Crisis: South Africa’s political economy after the local elections

Monday, 19 September 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

 

Date & Time: Monday 19th September, 19:00 - 20:30
Venue: TW1.G.01 in Tower 1 - London School of Economics, Clement's Inn, London, WC2B 4JF

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Where next for the ruling party after the watershed local elections? We unpack the implications of the results, the growing fractures in the ANC, allegations of state capture and its effect on the economy. With Dr Desné Masie and Nick Branson.

Speakers:

Dr Desné Masie is an economist and visiting scholar at the Wits School of Governance, who works on international economics, financialisation, poverty and inequality, and African geopolitical economy. She is the co-host of the African Arguments podcast, an economics contributor to The Times, and an associate of the Democracy Works Foundation.

Nick Branson is Senior Researcher at Africa Research Institute (ARI) and an expert in African politics, governance, and the rule of law. He is working towards a PhD in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

Chair:

Sandy Balfour is an author and social entrepreneur. He was the founding chair of Divine Chocolate, served as CEO of the Canon Collins Trust and sets crossword puzzles for the Guardian. He is a member of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and lives in London. He is currently writing a novel.

 

This event is held in partnership with The Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa (@AfricaAtLSE), which aims to strengthen LSE’s long-term commitment to placing Africa at the heart of understandings and debates about global issues.

This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please register your place on Eventbrite

Image: Occupy Luthuli House, 5th September, by Ihsaan Haffejee

For a map and directions to LSE, click here.
The lecture theatre is in building TW1 at the end of Clement's Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia: into the danger zone

Friday, 26 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

Ethiopia seems to be heading for another breakdown. Since the war with Eritrea ended - or maybe paused in stalemate - the country has developed rapidly. The level of poverty fell from 44% to 30% between 2000 and 2014 falling and a new dynamism emerged in the cities. But most Ethiopians are still subsistence farmers and the economy is not changing fast enough to provide jobs for the millions of school leavers and graduates. 

Ethiopia, one of the world’s oldest nation states, has been ruled for millennia by emperors who often fought their way to power and tried to hold its  “nationalities” together. When the Tigrayans fought their way to power in 1991 they were not strong enough to hold the whole country. So they drew up a peculiar constitution that allows, in theory, the nations to rule themselves or even secede and become independent if a majority of that nationality voted for it – Ethexit. Of course there was never a possibility of that happening, but it created a political settlement that has lasted 25 years.

Unsurprisingly the Tigrayans found like-minded representatives from all the other groups and created parties for them that followed the Tigrayan line. Up to a point. The problem is that the largest nationality, the 35 million Oromo, live close to the capital Addis Ababa. When the government tried to extend the boundary of the growing city into Oromo territory, the inhabitants protested and their marches clashed with police and soldiers. The government backed off but frustration is growing among young Oromo and many other educated but unemployed Ethiopians. Despite reasonable if exaggerated economic growth figures, employment especially for young Ethiopians is hard to find.     

Ethiopia is fairly unique in Africa having a figurehead president while the country is ruled by a Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalagne. An efficient but uncharismatic technocrat, he is answerable to the Central Committee. But real power still lies in the hands of the behind-the-scenes Tigrayan generals and their allies. The constitution will count for little if they feel threatened.

A stable Ethiopia is vital for the region. To the north is Eritrea, repressive and turned in on itself, still smouldering with anger after two border wars with Ethiopia in the late-1990s. They have still not been concluded with a peace treaty. On the Red Sea is Djibouti where the French, Americans and now Chinese have huge military bases for guarding the shipping route through the Red Sea – the vital east-west route which is threatened by Islamist militancy. To the west is Sudan – historically an enemy of Ethiopia and South Sudan which is still wracked with civil war. To the east is unrecognised but peaceful Somaliland, and Somalia, which still lies broken, much of it dominated by al-Shabaab. If Ethiopia implodes, the shockwaves will shake the entire region. 

An honest assessment of post-apartheid South Africa

Friday, 19 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

John Campbell’s new book Morning in South Africa ends with a simple judgement: “On balance even with the clouds, it is morning in South Africa.”

Having cited and analysed the failings of the ANC government, the paragraph that precedes this judgement gives a balanced assessment of South Africa’s remarkable transformation, listing “a consistent pattern of credible elections… a range of political vices are heard… freedom of speech in absolute… no infringement on the guarantees of human rights … the rule of law holds sway…. The judiciary has remained independent. Civil society is strong.”

