Quick Hits On Development

Dear readers, this is your quarterly reminder to remind your friends (because I know you wouldn’t fall for this) in the development industry to shake off the messiah complex they may have developed in the course of their work.

1. Satire, courtesy of I Studied Abroad in Africa:

You go to one of those fabulously elitist schools where everyone talks about privilege, classism, racism, sexism, etc. as if they don’t practice it in real life. But in order to really see the world, they decide to go somewhere where they can understand what their privilege looks like. So they choose AFRICA! Yay! A whole continent dedicated to helping [non-Africans] people understand what it means to be poor and undeveloped.

2. Bill Easterly on the Ideology of Development: This is an old piece (from 2007) but which should be required reading every week for development expats experts and the wider Global Bleeding Hearts Industrial Complex.

The ideology of Development is not only about having experts design your free market for you; it is about having the experts design a comprehensive, technical plan to solve all the problems of the poor. These experts see poverty as a purely technological problem, to be solved by engineering and the natural sciences, ignoring messy social sciences such as economics, politics, and sociology [This is also a warning to all you mono-issue activists out there. Life is complicated. Accept that fact and move on].

3. And this is how the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, defines international development on its website (granted it is in the youth, 13-16, section, but still):

International development is the term used to describe the activities that developed countries, called donor countries, like Canada, carry out to help poor or developing countries lift themselves out of poverty and raise their standard of living to one that is closer to the standard of living we have in Canada. About 2.6 billion people (about two out of five) live on less than $2 per day.

To reduce poverty, donor countries, like Canada, provide developing countries with technical expertise, goods and money.

 

Latest polls, Kenya Decides 2013

Ipsos Synovate just released another poll on the upcoming presidential election. The poll shows Prime Minister Raila Odinga leading his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta by 46% to 40% in approval rating. 10% of of those polled were undecided. More on the latest polls this weekend after I get a regional breakdown of the data.

For the historical trend in the polls, including today’s, see below.

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On a related note, the Guardian Africa Network has a piece on the threat of violence leading up to and after the March 4th poll. Some call such warnings fear-mongering, but I’d rather have everyone freaking out about violence and thus sort of prepared than a repeat of 2007 in which everyone – including Kenya’s intelligence services – was caught flatfooted.

Elite Political Instability Still a Major Problem in Sub-Saharan Africa

Jay Ulfelder over at Dart-Throwing Chimp is at it again forecasting likely coup events in 2013. The one thing that jumps at you from his global relative coup risk map (see below) is Sub-Saharan Africa’s over-representation in the highest risk category of states. ImageWhy does Sub-Saharan Africa have much higher relative levels of predicted elite political instability?

The political science literature has varied answers including: high levels of poverty, state incapacity, high levels of ethnic fractionalization and or polarization, limited state consolidation due to having relatively young states, etc.

Jay’s forecast, like recent events in Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Mali, the DRC, CAR, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, is a reminder that there is no escaping the reality of state under-development in Africa. It also suggests that despite our best efforts the process of achieving state-ness in Africa will be a messy affair that will at best only be mildly ameliorated, if not made worse, by inconsistent and contradictory meddling by major world powers. Even the magic wand of political democracy might not be of much help in this regard.

Uhuru Kenyatta Emerges as 1st Round Favorite in Kenya’s March 4th Poll

OK, so as promised, here is my first attempt at looking at the numbers and what they are telling us about the outcome of the March 4th general election in Kenya.

14.3 million Kenyans registered to vote this year. Out of this (based on historical turnout rates) about 11 million will actually show up to vote. If the opinion polls are right, neither Uhuru Kenyatta nor Raila Odinga (the top two frontrunners) will get the requisite 50% plus one vote required to win the election. It is likely that there will be a runoff. About 4% of voters remain undecided. The polling trend (see below) suggests that the race will tighten over the next six weeks before the election.

