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 »

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 »

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.

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 »

“EITI was the Wrong Focus” and other Highlights of the Natural Resource Governance Conference

Last week, I was at a conference organised by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), formerly Revenue Watch Institute, on the challenges and opportunities presented by falling commodity prices. It was attended by the best in the academia, in policy and in civil society in the field.

A breakdown of the panels and speakers is available on the NRGI website.

There were a couple of things which stood out that are worth highlighting and documenting.

First, at the opening plenary, was…Read More »

Africa’s Oil Shock

This is an opinion piece I recently wrote for Aljazeera English, analysing how African countries are responding to falling global crude oil prices. I reproduce it below:

The plummeting of global crude prices is generating ripple effects worldwide. While oil exporters are reeling from plunging revenues, oil importers are bracing for cheaper oil, and the potential economic stimulus. Global economic relations may also witness profound shifts as the United States overtakes Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.Read More »

Maryam Writes About Her Experience at Obama’s Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Nigeria

Maryam Shehu Mohammed is one of the 500 young leaders selected from around Africa, to participate in President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative in the U.S. She recently returned to Nigeria after the completion of her program. Maryam wrote about her experience through the entire process, from application to completion of the fellowship. Her piece was originally posted in Synopsis, a Facebook group we both belong to. I have reproduced it below, with her permission, and that of the group’s admin. If you have been following this blog, you will know that I am an unabashed supporter of YALI, warts and all. Yet, Maryam’s reflective article is sincere, constructively critical in some respects but overall, very appreciative of the experience and the lessons learnt. It is a long read, but should be worth your time.

MY YALI EXPERIENCE

It began here, on this page. Zainab Usman, bless her, posted a link on the Young African Leaders Initiative. I saw it, applied and shared with friends and colleagues. 1,500 of the 15,000 Nigerian applicants were called for the interview. 43 qualified. In total, there were 50,000 applicants but only 500 qualified. The US Embassy calls us the top 1%.

The Young African Leadership Initiative is the flagship program of the Obama Administration to hone leadership skills of African youth in their capacities either in Public Management, Civic Leadership or as Entrepreneurs. As part of the requirements of the application process, I wrote three essays on “An initiative I had and how I garnered support for it;” on “A problem in my Community, Country or Workplace” and how I wanted to resolve it and an essay on what “skills I had in addition to those I needed to make the required change.”

I was a bit conflicted regarding the track to choose because I am a Public Servant but have a strong leaning towards civic leadership. Public Management won, that was my first choice and that is what I got. The 500 Fellows were divided into batches of 25 to be hosted by 20 different Universities spread all over the states, each university specialising in one of the three tracks. The US Government would cover all expenses including feeding, accommodation, transportation, phone bills, we even had a mini health insurance in case of emergencies in addition to weekly stipend.

Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland was to be my host University for the six week academic session. Prior to my arrival, I’d received tons of emails and reading materials from the school to prepare for the classes. I had also received emails requiring that some vaccines must be taken before I was admitted to stay in their hostels and asking me to bring my sheets as the school would not provide same. The questions in the medical history form were so personal, (questions bordering on sexual behaviour, preference of partners…) I didn’t even know how to fill it. Reading materials flooded my inbox too.

I didn’t feel welcome at Morgan State, nor did the other 24 Fellows as MSU was challenged even before we arrived because even the welcome email was cold. They retracted their demand for African sheets but insisted on the vaccines. I didn’t take the vaccines, decided that if push came to shove, I’d take them there. Most of the Fellows that took the vaccinations reacted and were sick for a few days after our arrival. Upon my arrival, they didn’t ask, I didn’t say. Before I left Nigeria, my colleagues were calling my school “Morgan Military School”. Their schools wanted to know their interests, asking them to come with party clothes and swim gear; it was to be a fun experience for them. I arrived Baltimore with a sense of foreboding. Farouk (a Nigerian also) and I were received at the airport. We arrived to decent accommodation but I wasn’t provided with sheets! The issue of logistics was something that was sorted out within the course of our stay.

