Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Where is Sweden?
We do not seem to have any ambitions for our presence in Africa.
Sweden used to play a respected role in (at least some parts of) Africa. We probably overestimated our importance and significance. But those who have been working or interacting with business colleagues, government representatives, brother or sister organizations, or visiting as tourists in Tanzania or Ethiopia, can vouch for the warm welcome extended to us, simply for being Swedes.
This is no longer the case. For sure, Sweden is reasonably known, but not more. We are seen as a loyal and anonymous member of the EU family. In both Tanzania and Ethiopia, old memories and contacts fade away, or are replaced by other actors, who have higher ambitions. I am not only talking about major upcoming powers such as China and its increasing influence, I am also referring to other countries, which seem to have an active agenda.
In Addis we are passive; in Southern Sudan we are anonymous. With Eritrea the relations are frosty (I agree, they should be). In Kenya we are one among plenty, in Rwanda we are still respected, but not more and not known. In Uganda we have no specific profile (and maybe we should lower it further). In Tanzania our old contacts are still there, but older. Nothing is done to replenish. Our high profile involvement in Somali peace efforts are now being played down.
This is depressing and it is surprising. We have a strong network of embassies in the regions. We still have many close contacts and entry points; impressive knowledge and networks. Our involvement should increase, but it is being dismantled.
It is also short sighted. We can see that Africa is growing in importance, politically and economically. We are selling a lot of our products in East Africa; many companies are establishing themselves in the region. We invest lot of aid money – with good results.
In Africa, whatever and wherever Sweden used to be, it’s not any longer. And that is our own making.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday May 22
The countries are developing along very different lines and in lanes for different speeds.
Differences in traditional left-right politics are difficult to pin down, even to identify; politics is more about persons and power than about parties and programs.
Corruption exists everywhere but is more entrenched in Kenya than in Rwanda and Ethiopia. South Sudan is too early to tell; in Uganda it is reported to be on the rise, as in Tanzania.
Integration ambitions are high, not least East African .The same in the past: The old East African Community did not break up because of lack of attempts or joint institutions. But because of lack of a shared vision, valid also domestically.
Somalia. As pessimistic as before. A society privatized beyond belief, including airstrips, ports and road blocks. Your Kalashnikov is your credit card. To taxation, terrorism and drugs we can now add another source of income; piracy. How establish a situation where Somalis powerful profit more on peace than on conflict? The neighbors must be coherent and consistent, including Eritrea. Can the Diaspora play a constructive role?
Ethiopia. Strong leadership. Rapid growth but still overwhelmingly poor. Will the regional Ethiopian “states” sit still in the growth boat? Next election must be a step towards openness and fairness. Seem to have decided to leave Eritrea to Eritreans, hoping for internal regime change.
South Sudan. To be born on July 9. Unclear leadership, at least untested. Rumors of internal cracks and conflicts. Start from below scratch; no human capacity. 900 Kenyans are working as Technical Assistants, all drivers are Ugandans or Ethiopians, all hotels etc owned by foreigners, maybe as cover for SPLA, but still. Oil reserves will last only a few years. South Sudan must diversify its economy, has to be agriculture, land galore but no farmers.
Kenya. Scars from the post-election-violence 2008 are still there, very little seems to have been done to heal. Now focus on elections, 15 months down the road. The expectation bar must be put higher than to avoid fraud and violence. The same players, sometimes in new games or dances, but still the same.
A new constitution is finally in place, the 100 days president Kibaki promised in 2002 became 2000. Now the question is as to choose between pest or cholera: Implement the constitution or not. It is an extremely costly constitution, layers of institutions with overlapping and/or unclear mandates. But of course the constitution is a major step forward, not least for its major endorsement by the people.
Decent growth but not more. Imbalances seem to persist, between those who have and those who don’t. The “Pulling apart” report that we the Swedes worked with in 2005 unveiled the enormous gaps, which explode in 2008, but it seems to have had no lasting political effect. New houses for the rich are sprouting, but Kibera is still Kibera - although he 2009 census claims that it never had the size that we all were told and believed, maybe "only" a quarter of it.
Corruption and impunity seems to continue to be the order of the day; the constant risk of Grand Coalitions like Kenya´s with no political checks.
Should be one of the “big five”, and be important to all the landlocked. Does not carry the expected weight regionally; “we are busy fighting each other, we have no time to be engaged regionally”.
Uganda. Musevenis trajectory is deeply tragic. Risk that the oil will be a curse? Will their finally be an end to LRA through joint efforts?
Rwanda. Moving fast. Do the people have a chance to follow? As always different and partly conflicting views, mainly from outside observers. New insurgents small and probably helpless. Fighting corruption and Doing Business, great improvements. Modernization has to reach also the modern sector; a radically new media law might be a sign of that. Kagame has six years to go, he will utilize them but will not try to manipulate the constitution to stay on beyond that, that is one thing I am sure of.
What are the effects on East Africa of the developments in North Africa?
North African revolt is not about political ideology, it is about Freedom and Frustration. Absence of Freedom or democratic space, Frustration caused by unemployment and corruption. In East Africa we could add Fuel and Food.
In Ethiopia and Rwanda the crisis was handled smoothly through tax reductions, In South Sudan no one has noticed, yet, they are waiting for the North to tremble. In Kenya, the normal happened; chaos, accusations, questions in parliament, probably corruption, in the end no one knows. In Uganda, it became a fiasco for the Museveni regime, a sign of the lack of democratic space that would allow demonstrations and open up for dialogue.
The way the crisis was handled illustrates the different political cultures – and the maturity of the leaders
......were mentioned earlier as of crucial importance. Now to some other issues that can break optimistic scenarios. But, at the same time, they carry with them a strong potential for increased growth and reduced poverty.
• The big five (Angola, South Africa, Egypt, DRC and Kenya (?) must be stable and grow. They are important in their own right, because of their economic size, but also for their landlocked neighbors; the impact of the Kenyan economy on Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Southern Sudan. If the dominant actors are in disarray so will those inland, the cost of passing through neighbors with goods becomes too high. And Africa has many small and landlocked countries that depend on their immediate neighbors. Lack of good infrastructure and interregional trade compounds the effect of long distances and small economies.
