Nigeria: ?Abuja’s new team flexes ?its diplomatic muscle

The crises in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya allowed Nigerian diplomats to assert some valuable principles and play a leading role in the African Union; now it’s time to look beyond the continent

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Top 500 African companies: A pause on the way up

Growth in domestic consumption carried ?African companies ?through the financial ?crisis, while lesser-known firms are receiving more attention from global investors   

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Business tries to defy gravity

Lower trade barriers, the search for new financing mechanisms and demand from Asia could help Africa’s top companies to continue on their paths to growth  


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Interview: Ian Khama, President of Botswana

Having now ruled Botswana for over a year, following the retirement of former President Festus Mogae, President Seretse Khama Ian Khama faces his first general election in October. He talks to The Africa Report about democracy, Zimbabwe and the impact of the global recession



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Interview: Nkosana Moyo

Nkosana MoyoThe Vice President of the African Development Bank speaks to The Africa Report about Africa in the Crisis alongside articles from our archives on the impact the crisis is having in Africa. 


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Useful Links

A selection of informative, analytical and creative websites about Africa, picked by our editorial team.


Africa News – news from an Africa-wide network of reporters and citizen journalists


Voices of Africa – Comment from across the continent published by SA's Mail & Guardian

Global Voices– an all-encompassing round-up of Africa's best blogs and bloggers


Pambazuka News– an online forum and weekly newsletter on social justice in Africa


African Elections Database – a record of all past and upcoming African elections


African Union – portal for news and updates from the AU and its organs

International Crisis Group – Africa programme with weekly crisis updates

Institute of Security Studies – SA-based think-tank with briefings on politics, governance and security issues

Africa Can – Blog by World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan


Africa Economic Outlook – economic data on 47 countries from the AfDB and OECD

The African Networka global NGO aimed at fostering technology and entrepreneurship 

African Capital Markets News - news and analysis on African stock exchanges, private equity and bond markets

Doing Business – World Bank's annual ranking of how fast things get done and where


Kwani– new writing from this Kenyan-based creative writing journal


Committee to Protect Journalists – news on journalists under pressure across Africa

Reporters Without Borders– updates on violations of African press freedom

African Scholar  – a wealth of advice for African students looking to study abroad 


A time of new potential

Ghana oilThe benefits of a decade of good economic growth are threatened by the global crisis, but there are good signs from Ghana’s new government


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Proponents of aid fight back

In the worst financial crisis since the 1930s,  arguments over the role of foreign aid are central to the debate over Africa’s policy options. In London on 7 April, Ghana’s President John Atta Mills insisted that he was on a mission to negotiate trade and investment and not looking for aid, adding that the crisis would force Africa to become more self-reliant: “I am not returning to Ghana with my pockets full of pounds sterling. We will have to import less food and grow more locally.”


After The Africa Report interviewed Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, author of ‘Dead Aid’, which advocates the rapid phasing-out of the foreign-aid cycle in Africa, the debate was joined by development economists, finance ministers and officials in international financial institutions.


The IMF’s Africa director, Antoinette Sayeh, also took a strong stance on proposed aid cuts: “Aid has been shown to have a very positive impact on growth and poverty reduction in Africa. We think it’s actually dangerous to suggest that the appropriate response to Africa’s problems at this very difficult time is to further deprive AIDS patients and young people, who’ve been out of school for a decade because of a civil war, of access to education and health.”


Back to Africa & the crisis: A way out of the tunnel


A way out of the tunnel

Grwoth projectionsInternational institutions are prescribing higher social spending, more flexible monetary policy and a watchful eye on the banks. 


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Valentine Rugwabiza: African trade needs to be freer

Valentine RugwabizaAfrican trade needs to be freer, ?not more restricted, says Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director-general of the World Trade Organisation


Has the financial crisis set back hopes for a new multilateral trade agreement?


?Protectionism is a real threat. At a time of crisis, there is a temptation to close borders... But we have also learned that it is a self-defeating strategy. It doesn’t help us get out of a recession or depression – it rather deepens and prolongs it. So far, countries have resisted protectionist pressures, with really few exceptions.??


