The politics of unemployment numbers

I just discovered the website Africa Check. It’s a fantastic resource dedicated to “sorting fact from fiction.” Three posts caught my eye, on unemployment numbers in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

In Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is 4%, 60%, or 95% depending on who you ask. The ruling ZANU-PF, in a campaign manifesto, admitted that the rate was 60%! You know things are really bad when a ruling party (in an election year!) says that this big a proportion of the working-age population is unemployed. The World Bank apparently claims that the rate is closer to 5.4%.

In Nigeria:

The state stats agency controversially claimed that the unemployment rate is only 7.5% (for the last quarter of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency). Tolu Ogunlesi then offered this explainer on how the government arrived at the number. The numbers suggest that the actual figure varies from 7.5 to 24.2 depending on the choice of cut-off for what it means to be employed. 

And in South Africa:

ANC claims that the unemployment rate at the end of 2013 was 21.9% but skeptics insist that the actual figure closer to 24.1%. 

A slightly different story on administrative unit proliferation

The emerging stylized story about administrative unit proliferation in the developing world is that it is often a result of political machinations by national and local elites intent on creating new units for marginalized groups and for the ruler to buy votes; and that such proliferation only serves to re-centralize actual power — see for example these really cool papers by Grossman and Lewis (on the specific case of Uganda), Mai Hasssan (on the use of new districts to buy votes in Kenya) and Kimuli Kasara (also on how heightened electoral competition after 1992 accelerated the process of administrative unit proliferation in Kenya).

But there is also a slightly different, and in some ways complementary, story.

Regarding the creation of new provinces in Vietnam, Edmund Malesky notes:Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.30.20 PM

The timing of provincial separations after Party Congresses, the dominance of Non-state Provinces despite little change in national output, and the decisive political outcome of this dominance at the 2001 Party Congress bolster the argument that reformers had an explicit electoral strategy in calling for the splitting of provinces in 1996. By creating new Non-state Provinces, modernizers believed they could influence the outcomes of future CCOM debates about
grand strategies and smaller NA debates about implementation of these new policies. While rhetorically it was easier to argue for new provinces based on efficiency, it would seem they were studying maps of
district economic composition and creating new reform-oriented
provinces out of SOE-dominated areas.

The key difference between administrative unit proliferation in Vietnam and Uganda (and Kenya before 2010) is the electoral connection (an aspect that, in my view, is missing in the current literature). Because the provinces had votes (in party congresses and plenums), the creation of new Vietnamese provinces had significant implications for the de facto distribution of power in both Hanoi and the periphery (and in Malesky’s story, made reforms possible). Provincial splits in Vietman were therefore not just about patronage and marginalized groups, but also about securing a win for the reformist bloc at the centre.

This might not be the case in countries where new units can be created without altering the balance of power in the party congress or parliament — either because such action does not create new electoral districts; or the president gets to nominate or can credibly influence the election of the representatives of the new districts. For this reason, I would predict that Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa (whose subnational units are electorally significant and have a fair amount of fiscal autonomy) are unlikely to create new primary subnational units willy-nilly.

Private security guards outnumber the police and army in South Africa

South Africa fact of the day:

In 2013, it was reported that there were 400,000 security guards in South Africa – more than the numbers of police and army combined. Some of the people setting up private security companies are ex-police or ex-military, and the guards are often well armed and trained in how to use automatic rifles and handguns.

Also, in case you missed it, here is the video footage of the SABC reporter who was robbed this week on live TV in Jozi outside a hospital.

More on crime in South Africa here.

Residents of Johannesburg also worry about not having enough bike lanes. One wonders whether fixing the security situation by addressing the root causes of crime ought to precede any public expenditure on enabling people to bike outside – it’s easier to rob cyclists than motorists, no?

Hundreds of South African Mercenaries Fighting Boko Haram

The New York Times reports:

Hundreds of South African mercenaries and hired fighters of other nationalities are playing a decisive role in Nigeria’s military campaign against Boko Haram, operating attack helicopters, armored personnel carriers and fighting to retake towns and villages captured by the Islamist militant group, according to senior officials in the region.

The Nigerian government has not acknowledged the presence of the mercenaries, but a senior government official in northern Nigeria said the South Africans — camped out in a remote portion of the airport in Maiduguri, the city at the heart of Boko Haram’s uprising — conduct most of their operations at night because “they really don’t want to let people know what is going on.”

This does not look good for the $2.3-billion-per-year Nigerian military. It also shows a complete lack of tact on the part of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. I mean, how hard could it have been to launder the South African mercenary involvement through some AU joint task force?

