Previous blog posts

Below are the English blog posts from the previous blog, sorted from latest to oldest.

Inequality and conflicts in Africa

Africa is getting richer, but political violence is on the rise again. There are now peacekeeping missions in 11 African countries. Or as one angry Nigerian wrote from Lagos: “Why is it that Africans seem to love killing other Africans?”

Nearly all conflicts in Africa is a mixture of poverty, ethnicity and religion. The impressive economic growth has not been translated into jobs for young people.

Terrorist movements and criminal gangs take advantage of the widening levels of inequality and opportunity. Poor, unemployed youth is a ticking time bomb. They are easily recruited to terrorist organizations. Governments have failed to take political action.

Sometimes ethnicity is the real source for the conflict. However, some politicians use ethnicity to promote their own ambitions.

It is important to remind ourselves of the fact that modern Africa is the creation of European conquest.

Ethnicity is an identity. The challenge is to build a unified nation with different ethnicities peacefully coexisting. Some countries, like Tanzania and Zambia, with a large number of different tribes, have succeeded. I don’t think the former presidents Nyerere and Kaunda have been given the credits they deserve for having achieved this.

The two ex-presidents understood that nation building in Africa means to give some room to ethnicity and traditional identity, but not allow it to dominate the political life.

Today we see two Africas: One is the new land of opportunity, economic growth, optimism and limitless possibilities for investors. The other Africa is the hopeless continent with poverty, hunger, corruption, crime and countries being easy prey for foreign investors and land grabbers.

Fortunately, some emerging African politicians will not use the ethnic card. They understand that failing to address Africa’s inequalities is a recipe for social unrest.

The question remains, however: Will this new generation of promising African politicians (or “cheetahs” as George Ayittey label them) ever reach power? And will they, once in power, change and only follow in the footsteps of their predecessors?

Bad and good leaders in Africa

In my last blogpost I asked for views on which African countries were blessed with good political leaders based upon the following criteria:

-Maintenance of peace and stability

-Accountable governments

-Effective public spending

– Use of revenues for the benefit of the poor and not for the few

This “survey”, totally unscientific as it is, resulted in some interesting feedback. The most common view is that there are not many examples of accountable governments working actively in improving conditions for the poor in Africa. In most countries, the ruling elite have organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people.

Somaliland has many supporters. More than one hundred voted for Somaliland, many of them diaspora living in UK. The second most admired country is Botswana. Many pointed to the legacy of the late Sir Seretse Khama as the main reason for the country’s successes

Number three on the list, to my surprise is Senegal. One reader argued:  ?Senegal is democratic, transparent in decision-making, and corruption is not being an obstacle to development as in many other countries in Africa?.

One wanted to include Ethiopia to the list and one said it must be ignorance that made me propose Rwanda as having a good political leader!

Leadership crises in Africa – changes about to come?

There are few outstanding political leaders in Africa today, but plenty of good leaders in other areas of society. It is embarrassing that again and again no African political leader has been worthy of the Mo Ibrahim Price for Achievement in African leadership.

Africa seems to continue to be characterized by rich countries with poor people, by an elite that doesn’t seem to care much about poverty and a society where patronage is stronger than democracy.

We have to accept that governance that works in Africa has moved away from the Western concept of “good governance”. But the continent with so many clever and decent people deserve better political leaders than they have today.

Fortunately new young political leaders are emerging. Some opposition political parties look very promising and optimism has developed.

I have received many comments and views on what I have earlier written about political leaders in Africa. I therefore invite for more views on which African countries qualify as having good political leaders based upon the following criteria:

– Maintenance of peace and stability

– Accountable governments

– Effective public spending

– Use revenues for the benefit of the poor and not for the few

I would like to nominate the following countries:

– Botswana

– Rwanda

– Somaliland

Other proposals are welcome!

Job creation for young people – back to the land!

Two thirds of Africans depend on farming for their livelihood. The sector’s potential is enormous. The World Bank has estimated that African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion in 2030.

However, agriculture is not attractive for African youth. To be a farmer is regarded as backbreaking, hard labour in the fields with meagre benefits. They have seen their parents, poor with ragged clothing, using old-fashioned equipment, always short of fertilizers and other inputs to survive. Farming is for the elderly and poor in rural areas

The upcoming generation of young people, often with poor and irrelevant education, prefer to settle in urban areas in search of employment there.

