Category Archives: Africa

Not Invited to the Party

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Zimbabwean economist Daniel Ndlela shares his thoughts on economic recovery as part of a conference hosted by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust and the National Endowment for Democracy in May 2014. The conference, entitled “Zimbabwe Going Forward” featured Zimbabwean think tanks, private sector representatives, government and civil society. (l-r: Kupukile Mlambo, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Ndlela, and Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Regional Director for Africa, the Center for International Private Enterprise).

While 50 African heads of state prepared to visit Washington for the U.S.-Africa summit held earlier this month, one president who wasn’t invited decided to throw a party of his own. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe invited dignitaries and government officials to the State House on July 31 to mark the one year anniversary of his party’s victory over the opposition in national elections whose legitimacy was questioned by domestic and foreign observers alike.

The 90-year-old Mugabe, restricted from entering the United States due to targeted travel and financial sanctions, welcomed government friends to his official residence in Harare with a banquet and live music. Unfortunately, given Zimbabwe’s economic outlook, throwing a party is the last thing the President should be doing.

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The Two Main Challenges Facing African Civil Society Organizations

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The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit concluded last week and the delegations have returned home, but conversation about U.S. engagement with Africa still continues in DC. Two weeks ago, on the eve of the summit, CIPE and Freedom House initiated a dialogue on advancing political and economic freedom in Africa and on Wednesday, CIPE and the Society for International Development-Washington, DC Chapter concluded summit events with a discussion on African civil society and its sustainability by bringing together civil society practitioners. The discussion revolved around possible solutions to two main issues civil society is facing in the developing world: a dependency on donor funding and draconian laws restricting civil society.

The panelists included: Lars Benson, Senior Program Officer for Africa at CIPE, Jeremy Meadows, Senior Democracy Specialist for Bureau for Africa at USAID, and Natalie Ross, Program Officer for the Aga Khan Foundation, USA. The discussion was moderated by Richard O’Sullivan, co-chair for the SID-Washington Civil Society Workgroup.

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The Future of the U.S.-Africa Economic Relationship

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Last week Washington hosted nearly 50 African heads of state at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Countless meetings and conversations that took place not just among government officials but businesses, international organizations, and non-profits (including CIPE and Freedom House) brought Africa into the spotlight. Yet the most important aspect of the Summit is still ahead: what did we learn and how can this knowledge guide the way forward?

One of the most informative outcomes of the Summit to me was the launch of a report Africa and the United States: A defining relationship of the 21st century at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Presidential Plenary. The report was jointly produces by the U.S. Chamber and Investec Asset Management (IAM), a global investment management firm founded in 1991 in South Africa. Hendrik du Toit, Investec’s CEO, unveiled the report and discussed its findings with a panel of corporate leaders.

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One Woman’s Leadership Journey

On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.

What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.

Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.

What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.

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For Alternatives to the Authoritarian Model, Look to South Africa

Despite its lingering problems, South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy provides many valuable lessons.

Despite its lingering problems, South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy provides many valuable lessons.

This week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit focuses on the topic of “Investing in the Next Generation.” The summit aims to explore issues of economic inclusiveness, democratic development and “creating an enabling environment for the next generation.”

This discussion is especially pertinent in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, when many in developing countries have begun to lose faith in the wisdom of democratic governance and market-based economic reforms. The rise of Chinese and Russian authoritarianism coupled with robust economic growth in those countries provides a seemingly plausible alternative for lifting millions out of poverty while still allowing autocrats to retain a tight grasp on power.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), a South African think tank and CIPE partner, examined the post-apartheid experience of South Africa’s transition to market economy and a vibrant democracy in a recently released report entitled “South Africa and the Pursuit of Inclusive Growth.”

As part of a larger initiative known as the “Democracy Consensus”,  CDE’s research shows that democracy is a viable path not only for fostering inclusive economic growth in the short- to medium-term, but also laying the foundations for sound institutions that lead to long-term stability and prosperity.

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Fighting Corruption is Key for Growth in Africa

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Yesterday was the first day of the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. Representatives from CIPE’s partners in Africa – including association and chamber leaders from CIPE’s KnowHow mentorship program  – in addition to 200 other government, private sector, and civil society leaders from Africa attended the summit’s Civil Society Forum.

With seven of the world’s fastest growing economies and a fast-rising middle-class, no one can doubt the potential for economic prosperity in Africa. What’s questionable, however, is how African nations will achieve this prosperity. And the answer should be through inclusive democracies. Global initiatives like the Open Government Partnerships are already building momentum towards open governments that empower citizens in Africa.

Moreover, as Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden noted in their remarks yesterday, sustainable economic growth can only come from accountable and transparent societies that address corruption. For more African nations to take advantage of opportunities and accelerate growth, governments, civil society, and the business community must confront corruption.

This is where CIPE’s partners in Africa can come into play. Situated in between the private sector and government, business associations and chambers of commerce can best represent the private sector to improve governance and eliminate corrupt practices that impede market development. The Kenya Association of Manufacturers, for instance, partnered with CIPE and Global Integrity to engage relevant stakeholders in developing recommendations for the local governments to improve service delivery and minimize corruption.

It will be interesting to see what happens next after these high-level business, government, and civil society leaders return to their home countries. Certainly, going beyond rhetoric will be a requirement to systematically tackle corruption and help countries meet their potential.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

The Role of Business in Advancing Political and Economic Freedom in Africa

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This week nearly 50 heads of state will attend President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC to discuss trade and investment, security, democratic development, and how to achieve a better quality of life for all Africans. The summit will bring together government representatives, business people from the U.S. and Africa, and leaders of civil society groups.

In many ways this summit will be the beginning of a hopefully much larger conversation on how the United States and 54 African countries can increase economic ties, strengthen democratic development, and create new economic opportunities and freedoms for Africans.

To help start this conversation, CIPE and Freedom House brought together several U.S. and African thought leaders to offer their insights on how to advance political and economic freedom in Africa at an event August 1. The purpose of the event was to reinforce the case that good governance and democratic values are closely linked to sustained economic growth, and to offer some actionable ideas on how to strengthen the U.S.-Africa partnership.

The panelists included: Kim Davis, Managing Director and Co-Chairman at Charlesbank, Hon. Donald Gips, Co-Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Africa Business Initiative, Betty Maina, Chief Executive of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), and Aniket Shah, Global Investment Strategist from Investec.

As Hon. Gips mentioned, many American firms are not even at the “starting line” with regards to expanding their business into Africa. There is no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities and that different countries on the continent are experiencing economic growth and a growing middle class of consumers that offer both African and international companies new opportunities to expand their markets. But for many reasons, few U.S. firms outside of the extractive industries are investing in Africa.

At the same time, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Index shows that many African countries are not advancing political and economic freedoms, and in some parts of Africa are reversing previous gains. As Betty Maina from KAM pointed out, after the fall of the Berlin Wall there was a great promise “for a better life and democratic opportunity,” but Africans have not built the underlying institutions necessary for democracy to succeed – instead focusing almost solely on conducting elections.

“There is currently a despair about democracy and the fundamental ingredient to change this is the building of proper institutions,” Maina said.  As former Ambassador to South Africa, Hon. Gips, put it: “the hard part is what comes after the elections.”

So what can the business community do about the current state of affairs? Kim Davis emphasized that business has a deep interest in the rule of law. African countries need judiciary systems that work and business climates where contracts can be enforced. Keeping the system accountable requires freedom of the press, and African businesses need to push for greater press freedoms.

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