Benin and Looking Forward

As a developing country, Benin still has so much to do. Benin’s political and economic state needs much development. Politically, Benin is recognized as West Africa’s more stable democracies. Since its transition to democracy in the early 1990s, Benin has been relatively politically stable. However, its economy has been failing. Benin is very aid dependent and very susceptible to international fluxes for its dependence on the cotton market. For this reason, my advices to the country’s leaders are as follows.

Firstly, Benin needs to diversify its political portfolios. Benin is both dependent on the U.S as well as France. Benin is dependent on the U.S for the strong aid gifts due to its commitment to democracy, and France through colonial ties and especially currency. Many government-funded projects are aided by foreign aid money that are so specified, they do not affect the whole population. These aids are conditional to the extent that they hurt other sectors of the economy[1]. Additionally, aids influence the general direction of the government depending on what the donor country favors. Essentially, Benin should diversify its relationship with partnering countries to minimize how much influence the U.S can have on its politics. Likewise, this diversification should decrease its reliance on France. By having a varied portfolio, the awareness of how detrimental it is for another nation to determine exchange rates and other monetary policy will hopefully arise. Benin’s development is party stifled for this reason; it does not control its on money. By diversifying its portfolio, hopefully the need to have a currency that it can control will hopefully become more apparent.

Secondly, I would advice Benin’s political leaders to diversify their economy. Since cotton is Benin’s main export good, any flux in the cotton market can negatively and drastically impact Benin. For this reason, Benin seriously needs to invest in other agricultural goods and industrial goods to decrease its great reliance on cotton.  Cotton accounts for roughly 40% of GDP and 80% of all export receipts[2]. Benin is entirely too reliant on this crop and needs to diversify its economic portfolio. However in diversifying its portfolio, Benin’s political leaders should be mindful of the mistake of neighboring Nigeria, and not become susceptible to the Dutch disease. Too much foreign money in the economy can significantly weaken their own currency.

Perhaps the most relevant advice to Benin ties back to its history of dependence on the U.S and France whom are also Benin’s leading import partners. The little profit gained from aid programs are funneled directly back into these economies and leave Benin’s economy paralyzed. I recommend that Benin look to establish import partners with close African nations to develop transcontinental ties and really also to keep their transactions with France and the U.S so restricted and defined. This move could potentially give Benin leverage on matters since these two need Benin’s business transactiosn.


[1] http://www.globalissues.org/article/35/foreign-aid-development-assistance

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Benin

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Reaction Paper; “Exceptional epidemics: AIDS still deserves a global response”

“Exceptional Epidemics: AIDS still deserves a global response” by Alan Whiteside and Julia Smith explores the idea of HIV/AIDS exceptionalism. Why, today, has HIV/AIDS become so prominent in the public/global health theatre? Does it deserve to be treated with the same exceptionalism that as it was back in the 80s and 90s? Many today argue that HIV/AIDS exceptionalism has undermines health systems in developing countries by detracting from the development of sustainable healthcare systems for non-sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention clinics. Exceptionalism developed during the 80s and 90s in the United States. But what many fail to understand is that at the time HIV/AIDS was exceptional. Unlike many other diseases that plague marginalized, socially and fiscally, groups, HIV/AIDS was seen as a disease that crossed these “borders”. By the 90s it was no longer just gay men who were infected with HIV/AIDS but IDUs, women, children, straight, gay, and everyone in between. It was treated with such exceptionality because it was exceptional and, at the time, a death sentence. Even when drug treatment such as AZT came into the picture, access was limited to the higher echelons of society. it wasn’t until relatively recently that affordable, accessible, care came into the public spotlight to allow for HIV/AIDS to be manageable, although still not curable. Therefore, HIV/AIDS exceptionalism should be evaluated based on levels of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the area being examined.
The authors argue that in any country where HIV/AIDS prevalence is 10% or higher; “In these settings there is substantial morbidity, filling hospitals and increasing care burdens; and increased mortality, which most visibly reduces life expectancy” (1).

The authors believe that in countries with prevalence below 3% HIV/AIDS needs to be normalized in the public health system, meaning that it should be viewed and addressed as one of many important health issues that are integrated into public health systems; the disease itself may not be given priority, though the needs of those most at risk and affected may be prioritized (1). I agree with this suggestion. In countries of low prevalence, HIV/AIDS tends to be isolated to marginalized and criminalized groups, MSM, IDU and sex workers. The marginalization and criminalization of these minority groups decreases public health effectiveness and access to prevention care and programming.

