Thursday, March 31, 2011


Pro-Ouattara forces

As pro-Ouattara forces captured the administrative capital Yamoussoukro, the US government is not talking much about the situation in Ivory Coast because it is "a house divided within itself".  The Obama government recognized the legitimate presidential winner in the November 2010 election, Alassane Ouattara. However, there is group of Christian Right-wingers who support the defeated Laurent Gbagbo. Why? Because Ouattara is Muslim and Gbagbo is not (hence could be labeled as Christian even though he displays Gaddafi-like behaviors).

This is a country that has an outstanding infrastructure - by developing country standards - with a network of more than 8,000 miles of paved roads, excellent telecommunication services with a public data communication network and internet access. Abidjan - a port city - is considered the most modern in West Africa and the largest between Casablanca and Cape Town. In the 1960s this country's GDP grew by 82% and peaked to 360% in the 1970s! Since the economy is highly dependent on the agricultural sector it is very sensitive to international price fluctuations and weather conditions. So when you add in a civil war in 2002 the country does not seem to have a chance to rise back up from its current single digit GDP growth (3.8% - 2009 est.)

Mr. Gbagbo's refusal to step down after his defeat has caused fierce fighting which has left more than 400 dead and over one million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. This, no doubt, creates an economic burden to already fragile economies in West Africa threatening the stabilization of the West African trading and economic block ECOWAS.

Christian Right-wingers supporting Gbagbo will have to let go of their "Muslim" paranoia projected in Ivory Coast. The UN has passed a resolution to impose economic sanctions against Gbagbo's illegitimate government. The EU and African groups (not the AU) have already taken economic measures to put pressure on Gbagbo and his cohorts. 

Alassane Ouattara is the internationally recognized president-elect. The economic sanctions and Ouattara's call to boycott the country's main export crop, cocoa (it is the world's largest cocoa producer) -  have Gbagbo's days numbered.  We could see an end to this fiasco in the next few weeks.

Gbagbo has been give the final chance for a "peaceful and honorable exit" by Ouattara. He has not yet responded.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Singapore thrived and Kenya did not!!

More than 35 years ago Singapore was on the same economic level as African countries such as Kenya in the East and Ivory Coast in the West.  They had all recently gained independence from colonial powers and the people were eager to build their countries and prosper.

Fast forward and today Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy heavily dependent on exports and refining imported goods. It is one of the "four tigers" (South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong) boasting the world's fastest growing economy with a GDP growth of 14.5% in 2010.

Kenya like Singapore was a former British colony that gained its independence about four years after Singapore. Kenya now has a market-based economy and as of 2010 was gearing for a 4-5% GDP growth. This growth is largely steered by recent ICT innovations.

Why is Singapore a first-world country with a GNI (per capita) of $20,066 per person and Kenya a third-world country with a GNI of $315.04 per person - yet they were both at an economic par 35+ years ago?

I say that among other things - Singapore had and continues to have leaders with a vision, Kenya did not. Singapore strived to unify the people by pushing an equal distribution of wealth economic pattern while Kenya continued the destructive patterns of its colonial power - divide and rule.  Singapore is consistently rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.  Kenya, on the other hand, is rated among the six most corrupt countries in the world.

One of the excuses I have heard frequently flaunted is that countries like Singapore have homogenous populations while Kenya, like many African countries, have different ethnic groups that are hostile to each other.  Therefore it was easy for these Asian nations to focus on economic growth without the stresses of unify peoples of different cultures. This is a false analysis.  Listen to a recent Charlie Rose interview of with former PM Lee Kuan Yew. He purposely developed economic strategies to bring the Malays, Indians, Chinese and Arabs together because this was the only way Singapore would grow to be the economic giant it is today. Kenyan leaders (and many other African leaders) were/are unable to see the importance of uniting ethnically fragmented populations so as to realize a maximized  potential of their nation's economic growth. Singapore has visionary leaders with a economic-growth plan. Kenyan (African) leaders feather their nests while the sun shines.

So why did Singapore thrive economically and Kenya did not? Leadership - a critical component  lacking in Kenya and many other African countries - including those in the Sahel as we have witnessed.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Is there Hope for Africa's children??

This is Africa's reality in the 21st Century. Every time we think we have hit the rock bottom and there is nowhere to go but up, African leaders manage to create a new bottom.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kibaki (Kenya) + Bashir (n. Sudan) = OIL DEALS AND????

Bashir's Rep delivers message to Kibaki
Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, on Thursday assured Northern Sudan's President Omar al Bashir that the bilateral ties between the two countries will not be affected by cessation of Southern Sudan from the North.  

Kenya played a critical role in brokering the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).  Of course this was an economically strategic move on the side of Kenya.  Sudan's oil is exported via Kenya's coastal ports bringing in much needed revenue. Kenya also has strong ties with the SPLM government and is looking to have lucrative bilateral ties with the South enabling a tapping into their oil revenues as well.

