Some Africanist inside baseball

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Is There Room for Case Studies in Development Practice?

Amid the current much-needed revolution in (quantitative) evidence-driven development practice, is there room for case studies?

Michael Woolcock at the Bank says yes:

The frequency and sophistication with which case studies are deployed by social scientists has greatly expanded in recent years. The goal now is not merely to document or describe, but to diagnose, explain, interpret, and inform a basis for action. Professional schools across the disciplines – from medicine and engineering to business and public policy – now routinely use ‘the case method’ not only to teach but to generate practical knowledge.

As an example, Woolcock cites a report with case studies of successes achieved in the Ministries of Finance and Education in The Gambia (I should add, despite Yahya Jammeh):

Despite facing formidable political, economic, and capacity challenges, The Gambia has recorded sizable advances in the education sector in a relatively short time frame. Since 2000, enrollment has more than doubled in secondary schools, while the number of students enrolled in basic education has increased by 40 percent, with notable growth in the madrassas schools. Gender equality and completion rates in basic education have continued to improve across the board and surpass the regional averages. Simultaneously, the number of teachers formally trained and the number of students enrolled in the Teachers’ College has grown considerably since 2005.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 4.30.59 PMThese gains are directly linked to the scaled-up investment in the sector, which has translated into a greater number of schools, larger number of qualified teachers and monitors, and the introduction of innovative programs catering to hard-to-reach groups. In turn, these achievements have been made possible by the organizational and management changes introduced by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and its ability to remain focused on a small set of goals, report results, and mobilize domestic and external support to realize them, while generating and renewing its leadership cadre. To achieve this, the institution has had to navigate and solve numerous challenges in its internal organization and in the governance environment.

This is how development happens. Specific segments of governments get it right and, with some luck, generate positive spillovers into other departments. In Gambia it is happening in the Ministries of Finance and Education. In Kenya, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and, to some extent, the Treasury are doing much of the heavy-lifting in the quest to rationalize the Kenyan economy.

Ocampo’s successor to be named

Current Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, will become the next top Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. What does this mean for the future of the ICC, especially with regard to African cases?

JiC poses the following question:

….. Bensouda becomes the first African Prosecutor at the ICC. This fact will almost surely garner the most media attention. The African Union has been adamant that an African candidate would be selected, and they got their wish. It will now be very interesting to see how the AU deals with an African Prosecutor. The AU has often expressed frustration and, at times, outright hostility towards the Court for what it, and many of its member states, see as undue bias towards African nations and leaders. Now that the AU has its chosen candidate, will its attitude and rhetoric change?

I doubt it. The African Union’s opposition to the ICC was never predicated on the region of origin of the prosecutor but on the fact that, being largely a club of dictators and pseudo-democrats, it wanted to protect its own. That will not change with the retirement of Ocampo.

In my view the ICC remains to be a powerful source of leverage for African civil society groups against their rulers who oftentimes are inclined to use violence in an attempt to hold on to power.

Without the ICC, all these groups would have are a bunch of great powers and former colonizers full of bark and no bite and who will turn a blind eye to murderous dictatorship in the name of cheap oil and other commodities.

I hope that the court will continue in its task of being a voice to the voiceless, albeit with a little bit more tact (by which I mean the acknowledgement that justice is, ultimately, political).

I have previously commented on the court here, here and here.

The Gambia, Iran, Nigeria and the confusion over arms

Remember the story about the mysterious cache of arms found in Lagos Port, Nigeria? Well, turns out the story goes beyond Nigeria. FP reports that there is reason to believe that the arms from Iran were destined for The Gambia. Authorities in Banjul expelled the Iranian officials in the country, increasing speculation that the arms were meant for rebel groups linked to last year’s coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh who by the way, cures AIDS on Thursdays.

Just as Libya is retreating from its bad habit of financing and arming rebellions all over the Continent Tehran appears poised to assume this role, especially in Muslim sub-Saharan Africa. There is not a clear strategic reason for this kind of involvement by Iran in The Gambia, although theories abound out there. To add to these, I think it might be that someone within the Iranian government is involved in the global drugs trade and wanted to use The Gambia as a transit to Europe. On November 19th Nigeria discovered US$ 10 million worth of heroine shipped from Iran.

West Africa plays a major role in the global drugs trade. Barely afloat West Africa states, particularly Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, are key transit points for drug shipments from Latin America and Asia into Europe.

quick hits

Below are some links that I liked:

Sudan: It was never going to be easy to go separate ways.

Understanding the Mozambican riots.

Jammeh, the delusional Gambian president, is completely out of his mind.

Easterly on Zoellick and being kicked out of the BANK.

Bureaucracy gone mad, why does the UN have some of these agencies?

Documenting America’s non-existent class system.

Because of qualifying exams this weekend, I shall be away till some time after Monday.

the absurd

I am no fan of sensationalist journalism. But this one was absolutely irresistible. Here I give you His Excellency President Professor Dr Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh, leader of The Gambia, a West African country. If you are a keen follower of absurdities on the Continent, he is the one who claims to cure HIV/AIDS – but only on Thursdays. And how he is after witches, perhaps out of boredom. Please read on…