Administration continues to grapple with who is to lead development efforts

Josh Rogan at Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog has a post that has drawn some expansive comments with a leaked draft of a White House “Presidential Study Directive on Global Development”, calling for establishing an interagency committee to coordinate, and elevate, development policy–thus pulling this function out of the State Department.

Rogan reports ongoing tension between the National Security Council and the State Department. No clarity as to when the administration will settle on a final approach here.

“In Southern Sudan, for the money”

“In Southern Sudan for the Money”

JUBA, Sudan, April 9 (Reuters) by Ed Cropley – The only thing that’s cheap in southern Sudan is life.

One of the world’s poorest regions, where four out of five people are illiterate and one in five children fails to make it to their fifth birthday, the south’s economy has been turned on its head since the end of a 22-year civil war in 2005.

A flood of foreign aid workers and more than $2 billion a year in oil revenues under a peace deal with the central government in Khartoum has transformed the south into one of the most expensive corners of Africa.
. . . .

Nobody knows how many people live in the city, although some say its population has trebled in the last five years under the weight of tens of thousands Kenyans and Ugandans out to make a quick buck.

“Earning $100 is difficult in Kenya. Here it’s easy,” said Amos Njay, a Nairobi taxi driver hoping a year in Juba will set him up in a trucking business.

Africans are not the only ones with an eye on the cash.

Foreign aid workers, holed up behind barbed-wire fences and armed guards in semi-permanent tented camps on the banks of the Nile, boast of earning $10,000 a month tax-free and with all their living expenses taken care of.

“You know what they say: in places like this you only get missionaries, mercenaries and misfits. Me? Sure, I’m just here for the money,” said one U.S. aid contractor knocking back a cold beer in a bar on the banks of the Nile.

Other drinkers ranged from dapper pro-democracy activists from the U.S. International Republican Institute to former soldiers whose lives are spent treading in the heels of conflict across the globe, cleaning up mines and unexploded bombs.
. . . .

Friday links

“Are the private sector and civil society natural enemies?”–insightful piece from the Nation Groups’s Pan-African Media Conference by Muthoni Wankeki in Pambazuka.

Meanwhile, a new survey reported in Business Daily indicates that Kenyan business leaders are worried about a repeat of election violence.

“In Defense of the Voice of America” by Alemayehu Mariam in Pambazuka, reprinted from Huffington Post.

Human Rights Watch reports on pre-election environment in Sudan and Ethiopia, says April and May elections unlikely to be “free and fair”. Ethiopia: Repression Rising Ahead of May Elections. Sudan: Government Repression Threatens Fair Elections. Daily Nation story here.

And for the first time a senior SPLM leader has called for Bashir to face the ICC charges against him in The Hague.

Andrea Bohnstedt’s Modest Proposal on IMF event: “Geldof Should Get to Know Kenya First” (Updated)

In the Nairobi Star courtesy of the Mars Group Andrea Bohnstedt takes down Bob Geldof’s featured role in the IMF’s Nairobi event last week. I expected Geldof’s star turn would surely generate an articulate retort, and this is it.

More broadly, the Mars Group Blog slams the IMF, asserting that it deserves an “F” grade for its record of 46 years of lending to Kenyan governments and should desist.

“Africa is Back” says IMF Head–Where did it go?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF Managing Director, had this to say on the official IMF “blog” under the title “Africa is Back”:

In the wake of the global financial crisis, there is a fresh energy in Sub-Saharan Africa–and a broad consensus on the road ahead. Above all, there is the strong sense that Africa’s destiny will be driven by Africans, not by others.

That at least is my initial feeling after two days of dialogue in Kenya with President Kibaki and government officials, civil society leaders and trade unionists, academics and students, and ordinary Kenyans. “Africa is back” is how I described it in a live TV debate in Nairobi with Prime Minister Odinga, Minister of Finance Kenyatta, Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai, Transparency International’s Akere Muna and my friend, Bob Geldof.

See commentary from Roubini Global Economics

Haiti and Kenya

In case you were wondering, the 2009 UN Human Development Index rankings for Kenya and Haiti (using 2007 data) are 147 and 149, respectively, separated by Papua New Guinea (see the link at Studies and Reports in the column at right). Very different places, but a point of reference nonetheless.

Kenyan Coffee and Nescafe

Monday’s Standard reports that Kenya is only consuming 5% of its own coffee production, terming this a risk to the success of the sector.

The Kenyan government’s lack of appreciation for the value of the cachet of Kenyan coffee was brought home to me quite quickly upon my arrival in Nairobi as director for the International Republican Institute. Calling on the Minister of Trade and Industry, we were served the usual choice of tea or instant Nescafe, as in the various other offices of high government officials and politicians. When the Trade Minister of a country with a reputation for growing some of the world’s finest coffee is serving Nescafe to his visitors, there is an obvious disconnect somewhere.

A local coffee house in New Orleans sells what it calls a Kenyan Press for brewing coffee. It appears to be quite the same as what the rest of us would call a “French Press”–basically a simple glass cylinder with a lid with a plunger with a screen to filter the brewed grounds and hold them at the bottom when the coffee is poured. Obviously the label “Kenyan” has market value to coffee drinkers. From my experience, it was in fact very hard (and unduly expensive) to actually buy a French Press in Nairobi.

It would be great to see Kenyans taking pride in the reputation of the quality of their coffee production and to see the government paying attention to promoting the market (rather, than, perhaps, being too distracted by worrying about who is going to win the next election).

Addendum:  Turns out I have a picture of the coffee maker in New Orleans, a Bodum “Kenya Coffee Maker” that is also labeled in smaller print “French Press”:

AfriCommons, on Flickr”>"Kenya Coffee Maker"

Here is a link to more information and reviews from “dooyoo”. “Cafetiere (the French for coffee pot) has become the established description in Britain but ‘French Press’, or ‘Coffee Plunger’ is used in other parts of the world,” says reviewer “suehome”.