Electoral law, election petitions and the future of democracy in Nigeria

Presentation by Chief Wole Olanipekun OFR, SAN, LLD, FCIArb, FNIALs at the Nigeria in Transition Workshop organised by The African Studies Centre, Oxford School of Global Studies, University of Oxford  28th February 2019

Report by J Boima Rogers

Chief Wole Olanipekun stated that a review of democracy in Nigeria is important because as the giant of Africa when the country sneezes the Black race catches a cold.  Nigeria has been in transition since Lord Lugard formed the state in 1914 and the transition has subsequently been evolving from that colonial phase to its current state. The 1999 constitution stipulates the election process, how officials are elected, relevant qualifications, how resources should be channelled and conditions for parties to challenge results through the courts and specifically, National Assembly tribunals.  It makes elaborate provisions for adjudicatory bodies in terms of courts and tribunals in resolving election disputes and imposed time limits when actions must be filed and resolved.  Nigeria is noted for a tendency to challenge results, citing the fact that all governor elections have been challenged and the 730 appeals brought to tribunals even though there are only 36 states in the country.  The main reason for this situation he noted is because politics is the most lucrative profession in the country, allowing elected officials huge opportunities to channel resources as they see fit often for their personal benefit and those of family and friends.

Nigerians, he noted take advantage of the minutia of the political process not just as a shield but as a sword.  He highlighted the USA and India, much larger democracies which do not have as much complications as Nigeria in managing elections, with only fractions of electoral disputes and litigations as Nigeria.  He cited the work of Anthony Akinola who has pointed out that the country’s resources being channelled into the political process means there is very little available for economic development.  Mr Akinola noted that “most (politicians) go into politics to accumulate wealth, hence the do or die politics in electoral contests”.  Chief Olanipekun cited the America President Abraham Lincoln who stated that democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, noting that under democracy, the citizens should witness economic growth, educational advancement, enjoy good health care delivery and old age care, employment opportunities, social welfare and constant electricity supply.

In his concluding remarks Chief Olanipekun noted that the major issue was developing trust in the political system, noting that the fault lies with the electorate at large and the current constitution which was promulgated by the military and has not been addressed by subsequent civilian administrations lies to the nation.  He highlighted the stipulation that does not allow the participation of independent candidates as a major impediment to the democratic process.  Institutions have been weakened and need to be strengthened and he called on the Buhari administration to amend the constitution and asked Professor Wale Adebanwi, Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, Director , African Studies Centre who convened the event to make representation to the Nigerian government  to make the relevant amendment to the constitution.

In discussions by the panel and audience it was noted that the electoral laws and history were stacked against petitioners.  Elections must focus on visions and a particular focus could be Nigeria’s move away from the predominance of oil.  It was noted that while elections are important, the country must not lose sight of salient issues such as Boko Haram which both political parties failed to mention.  It was noted that the electoral legislation requires parties to have a national infrastructure necessitating vast resources which in theory could be paid for by ordinary members but in practice rich donors provide the funds which means they call the shots.  Governors typically use public funds for their political parties. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it was noted, was involved in far more than its original mandate of ensuring free and fair election, including voter registration and prosecuting election fraud.  Chief Dele Momodu, a panellist and supporter of the unsuccessful presidential contender stated that while he opposed President Buhari’s lurch to inappropriate 1970s type solutions to current issues, for democracy to thrive, sacrifices must be made and called on presidential contender Atiku to concede defeat in the presidential elections.  It was noted that with so little trust in the Nigerian federal government and courts, there was little incentive to go through the courts to resolve disputes and a huge incentive to make use of the godfather system.  The issue of the denial of votes of the Nigerian diaspora was raised and there was a general consensus that efforts must be made to grant the diaspora voting rights.

This event was very timely, coming soon after the Nigerian elections which are being contested by the opposition presidential candidate. It places the numerous other petitions that are likely to follow in perspective.  One glaring and sad point raised by the speaker is the statement that “politics is the most lucrative profession” in Nigeria  That and the observation by Anthony Akinola highlights the major challenge facing Nigeria the sleeping giant who will continue sleeping until the country’s politicians realise that they must seek office, not to enrich themselves but rather the country.  The resources of this potentially great nation must be channelled into policies and infrastructure that will uplift the whole nation and not just a few politicians and their family and friends.

President Buhari is a unique leader in Nigeria and Africa in terms of his personal disposition and policies Vis-a viz corruption.  Interestingly, if the accusations swirling around Trump on corruption charges are validated, Nigeria, which has often been castigated by the US for corruption now, has a leader that is less corrupt than the US president.   However at the end of the day for him to leave a significant and long lasting legacy he must deliver along the lines of the terms specified above by Chief Olanipekun when he cited Abraham Lincoln.  This means he must develop the country’s physical and soft infrastructure.  The physical infrastructure includes roads, electricity, railroads etc and soft infrastructure includes governance, education, security, health etc.  This combined with appropriate macroeconomic policies and management would result in investment and economic growth to wake up the African giant from its slumber.  Admittedly Buhari has made inroads in these areas, often stymied by politicians who do not share his vision and/or want to maintain the status quo for selfish reasons, but in his second term he needs to significantly increase the scale and pace.  His fight against corruption, part of improvements in governance needs to include measures to minimise the cost of governance by reducing the unduly high government funds politicians routinely have available to literally buy their way through office.  Only by doing this will he redress the perverse tendency as Chief Olanipekun notes which makes politics the “most lucrative profession” and ensure that funds are channelled in the most productive way for the benefit of all Nigerians.

It should also be noted that accusations that Buhari is seeking 1970s solutions to current issues misses the point in a number of ways. Firstly, the interventionist approach has been adopted by most states, none so more than China which has experienced the most dramatic improvements in the living standards of its people in modern history.  The apparent laissez faire economic model that these critics appear to suggest fails to realise that when it has been applied in Nigeria, for example under the Jonathan regime, it has involved sales of state assets at a fraction of their true value to cronies who have not demonstrated that they have the capacity perform the duties that their new ownership entails, notably the privatisation of electricity distribution under the Jonathan regime.  This flaw in applying market liberalisation as the sole panacea to issues is compounded by the current state of Nigeria’s infrastructure where for example the country’s national grid produces only 10% of the level of the South African electrical grid.  Buhari’s review and reform of the country’s soft infrastructure must precede any market liberalisation initiative.  And, this does not in any way preclude the role of the state in developing and managing the infrastructure, either in the form of ownership and/or an open and transparent regulatory framework as has happened in many of states in Europe, Asia and the Americas.    Democracy is always an evolving process and the administration must consider points made by Chief Olanipekun regarding amendments to the constitution if he can make a good case that such amendments will actually strengthen the institutions thereby improve the democratic, social and economic framework.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO) www.oxfordmemo.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Digital Mediterranean – MEDA Barcelona 2018

J Boima Rogers –  December 2018


This note is part of the report of Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders in Barcelona convened on 21-23rd November 2018, focussing on innovation and technology. The event was organised by the Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME) covering a much wider range of topics than the focus of this report involving most of the countries in the Mediterranean region. As in the main report, it outlines presentations made at the event but goes a step further with an analysis and suggestions on how to enhance the conversation regarding the digital landscape of the region, notably, suggestions on further development of the event as the organisers envisage into“a platform for international and regional companies, start-ups, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to showcase their innovations.”  Measure proposed will enrich the conversation and provide practical support to the establishment of “business relationships that ultimately enrich the economy.”

Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of MedaWeek stated that the future of Europe and Africa will be based on cooperation and innovation.  Eighty percent of job losses will be caused by innovation, highlighting robotics and Artificial Intelligence as key factors.  The region needs to embrace innovation but new ideas involve significant risks and reduce the concentration of economic power.  SMEs which account for the bulk of jobs in the private sector receive only a fraction of loans.  He emphasized developing a dialogue, supporting members, facilitating networking, lobbying policy makers and promoting investment.

Miguel Valls President of the Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME) highlighted the need for laying the grounds for the digital transformation, which is disruptive, with the list of top companies constantly changing because of new entrants. Member states must improve their competitive positions, noting the importance of young people and educations as the main challenges of the digital revolution.

Xavier Tarra, President of Technology Centre of Catalonia (EURECAT) noted the need for Catalonia and Spain to embrace internationalization to become more competitive, offer better service and be more relevant to stakeholders.  This entails more investment in research and development.  Miguel Marti, CEO of Barcelona Tech City stated that efforts to increase the digital eco-system must: consolidate the hub with the right information; make Barcelona more competitive/ knowledge based; improve talent commitment in schools and universities, in particular by reducing the gap between universities and enterprises and; take a more international outlook. Relationships must be developed between the region and Northern Europe, North Africa and Asia through workshops on knowledge concepts.   Philippe Guillaumet, General Secretary of MedPorts reported on work in developing networks between ports in Europe, Asia and Africa, highlighting recent developments with significant impacts, namely, improvements in the Panama and Suez canals, the new Silk Road and climate change.  His goals are: increasing efficiency and visibility, new locks, improved data, promoting best practice and improved communication between stakeholders.  They will be launching a Barcelona project/harbour event on 24th June 2019.

Jorge Barrego, Deputy Secretary General for Energy and Climate Action, UFM noted that his organisation represents the entire ecosystem of the region and that it was essential that all approaches must have as a goal the development of the Mediterranean community.  Challenging issues include the democratic process, climate change, human capital, globalisation and the youth.  Many issues were common to all members and cannot be resolved by individual states and the region must look at models in Northern Europe, South East Asia and North America.  The culture of innovation is a challenge and his organisation is working on developing a conducive regulatory framework at national and regional levels.  Natalia Mas, Secretary for Foreign and European Union Action, Government of Catalonia is happy that many actors are based in Catalonia and noted the need to foster public/private/open structures. Catalonia wants to enhance an innovative policy framework and is launching a med project to foster innovation.

Rising Software Driven Generation

Chair, Roger Albinyana highlighted the sharing economy, caused by the internet which has significantly reduced transaction costs, spurring the innovative sector.  The sharing economy is disruptive and has brought about political debate regarding the rights of individuals. He referred to two videos which show how entrepreneurial success is seen as a threat that politicians find hard to cope with and raises the following questions: what can be done for entrepreneurs to make the public understand them; how to engage entrepreneurs and; how to link entrepreneurs with governments.   The other video focussed on: the advent of the gig economy; the impossibility of regulators foreseeing changes.  There are many obstacles relating to the move from traditional marketing to the new marketing paradigm and a policy framework that is appropriate for the new landscape.  Players need to: make it right; legal and; sustainable. Joan Romero, CEO, Agency for Business Competitiveness (ACCIO)/Catalonia Trade & Investment, Government of Catalonia noted that disruptions are bigger and faster than ever.  New players will rule the world and start-ups will disrupt: the business model and; the environmental framework. Start-ups are a tool that helps established companies become more innovative.  Experience varies according to sector but a crucial missing factor is the ex-ante assessment (review).   Start-ups require, attract and facilitate the movement of talent, with 36% of their employees in Barcelona coming from abroad.