Agriculture is the engine driving many African countries. Small-scale farmers are the backbone of African agriculture.

If agriculture were to get the same political support and financial investment as mining sector, agriculture would be capable of providing more jobs with decent income. Reforms have to be introduced to mechanize and produce the agriculture more efficiently.

Urban people are often fed by imported food, which undermines domestic agriculture. Africa imports $34 bn. of food annually, but could easily feed itself if agricultural productivity improved. Africa needs to add more value to its natural resources before exporting.

The need to reverse decades of policy neglect and to increase investment in African agriculture is widely recognized. Some critics, however, argue that large-scale investment can marginalize Africa’s small scale farmers and open up for increased land grabbing by international companies with little understanding of local land rights.

Some agricultural economists emphasise the potential for a full range of investment options for promoting agricultural development as collaboration between small-, medium-, and large-scale players.

Foreign investment in agriculture is not necessarily ‘land grabbing’. The main reason why international land-rush to Africa is providing bad news for rural people has to do with the complete failure of governance and lack of control of the decision-making process. Large land deals are signed over the heads of local people, while greedy politicians are busy getting their share of the investment.

Job creation for young people is more about political leadership and political will than about shortage of funds. When Asian countries were poor as African countries today, they decided to change their economies, starting with smallholder agriculture.

Investing in agriculture could benefit food security at both global and national level. But incentives and good policies need to be in place to attract young people to farming.

Job creation in Africa – lack of political action?

Youth unemployment in Africa is a ticking time bomb close to exploding. For many young people there is a huge gap between realities and what they read about economic growth and optimism in their own country.

Prosperity is to the benefit of the few. Leaders don’t seem to care. A frustrated South African trade unionist in his anger blames his government for “delivering youth to the doors of employers to be exploited.”

African leaders have declared 2009-18 “the African youth decade”. Governments have launched numerous youth employment strategies, but unemployment and underemployment continue to rise.

Africa has youngest population in the world and youth account for 60% of all African unemployed.

A World Bank survey showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by lack of job opportunities.

Some African countries have tried to match the sweet words about the importance of youth employment with action, but usually too little has been done too late.

The overall impression is that many politicians have been more concerned with short-term actions without wider impacts. Often democratic elections have turned into a patronage contest rather than an election about political issues, like how to solve the youth unemployment issue.

Nigeria – breeding ground for violence

Look one way and my country is booming. Look another and there’s poverty and fear – exploited by Boko Haram.

I had not heard the phrase Boko Haram when I first moved to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, in 2009 ….

The National House of Assembly was domiciled in Abuja, so politicians and those who benefited from the endemic corruption peppered the landscape with sprawling, grotesque homes.

Further north, there is little evidence of prosperity – the landscape is arid and unforgiving. Even after the oil boom, when northern leaders enthusiastically dipped into the national purse, they neglected to educate the people from this part of the country.

If you are looking for a country of extremes, look no further than Nigeria. Following recent data, it has emerged as the country with the highest GDP in Africa, beating South Africa. But equally, the World Bank lists Nigeria as one of the poorest countries in terms of its revenue per capita. Even to the least fervent observer, the disparity in the distribution of wealth is palpable. Unemployment figures are appallingly high among the under thirty-fives who form 70% of the population.

According to a recent Unesco report, Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world. Many of these are from northern Nigeria, where the Muslim majority has learnt to accept poverty as their faith or, even more sinisterly, as Allah`s will.

All this serves as a background to the tragic abduction of 200 girls. They were in the process of gaining education, in a region that is under the threat by Boko Haram, which I now know – loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”  ….. Nigeria is wounded and the scars will take years to heal. But the most effective way to defeat him (Abubakar Shekau) and everything he believes in is to ensure children, especially girls in northern Nigeria, receive a good education.

(Lola Shoneyin, Nigerian novelist and poet)

Africa: Rich continent – poor people

Africa has many realities. One is the Africa sunk in poverty with dictatorial, greedy leaders, swelling population, unemployment, meagre health facilities and poor education.

The other is the new prosperous Africa with economic growth, enterprising youth and with a new generation of leaders ready to utilize the continents enormous resources not only to the benefit of the few.

Africa is rich because of its nature and people.

Africa has the largest reserve of untapped mineral resources in the world. Its fertile soil could easily feed the whole continent. Its huge rivers could supply Africa with energy. The upcoming generation has learned that where mineral resources are managed by competent governments and revenues used well, wealth has been created. Elsewhere it has fed wars and created poverty.

