Friday, November 02, 2007

Good governance is not a luxury

In this new post, I am sharing some thoughts about governance, which has become one of the most heated debates in both developing and developed countries. I remember being told about the ‘African tree’ by my parents who had the privilege to spend some years breathing clean air in rural areas. Indeed, during that time they used to gather under trees to discuss about various topics and issues in the village. Through those gatherings some chiefs actually used to consult with their subjects. Some scholars have called this the African democracy.

If I get further back into ancient time, we learn that classical tasks of the state have been making war and ensuring internal order. However, the event of modernism has seen the state mostly performing a role of economic transformation and development achievement though still performing its classical roles.

In present times, there is mounting evidence that success in development depends, to certain extent, on internal structures that a state is made of. Many studies such as the one by the sociologist Peter Evans prove enough that differences in the level of development is much due to the nature of states and the kind of relationships states develop with their societies.

As far as sub-Saharan Africa is concerned, the observation is that conditions of empty democracies easing elite to capture many states, failing and under-resourced bureaucracies, corruption, and many other symptoms still prevail. Yet without state, the other master institution of modern society (markets) cannot function (Evans 1995).

On the other hand, “managing an economy is not an easy task, especially in a context of global imperatives, where a country that deviates from the global norm is meted with punishment by global capital. The task is more difficult in a society like ours [South Africa] with conflicting imperatives. … These competing imperatives pose critical challenges for building one nation that belongs to all South Africans. To a large extent, South Africa’s ability to effectively address these imperatives will be dependent on the ability of the ruling party, the African National Congress… (Edigheji, 2005).

However, this long quote should not be taken for excuse. Instead, Africa should learn that the 3 successful post-war development experiences over the world emphasize the role that state apparatuses have played:

  • The Marshall plan, which consisted of funding the post war reconstruction of Europe. Great results where achieved by European states such as France.
  • The East Asian Growth and Development Plan (where US capital inflows helped to generate anti-communist states), and
  • The European Integration Programme (attempt to promote growth and overcome regional inequalities in Europe).

In the East Asian case for instance, the East Asian miracle, countries did not only receive US aid to prevent communist expansion. Well known as the tigers, states played a vital role by:

  • Successfully using financial instruments to channel investment decisions in line with national priorities, hence the concept of state-capitalism;
  • Effectively initiating and presiding industrial transformation, hence the concept developmental state;
  • Surmounting particularistic interest and securing collective goals, hence the concept embedded autonomy.

In the 1990s, the World Bank initiated a research in more than 200 countries to determine prospects of development based on six sectors:

  • Voices and Accounatbility, measuring political, civic and human rights;
  • Political Instability and Violence - measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism;
  • Government Effectiveness - measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery;
  • Regulatory Burden - measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
  • Rule of Law - measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, including judiciary independence, and the incidence of crime;
  • Control of corruption.

All the 6 indicators used by the bank relate to governance, that shows how good governance is determinant for development.

In 2005, the World Bank research was released and its main findings indicate that a realistic improvement in just one of the 6 areas within a country, can result in about 300% increase in the national per capita income over the long the term!
Main conclusions of the World Bank report are that:

  • Improved governance leads to higher standards of living and poverty alleviation;
  • Such improvements in governance are realistic;
  • Measuring governance changes over time: significant improvements are feasible;
  • Yet the worldwide reality is sobering: limited progress on average;
  • Demand for rigorously monitoring progress: the power of data.

Hence the Bank to conclude: ‘Yet good governance is not a luxury that only wealthy countries can afford’.

Despite this brief book review one should be aware that I am not an advocate of the World Bank, in fact my empirical study in DRC last year made me side with those still questioning the genuineness of the Bank’s latest policy regarding poverty alleviation, I do respect most of their research findings.

Besides that, the UN Convention against Corruption has just set some institutional arrangements to fight corruption and urges States to appoint bodies to coordinate prevention and enforcement measures (UNDP, April 2006).

All this makes me conclude that the thesis that development’s outcomes in third world depend on the role a state performs is still valid to a certain extent. Thus, good and stable governance, sound macroeconomic policies, pro-poor bureaucracies and service delivery will characterize African countries that are going to make a difference.


Soccer world cup: some lessons to learn

I am happy to be back to blogging after one month. Before I jump to sharing practical workdays, I would like to share some experiences from the soccer world cup in Germany, as it constitutes a special world of work in its own. Indeed, Germany 2006 has been not only a great time for entertainment but also a learning experience on success, competition, teamwork, passion, etc at both personal and corporate levels.