Davide Ravera, Eworks Manager, ESADE Entrepreneurship Institute challenged the video’s concept, noting that entrepreneurs must be aware of the regulatory framework even though, depending on the country or culture, the new players will challenge that framework.  Some countries, notably those in Northern Europe, are more used to challenging the culture.  The perception of the government is important, with the vast majority seeing it as trying to block them or biased.  Governments should reduce restrictions and add value – the speed of relevant changes in regulations can impact companies and customers.  Governments act faster if they employ people who are more open to changing legislation to introduce new standards and frameworks. Bacely Yorobi, CEO and Co-Founder ConnectX Global noted that the subservient African and Mediterranean perspective is a negative factor.  Countries need to be run as start-ups, citing Israel and Rwanda as countries with conducive environments.  Disruptions have a positive effect and SMEs are crucial in the development of the sector.  Diversity, a fast paced environment, education and development of an appropriate eco-system are crucial.

Marc Realp, General Manager, Catalan Competition Authority noted that entrepreneurs are penalized by big players and policy makers need to reduce entry barriers and increase competition by: investigating anti-trust behaviour and unfair competition and; analyse regulations to see how efficient and effective they are, appealing to courts when regulations do not work.   Asymmetrical compensation does not work anymore, hence the need to review regulations, possibly by setting only minimum security and health standards.  He suggested regulatory platforms that promote portability, identify negative externalities, make demands for data in real time and levy penalties in real time.  Moises Santana, Managing Director, EMERGE Association stated that regulation and access to finance are crucial and not all entrepreneurs are disruptive or should be labelled as start-ups. Governments are confused in dealing with entrepreneurs in the 21st century and still act like they are in the 20th century.  This is why so many start-ups move to the US where there is a more conducive environment.  He posed the question of whether governments in the region want to embrace disruptions.

R Y M Bourguba reported that his organisation lobbies the Tunisian government to create an enabling environment for start-ups and leads and guides young entrepreneurs, in line with the government’s objective of increasing youth employment.  His organisation, operating in a country which inherited a bureaucratic system from France, acts as a bridge between a government with controlling tendencies and a new technologically innovative landscape.   Paul Fox, Director of Entrepreneurship Studies, La Salle Campus Barcelona highlighted the difference between the US and the situation in the region, noting that dramatic changes have occurred in Barcelona.  In the US if there is a regulatory vacuum you can initiate it unlike the situation in Europe.  The issue is when you start something without a regulatory framework in place, the questions arises regarding: who are you protecting and; what/who are you promoting? Regulations can be barriers that stifle innovation.  The issue of bankruptcy laws in Europe can be a big burden because often they do not allow a clean break, unlike the US where such breaks are routine.  Toni Mascaro, President, Barcelona Loves Entrepreneurs (BLE) noted the significant changes over the last 20 years, in Barcelona society and the economy.  Language skills, critical in being competitive, have improved significantly.    He cited increased rents as a major problem associated with the disruptive economy and talent mobility, negatively impacting the long established population.  US companies have bought start-ups and moved them away.

Comments:   On the issue of the disruptions and losers in the new economy, a high proportion of jobs will change which will necessitate a change in the quality of the workforce and authorities and residents need to adjust to the new economy.  Governments need to act quickly to prepare people and address the issue of social cohesion. People would need to consider dual education and constantly upgrading their skill profile.  Governments need to act in the face of gentrification and rising rents.  Companies bought out by US corporations will be replaced by second generation entrepreneurs and it will be a spur for stakeholders to develop the eco-system to ensure that start-ups stay and grow to be major brands.  Governments often do not know the effects/outcomes of innovators and politicians cannot often manage the process but history tells us that the Mediterranean has adapted over 3000 years.  The consensus is that the disruptive sectors are here to stay and governments and other stakeholders have just got to adapt to the new reality.

Mediterranean Innovation

Chair, Carmen Margeli, Head of International Development, Technology Centre of Catalonia (EURECAT) reviewed world trends which ranked regional leader Israel, at number 10 in the Global Innovating Index.  Stakeholders in member states must work, in collaboration, to improve their rankings/competitive positions in the index.   Challenges and opportunities highlighted include lack of proximity and trust, improving cooperation between countries, new policies to promote competitiveness, encouraging entrepreneurship, improved standards and increased mobility of researchers and talent within the region. Ramy Boujawdey, Deputy General Manager Baytech in a review of the Lebanese experience in developing its ecosystem noted that the country ranked 15th on the Global Innovation Index in human capital and is an exporter of labour because of lack of jobs in the country.  The Lebanese Central Bank had initiated a project, with a budget of $600 million, to support entrepreneurs, promoting collaboration and projects to develop them to regional and global scales.  They had joined the EU network to develop synergies and clusters.

Dr Murat Erten, General Manager, Izmir Techno Part reported that his university offered undergraduate and post graduate degrees in English and operated an innovation ecosystem which provides ideas for industry, an infrastructure, social welfare and employment for graduates.  The infrastructure develops knowledge, realisation, creation, support for start-ups and management of intellectual property.  Since its inception it has developed 145 companies, generating $650 million revenue and exports of $60 million. It actively encourages graduates to set up companies rather than just look for jobs and assists them with technical and marketing expertise.  It is working with the government to foster technology and on projects with Poland, Lithuania and the Newton Fund in the UK.  Under the Hackathon programme it is assisting in the promotion of clean energy and organises events and acceleration programmes.  Fadi Mikati, Co-Founder and President, Tripoli Entrepreneur Club said her organisation aims to promote knowledge, economic activity and capacity development by shifting the business model, creating three start-ups to develop soft skills, digital marketing and mentorship, focussing on the youth.

Joan Parra, Technology Partner, DFactory/Executive, Vice President, Leitat reported that their work is on digitalisation focussing on 4.0, 3d tech incubation, open innovation culture, local impact, best international practice, talents and social responsibility. The three phases of their approach are 0 high 3d tech incubator; 1 industrial hub, assisting in digital transformation and; building new reality space, mode, areas and reference centre. Emmanuel Noutary, General Delegate, ANIMA Investment Network reported that they had received EU funding to create value networks.  They are reviewing regions in areas that are producing solutions, guided by their belief, approach and objectives.  They believe in reverse innovation, solutions from emerging countries; shared values with balanced partnerships; social responsibility, inclusive and engaged local communities and: leadership, innovative leaders that can spot and develop new trends.  Their approach is: mobilising communities and; creating brands and open platforms.  The objective is to create networks and promote innovators, enhance and coordinate innovation strategies, working through policy frameworks, technology transfer mechanism, start-up booster tracks and cluster booster tracks.   Jose Manuel Duran, North Africa and Middle East Delegate, CDTI reported that they work in eleven countries on a variety of projects, planning, implementing and monitoring projects. In surveys conducted of companies 47% say that R&D gave them prominence in the market, 11% of SMEs said it increases their sales, a third of companies say innovation increases their presence in international markets and collaboration between countries and partners is very productive.  Their conclusion is that there is need to increase R&D activity in all states.

Rachid El Mrabet, Innovation Manager, Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN).  gave a report on the use and efficiency of green energy highlighting the impressive gains made in Morocco and  challenges/opportunities in Africa, noting that lack of access to power is the most debilitating factor.  After rigorous debate Morocco has planned and implemented projects which have increased renewable energy generation significantly and by 2030 this should account for 52% of total energy production.  The country has created a research institute for solar energy, financing mechanism and open space project for Spain and Morocco.  Morocco is looking at improving energy efficiency in homes, at different scenarios and smart green technology.  He cited opportunities for private/public partnership opportunities in Spain, Algeria and Mauretania, smart city, green technology parks and electric mobility.  Morocco is working with the Ivory Coast on solar energy projects and exploring opportunities in other African countries, notably, through events that it organises.  Morocco is a good conduit for European companies intending to enter the African market because of its knowledge and presence in other African states, notably, its prominent role in the Green Africa Innovation Network project.

Digital Transformation in the Mediterranean – Opportunities and Challenges

Chair, Joan Guasch, Senior Area Manager, Public Programme Manager, Area, EURECAT highlighted the four major elements in digital transformation, namely, technical developments/business models, the digital infrastructure, digital skills and digital hubs.  The key drivers are Big Data and PIME.    Helena de Felipe, President, Federation of Mediterranean Women Entrepreneurs (AFAEMME) reported that her organisation promotes the interest of entrepreneurial women, focussing on closing the digital gap through best practice by promoting science education for girls, improving the labour market, closing the wage gap and generally developing platforms and the environment for women. Hakam Kanafani, Chairman, Arab Advisors Group noted the need for everyone to be digitalised because every industry is affected by the digital transformation taking place all around us, on the beach, cars, cinemas, passport control etc.  The government’s role is less regulation, public/private/partnership, finance, incentivising the public, e-government programmes and digital education.  He proposed that Gaza be invited to the next event.

Luis Bandrinas, CEO, Barcelona Health Hub reported that his organisation promotes innovation in digital health, working to develop the ecosystem for start-ups in the sector to improve competiveness, leadership and collaboration in the region.  Elif Caskunkan, Managing Partner, Etohum & Start-up Turkey, a private accelerator working on PR, marketing and ecosystems, stressed the need for a good infrastructure.  Sisco Sapena, President and CEO, Ileida.net noted the huge opportunities in the sector, pointing out though that the new landscape is merely a repeat of challenges and opportunities faced by forebears in the region three thousand years ago, the main difference being the new digital tool.  Youssef El Alaoui, Vice President General, Apebi Morocco reported that in his role representing IT companies in Morocco, he lobbies for companies and universities and helps organise an annual African event which covers agro-technology and networking.  He proposed that the event include Africa, China and Canada and corporations.