The food! We ate at the school canteen for the first two weeks, suffice it to say that the African appetite no resemble d oyinbo appetite at all. It was grease, fat and fries which we found too bland for our taste buds. Some of the canteen staff had a bad attitude, such that YALI Fellows would hardly ever say “no” to each other but would imitate a certain canteen staff who would say “unh unh baby”, moving her pointing finger from side to side and shaking her head from side to side. In my language, that would simply have been a “no ma’am.” We were told this about Bo’morians, “we rude, but we nice…” How rude can be nice, I’m yet to figure out.

The Course Content we received before we arrived was packed full. Classes on infrastructure, transportation, leadership, professional writing for public officials (my favourite), theory, practice and ethics in public administration, policy analysis, conference calls with US officers, interactive sessions with key officers from a Congressman (Elijah Cummings, I will never forget how powerful a speaker he was), the Liberian Foreign Minister, to the Mayor’s, to the Governor’s office to the US State Department. There were visits to the World Trade Center, the World Bank, National Security Agency, etc.

Within the first one week at MSU, we realised that there was a disconnect between the school and the program itself. The Academic Director ended up doing everything with little or no support from the school. While some of the facilitators came prepared to meet professionals to help in the direction of capacity building, others just assumed they were meeting some random students from Africa. The latter group always got a reality check after spending time with us.

I remember the first video we watched, it was a one hour video on Uganda’s President Museveni and Uganda’s animals (like an hour of watching National Geographic). Andrew (South Africa) walked out. I drew in my book, many others were on their phones. No one was interested. Anselm (Burkina Faso) captured the mood of the class when he told the facilitator that “I am an African, coming from Africa, I know lions and zebras and I know Museveni, I did not come to America to watch this kind of thing”. It gave the facilitator the chance to reorganise himself and re-evaluate the kind of content we expected him to provide for the class.

The next facilitator had a chance to read our diverse profiles, had meetings with us to discuss his content and our expectations. It gave a whole new insight to him and us. The second week was great! The sessions were deeply insightful, the sessions interactive, group work challenging and we felt the shift to a better ground. All this while the schools involvement had started manifesting, there were changes in the feeding arrangement for the better, IREX (Samantha and co) and the State Department (Elizabeth, Aimee and co) were always on ground to ensure that we got the best of our YALI experience and I had been given sheets.

The other weeks passed in a haze, (not without a drama or two) the highlights of my week always being the writing classes, but the best were the last two weeks where we were treated like the guests of the POTUS (President of the United States), thanks to Qimmah (MSU) and Aimee (IREX). Our diverse backgrounds were considered in scheduling classes/meetings, visits to hospitals (Johns Hopkins, Maryland Trauma Center etc) with a view to making meaningful connections.

Most of the people we met were more than willing to help out with information and direction. MSU became more involved. We visited the White House, the MSU President hosted us to dinner at his house, the Vice President African Affairs took everyone out to dinner, boat cruises, shopping sprees, tourism, fun… The highlight was the send-forth banquet – School choir (world renowned), excellent food, well attended and 5 certificates (from MSU, the Governor, Legislative Black caucus, two Councilmen) were given. It was a preamble to the certificate that crowned it all, one signed by the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

I learnt that the American style networking could mean meeting people in a semi dark crowded room with everyone holding a glass of wine. I was no good at it. Especially since the first thing I say when a hand is extended towards me for a handshake is “I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands”. There’s always that profuse apology which makes the whole situation awkward and then… there goes the chance. Sometimes, I’d hold my ground and continue with the conversation, other times… I learnt the 30 second elevator speech and it helped, some.

