Asking for a friend.
Asking for a friend.
[Update: BBC reports that the Ugandan parliament has actually passed this absurd life-in-prison anti-homosexuality law that has been lurking in recent years–what a mess. While Museveni is said to have sent troops to South Sudan and has been called on as mediator by AU. Will hope that he will have the sense and decency to keep this on the shelf.]
What did I see of America during my two weeks in Uganda? The thing that really stuck in my mind was the banner advertising the R. Kelly concert. Surely this violates any sense of “first do no harm.” This was five years ago, after everyone should have known better. interesting to see people waking up to this finally.
From twitter: @Nnedi: Is there really a internet mob going after R. Kelly (FINALLY) or does it just seem that way because I surround myself with thinking people??
Salim Lone last week at Chatham House, London, speaking on Kenya’s Pre- and Post-Election Challenges: The End of the Kibaki-Raila Decade ahead of the publication of his book, War and Peace in Kenya.
From NPR’s All Things Considered today, “Kenya’s Free Schools Bring a Torrent of Students”:
A study published by Britain’s Sussex University in 2007 found that Kenya’s free schools were “a matter of political expediency … not adequately planned and resourced,” and as a result, there have actually been more dropouts and a falling quality of education.
Conversely, the number of private schools has increased tenfold as parents look for alternatives to overcrowded classrooms.
The situation is similar in neighboring Tanzania, which did away with school fees a year earlier in 2002. The student population also skyrocketed, leading to packed classrooms, book shortages, overused toilets, a teacher scarcity and an increase in paddling students to keep order.
And here is a good “Wealth and Poverty” feature from American Public Radio’s Marketplace on an international folk art market in Santa Fe, New Mexico with craftspeople from a number of African countries participating. Interesting discussion of globalization and the impact of imports of used clothing.
I will have more to say on this soon, but let me introduce an idea I am thinking through. I have the sense that there is a real shift in momentum on interest in Africa from the subject of aid to a possible place to make profit.
One factor has been the “global financial crisis”, from the initial “meltdowns” and “bailouts” to the current focus on public debt levels in the West. The moment for pledges of large future aid increases seems to have passed–“pledges” were made during times that felt flush, but mostly not delivered on even then. Greater scrutiny of the downsides of aid as reflected in critiques such as Dead Aid followed. Now the rich countries feel much less rich, and much less sure of themselves anyway.
At the same time, investors (partly thanks to the bailouts of the financial system) still have lots of cash and conventional opportunities in developed markets look that much less appealing. Interest rates are very low and gold is already at record levels. Africa may be in the process of going from being seen as the outlier that needs massive aid as a laggard in development to the outlier that represents the last great frontier of globalization with growth potential that isn’t available elsewhere.
Africa has been in many respects a “playground” for corrupt Western politicians and schemers. The month before its now-famous report leading to a change of command for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Rolling Stone had a fascinating piece on a massive land deal between an investor group and a militia figure in Southern Sudan featuring stereotypical behavior of the worst sort all around.
Nonetheless, it would seem that there is a growing level of interest in more transparent and straightforward investment activity of the sort that could have the potential to contribute to sustainable growth in a number of African countries.
Here is the link to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute on Africa’s “Emerging Lions”.