Kenya is again in the middle of an economic storm.
As uncertainty increases about where the global economy is headed and whispers grow about a “double-dip,” spare a thought for Lesotho.
A small developing country (population less than 2 million), Lesotho is located in one of the most resource-poor parts of Southern Africa. Around 37% of households live on less than $1/day and about half are below the national poverty line. As a small and relatively undiversified economy, heavily dependent on foreign markets, Lesotho is very vulnerable to shocks. It is also ill-equipped to deal with them.
At the recent launch of the book, Yes Africa Can: Success Stories from a Dynamic Continent, someone asked whether there are any lessons for Africa’s newest country, South Sudan. I can think of at least three.
1.It can be done. Yes Africa Can documents a number of countries, such as Mozambique and Uganda, which emerged from civil conflict and sustained above-7-percent GDP growth for over a decade. It also describes the well-known case of a mineral exporter, Botswana, that had the world’s fastest per-capita growth rate (7 percent) from 1966-99. These case studies show that South Sudan, which is both a post-conflict country and an oil exporter, can also succeed.
The quality of service delivery is fundamental for people's wellbeing, especially for the poor. This is why the situation in Cameroon is worrisome.
Indicators for service delivery in Cameroon tend to trail behind those observed in countries at similar income levels; and for indicators such as primary school completion or child mortality, the country does even worse than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa.
La qualité des services publics est fondamentale pour le bien-être de la population, en particulier les pauvres. C’est la raison pour laquelle la situation au Cameroun est préoccupante.
Les indicateurs de prestations de services au Cameroun sont généralement inférieurs à ceux de pays ayant des niveaux de revenu similaire.
Or, à Madagascar, seule 1/5 de la population déclare faire entièrement confiance à la Présidence et les taux sont encore plus faibles pour des institutions comme l’Assemblée nationale (6%) et les Tribunaux (4%).Comment s’attendre à ce que le Gouvernement puisse être performant, à travers sa politique budgétaire, si la vaste majorité des Malgaches ne font confiance ni à leurs institutions, ni à leurs dirigeants ?
Kenya is in the midst of a quiet revolution—but many people, even in Kenya, seem to be unaware of it, or the enormous governance improvements that it is likely to bring.
We saw a new Kenya emerging last Friday when President Kibaki presided over an historic event that was hard to imagine in the old Kenya: the launch of a government website, www.opendata.go.ke , that makes enormous volumes of government data available to the public in user-friendly formats.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, core government data on population, the budget, education, health care and other public services are available to policy-makers, researchers, ICT developers, and citizens in an easily-accessible format. This portal is one of the first and largest government portals with reusable data in sub-Saharan Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data (see Time magazine's "Silicon Savanna").
But many observers of Kenya are unimpressed. Why is that?
Obiageli Ezekwesili (c) with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (r). Photo: Laura Kullenberg, The World Bank
4:00 AM: I wake up this morning in Nairobi unusually excited and think to myself, “today is actually the Independence Day of South Sudan. Wow! This day has finally come!” I say a word of prayer for the day and get myself ready for the 5:30 a.m. trip to the airport to board our flight to Juba.
Photo: A line of “boda bodas” queuing for fuel along the main road in Juba town
For the past three weeks I have been working in Juba, South Sudan. In a meeting with the government last week, an official said to me, “…we are dreaming, but come July 9th everything will change and our dreams will become reality.”
On July 9th South Sudan will become an independent country, following the longest civil war in African history.
Driving through Juba, one cannot fail to notice the preparations taking place; from the exceptionally clean streets and banners spread across public buildings to the soon-to-be national anthem on repeat on the radio. There is a sense of excitement, longing and hope.
However, tension surrounding the conflict in South Kordofan casts a cloud on celebrations and underscores the risks ahead.
“Shanta, are you against human rights?” a colleague asked when she saw that I was arguing for the negative in a debate on “Is a concern for human rights needed to achieve human development outcomes?”
Needless to say, my debate partner, Varun Gauri and I are not against human rights (Varun has written extensively on the subject), but we did argue—based on the evidence—that a concern for human rights was neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve health and education outcomes.