• Macro policies or conditions need to continue to improve. ITC must penetrate deeper to speed up transactions and facilitate investments. Rwanda has showed that it is possible in Doing Business. Still there is insecurity, or at least perceptions of insecurity, among investors. Africa has only 3% of global FDI (Foreign Direct Investments), and investors demand 25% in Return on Investment as a risk premium. DDI (Domestic Direct Investments) is not surfacing and 40% of revenues leave Africa.
• Corruption, a major obstacle. On the increase, widespread, big and small. The patron-client relation is extremely deep rooted and some of its more respectable functions must be addressed by institutions such as pension systems and quotas for recruitments.
• Inequality another major obstacle. Going from bad to worse. Only 5% of farm land is owned by women. They till the soil but their sweat falls on the men’s land. The gap between rich and poor is appalling and untenable. The inability by the very rich to realize this, is equally appalling- and shortsighted.
• Climate change. The main response must be to build capacity to plan. Investments should normally be in methods that we are used to and know how to handle.
• Demographic transition is going on and will continue. Africa is going from 7 to 5 to 3 kids when first mortality and then fertility go down, as it did all over the world. This will have huge social and economic consequences for states, families and individuals. In 30 years Africa will have the largest number of people in productive ages, China now, India tomorrow. This is an enormous opportunity but also a potential threat, if these resources are not utilized productively.
• Natural resources, curse or blessing? The jury is still out; institutions matter. There are many mementos: Uganda has known resources, but for how long and how will it be handled? Southern Sudan has reserves that last only 5-10 years, they must plan for something entirely different, called agriculture; they have fertile land but no farmers. The dangers are increased corruption or that the existence of oil puts a hold on diversification of production and efforts to move up the value chain in their economies.
Going through the list might makes you think that there are more threats than opportunities. Understandable, it is easier to imagine dramatic setbacks than the more anonymous increases in agricultural productivity or affordability in ITC .
Leaders in African countries can change the course, set the tone, give directions and create the needed sense of urgency by bold decisions but also by simply walk the talk. In development of democracy and good governance, in reduction of conflicts and in the fight against corruption – leaders matter.
What can be said about the coming years? We know of course a lot. But there are also many unknowns; we can foresee that major changes will take place and new dramas will unfold, but we cannot foresee where or when. IMF , however, has ventured to make a prognosis This is what they say for the period 2011-2015:
Seven of the top 10 fast growing countries for the coming five years will be African: Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria.
Countries on both lists (2000-10 and 2011-15) are in bold. Dropouts from the 2000 - 2010-list are Angola, Chad and Rwanda. Newcomers are Tanzania, Congo, Ghana and Zambia. The three non African are China, India and Vietnam.
What can we say about this new Africa?
It will be diverse. We already have many “Africas” but that trend might be even stronger in the coming years. Some are travelling in fast lanes, some lag behind.
The speeders have all the modern attributes and technology. They will be able to leapfrog; no PCs but all mobile. Music fashion and media industry will continue its rapid expansion. New mixes of hybrid languages will create new cultures, and be the result of it.
Integrations efforts will continue, both for the whole continent and for sub regions. Africa will be courted for raw material and land, and will still be an arena for outside players, but with increasing space to be an actor that will speak up with increased confidence.
But even with this positive scenario we must remember that Africa is still poor and vulnerable, the situation is fragile. I submit 10 caveats (or opportunities) to indicate and to illustrate. Let me start with two, of crucial importance:
- Conflicts will last long and some reemerge. DRC, South Sudan, both internally and with the north, Ethiopia -Eritrea might be candidates in this category. LRA is still causing havoc, far beyond its strength. There are unresolved tensions in both Uganda and Kenya
- Democracy. The need to go from institutions to culture. From a winner takes all to a constructive opposition and a responsible majority. End of “it is our time to eat”. The role of fuel and food, together with Freedom and Frustration, in creating unrest. The need for strong and decent Local government, which would change the roles of MPs: to focus on national issues such as a road policy rather than tarmac on my road. What will be the foundations for societies, Ethnicity or Democracy? Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Somalia have chosen different paths. Role of Religion; private or political? Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims seem to grow.
To be continued……
Thursday May 19
What caused the dramatic improvements in Africa’s development perspectives during the first decade of this century?
Let me first make of few sobering comments on the figures. In a few cases it is quite clear that the reason for the rapid growth is the rock bottom level at the start of the climb: During the conflicts all development indicators, including GDP, plummet and when conflicts recede the first years will often witness rapid growth, albeit from a very low level. Rwanda and Chad could illustrate this factor on the list. High prices on raw material, such as oil, are another explanation, illustrated by Angola and Nigeria. But there is little wrong per se in benefitting from your natural resources; the important thing is how you do it and how you handle the proceeds.
The quality of the growth is another week point, it has often reached the urban middle class and elite, but not beyond that.
But nevertheless: Sustained high growth means change, or hope of change, for millions of people.
So what has caused this quite dramatic shift in Africa? Four reasons:
1. Peace - at least fewer conflicts. We are not sure if poverty or abundance leads to conflicts, it varies. But we know abundantly clear that conflicts lead to poverty. Number of conflicts has decreased. Most of them are internal such as in southern Sudan although many of them have repercussions across borders (LRA). A few have government as part, as Darfur. Even less is between states, such as Ethiopia versus Eritrea. It is a token of new roles and renewed confidence in the region that AU and African leaders want to play a more active role Kofi Annan played in Kenya, is an illustration.
2. Democracy – at least participation. Looking 15 years back, Africa has had a faster growth of democracy than any other continent. Linked to conflicts of course: We do believe that participatory politics are the best way to handle conflicts, not always solve, but manage. In Kenya, it did not solve or manage well, but it was actually democracy itself that was hijacked.
