Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon.  He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries.  Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]

Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:

. . . .

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

. . . .  Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month

 “The last hopeful place” for democratic progress in East Africa–Tanzania’s election is important test for US Millenium Challenge Corporation model

imageThe United States invested heavily in its relationship with Tanzania in the “post-Cold War” era and on into the present period of “democratic recession”.  The Millenium Challenge Corporation has had the Tanzania compact as a flagship relationship and just voted late last month to proceed with the partnership on the basis of a barely cleared corruption hurdle.  I don’t follow Tanzanian politics closely and never lived there, but the consensus in the West appears to be that corruption has worsened in recent years while basic stability and growth in the aggregate size of the economy from a low base have been more positive features.  Most Tanzanians remain materially poor and only a small percentage of younger people have jobs as population growth remains rapid.

Western discussion of the election seems to be have been fairly muted given its conceptual significance.  I think part of the reason for this is that the match up presents some conumdrums that raise the stakes of commentary and exhortation from the outside.  Given that Tanzania has remained under the current version (“CCM”) of the Independence/Cold War era “single party” for all these years, the point of democracy assistance and outside focus would normally be on progress toward levelling the playing field so that someone else could eventually win if the majority of citizens was so inclined.

The twist is that the opposition coalition, representing the pre-existing reformist voices, ended up fronting a candidate, Edward Lowassa, by reputation a leading player in the corruption himself.  He was forced out as Prime Minister in 2008–a time when anti-corruption and goverance reform was in vogue among donors–and was pushed aside this year from his expected ruling CCM party nomination to succeed Kikwete before defecting to the opposition Chadema party.

Nonetheless, in Tanzania, unlike in any of its four East African Community neighbors the trajectory toward fair competition and “deeping democracy” has remained plausibly if uncertainly intact.  The National Election Commission has registered 24M voters compared to 14M by Kenya’s IEBC in 2013 (estimates suggest Tanzania has a population perhaps around 10% higher).  At the same time, there has been recent democratization “backsliding” on issues besides corruption, in particular media freedom.

Among donors there is what Jeffrey Gettleman’s piece in today’s New York Times notes is being called “democracy fatigue”.  Maybe things have gone badly enough around the region that we are just happy that Tanzania’s President Kikwete is honoring constitutional term limits, especially in the wake of a derailed constitutional reform effort that was supposed to lead to a referendum on a new charter before this election.

Regardless of the outcome a well run election understood by Tanzanian voters to have been free and fair would be arguably a “feather in the cap” for the MCC model and the general U.S. assistance structure.  Which of course is one more important reason for journalists covering the election observations to be responsibly sensitive to the underlying interests and conflicts faced by the various observation missions and individual observers.

See “The Kenyan factor in Tanzania’s 2015 electionin The Citizen.

And “Tanzania’s election crackdown on free speech” in The Daily Beast.

Is Washington, DC a logical place from which to fight global poverty? (Updated)

I thank those of you who have been reading some of my older posts while I have been primarily away from the blog the past few weeks.

Let me take time now to throw out a couple of “macro” observations as an observer of “development” practice in recent years and a life long observer and frequent past participant in American politics.  The first is just how strange it is from one perspective that organizations like USAID and especially the Millennium Challenge Corporation are located “inside the beltway” in Washington, DC.

Don’t get me wrong, Washington certainly has its share of poverty, but in general the Washington inhabited by agencies like USAID, the MCC and the World Bank operates in the thrall of the micro-economy generated by the brokering of the American federal government’s expenditures on the order of $4 Trillion annually.  It is a sui generis antiseptic boomtown quite disconnected from the economy of the rest of the cities and towns even of the United States, much less the rest of the world. Especially that of those facing the extreme poverty that the Millennium Development Goals were intended to overcome.

It just seems to me that we might, say, move one of our agencies like the MCC to West Virginia, for instance.

West Virginia is one of our poorer states, and one where we have this terrible problem of conflict between the need for jobs and the immediate and long term environmental harm done by strip mining and “mountain top removal” for coal.  West Virginia has an economy rooted in natural resources and agriculture, like most of the world, and unlike the District of Columbia–but it is close by, just a short drive.  Long serving Senator Robert Byrd was for many years famous especially for bringing federal agencies outside Washington to his state of West Virginia.  While this was widely derided as “pork barrel politics” by people from other states, those federal agency jobs go somewhere.  Putting a poverty fighting agency there might directly fight poverty as well as help us learn more about how to be most helpful elsewhere.

