KCPE Results to be released Wednesday

The Kenyan ministry of education will release the results of this year’s Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. At the end of primary school all students sit the national exam to determine which high schools they will attend.

For the first time, in the announcement will be ranked by Kenya’s 47 counties. In the past wealthier and more urban areas of the country have done better than poorer rural areas. For many critics the current education system in Kenya serves little more than replicate the existing class structure – with wealthier kids doing better in primary school, going to better high schools and then getting subsidized university education. Most poor students – the vast majority of KCPE candidates – never make it beyond high school.


Senegal and Mauritania

Dear readers, apologies for the sparse postings over the last several days (Yours truly is traveling in Senegal and Mauritania).

For the last three days I have been in Dakar. I must say that I love this town. I mean, the whole place needs a massive paint job and a few repairs here and there. But it also has an enchanted old town feel to it. Although on the water, it at once also has an inland town mood. The people are friendly, but not too laid back.

Tomorrow I head out to Rosso, a town in the north on the Mauritanian border. I am looking forward to the trip and hope to write something more detailed about my impression of Senegal thereafter. I will also keep you posted on how things are in Mauritania, where I hope to do a lot more traveling than I have done in Senegal.

One more thing, the people of Dakar appear to really not like their president, Abdoulaye Wade. All over town there is graffiti asking the president to leave. Elections are due next year in February and the president maintains that he will run for reelection despite being term limited. Just yesterday he rebuffed calls from a number of prominent people, including Kofi Annan, asking him not to do so. Whatever happens this will be a critical election to determine whether Senegal will continue to maintain its slightly constrained but largely respectable and competitive political environment or veer off in the direction of a less freer society.

Study: College football team wins, male students’ grades drop

Quoting Ezra Kline’s Wonkblog:

“A team of University of Oregon economists probes one of life’s age-old questions: Is there a relationship between academic gender gaps and a university’s football team’s performance?

The answer looks to be yes. In a National Bureau of Economic Research paper this month, economists Jason Lindo, Issac Swenson and Glen Waddell tracked how much female students at the University of Oregon were outperforming male students on grade point averages. They then mapped that against the number of wins the school’s football team had that season. And they found that, when the Oregon Ducks did better, the male students did worse.”

Would be interesting to see how Stanford undergrads have done in the last couple of years when one Andrew Luck has shown the world to not only respect but also FEAR THE TREE.

More on this here.

Waiting for Kabila to be Charlemagne

Joseph Kabila was sworn in today as President of the DRC following disputed elections last month. The main opposition has vowed to not recognize him as the legitimate president and are planning street protests. Some analysts believe that there will be blood in the streets of Kinshasa and other major urban centers.

If you think for a moment about the size and diversity of the DRC it becomes clear how hard it will be for the incorrigibly inept enormously challenged Joseph Kabila to be the one to drag the DRC out of its 50 year tailspin.


Democratic Republic of Congo

The truth be told, Mr. Kabila would not do any better running a village mboga kiosk. He is not an autocrat in the mold of Kagame, Zenawi, Museveni or even Sankara. He is closer to Samuel Doe, Bokasa and Valentine Strasser, ineffectual at best and outright disastrous at worst.


Kenya’s stalled operation in Somalia

The East African reports:

There are four major factors that have bogged down the military campaign. They are: Lack of finances to run a long-drawn war; the differences between interested parties over whether to divide Somalia into autonomous regions or maintain one united country; differences over the option to engage Al Shabaab in a political dialogue, and the ambivalence of Somalia’s President Sheikh Shariff Ahmed.

Kenya’s intention has always been to create an autonomous region in southern Somalia to act as a buffer to the chaotic mix that is central Somalia. The plan has apparently become even more ambitious:

Kenya is proposing the division of Somalia into eight autonomous regions: Central region or Hiran; Somaliland; Puntland; Bay Bakool; Jubaland; Shabelle; Gedo and Mogadishu, commonly known as Banadir.

But it is increasingly becoming apparent that the cost and politics of such an operation may not be as palatable as the planners had initially thought.