3. Domestic policies- at least macro economy-are more in order. Structural Adjustment Programs of the 80s did at least one good thing; it made everybody realize the importance of a budget in order. Debts, inflation and rates are down. And those who suffered from high inflation were the poor. They are also hit by poor policies in justice or business; insecurity, lawlessness, corruption. Those who enjoy impunity are the rich. Why hire a lawyer if you can buy a judge?
4. High prices on raw material.
To be continued……but then for a look in the crystal ball, not the rear mirror.
Wednesday May 18
Time to wind up, try to summarize five weeks of travelling, seeing, discussing and reading. We have connected and reconnected.
Even a region as huge as East Africa needs to be seen in the bigger context, that of Africa as a whole but also against global trends and events. Here is a modest attempt.
Globally, we have been living in a dramatic era the last years. A cliché, but true: Japan, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt to name a few during 2011 only. There seems to be three main categories of events that shake and shape:
• The first is categorized by Japan that was hit by earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power disasters. It is dramatic, tragic and huge but will be managed. It has limited global or regional repercussions.
• North Africa, what Aljazeera calls “the Arab awakening”. Major shift with huge repercussions on geopolitics. The issues are not on political ideology but of Freedom, absence of it, and Frustrations, plenty of it, mainly unemployment and corruption.
• A third drama is the global growth and the changing economic and political order. More profound than the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. That revolution concerned one third of the planet, fast growing countries now represent 75% of the globe. They have half of the world’s energy consumption but 80% of its increase. Is is actually back to normal; these countries used to have 70-80 % of world GDP from 1000 to 1850. A dramatic process and we are in the middle of it. Power relations are already changing including the governing bodies of international organizations. We have only seen the beginning.
If we turn to the African continent, an attempt to summarize trends the last 30 years would be:
The 80’s were lost for Africa, the 90’s were better and the 2000’s were dramatically better. The result is amazing:
Africa had 6 out of 10 fastest growing countries in 2000-2010: Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Rwanda.
The others were China, Myanmar, Kazakhstan and Cambodia. Source: IMF
What happened and why, that is my cliffhanger for tomorrow……..
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday May 17
It is difficult to match an early morning in Maasai Mara. You can see forever, wide green plains adorned with singular trees or with patches of forest or bush. Far away mountains are slowly climbing out of the plains, reaching for the blue sky. It is teeming with game, wildebeests, impalas, gazelles, buffalos, giraffes. Go down to a river, any of them and you will find hippos eating, snorkeling and honking, or returning in full speed (watch out!) after a late grazing spree.
Nothing however, beats when you on this particular morning find yourself 10 meters from a leopard; tranquil, lazily at ease, basking in the morning sun. Draped, almost poured. over a dry rock perturbing from the almost dried up stream. The mornings catch was a big fat lizard, which the leopard kept hidden in a half meter high patch of grass at the bank or the river. Luckily on our side, so we could watch the leopard from only a few meters, not caring at all about us, but still attentive.
How did we (or rather the driver cum guide) track the leopard? Well, animal solidarity it was nothing less. A few geese were making a lot of noise, the way only geese can, when we passed the small river. The geese were not at all in danger; they could just fly off any time. But they stayed within 20 meters of the leopard in order to alarm the rest of the animal community. When we came, they looked at us and left, their mission accomplished.
Nice story isn’t it? Our guide promised it was true.
But Maasai Mara is obviously running the risk of being overexploited. Communal lands just outside have been privatized, and the now owners have sold their land to property developers. The number of lodges is now more than 200 on the Kenyan side. On the much larger Tanzania side, Serengeti, the number of lodges, cars, roads is radically lower.
A tragic development is that the cheetahs seem to be in extreme danger to be extinct. There are now only 50 in the whole of Mara. Their problem is, however, not caused by human interference, but seems to be low genetic variation in the gradually diminishing population. An exchange with South Africa, that has a similar problem with their cheetahs, is discussed or maybe even planned.
Don’t we recognize the problem from our discussions in Sweden about our wolves?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday May 16
Recent events threw some light on the integration ambitions in East Africa, and the large territory that remains to cross.
The most dramatic was the brutal way that the Ugandan forces used to stop demonstrators, including beating up Museveni’s main opponent, Besigye. After medical treatment in Nairobi, Besigye returned to Kampala the same day Museveni was sworn in. It took Besigye nine hours to get home from the airport, making many stopovers to address supporters, accompanied by police firing live and rubber bullets in attempts to disperse the crowds.
What has that to do with east African integration aspirations? To start with: Comments on this drama demanded that EAC (East African Community) should do something about it. Such a request is far from the community’s mandate, but is must be taken as a sign of trust (albeit unrealistic) in the power of role of the Community. Besigye´s return also illustrated the question of free movement of people within the Community; only Rwanda and Kenya have so far extended that right to everybody. Kenya Airways did not allow the opposition leader aboard a plane back, based on “internal intelligence” that the plane would not be allowed to land in Entebbe with such a dangerous cargo. This, in turn, lead to protests, allegations and excuses.
It also illustrated some of the problems the countries need to attack in order to be a well integrated union, such as common views, rules and regulations concerning media.
Another development: Rwanda enlisting support of EAC to fight or possibly stamp out a new anti Rwanda group being trained somewhere in the region. Again, they are unlikely to get support from EAC as such, but the interesting point is that they see EAC as an increasingly important arena for presenting arguments, and to lobby for partners and support.
A third development, not limited to EAC and to East Africa but with bearing on the whole of East and North Africa: A week ago six countries ratified a “Common Framework Agreement” regarding the use of the Nile waters. The Framework will put an end to Egypt’s unilateral control over the use of the river, based on a colonial treaty from 1929! It will now be possible to initiate developments projects upstream of the river. Those who signed were Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
The Community is moving fast to enter and conclude formal phases; a monetary union is scheduled already for next year. The Besigye affairs, and the varying ways the fuel and food protests in member countries were handled, illustrate the different political cultures and democratic spaces in member states. That might be a harder nut to crack than formal integration procedures and protocols.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Sunday May 15
In official IMF figures on growth, Ethiopia is doing tremendously well, being on the top 10 list for both 2001-10 and 2011-15. Rwanda belonged to it for the past period but not for the projected future, but will certainly struggle to make it to the list. Tanzania will join the top performers in the coming period.