Mediterranean Start-up and Entrepreneurship

Chair, Diana Koboyter, Founder, Oils and Beyond/Young Entrepreneurs Working Commission of ASCAME gave a report of her work on her family business and with young entrepreneurs in Lebanon which she embarked on after work and skills gained in a variety of projects.  She is applying digital tools on traditional industry and an NGO she founded.  Raoula Moussa, Managing Partner/Diaspora ID reported they had developed an accelerator in Dubai with an Artificial Intelligence start-up to provide socio-economic services to the Lebanese diaspora working with the chamber of commerce.  The 30 million Lebanese diaspora who far out-number the 4 million citizens living in the country are provided support with regards to markets, capital and knowledge access.  Aintzane Arbide, Technology Partner, DFactory Incubator/Business Development Manager, Leitat operates a 3D factory incubator and chooses the best 25 projects to support, providing them training, networking, advice, technical services, certification and other relevant resources.  Their criterion is that the project must be technologically related to 3D printing.

Stefano Bonfa, Owner and Manager, Oxford Sustainable Development Enterprise (OxSDE) gave a report of his organisations work on strategic, scalable multi-sensor analysis of big remote sensing data making use of the data cube concept.  The goal is to develop an integrated processing pipeline.  OxSDE is working on deep learning, linking major brands with SMEs and in Italy it is working on climate, health and tourism issues.  Almudena Solera, Global Head of Strategic Partnership & Business Development, Spain Start-up – South Summit focusses on innovation in tourism linking projects requiring funding.  The objective is to identify start-ups that will have a significant impact, link them to large corporations by organising open innovation fora inviting business leaders. Vincent Ernoux, Coordinator, Branch Office for the Western Mediterranean, ENI CBC MED operates in 13 countries with a budget of Euro 209 million focussing on socio-economic, R&D, education and social inclusion issues.  He noted that while SMEs played a significant role in the socio-economic fabric in the region they accounted for only 2% of R&D spend.  His organisation targets start-ups and local authorities to provide finance, training, management and development of local hubs and accelerators.  They build partnership and cooperative projects to solve shared needs.

Burcu Tuncer, Team Leader – Networking and Partnership, UN Environment MAP Regional Activity Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC)  posed the question of what the region is trying to achieve, noting that the Mediterranean has been a cradle of innovation.  Switchers/change makers work in many different sectors and so the approach should be to work with the whole eco-system.  This involves stimulating and nurturing great ideas, providing training, business planning, incubation, reviewing results and assessment of start-ups, funding and business support facility services.  Every two years there should be a networking forum/review.

Comment:  It was noted that to build a legacy and enhance the infrastructure of the region, fora like this event document and  develop a database incorporating initiatives outlined and with the assistance of academics/the European Commission map and link them to be used as a resource and the development of networks throughout the region and the EU.

Finance and Funds for Mediterranean Entrepreneurship

Chair, Richard Garriga, CEO Trioteca/Co-founder & GP, Torret Road Capital stated that there is not much link in the region other than sharing the Mediterranean Sea and the event and his role as a venture capitalist is to try to amend this anomaly.  Boutheina Ben Yoghlane, Director General, Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC)Tunisia reviewed the role of banks, focussing on Tunisia, where there are only four active players.  Because many of the players are young there is need to assist in the development of professional management teams, strengthen finance infrastructure and set up best practice processes.  Tunisia has the potential to be a hub with a youthful and educated population and a large diaspora.  The country is the top ranked place for start-ups in the Arab world and in Africa according to Bloomberg.  Her organisation works on developing legal, financial, talent and inclusion infrastructure. It is developing start-up funding using a public/private initiative and partnership model. Daniel Romy, CEO, Media Digital Ventures reported that his organisation provides media partnership links with companies to assist in advertising campaigns, focussing on start-ups as part of a venture capital project, taking shares in companies they work with.

Mathieu Carenzo, Director, IESE Entrepreneurship Centre stated that his organisation focusses on the missing link in the ecosystem with the aim of building the right financial system.  They teach business angels how to build start-up portfolios strategically, making use of investment criteria as part of the plan. Zakaria Fahim, Hub Africa reported that their unique hub provides a platform that allows entrepreneurs to develop their business, network and raise funds.  They engage the diaspora many of whom are very rich.  The hub is a good forum for European companies who want to trade and/or invest in Africa. Tamer Taha, Founder and CEO Yamken noted that stat-ups in the region are underperforming and need more than just funding and new ideas.  The skillsets needed include product design, trust, proven solutions and ability to minimise risks.  Crowd sourced solutions are the most efficient way.  His organisation works with many partners and organise workshops in many countries, including Palestine, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia.

Adil Rzal, President, Association Marocaine des Investisseurs  en Capital (AMIC) reported that his organisation has invested Euro5 billion over the last fifteen years in public/private start-ups, averaging Eur 1 million per start up.  They have developed incubators and now operate in France and Morocco.  The company has made use of Big Data in the agricultural sector.  Fadi Saab, Chairman, Trans Capital Finance/President, Integrity Values and Business Ethics Working Committee of ASCAME noted that a recurring issue is why finance companies should provide funding for any project.  They can only do so if it is a great idea, with credible plan, vision and presentation.  A major issue is the fear factor; finance companies will not make investment if the business/project is not good and/or they do not have confidence in management.  Companies need proper corporate governance particularly in the case of start-ups needing to scale up.  He cited Nissan and Tesla as two companies with recent governance issues.

Analysis and the way forward

The event was a comprehensive gathering of key stakeholders in the economy of the Mediterranean and the digital conversation allowing them to showcase their work as part of efforts in the digital transformation taking place. The conversation could however be enhanced in a number of ways. Notable by their absence in terms of presentations were key players such as France and Italy the countries y with the largest and second largest economies and technological sectors in.  While it was acknowledged that Israel is the top ranked country the region in the Global Innovation Index, there was no presentation from that country.  Egypt, the powerhouse in the Arab world and Africa, economically, politically and technologically was similarly not represented in terms of presentation.  Major global and regional technology brands were similarly not represented. The event could have had more input from academics and think tanks who would have reviewed cross sectional data to provide findings that can be applicable to a range of sectors and commercial ventures.  Such analysis could include cutting edge developments such as that in a recent paper by Joshua P Meltzer on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on international trade which explores many of the issues covered in the event . It should be noted that the points made above do not mean there was zero input from the sources named.  The lack of participation only relates to the digital conversation and indeed individuals from those countries contributed significantly to the event in other ways.  Furthermore it reflects the importance of the countries cited that did not participate in the digital forum, notably, that a more significant input on developments in those countries is required given the contribution that would make from such powerful players in the conversation on the Mediterranean digital landscape.  A good example was Ms Anael Le Bihan, who gave a presentation on the EBSOMED project, a French national, who as Head of Cooperation Projects at ASCAME, played a key role in organising the whole event.  Dr Paul Fox from Campus Barcelona provided valuable academic input in his review of the US and EU digital environment.  Indeed his analysis is the reason why there should be more input from that source.  Finally, it should be noted that organisers, can invite these players as they no doubt did, but they cannot compel them to attend.

The way forward is to ensure that key players noted above are encouraged to take part in the conversation and become integral in its development, adding significant economic, political, commercial and technological value. Major regional and global   technology brands need to join the conversation as do universities and think tanks.  Major technology brands will showcase products and services and universities and think tanks will analyse policies, products and infrastructure, hopefully, without the bias that other players understandably have because they do not have to sell specific products, region or country but are rather more concerned about the rigour of their analysis with regards to peer review from other academics and universities; if their presentations are sponsored they must clearly specify that sponsor.  The key elements within the platform should include data, networking, centres of excellence (CE) and ecosystems/infrastructure.  The digital revolution is data driven and the platform should develop, rationalise and link databases that partners can utilise.  As ASCAME has correctly noted a major objective is to develop networks.  The region must acknowledge and promote centres of excellence, building on initiatives that other companies and policy makers can learn from and/or replicate.  The ultimate aim is the development of ecosystems/infrastructure that can allow innovation to develop and flourish.   Presentations featured all of these elements and as a starting point, efforts should be made on developing concepts and initiatives in presentations I will highlight below.

Dr Stefano Bonda’s data cube project is a notable case study that could be adapted with regards to the data element.   The Diaspora ID networking project by Raula Moussa is an interesting initiative that could be relevant to the region.  While virtually all initiatives presented can be viewed as centres of excellence (CE), the term should focus on initiatives and promote them as CE if they are multi-dimensional, self-sustaining and/or ground-braking.  Presentations for Lebanon and Tunisia show how these countries produce digital talent to an extent that they are net exporters of such talents.  It was noted that the success of start-ups and talents in Barcelona has resulted in them being bought out by American and other foreign companies.  In these examples although progress had been made in certain areas, deficiencies in the digital ecosystem/ infrastructure had negated that progress.  In my view therefore the Izmir Technology project, (Teknopark) and Israel should be accorded the CE label.  In both cases the multi-dimensional and self-sustaining aspects of those projects which allow for the development and maintenance of a digital ecosystem make them eligible for the CE label.  Dr Murat Erten explained how a multi-faceted approach has nurtured enterprises and talent to ensure a vibrant digital ecosystem in Izmir.  Israel has been acknowledged, verified in World rankings, as the top country in the region in the Global Innovation Index, encompassing the whole innovation ecosystem.

While the term platform has been used, it should be noted that this is a process incorporating a number of activities that will contribute to the conversation to develop the digital landscape in the region.  The process entails events such as MEDA 18, other MEDA and related events, follow-up actions from those events and other regional organisations and the EU and national policies and initiatives.  A dedicated website can incorporate much of this process and elements noted above.  Obviously political forces will play a significant role in the process; hence the involvement of the EU, the Arab League and the African Union will be helpful.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management (MEMO) http://www.oxfordmemo.co.uk


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Challenge of Human Development in Africa – Presentation by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria

The Challenge of Human Development in Africa – Presentation by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria

Report by J Boima Rogers – October 2018

In his presentation to a packed audience at the event organised by the African Studies Centre of Oxford University School of Global and Area Studies, Professor Osinbajo highlighted four important areas with regard to world development in the next two decades.  These are population, the environment, output of goods and services and social exclusion, under which rubric comes poverty and human capital development, and its implications for global security.  Africa’s success or failure in the four areas highlighted would have profound impact on the world.  Although the presentation covered the whole continent, Nigeria, was the primary focus with 20% of the total population of Africa and projected to have a population of 400 million by 2040, making it the third most populous country in the world posing enormous challenges with regards to jobs and the environment.

He reviewed a list of human capital development indicators which have been summarised by Amartya Sen as the “ability to live a good life”.  Poverty he noted was primarily caused by deficiencies in human capital development; Africa lagged behind the rest of the world in human capital development and Nigeria scored very low worldwide, ranking 157 out of 189 countries.  While tremendous progress had been made in alleviating poverty in Nigeria and Africa in terms of the proportion of the total population the actual numbers had increased. Two fifth of Nigerians were illiterate and between 6 -55% of children were not at school in the various states.

