Evidence is piling up on the need to revisit the standard ‘supply’ versus ‘demand’ concept of how to improve governance for development. This is pointing to an exciting set of new priorities for reform in sub-Saharan Africa.
Recently, at a community meeting I attended at Robina clinic in Tonkolili district, Sierra Leone, facilitators asked a group of young women to rate the quality of health service delivery using what they coined the “mango test.” As part of this “test” community members decide how many hypothetical mangos, on a scale from 0 to 5, they would give a nurse as thanks for the quality of her care.
“The edge of chaos is the balance point where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either…The edge of chaos is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive...” - M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity.
When it comes to confronting the issue of ill-gotten money (through corruption or tax evasion, for example) and its negative impact on development outcomes, we development professionals have often been guilty of tinkering at the edges of the problem, while avoiding confronting its root cause. Through recent work, we are attempting to rectify this dilemma.
He said it in Washington; now he has said it again in London. Who? Former UK premier Tony Blair, speaking at ODI on governance and leadership for development in Africa.
What has he been saying? That the better governance low-income Africa needs is about getting better leadership (here understood as ‘effective capacity to get things done’) – not just a matter of more transparency and greater accountability.
I voted in South Africa’s founding democratic election in 1994, but it was via an absentee ballot cast in downtown D.C. Last month, when voters came out on May 18th to elect their local governments, it was the first time I had actually been in the country for an election. Turnout was high – upwards of 70% in some of the more hotly contested municipalities.
Whenever I am asked what I believe is the main constraint to higher growth in Ghana, I am forced to answer without hesitation, the weakness of her institutions. However, I have become increasingly optimistic that this will not be the case in the future.
Education has long been a focal point of struggle in South Africa: the 1976 Soweto uprising, which set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the end of apartheid, was led by schoolchildren. In the 1980s, the contribution of youngsters to the liberation struggle took a starker turn: ‘No Education before Liberation’ became the watchword of many.
As coverage of the Arab Street’s awakening continues to dominate headlines, I find myself making further connections between the Middle Eastern, East Asian, and South African experiences. One intriguing common thread pertains to the role of the middle classes.
In my previous blog post, I talked about the political pressure caused by the very large number of unemployed youth in Nigeria. Without wanting to predict the future, I examined how this problem could either pose a systemic threat, or alternatively, create positive pressure on Nigeria’s leaders to start tackling the twin problems of unemployment and social exclusion.