African countries have experiences high economic growth, but the growth did not coincide with poverty reduction.

The ruling elite has, however, been clever in directing discontent against a rival ethnic group rather than against those in power. Status quo for much of the leadership has also been maintained because they have succeeded in making the poor people believe that their survival depends on the charity of their leaders and therefore vote for them.

People in Africa deserve better leaders than they have today.

But they have good reasons to be optimistic. It can only get better.

Why Somaliland should request for development aid

Somaliland is struggling to obtain international recognition. The territory has a good case: The economy is growing, the political system is working and the society has gone a long way in restoring peace and stability.

The African Union should carefully look into the legitimacy of independence for Somaliland and possible international recognition.

The success of Somaliland has been achieved by efforts by its own people both inside and outside the territory, with very little help from the outside world. The lack of foreign engagement enabled local political processes, without being influenced by external resources and agendas.

But Somaliland is still a very poor country. Poverty and increasing unemployment might undermine peace and stability.

Time to request for development aid?

Somaliland need to continue to grow and bring welfare to its people if the hard won peace and stability is to remain. Many other developing nations, who are now about to graduate from being aid-receiving countries, have for many years been active participants in the international community.

For Somaliland to be better connected to the international community involves exploring the possibilities and benefits of receiving more development assistance.

I know that many people from Somaliland are not convinced about the value of development assistance and regard it as a blessing in disguise. They are proud of their own “homegrown” solution in establishing a nation and fear that Somaliland could end up as another aid dependent country.

Aid works – but not always

There is a large volume of literature on the impact of foreign aid on development in Africa. There are many sweeping statements, some pointing enthusiastically to the many impressive results, others simply conclude that aid has done more harm than good.

The most trustworthy and balanced of the reports maintain that aid usually has had an important gap-filling role in meeting the immediate basic needs of poor people. Achieving more long-term sustainability has been more difficult.

Lessons learned

All experience shows that the recipient of aid need to consider where and when aid should intervene in its development. In Somaliland it would be counterproductive for outsiders to push for a system that has no purchase in the country.

Aid is often an efficient tool in speeding up development the Government has already decided to carry out. All recipients should have their own aid policy, not allowing the donors to decide the priorities of aid.

Development aid, at its best, is an enormous resource available for a country like Somaliland to enable the country to reach its development plans. In the aid community there are many dedicated and well-trained people with access to huge resources which could mean a difference for any country.

If Somaliland decides to join the aid community, resources will be accompanied with opinions on development, discussions, knowledge of experiences from other countries and other cultures, including views on human rights. For some this exposure of many different views is demanding. For others it gives motivation and energy to continue development work in their own country.

Civil society as a development partner

Some of the most efficient development organisations are the Non Governmental Organisations (NGO). A few of them have the potential to become useful actors in Somaliland. But the number of international NGOs has grown out of proportions. To find its way through the myriads of organisations, Somaliland would need a guide to assess which ones are relevant for the situation in their country.

It is important to avoid a flood of NGOs into the country undermining the enterprising spirit of the population, replacing it with a lazy dependence mentality. In addition, foreign NGOs need to be managed well by the host country in order to avoid them offering identical services and duplicating with both other NGOs and government services.

Look to Botswana

Botswana, which in the past was very dependent upon aid, did manage the aid flow in such a way that aid was used to reinforce the Government’s own development projects. In Botswana the donors never became actors in policy making, except when requested for by the Government.

I believe, if managed as well as was done in Botswana, the development community could be a valuable contributor to further development in Somaliland.

Somaliland – a model for development or clan identity dressed as a nation?

I am amazed by the enthusiasm people from Somaliland have about their country. They point to the territory`s growing economy and the development of a democratic political system that works better than many others on the continent. But most important of all, they are proud of a society that has gone a long way in the restoration and maintenance of peace.

I have also been in touch with people who are critical of the clan system that has been established. The critics also say foreigners easily get trapped by Somaliland`s propaganda and that Somaliland is nothing but an artificial state recognized by no-one. They fear that the model developed in Somaliland could result in a formation of several Somali states and a permanent disintegration of Somalia.