Kenya has been able to change the dismal record of the Moi era (14 years in a row with negative GDP per capita) and is now in the area of 5-7% growth.
Southern Sudan, we simply do not know, statistics is not readily available or reliable and the divorce is not yet completed.
Three reflections based on discussions and reading but also, I admit, on more anecdotic evidence:
The first is that growth seems so be concentrated to the urban areas. Urban or rather focused on the capital? Ring roads and houses schemes in Addis, driven by the Government. Private house development in Nairobi, including piracy and drug money flowing from Somalia. Roads and houses in Kigali. Mostly Government initiated but also private money (DRC?)
The second one is that the main sectors driving the development are telecom, construction and beer. Construction and beer are certainly most local but in telecom the main international or regional actors perform on the scene.
The third has to do with growth and equality. I believe that the gap between those who have ant those who have not, will widen and will be a major political issue, if not addressed. The 2008 post violence in Kenya illustrates this; it was primarily an issue of democracy but with a strong dimension of inequality which turned ethnic.
Many of the efforts focus on getting a larger and more productive middle class. That is needed, but certainly not sufficient; other policies are needed. The large groups of unemployed youth in Eastleigh and Kibera in Nairobi, should send alarm signals to those who have money and power. The frustration factor is high and it opens up a huge space for populist politicians to woe or buy protesters.
I thought we know by now that trickle-down does not function; it has just been a fig leaf behind which you did nothing for the poor.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Saturday May 14
It is easy to like Rwanda, even easier to be fascinated by it. The genocide is still, 17 years later, overshadowing everything. It is everything’s start and everything’s end. It will be for at least another generation. We must remember that it is only 17 years since it tore the country apart.
What are the tendencies, where is Rwanda heading?
First the economy, stupid, Rwanda is among the top 10 performers in the world during 2001-10. You can see it and you can feel it. Will they be able to sustain this growth and will they be able to reach out of Kigali? Moving out of subsistence agriculture to more valued added production is a sine qua non for the coming years. A more geographically balanced development is also politically and socially important in order to bridge gaps in the society. But Rwanda also needs foreign investments. These are being courted, but they must be convinced about the (low) risks of investing in Rwanda.
Social cohesion is the next imperative, easy to understand, given Rwanda’s history. But how do they get there? Through continued silence on ethnic issues and maintaining an obscure, or rather amorphous law that can label anything as “divisionism”, and jail you for it. We saw and heard, during a short visit, many signs that the whole landscape might be changing. People talk about ethnicity but without being offensive or defensive. And some simply do not what to discuss or be seen in the light of these categories. Is this the result of modernization or indoctrination? And are all underlying currents still there, strong but not spoken of? If you are an optimist you think that the modernization agenda will prevail. It might take another 30 years, but that is not a long time for societal reform.
Democratic space is the third make-or-break issue. Rwandans in the last century have more being addressed and told than speaking or revolting. The military background of the regime, might add to this top-down mind set, at least perceptions of it. The external threats have exacerbated these feelings. It this changing? In the long run it has to in order to maintain cohesion and attract foreign investors. The newly decided media bill could be a huge step in the right direction, if implemented.
The fourth is governance. Rwanda has all reason in the world to be proud of its recent history in setting up independent institutions, in combating corruption and open up institutions for public scrutiny. I have no doubt that the constitution will not be tampered with in order to pave way for a life long tenure for the present incumbent of the presidency. The challenge is to make the institutions truly independent, in both chapter and verse. There are too few checks and balances: The political opposition is weak and feel intimidated, media is stifled and civil society meek.
Rwanda is on the move, but also at the crossroads. Which trends will prevail: inequality gaps, old traditions, small farm agriculture? Or ICT, urbanization and change? If the latter forces provide more or better bread and better hope for the young, then there is reason to be optimistic.
Friday May 13
In Rwanda you do not see plastic bags littering streets, ditches, fields or gutters.
They were banned some years back. I went to the local supermarket around the corner; small and not extremely well equipped, but with bread, food cans, alcohol, soft drinks, cigarettes, soap, etc. I got my purchase packed in a small paper bag, supposed to be manufactured locally.
Cigarettes, yes they were there, to my surprise. Rwandans don’t smoke. “We have been informed that is not healthy, so a lot of people have quit”. I never realized it was that easy. The only persons we saw with cigarettes during a trip north, was the Chinese foremen operating the big trucks for the road construction financed by China.
On the roads, another surprise. The main road going north towards Uganda and DRC and the one going south towards Burundi are two lanes only, despite the fairly heavy and intensive traffic on them. But they had sidewalks, on both sides of the road. Tarmac, but with a different color than the road. 0.5 – 2 meters wide. Exclusively used by pedestrians, not for bikes or motor cycles. There is a law stipulating this, and all new roads and upgrading is built accordingly.
By the way, the trip took some time, although it was not very long in kilometers. But there is, since a couple of years, a law saying that there is a speed limit of 60 (!) km on all roads outside Kigali. In Kigali town the limit is 40…
Do people obey? Well some, but there is also an intensive exchange of information between meeting cars telling about the presence or absence or police patrols and controls. We recognized the phenomenon, as well as the methods used by drivers.
Safety on roads is important, and I was a little ashamed when I thought it was a bit refreshing with this “civil disobedience.”
Friday, May 13, 2011
Thursday May 12
A visit to the gorillas in the Virunga Volcano Mountains is an extraordinary experience.
The number of gorillas have increased, they are now almost 800 in the three countries that share the Virunga massive; DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. They live in families or groups, with 10-25 members. Each is headed by a male dominant, a silverback, the name given to a male gorilla when his fur starts to change colors from black to silver grey, roughly at the age of 15 (they live up to 50).
