Sunday, 31 May 2009

Africa Maps

Ryan C Briggs has posted this great map based on the number of times African countries feature in the New York Times. Scarlett Lion adds a couple of long-standing Africa map favourites here. I would also add the following take on Uganda to the list, courtesy of Ugandan Insomniac's workmates:

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Campus Water

When it comes to bottled water I have always been a one brand man (for UK-based readers the tap water revolution has yet to hit Uganda. I blame cholera). Highland, Aqua Sipi, Riham, Wavah, Dasani, Ripples, Peak, Refresh and the other atrociously named bottles on offer just don't compete when a bottle of Rwenzori is on sale - although I have to admit being disappointed when I found out it was actually tapped from a swamp at Namanve (also home to a large power station) and not the ice topped border mountains with DRC.

However, my loyalties are now going to be tested as the ever-innovative Makerere Food Science department has launched their very own 'Campus Water'. Now if they could just improve the metallic taste...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Higher Education Minister Slams Makerere

Mr. Mwesigwa Rukutana has been Minister of Higher Education for a little over three months, however he has already begun the baiting of Makerere which is a favourite hobby of most NRM politicians. At a conference of African business academics I attended last week he delivered a highly disingenuous speech of which the following are some highlights:
  • Many universities in the Third World countries turn into opposition agents.
  • In Uganda dons attack the government, condemn the government and castigate the government but make very little contribution in terms of policy.
  • Ugandan academics need to come down from the clouds and live here on Earth with us or they will remain irrelevant.
  • When did practical ideas ever emanate from Makerere?
  • Where are the Makerere professors? I only ever hear from Mamdani and Mazrui.
Of course the reality is that there are plenty of ideas coming out of Makerere but they are ignored if they fail to conform to the narrow political agenda of the government. For example Dr Augustus Nwagaba has publicly argued that Uganda's rapid population growth is likely to harm the country's attempts to reduce poverty, which is contrary to the President's position that it is actually a good development for Uganda. There are countless more cases like this.

It would also help if the line minister focused more on getting the university the resources it desperately needs rather than repeatedly criticising the place.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem Dies

For those of you who haven't yet heard, pan-Africanist giant Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem tragically died in a car accident near Nairobi yesterday. He has recently been involved with trying to promote a peaceful solution to the Migingo island dispute, and leaves behind a vast legacy of writing and activism. Alex de Waal has this moving tribute:

Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the most irrepressible Pan Africanist of his generation, died in Nairobi on 24 May 2009. His friends and colleagues are stunned at the loss of a man who was so full of life and humour, such a determined Afro-optimist, and such a devoted father to his children, Aisha and Aida. Africa is impoverished by his untimely death...

Tajudeen was a Director of Justice Africa, Chairperson for the Pan African Development Education and Advocacy Programme (PADEAP) and Chair of the International Governing Council of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). He joined the United Nations as its coordinator for outreach on the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, and was living and working from a base in Nairobi in recent years.

Tajudeen never allowed his critical sense degenerate into cynicism or disillusion. His confidence in Africa and Africans to resolve their problems, whatever the setbacks, was always undimmed. His untimely death leaves a vacuum of human energy and hope that will be difficult to fill.

Kabushenga in Unfortunate Salute

Possibly time for Vision Voice to hire a new marketing team?

H-T: Rowan

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Quote of the Day

"[The] National Resistance Movement is modelled along the lines of the Communist Party of China"

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo quoted by Angelo Izama. At least they're being honest about it I suppose...

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Tories on International Development

Owen Barder's excellent podcast series 'Development Drums' has an interview this week with Shadow International Development Minister, Andrew Mitchell (pictured). Mitchell has held the post for four years so is well versed in the challenges facing DFID and aid more generally. On most topics he follows the Labour lead, for example guaranteeing that the Department will remain independent with a minister in cabinet (historically Conservative governments have tended to have development under the control of the Foreign Office).

Mitchell does, though, propose some changes. He wants a Department that focuses on outcomes rather than inputs, that engages more with the private sector, and rather cryptically calls for an injection of 'civil service DNA into DFID'. Having listened to the section several times I am still not entirely sure what he means by this. I do, however, agree that there should be more emphasis on the private sector and the critical role it has in the development of any country.

Also in the interview Barder talks about the general consensus that exists in the British political mainstream on development policy. While I agree that Cameron and most of his front bench speak genuinely on the issue I return to my analysis in a LabourList piece from February:

Andrew Mitchell may have tried to drag his party kicking and screaming to the centre ground on the issue, but does anyone truly believe that the phalanx of right-wing MPs behind him will not influence the character and content of a Tory development policy?

To give this some context a group of backbench Tories tabled a bill today (that was withdrawn at the last minute) which would have effectively abolished the minimum wage in Britain. These extreme MPs will evidently have more power if and when a Conservative government takes office, a fact that we would do well not to forget.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Recession Brings Ugandanomics to France

The New York Times had a great piece yesterday on how the French have been pouring money into cows as an alternative form of savings during this period of rock-bottom interest rates at the banks. The featured farmer's Holsteins will give a 4-5% return on investment through the selling of their offspring:

“At this difficult time, it’s a much better investment than real estate and much more tangible than the stock market,” Mr. Marguerit said. He then proceeded to praise the new interest “in natural, organic and lasting things” among the French, who have always romanticized the countryside and imagined themselves shrewd peasants at heart.

“This is part of the patrimony,” he said. In the steep financial crash, “we’re having a moment of realization — we’re landing hard and people are asking real questions.” Diversify into cows? Why not?

Of course any self-respecting Muyankole or Muhima could have told you that a long time ago, not least the Big Man himself.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The BNP Slurs Uganda

Ugandan Insomniac has been having fun with the Simon Darby (he of the far-right British National Party) comments about Uganda last week. For those of you that missed his rant this is the best part:

Dr Sentamu should not interfere in the political process. He’s not in any position to tell me or anyone else who is, or isn’t, English. If I went to Uganda and told them that they were all genetic mongrels and that anyone could be Ugandan I’d still be picking spears out of myself now.

He went on to defend his remarks:

I am not implying that all Ugandan people use spears at all. I was speaking specifically about the indigenous people. The spear is an integral part of their culture and lifestyle.

Ah, the indigenous people. That explains it. Ugandan Insominiac then helpfully compiled a day in her life to help Darby with his future proclamations about the country:

Once I’m done with my breakfast of warm buffalo blood and slugs, I’ll shower in the jungle waterfalls outside my cave and smear myself with pig fat. I think I’ll wear my chicken bone earrings today; they go well with my goat skin skirt and my leopard teeth necklace...It’s gonna be busy, but only after my supper of wild mushrooms, ostrich eggs and giraffe intestines, will I write an appropriate response to Mr. Darby.

It is comments like his that reinforce my belief that the best way to deal with the BNP is to let them spout their rubbish and then tackle it head on. Gagging them invariably results in free publicity and undeserved sympathy. In this case I cannot believe that his ignorant, juvenile and racist comments will win them any votes in next month's elections.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Review of Moyo's Dead Aid in The Independent

My review of Dambisa Moyo's controversial new book 'Dead Aid' is now on-line at The Independent's website here. There have of course been a huge number of reviews already so I tried to see how practical her prescriptions would be specifically in Uganda. This is an extract:

The vast, and often complacent, global aid establishment has rarely been as panicked as they have since the publication of Dambisa Moyo’s debut book ‘Dead Aid’. The Zambian ex-investment banker, educated at Oxford and Harvard, declares the $300 billion of aid money that sub-Saharan Africa has received since 1970 as not only wasted, but as a key factor in the decline of relative living standards in many countries. Moyo concludes that all direct government to government aid should be cut off in five years (emergency humanitarian and charity-based aid are spared).

For those that have spent years campaigning for increases in global aid the idea is anathema. It is made all the more galling that the suggestion has come from an African woman. How can an African, they ask, have the temerity to call for a decrease in aid?

Interestingly President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has a piece in today's Financial Times which also discusses the book. This is part of his take on it:

Dambisa Moyo’s controversial book, Dead Aid, has given us an accurate evaluation of the aid culture today. The cycle of aid and poverty is durable: as long as poor nations are focused on receiving aid they will not work to improve their economies. Some of Ms Moyo’s prescriptions, such as ending all aid within five years, are aggressive. But I always thought this was the discussion we should be having: when to end aid and how best to end it.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Stomachs Rumble at Makerere

Not for the first time the university administration is threatening to stop providing free meals for students on Government scholarships. The above cartoon is the take on the situation by Mr Ras, the New Vision's often inspired cartoonist.

In other news lecturers are likely to hold exam marks hostage until salary arrears have been cleared. The situation prompted a stinging editorial in The Daily Monitor:

The long-term solution is to run Makerere like a private university. It must be allowed to charge, within reasonable ranges, fees that allow it to return value in the form of good education. The government should scrap its sponsorship programme and replace it with a student loan scheme which beneficiaries have to pay back.

This way, Makerere shall have a predictable and sustainable source of funding and shall have a vested interest in providing quality education, say by paying lecturers well and on time, in order to attract top students. The students, with their loans in mind, will also ensure that they demand and get an education that allows them to succeed on the outside.

Other private universities in Uganda do not have Makerere’s chronic financial woes and are catching up on quality. It is time for the Ivory Tower to learn a few tips from the new kids on the university block.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Links etc

I don't normally post link lists but I think these are worth sharing:

1. Alison Evans pays tribute to the 11 years Simon Maxwell spent as Director of the Overseas Development Institute. Maxwell's mantra of 'find out who is making what policy decision and when, and what evidence they need to make it' should be at the forefront of every researchers mind. His attitude reminds me of one of my old Cambridge Professors, Ron Martin, who drummed into us the importance of doing policy relevant research.

2. Rosebell Kagumire chides the Ugandan Journalists Association for accepting a gift of UGX 150m from the President.

3. Paul Collier points out the trillion dollar 'aid' flows from China to the US.

4. For those of you abroad who crave good radio the Africa Online Digital Library has a great podcast series which I've only recently discovered.

5. Nancy Birdsall writes about the disappointment many in the 'development community' have felt about the lack of attention USAID has received during Obama's first 100 days


6. An innovative scheme by Kenyan women's activists to break the country's political impasse.

1912 Update - bonus link:

7. White African charts the rise of the motorcycle taxi (boda-boda) in Africa.