African Head of States and Governments will convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia later this month to launch a continent-wide free trade agreement (CFTA). The summit will focus on solutions to the numerous impediments that hinder intra-African trade: inefficient transit regimes and border crossings procedures for goods, services and people; poor implementation of regional integration commitments.
Politicians, pundits, and (sometimes) development practitioners have been arguing that 2012 will be a make-or-break year in Kenya’s history, similar to 1963 or 1992. Is the 2012 challenge real or just a case of pundits playing Cassandra? Specifically there are three challenges coming together.
First are national elections. The last general elections ended in a catastrophe. If the 2012 elections are again violent, Kenya’s image as a peaceful, mature democracy may be tarnished for a generation. Investors and tourists would be even more reluctant to come to Kenya and quick to dismiss the “friends of Kenya” (including your blogger) who strongly believe in the strengths of this country and its medium-term potential.
A tremendous amount of development research is all but unknown in the countries that are the subject of that research. In Kenya, this is the case with path-breaking papers like the Kremer-Miguel Worms study and the Cohen-Dupas insecticide-treated net pricing experiment.
To increase the visibility of such policy-relevant work, we’re producing a "Kenya 2011 Poverty Research Review" that will be published early next year as part of our larger Poverty Update report, which will be widely publicized in Kenya.
The Poverty Research Review will give an overview of poverty-related research on Kenya published in 2011 in journals or working paper series. There is a wide pool of work to draw from: a search on "Kenya" and "poverty" in Google Scholar produces 12,900 references for works produced in 2011.
As an experiment, I’m going to try drawing from the wisdom of crowds for this project. Please help me with your suggestions for high-quality papers on poverty-related issues in Kenya that you would like to see highlighted in our review.
Emerging from decades of violent conflict, with more than half its population living below the national poverty line and three quarters of the population never having attended school, South Sudan may seem like an unlikely place for setting up a successful, modern manufacturing business.
However, we recently saw an exciting example of what the private sector can achieve even under these conditions: the Southern Sudan Beverages, Ltd (SSBL) plant, which produces beer, soft drinks, and bottled water for the local market.
SSBL started production in 2009 after investing $37 million to build the facility; a $15 million expansion is now underway. The plant looks like a modern manufacturing enterprise—with one exception: it is largely self-contained, with its own generators and a treatment plant for the water that is pumped up from the White Nile.
How would you feel if, after a normal take-off, you noticed one of the engines on your plane wasn’t working properly? What if you then found out the other engine was overheating? Now suppose the captain announces that you should buckle-up because the plane is about to meet an approaching hurricane?
This is what Kenya’s economy is currently going through. The country is in the middle of a perfect storm, and the declining Shilling is the most visible manifestation of Kenya’s economic woes. Why has the Shilling been falling so much and so unpredictably?
The main reason is that Kenya’s economy is increasingly imbalanced: the country is importing too much and exporting too little.
How can droughts and famines be avoided? This is the big question many conferences and summits have grappled with in recent weeks. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult to avoid droughts in future because climate change will put more pressure on scarce land and extreme climate events, both rains and floods, will likely occur much more frequently — and even more unpredictably.
The first famine I remember was brought on by the horrible drought in Ethiopia in 1984. At that time, I was a boy in high school and one of Germany’s most famous actors, Karlheinz Boehm, visited our school to mobilize funds to help the suffering Ethiopians. He had previously established the charity, People for People. One of the silver linings of today’s suffering is the outpouring of financial support by ordinary Kenyans who have been moved by the intense suffering of their fellow citizens.
So how can we avoid this same crisis two years down the road? Or as my Kenyan friends say: How do we keep from begging again for money?
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.
As world oil prices rise to near the levels of 2008, and growth on the continent resumes to pre-crisis levels (as reported on Africa’s Pulse), a natural question to ask is whether Africa’s oil importers are becoming more vulnerable to oil price increases.
A partial answer is given by a recent briefing note by my colleague Masami Kojima.
Vulnerability is determined by how much of a country's income is spent on oil imports. Looking at the period 2003-2008 (the latest for which comparable data are available), the study found that vulnerability rose in all oil importers (except Mauritania) and even in some oil exporters such as Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Congo. Also, 15% of the income of Seychelles, Liberia and Sierra Leone is used to import oil. This is among the highest in the world.
Interestingly, despite a significant increase in the price of oil during that period, the rise in vulnerability happened because energy became more oil-driven in 24 out of 42 countries.
Kinshasa-Brazzaville is predicted to become Africa’s largest, and the world’s 11th largest, city by 2025.
With an international border running right through it, it is the obvious focal point for cross-border exchanges between the two Congos. But despite this, formal trade and passenger traffic between the two cities is pitifully small.