The key factors cited for low human capital development were poverty, corruption, conflict, inequality, climate change, and inappropriate policies and underinvestment by national governments. He highlighted the Boko Haram insurgency and floods and the contraction of Lake Chad caused by climate change as particularly debilitating factors, citing research by Oxford University academic Paul Collier on the devastating impact of conflict on the economy.  Human capital development had been negatively impacted by the structural adjustment programmes of the 1990s and illicit financial capital outflows, which the Mbeki report estimated at $80 billion. Tax revenues were often very low, in Nigeria they amounted to only 6% of GDP.

The government’s role and moral obligation is to reduce poverty, notably, to reduce unemployment with human capital development being a key tool in achieving this objective.  Governments typically have challenges relating to social investment, physical infrastructure, and tax and business policies.  The Buhari administration had made significant effort in dealing with these issues.  It had quadrupled the budget on human capital development, made significant investment on infrastructure and implemented policies to diversify the economy. Its efforts that have earned Nigeria accolades from the World Bank on ease of doing business, with a very significant jump in world ranking compiled by the bank.

Professor Osinbajo said the emphasis has been on measures targeted at the jobless and that the administration has made the largest social investment ever in the country’s history. The government has provided credit to farmers through cooperatives, targeting the most vulnerable households.  The outcomes have been impressive in terms of outputs, recipients and repayment.  The country has reduced its trade deficit in rice, tomatoes and other agricultural products, the uptake and loan repayment have also been significant and encouraged the government to extend the scheme. As part of the effort to improve financial inclusion the government’s measures have resulted two million people opening bank accounts, bringing them into formal business structures. The government’s school feeding programme, involving 9.2 million children, is intertwined with the agricultural sector because it mandates states to use local produce, increasing enrolment and the market for farmers.

In the last two years the administration has trained 500,000 people in its  digital skills (empire) programme and the three pronged education policy aims to: achieve self-sustaining goal by 2030; enrol an additional nine million children in school working in partnership with state governments, religious organisations and other stakeholders and in this process, making use of new technology may mean that children would not have to attend school; significantly change the substance and methods of education with an emphasis on improving Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) uptake and quality.  The administration is making use of global brands like Microsoft, Oracle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in developing countrywide curriculum and skills, building on work with the Bill and Melinda Gates and the Dangote Foundations.

Human capital development is part of the administration’s comprehensive economic and social development strategy.  The objective is to raise the budget significantly and seek long term solutions that target deprivation and the most vulnerable members of the community.  They would be looking at innovative ideas and prioritise good governance.

The presentation highlighted the impressive efforts of the administration in addressing crucial issues with some caveats.  The projection for population growth is an extremely challenging situation and would require measures that were not covered.  He did not mention the crucial issue of the education of girls and women.  Educating girls has been shown to have a significant impact on development and a reduction in the population growth rate – the current growth rate is not sustainable. Typically in Africa education for girls lags behind boys significantly.  The Vice President made only a very brief mention of STEM an area that holds great potential but which Africa lags behind. He did not mention vocational education which is also an area that holds huge potential for the country and continent.  The country has seen a huge explosion in universities with many graduates becoming unemployed while at the same time many low and medium level technical positions are filled by technicians from outside the country and/or the country is not considered an attractive destination for foreign investment because of lack of skilled manpower.  Finally, while Nigeria can do with all the help it can get, major technology brands can only really add value if they are truly in tune with the real needs of the country, which means Nigerians setting the agenda.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO) www.oxfordmemo.co.uk


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Will Buhari be given the opportunity to complete his project?

October 2018 – J Boima Rogers


In 2019, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect a president.  Will they stick with Buhari or decide that he has been ineffectual, failed and not improved their lives and choose somebody else?  The election of Buhari has been a major new development in the country in a number of ways.  It was the first change in leadership from one party to another, as distinct from a military coup or shift from one leader to another within the same party.  Buhari had ruled as a military leader without amassing wealth and has continued in that fashion since he took office. He has implemented measures to address security, economic, corruption and infrastructure issues.  It has not however been smooth sailing going against entrenched interests, notably, many legislators whose major focus is staying in power, with very high salaries and expense accounts and not much interest in good governance and service delivery.   In many ways reality soon set in, thwarting Buhari’s reform agenda. His project, which aims to realise the country’s enormous potential has been slow to get off the ground and unless he can significantly revamp his narrative, political and economic strategies and pace, he is unlikely to get an extension to complete his project and alter the trajectory of the country’s development despite his laudable goals and objectives.

In going to the public for a second term, Buhari would need to highlight his track record, what he has achieved, how Nigerians are better off compared to when he took office, why he needs more time for his project and how he can do a better job if given a second chance.  The key metrics would depend on what voters consider to be the most important issues.  In the Nigerian context with limited and unreliable polls we need to be cautious.  One can assume though that certain issues which were constantly in the media and which Buhari focussed on when he last went to the polls are important.  These are public safety, the economy, corruption and the infrastructure, notably, power supply.     In his campaign, while he can point to challenges outside his control, including the machinations of his opponents and other branches of government that made it difficult or impossible for him to implement his agenda, the public is unlikely to buy into a narrative that assigns failure to other parties, because it assumes that any leader will face such hurdles and the mark of good leadership is how s/he responds to such challenges and comes on top.

Towards the end of the previous administration the Boko Haram insurgency was quite severe in a number of ways.  It was very active in the north-east, there had been some high profile kidnappings of civilians, notably the Chinook girls and it was spreading to other parts of Nigeria.  The economy had been in the doldrums largely because the Jonathan regime did not appear to have a coherent economic policy but also because of the depressed oil price, Nigeria’s lifeline.  Corruption was as usual rampant but the thing that brought it into focus was the attitude of the administration which did not see corruption, as Jonathan noted, as a problem.  In the run up to the election there were rumblings of a run on public funds by politicians to buy the support of the electorate.  Voters complained about the country’s crumbling infrastructure and in particular, the very limited and unreliable electricity.  The Jonathan administration had privatised electricity in a crony set up with no due diligence being conducted on the new owners to validate their capacity and expertise to provide the services and even more important, to significantly improve the paltry supply and reliability of this crucial service.  Other infrastructure and government services were also under severe strain as a result of lack of investment, mismanagement and corruption although the Jonathan administration could not obviously be totally blamed for a situation that had also been caused by many other previous administrations.  Voters as was their prerogative, decided that they needed a new leader to run the show.

While the Boko Haram insurgency is still rumbling on and as the BBC’s Tony Oladipo noted, continues “to threaten the stability of Nigeria’s north-east and its wider Lake Chad Basin area”, there has been a very significant improvement because of measures taken by the administration. These include changing the military command, moving the command centre to the region most affected by the insurgency, providing more resources and ensuring that those resources were delivered to the fighting force.  In 2015, in Buhari’s first year when his policies were being devised and implemented, there were 270 attacks and 6006 deaths.  In 2016 the 80 attacks recorded were 29% and deaths at 937 were 15% of the previous year, a huge improvement.  While attacks and deaths in 2017 at 109 and 937 deaths respectively are up on the 2016 figures, they are still a huge improvement on what Buhari inherited.     Boko Haram’s attacks are now primarily limited to Borno state.

On the economy the administration has made attempts, albeit in a very modest way, to stimulate non-oil sectors in its long term goal of reducing the country’s dependency on crude oil exports and reliance on imports.  His budgets have made significant allocations for agriculture, roads and power, including renewable power generation.  He has liberalised foreign exchange and thereby effectively removed subsidies to importers who had access to foreign currencies at preferential exchange rates, a perverse policy that was a disincentive for Nigeria’s manufacturers and farmers.  He has taken measures to minimise corruption as noted in my previous paper.  The administration’s policies have resulted in a significant improvement in the ease of doing business in Nigeria with the country moving from 170th in 2015 to 145th according to the World Banking ranking.   Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has seen a modest but steady growth.

It should be noted though at the end of the day Nigerian voters are going to judge Buhari according to their perceptions of how he has affected their lives.  The tepid economic growth which has, in the last five quarters ranged from .72 to 2.11% is significantly less than the population growth rate of 2.6 percent.  Despite major efforts the fight against corruption is still work in progress and in its latest report Transparency International ranked the country at 148/183 with a score of 27/100 in its corruption perception index.  Electricity output has continued to be a problem.  Nigeria’s electricity power capacity at 7,000 megawatts (MGW) is only a fraction of South Africa’s capacity of 40,000 MGWs even though that country has less than a third of Nigeria’s population.  Indeed the country’s actual electricity output is only a fraction of its installed capacity, ranging from 2,000 – 4,452 MGW in an analysis of recent production by Energy Mix.   Buhari has therefore not been able to make a major breakthrough in this crucial sector, although as noted above he has been constrained by the crony privatisation of his predecessor; he has kept within the law and refrained from revoking the franchises awarded by Jonathan.  His effort at diversifying into solar energy has been stymied by payment related guarantees.

The country’s shortcomings are severely limiting its potential, in particular, with regard to industrialisation which Nigeria should have unmatched comparative advantage in Africa because of its natural resource base and size of the domestic market.  In a recent report (September 2018) by Landry Signe of the Brookings Institute on the potential of manufacturing and industrialisation in Africa,  Nigeria had the lowest score on the quality of electricity and second lowest  transport (roads, railroads, ports and air transport) infrastructure among the top ten manufacturers in Africa.  The author noted that “Nigeria continues to be constrained by its political and regulatory environment – especially high levels of corruption, poverty and bureaucratic red tape”.

A review of critical indicators on the welfare of the population shows that much work still needs to be done.  The fragile state index compiled by the Fund for Peace which looks at the security, economy, state legitimacy and demographic pressure faced by Nigerians shows that the country is still very fragile although there has been a significant improvement in the last two years. Another indicator is the Severely Off Track Countries (SOTC) index  which measures a country’s ability to ensure its population can escape extreme poverty over the medium term.  In SOTCs neither the markets nor the bureaucracies are reliable pathways because the former are shallow and inefficient and the latter are under-skilled and ineffective.  Finally, the most glaring indicator of the current situation is the level of emigration, with Nigerians forming a significant proportion of people currently crossing the Mediterranean Sea fleeing to Europe.