Why multilateral trade deals are better?


The World Trade Organisation doesn’t have the capacity to prevent countries from entering into bilateral agreements. There are distortions that cannot be removed through bilateral agreements. None of the bilateral agreements are targeting agriculture subsidies.?Distortions are never on the menu of bilateral agreements, that’s why they move so fast. Bilateral agreements cannot substitute for a multilateral agreement. The coverage is not as large, and the impact in terms of development is not as large. All bilateral agreements imply discrimination against those that are outside the bilateral agreements.??


Will Africa’s leaders succeed at trade talks??


African countries are well organised at the WTO and they’ve made their case forcefully and convincingly. Technically, the issues have been solved. There is an agreed formula for tariff peaks and for addressing tariff escalation (which limit Africa’s market access in developed markets) that will also provide flexibility for some African countries to protect certain industries at infant level. About 80% of the work has been done. What is interesting is that at the WTO you don’t always have a division between the North and the South. Sometimes you have countries of the North and the South building alliances. The challenge is on the political level: the key players need to show that they’re serious when they talk of commitment to poor countries’ development.  


Back to Africa & the crisis, A way out of the tunnel


Meles Zenawi: We must craft alternative strategies

Meles ZenawiWe must craft alternative strategies ?for Africa’s development, says Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia


Political unrest linked to the financial crisis?


In preparation for the G-20 summit, I got in touch with African leaders and my worst fears were confirmed. The President of Liberia [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] said that one of the sources of instability has been the high rate of unemployment among the youth… The president of southern Sudan and vice-president of Sudan [Salva Kiir Mayardit] indicated that because oil prices had collapsed he may not be able to pay the salaries of his armed men, and that was dangerous. In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining areas, something like 300,000 people have been laid off since the recession began – that is a very dangerous thing in a fragile peace.


??The role of rich countries and the IMF and World Bank ?


At a meeting between the IMF and the World Bank, our ministers followed up on the promises of the G-20 summit, and it appears that something like $20bn dollars will be made available very soon from the IMF. The rest we had hoped would come through the African Development Bank and the World Bank. I am happily surprised that substantial money was promised, and delivery has been better than I had expected.


??African strategies to counter the crisis?


We have to devise our own strategies for overcoming the current difficulties but also engaging in economic transformation so that we will be able to withstand future shocks of a similar kind. The British Prime Minister [Gordon Brown] has declared that the Washington consensus is over and that we needed a new development consensus. I doubt whether any African would quibble with that. It is now up to us to come up with alternative strategies of development and to recognise that the policy orthodoxy that has been imposed over the past three decades has not delivered.


Back to Africa & the crisis, A way out of the tunnel



Banks: Lucky escape, only minor damage

Ghana banksThe Bank of Ghana is trying to strengthen the financial sector amid the global crisis

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Rwanda/Sudan: Crime without punishment


Africa’s vicious genocides over the last 15 years have posed agonising dilemmas for the international community, with the March indictment of Sudan’s president raising new ones


Fifteen years after the extermination of 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus, there are still no international institutions with the credibility and capacity to respond quickly to mass killings of civilians.


?The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) issuance of an arrest warrant on 4 March for Sudan’s President Omer el Beshir for war crimes in Darfur may yet advance the cause of international justice, but its capacity to end the war looks questionable in the short run. To make real progress in Sudan, the ICC’s warrant would need massive, determined, internationally-coordinated action to protect civilians and greatly increased diplomatic pressure on the Khartoum regime.? Waging Peace, Drawings from Sudan and Chad


It might have helped if the ICC’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo had been able to start with trials of lower-ranking officials. After the ICC announced the arrest warrant, there was a dreadful silence as the Khartoum regime expelled most of the aid agencies in Darfur and closed down local human-rights organisations.?