The way I see it, the problem here is not that Nigeria is using foreign fighters (even the mighty U.S. uses mercenaries, and as Tolu Ogunlesi writes in FT, the tide is turning against Boko Haram). The problem is in how they are being used. Is their use short-circuiting accountability chains between Nigerians affected and their government? How is it affecting civilian-military relations? And what will be the long-run consequences on the professionalization of the Nigerian military?

Africa’s Billionaires in 2014

Only 9 out of 54 African countries are represented on the 2014 Forbes billionaires list. There are certainly more than 29 dollar billionaires on the Continent (most of the rest being in politics). Let’s consider this list as representative of countries in which (for whatever reason) it is politically safe to be publicly super wealthy – which in and of itself says a lot about how far Nigeria has come.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 12.24.39 PM

Source: Forbes

Some will look at the list and scream inequality. I look at the list and see the proliferation of centres of economic and political power. And a potential source of much-needed intra-elite accountability in African politics. For more on this read Leonardo Arriola’s excellent book on the role of private capital in African politics.

See also this FT story on the impact of currency movements on the wealth of Nigeria’s super rich. Forbes also has a great profile of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.

Netflix is making thousands of Americans flunk geography

You can’t make this stuff up:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.01.17 PM

The show began to air in 2010. This is its description as of February 3rd, 2015.

That said, if you have to visit Africa, the place to go is KENYA!

Because of this:

HT Hayes Brown

Most read posts in 2014

Here are the top posts in 2014

1. Corruption under apartheid South Africa: This post was top partly because of the 2014 South African elections. More on the legacies of apartheid era corruption and rent-seeking in South Africa here.

2. Kenya Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014: This bill (now an Act of Parliament) is further evidence of Uhuru Kenyatta’s autocratic tendencies. I personally don’t think that he is an incarnation of Moi or other dictators of years gone. Rather, Mr. Kenyatta is a poor administrator who likes taking shortcuts to get quick results. As I argued in a related post, the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014 could potentially severely limit civil liberties in Kenya.

3. Did European Colonialism Benefit Africans? The popularity of this post is perhaps a reminder that more research is needed on the long-run effects of colonialism not just in Africa but in other formerly colonized places as well. So far all the literature tells us is that colonialism was bad, but that the Western institutions that Europeans spread around the globe are good. More recently we’ve seen evidence that pre-colonial institutions in the colonies were pretty resilient in the face of colonial intrusion; and have had lasting effects (also remember that the duration and intensity of colonialism varied widely across the globe). One avenue of research that I have been exploring is how pre-colonial institutions interacted with colonial administrations, and how this shaped the institutions that emerged out of the independence wave of the early 1960s. More on this in the new year.

4. Why Raila Odinga Lost: A sizable proportion of Kenyans still believe that Odinga was robbed in the March 2013 election in Kenya. I disagree. In my own projections on this blog – merging disaggregated opinion polls with historical district turnout rates (perks of having a case with tight ethnic voting) – I found Mr. Kenyatta to be ahead of Mr. Odinga by about 740,000 votes, or 7.2 percentage points (which was close to the final official figure of 6.7% difference between the two).

I don’t think that Kenyatta won in the first round, but do believe that we would have trounced Odinga in a runoff anyway. Which is why I have never come to terms with the unanimous Supreme Court decision granting Kenyatta victory on the basis of less than 9000 votes out of 12.3 million cast.

5. Understanding Uganda’s Military Adventurism Under Museveni: General President Museveni has managed to create an image of himself as the anti-terror hatchet man in the wider horn of Africa region. Ugandan troops are the backbone of the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Since his triumphant entry into Kampala in 1986 Museveni has also been involved in conflicts in Rwanda, the DRC, Sudan, C.A.R, and more recently South Sudan. Because of the degree of militarization of the Ugandan state and recent public displays of intra-elite friction, I think Uganda will continue to inch up in the coup sweepstakes ahead of the 2016 election.

Africa’s top economies

Yesterday Nigeria unveiled new GDP figures following the rebasing that catapulted the country of 170 million to become Africa’s biggest economy (GDP US$509b). Below is the ranking of the top sixteen economies in SSA. Mineral economies (10/16) still predominate (Source: The Economist).

Image

Remembering Nelson Mandela and his legacy

Charles Kenny over at BloombergBusinessweek writes about Mandela’s often forgotten economic legacy (Perhaps because of the continued entrenchment of economic inequality and injustice in South Africa):

South Africa’s GDP growth rate, meanwhile, picked up considerably under Mandela. Economic growth rose from less than 1.5% between 1980 to 1994 to slightly under 3% between 1995 and 2003. Despite the sudden influx of internal migrants with the legal right to compete equally for jobs, average personal incomes for white South Africans increased by 62% between 1993 and 2008, according to University of Cape Town economist Murray Leibbrandt. Average incomes for Africans themselves increased even faster—by 93% over that same period.

The huffingtonpost has a collection of speeches to remember Mandela in his own words.

 

Richard Stengel over at Time explores the idea of Mandela the freedom fighter and leader who possessed almost mythical qualities in the eyes of many:

In many ways, the image of Nelson Mandela has become a kind of fairy tale: he is the last noble man, a figure of heroic achievement. Indeed, his life has -followed the narrative of the archetypal hero, of great suffering followed by redemption. But as he said to me and to many others over the years, “I am not a saint.” And he wasn’t. As a young revolutionary, he was fiery and rowdy. He originally wanted to exclude Indians and communists from the freedom struggle. He was the founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the African National Congress, and was considered South Africa’s No 1. terrorist in the 1950s. He admired Gandhi, who started his own freedom struggle in South Africa in the 1890s, but as he explained to me, he regarded nonviolence as a tactic, not a principle. If it was the most successful means to the freedom of his people, he would embrace it. If it was not, he would abandon it. And he did. But like Gandhi, like Lincoln, like Churchill, he was doggedly, obstinately right about one -overarching thing, and he never lost sight of that.

Back in 2011 writing in the Journal Peter Godwin noted that Mandela’s real legacy was his refusal to become life president, like many independence heroes before him on the Continent:

If anyone was well positioned to launch a political personality cult it was Mr. Mandela. His refusal to do so is probably his greatest legacy to his homeland. It set South Africa on a course different from most other African nations. Seventeen years into its post-apartheid incarnation, South Africa is already on its fourth president. This has radically reduced the danger of a single leader dominating the state.

As the world pays its last respects there will be nagging thoughts and questions of what next for South Africa. I am reminded of Eve Fairbanks’ piece earlier this year in which she cautioned that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that all South Africans benefit from the freedoms (political, social and economic) that Mandela fought for:

Many South Africans under 40 feel little connection to the father of their nation. Articles about Mandela’s many health scares late in life (at press time, the former president had been in a hospital on life support for more than a month, battling a lung infection) often feature laudatory quotes from two kinds of South Africans—whites and older blacks—while leaving out the voices of young blacks, who have a more ambivalent relationship with their founder-saint. Some even resent him.

The point here is that Mandela’s legacy will only be protected if the government facilitates greater economic inclusion of young South Africans. Simply replacing Smiths, Krugers and Plaatjes with with politically connected Khumalos, Gcobanis, and Phumlanis in the economic sphere as has happened under BEE will not cut it.

The statues and all sorts of honors that will undoubtedly come from around the world will not matter if the Madiba legacy does not get to live in the hearts and minds of South Africans of all generations, now and in the years to come.

The man gave up a lot for his country. Now that he is gone, it is time for South Africans (and especially the leadership) to honor him by keeping his dream of a more just South Africa alive. This is the least they could do for a man who is arguably top of the list of the greatest Africans of the 20th century.

Rest in peace Madiba. 

 

How to achieve energy security for growth in Africa

This post originally appeared on the AfDB’s Integrating Africa Blog where yours truly is a regular contributor.

According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, 44% of businesspeople in Africa identified inadequate infrastructure as one of the key constraints to doing business in the region.  This means that as Africa continues to grow in the next two decades, infrastructure development must top the investment agenda. General infrastructure development will be especially crucial as African economies undergo structural transformation from being primarily resource-driven to having bigger manufacturing and service sectors. Indeed Ernst & Young estimates that in 2012 43.1% of investments in capital in Africa went to manufacturing as opposed to 12% that went to the extractive sector. 

A key area that will require greater and smarter investment to fuel the region’s economic growth will be the energy sector. 

Everyone knows about the energy woes of many an African country – from Nigeria’s infamous generators to the total lack of functional national grids in some African states. A few countries have initiated plans to boost their energy sectors through investment in power generation (Ethiopia’s 6000MW Great Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile), oil refining (Angola’s planned 200,000 bbl/day refinery in Lobito), and aggressive prospecting for fossil fuels (especially in eastern and southern Africa). Despite these national efforts, for African states to ensure energy security for their growing economies, they must also think regional (and to some extent continental) when developing their respective energy sectors. As intra-Africa trade grows in the next two decades, there will be pressure to integrate energy markets as well. 