You start your trekking at around 8 in the morning. The air is thin and crisp on 2.300 meters altitude. There are halos of clouds around the volcano caps. You are directed by a scout or guide and a guard with a gun; the purpose of the gun is to scare off buffalos or elephants that might come in your way. The first part goes through farm land, mainly potatoes, bananas and pyrethrum. After about half an hour you get into the rainforest on the slopes of the mountains. It gets muddy and uphill. If the weather is nice, it is a walk in the park, although the park is steep, slippery and overgrown. After an hour or more, depending on the location of the gorillas that specific day, you are met by more scouts. They followed the particular gorilla group we are heading for the evening before and saw where they nested for the night. They were back early in the morning to track the group’s whereabouts.
Then you are taken to the gorillas. They do not give a damn about you, if you behave, that is don’t shout, or get too close, or throw things. The gorillas are extremely laidback, literally, at 10 in the morning. They have spent the early morning hours eating, a simple thing, they can eat everything green around them, and everything is green around them. Now they sleep, roll over each other, play, (the young ones), climb trees (ditto), sleep more, play more, pick flees, sleep again. Everything in a big heap of slowly moving black bodies. The boss, the dominant silverback sets the tone; if he goes to sleep, everybody follows suit, many of the small ones on top of him, which sometimes is his belly, sometimes his back.
On the Rwandan side, there are 8 gorilla families that the tourists are permitted to visit.
There is a maximum of eight persons in each group, which means that at any given day a maximum of 64 tourists are entering the mountains to watch the gorillas.
The yearly park fee income from 64 persons, considering that every day is not fully booked, would be around 10 million US$. Money that should cover the costs of guards and scouts around the year for each group; offices, maintenance, patrolling, vehicles.
The problem is that it is not possible to expand unless you compromise terribly with “quality” such as allowing bigger groups, or more than one visit per day.
The gorillas are unique, and to see them is fantastic. They also make a contribution to the area, but let it be at that.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Wednesday May 11
I was invited to give two lectures at the National University of Rwanda (NUR).
The first in Kigali, in the evening. Students who took their Master through evening courses in a three year program, working during the day. An attentive, silent (tired?) audience, with complicated questions after my presentation. “Many of the fast growing countries have been in conflict. Do conflicts create a supportive environment for growth?”
The next day to Butare, the center for the University, 2 hours drive from Kigali. Again a silent but very focused and listening audience, followed by intricate questions. “Do we have a double standard as regards interventions in cases of conflicts? Compare the absence of intervention in Rwanda in 1994 with the actions taken in Libya in 2011, or in Ivory Cost.”
Butare has had an impressive expansion in a short period of time. The total number of students have gone up from 8.000 in 2006 to 14.000 in 2011; postgraduate students from 300 to 700.
This is only the beginning according to the ambitious plans. In ten years time the total number of student will exceed 30.000. The small town of Butare will be a different place.
Quality has suffered in some areas, but not drastically and not all around. Butare has during the same period climbed in various rankings and are now higher than the prestigious Makerere in Uganda.
Rwanda’s focus on building human capacity, not least higher training, must be seen in the context of population patterns and employment. Rwanda cannot expect to grow with an increasing population who remain small scale farmers with low productivity. Urbanization is a challenge but mainly an opportunity. Thus; industry, trade, commerce, services etc must be the answer. That requires skills and competence.
Kudo Rwanda, but also kudo Sida that has been the main supporter for ten years. Well spent money. Clear, tangible, sustainable results.
Rwanda is working hard to be modern, but is not successful in all aspects. The President was going to visit the University a few days later; the whole campus was teeming with activity in preparations. The rector was happy; “We get more things done in two weeks than in one year.” But he added, “I hope that in ten years this culture will have changed and we do this maintenance and upgrading as a matter of routine.”
Another dimension of modernization also relating to the President. I was asked if I wanted to see him. My answer was that I thought he had more pressing matters to handle than to see me. The reply was: “Twitter him and say that you are around.”
Tuesday May 10
Fascinating to retrieve money from banks in the region.
In Kenya there seems to be no problem, there are (functioning) ATMs all over the place and the concept of convertible currency seems to have a practical meaning.
In Ethiopia there are ATMs, but few are working. Not even the four at Hilton or the two at Sheraton , to which you are referred when the holes in the wall are out order or out of money. If you want to change back Birr to dollar, you have to produce a receipt from the ATMs, which never ever gave you one. So now we are rich in Birrs…..
In South Sudan this was not an issue; you bring dollar, end of story.
In Rwanda, financial transactions and handling of foreign currency seem to part of the grand modernization scheme. ATMs of course, also in more remote areas. Dollars? You go to a bank and 15 minutes later you have withdrawn the money that you need in the foreign currency you need.
Rwanda has made tremendous progress in the World Bank index on Doing Business. You can almost feel it when entering the Rwanda Development Board and read their mission statement (normally a heap of cliché’s). This is what it says:
“To be a nimble hit squad that attack Rwanda’s most urgent development challenges, captures opportunities to drive economic growth and infects the Government of Rwanda with a practical and aggressive mind set.”
I particularly liked the words; “infects the Government”.
You feel this urge for modernization everywhere. It is a political decision, to move or change the tribal or clan identities into something new. It is a development mantra: We cannot continue to live on subsistence agriculture on this small hilly area in the middle of Africa:
We have to move up all possible chains.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday May 9
I have been in contact with Rwanda since genocide, almost two centuries.
All these years Rwandan politics, leaders and people have been admired for their endless efforts to rebuild and repair a country that was in total chaos in mid 1994; economically, politically, morally. Respected for their hard work and for their dedication to their tasks. This respect and admiration followed the Rwandan soldiers in Darfur, but was questioned during the wars and conflicts in DRC.
During these years there has also been an undercurrent of questions, bordering to suspicion and lack of trust. What are the true intentions of the regime, are they purely altruistic and developmental or are they most of all interested in preserving their power? Do they want to dominate the region, militarily and economically?
These questions are seldom discussed in the open. The Rwandan society is authoritarian; dedication is not only a result of joint focus on common goals but also of discipline and culture. This has contributed to create a climate where there are few open discussions on political issues.
Another dimension of this lack of airing or formulating differing views has been the absence of an active, dynamic, vibrant civil society - including media.
