Thursday, April 29, 2010

The economic incentive of a dala dala driver.

The Drivers of the dala dalas in Dar have only one incentive; to make more than TZS 100,000.00 a day. Yes, that is the sum total a dala dala driver is required to bring to his boss - the owner of the those ubiquitous little traveling machines. Anything earned above that amount goes first towards fuel and then the remainder is split with the conductor.  This TZS 100,000 offers a strange incentive for the rest of us on the road.  The dala dala driver knows he must hand over that bottom line figure each day in order for him to keep his job.  So to him nothing else matters, regardless of the consequences he will always race, slow down, over take or block other cars in order for him (and always a male) to get the next passenger, or in his mind the next opportunity to top off that TZS 100,000 for his own income.   But please do not start pointing the finger to the bus drivers alone in the city.  This behavior is aided by two other economic agents: the bus owner and the traffic police.

The bus owner is in business to make money.  So he also does not care what may come.  He is not concerned with his drivers following road safety, navigating treacherous, rain-soaked streets, or even letting a pedestrian cross at the cross-walk. For the bus owner, what matters most is that TZS 100,000.00 a day.  A dala dala driver might suffer if he does not deliver that bottom line amount, but he will never get in trouble from the owner if he fails to follow driving laws.  It’s an incentive that, in fact, encourages the driver to be egregiously inconsiderate to wellbeing of others on the road. 

As incongruous as it sounds, the traffic police (the very people whose job it is to keep drivers protected and traffic safe) are utterly corrupt.  That corruption provides a sense of security only to the dala dala drivers, who know that they can bribe their way out of any situation. Safe in the knowledge that there is no need to follow traffic laws, they can be as maniacal as they want on the road, all in the name of topping off that TZS 100,000. In fact, the traffic police have reached such an extreme level of corruption that their bosses saw the need to outsource their job!  They brought in the Majembe Auction Mart to put a noose on the dala dala driver’s head. Unfortunately, that outsourcing did not pay off.  The incentive of the Majembe is not safety or an orderly transportation system, but to arrest as many of the death vehicles as possible so they can get paid.

The result of the above scenario is a serious assault on a precious public good – road safety.

As I am writing this more people are being killed on the road because dala dalas, large trucks, bajajes, and taxi drivers know no boundaries in their pursuit of a little profit.  A study published by the East African News Paper in March ranked Tanzania as the second highest in East and Central Africa for deaths caused by road accidents.

The problem of having a transportation system where buses are run by individual owners is that their incentives and those of their agents will never align with the needs of public safety. Safety requires players to sacrifice a small piece of their profit for the greater good?  Is that possible when one individual’s bottom line is the only incentive?  Is there a way to avoid buses overtaking each other on a single lane road just to get another TZS 500 first?  Is there a way to avoid buses stopping traffic to pick a passenger in the middle of the street rather than the official bus stops?  Is there a way to prevent the disregard for others on the road when the only incentive is individual profit?

That is why developed societies always have bus companies provide service to the city dwellers. Under the system of a bus company, it does not matter which bus picked up a particular passenger because all drivers are motivated to serve the same owner – the shareholder.  Consistent and adequate salaries further encourage drivers to focus on safety rather than mad dashes for profit.  With a bus company, the incentive is to remain safe so that the company can have as many passengers as possible.

The new Dar es Salaam bus system, DART, has been in planning for the last five years, waiting to replace the defunct UDA. Every time a new report comes out to explain reasons for its delay, it is so cumbersome it reminds you of Andy Cap and the drinking gang.  If these death machines are running for decades now they must be profitable to the owners. Why not just force the same owners to form a company and list it in the stock exchange. Furthermore, the government could issue bonds through a municipality to increase the capital of the company. That way there would be ample funds to modernize the system. These bonds could be paid back using ticket money and renting out vital “moving” space to the advertisers. If the fairy godfather (i.e. world bank) wants to help, they can help. They can go to the market and buy some of those shares!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Africa-China Relationship

Recently China has anted up her investments in Africa, and it has opened up a great debate among folks who are interested in these issues. This months Atlantic magazine has a very balanced read on Chinese investment in Africa that is worthy of checking it out.

