US Presidential Election and what it means for the world

 

J Boima Rogers – March 2016

We are once more facing the election of the next US President and it is as fascinating and entertaining as always.  There are two reasons why this election is very important not just for US citizens who actually have the vote but also for billions of us around the world.  The US is a major and in many cases, the dominant force with regards to its military, economy, currency, source and destination of investment, technology, popular culture and political leverage.  The world is also much more connected than ever before and so developments in one part, particularly in a country such as the US, have a direct and significant effect on all corners of the globe.  We outside the US are watching bemused but also concerned about the candidates and their policies.  The concerns do not only relate to foreign but also domestic policies which often have effects on the rest of the world.  As of now the field is still quite crowded particularly in the Republican Party. Of particular interest are the Republican front runners who are advocating policies that may see a dramatic change in how the US deals with the rest of the world.  This note will look closely at what a Donald Trump Presidency will mean for those of us without the vote.  Can we do anything to influence the campaign, no and yes.

At the moment although the election is still wide open we are seeing certain trends emerging. While Hilary Clinton is leading the Democratic pack significantly a Bernie Sanders nomination is still a possibility.  His recent win in Michigan demonstrates the challenge Hilary Clinton faces. This is a state where the demographics and Sanders voting record, namely, his opposition to the auto bail out, in a state with a significant auto industry, would have suggested a win for Mrs Clinton. Another point in favour of Sanders is that the Primaries are very much a tribal affair in which candidates do their utmost to appeal to the party faithful by highlighting their credentials with regards to party principles.  Members of the incumbent administration, which Hilary Clinton served for most of Obama’s two terms, are particularly vulnerable because they would have had to compromise on pledges made in campaigns if they are to get bills through Congress. This was very much the case with the Obama administration which faced one of the stiffest opposition any Democratic President has ever faced from his Republican opponents who controlled the House of Representatives after his first two years and the Senate in much of his second term. Mr Sanders does not have this baggage and can therefore position himself as a true unblemished elder of the tribe. If Sanders were to win the Democratic nomination then we will definitely see a Republican President because the US as a whole is just not ready for the type of policies Sanders proposing.

If Hilary Clinton wins the Democratic Primary, Trump will face a more formidable opponent with a significant and wide cross section of the White vote and the overwhelming majority of the non-White electorate who Trump does not appeal to or has insulted.  Given the fact that Trump appeals almost exclusively to White voters he needs over 70 of that segment to win. Hilary Clinton will only need to take a third of that vote to win the election and she is much better placed than Sanders with regards to Blue Collar and southern White voters.

The Republican nomination is still a crowded field but Donald Trump and Ted Cruz appear to be pulling ahead of the pack, something that is alarming the Republican establishment.  Pledges of support and glowing tributes from Governor Christie and Dr Carson, former candidates, are a huge boost to Mr Trump.  A Republican win will see a significant change in US policies and in particular, if either of the two front runners wins, this shift will be seismic because both of them are on the fringes of the party, with Cruz at the centre of Tea Party revolt and Trump as a right wing maverick populist.

Donald Trump at the Whitehouse will be a game changer not just for the US but for the rest of the world.  While his rise has been described as a policy free campaign, there have been snippets, which as is typical with the man, have been very effective soundbites from this entertainer.  A review of some of these policies shows how concerned the world should be.

As would be expected from a Republican candidate he has stated that he will implement huge tax cuts, two thirds of which will go to the top richest 20% of the population.  That reputable organisation and the Conservative Committee for Responsible Budget (CCRB) have both indicated that this will see a huge increase in the budget deficit, largely as, in keeping with his populist credentials, he has indicated that he will leave the Medicare and Social Security budgets untouched.  According to CCRB his policies will add between US$11.7 and 15.1 trillion to the national debt, doubling it if the top range is attained. He could of course remedy the situation by a steep reduction in current spending, by more than three quarters.  If, in keeping with his populist image he does not reduce current spending and instead decides to borrow from the market, it will result in pressures that will keep interest rates high around the world as America sucks in funds from abroad, depriving other countries of such funds and increasing their borrowing costs.  This will be very damaging for low and middle income countries. These tax cuts will not translate into significant increases in consumer spending the key driver of US economic growth, as the rich will tend to keep the savings, a trend that was demonstrated when applied by President Bush.  Another policy of his is to ramp up duties on Chinese imports by 45% and other countries that cheat in trade as he puts it. If this were to happen, the Chinese and other countries that Trump will target are likely to do the same on US exports.  Both policies will seriously impair world trade and economic growth at a time when the world economic outlook ranges from anaemic to bleak.

Trump’s foreign policies are disconcerting.  Starting with America’s allies, he wants Japan, South Korea, Germany and Saudi Arabia to pay for US protection.  In Europe with Russia’s aggressive moves in the East this will be of great concern; interestingly, he is an admirer of Putin who he considers to be a strong leader.  In the Middle East this is likely to unravel the coalition against ISIL that the Saudi’s are part of.  In the Far East this will encourage China to accelerate its aggressive behaviour towards its neighbours in territorial and other disputes.  He will build a huge wall on the Mexican border that the Mexicans would be asked to fund, institute mass deportation and tear up the NAAFTA free trade agreement with that country.  He will reinstate waterboarding torture and “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”.  He will tear up the recent Iran agreement that world powers worked so hard to negotiate to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons.  He has declared that he is “totally pro- Israel”. And, he will ban on all Muslims from entering the US.  These policies are likely to exersabate the turmoil in the Middle East, encourage recruitment and embolden ISIL and other terrorists around the world.  He will increase the US nuclear arsenal, triggering an arms race with Russia, China and other nuclear powers.

A Trump win is bad news for the environment because has stated that he is opposed to the recent climate deal that world leaders painstakingly negotiated. He would like to see increased use of coal in the US, unravelling much of Obama’s efforts to steer the US towards cleaner energy.

Trump’s success has been viewed with alarm by his party and other observers in the US and abroad, prompting former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to denounce him.  A letter signed by sixty prominent Republicans stated that he “swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence”.  Thomas Wight, a scholar at the Brookings Institute has noted that Trump’s world view “ makes a great leap backward in history, embracing antiquated notions of power that haven’t been present since before the second world war.”  But Glenn Greenwald noted in a brilliant paper in The Intercept that Trump’s policies are not anathema to the US mainstream but are indeed an uncomfortable reflection of mainstream thinking and policies.  The attitude towards the use of torture for example, has not been repudiated by mainstream Republicans.

The Republican Party created a climate that has given rise to its two leading candidates.  In particular, they completely rejected all overtures that Obama made to the party to develop policies based purely on the needs and benefits of the country and the world.  Recent reports have shown that Republican lawmakers were instructed from day one to oppose everything that the President proposed irrespective of their merits.

