Tag Archives: Africa

Football is more than a game (part two)

Ghanaian sports fans and members of the Millennium Supporters Union of Ghana. (Photo: Virginia Bunker)

As highlighted on the CIPE Development Blog last week, the world’s most beloved sport can play a key role in cultivating economic opportunity and strengthening democracy throughout Africa. One innovative means of cultivation is through the budding business of fan associations.

In Ghana, the organization of formally recognized fan associations began in earnest during the Black Stars’ debut in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. With the nation’s football obsession, like many countries around the world, the number of supporter groups and their memberships grew rapidly. Today Ghana’s Ministry of Youth and Sports recognizes numerous associations, such as the Nationwide Supporters Union (NSU), Supporters Union of Ghana (SUGHA), Ghana National Supporters Union (GHANSU), Millennium Supporters Union of Ghana (MISUGHA) and the Women’s Supporters Union of Ghana (WOSUGHA).

While these aren’t CIPE’s target audience of partner organizations, the social capital and leadership skills they help build are of overall importance to strengthening civil society as a pillar of democratic governance. That capital and those skills are transferable, and learning them in practice can be as effective if not more so than learning in a workshop.

My first experience with fan associations was in July 2009 when I attended the Africa Hockey Cup for Nations in Accra, Ghana. For one week the national men’s and women’s field hockey teams of Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt clashed to earn a bid at the 2010 Hockey World Cup. Several of Ghana’s fan associations remained steadfast in their support for the tournament by cheering, clapping, singing and dancing during all of the week’s matches, whether Ghana was playing or not.

Why cheer for an opponent? When you are commissioned by the government to create an atmosphere of excitement and unity, an image of a sports-loving nation dedicated to the development of lesser-known sports, that’s what you do. For fan associations, it is their business, even for sports beyond football.

For President Mills to pull off a successful Hockey Cup for Nations, one that expressed Ghana’s outward display of support for hockey’s development to the international sporting community, and one that justified the creation of a state-of-the-art water-based hockey pitch and facility in downtown Accra, a packed stadium was necessary. NSU, MISUGHA and WOSUGHA performed their jobs beautifully.

Although I had never had the slightest interest in field hockey before attending the tournament, the atmosphere these groups created was truly exhilarating. I’m sure many of the union members left the competition with a newfound appreciation for field hockey, and from a business standpoint the success was in the mutual benefit of both the unions and Ghana’s government. The Cup for Nations tournament put another notch in Ghana’s belt for sporting infrastructure and hosting capabilities, and the fan associations were paid for their services.

In 2006 Sarfo Abrebrese, a lawyer, sports commentator and TV personality from Ghana spearheaded the creation of the Coalition of Supporter Unions in Africa (COSUA) to rally mass support for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After witnessing SUGHA’s success in uniting fans from the fiercest rival clubs in Ghana for the Black Stars’ run in the 2006 World Cup, Abrebrese believed this cause could be extended to the African continent.

COSUA genuinely believes in the unifying nature of sports but also understands the networking potential in sports lovers across Africa as a business strategy to increase membership, sponsorship and revenue. It is no wonder that COSUA had been such a staunch supporter of Durban, South Africa’s bidding for the 2020 Summer Olympics until the city officially pulled out of the running.

South Africa may have its eyes set on the 2024 Olympics instead, and fan associations in Africa will no doubt band behind this international honor and business opportunity. In the mean time it will be interesting to see how many civil society leaders and members of tomorrow might emerge from the fan associations of today.

Football is more than a game

(Photo: Footysphere via Flickr)

Football (soccer) in Africa is a burgeoning business, on the field as well as off it. Take, for example, the popular MTN Soccer Academy reality TV show. What started as a reality show for aspiring players in Ghana grew to include participants from Nigeria in its third season and now includes players from other West Africa countries – a microcosm of the tremendous potential for marketing, investment and job creation in Africa’s football industry. But it’s also a microcosm of how African countries and their football systems are complicit in the continent’s underdevelopment; the show’s ultimate prize is the chance to join a European club, making it no different than the academies designed to export Africa’s raw football talent.