Over what was happening in the twelve German stadiums, many people were given an opportunity to voice their opinions. Three people attracted my attention by the way they related the world cup event to their careers, life, cultures and opinions: Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and the Ivorian president Laurent Bagbo.

For Bagbo, probably sending a political message to French he accuse of over doing in his country’s affairs, Italy has proved to be an established and respectful soccer team in Europ. Maybe in a political message to Bush’ zeal in the fight against terrorism, Clinton said: “sometimes defense is better than offence”.

Our very own African brother, the UN general secretary Kofi Annan probably had one of the most inspiring words for this world cup:

  • “The World Cup makes us in the UN green with envy. As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by every race and religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations. You could even say it's more universal. FIFA has 207 members; we have only 191. But there are far better reasons to be envious… The United Nations fully relies on this language as it promotes fair play, which is the blueprint to build a better world … the World Cup is an event, which takes place on a level playing field, where every country has a chance to participate on equal terms. Only two commodities matter in this game: talent and teamwork. I wish we had that in the global arena… The World Cup is an event which everybody on the planet loves talking about…. They know who scored and how and in what minute of the game... I wish we had more of that sort of conversation in the world at large…Citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better on the Human Development Index, or in reducing the number of carbon emissions or new HIV infections”.
Soccer or sport in general has proved one more time its potential to induce love, peace, forgiveness, and to a certain extent development.

By the time the world is going to watch the first-ever African organized world cup, my wish is to see people being really mobilized to fight corruption, hunger, and unfair trade with the very same spirit and enthusiasm we saw in Germany. Would African people, led by civil society organizations, take a stance and start issuing yellow and red cards to politicians.

For wits WOW 2006 team, should we also learn passion from the players and have the same focus as Italian defenders not to commit the fatal mistake, should we also have that killer instinct of German strikers to always handle our tasks with tact and precision. There is a lot to learn from the career path of a soccer player given that this is the rare careers where workers, I mean players, achieve a lot in their young age and retire so young, mostly in their early thirties! We should not forget that despite their personal skills, soccer players work hard to be part of the national squad (23 players only). They also work had to be part of the fifteen for each game. They even work harder to fit in each game. So far, Wits Interns have good times and I hope all of us will fit in their host organizations or get something for long-term careers.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Development prospects after elections in the DRC

Last Sunday 30 July 2006 has been historic for Africa as the Demaocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held democratic elections after 46 years. Now that Congolese have cast their votes, let’s have a look at what comes next in terms of development.

Independent since June 1960 from Belgium colonialism and despite its vast and diverse mineral resources, the DRC has not done well in terms of development. Part of the reason is that former governments have only promoted elitist enrichment at the expense of impoverished vast majority of Congolese.

Though far from home, I have been following very closely how elections have been prepared and run, hence I share my views here about the prospect of development in the post electoral DRC.

I have a mixed feeling about my country: hope and fear. Hope comes from the fact that these elections constitute an opportunity for longlasting peace and an opportunity for paving the way for reconstruction. Fear comes from the fact that the country is in a total development mess and chaos that even an elected government might just get confused to prioritize its actions and fail to kick start reconstruction. I still do not know which way the country will take, but I wish the best.

Since the Argentinean referee blew the final whistle in Germany with the crowning of Italy as the soccer world champion, my eyes are off screen and that allows me to devote at least an hour analyzing some six (of whom a lady) candidates’ agendas and discourses in the presidential race.

Indeed, despite one's will to track all candidates, you easily get confused as 33 people are contending for the single presidential seat. Had I been a political researcher or analyst, embarking in such an exercise would be a passionate thing.

My personal analysis led me to three observations about predidential in the DRC:

  • either a good diagnosis of the situation by presidential contenders
  • or a campaign marred by a demagogic discourse; and lastly
  • More wish lists than coherent development agendas;

When critically watching and reading news covering the DRC presidential campaign, a well-informed listener learns that most candidates have tailored their discourses to what attendees want to hear (The Voice of America, Radio France International, RadioOkapi, Channelafrica, SABC, the Star, Business Day, Financial Times, etc ).

There is no doubt that most of them have an accurate reading of the illnesses the country has been suffering from for years. Though most of them have been associated to and account for the poor development results achieved in the country, no one dared to provide explanations for that. Lesson to learn: the 'business as usual' argument likely to persit.

Some contenders went far by finger pointing others for being worse than them. Using means at their disposal: food, t-shirts and even money; contenders drew crowds to attend their public addresses. To show how demagogic this has been, most attendees promised not to vote for people they received these things from. “ It is my right to accept whatever I was given since all these things are part of the national wealth these people looted…but my behavior does not give any of them the right to claim my vote”, argued one of them.