Can Trump be trumped? At this stage anything is possible but as things stand the Trump bandwagon is growing and a Trump Presidency is a very likely possibility.  If Hilary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination she will have a very good chance. The Republican establishment would love to see somebody who is more of a mainstream type.  Unfortunately for them the only other candidate that is offering any significant challenge to Trump, Ted Cruz, is another arch-conservative maverick that they are uncomfortable with.

What can the non-US public without the vote but who will be affected by the decision of the US electorate do?  In short, not much, because not only do we not have the vote but efforts to influence the elections could rally support to Trump.  However we can have some influence even though it will be a minor role.  The foreign media can highlight the pitfalls, inconsistencies and consequences of Trump’s policies which will be picked up by US citizens in and outside the country.  Practically the whole world has relatives in America and we should highlight these issues to our US relatives. Many companies have subsidiaries in the US who can alert their employees to the dangers to the US and world economy as well as provide funding to candidates.  And we should hope that reason and logic will prevail among the US electorate to make them realise that electing a rational President is in the whole world’s interest.

 

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

 

 

 

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A New Approach in an Imperfect World

A new approach in an imperfect world

J Boima Rogers September 2015

The current Syrian quagmire which has spilled over to Europe in the form of the refugee crisis gives grounds for a review of relationships between the power brokers, the “Western” alliance of the US and Western Europe regarding the  kind of support,  engagement, neutrality, opposition and wars with the rest of the world.  The west has highlighted political and economic principles as a major factor in engaging the rest of the world, notably, promoting the democratic process and open economies.  Measures have been taken to realise the latter, enshrined in treaties like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other multilateral and bilateral agreements.  It is the political front, freedom of association, free and fair elections an impartial judiciary that holds the greatest challenge.  The west must accept a non- optimal democratic scenario in countries that in many ways owe their problems when Europe arranged the world map in the form of nation states that in many ways had no bearing on how the inhabitants in those countries had lived, relate to neighbouring tribes, ethnic and religious groups and states.  The ubiquitous straight lines that mark the borders of many countries in Asia and Africa show how European powers siting in London, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin made decisions on the boundaries of their colonies and spheres of interest.

Western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria demonstrates a naivety, in particular, in understanding that the glue in these nation states often lack the democratic optimal because for the often diverse public and the fact that democracy is a low rank next to family, ethnicity, religion and sect.  When the leadership structures in these countries are broken, the west cannot game plan the outcomes.  In Afghanistan, the Russians before and Americans subsequently could not foresee the chasm that pervades the country, which has been in a state of war for over forty years.  Iraq, whose sharply divided religious, national, ethnic and tribal loyalties had been held in check by a brutal but effective party and dictator has imploded.  The American could not foresee the pent up religious antagonism and lack of political infrastructure which the Bath party had obliterated for half a century.  The Americans could not see that without that infrastructure the centuries old divisions, notably the Sunni/Shia divide would be the determining factor.  In Libya, the Dictator who had again brutally defined and implemented the nation state concept with his highly heterogeneous people was removed.  Again there was no game plan on what/who would succeed, in a country with no political infrastructure in the western sense.  Syria which has been imploding for the last four years has caught the west napping, without a realistic or effective strategy.

The actions of the West have come to bite them in various ways, notably, in the lives of soldiers killed, long term injuries, financial and now the wave of refugees flooding Europe. But there are other areas that require the west to take the non-optimal approach, in particular, with its allies or poster boys/girls.  These include Rwanda where Paul kagame who has been in power for two decades, is reported to want to stand for a third term.    In Asia Singapore recently re-elected a party that has been in power for over fifty years, as has the party in neighbouring Malaysia.  The West has accepted the non-optimal democratic structure in these countries because of impressive gains in the economy, infrastructure and political stability – indeed the administrations in these countries claim, with much justification, that they stay in power because they deliver what matters, namely, dramatic improvements in living standards.  Egypt is another case where the administration which came to power in a questionable way, is battling religious extremists and struggling to keep its position as the west’s ally and regional power.

The West needs to reappraise its policies and the four war-torn countries noted above should teach it lessons to guide future approach.  Firstly, Iraq and Libya were huge mistakes that must not be repeated.  The approach must be engagement with non-violent incentives and penalties, soft power and the record suggests that this works.  Gadhafi had been trying to make up, paying billions in fines and reparations to victims and positively engaging the west.  Iraq could have been persuaded and penalised to stop invading other countries and Saddam never had the bomb anyway.  The recent Iran deal is good example of how soft power works.   While there was a case for intervention in Afghanistan because of the havoc and destruction of the World Trade Centre, it should have been short, to teach the perpetrators a lesson and capture the prime suspect;  the Americans were very close to getting Bin Landen but let him slip away very early in the campaign.  In the case of Syria, the west has no option other than to engage the Assad regime.  A less optimal approach may get him to promise elections, holding him into account with non-violent incentives and penalties and possibly allow for the Assad family to go into peaceful exile.   The west may not have to provide military assistance to Assad as the Russians are doing so but it must not oppose the Russians.  Indeed, as the Obama administration appears to be acknowledging, the west should coordinate its approach with Russia.

The non-optimal approach should avoid the military course and interventions wherever possible.  A careful analysis of alternative scenarios will ensure that the west adopt a real politic position.  Egypt should be nudged but as a friend.  A similar approach should be taken for Rwanda, Singapore and Malaysia.  These non-optimal democratic “allies”, with the exception of Egypt, have delivered very significant benefits to their people.  All have demonstrated that sound, efficient and open economies result in impressive economic growth and development and political stability.  They should be supported and other countries should be encouraged to adopt that approach.   Yes there is still ISIL and other religious extremist but it must be noted that Gadhafi and Assad had kept lids on such extremists so in a way, regime change has come to bite the west far more than had those despots had been left alone.

The west must acknowledge, accept and even support countries that have developed cohesive nation states, avoided conflict, and delivered economic growth, even with doses of repression.  It should obviously oppose and work against repression and violence but make use of soft power.  The new approach should see the west adopt policies and relationships with less developed countries based on a composite set of criteria.  I would like to stress that as a democrat I believe in free and fair elections, impartial judiciary with the relevant political and economic infrastructure.  Indeed the ideal should still be democracy and the west must continue to promote this, but brute force is rarely the solution.  I do not believe that political democracy can or should be used as the only arbiter of the west’s relationship with the rest of the world.  The guiding principles should be peace, co-existence and acceptance that non-optimal democracy for probably the majority of people in the world is the only deal in town.  Soft power should be used to achieve this with the west nudging countries towards the democratic process.  Regime change is rarely the panacea and indeed it can be the worse option in many countries where the concept of the nation state is still in transition.