President Sheikh Shaiff’s ambivalence is intended for the domestic audience and also motivated by his desire to concentrate power in Mogadishu (he dislikes the idea of autonomous regions proposed by Kenya).

The first source of ambivalence is reasonable. No president wants to be in support of a foreign invasion that occasionally results in the death of innocent citizens. I hope the Kenyan commanders, under AMISOM or not, do not pay too much attention to his flip flopping on how to engage the al-Shabab.

The second is not. Two decades of warfare have made it clear that trying to solve Somalia’s problems from Mogadishu may not be a good idea. The only way that might happen is through a force like the Islamic Courts Union. But the international community will not allow a pure military solution, given the human rights implications.

Perhaps it is time a decentralized peace initiative got underway.

Finally, it is encouraging that after weeks of pro-war jingoism the news media in Nairobi have begun to question the execution of the war in Somalia. More public discussion about the logic and cost of the war needs to take place in order to keep both the generals and politicians on the straight and narrow.

More on this here.


The missing big thinkers

In order to think big your country/region must have some geopolitical significance… or so it seems.

Here is a quote from the comment section on Dan Drezner’s post on the big thinkers that were overlooked in the FP 100 top thinkers list.

What’s the criteria for big thinkers? do they precede big issues or are they considered big thinkers bc their issues are perceived as important? or because they’re closer to those who get to decide what ‘big thinking’ is?

it’s nice to know that no one in Africa or Latin America is thinking – five or so out of the list of 100 is hardly inclusive.

Tough trying to be good in a bad neighborhood

A few days ago a Kenyan judge ordered the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he ever sets foot in Kenya. Mr. Bashir has an outstanding arrest warrant against him from the ICC for crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in Darfur.

The ruling has since metastasized into a full blown diplomatic row; Khartoum expelled the Kenyan ambassador before rescinding the expulsion, and is now threatening to cut all trade ties with Kenya, expel Kenyans living in Sudan and deny any planes leaving or going to Kenya from flying in its airspace – if the government does not take back the ruling in two weeks.

The diplomatic row aside, the case has implications for the reform process in Kenya. The case is a test of the depth of the Kenyan judiciary’s new found independence from the executive.

According to Khartoum:

“al-Bashir expects Nairobi to scrap the arrest warrant within the next two weeks and not simply file an appeal.”

That is not how the judicial process works in a democracy. The executive cannot just scrap a judicial ruling. Within Kenya, for the sake of precedence the government must be seen to be complying with court rulings. The Chief Justice has already warned the executive against ignoring the court ruling saying that

“If a country chooses to live by anarchy, it must be ready to face the consequences of disregarding the law.”

It remains unclear what the executive will do given Khartoum’s two week ultimatum. Disregarding the court ruling will come with consequences for the individuals involved – in particular the Foreign Minister and the Commissioner of Police.

Tackling Africa’s Image Problem

Back in 2000….









And now…

The latest issue of the Economist has “Africa” on the cover, with the pronouncement that the continent has, in the last ten years, moved from hopeless to hopeful.

Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600m mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe. Since roads are generally dreadful, advances in communications, with mobile banking and telephonic agro-info, have been a huge boon. Around a tenth of Africa’s land mass is covered by mobile-internet services—a higher proportion than in India. The health of many millions of Africans has also improved, thanks in part to the wider distribution of mosquito nets and the gradual easing of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. Skills are improving: productivity is growing by nearly 3% a year, compared with 2.3% in America.

All this is happening partly because Africa is at last getting a taste of peace and decent government. For three decades after African countries threw off their colonial shackles, not a single one (bar the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius) peacefully ousted a government or president at the ballot box. But since Benin set the mainland trend in 1991, it has happened more than 30 times—far more often than in the Arab world.

Population trends could enhance these promising developments. A bulge of better-educated young people of working age is entering the job market and birth rates are beginning to decline. As the proportion of working-age people to dependents rises, growth should get a boost. Asia enjoyed such a “demographic dividend”, which began three decades ago and is now tailing off. In Africa it is just starting.

More on this here.