jacob zuma: why crash so soon?

Update: President Jacob Zuma agrees that he fathered a child out of wedlock with the 39 year-old daughter of one of his friends. Mr. Zuma is 67. In his statement the President said that he had done the “cultural imperative” of admitting to having fathered the child. A few suggestions for Mr. Zuma and those around him:

– having three wives is bad enough. Concentrate on the job. South Africans are looking up to you

– please fire your communications director. You are really bad with PR

– you are embarrassing the entire Continent. Not just yourself and your immediate family but the entire Continent. The whole 700 million of us.

The BBC reports that Jacob Zuma may have fathered a love child last year. The South African president just recently got married for the fifth time (he has three wives). He is estimated to have about 20 children. Recently when confronted about his rather colorful matrimonial situation Mr. Zuma shot back with the claim that anybody who was against polygamy was a cultural bigot.This is total horse manure. Mr. Zuma should know that culture is not static and that an attack on his wayward habits is not an attack on Zulu culture.

Until recently Mr. Zuma had exceeded expectations. His cabinet appointments (i thought) signaled his pragmatism. He stayed clear of the incendiary demagoguery that characterizes the ANC’s youth wing leader, Julius Malema. Even the media had warmed up a bit to the man who had to wiggle out of corruption and rape charges to become president. For a moment I thought that Mr. Zuma was going to be the nice blend of populism and realistic politicking that had so much eluded the intellectually aloof Thabo Mbeki. South African land reform, a fairer redistribution and creation of wealth (through a more transparent BEE and faster job creation), a reduced crime rate, etc etc seemed somewhat doable because the core of his base was the working class. But as is fast becoming apparent, it appears that the man has decided to let his personal life interfere with his job. I hope this latest incident will embarrass the ANC enough for the party to ask Mr. Zuma to go easy on the distractions and concentrate on his job.

Update: This is the last thing that SA and its ailing economy needs. The tabloid-like headings are soiling the SA presidency.

kudos to the pharaohs

The Egyptian national football team beat their Ghanaian opponents 1-0 to win a record seventh title at the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola. The Egyptians however did not qualify for the World Cup that will be held in June in South Africa, having lost to rivals Algeria in the qualifiers. Egypt beat Algeria in the semis of this tournament. I must confess that due to the time difference and a rather busy schedule I did not watch a single game of this tournament. That said, I was disappointed by the performance of the teams that qualified for the world cup. Nearly all of them struggled in the groups stages. They will definitely have to polish up if they expect to get somewhere in the World Cup tournament later in the year in South Africa.

zuma defends polygamy at davos

Yesterday South African president Jacob Zuma defended polygamy at Davos, adding that those who think their culture is superior have a problem.

This is absolutely ridiculous. The fight against polygamy is not a cultural war. It is a war against the unfair treatment of women. It is very irresponsible of Mr. Zuma to set such a sad example for his countrymen.

in defense of swahili

Update: the ministry of education has disowned the directive discussed here. Apparently there are still a few sane people under Prof. Ongeri’s docket. Now if only they could also tell us where they took the free primary education money…

When it comes to Swahili I suddenly go nationalist. I think there is something to be said about a people having their own language through which they can package their historical and cultural experiences over time. Kenya has 42 languages and many more dialects. As a nation we can’t use all of them to store our collective experiences. However, unlike most other African states, we are lucky to have a Bantu language that is widely used and that we have appropriated to be our national language. Through Swahili and effective government we can make everyone who speaks Pokot, Sabaot, Kikuyu, Luo or Maragoli Kenyan by creating an imagined community of shared experiences.

The reason I bring this up is that the busy bodies at the Ministry of Education have decided to make Swahili optional at KCPE level. Pupils will be given the option of taking Swahili or sign language. This is madness. I am not against people learning sign language. My concern is that those who will readily place out of Swahili are the very pupils who ought to be learning and speaking more of the language. My conjecture is that the only schools that will afford good sign language teachers will be the pricier ones in the urban areas. These schools have students who can barely speak Swahili because English is the only language they can truly claim to speak. This is a shame.

