Category Archives: Country Post

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

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

Nelson Mandela Dead

Nice article on the tragic death of Nelson Mandela.

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

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

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

 

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

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

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

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

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

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/

 

 

 

Posted in Country Post | Tagged | Comments Off

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

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

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/

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

J7: Zambian Advice

Although Zambia neighbors relatively poor and corrupt countries, such as the DRC and Angola, it is known to be amongst the more stable countries in Africa. Nevertheless, it still has room for improvement in all areas, politically and economically.

Undoubtedly a country’s economy plays a key factor in its relations with foreign powers. For example, if the goods produced within a country are desired and have a comparatively favorable price, then international actors would want to maintain good relations with the country in order to receive economical benefits. Furthermore, in the case of Zambia, its minerals and copper are so demanded for that not only did Chinese investors take over its mines, but its economy depends on the price of copper. With the fluctuation of copper prices follows a fluctuation of its economy’s status. In fact, when the prices of copper severely declined in the late 1970s, Zambia’s economy collapsed as well. Even so, Zambia still has yet to diversify its economy, which is my first advice to its leaders. With diversification, not only will foreign actors be drawn to trade with Zambia, but also it will not have to rely on copper to stabilize its economy.

Relevant to the lucrative copper economy, Chinese investors have taken over Zambia’s mines and have reportedly violated the rights of the Zambian workers, which instilled fights and caused the deaths of both Chinese managers and Zambian workers. Chinese investments may develop the country (in terms of infrastructure and environmental projects) positively, but in regards to the mines and the relationship between the Chinese overseers and the Zambian workers, if the Zambian government does not continually push forth policies in order to benefit its workers (and not just simply be used by the Chinese as a profit bank), then there will be a continued tension between the two parties. In order to maintain good relations and not be subjected under the Chinese and all the while allowing its workers to have better wages, Zambia should reach an agreement with the Chinese to better the working environment. Ultimately, if foreign investments are posing a negative consequence to the host country, it is better off not to have them.

And speaking of negative foreign investments, the topic on foreign aid and whether it has positive effects or negative effects has been widely debated. Although fancy cars and possessing a vast amount of wealth seems appealing, if the Zambian government wants to improve the country and gradually climb out of the hole in which AIDS is rampant and the majority of people live on less than a dollar per day, then it should focus on utilizing foreign aid for development. For instance, Zambia should improve its education sector so that its people will be able to contribute to technological and environmental advancements, which will cause it to become self-sufficient and also strengthen its economy and lead it to be more diverse.

As an internationally well-received country, Zambia is one of the leading role models for other African countries due to its presence in the liberation movements (i.e. providing troops to UN peacekeeping initiatives) and in multiple international organizations. However, if Zambia wants to engage more effectively with foreign actors, it should efficiently use foreign aid in order to achieve internal developments and influence other countries to follow suit, diversify its economy, and work towards a mutual benefit agreement with China. Foreign investments can prove to be beneficial to Zambia, but it has to keep in mind that it is receiving them at a cost. Additionally, Zambia should try to trade and interact with other African countries in order to boost their continental power internationally and economically so that in the future, Africa will not have to depend on foreign investments.

 

(No sources)

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off

Suggestions for Tanzania’s future.

After a semester focusing on African politics and policy in Tanzania, my biggest suggestion for country leaders in order to improve Tanzania’s international relations is to become advocates for Tanzania.  As a whole, Tanzania is considered a relatively politically stable African nation, despite its stagnation in poverty.  External countries continue to invest in Tanzania, in attempts to improve conditions within the country, but despite these efforts, Tanzania remains impoverished with limited infrastructure and few government programs aiding citizens.  While Tanzania continually receives aid from external actors, this aid does little to change the functioning of society, such as creating jobs, enacting health care and education reforms, or improving Tanzania’s economy.  Thus, Tanzanian leaders should advocate for societal reform through foreign aid, instead of accepting any form of aid offered to the country.  Relations with China and the U.S. should continue, but Tanzanian leaders should work to incorporate Tanzanian societal benefits into foreign aid packages.

For example, China uses tide aid to develop infrastructure in Tanzania, which benefits the country by providing new transport systems, but does nothing for the economy since Chinese companies complete the projects almost entirely.  Tanzanian leaders should stress the importance of involving the Tanzanian work force in the projects, both to provide jobs and bring money into the economy.  Instead of accepting Chinese tide aid on its own, Tanzanian leaders should advocate for their country and urge Chinese companies to include Tanzanians in the project.  This will lead to improved infrastructure and job creation, both of which are integral to developing Tanzania.

On the other hand, the U.S. continues to provide foreign aid to Tanzania, with their recent efforts in the Partnership for Growth initiative focusing on improving rural roads and power supply.  Tanzanian leaders, included in the planning process for PFG goals and projects, should continue to emphasize goals such as these that bring direct benefits to all citizens.  Thus, leaders should continue to engage in relations with the U.S. but must continually be involved in the planning process of aid projects so that Tanzanians continue to have agency in the aid projects.

Another way in which Tanzanians can advocate for themselves is by supporting the Serengeti road project.  The proposed project brings controversy over the benefits of connecting Lake Victoria communities to the coast verses the potential costs to the Serengeti ecosystem.  However, Tanzanian policy makers need to realize that in the future, Tanzania needs to become less economically dependent on tourism, and the Serengeti road could help the country to do so, by shifting economic importance to export and trade sectors.  In the long term, the benefits gained from shifting the Tanzanian economy away from tourism would outweigh the debated costs to wildlife.

Tanzanian leaders should also support NGOs with bottom-up, local approaches to development.  These NGOs tend to be more successful by working with Tanzanians on a local level, since they can discuss the concerns and needs of each specific community to address potential solutions.  Success in one community can be easily transferred to a neighboring community with similar concerns.  Building on and adapting successful programs throughout the country could result in dramatic societal reform, whether the NGO focuses on education, political transparency, wildlife conservation, agricultural improvements, or agency of citizens.  Working directly with citizens to address their community needs is the best way to develop efficient, lasting programs that benefit citizens.  In the end, Tanzanian leaders should continue relations with China and the U.S., but should emphasize the need for programs that directly and indirectly benefit all Tanzanians.  Leaders should also address programs which could shift Tanzania’s economic dependence away from tourism and which focus on community needs to develop solutions, such as the Serengeti road and NGOs focused on local reform.

Posted in Country Post | Comments Off