Recent editorials on Africa are catchy, grizzly, and even sexy. They come with unique calming aroma. The continent is emerging, booming, rising. The middle class is bulging. So I visited. What I saw is what you will see if you do. The headlines are true for Lagos, Accra, and Addis Ababa, but they are far from the reality in the fringes, the outskirts of the countries. Are the rising, booming, and emerging stories and editorials a hype or hope?
“Long ago, I could set my calendar with the date the rains started,” the 72-year-old said. Nowadays, “we have to gamble with the rains. If you plant early you might lose and if you plant late you might win. We are at a loss of what to do.”
Paramu Mafongoya, a University of Zimbabwe agronomist, says Vambe’s worries and those of millions of other poor farmers – most of them women – across Africa are a clear sign of the impact of climate change on a continent already struggling to feed itself. Changes have been noted in the timing and the distribution of rainfall on the continent. Zimbabweans say the rainy season has become shorter and more unpredictable, Mafongoya said.
Climate change “is a serious threat to human life,” Mafongoya said. “It affects agriculture and food security everywhere.”
International climate change negotiators meet in the South African coastal city of Durban starting Monday. Their agenda includes how to get African and other developing countries the technology and knowledge to ensure that people like Vambe can keep feeding their families without looking for emergency food aid.
A Green Climate Fund that would give $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries to help them fight climate change and its effects was agreed on at last year’s climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. Durban negotiators hope to make progress on addressing questions such as where the money will come from and how will it be managed.
Climate change specialist Rashmi Mistry said her anti-hunger group Oxfam will be in Durban lobbying to ensure that women have a voice in managing the Green Fund, and that their needs are addressed when its money is spent. Most small-scale farmers in Africa are women, and they also are the ones shopping for the family’s food. But tradition often keeps them out of policymaking roles.
Mistry said when yields are low and market prices are high, women are the first to suffer.
“She’s the one usually who will feed her husband first and feed her children first, and she will go hungry,” Mistry said.
Across Africa, said Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s special envoy on climate change, farmers need to triple production by 2050 to meet growing needs.
“At the same time, you’ve got climate change lowering average yields by what’s expected to be 28 percent,” Steer said. He called for more investment in such areas as agricultural research and water management.
Experts already are working on solutions. For example, Africa Harvest, a think tank that uses science and technology to address poverty and improve livelihoods among some of the poorest people in Africa, is working with farmers in an arid stretch in eastern Kenya who were finding it harder and harder to grow their usual crops of corn and beans. Africa Harvest got farmers to switch to sorghum. They have seen bumper harvests as a result because they are focusing on the right crop and the right practices for the climate, said Moctar Toure, chairman of Africa Harvest, who will be in Durban for the talks.
“The way we do agricultural development has to change,” Toure told The Associated Press. “We need to balance the need to increase farm productivity with environmental conservation. We will also work towards broad policy changes in our target countries in order to address endemic problems (affecting women) such as land right security, access to credit and knowledge.”
Experts worry that one consequence of resources becoming scarcer will be more frequent conflict. Already, Zimbabwe has seen aid used as a political weapon. Those who can prove their loyalty to longtime President Robert Mugabe’s party have been seen to be favored when it comes time to hand out seeds or food.
Modern techniques of growing drought-resistant crops like sorghum and millet, staggering planting programs, irrigation and harvesting rain and river water in dams help minimize the risk to farmers. But Zimbabwe’s modern agricultural infrastructure has been disrupted by a decade of political and economic turmoil.
Acute food shortages eased after Zimbabwe adopted the U.S. dollar to end world-record inflation in 2009, but local farm production continues to decline. This month, the U.N. food agency said more than 1 million Zimbabweans needed food aid and poor families, especially households with orphans and vulnerable children, can’t afford much of the food that is available. Most of that food is imported.
Climate change, like the political problems linked to poverty in Zimbabwe, is manmade, though over a longer term.
Scientists say the accumulation of carbon dioxide traps the Earth’s heat, and is causing dramatic changes in weather patterns, agricultural conditions and heightened risks of devastating sea-level rise. Industrialized nations bear the bulk of the blame, since they have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for 200 years.
Africa emits only about 3 percent of the total greenhouse gases per year, but its fragile systems and impoverished people are hardest hit by the consequences.
Weather experts say Zimbabwe’s average rainfall has decreased over the decade and October temperatures this year soared to above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the highest since 1962.
Harare meteorologist Jephias Mugumbate said rains in January and February – crucial for the ripening of crops – can no longer be relied on.
It was often said drought in southern Africa recurred every 10 years.
“But now it has become more frequent and intensified. Temperatures show an upward trend and instead of being cooler our nights are becoming hotter,” Mugumbate said
Like Vambe, tens of millions of Africans rely on rain-fed agriculture.