Those academies are central to the lesser known twin of the brain drain conundrum in Africa, the muscle drain. Once used to describe the Atlantic slave trade and the millions of people who were swept off the African continent, today it is also used to describe the flight of African football talent to the West, mainly in Europe. While signing with European teams is exciting for African footballers and their fans, this migration has played a central role in the underdevelopment of the sport in Africa.

Football academies have mushroomed on the continent since the 1990s. Many of them are funded by European clubs, which makes talent scouting easier for European agents. This systematizing of the footballer exodus bears a striking resemblance to the exportation of Africa’s raw materials to Europe, North America, and Asia, where manufacturing centers reap the lion’s share of profits from their use.

As these academies seek to groom young football talent for eventual ‘shipment’ to Europe, little emphasis is placed on basic education. All too often these youngsters lose out on the crucial education they need to get jobs at home, and for the ones who make it to tryouts in Europe, many are simply abandoned once they get cut. Human rights activists are becoming increasingly alarmed by this trend and calling the importation of young African players to Europe a new form of child trafficking.

Conversely, many academies have been founded by Africans and have no affiliations with European teams. African countries, like their counterparts in Latin America, have a vested interest in their footballers joining European leagues because of the prestige they bestow upon their homelands. Historically, athletes of international caliber from football phenoms to boxing heroes and long distance running champions have been used by African nations as a political tool to gain positive recognition within the international community. That was particularly true in Africa during the early post-colonial period when infant nations were seeking international support and asserting their nationhood.

Although sports have a unique ability to create national unity and pride, governments over-emphasized the political utility of international superstars at the cost of developing competitive sporting industries.

Academies aside, there are many other ways in which Africa contributes to football’s underdevelopment. The mismanagement of football in Africa is no different than in any other industry. Corruption, maladministration, poor leadership and violence have all shaped football’s trajectory on the continent.

Stadium violence has been reported across Africa from Accra to Johannesburg. I read an editorial in Ghana’s Graphic Sports voicing concern about the hooliganism being displayed in Ghana’s leagues. Reports of game rigging in Africa are not uncommon and matches are often rescheduled or canceled because of administrative problems. The football association election in Kenya was recently postponed for the third time.

If football in Africa could be managed effectively there is no telling how much it could grow and flourish on a continent of a billion people and counting. While football is no magic answer to economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa, it is one of the few industries, such as cellular phones and IT services, that have an immediate domestic market in Africa.

South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup is a clear sign that football in Africa has come a long way, but the outward indicators of progress, such as improved sporting infrastructure and the number of players competing on the international stage will remain hollow achievements without a holistic and sustainable approach to football as an industry that creates jobs as well as unity.

Private sector development plays a central role in economic and democratic reform processes, so wouldn’t it make sense to pay more attention to football’s management in Africa? Football industries can create short-term construction jobs and stable service jobs in the long-term, assuming cities and countries make new commitments to cultivating competitive soccer leagues at home instead of selling players to Europe. It’s time to recognize this potential and consider football and other sports as crucial to development.

Democracy delivering in Somaliland

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The International Republican Institute recently held a discussion on “Democratic Governance in Africa: Does it Exist and is it Delivering?” The overwhelming answer is yes, and in fact, Africa is the only region in the world that has been experiencing modest improvements in democratic governance.

The state of democracy in Africa is painfully far from perfect, and the international media loves to cover these imperfections, but there are many positive events and trends to shed light on as well. With South Sudan’s recent birth as an independent nation, perhaps the light will turn next to Somaliland.

Many people are unaware that this northwestern region of Somalia has functioned autonomously from chaotic Somalia since 1991, when it voted to secede after the downfall of the oppressive and violent Siad Barre regime. Unrecognized by the international community as a legitimate state, Somaliland has quietly, and on its own, transitioned out of civil war and into a constitutionally-based, functioning democracy.

Unable to receive international aid from organizations like the IMF and World Bank because of its international status, Somaliland had to depend on its own resources to raise revenue for development. That meant building up a tax base and, according to Stanford’s Nicholas Eubank, becoming accountable to the citizens so that the taxation system would function properly. Eubank explains that the collection of these local tax revenues bred a much more responsive government tuned in to the needs of its people, a government that was not squandering large amounts of aid pouring in from outside its borders like so many other African countries.

Comparing peace-building efforts in Somalia to those of its secessionist region illuminates another sharp contrast. Billions have been spent on stabilizing Somalia, but living conditions and domestic and international animosities have only worsened over the years. Somalia is an utterly failed state. In Somaliland, a unique strategy emerged in which traditional processes of discussion and consultation played a central role. All clans were represented in peace conferences, and this inclusive dialogue became the foundation for a democratic government.

Today, Somaliland boasts a hybrid government with a president and parliament, but also an Upper House of Elders, which assures that all clans have a voice. While western democratic ideas of branches of government and checks and balances have been incorporated into Somaliland’s governmental structure, so too have domestic values of clan leadership. This fusion has seen several successful democratic elections, both for the presidency and in parliament. In the 2010 election an opposition candidate, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, won the presidency.

In addition to Somaliland’s stable democracy, a strong national identity has emerged as well. This identity is rooted in its democratic values, its internal problem-solving capabilities, its ability to overcome and, of course, its local culture. Somaliland still faces an uphill battle in terms of economic, social and political development, but the commendable progress that has occurred, and the grit of the people to succeed, whether or not the international community acknowledges Somaliland as sovereign nation, provides a solid foundation for the future.

Over the past twenty years Somaliland has overcome incredible odds. It serves as a testament that building viable democratic institutions is possible, and perhaps most aptly done when local culture can combine with shared wisdom from outsiders, including Westerners, to create a distinctly African democracy that values the needs and desires of its citizens. Governance in Somaliland is far from perfect, and each country faces its own unique issues, but the evolution of Somaliland’s hybrid democratic structures provides a solid example to the developing world of how democracy building can work.

 

The logic of corruption

Taxicabs in Ghana are recognizable by their yellow-painted fenders. (Photo: Facebook user via Tripadvisor.com)

After a pleasant evening at a popular restaurant in Accra’s East Legon section, a bunch of international volunteers, including myself, piled into a taxi to head back to our base in Teshie. The taxi driver didn’t mind that we outnumbered the seats in his car, and we didn’t think twice about it. It was much cheaper than splitting up into two cabs, and the cramped conditions added to our sense of adventure. Little did we know how adventurous our ride would be.

Shortly after passing the military hospital at 37 (the name of a junction in Accra), a swerving car drove up next to us. For a moment we thought the man driving must be drunk, but the taxi driver promptly blurted out that this driver was forcing him to pull over.

We oburonis (the Twi word for foreigner/white person) exchanged confused looks, for the maniacal car was not a police vehicle. After both cars had pulled over to the side of the road, the man hurried over to the passenger-side window with great indignation. Furiously, he lectured us about our overcrowded car. “Ei! You cannot do this in your country, so why do you think you can do it here?” he shrieked. In Twi, I tried to apologize and butter him up. It only aggravated him more.

After further lecturing our driver dejectedly handed over his license in exchange for a business card. The man demanded that he come to his office the next day to ‘work out’ the incident. We knew this meant he was going to have to pay a bribe to get his license back. As the man stood back and watched with approval, some of our group filed out of the taxi and flagged down another.

As we pulled away, I looked down at the business card in my hand. It was such a shock that it took me a minute to process what I was reading. The maniacal driver was a gynecologist at the military hospital.

Everyone burst into hysterics at the absurdity of the situation, but our driver merely shook his head. A few minutes later, we drove up to a military “checkpoint” that had not previously been there. A couple of uniformed men peered into the windows with their flashlights, and then luckily waved us on. As we exhaled sighs of relief, our driver began to laugh, saying “God is good.”