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The first opinion polls after the party nominations show Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the raw vote, at least according to my analysis. The overall national head to head match up in the two polls released Monday show Mr. Odinga leading Mr. Kenyatta by (48-40, Infotrak) and (40-36, Ipsos).

The regional poll tallies, on the other hand, show a different story. In these Mr. Kenyatta emerges with a lead of between 490,000 and 630,000 of the accounted for votes depending on the turnout models used. The average of the tallies show that if elections were held over last weekend Mr. Kenyatta would garner 4.5 million votes to Mr. Odinga’s 3.9. This leaves about 24% of the (potential) votes cast either spread out among the other presidential contenders or undecided.

Here is how I arrived at the numbers:

The surveys by Infotrak and Ipsos (the two firms correctly predicted the outcome of the 2010 referendum) gave regional tallies of how the top two coalitions did among those surveyed. With a few modifications (like assigning the GEMA counties in Eastern region the Central region poll results), I assigned these tallies to the different counties within the regions. I then estimated voter turnout using the numbers from the three most recent national voting exercises – 2002 and 2007 elections and the 2010 referendum. Because of the anomalies in the presidential election in 2007, I used the constituency turnout figures (In these figures, for instance, Juja and Nithi did not have turnouts exceeding 100% as was the case in the presidential election in 2007). Of course there are counties in which the popularity of either Kenyatta or Odinga vary by constituency but this is the best we can do for now. I then used the estimated county turnout rate and the regional polling results to estimate the expected vote count for either candidate in each county using IEBC’s figures of registered voters.

It is important to note that among the two polls, Infotrak asked respondents about their preferred ticket (Kenyatta and Ruto vs. Odinga and Musyoka) while Ipsos asked about individual presidential candidates. The discrepancy in the national polling average and the raw numbers I show here might be because of incorrect weighting of the different regions by the polling companies. The fact that Kenyans vote along ethnic lines and voters are geographically concentrated means that the regional polling numbers might provide a better picture than the national numbers. National polls appear to be over-estimating Odinga’s support by about 3 percentage points on average.

Uhuru Kenyatta is ahead in the raw figures for the following reasons:

  1. The first reason is that Mr. Kenyatta has the numbers. The combined GEMA registered voters number 3.9 million. That is 27.3% of the registered voters. Mr. Kenyatta obviously won’t bag 100% of these votes but it doesn’t hurt to have a vote rich base.
  2. His stronghold of the wider Mt. Kenya region had the highest voter registration rate in the country. This, combined with the fact that his running mate brings in the populous Rift Valley region, gives Kenyatta a slight edge off the gates.
  3. Kenyatta’s strongholds (Mt. Kenya) and Rift Valley have historically had higher turnout rates than the regions that Odinga will need to win on March 4th. In 2002 Kenyatta’s strongholds had a higher turnout rate by 5 percentage points. In 2007 it was 10%.
  4. The combined high population, higher registration rates and expected higher turnout means that Mr. Kenyatta is presently the favorite to win the first round of the March 4th presidential poll.

How can Odinga win?

  1. A lot of voters (24%) remain spread out among the smaller candidates or are undecided. Come election day these voters may break for Mr. Odinga for the reasons I gave in an earlier post.
  2. Mr. Odinga’s other path to victory is by ensuring high turnout in his strongholds of Nyanza, Western and Coast regions. Just by matching the expected turnout in Mr. Kenyatta’s strongholds he would reduce the deficit to about 250,000 votes.
  3. He must also eat into some of Mr. Kenyatta’s support in the Rift Valley and Central regions. If the election is a mere census then Mr. Kenyatta will win the first round (the second round is another story all together). For Mr. Odinga to win he must convince voters in Mr. Kenyatta’s strongholds that he is the better candidate.

Facing reality:

For a while it seemed like this election was Mr. Odinga’s to lose. I have since softened on this a little bit. Despite his many problems, Mr. Kenyatta can still win this election, at least the first round. In the second round everything will be contingent on who between Messrs Kenyatta and Odinga can bag the roughly 20% of votes that will go to various smaller candidates in the first round. As things stand Mr. Odinga is the likely beneficiary of these votes.