Despite the knowledge and awareness candidates displayed, the issue however, is when it comes to how they indent to surmount the very same issues they diagnosed. To treat the chaos the country is in, most candidates enumerated long and long lists of what their intentions for reconstruction are. I don't recall one practically getting to the 'how'.

Despite that and whatever the outcome of these elections and despite its loopholes, I strongly believe that the country would have made a giant step further. I do side along with those who still hope that these elections may give to an elected Congolese government an opportunity to consolidate peace and kick-start reconstruction and development.

The challenge however, would be how well does the next ruling class maneuvers some of the development challenges the country faces: pacifying the great lake region and reconciling national and neighbor countries interests, consolidating peace, revitalizing diplomatic representations, visible presence in international decision-making fora, improving public governance and annihilating corruption, updating, recycling and building a new bureaucracy, demarcating political careers from bureaucratic careers, insulating bureaucratic career from political and ethnical affiliation, paving a way for youth to enter an expert-based bureaucratic career path, ensuring state and governance continuity, designing coherent and sound development policies and programmes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Data gathering

Almost two months have gone since I started my internship at Central African Gold (CAG) and the experience is so exciting .

I have been working on different tasks and that keeps me quite busy. One of the things I have been doing is collecting and analyzing information related to social aspects of mining. This is quite fascinating in a mining environment and most important to me is that sustainable growth is part of CAG’s vision.

To get back to data collection, which is something I have been good at for years and I am rarely worried about generating meaningful information. Moreover, being a French speaker gives me easy access to the literature from some French countries where CAG operates.

Despite all these advantages and available resources at CAG for one to fulfill his/her tasks, it happened that I encountered some challenges related to generating information:

  • Value and accuracy;
  • Access; and
  • Timeframe;

Whenever I am given a data-generating task, the first thing I do is to locate and collect information. Time management is very important here because I remember once to found my self spending much time collecting and trying to access information. In the aftermath, I was overwhelmed with data to analyze in such a short period of time. Good for me as I got it right and learned about managing my time at work.

Accessing data and getting valuable information is another good challenge I am learning to deal with. Some data are just useless and can cost one's time. What a nightmare if you spend all your time on that. When you know exactly what is needed you can still avoid that trap.

The another thing is that if you get something approximate to what is required, there is a reason for one to feel upset, especially if your supervisor cares for accuracy and validity. For the first time I got approximate information I was so stressed. In fact, there was not enough available information but I managed to get the best available. Though I was not blamed, I felt anxious about it.

I am quite happy here at CAG because many people have been helping me to get some information that are relevant to my tasks and I am learning to effectively manage the challenges related to data gathering. Analysis is another thing I like, but so far I have not been analyzing much and that is still to come. Nonetheless I feel happy about the feedback for some analysis I have submitted already. It is such a pride when you provide valuable information and I wish to do that as long as I am at CAG.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day and the rise of Worker’s political influence

Yesterday we all joined workers to mark solidarity between workers from all nationalities in the world. For some, the celebration of the worker’s day is a remainder of the exploitation that workers have gone through over in past communist societies. For others, May Day is a reminder to the ruling classes that their days are numbered.

In South Africa, labor talks have been dominated by strikes organized by security guards and bus driver’s unions. Deaths and material damages that accompanied security guards protests raised some voices on the extent of the right to strike workers should be given. DA Tony Leon holds union’s leaders accountable for the losses. On the other hand, the business view is that this simply worsens the situation with a South African labor market not flexible enough to meet the requirements of economic globalization. Thus for businesses, strikes aggravate the situation by causing the economy loose billions.

On the international scene, celebrations of the worker’s day took different forms:

  • In US, where May 1 is usually a working ( worker’s day there is in September) , concerns to protect the basic rights of immigrants made the working class boycott work and go on the streets to support the National Immigrant Boycott. That was as a way of appreciating the economic, social and cultural contributions of immigrants;
  • In South Korea workers have been demanding better working conditions;
  • In DRC, union’s leaders have been sensitizing the working class on a rational vote for the July elections, asking workers to cast their votes only for those concerned with worker’s well being,
  • In Angola, workers have been demanding an increase of the minimum wage, when in France, after celebrating their success for defeating a government labor policy last month, unions have called for more pressure to make government concede more to their demands;
  • In Russia unions have been calling to protest against low wages and poverty, when Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki ordered an increase of 12 percent in the minimum wage for non-farm workers and 11 percent for farm workers.