So how does Buhari stand in his attempt to persuade voters to give him a second chance?   Detractors are likely to use the famous phrase by Ronald Reagan, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” They will say that his policies have not improved the lives of Nigerians and he does not have the skills to leverage the other legislative bodies, businesses and foreign governments and international organisations to support, devise and implement policies and invest in the country to improve the lives of Nigerians.

Buhari can correctly say that he is on the right path. He has reduced the impact of the Boko Haram problem.  He has taken measures to reduce corruption, to diversify the economy by allocating resources at crucial but neglected sectors – as an observer noted, “Now contractors are actually working on road projects rather than simply pocketing the money and sitting down”.  On the issue of whether the electorate feel things are better off and are willing to give him another chance he can note that this is not be an appropriate way of judging his administration.  Firstly, the time he has had has been relatively short given the immense challenges he faced after decades of mismanagement, rampant corruption and administrations that were indifferent to the needs and potential of the country and the fact that he has shared power with other legislative bodies who do not share his progressive agenda, it was never going to be plain sailing. He is taking an approach that previous administrations did not take but which are crucial in making the country realise its potential.

The challenge for Buhari is how to shape the narrative for the electorate to win the election and then, if successful, how to leave a transformative legacy.  To control the narrative his campaign would need to decipher the attitudes and effectively deliver the relevant message to the diverse voter demographic that he will face, namely, by state, region, age, ethnicity religion and gender. He needs find out how they view his track record, their knowledge of, why or how he has failed/succeeded and aspirations to tailor his message and its delivery to maximise the impact.  This is difficult enough in advanced democracies but in a country like Nigeria with high levels of illiteracy and voter decision making that is significantly influenced by ethnicity and religion it is far more challenging, with voters often taking perverse decisions.  They are for example often swayed by a bag of rice, ignoring the fact that a bag of rice once every four years is far inferior to measures to provide the means to produce or purchase many bags of rice over that four year period.  He needs to sell the idea that corruption is an inefficient and ineffective way of distributing the country’s resources and general development to an electorate that although they only  infrequently get the crumbs of corrupt practices have come to regard such practices as the norm.

To realise his goals and objectives Buhari has to convince the electorate that he needs to complete his project and leave a legacy that all Nigerians will benefit from. Given the governance structure, namely, the federal, state and multi-party democracy, he needs to develop partnerships. The challenge therefore is to get a mandate at the various levels to ensure that stakeholders are aligned to his reformist agenda. He needs to sell his project to create a cohesive party structure in the regions and states. The recent defections from his party by legislators should be an opportunity because he can choose replacements and readmit defectors who will closely adhere to his reform agenda.

Buhari needs a review of his approach if he is given a second shot to leave a lasting legacy.  He needs to take a much more ambitious line and speed up the process relative to his first term.  Nigeria needs a quantum leap in developing its infrastructure and particularly the level of electricity power generation given the needs of the public and industry and its natural resource base.  This has got to be done now, and may require radically departure from the approach so far.  He should borrow from the experience of other African countries.

In borrowing from other African countries he could look at the examples of Rwanda and Ethiopia (which used to be in the SOTC group with Nigeria) that have achieved very high economic growth rates for decades and attracted significant FDIs largely because they have taken bold measures, minimised corruption and invested heavily in their physical and soft infrastructure.  Over half a century ago Nkrumah took a bold step in constructing the Akosombo dam that still provides the bulk of Ghana’s electricity and the Ivory Coast has developed its electricity generation capacity to a level where it exports power.  Ethiopia is currently developing its huge power generation capacity (the project manager is Ethiopian) to a level that will allow it to develop its rapidly growing industrial sector, export power to several countries as well as provide irrigation to thousands of farms. The policies, governance structures and investment partners used by those countries would be relevant to the Buhari project.  Interestingly, in its effort to resuscitate its national air service Nigeria appears to have shortlisted Ethiopian Airlines, one of the few national airlines that have survived in the continent.  While Nigeria is the giant of Africa it can still learn from smaller nimbler countries on the continent.

Buhari’s legacy would be how significantly he can accelerate the fight against corruption and develop the infrastructure that he has started to realise the country’s huge potential.  The country has the potential with regards to power – oil, gas, rivers, sun and coal, diverse agricultural base – rain forest, savannah and semi-temperate highlands, and market for food and manufactured products – 170 million consumers. Buhari’s project will allow Nigeria to rightfully assume its mantle as the giant of Africa.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO), www.oxfordmemo.co.uk



Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Trump’s new world order, Trump, family and tribes

August 2018 – J Boima Rogers

In 2016 America elected a president like never before, a disrupter and novice who, true to his promises, is having a fundamental cultural, political and economic impact.  The Trump doctrine is based on Trump, his family, tribes and gut feelings.  Everything must evolve around him, the boss and he brooks no dissent.  The family comes first, and play a major role in the administration irrespective of their qualification.  His tribes take precedence and include the White race, Republicans and the rich.  He goes by gut feelings and has no time for analysis, science or evidence based policy.  This is not really an order or doctrine, rather while Trump has a disruptive effect with implications for his party, the US, allies and the world as a whole, he does not have a logical or coherent solution.  Chaos ensures and he does not have what it takes for a new world order.

Trump’s pronouncements, policies and reactions to developments, the media and criticisms have demonstrated his egotistic tendency.  He has to be the centre of attraction, using tweets and bombastic pronouncements to constantly let his team, party, opponents and the world know that he is the boss.  In an interview with Fox News he stated “I’m the only one that matters.  Because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”  Other than his father, he has always been his own boss and his approach reflects this background.  For him, loyalty and subservience are paramount as he recently admitted when he said he was aware that Omarosa, the White House staff member sacked, was not up to the job but was kept on because she was full of praise for him. When he met James Comey, the FBI Director he sacked, he demanded loyalty.  This unprecedented demonstration of fealty to the boss was captured in a cabinet meeting when members praised and pledged their allegiance to their dear leader.  He envies autocrats around the world and considers them to be his true friends.  His frustrations with the media, who as reported by The Daily Beast he has labelled as “enemy of the people”, is because they fail to give him the respect he feels he deserves and expose his lies as expected in a democratic state.  His recent spat with former officials, namely, revocation and threats of revocation of security clearance has little to do with security issues and more to do with the fact that he is asserting his power to strip former officials who have been critical of him, as punishment.  Ex CIA officer David Pries noted that this “is something that happens more in a banana republic than in the USA.”

Trump’s loyalty to his family is unprecedented.  His children played significant roles in his election campaign with his son and son in law allegedly being the conduit for damaging information on the Democrats from the Russians.  His daughter and son in law have been given positions way beyond their qualifications and experience, neither of them having held government positions before Trump assigned them roles.  Kushner, his son-in-law was given a multitude of roles, never before assigned to anybody in the White House even though he has government security clearance issues.  Donald J Trump Jr although not part of the government is frequently lauding the president’s “achievements”, criticising his dad’s opponents and no doubt acting as a conduit for outside interests who want to influence the president.   Trump’s businesses and those of his family have benefited significantly.  His Mar-a-Largo establishment in Florida doubled its fees immediately after Trump won the election.  His company and daughter’s company have been awarded patents and licenses by the Chinese government.  The Republican Party has spent $3.5 million on Trump properties since January 2017 in sharp contrast to the $35,000 the party spent in two election circles up to 2014. The Trump hotel in Washington DC made a profit of $40 million in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency and indications are that 2018 will be an even better year largely because foreign dignitaries and lobbyists stay there.  Trump more than any other President likes to hold court outside Washington DC and when he does it is often at his hotels, and obviously the US government pays his fees.

Trump is very loyal to his tribes, namely, Whites, Republicans, the rich and through his Vice President, White Christian Evangelicals.  His American First ideology would suggest that this includes America but this is misleading because for him Democrats, non-Whites, intellectuals, the mainstream media and just about anybody who is not part of his tribes noted above or subservient to him is not a real American and since day one he has made no effort to be the president for all Americans.  His loyalty to his White tribe has meant that the Trump’s White House has fewer minorities than any President for decades as Politico noted that of the 55 highest earning staff only half a dozen were non-White.  USA Today has documented ten statements by Trump that have been deemed racists.  Trump’s racist pronouncements and actions started long before he made a bid for the White House, ranging from a court case when his company was accused of discrimination in housing to his campaign against African American and Latino youths who were absolved of crimes they did not commit.  His recent entry into politics started with the false accusation that Obama was not born in America.  He has used derogatory terms against Mexicans, railed against Central Americans who in his words want to “infest” America, called African and Caribbean countries “shitholes” and has frequently lambasted  prominent African Americans for their ”low IQs”.  And of course there was the Charlottesville incident when he failed to criticize neo-Nazis, calling them fine people.  His preoccupation with the Wall, attacks against African American sportsmen, hard-line immigration stand is no doubt due to his racist views.  In his comment on the recent death of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, he said “she worked for me”, obviously, a Black woman who answered to her master.

Trump’s loyalty to his White tribe extends beyond the USA.  He has criticized the EU for opening its borders to immigrants, a point he stressed in his most recent visit to the continent.  He has recently falsely criticised the South African government on killings of Whites and land redistribution policies – Whites who make up 8% of the population own 72% of the land that had been acquired from Blacks under its Apartheid system.  He only raises such concerns when they involve his White tribe, and is noticeably silent on injustices around the world which do not involve his tribe.  He has not made any reference to the Rohingyas even though the UN has just announced that they are facing genocide.

Trump has been steadfast in support of his Republican tribe, and this is reflected in measures with regard to the economy, the judiciary and military budget with one caveat, namely, the dramatic new direction the party has taken under him.  Trump’s Republican brand is no longer the party that advocates free trade, fiscal responsibility, consistent foreign policy anchored to long term allies and civility.  These principles championed according to ABC by the forgotten Republicans, have given way to the Trump doctrine, whose common thread now is authoritarianism and racism.  While racism was always there since Nixon and Reagan adopted the “southern strategy”, Trump has been much bolder and appointed people such as his Attorney General and Steve Bannon, his former strategist who are sympathetic and/or have espoused racist views.

Trump has been very loyal to his rich tribe, giving them tax cuts, getting rid of “onerous” regulations and surrounding himself with millionaires and billionaires in his cabinet and more tax cuts are planned.  Trump, largely because of his devout Christian Vice President has been loyal to White Evangelical Christians as demonstrated in the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, statements and policies at home and abroad relating to abortion, appointments to the Supreme Court and his current friction with Turkey.