Some excerpts

The problem is to determine what is Africa’s place in the future of the global economy, and up to now, we have seen very little that is new. China is taking the place of the West: they take our raw materials and they sell finished goods to the world What Africans are getting in exchange, whether it is roads or schools or finished goods, doesn’t really matter. We remain under the same old schema: our cobalt goes off to China in the form of dusty ore and returns here in the form of expensive batteries

But also
“Statistics are hard to come by, but China is probably the biggest single investor in Africa,” said Martyn Davies, the director of the China Africa Network at the University of Pretoria. “They are the biggest builders of infrastructure. They are the biggest lenders to Africa, and China-Africa trade has just pushed past $100 billion annually.”

Davies calls the Chinese boom “a phenomenal success story for Africa,” and sees it continuing indefinitely. “Africa is the source of at least one-third of the world’s commodities”—commodities China will need, as its manufacturing economy continues to grow—“and once you’ve understood that, you understand China’s determination to build roads, ports, and railroads all over Africa.”

Everywhere I traveled in Africa, people spoke in defense of conditionality—the attachment of good-governance strings to loans from the West. “Many people look at Western conditions as a good thing, because nowadays so many things can be discussed openly, unlike the past—like corruption, for example,” said John Kulekana, a veteran Tanzanian journalist. “There are no more demigods here, and that is because of the growth of civil society, which has received lots of help from the West. Former ministers are called to account for their behavior. We are building accountability.”

The fact that China model of developing Africa neglect accountability from local government is troubling, because only with a strong government real development can be achieved. Westerners imposing conditions on loans (apart from lending to Mobutu) is an attempt to improve governance that Chinese seems not to care much about

Few Zambians have been lifted into the middle class by Chinese mining activity, and today, Sata remains unrelenting in his criticisms of China. “Our [Chinese] friends are too numerous, and we know their resources cannot sustain them,” Sata told me in his Lusaka office, taking phone calls from constituents and filling out a lottery card as he reeled off a catalog of reproaches. “Zambians do not need labor being dumped here. The Chinese are scattering all over the world, but there is no such thing as Chinese investment, as such. What we’re seeing is Chinese parastatals and government interests, and they are corrupting our leaders.”

“The idea that big influxes of wealth will help Africa has never really panned out,” Patrick Keenan, an Africa specialist at the University of Illinois, told me. “When the path to wealth goes through the presidential palace, there are enormous incentives to obtaining power and to holding on to it. This kind of wealth incites politicians to create economically wasteful projects, and it relieves them of the need to make politically difficult choices, like broadening the tax base.”

I welcome Chinese approach in investing in Africa, but it has to be done in ways that do not deviate from simple rules of economics. Building schools, and roads are noble things, but who is going to teach the kids and how are the roads going to be maintained in the future? The noble way will be to transfer knowledge to local people, so as they can sustain themselves. China's way is to have their own firms and their own workers doing the work. And the worst part is they take raw materials (not refined products) to their country for further processing. This is the same process that took place in Africa during colonialism.

What do you guys think about this?

The whole article is here

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ani DiFranco

I saw her performing about ten years ago and fell in love with her. She is cool, down-to-earth, a feminist icon for many young women (in America). Her lyrics are sophisticated, her voice unique, her fingers versatile on strings. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Of Juju and the Books...

Pew Research Centre, a reputable opinion research outfit, has released one of the detailed surveys so far on Africans attitudes towards religion and morality. The survey reveals some very interesting facts about Africans, and Tanzanians in particular.

