slowly and have not reached their full potential. To increase Africa’s capacity to produce goods for export that are diverse, competitive, and meet global standards, we will (1) work with the Congress to extend the unilateral preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act beyond 2015 and extend the Generalized System of Preferences beyond 2013, while also exploring ways to update these programs and enhance African capacity to fully utilize and benefit from these programs, including through the African Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Initiative; (2) increase cooperation and technical assistance on a range of issues, including building Africa’s capacity to meet product standards, food safety and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, product testing, and certification requirements; and (3) take steps to increase productive capacity and improve the competitiveness of African exports, including by helping to address a range of supply-side constraints that raise costs and reduce the efficiency of exports.
• Encourage U.S. Companies to Trade with and Invest in Africa. Many U.S. businesses – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises – are unaware of opportunities for trade with and investment in Africa, or face challenges establishing business relationships in sub-Saharan African countries. In harmony with the National Export Initiative, we will develop a “Doing Business in Africa Campaign” to harness the resources of the United States Government to assist U.S. businesses in identifying and seizing opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. We will also engage with members of the sub-Saharan African Diaspora in the United States, who are showing an increasing level of interest in investing in their countries of origin.
III. Advance Peace and Security
African states are showing increasing capacity to take the lead on security issues on the continent. Nonetheless, international and domestic conflict and the inability of some governments to meet the basic security needs of their people continue to be key obstacles to effective democratic governance, economic growth, trade and investment, and human development. Only Africa’s governments and people can sustainably resolve the security challenges and internal divisions that have plagued the continent, but the United States can make a positive difference. Recognizing this fact, we will pursue the following actions:
• Counter al-Qa’ida and Other Terrorist Groups. In our approach to counterterrorism, we will continue to be guided by the President’s affirmation in the National Security Strategy that he bears no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of the American people. Consistent with the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, we will concentrate our efforts on disrupting, dismantling, and eventually defeating al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents in Africa to ensure the security of our citizens and our partners. In doing so, we will seek to strengthen the capacity of civilian bodies to provide security for their citizens and counter violent extremism through more effective governance, development, and law enforcement efforts.
• Advance Regional Security Cooperation and Security Sector Reform. We will deepen our security partnerships with African countries and regional organizations and their stand-by forces by expanding efforts to build African military capabilities through low-cost, small-footprint operations, consistent with the vision set forth in “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” We will also seek to strengthen the capacity of civilian bodies and institutions to improve the continent’s ability to provide security and respond to emerging conflicts. Moreover, U.S. military and civilian agencies will help establish effective partner nation security forces, intelligence organizations, and law enforcement and border control agencies that are subordinate to and operating jointly with their constitutional civil authorities.
• Prevent Transnational Criminal Threats. We will build comprehensive partnerships that leverage our land border, maritime, aviation, cybersecurity, and financial sector expertise to counter illicit movement of people, arms, drugs, and money, as well as guard against the criminal facilitation of weapons of mass destruction material and technology. We will work to curb armed robbery at sea and protect fisheries, and continue to implement our Counter-Piracy Action Plan off the coast of Somalia. Consistent with the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, we will support efforts and build partner capacity to combat corruption and instability as well as to combat trafficking in persons.
• Prevent Conflict and, Where Necessary, Mitigate Mass Atrocities and Hold Perpetrators Accountable. Consistent with the objectives of Presidential Study Directive-10, we will address atrocity risks at the earliest stage possible to help prevent violence before it emerges, and bolster domestic and international efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. We will also cultivate deeper and broader support among governments and multilateral organizations to work toward the same objectives.
• Support Initiatives to Promote Peace and Security. We will support U.N. peacebuilding and peacekeeping missions in sub-Saharan Africa, including by working to ensure that peacekeeping missions are well-led, well-supported, and appropriately resourced in order to maximize their effectiveness. Within African countries, we will support those who work to overcome communal divisions in pursuit of sustainable and peaceful political processes.
IV. Promote Opportunity and Development
This Administration, including through the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, has charted a new approach that focuses on sustainable development outcomes and a new operational model for U.S. development assistance and builds on our work to date. Africa is the focus of three key Presidential development initiatives: the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future, and the Global Climate Change Initiative. Additionally, two of the four Partnership for Growth countries (Ghana and Tanzania) are in Africa. In each of these efforts, we have highlighted the importance of reform and transparency to development and prioritized good economic and project management to promote sustainability. We are investing in a growing number of good-performing countries and seeing the evidence in clear outcomes and the increased capacity and commitment of our partners. We will pursue the following actions as we strive to further accelerate development progress:
• Address Constraints to Growth and Promote Poverty Reduction. We will leverage our engagement via multilateral financial institutions to advocate for increased financing for poorer countries, and will focus on addressing constraints to growth. We will encourage governments to use revenues, particularly from energy sources, to more broadly benefit their populations, and we will continue to support the expansion and improvement of sub-Saharan Africa’s education services.
• Promote Food Security. Food security will remain a priority, consistent with the commitments made by the United States at the L’Aquila Summit, through the Feed the Future Initiative, and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition launched at the 2012 G-8 Summit. We will build on the progress achieved thus far, while also intensifying our efforts to promote policy reforms, drive increased private capital to African agriculture, scale innovation, and reduce risk.
• Transform Africa’s Public Health. We will work through the Global Health Initiative and our disease-specific programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative, to tackle other diseases and malnutrition while strengthening health systems for sustainable impact. We will continue to leverage the leadership being demonstrated by a growing number of African countries on global health in order to bolster our efforts to promote good governance, development, and economic growth, including as we pursue the expanded AIDS prevention targets announced on World AIDS Day in 2011 and through the June 2012 Child Survival Call to Action.
• Increase Opportunities for Women and Youth. We will continue to use our diplomacy and assistance programs to empower women, including through the African Women Entrepreneurship Program, implementing the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and focusing on maternal and child health as a centerpiece of the Global Health Initiative. This includes enhancing efforts to protect women in the context of conflict and humanitarian emergencies. We will also continue engaging with Africa’s next generation of leaders by advancing the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative to provide tools to support leadership development, promote entrepreneurship, and connect young leaders with one another and the United States.
• Respond to Humanitarian Crises While Promoting Resilience. While continuing to lead the world in response to humanitarian crises in Africa, we will promote and bring to scale resilience policies and programs. In that context, we will work to prevent the weakening or collapse of local economies, protect livestock, promote sustainable access to clean water, and invest in programs that reduce community-level vulnerability to man-made and natural disasters.
• Promote Low-emissions Growth and Sustainable Development, and Build Resilience to Climate Change. We will continue promoting resilience and adaptation to impacts of climate change on food, water, and health in vulnerable African countries, supporting the adoption of low-emissions development strategies, and mobilizing financing to support the development and deployment of clean energy. We will also work to protect and encourage sustainable use of Africa’s natural resources.
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