How quickly can you regrow a forest?

Apparently, 20 years.

Here’s evidence from Brazil:

reforestation….. Salgado was to take over his family’s sprawling cattle ranch in Minas Gerais—a region he remembered as a lush and lively rainforest. Unfortunately, the area had undergone a drastic transformation; only about 0.5% was covered in trees, and all of the wildlife had disappeared. “The land,” he tells The Guardian, “was as sick as I was.”

Then, his wife Lélia had an idea: they should replant the forest. In order to support this seemingly impossible cause, the couple set up the Instituto Terra, an “environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce,” in 1998. Over the next several years, the Salgados and the Instituto Terra team slowly but surely rebuilt the 1,754-acre forest, transforming it from a barren plot of land to a tropical paradise.

Now a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, hundreds of species of flora and fauna call the former cattle ranch home. In addition to 293 species of trees, the land now teems with 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles—many of which are endangered. As expected, this rejuvenation has also had a huge impact on the ecosystem and climate. On top of reintroducing plants and animals to the area, the project has rejuvenated several once dried-up springs in the drought-prone area, and has even positively affected local temperatures.

forestcover

Here is the Guardian story.

Perhaps there is hope for countries like Nigeria (see graph) to eventually reverse the deforestation trends across the Continent over the last five decades.

Urbanization might help in the medium-to-long term, although its effects will be moderated by what happens to agricultural productivity. Climate change will matter, too. Finally, Kenya and Ethiopia provide suggestive evidence that the Continent’s ongoing population explosion might not decimate its forests after all. On Nigeria, it would be interesting to determine if the decline in forest cover is due to population growth or climate change effects in its central and northern regions.

The Ethiopia-Somalia War of 1977

In the past week Somalia has found itself in diplomatic tiffs with both Kenya and Ethiopia. The Kenyan government recently denied entry to Somalian public officials on diplomatic passports — perhaps to pressure Somalia to drop claims over possibly hydrocarbon rich waters in the Somali Sea. In return, Somalia urged donors and the development community to not hold meetings in either Nairobi or Addis, and instead consider Mogadishu or other regional capitals. And in Ethiopia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a map that included Somalia as part of Ethiopia (it also did not include South Sudan and the Sahrawi Republic).

greatersomaliaSomalia’s problems with its more powerful neighbors are not new. Both Nairobi and Addis have always looked at Somalia as a threat to their territorial integrity on account of their substantial ethnic Somali populations and on-and-off nationalist claims over all of “Greater Somalia” (see map). As such, both are currently working to ensure that a strong unitary state does not emerge in Mogadishu. In the 1960s Kenya fought irredentists in its Somali-speaking northeast. At the time Nairobi accused Mogadishu of supporting the irredentists.

Ethiopia, too, fought Somalia in the Ogaden in the late 1970s. Cuba, the Soviet Union, and South Yemen backed Addis (the OAU was also on Ethiopia’s side). Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia vowed to back Mogadishu were Ethiopia to invade Somalia’s territory.  In many ways the Ogaden War began the end of Siad Barre’s regime and Somalia’s eventual state collapse in the early 1990s (and arguably also set the Derg regime on its way to collapse). This great post recounts the dynamics of the war:

This blog post is intended to highlight the history of a short, but nonetheless bloody inter-state conflict which cost the lives of over 12,000 soldiers on both sides. The two opposing sides were well-equipped for manoeuvre warfare, and had been trained and equipped by the superpowers. That capacity for major combat operations (MCO) has been recorded by the historian Gebru Tareke, the most authoritative scholar of this conflict, quoting an Ethiopian veteran of this war who stated that ‘if one were to combine the Ethiopian air force and the Somali tank units, one would have created Africa’s dream army’. The Ethiopian-Somali War of 1977-1978 provides an example of non-Western MCO outside that continues to be worthy of wider consideration and analysis. It also had catastrophic consequences which continue to destabilise the region as a whole.

