How Mozambique is anticipating the resource curse

Interesting article on how Mozambique and several other countries are trying to avoid the fate of the “resource curse” following discoveries of coal and gas within their territories. Will be very interesting to see if such self-conscious awareness of the potential for conflict can be addressed through early institutional planning. If so, will really give me faith in the enlightenment ideal that social analysis and self-conscious reflection can improve the human condition! That said, not yet clear what they will do, except that many will insist on greater government transparency in handling contracts.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Resource curse casts a shadow on Mozambique’s door (Business Day)

by Jinty Jackson, March 13 2013, 07:46

Mozambican first lady Graça Machel.  Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Mozambican first lady Graça Machel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

AS INVESTORS flock to Mozambique because of vast coal and gas discoveries, the impoverished country is poised to begin a journey many other resource-rich emerging nations have already taken: trying to harness its resource wealth for the benefit of future generations.

Many have failed trying. Mozambique is now the latest country facing the difficult question: how to avoid the “resource curse”, whereby economies in resource-rich countries grow more slowly than others, as unwanted side-effects of this wealth, such as corruption, take hold.

Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Angola, Sao Tome and Norway are among the countries that have come forward recently to advise Mozambique on how it might avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls when it comes to managing its hydrocarbon bonanza.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Resource curse casts a shadow on Mozambique’s door | Africa | BDlive.

African perspectives on Kenyan election

Next week’s presidential election in Kenya is being closely monitored both because it is the first under its new constitution, because democratic institutions are still in their infancy across Africa, because the last election resulted in so much bloodshed, and a few of the leading candidates are scheduled to stand trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity. The New York Times has been covering pretty closely, but I thought it was worth taking a look at how the election is being viewed from various African perspectives.

AU: The African Union is sending the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, to lead a team that will monitor the Kenyan elections, part of its ongoing efforts to promote democratic processes.

Uganda relies heavily on the port of Mombasa for imports and exports, so post-election violence in Kenya could significantly harm the Ugandan economy. The tea industry in particular has expanded in recent years, with farmers planting more acres and new factories rising to process the crops to take advantage of high prices on the international market.

Ugandan security officials have also been monitoring the situation, partially in response to the severe fuel shortage that struck Uganda during Kenya’s post-election violence in 2008.

However, Ugandans have also discussed what Kenya’s first presidential debates and planned devolution could mean for Uganda. To date, President Musaveni has not shown any interest in participating in a debate, and there has not been sufficient political pressure to encourage him to engage in open discussion with any opponents.

Although the presidential candidates in Tanzania participated in a debate during the 1995 election, Tanzania has not held such a debate since then. Due to the perceived success of the Kenyan debates, several Tanzanian politicians and members of the media have expressed an interest in trying to implement one during the next campaign season.

Within Kenya, foreigners and immigrants are preparing for potential disruptions to their businesses. Shops in the city of Kisumu, located in the home province of candidate Raila Odinga, were looted and vandalized following the previous election, so shopkeepers, many of South Asian descent, are boarding up their stores and staying closed for at least two days after the election.

The United States has said it will be neutral, and President Obama recorded a video message urging the Kenyan people to refrain from violence in this election. The video was widely covered by Kenyan media.

Great new research on African political economy

I am just heading home now from the African Studies Association meetings in Philadelphia, and I have to say, I was impressed by several really interesting presentations that make me quite optimistic about what we can learn about initiatives to enhance democracy and governance in Africa; and about both the practice and deeper understanding of ethnic politics. Political scientists working on Africa are doing a lot of innovative and interesting research on substantively important topics.

