Category Archives: Africa

The Second Scramble for Africa – Julius K. Nyerere

Mwl. Julius K. Nyerere

Mwl. Julius K. Nyerere

(From a speech delivered at the opening of a World Assembly of Youth seminar in Dar es Salaam in 1961)

I am a firm advocate of African Unity. I am convinced that, just as unity was necessary for the achievement of independence in Tanganyika, or in any other nation, unity is equally necessary for the whole of Africa to achieve and maintain her independence.

I believe that, left to ourselves, we can achieve unity on the African Continent. But I don’t believe that we are going to be left to ourselves! I believe that the phase from which we are now emerging successfully is the phase of the First Scramble for Africa, and Africa’s reaction to it. We are now entering a new phase – the phase of the Second Scramble for Africa. And just as, in the First Scramble for Africa, one tribe was divided against another tribe to make the division of Africa easier, in the Second Scramble for Africa one nation is going to be divided against another nation to make it easier to control Africa by making her weak and divided against herself.

It is for this reason. Therefore, that before we can talk complacently about ‘African Unity’ we should examine carefully the external ideas which are likely to be imposed upon us – imposed not for the purpose of uniting us, but for the purpose of dividing us.  Read the rest of this entry »


University rankings a flawed tool

The manipulative game of comparison and quantification turns institutions into players.



How should we assess the quality and development of higher education ­institutions in South Africa? What is it that these institutions do that is socially valuable enough to justify receiving large sums of public money?

Is it the economic contribution of graduates, the societal importance of the research, other forms of contribution to society – providing a home for “public intellectuals” – or some particular combination of these?

With such considerations in mind, it is interesting to interrogate the increasing popularity of international university rankings as a means of either assessing university progress (“university x has done fantastically well in the past few years, climbing 20 places in the rankings”) or setting a milestone for achievement (“our university mission is to be a top 50-ranked institution”).

Although seductive in their ability to summarise institutional achievement in a single number, the many flaws of this approach suggest that it should, at best, be consigned a peripheral role in our determinations of institutional success.

To illustrate some of the problems, consider the Times Higher Education rankings, perhaps the most prominent of the growing number of published rankings.

This approach constructs a measure of institutional quality based on the two core academic activities of teaching and research. Teaching quality is measured by asking a sample of international academics what their impression is of the teaching quality at a given institution (15% of the overall institution score) and by using institutional information on the number of undergraduates per academic (4.5%), PhD awards per academic (6%) and the ratio of PhD graduates to bachelor degree graduates (2.25%).

Reputation survey
Peer perceptions, from what the Times ranking calls its “reputation survey”, are also used to assess research quality, comprising 18% of the total score of an institution. In addition, a “research influence” measure, counting a whopping 30%, is constructed based on the number of citations the research of academics at the institution has received. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Africa, Education, Teaching, World


Africa Progress Report 2013 – Equity in Extractives: Stewarding Africa’s natural resources for all

 “Africa loses twice as much in illicit financial outflows as it receives in international aid. It is unconscionable that some companies, often supported by dishonest officials, are using unethical tax avoidance, transfer pricing and anonymous company ownership to maximize their profits, while millions of Africans go without adequate nutrition, health and education.”                                                                                                                                                                           Kofi A. Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel.

For much of the region’s history, Africa’s resource wealth has been plundered and squandered. It has served the interests of the few, not the many. Revenues that could have been used to improve lives have instead been used to build personal fortunes, finance civil wars, and support corrupt and unaccountable political elites. This report has a simple message: history does not have to repeat itself. Today, Africa’s governments have a unique window of opportunity to convert natural resource wealth into a catalyst for poverty reduction, shared prosperity and accelerated human development.

This year’s Africa Progress Report rejects the view that Africa is blighted by a “resource curse” – an affliction that automatically consigns the citizens of resource-rich nations to a future of economic stagnation, poverty and poor governance. There is no curse. The malaise that has afflicted natural resource management in Africa is caused by the wrong domestic policies, weak investment partnerships and failures in international cooperation. Lifting that affliction will require decisive leadership by African governments, backed by multilateral action and a commitment by foreign investors to adopt best international practices.

Mapping Africa's Natural Resource Wealth: Selected Countries and Commodities

Mapping Africa’s Natural Resource Wealth: Selected Countries and Commodities

There is cause for optimism. Global market conditions point to another decade of high prices for natural resources, creating an environment conducive to economic growth. The policy environment has also improved. Strengthened public finance management has enabled Africa to escape the boom-bust cycle associated with past upswings in commodity markets. There have been moves towards greater transparency and accountability – the twin pillars of good governance in natural resources. New legislation in the United States and the European Union will add further impetus to these moves. Many companies are now looking beyond short-term profits and towards long-term investment partnerships. These companies recognize the economic, as well as the ethical, case for strengthening linkages to local firms, for social and environmental impact assessments, and for engagement with local communities.

None of this is to understate the risks and challenges that come with Africa’s ongoing resource boom. Surges in revenue have to potential to destabilize budget planning. Governments must make tough choices over how much to spend today and what to save for the future. There are risks that the fragile and, in some countries, still limited moves towards more open budget systems and enhanced disclosure in state extractive companies will be reversed. The Africa Progress Panel is concerned at foreign investors extensive use of offshore companies, shell companies and offshore jurisdictions. And much of Africa remains trapped in a pattern of exporting raw materials, with few countries successfully breaking into manufacturing and processing. None of this is inevitable – and our report demonstrates that the alternatives are practical, achievable and affordable.

