Sunday, November 30

Tacitus has some interesting comments from Nairobi, Kenya, and the rise of Islam in Africa. Full time blogging will resume during the course of next week hopefully.

Tuesday, November 25

In the mean time read this brilliant article by Chege Mbitiru of The Nation in Nairobi.

Mr Howard, Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo were charged with ascertaining Mr Mugabe's reformation for a year. Then came diversity. Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo took the village route of soothing neighbourhood wife-beaters. Mr Howard went by the book, reminding Mr Mugabe of rules last time refined in Harare.

Read the whole thing.

Blogging will be light for the next week or two as I try to kill my Windows pc without losing all my work (Its 2001 (the movie) all over again), get a certain thesis off my back and try to stay sane at work as more and more fellow workers abandon their posts for the beach.

Thursday, November 20

Thanks to Ethan Zuckerman and, there is now a directory of African blogs.


If this is your first visit, have a look at the links on the left. There are a number of African blogs not yet registered in the AllAfrica directory.

Wednesday, November 19

My favourite South African economist, when I think of economists at all, is Iraj Abedian. An Iranian by birth he became a South African citizen in the 90s. Recently he has been chosen as South Africa's top economist by the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip) (With the usual speculation on whether hes black in the first place, but I think everyone is now agreed that your black so long as you're not white).

A view of his that has interested me is the fact that even though South Africans have very low levels of personal savings, we do have very high levels of personal insurance. That we do not need to save as much as people in other countries, because we are covered for all major disasters. Medical, Car, Life and Household insurance constitute a large part of the savings of this country. As prove of this he notes that no large public or private venture has ever failed because of a lack of investment funds. That the large financial institutions, which invest the insurance funds, have been able to provide finance for all comers.

This can certainly be seen as a larger tax burden however. People in western countries do not need as much insurance, because there are better basic levels of medical care, the roads are safer and crime less of a personal everyday problem.

It does not take a large stretch of the imagination to equate the cell phone networks I use and the security company I employ as part of this larger tax burden. Cell phone networks aren't free anywhere, but they certainly form part of the infrastructure of any country. Cell phones have also become almost ubiquitous in SA. with 1 in 4 South Africans owning a cell phone (13 million users at the beginning of this year). If you think that half of the population is under 18 you start to see how essential to SA life it has become, especially in the townships.

The growth of private security companies has also been phenomenal, and is set to expand. The use of private tracking and recovery companies for stolen cars and trucks has also become so common that the two major companies are offering very attractive package deals, something only possible in a mass market. The use of private detectives in serious criminal cases also look to be something that is to experience massive growth in the near future.

This for me is the dichotomy of the new South African economy, the difference between the first world South Africa and the third world South Africa, and the reason that Trevor Manual is expected to lower taxes once again next year.

As the government focuses on pulling the 'whole' of South Africa up by its bootstraps, the first world South Africa has taken upon itself the cost and responsibility of much that would be a governments responsibility in other countries.

The big news in SA, if you can ignore the rugby and political scandals for a second, is the continued strength of the Rand in relation to the major currencies.

'Stronger rand better for GDP growth'

In December 2001, the rand reached a record worst level of 13.86 rand per dollar, 20.0866 rand per pound sterling and 12.4790 rand per euro. It finished 2002 at 8.59 rand per dollar, as the rand was the best performing currency against the US dollar in 2002. The average last year was 10.52 rand per dollar.

Currently the exchange rate is R6.50 to the dollar. Something not seen since 2000. The Rand is still not overvalued however.

Using the Big Mac measure of PPP it is estimated that 5.30 rand per dollar would equalise the cost of a Big Mac between the US and South Africa.

Using the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) measure of living costs in major centres, an even stronger level of 4.12 rand per dollar would equalise living standards between Johannesburg and major American cities.

The thought was that by lowering the prime lending rate, South African bonds would become less atractive leading to the weakening of the Rand. One reason given for the continued strength is the apparent weakness of the dollar, and the search of investors for alternative investment opportunities.

What is interesting for me is that South Africa is seen as an attractive investment alternative to the US at all.

Unganisha is back from Ethiopia, and he highly recommends it. All I'm saying is I've already checked the flight prices.

Direct flights JNB to Ethiopia capital departs Wednesday, Friday and Sundays

Full fare
One way economy costs R6297
Return economy costs R11 423

Discounted rates
One way R6297
Return R6297

Is it just me, or is that expensive?

Tuesday, November 18

Updated the Blog Roll. More African blog goodness!

The reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Southern Africa, Abraham McLaughlin, has a blog. From the look of things its going to take a while for him to settle. (Via Zombyboy at AfricaBlog)

We've been in South Africa for more than a week now, and it's a bit less "exotic" than I expected. In fact, at least once a day my wife, Jen, and I say, "This could be L.A.!" With its 6-lane highways, mega-malls, palm trees, and sun-drenched days, "Joburg" is far more sophisticated and functional than I figured. It's a lot like Los Angeles, and a lot like America - at least on the surface.

Joburg is definitely the engine that drives the South African economy, and by implication that of Southern Africa. I grew up there, but I have been living in the Cape for almost eight years now. It is great, but I have to resist the pull that Joburg has. For every one job available in Cape Town Johannesburg has 50, and they all pay better. Everytime I drive from Jhb. airport to my parents home I'm amazed at the changes.

Gauteng, the province that is basically formed by the triangle of three cities Pretoria, Johannesburg and Vereeniging (Is it still called Vereeniging?), has almost become a singly metropole. The only question I have for Abraham, is where did he see those palm trees?

Monday, November 17

Zombyboy and I are debating the future of Zimbabwe. We both agree that things are going downhill pretty fast, and that it can still be saved. We disagree on who can stop it. Zombyboy says the UN and South Africa. I say it is the people of Zimbabwe. Whats your opinion?

Saturday, November 15

A fine fisking of a NY Times article on AGOA by Abiola. A must read.

But what sort of thinking ought one to expect from a person with "a diploma in social work"? The West exports its' silliest ideas with ease, but the ones that make it rich don't transfer so easily. If it were up to me, I'd ban all teachers of professional victimhood under the guise of sociology, colonial studies and the like from stepping foot on African soil.

Update: Hey, One of those evildoers has a blog! namibia or bust Shes vegetarian, shes Canadian, and she works for an NGO! The Horror!

At least Tom Tomorrow is happy with the way we sang the anthem at the Rugby World cup.

Update: Andrew at Southern Cross is worked up about the whole Kamp Staaldraad story.

Seems like Daudi just doesn't like Rugby however.
Sure beats rugby songs' usual celebration of drunkeness, buggery and violence.

Friday, November 14

If the chiefs are happy, it cant be good for democracy.

Traditional leaders defend bill
The Coalition of Traditional Leaders on Friday came out in defense of the draft Communal Land Rights Bill, saying rural communities will finally have their land ownership rights recognised.

Mr Holomisas assertion that traditional leaders are accountable to their people is risible.

Critics of the bill have raised fears that the traditional leaders will take the land from the people and sell it to developers.

Holomisa dismissed this, saying people had a very contorted view of how African leadership operated.

He said traditional leaders were held accountable by their communities in the same why that a chairperson of an organisation was.

Anybody who doubts this need only travel along the South Coast in the old Transkei and Ciskei, where traditional leaders still rule. Anybody who drops of a few sheep or some cattle at the local chief quickly gets the 'right' to build a house where-ever he wants too. Tribal council oversight notwithstanding.

The BBC has an interactive map of the spread of the AIDS epidemic (via daudis afrofile).

I have serious doubt about the accuracy of the graph. (I don't believe it for a second, in fact). There is no way that the spread of AIDS could have been tracked to even this broad a degree.

The fact that South African AIDS population is put between 20% and 39% percent in 2001 overblown. Even the worst estimates I've seen only has it between 10-15%. They even say so, attributing only 5 million AIDS cases to South Africa. That is around 10-12% of the population.

But then this is 'par for the course' for the BBC. Their reporting has become so unreliable that I have begun to doubt even their run of the mill stories, never mind 'special reports' or documentaries.

Andrew at South Cross:
We've said it before, but it bears repeating, if Ngcuka is exonerated (as seems likely) then the book should be thrown at Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, upon whose flimsy allegations the whole process got started. Seems fair that they should have to pay Heffer's costs.

Amen. However I think they will be lucky to get of so easily.

The Nigerians are understandable miffed at the US bounty on Charles Taylor.

Oyo noted that Nigeria is piqued by the latest move by the Bush administration because President Olusegun Obasanjo "conferred with key members of the international community and also in Africa and West Africa," before brokering the peace deal in Liberia which led to Taylor's asylum in Nigeria.

The fact that he might have broken the terms of his asylum certainly makes Mr Taylors continued residence uncertain, but the American move is totally irresponsible.

Not only does it insult the sovereignty of the country that stepped into the quagmire that is Liberia (allowing US forces to withdraw), it creates a dangerous situation in a continent where security is always a problem.

Mbeki will back Nigeria 100% in this, that you can be sure off. I cant see this as anything but a diplomatic embarrassment for the US government.