Somaliland is a breakaway region of Somalia that declared independence from the rest in 1991. The policy of the African Union is that countries must stick to the boundaries they were given at independence. Therefore Somaliland is still not recognized by the international community. But the territory has lobbied hard to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state.

It seems as if it is up to the African Union to decide what happens to Somaliland.

President Ahmed Silanyo feels strongly about the importance of international recognition: “If we are granted international recognition during my presidency, we would put on the biggest celebration the world has ever seen”.

Recently there has been an increased interest from the rest of the world in the development model worked out in Somaliland. International contact is increasing and some development organizations have initiated programmes in the country.

Some observers, however, also look upon the lack of foreign engagement in the building of modern Somaliland as an advantage. The local political process was allowed to proceed with all its time-consuming traditional consultations with little or no help from outside. Somaliland succeeded in building a system which was initially based on clan politics and respect for elders, but over time incorporated more modern political institutions.

By building on existing forms of governance instead of ignoring them, not relying upon external resources and agendas, but relying heavily upon remittances from its own people in exile, Somaliland is very different from the other Somalia.

Ali Mazrui says that Somaliland did succeed in gathering momentum as a case of “bottom up” nation building, rooted in culture and energized from within.

One key factor behind the success of Somaliland is all the people returning from the diaspora with their knowledge, experiences and resources. They helped to drive the economy and play an important role in politics. Mary Harper refer to them as the “Somaliland pioneers”.

It is my impression that the international community is prepared to recognize Somaliland if the African Union decided to change its policy.

There is no doubt that Somaliland has demonstrated to the world that it is a somali state that is much more than war, hunger, Islamist extremism and piracy. But poverty and unemployment are still widespread as in many other African countries.

Even with all its weaknesses, Somaliland is a most impressive example of progress and stability, and should be acknowledged for that.

Education in Africa: Is it about how to survive in poverty?

The Norwegian Government has decided to increase its development assistance to the educational sector. And I believe that most people will agree that any initiative aiming at improving education in Africa is worthwhile supporting.

Hopefully the Government, after 50 years of development assistance, has learned what works and what doesn’t work when donors intervene in development processes in foreign countries.

Unfortunately many earlier initiatives by the donor community in the educational sector has been characterized by lack of realism, lack of knowledge of the societies within which this is to work and little appreciation of possible risks and constraints.

One experience is that the donors’ focus on getting increased numbers of children in school often has come at the cost of declining quality of education. The lack of attention to whether children are actually learning has resulted in a majority of pupils failing to attain the expected levels of literacy and numeracy.

A study undertaken by the World Bank in Tanzania showed that, among seventh-grade students, 20 percent could not read a sentence in Kiswahili, 30 percent could not perform a two-digit multiplication problem and 50% could not read English. Teachers in public primary schools were absent 23 percent of the time and when present, they spent just over two hours a day teaching.

If you live in Africa, you should go to the countryside and drop into one of the local primary schools. You are very likely to find more than 50 students crammed into a class. Just a few will have textbooks. If the teacher is there, and they are often absent. The students are expected to be obedient, follow instructions, memorize from textbooks and always be at the receiving end.

I have met some African politicians who have maintained that the realistic ambitions for many schoolchildren in Africa should be to maximize the students’ capability to live in and develop the local community instead of preparing them for the “modern life” outside their community. Some talk about an “Africanization” of the school system with a focus on rural life and traditional values. (Not very different from the ideology of the apartheid system!)

To improve aid to the educational sector is hard work. To discuss visions, objectives and mapping of needs are what the donors usually like the most. But the important work is to address the “how” question and to work in close cooperation with the host country to assess where the greatest barriers to development lie.

To move away from policy rhetoric to practical reality will be the hardest step for the aid community.

Waiting for the cheetahs

Why don’t the African people get more of the leadership they deserve?

It is embarrassing that again and again no African leader has been worthy of the Mo Ibrahim Price for Achievement in African Leadership.

Africa is on the move forward. It is a rich continent, but the majority of its people still live in poverty and the elite doesn’t seem to care. There are not many examples of accountable governments, effective public spending and revenues used to the benefit of the poor and not to the few.

In his book Africa Unchained, George Ayittey refers to African leaders as “cheetahs” or as “hippos”. The cheetahs are the young and dynamic, ready to move Africa ahead.

They are, however, confronted with the hippos. The hippos belong to the older generation who cling to power and protect their territory fiercely when they perceive they are being attacked. They do whatever to avoid being forced to leave the watering hole and retire to the shade.