Campbell points out that while the apartheid legacy will mark South Africa for generations to come, social and economic change has been slow. Campbell has been one of the most stringent commentators on South Africa for decades. In articles and at conferences he's has torn into the jargon of the anti-apartheid struggle and exposed the ineptness of some of the decisions of the African National Congress. Though he has given no comfort to the apartheid regime.

He points to the positives that have taken place since 1994, for example how in 2008 black people made up 14% of the middle class compared to just 7% in 1993. And that proportion is increasing, gradually changing the perception that while the black majority dominate politics, the white minority dominates and still owns much of  the economy. 

But it is the land that remains the difficult area. The ANC’s Freedom Charter, the document drawn up in 1955 which became the constitution of the ANC, states: “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.”

This was written at the height of the Cold War. It mattered then whose side you were on, and the ANC, driven largely by pro-Soviet communists and supported with money and weapons by Moscow, was clearly in the Soviet camp. The anti-apartheid movement was led by the South African Communist Party which was close to Moscow. Its language was laced with Marxist phrases and driven by a Marxist vision of South Africa. Liberals like the white South African Peter Hain and Anthony Sampson, who was an old friend of Mandela, were ignored or even shunned by the leadership of the anti-apartheid movement.    

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Washington was left with a free hand in the world. It brought an end to the war in Angola and prised Namibia from South African control. The ANC continued to speak in Marxist slogans but gradually dropped its commitments to state ownership of key industries and giving land to “the people”.

But unlike the struggle for Zimbabwe where land and ownership was the core issue, South Africa’s revolution came from urban and industrial struggles. The people who took a new stake in the land and the wealth were many of the ANC leaders and the new African middle class. Many of them have bought farms but, as Campbell says: “Some large commercial farms have therefore been distributed to black collectives rather then being broken up into individual plots. These have not been notably successful.”

Morning in South Africa by John Campbell is published by Rowman and Littlefield.

Richard Dowden is Director of RAS

Zambia decides between an opportunist and a rich businessman

Thursday, 11 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

Today’s election in Zambia pits an opportunist president against a rich, slick contender. It could be tight. President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front won 48% of the vote in 2015 to 47% for Hakainde Hichelema of the United Party for National Development.

Lungu made his way to the top by switching parties to join the Patriotic Front after President Michael Sata came to power in 2011. After Sata died in 2014, Lungu made it to the top at a questionable national convention where there was no ballot. He pushed out Vice President Michael Scott, who had been Sata’s wing man allegedly with threats of violence.

 

Hichelema – HH as he is known – is the outsider. Smart, fast talking, the businessman calls himself a farmer and identifies agriculture and agricultural processing as the main driver of Zambian growth in the future. In a country owned and run by old men, he appeals to younger voters. The median age is just 16 and the young face an uncertain future. With copper prices low and little prospect of growth in mining, concentrating on agriculture may be a smart move.

 

Zambian politics are always rough and combine smart political manoeuvres with street level thuggery. But political rivalry within the ruling class rarely results in more than a few broken heads in street battles and endless court cases. Zambia watchers say that citizens respect the law and process but despise their politicians. The more cynical say they are too lazy to take effective action on the streets. One trusted voice in the country has been The Post, a newspaper which the government has tried to close down but faced huge popular outcry. 

 

But the biggest immediate issue facing the country and the region is drought. Consequently there is a possibility that the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi built in 1959 may stop producing power. It is in desperate need of rehabilitation. Some say that if the controlled jet of water that spurts through the dam becomes so weak that it falls on the concrete base of the dam it may collapse altogether.

Today’s election in Zambia pits a sleazy opportunist president against a rich, slick, smart talking contender. It could be tight. President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front won 48% of the vote in 2014 to 47% for Hakainde Hichelema of the United Party for National Development.

 

Lungu made his way to the top by switching parties to join the Patriotic Front, in 2014 after President Michael Sata died. He finally made it to the top at a dodgy national convention where there was no ballot. He pushed out Vice President Michael Scott, who had been Sata’s wing man with threats of violence.

 

Hichelema – HH as he is known – is the outsider. Smart, fast talking, the businessman calls himself a farmer and identifies agriculture and agricultural processing as the main driver of Zambian growth in the future. In a country owned and run by old men, he appeals to younger voters – a huge population bulge. The median age is just 16 and the young face an uncertain future. With copper prices low and little prospect of growth in mining, concentrating on agriculture may be a smart move.

 

Zambian politics are always rough and combine smart political manoeuvres with street level thuggery. But political rivalry within the ruling class rarely results in more than a few broken heads in street battles and endless court cases. Zambia watchers say that Zambians respect law and process but despise their politicians. The more cynical say they are too lazy to take effective action on the streets. The one trusted voice in the country is The Post, a newspaper which the government has tried to close down but faced huge popular outcry. 