93 percent of Tanzanians believe in witchcraft, making us leaders in Africa in this sphere (we beat the Congolese and the Nigerians) and 80 percent of Tanzanians say that Western film, music and television is hurting morality in society. More poignantly, 62 percent of Christians believe Jesus will return during their lifetime.

I trust Pew Centre, but I am skeptical about the 93 percent. There is a distinction between "belief" in witchcraft and "practice" in witchcraft. It may be true that 93 of Tanzanians believe that witchcraft exist, but without necessarily subscribing to it or seeking its magic. Still, these numbers cannot be without significance to society.

The entire research publication can be found at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kumbe, the basis of all computing (binary code) is Africa!

This is one of the most interesting talks I have seen on the web. Its worth watching if you are interested in mathematics and culture and Africa.

Making Democracy Work

A few years ago, I read a book called Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy by Robert Putnam (also author of the famed Bowling Alone). The book is more or less a compendium of an in-depth research on the performance of regional governments in Italy (after devolution reforms in 1968) undertaken over a period of 20 years.

With sweeping effort, patience, exercise in cultural immersion, and some useful data, Putnam undertook to study why regional governments of similar structure and resources performed much better in northern Italy (a much developed part of Italy - "a real Europe") than in Southern Italy (less developed part of Italy - "almost like Africa").

While I disagree with some of the conclusions, I have come to appreciate the findings of the research in recent years as I reflect more and more about society and our [individual and collective] roles in advancing it.

Putnam and his partners conclude that [government] institutions, however perfectly designed, cannot work if people are disengaged from the society. There has to be civil society first (in a real, not "HakiElimu" or "TAMWA", sense) before there can be effective government (as opposed to the current fashion/thinking advanced by donors of "creating a civil society" out of some bright and smooth-talking people to "contend with" governments particularly in developing countries). Civil society has to emerge organically from voluntary social interactions and networks in the society. Social capital need to exist before people can place trust and cooperate with Leviathan.

The bottom line is that norms, trust and networks engender a society which eventually lead to an effective government. Socio-economic development or transformation cannot take place if the level of "civicness" in the society is low. At one point in the book, Putnam argues that "economics does not predict civics, but civics does predict economics, better than economics itself."

I revisit the book in the context of another survey in Tanzania, the 2007 Poverty and Human Development Report, conducted by as part of MKUKUTA progress monitoring process, which found that 78 percent of Tanzanians do not trust each other. Yes, 78 percent. If, as it is, trust is central to the functioning of market economy, how do we move forward with these numbers? If Big Bang democratisation - demonstrated partly by donors' obsession with creating "a contentious" political environment by, for instance, paying to advance strong labour unions, vocal media, and so on, a civil society by checkbook, if you will - does not consider the nourishment of a sense of civic community which ought to be a centerpiece of progress.

Perhaps we must not accept Putnam's ideas at face value. May be his ideas on democracy and progress are too Tocquevillean, that civic virtues are preeminent in our countries, and that the under-perfomance of government is simply a managerial issue.

Rochereau, Mbilia and Faya

Some sounds and images define an era. Growing up, and following music at an early age, the images, sounds and rise and fall of one of the most popular bands in Africa in 1980s, l'Orchestre Afrisa International, partly enchanted my boyhood. The two ladies made Afrisa a hit but also contributed to its collapse as Tabu Ley could not manage to keep the two of them happy at the same time (or level). Mbilia Bel was the original diva of Congolese music, and Faya Tess came to Afrisa as a backup singer and dancer but proved capable of taking the front mikes with grace. Suddenly, Mbilia looked indispensable. All three - Tabu Ley, Mbilia Bel, and Faya Tess - attempted solo careers without much success. Faya Tess released one album in 1999 (which the song Adieu comes from). Despite getting help on the album by Africa's greatest guitarist and songwriter/composer, Dino Vangu, her solo career never blossomed. Enjoy the sounds.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scaling up Human Resources for Health in Tanzania

I came through a research paper that has tried to estimate the needed Human Resource for Health (HRH) in Tanzania by year 2015. The numbers are big, and I doubt at our current pace we can achieve them. But I should point out that in Africa; we are doing pretty well as far as amount of healthcare workers. Many countries in the continent are in a deeper healthcare workforce crisis, and they lose more workers who run to rich countries.

