Development Policy


That is according to David Lane speaking at the Pittsburg G-20 . He reasons that Africa has over 1 billion producers and consumers of services of goods. He calls for G20 to make Africa part of the solution to ending poverty in Africa and further more that the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa.

I must say that I agree with him on all accounts.

Yes  he is right in the first instance that Africa has an awful lot of consumers and suppliers.  Africa is also the producer of some of the high end/value products in the world such as diamonds, gold, petrol, coffee, cocoa etc but these products are merely extracted and taken to consumers elsewhere, and when returned the African’s almost always can’t afford them, and those that can often have to travel millions of millions to be able to consume these products. Does any of this make sense to you?

The next point – the next G20 meeting should be held  in Africa and the campaign has started and if you agree please add your name here

 

Africa is almost always part of the agenda at these summits with leaders of the richest countries in world pledging more help for the continent, however these meetings are never held in Africa, unlike  the COMMONWEALTH HEAD OF STATES

 
I can imagine that a lot of money is spent at these meetings, imagine therefore what such a meeting would do for the economy of a small central African country, like Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda, unless of course the organisers of such a meeting opted to fly in everything that would be used, including food service staff etc. But even then, there would inevitably be a trickle down of sorts.

 The economic benefits aside, if you have a matter to resolve with someone isn’t it best that you go to them and do this face to face. Some of the points that come out these meetings regarding Africa are , MAKE AFRICA LEADERS MORE ACCOUNTABLE, END CORRUPTION, IMPROVE GOVERNANCE,  and so on and so forth, but  if the leaders of Africa only ever here this on TV and radio, wouldn’t they be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with them,  a sort of hearsay, Afterall would you take anyone seriously who talked about you behind your back? The natural reaction is one of IF YOU HAVE  SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME,,,,,,

Obama and Clinton have led the way to going to the leaders of Africa and given them some tough love and I do hope that the G20 will follow in their footsteps. They are currently discussing how to lift the world out of the recession but surely the recession is worse amongst the bottom billion of Africa.

 Can the G20 ever see Africa as a key economic player and not a basket case that needs hand out? Is this indeed the solution to Africa’s  ending poverty? Can a whole continent be lifted  out of poverty by AID? Of course not treating Africa as  an economic partner,  a consumer and supplier of goods would go along way to resolving te poverty. food shortages etc experienced by its people.

 

If you have a view either way, I would like to hear from you as usual

If you have followed my blog the over the past  week, you are now at the end of my journey through East Africa.

Leaving Africa I headed back to the UK where I live with a renewed sense of I MUST DO MORE TO HELP GET THESE WOMEN HANDICRAFTS AND TEXTILES TO MARKET!

I had seen women in dire circumstances but doing whatever they could to help themselves out of poverty, without feeling sorry for themselves whatever neither did they ask for handouts of money. One by one they asked that we  share our skills with them so that they could improve their products and be able to compete in world markets, they asked for  fair access to world markets and skills to enable them to serve the sick in their communities!

I also felt that although money was important to kick start programmes it was not necessarily the only factor in efforts to end poverty for reasons of exclusion and practices such as those of Vulture Funds amongst other things. In my minds eye the answer lay in Trade as this is a more sustainable route out of poverty and yet Africa lags behind other continents in trade terms and international trade is very low.

It is largely agreed that the economies of countries cannot grow or be sustained on the basis of international loans or grants. This is certainly true for African women too. The governments/economies lending or giving the money do not have an infinite amount from which to lend/give indefinitely. As well as being unsustainable it is undignified.

Consideration should be given to the kind of trade that adds value at source wherever possible to enable governments to generate income through increased tax revenue. The process of value addition must encompass investments in human resources to ensure that women in particular have the right skills to lift their families out of poverty. There are more details about this on www.raisetrade.com

I hope that my recent blogs have given you the reader an insight of what life if like for folk on the ground and that it ahs demonstrated that resolving poverty in Africa is not simply about the money. I would be interested in others’ view points as well as experiences on issues relating to poverty in Africa

In the last two posts, I wrote about some of the reasons why money isn’t the only missing link in the fight against poverty as well as   RAISE TRADE a new form of trading that brings various stakehaolder together with the view to promoting the notion of VALUE ADD. Over the next few days I will  explore the money issue further and I will present you with conversations that I had with people I work with in Africa.  

