pourism is not restricted to the developing world

Pourism, aka poverty porn, is not restricted to the third world. In the West it is cheaper than having to buy a plane ticket, among other expenses, to go visit people villages in Rwanda or Kenya. You can get it all online.

not so common commonsense

Because commonsense is not as common as we might think, or want, please check out Texas in Africa who has lately been writing a bit about how social science works.

the icc and the congo

IRIN news reports that arrests in Europe of political leaders of rebel movements in the Congo may not have much impact on the goings on on the ground. Even the FDLR is not immune to the commonplace principal-agent problems we are all aware of. The disconnect between the political leaders in Europe and generals on the ground is limiting the deterrence effects of the arrests.

I am not a huge fan of the ICC. But I am not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. The institution has potential to be a voice for the voiceless. Because of the ICC Kenyan politicians in the future will think twice before ordering jobless youth to murder innocent civilians. Because of the ICC rebel leaders cannot fly in and out of Brussels to raise money with abandon. These are not trivial achievements.

Accusations against the court’s Africa-bias may have some merit. Even more important are charges that the court does not appreciate the political consequences of justice or that the very idea of justice is political (see the Bashir case in Sudan). Others even point out the fact that going after the big fish ignores local offenses that also require redress. These are serious concerns that the ICC should address. But that said, overall I think that the ICC does more good than harm.

happy mashujaa day to all Kenyans out there

20th of October is heroes (and heroines) day in Kenya. This blog wishes all Kenyans out there a happy Mashujaa Day. I particularly would like to honor those who fought for the second liberation following the passing on of President Kenyatta. Special mention goes to President Kibaki and Premier Odinga, Murungi, Njoya, Nyong’o, Matiba, Odinga, Ngilu, Karua, Wamalwa, Maathai, Orengo, Muite, Shikuku, Anyona, among others.

flagIt is also important, on this day, to remember the millions of Kenyans who still live like it is 1962. The fruits of independence have largely been confined to the parasitical wabenzi class and their cronies in government while regular wananchi suffer.

the demographic origins of poverty and statelessness

A very low population density may be at the heart of Africa’s historical under-performance when it comes to territorial state-formation and economic development. Bad geography, the very high disease burden and mediocre leadership, among other variables, may be but secondary causal explanations for Africa’s underdevelopment. The proximate cause may be how these secondary variables have affected and/or interacted with population density.

OK. That was a weak argument, but check this out.

frustrations of the african intellectual

William Easterly on Aid Watch captures the frustrations of African intellectuals and their continued neglect by both the aid industry and their home governments.

African intellectuals continue to be on the periphery of the discourse on African socio-economic development. The independence leaders jailed, killed or exiled many of them, leading to fifty years of disastrous misrule and general mediocrity from Dakar to Mogadishu, Khartoum to Jo’burg. The current crop of autocrats and pretend-democrats did not learn a thing from the last half-century and continue to opt for career poverty-voyeurs development experts from donor countries instead of their own people who may have greater incentives to see their homeland match the achievements of the newly emerging states of Brazil, India and China.

william ruto suspended from cabinet

The road to Rule of Law in Kenya is just beginning to take shape. For sure, politicians will continue to flout the constitution but things are no longer the same. Today, as required by law, President Kibaki suspended higher education minister Hon. William Ruto because of the latter’s pending criminal trial over a fraudulent land deal. Section 62 of the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act states: “a public office charged with corruption or economic crime shall be suspended at half pay, with effect from the date of the charge.”

Given the stature of Mr. Ruto as the ethnic chief de facto political leader of the vast Rift Valley Province, this is a big deal.

The next big test for how committed the ruling class in Kenya is committed to the Rule of Law will be when Ocampo and the ICC come calling with arrest warrants later in the year or early next year. Bigwigs in cabinet and close confidants of both the president and his prime minister are expected to be among those indicted.

Links that I liked

Aid Watch has a post on the aid industry’s fixation on mostly African horror stories.

The Economist has a nice article on the latest developments in Afro-Chinese relations.

And for the many procrastinators out there there here’s an article from The New Yorker that will help you better understand yourself, and waste a few minutes of your day.

PS: Graduate school has lately gotten in the way of blogging. Regular posts will resume in the next few days.

the ingredients of development

I am in the middle of writing a piece contrasting a subset of African and non-African dictatorships over the last half century. As most of you might know, quite a number of African countries have been mournfully commemorating celebrating 50 years of independence from European empires. Many of them, including the behemoth and perennial under-achiever that is Nigeria, have almost nothing to show for over half a century of self-rule. Disease, endemic poverty, general political and socio-economic stuntedness are what come to mind when one thinks of these places, and with good reason. Look at the latest UN HDI report if you think that Africa’s bad press is nothing but unfair afro-pessimism.

And keeping with the theme of development, here is a blog post that I really liked about Botswana, a country that many like to cite as Africa’s success story.

Lastly, a brief lesson on the Political Economy of Development.