 

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

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Buhari – Yes He Can

Buhari – Yes He Can

J Boima Rogers – May 2015

The victory of President-elect Buhari in Nigeria’s presidential election is a welcome break in a country where changes in governments have only happened when the military has intervened or in the last fifteen years when the baton has been passed from a member of the same party.  With all his faults, and there are many, Goodluck Jonathan must be lauded for accepting defeat.  The country needs to move on and address the enormous challenges the new president will face.  This paper attempts to provide an agenda for President Buhari.  These include security, the economy and corruption, all of which are related.  The Nigerian electorate has given the mandate to a man with unique skills and track record, the country has the resources and the new leader has demonstrated that he is up to the job.  Buhari is rare among Nigeria’s leaders, when he ruled the country in the 1980s, he did not amass millions.  As a leader then he took measures to develop the country’s industry and attempted to make the country a more disciplined society.  While there were issues with measures adopted, the objectives are still very relevant.

The first challenge that the new president will face is national security, namely, the Boko Haram problem and the long simmering unrest in the delta region.  The Boko Haram problem must be resolved using hard and soft power and Buhari as a northerner, Muslim and former army general is well placed to deal with it.  He needs to give the military the necessary support and direction and work closely with neighbouring countries to defeat the insurgents.  He must also engage political, ethnic and religious leaders to counter the Boko Haram propaganda.  He must take measures to enhance economic growth and reduce unemployment to remove incentives to young people attracted to the group.  A similar approach is necessary for the delta region, but in its case, the emphasis must be on ensuring that a significant proportion of oil revenues are used for development in the region where Nigeria gets most of its revenue from.  Resolution of these security issues is paramount if the country is to attract investment and embark on other measures noted below.

The key to Buhari’s success is the economy.  He needs to come up with a comprehensive and cohesive plan and implement it as soon as possible.  The cornerstone of this plan should be the infrastructure, namely, the physical and soft infrastructure.  The plan must make use of the country’s rich and diverse resources to enhance Nigeria status as the largest economy in the continent.  A top priority must be electricity power generation to make sure that a country with oil, gas, rivers, abundant sunshine has ample and regular electricity throughout the country.  It is perverse that Nigeria with its huge potential has one of the lowest per capita electricity power consumption on the continent.  He needs to move away from the crony privatisation adopted by his predecessor and attract foreign investment in the sector.   Huge improvements in electricity power generation are essential for all sectors.  Other improvements need to be made in roads, railways, ports and airports to attract local and foreign investment.

President-elect Buhari needs to also invest in what is often referred to as soft infrastructure, the building blocks for development, namely, education and governance.  The emphasis must be science and technology to ensure that the country’s schools, technical colleges and universities provide the skills required by industry.  Government policy and support must be heavily weighted in favour of institutions that have a science and technology bias.  The administration must take measures to make state and federal employees more efficient and effective, that their raison d’etre is serving the public and businesses.  These institutions must be partners in the development effort rather than as is often the case, merely vehicles for the enrichment of office holders.  A major war must be waged on corruption, the cancer that is a huge drag on the country’s development.  He must take bold and comprehensive measures with severe penalties and incentives to the public, the media and civil servants who expose corruption.  A starting point must be an audit of President Jonathan’s officials with penalties and incentives to make sure that those who have unjustly enriched themselves pay back funds stolen.

The measures adopted on the infrastructure must be augmented by policies to encourage investment in the country.  By adopting these measures the government will demonstrate to local and foreign investors that it is open for business.  Policies must be taken to encourage investment in agriculture and industry to make use of the country’s vast resources and market.

The new president has many challenges but the country is well placed to enhance its role as a major player in Africa. It has the natural resources, huge market and a resourceful population.  It must make the most of these and in doing so it can draw on the African experience.  He may need to talk to Jerry Rawlins who rescued Ghana from the abyss and cracked down hard on corruption.  He may also need to look at the Rwanda situation where the government has achieved major success in the efficiency of services to the benefit of the general public and investors.  He needs to look at his predecessor’s action with Boko Harem to see how an African solution is often the best.  President Jonathan made a trip to Paris even before visiting the epicentre of the problem.  The recent success against the group has come from the coordinated approach of the country’s neighbours, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, indicating that solutions are often much closer to home than African leaders realise.

It should be noted that while the electorate has chosen Buhari in his resounding victory he faces a number of hurdles.  Firstly, he was elected after opponents to Goodluck Jonathan realised that they had to unite under a single party list.  Let us hope that in victory this remarkable unity holds.   Another related issue is the how the spoils of victory are divided up among stakeholders.  Buhari needs to ensure that while the political, ethnic and religious diversity is fully reflected he must choose people who can deliver.  Finally, electorates worldwide have very short timespans particularly in Africa.  The challenges facing the nation are significant and he must avoid quick fixes and instead focus on the fundamental changes required to make the country realise its potential.  Buhari would also need to overcome the challenge relating to his military background as.  The job description for his new role is quite different from his army role where orders are given and taken.  As president he needs a consultative approach, selling his ideas to other politicians of all parties and the general public.  In a previous paper I noted how, in a speech given at Oxford University, he did not quite have the appropriate sales pitch.  He may have overcome that hurdle to win the election or the electorate were so fed up with Goodluck Jonathan that they voted for Buhari.  Governing is different though, he would definitely need that sales pitch.

Buhari’s victory is a new and better leaf for the country, Africa and democracy and a huge improvement on the outgoing administration.  He needs all the support he can get from the electorate and the rest of the world.  President Obama should take note and make Nigeria one of the African countries he visits in his next trip to the continent.

MEMO provides marketing and media and event management services.  J Boima Rogers, the Principal Consultant has written for publications and websites in Africa, the European Union and North America.  Two of his reports of conferences, available in this blog, have been used as reference documents in negotiations between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.  In addition to participating in many events in the regions noted, often making presentations, he has initiated and/or managed events in London, Birmingham, Oxford and Bournemouth in the UK which have had record participation and audience, often at a fraction of the cost of similar long established events.  He organised the first smart city workshop in Oxford and that event and the background paper for the event, smart city is a smart move that he co-authored with Dr Stefano Bonfa, have provided a significant input in the conversation on smart city in the city and county.

 

 

 

 

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Ebola – Mano River Union, a marriage in crisis

Ebola –Mano River Union, a marriage in crisis

January 2015 – J Boima Rogers

Introduction

When the leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone decided to form the Mano River Union (MRU), they were formalising a relationship between countries that are intertwined in geography, economics, history, ethnicity, culture and cuisine, held together by the Mano River like an umbilical cord that weaves through them. Health issues were not paramount and so were not included in the protocols, rather the focus was economic development and politics. Perversely, Ebola has highlighted the common destiny of these countries. The spread of Ebola, starting in Guinea was therefore not surprising given the formal and even stronger informal ties between these countries. Ebola had first been identified in Sudan and Uganda in 1976 but the epidemic in these three countries is an entirely new phenomenon in terms of the speed, ferocity and duration. It spread like wildfire from Guinea to Liberia and Sierra Leone and then to Nigeria, Senegal and Mali although these other countries have since been declared free of the disease.   This paper looks at the magnitude of the epidemic, why it has been so devastating in these countries, some encouraging developments and the way forward.

An Epic and long lasting damage

Ebola has killed thousands, exposed and devastated the fragile health and wider infrastructure and cost billions in lost economic output of these three countries, two of which, Sierra Leone and Liberia, are still recovering from the ravages of civil wars in the 1990s and the early part of this millennium. The West African region and Africa as a whole are suffering economically.

Ebola – Cases, Deaths and Mortality as of 20th January 2015
Cases % of Total Death Mortality
Liberia 8435 39% 3587 43%
Sierra Leone 10306 48% 3132 30%
Guinea 2873 13% 1875 65%
Total 21614 100% 8594 40%
Sources: WikiLeak

 

As can be seen from the table above, the epidemic has been devastating with 21,614 infections and a mortality rate of 40% as of 20th January 2015. Some interesting patterns have developed. Guinea, where the epidemic started has had the lowest number of cases and deaths although it also had the highest mortality rate of 65%. Liberia which had for a long time reported the highest number of cases has seen a dramatic reduction in cases reported and has now been surpassed by Sierra Leone although the mortality rate is lower in the latter.

The economic cost of the epidemic is huge to these countries, the region and the continent. It is really sad because these countries and Africa as a whole had been looking forward to rosy economic growth rates, with the economy in Sierra Leone for example forecasted to grow by 11.4% in 2015 by the World Bank before the outbreak. In 2013, seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa and that trend was expected to continue in 2014. The latest World Bank estimates for foregone GDP output are US$ 180 million for Liberia, U$540 million for Guinea and US$ 920 million for Sierra Leone bringing the total to US$ 1.66 Billion for the three countries. The World Bank forecasts the epidemic to cost Sub-Sahara Africa up to US$ 6 Billion, which although much less than the initial estimate of US$ 25 Billion, is still substantial. These costs are very much on the low side as economic activities have come to a standstill in the three most affected countries and the effect on Africa as a whole has been underestimated.   In particular, the estimates for the three countries do not appear to take into account the loss of output through other diseases like Malaria, which have been ignored because of the overwhelming focus on Ebola. The estimates are also unlikely to take into account the loss as companies avoid trade and investment in the region and Africa as a whole. This is partly the result of biased media, which routinely reports the epidemic as a West African or even African issue ignoring the fact that the epidemic is concentrated in those three countries.

Why such a devastation?

In a paper by the World Health Organisations (WHO), the magnitude and spread of the disease was attributed to insufficient number of qualified health workers; inadequate surveillance and information systems; absence of and/or weak rapid response systems; few laboratories, all of which are in urban centres; unreliable supply and procurement of PPEs and other supplies; lack of electricity and running water in health facilities; few ambulances; limited health education, community outreach and engagement health programmes.

The main reason why earlier cases did not spread out as widely and ferociously as this epidemic is because they occurred in isolated communities. The spread of the current epidemic is largely because of the much better transport network and strong links between these three countries.   These strong links fostered the spread of the disease but since there was no formalised structure in the MRU treaty for health issues the countries did not have the mechanism to take appropriate measures.

The deficiencies in the health infrastructure of these countries are reflected in statistics provided by WHO.   Government expenditures on health per PPP at $7 in Guinea, $10 in Liberia and Sierra Leone are much lower than the $63/PPP for the African region as a whole. The number of physicians and nursing and midwives as a proportion of the population are abysmally low as the table below shows.

 

Health Expenditure and Workers
US$/PPP Doctors/10,000 Nurses and Midwives/10,000
Guinea 7 1 ≤.5
Liberia 10 ≤.5 2
Sierra Leone 10 ≤.5 3
Africa 63 2 11
Source: The World health Organisation

 

 

Some Encouraging Developments

While the epidemic is still ravaging these countries, there are some encouraging developments with infection rates down sharply in Liberia and Guinea. The strong and swift actions by Nigeria, Mali and Senegal show that this scourge can be defeated through prompt and resolute actions. After some procrastination by major powers, recent efforts, led by the US, the UK and France have undoubtedly been very helpful in the significant progress in the fight against the epidemic. The speed at which governments and organisations are taking measures to find vaccines and a cure for the disease is unprecedented. This paper was inspired by a presentation by Professor Trudie Lang, Director of The Global Health Network (GHN), a unit set up by Oxford University to deal with such health issues. This unit has set up regional centres in developing countries, including one in Kenya, with the objective of capacity building, making use of the digital platform and networking of government and health organisations. In the few years since the unit has been set up, it has notched up some very impressive gains that are helping in the fight against the epidemic. Its focus on community health workers, the frontline troops, has seen a dramatic engagement of these workers using the digital platform to share information. These efforts have led to increased utilisation of health resources, notably equipment used for projects that have been completed that would otherwise lie idle. GHN’s digital platform works like a dating website, allowing transfer and sharing of technology and expertise. The unit has been in the forefront of mobilization of health workers in the UK for Liberia and Sierra Leone. Dr Lang reported that the setting up of a Clinical Trial Platform (CTP) for Ebola drugs has taken three months, a sixth of the normal time of eighteen months.

New technology can be a powerful tool in the fight against Ebola and other similar epidemics but this has yet to be fully embraced. Big Data and the mobile phone revolution are pivotal in the fight against such epidemics. The potential of Big Data in interrogating data, as a predictive tool and facilitating procedures, is yet to be fully realised. This potential relates to the size and speed of data that can be analysed, the fact that unlike traditional statistical tools which have linear or other fixed relationships between variables this tool is free style and it operates in real time.

A comment at the seminar that inspired this paper illustrated the challenges in the full utilisation of Big Data, it was noted that “data is not knowledge, it still needs analysis and how do you get rid of the clutter”. Another issue for health workers relates to privacy. The solution with regards to Big Data is for stakeholders to index and document procedures and for health workers and computer experts to work together in defining and standardising indexes, procedures and queries. As Dr Stefano Bonfa and I noted in our paper, smart city is a smart move, the privacy issue can be resolved by making data anonymous and imposing strict limits on accessibility. In any case, in a situation like the current Ebola epidemic, the privacy issue is of little importance. Mobile telephone technology can also play a big role in the fight against Ebola and other epidemics, notably, in developing early warning systems, mobilising and targeting resources.

