There is much to admire about South Africa’s relative progress and stability in the almost nineteen years since its first multiracial election, but its school system is truly an embarrassment. Despite the country’s upper-middle-income classification, many areas that were formerly designated as so-called “homelands” (i.e., the Transkei and Ciskei), resemble the poorest areas of many of Africa’s poorest countries.
I paste below a link to a wonderful but depressing story about the dismal state of Eastern Cape schools — sometimes referred to as the “mud schools” because several are made of mud. It highlights how the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has been working to protect children’s rights to education, suing the government to provide appropriate resources. It should not be necessary to litigate for decent schools for the poorest kids, but at least that avenue is available and seems to have had some impact.
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
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.
Myworld2015 asks all of us – that’s right, all of humanity — to vote for the changes that would “make the most difference to our world.” We get to vote online for the priorities that we believe to be most important – they provide us 16 options, and we are asked to select 6. And on our honor, we vote just once. Sometime between now and… 2015.
It’s a crowd-sourcing scheme for defining the “next” set of goals (presumably after we discover how many of the millennium development goals go unmet).
Good idea for participatory development? Interesting attempt at making all of us citizens in one big global democracy? It’s certainly well intentioned, but maybe not so well-thought-out.
It’s not clear from the website how the votes are going to be tallied or interpreted. At the moment, I see that there are almost 1500 votes from the U.S., and just 208 from Nigeria and 596 from India… let alone 3 from Congo.
What happens when voters from the global North click through that they want to prioritize climate change, gender relations, and freedom from discrimination; and those from the global South want jobs, clean water, and affordable food? Especially if those from the global North with exponentially greater access to the internet dominate voter turnout?
OK, maybe I’m taking this scheme too seriously, but if the UN, ODI, and others are going to make the case that they want to listen to the whole world’s views on such important matters, I hope they are prepared to deal with the messiness that much smaller democracies face. Not only are the world’s priorities likely to be highly heterogeneous, but their scheme is likely to highlight that the rich minority of citizens have quite different policy preferences than the majority poor — even if one assumes that the types who are likely to vote are going to be disproportionately cosmopolitan in outlook in the first place. And if the goal of the exercise is solidarity, one has to wonder if this all might backfire?
And of course if they take the vote and then hide the results because of turnout disparities or polarization of priorities, well, that won’t look very democratic after all.
Amazing, but presumably true, BBC News reports that Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe have struck a deal on a new constitution that will pave the way for elections. I guess what really shocks me is the photo:
After reading Peter Godwin’s book on Mugabe’s reign of terror, which documents the devastating violence committed against Tsvangirai; and following the relentless animosity between these two; well, you just wouldn’t imagine them yucking it up together in a spirit of comradery.
But I guess that’s why I find politics so interesting. It’s nice to be surprised.
That said, most Zimbabweans are going to be pretty skeptical that any deal is going to stick, and will now reacquaint themselves with fears of pre-electoral violence.
Too many African states have been governed by the wrong kind of millionaires and even billionaires – those who have “earned” their money while being in office, extracting resources from the state in various ways. Indeed, one of the challenges for African political development has been that state office has too often been seen as the only viable road to personal enrichment in the context of quite limited market opportunities.
But as followers of South African politics now know, billionaire (in terms of South African currency at least) Cyril Ramaphosa was just elected deputy president of the ANC. Ramaphosa was a founding member of the National Union of Mineworkers, and his leadership of the 1980s strikes contributed to the fall of apartheid. His trajectory is reminiscent of Brazil’s “Lula,” a former union leader, who served two successful terms as state president after a few failed bids for office. And yet, Cyril largely stayed on the fringes of politics for more than a decade to join the brave new world of black empowerment, through various holding companies and corporate leadership positions.
So what does a guy do when he’s worth, according to Forbes, over $600 million (more than 5 billion South African Rand)? He found himself elected to the number two spot of the somewhat embattled, but still extremely dominant ANC. As pointed out in today’s Mail and Guardian, this does not necessarily mean he will become the next deputy president of government (though re-elected party president Jacob Zuma surely will take another turn as state president), but either way, he has now reached a new level of political power that had seemed his destiny at the dusk of apartheid government.