I begin with the question  IF IT REALLY ISN’T ABOUT THE MONEY  WHAT ELSE IS THERE?  I answered this question in part in the previous post I will therefore draw from my first conversation to explore it further.

You may recall Tony Blair’s 2005 Commission for Africa, (Blair’s Commission) one of the decisions that came out the commission was the establishment of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa or ICF. The ICF is charged with helping African countries to create a more attractive business environment and realise its potential as a global trading partner. It works to remove real and perceived obstacles to domestic and foreign investment by assisting Africans to prepare and promote the continent as an investment destination (source ICF 2003)

The ICF is based in Africa and in August 2008 I called in on the Chief Executive Omari Issa in Dar es Salaam Tanzania to find out more about their work.

 

I began by asking him about the money. I have heard it said that money is the number one priority and as such a lot of emphasis has been placed on making it easier for people in African and women for that matter to access finance/loans for business

 

Omari: I would argue that money is only part of the equation as we have discovered here at the Investment Climate Facility for Africa

That is interesting would you run me through the issues as you understand them?

Omari: Money is not the only constraint preventing folk from starting and running businesses and whilst access to finance is important it is not the primary factor If we consider the group of women you work with at Ethnic supplies,

1. Education, awareness and skills are the number one priorities that must be addressed to ensure economic success for small to medium business and these are mostly owned by women

2. When we break these down you will appreciate their importance. If you take an example of example one of your producers in Madagascar in order for them to generate an income from their baskets certain conditions must be in place

3. She needs to know where the market is and how she can access that market

4. Secondly she needs to develop her product to such a level as to be acceptable by that market,

5. then she needs to put together a business plan to demonstrates a bankable business

Would you care to elaborate on the last point please?

Omari: Well the banks here have a lot of money that they would like to lend people, I know as I used to work for such institutions. However the banks need reassurance that the person to whom they are lending the money will be able to repay it and the only way they can know is through a business plan. Women also need to demonstrate that they can handle balance sheets and this is a question of skills. An important factor is the environment in which businesses are run and that is where ICF comes in

How so?

 Omari: The environment in which to run a business is important as is money. The environment covers issues such as Customs and Exercise, access to Legal systems that expedites commercial disputes, property ownership, political stability, speedy Company registration even issues such as power outage

Why is power outage such an issue?

Omari: Imagine a Woman who owns a hairdressing saloon but can’t afford a generator if there was a power outage on a Saturday which is ideally her busiest day of the week for her how much business would she lose? Most of the large corporations have access to generators and are therefore not necessarily affected by power outages and as it happens this was the case when I went to a barbers last Saturday  (22.8.08) instead of going elsewhere I was happy to have my hair cut the traditional way with scissors otherwise the barber would have lost my business

 

 How does easy and fast business registration help?

 

Omari: It is important that the setting up of and running of businesses is streamlined, barriers to importing and exporting of goods is made easier by clear and easy to understand customs and exercise regulation? The efficient Customs and Exercise practice and speedy business registration are necessary but are these need to matched up with skilled people on the ground If you can step back and consider a woman who has to travel at least 6 to 8 hours to register a business, by the time she arrives to the Company House office chance are that they will have closed for the day upon her arrival or as is currently the case in most African countries she has to see several people in order to complete the registration process. If that process were to take 8 months how much money would she have lost in bus fares?

 

He did have a point and I know and work with such a woman, a Masaai woman named Julia a widow who was expelled from her village but has 12 Aids orphans to raise and does so by making and selling beads.

 

Thinking about women in particular are there key issues that prevent them from achieving economic independence?

Omari: women work harder than men and are willing to work together. In fact women’s co-operatives are more successful than men’s. By addressing the issues discussed here it becomes easier to run successful enterprises especially smaller ones owned by women.

It is all very well working to improve the investment Climate in Africa, but what about people like Julia. How does she benefit? She only speaks Swahili and has to rely on people who can speak English and live in the city to access buyers of handicrafts such as Ethnic Supplies. For instance she missed out on an order earlier in the year because the head of the co-o-op she belongs to failed to get to her.

 

Omari: that is where good management come in and this come from good education skills and awareness

 

As I left Omari, I felt that we had had a good conversation and I had a clearer understanding of what ICF is trying to achieve. But it seemed to me that whilst the folk at ICF are doing their best to improve the business environment it will be sometime before this is felt at the bottom of the African society, I wondered too  how soon the benefits of this system could be felt by women like Julia.

