Opinion

The Great Debate

from Africa News blog:

100 years and going strong; But has the ANC-led government done enough for its people?

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.

Notwithstanding few exceptions such as Eritrea , Swaziland and Somalia , in almost all sub-Saharan countries, governments legally allow multi-party politics. This is in stark contrast to the single-party regimes and military oligarchies that prevailed before 1990.

After years of marginalization during autocratic rule, many African political parties have regained their key role in democratic politics by mediating between politics and society. Multi-partyism paved the way for genuine parliamentary opposition and the strengthening of parliaments in decision-making. However, several shortcomings still remain: many African political parties suffer from low organizational capacity and a lack of internal democracy.

Dominated by individual leaders, often times lifelong chairpersons and “Big Men”, youth and women remain marginalized within party structures.

What we’ve learned from 25 years of famine

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.

So the first big change is what has not happened. Most of Ethiopia and for that matter Kenya have escaped the famine not just because they were beyond the strict epicenter of the drought itself but because a long investment in rural food security in Ethiopia and a buoyant market economy in Kenya has enabled both to ride out sharply higher food prices.

Does everyone have a price?

DUBAI/

On Monday I went to Bloomingdales, the Gap and Starbucks but passed on a visit to Magnolia Bakery. Instead I  stopped by the St. Moritz bakery where you can order hot chocolate and sit by a video of a cozy winter  fire that overlooks the indoor ski slope and is just around the corner from the largest candy store in the world, which happens to face an aquarium that occupies an entire wall on one side of the world’s largest shopping malls. This by the way is opposite of what claims to be the world’s largest candystore whose mission statement is to make every day “happier’. Earlier, while exploring the watery depths of the bright Pink Atlantis Hotel (one of the white elephants of the property crash of 2007) I knew it was really the last kingdom because the fish swam around two cracked thrones and other kitschy stone artifacts.

Dubai is utterly overwhelming, the kind of  dystopia that blogger Evgeny Morozov sees in Huxley, a consumeristic paradise where mind-numbing shopping replaces real thought. Most of the I had no idea where I was except that my passport had been stamped Dubai  and many of the mall-going women were shrouded in black. After a few hours I sank into a state of ennuie. Given boatloads of oil money in the 1970s and the chance to build a whole new city, who on earth would decide to build a series of shopping malls?

It’s not like the developers didn’t have ambition, what with the architecture that demands superlatives — the gondolas, medieval stone houses and soaring illuminated sky scrapers and islands built in absurd never-before-seen configurations. But why not build a museum with, say, the most incredible collection in the world or a university with the finest research laboratories? With so much money why build this Disneyland? And what about the workers who make up most of the population?

Awakening Africa’s sleeping agricultural giant

Hans Binswanger is the former senior adviser to the World Bank on rural development in Africa. He is currently an independent agriculture and development consultant based in South Africa. The opinions expressed are his own.

The World Bank’s recent study of the prospects of commercial agriculture in Africa focused primarily on the Guinea Savannahs that cover some 600 million hectares, of which about 400 million can be used for agriculture. Less than 10 percent of this area is currently cropped, making it one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world.

During the past four decades, two similar, backward, landlocked, and largely rain-fed agricultural regions developed rapidly and became international agricultural powerhouses: The Cerrado of Brazil and Northeast Thailand. The difficult agro-ecological conditions, remoteness, and poverty levels of the two regions were successfully overcome, and the same should happen in the Guinea Savannahs.

China and the world economy

gerard-lyons Dr. Gerard Lyons is chief economist and group head of global research, Standard Chartered Bank. The views expressed are his own.

The world is witnessing a shift in the balance of power, from the West to the East. This shift will take place over decades, and the winners will be:
- Those economies that have financial clout, such as China
- Those economies that have natural resources, whether it be energy, commodities or water, and will include countries, some in the Middle East, some across Africa, Brazil, Australia, Canada and others in temperate climates across, for instance, northern Europe
- And the third set of winners will be countries that have the ability to adapt and change. Even though we are cautious about growth prospects in the U.S. and UK in the coming years, both of these have the ability to adapt and change.

China is at the center of this shift.

The scale and pace of change in China is breathtaking. Against this backdrop of dramatic change, let me look at China’s impact on the global economy, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

from The Great Debate UK:

Squandered oil wealth, an African tragedy

arvind ganesan-Arvind Ganesan is the Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the investment in the country’s multi-billion dollar oil industry comes from the United States. ExxonMobil, Hess and Marathon are all there. Right now, the U.S. imports up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Equatorial Guinea, or about a quarter of the country’s oil production.

Africa at the threshold

john-simon– John Simon was recently U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and former Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC. The views expressed are his own. —

President Obama’s trip to Ghana highlights one of Africa’s leading success stories – a country that has held five consecutive democratic elections, recently transferring power peacefully to the opposition after it won a razor thin victory.

Ghana is not alone. Sub-Saharan countries made tremendous progress in the past decade. Freedom House ranks seven out of ten of Sub-Saharan countries as free or partly free. Through 2007, Africa experienced 10 years of uninterrupted economic growth, the last five at rates above 5 percent. Foreign capital inflows increased from only $7 billion in 2002 to $53 billion in 2007.

from The Great Debate UK:

“Green growth” strategy viable for African economy

michael_keating -Michael Keating is director of the Africa Progress Panel. The opinions expressed are his own.-

After a decade of solid progress Africa is now facing the daunting task - at a time of economic crisis - of maintaining stability, economic growth and employment, addressing food security and combating climate change. No country on the continent is escaping the impact of volatile fuel and commodity prices, the drop in global demand and trade.

The global economic crisis, however, is serving as a wake-up call for both African leaders and their international partners. The Africa Progress Panel’s 2009 report, launched Wednesday in Cape Town by panel members Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Linah Mohohlo, argues just this.

from For the Record:

These pirates shouldn’t be punchlines

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Kidnapping isn't funny.

Neither are extortion, hijacking or murder threats.

So why have some in the media been laughing—or at least winking—at people who have been doing precisely that—the criminals who have been hijacking ships and crews off the Horn of Africa and holding them for ransom?

I think it has something to do with what we've chosen to call them: pirates.

Perhaps we in the media have all seen too many cartoonish films with Johnny Depp portraying the charming and engaging Jack Sparrow. Or maybe we remember an earlier era when Errol Flynn played a charming and engaging Geoffrey Thorpe who fights for commerce and his country (England) and the affections of a Spanish princess.

Africa and the global economic crisis

- Jorge Maia is head of Research and Information for Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, established in 1940 to promote economic growth and industrial development. The opinions expressed are his own –

Serious shockwaves are hitting Africa’s shores as the global economic crisis unfolds.

The extent and depth of the damage is extremely difficult to assess or project, but it is clear that the pattern of financial flows associated with investment, lending and trading activity has been dramatically altered, with detrimental economic and social implications for the continent at large. The adverse impact has been gradually spreading from a regional perspective – a serious setback to Africa’s recent growth performance, which had averaged 6 percent a year from 2003 to 2008.

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