Here is the chart, Courtesy of Chris Kurowski and Dr. Salim of IHI and colleagues who did this research back in 2007 (

Estimates of Human Resources for Health availability and requirements in 2015, likely scenario

Group of cadres





Health professionals, PPR

28 600

115 700

(87 100)


Nurses and midwives

17 700

49 200

(31 500)


Nurses other than community nurses

9 600

34 700

(25 100)


Community nurses

1 900

6 900

(5 000)



6 200

7 600

(1 400)


Clinical and medical professionals

8 200

48 500

(40 300)


Clinical professionals

5 800

36 100

(30 300)


Medical professionals

2 300

12 300

(10 000)



2 700

18 100

(15 400)


Radiological technicians





Laboratory technicians

2 000

11 700

(9 700)


Pharmacological technicians


5 900

(5 500)


Assistant health workers

18 200

8 700

9 500


Health professionals, PPNR

2 300

2 300

Health professionals and assistant health workers

49 100

124 400

(75 300)


Brackets indicate negative values.

HRH_A = human resources for health availability; HRH_R = human resources for health requirements; PPR = priority package relevant; PPNR = priority package not relevant.

Things have got worse because now we are treating HIV positives, putting more pressure on our health systems by adding more needy patients every day that have to be actively surveyed . Adding up HRH needed for Malaria control, a revamped TB endemic due to HIV, and other acute diseases. Clinicians in Dar would also tell you that Diabetes is massively unnoticed. All these adds up to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. Moving forward, it doesn’t matter how much money donors give us. If MOH cannot take bold initiatives to strengthen our healthcare systems, we are doomed. Creating incentives to increase retention rates is a good starting step. Increasing number of pre-service trainees is a more sustainable approach, but the recurrent costs (salary and benefits) will need a hefty economic growth in the next few years—otherwise we can’t afford to scale up. Donors will have to commit for at least 5-10 years to cover the recurrent costs while we are hoping for an economic growth. This can be done now since IMF has removed wage bill ceilings in public spending. In mean time, Ministry of Education has to tweak the curriculum especially for nurses and medical officers to have them graduate faster. And MOH has to implement task shifting to alleviate burden from Physicians and other high end professionals. But adopting these policies won’t be enough if our facilities aren’t equipped enough; again we need a commitment from government not to have ghost hospitals and health centers anymore. Financing all these is a monumental task. Engaging private sector, donors, government spending, fee for services, taxes, or trying to keep inflation down to lower prices of food and fuel and hoping folks will increase their healthcare spending.

Healthcare is often overlooked in development issues, but the truth is people won’t be productive if they are sick. Poverty and healthcare form a vicious circle that politicians do not seem to understand. If a substantial number of our children don’t reach age 5, our middle age group perishes because of NGOMA, and our older adult can’t survive a heart attack or a benign cancer then what is the point of searching for maendeleo?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The book The Shack has been a publishing phenomenon over the past couple of years. I have received it as a present from two different friends - both insisting that it is "a must read". Some people claim to have found purpose in life after reading the book. The book centers on the question of faith as the main character, filled with doubt and pain, confronts and talks to God in His different personas.

I have not finished the book yet - and the reason is that it has not gotten to me to compel me to turn pages quickly. Perhaps it has to do with my own doubts and questions about faith. I hope, in the end, as I finish the book, I will arrive at an obvious conclusion: doubt is key to faith.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Africa's Forever Wars (off this month's foreign policy)

Africa's Forever Wars

Why the continent's conflicts never end.