Yesterday, at a panel on information and government accountability, Jeremy Weinstein presented some of his work (joint with Macartan Humphreys) in which they described their massive experiment in Uganda creating and distributing parliamentarian “scorecards” to provide citizens information about the quality of work being done by their elected representatives. Another paper, presented by Guy Grossman (also joint with Humphreys and with Gabriella Sacramone-Lutz) investigated the impact of mobile phone technology on “interest articulation” or the inclination of voters to contact their representatives, again in Uganda. Kelly Zhang presented her Kenyan-based research investigating the impact of providing information about the quality of government spending on citizen attitudes and behaviors. And Lily Tsai presented a paper (joint with myself and Dan Posner) on the effects of some aspects of the Uwezo initiative in Kenya, which provided parents information about their children’s literacy and numeracy levels, and information about how to be more active citizens. (I apologize for including my own paper in a post entitled “Great new research…”)

Lily Tsai presents at ASA (lousy photo by me)

Lily Tsai presents at ASA (lousy photo by me)

The papers provided a systematic look at some of the possibilities and limitations of “open government” for improving accountability, action, and service provision. I will not summarize all of the nuanced findings here, but it’s clear that openness and transparency do not lead to immediate sea-changes in citizen-government relations. This is unfortunate news because a lot of money is being spent with potentially overly-optimistic results in mind. But it’s better to identify what’s not working and to try to explain why, than to continue operating under the assumption that any initiative to make citizens more informed with lead to better quality government. In a deeper way, this work forces us to reflect on the role of an informed citizenry in democratic government.

As Lily, Dan, and I try to point out in our paper, we need to try to really clarify the many nuanced conditions under which it’s even plausible that these types of initiatives would have the desired impact, and hopefully all of this research will help “democracy entrepreneurs” to do better, more impactful work. Despite the many null findings, I think many of the scholars working in this area still believe that information campaigns and technologies of some form will have the desired effects.

Today, I discussed four great papers on ethnic politics in Africa: Willa Friedman’s investigated the determinants of participation in the Rwandan genocide, using new villeage-level data on the numbers of people accused in the Gacaca courts of perpetrating crimes. She finds, among other things, that more people were accused — and thus likely more participated — in villages where there was a high level of Hutu education and Hutu unemployment. A reasonable interpretation: personal frustration contributed to individuals’ decision to participate in the holocaust.

The other three papers focused on ethnic voting. Liz Carlson described some experimental research and analysis of Afrobarometer survey data that shows the extent to which many Africans will under-report their bias towards voting for co-ethnics in situations where other people are present. This type of mis-representation says something about the negative connotation of ethnic politics among Africans, and forces us to question the accuracy of uncorrected surveys. Claire Adida presented her related work from Benin, in which she experimentally induced citizens to express (non) support for their ethnically ambiguous president (of both Yayi and Nago descent) following a “prime” that indicated his association with one or the other ethnicity. Finally, Nahomi Ichino and Noah Nathan presented their paper – forthcoming in the American Political Science Review – which showed that in Ghana, in areas where the president’s ethnic group constitutes an increasingly large share of the population, individuals from other ethnic groups are likely to vote for him. They argue, plausibly, that this is because those individuals, despite being from a different ethnic group, will actually benefit from the President’s largesse in ways that would not happen if a candidate of their own ethnic group were elected.

Sometimes I leave academic conferences wondering why I do what I do. This one actually left me pretty energized and quite impressed by the ambitious work of colleagues in the field.

Monitoring and evaluation job opportunity with Twaweza, East Africa

I met with Rakesh Rajani, Head of Twaweza, yesterday in Nairobi. He is looking for a newLearning, Monitoring and Evaluation manager who would report to him. They want to hire a highly skilled individual with a minimum of an MA, and a PhD is preferred. Sounds like a very neat job (and our research team would be working closely with whomever he hires, so I have high hopes that he will identify someone great).

A full job description is attached here.

Twaweza responds to Ugandan police seizure of calendars

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Ugandan police’s seizure of Twaweza-produced calendars promoting active citizenship. This week,  Twaweza’s Uganda country director spoke out about the calendar’s intended message and why he believes the police should release the calendars.

What reason did the police give to impound a consignment of Twaweza calendars?

They say the calendars contained messages which could incite the public. But we think this is a message that tells citizens to wake up to the realisation that they have to change their livelihoods not to wait for leaders, governments or NGOs to solve their problems. We believe empowering these people can help them make changes in their lives. We think this is a misunderstanding that the police should not have caused.

So do you don’t (sic.) believe what the police say about your calendars?

Absolutely not; we think the calendars are not inciting as they want you to believe. It is colossal misunderstanding on their part.  There are no political innuendos in these calendars.