 

But the biggest immediate issue facing the country and the region is drought. Consequently there is a possibility that the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi built in 1959 may stop producing power. It is in desperate need of rehabilitation. Some say that if the controlled jet of water that spurts through the dam becomes so weak that it falls on the concrete base of the dam it may collapse altogether.

The scariest conference I've been to in a while | Whither Ethiopia?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

Last week I was asked to speak at a gathering of Africa Auditors in Ghana. I haven’t been there for a while and I thought the conference a good opportunity to see how the country is doing as it heads into a December general election on the eve of its 60th birthday.

I was in for a shock. I assumed auditors were people who added up rows of figures and made sure that companies have added up all the numbers correctly and nothing has gone missing. But these days auditors ponder and judge the meaning of life. New US legislation which will become global has tightened up the rules of financial auditing and expanded auditing to non financial areas. Now they must study and evaluate not just the grand sum of human endeavour, but the risks going forward from climate change to politics to disease to war. Auditing means a long deep examination of every aspect of life in every country.

So we heard about climate change, terrorism, population growth, politics as well as disease and computer hacking. One speaker hacked the laptop of someone in the audience from the podium showing how easily it is done. It was the most scary conference I have been to in a long while.

Meanwhile Ghana’s two main parties are slogging it out in the lead up to the December election. Nana Akuffo Addo, son of a former president, is running for president for the third time challenging President John Mahama in the December election. It ought to be easy. Mahama’s government spent or misused (depending on who you talk to) all the oil revenues before a drop was sold. Now the price has crashed and so has Ghana’s economy. Life is tough now and this election will be intense.

..........
 

Is Ethiopia also about to head into hard times? It has boasted double digit growth rates for the past few years but last year dipped below 10%. Many outside observers query those figures and everyone agrees that parts of the country are still exceedingly poor and not growing at all. The government has always been very secretive about the data collection for both the economy and the population. And while the government in Addis may accept the data, the regional governments may be feeding it cheerful but not necessarily accurate data. If it is doing so well why was there such hunger in some areas earlier this year?

The Tigrayans from the north came to power in 1991 with the help of the Eritrean rebels after decades of war. The army is still dominated by Tigrayans but they have become increasingly divided and out of touch with swathes of the highly devolved country and the huge young generation. Parliament does not have a single opposition member but the government was forced to drop plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa into Oromo territory recently. The legacy of Meles Zenawi”s smart Stalinism is fraying at the edges and, unless a new nationwide deal is made, Ethiopia may slide back into conflict.  

 

Mogadishu: Memory, Politics and Return

Tuesday, 6 September 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Tuesday 6th September 2016, 19:00 – 20:30

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London

Dating back to the 10th century, Mogadishu has a long history as a beautiful, cosmopolitan hub for Indian Ocean trade and centre for Islam. For many, the port city was synonymous with stunning architecture, open-air cinemas and lazy beach afternoons. But after the outbreak of civil war in the early-1990s, Mogadishu experienced massive destruction and has undergone drastic change.

For those who left Somalia, what does Mogadishu mean today? And what does a Somali transnational politics look like? From London, we explore the experience of the diaspora, the politics of transnationalism, and the challenges of return. With journalist Andrew Harding, activist Adam Matan, and academics Idil Osman and Giulia Liberatore

This event will launch the book The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding, published by Hurst, September 2016. An ‘uplifting story of survival, and a compelling examination of what it means to lose a country and then to reclaim it’ it tells the story of Mohamud ‘Tarzan’ Nur, who after spending twenty years in north London, returned to Mogadishu to become Mayor. 

 

This event is free and open to all, but seating is limited.
Please register your place on Eventbrite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa's Media Image in the 21st Century

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Tuesday 13th September, 19:00 - 20:30

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, Lower Ground Floor, SOAS, London, WC1H 0XG

This is the first book in over twenty years to examine the international media’s coverage of sub-Saharan Africa.  Moving discussion beyond traditional critiques of ‘Africa Rising’ vs ‘darkest Africa’ stereotypes, the contributors explore the news outlets, international power dynamics, and technologies that shape and reshape the contemporary image of Africa and Africans in journalism and global culture.

Case studies consider questions such as: how have new media changed whose views are represented? Do Chinese or diaspora media offer alternative perspectives for viewing the continent? How do foreign correspondents interact with their audiences in a social media age? What is the contemporary role of charity groups and PR firms in shaping news content?

