I am Leaving Oxford and…On to the Next One

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Note: ‘On to the Next One’ is a pretty cool song by Jay-Z

After six years living in the United Kingdom, I am today moving to the United States to start a new phase in life. This is a momentous personal and professional transition. It will be accompanied by immense changes across numerous spheres, but importantly in how I use this blog and in my other public engagements. Of course I wouldn’t be a true blogger if I didn’t write about it to explain why I’m actually blogging about it.

The last time I made such a big move was moving to Oxford to start my doctorate in International Development in October 2012. I remember writing this excessively enthusiastic piece, thrilled to be at the University of Oxford, bursting with excitement at the prospects and opportunities, for being at one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious institutions. Of course, when I reflect on the mélange of great, the frustrating, the uplifting, disappointing and the intellectually stimulating experiences so far, I cringe a bit at my naivety back then. Nevertheless, it has been a great intellectual journey that I would not trade for anything, doing work and research on subjects I am passionate about, engaging with some of the world’s most brilliant minds.Read More »

Scholarships and Development Opportunities No.17

1. THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM

 See website and brochure.

UMAPS accepts direct applications from faculty members of colleges or universities in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda.

Faculty members of colleges and universities in all other African countries cannot apply directly to the UMAPS program without first being nominated and invited to apply by a U-M faculty member with whom s/he already has a pre-existing relationship.

Eligibility Requirement

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I Was at the Fireworks Display in Nice. Many are Not So Lucky to be Alive

I had no intention of writing anything. I didn’t know what or how to write. I am in what I can best describe as emotional purgatory since the night of 14 July.  I am neither sad. Nor depressed. Nor unhappy. Not even fearful. Just numb and stunned: bewildered but with a leaden heaviness in the pit of my stomach, rising to my chest. Thankful for leaving the Promenade des Anglais in Nice immediately after the fireworks. Thinking of all the alternative scenarios which would have led to different outcomes for me: psychological trauma, physical injury or death.

For it was just about 10 minutes after my classmates and I had left the area that the deadly white truck ploughed into the crowd, a few meters from where we were, mowing down over 80 people to death, and injuring hundreds. These were families, lovers, friends, colleagues, children, teenagers, parents and grandparents, whose lives had been cut short in one instant.Read More »

Six Implications of Brexit, Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident

Against all odds, Britain has voted to leave the European Union, astounding observers, policymakers and even the Leave campaigners. 52% of voters voted Leave in defiance of credible warnings of dire economic and geopolitical consequences by experts, economists, international organisations, Britain’s allies, U.S. President Barack Obama and pretty much everyone else. Brexit’s victory was a solid four-point lead over the Remain camp’s 48% of the vote. Few forecasters, not even the bookies, saw this coming. Over the next hours, days and weeks, the political and economic enormity of this decision will become more apparent to voters and the world at large.

In my six years of living in England, I have witnessed with incredulity, the changing political culture in the public sphere which preceded and actually crystallised in this historic referendum. Based on these observations, these are the six implications I can see so far (they are by no means exhaustive):Read More »

To transform Africa’s economies, African companies matter too

I recently wrote this piece for The Conversation.

A consistent feature of global analyses of Africa’s economic prospects is their fickleness. In the years since the global financial crisis in 2008, forecasts about Africa have swerved from deep pessimism to heady optimism, and back to a bearish outlook of slow growth and fragility.

The vacillation in perceptions of African economies closely mirrors both the boom and bust cycle of global commodity prices, and the sentiments of Western and Chinese investors. But as global attention shifts yet again to the urgency of diversifying Africa’s economies from unprocessed commodities, the role of the domestic African private sector remains poorly understood by outsiders, especially academics.

The media has fared slightly better in spotlighting the exploits of tycoons such as Sudanese telecoms giant Mo Ibrahim, Nigerian cement magnate Aliko Dangote, Zimbabwean telecoms entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa and others. But although African business owners have been powerful forces in African economies since the colonial period, they are often ignored in research and analysis….Read More »

Scholarships and Development Opportunities No.16

1. CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: IZA/DFID SHORT COURSE ON PROGRAM EVALUATION (ALL EXPENSES COVERED)

Organisers: David Lam (University of Michigan and IZA), Maryam Naghsh Nejad (IZA)

Location: Lusaka, Zambia

Date: October 29 – October 30, 2016

Submission Deadline: June 30, 2016

Notification of Acceptance: July 30, 2016

Deadline for Registeration: August 10, 2016

Event Manager: Dominik Spitza

Online Application Form

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China and Global Development: Different Perspectives on Africa

On 29 February 2016, I participated in a panel discussion on the above subject, ‘China and Global Development: Different Perspectives on Africa’. This was at the School of Public Policy, Central European University, Budapest, alongside, Professor George Wu (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Professor Chris Alden (London School of Economics and Political Science). The discussion was convened and moderated by Dr Daniel Large, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and MPA Director.

You can watch the full video available below:

The SPP-CEU website has a summary of some highlights of the discussion, available HERE, which I am also reproducing below.