Update: On the topic of US aid transparency, here is great piece from Jennifer Lentner (@intldogooder) on Oxfam America’s “The Politics of Poverty” Blog: “More U.S. international aid data released–now what? A user’s perspective”.  Jennifer interviews Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah a former minister in the Ghanaian government and former chair of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.  He finds the current data important but “pretty scanty” toward meeting the needs of public officials and of civil society watchdogs.

New bi-partisan legislation—the Foreign Aid Transparency Act of 2013—would open the books on US foreign aid. More transparency will enable people like Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah to hold their governments accountable for how they invest US resources. Learn more and contact your representatives here.

And stay tuned to Politics of Poverty to get more user perspectives on aid transparency data!

East Africa Event Thursday: President Kikwete discussing “A Country Transformed; A New Agenda for Tanzania” with MCC CEO Daniel Yahannes at CSIS

Update:  Here is the link to the audio from the event at CSIS and a handout.

[Also–for a very different view of Kikwete, see “Tanzania:  The Flip Side”  by Nkwazi Mhango in the current African Executive.]

Tanzania represents a success story for developing and emerging-market countries in a time of changing donor-recipient relations. Through a series of reforms to increase transparency, good governance, and country-led development, President Kikwete has helped Tanzania become a strong partner with the United States and the business community. Tanzania is the recipient of a $698 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, hosts a robust PEPFAR program, launched the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT) initiative, and was among the first countries selected for the Partnership for Growth—all of which have helped Tanzania make gains in enhancing food security, reducing poverty, and creating economic opportunities.


Tabasco in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Investing in Southern Africa–MCC Webchat

Register for a webchat about Millennium Challenge Corporation programs, AGOA and investment opportunities in Southern Africa.

Event is Thursday, April 21, 11:30am Washington/EDT; 1530 GMT.

Odinga in Washington; U.S. in Libya; “Kinetic Action” v. MCC

Here is the link to a multimedia page for Raila Odinga’s speech and Q & A last week at CSIS in Washington.  Nothing newsmaking in itself that I saw, but a good speech of interest to those following governance and democratization issues in Africa and especially Kenya and Ivory Coast.

In the meantime, one of the most telling things I have read about how our actions in participating in the Libyan mission are viewed by others is from Bruce Reidel at Brookings:

The Indians are puzzled that some in the West who had embraced Qaddafi less than a hundred days ago are now so shocked by his cruelty. Qaddafi did not change in 2011. Some former Indian diplomats are quick to suggest that the Libyan war shows America’s “unreliability” and a tendency to over react to the last news broadcast. Who are the rebels in Benghazi, they ask, that are now your allies? Why do you rush to help them, and not the shia protesters in Manama?

As one Indian observer put it, “the U.S. is both promiscuous and flighty” with its relationships.

“A Letter from Agra:  How India Views U.S. Actions in Libya”

These observations on the Indian view were published almost a month ago.  If the NATO effort in Libya bogs down, we may find ourselves asking more rigorously, “why exactly did we decide to do this?” and “what specifically were we trying to accomplish originally and what specifically are we trying to accomplish now?”.  Those same questions that eventually became “known unknowns” in Iraq.

In the meantime, The Hill caries a piece by Paul O’Brian of OxFam America on potentially critical budget cuts for the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  No one at the MCC could afford to make the comparison politically I am sure, but let me make it for them:  look at the cost of the Libya action versus the cost of the MCC.  The MCC would seem to have bipartisan support if any area of development can.  A George W. Bush initiative originally, but very compatible with Democratic “soft power” thinking and led by Obama appointees now.   A relatively small staff and bureaucratic footprint.

In geopolitics, and in longer term development, we need to pay some real attention to states, but if this is a humanitarian effort don’t we need to look also at the numbers of people involved: is this worth the cost relative to the cost of other “kinetic” or “non-kinetic” endeavors?  Ivory Coast, for instance, is a much more populous country.

Millennium Challenge Corporation releases country scores for FY 2011 eligibility determinations

The MCC Board is to make decisions on eligibility of individual countries for Compact or Threshold status on December 15. The MCC uses 17 indicators in three categories to rate the performance of eligible countries against their peers as a key input in the selection process. Here are links to the scorecards for East Africa and the overall "Scorebook" with more information.

Kenya Scorecard

Uganda

Rwanda

Ethiopia

Tanzania

MCC 2011 Scorebook

“The President’s New Development Policy”–It’s Anti-Socialist, so can Republicans Find Common Ground?