The optimists talk about a Renaissance in African leadership. They believe the cheetahs will open up a new chapter in Africa.

While we wait for the new generation of African leaders to emerge and replace the old hippos, a study trip to Botswana is recommended. The leaderships of Khama, Masire and Mogae should be an inspiration for forceful cheetahs aiming at a new standard of leadership.

Power hungry leaders and inequalities in Africa

“I am told that African economies grow rapidly. But so do poverty. We gain nothing from the riches. If we want to change our lives, we have to fight.”

This is the essence of a e-mail I received from a Kenyan youth as a response to my blog about jobless growth in Africa.

To avoid revolts against the government, those in power has so far been clever in redirecting poor peoples’ anger against another ethnic groups.

This strategy might be more difficult in the future.

Africa has some of the most hierarchical and unequal societies in the world. Often the elite talk about the need for better distribution, but this is usually a kind of windowdressing to please the international community.

I have met some of the emerging young African politicians who will not use the ethnic card and understand that failing to address Africas’ inequalities is a recipe for social unrest.

The risk for riots and more social unrest is accelerated by the urbanization of the poor. Frustrated young people living in the township are easily attracted to violent criminal gangs or terrorist organisations. Access to social media also makes mobilization more easy.

African governments have done little to manage the rapid urbanization. In most African cities slum life has become the norm. Slums are not provided with public services such as electricity, sewerage, waste management and health facilities.

Unless the governments make political changes, cities might explode.

Civil wars and political violence in Africa are on the rise again. There are now peace keeping missions in 11 African countries.

More and more Africans refuse to tolerate a situation that Africa is a very rich continent but with the majority of its people being very poor.

I still wonder why it is that countries with so many decent and clever people have produced so few good leaders. Or are there good reasons to believe that the upcoming generation of African leaders is likely to develop their country different from previous generations of power hungry leaders?

Jobless growth and youth unemployment in Africa

If I were an African politician aiming at support from the youth, I would choose as my slogan “work for all” and have employment as my number one priority.

Employment is essential for youth in Africa. Not just to seek jobs, but also to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and job creators.

Sub-Saharan Africa has had fast and impressive growth. But it has been a jobless growth. Youth unemployment has reached alarming proportions.

Maybe Africa did not plan for success.

The economic growth did not coincide with poverty elimination because it was not linked to the economic sectors that affect the poor. In low-income African countries people cannot afford to be unemployed.

Africa displays the fastest rate of urban growth in the world. It has been estimated that Africa needs to generate productive jobs for 7 to 10 million young people entering the labour force each year.

The poorly managed young population could lead to more instability and civil conflicts. Poor, urban and unemployed people are easily tempted to accept “job offers” from organisations like Mungiki in Kenya, al-Shabab or Boko Haram.

Many young people are without the requisite skills to enter the formal labour market, which has become increasingly demanding. A disturbingly high share of those who have completes primary school have difficulties with reading and writing.

The school system many places is characterized by students who are expected to be obedient, follow instructions, copy what the teacher says and memorize from the text books. Conformity is a prime virtue.

The students are not encouraged to challenge teachers’ views or come forward with independent judgements, which hinders creativity.

In short, many of those entering the labour market neither have the academic skills needed nor the entrepreneurial skills to be their own job creators.

The role of aid

Both the recipient and the donor need carefully to consider where aid should intervene in development. In some countries, the donors could play the role in assisting to speed up development the host country already has decided to carry out. If governments in Africa do not “own” the programmes and are not committed to them, they are almost bound to fail.

I believe Norway and other donor countries could play a role in sharing experience in job creation and entrepreneurial skills based upon knowledge from their own countries. This, together with support to quality education, could be an important Norwegian contribution to youth in Africa and their potentials for innovation and productive employment.

But knowledge and experience will be needed in order to embark upon such projects. It has been tried many times before with limited success.

Vocationalizing of the education system and various entrepreneurial skills development programmes have only given moderately satisfactory results. Unemployment persists even among those with technical skills. The availability of jobs have simply not been there.

There is no need to repeat the failures of the past. But the need for employment is more crucial than ever before.

So, I want to raise the “so what” question. Any proposals for solutions? Success stories? What works and what does not work? What role could a donor country like Norway play?

Where should aid intervene in development?