Losers, those outside the tribes, the country as a whole and America’s allies are obviously very unhappy with this president.  Democrats and many independents are strongly opposed to his assault on cherished Obama and general liberal policies relating to the environment, healthcare tax give- away to the rich, and consumer rights.  The country as a whole is not a Trump fan with disapproval rates consistently higher than approval rates in polls since taking office.  While his policies have no doubt built on Obama’s legacy in reducing unemployment, real wages for most Americans, after taking into account inflation, have not increased and following his much touted tax cuts, companies have not passed on the reduced taxes to workers, rather, they have passed on those gains to rich shareholders, buying back shares and increasing dividends.  His threats and actions to damage Obamacare without a credible replacement has been unpopular.   Furthermore, the huge deficit caused by his tax cuts which is projected to increase the national debt by a third has been described as a national security issue by USA Today, particularly as it makes the country less able to withstand another recession.  Even among the winners there are concerns. American businesses are worried about his import tax hikes, causing him to fall out with some free market business supporters, notably, the Koch brothers.  Some of his rural and working supporters have voiced their concerns about the negative impacts of the tariffs.

The most corrosive aspect of Trump’s statements and actions relate to the effect on America’s democracy, the divisive nature of this administration, the absence of analysis in the policy making process and damage to the country’s science culture.  His attacks on the media and judiciary are weakening the bedrocks of American democracy.    He calls mainstream media “fake news” and he is a serial liar, calculated by the Washington Post to be over 4,000 since he took office. This assault on the democratic process is having the effect Trump desires.  A recent poll revealed that 43% of Republicans are willing to give Trump the power to close down media organisations and 52% would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if proposed by Trump. Polls indicate that a high proportion of Republican voters are favourably inclined to authoritarian rule and leaders.   It is frightening watching Trump supporters at his rallies vent their anger at opponents and reporters, notably the vitriol directed at CNN reporter Acosta, egged on by their leader.  The baying crowds at Trump rallies are reminiscent of the dark moods preceding the downfall of the Weimar Republic.  It should be noted that racial prejudice and a feeling that they had been victimised by outside forces and the world were critical factors in the ascent of the monster regime that followed that republic.  Trump has been very successful at engendering unwavering, slavish and sycophantic support from his base hence with all his actions which normally have caused voters to reject such a politician he still commands 85-90% of the support of Republicans.

America is deeply divided with members of the two major parties only exchanging blows and insults and Trump is largely to blame even though the seeds started germinating before he came on board.  In his inflammatory language, actions and insults, he is shaping the Republican Party into a unprincipled (to traditional Republican values) base that primarily watch, listen and trust Fox and other right wing media, adhere to the diktats of their dear leader and are vehemently hostile to Democrats, the media and non-White immigrants.  The party has even changed its stand regarding Russia, its traditional nemesis with polls indicating a significant increase in favourable sentiments towards that country.  At a recent Trump rally participants wore T-shirts saying Russians were preferable to Democrats.  Obviously Putin’s internet trolls have been very successful in convincing Republicans that Russia is the White, Christian and anti-liberal bastion that Trump supporters crave for.  Few Republican leaders are challenging or objecting to the course, inflammatory and false statements that are frequently made by its leader.   The most outspoken of them in Congress are on their way out, their places taken by Trumpists.   Mike Murphy, a vocal Republican critic of Trump highlighted the Republican party’s moral cowardice in the face of Trump’s “racial demagoguery and slurs, abuse of office, dictator appeasement, nepotism and family corruption, blazing incompetence, contempt for the rule of law, betrayal of public institutions, epic dishonesty, authoritarian thuggishness” , pointing out that Republicans and their leaders have been shown no backbone and would pay the price in elections.

The discourse in the Trump era is unlike that in any other administration, course, false, efforts to make up for false statements and disjointed amidst a chaotic policy framework.  Trump sets the tone, as demonstrated when he referred to Omarosa, as a dog, a term he has used on other people.  False statements started almost from day one when his spokesman, Sean Spicer claimed that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest ever despite clear photographic evidence showing that to be false.   Trump’s lies have become main-stream to his Republican base who use them as talking points and in repudiating arguments by their opponents.  Kellyanne Conway, a senior Whitehouse staff member coined a new term “alternative facts” for false statements.  Most recently Trump’s Lawyer Rudi Giuliani has stated that “truth isn’t truth” with regards to the Mueller enquiry.  In this chaotic administration,  Trump, White House staff, government departments, outside and Republican congress supporters frequently make conflicting statements and/or are often corrected by the White House or the boss himself.  Policy is often announced for the first time through Trump’s Twitter feed or his favourite media, Fox News without coordination with the relevant department or staff member. This dysfunction can have significant implications, for example nobody knows exactly what Trump said or promised in his recent one-to-one meeting with Putin, Comey, the FBI Director was fired while attending a conference and the Director of Intelligence heard about Trump’s decision to hold a second meeting with Putin from the media also, while at a conference.

Trump unlike Obama is not an analytical President; rather he prides himself as the gut-feeling man, a mind-set that is reflected in his climate, economic and geo-political policies and actions.  His rejection of the climate agreement refuted evidence by most scientists and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been undoing Obama’s policies and rules ignoring robust scientific evidence.  He has sacked and/or refused to consult eminent experts, buried or ignored unpalatable findings.  His tax cuts based on the flawed supply side premise, have failed to address the issues that should be paramount and indeed have exacerbated them.  His trade policies are particularly worrisome at a time when world trade, investment and production are becoming ever more integrated as noted by Kemal Davis and Caroline Conroy of the Brooking Institute, who in their in a recent paper stated that “in less than a decade, it will be huge world markets, that allocates capital finance, and skilled labour”.  Indeed that is already happening in which case, Trump is acting like a modern day Luddite rather than trying to work out the best way America can harness this transition particularly as American companies are leading players in the process. His tariff wars have not looked at the issue in an analytical way but just taken a sledge hammer to deal with a very complex issue.  He has made a big thing about his meetings with the North Korean and Russian leaders but very little preparations were made prior to those meetings which have ended up as mere photo opportunities that benefited those despots.  Trump’s antipathy to analysis is the reason why he got rid of his highly intellectual National Security Adviser, McMaster and has failed to recruit, attract and keep high calibre staff.   Nowhere is this dysfunction in the administration more evident than in science.  In a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists which surveyed scientists in 16 agencies the group noted that the Trump administration’s “record on science policy is abysmal with significant challenges in the use of science to protect the public from environmental and public threats” and that the administration has been “undermining long-established processes for science to inform public policy”.  The Trump administration’s staffing of its science policy unit is a fraction of the level under Obama and even lower than under G H Bush and it has introduced censorship in government documents and websites.  The current top ranking official in the unit is a 31 year old with a bachelor degree in political science. This is a sharp departure from the Obama administration in social and scientific policy process as Ros Haskins and Greg Margolis, in their book, Show me the Evidence, documented the fight by the Obama administration for rigour and results in social policy.

Trump has outsourced much of the actual development of policies and selection of officials to Republican organisations and individuals because he lacks the analytical capability and interest and has not recruited enough staff to do the groundwork.  This outsourcing of policy has given huge opportunities to outside interests in his tribes.  Outside vested interests have had significant input on tax, environmental, immigration, education, religious policies and the selection of key staff members and judges as never before.  The influence of outside vested interest is making policy more ideologically driven with a huge dose of conspiracy theory thrown in and there have been management issues, hence the chaotic Trump policy making process.

While Trump remains very popular in his tribes, his rants and policies are full of ironies verging on the perverse. He constantly rails against China’s trade surplus but his 2020 presidential campaign materials are being made in that country, his company and daughter are benefiting from licences awarded in China and his investment in Indonesia has been boosted by huge capital from China.  He has taken a hard stand against immigration and wants to end “chain migration” which allows US citizens to sponsor their relatives, claiming that he only wants highly qualified migrants.  His company was granted permits for foreign workers soon after he took office.  His grandfather, mother, and wife’s parents recently granted American citizenships recently, and wife’s sister have benefited from “chain migration”.  None of these family members or workers for his company are in the highly skilled category he is touting.  Stephen Miller, his policy adviser advocating hard-line immigration policy who is Jewish was labelled a hypocrite by his uncle David S Glosser saying he had “watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country”.  Oh by the way, the “fine people” of Charlottesville had placards stating they would not be displaced by Jews and so if they have their way people like Miller could find themselves in big trouble like in the old country they escaped from. William H Frey who recently wrote a book titled Diversity Explosion has noted that Trump’s White supporters have misplaced anxiety. For the country as a whole, but particularly Whites, low birth rates could result a precipitous decline in population growth as seen in countries like Japan.  Immigration he noted will bring in youthful workers and “ironically, it is the older white population that would benefit handsomely from investments in the labour force skills of younger minorities – by the latter’s contribution to Social Security and Medicare” – Trump won the overwhelming proportion of the older White vote.   Trump supporters who received the crumbs from his tax cuts are likely to be negatively impacted by price rises as a result of Trump’s import tariffs. Trump’s rural base who continue to strongly support him, are being hit by tariffs on their exports to China.  Trump’s strongest supporters in the EU, namely, central and eastern European states, are jittery because of Trump’s embrace of Putin’s Russia who they see as a major threat. According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, US mills that supply aluminium and steel raw materials employ fewer than 200,000 people while US companies that buy those inputs that will be adversely affected by Trump’s tariffs employ more than 6.5 million workers.  And “Trump Country”, notably the Rust Belt, rely more on exports for jobs than other parts of the country.

Trump does not do irony and such inconsistencies do not matter or apply to him, his family and his tribes.  There is no issue with his family occupying prominent positions and benefiting financially because that is the smart thing to do.  His actions are just are what he has always done, with his business where family members run the show, with tax (avoidance), bankruptcy laws and his (disgruntled) employees.  He is against immigration from “shithole” countries but he is OK with it when it relates to his family, business and immigrants from predominantly White countries like Norway.  His gripe with kneeling (Black) sports stars is because they are ungrateful for what they are getting particularly as they do not actually belong to America as was Obama. He reminded his rich tribe after the tax cut on how grateful they should be that he had filled their coffers.  And his working class White base, well they should be happy with their lot just like the employees and contractors he has shafted.

The Trump new world order/chaos is a cause for concern at home and abroad.  It is more of a chaos than an order and this is partly because his victory was a surprise and there was no real Trump doctrine/plan other than what is in it for Trump and his family, anger, hate and tribal affiliation.  Yes he had some platitudes but these were not well thought out and coherent strategies and policies.  His party is unrecognisable in terms of its long held principles.  American democracy is under threat and one of the earliest experiments of modern democracy is seeing a lurch to authoritarianism reminiscent of the darkest days of the twentieth century.  Analysis and science have been thrown out of the window as Tump takes policies and positions based on prejudice and conspiracy theories.

