Inequality in Africa

— A Middle Income Trap


Comments icon 2 comments December 15, 2014

By Ravi Kanbur, T. H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, Cornell University

Africa will be particularly vulnerable to rising inequality because of its natural resource base, rapid urbanization, and the ethno-linguistic diversity of its population.

It is neither feasible nor desirable to stand against the tide of technical progress and global integration which underlies the forces for both growth and rising inequality.

Policy makers should intervene proactively to achieve a more equal distribution of assets, addressing in particular the inequality of human capital in its many dimensions, starting with education and health.

The needs for aid targeted towards these ends may become less available as African countries cross into middle income country status, thus losing concessional resources for development.

Read more…

The people have voted – or not…

Analysing Namibia's elections


Comments icon 1 comments December 8, 2014

By Henning Melber, Senior Advisor of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and of the Nordic Africa Institute, Extraordinary Professor of Political Sciences/University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies/University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

Namibia is now the arena of one-party dominance. This translates the slogan from the struggle days that ‘SWAPO is the nation and the nation is SWAPO’ into the dominant if not exclusive political culture.

While observers testify to free and fair elections, the latter seems to be a relative if not dubious call. The party is the government and the government is the state, which also keeps the electorate at bay.

President Geingob will not have an easy task. He might be the last president of the first generation – who joined the anti-colonial movement in its founding days and was in exile for more than a quarter of a century.

Given the overwhelming majority secured by the party and the personal power vested in his office, it remains to be seen to which extent he translates the political success into a success story for the Namibians.

Read more…

Draining development

Illicit flows from Africa


December 4, 2014

By Menelaos Agaloglou, Head of Geography, Greek Community School in Addis Ababa; researcher at the University of Peloponnese, Greece.

Illicit outflows of capital from Africa seriously harm the efforts for poverty reduction. It hampers both public and private investment and hence job creation, infrastructure and industrial development.

These outflows also reduce tax revenues that could be used for education and health; they drain hard currency reserves, thus encouraging poor countries to borrow money from abroad and worsening their debt burdens.

It is the poor who pay for these flows through high levels of unemployment and increased inflation, which affects them more. Illicit flows increase inequality that can lead to political tensions and further poverty.

Whether one views the problem either as an economic or a political one, the burden is placed on the African countries to solve these and other problems through their own efforts.

Read more…

The Ethiopian Revolution:

The origins of contemporary development


Comments icon 4 comments November 28, 2014

By Andreas Admasie, PhD candidate, University of Basel; regional representative for the International Institute of Social History in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Ethiopian economy has expanded at an unprecedented annual rate of about ten per cent. Massive social transformation obviously follows and conditions this process.

The number of people engaged in paid employment very nearly doubled between 2006 and 2013 alone, and these figures are set to expand further in the near future.

The discussion on the Ethiopian economy is marked by strong ahistorical and economistic biases that fail to ground the present conjuncture in the past, and to embed economic debates in social structures.

The preconditions for the current phase of capitalist development were set with the emergence of the modern Ethiopian social structural configuration in the context of the Ethiopian revolution.

Read more…

General budget support in Africa:

Is the end in sight?


Comments icon 1 comments November 24, 2014

By Göran Hydén, NAI Associate and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, Gainesville.

The past ten years has seen a growing readiness by international donors to disburse aid through official institutions in partner countries, with General Budget Support (GBS) as the preferred mechanism.

This deal between donors and recipients has been heralded as a win-win situation. Recipient governments in Africa make political gains and donor governments reap administrative benefits.

In reality, however, GBS has caused as many problems as it has solved. It has become politicized to the point that many African governments now have second thoughts about the mechanism.

Their frustration is often exacerbated by the donors acting as one, sometimes under EU auspices, at other times as GBS providers. Rwanda and Tanzania are two current cases in point.

Read more…

New elections in Namibia:

Any Lessons from Zimbabwe?

Henning M

Comments icon 4 comments November 20, 2014

By Henning Melber, Senior Advisor of The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and of the Nordic Africa Institute, Extraordinary Professor of Political Sciences/University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies/University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

Parliamentary and presidential elections take place in Namibia next week. A long withheld but just released report provides a reminder that elections should be an important criterion for legitimate political rule.

The report by two South African high court judges observing the 2002 general elections in Zimbabwe concludes that these should not have been considered free and fair.

Leaders of other SADC countries such as Angola, Namibia and South Africa were among the very first to whitewash the result that kept Mugabe in office and congratulate him for his ‘victory’.

Scrutinizing the elections in a wider context, including not only the act of voting during election day but also the general environment for parties to campaign, is of utmost relevance to secure confidence and trust.

Read more…

Kenya – a country in deadlock


Comments icon 3 comments November 14, 2014

By Cecilia Bäcklander, Swedish independent journalist and film maker

Corruption in Kenya is widespread and often exposed, but impunity is total. The police and security services are chronically and thoroughly corrupt and inefficient. The President’s corruption controller is in exile.

The violence after the fraudulent 2007 election was a gigantic setback for the confidence of Kenyans in the possibility of influencing policies and appointing leaders through elections.

Primary schooling is free and even the girls go to school. Digital technology has a huge impact. Cellphone services are being developed locally and now reach every farmer and roadside vendor.

No Kenyan politicians seem to be able to replace the tainted leadership. Both the government and the opposition are still being led by the families that appeared at Independence 50 years ago.

Read more…

‘There is no Ebola here’

What Liberia teaches us about the failures of aid

Sisonke Msimang

November 10, 2014

By Sisonke Msimang, South African writer and activist; non-executive director at Democracy Works; Trustee of the Graca Machel Trust.

While health professionals are crucial frontline responders, the Ebola crisis is too important to be left to medical personnel. The virus has emerged from the nexus of several overlapping problems.

The international community’s Ebola response is focused too narrowly on the technical aspects and too little on the underlying social and political reasons why the problem has been allowed to fester in the first place.

A virus that is deadly but can be effectively contained with good planning and logistics has managed to escape from a country that has one of the largest concentrations of ‘helpers’ in the world.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring cronyism in countries where a government that is friendly to Western governments is in place.

Read more…

Burkina Faso uprising:

The West's armed puppets broken by the masses


November 7, 2014

By Explo Nani-Kofi, Director of the Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, in Peki, Ghana and London, UK.

The uprising of the masses in Burkina Faso and overthrow of the Compaore régime is a lesson for those who think that being supported by the west means unrestrained tyrannical control of their countries.

Thomas Sankara had led the country with a revolutionary orientation of self-reliance, championed the campaign for the cancellation of odious debt and emphasised the enslavement character of foreign aid.

Sankara’s commitment to women’s rights led to the government abolishing female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. Corrupt officials were tried and punished.

There is now a danger of the military hijacking the struggle for which the masses have fought. To prevent this, all progressive Africans, the masses as well as all internationalists need to mobilise.

Read more…

Names and democracy in southern Africa

The tale of two Presidents


November 4, 2014

By Christopher Changwe Nshimbi, Research Fellow, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

A few days after celebrating 50 years of independence in October, Zambia relived a sad history: the death of a second incumbent president to die in office in the space of six years.

Zambia is once again appearing as a beacon of peace in a violent and conflict ridden continent. However, the proof shall be in the transition with elections to be held 90 days after the president’s demise.

There are interesting comparisons to be made with neighbouring Malawi—the story less told about the successes of the evolving democratization in southern Africa.

Southern Africa needs committed politicians and senior bureaucrats that transcend personal interests to apply the principles of democracy and seek the firm establishment of state institutions.

Read more…