There is a very simple reason why some of Africa's bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don't have much of an ideology; they don't have clear goals. They couldn't care less about taking over capitals or major cities -- in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today's rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people's children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent's most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.

What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else -- something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you'd like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times' East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars.

I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators. That's why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo's rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means.

This is the story across much of Africa, where nearly half of the continent's 53 countries are home to an active conflict or a recently ended one. Quiet places such as Tanzania are the lonely exceptions; even user-friendly, tourist-filled Kenya blew up in 2008. Add together the casualties in just the dozen countries that I cover, and you have a death toll of tens of thousands of civilians each year. More than 5 million have died in Congo alone since 1998, the International Rescue Committee has estimated.

Of course, many of the last generation's independence struggles were bloody, too. South Sudan's decades-long rebellion is thought to have cost more than 2 million lives. But this is not about numbers. This is about methods and objectives, and the leaders driving them. Uganda's top guerrilla of the 1980s, Yoweri Museveni, used to fire up his rebels by telling them they were on the ground floor of a national people's army. Museveni became president in 1986, and he's still in office (another problem, another story). But his words seem downright noble compared with the best-known rebel leader from his country today, Joseph Kony, who just gives orders to burn.

Even if you could coax these men out of their jungle lairs and get them to the negotiating table, there is very little to offer them. They don't want ministries or tracts of land to govern. Their armies are often traumatized children, with experience and skills (if you can call them that) totally unsuited for civilian life. All they want is cash, guns, and a license to rampage. And they've already got all three. How do you negotiate with that?

The short answer is you don't. The only way to stop today's rebels for real is to capture or kill their leaders. Many are uniquely devious characters whose organizations would likely disappear as soon as they do. That's what happened in Angola when the diamond-smuggling rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was shot, bringing a sudden end to one of the Cold War's most intense conflicts. In Liberia, the moment that warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor was arrested in 2006 was the same moment that the curtain dropped on the gruesome circus of 10-year-old killers wearing Halloween masks. Countless dollars, hours, and lives have been wasted on fruitless rounds of talks that will never culminate in such clear-cut results. The same could be said of indictments of rebel leaders for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. With the prospect of prosecution looming, those fighting are sure never to give up.

How did we get here? Maybe it's pure nostalgia, but it seems that yesteryear's African rebels had a bit more class. They were fighting against colonialism, tyranny, or apartheid. The winning insurgencies often came with a charming, intelligent leader wielding persuasive rhetoric. These were men like John Garang, who led the rebellion in southern Sudan with his Sudan People's Liberation Army. He pulled off what few guerrilla leaders anywhere have done: winning his people their own country. Thanks in part to his tenacity, South Sudan will hold a referendum next year to secede from the North. Garang died in a 2005 helicopter crash, but people still talk about him like a god. Unfortunately, the region without him looks pretty godforsaken. I traveled to southern Sudan in November to report on how ethnic militias, formed in the new power vacuum, have taken to mowing down civilians by the thousands.

Even Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's dictator, was once a guerrilla with a plan. After transforming minority white-run Rhodesia into majority black-run Zimbabwe, he turned his country into one of the fastest-growing and most diversified economies south of the Sahara -- for the first decade and a half of his rule. His status as a true war hero, and the aid he lent other African liberation movements in the 1980s, account for many African leaders' reluctance to criticize him today, even as he has led Zimbabwe down a path straight to hell.

These men are living relics of a past that has been essentially obliterated. Put the well-educated Garang and the old Mugabe in a room with today's visionless rebel leaders, and they would have just about nothing in common. What changed in one generation was in part the world itself. The Cold War's end bred state collapse and chaos. Where meddling great powers once found dominoes that needed to be kept from falling, they suddenly saw no national interest at all. (The exceptions, of course, were natural resources, which could be bought just as easily -- and often at a nice discount -- from various armed groups.) Suddenly, all you needed to be powerful was a gun, and as it turned out, there were plenty to go around. AK-47s and cheap ammunition bled out of the collapsed Eastern Bloc and into the farthest corners of Africa. It was the perfect opportunity for the charismatic and morally challenged.

