Sunday, January 4, 2009

Social protection and donor aid

Social protection, more specifically cash transfers, has emerged over the last few years as a new area of interest for a number of bilateral donor agencies. It is also well established within INGOs as a way of responding to humanitarian emergencies. But are these donors about to make a quantum leap in their programming interest in cash transfers, in ways which will fundamentally transform donor aid to Africa? Will budget support move off centre stage? The answer, judging from a perspective written by an official with close links to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, might be "yes". Göran Holmqvist, on leave from SIDA, has written a piece commissioned by Project Syndicate, which means distribution across the globe. My iGoogle system has picked it up in media in Uganda, Taiwan and now in today's Guardian. Interestingly, the draft outcome document emanating from the recent Windhoek meeting of AU Ministers of Social Development had to be amended to take account of social protection issues; these were left out of an earlier draft.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The African Climate Solution

The just-concluded Poznan conference saw the launch of the African Climate Solution, anchored by COMESA and supported by FANRPAN. The project entails the reduction of green house gas emissions by forest resources (REDD) and carbon sequestration through agriculture, forestry and land use (AFOLU) in Africa and throughout the developing world. Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), who spoke at the launch of the Africa Climate Solution, said “ this initiative is African in origin but is intended to include all developing nations." A fully fledged project website will soon be launched but initial details have been posted on the FANRPAN website.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Land ownership and regional integration in the EAC

A news report out of Dar es Salaam a few days ago illustrated another stumbling block in moves towards regional integration: namely differing perspectives on the ability of foreigners to own land in African states. The report also spoke to the charge by foreign states and companies to gain access to "vast tracks" of land in Africa as a way of ensuring food supplies. The Deputy Minister for East African Co-operation, Mohammed Aboud, said Tanzania was not ready to adopt the controversial issue of cross-border private land ownership within the EAC. Why can't other countries adopt the Tanzanian model of state ownership of land, he asked?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A new land grab in Africa?

One of the many joys of what I do comes from the ability to spot emerging trends (thanks to my iGoogle system and the results of key word searches for material to post on websites): watching the countdown to the 2008 food crisis was one such trend. Of course the real sectoral specialists arguably dream about these issues. Against the background of the food crisis, a new trend is underway: for a good few months now news reports from a variety of very different sources indicate that foreign states want a slice of African farmland to produce not just biofuels but food for their own populations. Even Mauritius, as a member of the AU, seems to have struck a deal with Mozambique in this respect. The South Korean story about Madagascar made it into TIME last week. Now Gulf States have been advised to get in on the act as an article in the Gulf Times points out. "Bahrain Export Development Society chairman Dr Yousef Mashal warned the GCC must take steps to safeguard its food and water security, saying Africa was a major opportunity to do just that...a lot of joint ventures can be investigated in agriculture and Bahrain investors can look at buying land and farming it, producing goods, canning or freezing them and importing to Bahrain. This will be good for food security and in agro investment."

Monday, December 1, 2008

African kings, SADC-PF and ....

Two issues highlighted in recent blog entries have gone mainstream. Today's Business Day carries an article which brings the differing stances between Botswana and South Africa on an EPA with the EU right into the open (or at least into the South African press); it even quotes from the original Sunday Standard article! And IRIN has reported on the new poverty report out of Namibia (Ben Roberts, a former HSRC/SARPN colleague is a co-author of the report). The full report can be accessed via the link in the IRIN article. The just-concluded SADC-PF meeting in Arusha sees SADC parliamentarians again calling for a regional parliament - a regular refrain these last few years but which does not seem to get heard by those in power across the region. And on a less serious note "African kings" have called for a Union Government for Africa. What is in it for them? Read the article and you will see why it will not fly!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Using ICT for gender advocacy

The final paragraph of the lengthy consensus statement issued at the end of the Sixth African Development Forum, which makes the valid point about using ICT to better effect, caught my KI eye: "Establishing sound data on all aspects of gender equality, women's empowerment and violence against women and girls is a necessary precondition for establishing the best policies and monitoring the effectiveness of actions. Data also include the life stories of women and girls who are survivors of violence and exploitation. In addition to being collected, it is equally vital that data are analyzed, disseminated and used as the basis for designing and implementing programmes and monitoring and evaluating activities. ICT should be used for better dissemination of data. All member states and partners should cooperate in strengthening the African Gender and Development Index developed by the ECA and building capacities and strengthening systems for collection, analysis, dissemination and use of sex- and gender-disaggregated data. The AU, ECA and ADB should jointly publish a regular report, “The State of Africa's Women” based on these data." It is easy to make such calls; the hard work lies in doing it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Regional integration: Botswana and South Africa fight it out

I do not attempt to understand all the issues around EPAs, in particular how they are going to reshape regional integration in Africa. But with the huge financial transfers involved in SACU getting more press coverage in South Africa, largely driven by the National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry, it is clear that the "regional" project in our part of the world is in deep trouble: an article in yesterday's Sunday Standard, published in Botswana, revealed all the antagonisms between South Africa and Botswana around the EPA with the EU. Bitter stuff! I have posted the article in today's selection of newsflashes on the FANRPAN website, hoping that it will get some wider circulation in the region.