African governments’ concerns about the warrant centred on the fear that Khartoum would redouble attacks on the Darfur people and close down the AU peacekeeping mission there, Ethiopia’s Premier Meles Zenawi told the The Africa Report. “The political implications of the arrest warrant weren’t thought through,” Meles said. “If it’s about a regime-change agenda, there was no plan there… If it’s about political pressure, there’s no more leverage once you’ve announced the warrant.”


?The road to the arrest warrant for Beshir goes back to Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 when survivors pledged that “justice will be done”. And those foreign politicians who ordered the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers at the time – while the murderers went to work in Rwanda – have gradually made their apologies, quietly repeating the “never again” mantra.?


Responsibility to protect?


Partly as a result of that, the UN General Assembly in 2005 passed a resolution establishing the UN’s ‘Responsibility to Protect’ which gave the UN the responsibility to use “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means …to help protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”


?But the international response remains tragically slow. The Darfur war in western Sudan reached its peak in 2004, almost a decade after Rwanda’s genocide. Estimates of the deaths caused by the war range from 200,000-400,000. Some 2.5m people have been chased from their homes and into camps. Almost all UN and human-rights groups’ reports hold the Khartoum government responsible for the vast majority of deaths and displacements. ?


The response was inchoate and dilatory. The AU started with a monitoring mission protected by 300 soldiers as the UN began a long deliberation, commissioning several investigations into the Darfur crisis.


Rhetoric saves no one


?Western rhetoric was far more strident than the quiescent approach to Rwanda in 1994, when President Bill Clinton’s administration barred officials from describing the killings as genocide for fear that it would compel the US to intervene. ?


There is little argument about the extent of the Darfur crisis, but there is fierce debate about whether it was right for the UN Security Council to mandate the ICC to investigate the killings there.


?Nick Grono, a director of the International Crisis Group sees the arrest warrant as a “welcome and crucial step towards challenging impunity that has worsened conflict in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan”. Grono says that Khartoum might look for a way out by making tactical concessions and stalling for time, and argues that the ICC should make it clear that it will investigate those responsible for violence against peacekeepers, aid agencies and people in camps.?


Many diplomats opt for a pragmatic approach. President George Bush’s Sudan envoy, Andrew Natsios, says he changed his policy because hostility did not work: “The best way for Washington to proceed is not by confronting Khartoum but by engaging it… Moral outrage is no substitute for practical policies aimed at saving lives and promoting stability.”?


Ultimately, it is the Sudanese who will decide, and they are keeping their counsel. Southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has pointedly not attended any of the state-sponsored warrant protest rallies. None doubt that many opponents of the regime are quietly celebrating the ICC’s action.


?For now, southern politicians want to hold Beshir and his allies to the north-south peace accord which provides for national elections this year and a referendum on southern independence in 2011. If Khartoum starts to tamper with that schedule, using the warrant crisis as a pretext, then there will be a high risk of the country slipping back towards the killing fields of 2004. 


Editorial: The New Discontents of Globalisation


Almost daily, despatches from the battlegrounds of globalisation tell more tales of tragedy and devastation. Cold statistics hardly convey the enormity of the meltdown. The crisis is costing millions of jobs in North America and Europe, and tens of millions of jobs in China, but no one knows how many jobs have gone so far in Africa. They should ask the copper miners of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, the platinum miners of South Africa and the diamond miners of Botswana. ?


Africa’s urban economies are visibly slowing; the destruction is worsening in the rural economies where shrinking markets and tumbling earnings are a matter of life and death. Yet in this crisis of economic globalisation, Africa’s concerns have been sidelined and its recent successes in growth and investment are at risk. ??


The culprits are the West’s financial sophisticates, sheer greed and poor regulation, as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz predicted they would be. Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete asked, half in jest, what would have been the response of the IMF and the World Bank if an African country’s financial system – and not that of the US – had started the credit crunch? No doubt that benighted country would have been thrown into receivership. ?


There was a momentary shock in March when the managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, announced in Dar es Salaam that “the model had failed” and that the leaders of the advanced economies could no longer say to Africa and the rest of the developing world “follow us, we know how to do it”.


?He was not predicting the end of capitalism, he told The Africa Report, but signalling the need for urgent running repairs to the current model. “Capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis,” he added, paraphrasing Karl Marx, “but the memories of this crisis may remain for decades.” ?


Where does this leave Africa? Firstly, along with other developing regions, it is asking the West to reform its own financial system, to improve its regulatory capacity and to admit that the idea of self-correcting markets is a fallacy. ??


Developing states are also demanding that the rich world drop its nationalist and protectionist instincts on trade. Now is the time for rich countries to make concessions at the World Trade Organisation on tariff barriers and end their ruinous farm subsidies. ?


And the rich world’s pledges to poor countries made in 2005 at the G8 summit in Gleneagles – of a doubling of international aid to the world’s poorest countries to $60bn a year by 2010 – have to be kept. That is less than the US government has spent on bailing out Citicorp, or Britain will spend on the rescue package for the Royal Bank of Scotland. There should be no question of rich countries using their own financial crisis as a pretext for cutting capital flows to Africa.


?Instead, the crisis calls for ingenuity, both in the West and in Africa. The international financial institutions and their commercial associates should develop innovative ways to finance the big infrastructure projects – water, roads and power – that Africa so clearly needs. Such funding and projects would help both Africa and the embattled construction industry.?


Yet more ingenuity will be required to address the geopolitical fallout. Few, even within the portals of the IMF and World Bank, believe that the world will return to an economic and financial system that plays by the old rules. Already the IMF, the World Bank and the UN are trying to remake themselves, but more radical changes will be necessary to reflect the emerging multipolar world. By Patrick Smith


Ghana: The economic battle comes to parliament


President John Atta Mills came into power in January promising Obama-like change, but the downward spiral in the economy will restrict his search for inspired solutions


This year’s budget day, on 5 March – the day before the country’s annual celebration of independence from Britain – had a special significance. It was the first big political event following the inauguration of President John Atta Mills on 7 January and also the first opportunity for the new government to explain its policies in detail.?


Fixing the economy will be the top political issue this year, and a fierce partisan row is brewing. No one doubts the seriousness of the crisis. The new National Democratic Congress team turned up in force in parliament to hear finance minister Kwabena Dufuor set out the strategy for tackling the crisis. Dufuor’s speech mixed spending cuts with commitments to increase spending on education and to make investments in agro-industrial companies to create jobs around the country. Ghana’s economic growth will slow to 5.8% this year from 2008’s estimated 6.2%, he said.?

World Bank Lecture spoils the party mood


The Bank has 'grave concerns' about
Ghana's financial position. Read more. 


“This is not going to be easy or popular but it seems the right thing to do,” Dufuor told parliament. “Macroeconomic instability puts our growth and poverty-reduction strategies at great risk.


?“The decline in exports, foreign remittances, the decline in private capital inflows, the surge in demand for foreign exchange to meet higher oil bills and food prices, and the servicing of external debts have combined to put downward pressure on the cedi,” Dufuor said.?


With a revenue base of 9.7 billion cedis ($700m) this year, Dufuor said he was going to cut discretionary spending by 5.6% to C6.8bn. One of the main problems is that the cost of servicing Ghana’s debt has ballooned to over C3bn this year.?


Dufuor said that the Mills government had inherited a debt hangover of some $8bn from President John Kufuor, half of which is owed overseas.


?Earlier, Mills had told parliament: “We owe foreign creditors far more than is fiscally prudent. Over the last few months the cedi has lost substantial value with respect to the US dollar… the decline in the value of the cedi is negating benefits, which could otherwise have accrued from low world crude oil prices.”?


At the heart of the current political row is the matter of blame for the worsening economic crisis. Is it is due to President Kufuor’s government – which presided over eight years of record prices for Ghana’s cocoa and gold exports and which, supporters of President Mills contend, wasted the opportunities with profligate spending??


