'Polokwane spring' gives the left a lift


Almost two decades after the fall of the Berlin wall, the Communist Party are back in business. Forget Volga sedans and vodka rations – that’s for the historical materialists. Marxist-Leninism South African style is a little hipper than that. It also should be said that South Africa’s communists are a tad more idealistic than were the fading Stalinists of the Soviet order.?


This time the Communists have pinned their colours to the mast of the ANC’s Jacob Zuma, a man not known for left-wing or trade union sympathies. In fact, Zuma earned his spurs in the ANC as a ruthless intelligence chief rooting out dissidents and ultra-leftists.?


The ANC’s leftist allies now refer to the period after Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC president as the ‘Polokwane Spring’ which they say will usher in the ‘national democratic revolution’. “We are at the crossroads in the history of our revolution” said SACP secretary general Blade Ndzimande. There is “the potential for the movement to make a significant leftward shift”, he added. Cosatu chief Zwelinzima Vavi agreed: “The change of direction in policy is now urgent.” Whether Zuma can deliver that change is another matter. As Nzimande and Vavi roar into Zuma’s left ear, corporate South Africa is whispering into his right. Bobby Godsell, executive chairman of Eskom and former CEO of AngloGold, said the financial crisis is an opportunity for emerging markets, with their growing middle classes and development potential.?


Godsell said the post-Mbeki ANC is showing a new openness about engaging in dialogue with business and civil society groups on how best to address South Africa’s development challenges of crime, health, education and job creation.


For now, it will be President Kgalema Motlanthe running South Africa’s ‘national democratic revolution’, and his steadiness and political acumen have impressed so much that some have demanded that he stay as national president while Zuma keeps the party presidency. But both men face the same charge of ‘talking left and acting right’.?


Motlanthe’s choice of cabinet ministers matched skills to the relevant portfolios. The minerals and energy portfolios may be separated and there may be some radical changes as the ANC seeks to assert control over the country’s resources. SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka is said to be keen on overseeing the creation of a state mining company – that at least will be music to the ears of the comrades.


Back to South Africa, The death of unity


Investment in ports falls behind trade growth


Although huge developments have been taking place in North Africa and to a certain extent in South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA’s) port capacity has been lagging, both in investment and in making essential management changes. The evidence shows that while SSA’s container and general cargo traffic has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, the region has not seen a corresponding development of its port infrastructure, except in a handful of countries.


A study recently undertaken by UK-based Ocean Shipping Consultants for the World Bank provides a comprehensive insight into the status of both primary and secondary ports in SSA and a platform from which to implement positive industry change. “The study is a valuable step in digging down to Sub-Saharan Africa’s real needs in this sector,” says Andrew Penfold, Ocean Shipping Consultants’ director.?


Focusing on 17 countries and over 70 maritime ports, the study measures traffic growth, infrastructure development and institutional arrangements. The most striking factor is the strong growth that has been achieved in both container and general cargo traffic. In both categories and across all regions, traffic easily more than doubled in the period of 1995-2005.?


As regards infrastructure development, relatively few major new port development projects were identified. Several projects were at the proposal or planning stage, but a number of them had not moved beyond this point for quite some time. On the positive side, seven countries were undertaking new national port master plans as a preliminary step to delivering new port capacity.


?Institutional reform was also found to be slow. Only two countries have adopted the modern ‘landlord port model’, a major feature of which is the withdrawal of the public sector from front-line cargo handling operations. Out of the 17 countries analysed, eight retain the old-style ‘service port model’, where the public sector is both manager and operator.


?As with the urgent need for more infrastructure works, the pace of institutional reform needs to be accelerated and to be coordinated with road, rail and other major infrastructure works. This will particularly facilitate the development of the transport corridors designed to meet the needs of landlocked countries. 


Back to Infrastructure, Sustaining the momentum for modernisation


Interview: Professor Venansius Baryamureeba


The Africa Report: What has been missing in ICT education in Uganda and how have you addressed this at Makerere??


Professor Venansius Baryamureeba: Most universities in Africa produce graduates who are more orientated towards working in academic or research institutions than in the private sector. In Uganda, professional courses in computing and ICT were almost non-existent before 2001. What was missing, and what is still missing in most African universities, are curricula that meet both national and international standards. [At Makerere] we set up state of the art computing facilities. We recruit and train computing professionals, design good curricula for degree programmes that address private sector needs and run professional courses that are needed in the workplace and are accredited by Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Oracle.?


What impact has this had on Uganda’s ICT sector??


In 2001, most of the technical employees of the two existing telecoms companies [MTN-Uganda and Celtel (now Zain)] came from outside Uganda. Ugandans with a bachelor’s degree in computing were earning three times more than a university professor. Today our faculty has produced more than 1,000 degree-holders in computing and more than 10,000 certificate-holders in its professional programmes. As a result of well-qualified human resources, the sector has stabilised and today we have more than six telecoms companies operating in Uganda with more than 90% of their technical staff locally-trained. Because of this boom, other sectors like software development, business process outsourcing and e-commerce are picking up fast. ?


How can Africa provide more skills-driven curricula?


?We must train for the market, otherwise we shall have a situation where graduates have no jobs and at the same time companies are crying out for skilled graduates. Studies must be undertaken across Africa, and across the world, to document the skills needed for tomorrow’s private sector. As for spreading these courses across Africa, it has to be demand- and policy-driven. Countries must come up with policies that require their academic institutions to run such courses. At the same time, there has to be an organ or institution that ensures graduates from these courses find jobs, or are able to create jobs. 


Back to Giving graduates skills for the real world



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