……On the eve of the Somali invasion of the Ogaden Barre’s forces were outnumbered on paper by their adversaries, having 25,000 troops (in one commando, 9 mechanised and 5 infantry battalions) facing 51,000 soldiers (in 3 infantry divisions, a mechanised battalion and an airborne battalion). However, Ethiopian combat power was dissipated by a series of insurgencies (most notably the Eritrean revolt), while military morale was further undermined by the purges and executions of the officer corps instigated with Mengistu’s ‘Red Terror’. The Ethiopians had a slight advantage with artillery and air power (6 field batteries to 4 Somali ones, and one bomber and three fighter/ground attack (FGA) squadrons to one bomber and 2 FGA squadrons), but were outnumbered in armour, as the SNA had 6 battalions of Soviet-supplied T-54/T-55 tanks to Ethiopia’s two battalions of US-made M-41s and M-60s. The mismatch between the two sides – and the preparatory guerrilla campaign by the WSLF – accounts for the immediate successes of the Somali onslaught in the summer of 1977.

Shortly after the SNA crossed the frontier in force on 13thJuly 1977, both they and the WSLF conquered 90% of Ogaden. The Ethiopians were routed, and on 12thSeptember 1977 the strategically-vital town of Jijiga fell to the invaders. Mengistu’s forces managed to keep a toe-hold on Northern Ogaden, thwarting an SNA/WSLF attack on Dire Dawa on 17thAugust, whilst defending Harar from a series of Somali/insurgent onslaughts from September 1977 to January 1978. Like Josif Stalin in the first months of Operation Barbarossa, Mengistu responded to battlefield setbacks by arraigning and executing both officers and soldiers for cowardice and incompetence. However, the Ethiopian dictator also rallied his people with patriotic appeals to defend the homeland against the Somali aggressors, and like the French Jacobins in the 1790s he raised a militia of ill-trained but fervent fighters who provided the manpower which enabled the professional military to hold Dire Dawa and Harar, and then subsequently reconstitute its depleted ranks. An external attack allowed Mengistu to overcome the internal revolutionary turmoil he had fuelled, temporarily unifying his people against an external enemy.

In addition to the fascinating military history of the Ogaden War, the post has this interesting tidbit about Soviet and Cuban designs in the Horn and southern Arabia:

Barre’s failure to gain US support was compounded by the rupturing of Somalia’s alliance with the Soviet bloc. Moscow and Havana had hoped that a ‘progressive’ Ethiopia and Somalia could form a Federation with another Marxist-Leninist state, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), and both Leonid Brezhnev and Fidel Castro were infuriated by the Somali dictator’s demands for the secession of the Ogaden as a precondition. Moscow came to the conclusion that in political, economic and demographic terms Ethiopia counted for more than Somalia, and the latter’s isolation from the OAU provided an additional incentive to back Mengistu. Furthermore, the Soviets concluded that after the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s turn towards the West, the USSR needed for reasons of prestige to bolster its newest ally in North-East Africa. In late September 1977 the PDRY sent two battalions of troops to Ethiopia, and two months later the USSR commenced a massive sea and airlift of arms to Mengistu’s regime. Barre responded by denouncing his friendship treaty with the USSR on 13thNovember 1977, and by expelling Soviet and Cuban military advisors from Somalia. This proved to be a catastrophic mistake on his part.

Soviet and Cuban military assistance eventually proved decisive in helping Addis regain control over the Ogaden. Read the whole thing here.

Also, the Battle of Jijiga needs to be made into a movie.

Finally, it is worth noting that the decades-long fears in Nairobi and Addis about a strong unitary state in Somalia will continue to hamper efforts to stabilize Somalia. While Ethiopian and Kenyan troops continue to serve as peacekeepers in Somalia, both countries’ medium term goals (the achievement of peace and stability) are at variance with their long-term strategic objectives (to keep Mogadishu too weak to mount any credible challenge to their respective territorial integrity). At the moment these dual goals are aligned with the interests of some of Somalia’s elites who want a federal system of government with decentralized security powers.

However, it is unclear if formalized warlordism will result in lasting peace.

 

The disaster that is Kenya’s new “competency-based”curriculum

This is from Business Daily:

….. a Grade Two student at a private primary school in Kiambu County, gets upset every evening that his father, Joseph Mutiga, returns home without a printer.

His homework involves printing assignments almost on a daily basis, and his dad has promised him that he will buy a colour printer to make it easier for him to deliver on the assignments.

print outs must be done in full colour.

The Mutiga household’s story is replicated in most Kenyan households that have school going children in Grade Three and below, who are undertaking the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

The curriculum, which is set to replace the 8-4-4 system that was criticised for being too theoretical and exam-focused, has won admirers and critics in equal measure.

