Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute.
Africa is in the news. The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit is being held in August, the first of its kind. President Obama will be welcoming leaders from across the African continent to the nation’s capital in less than two months. The summit holds many promises; it could mark a turning point in U.S-Africa relations.
While there are many issues that can be discussed, not all of them should be on the agenda for this summit. To achieve the maximum benefits, it is very critical for African leaders to prioritize just what to put on agenda, and what to leave out. It is tempting to want to bring all the issues, but highly focused interactions are more successful. Topics for discussion should reflect the most critical issues regarding African economies and address challenges to sustainable growth and development.
One important issue is private sector development. Development finance and private sector entrepreneurship are powerful, but under-utilized, assets for development in Africa. While most countries have set goals for inclusive growth, they will not be achieved without better harnessing private sector resources that are ultimately the drivers of development.
Michael Putra, Shell, discusses open policymaking at the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference, May 6. Seated to his left are Y. W. Junardy, President, Indonesia Global Compact Network, and Ahmad Yuniarto, Chairman, Schlumberger Indonesia.
At a tender three years of age, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is growing toward maturity. It has reached a stage where it can reflect on progress made to date and learn from early attempts to inspire action by government and civil society. While enthusiasm remains fresh – palpable in the youth contingent at the Asia Regional Conference in Bali – champions within OGP are thinking seriously about how to ensure the credibility of national commitments and deliver the fruits of open government to the people.
Yet as an observer in Bali, I was mostly struck by the moments of discovery, the “aha” moments that occurred as new and veteran participants encountered one another. OGP is entirely new to many countries in Asia (Papua New Guinea and Burma, for instance) and equally new to certain segments of society, especially the private sector.
At the session hosted by Indonesia Global Compact Network on “Building Trust between Private and Public Sectors for a Competitive and Sustainable Economy,” prominent business people were amazed to know that there is such a partnership for transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. They immediately grasped the potential of OGP to address issues of concern to them, including innovation policy, education, health, and local development. The light bulb really came on when they expressed that corporate social responsibility is not sufficient, that companies must become active citizens and engage with civil society and government alike to build trust.
To anyone who has traveled frequently to Venezuela, the deterioration of the country is palpable. By day, people fear driving and getting stuck in traffic because motorcycle thugs will tap on their window, show a gun, and demand the handover of cell phones and cash. By night it is worse: going out on the town could involve robbery, kidnapping, and risk of death, so the streets are empty on Friday and Saturday nights in a city that previously boasted an active nightlife.
Shopping is another sad tale — commercial malls show a lack of maintenance, and stores have little merchandise. The common refrain you hear everywhere is “no hay,” or “there aren’t any.” You hear that when asking for anything from cell phones to toilet paper. You hear it in restaurants, too, where chefs somehow manage to figure out how to cook without basic staples such as cooking oil or flour.
If you can even get an airline ticket to Venezuela—international carriers are prevented from taking their profits out of the country, so they are curtailing flights—you will find prices depend entirely on the exchange rate you are able to obtain. If you change money at official rates you will pay $25 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. If you are lucky enough to obtain the parallel exchange rate—which is running upwards of 10 ten times the official rate—the same meal will cost you $2.50.
How do Venezuelans cope with living this way? There are significant segments of society that still support the government of Nicolás Maduro despite its inability or unwillingness to tackle the huge economic problems the country faces, and which they have mostly caused. As the economy worsens, however, it seems unlikely that even the poorest segments of Venezuelan society who supported Hugo Chavez and now Maduro will continue to provide that support.
McDonalds, along with some other international firms, closed its stores in Crimea shortly after the Russian annexation. (Photo: Newsweek)
By Iryna Fedets
Recent events have brought uncertainty to the business community of Crimea, particularly with the approach of summer for a region where the economy depends heavily on Black Sea tourism.
A year ago, businesses in Crimea were active, and optimistic. A report on the investment climate in the regions of Ukraine published by the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting in April 2013 placed Crimea in 4th place among the 27 regions of the country according to their attractiveness for investors.
While corruption and extensive business regulations have been the problems for the whole country, Crimea showed better results than most regions of Ukraine in many aspects. In the sub-category “Absence of corruption,” Crimea held the 4th place nationally, and the 3rd place in the “Administrative procedures” sub-rating. Moreover, business there proved to be the most optimistic in Ukraine as Crimea took the 1st position in the “Business optimism” sub-category.
Now, Crimean businesses are looking to the future with anxiety, not optimism. Some international companies like McDonalds are closing their venues in the region, and local entrepreneurs are left with the limited options of either continuing in uncertainty or selling their business.
By Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang
The Open Government Partnership has become a leading force for advancing transparency and civic engagement in 63 countries. It was founded on a strong partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Recognizing the implications of open governance for economic and democratic development, CIPE has helped to establish an independent Council for Engaging the Private Sector in the Open Government Partnership. The Council is a joint initiative coordinated by the National Information Society Agency of Korea, Microsoft, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. CIPE’s Andrew Wilson, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, is co-chair. The Council welcomes input from private sector and other stakeholders on the future of engagement in open governance.
Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Head of the Korea Big Data Center at the National Information Society Agency, introduces this exciting initiative on the Open Government Partnership blog.
Open government is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment. For decades now, the emergence of Freedom of Information legislation and e-government initiatives have propelled a trend toward building transparent, accountable, and responsive governments.
However, open government has acquired new meaning in the 21st century, facilitated by the development of information technology. Whereas open government in the past meant access to information inside government, it now means not only access but also active sharing of information and collaborative governance between government and civil society. The distinction is that access is a one-directional relationship in which the government side opens up. In contrast, sharing implies bi- or multi-directional relationships and requires opening up and engagement by all sides.
The new version of open government, which aims for shared governance, can be named as open government 2.0. As Tim O’Reilly, advocate of Gov 2.0, puts it, open government 2.0 seeks to “redefine the relationship between citizens and government officials, engaging the citizen as a full participant rather than an observer. Citizens are not passive consumers of government services anymore. Instead, they are actively engaged in producing and delivering government services and sharing the results.
Today I attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the UN Office for Partnerships sponsored event, Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally. This annual forum — now in its fourth year — brought together over 100 leaders from nonprofit, government, multilateral, and the private sector committed to the economic empowerment of women worldwide.
Given that many nations are still struggling with sluggish or no economic growth, it is timely for countries around the world to develop sustainable, inclusive economies to maximize their growth potential. And the key ingredient for achieving this is integrating women into the equation. As Carolyn Buck Luce from Imaginal Labs LLC highlighted in the opening remarks at the event, “the next emerging market is women. Over one billion women globally will enter the workforce in the next five years, and they will mostly come from developing nations.”
To capitalize on this immense opportunity, here were some actionable plans that were discussed by the panelists at the forum: