bulletin of the AFRICA PROGRESS PANELVolume 5, Issue 4 — 23 February 2012
Africa Progress Panel
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Elections: A New Challenge for Africa?
The challenge of elections is not unique to Africa. For years, established democracies throughout the world have struggled with issues of access to power and elite decision-making. In Africa, however, these issues pose an additional challenge to the continent’s development.
People’s perceptions of Africa are changing every day. Once thought of as “the hopeless continent”, Africa is now increasingly seen as “the hopeful continent”. As Peter da Costa recently wrote on the APP’s blog, “Africa is the new frontier”. Yet, despite all the gains made, many people in Africa still live in very poor conditions.
At the APP’s recent expert consultation, Karuti Kanyinga, Director of South Consulting, said there is growing discourse that Africa’s problems, as well as the challenges ordinary people face on a daily basis, can be solved through democratic governance and accountability. According to Kanyinga, however, elections can also be a source of conflict and instability, and therefore an obstacle to development where safeguards are not adopted to ensure diverse representation. “Some elections conducted in the recent past,” he argued, “cannot pass the democratic test… Instead of stabilizing societies, they have made them more fragile.”
It is difficult to ignore Kanyinga’s words, especially if one takes into account what has been happening in Senegal lately. Ever since the country’s highest court controversially declared President Abdoulaye Wade eligible to run for a third term in this weekend’s presidential elections, Senegal has been rocked by demonstrations. This, together with increased incidents of police harassment and intimidation in recent months, has led some commentators to fear that the “Ivorian syndrome” might be looming in Senegal.
There is also growing concern over Zimbabwe, whose president of 32 years, Robert Mugabe, said in an interview this week that there will “definitely” be elections in the country this year, despite calls from the Prime Minister, the opposition party, the AU, as well as various human rights groups to postpone the elections until key constitutional reforms have been implemented.
With all this in mind, Mwangi S. Kimenyi, Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, points out that there is, nevertheless, evidence to suggest that where elections are held on a regular basis, leaders are usually more accountable and service delivery improves considerably. “Furthermore,” he says, “elections have provided citizens with a voice to express how they should be governed and the services they demand.”
What is it, then, about elections that can make them so problematic? There are several things that can negatively impact elections, such as electoral fraud and ineffective electoral systems and institutions, but both Kanyinga and Kimenyi argue that one of the most destructive aspects of elections is their influence on ethnic politics. Unfortunately, politicians the world over have often used ethnicity as a catalyst for political mobilization. This can have devastating consequences, as we have already seen. In order to counter this, it is important for people to discuss and settle on what a person requires to feel like a citizen in his/her country, as well as what it means to be a member of a political community, where both the individual and the state are obligated to respect their own and each other’s rights and duties.
With several important elections just around the corner, states must remember that in order to effectively address African development challenges, they must focus on responding to the needs and concerns of their citizens and not on leveraging divisive rhetoric for political gain.
Elections determine who is in power, but they do not determine how power is used.
- Paul Collier, author of Bottom Billion
Presidential and legislative elections will be held in Senegal on 26 February. Following pre-electoral violence, a joint AU-ECOWAS mission headed by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, is in the country seeking to promote dialogue and ensure peaceful, fair and transparent elections in that country.
An international meeting with representatives of more than 40 governments is taking place in London with the aim of resolving the political crisis in Somalia. Somalis are hopeful that the meeting will yield results, despite media skepticism. Two days ago, the UN Security Council called for a large increase to the African Peace Force to 17,000 troops up from the current 12,000.
Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan to jointly fund new oil pipeline at a cost of $ 22 billion. When completed, the transport corridor is expected to bring considerable savings on transport and shipping costs and enhance investments.
Two of the world’s major payments companies, Visa and MasterCard, are targeting the East African market and potentially reducing costly cash dependency and helping businesses and individuals to expand their reach. Visa is also partnering with the Rwandan government to provide electronic-based financial services.
New Oil finds off Liberia and Sierra Leone have raised hopes that if confirmed to be commercially viable, production would spur the reconstruction of these two countries reeling from recent conflict.
AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK
- The AfDB Group has made two grant agreements totalling €2.9 million to Togo to fund governmental reforms and the country’s 2012 action plan
- AfDB makes €11.7 million loan to Niger to improve governance and growth in the country
- The AfDB approved a loan of $100 million to improve water and sanitation in the city of Zaria in northern Nigeria through the African Development Fund
- AfDB approves $41 million funding to boost graduate employment in Malawi
- EAC to develop common regional market with the aim of enhancing mobility of labour and services across the bloc
- ECOWAS to provide $3 million humanitarian assistance to victims of the food crisis and rebel attacks in the Sahel-Sahara region of West Africa
- ECOWAS elects new Chairman, Ivorian President, Alassane Ouatarra
- ECOWAS to introduce single currency in the sub-region by 2020, according to the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament
- IFAD President commits to pull up to 90 million people out of poverty
- IFAD will provide $9.8 million and $5.6 million loans to the Republic of the Congo and Botswana respectively to help improve food security and incomes of smallholder producers with a particular focus on young people and women
- UN increases troops for AU Somalia Force, AMISON
- The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the cocaine trade in West and Central Africa generates 900 million a year
- UN says fight against cholera in the DRC remains in need of funding
- World Bank opens new Global Center on Conflict, Security and Development in Kenya to better help countries in conflict
- World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, announces plans to step down
In the blogs...