A small home colour printer costs about Sh10,000, which Mr Mutiga says is a new item on his budget. He is also contemplating installing a home internet connection that will add about Sh2,500 to his monthly budget.

Critics, including the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), have however warned that the new curriculum will entrench inequalities where only children of the rich and middle class families will afford to provide their children with the relatively expensive learning materials.

Public schools, and especially those in rural areas and urban slums, are most affected as their student populations cannot afford the materials required for the new curriculum. In Kirinyaga County, Jerry Mworia says his son previously brought home class assignments that only required him to use a pencil and a book. After the new curriculum took effect, he is now regularly required to buy items that are not stocked in his neighbourhood shops such as modelling clay.

“I had to make a two-hour round trip to Kerugoya, the nearest place I could find plasticine (a brand of modelling clay). I bought a kilogramme for Sh150.

Kenya’s CBC is a caricature of isomorphic mimicry. Teachers are not ready. Parents are not ready. The government is not ready. It all sounds like a sophomore project gone awry.

Yet millions of Kenyan pupils will be subjected to this disaster of a policy. It is not hard to see how the new system will worsen class-based differences in education outcomes. The curriculum is totally divorced from the lived experience of the vast majority of Kenyans.

Now it would be one thing if the Kenyan government had the capacity to pull it all off. However, the government merely implemented what “consultants” and “advisors”, many of whom obviously had very little local knowledge, suggested. It has done precious little to prepare the country for the policy.

Most reputable education professionals in Kenya oppose the shift.

The textbooks are a disaster. Teachers have not been trained.

Add this to the list of failed “development” projects that are completely divorced from the objective realities of their intended beneficiaries.

Roll-out of the curriculum has taken off poorly, especially in public schools that do not yet have books and other learning materials. Teachers in some public schools were yet to get instruction kits as of late last week. “From the CBC training, we are required to take videos, pictures and in some lessons use the television as a teaching tool, but we do not have any of the supporting equipment and books at my school,” said Mrs Jackline Mueni, a Grade Three teacher in a public school.

Recall that it is the same Uhuru Kenyatta administration that came up with the hair-brained idea to give a laptop to every Standard One pupil. The plan was later shelved, after reality set in.

The clock is ticking on the CBC.

 

There is less (ethnic) favoritism in the allocation of public sector jobs in Kenya and Uganda than you might think

This paper from LSE’s Rebecca Simson in African Affairs goes against a lot of my priors:

The unfair distribution of public sector jobs is a common grievance in many societies, but arguably more so in ethnically polarized ones. Using census data from Kenya and Uganda, two countries with a history of ethnic conflict, this article examines how public employment is allocated in multi-ethnic societies by studying the correlates of holding public sector jobs. The results demonstrate that the public services of Kenya and Uganda are first and foremost comprised of educational elites with considerably higher average levels of educational attainment than across the labour forces at large. However, when education is controlled for, highs-killed women and candidates from less developed districts are more likely to work for the state than others. As a result, public sector jobs are more equitably distributed along gender, regional and ethnic lines than education alone would predict. I hypothesize that formal policies to promote regional equity in the provision of basic services in combination with affirmative action measures are contributing to creating comparatively inclusive public services.

public sector workers

Interestingly, the article finds Moi’s presidency in Kenya to be an outlier:

With one exception, the presidency of Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya, there is little evidence of an employment advantage for coethnics of past or current presidents.

You can read the whole paper here.

Along with neopatrimonialism, ethnicity has become a catch-all explanation for everything in Africa. It is great that more and more scholars are interrogating the data on these concepts, and in so doing uncovering patterns that go against some of our most entrenched beliefs about the nature of politics in the region.

Of course region-specific levels of education attainment are endogenous. But one would think that they are sticky enough to make these results interesting. At a minimum, this is a call for a more careful description of baseline conditions against which to measure ethnic favoritism in Africa’s public sectors.

A primer on the political crisis in Sudan

This is a great take on the political crisis in Sudan (the comparisons with Ethiopia are highly illuminating, too). Here’s a section on General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, the Eastern Darfuri military man (warlord, really) who has emerged as a major power player in Khartoum:

hamedtiSudan’s protest movement will be negotiating with a military that has set ways of dealing with civilian adversaries. Expectations it is willing to make a strategic and irreversible retreat from politics seems over-optimistic. The TMC’s 30thApril pronouncements and the subsequent hardening of language certainly sow doubt about the prospect of that happening any time soon.