A bright spot in the fight against the epidemic is the prompt and exhaustive victories by Nigeria, Senegal and Mali in eradicating Ebola. This is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that prompt and resolute action can defeat the spread of the disease. The measures taken by these countries can be used as a template for future epidemics. Finally, it demonstrates that African countries, with limited resources, can overcome this scourge.

The way forward

The Ebola epidemic is a game changer for the affected countries, region and the world. We live in an increasingly interconnected world where Ebola and such epidemics are and will not be just a problem for those countries affected but can reverberate across the globe. Ebola will occur again and Africa and the world must be prepared. Lessons can be learned which can benefit the affected countries, rich countries and health care organisations and companies.

The countries affected must apportion larger proportions of their budgets and resources to the health sector and develop and maintain their health and wider infrastructures. These improvements, according to WHO, should include more and better paid nurses and doctors, integrated health systems, laboratories and early warning systems covering the whole country, including rural areas. They should ensure “national ownership, local action and full support of development partners”.

Regional groupings must include health in their protocols so that they can coordinate efforts to avoid and/or minimise the rapid spread of such epidemics. It should be noted that none of the sixteen regional groupings of African countries has a health protocol in their agreements, Ebola should change that. Development partners in rich countries can assist with aid for health systems, in particular, they should assist African countries to develop their capacities. The GHN initiative is an excellent example and the Kenyan centre should be replicated in other regions on the continent. The focus, as Dr Lang stated, should be on capacity building and technology transfer so that these centres can build roots in the communities they serve.

Greater use should be made of technology, notably, digital platforms. Big Data can be used in accelerating CTP, improving the efficiencies of processes, bringing new drugs into production and targeting affected areas. Policies and procedures must be indexed and standardized by all stakeholders; health care workers must work closely with computer experts to make full use of new technology. This policy can start now but will be paramount when a review is made of the epidemic. Greater use can be made of mobile phone networks for sharing information and establishing early warning systems.   Rich countries will benefit from their efforts on Ebola and other similar epidemics because it will prevent such diseases reaching their shores.

Organisations and health care companies can benefit a lot from the data and procedures in such efforts. The phenomenal reduction in the time taken to set up the CTP for Ebola by Oxford University has huge positive implications for the university, other organisations and companies in the health sector and future epidemics. Firstly, even though it was the result of concerted effort by all stakeholders, working flat out, it showed that it can be done and creates a precedent that will encourage the health sector to facilitate procedures for other CTPs even when there is no crisis. Furthermore, Big Data, which was not used in this instance, is increasingly being used by companies to rationalise the workflows for such processes.   This means that in the event of a similar epidemic, a combination of concerted effort, as was the case this time and use of Big Data could result in even further efficiencies, quicker responses and more lives saved.

 

J Boima Rogers is the Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford ( MEMO). MEMO provides policy, marketing and project, event and media management services. http://www.oxfordmemo.co.uk.

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MEMO seeks Partner for Unique Events

MEMO seeks Partner for Unique Events

MEMO is seeking partners for unique events related to the food festival organised in 2008 and the infrastructure paper and smart city workshop. Both events will be unique in that they have not been organised before.

I have organised ground-breaking events and prepared reports of events that have compared very favourably with other similar events and reports. I have a combination of skills, which together with my track record has allowed me to develop a unique formula. My reports have been widely published and used as reference documents and I have organised events covering a variety of sectors. Our combination of skills, variety of sectors and track record is unrivalled in the two markets that we have operated in, Bournemouth and Oxford.

Ground-breaking Track Record – My track record includes the first Winton carnival, first food and music festival in the UK and first smart city workshop in Oxford. The Winton carnival, for which I won an award from UnLtd as a social entrepreneur, has developed into a major on-going event in Bournemouth. The smart city workshop and our paper on the concept have been published and cited by a leading Oxfordshire business organisation and major technology websites and has been the driver of debate and policy in at least one local authority. Two of my reports of conferences have been used as reference documents in negotiations between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. One of these reports, Development Policy, available in my blog, was an Oxford University conference.

Favourable Comparison with Similar Events – The carnival and festival in Bournemouth I organised had similar number of participants and audience and far more activities compared to long established events; one of those events had been running for over half a century. My events cost a fraction, as little as ten percent, of similar events and had much less management staff. Since our smart city workshop in August 2013 there have been a number of events in Oxford on the concept but none have received the coverage by local and national media; our workshop and background paper have been covered by Oxfordshire Business First, the sponsor and two top technology websites, Technology UK and Catapult.

Spend per Event Audience (SEA) – Events organised have compared very favourably to similar events because of my combination of skills, namely, production (including risk assessment), marketing, fundraising and business development, report writing and project and media management. I have developed the SEA formula which maximises participation and audience while minimising the cost of the event. I developed this hypothesis, making use of my economics training, when I conducted a study of a major event and discovered that events I had organised had similar or larger number of activities, participants and audience but at a fraction (10%) of the cost of that long established event.

Reports – I have been widely published in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Some of these reports, as noted above, have been used as reference documents, influencing debate and policy.

Variety of Sectors – I have worked on or managed carnivals, festivals, workshops and conferences. I have worked on events in the agriculture and food, culture and technology sectors.

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Romney and his party are the problem, not the solution

Romney and his party are the problem, not the solution

 

J Boima Rogers September 2012

 

 

The last two weeks have not been kind to Romney. His gaffe on Libya has been denounced by both Democrats and Republicans. His statement that he does not expect, nor care for the votes of the 47% (the actual figure is 46%) of the electorate who do not pay federal income tax has made him look uncaring and cost him votes amongst independents. Two recent reports have blown a huge hole in his claim that he will create 12 million jobs. Yes, America needs solutions to the government’s debt, jobs and entitlement programmes (payments to war veterans, student loans, retirees, welfare and food stamps) but Romney and the Republican Party are the problem, not the solution.

 

The gaffes show the true Romney

Romney’s recent gaffes have been a serious embarrassment to him and they say a lot about this candidate. His comments that Obama’s appeasement and deference to countries encouraged the murderers of the American Ambassador and three other officials in Libya were not only wrong but point to a disturbing approach if Romney wins the election. The statement by the US Embassy in Egypt condemning the film, which insulted Islam that started the massacre, was made before the Libyan attack. The embassy’s press release was made on its own initiative not from a dictat from Washington. It condemned the film because of fears that the public would blame the US government for the insult, to forestall the murders that happened. Romney attacked the US embassy’s approach, attributing it to Obama before getting all the facts. This shows he does not have the cool level headed approach needed in foreign policy. It also shows that his macho approach, goaded by his party, will unravel all the diplomatic efforts of Obama and Clinton that has seen the US regaining support and admiration from allies and foes. If elected, Romney’s approach will make it very difficult for these Arab countries to distance themselves from extremists and terrorists. It should be noted that the Egyptian President, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood party, has denounced these murderers. Pro government supporters in Benghazi, where it happened, have come out against extremists. Under Romney, these governments would not come out against extremists because they would all have been labeled as part of the problem and would see no need to do so.