High prevalance areas, like the majority of Africa, require that HIV/AIDS be treated with exceptionalism. In Botswana, life expectancy fell from 56years (1970-1975) to 46.6years (2000-2005) and in South Africa the total annual deaths increased by 87percent from 1997-2005, with at least 40% estimated to have been AIDS-related. In 2001 AIDS orphans was at 6,500,000 and in 2007 is increased to 11,600,000 by 2007. Exceptionalism helps bring better programming to countries and groups discriminated or ignored by current health systems. Women, for example, in many African countries are invisible to the programming of ABC (abstain, faithful, condoms). Laws in certain countries eliminate the ability to abstain or use condoms without their husband’s permission, and husbands cannot be accused of raping their wives. In Kenya, women 15-49 have high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, twice as high as men.

Exceptionalism can be used to divert funding to special interest groups. By doing so, it is my belief that it can increase public health programming and accessibility allowing for an increase in prevention and decrease in contraction rates. Furthermore it will help to de-stigmatize the disease, allowing for marginalized and criminalized groups to have access to care.

http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/pdf/1744-8603-5-15.pdf

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Nelson Mandela Dead

Nice article on the tragic death of Nelson Mandela.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/05/world/africa/nelson-mandela/

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Algeria: going forwad

Algeria is going through a transition that brings both opportunities and great challenges. Since the turning point of Algeria’s gaining independence, the country has made some efforts to open its economy that, in fact, achieved significant success. Yet, a more challenging adjustment lies in the political ills. The attempt to redistribute powers being skewed to the independence war veterans encounters opposition from those in power. At the same time, the same group of military leaders has been struggling to find a right balance with the former colonizer. If Algeria wants advance politically and economically, it should diverge the concentrated power from the military, increase cooperation with the Western powers, and diversify its economic.

First, gradual abandonment of patrimonial governance is beneficial for Algerian domestic politics as well as foreign policy. Algeria is often seen as a hawkish nation when it comes to security issues. Not only do incidents with Mali and Tunisia affairs not increase Algerian sphere of influence but also hamper its voices in the Africa Union. While Algerian military leaders push for peace talk and counter-terrorism regional cooperation, such image sends off a disappointing message. The internal power struggle impedes the emergence of a coherent and consistent foreign policies. Algerian leaders need to find a way to a soft and fair transition that would end the revolutionary legitimacy of the elites but must avoid any drastic change.

Second, Algeria should strengthen tie with its former colonize, Franc, for important strategic purposes. France has a rich legacy in the region, including but not limited to language, cultural, and economic issues. Given Algeria’s ambition to take up the leader role in North Africa, France’s support is critical. In addition, the counter-terrorism war Algeria wages in the past 10 years requires cooperation on the global scale, necessitating surveillance and technological transfer from the experienced countries, particularly France and the U.S.

In terms of economic policy, diversification is the key to development. Algeria’s GDP per capita has increased significantly over the past few decades, thanks to its rich oil fields. Algeria should continue to take advantage of oil revenues and extend the supply network with China and the European countries, which it has realized by the recent contract with Total – the biggest oil company in France.  Nevertheless, while oil revenues provide the country with a critical source of capital to leverage the economy, it contributes to the widening income inequality chasm. Algeria should channel oil money into educational and infrastructural development project to improve human capital stock as well as equitable economic distribution. Importantly, such economic diversification can serve as an insurance to shield the country from the volatility of the global economy.

References:

http://www.mepc.org/journal/middle-east-policy-archives/algeria-search-economic-and-political-future?print

 

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Africa’s First Aerial Elephant Census

Interesting article regarding environment conservation in Africa, specifically with respect to falling elephant numbers in Africa. There will be the first aerial headcount of Africa’s elephant population. There has been a 50% decline in African population over the past 35 years but certain populations have not ever been studied. This census hopes to close the gaps in existing elephant numbers in Africa.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/africa-elephant-census-capture-falling-numbers

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Sierra Leone

One of the most crucial issues that Sierra Leone faces is its high levels of corruption within government. Being one of the most corrupt countries in West Africa, as indicated by Transparency International, Sierra Leone’s government needs to address its high levels of corruption. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which was established in 2008, has been successful in many areas, and, with the added ability to prosecute directly, there is an indication that the levels of corruption could decrease dramatically. In order to address the issues of poverty and underdevelopment of the economy, it is crucial to address corruption in order to increase the possibility of foreign investment.