A lot will happen between now and March 4th. But key things to consider include:

  1. If turnout is low on March 4th Mr. Kenyatta will emerge the winner. His (national) base is relatively wealthier and more urban (or more accurately, more politically engaged – if you doubt this see the voter registration numbers for Kiambu county alone) than Mr. Odinga’s and thus will have a higher turnout. Having failed to match Mr. Kenyatta’s voter registration rates, Mr. Odinga needs upwards of 80% of those registered in his strongholds to show up to vote, or else he will lose.
  2. Mr. Kenyatta appeared to be the better organized candidate in getting his base to register to vote. And given the way in which his party handled the nominations exercise, it is likely that he will out-organize Mr. Odinga in getting his supporters to the polls. This spells more trouble for Mr. Odinga.
  3. The nominations exercise gave Mr. Odinga’s coalition bad press for four consecutive days. His home base of Nyanza was the worst affected. Seemingly undemocratic nomination exercises – in which Odinga’s allies controversially won party primaries – in the region may depress turnout, something that Odinga should be worrying about A LOT. Watch out for how Mr. Odinga’s party handles the nominations fallout in his Nyanza backyard.
  4. Musalia Mudavadi appears to have made gains in Western province – he is polling there at 26%. His gain is Odinga’s loss. If Mr. Mudavadi continues to gain in the next 40 days then we shall almost be assured of a run off, after Mr. Kenyatta wins the first round.

More on State Building and the International System

This is a guest post in response to a previous blog post by friend of the blog Matthew Kustenbauder.

Your post highlights the contradictions between today’s human rights regime (which is based on universal concepts of humanity and has its origins in European anti-slavery campaigns and traditions of humanitarianism, and before that debates in Christian theology) and the post-imperial international order (based on the nation state as the fundamental political unit).

Since the rise of nationalism after WWII, new states that were historically part of empires (and thereby incorporated under their systems of law, governance, and trade) have had to make their own way. For most of these states, and especially for the people living within them, the new era of national self-determination has been no more kind than was the Age of Empire. The withdrawal of imperial powers left a vacuum that today’s international system struggles to address with any effect. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that it is a fragmented and cumbersome system that gives the impression all states are “equal” — clearly they are not. It also tends to be a forum in which smaller and poorer states invoke language of victimhood in an effort, ironically, to get larger or more wealthy states to step in and do the work that states are meant to do for themselves — namely, govern those residing within their boundaries.

What do I mean by this last point? An illustration by way of anecdote may help clarify. I was recently frustrated watching a BBC World Report special (an outlet for the Bleeding Hearts Industrial Complex that you mentioned in your post) about multinationals and poor working conditions in the developing world. Cotton and chocolate were featured. The reporter investigated big cotton operations in India and cocoa plantations in Cote D’Ivoire. What registered as surprise to the BBC reporter was no surprise to me — He found lots of young women and children working there. But instead of asking why the local government didn’t regulate the industry or why they didn’t enforce the regulations already on the books, he ran off to Switzerland and the UK and America to ask why Nestle and Tommy Hilfiger, etc. don’t monitor their supply chains. I was baffled. This is a classic example of how an international system based on the sovereignty of individual nation states is at odds with universal notions of human rights. In many ways, it is the modern-day replacement for the old global-local tensions that existed between the imperial metropole and its colonies. We might ask, however, whether the current framework in which human rights activism operates is really any better suited to address the ongoing problems that plague developing nations. To my mind’s eye, the focus is on the wrong place … or is at least too focused on the role of businesses and advanced economies and not focused enough on working with multinationals in order to help citizens in poor countries put pressure on their governments to be accountable, competent, and truly sovereign.