The unilateral and escalatory nature of the council’s statement goes against the letter and spirit of the negotiations. It may be a hint of an intense internal power struggle. It could also signal an attempt by hardline factions to assert greater control – a hypothesis lent some credence by the fact it was the TMC’s second in command Gen Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemedti who was personally involved.

Hemedti, the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF – Quwaat al-Da’m al-Sari’), has in recent weeks emerged as the real power within the TMC, playing court to visiting dignitaries and diplomats. His swift maneuvers to consolidate power within the military and security services is anything but coincidental. He was for example “elevated” to a “member” of the National Intelligence and Security Service (official SUNA news agency dispatch said he was now “uzw” – a “member” of NISS – a vague term that is both odd and inexplicable) at a low-key event in Khartoum in late April.

The RSF itself is affiliated to the NISS since it was established in 2013 from the rump of the Janjaweed militia and one would assume Hemedti as commander would be a “member” of the intelligence and security service.

The original force, roughly 7,000, was drawn mainly from Hemedti’s own Rizaygat tribe in Darfur (an important factor in itself that partly explains its strong internal cohesion and loyalty to Hemedti). It has a complicated dual command chain; answerable to both the NISS DG and the regular Army General Command. Bashir increasingly relied on the RSF and the Popular Police Forces in recent years to quell social unrest and low-level armed insurrections. The bulk of the RSF is now fighting in Yemen alongside Emirati troops, a decision based on RSF’s perceived counterinsurgency competence/adaptability to the Yemeni battlefield conditions.

Read the whole thing here. For background on Omar Al-Bashir’s ouster see here.

On the political transition in Angola

This is from Presidential Power:

The August 2017 elections in Angola represented a case of electoral succession in the sense that the new president comes from the same party of the outgoing president; however, it is a case of nonhereditary succession. João Lourenço was not Dos Santos’ first choice (he even tried to revert the MPLA candidates’ list for the 2017 elections) and speculation around the leadership succession pointed to his eldest son, José Filomeno dos Santos (aka Zénu).

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 5.21.55 PM

In less than a year in office, the new president began to remove members of the Dos Santos clan from Angola’s epicenter of political and economic power. João Lourenço deposed Dos Santos’ daughter and one of the richest woman in Africa, Isabel dos Santos, from the presidency of the state oil company, Sonangol. Also, her half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, was removed from the chairmanship of Angola’s $5 billion USD sovereign wealth fund (FSDEA).

… these removals have been effortless, as the former president’s family neither receives the MPLA’s support nor enjoys popularity. Furthermore, João Lourenço’s actions affecting Dos Santos’ family increased his popularity levels inside and outside the ruling party and thus didn’t allow the former president to stand up for his targeted family members, as pointed out by Ismael Mateus.

Angola’s political transition is an important lesson on the dangers of institutionalized autocracy. Dos Santos’ investment in a strong MPLA made possible the seamless transition and the power shift to the new president. Convinced of continued stability in the absence of the old president and the party’s ability to handle the transition, Angolan elites were willing to let Dos Santos step down and to bandwagon with the new president once he ascended to power.

“Smarter” (and arguably weaker) autocrats know to ensure that there is no alternative focal center of power around which elites can mobilize — whether in the form of an institution or individuals. This is the Biya/Museveni/Obiang/Eyadema/Afeworki playbook.

All to say that autocracies with strong ruling party traditions on the Continent (in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) are different from the individual-centered operations across the region — in places like Cameroon, Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, Togo, and Uganda.

More broadly, across the Continent turnover dynamics are interesting in autocracies and democracies alike. Botswana’s incumbent Mokgweetsi Masisi quickly fell out with his predecessor Ian Khama after taking office. South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa will likely go after Jacob Zuma after this month’s election. Policy and personal differences between incumbents and their predecessors hold the promise of creating stronger incentives for institutionalized rule and constitutional protections of retired elites’ civil liberties (and the wider population as well).

 

Evidence shows that racial isolation drives down ANC support among White South Africans

This is from an excellent new paper by de Kadt and Sands in Political Behavior:

de kadt and sandsThis study investigates how political behavior is shaped by one central outcome of segregation—racial isolation—in post-apartheid South Africa. We focus on the relationship between sustained white isolation-the probability of a white person encountering a non-white person in their local context (Massey and Denton 1988)-on white racial voting. South African elections have been marked by some degree of racial voting since the advent of democracy in 1994; white South Africans havtypically voted for “white” parties such as the Democratic Party, the New National Party, the Freedom Front Plus, and the recently conglomerated Democratic Alliance. Scholars of the region have gone so far as to refer to South African elections as a “racial census” (Mattes 1995; Johnson and Schlemmer 1996; Lodge 1999; Ferree 2006, 2010). Our central contribution to this literature is to show that racial voting among white South Africans tends to increase as a function of local white isolation.
……. White South Africans living among other whites are less likely to vote across racial lines, measured as voting for the majority-black African National Congress. At the ward level, greater white isolation in post-apartheid South Africa, even conditional on ward demographics and economic status, leads to lower aggregate support for the ANC. At the individual level, whites living in areas of high white isolation, where inter-racial mixing is limited, are less likely to vote for the ANC than whites who live in less segregated areas.

You have to visit South Africa to appreciate the level of racial segregation in the “Rainbow Nation.”

I wonder how vote choice among white South Africans will evolve if and when the ANC becomes threatened by parties to its left. Presumably, expressive voting for the DA and other smaller parties would not seem so attractive under such a scenario.

Trends in trade and influence in Africa

Here are some interesting figures from the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Between 2010 and 2017 trade between African states and China rose from $91.2b to $165.4b. For the U.S. total trade volume contracted from $80.3b to $36.7b (admittedly some of this driven by declining oil prices). All major Western countries saw a decline in their trade volume with the Continent.

trade trendsGermany is the only major Western country that saw its trade volume with African states increase over the same period.

These figures also underscore the recent narrowing of the Red Sea – with Gulf states pushing for ever closer ties with African governments. A lot of focus has been on the geopolitical aspects of this shift (with Qatar and Turkey jostling for influence vs Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states). But as the trade data suggest, trade is also an important feature of the evolving Afro-Arabia relations.

Overall, it is likely that African states’ economic policies and regulations, as well as votes at the UN, will shift to reflect the changes in the strength of the Continent’s trade links.

More on this here.

Japan is trying to stem the decline of its economic influence on Continent with a new joint insurance product with African Trade Insurance Agency and a Saudi bank. The U.S. is about to launch the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

 

Former US Ambassador to Kenya lobbying to stop South Sudan war crimes court

This is from Foreign Policy:

The South Sudanese government hired Gainful Solutions Inc., a California-based lobbying group, for a two-year contract worth $3.7 million to boost ties between South Sudan and Trump administration. As one part of the overall contract between the South Sudanese government and the lobbying group, Gainful Solutions will push to “Delay and ultimately block establishment of the hybrid court envisaged” under a 2018 peace deal between the government, led by President Salva Kiir, and his longtime rival, opposition figure Riek Machar.

Gainful Solutions is run by Ranneberger, U.S. ambassador to Kenya, speaks at news conference in Nairobi, a former career U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to Kenya from 2006 to 2011, and the lobbyist Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou. Constance Berry Newman, a former senior State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development official under the George W. Bush administration, is also named a consultant on the project for a $5,000 fee, according to public disclosure filings from the Department of Justice.

The U.S. government is funding the process (through the African Union) of setting up the court, to the tune of $4.8m.

Here is Human Rights Watch on the court:

The Hybrid Court for South Sudan, set out in the country’s 2015 and 2018 peace deals, could be an important way to hold perpetrators to account for horrific abuses committed in a conflict characterized by unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances, rape and sexual violence, and destruction of property. More than four million have been forced to flee their homes.

The court, which would bring together judges and prosecutors from South Sudan and across Africa, is urgently needed to curtail impunity for serious crimes that continue to fuel a cycle of violence in the country. As Human Rights Watch has documented, the country’s domestic court system is not prepared to handle such sensitive, complex cases.

In 2014, the African Union undertook an unprecedented Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, detailing the serious crimes committed by all parties to the conflict. And since the 2015 peace deal was signed, the AU Commission has been trying to secure approval from the South Sudanese authorities for the initial steps required for the hybrid court’s creation.

Everyone is rightfully outraged. More than 400,000 have died since South Sudan descended into civil war and millions more were displaced.