Or is Ghana just suffering the indirect consequences of the international financial crisis, which has depressed the market for developing-country exports and has squeezed credit lines around the world, as Kufuor’s supporters claim??


Part of the answer lies in perceptions. After eight years of Kufuor’s presidency, Accra, Kumasi and the other big cities in Ghana were in the middle of a construction boom. Hundreds of miles of new highways had been built and the country was attracting record levels of investment.?


The good old days


?Kufuor’s government presided over the discovery of major oil fields off Ghana, which could produce over 300,000 barrels a day starting next year, for which huge investment is pouring in.?


Inflation had been brought down to single figures, and the cedi had stabilised against the US dollar. Remittances from over a million Ghanaians overseas were helping to build new houses and pay for school fees and other pressing necessities.?


The latest boom is over for now. Inflation is nudging towards 20%, the construction boom is grinding to a halt, investors are pulling back (other than in oil) and state finances are problematic. Fitch, a ratings agency, recently downgraded its assessment of Ghana’s sovereign debt to a negative rating. This is due to the fact that Fitch predicts that the budget deficit could balloon to 15% of GDP this year and the trade deficit could reach a whopping 24%.?


Much of this gloom can be attributed to the widening effects of the West’s credit crunch. Before that hit home at the end of last year, Mills was arguing that the groundwork for Ghana’s economic improvement was laid by the last National Democratic Congress (NDC) government. “Debts were waived and cancelled, running to billions of dollars,” said Mills. “A lot of people brought in money saying Ghana was the model of democracy because of what we did.” However, he argued that under Kufuor these benefits were not fairly distributed – and that the upturn was not sustainable.?


“You only have to go to the north to realise that they are far behind,” Mills told The Africa Report. “The north could be a breadbasket for this nation, but we have not done much – poverty levels are very very high in the northern region. This is why we have to spend some resources in agriculture, infrastructure, etc.”?


A tiger in west africa?


?Hopes for Ghana’s success remain high if it can weather this year’s economic storms. “Ghana today feels like Korea in 1970,” said Ishac Diwan, the World Bank representative in Accra, “which means the next ten years are a real opportunity. This country is taking off in front of our eyes.” Meanwhile, the World Bank is warning of dire consequences if the government does not tackle financial problems quickly (see box).Already the IMF has been invited back for exploratory talks with Mills’ government, two years after the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government proudly proclaimed that it had weaned Ghana off IMF credits.?


As a tax lawyer who was director of Ghana’s inland revenue service, Mills knows more than most the importance of sound government finances. So, the government’s growing fiscal deficit – about 15% of GDP at the beginning of this year – has forced a rapid rethink of strategy. Mills now has to balance budgetary realities with his supporters’ hopes. ?


“Macroeconomic stability is my number one priority,” Dufuor told parliament’s appointments committee in February. Dufuor, a former deputy governor of Ghana’s central bank, is an Nkrumahist and member of the Convention People’s Party. His qualifications are his professional skills and his independence from rival factions within the NDC.?


“We have a four-year programme to set up jobs and provide small-scale industries, but the first priority is to achieve stability,” Dufuor said. Veteran NPP politician Hackman Owusu-Agyeman pointedly told Dufuor, who has investments in several local banks, that the finance ministry allows the banks to exploit Ghanaians.?


Blind trust


?“I am not holding brief for the banks,” said Dufuor, who resigned his chairmanship of Unibank and put his investments in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. But Dufuor defended the high interest rates – over 20% a year – as necessary to cover the lending risks “in our environment” and the spiralling overheads in the sector.?


By the end of February, governor of the Bank of Ghana, Paul Acquah, raised the prime lending rate by 1.5% to 18.5% in response to the surge in inflation, which had reached nearly 20% in January, up from 12.7% a year ago.?


Professor Ernest Aryeetey, director of the Institute for Social, Statistical and Economic Research, told The Africa Report that the Bank of Ghana did not address the longer-term challenges. “We need to move beyond achieving macroeconomic stability to put us on the path of sustainable growth,” Aryeetey said.?