Labor is something that affects our daily lives. Yet, the current pace of global production has seen shrinking work opportunities and increasing exclusion from formal work such as: informalization, casualization, outsourcing etc. Besides that, some other patterns have been developing at the expense of workers and the society at large: retrenchment, poor working conditions, sweatshops, child labor, and child soldiers.

In order to meet promises they made during their electoral campaign , some governments simply decided to give tax holidays and preferential conditions to MNCs and attract FDI. Most of the time, these deals have been made at the expense of workers. As a result, worker’s unions are have been confronted with some challenges that force them to find solutions out of their traditional areas of intervention.

One of those solutions has been the involvement in political activity. Labor parties have emerged as a serious political actor to count with, producing some well-known head of states and governments:

  • Tony Blair in UK, spreading the trend in European;
  • Ex Zambian president F Chilluba, not convincing enough to influence worker’s primacy in the African political scene;
  • Current Brazilian president Lula for Latin America;
  • Cosatu, member of the tripartite alliance in South Africa.

My view is that, an increased involvement of workers in public affairs may play not only a buffer role to political greed and mismanagement but also a crucial role to make our lands better places for all.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Healthier Africa for African development

Health is very crucial for development achievements. Indeed, development is a people-achieved action and in the event poor health conditions prevail, development is threatened.

Malaria and HIV-AIDS are the main reasons for health related deaths in the world, reports the World Health Organization. Despite the fact that malaria can be prevented and treated, it kills more than 1 million people in the world and mostly in Africa. The equatorial and tropical zones, with intense rains are the most favorable environments for the vectors of malaria, known as anopheles. These mosquitoes (anopheles) transmit the disease by a simple bite.

Since two years and half that I have been living in South Africa, I never suffered from malaria despite my several trips back home to Kinshasa (DRC). I use to take measure such as preventive pills before and after traveling. My father, a medical doctor, always make sure that I do that. South Africa is not the ideal place to talk of malaria. Most South African regions are malaria free, except some few areas, thus the disease might not be given same amount of attention compared to central Africa where I come from.

In response to the ravages malaria causes to the humanity, some years back, the WHO has launched the global malaria programme, which is responsible for malaria policy and strategy formulation, as well as operations support, capacity development, and coordinated action to fight malaria. Beside that, other UN agencies such as the UNICEF also have their own frameworks to implements strategies and programmes against malaria. All these strategies plan to meet the Millennium Development Goal 6 (MDG), which aims at combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Unfortunately, limited use of available research, poor monitoring and evaluation in some regions make any fight against malaria not effective as wished. Since 2001 for instance, the WHO demanded countries to change their strategies and switch to the ‘artemisinin-based combination therapies’ (ACTs), which combines some drugs together and better fight the disease. Despite such a requirement and a huge boost in health aid, many governments have not done better five years later.

Yesterday, the world joined Africa to celebrate its 6th malaria day which focused on how to provide universal access to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and call for these treatments to reach those who need them as quickly as possible. We all hope that this issue will be given enough attention at global and national levels, mostly in countries that are most concerned. Otherwise we cannot make development happen!

Monday, April 24, 2006

ARVs or Ubejane: silence from the government and dilemma for patients!

The effects of the HIV/Aids pandemic are so devastating that institutions, countries and people have to reconsider their behavior. On the last development, Vatican announces that the Catholic Church is about to publish a statement reconsidering its view on condom use .

Back to South Africa, the HIV-Aids debate over the past few weeks is mostly dominated by Zuma’s statement on his post sex shower for reducing risks of HIV infection and the microbicide conference in Durban.

The silence from the ministry of Health on Zuma’s declaration has surprised both local and international communities, throwing a mixed sentiment of confusion and interrogations in the public.

Over that realm, masses are subject to a very difficult test of choosing between a proven cure of ARVs and a non-toxic mixture of herbs (ubejane).

Bringing the debate on the media, guests of SABC3 Nikiwe had two contradicting views on interface last Sunday:

  • ARVs is not accessible to the majority of South Africans, let’s try the last no-toxic recipe from traditional medicine;
  • Proven cure can’t just be replaced by alternative solution that has not yet been tested to provide same or better results.

Besides the proven non-toxicity of Ubajane, advocates of the first viewpoint back their arguments with some cases of people feeling better. Leaving that aside, they also raise the old debate of western versus African medicine. Their argument: given that the majority of South African consults traditional healers who are now providing a cheaper but efficient solution, why don’t we delve into such an alternative?