The emphasis on human rights by Western governments and development work by NGOs in African countries have, more often than not, undermined the sovereignty of national governments since decolonization. More recently, however, China has emerged as the largest trading partner with many African countries. This is a game changer, not only because the Dragon does not hold human rights sacrosanct, but also because, unlike its Western counterparts, China considers economic growth and trade essential to establishing national sovereignty and the nation-state (not the international community) as the principal guarantor of the well-being of its citizens. The degree to which China can be ‘socialised’ in the ways of the international system, which was after all created by the Great Powers to replace the disintegrating world that western empires had made, remains to be seen. In any event, the long-standing tensions between universal principals of human rights, on the one hand, and the limits placed on intervention into the affairs of one state by another in the name of national sovereignty, on the other, will endure.

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Matthew Kustenbauder is a PhD candidate in history at Harvard University.

Odinga cracks 50% rating in opinion poll

The Odinga/Musyoka ticket leads the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket in an opinion poll on the electorate’s preferred president and running mate ahead of the March 4th 2013 general election. Odinga’s lead (51-39) is well outside the margin of error of the poll.

The chart below shows the Infotrak Harris tracking poll since early 2010.

kenpollsJanThe most interesting data points in the poll are (1) the level of support (at 36%) for the Odinga/Musyoka ticket in the backyard of William Ruto, Mr. Kenyatta’s running mate; (2) the fact that the former Western Province is not really a swing region after all, with Musalia Mudavadi being preferred by a meager 23% of registered voters; and (3) The geographical limits, albeit in relatively higher population density areas, of the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket – the Odinga/Musyoka ticket leads in 6 of Kenya’s 8 provinces.

According to my own estimations (more rigorous analyses coming after 17th of this month) Odinga/Musyoka have the lead in 23 counties perceived to be CORD’s strongholds. Kenyatta/Ruto and their Jubilee Alliance lead in 20 counties. 4 counties are truly swing.

The Kenyatta/Ruto alliance however have a vote lead of about 292,000. 2.5 million votes are still up for grabs, enough to swing the election in CORD’s favor. .

The latest polls continue to confirm that Mr. Odinga remains a slight favorite to become Kenya’s 4th president. But as I have said before, this will be a close election.

Mitigating violence in Kenya’s 2013 elections

Joel Barkan has a CFR contingency planning memorandum on the Kenyan elections in which he notes that:

The United States and others may have limited leverage over Kenya’s domestic politics, but they are not without options that would significantly improve the prospects for acceptable elections and help avert a major crisis. However, with little more than two months before the elections, Washington must intensify its engagement or forsake its opportunity to make a difference.

But the window might be closing fast on the international community to help Kenya avoid a repeat of 2007-08, when 1300 died and 300,000 were displaced after a bungled election. According to a report by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security (yours truly was a research assistant for the commission), evidence suggests that international interventions to encourage reasonably free and fair and peaceful elections are most effective when done well in advance to the polling day. In the Kenyan case, the structural causes of previous rounds of electoral violence were never addressed, and may yet lead to the loss of life this election cycle.

What can now be done to avoid large scale organized violence is to credibly convince the politicians and those who finance youth militia (chinkororo, taliban, mungiki, jeshi la mzee, baghdad boys, etc) that they will be held accountable. So far, as is evident in Tana River and the informal settlements within Nairobi, the lords of violence appear to be operating like it is business as usual.

Kenyan Elections 2013 Polling Trends (Presidential Race)

It is less than two months to the Kenyan general election on March 4th 2013. In the next ten days political parties will nominate candidates (either directly or through primaries) for various elective posts – Governor (for the 47 counties), MP (290 of them), Senator (one per county), Woman MP (representing each county), and several County Representatives per county. I suspect the next round of polls will come out after the nomination exercises, which will undoubtedly result in further realignment of the political landscape.

Kenyan political parties are not known for their democratic credentials and I expect quite a few candidates (and their supporters) to shift their support if they feel that they’ve lost unfairly in the party primaries.

As I noted in my last post on the Kenyan elections, the institutional incentives have made it such that the presidential race is one between two main contenders – Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. (Mr. Musalia Mudavadi has since fallen out with Mr. Kenyatta and is also running for president, although his candidature is mainly a strategy designed to maintain his political relevance in Western Kenya moving forward.)

Mr. Odinga’s biggest strength is his national appeal and name recognition – having been co-president of some sort (at least on paper) over the last 5 years he is running like an incumbent. He is also widely viewed as a reformer who can be trusted to implement the new constitution. His weaknesses include his proclivity to radicalism, a tendency to surround himself with yes-men from his ethnic group, and the failure to foster democratic competition within his own party – the Orange Democratic Movement.

Mr. Kenyatta’s strengths include his youth, name recognition (he is the son of Kenya’s first president), and his massive wealth (he is perhaps the richest Kenyan). His base (central Kenya and surrounding areas) is the most populous in the country and registered the highest rates of turnout in the voter registration exercise. Added to all of this is the fact that in his running mate, William Ruto, he has one the best, if not the best, political campaigner this election cycle. Mr. Ruto knows how to get the masses excited with memorable talking points. His phrase “kusema na kutenda” (saying and doing) is the main rallying call of this election.

The duo’s biggest weakness is their impending case at the ICC. Mr. Kenyatta is also of the same ethnicity as the outgoing President Kibaki. Many in Kenya feel that the presidency should go to a different region this time round, central Kenya having had it twice. Mr. Ruto is from the same ethnic group as Kenya second president Daniel Moi. Both Ruto and Kenyatta are suspected to be lukewarm with regard to the new constitution. Mr. Kenyatta only reluctantly backed the document while Mr. Ruto campaigned against it.

As we await the next round of polls and the final picture of regional alignments, below is a snapshot of the polling trends over the last 18 months. Mr. Odinga (in my view the slight favorite to be Kenya’s 4th president) has consistently led in the polls since March of 2010. No one has so far cracked the 50% mark. The Kenyan constitution mandates that the winning presidential candidate garner 50%+1 of the votes cast.

Does this mean that there will be a runoff after March 4? The answer to this question depends on how well Mudavadi performs in his Western Province backyard. Having registered the second highest number of voters this cycle (behind Mr. Kenyatta’s Central Province (and its “diaspora”) base), Western Province (and its “diaspora”) is the biggest swing region. Mr. Odinga is banking on the Western vote and may win in the first round if Mudavadi doesn’t have a good showing on March 4th.

click on image to enlarge.

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Poll numbers from Infotrak Research.

Thoughts from Sierra Leone

“Many Westerners I met in West Africa took it as an article of faith that all of the region’s woes were the result of outside malfeasance – someone else’s fault, going back to colonialism and the slave trade. After two years in Freetown I not only cannot agree, but I think such views – promulgating as they do an abdication of responsibility – are bad for Africa. The Western world undoubtedly committed atrocities to the continent. But today it is up to Africans to carve out a brighter future for themselves.”

That is Simon Akam in a piece reviewing his time in Sierra Leone that has sort of gone viral.

It is the kind of thinking that I wish informed all of the West’s engagement with Africa. Most of Africa’s problems are African. Period.

Africa does not need Oxfam to tell the world to forget about its wars and famines and instead focus on its natural beauty or whatever else that is more positive. It is not the responsibility of Oxfam to feed Africans but that of the kleptocratic African ruling elite. The Oxfams of this world only serve to let Africa’s Mobutus off the hook.

When an African head of state appoints his son as defense minister and then cannot beat back a ragtag rebel alliance armed with AKs on jeeps we should not send troops to help him. He should be left to stew in his own soup.

For far too long the predominantly humanitarian approach in dealing with Africa has allowed the absolute triumph of absolute mediocrity in much of the continent. This must change if Africa is to consolidate the political and economic gains made over the last two decades.