On the world stage Trump’s statements on NATO and the EU and his embrace of Putin, affinity towards authoritarian leaders, protectionist policies are introducing instability never seen for many decades.  Allies, frequently berated, attacked and surprised by Trump who often sides with traditional enemies such as Putin in the case of the EU, are confused and the most recent statement by the French President, echoing that made by Chancellor Merkel suggests that Europe is finally deciding to take a path that is more independent of the US.  The EU is particularly concerned because of Trump’s support for Brexit, ant-liberal policies of east and central European members and anti EU movements and parties.  In Asia, America’s allies, notably, Japan and South Korea are worried about the mercurial president who despite all the fanfare seems to have achieved nothing in his meeting with North Korea and his reluctance to engage in military exercises.    The whole world is worried about America’s tariffs, his unravelling of carefully crafted accords such as the Paris climate change, Iran, World Trade Organisation, NAFTA agreements and belligerent posture but without clearly thought out replacements.   Trump’s disdain of analysis, science, lack of experience or interest in politics and diplomacy but rather only guided by bloated regard of his own intellect and deal making prowess, his tribe and conspiracy theories makes world leaders worried.  This angry leader, ready to take on the world, armed with the most powerful economic and military force, backed by a sycophantic congress and support from the only people he cares for, his Republican base, is unnerving.  And with his legal issues and the Mueller probe at home, he may just lash out as he is prone to do when he is frustrated and/or wants to change the news agenda.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO) www.oxfordmemo.co.uk



Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Brexit: Britain’s journey through minefields at home and abroad

J Boima Rogers – July 2018

The Brexit momentum continues, with the clock ticking away and Theresa May’s government is facing challenges at home and abroad. These challenges include the limited time span for a deal, the government’s wafer thin majority in Parliament, a divided Tory party, rebellious House of Lords and Scottish government and resignations by ministers who had been at the forefront of negotiations, including the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator and Foreign Secretary.  On the (European) continent, the UK’s partners had until recently been exasperated with the lack of clarity from the UK government.  At the global level we are witnessing turbulence because of the Trump factor even as many Brexiteers look to America as a golden opportunity.

There have been some bright sparks.  The UK government has finally published a white paper on a trade deal which the EU lead negotiator initially described as “80% OK”.  The paper set out the government’s position, namely: to minimise disruption of trade through a “frictionless trade” mechanism; avoidance of a hard Irish border; convergence on standards through common rule books; an end to free movement of people and; security partnership. To mollify its hard Brexit parliamentarians it accepted non consequential amendments to the bill.  There have been friendly statements from some member states towards the UK.  Trump’s hostile position on trade with the EU and comments on security issues are also bound to make European countries more appreciative of Britain as a bulwark against Russian aggression.  Some EU states are wary that Britain’s exit will lead to more dominance by France and Germany, particularly, in the case of the latter.  A deal will be made but the timeline is likely to be extended although Brussels has suggested that an extension could only be allowed for a second referendum.  It is obvious, as noted in my previous paper that any deal will not be as good as existing arrangements but should be better than those with other non EU European states.  The Prime Minister and new Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab will be traversing the continent to gauge and influence support for the UK among member states all of whom have to vote for the agreement.

Britain faces three scenarios, soft, hard or no deal but even as negotiations are taking place the EU and commercial operators are already implementing measures that have significant effects irrespective of the outcomes specified. So how will the country fare under any of the possible deals?  A recent report by Darrell M West and Christian Lansing, Global Manufacturing Scorecard, which places Britain at the top of the table in terms of its competitiveness in manufacturing along with Switzerland, could be cited by Brexiteers as a sign that the country is poised for a golden age post Brexit. One needs to be cautious about that conclusion for a number of reasons.  The authors cite “political and economic predictability and open market” as the number one condition.  In the globalised integrated manufacturing setting that companies operate under, they require a smooth supply chain and Brexit is likely to disrupt this chain particularly in the case of a hard or no deal situation.  Many major brands are also foreign owned, this is notably the case with cars, a major “success” area where all volume car producers are foreign owned.  Disruptions in the supply chain, limitations on market access for the finished product and pressure and incentives by home country governments will see production being moved to the EU or other countries which have better arrangements with the EU.  The fact is that the market for over four hundred million consumers in post Brexit EU will always be more attractive than the sixty five million British consumers. The British government’s White paper only covers trade in goods, leaving out the much larger service sector which accounts for 80% of GDP and 44% of exports; the paper makes vague statements on the service sector.

Even as negotiations are taking place, there are moves by the EU and commercial operators towards the divorce.  The EU has started moving regulatory institutions out of the UK and excluding the UK from participation in major projects.   The Euro Banking Authority is moving to France and the Euro Medicine Agency is moving to Amsterdam. The EU is limiting UK participation in the Galileo Space project and Airbus has indicated that its operations in the UK are likely to be negatively impacted and most commercial operators are at advanced stages in their contingency plans.   These regulatory institutions oversee sectors where Britain is a major global force and has significant comparative advantages which will be negatively impacted in any of the Brexit scenarios.  The contingency arrangements by commercial operators are significant investments and businesses take such actions with the high probability of following them through.

Britain’s exit is likely to introduce major shifts in the EU dynamics, notably, a move away from the troika of leading states, Germany, Britain and France leaving the two leading countries as the dominant players.  Germany, the powerhouse and largest net contributor to the EU budget realises that the exit of Britain, the third largest net contributor means that it would have to increase its budgetary outlay.  It has to tread carefully because of resentments by some EU states relating to its history and dominance in trade.  France, the second largest net contributor to the EU budget and embedded dominance in EU institutions – French and English are the official languages and the country has a strong presence in the EU’s bureaucratic framework, including the lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Bernier – will find it hard to fill the financial void because it has yet to fully recover from the economic recession, with stubbornly high unemployment.    Southern and Eastern European countries with relatively large agricultural sectors and/or lower per capita incomes are net beneficiaries of the EU budget.  This is because the bulk of the EU budget is spent on agriculture and structural cohesion measures that benefit those states.  Britain’s exit could therefore reduce payments to them unless Germany and other net payers increase their budget contributions.  Northern European states, net contributors to the budget, are wary of the likely of increases in their contributions to make up for the gap that Britain’s exit will leave.  It also means that Britain, a key ally of their reform agenda with regard to the EU bureaucracy, budget and economy will be leaving these northern states exposed to their southern and eastern partners who are more interested in pork and maintaining the status quo.

Britain’s exit will also have an impact on the EU political and security front.  Ethno nationalism and anti-liberal developments in Eastern Europe, Italy and Austria means that more liberal northern/western members will be losing a key ally against this trend.  Most members also belong to NATO and Britain is a major military force that is crucial to face up to an aggressive Russia whose key aim is fermenting disunity within the EU and NATO.  And Putin now has a partner in pursuing this objective, President Trump.  Trump’s ambassador to Germany has stated that he wants to “empower” right wing governments in Europe.  Britain is a major force in NATO and also plays a critical role in the security infrastructure relating to terrorism and crime which could be affected by Brexit.

Much has been made of new opportunities for Britain in the global sphere but as Lord Malloch Brown noted in his presentation, Britain at sea, much of this is an illusion with significant challenges post Brexit.  The EU, accounting for nearly half (43%) of Britain’s trade and historical, cultural and security ties will continue to interact with the UK in a significant way.  The new factor that was nowhere in the scene at the start of Brexit is Mr Trump, who key Brexiteers see as Britain’s saviour but who is actually the bull in the China shop, not only for the process but also through his actions and pronouncement on the global stage.  Trump in his recent trip to Europe reiterated his support for Brexit, undermining of May’s government in an interview with the mass daily Sun newspaper in which he criticised May’s handling of the Brexit negotiation and lauded her rival and hard Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary.  He also caused a major upset on a separate but related matter of security, namely, his shenanigans on NATO and embrace of the Russian bear.  His protectionist policies could have direct and indirect impact on the EU, post Brexit UK and globally.  He has slapped higher import taxes on EU products and promised more taxes.  Europe will be impacted indirectly as protectionist measures against countries like China force them to seek alternative markets for their displaced US exports.  Countries around the world may also adopt protectionist measures. The worst case scenario is the development of beggar thy neighbour policies reminiscent of those implemented in the 1920s that caused the great depression as many other countries raised taxes on imports and implemented other protectionist measures.  As we go to press, the Trump/ Juncker (EU President) meeting appears to have resulted in Trump toning down on threats to hike up tariffs on a range of products although those he has already implemented remain in place.

With regards to Britain’s relationship with America post Brexit, as noted in my previous paper, Trump is only interested in transactions when he gets the better of his adversaries and in Trumpworld allies can also be “foes”.  Given this tendency, it is hard to see how Trump would make it easier for Britain, which already has a £50 Billion trade surplus with the US, to have better access.  Admittedly, this anti-immigrant (unless you are White from countries like Norway) son of a British immigrant mother may have a soft spot for Britain and so make a special case for the UK, a very wishful thinking.  Furthermore, it is hard to see how Trump will balance his embrace of Britain which has been targeted by his close buddy, Putin.  Putin interfered in the Brexit referendum, poisoned British residents and frequently makes threatening military moves (Russian military jets in Britain’s airspace) against the UK.

While the negotiations with EU negotiators are not smooth, Britain can take comfort in some positive developments.  The business communities on both sides of the channel want a pragmatic outcome to the negotiations because of significant trade, integrated supply chains and benefits to consumers and investors.  In Britain, hard Brexiteers have not been able to offer any plausible alternatives to what May has proposed. The Trump factor is also a major incentive for an amicable outcome. His belligerent trade posture means that the world and Europe realise that they do not need any additional disruption to the trading system.    Policy makers on both sides of the channel therefore realise that the EU and Britain need to minimise the Trump factor.  Trump’s attitude to NATO and Russia suggests that Trump’s America cannot be trusted to defend Europe and indeed Trump appears to be in cahoots with Europe’s nemesis, Russia.  The UK which has for centuries and is still a strong military force on the continent, will no doubt use this leverage in ensuring an amicable divorce.

Negotiations are going to become more intense and both parties are, as expected throwing punches, making moves which while ostensibly aimed at the opposing side are really largely directed at their domestic audiences to demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are determined to put up a good fight.  The EU also has to take a tough stand to deter other members who may harbour leaving.  Michel Bernier the EU lead negotiator has for example stated that he seeks “solutions that respect the integrity of the single market” and going back on his initial positive position on the UK’s white paper, recently stated that the UK’s proposal is unacceptable because the EU would not delegate its customs policy and excise duty collection “to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structure”.   Britain has posited that its “divorce settlement” is at stake in a no deal scenario, a point Bernier disputes because according to him that is a done and dusted deal.  Both sides are making contingency plans, as they should, for a no deal scenario.  These statements and position are typical of any such negotiation and Bernier is also miffed that the UK is trying to go over him by directly lobbying his bosses, EU member states.  It is not going to be easy, and it will be messy, but with so much at stake and in this turbulent world, Brexit will happen without both parties being totally happy or unhappy.

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford, http://www.oxfordmemo.co.uk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Creating Wakanda: youth, technology and entrepreneurship across Africa

Report by J Boima Rogers – June 2018

This report on an event which was co-hosted by the Blavatnik School and the Pathways for Prosperity Commission evoked the recent Black Panther movie which is inspiring a generation of Africans to see themselves as technological leaders in a sci-fi world.  The objective was to discuss real-world technologically driven future vision of Africa, how this future can be created by people from the continent and whether Africa’s young entrepreneurs hold answers for Africa’s development and challenges such as youth unemployment. Presentations were made by Strive Musiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of the Econet Group, Atherton Mutombwera, founder and CEO of Hutano Diagnostics Ltd. and Jessica Price, co-founding partner of the Rhodes Incubator, which empowers scholars from diverse global communities. Professor Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School of Government moderated the event.

In his opening statement Strive noted that technology is the path to prosperity and highlighted the exponential pace at which changes are taking place in the technology space making the process very disruptive.  The issue is how to manage the opportunities that arise from such disruptions. Africa needs to dramatically improve its educational systems, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), where it is lagging behind.  Entrepreneurship should not be viewed as a mechanical process or merely for profit rather entrepreneurs aim to solve problems.  Universities on the continent are producing graduates who cannot find jobs and the focus is training people to work for other people.  The challenge in developing an entrepreneurial culture is how to recognise, nurture and take it to the next stage.  The continent needs to move away from arrogance of governance, in particular, passing laws without consultation. Africa does not need to be focussed on foreign investment because there is significant capital that can be mobilised domestically.  The emphasis should be on how to harness entrepreneurship.  There must be a move away from reliance on natural resources because the pathway to prosperity is being smart. The private sector has more funds than governments and governments need to develop policies that will assist in the mobilisation of capital and movement of it across the continent.

Strive noted that stock market exchanges across the continent are not up to the challenge and need to up their games.    He cited Israel and Silicon Valley as models to look up to. In Israel the culture is promoted at high school level.  When he visited Silicon Valley he was very impressed on what the government was doing to make the environment conducive to entrepreneurs, something he noted the Chinese had copied.  Policy makers need to visit those countries as well as other African countries to see what have been achieved and how they can improve their own systems. He highlighted the mobile phone revolution in money transfers in Zimbabwe which was even more advanced than Kenya which pioneered the process and is often hailed.  Mauritius has developed a cyber city and is unique in having the facility for business registration where Econet is registered. Key challenges for entrepreneurs in Africa, which are universal, are: getting it right with regards to the product, customer base and monetising the product/concept; organising people (Staff) and; the business process, including the supply chain.

Atherton revealed that his start-up is looking at 7 diseases which are endemic or are severely impacting the continent to try to simplify diagnosis, a crucial development because there are only 14 laboratories for such processes on the continent. His unit is having conversations with stakeholders, developing the business at various levels, namely, the concept, company structure and execution.  His unit is based in Oxford to have access to technology and capital but plans to start a manufacturing and distribution in Africa.

Jessica introduced the Rhodes incubator she has co-founded which targets projects that will make a significant impact.  The challenge for Africa is developing eco-systems that will make it attractive for investment, notably, the legislative framework and funding streams. She noted that the success of technology has a cultural perspective which needs to change, in particular, the expectations of what the government can do.  Governments need to realise that they are not omnipotent and must be willing to give up rights and be ready to partner with other stakeholders.  Access to technology needs to be broadened.

Comments and analysis

Professor Ngaire Woods posed the question of what are the pathways to prosperity and what governments can do to create a more conducive environment.  She noted that crucial factors are the mind-set, minimising risks and developing a supportive infrastructure and highlighted the work of the Gates Foundation. Other participants noted the need for more conversation on opportunities and barriers to investment.  Countries, as South Africa has done, need to develop one-stop-shop facilities to enhance the investment process.  Kenya had recently hosted an event to review the regulatory regime to learn and test how to use the regulatory regime to support innovation, develop peer learn and peer pressure and networking, with the aim of enhancing new product development and minimising risks. A major point learned from that event was that regulators do not have the skills for innovators.

The event was very refreshing and part of a series that Blavatnik have organised in its pathway to prosperity programme. It gave a platform to innovators using new technology in a variety of ways, namely, a very successful African telecommunications, media and technology entrepreneur, an interesting start-up that aims to address pressing health issues facing the continent and an incubator which will broaden the technology landscape and mobilise funds to spur investment and development.  It brought into focus the notion that Africa offers investment opportunities and African entrepreneurs are active in the technology space.   While there has, as should be a lot of attention on the physical infrastructure, the focus at the event was on soft infrastructure, namely, the regulatory framework and training.  African governments, it would appear need to up their game and the continent needs to place more emphasis in developing STEM where it lags behind, to the detriment of a fast moving global technology sector.  It is rather perverse that it is turning out so many high school and university graduates who cannot find jobs while missing out on investment opportunities because of lack of skilled labour.

While it was laudable that Blavatnik hosted the event, such events should also be hosted in Africa, to make sure that this conversation hits home for all stakeholders.  One solution should be for events such as this one to incorporate a webinar capacity, whereby audiences in Africa and elsewhere can participate. Two other processes could further develop this important forum, ensure that it is not just a talking shop and build momentum.  Firstly, it would help if such forums are documented to allow stakeholders who cannot participate to have access to the event.  Blavatnik, the African Union and national governments could develop databases of such forums, initiatives, regulatory regimes, stakeholders and indices that governments and entrepreneurs could tap into to learn from, offer advice and facilitate networking.

One issue that I disagree with Strive about is the fact that he downplayed the role of Africa’s natural resources.  While I do not think these should be the sole focus in the development process, they can and must play a major role.  Developing and processing products from these natural resources still have a crucial role to play.  African countries have for too long exported raw commodities and imported processed products.  Processing such commodities will add value, provide employment, develop other related downstream products and minimise the volatility in prices and revenues that commodities are often subjected to.  Technological breakthroughs could assist in making this transition.

With regard to one of the major challenges facing the continent, youth employment, making use of the continent’s vast resources will be more effective by increasing the production and productivity of minerals and agricultural products and processing them.  This in no way means that technology should be ignored, indeed it will be an ever increasing part of the development process which requires a multi-pronged approach.  Training, particularly focussing on STEM as noted by Strive should be a priority but this should be in tandem with improvements in traditional sectors.  While Africa cannot afford to continue lagging behind new technology, the sector can only absorb a small percentage of its fast growing labour force.  It will generally help improve its overall competitiveness and economic growth, allowing farms, mines, factories, supply chains and services to offer employment opportunities. The crucial factor here though will be improvements in physical and soft infrastructure, reduced corruption, avoiding wars and civil strife, all things that are not specifically geared towards the technology sector or sexy, but just plain simple good governance.

Technology should not be viewed as a stand-alone sector but rather the engine for development.  The challenge is how to leverage new technology to assist in the development process.  Mobile phones have played a part in providing market intelligence for farmers.  Mobile phones played a crucial role in Nigeria’s effective and prompt response to the recent Ebola epidemic. Atherton’s work in the health sector and Jessica’s start-up which aims to diversify access to new technology are part of that process.  In my paper on the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa I noted that Big Data would be very useful in mapping the spread of the disease and efforts to stem the epidemic.  New technology, in particular, the digital revolution can and should therefore be used for a range of sectors, including agriculture, mining, tourism, health etc.

One interesting point is that all of the presenters are operating out of their home base which itself demonstrate the challenges African countries face and how they lose out on one of their most significant resource base, their entrepreneurs.  Strive’s Econet is based in South Africa and registered in Mauritius, rather than his native Zimbabwe.  This is partly because of the protracted and bitter fight he had with the Zimbabwean authorities who tried to muzzle the operations of their talented son, according to my sources, because he would not give in to corrupt government officials. It is also likely that the depressed market conditions and dilapidated infrastructure of that country, Mugabe’s legacy, was not a conducive environment for his company.  Atherton’s Hutano Diagnostics is based in the UK rather than his native Zimbabwe, as is Jessica’s Rhodes incubator instead of her native South Africa.  African countries must therefore do a lot more to hold on to their crown jewels and attract those who have flown the nest.  This factor is even more so in the globalised digital world.


Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of Econet Group, a pan-African telecommunications, media and technology company with operations and investments in over 20 countries. Masiyiwa has been selected twice, in 2014 and 2017, to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. Over the last few years, Masiyiwa has devoted his time to mentoring the next generation of African entrepreneurs through his Facebook page, which has a growing followership of nearly 3-million young people from across the continent. Facebook has identified his platform as the most engaging of any business leader in the world. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards including Unilever Plc, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Group, and the Hilton Foundation’s Humanitarian Prize Jury. Strive is founder and co-chair of the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development.

Atherton Mutombwera is the founder and CEO of Hutano Diagnostics Ltd. Hutano Diagnostics Ltd is a start-up developing a diagnostic and surveillance platform for diseases caused by emerging and dangerous pathogens which cause recurring epidemics in Africa. The company is currently developing an Ebola diagnostic and surveillance platform. Atherton has experience in healthcare provision, Nano biotechnology research and business. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy, then obtained an MSc in Nanoscience as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar. He was awarded the Coursework Masters Award in the Science, Engineering and Technology fields by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2016. His research focus during the MSc was the development of a rapid diagnostic device for Ebola. He has most recently completed an MBA at the University of Oxford as a Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Saïd Scholar.

Jessica Price is a co-founding partner of the Rhodes Incubator, which empowers scholars from diverse global communities to use entrepreneurship to drive impact. Jessica is particularly interested in the intersection of entrepreneurship and complex societal challenges, particularly questions of access to healthcare, and improving health systems. She holds an MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) and MPH from the University of Cape Town, and is currently on a Rhodes scholarship in Oxford studying for a DPhil in Primary Care Health Sciences.


J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO) www.oxfordmemo.co.uk



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment