Looks like succession planning in private companies is just as bad as in non-democracies

I was fascinated by this piece in the Times about the impending retirement of Steven Ballmer as the chief executive of Microsoft. The piece notes that:

Succession planning is a delicate issue for many companies, particularly one like Microsoft, where Mr. Ballmer has been a senior employee since 1980 and chief executive since 2000, and his longtime friend, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder, remains chairman.

“Particularly for a person like Ballmer, who really is one of the founders, leaving is almost like death, so it’s extremely difficult to have an orderly process,” said Joseph L. Bower, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “It requires a very grown-up relationship between the chief executive and his board.”

Microsoft is certainly no dictatorship but does this remind you of the delicate question of when a certain founding president in southern Africa will retire?

The most interesting paragraph notes that: 

Developing a succession plan is one of a board’s chief responsibilities, but only half of companies actively groom executives, according to a 2010 study by Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance and Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm that is leading Microsoft’s search. Boards spend only an average two hours a year on succession planning, the study found.

One of the lessons here is that absent term limits, no one really wants to openly plan for succession (It’s obviously destabilizing, and worse, might result in internal splits and conflict). And the longer the incumbent stays, the harder it becomes to remove her; for those around them actually become invested in maintaining the status quo.

So in the end, the timing of a transition becomes not just the prerogative of the incumbent, but also of those around her – which results in the boards of private companies behaving more or less in the same way as Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s praise-singers in the military and ZANU-PF establishment. 

On the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe

The latest ICG report says this about the General Elections in Zimbabwe tomorrow: 

A return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is likely, as Zimbabwe holds inadequately prepared presidential, parliamentary and local elections on 31 July. Conditions for a free and fair vote do not exist. Confidence in the process and institutions is low. The voters roll is a shambles, security forces unreformed and the media grossly imbalanced. The electoral commission is under-funded and lacked time to prepare. Concerns about rigging are pervasive, strongly disputed results highly likely. 

More on this here.

On a lighter note, check out this prank from 5 years ago:

Why do some people flee civil war and state collapse, while others stay?

Prakash Adhikari has a paper in the AJPS (PDF, gated) that seeks to address this question:

This study investigates circumstances that affect individuals’ decisions of whether or not to flee their homes during civilian conflicts. Building on the “choice-centered” approach to studying forced migration, I test the argument that people make a decision to flee or stay even under highly dangerous circumstances. Using primary data collected through a public opinion survey in Nepal, I test a number of hypotheses regarding the impact of factors such as violence, economic opportunity, physical infrastructure or geographical terrain, and social networks on forced migration, providing an individual-level test of the choice-centered approach to studying forced migration. The empirical results are consistent with the major hypotheses developed in aggregate-level studies and provide better insightsinto the factors that affect individual-level behavior. Beyond conflict, there are a number of significant economic, social, physical, and political factors that affect individuals’ choice to flee.

As expected, the threat of violence and actual experience of violence increases the likelihood that one would flee – by about 8 and 32 percentage points respectively. Economic opportunity, on the other hand, reduces the likelihood of fleeing by 19%. High income individuals are also less likely to flee by about 1-2%. In addition, social ties decrease the likelihood of fleeing, although the effect is not statistically significant in Adhikari’s model.

The paper primarily looks at conflict, but may also apply to cases of overall economic collapse and political turmoil as has plagued Zimbabwe in the last one and a half decades. It is estimated that almost a quarter of Zimbabweans have fled the country. But three quarters remained, through the hyper-inflation and acute restriction of political space and personal freedoms.

In particular, the Zimbabwe case provides a good case for knowing why elites (who presumably can leave if they want) choose to stay in states like Zimbabwe – and thereby continue to provide the means of survival for the regime.

For those who have chosen to stay in Zim it might be that they have a lot to lose by fleeing (they have jobs, own some property, have strong extensive social ties, are too patriotic to leave …..?) or are actually plugged into the patronage system of Robert Mugabe, supported by illicit trade in diamonds, foreign aid, and control of the economy.

H/T Joshua Keating over at War of Ideas

Rumors that Mugabe is “fighting for life” in Singapore

UPDATE: The sensational rumors about Mugabe’s health situation appear to be just that. The government is denying that the longtime autocrat is critically ill. According to Reuters:

A terse Zimbabwean government statement saying a weekly cabinet meeting set for Tuesday had been postponed to Thursday had fed the rash of media speculation about the president’s health. Mugabe usually chairs cabinet meetings.

