south asian women training

Study Shows Lack of Ideas is Not What’s Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back

 

south asian women training

Participants at a recent training workshop for South Asian women’s business associations in Kathmandu.

African women are almost twice as likely to have a new business idea they would like to develop than women in Europe and the United States, according to a new study commissioned by Dell. This is further proof of what many of us already know – that there is no lack of ideas and energy among women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It is institutional barriers and local economic conditions that primarily hold back women who are looking to start a business.

CIPE and its partners have supported women entrepreneurs in a number of countries to make significant gains in increasing their role in the economy and their input to public policy. For example, women’s business associations in Nigeria have successfully advocated to increase their role in a national conference to review the nation’s governing institutions.

In Pakistan, CIPE and its partners worked to reform the National Trade Organizations Ordinance to allow women to form their own associations and improve women’s representation on already established chamber boards. The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry has successfully advocated for local and national level policies to improve access to credit for women entrepreneurs. And in Papua New Guinea, a new CIPE-supported women’s business association helped to establish a “women’s desk” at the largest commercial bank in the country to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to obtain bank loans. Continue reading

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

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.

(Photo: Footysphere via Flickr)

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.

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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.

 

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

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.