The reasons for a regional/continental approach to energy sector development are twofold. Firstly, investment outlays in energy infrastructure development are often prohibitively expensive (because their viability relies on economies of scale), thus necessitating the pooling of resources. Ethiopia’s newest dam, for instance, will cost $4.7 billion. Not many African countries can afford such massive investments on one project. 

Secondly, there is the issue of markets. With 12% of the world’s population, Africa consumes a meager 3% of the world’s electricity. Of this 75% takes place in North Africa (33%) and South Africa (45%). The remainder is shared out among the rest of Sub-Saharan African states. Furthermore, electricity connectivity on the continent remains relatively low, with rates averaging 43% (North Africa stands at 99%, with the other sub-regions between 12-44%).

This means that for projects like Ethiopia’s to make sense, access to international markets must be guaranteed. A key part of the Ethiopian project is the planned interconnector line linking the power station to the Kenyan grid. Joint investment and taking advantage of economies of scale will also help lower the cost of power in Africa. At present the average tariff per kilowatt-hour in the region is US $0.14, compared to US $0.04 in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that investing in regional grids and hydropower will save the region up to $2 billion annually. This is music to the ears of sugar millers, cement manufacturers and many small factory owners across the continent. 

Existing and Planned Power Pool Connections in Africa

Source: Niyimbona, P, UN Economic Commission for Africa; Note: There are additional planned lines connecting Ethiopia to Sudan and Kenya, respectively, not shown on the map.

With this in mind, African states have begun the process of integrating their power sector infrastructure, via regional power pools (see map above of existing and planned power interconnector links). The South African Power Pool (SAPP, established in 1995); North African power pool (COMELEC , 1998); West African Power Pool (WAPP, 2000); the Central African Power Pool (CEAPP, 2003); and the East Africa Power Pool (EAPP, 2005) are all initiatives to establish regional power markets and help harmonize energy policy. 

The COMELEC sub-region (27.4 GW, largely thermal, in 2009) has the highest connectivity and the best infrastructure. The region is also linked to the Middle East via the Egypt-Jordan interconnector line and Europe via the Morocco-Spain line (part of the future Mediterranean Electricity Ring, MEDRING). SAPP, with a capacity of 50GW (78.4% coal; 20.1% hydro; 4% nuclear and 1.6% diesel), is next in terms of infrastructure development.  The remaining pools have 13 GW in the WAPP; 29 GW in the EAPP. There is a plan to link the EAPP to states outside of East Africa as part of COMESA. The 19-state COMESA bloc has an installed capacity of 52MW (69% thermal and 30% hydro) and has since 2009 initiated a process to harmonize regulation and energy policy.   In terms of regional (intra-power pool) trade in power, SAPP is ahead with 7.5%, WAPP 6.9%, NAPP 6.2%, EAPP 0.4% and CAPP 0.2%.  Clearly, there is a lot of room for improvement in levels intra-pool trade in power. 

All these developments are encouraging. But a lot more needs to be done. For starters African states must work harder to harmonize their energy policies. This will necessarily involve greater liberalization of their power sectors, especially with regard to power generation and distribution. There is also an urgent need to invest in interconnector infrastructure to ensure that power can be transmitted efficiently to market. In the Day Ahead Market (DAM) of SAPP, for instance, trading is limited by between 40-50% of the potential level due to lack of efficient transmission capacity. Lastly, there will be a need to connect the regional power pools. This will reduce their overreliance on regional “anchor” economies (the best example of this is SAPP’s overreliance on ESKOM of South Africa, which has its own integrated resource plan). It will also create even bigger markets, including potentially the Middle East and Europe.  

Ultimately, whether or not the dream of regional and continental power interconnectivity is achieved will depend on politics. Unfortunately, so far things do not look good. Almost a decade after the idea of regional power pools set in, governments are yet to harmonize their power sector regulatory policies. In many countries state monopolies dominate, with attendant inefficiencies. And across the continent power supply master plans are still very nation-centric and under the tight control of local vested interests. Moving forward, the challenge will be to convince governments and stakeholders (private sector and consumers alike) of the benefits of having an Africa-wide power market – which will necessarily require the liberalization of national power sectors. The alternative will be more roundtable discussions and promises of policy harmonization that never get fulfilled.