 

Romney’s statement that he believes the 47% of people who do not pay federal tax and regard themselves as “victims”, are a lost cause is a very damming indictment of a Presidential candidate. It shows that he has no interest in the poor and struggling elements within the middle class. To say this was misleading is gross understatement. Firstly, many of these low income people pay payroll, sales and property taxes, which have been estimated at up to 25% of their incomes, far higher than the 13/14% income tax Romney has reported. Retirees would have paid taxes throughout their working lives and would therefore be entitled to some form of pension/social security payments for which they have contributed during their working lives. Finally, if he accepts the principle of progressive taxation then by paying 13/14% tax on his income, assuming all tax payers were to pay the same proportion of tax on their incomes, only 1% of US taxpayers would be paying tax which would make the US government bankrupt. Romney’s statement should not be a surprise since his tax and healthcare policies are designed to favour the rich. A President that has no interest in half of the electorate will not be seen as legitimate by a wide swathe of the people he governs.

 

Democrats are better job creators

Two recent reports have blown a huge hole in Romney’s platform. The figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that since 1957, Democratic administrations have been much – two and a half times – better at job creation in the private sector. Clinton’s job creation in the private sector was several times higher than that under George W Bush. And, Obama was much better at creating private sector jobs than G W Bush, who scored negative in his first term. Under Bush the increase in federal government jobs was higher than under Obama and Clinton, refuting the claim that the Republicans are a party of “small government”.   This “small government” myth has been refuted by another recent report. A paper by Dr Nicholas Eberstadt in the American Enterprise Institute revealed that since 1960, spending on entitlement programmes, that is the 47% Romney referred to, rose much higher under Republican administrations than under Democrats. The middle class have benefited more from these entitlements than the poor.

 

Average Change in Number of Jobs since 1957
Private Sector Federal Government
Under Democrats 2.48 0.59
Under Republicans 1.02 0.13
Obama 0.1 0.14
G W Bush 2nd term 0.06 0.57
G W Bush 1st term -0.21 -0.24
Clinton 2nd term 2.37 -0.82
Clinton 1st term 2.85 -2.06
Source: US Labor Statistics via Haver Analytics

 

 

These US Bureau Labor statistics figures show that the Republicans, contrary to their claim, do not have a good track record of job creation. This is particularly relevant to the Romney campaign which has made the Bush policies of tax reduction a central plank in his effort to revive the American economy – taxes were higher under Clinton yet job growth was much higher. It should also be noted that Romney has a very poor record at job creation because as Governor his state came 47th in job creation in the country. They also destroy the myth that the Democrats are the party of big government, looking at the most recent trends – Bush created more federal jobs than both Clinton and Obama. The “entitlement culture” is very much a Republican creation. Finally, they show that the Republican’s policy of demonizing the poor is a myth. Obama has been called the “food stamp President” while it is the Republicans who have tried to bribe the electorate but in so doing rewarding the middle class much more than the poor.   The policies advocated by the Romney/Ryan team will see the poor receiving much lower portion of the national cake from their already low level.

 

Republicans do not offer short and long term solutions

The US needs to address short and long term issues. It needs to improve the anemic economic growth rate and job creation and reduce budget deficits but the Republicans are not the solution, rather for a number of reasons they are the problem. In the short term, Economists like Paul Krugman have noted that Obama’s stimulus package should have been larger and call for a second phase. Krugman notes that even with the US losing its AAA credit rating, borrowing rates for the government are at record low. A much faster growing economy will, he asserts, see an increase in government revenue, making it easier to reduce the budget deficit. Prof Jeffrey Sachs, another eminent Economist makes a forceful case for investment in human and physical capital to improve the country’s competitive position in the world. These investments in education and the infrastructure will have a very positive effect on America in the face of huge investments by its competitors such as China. The Republicans are against this policy as a matter of ideology and plain ignorance. For them, reducing the budget deficit is their raison d’etre. They do not believe that government needs to take such an activist role in the economy and will therefore not take the measures that Professor Sachs believes are necessary to improve America’s competitiveness and job creation prospects in the medium to long term.

 

The Republican Party’s reluctance to take measures that will stimulate the economy in the short term and retool America to improve its long term competitive position shows that they do not have the solution to the nation’s problems. Firstly, it was exactly these measures that President Franklin Rooseveldt took that not only got America out of the depression but ensured decades of a competitive America. The Republican’s view is that the market, namely, private investors, will make such investments is a fallacy, since private companies will never play that role. Republicans are worried about the effect on the dollar and inflation. They have castigated the recent policy of the Federal Reserves, the country’s central bank, to implement another round of quantitative measures. They do not seem to understand that the bank’s policy is within its mandate. These concerns are totally misplaced. Firstly, inflation has been very subdued. China, one of the US’s major trading partners has been manipulating it currency, thereby making that country’s exports competitive, even to the point where inflationary pressures in China, as a result of that policy are increasing. Japan, another major trading partner, has just announced a huge stimulus package which will prevent the value that country’s currency rising significantly against the dollar. Europe is mired in recession, ironically for taking policies that the Republicans want to adopt, which will prevent the Euro rising significantly against the dollar. Finally it must be noted that America does not need a strong dollar as this will prevent it exporting its way out of the economic problems it finds itself in.

 

In the long term America needs to solve the budget deficit issue but in this the Republicans offer no solution. Dr Eberstadt’s paper shows that in the 50 years since 1960, the cost of entitlements has grown by 700% and would continue to grow exponentially as a result of the changing demographics. One area that must be addressed is the cost of healthcare where the country spends more than double the level in most other mature economies but without getting value for money. A review of key health indicators shows that the Europeans and Japanese are doing much better for much less money. The solution is not the voucher scheme as suggested by the Republicans but rather measures should be taken to bring down the cost of healthcare. The Republicans are opposed because it could hit the profits of insurers and healthcare providers, some of their key constituents. Obama’s healthcare reform makes an attempt at this but it is rather a weak one, extending the life of the system for only a few years, for which he has been attacked by the Republicans. Middle class families have to be weaned off entitlement and those that can afford it should pay more for such programmes, possible through means testing. Finally, Americans need to pay more tax if they want to solve the budget problem, including the 47% that Romney referred to. But this is anathema to the Republicans.

 

Note by Author December 2014: Since I wrote this paper the US economy has made significant gains to the extent that Forbes magazine has stated that Obama could be one of the truly outstanding Presidents on the economy. The gains in private sector jobs created are substantially higher than those cited above. Reagan was mentioned as a contender but it must be noted that he trebled the deficit and America’s debt and would therefore not have passed the litmus test of Tea Party conservatives. The deficit and debt ballooned under Reagan as a matter of choice. He wanted to and succeeded in bankrupting the Soviet Union. He gave away billions in tax cuts for the rich following the flawed supply side economics theory. This policy has resulted in huge disparities between the rich and middle-class and poor Americans over the last thirty years. A Democrat, Bill Clinton, one of the great Presidents cited in the Forbes report balanced the budget and at the same time increased the marginal tax rate on the rich. The increase in the deficit under Obama was forced on him in his successful bid to fix the problems of the great recession which had been largely caused by the flawed policies of his Republican predecessor, George Bush, notably, his housing policies, an unnecessary (Iraq) war and tax cuts for the rich. Policies that resulted in a move away from the balanced budget he had inherited from his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton. Obama has been rewarded by the American electorate with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Most Republicans opposed Obama’s policies that steered the country from the great recession and would have preferred him taking the path adopted by the EU that is still experienced very slow economic growth and high unemployment in stark contrast to the booming American economy.

 

Author

J Boima Rogers has written for publications and websites in the UK, Africa and the USA.  He is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO), which provides policy, media, marketing and event management services.

 

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African infrastructure: a review of issues

African infrastructure: a review of issues

J Boima Rogers – May 2014

 

Introduction

This paper is a follow up to the one last year in which I made a case for an improvement in the physical, governance, educational and regional trade and investment infrastructure on the continent. This paper reiterates the importance of the infrastructure and gives a historical perspective, a case study of the two largest economies, concerns and policy implications.

Why is the infrastructure so pivotal?

The underperformance of African economies is directly related to poor infrastructure, causing low and highly variable economic growth and failure to move up from commodity exports into processing and manufacturing for both the domestic and export markets. The continent is failing to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) or make maximum use of domestic capital. Investors are deterred because of the poor state of the physical infrastructure which makes production costs prohibitively high and the marketing of goods and services difficult and costly. Producers and distributors are often faced with poor governance infrastructure in the form of corruption and inadequate and/or inconsistent bureaucratic support. The educational system fails to provide the skills required and trade between neighbouring countries is stymied by a myriad of restrictions and uncertainty.

The benefit/cost ratios are very favourable, with high returns for investment in infrastructure projects. The continent is failing to harness major assets like electricity from rivers and abundant sunshine and poor infrastructure makes it difficult to realise the enormous potential in agriculture, mining, tourism, manufacturing and processing and, most of all, its people. The riches locked away in these sectors because of poor and inadequate infrastructure are the envy of many regions and countries which are flocking into the continent. Often because of the lack of infrastructure investors from outside the continent insist on very usurious terms and take the riches out with little benefit to the economies and people of Africa.

Historical perspective

To understand the current situation one has to look at the history. When most African countries gained independence there were very few university graduates and many leaders lacked the vision. Most of them had been kept out of management during colonialism and so lacked management experience. Policy makers had to grapple with the concept of nation states in the face of often fractious ethnic rivalries and the dominant political theme in much of the 1960’s and 1970s, was socialism and state control which in the absence of a fully developed nation state concept was a serious problem. Policy makers were obsessed, partly because most parties had socialist leanings, with gaining control of the levers of economic power. Unfortunately, the concept of the nation state had yet to develop which meant that ethnic qualifications rather than merit were the decisive factors. There was little focus on developing or maintaining the infrastructure and in many cases countries got rid of certain elements such as railroads. High recurrent budgets, spent largely on salaries, meant that there were no funds for new physical infrastructure or maintenance. Little emphasis was placed on governance infrastructure, the educational sector failed to deliver functional education in the form of technical and vocational skills and only lip service was paid to developing infrastructure to facilitate trade and investment with neighbours.

The blame cannot be blamed entirely on Africa, much of it must be placed on former colonial masters and other western and communist partners. In addition to not giving the training and experience to the officials and politicians that took over from them, policies taken by former colonial masters and the west in general contributed to the problem. Aid was in the form of food or goods, often to get rid of surpluses derived from subsidies to their farmers and manufacturers. Endless studies were undertaken by consultants on the most basic issues, which meant that overpaid consultants ended up taking the bulk of funds that in theory had been “given” to African countries. The cold war exacerbated this situation as often when infrastructure projects were undertaken, they were more to make a statement than to build the productive capacities of recipient countries. This lack of joined up approach meant that on paper huge inflows took place but without effective capital formation from a commercial perspective and little attention was paid to the issue of maintenance. White elephants, support for military campaigns and keeping dictators happy, so long as they were on the “right side”, meant that infrastructure projects and sustainable development issues were of low priority. President Mobutu of Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) epitomized this tendency, receiving huge support from the west which completely ignored the infrastructure of that country. Communist countries were no better,emphasising “the struggle” rather than seeking dialogue, devastating the infrastructure of countries involved and their neighbours. The end of the cold war and the demise of communist countries in Eastern Europe was crunch time, as the west could no longer countenance the profligacy of their client states. Austerity and retrenchments was the order of the day, often resulting in the dismantling of albatrosses such as national airlines, but also crucial support such as agricultural extension services.

The situation was not all gloomy and there were some positive developments that Africa can learn from and build on. In the 1950s and 1960s Liberia achieved one of the highest economic growth rates because it developed its physical and educational infrastructure. Nkrumah made a good start with the Akosombo dam that still provides the bulk of that country’s power supply. The country also made impressive gains in developing vocational education and establishing a science and technology university. The rapid economic growth in Ivory Coast was due to its impressive development of the physical infrastructure. Jerry Rawlins saved Ghana from the downward spiral not only to establish that country’s democratic credentials, but also achieved great strides in its governance, and physical infrastructure, albeit using rather draconian methods to root out corruption. The star performer though is Rwanda. Rising from the ashes of a devastating genocide, with few natural resources, that country has achieved phenomenal progress in its physical, governance and educational infrastructure. It is reaping huge benefits from this effort in terms of very impressive economic growth and investment.

Case study: Africa’s largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa

A review of the situation in the two largest economies in Africa gives some interesting pointers as well as having ripples throughout the continent as developments in both have repercussions way beyond their borders. It shows how Africa is losing out in a big way.