The full interview can be found here

The country director argues in the interview that the calendars were not intended to be “partisan” or “political,” but rather to encourage citizens to be change-makers in their own lives. Fair enough. But given that there was absolutely no suggestion of inciting violence in these calendars, their confiscation is a clear denial of open and critical political discourse. Irrespective of the goals or intentions of the sponsoring organization, the Ugandan state’s actions contravened any pretense of upholding democratic norms.

The Kony 2012 video phenomenon

I could say that I simply didn’t have time to watch the KONY 2012 video all week, but the truth is I really didn’t have any interest. Sure, I heard that it was going viral, but since I was familiar with the nature of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — particularly the recruitment of child soldiers to his fanatical cult, and aspirations of developing a theocratic state — it didn’t initially occur to me that I ought to watch.

But then a friend asked for my reflections on the phenomenon, and I decided to join just about everyone else and invest about 29 minutes in front of my computer screen. Between the time when I started this morning, and when I finished this afternoon, more than 4 million views were added to the tally, reaching over 56 million.

I was pretty gripped even thought I didn’t learn a single new fact about this absolutely horrific situation. I will definitely be curious to see what happens on April 20th – the day of the great international campaign proposed by the sponsoring organization, invisible children.

The blogosphere is predictably abuzz with complaints about the video and the organization: lack of nuance in presentation of the facts, that the campaign seems to lead more to contributions to the organization than to the problem on the ground, and third, that the recommended prescriptions might do more harm than good – why are we supporting the Ugandan military, for example?

I really don’t feel like commenting on any of these issues.

For me, the bigger question is, why has this video captured the imagination of so many? Well the initial answer seems pretty obvious: The film reports on a grave injustice, and of course everyone ought to be up in arms. But I think there’s more going on as there are tons of atrocities around the world, some that affect many more people.

Here are my hypotheses:

First, there’s a villain with a name and a face. I am willing to accept the idea that Kony is a really, really bad guy. But at least part of the reason he’s been able to recruit child soldiers and commit the atrocities he has is because of the poverty and under-development of the region, and the low levels of state authority. But big structural problems are not the things of movies. And why not? For years, I’ve been trying to convince some filmmaker friends to make a film about the Boer War, a fascinating historical episode that helps explain the origins of apartheid South Africa. But they always ask me, who is the bad guy, the villain? I never quite understood why this should matter, but what they get and I didn’t is that audiences need a human face to be the object of their scorn.

Second, there are heroes – ranging from the filmmaker’s angelic, blond son, to all of us. We are told that we can save kids like Jacob (the boy we first meet, whose brother was killed by Kony). In the film, we can make a difference. It’s empowering. No one wants to hear about problems that we can’t fix.

Third, beautiful celebrity figures provide their stamp of approval, and our connection to the project brings us closer to them. Ok, let me tell a little personal story here…

Back in the fall of 2007, I was teaching my course on the politics of development at Princeton. It was late in the term, attendance at my lectures was dwindling a bit, and a few yawns and glazed eyes were apparent in the audience.

Then one day, one of my students asked me to introduce and moderate a presentation on FINCA – a microfinance NGO – to a group of students.  And by the way, Natalie Portman would be the representative from the organization making the presentation.

Well, I was accustomed to speaking to an audience of about 70, which is the relatively large enrollment for my course.  That night, the 500-seat auditorium was packed for the presentation. I got it: the students were more interested in Natalie Portman than they were in me.

But then, a funny thing happened. When I got up to speak on a topic I really don’t know much about – micro-lending – the students were wide-eyed and on the edge of their seats. For days afterwards, I received emails from students asking to meet with me, and wanting to learn more. The Portman “touch” eventually wore off. But somehow my words seemed more interesting once they were in the context of a glamorous star. (Note to celebrities reading this, you are welcome to sit on stage with me for future lecture courses…)

For the past year, as I’ve posted about previously, I’ve been working on a project studying the effects of the Uwezo campaign in East Africa. They are trying to generate buzz about the poor state of education in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, hoping to help citizens make governments more accountable for this fundamental problem. They would love to have more than 50 million page views. Or even 5 million. How about 500,000?

At last count, Uwezo Kenya had just over 5000 friends on facebook.