Vambe’s corn crop has supported her family for more than five decades. But her yields have been steadily falling.
She walks at daybreak to her nearly bare field 10 miles (15 kilometers) from her home in the impoverished western Harare township of Highfield. She has finished planting her seed with the help of her two grandchildren. The dusty brown soil beckons for rain.
Maize, the nation’s staple food, needs 60 days of moisture to reach maturity.
“The rains have become erratic. We can no longer rely on the seasons,” Vambe said.
She has had to replant on several occasions because of a “false start” to the rainy season.
“This is what has been affecting our yields since 2000. We are no longer getting good yields because the rain comes and goes away,” she said.
In the past, the growing season ended in March and harvests were gathered through April.
“Today, nothing is definite. You get rain in April then our maize rots in the fields,” Vambe said. “If we are not respecting our spirits and if they are angry, there will be no rain.”
Associated Press Writer Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
For the last seven years in my travels across the African continent, I try to pay attention and listen to what things are troubling some African businesses and traders in retail and exports. AGOA is the one word that keeps coming up with excessive groans. In English and French, small African traders are complaining about it.
Since 1971 when the least developed countries (LDCs) category was created by the UN, sub-Saharan African countries have dominated the list. Four decades later, with 33 members (only 14 of the region’s 47 countries are not LDCs), sub-Saharan Africa still maintains the biggest regional presence in the group. All parts of the sub-continent are represented. In recent years, two countries from the continent, Botswana and Cape Verde, have graduated out of the category. Analysts say others (including Angola and Equatorial Guinea) have the potential to join them. However, the newly created state of South Sudan is widely expected join the LDCs group.
Africa’s LDCs are a highly diverse group, but most have in common an average growth of around 5 per cent in recent years. Of these countries, oil exporters (Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan) and mineral producers (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique and Zambia) benefited most from the surge in demand for commodities, mainly from the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. Such a trend has led to an increased dependence of their economies on primary commodities, according to the latest Least Development Countries Report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
One feature of African LDCs is their high rates of return on foreign direct investments, at around 13 per cent. UNCTAD says that investing in LDCs is a smart move. “Rates of return on foreign direct investment … are much higher than on investment in developed, or even other developing, countries.”
* Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.Africa Renewal www.un.org/africarenewal If you like this article, I’d recommend my book “If I Was Famous, I’d Have a Lot to Say”
Categories: Issues Tags: african economies, botswana, Cape Verde, Cheikh Sidi Diarra, climate change, Democratic Republic of the Congo, ecological damage, least developed countries, sub-saharan africa
What if much of sub Sahara Africa was to become the world’s next business destination? The question might sound odd, yet it is in line with the tone of a UN Conference held in Istanbul last May. For UN Africa Renewal, André-Michel Essoungou reports.
The August 17 meeting between Ghana’s President John Atta Mills and Botswana’s Ian Khama goes between the normal symbolic bilateral sweet talks. In contemporary African thinking, the core issue between Ghana and Botswana is how their respective democracies are harbingers of progress for the entire African democratic and development growth.
The Botswana-Ghana meeting also comes at a time when development economists are changing their focus away from cross-country empirical studies towards case studies and “analytic narratives.” “Instead of trying to explain all of sub-Saharan Africa’s problems in one grand sweep, economists are engaging in more focused studies of particular nations. Their hope is that by clearly understanding the particulars, broader conclusions can be drawn,” explains Scott A. Beaulier, an economist at Troy University, USA.
The two countries democracies are trendsetters in Africa but Botswana is the better of the two. While Ghana, a coastal nation, is loud-mouthed, Botswana, landlocked, is quiet and much more levelheaded. Botswana is a top African example of how democracy, of the African extraction, can be used to solve most of Africa’s complicated development challenges.
Botswana’s development indicators top Sub-Sahara African countries. This is despite the fact that 84 percent of Botswana’s land mass is largely the uninhabitable Kalahari Desert and 80 percent of Botswana’s people live along the fertile eastern stripe of the state. Like Israel, the future is how Botswana transforms its inhabitable Kalahari Desert into habitable land for greater development.
Since independence in 1966 from Britain, Botswana, unlike Ghana which gain independence from Britain in 1957, has consistently held unfettered multi-party democratic elections, Ghana hasn’t, maked by military coups and executions. Like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Botswana was blessed with a fine founding President, Sir Seretse Khama, devoid of Nkrumah’s egomaniac tendencies. But unlike Ghana where Nkrumah later became a dictator and Ghana over the years expereinced some bad leaderships, Botswana is blessed with three decent leaders who succedded Seretse, the present one being Ian, the son of Seretse.