In Congo, there have been dozens of such men since 1996, when rebels rose up against the leopard skin-capped dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, probably the most corrupt man in the history of this most corrupt continent. After Mobutu's state collapsed, no one really rebuilt it. In the anarchy that flourished, rebel leaders carved out fiefdoms ludicrously rich in gold, diamonds, copper, tin, and other minerals. Among them were Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntaganda, Thomas Lubanga, a toxic hodgepodge of Mai Mai commanders, Rwandan genocidaires, and the madman leaders of a flamboyantly cruel group called the Rastas.

I met Nkunda in his mountain hideout in late 2008 after slogging hours up a muddy road lined with baby-faced soldiers. The chopstick-thin general waxed eloquent about the oppression of the minority Tutsi people he claimed to represent, but he bristled when I asked him about the warlord-like taxes he was imposing and all the women his soldiers have raped. The questions didn't seem to trouble him too much, though, and he cheered up soon. His farmhouse had plenty of space for guests, so why didn't I spend the night?

Nkunda is not totally wrong about Congo's mess. Ethnic tensions are a real piece of the conflict, together with disputes over land, refugees, and meddling neighbor countries. But what I've come to understand is how quickly legitimate grievances in these failed or failing African states deteriorate into rapacious, profit-oriented bloodshed. Congo today is home to a resource rebellion in which vague anti-government feelings become an excuse to steal public property. Congo's embarrassment of riches belongs to the 70 million Congolese, but in the past 10 to 15 years, that treasure has been hijacked by a couple dozen rebel commanders who use it to buy even more guns and wreak more havoc.

Probably the most disturbing example of an African un-war comes from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), begun as a rebel movement in northern Uganda during the lawless 1980s. Like the gangs in the oil-polluted Niger Delta, the LRA at first had some legitimate grievances -- namely, the poverty and marginalization of the country's ethnic Acholi areas. The movement's leader, Joseph Kony, was a young, wig-wearing, gibberish-speaking, so-called prophet who espoused the Ten Commandments. Soon, he broke every one. He used his supposed magic powers (and drugs) to whip his followers into a frenzy and unleashed them on the very Acholi people he was supposed to be protecting.

The LRA literally carved their way across the region, leaving a trail of hacked-off limbs and sawed-off ears. They don't talk about the Ten Commandments anymore, and some of those left in their wake can barely talk at all. I'll never forget visiting northern Uganda a few years ago and meeting a whole group of women whose lips were sheared off by Kony's maniacs. Their mouths were always open, and you could always see their teeth. When Uganda finally got its act together in the late 1990s and cracked down, Kony and his men simply marched on. Today, their scourge has spread to one of the world's most lawless regions: the borderland where Sudan, Congo, and the Central African Republic meet.

Child soldiers are an inextricable part of these movements. The LRA, for example, never seized territory; it seized children. Its ranks are filled with brainwashed boys and girls who ransack villages and pound newborn babies to death in wooden mortars. In Congo, as many as one-third of all combatants are under 18. Since the new predatory style of African warfare is motivated and financed by crime, popular support is irrelevant to these rebels. The downside to not caring about winning hearts and minds, though, is that you don't win many recruits. So abducting and manipulating children becomes the only way to sustain the organized banditry. And children have turned out to be ideal weapons: easily brainwashed, intensely loyal, fearless, and, most importantly, in endless supply.