In some countries aid should be phased out or decreased. There are countries ready to take greater responsibility for their own development.

Other countries, many of them in Africa, can’t do without aid for now.

But aid needs to change. It should be more country-oriented, recognising that development largely comes from inside. Where and how this support can be of use, varies from country to country.

From a distance it is difficult to see the African ways beneath the surface. Unless the donors go there and walk there, they don’t have the knowledge about how Africa works and the social systems and networks present.

Often donors are trapped in their own policies and views on what a poor nation needs and how much money should be made available. The challenge is to find the balance between what countries in the South request and believe foreign players can contribute with, and the donor organisations’ impact agenda.

The best results have been achieved when aid has been spent to speed up development policies that the recipient country already has decided to carry out and have the capacity to do. When outsiders decree the solution and pour in money, most aid is wasted.

Donors together with representatives in the host country should plan together where aid should intervene in development. A ‘diagnostic’ approach to development means to determine where the greatest barriers to development lie in a country.

The donors should not become a key actor in policy making, but be allowed to propose and present ideas.

Zambia – what goes on in State House?

Below is a statement from State House in Zambia regarding one of the opposition leaders Hakainde Hichilema. It has been confirmed to me that the statement is not a fake.

Not much left of traditional Zambian values like politeness, respect and tolerance!

STATE HOUSE – UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is a morbid and queer man whose purpose to run for public office is anchored on vicious circles of tribalism and racism, slogans of hatred and death wishes for his political competitors.

Mr. Hichilema is an abominable leader who craves to see pain and anguish in others with the hope of getting to the top. This is typical of him, he is the proverbial merchant of death, the man who takes pride in wishing others ill or death.

Therefore, his utterances on the whereabouts of the President do not surprise us because when everybody including himself were on holiday with their families during the festive season and the Head of State was busy sacrificing by working throughout this period, it never mattered to him.

But now that the President has taken his vacation, he wants to infuse his cheap schemes to gain political mileage out of a genuine moment of rest for the Head of State.

We thank God the Zambian people don\t see him going far and have realized that his divisive politics of hate, tribalism and racism pays no dividends and are now shunning him.

Indeed, Mr. Hichilema is a frightened little man who has realized that he is carrying the burning sun on his back especially with the UPND`s dwindling political fortunes, but wants to disguise his leadership failures through reckless, alarming and abdominal utterances over the President`s health.

We urge him to stop being childish and petty-minded. His attempt to engage the Presidency on trivial demands like whether the President is indeed in the United Kingdom or not, barely 24 hours after State House confirmed is out rightly ridiculous.

This level of self- centeredness and desperation should be avoided by leaders especially those seeking public office. We must respect our systems of governance instead of embarrassing ourselves on the international platform through such empty and petty political discourse.

Issued by:

George Chellah
Special Assistant to the President

Civil society organizations – rooted in their own societies?

Access to external funding is important for many African NGOs. It is a delicate task to foster a civil society that is rooted in their own society as opposed to the ones that mushrooms in response to donor funding. Mutual trust is the key to cooperation. The donor has the right to influence and to propose, but they should never be the key actors in policy making.

During my stay in Zambia, I met some local NGOs which managed to maintain their local legitimacy, but at the same time opened up for ideas and views from outside. I would like to mention a few:

– The Council of Churches in Zambia

– Matantala Rural Integrated Enterprise

– Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council

I followed their activities with special interest and admiration in the following fields:

– As an actor in the field. They all delivered services to those who needed it most

– As an advocate – voice of the poor in Zambia

– As a watchdog – to help develop and support actors in society and to challenge the authorities

Why is that so many promising reformers in African politics, once in power, changed and became dictatorial leaders?

(Below are some of the responses to the question above)

George Ayittey:

Typical African development scenario: Bad driver (leader), bad vehicle (statecraft), bad roads (infrastructure) and angry passengers fed up with lack of progress. The reformers, often under tutelage by the World Bank and IMF don`t squat about the vehicle operates; nor how to fix it. The result? Another accident. Hence, the common African saying: We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing. Haba! Vehicle unfixed. Ivory Coast was declared an “economic miracle” by the World Bank in 1992; Zimbabwe in 1994, Nigeria in 1994; Tanzania in 1994; Egypt in 1998; Madagascar in 2003; Tunisia in 2008, etc. What happened to these countries? Each landed in a ditch.