Unlike Ghana, Botswana, from 1966, driven by immense wisdom, has been able to integrate its traditional institions into its British colonial heritage in its development process. Seretse’s wife was a British woman, making Ian, like ex-Ghana President Jerry Rawlings, half-cast.. This makes Botswana indigenous institutions and values central part of its democracy, with its indigenous institutions as key accountability watcher. For instance, despite his immense political power, the traditional chief is regarded as an equal to Botswana people.
As Newsweek pointed out in 1990 in a piece entitled “Longing for Liberty,” “Botswana built a working democracy on an aboriginal tradition of local gatherings called kgotlas that resemble New England town meetings.” That explains not only Botswana’s democratic evolution but its dececentralization exercises that flow from its traditional values.
Botswana has an abundance of diamonds and successive governments have brilliantly husbanded it wisely for proper development of Botswanans. Ghana was formerly the world’s number one cocoa producer (it is now in number two), long-running political instabilities affected its development. Botswana doesn’t have such problems and coupled with its good governance, this has made Botswana Sub-Sahara Africa’s best developed and best run country. In the UN Human Development Index, Botswana ranks 98th and Ghana 130th out of 169 countries ranked in 2010.
In either Ghana or Botswana, world slumps in cocoa or diamonds, respectively, has affected Gross Domestic Product over the years. In Botswana, the average income has tripled in real terms in two decades, putting Botswana on a par with Mexico. While average income of a Ghanaian is 1.60 Ghanaian cedis (€0.74) a day, in Botswana it is 3.8 Botswana pula (€1.94) an hour for most full-time labor in the private sector.
At the same time as Ghana’s population is over 24 million and heavily heterogeneous and Botswana’s is 2 million and is almost homogenous, at issue aren’t size but the quality of governance. Size or no size, Botswana virtually escaped what most African countries have to confront – how to contain a far headier concoction of disparaging ethnic groups within boundaries unrealistically drawn by ignorant colonial map-makers. Ethnically, Botswana’s foremost test is how to deal with its anti-modern Bushmen minority. Ghana has tribalism problems, with some of its 56 ethnic groups as backward as the anti-modern Bushmen.
Unlike Ghana’s highly competitive democracy, Botswana leaders are yet to be challenged by a strong opposition; a single party has ruled since independence in 1966. That makes Botswana almost a one-party system. That is one reason why it was Ghana, with only 19 years of democratic practices, a recent African success story in democratic development, that made analysts to argue for US President Barack Obama to make his first visit to a sub-Saharan African country. Ghana’s 2008 presidential elections was neck-to-neck and the then governing National Patriotic Party (NPP) maturely accepted defeat by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) at the polls.
However, in Ghana and Botswana democracy is fairly well established and independent institutions just evolving (Botswana has fairly better developed democratic institutions than Ghana). In Botswana, the Botswana People Party has been in power for 44 years. The opposition parties, especially the main Botswana Movement for Democracy, are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.
On the other hand, in Ghana, political power has been changing hands between the ruling National Democratic Congress and the main opposition National Patiotic Party. But in Botswana voters happily vote the ruling Botswana People’s Party into power for the past 44 years. Yet Botswanans do not feel disenfranchised. Despite this, over the years, Botswana has proved as an example of good governance in Africa. The lesson from Botswana isn’t how often political power changes hands but how political power is used for good governance and development.
Despite some democratic hurdles in both Botswana and Ghana, the African experiences points to democracy and political leadership, more of the Botswanan variety, where African values are deliberately and proportionally mixed with the Western liberal ones, as the best strategy to solve most of Africa’s development challenges.
The informal sector of the economy often refers to the unregulated and mostly unregistered sector of the economy, put simply it refers to the numerous petty or small scale businesses operated by artisans, peasants and other micro entrepreneurs, within the economy.
Experts have argued that in most African economies, the informal sector is often the driving force of the economy and that as a matter of fact it is opined that the reason why most Western originated economic recovery prescriptions channeled through the World Bank, IMF and so on to Africa have often failed is because of the inability of such prescriptions to take the informal sector in most of these African economies into consideration.
The prominence of the informal sector in most African economies cannot really be underemphasized as almost all persons who cannot find placements within the formal sector of the economy finds solace in the informal sector of the economy. In as much as the informal sector, drives most African economies, it is a very much neglected sector as it seldom accounts for a pride of place in government planning for the overall economy. This may be due to a myriad of factors such as the unregistered and unregulated nature of most businesses in the informal sector, poor work ethics of most micro entrepreneurs, which often leads to mismanagement of such businesses, tax evasion and illiteracy on the part of most operators in the informal sector.
