â€œSouthern Sudan has never been developed since its creation. It is not really a miracle that I can turn the south to paradise in one day, or in one year. It is not possible.â€ — Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of South Sudan
Nov 26 2007
“It’s possible that due to malaria, almost every child in Africa is in some way neurologically scarred.” — Robert Gwadz
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Nov 19 2007
One of the most discerning chroniclers of sub-Saharan Africa is the Financial Times of London, which maintains an impressive web page on the region, with links to special reports as well as daily news. The newspaper, printed on distinctive paper, reports the sunnier news today that the African “continent is at the heart of the latest surge of enthusiasm to hit emerging markets. In their search for yield, investors, bankers and companies are focusing on opportunities in some of the most far-flung corners of the world.”
The news about “hot money” flowing into Africa is great, because it shows that higher aid flows actually compete with higher capital flows, so that aid must clearly be linked to outcomes that private capital, on its own, canâ€™t deliver. There are dangers to those in-flows, however, which governments with weak monitor capacity canâ€™t track on their own. And thatâ€™s another role for the NGO/foundation sector â€“ to promote specific initiatives that help markets behave more fairly than they otherwise might.
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Nov 18 2007
“What’s stunning is how critical remittances are in almost every developing country in the world.” — Donald Terry, Inter-American
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Nov 16 2007
â€œFor the first time in three decades African economies are growing with the rest of the world.â€ — Africa Development Indicators, Nov. 2007
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Nov 16 2007
A mysterious outbreak in Angola — causing fever and extreme drowsiness — has led to the hospitalization of hundreds. U.N. health experts are doing tests on the unidentified disease in a northern suburb of Luanda. They haven’t ruled out the possibility of an infectious disease.
Flush with oil wealth, running into the billions of dollars annually, Angola’s government remains a shadow, dependent on foreign agencies to carry out even basic medical investigations. Undoubtedly, the World Health Organization, which is not awash in money, will not charge the Angolan government for services rendered. For Angola’s self-serving governors, charity starts at home. But not accountability, it seems. This week what passes as the government of Angola admitted that a 2005 loan from a bank in China is actually worth $7 billion (or one-third) less than the government had been saying. Why would the government misrepresent its financial accounts? Well, that’s less of a mystery than the unidentified bug.
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Nov 15 2007
Nigeria’s chief of police admitted this week what every Nigerian — and Africans living in most other sub-Saharan countries — knows well: thieves and people suspected of robbery are often killed on the spot of their apprehension, either by angry mobs or, as is in the case in Nigeria, by the police themselves. In an interview with the BBC, Nigeria’s top cop, Mike Okiro, has admitted that his forces have killed at least 785 suspected criminals in the past 90 days alone. The average works out to 9 people killed every day by Nigeria’s police. And that’s the number that the chief, who assumed his post 100 days ago, admits to. He also says about 60 officers have been killed in the same period.
The BBC’s report reminds me of a visit I made 5 years ago to the oil-rich Niger Delta as a member of an Amnesty International fact-finding mission. Amnesty had recently reported on the practice of “extra-judicial” killings by police of suspected robbers. We are were checking, among other things, on whether the practice was increasing or declining. For a time, Nigeria’s police indeed seemed less likely to shoot and kill suspects. But with disorder rising in Nigeria, patience for “due process” is vanishing. Unfortunately, many Nigerians have so little sympathy for ordinary criminals that they support “instant justice,” even when the murders of the apprehended occur in plain view. Of course, skepticism towards the police is growing. Even Nigerians who favor harsh punishments concede that the police are notoriously dishonest and that no one accused of wrong-doing by the police should be punished on the spot. Yes Nigerians want order but “instant justice” carries too high price.
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Nov 15 2007
Today’s New York Times article on Africa’s witches is accurate and, of course, upsetting. Children should not be demonized, and physically abused, out of a fear that they somehow channel the supernatural. Yet the Times story raises a recurring question about the validity of turning Africans into spectacles. Every society has its superstitions; and even the unexplained provokes non-rational explanations. The mere existence of “witches” and “witchcraft” in Africa, moreoever, isn’t new or news. What’s worth exploring in journalism is not the pornography of “juju” in African society — a kind of false shock over the continued existence of supernaturally-inspired brutally — but rather the “higher” purposes served by the persistent reliance on supernatural explanations for personal and societal setbacks and achievements. We know, for instance, that the supernatural remains a potent weapon against expressions of female independence and power. But gender is not the only realm conditioned by the non-rational. Political behavior in Africa remains surprisingly subject to the realm of the unexplained. The best recent exploration of this subject is the brief “Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa” by the industrious Africanists Stephen Ellis and Gerrie ter Haar.
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Nov 12 2007
The World Bank’s closely-watched African Development Indicators is scheduled for release on Wednesday. Worth watching: whether agricultural data, generally flimsy in past reports, will achieve greater prominence in thisÂ year’s Indicators (and later editions of this annual). The Indicators is expected to carry an upbeat message about African economies, saying essentially that many Sub-Saharan countries appear to have turned the corner and may be moving to a path of faster and steadier economic growth. While caution is justified, the bank’s upbeat message tracks my own field research. Rising commodity prices, especially for oil and minerals but also for staples such as corn, are fueling economic booms in many countries that sooner or later will influence the foreign-aid agendas of multilateral organizations, major governments and NGOs. The world community ought to pay attention to the economic dynamism in Africa. While still creating uneven gains and widening gap between rich and poor, the economic expansion in the sub-Saharan should force a much-needed reassessment of aid priorities — and encourage donors to take more seriously that they must partner with the economic “winners” of African, not just the “losers.”
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