Nigeria has recently been declared as the largest economy on the continent and for that it must be proud. However its pole position masks huge flaws.   This is a country with enormous potential with regards to natural resources and resourceful people and yet it languishes largely because of self inflicted wounds. Despite having enormous oil, gas, hydroelectric and solar power resources it has very low power generation, with one of the lowest per capita consumption of power on the continent. It still exports a very high proportion of oil in crude form and imports petrol and other finished products from abroad. This, for a country that has been producing oil for sixty years is very sad. It has the market (population0 and natural resources to support industrialization and yet imports most manufactured products from abroad. Despite having scores of universities, an incident a few years ago showed how dysfunctional the educational infrastructure is. A number of oil workers were kidnapped and it was revealing that many of them were low level technicians from Asia and Europe which showed that it cannot produce even low level technical staff to man its most important sector.

South Africa, another country with enormous resources is failing to maximize its potential. It has 25% unemployment while there are severe shortages in skilled labour placing severe constraints on its economic growth which is the lowest among countries with its level of development. The rate of growth of salaries of highly skilled personnel has trebled since 2000. The poor educational infrastructure is not delivering the skills the economy requires. A few years ago a major industrial complex was relocated to China despite the fact that the country has the raw materials, because power supplies and a skilled labour force could not be guaranteed. The country has failed to invest in power generation even though it is among the seven largest coal producers and one of the top five coal exporters in the world.

Concerns and issues

The major issues relating to the infrastructure in Africa are cost, maintenance, ownership, control and management. Infrastructure projects are typically very expensive and beyond the financial resources of many countries. The maintenance culture has yet to be developed, with many infrastructure projects becoming dilapidated or running far below installed capacity. The ownership issue has been a source of concern. One of the recent issues on the continent is land ownership as countries have sold vast tracts to foreigners. Management of the infrastructure has also proved to be an issue as the educational system of many countries has failed to produce the cadre of managers to manage projects.

Policy implications

The current interest in the infrastructure in Africa is a good thing and suggests a rethink of the economic development model. Since the wave of independence fifty/ sixty years ago there have been significant changes in the world, in general, there has been a shift from a position where the state was seen as the provider and administrator of the infrastructure to one where it is often a policymaker. To be fair to the continent, it has been a tough call, trying to develop the nation state concept and manage infrastructure projects for which they had deliberately being denied education and management experience was always going to be difficult. Africa, rich countries and new players like China need to review the approach to developing the infrastructure.

Africa needs to realise that developing the infrastructure is pivotal in the development process. It is the only way that it can avoid being aid junkies and ensure that it is attractive enough to investors, domestic and foreign, to make use of its vast potential. African leaders need to articulate visions and implement policies and action plans to develop their infrastructure. They should make use of private capital to build and manage projects. Concerns about ownership, control and management can be addressed by ensuring that citizens are given the opportunities, at preferential rates, with equal access for all citizens, to buy into these companies. Tax policies and subsidies over a period of time for training must be used to encourage companies to engage locals. After a certain period, punitive measures must be put into place if locals are not in management position. One touchy area for many Africans, the sale of land for agriculture should be seen as an opportunity. It can boost production as well as develop support infrastructure such as markets for farmers and inputs. All investors must have out-grower schemes as part of their contracts. Measures must be taken to ensure that governance infrastructure is in place by rooting out corruption and ensuring that civil servants actually work for their salaries. Functional educational systems must be implemented to provide workers with the appropriate technical skills. Effective measures must be taken to develop regional trading and investment. Two points must be borne in mind. Rather than spend a lot of time and effort with a multitude of studies, governments should review history and make use of what has worked in countries as noted above such as Rwanda. The other point is that they must realise that it is not railings at colonialists/neo-colonialists or constantly putting out the begging bowl that will do the job, what matters is an efficient and effective infrastructure. Investors are not primarily drawn in by the exhortations of their governments but are enticed by the continent’s abundant resources and infrastructure. One has to just look at China, after decades of being lambasted by the west, with famines, minimal growth and investment, when it opened its doors and demonstrated that it had the physical, governance and educational infrastructure investors flooded in.

The West must help with a shift of aid from budget support, numerous studies on basic issues and “political” projects to support for infrastructure projects and apply tax policies to encourage companies to invest in such projects. Support in the form of capital and encouragement must be given to regional trade and investment initiatives. China must move away from doing everything in building infrastructure projects to getting locals involved at all levels. It must encourage its companies to take stakes in such projects and not just pack up and go after completion.

Investment in the continent’s infrastructure is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. African countries can develop their resources to benefit their people and become more engaged in the commercial world. The West and China can minimize aid flows and benefit from commercial activities, with the dwindling of the world’s natural resources, there is much that the continent can offer.

It is encouraging to note that since my infrastructure paper last year there has been a marked interest in the infrastructure in Africa. This interest suggests a major shift in the economic model, rather than an emphasis on aid for individual sectors, a big picture approach is needed. This is looking at the entire environment under which all the sectors operate. Improved physical, governance, education and regional trade and investment infrastructure make the country and continent as a whole attractive for local and foreign investors, giving them the opportunity to unlock the immense potential of the natural resources and people of the continent. And leaders need to note that it gives them the opportunity to build legacies, legitimacy and popularity. Finally, strong and sustained economic growth which this will usher is an antidote to insurgency and conflicts ravaging some parts of the continent. When people have rising incomes and jobs they are less likely to take up arms and will be very much inclined to work with governments to quell such revolts.

 

J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO). www.oxfordmemo.co.uk. The author’s work has straddled continents and sectors. In the 1980s he worked with eminent academics, namely, Professors Luther Tweeten and James Trapp of Oklahoma State University, to produce a series of papers and books on food security issues, arguing that food security is not synonymous with food self-sufficiency, rather it is secured by maximizing a country’s comparative advantages. He went on to work on a food security model at Oxford University, helping develop a rapid response system that maximizes food security while minimizing the cost of doing so. In the 1990s he played a role in the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and negotiations with the US. He was the lead author of the NFU’s response to the European Commission’s proposal on the reform of the EU fruit and vegetable regime; the British government accepted and adopted most of the NFU’s proposals. Subsequently, as European correspondent for ProFarmer America, his analysis of the dynamics of the CAP, discussions on the reform of the regime within the EU and the impact of Eastern European countries who were in the process of joining the EU, provided crucial information to US policy makers who were having trade negotiations with the EU. In 2004, two of his reports of conferences on development issues were used as reference documents in negotiations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. His paper on smart city in 2012 and the workshop he organised in 2013 have no doubt had an impact on smart policies and initiatives of local councils, many of which did not have such policies before his initiatives. He has also added a fun element, with his work in the performing arts, initiating and organising the first food and music festival in the UK, the Bournemouth World Food and Music Festival.    

 

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