Although Sierra Leone’s economy is highly dependent on mineral resources, there needs to be a shift away from those resources and a focus on the diversification of the economy, which can be spurred by an increase in foreign investment. The extraction of minerals has been essential to the economy as a whole, but the exploitation, illegal/over-mining, and smuggling of those resources has caused conflict within the country already. Not only does the extraction of minerals contribute to conflict, but also the beneficiaries of the extraction of minerals does not benefit the population as a whole. Because two thirds of the population practices subsistence agriculture, the majority of the population within Sierra Leone lives in poverty. If foreign investment is increased, not only will it provide a diversification of economy, but it will provide an increase in industrial jobs that will be available and potentially benefit the population as a whole.

Although Sierra Leone’s politicians need to focus on attracting foreign investment into the country in order to improve the economy, it is also crucial to develop adequate infrastructure that will support the new levels of investment. Because of Sierra Leone’s past conflicts, it is crucial to recognize that the median age of the population of Sierra Leone is only 19; 41% of the population is between the ages of 0 to 14 according to the CIA World Factbook. Although the demand for unskilled labor can increase with investment, it is also important to have a proportion of the population that can provide other skilled services, which is what education can provide. An implementation of a strong educational program can be crucial in the development of the country because a large proportion of the population is at an age where education is still a viable option. By providing an effective public education system, Sierra Leone could see a rise in the middle class, which can, in turn, produce an increase in the middle class of the country.

Sierra Leone is a country that has been marked by very violent conflicts within its borders, which drove many to leave the country. Today, there is an increasing number of refugees who are returning to Sierra Leone’s cities, which has created an city whose resources and infrastructure have become overwhelmed. Although foreign investment and the diversification of the economy are crucial, it is also important for Sierra Leone’s politicians to focus on solving the issues within its country in order to create a stable government, population, and economy.

 

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sl.html

http://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00019923.html

http://www.voanews.com/content/sierra-leone-disputes-corruption-report/1701554.html

http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2013/07/corruption-sierra-leone

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Sierra_Leone

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Recommendations for Cote d’Ivoire’s Development

Cote d’Ivoire, like many African states, has been socially and economically disadvantaged throughout history. Hindered by the effects of colonialism, the African state has struggled through rampant corruption, bad governance and internal conflict. In order to address the nation’s social and economic issues and turn conditions around Cote d’Ivoire’s leaders must change their relationships with foreign actors in order to establish mutually beneficial outcomes.

The first piece of advice for Cote d’ Ivorian leaders is to alter the state’s relationship with France to one that is mutually beneficial. Due to patronage politics and personal rule, foreign policy has become a tool for leaders to abuse for their personal benefits. Ivorian leaders have often exploited their country to the French in order to maintain their power (Examiner). Houphouet- Boigny accomplished this with his liberal immigration laws that allowed for French expatriates to dominate the labor market. What should be labeled as French neo-colonialism stunts Cote d’Ivoire’s economy and places the interests of France on the forefront. Not only is Cote d’Ivoire dependent on France economically, but also politically. France has continuously interfered with domestic politics in the African state; one example being their backing of President Quattara in the 2010 elections (Sappor). To clarify, maintaining close ties with France is not what is detrimental, instead, it is the fact that this relationship is unequal in benefits. Cote d’Ivoire’s development often suffers at the expense of France’s interests in the state. Cote d’Ivoire’s leaders must do what is best for the state and maintain a relationship with France that is equally beneficial.

In addition to redefining their relationship with France, Cote d’Ivoire could also benefit from broadening its international presence and interactions with other foreign actors. Instead of depending on France both economically and politically, Cote d’Ivoire must establish relations with other states to encourage economic development and infrastructure. Cote d’Ivoire produces a variety of commodity exports from cocoa to petroleum. Currently, France is Cote d’Ivoire’s most vital foreign investor and benefits from the production of Cote d’Ivoire’s extensive resources (Focus Africa).  Ivorian leaders must look towards alternative investors, both regionally and internationally to invest in their markets. They should continue to improve these markets, so private investors will be more confident in their contributions to the economy, which will encourage economic growth (AEO). Fortunately, after the state’s  election conflict, Cote d’Ivoire’s economy has stabilized, allowing economic actors to continue their investments. Cote d’Ivoire must continue to utilize their resources to spark economic growth and development.

These recommendations will involve a great deal of domestic and systematic change that will not occur overnight. African leaders must first make the efforts to place their personal interests aside for the sake of the advancement and well-being of their country. Good governance and effective foreign relations are vital to the development and progress of African states.

