The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
A lot can happen in a year. This time last year, U.S. businesses and NGOs bemoaned the Obama administration's perceived indifference to Africa. Now, they’re trying to find out how to catch the wave of interest. Major new initiatives, including Power Africa and Trade Africa, unveiled during President Obama’s first true trip to Africa this summer, as well as a reinvigorated push to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act fully two years before it's due to expire, have given U.S.-Africa watchers a lot to consider. But what -- and when -- is enough for U.S. policy in Africa? What more can be done in the year ahead? How do things really shake out for investors, civil society and Africans? Here are three additional areas the Administration should consider as it deepens its commitment to the continent:
1. Invest in Africa’s equity and commodity markets. Despite all the interest in Africa’s economic growth and investment potential, it’s still very hard to invest on the continent. Of its less than 30 stock markets, only a few exchanges really offer modern processes and back-end technology to facilitate daily transactions. As Todd Moss from the Center for Global Development notes in a recent paper, some African exchanges trade less in a whole year than New York does before “their first coffee break.” As a result, for institutional investors who need to take large positions or who have fiduciary requirements for daily liquidity, Africa remains almost entirely off-limits. In an era of algorithmic and high-speed trading, Africa’s antique market infrastructure is a major barrier to entry for much needed foreign direct investment.
Innovation is perhaps most evident in commodity exchanges. A number of projects in East Africa are taking off -- including the East Africa Exchange (EAX), a private initiative founded by Heirs Holdings, Berggruen Holdings and 50 Ventures, which was launched in January this year. The eponymous Eleni LLC, a consultancy focused on developing private exchanges, builds off the rapid success of Ethiopia’s commodity exchange and the work of Eleni Gabre-Madhin, its founder. Both efforts build the critical architecture necessary for productivity growth in economies that still remain predominantly agrarian.
2. Disrupt Dodd-Frank. Two obscure sections of the Dodd-Frank Act, 1502 and 1504, concern conflict minerals and transparency in Africa. Despite a lot of fanfare in their passing, Section 1502 has been pilloried by almost everyone since: NGOs, academics and the private sector. DF-1502 requires nearly all of the 5,994 publicly listed companies in the U.S. to scrutinize their supply chain and ensure they don’t contribute to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to estimates in a Tulane University study, the cost of implementing the DF-1502 is close to $8 billion. What’s more, no clear guidance exists for how to comply, so companies have mostly taken scattered shots in the dark hoping the Securities and Exchange Commission, the end regulator, takes notice. Section 1504, for its part, was remanded by a U.S. District judge in July and sent back to the SEC for further review. Even if well-meaning, the two sections impose unique challenges for investors on the continent, and as others have argued, risk exacerbating the problems they sought to solve.
from The Great Debate:
President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Monday's foreign policy debate are again likely to examine the administration’s handling of an Islamic militia’s murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its significance for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, they may again miss the crucial question raised by the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans: Why is Libya at the mercy of hundreds of lawless militias and without a functioning state one year after U.S. and NATO support enabled rebels to overthrow dictator Muammar Ghadaffi?
from Africa News blog:
By Cosmas Butunyi
The dust is finally settling on the storm that was kicked off in South Africa by a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
The country that boasts one of the most liberal constitutions in the world and the only one on the African continent with a constitutional provision that protects and defends the rights of gays and lesbians , had its values put up to the test after an artist ruffled feathers by a painting that questioned the moral values of the ruling African National Congress .
By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.
For the last three years talk about the global economy has been decidedly negative. Firstly there was the sub-prime housing crisis in the U.S., then the sovereign debt crisis, now we wonder whether the euro will survive and whether China will suffer a “hard” economic landing.
But amidst all of this doom and gloom, there seems to be a bright spot: Sub-Saharan Africa. For the bulk of the last thirty years the focus has been on famine, civil war or piracy, which has left a decidedly negative impression of the continent. However, in recent weeks there has been a growing number of optimistic reports about Africa, with some even thinking it could continue to grow while the rest of the world stagnates.
from Africa News blog:
By Isaac Esipisu
Although the role of political parties in Africa has changed dramatically since the sweeping reintroduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s, Africa’s political parties remain deficient in many ways, particularly their organizational capacity, programmatic profiles and inner-party democracy.
The third wave of democratization that hit the shores of Africa 20 years ago has undoubtedly produced mixed results as regards to the democratic quality of the over 48 countries south of the Sahara. However, one finding can hardly be denied: the role of political parties has evidently changed dramatically.
from The Great Debate:
By Mark Malloch-Brown
The opinions expressed are his own.
Twenty five years ago, in the aftermath of a devastating famine in Ethiopia, remembered for better and worse for Bob Geldof's Bandaid concerts, I wrote a book called "Famine: A Man-Made Disaster?" The question mark said it all. I ghostwrote the book for a group of African and other leaders who were more tentative than I was in declaring what had happened was largely the fault of African governments. So the great men added a question mark.
Yet while it was more convenient--not least for fundraising and handling a nasty regime in Ethiopia--to blame it on God and the weather, that famine was caused in large part by bad governance. A centralized regime in distant Addis Ababa, interested in its own survival, had little time for the development of far off rural areas where non-Amharic minorities were living. Its military background and Marxist pretensions also meant it had no interest in developing local food markets and viable peasant agriculture.
from Africa News blog:
New ways of managing aid are being debated in Britain as global concerns mount over a hunger crisis devastating the drought-affected Horn of Africa.
Randolph Kent, director of the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King's College in London, says the crisis provides a perfect opportunity for the British government to test its recent promise to reform how it responds to humanitarian emergencies.
It seems barely a week goes by without another shock report about the ever-widening gap between those at the top of the earnings distribution and the rest of us. The facts are by now well-established. Throughout the Western world, but most noticeably in Britain and America, the earnings of the top one or two percent are accelerating into the stratosphere, leaving the middle class a long way behind, and the working class completely out of sight. How can one explain this global phenomenon?
Academic economics seems to be taking a surprisingly long time to reach a definitive answer, but I suspect there will turn out to be two long term trends at work here.
By Laurance Copeland
After one year, the progress report on the Coalition reads “Moving in the right direction, but with a lot more to do”.
Nonetheless, it is a prisoner of its commitment at the outset to leave two departmental budgets untouched: the NHS and international aid. It is not simply the amounts of money involved (colossal in the case of the NHS, relatively small for aid). It is also the signal it sends that there is such a status as sacrosanct, which immediately begs the question from policemen, firemen, teachers, the legal system, the armed forces: why isn’t our budget sacrosanct too?
By Cari Guittard
The opinions expressed are her own.
A NEW NARRATIVE FOR AFRICA EMERGING
Africa’s abundance -- from diamonds and coffee to cacao, rare minerals, natural gas and oil -- is well known, though laced with images of corruption, genocide, and famine. Fifty-four nations comprise the African continent and yet how many of us can name more than a dozen of those countries and begin to differentiate their strengths commercially?
Many around the world see Africa as a monolith and through the prism of media and film which paint a decidedly negative picture. Google images of Rwanda show stark photos of starving orphaned children, mass slaughter and extreme deprivation. Which is why at a recent meeting with senior staff at the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) I was shocked to hear them extol the virtues of Rwanda. Rwanda was being held up as an example of an African nation leading the way in encouraging entrepreneurship and forging unique global partnerships. They even encouraged me to think of Rwanda as a travel and tourism destination. The “renaissance” in Rwanda is being seen across the continent and clearly a new narrative for Africa is beginning to emerge.