I also reflected on two conversations I had had with two female African High Commissioners in London. One of them is a strong advocate for Micro finance. I told her that I thought Micro finance was a good idea however that women that are lent this money need access to a much wider market to enable them to repay the loans. In addition that I was aware in some rural areas especially, these women had become victims of loan sharks. She was of the opinion that a much wider market isn’t necessary as people can do business locally and succeed.

The conversation I had with the second High Commissioner concerned Micro loans given by an organisation called HABITAT FOR HUMANITY. The basis of their work is decent shelter for all and they are very active in this particular High Commissioner’s country. Typically money will be give for the purchase of a piece of land on which the recipient can build a basic two room house. She was of the view that whilst people need decent places to live without jobs they will never be in a position to repay such loans. Do you see a chicken and egg situation in the two conversations?

In the next post I will write about  the person I met after I left Omari. She unknowingly validated everything Omari told me.

If you have a view about any of the issues raised here or simply want to join the conversation, please do so!

The debate about Hillary’s Clinton’s real reason for being in Africa continues. Some have argued that she has not done enough to address human rights abuse as well as worker’s rights. You will recall my recent post about this  and if you missed here is the link

The choice of countries that Mrs Clinton chose to visit have mostly one thing common EXTRACTIVE COMMODOTIES. However according to this article the agricultural money promised has meant that banana barons have strengthened their hold on Mozambique and Angola.

I appreciate their observation about the role of bananas in the day today life of most African countries, in fact certain tribes in Uganda the only thing that passess as food is Matoke  a type of banana that is boiled/steamed, mashed then served with any type of stew. In some families this is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner

matoke

Matoke

This type of banana is facing a different kind of challenge compared that, that is of interest to the like of Chiquita, the BANANA WILT. This as I understand is a type of bacteria that affects banana plants and kills off whole plantations and thus threatening food security. In countries where bananas play an important role in day to day life this a real threat and  work has been under way  to develop a super banana plant that can resist the WILT. That fight has not gone unnoticed by those that object to GM food.

Having read the article, I wonder if the author is concerned that if bananas, if Africa are exported to the West then this affects the local economy that depends on the banana? I also wonder whether how much the author knows about bananas . Bananas come in different kinds and each kind almost always has a specific use, the bananas for juice and beer can be eaten as fruit ripe but the taste is awful, unless cooked, even then there are an acquired taste.  Whislt the  bananas that some is like to come across in the West are for instance not suitable for cooking, the same way you would cook Matoke.

The degree to which the activities of the likes of Chiquita will impact of the banana market will depend on the types of bananas any given country has, as well as how the workers are treated.

Although the article has a valid point regarding homelessness in many african countries I am not entirely sure I follow the Banana point!

Have you got a banana opnion? Please share it

The basis of my work at Ethnic Supplies is enabling women if Africa to lift themselves out of poverty. This work bring me in contact with heart wrenching situations especially women that have been abandoned by their husbands and been left holding the babies so to say.

Besi, Milka and Flo

Besi, Milka and Flo

On my last visit to Kabale SW Uganda I was introduced to the basket weavers in this picture. Besi’s  story was especially sad. She has nine children and her husband had just abandoned her for a younger woman. With no formal employment or land of her own, the situation was desperate until she found Edirisa a local NGO and through them she was able to access buyers such Ethnic Supplies.

Milka and Flo on the other hand, have husbands at home who have no formal employment, and earn money as casual labourers, but this money is never available for the family to use and is instead spent on beer. I asked the ladies how they use the money the earn from selling baskets and they told me that mostly on the children’s education and health care.

African women have a great deal of responsibility for the family and I strongly believe that they hold the key to economic development.

Earlier today I came across this article from Voice of America  that highlights America’s commitment to the education of African girls  through USAID and quotes Hillary Clinton’s article in a South African paper in which she too agrees that  empowering women is the key to global progress and prosperity

This is serious stuff folk, and I often wonder where I would be if my father like Besi’s husband had decided to abandon us, after all at the time of my birth girls were not afforded an education as they were expected to get married as early as 13 years of ages.  Organisations such as the Commonwealth Council work very hard to ensure that girls in the common wealth have access to a decent education and you may recall my post about their work earlier this year. If you missed it here it is

One thing that puzzles me however, is that most African men I have come across on my journey with Ethnic Supplies agree that women need to be helped to become financially independent as they are the core of family and community life, but why isn’t this message getting through to some of the men, like Bessie’s husband?

