The Economist reports on a project hatched to rebrand sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody can dispute the need to revamp the image of the Continent to make it be more than just about warring Congolese, corrupt Nigerians, or starving Ethiopians. That said, I am not too excited about the idea of packaging the entire continent as one brand for the following reasons:
1. This effort creates incentives for free-riding. Reforming is hard and therefore Chad will not reform if it can get away with attracting marginal investments because a reforming Central African Republic, through the neighborhood effect, has given it a better image.
2. It is the same Africa-is-one-country paradigm that denies the better performing states in Africa foreign investment and good press. Giving the whole continent a single brand does not solve this problem. Each African country should own up to its failures and not be given incentives to hide under an African umbrella.
For instance, ONLY South Africa deserves to bask in the glory of having hosted a successful World Cup tournament. Chad, CAR, Niger, Somalia, the DRC, etc, had nothing to do with it. In the same vein, only Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and other reforming African states should tout their respective successes. It is by highlighting these countries’ competencies, without diluting them with the others’ mediocrity, that the image of the Continent will be improved.
Without taking a stand on which brand of democracy should be practiced around the world (I just know that I like the things that are supposed to come with democracy like the rule of law and responsive government) I would like to wish you all a happy democracy day. Here’s a message I just got from NDI:
NDI wishes you a happy International Day of Democracy, an annual global celebration of human rights, the rule of law and other principles that unite democracies around the world. This day, Sept. 15, was designated by the United Nations to reaffirm the universality of democratic values and recognize the aspirations of people around the world to have a say in how they are governed and make free choices about how they live their lives.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has announced that he shall be running for president in next year’s general election, according to a post on his facebook page. Apparently the good sir takes social media seriously:
While some observers were surprised that Mr Jonathan had used Facebook to announce his candidacy, he said in July that comments on his page had influenced him in overturning his ban on the national football team . . . . . . . . . “People may scoff, but we take the interactions seriously, we track the [Facebook] feedback,” a presidential adviser told the Reuters news agency.
It will be interesting to see how the rank and file of the PDP reacts to this announcement. Under the party’s implicit North-South agreement the next president has to come from the North. Mr. Jonathan is a southerner.