The contrast with Kenya is glaring in this respect. We may dislike many aspects of the Kenyan press, but no doubt they are active in digging, revealing, muckraking. They are a central element of the Kenyan political life, of their democratic space.
Rwandan press is much more of a megaphone for the regime, although only a few are owned by the Government. The same goes with TV. But there are strong watchdogs and harsh punishment for those who do not toe the line.
This state of affairs has been the subject of many discussions during the years and Rwanda has often been criticized, rightly so, by the international community, not least in conjunction of elections when the situation tends to deteriorate.
Is all this changing?
I understand that the Government has already taken a decision to create a proper public service TV and radio, independent of the Executive. Governed by a Board, appointed by the Parliament, managed by a Director, appointed by the Board. The Government owned newspapers would be sold.
A system for self regulation seems to be the next step in this process.
If this materializes it would mean a great change; open up for much more debate and discussions, widen the democratic space.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Sunday May 8
The revolts in North Africa, what Al Jazeera labels “The Arab awakening”, were not caused by differences in ideology. They were born out of lack of freedom and triggered by frustration.
There has been good and sustained economic growth in many parts of Africa, including the revolting North African countries. But there have been two major problems, partly clouded by the impressive economic growth. These are the messages to the rest of us:
One. The growth has not reached all, it has not been inclusive. Excluded are the young (often well educated) who in many countries makes up around 70% of the unemployed. These young cohorts turned out to have both voice and political resources. That is the frustration factor.
Two. Economic growth is important, but not sufficient. Political freedom, the lack of oppression, is an increasingly important dimension of peoples “livelihood”. It is not a luxury add-on, something that might be extended or given to people. The revolts have given a face, no many faces, to the concept of freedom as a fundamental human right.
What about the reactions in East Africa to the developments? Do governments feel that they are vaccinated against the North African flue?
The reactions differ between country and country.
It seems to have two main streams. One is to try to neglect the political impact or influence. They have been largely successful: “This happens there, it is not relevant for us. We do not have their problems.” In that sense, the frustration factor, those of the unemployed youth, seems to have gone unnoticed, at least without political repercussions. One reason might be, and now I am speculating, that un- and underemployment of the youth is such an established pattern, almost a given, and nothing to be upset about because of events in North Africa.
A more positive explanation is of course that political oppression is not that tight, the young might feel excluded, but they have voice to air their concerns.
In most of the countries the more immediate concerns have been to handle the effects of rapid increases in consumer goods, mainly food and fuel. The Governments have softened these pills by reducing taxes, in Kenya with the effect that some major brokers tried to make money by market manipulations during the time between announcing the reduction and gazetting it.
Uganda seems to have been closest in adopting the North African examples. Demonstrations against food and fuel price hikes lead to political demands and demonstrations, treated heavy-handedly by the regime.
By the way, Al Jazeera is the only channel to watch if you want to avoid endless jingles and ditto weddings.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Saturday May 7
The 2007 elections and the post election violence in 2008 seem very close. The healing process, if it ever started, is hardly visible, although there have been no new outbreaks of violence. Some of the Internally Displaced persons are still in temporary locations and makeshift shelters.
To use the phrase “political landscape” about the political discussions gives wrong connotations, it does not capture the dynamics of constant positioning and repositioning. Affiliations and allegiances are frequent but faithless.
Already now the focus is on the next set of elections, which will take place in August 2012. These will be according to the new Constitution and will include elections of president and MPs as before but also to the newly created posts in a Senate and local Governors.
This will provide an entirely new room for tactical maneuvering; it has not yet been decided if it is possible to run for more than one post. That was not possible in the old Constitution, reinforcing that the winner took all and the loser got nothing. Campaigns are costly for touring the country and your constituencies and selling your political message, but also for buying votes.
There will still be plenty of time to discuss and analyze the different candidates. Be sure Kenyans will do that, they are obsessed with politics and politicians. The theme right now is of course the effects of the ICC process in the Hague court. Six Kenyans were called to The Hague for their role in the 2008 violence. The process will continue with the formal prosecution, witnesses and hearings in September.
One thing stands out as a matter of national priority. The elections in 2012 must not become a repeat performance of 2007/8. Free and fair, yes, but also transparent. Confidence in the formal checks and balances are low.
This would require that politicians act maturely and in the interest of the country, not their own or their group.
There are few signs of this yet. I think it will require massive pressure from within the country.
Civil society must be vital(ized), active and vocal. The international community has an important role to support the democratic forces within the country, but also as outside watchdogs.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Saturday May 8
Africa does not spend huge amounts of money on their military defense compared to the countries of the West. But they allocate substantial manpower to it. Countries with a history of conflict tend to have large armies even when the war ends.
- Eritrea has a background of a liberation struggle and a war with Ethiopia. The population is around 5 million, the army 200.000. Eritrea has the largest force in Sub Saharan Africa.
- Ethiopia, with around ten times as many citizens, has 140.000.
- The enormously vast and conflict ridden DRC has 150.000.
- Sudan has 110.000 mainly as a result of the conflict in the South.
- Uganda employs 105.000, partly a legacy of the domestic conflicts in the 80’s, partly the fight against LRA, partly a result of regional ambitions.
- Kenya has a force of 24.000 which is fairly modest given the size of the country, but Kenya as never gone to war.
- Tanzania has a similar background, if we exclude the invasion to oust Idi Amin in the 70’s , and has also a modest force, 27.000.
- Burundi has 20.000 and Rwanda 33.000; surprisingly high figures if we look at the sizes of the countries but not if we look into their recent history.
Budget wise the story is different.
South Africa, with force strength of 62.000, has by far the highest military budget on the continent. Kenya is also by far the highest military spender in East Africa. South Africa has a military budget that is 8 times that of Kenya’s, 14 times Ethiopia, 25 times Tanzania and 35 times that of Uganda.
There is a quiet arms race going on, which will probably lead to fewer military staff but more military spending., The countries in East Africa seem to be more and more focused on solving their internal or regional problems by their own strength and efforts. There are signs of “ganging up” both on LRA and the havoc-causing leaders in Somalia.
Realizing the military threats is necessary, as is action to deal with it. But it is not sufficient. In the African context of today, the challenge is very much the same as the North African leaders met and failed. In the words of Donald Kaberuka, the president of the AfDB, at a recent meeting in Addis Ababa: “Growth that is not inclusive, that leaves some behind, as we can see from North Africa is neither economically nor politically sustainable and will only lead to frustrations and social explosion.”
Thursday May 5
The East African region has for some time been seen as relatively stable. Tourists are important for many of the countries, not least Tanzania and Kenya with their mountains, wildlife and beaches. My first visit to Zanzibar, admittedly some years back, the city had only one hotel which looked like a parody of an east European state run hotel. Alas, it was not a parody. Today Zanzibar outranks Mombasa.
But have the conflicts gone, are they being handled or curtailed – or are they coming back?
Without statistics to back the analysis, there is, however, little doubt that conflicts are a prominent facet of the present political landscape of East Africa. Maybe even more in the coming years.
Many are internal, although most of them have repercussions across borders. We have all the conflicts in Southern Sudan to illustrate. There is a clear danger that some of these will escalate in coming years. Will the simmering bad feelings on Zanzibar continue to be contained and only simmer? Will the Ethiopian ethnic experiment continue without increased violence or conflicts? Will the next round of elections in Kenya, only 15 months down the road, be peaceful, apart from being free and fair?
A few have Government as part, as in Darfur. Or Governments in plural as part, which is the case of the operations of Lord’s Resistance Army, which involves governments in Southern Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic.
Even fewer are between states, such as the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Somalia is a special chapter. The Somali leaders make money on drugs, piracy and insecurity. Some areas of Nairobi have been purchased by piracy and drug money. Everybody seems to be aware of this money laundering exercise, but does nothing about it. In essence, the same as with the piracy. The international community has conferences on it, but they could stop it if they really put their oars into the water.
Many countries in east Africa have enjoyed high and sustained economic development for almost a decade. That development is at peril by eruption of old or new conflicts.
We are not sure whether poverty or abundance leads to conflics. But we know abundantly clear that conflicts lead to poverty.
How are the countries preparing themselves for the potential increase of conflicts? Read tomorrow: Welcome to arms?
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Wednesday May 4
Quotes from Nation, Kenya’s leading daily:
“Motorists made long queues yesterday as one of the most severe and bizarre fuel shortages hit many parts of the country. Many people ran out of fuel on the road…. Petrol stations closed after panic purchases. ….the Government confirmed that there was 19 million liters in storage tanks in Nairobi”.
Standard, the second largest paper summarized: “Fuel, fuel everywhere but not a drop at the petrol stations!” Standard also stated that if the situation continues, “it will be a matter of days before the crisis will hit Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda which rely on Kenya for their supplies.”
The next day the blame game started: It is not the Governments fault, claimed the Government, not surprisingly. The marketers, the big oil companies that bring the product to the filling stations, are to be blamed. Then it was revealed (or simply a rumor?) that there were all of a sudden new market players, that had hoarded large volumes and did not transport it to the filling station. The reason (more rumors), was that this was in anticipation of tax cuts or other Government interventions that would make their stock increase in value, and thus their profit.
There were at least two common denominators in the commentaries and analysis One, there is no shortage of fuel, the shortage is construed. Two, some people are profiting from this.
Today, day three, the crisis seems to have abated, more filling stations have petrol, the streets are only slightly more than normally congested, which is bad enough.
The parliament will discuss the issue; an MP has already demanded explanations. My guess is that very little will come out of all frets and struts. No satisfactory explanations will ever be provided, no one will be accused of manipulating, and even if they were, they would not be taken to court or held accountable in some other shape or form. And if they did, the golden rule of impunity would apply.
Kenya is certainly changing and it is moving economically, even when the cars are not, we must not forget that.
But there is also a lot of déjà vu – feelings: obsession with politics, wrangling and positioning among the elite, many of the leading faces, the amazing resilience of the Kenyans.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose
Tuesday May 3
South Sudan is looking around in the region. Their dependence on the North will soon be formally severed, but the influence of the North will of course continue be strong, not least economically. Their ability to manage joint, sometimes thorny, issues will be crucial for solving wealth sharing arrangements (oil) and remaining border and territorial issues.
But the influence of the North in the daily life in the South seems marginal. Of course many manufactured products are imported from Khartoum. But the long distances and the bad road networks have already had the effect that South Sudan is glancing and leaning west, south and east, not north.
Three countries dominate in Juba: Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Neighboring DRC and Central African Republic seem far away, transport capacity and facilities simply do not exist between these countries and SS. The economies of eastern DRC and CAR are small and agro based. South Sudan is not a market for them, let alone markets for South Sudan.
Ethiopia´s increasing influence
Ethiopia is actively searching to become an increasingly important regional actor. Their growing economy is giving them some of the means. Hosting Head Quarters of both the Economic Commission for Africa of the UN and the African Union makes Addis Ababa an important venue for regional meetings. Ethiopia and Ethiopians seem to be almost admired in Southern Sudan, at least among the elites. They have had close military links, and political ties between the countries seem good.
Ethiopians (and also Eritreans….) are frequent in many small scale enterprises; not least restaurants.
Uganda benefits from South Sudan market
Ugandans are penetrating the local business in many areas, including the transport sector: importing and selling cars, driving motor bikes, taxis and buses. Trade is intense; a lot of the daily commodities are from Uganda. The road to the Ugandan border is being upgraded, as a matter of priority. Uganda has always been important militarily, because of the role LRA played in Uganda and Sudan and the Ugandan support to the SPLA. In SS we heard and read strong statements about imminent, strong and concerted attacks on LRA, “They will soon be wiped out”. The only problem with that statement is that we have heard it before. “Yes but this time it is different”. We’ll see.
Kenya – playing away it´s role
Kenya is the main economic player in the region, and is active in all areas from trade to small business. Kenya also has a large program for technical assistance to South Sudan under which around 900 Kenyans are working in the SS administration on various levels and sectors; teachers, medical staff.