The hot issue on the table that Kenya needs resolved amicably by the two Sudans is the final deliberations on the outstanding issues of delineation of the North/South border and the agreed conclusion on sharing the oil and gas rich regions.

Neo-Arabism spreading to the Sudan

Women in the Sudan protesting
Bashir's government is taking strides to "crush" any uprising instigated through social networks against the government.  The government has reacted violently to street protests organized by the youth and detained many activits.

Unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Sudan has not attracted any international attention. Many are waiting for the formal cessation of the oil-rich Southern Sudan from the Arab North in the summer.

Bashir is not a happy camper at the moment. He is about to lose a valuable national commodity - oil reserves - in the south. He was recently accused by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) of plotting to overthrow the southern government.

Will Bashir be relevant after the cessation?  The wind of change blowing across the Middle East could pass by northern Sudan leaving significant government changes.  But like in all these countries where people want government change, there is no identified successor.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Should "they" be in Libya????

Civilian uprising in Libya

Should the US be bombing Gaddafi's forces? I understand the humanitarian logic, however, this then begs the question why Libya and not Bahrain or Yemen? There are of course vested interests in the countries US decides to bomb - but it takes away all integrity when the government says it is for humanitarian reasons.  

This is a rebirth of neo-Arabism. The Arab people have had a whiff of freedom, democracy and dignity that started in Tunisia and they now want what is rightfully theirs to enjoy.  Does the US really want to be involved in this quagmire? This is a revolutionary movement - no one knows where and how it will end. Should US forces really be in Libya, even for "humanitarian" reasons?
Yemeni uprising

African Leaders and Gaddafi

It is not surprising that there are African leaders including Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Mugabe of Zimbabwe, raising their voices in protest over the bombings in Libya by the western allied forces.  Although African Union (AU) members rejected Gaddafi's proposal for a united Africa under one government, army and currency, AU has enjoyed enormous contributions from Gaddafi.  He actually served as the AU president until last year.

Jacob Zuma
It can be argued that some of the African leaders raising their voices, like Museveni and Mugabe, are doing so because of the familiar similarities they share with Gaddafi. Museveni recently won another five year term adding to his 25-year profile as President of Uganda. Mugabe is on his sixth term as President clocking 31 years in office. African leaders have a way of "pushing their agenda" during presidential elections - which more often than not includes violence towards any opposition.
Robert Mugabe
Both men, like other despotic rulers have maintained power by crushing the opposition and altering any constitutional laws that would prohibit their stay in power.  Museveni, like former President Hosni Mubarak, has been grooming his son to take over the Presidency - like it was an inherited position of leadership.  It would not be surprising to find that Gaddafi has personal relationships with these leaders particularly in the area of training mercenaries.  African leaders desperate to hold on to power use mercenaries to do their bidding.  Gaddafi is currently using African mercenaries from Chad and Mali to kill and suppress any form of opposition.

Yoweri Museveni
As is the case with most sub-Saharan nations, economics are intertwined with politics and military force on your people is an extension of economics and politics.  However, Ugandan economy under Museveni has seen an economic growth rate that is higher than its neighbors (7%-8%) in the last several years. Museveni was the darling of the West and he persuaded IMF/World Bank and major donor debts to cancel all Ugandan debts.  Now this former darling has become a nuisance to the West.  As for Zimbabwe... what can I say that has not been said? The world has given up on Zimbabwe and decided to ignore Mugabe.

Additional Resources:
BBC News

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wikileaks - Sally Kosgei vs Kenyan Leadership

Dr. Sally Kosgei
Sally Kosgei, Kenya's former High Commissioner to London and retired President Moi's last Head of Civil Service certainly did not anticipate that her conversations in 2009 with US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger and Asst. Secretary of State Johnnie Carson would find their way in the leakages of US diplomatic secret cables.

Dr. Kosgey, who at the given time was Minister of Higher Education, condescendingly described President Kibaki as leader who did not read intelligent briefs and having no back-bone to carry out agreed reforms. She continued to dress down her cabinet colleagues including the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, stating he has "no office structure, no discipline in his life or schedule".

Johnnie Carson, a former US envoy to Kenya under President Moi, called Kibaki and Raila to apologise over the insipid reports, as soon as the Wikileaks saga broke. An embarrassing moment for Mr. Carson.

For Dr. Kosgey, tomorrow will be a difficult day as she is currently in New York with her Vice-President, whom she described as "a diminishing asset". They are in New York lobbying the UN to defer Kenya's cases at The Hague.

Clearly Kenya continues to have a fractured cabinet supporting poor and unstable leadership. This has stagnating effects on a potential emerging economy. Egypt is Kenya's neighbor to the north and the Kenyans are fed up.

Will the wind of change in the Sahel blow down south?

Other sources: