Mar 30 2009

Might the meek inherit the earth?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 7:31 PM

I rarely have the chance to cite the teachings of Jesus when writing about the political economy of Africa. Yet these are strange times. The London Guardian has published a new commentary piece of mine on why Africa’s financial “marginalization” helps position the region for relatively better economic growth during the global economic crisis. Amid a new round of “doom and gloom” talk about Africa’s future, I’m presenting a positive message that’s fact-based and logical, if obviously contradictory to conventional wisdom. “Marginalization may save Africa,” which the Guardian chose as a headline for my piece, strikes the right note, I think.
The piece, distributed by the wise editors at Project Syndicate, was also published either Sunday or today in the Nation of Nairobi, one of Africa’s most important newspapers.

Mar 27 2009

Is Africa immune from financial contagion?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:51 AM

For a variety of reasons, outlined in a new essay of mine published by Project Syndicate, the global financial crisis hasn’t harmed sub-Saharan Africa much — and probably won’t. The reason, which I outline in a new essay being distributed to newspapers around the world by Project Syndicate, is that in Africa cash is king. Today’s capitalist crisis flows from a glut of credit — and now the burden of unsustainable debt in the aftermath of economic bubbles popping. Yet Africa’s reliance on cash — long viewed as a great economic hindrance is paradoxically a strength today. Home-mortage crisis? In Phoenix, yes, but not in Kampala or Accra, where most home buyers put down most or all of the purchase price. Debt in Africa is even a foreign concept for many business, whose owners rely often on “family capital,” raised from a network of relatives, friends and — significantly — members of a single ethnic group.

Mar 26 2009

the China card

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:38 AM

Is China really backing away from Africa, as a new report in The New York Times suggests?

Not likely. The Times reports from Guinea, a country that has little going for it economically or socially In more robust countries such as Kenya, Ghana and Zambia, Chinese investment is part of a mix of foreign capital. With growing cities, many African countries represent a rare opportunity to take advantage of new consumer demand. The Chinese investment in infrastructure have grabbed much attention, but more important are Chinese consumer products. Indian capitalists have the same idea, pursuing a range of everyday products that undercut prices on European-made goods, which for decades dominated shops in African cities.

Mar 24 2009

Drug trade

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:31 PM

The role of West Africa in the international drug trade is the subject of a penetrating new article by Stephen Ellis, the perspicacious Amsterdam-based analyst of African affairs. While others have concentrated on recent developments, Ellis explores the deeper history between West Africans and international drug traders. “Consideration of this history,” he writes, ought to illuminate questions about effects of the trade on the region, especially the nature of governments.

Mar 21 2009

My life as a chimpanzee watcher

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 2:33 PM

I’m not animal lover by choice. I keep no pets at home. Circumstance led me to encounter chimpanzees in Africa and I remain in their thrall. This week Alternet, the online site providing perspectives from the Left, published a rumination of mine on why zoos in America might rethink their practice of keep chimps captive. In the article, I describe a reunion with a chimp named Jimmy who lives in Ghana and whom I’ve also written about in my memoir, Married to Africa.

I don’t mention that my concern for Africa extends to these special creatures. Next time. Foreign donors commonly chop up Africa into little bits — health, education, women, environment, mobile phones — and then tries to “develop” one of the bits. Chimps are a “bit” too, since a specific lobby, within the gobal wildlife community, exists to advocate for and fund chimp activities in Africa. How to connect all the bits, including the chimp one, remains a large task for Africans themselves (and for those who love them).

Mar 18 2009

Democracy without illusions

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 7:27 PM

The East African, a prominent regional weekly published from Nairobi will publish in its next edition a short article of mine on the limits of the democratic process in Africa. The core of my argument: “If autocrats do not deliver prosperity any more reliably than democrats, then the romance with benign authoritarianism is probably misguided. Democratisation must be pursued wholeheartedly in Africa — but pursued without illusions. Elections inevitably heighten ethnic tensions, but these tensions can be managed. If democrats are to triumph over authoritarian populists, they must take more seriously the importance of balancing ethnic differences along with promoting economic growth. One without the other is unsustainable.”