 

Works Cited

Godsway Yao Sappor http://www.modernghana.com/news/201366/4/neo-colonialist-ideas-in-africa-after-independence.html

http://www.examiner.com/article/conflict-the-ivory-coast-parts-1-2-neo-colonialism-vs-anti-globalization

Focus Africa http://focusafrica.gov.in/Investment_Opportunities_in_Ivory%20Coast.html

African Economic Outlook

http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/countries/west-africa/cote-divoire/

 

 

 

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Reading Post: Trends and Prospects – April A. Gordon & Donald L. Gordon

April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon’s chapter in Understanding Contemporary Africa titled “Trends and Prospects” outlines the factors that will affect the future of Africa as a continent, and provides insightful analysis on how these factors will be important or how they can be beneficial or harmful. They highlighted three factors that will determine Africa’s future, “increasing political participation and accountable government, becoming a magnet for trade and investment, and utilizing the benefits of globalization and new communications technology to accelerate development.” While these factors are very significant, it is important to understand that Africa is not in a situation where it is easy to implement these ideas. In some countries, the government is more focused on its individuals’ ambitions or the wealthy, and it creates a massive wealth disparity. In others, conflicts, such as that of Mali in 2012, have brought a halt to trade and investment with key countries, while some countries are still struggling to increase Internet access for people that are not from wealth.

One of the most intriguing ideas that this chapter brought up was poverty reduction. It is distressing to think that debt relief, trade and investment and even foreign aid are actually contributing to the poverty in Africa. The “poverty trap,” as this chapter calls it, is a result of corrupt officials or elites taking a majority of the benefits from things like foreign aid, with very little trickling down to the people who actually need it. This is a major problem that Africa should seek to solve soon, especially if it wants to have any hopes of reaching its MDG goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015. The chapter highlighted a well-known way for Africa to increase its economic growth, through investment from nations like the BRIC nations. China, for example, has been a key investor in Africa for a decade. But the problem with investment is that sometimes it can lead to exploitation, such as the “resource curse.” If the investing nations choose to invest for their own benefit more than Africa’s benefit, and the corrupt government regime prevents the money from reaching the poor, Africa as a continent will not be able to reduce poverty and will increase the wealth disparity. This could lead to conflict or rebellion in certain countries, something that would push investors away further, creating a cyclical problem.

With countries like China and the US investing in sectors like infrastructure, healthcare and education, Africa could see benefits from it. Education will lead to an increase in literacy, and could lead to more people in the younger generations seeking jobs. Foreign investment could lead to some of these people getting more jobs. The chapter does, however, highlight the danger in this situation. For example, while some African nations are thrilled with Chinese investment, the risks can be a violation of human rights in the working space, or even Chinese people being sent over to Africa for the more important jobs, possibly creating a glass ceiling for African employees. Foreign countries could see Africa as cheap labor, which in the long term needs to change in order for Africa to become a bigger player in international business. However, in the short term, as Africa seeks economic growth, ideas like Gordon’s idea that Africa, with improvements in information technology, can become a big player in the BPO industry would benefit the continent and hopefully help it push economic growth further to create a sustainable and secure future.

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Mali and the Future

The biggest concerns for Mali in the future are the state of Mali’s government, its economy and its foreign relations. Mali’s government is currently attempting to stabilize a country that was in complete turmoil last year. The 2012 Northern Mali Conflict left Mali in a state of uncertainty and instability, with Mali’s foreign relations being heavily effected by the conflict and its aftermath. As one of the world’s poorest countries, it is important for Mali to use international relations to help stimulate economic growth. This could be in the form of aid, trade, investment or even debt relief. Mali also needs to ensure that it maintains beneficial alliances with countries from the West and possibly from the East as well. In addition, Mali needs to find a way to quell the threat of the rebels that are still present in their country, and solidify the current democratic regime to ensure political stability and security.

As highlighted in a few previous posts, prior to the 2012 conflict, Mali was an active player in the War on Terror, a model democracy and a beneficial ally of the US. The US invested in Mali, while Mali in return became a market for US business, cooperated with the War on Terror and even had its soldiers trained by Americans. But the conflict has resulted in the US suspending all relations and distance itself from Mali. Mali’s economy needs the investment that the US was providing in sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure. The US can still play a pivotal role in Mali’s future, but in order for this to happen, Mali would need to display signs of control and stability. Furthermore, Mali reaffirm its status as one of Africa’s most democratic countries would be very helpful in convincing the US to return to the table. How Mali can do this still remains to be seen, but if the current government manages to control the threat of the Tuareg rebels, a beneficial US-Mali relationship is possible.