Giving the role of the informal sector, in the economies of most African nations, governments in African countries should begin to take more than a simple look at the informal sector with a view of enacting policies that will synergize the informal and formal sectors in order to unleash the vast potentials of the African economy since activities in both sectors of the economy are not mutually exclusive. A massive drive to register and have a data base of all businesses in the informal sector can also be carried out to ascertain the number and needs of the operators in the informal sector.
We are witnessing a historic change to the development paradigm. Drastic spending cuts in the United States, uncertainty around Europe’s common currency and the consequences of the earthquake in Japan are reordering international priorities and put further pressure on aid budgets. At the same time, development needs in Africa are multiplying as climate change and rapid population growth add new financing demands, and populations empowered by advancements in information and communication technology are asking more of their leaders. While aid remains vitally important to build capacity, leverage other flows and achieve specific results, it is clear that African leaders and international donors need to look beyond traditional development strategies to fill funding gaps and accelerate progress.
We at the Africa Progress Panel are convinced that partnerships harnessing a broader range of actors and their energy, creativity and resources can provide at least part of the solution. In this year’s Africa Progress Report, which we launched yesterday at the World Economic Forum on Africa, we call on leaders in all sectors, including government, business, and civil society, to do more to strengthen, replicate and scale-up existing partnerships, but also to identify and consider new forms and areas of collaboration.
Partnerships have already demonstrated their transformative impact. In recent years, we have seen collaboration between the private sector and international philanthropists leading to significant reductions in malaria deaths. Partnerships between mobile-phone providers and governments have greatly increased access to finance for Africa’s poor. And collaboration between civil society and intergovernmental organizations has vastly improved access to credit for smallholder farmers and helped raise agricultural productivity.
By mobilizing resources, improving efficiencies or extending services, access and opportunities to marginalized groups, partnerships can clearly achieve tremendous results. In doing so, they are already complementing and expanding government-led development efforts. But — as the various partnerships around the introduction of mobile money in East Africa have shown — collaborations brought to scale can achieve much more. They can create vibrant markets, transform entire sectors, and lead to sustainable structural change.
As countries and companies are shifting their attention from Africa’s problems to its vast potential and abundant opportunities, new spaces for engaging actors around their comparative advantages are opening up. The private sector understands that it needs the access and knowledge of local partners and national governments to grasp the enormous commercial opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid. Governments and civil society organizations are recognizing the value of the resources, capacities and expertise the private sector can bring to their development efforts. As the interests of the various sectors continue to converge, and improvements in regulatory environments make cooperating easier and safer, opportunities for partnerships continue to grow.
However, despite the many encouraging examples we have seen, the number of successful partnerships remains miniscule compared with both the potential and the need for them. Too often, activities remain small-scale, localized and isolated, as actors lack the capacity, resources or incentives to scale up their operations, replicate them elsewhere, or deliver more than piecemeal change. As a result, many opportunities for tackling Africa’s problems and driving its progress are missed — to everyone’s detriment.
We argue that more can, and should be, done to facilitate the spread of successful partnership models across countries and sectors. National governments can do more to ensure the regulatory conditions that allow partnerships to mature beyond pilot projects. International donors and institutions can do more to initiate and provide seed funding, risk mitigation and other supportive guarantees to innovative models. Private-sector actors, particularly international corporations, can do more to move beyond traditional patterns of sourcing, production, and distribution, and expand their operations to marginalized segments of the population. And civil society organizations can do more to increase accountability and play a constructive intermediary role.
However, despite the enormous value they can add, partnerships for development are certainly no panacea for all of Africa’s problems. Even brought to scale, there are limits to what they can achieve. They do not replace good governance, strong institutions as well as political leadership and vision as the core ingredients of progress. On the contrary, partnerships depend on these to be able to fulfill their potential.
Crucially, partnerships do not shift the responsibility for progress away from the shoulders of African leaders and international donors, even though they can help to spread the burden. Donors still need to fulfill the extensive financial and political commitments they have made to Africa, and it remains up to African leaders to inspire processes and build capacities to translate the continent’s wealth and potential into tangible benefits for its citizens. It also remains up to them to protect these citizens from the vagaries of nature and the volatilities of the global economy, providing them with adequate public services and opportunities to feed and educate their children and make a decent living.
For this, Africa’s leaders need to rise to the interlinked challenges of growing their economies, delivering results for their people, conserving the environment, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals they set themselves a decade ago. My fellow panel members and I strongly believe that partnerships can help them with all of these tasks.
Kofi Annan is Chair of the Africa Progress Panel. The panel launched the 2011 Africa Progress Report — ‘The Transformative Power of Partnerships’ — at the World Economic Forum on Africa this week. The full report is available to download from www.africaprogresspanel.org