In this new age of forever wars, even Somalia looks different. That country certainly evokes the image of Africa's most chaotic state -- exceptional even in its neighborhood for unending conflict. But what if Somalia is less of an outlier than a terrifying forecast of what war in Africa is moving toward? On the surface, Somalia seems wracked by a religiously themed civil conflict between the internationally backed but feckless transitional government and the Islamist militia al-Shabab. Yet the fighting is being nourished by the same old Somali problem that has dogged this desperately poor country since 1991: warlordism. Many of the men who command or fund militias in Somalia today are the same ones who tore the place apart over the past 20 years in a scramble for the few resources left -- the port, airport, telephone poles, and grazing pastures.

Somalis are getting sick of the Shabab and its draconian rules -- no music, no gold teeth, even no bras. But what has kept locals in Somalia from rising up against foreign terrorists is Somalia's deeply ingrained culture of war profiteering. The world has let Somalia fester too long without a permanent government. Now, many powerful Somalis have a vested interest in the status quo chaos. One olive oil exporter in Mogadishu told me that he and some trader friends bought a crate of missiles to shoot at government soldiers because "taxes are annoying."

Most frightening is how many sick states like Congo are now showing Somalia-like symptoms. Whenever a potential leader emerges to reimpose order in Mogadishu, criminal networks rise up to finance his opponent, no matter who that may be. The longer these areas are stateless, the harder it is to go back to the necessary evil of government.

All this might seem a gross simplification, and indeed, not all of Africa's conflicts fit this new paradigm. The old steady -- the military coup -- is still a common form of political upheaval, as Guinea found out in 2008 and Madagascar not too long thereafter. I have also come across a few non-hoodlum rebels who seem legitimately motivated, like some of the Darfurian commanders in Sudan. But though their political grievances are well defined, the organizations they "lead" are not. Old-style African rebels spent years in the bush honing their leadership skills, polishing their ideology, and learning to deliver services before they ever met a Western diplomat or sat for a television interview. Now rebels are hoisted out of obscurity after they have little more than a website and a "press office" (read: a satellite telephone). When I went to a Darfur peace conference in Sirte, Libya, in 2007, I quickly realized that the main draw for many of these rebel "leaders" was not the negotiating sessions, but the all-you-can-eat buffet.

For the rest, there are the un-wars, these ceaseless conflicts I spend my days cataloging as they grind on, mincing lives and spitting out bodies. Recently, I was in southern Sudan working on a piece about the Ugandan Army's hunt for Kony, and I met a young woman named Flo. She had been a slave in the LRA for 15 years and had recently escaped. She had scarred shins and stony eyes, and often there were long pauses after my questions, when Flo would stare at the horizon. "I am just thinking of the road home," she said. It was never clear to her why the LRA was fighting. To her, it seemed like they had been aimlessly tramping through the jungle, marching in circles.

This is what many conflicts in Africa have become -- circles of violence in the bush, with no end in sight.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Revolution was televised!

Rare video footage of the Zanzibar Revolution.

Obviously, the narrator misses some key historical facts. Anyway, just a general question (which may or may not be related to Zanzibar revolution): What is an acceptable price of justice? When can justice be seen as done: with the restoration of the just order or with the retribution against the purveyors of the unjust order?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Productive Jobs: Translating High Growth into Poverty Reduction

Since 2001, Tanzania has experienced a fairly high annual growth rate of around 7 per cent. However, this has not translated into major cuts in the poverty rate. According to the Household Budget Survey 2007, one third of Tanzanians live below the basic needs poverty line. Weak linkages between growth, jobs, and its distributional impact on social welfare in Tanzania underline that economic growth is essential but not in itself sufficient for poverty reduction.

Structural changes: A mismatch in jobs and growth?
While some structural changes in the Tanzanian economy are visible, these shifts have not benefited the labour-intensive sectors, such as agriculture, fishing, and services which have all experienced a decline in the growth rate from 2007 to 2008. The 2009 Guidelines for the Preparation of the Medium Term Plan and Budget Framework for 2009/10-2011/12 show that between 2007 and 2008 the agriculture growth rate declined from 4.0 per cent to 3.3 per cent, the fishing sector declined from 4.5 per cent to 4.3 per cent, and services from 8.9 per cent to 8.1 per cent.

