Sunday, 15 November 2009

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

I remember picking up this book, Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, in the Waterstones bookstore in Oxford, in the town centre: sometime in November 2008 I think. I was drawn to the book because my ideas and position on aid had began to crystallize and I found it strange that someone else had written a book about it already - as if I have a monopoly on ideas.

I read some parts of the book and planned to buy it sometime and today I came across this interview on while eating my diner. Excellent interview, great ideas - she speaks with authority and eloquence on a sensitive issue.

Who is going to be our benevolent dictator to take us where our angel investors will not lead us?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Lack of political will impoverishes South African fishermen

"When my belly is crying I must fill it. I can sit on the side of the road and beg for bread, but there is the bread right there," says Hahn Goliath, a fisherman in the small village of Doring Bay on South Africa's West Coast, as he points furiously at the Atlantic Ocean. [Full Story at]

A summary of the situation is that the allocation of fishing licenses allocated by the South African government does not include the subsistence fishing community, who have to try and eek out a leaving on the recreational fishing rights which are inadequate. For the details please refer to the main article.

While the problem is clear and alternative solutions and recommendations are available, there is a lack of urgency and political will to make things right. Is there an epidemic of indifference among African politicians or has there been an “explosion of bozos” among the ruling class? (For more about “explosion of bozos”)

In harmony with the poverty inflicted on our South African brothers and sisters, I am reminded of this impassioned plea made by Sylvia Earle to protect the world’s oceans. In the middle of our crises and struggle for development there is an opportunity for us on the continent not to fall into the same pillaging practices that are plaguing our Western and Eastern cousins, and which have and will continue to affect all of us – directly or indirectly. How? I am not too sure but I can ask the questions and hope that you might have the answers.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

“Sweden finances war in Africa”

Is the stunning title of a book written by a Swedish journalist, Bengt Nilsson and reviewed by New African magazine. Read it here.

The author makes the case that the money to finance the wars in Africa has to come from somewhere and so goes about following the paper trail which leads him back to his own country. Using sources such as Oxfam, Economist Paul Collier (who’s book “The Bottom Billion” seeks to address aid and other issues) and local accounts he shows how aid can easily be diverted from its intended goals and worst still, condoned by the inaction of the donor country – in this case, Sweden.

I hoped that this blog would not turn into a summary bashing of the aid agenda but what can I say now? Hopefully, these revelations can lead to a better measure of transparency and debate of the aid dogma. Aid has it’s place but ineptitude mixed with good intentions is a 4 lane superhighway to hell. If your friend is an alcoholic do not give him whisky when he says he’s thirsty.

Monday, 12 January 2009

EU Rejects Nigeria’s Request For Trade Deal

"the Commission said that Nigeria does not meet the requirements for the status because of its refusal to ratify the Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

This is an interesting article that highlights the nuances of international trade agreements. According to the EU the primary aim of the "Generalized System of Preferences" that Nigeria was applying for,

"is to contribute to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development and good governance."

But their refusal to grant Nigeria this privileged trade status is costing the country $4o0,00 a month from January 1st, 2008. Why Nigeria failed to meet the 27 specified conventions ranging from human rights to labor laws is unknown to us but looking at the list, you can ask yourself, is ratifying the Kyoto protocol a necessary step for trade especially for developing countries? What has it go to do with developing countries anyway since the protocol is intended for the 37 industrialized countries and the European community? The Kyoto protocol provides assistance to developing countries for,

"...development and deployment of techniques that can help increase resilience to the impacts of climate change."

through the Adaptation Fund but isn't this another "barrier"? Imagine that, sitting in your hut waiting for some good prices for your cocoa while men in suits are flying around making ink stains on pieces of paper, about a treaty that has little

to do with you. Why not start the fair trade, let us develop some independence and we won't even need the "adaptation" fund because we can do things for ourselves.

I'm beginning to think that these rules are made less for the common good but to build an intricate system of dependence in which developing countries will remain subservient despite their economic potential.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Moving Past the Curse of Black Gold

There is a silver lining in every cloud and it is truly an ill wind that blows no one no good. The international economic recession that is gripping the Western nations and forcing down the price of oil, has forced African nations dependent on crude oil to diversify their economies. Sudan expects its oil revenues to decline by 44% in 2009 and as such is forced to invest in its agriculture and industrial sectors. Nigeria on the other hand is forecasting a growth projection of 8.9% in 2009 led by non-oil industries. If this trend continues it might be the kind of crisis that creates an atmosphere for building a steady development trend to alleviate poverty and stabilise economies.

How is that possible? Because the wealth generated by the oil industries in Africa is enjoyed by a privileged few and used to oppress the impoverished majority- the war in Darfur in Sudan and the injustices suffered by the Ijaw people in Nigerian delta are recent examples. Also, the issue of food security is still a major concern and the President of Malawi, Mr. Mutharika has been commended for transforming his country from a food importer to an exporter in 3 years; from 2005 - 2007. His simple and practical government program for subsidising the price of fertilizer was not supported by the USA or Britain but his critics have been proved wrong. African leaders need to continue to set their own agenda and try out their solutions and policies, that is how we will truly come to enjoy the benefits of a viable nation state.

In itself crude oil is neither a vice nor a virtue but an opportunity to use natural resources for whatever means. However, it has long been used to grease the wheels of mismanagement and the sound of it creaking, plays like music to those whom have had their voices drowned out by its machinations.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala: Let's have a deeper discussion on aid

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Foreign Minister and Finance Minister for Nigeria, gave an insightful talk at last year's (2007) Ted Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania. She spoke about the need to have a more sophisticated debate on the role of aid, government, private organizations and African individuals to make progress on the continent. Watch the YouTube Video.

What I found to be of particular interest was her point that African's do not have a voice. After mentioning that she started the first opinion research organization in Africa to find out about the concerns of the people, which are jobs, she went on to criticize external organizations for not seeking out the counsel of Africans in drawing up their plans to donate aid.

This lack of voice has been a recurring theme in my discussions with others about the challenges facing the continent. When leadership is deaf to the needs of the people, or worse still seized by force and coercion, the people lose their representation and the good of the majority is not served.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also recounted a powerful story about when she was 15 and her 3 year old sister contracted malaria. She walked 10 kilometers to the nearest physician who was able to provide simple therapies that saved her life. This was made possible through the assistance of aid donors. She also gave for further examples of how Ireland and Spain have used aid from the European Union to develop their economies through infrastructure development.

I agree with the point that she is making. In shaping the future of the African people the discussion needs to be more sophisticated than taking up reactionary positions of pro-this or anti-that. It has to be an inclusive discussion that "leverages the good will" directed towards Africa to build a prosperous and sustainable future, that includes aid, government, private organizations and individuals.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Overview of aid in Africa

This is the first, of what I hope will be an ongoing feature, podcast. I recorded a conversation with Mr. Michael Banjo a historian, political scientist and lawyer from Nigeria to discuss, in a broad way, the adverse impact of aid on the African continent and some possible solutions.