Mar 18 2009

Expel the Pope?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 5:12 PM

Did the Pope really tell Africans that they should not use condoms as a form of either contraception or prevention against disease? Did he really say, as the Guardian reports, that use of condoms can worsen the spread of AIDS?

Yep, sadly, the Pope has been caught saying just such nonsense.

If Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, can be pilloried for his wrong-headed notions about HIV-AIDS, why cannot the Pope be called out for his own destructive and ignorant views? Why does the Pope get a free pass on spreading harmful views?

Maybe it is time for African governments to pass laws against foreign religious missionaries who insist on jeopardizing the public interest. In Asia, when foreign Christian missionaries contradict good social and political policies, governments expel them from their jurisdictions. In Africa, missionaries are given are great of freedom. In the case of the Pope, too much freedom is dangerous. African governments — and their citizens — should debate whether his visits do more harm than good.

Mar 16 2009

Pope in Africa: in the Footsteps of Colonialism

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 2:27 PM

The Pope’s visit to Cameroon and Angola this week is the latest tactical move in the Catholic Church’s battle against the evangelical movement among Africa’s Christians — a movement that threatens the status and prosperity of the Church far more than does the poverty of Africa’s masses.

In the coming days Pope Benedict will make many gestures of compassion towards Africa’s needy, who are numerous in both countries. Many shall look to him for moral leadership. But his visit is also a rejoinder to the surging vitality of new Christian formations, many of them led by Africans themselves.

While the media is careful to emphasize the Pope’s moral mission, religious “rule from Rome” is another echo of colonialism in a world where such echoes are no longer heard. The church, from its earliest days in West and Central Africa, was  always another aspect of European domination of Africa. That today, Catholics vie for popularity with home-grown sects, is fitting in a grand historical sense.

Mar 05 2009

the Republic of Fear

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 11:00 PM

The text message today from my associate in Nairobi alarmed me: “The country is in fear. Public transport is not working. This is worse, scarier than the post-election violence.”
Firoze Manji explains the latest twist in Kenya’s ongoing crisis:

"This evening, two leading human rights defenders, Mr. Oscar Kamau
King’ara and Mr. John Paul Oulu (also known as GPO), both of Oscar
Foundation, were executed in cold blood by a group of men in two
vehicles. The two were driving to meet Mr. Kamanda Mucheke of the
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights at his office. Eyewitnesses
have said that the assassins were policemen. In fact, the minibus
driver was in police uniform.

An eyewitness at the scene was also shot in the leg and was later
taken away from the scene by policemen. We are calling upon the police
to reveal the whereabouts of this man since he might be the only one
who can positively identify both the assassins and their vehicles.
Therefore, we fear for his life.

Oscar was a trained lawyer and a human rights advocate who was the
Chief Executive Officer of Oscar Foundation. He was a member of the
Law Society of Kenya.

Mr. GPO Oulu was a former student leader, and an educationist who has
worked for many human rights organizations, including the Youth
Agenda. He left the Youth Agenda recently to join the Oscar Foundation
as the Communications and Advocacy Officer.

Oscar Foundation is a registered charitable organization that offers
free legal services to the poor. Some of its major projects include
organizing caravans to offer free legal aid to the poor around the
country. They have a strong track record researching corruption in the
police force, the prisons, and police brutality against the urban
poor. The latest activity was researching and documenting cases of
enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

The Oscar Foundation has been a major source of information to
Parliament on atrocities playing out against the poor in the country.
On February 18, 2009, before Parliament debated the motion on extra-
Judicial killings, he presented Oscar Foundation’s findings on ongoing
extra judicial killings to Hon. Peter Mwathi, the motion’s mover.
Their last engagement with Parliament was a presentation to the Kioni
Committee investigating organized gangs a couple of days ago.

We believe they were killed because of the sensitive information they
had shared with both the Prof. Philip Alston the UN Special Rapporteur
on Human Rights, and with the MPs."