Do we need to re focus our efforts and resources on the men instead?

I came across this article over at The Guardian’s Katine Chronicles and it sums up what a Conservative government would do about International Development.

Of all the proposals /promises this is the one that caught my eye

setting up an independent aid watchdog to scrutinise the impact and outcomes of British aid – “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, says the paper, when it comes to cleaning up aid

The reason for this is that I strongly believe that without effective monitoring of where AID money goes whole chunks of the population in the developing world will continue to miss out. This has been pointed out several times in all sorts of publications and hopefully this is the start of things to come.

I recently became aware that whilst the British Government favours handing over money to the developing world leaders to allocate as they see fit the American approach differs in that it is project based, meaning that grants are paid to a specific project.

I am can’t quite make up my mind which of the systems is better for a number of reasons, the British way removes the paternalistic approach but then again is open to abuse as there isn’t any guarantee that it will be spent on the things that locals consider to be a priority.

On the other hand the US system, ensures that there is something to show for the money but I do wonder how the projects are decided on and how much of a say the locals have?

I would welcome your views on this!

Going back to the Conservatives, they have  been involved in Project Umubano down in Rwanda in fact David Cameron paid the folk on the ground a visit back in 2007 .  A little while ago I met  a Conservative Councillor that is heavily involved in this project and travels to Rwanda frequently.  I do hope hope that this experience has been used to inform their policy. As the only way to to learn about what works in the field of International Development is by working alongside the people at receiving end of the policy and AID.

Would a Conservative government draw on their experience in Rwanda when formulating their International policy?The jury is still out on this!

I haven’t written much lately, as I have been nursing a nasty summer bug. Any how before all that happened I had the chance to attend a networking event organised by the good folk at Business Fights Poverty . This was one of a number of events that they have put on since January 2009  and the idea was to bring together practitioners, academics and other interested people from the business world to discuss how business can contribute to poverty alleviation in developing world.

The event on 14 July considered the subject of doing business in areas of conflict,  and the topic  we were invited to consider was

Peace and economic growth are closely related. How can policy makers maximize the impact of private sector for both peace and development?

At this stage  if you are like me you may wonder and in fact ask whether

  1. Business has any role to play in bringing about peace in areas of conflict
  2. What business opportunities could possibly exist in war torn areas
  3. What about safety implications?

It would appear that to a certain extent your fears/ concerns would not be unfounded as we soon found out from the guest speakers on the night Diana Klein from Peace, Building issues programme, International Alert, Andrew Bone Head,  International  Relations De Beers  and Lisa Curtis, Adviser, ManoCap. What is important to note  is that they also  provided solutions to some of these concerns,  and if all else fails there is INSURANCE

I found Diane’s presentation especially interesting. According to Diane business can thrive in conflict areas so long as they comply and are not seen to be contributing to the unrest. One of the ways in which businesses maybe unknowingly contribute to the unrest would be to employ foreign workers Diana went on to say!

I found this interesting as not so long ago our Prime Minsiter here in the UK was quoted to have said  something along the lines “British jobs for British workers” in response to strikes in the oil industry here in UK.  That being the case is there any wonder that folk in the developing countries would take to the streets in similar circumstances?

On the issue of compliance, I recalled a situation in Uganda where Mehta  an Asian owned business group was allocated some land in Mabira Forest an ancient forest in Uganda and the locals didn’t agree, here is what happened next .

What is interesting about this forest is that many years ago it was a 7 mile forest with numerous species of tress and you could not see beyond a few yards, today the locals have moved in and started subsistence farms, and there are holiday chalets for hire, but the locals were up in arms over the thought of their forest being given away to a foreign business company. If you are a company  what do you do in a situation such as this?

I understand that, that wasn’t the end of the story and here is the latest discussion on the matter

At the event there was a man whose job involves getting Palestine and Israel to do business together!  He had an interesting tale about getting all sides to work together as well as the results that ahve beena cheived thus far.  Earlier this year I wrote about the experiences of an olive farmer on my other blog

So do you think there are business opportunities in areas of conflict?

Next Page »