The situation, he explained, could have been much worse had the gynecologist not intercepted us first. The fact that he was going to have to pay a random gynecologist to retrieve his license was, somehow, a blessing.

I’ve reflected more deeply upon this experience while interning for the Africa Department at CIPE and thinking and learning about the dynamics of corruption and how to tackle it. What intrigues me most about this episode of the taxi driver and the gynecologist is that it underlines the sociological impact of corruption on society. The driver knew that what happened to him was illegal, but after coming across the military roadblock he realized that having to deal with the gynecologist was much more preferable.

What was clearly bizarre to the passengers made perfect sense in a place where corruption has permeated all facets of life, from mismanagement of funds at the highest levels of government to average citizens paying daily bribes–even to gynecologists with questionable driving skills.

Research in motion for women’s property rights

Strengthening property rights in rural Uganda is tough enough with the country ranked 150 out of 183 on the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators for Registering Property. Now try strengthening property rights for women in Uganda, the kind of place where women typically don’t receive child custody in cases of divorce.

That’s just what the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) did in a pilot project the results of which they presented yesterday at ICRW’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

ICRW Economists Krista Jacobs and Meredith Saggers began the presentation with an overview of the earlier Gender Land & Asset Survey (GLAS) that provided a foundation for ICRW’s pilot program to advance women’s property rights in Uganda. Covering land, housing, material goods, and livestock, the survey defined asset rights broadly as perceived ownership, documentation, and the extent to which one could influence decision-making regarding the asset.

The survey also covered usage of assets, which turned out some interesting insights. While there was little to no gap in usage of assets, there is a huge gap in favor of men when it comes to perceived ownership and ultimate decision-making.

But perhaps the most interesting insights from the survey came from dis-aggregating the data between male-headed households and female-headed households. For example, in rural Ugandan male-headed households 19 percent of women perceived joint-ownership of the home while only 3 percent of men in the same households perceived joint-ownership. On a more hopeful note, the gender gap in perceived ownership and control closes almost completely in female-headed households–though Jacobs noted later it was possible that the survey only reached the most successful and powerful female-headed households while the vast majority may tell a different story.

The survey also asked about factors affecting the strength of different asset rights for men versus women. While married women perceived weaker asset rights when it came to land and livestock, they did feel more secure in material property rights–items like tools and machinery for farming or cooking, transportation assets, and -of special significance- communications assets like mobile phones.

To put research in motion, the primary cue taken from the GLAS survey was that there was stark lack of awareness of property laws as they existed on the books. Thirty-seven percent of women in the Uganda survey didn’t have any idea which of Uganda’s multiple sanctioned land-tenure systems applied to their family’s land–even though recent laws passed do grant women greater access to and control of assets. The pilot project to strengthen women’s property rights in Uganda thus revolved around partnering with the Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) to train community-based rights workers from the Luwero Land Rights Activists Association in basic gender equity and property rights issues.

Community-based rights workers were community-selected volunteers, men and women, and rather than the impossible task of training them in just a matter of days to become experts in gender and property rights, ICRW and ULA trained them to serve more as resource hubs. Armed with basic knowledge of property rights and responsibilities as prescribed by law, they consulted with trusted experts, local leaders and institutions as well as each other as a network, and in so doing served as alternate dispute mechanisms in lieu of corrupt and dysfunctional courts.

As the ultimate source of solutions came down to enforcing the laws as they exist, in the author’s opinion these community-based rights workers were doing more than defending the rights of women to own and control assets; they were also helping more broadly to strengthen the rule of law.

ICRW foresees the information and networks that come out of the pilot project in Uganda will help advocacy efforts for further reform on property rights and other issues, Jacobs said. In particular she noted that laws and customs around joint-ownership in Uganda require further study, with an eye toward reform down the road to strengthen property rights for women. There are plenty of other laws currently or pending deliberation that could weaken or strengthen women’s asset rights, she added.

Depending on where you are and who is your target audience, property rights can be a source of hope or a source of great consternation. ICRW’s research and work on this issue as presented yesterday shined a light on the economic, social, legal, and political complexity around property rights that is fascinating no matter where you might fall on that spectrum.