While we continue trying to Kenyanize people in West Pokot, Suba, Mogotio, Maragua and Garsen, we should not forget the youngsters in Nairobi. They need to be educated in Swahili too. In fact I think it is time we had subjects like religious and social studies (at the primary school level) taught in Swahili – along with English, Math and the Sciences which would obviously still be taught in English for practical reasons.

some good news from Guinea

Abubakar  Diakite, the guy who almost assassinated Guinean dictator Moussa Camara, should be handsomely rewarded. Well, unless he was actually responsible for the massacre of more than 150 pro-civilian-rule opposition protesters last year in which case he should be tried for crimes against humanity and locked away for life. Either way his actions may have put Guinea on the path towards civilian rule. Capt. Camara has agreed to “voluntary exile” (yeah right) in Burkina Faso. His henchmen (now led by his second in command) have also agreed to hand over power to civilians after a six-moth transition period. All active members of the armed forces are barred from running in the elections to be held in six months. This is a good start, although things may yet change.

In other news, the Senegalese President (Abdoulaye Wade) is not smart. Haitians do not need Senegalese land. Haitians need to get their act together in Haiti. He is like the bleeding hearts who are willing to help strangers in foreign lands while their own relatives starve. Senegal has an income per capita of $1600. Life expectancy stands at 59 years. The country also has the 40th worst infant mortality rate in the world. Mr. Wade’s nonsensical grandstanding is an embarrassment.

please do away with the “omnipresent smells of donkey dung”

Big business and economic development in “pristine lands” is awful. Especially if you grew up with the comforts of indoor plumbing and general over-abundance of the purest hedonistic-capitalist kind. It is only when you have the choice to pop in and out of “tropical obscurity” that you would find the intellectual courage to defend a way of life that is just above that of man circa 1750 A.D. Suddenly you find yourself forgetting the basic fact that it is underdevelopment that makes infant mortality, HIV infection rates, gender inequality and a whole lot of other maladies most acute in your presumed tropical paradise.

I am beginning to read things to the effect that the development of a port in Lamu (Kenya) is bad – both for the environment and the local people and their culture. I don’t buy most of the stuff though. The likes of Gettleman want us to believe that people in places like Lamu are inherently anti-development. According to him the people of Lamu “say they are not especially well suited for the mechanized world.” Good for them. They would much rather live with the “omnipresent smells of donkey dung” than have a modern port constructed in their district. This is total horse manure.

Firstly, the environmental costs of having a modern port in Lamu will surely be outweighed by the socio-economic benefits. Oil exports from Uganda and Southern Sudan, among other trading opportunities in the wider region will surely create jobs in the area. Secondly, why should we assume that exposure of Lamu culture to the wider (albeit still not completely apparent) Kenyan Culture is necessarily bad? Aren’t cultures supposed to change with time? Plus if Lamu culture cannot keep up after such an encounter it should be allowed to go the way of the dodo. That is why we build museums.

If it can be done – as it should – the construction of Kenya’s second port in Lamu should be a foregone conclusion. The Kenyan government should make this crystal clear to all the environmentalists and anthropologists concerned.


Can someone please tell me how these guys sleep at night given that they run a country with the following stats?????

Infant mortality: 54.7 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy: 58 years

Female literacy rate: 80%

Urban population (crude measure of peasantry rate and level of industrialization): 22% of total population (2008)


so what exactly do they do at the AU? seriously

If the African Union has a PR section then they should all be fired. I am beginning to think that all they do at the AU is convene every year to elect the worst dictator among them as president – Gaddafi is the current president. Well, on top of issuing statements defending the actions of slightly lesser or worse dictators like Zim’s Mugabe and Sudan’s Bashir.