But Kenya is not mentioned as a role model or as a close political partner.
This is surprising. South Sudan might in some years discuss membership in the East African Community and the economic links are getting tighter; a pipeline from SS through Kenya is being planned etc.
A possible explanation was given to us in Nairobi by a very senior official. “I am not surprised. We have all our focus on our internal political problems; we do not have time to be an active regional actor.”
This was a bit sad to hear, given the active role played by Kenya in the peace efforts in Somalia – and on South Sudan.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Monday, May 2
“We saw the signs of a famine unfolding within a few months. We alerted the system, diverted food going to other areas in Sudan, including Darfur (!). We established 20 distribution hubs in a country that has no roads, and no centers. We threw all books on procedure out through the window, we cut every corner. It was unplanned and messy. Implementation was a nightmare. But we got the job done; we managed to avert the crisis, through a fivefold increase of our operations in an exceptionally short period; weeks and months, not years.
But I certainly hope and pray that no one will scrutinize our operations, without understanding fully the circumstances - and the objectives. Rules were broken, forgotten or neglected. We did not document and analyze. If someone wants to hurt us they can do it by comparing our actions with the rules of the book. But it is the best operation I have been part of…..”
I had earlier in the day read two reports on large initiatives and programs in South Sudan. Interesting, full of state of the art analysis, well put together.
But so boring….and so predictable. (I disguise so you will not know which reports I am talking about. But be sure, it could have been any of many.) This is the standard procedure:
You commission a study to look into how the Sudanese Government and/or the international community took into account a particular perspective such as conflict prevention, or climate change. Then you bring in a team who are top notch in that particular discipline. You know the answer: they will tell you that the conflict prevention aspect was not properly addressed in the planning/implementation/follow-up process, at least not on the local/regional/national level. Or that the longer term aspects of the environmental interventions have not been sufficiently analyzed….. All written in the lingo of the discipline, beware of mistakes in that area, because then you are out.
But if you ask for the context and the results- given the circumstances including the political restrictions of that time - you do not find much. And learning opportunities are actually lost. These long drawn reports, are read by very few. In order to learn from what has been done, the looking back exercise must be quick, dirty and focus on the total process, be holistic. And involve those who did the job.
This disease is not new, but still spreading in the international system. But we also see many examples in our own society. There also seems to be a standard set of criticism – followed by a standard response, which simply mirrors the criticism.
Those who scrutinize and report on things that have gone wrong - be it an accident, a disaster, something that is not functioning in an institution or organization - always ask for action. Action is always a new policy, or a revised plan. A document, anyway. The answer is always to say that we have to look into our systems, revise our policies or produce a new one: on how to support children in need, handle environmental problems in our municipalities or environmental hazards in business and industry.
When did we hear anyone say that “No, we do not need a crisis group, we have colleagues, relatives and family being the support after this terrible accident.”
A couple of weeks ago I heard a teacher complaining, or rather explain, in radio that she/they spend more and more time documenting and writing plans. “That is what consumes our energy and absorbs us.”
I would love to hear someone say, “No, the answer to the problem of xxxxxx is not another plan, policy document. It is not new control mechanisms. And it is not a question of resources, even if we had more; we would not prioritize a new plan or control layers.”
Someone who would dare to say, we can’t plan and control everything: Shit happens.
It takes guts but would be - So refreshing.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Everybody says that SS has to diversify, and everybody cannot be truer. If you have 99% of your income from one finite source you better prepare yourself.
Everybody also says that it has to be agriculture. The logic is simple: lots of land, lots of unutilized land, and lots of unutilized, fertile land.
That is where the logic ends, but that’s where it should start.
Why isn’t there a booming agro-production and agro-based industry? South Sudan imports everything from its neighbors, six years after peace made it possible to sow, till and harvest. Everything we eat for breakfast is imported, just to illustrate; bananas, pineapple, coffee, papaya. You name it, they haven’t got it.
What we know from both east African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, and other countries, including Sweden, is the importance of being clear about ownership of land.
Who is the owner: the state, the individual, the clan, the commune, the tribe?
What does ownership mean, if the concept of ownership exists? Temporary or long term user´s right? Who benefits from different types of land, who gets the usufructs from it? On what terms and how long?
A bottom question, among many, is where the boundaries are for different type of land holdings. Has it been demarcated, cadastral registers being done, or other more formal forms of registration? Or are the boundaries, the end of your land, “where the dogs bark”?
Why is this important? Isn’t land clearing, construction of feeder roads, farmers´ training etc, more essential?
No. It is a question of sequence.
Sudanese agriculture needs investment, heavy investments. In all areas mentioned and in many more: new seeds, extension, improved markets and market access, technology and machinery.
These investments have to come from somewhere and someone: individual farmers, local businessman (DDI- Domestic Direct Investment) and external investors (FDI- Foreign Direct Investment).
Do we know what they want? Yes, all investors, from the small cotton grower in Nyanza in Tanzania to the big shots with hedge funds, want one and the same thing: clear and transparent rules.
But foreign investors will not surface if the domestic hesitate.
In agriculture that means clarity of the rules on how to access and utilize the land. If I buy or lease is not that important, if the lease is reasonably long. The same goes for the question on who has the right to sell or lease. Does not really matter as long as it is clear.
Demarcation of land? Has to be made in such a way that the boundaries are identified (not only by the dogs….).
Why is clarity so important? Two reasons:
1. Agriculture is long term. You have to know. In Ethiopia land used to be redistributed by the farmers´ associations, to accommodate more members. From a social equity point – great. From a production point - disaster. It lead to low investments in everything that was long term such as tree planting and soil conservation measures – the land might be transferred to someone else who would benefit from the result of your sweat.
2. Agriculture is business. You have to be able to take loans on your asset, use it as collateral, and then mortgage your loan. You must be able to sell your investments.
South Sudan does have the land. It does not have the knowledge or technology to use it.
The amazing impression when travelling around: A lot of farmland- but no farms and no farmers, let alone investors to develop and improve it.
It needs heavy investment. It will require a clear stand by the Government on land issues.