What might it mean to have a guy in office who really doesn’t need the spoils of corruption? Unfortunately, of course, “need” can vary, and for some, 600 million might not seem like enough. But since I live in a city that’s been governed pretty darn well by a billionaire, I’d like to contemplate the optimistic scenario that Ramaphosa could help the ANC to chart a better course, serving the public interest in ways that have become increasingly rare. (Hopefully, he won’t push too hard on downsizing the size of soft drinks…) In fact, too many of the ANC’s moral and good governance core, including Desmond Tutu, Trevor Manuel, and many others, have chosen the exit option. Ramaphosa could inject some new ideas about process and efficiency, and quality service delivery; including the South African private sector’s desperate need for a better educated and better trained workforce. Most important, all of that money in the bank just might help him push back against the increasingly pervasive practice of self-enrichment through sweetheart deals, and private perks from the public purse.
Cyril had a shining profile at the dawn of post-apartheid government. Today, he is viewed as a serious businessman, who still retains some liberation movement credentials, albeit somewhat tainted by concerns about his role in the Lonmin strike violence. And of course, one has to wonder, can a guy with so much money, who has been hanging out in corporate board rooms for more than a decade, still be viewed as a man of the people? Moreover, it would be quite a stretch to consider him a “self-made” tycoon, in the sense that he didn’t exactly build any businesses from the ground up. He was in the right places at the right times, and has managed to leverage opportunities afforded at transition into something of a corporate empire. Certainly, he has used power and connections to be successful, but I have yet to see any real accusations of illegal activity. He seems to be a pretty honest and hard-working guy.
As John Campbell points out, Cyril actually won more votes than Zuma at the ANC party conference. No doubt, this could feel threatening to Zuma, who, like his predecessor, could always be recalled mid-term should the party decide to remove him from office.
These caveats notwithstanding, I gently advance the notion that in this case, a billionaire in a position of power might do South Africa some good.
I have written previously about some of the not-so-successful attempts to promote more active citizenship in Africa. But one proposal that I am pretty sure has not been tried, and was suggested to me just this evening by my nephews, Jack and Henry, and my niece, Lucy…
… is an “Active Citizen” sweatshirt. Who knows — it’s fashionable, looks great, and it really leaves others asking, “What does it mean to be an active citizen?,” and, “How can I be one too?”
Next step: random dissemination and thorough impact evaluation!
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…”)
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.
While I was in Cape Town last week, the South African statistics bureau released preliminary results from the 2011 census. Interesting stuff for someone who is particularly interested in the census and race politics.
For South Africa, the obvious and immediate questions that come up are, how are life styles evolving? And how does this compare across the races?
The various news outlets seem pretty confused about whether to report good news or bad news. For instance, the Mail and Guardian headlines that it will take, “50 Years for Blacks to Catch up,” with
an article that begins:
The first flush of data from Census 2011 released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Tuesday showed a number of differences between the races, especially white and black. But none stand so stark as the inequality in education and income.
And indeed, most of the headlines point out the obvious — that enormous income and wealth differentials remain between whites and blacks, on average.
But the more important story is the trends:
South Africa’s older white population (with a median age of 38, compared to 21 for black people) didn’t grow wealthy faster than their black counterparts over the last 10 years. In fact, quite the contrary. Black household income growth between the 2001 census and the latest version averaged 169%, compared to an increase of just 88% for white households.
And of course, averages don’t tell the whole story. Can you really compare the income of individuals with vastly different educational profiles? And alternatively, the types of data that the census captures, such as years of schooling, don’t account for the important differences in terms of quality of education, which continues to skew heavily towards whites. This is no longer the product of deliberately discriminatory policy, but a more complicated story that is tied to longstanding patterns.
So is the news bad or good? Ok, I’ll admit that I also think it’s pretty tough to boil down a very complicated picture to a single digestible message, but from what I’ve seen, I think the numbers look better than I would have thought. Service delivery appears up everywhere, and most relevant trends are positive. Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to dive more deeply into the data, and I will report back again.
I am used to being home on the East Coast, reading about and following calamities here in Southern Africa. It feels very strange to be in sunny Cape Town obsessively monitoring the path and impact of Frankenstorm Sandy. I am relieved that family and friends are safe, but horrified to learn of all the destruction.
Pretty much nothing. Just two mentions of terrorism in Mali. Well, I suppose we should blame moderator Bob Schleiffer for not asking any questions on issues beyond our bellicose relations around the year. But the candidates could have pivoted if they had thought they could say something that might win votes.