Category Archives: Africa

IFIS Put Pressure On Gov’t to Ratify Agreements

Frederick Asiamah

Some international finance institutions are putting pressure on President John Evans Atta Mills and his administration to ratify some agreements they entered with the erstwhile Kufuor-Administration.

This is being done even though the new government is yet to study the agreements.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Samuel Zan Akologo, Country Director of the Social Enterprise Foundation, Ghana Chapter (SEND-Ghana), has urged the government to proceed with caution.

According to him, “The speed with which our governments sometimes rush into agreements is worrying They will sign and sign away their birth rights.” Continue reading

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Africa: Subsidies That Work

Africa: Subsidies That Work

analysis

Washington, DC — In the 2008/2009 agricultural season, Malawi is spending $186 million to subsidize fertilizer and seeds for poor farmers, tripling the previous year’s figure of $62 million. Malawi’s success in this program, against donor advice, has made the country a grain exporter and helped contain food costs. The emerging consensus is that such subsidies are essential for African agriculture. In November the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization rewarded Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, who also serves as his country’s Minister of Agriculture, with the Agricola Prize.

Ironically, donor opposition to agricultural subsidies in Africa was coupled with refusal by rich countries to reduce their own expensive subsidies to commercial farmers in their own countries.

Yet the case for subsidies is far more compelling for African smallholder farmers who often lack minimum access to agricultural inputs. In Malawi, the program has more than paid for itself by reducing costs for food imports. Continue reading

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women in charge – long live the peasant!

Just read this excellent piece on an erudite blog:

Why the success story of Rwandan women and economy doesn’t even make it to “International News”? The section “International Development” sometimes appears to be a token gesture of goodwill; to prove the readers the Guardian Weekly is still a paper with the critical edge. If the paper didn’t have an “International Development” section, would they have published the story about Rwandan women rescuing the country’s economy in another section or would it have remained unpublished? Who is the readership of the “International Development” section? Do economists read it? In short, my question remains: as a person interested in feminist economics, I want to know what makes the “real” economy news?

As far as I’m concerned, “Women take charge in Rwanda” is an important and interesting piece of economy news – plus a welcome change to the usual complaints of oil prices, sub-prime crises and the like. This article tells that “Female entrepreneurs in industries from agribusiness to tourism have been key to efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women, far more than men, invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings and spend on children’s education. This seismic shift in gender economics in Rwanda is altering the way younger generations of males view their mothers and sisters, while offering a powerful lesson for other developing nations.”…

This is the case not only in Rwanda. “In 1990 a major study on poverty in Brazil, published in the Journal of Human Resources, showed that the effect of money managed by women in poor households was 20 times more likely to be spent on improving conditions in the home than money managed by men. In Bangladesh the Grameen Bank has focused its microloans on women. Microloan programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America have shown similar results.”

So this stuff doesn’t cut it for the economy section? Aren’t there some golden nuggets for both economists and policy wonks dealing with questions of poverty? Are the economy sections even in left-leaning newspapers the last bastion of the master narratives? The best irony of all is that also in that same paper, Guardian Weekly, June 13, 08, there was a “Comment&Debate” piece by George Monbiot — on small farmers being the planet’s best hope!!! (That was on page 24.)

Monbiot claims that Robert Mugabe is right, at least in theory. He writes: “Although the rich world’s governments won’t hear it, the issue of whether or not the world will be fed is partly a function of ownership. This reflects an unexpected discovery, first made in 1962 by the Nobel economist Amartya Sen and since confirmed by dozens of studies. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. Then smaller they are, the greater the yield. In some cases the difference is enormous. A recent study in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times as productive as farms of more than 10 hectares. Sen’s observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere.”