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‘Muslims Must be at the Forefront of this Fight’ Against Terrorism

Last week, terrorist attacks targeted Ankara in Turkey, and Grand Bassam resort in Ivory Coast. This morning, it hit Brussels claiming over 30 innocent lives and counting. There are countless attacks in North-East Nigeria often targeting people who are already poor at the very bottom of the income ladder, in Mali, increasingly Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc., and many Western capitals. In response to the recent incident in Brussels, Ahmed Sadiq posted this salient note on Facebook in condemnation of violent extremism: Read More »

Scholarships and Development Opportunities No. 15

Apologies for the long hiatus. Scholarships and Development Opportunities is back

1. WORLD BANK GROUP ANALYST PROGRAMME

The World Bank Group Analyst Program is a new and unique opportunity for exceptionally talented young people with a passion for international development to contribute to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Through this structured three-year program, you will work in an intellectually challenging and culturally diverse environment within a specific practice, region, or corporate unit in the World Bank Group, which includes the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Read More »

Academic Paper: The Successes and Failures of Economic Reform in Nigeria’s Post-Military Political Settlement

Photo credit: personal collection

There are two stark images of Africa today. One of an ‘Africa rising’, surfing the wave of a digital revolution to drive a middle class consumption of innovative mobile technology and digital financial services. The other, of a more familiar Africa, whose oil and mineral resource economies remain highly vulnerable to the volatile swings of global commodity prices. The two Africas may seem like worlds apart but they are actually two sides of an ongoing economic transition on the continent, and are outcomes of the same political processes, as I argue in a new paper from my doctoral research.Read More »

Aliko Dangote to Discuss ‘Doing Business in Africa’ in Oxford

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The University of Oxford is hosting Aliko Dangote, the world’s richest black man and Africa’s most well-known industrialist tomorrow, 16 February 2016.

In particular, the Oxford University Africa Society and the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) are hosting him in a conversation entitled “The Truth about Doing Business in Africa” at 1.20pm. My colleague Yasmin Kumi, President of the Africa Society and myself, as co-convenor of the China-Africa Network will discuss with him his experiences of doing business in Africa

Although the event is restricted to students, researchers and academics in the university, who pre-registered, you can engage in the conversation with the hashtag #DangoteInOxford. A video will also be made publicly available online subsequently.

New Industrial Policy in Africa: Overcoming the Extractives Trap

Moderating the event’s first panel. Photo credit: FES Madagascar

Happy New Year!

On 3-4 November 2015, I was at a conference organised by the Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES) foundation on ‘New Industrial Policy in Africa: Overcoming the Extractives Trap’ in Atananarivo, Madagascar .

The conference was organised to discuss attempts by African countries, especially resource producers and exporters to cope with the ongoing collapse in global commodity prices. This is within the global context of a renewed interest in industrialisation with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (see my post on it here), the role of governments in enabling private sector activity and in directing public investments towards stimulating industry. The conference was a contribution to ongoing debates on what effective industrial policies could look like, whether African countries should focus on their comparative or competitive advantage, how to learn from previous failures on the mis-allocation of resources, country experiences of Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria etc.

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Nigeria’s Newly Appointed Officials Signal Shift in Economic Policy

Credit: Olisa TV

This is a piece I recently wrote for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog on how Nigeria’s new government maybe shifting towards the mineral sector, and how this could address regional disparities in growth.

Although he was elected in March of this year, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari did not name his Cabinet ministers until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 — the day of his self-imposed deadline. The most striking thing about Buhari’s Cabinet appointments is that they demonstrate a shift toward economic diversification away from oil. This has major implications for how neglected sectors like mining may be given a boost, but also how Africa’s largest economy will be run over the next few years.Read More »

The Under-Belly of Africa’s Booming Business Environment

Africa’s mobile phone revolution is one of the main drivers of the bullish ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. Underpinning this optimism in Nigeria, is the liberalisation of the country’s telecommunications sector, regarded as one of the success stories of economic reform. With over 148 million connected mobile lines, and 92 million internet subscribers, it is not hard to see why.

Amidst the praises for this emergent sector, precious little is known about the actual (and messy) back story behind the telecoms liberalisation in the early 2000s.

For that reason, British-Zimbabwean telecoms tycoon, Strive Masiyiwa’s recent account of his experience during these early days of reform provides a rare glimpse into the challenges and opportunities of operating in a place like Nigeria. The narrative posted on his blog and Facebook page, went viral several weeks ago.Read More »

Piketty’s Lecture on Inequality in South Africa

Thomas Piketty, the “rock star economist”, was in Soweto, South Africa recently to deliver the 13th annual Nelson Mandela lecture. He spoke about inequality, drawing on his recent best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty First Century but also from his country, France’s experiences in inclusion and welfare reforms since the French Revolution in the 18th century.

It is a very interesting submission, for many reasons. I particularly liked his historical and comparative approach, and his caution in making reference to often-unreliable data on tax returns, wealth and of course inequality.

The talk is topical, and couldn’t have been delivered at a more appropriate time. South Africa, which has the most developed, diversified economy in Africa, is currently the world’s most unequal country in income distribution according to the World Bank’s Gini Index. Read More »