These revelations also highlight the many challenges the court is likely to face if and when it is eventually set up. South Sudanese political elites (on both sides of the post-2014 conflict) are not particularly keen on facing justice for atrocities committed against civilians and armed actors. It is also unclear if Juba’s friends in Kampala, Nairobi, or Addis have any incentive to inject yet another variable into the ongoing efforts to establish a modicum of stability in South Sudan.

Moral outrage alone will not move the needle. The court’s success will depend on how much pivotal actors within IGAD are willing to lean on Machar and Kiir.

As far as lobbying in Washington, DC goes, this is yet another reminder that even weak states like South Sudan are not passive members of the international system. While their options are limited on account of their position in the hierarchical structure of the state system, they still have agency and have a variety of tools at their disposal through which they can influence the behavior of much more powerful states. See also here.

What explains the low turnout in Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election?

Consider this:

At 35 per cent, the turn-out for Nigeria’s general election in February was the lowest for any presidential (and parliamentary) ballot since democracy succeeded military rule twenty years ago.

Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 11.14.16 PM.pngAccording to the International IDEA electoral turnout database, Nigeria’s turnout in the February presidential election was the worst recorded among African states (Click on image to enlarge. Figures indicate the most recent presidential election). That is, it was lower than even in dictatorships where presidential elections are often pro forma exercises designed to stroke autocrats’ egos.

Given what is at stake, one would have expected Nigerian elites to do all they could to make sure that their voters made it to the polls. The fact that they did not suggest a major political market failure, or specific interventions by powerful actors to keep voters from the polls.

Adewale Maja-Pearce, writing in the LRB, provides one possible explanation:

Oshodi is one of the big markets in central Lagos with many Igbo traders. To their exasperation, Tinubu shut it down two days before polling, while he strolled around protected by ‘security agents’, i.e. police. This show of power – which had been preceded by threats of new ‘taxes’ on the traders if they proved ‘stubborn’ – prefigured what was to happen when voting began. A lengthy complaint by PDP agents from several of the polling stations described how ‘hoodlums and miscreants led by Musliu Akinsanya … took over the conduct of the election at the polling units … with arms and ammunition.’ They carried other ‘dangerous weapons such as machetes, charms and amulets’ but the police made no attempt to arrest them. Independent observers concurred, as did YouTube, where you can see the ‘hoodlums and miscreants’ casually trashing ballot boxes while voters flee. In other parts of the state many voters simply stayed at home. The result was that Lagos reported the lowest turnout of any state at just 17 per cent of almost seven million registered voters.

I recommend reading the whole thing. It is a fantastic meditation on the state of Nigeria’s electoral democracy.

You would think that voters in Lagos, the wealthiest state in Nigeria (with a sizable revenue base) would have more skin in the game, and therefore register a higher turnout rate. However, Nigeria is no different than most low-income democracies where turnout rates among relatively poorer voters is often higher than among the rich.

Kasara and Suryanarayan explain why this is so:

The conventional wisdom that the poor are less likely to vote than the rich is based upon research on voting behavior in advanced industrialized countries. However, in some places, the relationship between turnout and socioeconomic status is reversed. We argue that the potential tax exposure of the rich explains the positive relationship between income and voting in some places and not others. Where the rich anticipate taxation, they have a greater incentive to participate in politics, and politicians are more likely to use fiscal policy to gain support. We explore two factors affecting the tax exposure of the rich—the political salience of redistribution in party politics and the state’s extractive capacity. Using survey data from developed and developing countries, we demonstrate that the rich turn out to vote at higher rates when the political preferences of the rich and poor diverge and where bureaucratic capacity is high.

 

Litigating Nelson Mandela’s legacy

This is from Sisonke Msimang over at Africa is a Country:

Today, many younger South Africans suggest that Mandela made too many compromises.  Twenty-six years into the new era, there is a lively, angry, often chaotic debate about the role and place of the father of our nation.

umkhontoWhen the student protests began a few years ago on South Africa’s university campuses some of the young activists accused Nelson Mandela of betraying the revolution. They called him a sell-out. The elders were alarmed and hurt, but the young ones were convinced. I am of the generation that lies between the two: I was not old enough to fight for freedom but I am old enough to remember Mandela. I know that he was no sell-out.