Is 2011 Ghana’s 1978? New National Pension Fund Scheme Could Repeat History

 

Traders work on the floor of the Ghana Stock Exchange in Accra, Ghana, June 15, 2006. (Photo by World Bank/Jonathan Ernst)

Editors’ note: this post originally appeared on Nextbillion.net.

1978. How many Nextbilllion.net readers weren’t even born yet that year? That was the year, for example, when Garfield the Cat made his comic-strip debut. Two Popes died that year. The Chinese government lifted its ban on works by Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens. Israel and Egypt made peace. Atlantic City, N.J. opened its first casino. 1978 also happens to mark the birth of today’s U.S. venture capital industry. 2011 could be that year for Ghana.

In 1978, the U.S. Department of Labor relaxed key provisions in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, allowing pension funds to invest in private equity (PE) firms, including venture capital groups. The change caused a tsunami of capital to new and growing firms, as capital under PE firm management went from $39 million in 1977 to $570 million in 1978. Startup and growth capital in the U.S. has never been the same.

This year, key changes from Ghana’s 2008 pension law come into effect that might lead to a similar explosion in private equity and venture capital. The pension scheme is now mandatory for all public and private formal sector workers in Ghana; 13.5 percent of formal sector salaries will be deducted and placed under the management of Ghana’s Social Security and National Insurance Trust. An additional 5 percent of each formal sector worker’s salary will be deducted and placed under management of private institutional investors.

That 5 percent could be as much as $400 million annually for institutional investors, as Bloomberg News recently reported. About 25 percent of that will go into equities, implying $1.9 million in capital per week moving into a stock market with a current weekly turnover of only $1.8 million, according to the Bloomberg report. The rest of the estimated $400 million will go into local currency debt investments.

“The entry of new institutional investors is therefore expected to have a marked effect on the local equity market,” a local economist told Bloomberg. “The new fund managers are also expected to make markets more liquid, efficient and transparent, offer alternative sources of financing from local commercial banks and stimulate financial innovation.”

More competitive institutional investors and more liquid stock markets would be a boon for impact investors, who need buyers and liquid capital markets to make exits more frequent and more lucrative.

The new pension law also calls for a privately-managed voluntary pension scheme catering to the 80-plus percent of Ghanaians who work in the informal sector – i.e. Ghana’s BoP markets. Just imagine: retirement savings from Ghana’s BoP helping to finance Ghana’s new and growing businesses. Time will tell if the scheme will gain traction, but it’s tantalizingly close to reality.

Additionally, as workers never lose ownership of pension fund contributions, Ghana’s new pension scheme allows both formal and informal sector workers to use the value of contributions under private management as collateral to obtain a bank loan. The effect that has on bank lending to Ghana’s BoP still depends upon a range of other factors, but liquid collateral is a major step in the right direction.

There’s no guarantee that Ghana’s new pension law will produce the same results as the 1978 changes did in the U.S. Things could go smoothly for a few years until Ghana’s economy hits a rough turn, and if there were any weaknesses in the transparency or accountability of pension fund manager governance, operations, licensing or oversight, then the whole system could collapse. In a speech at the launch of the new pension scheme, Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills urged pending pension fund managers to take the lessons of the recent global financial crisis to heart.

Plenty of blog posts have provided glimpses of the development power of savings, including long-term savings for retirement, weddings, or funerals. Ghana’s new pension scheme builds on the power of savings, mobilizing capital domestically rather than channeling capital from abroad, and using local savings for much more than just microcredit or buying central bank bonds.

From stability to growth in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. After ten years of inflation, burgeoning unemployment, and political turmoil, there is a possibility that the country is turning the corner. “Zimbabwe could see economic growth of 8.1 percent in the second part of 2010,” recently stated the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti. The International Monetary Fund is a little less optimistic, projecting Real GDP growth rates of 2.2 percent for 2010 and zero or limited growth in 2011.

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