Employment rates: Are we getting the whole picture?
The National Growth and Poverty Reduction (MKUKUTA) explicitly laid out as one of its objectives to reduce unemployment from around 13 per cent to 6.9 per cent by 2010 and to address underemployment, particularly in the rural areas. According to figures from the last Integrated Labor Survey (ILS, 2006) the unemployment rate in the country stood at 11.7 per cent. The employment to population ratio at 80 per cent remains relatively high. What is striking though is the per centage of people in informal employment which was as high as 93 per cent in 2006. Almost 55 per cent of employed work excessive hours (over 48 hours per week), which may indicate inadequate hourly pay. Furthermore, almost 37 per cent of people employed are living below the poverty line. The evidence clearly suggests that many of the jobs that are being created are not necessarily productive to help greater numbers of people to move out of poverty. With poverty and unemployment rates remaining less responsive to growth, one needs to reassess how growth is actually feeding into job creation and vice versa.

An agenda for productive jobs
In the national policy framework, job creation has often been seen more as a residual outcome of economic growth. Beyond recognizing the centrality of employment for poverty reduction in the MKUKUTA II (Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy) and the national budgets, it is critical that productive job creation strategies are explicitly defined rather than simply viewed as a desirable outcome of all the development efforts. It is important to underscore here that it is not just any jobs that need to be generated, but more productive employment is needed to make a serious dent in the poverty rate. In this regard, more attention should be given to young people. The ILFS 2006 shows that the rate of unemployment was higher among young people (14.9 per cent). Productive job creation opportunities for young people especially women need to be targeted and clearly articulated in the next MKUKUTA.

Public and Private Investment
The role the private sector can play in creating jobs is now widely recognized. In order to fully tap into that potential, there is a need to clearly identify industries and business sub-sectors where investments can result in greater job creation and productivity. Business climate and removal of red tape can encourage greater private sector investment. Also, schemes such as Public-Private partnerships can be forged to boost investment in rural infrastructure, and agriculture which will result in greater job creation.

Skills Gap
With the changes in the economy catalyzed through strategic investments, it is important that skills gaps are identified in a proactive manner based on jobs that are likely to be generated in potential growth sectors. Accordingly, this should be followed by reviewing the existing formal and non-formal training systems i.e. vocational skills, mentorship, apprenticeships, and managerial skills for job seekers. Working in close collaboration with the private sector, these programmes need to be reoriented and scaled up.

Local Economic Development (LED): Macro- micro linkages
With greater devolution of public administration, it is critical that local governments play a greater part in stimulating local economies for job creation and poverty reduction. Local Government should be supported to craft LED strategies reflecting their comparative advantage. In many developing countries LED has been embraced by local governments who are increasingly playing a more proactive role in supporting poverty reduction in their respective regions.

Enabling environment for businesses
An environment that makes it easier for enterprises to access services will improve business opportunities and support jobs. Targeted schemes such as credit guarantees, soft loans and in some cases equity investments for small enterprises are some of these examples. Moreover, business training, market access, and institutional support for Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) targeting young people can be prioritized.

Monitoring decent work in the country
At the moment, Tanzania does not have a robust mechanism to effectively track the number of jobs created or lost and the quality of jobs. Such a system will enable policy makers to better measure the pattern and sources of growth, as well as the manner in which its benefits are distributed. A Labour Market Information System (LMIS) using the new MDG Employment and Decent Work Indicators will allow greater convergence on cross-sectoral policies among various ministries.

Productive and adequately remunerative employment is indeed central and in fact the missing piece that can make the economic growth story in Tanzania more pro- poor. It is not simply the distributional impact of growth which is important for job creation, but an inclusive growth model that allows low income households to participate in the economy to derive benefits in an equitable manner. That in turn can lead to even higher growth rates as productive jobs and growth tend to feed each other.