I agree with one point the youth made however:  the revolution was betrayed. I do not place the blame at Madiba’s feet though. The blame for that lies squarely with the generation of leaders who followed him—my parent’s generation. The freedom fighters whom I respected and loved in Lusaka and Nairobi, returned home. They put down their guns and they picked up their spoons and they began to eat. Many of them have not stopped eating since. I can think of only a handful of them who I would trust with my future.

madiba

Mandela’s successors have all been lacking in one key respect or another. Thabo Mbeki’s cerebral approach to government did little to inspire the ANC’s rank and file. Jacob Zuma was a corrupt and ineffectual huckster masquerading as a populist. Cyril Ramaphosa is a multimillionaire who, while inspiring confidence among the business and middle classes, will struggle to earn the confidence of millions of South Africans who are either unemployed or underemployed.

The best hope for protecting Madiba’s legacy would be an honest and good faith attempt at solving South Africa’s structural problems — historical legacies of apartheid, lack of dependable (manufacturing) jobs, quality of education, and a fraying social sector (with crime topping the list).

Unfortunately for everyone involved, so far the country has oscillated between boardroom politicians scared stiff of the (forex) markets, and a cast of “populists” eager to exploit their control of the state for personal enrichment.

My view is that Mandela’s legacy will survive the ongoing process of undoing the legacies of colonialism/apartheid. As Msimang points out, Mandela was not a pacifist saint but a strategic politician driven by his quest for the total liberation of South Africans. To that end he was willing to play politics or resort to armed resistance, as needed.

Are term limits at risk in Benin?

downloadBenin was among a handful of African countries that voted out incumbent presidents in the “founding” multiparty elections of the early 1990s. Mathieu Kérékou, president since 1972, lost to Nicéphore Soglo in 1991, and agreed to step down.

Since then Benin has seen three presidential turnovers (with opposition candidates winning). Most importantly, Benin became one of the first countries in the region in which presidential term limits quickly congealed as part of the political culture.

All that is now at risk:

Because of changes to Benin’s electoral rules, only two parties have met the requirements to field candidates for the polls (legislative elections) scheduled for April 28, and both of them back President Patrice Talon. Among the excluded parties is the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin, which is allied with former President Thomas Boni Yayi and claimed the most seats—33 of 83 total—in the last legislative elections in 2015.

Talon has described the exclusion of the opposition from next month’s elections as “unfortunate.” Yet the president’s critics suspect he is being disingenuous and that the rule changes are having their intended effect: allowing Talon to consolidate power while undermining his rivals.

Without a meaningful opposition presence in parliament, there will be few checks on Talon’s power. And that might put Benin’s presidential term limits at risk. In 2017 Parliament rejected Talon’s attempts to tinker with the constitution by a mere three votes. It seems like there is more to come.

Is Rwanda faking economic data?

This is from ROAPE:

This blogpost aims to explore the question of inflation in Rwanda, which has emerged as the last remaining issue required to resolve the disagreement about Rwanda’s poverty statistics. Using Consumer Price Index (CPI) price data, the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) (2016) and the World Bank (2018) claim that poverty decreased by 6 percentage points from 45% between 2010/11 and 2013/14, and then by a further 1 percentage point between 2013/14 and 2017/18 (NISR 2018).

Rwanda3

Fig: extreme poverty rates accounting for inflation

However, blogs posted on roape.net (see the series, Poverty and Development in Rwanda on the website) have shown that the price data contained in the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey or Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des ménages (EICV) survey itself, as well as in the separate ESOKO dataset, indicate a much higher inflation rate over this period, resulting in a sharp increase in poverty over the same period.

… This finding provides the first direct evidence of statistical manipulation as it means that NISR reported results that corresponded to a 4.2-4.7% inflation rate between 2011 and 2014, instead of the 13.8% inflation that it claims to have used.

You can read the whole post here.

The World Bank, which has repeatedly endorsed the figures coming out of Kigali, responded with this:

The key issue of Rwanda poverty measurement between 2010/11 and 2013/14 is that the consumer price index (CPI) and the NISR price index, called the Cost of Living Indicator (COLI), do not seem to be consistent. The national CPI shows that the inflation rate between 2010/11 and 2013/14 is 23%. NISR’s COLI uses the same CPI data, and the results show Kigali’s inflation rate is very similar to the national CPI trend, but other regions show very different trends. Further, the national average of COLIs show only around 5 percent for the same period, although there is no clear theory to guarantee that the national average of COLIs and the national CPI need to be consistent.

