Jan 22 2011

Managing prosperity is now Africa’s most urgent problem

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 9:12 AM

Managing prosperity, not eradicating poverty, is Africa’s most urgent problem. In a new analysis of global economic data, The Economist magazine offers further confirmation that Sub-Saharan economies are growing relatively rapidly, and especially rapidly when compared to the sluggish growth in some developed countries.

More broadly, economic data from various sources raises confidence in the view that the long “poverty” decades are over in Africa, and that the real “problem” for African leaders is PROPSPERITY: how to share it, who gets what, when and how. This is why in my own meager work on African affairs I’m emphasizing INEQUALITY. Because overall wealth levels are rising steadily in Africa but so is inequality, raising serious questions (which I recently addressed in the Milken Institute Review) about whether some increasingly wealthy African countries are now among the most unequal in the world.

Jan 17 2011

the Mandela Method for Southern Sudan can work

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 12:31 PM

In a remarkable move at the close of a national referendum on seccession, Salvar Kiir, the political leader of Southern Sudan, has called on his people — from inside a Catholic Church no less — to forgive the national government of Sudan for its decades of violence again Southerners. “May we, like Jesus Christ on the cross, forgive those who have forcefully caused their deaths,” Kiir reportedly said.

Southern Sudanese are believed to have vote overwhelmingly to form a new nation, though full election results are not expected until next month. In choosing the path of forgiveness, Kiir, while following his own conscience, is echoing an approach successfully followed by Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

The declaration by Kiir follows an equally remarkable statement by al Bashir, the head of Sudan’s Khartoum government, in which he signaled that he is prepared to let the South hive itself off peacefully. In a visit to Juba, the largest city in the city, al Bashir said he preferred a unified Sudan but would “respect” the S0uth’s right to secede.

“Ties between the north and the south are very huge,” he said. “We spoke to our brothers on how to keep those ties, even if we have two states”.

A two-state solution to Sudan is no chimera. The national referendum, now completed, has been deemed credible by a delegation of foreign observers led by Jimmy Carter, and the Bashir government is on the verge of accepting what many foreign observers until recently considered the unthinkable: peaceful separation.

The logic for al Bashir’s position is clear. He is no democrat, and he appears to reserve the option to intervene in Southern Sudan if for some reason the Kiir government cannot gain control over its undisputed territory.

To be sure, disputed areas in the border between the two halves of Sudan could well experience violent conflict, but such conflict could co-exist with the emergence of the new nation of Southern Sudan.

Pessimists about the Sudan outcome should be chastened by the relatively peaceful round of voting. In the weeks prior to the vote, Beltway pundits rolled out their most energetic Afro-pessimism in order to create near-hysteria about the election.  Their predictions could well demand humble apologies in the months ahead, since these predictions transparently tapped into routine fears and stereotypes of supposed African inclinations towards political violence. Some gloomy critics still say any declaration of seccession by the South will lead to renewed civil war, but with each passing day without such a war, the chances appear to grow that the new nation of Southern Sudan will indeed be born. And the attempt at emulation of Mandela, by the likely new president of an independent Southern Sudan, augurs well for the birth of this new nation.

Jan 10 2011

Sudan’s giant shadow puts Africa on hold

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 8:38 PM

The elections in southern Sudan have ignited the concern of the super-stars of African affairs. Jimmy Carter is in country witnessing the multi-day vote, already declaring it a likely success. Kofi Annan, of Ghana and the former supremo of the United Nations, is standing by. And Barack Obama, the U.S. president, took the time to expend his rhetorical gifts on the future of the Sudanese people, penning an article on the vote for The New York Times.

The results seem pre-ordained: a new nation is being born on African soil. Hooray for the self-determination of the southern Sudanese. Their victory, however, means a halt to the curious mania over who will rule Ivory Coast. The stalemate continues — between northern and southern factions — with no clear-cut resolution in the offing.

The lesson here is obvious and simple: the international community has a “capacity problem” in the matter of sub-Saharan Africa: there’s only room for one big problem to be engaged at a time. Fair enough. The fate of Sudan is a worthy rationale for asking the rest of Africa to wait its turn.

Jan 01 2011

Obama’s goes amateur on Ivory Coast

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 12:40 PM

The Obama administration’s approach to Laurent Gbagbo, based on new reporting from The New York Times, suggests that U.S. officials are caught in a time warp. They’re behaving as if it is the 1990s, and their object is to induce Mobuto from power in the Congo. The proffer of “asylum” in the U.S. – or a plum posting with an international agency — has the ring of lunacy about it, as if the administration was mistaking Gbagbo for a Charles Taylor, a Kuanda or even a Mugabe.

Gbagbo may possess many flaws, but he is not in need of asylum, or an international job for which he neither suited professionally nor temperamentally. Nor will comical offers of relocating him to the U.S. induce him to leave Ivory Coast either. Gbagbo might indeed be wondering who is crazier, him or the U.S. officials assigned to oversee his exit from office.

His defiant response to foreign criticism is thus no crazier than the American conception of his exit. In his address on the eve of 2011, Mr Gbagbo said the pressure for him to quit amounted to “an attempted coup d’etat carried out under the banner of the international community”.

To be sure, Gbagbo must go, not in a coup d’etat, but in a legal, necessary and inevitable transfer of power. But once out of power, Gbagbo should be free to choose where he wishes to live, and even include Ivory Coast on the list of his future domiciles. I recall distinctly how Jerry Rawlings in Ghana was able to live peacefully amid his former subjects after he was “termed out” ten years ago. One night in 2002 I even danced with my wife Chizo of Port Harcourt to a hi-life band at Accra’ legendary dance club run named after the city’s most sophisticated lawyer. Around midnight I found myself admiring Rawlings up close. He was dancing with his wife’s sister barely inches from me. I wrote an article at the time called “Dancing with Dictators” in which I marveled at the  capacity of Ghanaians to permit their former dictator-turned-elected-president to live peacefully among them.

So, the answer to the question of whither Gbagbo post presidency is simple: let him choose the terms of his persistence. The zany notion presented by the Obama administration, expressed to The New York Times by one anonymous official, that “the longer the stalemate ensues, and the more violence there is, the more that window closes,” reflects an ossified view of African politics, a bygone understanding of the internal dynamics within Ivory Coast and West Africa. The reality that Obama’s people refuse to face is that two years into office, their president has been unable to forge an effective policy for U.S. engagement with Nigeria, the sun-regional economic powerhouse, or Ivory Coast, the most important Francophone country. Only in Liberia, where the U.S. has a legacy of outsized influence, has Obama’s presence been felt. Everywhere else in West Africa, even in docile Ghana, the new president has left no mark, which is why, as I noted last month in the Christian Science Monitor, his political fortunes appear to run counter the fortunes of American relations with the sub-Saharan.

To be sure, in the days and weeks ahead the U.S. will influence the events in Ivory Coast. But Obama’s amateur Africanists should not flatter themselves: their influence, at best, is limited. Only by playing well with others — the French, the United Nations, and sub-regional ECOWAS grouping dominated by Nigeria — will the U.S. have any role in the outcome in Abidjan. For Americans in power, the era of hubris and over-reach — towards of Africa and the international community — has yet to end.