To launch this book, we are joined by editors Mel Bunce and Chris Paterson, and contributors Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar, Heba Aly and Olatunji Ogunyemi as they explore topics as diverse as the media strategies of Boko Haram, the market for humanitarian news and the image of the continent presented in African diasporic press in the UK.

Reserve your seat on Eventbrite Please note - we are oversubscribed for this event so seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis from 18:50. 

Copies of the book will be on sale: Africa’s Media Image in the 21st Century: From the “Heart of Darkness” to “Africa Rising” (2016) Edited by Mel Bunce, Suzanne Franks, and Chris Paterson. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-96231-6

 

 

RIP Abbas Idriss, the Somali Brit

Thursday, 28 July 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

The remarkable John Drysdale was almost completely unknown in Britain but a national hero in Somalia, where he was known as Abbas Idriss. A short man with pebble glasses, he looked more like an old professor than a soldier-turned-activist. Last month he was given a state funeral in Hargeisa attended by the great and good of Somaliland where he spent the last years of his life (see photo above).

He first went to the Somalia during the Second World War in 1943 as a British army officer with the Somaliland regiment which fought the Japanese in Burma and Singapore. He stayed on in the region and wrote about Singapore and South East Asia and became an expert on the region, in particular on its ancient porcelain. 

He returned to Britain and joined the colonial administration and served in Ghana. But he was not a typical colonial officer. He sided more with the people he was supposed to be ruling than the imperial rulers. After Ghana’s independence, he became adviser to three Somali Prime Ministers in post independence Somalia. Drysdale spoke fluent Somali and wrote two books about the country, its people and their history and culture.

I first met him in Modagadishu in 1992, shortly after the fall of Siad Barre, when the UN and then the United States became involved in trying to impose peace between the clan warlords. He became adviser to the Americans after they had invaded the country in December 1992. He tried to bring together the clan leaders as well as warlords like General Mohammed Aideed. But the Americans would not listen to his advice. They decided that there were good guys and bad guys. Anyone like General Aideed who did not do what they wanted was a bad guy. They put a price on his head.

Aideed went into hiding but his fighters still attacked the American troops. Drysdale offered to go and talk to him and the Americans agreed. But every time he tried to meet the general he found he was being followed. This game went on for days and Drysdale got angrier and angrier and felt personally slighted and betrayed. In a typically Somali act he simply changed sides and became Aideed’s advisor.

The Americans were finally forced to declare a truce in October 1993 when Aideed’s fighters war shot down two US helicopters in the infamous Blackhawk Down incident. Aideed came out of hiding and the Americans announced their withdrawal. Had they listened to Drysdale the history of Somalia might have been very different.  

He returned to Somaliland in the 1990s as an adviser to the government and set himself the complicated, dull but vital task of conducting a survey and mapping the farm boundaries of Somaliland in order to prevent land disputes. 

Richard Dowden is director of RAS.

#HowToFixNigeria: Dismantling Patriarchy

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

 

Date & Time: Wednesday, 31st August, 6:30-8PM

Venue:  The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall

A special Africa Utopia edition of our popular #HowToFixNigeria panel series with Fatimah Kelleher, Dorcas Erskine and Elnathan John.    

Chaired by Funmi Iyanda – producer, broadcaster and CEO of Oya Media – this event discusses gender inequality in Nigeria, and looks at the ways in which women and men are fighting sexism and patriarchal oppression.  

Has the focus on gender in development projects made any progress towards dismantling the country’s patriarchy? What are the hopes, approaches and challenges that have defined the movement to empower Nigerian women? And what can we learn from Nigeria about the struggle for gender equality across the continent as a whole? 

This event is presented in partnership with Oya Media as part of the Africa Utopia festival.

This event is free and open to all - no prior registration is required

 

 

RAS Business Breakfast on Japan’s new relationship with Africa

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

This morning, The Royal African Society (RAS) hosted a business breakfast entitled “Japan & Africa: A new kind of relationship?”, in association with the Government of Japan. The event was a pre-cursor to the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 27-28 August – the first ever TICAD summit to be held in Africa.

Today’s event moderated by our director Richard Dowden, featured renowned practitioners and academics in the field of international development, discussing the future of Japan-Africa relations; Professor Akihiko Tanaka, University of Tokyo and former President of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), Charles O. Boamah, CFO and Vice President of the African Development Bank & Dr. Kweku Ampiah, Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Leeds.

The discussion highlighted the role of Japan in African developmental priorities such as improving human capacity, developing infrastructure and tackling energy deficit, and encouraging private sector engagement. 

This event took place as part of the RAS Business Programme for corporate members. To find out more about joining click here.

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