“We need to create incentives for people to get access to credit. The Bank of Ghana has not created an environment in which the banks have an incentive to lend to the productive sectors, like agriculture and industry.”?


Aryeetey predicted a growing fiscal squeeze in Ghana: “Over the last 20 years, government spending has never really come down. We are suffering because the tax revenues are slowing down. We are feeling the pinch now because external inflows are decreasing, as is investment from countries like India and China. Our ability to raise taxes has also decreased for bureaucratic reasons.”


New reality for the world's heavyweight financiers


The ‘philanthrocapitalism’ of rich financiers in New York and London could soon fade. Eager to put the rigours of the boardroom to work solving the world’s problems, these ‘new philanthropists’ started their own foundations and played by their own rules. Inspired by the philanthropy of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Scottish tycoon Sir Tom Hunter pledged to give £1bn to charity over his lifetime. Hedge-fund billionaire Arpad Busson founded Absolute Return for Kids to work on HIV/AIDS prevention in Southern Africa, and regularly raises upwards of £25m pounds from wealthy friends at an annual gala dinner. ?


Some just pushed their way in. One charity, started in 2002 by Irish property-developer Niall Mellon, built 11,000 homes in South African townships by flying in groups of international volunteers to do the work, but had to be told to slow down by the municipalities, which struggled to keep up building new drains and roads.?


According to a survey by the New York-based Foundation Centre, giving by 80 of the largest US foundations totalled $5.4bn in 2007, a 70% increase from 2002, with Sub-Saharan Africa receiving more than 40% of international spending. But with investments crippled, nearly half of these foundations admitted the current financial crisis would focus their minds on domestic issues. Though bruised – Busson’s investments, for example, suffered from Bernard Madoff’s ponzi-scheme fraud – the financial turmoil is unlikely to be the death-knell of the philanthrocapitalists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation lost 20% of the value of its assets in 2008, but it still plans to increase spending from $3.3bn in 2008, to $3.8bn in 2009. 


Back to Aid in Crisis, Who is helping whom? 


Aid in Crisis: Who is helping whom?

International aid agencies are under attack – rich countries are cutting their budgets and African governments are questioning their motives 

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Interview: Donald Kaberuka, African Development Bank President


The Africa Report: What are Africa’s prospects given the world economic situation?


?Donald Kaberuka: Economic growth for Africa will be at the maximum 4.5%. My colleagues at the IMF are putting the figures at below 4%. We are experiencing a fast-evolving situation and I’m sure that the numbers will be revised in the next three months. But we are concerned about the burst in the commodity bubble – all commodities. We are concerned by the decline in investment and the contraction of the private sector and what that means for macroeconomic balances.?


Which sectors do you think will be worst hit?


?The sectors which will be affected the most will be those which depend on international demand – minerals, oil, soft commodities and tourism. The second sectors which will be affected are those which are beginning to attract significant investment – this is mainly infrastructure, power generation, road construction and so on. But there is something in economics we call the ‘backward loop’ which means that once we have the key sectors of the economy contracting, then they impact on the financial system and a vicious circle begins. So I fear that the contraction of the real sectors of the economy could also affect the stability of the financial system, as companies are no longer able to service their loans and so on.?


What can the AfDB do to help weather the effects of the crisis??


Number one, we need to accelerate resource transfers so that money goes to projects and to countries quickly. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that it is good to have all these resources but that we need to accelerate their transfer. Secondly, it is important to allow trade to continue functioning. Trade finance has dried up and we are putting in place a trade-financing facility for banks and exporting and importing houses to continue financing trade. Thirdly, we need to set up an emergency liquidity facility for institutions which may face a liquidity problem or companies that may wish to terminate projects because there is no liquidity. And fourthly, we should mobilise additional resources by developing quickly the continental markets so we can give fluidity to regions with excess reserves to assist regions with less reserves, for the benefit of both.?