 Is NISR’s approach flawed?

A working paper by Fatima and Yoshida (2018) found NISR’s 2016 approach – the latest official methodology – to be technically sound, but the inconsistency between CPI and COLI needs further research. The working paper, “Revisiting the Poverty Trend in Rwanda: 2010/11 to 2013/14,” is publicly available. NISR and World Bank teams are initiating a new joint research program, which will start in May 2019.

Is there any evidence that NISR manipulated poverty estimates?

No. NISR made all survey data and questionnaire as well as full documentation of their poverty measurement methodology freely available to anyone on their website. NISR has been fully open to any questions and requests from the World Bank team. Indeed, NISR welcomed technical views on their methodology and expressed strong interest in benefiting from global best practices. We have not found any clear sign of errors or manipulations.

The dispute appears to be over price indices. While I would not put it past an autocratic regime like Kagame’s to fake data, I also think that the Bank is taking on a lot of reputation risk for standing with NISR. I look forward to the outcome of the Bank’s joint research program with NISR.

A potential silver lining in all of this is that NISR will emerge as a more independent outfit (relative to politicians) that is guided by methodologically-sound approaches to making the country legible to its citizens and rulers.

 

On Jumia’s IPO on the NYSE

This is from Quartz:

jumuiaJumia, the largest e-commerce operator in Africa, has today (April 12th) launched its landmark initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange.

The IPO marks a pivotal fork in the company’s journey since first launching operations in Nigeria in 2012 and expanding over time to 14 African countries with businesses across several verticals including food delivery, real estate, logistics, hotel and flight bookings.

The IPO priced the stock at $14.50. On Tuesday it closed at $43.04. Jumia started operations in Nigeria in 2012 but now has big markets in Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa. The firm is registered in Germany. South Africa’s MTN remains its largest shareholder.

In my view the most exciting thing about the listing is that it could result in the allocation of significant amounts of capital that is needed to unlock the Continent’s online retail market and link it to the wider world market. According to the FT: 

…. mobile broadband penetration in Africa was 32 per cent, or 399m subscribers, in 2017. This was expected to rise to 73 per cent by 2022, to more than 900m subscribers.

The company said that less than 1 per cent of retail sales in the countries it operated in were conducted online, against 24 per cent in China, a sign of how undeveloped the African online market was.

I also foresee African regulators moving to force Jumia to have more of its operations domiciled on the Continent — both to create jobs and for tax purposes. The company CEO recently erroneously claimed that African countries do not have enough developers to justify the fact that its development office is in Portugal (and headquarters in Germany).

More on this here.

On Sudan’s history with coups

Coups beget coups (see, for example, the case of Ghana. More here). Furthermore, coup risk is typically highest after power turnovers, (like is the case in Sudan).

coupsFor these reasons, there is fair amount of clustering within countries when it comes to coup incidence. In Africa, Sudan leads the charts when it comes to coup incidence. According to Jonathan Powell’s data, Sudan (14) is third to Bolivia (23) and Argentina (20) in terms of the total number of both attempted and successful coups between 1950-2014 (note that this figure is different from rumored coups or other coup incidences that do not result in an actual attempt).

Because of its history with coups and military rule, it is going to be very difficult for Sudan to cycle back to civilian rule. The military has become used to governing, and will likely want to protect its turf relative to a civilian government, should one emerge.

This is not to say that establishing civilian rule is completely infeasible in Sudan. The generals in Latin America, the most coup-prone region of the world in the 20th century, have managed to shake off the habit.

It is hard to avoid comparing the events in Sudan with Egypt and Zimbabwe — instances in which mass action toppled autocrats but without the realization of full regime change. The next few weeks and months will test protestors’ patience and the overall organizational capacity of Sudan’s Civil Society.

So far it appears like there is not a high risk of intra-military fragmentation that might lead to armed conflict. I would imagine that, as a corporate entity, the military has a lot to lose should they fragment and/or come under civilian control, especially given Sudan’s emerging arms industry. Sudan has the third largest weapons industry in Africa (after South Africa and Egypt). In the short run, this might be a good thing in that it will create incentives for maintaining order within the security services. Total state collapse would be singularly bad.