 

I’m overdue to write more about President Obama’s “new development policy”, following my participation in a “bloggers’ roundtable” on the subject at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

There are lots of people with much more knowledge and experience writing well about this, including especially at the Center for Global Development on my blogroll. “Value added” from me here might be to emphasize that the President has embraced notions of aid effectiveness, prioritization and bi-lateral relationships, as well as focus on private sector growth as THE way to reduce poverty, as reflected in the operating model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In other words, Obama has taken an experimental innovation from the G.W. Bush administration and sought to apply this as a policy framework across the broader scope of foreign aid in general.

This leads us to an interesting insight from a piece in The Root last week, “How Barack Obama became a Republican”: Obama can best be understood as an old fashioned establishment Republican–a “Mastodon” if you will–with policies largely what one would have seen from a Gerald Ford confronted with similar circumstances. This is a more conservative era, and Obama’s new development approach is more narrowly market focused presumably than what you would expect from a Nixon or Ford, but I think in broad terms this observation makes sense. Granted that the President doesn’t LOOK that much like Gerald Ford, but policy-wise I do think this is a better template than the Dinesh D’Souza “Luo tribesman”.

Of course, many in the right within the GOP have always hated moderate or liberal Republicans with a special passion–and post-midterms many in the “Tea Party” are itching to carry on the fight after eclipsing dealmaking “Reagan Republicans” like Trent Lott and other more center-right figures. I am not sure why we should assume that these are not people who are fully serious about “ending not mending” foreign assistance.

The conventional discourse has been about how, not whether to address poverty. Perhaps this is now a question that is no longer a given. At some level, poverty is just an extreme case of inequality. Perhaps we now embrace inequality as reflected in Nicholas Kristof’s latest: “Our Banana Republic”. Are there “Reagan Republicans” left who will deal with the Democrats and Obama for a more “conservative” or “right looking” foreign assistance program, or will they be cowed by the fear of primary challenges to come?

 

Re-evaluating the comparative development experience in Tanzania and Kenya?

 

Awaiting final election results with some concern about transparency, but Tanzania seems to have avoided any major strife over the situation. Why? One interesting blog post by Jimmy Kainja says that “Tanzania Thrives on Julius Nyerere’s Legacy” at AfricaOnTheBlog: (H/T to Dibussi Tande in Pambazuka News):

Indeed. Nyerere’s emphasis on national building over personal interests, “UJAMAA”, which can loosely be translated as familyhood (Swahili speakers may translate this better) – one person for another. This formed what has come to be know as African Socialism; an ideology that has never been popular with most westerners, whose idealism and economic model(s) Nyerere objected. Consequently, Nyerere is mostly portrayed in negative terms: a socialist dictator. His association with communist China only cemented his reputation as “anti British” and “anti European.”

As explained here, Nyerere took strong international stands on African economic and political independence. In particular, he supported freedom struggles in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola and Mozambique. He dared to speak against the CIA-backed corrupt dictator, Mobutu Seseko and sought a better a administration in Mobutu’s Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Nyerere also picked fights with IMF as they sought to impose free market economic policies on Tanzania.

These were “crimes” Nyerere committed. He stood up for his country and his African folk. Interestingly, Tanzania faired far much better, politically, socially, and economically, under Nyerere than his critics would have the world believe. According to Raya Dunayevskaya (1973)

“…Tanzania achieved the highest literacy rate in Africa (83%) and also experienced major advances in health care. The single party system Nyerere founded under the Tanzania African National Union (TANU) was hardly undemocratic, since open debate and competitive candidacies were permitted. Nor did Tanzania experience the pervasive corruption of so many post-independence African states.”

They say “bad news is good news.” This rings true on how African affairs are covered in the western mainstream media. This cliche may well explain lack of coverage for Tanzania elections. The elections are devoid of tribalism and ethnic tensions, which would qualify it as “newsworthy”. Given that tribalism has been a constant feature in the region’s (east African) elections, Kenya and Rwanda, in particular, the lack of ethnic tensions in Tanzania is an interesting development – a development that would interest not only media organisations but historians and social scientists alike. Therefore this is a genuine story, a newsworthy material. Kudos to the BBC for their attempted coverage.

The real problem with this story is that it is difficult for much of the international community to highlight these ethnic tension-free elections without giving credit to Julius Nyerere. Meanwhile, Nyerere remains dear to the hearts of many Tanzanians; whether one likes it or not, Tanzania today thrives on Nyerere’s legacy.