Once in power they face an uphill task of implementing sound reforms. Can`t change corrupt institutions overnight let alone a country.

Bernard Simuyi:

Leaders have to repay those who helped them with education, jobs and costly election campaigns. Unless you repay, you may be expelled from your clan or family. Elections often turns into a patronage contest rather than an election about political issues.

George Phiri:

This question troubles many Africans. We hope for a new generation of African leaders who are not power hungry and greedy. Look at Mandela and presidents of Botswana Khama, Masire and Mogae.

Moussa Masumbuko:

Much has been said about African leaders and there will be much more to be said; however I do believe that we need to acknowledge that the issue is more complex than we think. Let me share with you my personal experience with one African leader. I happen to know somebody before he became president and I remember when we met later, I asked him what the challenge of being a president was. He answered: ?not having control of the systems and having other bosses than me?. Just to confirm what one of your twit suggested.

I guess most African politicians and their political machines have lost values, principles, ideologies, vision and love of their countries. You will agree with me that the consequence is that many African countries still lack rudimentary principles of the rule of law and legitimate political institutions. Therefore we observe a situation in which personal rule is the embodiment of the political system.

We know as well that personal rule political system is often characterized by rivalries and struggles of powerful, rather than impersonal institutions, ideologies, public policies that are fundamental in shaping political life. Its dynamics by nature promotes personalized state-society relationships around an absolute powerful leader with its ramifications like nepotism, cronyism etc? rather than institution-based practices of governance where institutions are powerful than single individuals. It can also be true that personal African rulers are cronies of other powers. I assume this is simply because personal rule system is based on loyalty to the leader as opposed to institutions. In personal rule system, institutions are constantly monitored and controlled by the powerful leader to ensure that there is no balance of power that could threaten the system. And cronies will do anything to protect and cherish the system that gives them advantages. Now imagine how these parallel systems of cronies and corrupted opportunists that overshadow institutions swimming in luxury will give up on their advantages. Let?s say one dictator leave the office then comes a promising leader who really wants to change, how can he navigate around and eradicate those cronies? Or will he realize that if he can?t beat them he must join them? It is really a complex situation which can of course be defeated.

The personal rule system supports the 19th-century essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson rule. In his Self-Reliance essay, Emerson famously noted, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Staff takes their cues from the cultural signifiers and behaviors of the leader. Cultures flow from the source, and people can sense it.

Aid to civil society in fragile states – a history of many misjudgements?

The term «fragile states» refers to a heterogeneous group of countries. In these countries civil society will vary greatly, reflecting the unique history and culture of each country.

Civil society is not necessarily good in itself. In some cases civil society has contributed towards destruction of societies and played a negative role in conflicts and peace building.

Foreign support to civil society in fragile state has not always been a success story. Sometimes the donors have not understood the internal conflict of a country. Lack of knowledge, little insight in local culture and power structures have proved to be obstacles to good results.  

Donors are often attracted to groups within the country who share their values and views on development, but who have limited support and no outreach in their own country. In many countries in Africa this kind of artificial civil society is mushrooming as a response to donor funding. Donors should seriously rethink their ideology and be more willing to trade ideology for pragmatism.

In many fragile states civil society is polarized, reflecting existing conflicts within society. Civil society has sometimes contributed to the history of conflicts. In such a context it may be more important to support cooperation and reconciliation in order to facilitate trust among key fractions within society.

A civil society organisation should avoid playing a role similar to that of a political party.

One interesting example is described by Mary Harper in her book “Getting Somalia wrong” when, in her opinion, the Western powers misjudged events in Somalia and assumed too quickly that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) constituted a threat. This misperception may well have contributed to the rise of violent Islamism. Instead of engaging with UIC and supporting its state-building initiatives, they drove it from power, destroying what was the most successful attempt since 1991 to restore order.

Reasons to be optimistic about development in Africa?

There are many sweeping statements about development in Africa. Some are optimistic and some are pessimistic. The outside world has difficulties in understanding what is happening in Africa and the extraordinary forces in play there.

And Africa is complex. For every generalization you must exclude some countries. When you think you have nailed down a certainty, you will find that the opposite is also true.

For example, ethnicity has been seen has a major reason for civil wars and unrest in Africa. But there are exceptions. War-torn Somalia has a population where the vast majority share the same language, ethnicity, culture and religion, while peaceful Zambia has more than 70 ethnical groups, 7 major languages and 73 dialects.