And Uwezo Uganda produced a really nice film, with the following description: “Kyosiga’s Dream is a short film that shows the school and home life of an 11 year old boy. The film highlights supportive and non-supportive decisions and situations at home, village, and school which may interfere with or aid children’s ability to learn.”

This is important stuff.

And yet, as of today, there were 3 views on Youtube. (THREE).

I don’t know if the Kony 2012 campaign will work, or if in the grand scheme of things, given Kony’s waning influence in the region that this is the problem that “deserves” the attention it’s getting. I’m impressed that so many people care, and that they are spending their time watching this instead of videos about babies biting their brother’s fingers (well, they do that too.)

My question is how to capture people’s imagination about problems that don’t have clear villains, or sexy solutions? And in particular, how to capture the imagination of people in the places where the problems persist so that they might develop the best solutions that are needed for improving their own lives?

Ugandan government impounds Twaweza citizenship calendars

Last Friday, the Ugandan government confiscated 700,000 calendars produced by Twaweza. As far as I know, they remain in police custody.

The calendar was an effort to realize Twaweza’s mission to promote government accountability. Phrases such as, “who will change your world in 2012?” and photographs of various government officials were intended to provide information and to increase citizen awareness.

According to an article in The Monitor, police have charged that the calendars incite violence. More stories and debate about this incident can be found here.

 

Uwezo Uganda film on the value of education

Uwezo Uganda just released a short film on the dreams (of becoming president) and challenges (of going to school when burdened with responsibilities) of an 11-year-old boy named Kyosiga.

Since the goal of this NGO is to inspire parents to place a higher premium on education, the intuition seems just right: Drama is a potentially powerful tool for disseminating key ideas. Along these lines, social scientists like myself need to make peace with the idea that coldly presented facts about the value of education — for example, with evidence about income gains from schooling — are probably not particularly persuasive for most people. Those facts may be necessary for getting a full picture of reality, but in turn, most people seem to be convinced by stories. A dramatic film that makes the case for education through the drama of a single individual who can stand in for the “average child” sounds promising. Whether the intended audience will actually get to see the film, and how they will respond to it remains to be seen.

Premier of Kyosiga's Dream (Daily Monitor)

Anti-homosexuality in East Africa: The 21st century race problem?

Kim Dionne writes about the anti-homosexuality bill being re-tabled in the Ugandan parliament, highlighting the strategic use of anti-homosexuality as a basis for ending partisan conflict.

Meanwhile, lesbian students were suspended from school in Kenya as reported by The Standard. (This video is worth watching — the principal blames the poor performance of the school on lesbianism…)

The rise of homosexual scapegoating reminds me of Anthony Marx’s argument about the implementation of institutionalized white supremacy in South Africa and Jim Crow in post Civil War United States. In order to “bind the wounds” between English and Afrikaner in SA; and North and South in the U.S., blacks got the raw deal in both places. In East Africa, despite the threat of donor pressure, a similar strategy seems afoot for what might be analogous to the 20th century “color line.” Apparently, gay is the new black.

Ugandans react to new aid pressures

Recently, I posted about the UK’s moves to apply pressure on African countries to be respectful and to protect the human rights of all people, irrespective of sexual orientation. And in recent weeks, Secretary Clinton has signaled that the Obama administration is going to do much the same.

It’s a bold foreign policy move, and it’s generating a lot of heat, especially in Uganda, which receives a ton of foreign aid. On the one hand, today’s NY Times op-ed from a Ugandan activist (Gay and Vilified in Uganda – NYTimes.com) provided a powerful portrait of what homosexuals face in their country. But President Museveni has tried to shift the agenda away from gay rights to the “universal” need for economic development. Meanwhile, this clip

from Ugandan news (after about minute 1:00), reports on a meeting of Ugandan ambassadors from around the world discussing how to promote a better image abroad. At the meeting, Acting minister of Foreign Affairs, Okello Oryem, says Uganda will “not tolerate acts of sexual abuse perpetrated on minors and other vulnerable people by homosexuals in the name of practicing their gay rights.” Typically, the Ugandan government has done everything possible to be the darling of the aid community, but on this social issue, they are angling for a real standoff.