Secretary Clinton visiting South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya (including TFG meetings) on six nation Africa mission

Here is the official State Department language describing the diplomacy: Secretary Clinton travels to South Sudan where she meets with President Kiir to reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related…

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Western storytelling, the East African “middle class” and how to account for “politics”

Here we have an interesting paradigmatic story from Der Spiegel, translated from German for their English version, “Up and Coming in Kampala; Africa’s Growing Middle Class Drives Development” by Horand Knaup and Jan Puhl:

Three good anecdotal stories here of successful start-up African businesses generating local jobs and wealth through import substitution with domestic production. They help to grow a domestic consumer market and ultimately look to export as well. One of the two in Uganda got significant assistance from the national government and the Kenyan business got financing from a German international development arm.

She earned her starting capital by importing clothes from the West, but then she began designing her own collections, and soon “Sylvia Owori” was the most popular label among women in East Africa.

Owori has her collection produced by seamstresses in villages. She has trained 200 women and sponsors the purchase of their sewing machines. “When I receive a big order, I can deliver quickly and flexibly,” she says. On the other hand, she says, the women can stand on their own feet when she doesn’t happen to have any work for them.

Her latest creation is a denim laptop bag shaped like the map of Africa. “This bag was once a pair of jeans,” she says. “You threw it into a container for old clothing and sent it to Africa. We made something new out of it and will sell it back to you.” Swedish fashion giant H&M is interested in the bag, and two other Western fashion chains have asked Owori to meet with them in London.

It’s a question of finding new ways to stimulate economic growth. The corrupt oligarchies in many African countries have made money from the export of commodities, but only a fraction of the population has benefited from the proceeds. The growth being generated by Africa’s middle class is more sustainable, say development experts. Much of it is based on the processing of African fabrics, wood and fruits, and it creates jobs.

Good examples of what is going right and working, from two of Africa’s 50+ plus countries. Well done as such.

“She is the epitome of a success story. And success stories are no longer a rarity in Africa, despite its reputation as a continent of poverty and suffering.” Right and important.

But then we get into the broad assertions and big selective extrapolations. “This growth is producing a middle class that’s growing from year to year. According to the African Development Bank, this middle class already includes 313 million people, or 34 percent of the total population.” To say that “this middle class” includes roughly a third of the population of the entire continent is to me quite misleading in the context of this story,

(more…)

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“Competition for Military Superiority” between Uganda and Kenya not a sign of political maturity

  The Daily Nation reports on new data on Ugandan and Kenyan defense spending from SIPRI, "Arms race hots up in East Africa": Competition for military superiority in the East African Community has seen Uganda’s arms expenditure surpass Kenya’s for…

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East Africa ranks fourth of five regions in 2011 Mo Ibrahim Foundation Governance Rankings–Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya each move up from 2010

2011 Governance Rankings for East Africa Rank (of 53-followed by raw score) 4th Seychelles 73 13th Tanzania 58 20th Uganda 55 23rd Kenya 53 25th Rwanda 52 29th Djibouti 49 31st Comoros 47 34th Ethiopia 46 37th Burundi 45 47th…

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