The BBC has this story about the tenuous peace deal between the two Sudans. The whole story has pictures of dusty, out-of-the-past southern Sudan and a clip of some UK foreign office official. No one from either the northern or southern governments appears. The AU is obviously not mentioned. The salvaging of the peace deal is squarely put on the shoulders of the international community. Do the Sudanese care that they may go back to war? Does the AU care? Who knows? From the BBC report it appears that they don’t. Foreigners care more. As always. May be this is merely a matter of the BBC choosing to ignore the key players involved here. Or it could be that the key players don’t care. Or both.

more on economic development

In line with the theme of my previous post here is a link to Chris Blattman’s blog. This is the kind of stuff that should be bugging economic planners in capitals all over the Continent. How do we grow medium-sized to large corporations that are gonna create jobs? Of course corporations have problems too. But at least they are not as bad as those posed by abject poverty.

jua kali will not take us where we want to go

Informal businesses provide employment for millions of Kenyans. Kiosks (both big and of the mama mboga variety), the mitumba business, matatus and even peasant agriculture are what keeps the average Kenyan going. Because of governance issues – like corruption and poor laws – the formal sector of the Kenyan economy has consistently failed to provide enough jobs for the ever growing population. That said, I believe that the jua kali (informal) sector will not take Kenya where it wants to go. Economic History teaches us that scale has merits. It provides the resources for R&D, lowers operational costs and generates revenue for the government because it is hard to hide profits from the taxman like is commonplace in Kenya’s jua kali sector. Plus if we have scale we can export surplus production to places all over the Continent thus creating even more Kenyan jobs – why should we cede these markets to the Chinese, Indians and other “Dubai” traders?

That is why I think that Jaindi Kisero has a point with regard to Kenya’s matatu-dominated transport sector. It is time Nairobi, if not all major cities and towns, had decent public transportation unlike the chaotic and thuggish matatu industry. The matatu industry has given rise to a matatu culture that has taken vulgarity and criminality to a new level – the epitome of which is the dreaded Mungiki sect. Because of this, most reasonable people would concur that “formalizing” public transportation and the matatu industry would go a long way in reducing crime and bringing some sanity to Kenyan roads. Now if only there was a place where we could purchase political will and secretly feed it to Kenyan politicians.

And in other news, Somalis in the southern part of the country will be forced to go hungry after al-Shabab kicked out the WFP. About 900,000 people will be affected by the WFP decision. 2.8 million Somalis are dependent on food relief. The WFP decided to close shop in the face of several demands from al-Shabab (the demands were not all bad, I should add. One of them was that the WFP should not import food during the harvest season in order to promote local agriculture. These al-Shabab types know something about the demerits of food aid in Africa, it seems). Somalia has not had a functional government since the fall of Siad Barre in the early 1990s. Sometimes I wonder whether instead of the US paying the Ethiopians to invade Somalia it might have been better to have the Islamic Courts Union run the country. Well, at least for some time before incentivizing their being less predatory and misogynistic. Most politicians the world over have a price. Especially once they have tasted real power.

Lastly, Somalia is not all gloomy. If you are daring enough you can make money in the land of the al-Shabab, without being involved in piracy.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you out there.

Let’s start off the year by looking at the one thing that the Continent needs really badly: economic growth. Uganda’s New Vision reports that African business people have positive expectations for the new year. Responding to a survey by Africa Practice most of them believed that intra-continental trade as well as FDI would increase in the coming year. Perhaps most crucially, a plurality of those polled believed that infrastructure development – ICT and what not – would be more influential to business development than politics. For a very long time Africa’s governance challenges have retarded economic development. May be economic development might be the key that will incentivise good governance. Angola, Namibia and Kenya, to some extent, are the countries that may prove this prediction right in 2010.

2010 will also be a footballing year for the Continent. From January 10 – 31 Angola will host the 27th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN). May the best team win, and I hope none of the Continental heavyweights will pick up injuries because come June South Africa is hosting the FIFA World Cup. The Continent has good teams in the World Cup and this might just be the year that an African team wins the coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.

And in other news, South African president – Jacob Zuma – just got married for the fifth time and is engaged to at least one other woman. I still stand by my previous comments on this matter.