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 »
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.
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 »
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 »
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.
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.
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 »
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 »
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 »
The unveiling of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was the highlight of the week-long United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The SDGs is the successor framework to the MDGs, with an overarching objective of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. Its 17 goals, 169 indicators and a global rather than developing-world focus make it more expansive in scope than the MDGs.
Expectedly, a gathering of this scale unveiling such a grand global agenda drew a lot of flak. From accusations of being too ambitious and concerns about how to finance the SDGs, to contradictory accusations of both an excessive and insufficient emphasis on aid financing and the absence of reliable data to measure progress across ‘vague’ indicators, there are many holes to pick. Despite some of these valid criticisms, there are three main reasons why we should be optimistic about the SDGs.Read More »
At a recent African entrepreneurship summit, Ory Okolloh Mwangi, one of Kenya’s top tech innovators (also a former Google Manager for Africa), had this to say about the recent, if excessive, focus on entrepreneurship across the continent (excerpt originally published on Quartz):Read More »
Note: I paraphrased the title of this blog post from this tweet by Professor Calestous Juma.
The question was prompted by a recent statement by Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom, one of Africa’s pioneering mobile money platforms. Collymore suggests that the idea of ‘African Solutions’ (to African Problems) may be hindering the ability of African firms to have global impact.
In this piece for CNN, I assess the performance of Nigeria’s president in his first 100 days in office. Here’s an excerpt:
As I stood on a queue at the immigration desk at the arrivals section of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja in May 2015, a well-dressed couple who had just arrived skipped the queue and headed straight to the desk. People murmured in exasperation and a woman right in front of me said with indignation: “It’s OK, now that Buhari is president, all these things will stop.”
Her statement reflected the general mood of optimism I witnessed around the country — on the streets and days later, at the Eagle Square, where Muhammadu Buhari took the oath of office — that Nigeria’s new president would solve the country’s numerous problems.
High expectations on Buhari’s leadership credentials swept him to victory with almost 54% of the vote in ahistoric defeat of an incumbent president in Nigerian elections. Buhari’s ascetic demeanour, quite atypical of the venality often associated with Nigeria’s political elite…Read More »
INTERNSHIP: SOCIAL POLICY FOR INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT AT THE UN INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Deadline: 19 July 2015
The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is an autonomous research institute within the UN system that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. Through our work, we aim to ensure that social equity, inclusion and justice are central to development thinking, policy and practice.
UNRISD is now accepting applications for a three-month internship position, starting in August 2015, to assist with the projects “Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies”, “New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South”, and Read More »
Democratic governments are likely to face two interrelated problems in implementing difficult economic reforms. First, is the unpopularity of these measures among citizens who are likely to shoulder the most burden. Second, is the difficulty in employing a practical approach to implementation. Reforming Nigeria’s money-guzzling fuel subsidy regime, now an urgent matter in the context of dwindling government revenues since 2014, is both unpopular and the practicalities of its reformation are yet to be fleshed out.