The successes of Green Revolution didn’t last very long – a fact that’s often omitted in pro-gene technology geeks and others. Today in India, the Green Revolution results can be seen, among other things, in the alarming rates of farmer suicides. Monbiot asserts that “There are plenty of other reasons for defending small farmers in poor countries. The economic miracles in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan arose from their land reform programmes. … Growth based on small farms tends to be more equitable than growth built around capital-intensive industries. Although their land is used intesively, the total ecological impact of smallholdings is lower.”

Monbiot points out, like others have done before, the prejudice against small farmers. We use the word ‘peasant’ to insult and look down upon others. In our modern imagination, peasant implies backwardness if not primitiveness. But as Monbiot notes, “when you call someone a peasant, you are accusing them of being self-reliant and productive.” And it’s not only the self-styled modern individuals dissing farmers, but organizations such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and OECD who argue that small farms are not productive enough.

Monbiot writes: “Like Mugabe, the donor countries and big international bodies loudly demand that small farmers be supported, while quietly shafting them. Big business is killing small farming.” I would add the media to this conspiracy. In addition, most journalists, including Monbiot, miss the gender analysis in their articles.

Full post here

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Somalia, Ethiopia and the cynical West

Our Government’s Dirty Little Secrets.
George Galloway thundering at the House of Commons debates – Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Most astonishingly of all, the Government of Ethiopia—that starving country whose little children are fly infested, kwashiorkor swollen, famished and famine stricken—have been encouraged, armed, trained, financed and otherwise facilitated to invade and occupy their neighbour, Somalia, and create a reign of terror in that land, which is testified to by this voluminous Amnesty International report, which, if I had time, I would extensively quote from.

Somalia has lost thousands of dead as a result of the Ethiopian invasion. Millions have been displaced. Somalia, under Ethiopian occupation, is the grimmest prison state in Africa—far worse than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Who has done the encouraging, the arming, the training, the financing and the facilitating? The same US and British Governments who donated the $90 million to the same Ethiopian Government who are burning their money and burning the villages, the neighbourhoods and the people of occupied Somalia.

This Government are never done talking about the shortcomings of African leaders. Just last week in Rome, the Secretary of State for International Development was roaring at Robert Mugabe, yet there has not been a squeak out of him, or any other Minister, about the much bigger crime in which we are ourselves deeply complicit. Is it any wonder that African opinion considers so much of what we have to say about misgovernance in Africa to be the deepest, most cynical hypocrisy?

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Ethiopia aid laws raise concerns

Addis Ababa – Heavily aid-reliant Ethiopia is drafting a bill to provide a legal framework for the activities of foreign aid groups, sparking concern among aid workers and threatening to antagonise creditors.

“We can understand that the Ethiopian government would want to bring in legislation on NGOs to create a proper legal framework and more financial transparency,” said one official representing a donor country.

“But the text in its current form would make it impossible for NGOs to function,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, comprises 12 sections and is to be submitted to parliament soon.

According to the draft bill, any NGO drawing on foreign sources for more than 10 percent of its funding will be considered a foreign organisation. The new law would bring several existing local NGOs into that category. Continue reading

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Blogging for governance: on countries and governments

Kauffman writes on here on blogging and its importance for making governments and their actions more transparent and accountable to their citizens….

 Notwithstanding the reality that the positive impact of blogs to promote improved accountability, governance and transparency far outweigh some of its negatives, the question of when blogging does cross the line cannot be begged — and figuring out what is the appropriate response when such line is crossed.  Does the (demand-driven) market test suffice and the more responsible blogs end up dominating, so that the system is self-correcting?  Or, to fend off unwarranted calls for outright ban (or closing down of sites), editorial accountability or some degree of filtering is at times needed?

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The curse of ‘aid’

Amity Shlaes writes at the Bloomberg:

In a recent paper(pdf), scholars Simeon Djankov, Jose G. Montalvo and Marta Reynal-Querol surveyed data from more than 100 countries over four decades. They also found that aid tends to supplant growth and makes countries quantifiably less democratic. They compared aid with petroleum wealth. Based on their research, they determined, “aid is a bigger curse than oil.

Quoted from here via African Loft

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