Another country that could play an important role in Mali’s future is France, who led the intervention in Mali that overthrew the Islamist rebels that were taking control of the northern region in the country. Mali has previously had an ambivalent relationship with France, with France’s colonial period in Mali leaving lasting effects on the country, most notably as the French used Mali as a means of acquiring primary or raw resources, without too much consideration for Mali’s economic stability in the future. However, if Mali is unable to rekindle a beneficial relationship with the US, it would be a good idea for them to reach out to France, who could offer Mali investment and aid.

On a similar note, China has a large influence in Algeria and Guinea, two of Mali’s neighboring countries. Should Mali need investment, it should seek to improve relations with China, a country that has been investing all around Africa, including infrastructure, healthcare and education. China could be interested in this to increase its influence in Western Africa.

On another hand, Mali also needs to be careful with how much aid it receives. Gordon states that “Foreign aid is a two-edged sword,” and this statement is very true as aid can cause a number of problems, such as corruption or wealth disparity. It is very important that the Malian government (assuming it has Mali’s and not it’s own best interests in mind) seeks the means to allocate aid such that it is beneficial to the country as a whole, and not simply the wealthy or government elite. With strong foreign relations, a stable government and active investment, Mali could see itself flourish and could improve its political and economic status in Africa and the world.

 

 

Sources:

http://recom.wider.unu.edu/article/foreign-aid-and-malian-democracy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_aid_to_Mali http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_%E2%80%93_United_States_relations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China%E2%80%93Mali_relations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_relations_of_Mali

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/10/us-mali-mining-idUSBRE9891DP20130910

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Mozambique: Where to go from here

In 1992 16 years of civil war came to an end. Multi-party elections were held, at least on the surface, and foreign investment was gradually introduced, setting the stage for Mozambique’s present growing economy which averages 7% annual growth for the past 18years. Mozambique is still plagued by poverty with an annual per capita income of just $400. Recently, however, coal and offshore natural gas deposits have been discovered, setting the stage for investments that could exceed the country’s $10billion GDP in the next five years (1). Natural gas near the Tanzanian border has been discovered by Anadarko, a US-based exploration firm, and is described as the biggest such find in the pat 10 years in Mozambique.

The biggest question I have moving forward is “who will actually benefit?” Will Mozambique and its people, all of its people, see an increase in revenue and the benefits of that increase, or will it just be those at the top? In other words, will Mozambique turn into a Botswana (free of corruptions) or Angola (oil-rich, yet can’t account from $32billion of government oil revenue according to the IMF)? (1). Frelimo, the ruling party, has been in power since 1994, and is suspected, as “democratic” single-party states have demonstrated, to be reelected in the parliamentary and presidential polls for 2014. One major concern is usually in regards to neopatrimonial regimes and their tendency to allocate state resources for private gains. This is due largely as a means of maintaining political power due to the implementation of a democratic system in a patron-client continent. However in Mozambique the Frelimo party sees little opposition at the moment from other organizations, and thus has a golden opportunity to invest in the development of the country. Poor infrastructure has prevented the full realization of export capability by mining companies. In the Tete province, mining companies have a solid grip on concessions, with Rio Tinto and Vale holding concessions that contain 4billion and 6billion tons of coal, roughly (2). With the discovery of oil now it is incredibly promising and possible that foreign investors will play a much bigger role in developing deals with Frelimo to start development on the infrastructure. This in turn can increase export capability, and thus provide a solid flow of revenue to the country. The booming mining sectors will need power. This provides massive incentive for both foreign investors and Frelimo to electrify the entire country. It is estimated that by 2013-2014 all district capitals will be connected to the national grid.

Thus my advice to Mozambique’s top officials is simple: Invest in the infrastructure. Development of the infrastructure will increase export capabilities, thus enticing more foreign investors to invest and bring with them not only money but also the potential for trade, tourism and private business. Increased infrastructure, if used correctly, should help alleviate poverty, and in theory continue to solidify Frelimo’s relationship with the people of Mozambique. Much like in traditional patron-client relations, if Frelimo can provide for the people, the people will help keep Frelimo in power.

1)http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mozambiques-future-is-still-uncertain-2012-02-02

2)http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/why-mozambiques-future-looks-promising/25500/

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