I love Africa and home-based solutions, but I think this is too risky. Ubajane’s prescriber says he has no proof that his medication is efficient when associated with ARVs, patients have to choose between the two.

Proving non-toxicity or ability to increase appetite is not enough, information from the Medical University of South Africa says Ubajane does not heal HIV/Aids . However, this is a room for further researches such as the possibility of association of traditional medicine with other western solutions.

This is exactly what a government is supposed to do. Seemingly, the SA health department decides to keep quite. The official from the Department of Health decided to decline the invitation at interface last Sunday on SABC.

On the other hand, western medicine is not left behind. The microbicide
conference in Cape Town is going to expose on advancements made to reduce risks of contamination from HIV/aids.

As a result, despite major achievements that both western and traditional medicine can provide, the HIV/Aids situation in South Africa is likely to get worse as the government decides to entertain confusion!

Friday, April 14, 2006

I am back to blogging!

My blogging activities on the past two weeks were very uneven and slow. I kept on pondering on how to be blogging as long as technology would allow me. This question came to me when I closely questioned the WOW 2006 team and individual blogging. Most of our blog posts consist of the presentations we listened to. Not bad. That was what we have been most exposed to.

But, I felt like trapped: what am I going to blog about after these presentations will be over?

I allowed my self a moment of thought. During that time, I have been reading some other blogs to get a better grasp of the blogosphere.

Another concern I had was about the theming of the teamblog. I am not against the idea of being guided by a theme, but at certain times I feel like writing pieces of university essays. I like change and I always go green. Having been studying development since my first year at university, when preparing a post for the teamblog, I felt like writing assignments. I have certain stuff that I never dared to post. It looks like writing assignments again and again. That is the very reason, whenever I have to post on the teamblog on the theme of African development; I try my best to link it to news or any other topic. Moreover, I avoid making it as formal as an assignment given that there are so many books, websites, experts, journals, etc that address the topic better than I do. Hold on, I am not underestimating my self. I was a very good student.

Thus, I try to find the right balance between the scientific requirement of the theme and whatever I want to share. I felt encouraged in this approach when I read John T hunger’s blog, comments left in Roy's blog, Kawasaki's, Seth, Microsoft Geek blogger, especially this one.

I learnt a lot from other bloggers and mostly that blogging is a way of socializing, sharing your experiences, making friends (the post on Naked conversations is a good case of socializing through bloggs). That does not exclude purely professional blogs. Where one decides to write on what he knows the best, Kasawasaki is an illustration. There are political blogs, journalists’ blogs, etc. Since life is all about choices, I chose to blog for socializing and build up professionalism in the process.

Memorial days

When I was still attending high school, History and geography were not among my favorite subjects though I was doing well. Later on, I became quite familiar with memorial dates. However, I never memorized a third of them.

It all started when in 2001 I was the SRC Chairperson in my university, Facultés Catholiques de Kinshasa. One of the innovations my term brought was to run at least twice a month, one conference on an international event or world memorial days. Since then, I have been closely watching events such as world water day, world tree day, world health day, etc.

The month of April for instance, reminds us about some very important world day celebrations:
v The World Health Day: 7th
v The World Parkinson Day, 11th ,
v On the 17th , we celebrate the World Prayers Day, world Peasant Struggles Day as well Hemophilia Day,
v And many others,

For today the 14th, my record shows me no great celebrations. However, some events that coincidently happened in this very same date are worth to be remembered. They are religious, political, and social tragic or joyful events:

v 1191 Consecration of pope Celestin III;
v 1865 American president, Abraham Lincoln, wounded on an attempt of coup. He died on the following day;
v 1907 an earthquake destroys a area within the city of Acapulco in Mexico;
v 1907 François Duvalier, "Papa Doc", self proclaimed president of Haiti and ruled for life,
v 1912 the Titanic hurt an iceberg, few hours later it was tragic, 1 513 dead;
v 1942 birth of Valeri Brumel, an athlete, Olympic champion who won the high jump in 1964 and break the record 6 consecutive times;
v 1945 Canadians soldiers arrive to the city of Arnhem and liberate the Netherlands;
v 1945 Americans bombard Tokyo and the King Palace.
v 1972 South Africa is excluded from the Davis Cup because of Apartheid.
v 1986 the famous French female philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir died;
v 2002 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is back to power after a failed attempt of coup by de Pedro Carmona;
v 2005, I, Cyrille graduated for my postgraduate diploma in Social welfare at Wits;

Look at how the very same day brings either happiness or catastrophes. That’s life!