bulletin of the AFRICA PROGRESS PANELVolume 4, Issue 2 — 28 January 2011
Africa Progress Panel
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Pandora's Ballot Box
With at least 18 elections coming up, we have known for quite some time that 2011 would be an important year for African democracy. The momentous events of January alone have shown that it may be more, possibly even the beginning of another wave of democratization – it would be the fourth and could be the most powerful. Yes, there still is the despicable stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire and what Mo Ibrahim called democratic recessions in many African countries, but the peaceful referendum in South Sudan, the revolution in Tunisia and the unprecedented protests in Egypt are signs that the information age has changed the dynamics of accountability and increased the pressure on governments to deliver results for all citizens, not just a narrow elite of friends and extended family.
The reactions of African countries to these events are another encouraging sign. With some notable but unsurprising exceptions, most African countries quickly sided with the forces of democracy and positive change. They have now caught up with Africa’s regional organizations which have become quick in condemning unconstitutional changes in government and placing sanctions on those that are seen to subvert due processes. Their clear positions and actions differ markedly from the infamous policy of non-interference practiced in the past.
In another break with the past, the international community is becoming involved early and strongly, albeit still somewhat selectively. Even the previously reluctant Switzerland and France, for many years the favorite retreats of Africa’s big men, have now agreed to freeze bank accounts, enact travel bans and facilitate the repatriation of stolen assets. Some leaders may still feel above the law, but pressure on them is growing by the day, in Africa and elsewhere, including through the work of bodies like the International Criminal Court.
All these changing dynamics are also forcing the international private sector to take a stance. In Cote d’Ivoire, for instance, companies have temporarily suspended bean purchases to increase financial pressure on the ousted president Laurent Gbagbo.
While much of this is great news, the changing global and African dynamics have opened a Pandora’s Box where the risks of increased instability are just as plentiful as the opportunities of democracy.
- Overshadowed by the popular uprising that toppled Tunisia’s president and post-election unrest in Ivory Coast, Africa’s first presidential election of the year took place in the Central African Republic on Sunday with a voter turnout reportedly better than that of the 2005 polls, and security officials were better behaved than in previous elections. However, the election was said to be marred by irregularities that could undermine the process.
- Following the overthrow and removal of the Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, protests have been erupting across the Arab World. The question millions of Arabs now are posing is whether the Tunisian experience will cause a domino effect and to what extent these protests will generate desired results.
- Pressure is mounting to end stalemate in Abidjan days before the two-month deadline for a negotiated solution to Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential deadlock. UN officials are gravely concerned that the political deadlock could ultimately lead to genocide as both sides of the conflict consolidated their forces and that further use of armed force could bring the nation to the brink of destruction.
- More than 99 percent of voters in South Sudan have backed seperation from the north, according to partial results released at a data centre in the southern capital. Although the official result is not expected until February 14, there is little doubt of the results. What will happen following the south’s probable independence and what this means for the continent is still unclear.
- The World Economic Forum in Davos opened on Wednesday with 2,500 world decision makers, amongst which only 20% are women – a wide discrepancy between facts and speeches.
- Amidst high tensions there have been calls for restraint following the disbanding of the main opposition party in Gabon. In part inspired by the power struggles in Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire, the opposition party's Executive Secretary Andre Mba Obame claims he won the recent poll and has declared himself 'president'. The Interior Ministry has accused him of treason.
- International partners at the AU Summit have made fresh pledges of aid and diplomatic support for Africa, including Japan pledging $15 billion in aid over the next three years to support Africa’s development .
AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK
- The AU faces a serious funding challenge unless the member states during this week’s AU Summit finds alternative sources of funding
- The ongoing AU Summit hopes to reach a breakthrough on the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire
- A $25m investment by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) will improve ICT infrastructure on the African continent, while the Gambia and Mali through support by the World Bank logs onto the Internet by optical fiber
- Telephone operator Bharti Airtel and IBM joins partnership to improve telecommunications in Africa
- UN allocates $84m for neglected emergencies, with African countries being the top-receivers; Somalia $15m, Ethiopia $11m, Chad $8m and Kenya $6m
- Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, launches 100-day action plan, partly focusing on support to national partners and promoting coherence within the UN system
- Aid agencies launches a $32.7m appeal to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Côte d’Ivoire
- UN launches an initiative to create sustainable urban transport in the East African capitals of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda
- UN sets its humanitarian agenda for 2011 with the goal of saving more lives more quickly, and for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to be more adaptable to crises
- UNCTAD releases update on global investment trends, revealing that Foreign Direct Investment to Africa declined by 14% during 2010, while it rose in other developing regions
- The World Bank announces that a new strategy for Africa will be launched in March 2011, outlining a revised approach with deepened partnership with Africa over the next 5 years
- The World Bank allocates $49,3 billion to combat poverty and spur growth in the world’s poorest countries
- Ghana receives $215m in poverty reduction support from the World Bank
In the blogs...
- World Banks Africa Can End Poverty Blog: Seven steps to structural transformation, 26 Jan. 2011
This blog offers a seventh step to the already proposed six-step plan for identifying industries that could help developing countries industrialize.
|24-31 Jan||16th African Union Summit: AU HQ-Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
|29-31 Jan||Meetings of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS: AU HQ-Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
|31 Jan||Niger Presidential Elections|
|2-4 Feb||UNCTAD Multi-year Expert Meeting on Investment for Development (3rd session): Geneva, Switzerland|
|6-11 Feb||World Social Forum: Dakar, Senegal|
|10-11 Feb||OECD Workshop on the Green Growth Strategy: Paris, France|
- All Africa: Continent braces itself for democracy? As most countries prepare for elections
While elections bring enthusiasm and hope for democratic consolidation and change, more often than not elections in Africa are notorious for spawning violence. As 18 African countries prepare to conduct elections this year that might determine a change in leadership, many fear that the processes will be accompanied by violence. The author thus calls on the AU to enhance its role of responding to, mediating and resolving election-related violence and crisis.
- Pambazuka News: Bye-bye Ben Ali…but where does that leave Tunisia?
The author writes about the uncertain future of Tunisia following the popular uprising that made Zine Abbedine Ben Ali flee his country. He advocates for the continued debate about the need for political renewal in the Arab world.
- Daily Monitor: Can we talk honestly about homosexuality? Following the murder of a Ugandan gay rights activist, the author argues that the Ugandan Anti Homosexuality Bill will not eliminate homosexuality and might cement the discrimination of sexual minorities.
- Mail & Guardian: Nodding along to Stiglitz’s tune: The author agrees with Stiglitz’s basic proposition that punitive taxes on things such as carbon are a good thing and outlines the complex but yet global role that South Africa can play as hosts of COP17.
People are clamoring for democracy and the right to participate in government
- APP Chair Kofi Annan in his interview with CNN at Davos
- Brazil warns of a trade war because of currency manipulation by China, US and others, and urges G20 to address the problem
- China grants $7.6m to DRC, following an agreement to renovate and construct more than 6,000 km of roads, 3,000 km of railway tracks, two dams, several hospitals, housing and schools
- The EU published its revised Operational Framework on Aid Effectiveness, aimed at accelerating progress and deliver results during 2011
- The EC impose an assets freeze and extends visa ban to persons and entities obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire
President Sarkozy announced his priorities for this year’s G8 and G20 agenda. (Speech in French)
- Germany grants €17m to Mauritania to support local fisheries and good governance of natural resources (Article in French)
- German Development Minister Dirk Niebel reiterates his governments' continued support for Ethiopia's development efforts
- The Government of South Africa helps improve water infrastructure in Zimbabwe with a contribution of $550,000
- South Africa launches a national development agency with prospects of boosting the country’s status as an emerging economic power and champion of the African continent
- UK business leaders aims at boosting trade and investment with South Africa , in line with UK’s commitment to double bilateral trade with South Africa by 2015
- The UK development agency (DFID) donates $11,5 million to local entrepreneurs in Tanzania to help them grow their business and fight poverty
- US government representatives conduct discussion on its policy for Africa ‘A look at the year ahead’, reiterating commitment of finding new models for development and partnerships with African countries
- USAID supports health service development in Kenya with a $100 m Health Project
- US commends progress made by Nigeria with reforming its power sector, and commits to further assisting the country with power sector reform
- The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 report states that developing countries are driving recovery, and that Africa is rebounding from the global economic crisis
- A study by UNECA entitled “A technological resurgence: Africa in the global flow of technology,” shows rapid technological development and an emerging industrial base in Africa
- A UK Government think tank, Foresight, published a report arguing for a fundamental change of the food system and urgent action to feed the world’s hungry
- A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development argues that thoughtful urban planning can play a big role in limiting carbon emissions
- End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign releases updated Matrix of commitments and initiatives around the Millennium Development Goals
- UN publishes three reports on mitigation costs and ways to reduce industrial carbon emissions in developed and developing countries