What effect do you think that the financial crisis will have on the stability of African currencies, and how will this affect trade?


Already, the crisis is affecting us through equities, export revenues, and to some extent, currencies. As external revenues decline, our balance of payments position will weaken and, of course, currencies will depreciate. We don’t have enough reserves to defend our currencies if they are under strain. If you take the whole of Africa together, our foreign reserves are less than $400bn. Now that is less than Norway, one country of 4m people. This shows you the limited capacity of African countries to intervene in the markets if our currencies are under strain. So I hope that we can manage.


Back to Finance, The taps of credit run dry


Maina Kiai: Kenyans want an end to impuntiy and corruption


Maina KiaiWhen the violence following Kenya’s flawed presidential elections of 27 December 2007 resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people and the displacement of more than 300,000 within a month, the country’s political fragility was exposed for all to see. The sectarian, ethnic and political polarisation that Kenya’s leaders had previously glossed over – hoping that the issues would resolve themselves or just disappear – was dramatically revealed to the world.?


How has Kenya fared since then? Has it learnt the lessons or has it reverted to business as usual? ?


Sadly, the facts so far suggest that the morbid flirtation of the Kenyan political class with violence and chaos continues unabated, and that the lessons from the crisis seem to have been forgotten. The cocktail of impunity, corruption, self-serving leadership and negative ethnicity seems to have intoxicated the political class once again. ?


The road map resulting from the mediation of former-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan provided an in-depth process for a new democratic Kenya, but with one serious flaw: the permanent, rather than transitional, nature of the coalition government.??


A transitional, time-bound coalition government would have forced a sense of urgency to reform and address the underlying issues before facing an electorate with memories of the crisis still fresh. Without this, the political class has reverted to its customary arrogance, working contrary to the public interest. ?


The road map led to both the Kriegler Report, which focused on the conduct of the elections that triggered the political crisis, and the Waki Report, on the post-election violence. Of the two, Waki’s is more significant for its boldness, thoroughness and creativity, especially in its recommendations. The Kriegler Report stopped short of looking into manipulation of the election results – a ‘see no evil’ approach that encouraged members of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to assert that its findings of incompetence against them were not sufficient cause for their resignation.?


The genius of the Waki Report was that it did not give the political class a role in implementing its recommendations on the personal accountability of those with the greatest responsibility for the violence. Waki recommended that a special tribunal with significant international participation be set up to investigate, prosecute and judge; and it mandated a specific time frame for it to be formed. If the tribunal were not established, Kofi Annan was directed to hand over the report’s damning evidence to the International Criminal Court to take over the accountability process. This mechanism was formal recognition of the fact that Kenyan institutions, especially the criminal justice system, are broken and cannot, as established, be useful in the fight against impunity in Kenya. ?


Naturally, the political class, with support from ‘rent an analyst’ commentators, attempted to reject and misrepresent the Waki Report. But the level of support from Kenyans and the international community for Waki’s recommendations has been strong and unwavering, and that could be the straw that finally breaks the back of the camel of impunity. ?


The vast majority of ordinary Kenyans want a break with the past. Notwithstanding their ethnic or political affiliation, Kenyans are united on issues that really matter. They want a government that does not waste resources on opulence and ostentation, they want leaders who pay taxes and who earn salaries that make sense in Kenya’s economic reality, and they want an end to corruption, impunity and negative ethnicity.?


The challenge now is how to harness this readiness for change (and anger at the political class) into avenues that are peaceful, effective and positive for Kenya. Kenyans have been motivated and fascinated by the rise to power of Barack Obama, whom they see as one of their own, and whose style and substance is so vastly different from the leaders they are used to. If the cards line up as they should, and if the organisation and hard work needed to channel the anger and frustrations of Kenyans are done well, then maybe, just maybe, there will yet be a silver lining to the dark cloud of the 2008 crisis.


Africa’s vulnerability in the crisis

Kwesi Botchwey

The global economic crisis could not be happening at a worse time for Africa, says Kwesi Botchwey...

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