Imagine being in a class with 24 super intelligent folks from 18 countries within Africa, all within the same age bracket (25-35) and all super achievers! There were doctors, lawyers, financial experts, economists, PPP experts, etc. There was harmony and there was chaos. There were really good times and there were times when the tension was thick. But above all, there was a mutual quest for learning, a collective demand for accountability especially regarding MSU living up to its expectations as a host University and a feeling of togetherness. We had fun, we were encouraged to have one to one discussions with each other which always made it easy to understand one another. We supported one another, teased each other, laughed and generally bonded as brothers and sisters. I miss them.

Sometimes, one needs to relate with a few others to be able to assess oneself. I’ve been described as “stern, serious, strict…” and have been advised to “remain the same, let loose a bit, let my hair down, suffer fools, speak up a little bit more, utilise the power I have in words and respect….”

The Presidential Summit in DC was the last leg of the Fellowship. It was simply amazing! All 500 Fellows were under one roof and like the royalty they treated us, we were treated to visits by Susan Rice, John Kerry, Michelle Obama and President Barrack Obama himself. I was in awe. And they kept telling us how much in awe of us they were. Fellows got presidential handshakes and hugs from the First Lady.

I’ve learnt so much from my YALI experience.
I learnt that as much as I think there is poverty in Nigeria, there is also poverty in America, there is stark poverty in Baltimore. Abandoned homes in thousands, and thousands of homeless people. Crime – it was not the safest of places as I’d been warned over and over again to always go out with someone and not to stay out too late. My veil/hijab always caused a lot of unwanted attention especially when I was on public transportation. The difference between them and us is that they have a system that is working. They have reliable statistics, they have the basic infrastructure and we don’t.

Some of the Nigerian YALI Fellows right before their departure to the U.S.

If we are disorganised, my first week at MSU told me that Americans can also be. One can’t prepare to host 25 young people without thinking of the basic things like towels, sheets, toilet paper, etc. I realised that what we went through in that first week was as a result of their problems as an institution. But towards the end, they rose up to the challenge and righted their wrongs. They did not want us to leave with a bad impression of the institution.

There were six Muslims in the class although not all of us fasted during Ramadan, (fasting lasted 18 hours each day). There was utmost consideration for us especially when we wanted to pray- if we were out for a function, there would always be take away packs for us, etc. I learnt that they are very tolerant, accommodating and respectful of differences. I met people who had never been as close to a Muslim woman as they were to me. It was a delight to answer their questions and explain how we saw things.

I learnt the importance of not having to be the one in the spotlight – a leader doesn’t always have to shine. Sometimes, you have more impact when you facilitate the change. Leadership is also not about how many times one is heard, but the impact one makes when one chooses to speak.
Our group at MSU taught me so much. I learnt a lot from studying, listening and observing. The group dynamics, the politicking, the tension when it came to choosing one speaker from the lot and the fact that getting one paper written between the 25 of us was to say the least, chaotic.

There was a lot of scepticism about YALI. Someone said to me, “when you go, they will indoctrinate you into one a fraternity”. I’m yet to be indoctrinated. I came back as someone that has learnt a lot from my fellow Fellows and from MSU. I got the exposure that I would never have gotten on my own, except on a platform like that. It was reemphasised that one must assert himself or herself to get some things done or changed. And one of the best lessons of all is in not accepting mediocrity, not in myself and not in what I am involved in.

Finally, I realised that it’s our complacency as a people, the fact that even when it’s not right, as long as it suits our purpose, we accept it that makes us remain in this quagmire that has become our nation. If only we could be a little more honest, a little more patriotic, a little more ashamed of stealing public funds and a little less selfish, if we can set aside our massive egos and materialism, maybe we might be better for it. No one will change us but us, no one will make our houses homes but us, not America and not President Obama. It’s entirely up to us.

Maryam Shehu Mohammed
Mandela Washington Fellow

Obama’s Africa Summit: Too Little, Too Late?