What we know is that two out of three Africans are under twenty-five years old. The population of the continent will double in 20 years. We also know that it will then be principally urban.

The Afro-pessimists fear unemployment, development of huge urban slums, violence, crime and civil wars. They believe that the present economic growth is temporary. The lack of employment possibilities and development of urban slums combined with poor political leadership will result in Africa as a permanent poor and undeveloped continent.

The Afro-optimists do not fear the demographic explosion. They see the expansion of urban youth and a bonanza of natural resource export as potentials for further economic development. Urban youth are the workforce best suited for innovation and productive employment.

Africa sits upon the world`s largest reserves of a whole range of essential resources and will soon learn how to negotiate on its own terms with other countries. With accountable governments, effective public spending and revenues from taxes to the benefit of the people and not to the few, Africa will be the next emerging power.

So what kind of political system is best to serve a society which is resource-rich and ethnically diverse? Is Rwanda the model, or Zambia?

Multi-party system, as we know it in Europe, has not been a success as a mean of representing the will of the people. Most people in Africa care more about having a Government that secures peace, stability, housing, health facilities and education than a system that is democratic the way we know democracy in Europe.

Paul Collier has one answer: “The type of polity that appears most appropriate is one Africa tends not to have: strong checks and balances on how governments can use power and decentralized public spending.”

Africa and development – are the donors ready to reform?

Norwegian aid debate is, as in many other countries, characterized by donor perspectives on development. The size of the aid budget is often more important than discussing the role a donor should play in development. Visions and percentages are discussed before programmes have been agreed upon with the recipients and implementation possibilities considered.

That more aid equals less poverty is still a simplification common in many sectors of the aid community.

In my view, time has come for the donors to remind themselves that the long-term goal for aid is that the countries in the South should take greater responsibility for their own development.

For some countries in Africa increased donor funding is not the solution.

But aid at its best could contribute towards important development goals. To provide basic services to people who need them is a legitimate goal in its own right. There is extensive evidence to show that aid does reach intended beneficiaries and provides them with key services. Norad’s annual result report gives many examples of success stories that both Norway and recipients have reasons to be proud of.

However, there are also examples of quick and well-meant funding that has been counterproductive. “Needs” of a country or a sector have sometimes led to lack of efforts by those who should be in the driving seat. Sectors are taken over are enthusiastic and well-financed donors. Donors have built up their own state within a state with parallel structures and created their own decision-making systems. The government has abdicated and donors have delivered services.

Donors have often had their finger in the pie, making some countries in the South sceptical of aid from Western countries. Opposition is particularly strong against foreigners who tell them how they should do their job. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has managed to achieve for us a baffling popularity in many parts of Africa by playing on national pride, the right to make their own decisions in their own country and not to be bullied by a former colonial power.

One of the most positive aspects of development cooperation today is that many countries in the South now take greater responsibility for their own development. They are able to generate their own funds and may reject demands from donors.

Many feel that they are better able to choose which donors to work with. Soon, maybe, the offer of assistance will exceed demand. Not so much because of the content of the assistance program, but the way it is presented and planned. Lack of respect for countries’ own decision-making processes is a major weakness in the aid community.

In countries with growing economies and vast natural resources, the donor role will change. It will be an ongoing challenge and find a balance between what countries in the South request for and believe foreign players can contribute with, and the donor organizations’ impact agenda.

The task of combating poverty and contribute to economic and social growth in some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in Africa should still be high on the agenda in Norwegian development aid. But the global aid community should do away with the notion, still prominent in many aid organizations, that their own agenda is what the world’s poorest people need the most.

Aid can never be more than a small tool in the efforts to combat poverty. Lack of sobriety and realism have been goodies for the critics of the aid. They point out, often with good reason, that there is a large gap between what the aid organizations say they will do and what is actually achieved.

The most realistic believe that aid at its best can only support the positive trends that are already there and only modestly change the politics and power relations, although that is what we most want to do.

The role of Norwegian aid in the years to come, I believe, will primarily concentrate on knowledge transfer, innovation, development of programmes of quality in health and education, exchange of experiences from the role of civil society, exploitation of natural resources, taxes, trade and economic development.

This post-traditional development phase, which Norway has already gone some way in, will be demanding and set high demands on skills, knowledge, competence and not least, the ability to gain the trust of the partners in the South.


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