- African Arguments: Diary: Whatever happened to Africa’s rapid urbanisation? 22 Feb. 2012 – Magnus Taylor, Managing Editor of African Arguments Online, discusses Debbie Pott’s paper for the Africa Research Institute’s series, Counterpoints, and why she says that most of the received wisdom on urban Africa is wrong.
- The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog: Somalia conference needs to clear the way for effective relief efforts, 22 Feb. 2012 – Samir Elhawary, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, argues why politicians at the London conference on Somalia must make moves to ensure that the independence of humanitarian relief is supported and respected.
- The World Bank’s Africa Can… End Poverty Blog: The East Africa ride to middle income, 21 Feb. 2012 – Wolfgang Fengler, the World Bank’s Lead Economist in Nairobi, discusses the ‘race’ between East African countries to be the first to reach middle income status. He argues that while Kenya remains in the lead, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania could very well overtake her, given their impressive and steady growth in recent years.
- UNDP’s Our Perspective Blog: Breaking the food crisis cycle in Africa’s Sahel, 14 Feb. 2012 – Tegegnework Gettu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa, warns that a food crisis is looming in the West of the Sahel. He calls for domestic and international financing to build institutional capacities so as to ensure that communities in the region are better prepared to face such disasters.
- The New Times: Kagame rallies support for small holder farmers, 23 Feb. 2012
President Kagame calls on the world to support smallholder farmers, if it is to meet the twin objectives of feeding the growing population and protecting the environment.
- The Huffington Post: 2012: The year for change in Sierra Leone – and Africa, 22 Feb. 2012 – Julius Maada Bio, former Head of State of Sierra Leone and a candidate for President in the country’s 2012 elections, juxtaposes what the ruling government says is happening in the country with what he believes is actually happening.
- Financial Times: Somalia’s parallels with Afghanistan mean the world must act, 22 Feb. 2012 – Mark Malloch-Brown, Chairman of Global Affairs at FTI Consulting, argues that given the dire situation in which Somalia finds itself at the moment, as well as the parallels between Somalia today and Afghanistan in 2001, something has to be done and that he believes the conference in London is a good place to start.
- The Daily Maverick: Happy birthday, Comrade Bob. Now, beat it! 21 Feb. 2012 – Simon Allison writes to Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, for his 88th birthday, telling him that the best birthday gift he could give Zimbabweans is his resignation.
- The Huffington Post: Defragmenting Africa, 14 Feb. 2012 – Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank's Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programmes for Africa, writes about the obstacles Africa faces in trading with itself. He argues that Africa has integrated with the rest of the world faster than with itself and that this is costing the continent billions of dollars and millions of jobs.
- Brookings Institution: Around the Halls: 2012 Senegal Presidential Election, 10 Feb. 2012 – A series of short opinion pieces written by researchers at the Brookings Institution that look at the key issues and implications of Senegal’s upcoming presidential election.
- Australian-listed African Petroleum Corps. announces a “significant” oil discovery in Liberia, confirming investor hopes that West Africa’s Atlantic coast could possess a wealth of off-shore oil
- Brazil will provide approximately $2.4 million to fund food purchasing programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal
- Canadian experts sound alarm bells over West African famine
- CIDA launches a Fund for Climate Resilience, which aims to improve food security and increase economic growth in Africa
- Chinese oil giant, CNOOC, negotiating with Uganda to invest in the country’s first oil refinery
- China and Kenya sign a contract to vet the quality of goods originating from the Asian nation,in the fight against sub-standard products flooding the domestic market
- EU opens door to “debt relief” for north Africa
- The EU renews its commitment to foster peace and security in Somalia
- The head of the EU praises Ghana’s democratic credentials, saying that the country has been recognized worldwide as a beacon of democracy in Africa
- G20 foreign ministers discuss international issues, including global governance, food safety, climate change and green growth
- UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, says that a failure to end Somalia’s chaos will endanger international security
- UK to double military aid for Somalia
- DFID injects $120 million into Zimbabwe’s health sector
- A report by Save the Children: “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition”, analyses the causes of malnutrition and identifies solutions that have proven to be effective. Crucially, the report also examines the political factors that contribute to the global burden of hunger and malnutrition.
- “Addressing Climate Change Challenges in Africa: A Practical Guide towards Sustainable Development” published by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) provides policy makers working in or with Africa with a practical guide on addressing climate change within sustainable development policies and programmes.
- Opening up energy markets to private sector investment through the introduction of smart government policies will be the key to unlocking Africa's massive renewable energy potential, according to a report from the UNEP.
- World Bank Report says Tanzania on “stairways to economic heaven”
|25 February||Provincial Assemblies Elections: DRC|
|25-26 February||G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meetings: Mexico City, Mexico|
|26 February||Pesidential elections: Senegal|
|27 February – 23 March||UN Human Rights Council (19 session): Geneva, Switzerland|
|1 March||High Level Meeting for the 50th Anniversary of the OECD Development Centre: Pars, France|
|6 March||OECD Launch o f Going for Growth 2012|
|7-10 March||Crans Montana Forum: Brussels, Belgium|