This is an op-ed I wrote for Aljazeera English, on the recent U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

Photo credit: White House photo gallery

In 2013, I was in the audience at the Oxford Union for a taping of Al Jazeera’s Head to Head featuring Thomas Friedman and his thoughts on US Foreign Policy. The show’s focus was entirely focused on the Middle East, and the United States’ strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. During the Q&A session, I sought to highlight that Africa was not mentioned once over the course of the show. The fact that Africa was left out of the discussion is a clear illustration of the US’ tepid strategy towards the continent in recent times.Read More »

The BRICS Bank: an ‘Alternative’ to the Bretton-Woods Institutions?

Recently, the leaders of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – made a bold step in setting up an international development bank. They have agreed to raise $100 billion to that effect, with plans for the headquarters of the financial institution to be based in Shanghai, China.

This decision came after years, of intense negotiations.

According to The Guardian:

The BRICS were prompted to seek coordinated action after an exodus of capital from emerging markets last year, triggered by the scaling back of US monetary stimulus. The new bank reflects the growing influence of the BRICS, which account for almost half the world’s population and about a fifth of global economic output.

The bank will begin with a subscribed capital of $50bn divided equally between its five founders, with an initial total of $10bn in cash put in over seven years and $40bn in guarantees. It is scheduled to start lending in 2016 and be open to membership by other countries, but the capital share of the BRICS cannot drop below 55%.

 

This significant development in international economic relations has been eclipsed from global headlines by the latest eruption of the tragic Israel-Palestinian conflict and the shooting down of yet another plane of the Malaysian Airlines fleet.

Discussing the new BRICS Bank with friends online and offline raised a number of pertinent issues:

First, can China’s dominance provide the decisive leadership needed to get the BRICS Bank up on its feet, as the US did for the IMF, the World Bank and the UN in the immediate post-War era in 1945? Or will its dominance be too overbearing, and actually derail the Bank even before it takes off fully?

Second, will the China-dominated BRICS bank vis-à-vis a US-dominated Bretton Woods system reincarnate another bipolar world order? Do we even want bipolarism dominated by two competing economic and political systems, the Washington Consensus and the Beijing Consensus?

Third, will the BRICS countries successfully manage their numerous differences (and there are many – language, size, spatial differences, financial clout and variations in political systems to mention a few).

Russian President, Vladmir Putin and a representative of the South African government right behind him at a BRICS summit in 2013. Photo credit: New York Times
Russian President, Vladmir Putin and a representative of the South African government right behind him at a BRICS summit in 2013. Photo credit: New York Times

Fourth, will the establishment of the BRICS Bank provide more diverse sources of development finance for the global South? Will it further enhance South-South cooperation? Is the new development bank capable of serving as an effective competition to the US-dominated Bretton Woods institutions, to at the very least, inspire needed reforms in these multilateral institutions to make them more inclusive (in voting rights, decision-making and staff composition)? Do we want competition, diversity, or both?

Fifth, where does (sub-Saharan) Africa fit into all this? What is the African Union’s position on this new institution?

And finally, why is Nigeria not included? Why isn’t it a BRINCS or an N-BRICS Bank? After all, with a GDP of $509 billion Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, and is over $100 billion richer than South Africa’s $372 billion economy. Although the BRICS acronym was coined years before Nigeria transitioned to Africa’s largest economy in May 2014. One still can’t help wondering whether this is the price Nigeria has to pay for its severe domestic political and security challenges.

What are your thoughts?

Discussing Women in Government and Politics in Africa

I recently wrote a brief piece for Democracy in Africa,  reflecting on the discussions during the first Women in Government and Politics Conference for Africa, held at Central Hall in Westminster, London. The event was put together by the Winihin Jemide Series and I facilitated one of the panel discussions. Find the excerpt below:

Some of the delegates at the Women in Politics and Government Conference. Photo Courtesy: Winihin Jemide Series

African women have made remarkable strides in positions of leadership and authority across the continent. This has been especially evident with the wave of democratization over the past two decades. Women now occupy presidential seats in Liberia and Malawi, foreign ministry portfolios in Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia, the leadership of the African Union and many other positions hitherto regarded as the exclusive domain of men. It is in order to take stock of the progress made so far, the existing challenges remaining and how to overcome them that the first Women in Government and Politics Conference for Africa, held at Central Hall in Westminster, London was put together by the Winihin Jemide Series

Moderating one of the discussion panels. Photo courtesy: Winihin Jemide Series
Moderating one of the discussion panels. Photo courtesy: Winihin Jemide Series

The two-day conference involved female delegates in influential leadership positions such as parliamentarians, cabinet members, academics and activists. They liberally shared their views, their experiences on how they were able to surmount obstacles to get to where they are today, and their suggestions on moving forward. The Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke while delivering a keynote address, noted that 11 African countries have reached the 30% benchmark of female representation in leadership positions through quotas and parity schemes. In fact, countries like Nigeria had surpassed this average, she reminded the audience. The Minister however reiterated the need for women to be proactive in supporting one another….

Read the rest of the article on the Democracy in Africa website.

A Documentary on Reverse Euro Migration to Former Colonies

This is a very interesting documentary by Aljazeera, which captures the current trend of reverse European migration to former colonies in‪ Africa‬ and South America. Many Spaniards and Portuguese are now moving to Mozambique and Angola in Africa and Brazil, Argentina and Chile in South America to secure jobs and other economic opportunities.

Some highlights of the documentary include:

  • “Lisbon (Portugal) is witnessing an unprecedented trend — EU citizens queuing outside African embassies for work visas” from 2.00 min onwards.
  • About 5 mins into the video, the narrator says “…majority don’t see the themselves as immigrants”.  Then a young Portuguese chap says: “we are not here for our whole lives, only temporary. I am not here to lay down roots. I am only here because I have been forced to emigrate. I would’ve never left Portugal voluntarily. My plan is to go back to Portugal once the situation has improved”
  • Each month, the Portuguese consulate in Mozambique registers over 150 new arrivals.
  • About EUR 2bn are remitted to Portugal each year from Portuguese expats.
  • In Argentina, new laws guarantee immigrants access to healthcare and education, and allow them to stay even if they have no work.

This is certainly fascinating. I can’t help imagining the consequences of this reverse migration in the medium term.

First, will this new and rising inflow cause tensions between citizens and the immigrants in terms of access to economic opportunities? Even though, in many cases, the immigrants are not directly displacing the local population, but are plugging existing skills gap.

Second, what will be the impact of this inflow of (mostly skilled) migrants: skills and technology transfer,  economic growth or greater capital flight?

Third, what about the fortress-Europe approach to immigration, at least in/to the countries in question? If a good number of the young and the skilled are leaving for elsewhere, within the context of an ageing population and a rising dependency ratio soon to rival Sub-Saharan Africa (see projections by the UN here), economic….er…”constraints” (national debt and economic stagnation, to mention two only) and very hostile anti-immigration policies, who will foot the tax bill in these countries in the medium to long-term, if these trends continue? Will these trends affect the hostile anti-immigration debates in Europe?

Four, are other African countries particularly the anglophone and francophone ones positioning themselves to make the most of this momentous opportunity?

We really need to think about some of these questions and more.

Oh Nigeria, please get your act together. *sighs*

Related Articles:

A Knee-Jerk Approach to Managing Immigration in the UK

Post-2015 Agenda: A Relevant Universal Agenda?

Photo credit: http://dev.umpirsky.com/

A much anticipated report encompassing the new development agenda set to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015 was recently published. This report is the outcome of an interactive process and importantly touches on topical issues. Yet questions arise over how different this development agenda is from the MDGs and whether the targets are relevant within the context of a structural shift in the global economy characterised by a “crisis”-ridden West, an “emerging” East and notably, an Africa “rising”.

The new development agenda unveiled by the High Level Panel (HLP) on post-2015 (PDF) set up by the UN Secretary-General, proposes a more expansive 12 goals with 54 targets compared to the MDGs’ eight goals and 21 indicators. If the HLP report were to be assessed solely on its coherence, then it would score the highest points for the clarity of its overarching agenda devoid of technical jargon.