Published every year, the Africa Progress Report is the Africa Progress Panel’s flagship publication. The report draws on the best research and analysis available on Africa and compiles it in a refreshing and provocative manner. Through the report, the Panel recommends a series of policy choices and actions for African policy makers who have primary responsibility for Africa’s progress, as well as international partners and civil society organizations.

You can download the full report here [120 pages, 4.5MB]

You can also download a summary of the report here [24 pages, 1.4MB]

For more details about the report and the panel visit the official African Progress Panel Website  here

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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Africa, Economy, Leadership, Politics


Does South Africa Really Understand Africa?

If South Africa is nothing like the rest of Africa, what claim does it have to be its gateway, let alone its leader? Does South Africa even understand Africa?

By Eliot Pence

South Africa has spent over a decade defining itself as different from the rest of Africa. Now, as its foreign policy pivots back to Africa and seeks to cash in on the continent’s growth, the country has sought to define itself as the leader of, and commercial gateway to, the continent. But the differences between South Africa and the rest of Africa are stark. If South Africa is nothing like the rest of Africa, what claim does it have to be its gateway, let alone its leader? Does South Africa even understand Africa?

There are a number of reasons why South Africa should be a leader in Africa. It’s the continent’s largest economy and home to its most sophisticated financial system. It has a constitution that is inclusive and progressive. But increasingly South Africa is misunderstanding the opportunities and challenges of the continent, even as it professes an interest in them.

As inbound investors steer away from Johannesburg, and the rest of the continent focuses its attention on capturing growth opportunities, South Africa’s lawmakers concentrate more and more on fundamentally different concerns: resuscitating anaemic growth, unlocking paralyzed labour markets, and balancing its obligations to country-club affiliations like BRICS and IBSA.

South Africa’s central claim as a ‘gateway’ to Africa rests on the assumption that it offers investors a secure and sophisticated landing pad filled with local partners able to take foreign investors into a rapidly expanding continental market …continue reading

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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Africa, Economy, South Africa


How to Rob Africa: Why does the Western world feed Africa with one hand while taking from it with the other?

The world’s wealthy countries often criticise African nations for corruption – especially that perpetrated by those among the continent’s government and business leaders who abuse their positions by looting tens of billions of dollars in national assets or the profits from state-owned enterprises that could otherwise be used to relieve the plight of some of the world’s poorest peoples.

Yet the West is culpable too in that it often looks the other way when that same dirty money is channelled into bank accounts in Europe and the US.

International money laundering regulations are supposed to stop the proceeds of corruption being moved around the world in this way, but it seems the developed world’s financial system is far more tempted by the prospect of large cash injections than it should be.

Indeed the West even provides the getaway vehicles for this theft, in the shape of anonymous off-shore companies and investment entities, whose disguised ownership makes it too easy for the corrupt and dishonest to squirrel away stolen funds in bank accounts overseas.

This makes them nigh on impossible for investigators to trace, let alone recover.

It is something that has long bothered Zimbabwean journalist Stanley Kwenda – who cites the troubling case of the Marange diamond fields in the east of his country.

A few years ago rich deposits were discovered there which held out the promise of billions of dollars of revenue that could have filled the public purse and …Continue reading

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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Africa, Economy


Brazil in Africa: A new Atlantic alliance

IN THE sweaty heat of northern Mozambique, Vale, a Brazilian mining giant, is digging up coal at its mine near the village of Moatize. A 400,000-tonne mound sits ready to burn. The mine can churn out 4,000 tonnes an hour but the railways and ports cannot cope. Vale is working to improve a line through Malawi to take the coal for export. OAS Construtora, another Brazilian firm, has signed a deal with the miner to build part of a new port at Nacala, 1,000km (620 miles) to the north-east, to do the same.

The continent is an important part of Vale’s future, enthuses Ricardo Saad, the firm’s Africa boss. He is not alone in his excitement about Brazil’s prospects. Relations with Africa flourished during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He travelled there a dozen times and African leaders flocked to Brazil. His zeal was in part ideological: he devoted much of his diplomacy to “south-south” relations—at the cost, critics say, of neglecting more powerful (and richer) trade partners, such as the United States.

Lula stressed his country’s “historic debt” to Africa, a reference to the 3.5m Africans shipped to Brazil as slaves. Outside Nigeria, Brazil has the world’s biggest black population. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s current president, is continuing those policies—though with more emphasis on how the relationship benefits Brazil. There are many ways that it can. Africa needs infrastructure and Brazil has lots of construction firms. Africa sits on oil and minerals in abundance; Brazil has the firms to get them out. Its agribusiness giants are also eyeing up Africa. If the continent’s economy continues to grow as it has in recent years, it will produce millions of customers much like Brazil’s new middle class.

Brazilian businesses seem keen. In 2001 Brazil invested $69 billion in Africa …Continue reading

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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Africa, Economy


The rise of the African consumer: A report from McKinsey’s African Consumer Insights Centre

By now, most investors and businesses know about the tremendous potential of Africa—the world’s second-fastest-growing region, topped only by emerging Asia. But it may come as a surprise that Africa’s growth is fueled not by resources but rather by a rising consumer market.

The continent’s consumer-facing industries are expected to grow by $400 billion, representing its single-largest business opportunity, by 2020. But many companies don’t know how to translate this potential into action, because of a dearth of market research. That, however, is changing. In one of the first studies of its kind, McKinsey’s Africa Consumer Insights Center surveyed 13,000 consumers in ten African countries, with a focus on the largest cities. Five categories of consumption were covered: apparel, financial services, groceries, the Internet, and telecommunications.

Several factors are shaping this new consuming class. …Continue reading

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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Africa, Economy

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