The officials declined to give details about the exact timing of Mugabe’s return, citing security reasons, but one said the president was expected to chair the rescheduled cabinet session on Thursday.

More on this here.

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Unconfirmed reports indicate that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 88, is battling for his life in a Singaporean hospital. The official word is that Mugabe is in Singapore for a private visit to celebrate Easter.

It is believed that should Mugabe pass on his defense chief Emmerson Mnangagwa will take over as leader of ZANU-PF. Such an eventuality would probably result in an early election. The next elections were due to be held in 2013.

More on this soon.

Gbagbo’s departure imminent

Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote d’Ivoire who refuses to step down despite losing an election, faces imminent departure. According to the BBC and the Times, his own army chief (Phillippe Mangou) and other members of the security forces have already defected from his camp. The rebel forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president of Cote d’Ivoire, are closing in on Abidjan, the commercial capital. The rebels are already in control of Yamoussoukro, the capital, and the important port of San Pedor. Mr. Gbagbo has been illegally exporting cocoa from the port in violation of a UN embargo. Gbagbo’s home town, Gagnoa, has also fallen to the rebels.

The only question left is what should happen to Mr. Gbagbo after he leaves the Ivorian presidency. His refusal to leave office after losing an election has already led to the death of hundreds of civilians. The most gruesome example of his lack of concern for his own countrymen is when he ordered his soldiers to fire mortars at a local market in Abidjan. Dozens, most of them women traders, were killed. An estimated one million people have fled their homes. In my view Mr. Gbabgo should stand trial for crimes against humanity, IN ABIDJAN, in order to serve as an example for other African autocrats that elections have consequences.

Mr. Gbagbo should not be part of any unity government.

In addition, an inquiry should be made into who exactly funded his months long attempt at supplanting Ivorian electoral democracy. The likes of Edwardo dos Santos of Angola and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who reportedly sent him weapons) should also face penalties – even if just adverse mentions – for their role in aiding and abetting a murderous autocrat.

More on this at the FP

cocoa exports and help from angola, zimbabwe keeping gbagbo afloat

Zimbabwe and Angola have been cited by UN investigators as violators of the standing arms embargo against the Ivorian despot Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing to challenger Alassane Ouattara in elections last year.

Now it emerges that despite the ban on cocoa exports the Gbagbo faction in Abidjan continues in the trade. Africa confidential reports that:

Trade sources in Moscow and London report that business allies of Laurent Gbagbo have begun exporting cocoa out of the port of San Pedro in defiance of President-elect Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s export ban. Last month, the officially recognised President called for the ban, which he has extended to the end of March. He promised action against traders who violate the ban, which has the United Nations’ backing, and all the major buyers have complied. The European Union has forbidden any EU-flagged vessel from lifting cocoa. The export ban will carry on into April, we hear.

A key player in Gbagbo’s operation is Ali Lakiss, the Lebanese Managing Director of the Société Amer et Frères Cacao (SAF-Cacao), the biggest locally-owned cocoa company, who manages the exports, say European-based traders. We hear Lakiss is close to Simone Gbagbo, wife of the losing presidential candidate, who has major interests in the cocoa business. These efforts may help Gbagbo’s finances but his military position is steadily worsening

And in a somewhat positive twist, factions appear to have emerged within Gbagbo’s election-stealing coalition.

Rumours swirl around the military that the fighters who tried to storm Army Chief General Phillipe Mangou’s house on 14 March were dissidents from his own forces – rather than the pro-Ouattara ‘invisible commandos’ some had blamed. Some think dissatisfied generals could have encouraged the attack on Mangou: he criticised the army’s killing of six women in a demonstration in the Abobo suburb of Abidjan, two weeks ago. His remarks further damaged relations with the generals who are really in control.

This is good news. The international community must continue its stare-down of Gbagbo.

This should be a lesson to the kleptocratic, ideologically bankrupt and woefully inept autocrats all over the African continent that elections have consequences.

On the less sanguine side of things, and as pointed out by Africa Confidential, a military takeover by Gbagbo’s generals might be ominous for the prospects of democracy in Cote d’Ivoire. The generals might not necessarily be willing to hand over power to Ouattara.

With every day that passes the land of the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny seems to be inching closer and closer to an ineluctable civil war.

from the archives…

Robert Mugabe might have pulled off the biggest prank of all time. When he came to power in Zim in 1980 (up until things started falling apart in the southern African country in the mid 90s) many saw him as a responsible gradualist reformer. Then he changed, perhaps back to his real nature. Here is a quote from Newsweek in a March 20th 1978 publication that depicts uncle Bob as we know him today. He may have given up on Marxism but ZANU-PF rules Zim:

Robert Mugabe told Newsweek’s Raymond Carroll and Lynn James he would fight on to make Rhodesia a Marxist “one-party state.”

 

failed states index

Foreign Policy, in its July/August issue has 2010’s failed states index. The Continent has 12 of the top 20 worst performers on this index, with Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe and the DRC being in the top five respectively. Kenya is 13th on this index, performing worse than Niger, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, among other basket cases. The substantive meaning of the rankings aside (I’d rather be in Kenya than in Sierra Leone on any day), the index is a grim reminder of how badly governed the Continent is. The best ranked mainland African state is Ghana, at number 54. Mauritius leads the Continent at number 30, out of 177.

Also in the FP issue is an exposé of Bozize’s Central African Republic. I used to think that he was doing a relatively good job. Turns out he is full of bucket-loads of horse manure:

“Bozizé has fared no better than his predecessors, ruling a territory the size of Texas with a GDP significantly smaller than that of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.”

And don’t miss out on Ayittey’s ranking of the world’s worst dictators. Our good friend Rob is second only to the crazy guy who runs North Korea.

Lastly, I must say something about my favorite punching bag Idriss Deby’s Chad. Idriss Deby is a study in ineffectual leadership and is on the list of Africa’s many ‘wasted dictatorships.’ In 2006 he successfully conned his way out of the World Bank brokered plan to use revenue from the Chad-Cameroon pipeline to reduce poverty among his country’s extremely impoverished 10.3 million souls. He now uses most of Chad’s oil revenue to fund his poorly-run security forces that remain vulnerable to any rebel group that can land its hands on a technical. But with over 1.5 billion barrels in reserves and a world thirsty for oil, it appears that this Zaghawa “warrior” is here to stay, his incompetence notwithstanding.

The HDI numbers tell it all. The literacy rate in Chad is at a dismal 25%. Life expectancy stands at 48 years. 80% of Chadian’s live on less than a dollar a day. The growth rate of the economy, -1% last year, -0.2% in 2008 and 0.6% in 2007, cannot keep up with the population growth rate of more than 2% (despite a rather high infant mortality rate of 97 deaths/1000 live births) – which means that Chadians’ living standards will continue to decline into the foreseeable future.  The bulk of Chadians (more than 80%) make do with subsistence agriculture. Oil, cotton, cattle and gum arabic are the country’s main export commodities.

sources: FP and The CIA World Factbook

clown of the month

The Zim ambassador to Washington has inspired me to begin a new monthly post titled Clown of the Month. His embarrassing actions at a recent dinner event are beyond madness. For having embarrassed not just Zim but the entire Continent with his unrestrained provincialism I hereby declare Ambassador H.E. Machivenyika Mapuranga Clown of the Month.

Just for the record, I am no fan of do-gooders who lecture the Continent on governance while turning a blind eye to their governments’ actions that impede the consolidation of good governance, among other structural barriers. That said, I think the debate should not be allowed to descend to mere name calling, a la Mugabe’s man in Washington. Mr. Mapuranga needs to grow up.

Mandela’s dream deferred?

South Africans marked the 20th anniversary of the release of President Mandela from prison by South Africa’s apartheid regime in 1990 with a lot of pomp and celebration. It goes without saying that President Nelson Mandela belongs in the pantheon of the great sons and daughters of the Continent, and indeed of the whole world.

But after the celebrations are over and done with, South Africans should ask themselves what the life and trials of Mandela mean for them. Is Jacob Zuma the best they could do after decades of fighting for political representation? What role do they have to play on the Continent, being that they are by far its biggest economic and military power house? Should they sit and watch as Zimbabweans suffer under the tyranny of Rob?