Crucially, the report outlines five “transformative shifts” which underline the proposed goals, such as economic transformation and inclusive growth, and building peace and effective institutions. These shifts encapsulate issues that have dominated policy makers’, civil societies’ researchers’ and conferences’ agenda recently, from Lagos to London and from Brussels to Brasilia.

As a self-styled “universal agenda” applying to both the industrialised and developing countries, the proposed development agenda has the ambitious aim of “ending poverty by 2030”. Targets on jobs creation and equitable growth, natural resources management, transparency of financial transactions and good governance and effective institutions are relevant not only to the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – the only region that will not meet the MDG Goal 1 of halving poverty by 2015 – but also and perhaps for the first time, austerity-hit parts of the industrialised European Union (EU)!

The most obvious strength of the post-2015 report lies in its ambition as well as the very process that birthed it. From the onset, a consultative approach was undertaken by the HLP involving UN Member states, over 5000 civil society organisations, business enterprises and ordinary citizens around the world. No doubt, this engaging process is greatly facilitated by new media and Web 2.0 tools. For instance, I found out about the My World Survey – which aggregated the priorities of ordinary people for a better world – on Facebook and after I had completed it, I shared it on Twitter. To further buttress how bottom-up this process was, India and Nigeria are the two countries out of 194, with the most respondents to the online survey.

A glaring “deficit” of the report however, is the absence of an explicit goal to address inequality in the proposed development agenda, given how pivotal a factor inequality is to eradicating poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa where the centre of gravity of global poverty has shifted to since 2000, half of the population lives below the $1.25 poverty benchmark yet the sub-continent has 6 of the 10 fastest growing countries in the world. Billionaires like Aliko Dangote, Isabel Dos Santos and Patrick Motsepe, who top the list of the richest black people in the world, come from some of the richest and most unequal countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Angola and South Africa where more than half their populations live under the poverty line.

Though the HLP report emphasises on the need for “national policy in each country, not global setting” as best suited for tackling rising inequality, a goal explicitly targeting inequality would however be more appropriate because, as the old management maxim states, you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Thus if an explicit goal is not defined and targets are not set on addressing inequality, what incentives do national governments then, have to make the necessary changes in their development plans required to tackle inequality? In Nigeria for instance where rapid economic growth averaging 7.4% in the last decade has been paralleled by sharp regional inequalities between a booming south and a declining north, if a goal on directing policy towards addressing inequality is not included, then how will it the benefits of economic growth be spread more equitably?

Curiously, the post-2015 report glosses over the much-needed reforms of global governance institutions that is, multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and even the UN system itself. These global institutions’ structure, staffing and philosophy skewed in favour of developed countries undermine the bargaining power of developing countries, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.

This asymmetry is especially glaring in global trade, where heavy agriculture subsidies by the US and the EU governments make African agricultural produce uncompetitive in the global market; in the leadership of the World Bank and IMF restricted to the USA and the EU respectively; and in the composition of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council which doesn’t include any African or South American country. A long-held disenchantment with this unbalanced system is driving the growing momentum by emerging powers to lay the ground work for an alternative development bank, the BRICS development Bank, to rival the World Bank and the IMF, for instance.

Certainly, the failure to acknowledge the imperative of addressing such an asymmetric system, at least as one target in the proposed Goal 12 of Creating a Global Enabling Environment, is a potentially missed opportunity by the HLP given the breadth of consultations held, to shore up greater legitimacy and confidence in the UN in the developing world, to show its commitment to a more democratic global governance system.

Despite these shortcomings, the HLP post-2015 report given its depth, scope and focus on global issues of relevance is robust. That it glosses over some key issues like global governance reform, or doesn’t explicitly articulate others like inequality doesn’t detract from the consultative process that led to the outcome which is at least, one significant step towards a universal development agenda.