There is no worthy ex-president in Africa, at least not this year

The Mo Ibrahim award goes to no one this year. The award is intended for former African presidents that have shown good leadership by peacefully relinquishing power and then doing some good after that (mediating a conflict or facilitating dialogue over disputed elections and what not). It’s a $ 5 million award for the first ten years outside of office, followed by $ 200,000 every year for life. Yes, African presidents have to be bribed to relinquish power.

But why aren’t they giving up?

Crude back of the envelope calculations reveals that the answer lies in the macro-economics of these countries. For example, in Uganda, the interest rate is slightly less than the inflation rate (at least according to the central bank website). Which means that if you put your money in the bank or invest it in treasury bills you will not be making much in the long-run.

Now assuming Museveni expects to live for 30 years after he retires, my back of the envelope calculations reveal a present value of only $ 22 million from the Mo Ibrahim award. This is probably change compared to what the big man in Kampala (well, now in Entebbe –  it’s close to the airport for easy escape in case stuff hits the fun) can make every year for the next 30 years if he stays in power. For instance, assuming that Uganda’s economy will grow at an average of 2% over the 30 years and that Museveni takes away 0.1% of the country’s GDP of 34.23 b (at PPP), then the man will have a present value of 25 m. Notice that 25>22, and by the way 0.1% is a very conservative estimate.

So it could be that what Mo needs to attract more contenders willing to relinquish power is more money. $5 million for 10 years and then $200,000 per year for life thereafter is simply not enough.

Alternatively, instead of just giving the ex-presidents the money, it should come with a guarantee that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation will help them invest the money in the international markets. This way, their frame of reference will not be the potential returns in their domestic economies  – which may not add much value to the award money – but the more lucrative international markets.

guinea-bissau has no prisons??

IRIN reports that Guinea-Bissau has no prisons. Yes, seriously. A “sovereign” state in 2009 has no formal prisons. According to the US State Department the Guinea-Bissau government detains suspects in make-shift detention centres and military bases.

Don’t you wish it was 1894 and it was still cool to move into Bissau and change things a bit? How does the international system sit back and pretend that Guinea-Bissau, as currently constituted, is a viable state? The number one function of the state should be to protect its citizens – from both foreign aggressors and internal thugs. A state that has no prisons is clearly sending a very loud signal that it cannot perform its basic function and in effect should be game, if only it was still 1894.

of african IDPs

I could not miss the irony. African leaders will be gathered in Kampala, Uganda (19th – 23rd Oct.) to come up with a mechanism to protect the more than 11 million internally displaced people (IDPs) on the Continent. IRIN touts this as a landmark move. But I beg to ask the question: Is anyone asking these leaders what is causing this internal displacement in the first place? Couldn’t we all be better off if the kleptocrats who run the Continent were not into stealing elections, emptying their national treasuries, marginalizing segments of their populations and in extreme cases committing acts of genocide? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to not have IDPs in the first place?