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War Tanzania is a favored African country in American diplomatic and aid officialdom. President Bush visited Tanzania during the Kenyan post-election crisis and it is a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact country. Relatively few Americans now would have much notion or recollection of the ideological issues among Nyerere, Kenyatta and the United States. The Soviet Union is no more and while there are signs of potential future competition and tension between the U.S. and China in Africa, this takes place in a context of overall U.S. policy which has been a consistent pattern over more than thirty years of cooperating in and facilitating the rise of China as a major power, while still under strict Communist Party rule without any significant opening toward democracy. While there has been a massive recalibration of the Chinese economic system, it is far from a “free market”. So in many respects we have moved on and we are obviously ideologically ambidextrous. On the other hand, there are American politicians who care very much about ideology in specific foreign countries in pretty much the same way that we did during the Cold War.

If there are lessons to be learned by reconsidering some things that “turned out” better in the long run in Tanzania than in Kenya maybe we can take a fresh look now that we are freed from the obligations of facing off against the Soviets?

*So why does the Veterinary Department of the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development have a golf club in the first place?

*“African aid fears amid cheerful tears” Comments from various observers in South Africa on the possible impact of the U.S. midterm elections on U.S. aid budget for Africa. (H/T Africa Center for Strategic Studies).

 

The Dar Side? Yet another President’s Electoral Commission

With elections in Tanzania set for October 31, the East African today reported “Fear, anxiety build up ahead of Tanzania’s election showdown Sunday”.

Most commentators, including Africa Confidential have not gone so far as to suggest that President Kikwete of the Nyerere ruling party CCM faced any real likelihood of defeat, but the East African asserts that an opposition surge has resulted in a serious two man race:

An opinion poll by non-government organisation Tanzania Citizens Information Bureau found that if elections were held between September 27 and October 10, Dr Willbrod Slaa, 62, would obtain 45 per cent of the votes cast against Kikwete’s 41 per cent.

Two earlier polls, one by the Synovate group and the other by a University of Dar es Salaam think tank, showed that Kikwete would win with 61 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

Analysts say that in the eyes of the public, CCM has gradually deviated from its founding values — fighting corruption, ensuring less spending on government administration and provision of social services — and that its leadership is firmly in the pockets of the capitalist class.

At the same time, Chadema, a 1992 breakaway from CCM — then led by Edwin Mutei, former governor and finance minister who disagreed with Nyerere, his boss then, on fiscal policy — has been making the fight against corruption the key plank of its electoral platform.

This play of perceptions seems to be earning Dr Slaa political mileage, and troubling Kikwete’s advisers.
. . . .
It appears that Chadema’s choice of presidential candidate was designed to exploit the frictions within CCM and expose the mismatch between its founding principles and the current reality.

Dr Slaa crossed from CCM to Chadema in 1995 after the party did not let him contest a political post for which he had won the primaries. He stood on the Chadema ticket to represent Karato District in parliament and won.

The catholic priest-turned-politician, who has built a reputation of himself as a man who speaks his mind and fearlessly fights corruption, brought his social-democratic values to a Chadema till then known as a centrist outfit.

Dr Slaa has pledged to cut the salary of the president by 20 per cent and those of Members of Parliament by 15 per cent.
. . . .
The opposition has accused the ruling party of using state resources to facilitate its campaign. There are fears of rigging and ultimately violence during and after the election.

The Electoral Commission has said that there are about 19 million registered voters, “However, scientific demographic surveys indicate that there cannot be more than 16 million voters in Tanzania,” said Ismail Jussa, CUF deputy secretary general.

“Electoral corruption has never reached this level: There are politicians out there buying votes, but nothing is being done to curb this,” Mr Jussa added.
. . . .
There are concerns with the electoral legal framework. The Elections Act 1995 provides for a National Electoral Commission to be appointed by the president, which in turn appoints district election officials who happen to be government officials.

A recent amendment provided for the Commission to appoint officials, in the event that district executive directors cannot supervise elections in the areas, but such new appointees are also civil servants. “The Electoral Commission is not independent,” Chadema’s Mnyika told The EastAfrican.

Electoral Commissions appointed unilaterally by a president who is running for re-election are a disaster waiting to happen, as we saw in Kenya in 2007. This situation allowed fraud in Uganda in the last election and theatens it again in February 2011.

Tanzania is a MCC compact country and a U.S. favorite. Kikwete visited Kibaki in Nairobi in early 2008 said to be carrying a message on behalf of the U.S. and helping to persuade Kibaki to agree to negotiated toward a deal to allow a role for ODM along with PNU in a power-sharing for national unity. The Tanzanian election has been low on my radar screen with all of the many problems in the region and certainly State and USAID have more than their hands full of challenges. Let us hope Tanzanian officials rise to the occasion.