Africa's own Linux distribution
South Africa now has its own variant of Linux called Impi, a Zulu word for describing a a group warriors. The distribution has been developed over a period of two years and now launched by the Impi League.

Ross Addis, technology consultant at MIP Holdings and chairman of the Gauteng Linux User Group says the inspiration for Impi was to provide an integrated, multilingual, professional and innovative open source solution to the local market.

He says the development is in line with the South African government's adoption of open source computing in South Africa. The distribution is initially targeted at desktop users although Addis says server components are included along with the release.

Shaz Rasul writes on being a Mbeki apologist. As a 'part-time' Mbeki apologist myself I certainly sympathize.

Wednesday, November 12

Its silly season election time in SA.

The good news for all you expats. Mbeki is being the big man, and you're to be allowed to vote (finally!)

South Africans abroad will be able to vote
The Electoral Act will be amended to ensure that South Africans abroad on election day will be able to cast their vote, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

The bad news is that the voting age might be lowered to 16(?). This is according to the Election committee adds calling for everyone older then 16 to register.

I haven't heard anything about this elsewhere however. Id think a major change such as this would have caused a bigger upset.

Tuesday, November 11

Murray at Southern Cross compares SA culture and Rugby.

Saturday, November 8

We lost the Rugby, but we deserved to lose. We played like a second class team. Japan could have thought us lesson about tackling, and passing the ball is a required skill last time I looked.

O well. At least the reff was an idiot too, so we can blame him when we get dronk-verdriet later.

Friday, November 7

Does Goerge Bush "get it", as they say? Ive had my doubts about the guy before, but this is what the world needs more of (Via Best of the Web).

In a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, President Bush this morning affirmed America's commitment to democracy in the Muslim world:

*** QUOTE ***

Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This "cultural condescension," as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would "never work." Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany are, and I quote, "most uncertain at best"--he made that claim in 1957. Seventy-four years ago, the Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be "illiterates not caring a fig for politics." Yet when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, [is] "ready" for democracy--as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.

It should be clear to all that Islam--the faith of one-fifth of humanity--is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries--in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America.

*** END QUOTE ***

Having sat through about twenty too many debates about "Are Africans ready for democracy?", its great hearing this. Actions speak louder then words, but ideas also matter. If freedom is to spread then this is the idea that will make it happen. Democracy is not the end goal, is is just the process. Everyone deserves to be part of the process.

Now if only Zimbabwe would strike oil...

You know. Its difficult getting good help these days. The old motto, "If you want something done right, do it yourself" still applies.

Zuma lodges complaint against Ngcuka
Jacob Zuma, the deputy president, has lodged a complaint with the Public Protector against Bulelani Ngcuka, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Zuma's complaint claims that Ngcuka's staff abused their power in the manner in which they have investigated him over the last three years.

Meanwhile, the goons are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Mac and Mo told to produce proof
Former Transport Minister Mac Maharaj and an associate, Mo Shaik - both of whom were senior ANC intelligence operatives under Zuma during the anti-Apartheid struggle - have claimed that Ngcuka was investigated by the ANC for being an apartheid spy.

But the intelligence committee took a swipe at Maharaj and Shaik on Thursday, saying the onus was on the accusers to prove their allegations against Ngcuka.

Why is this reminding me of a "Heman, Master of the Universe" episode? How did the bad guys get away at the end of an episode again?

Sam Nujoma of Namibia to step down?

NAMIBIA: Succession debate thrown open

President Sam Nujoma's exit from Namibian politics in 2005 is expected to have a significant impact on the ruling party, SWAPO, analysts said on Thursday.

In a recent interview with the London-based New African magazine, Nujoma reiterated earlier comments that he would not seek re-election in the 2005 polls.

Bait and switch? Or the truth? Who knows.

Thursday, November 6

In Notes from a broad, Rachel blogs about being an American student in Senegal.

Namibian farmworkers eye white farms

The Namibia Farmworkers Union threatened yesterday to begin moving onto white-owned commercial farms next week.

The general secretary of the government-affiliated union, Alfred Angula, told AFP that the organisation did not want to compare the operation that is to begin on Monday to the seizure of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe.

Is Nujoma finally going to make his move? We'll see what happens, but have no doubt that a land grab is Sams dearest wish. Letting the goverment union do the dirty work is right from Mugabes book.

Update: Not yet apparently.

JSE to Lobby FTSE to Join Club of Elite Nations
THE JSE Securities Exchange SA is set to lobby the London-based FTSE group to have SA upgraded to an elite list of 24 nations classed as "developed" countries, which would give the country significant prestige as an investment destination.

The question is if this is reasonable. The last time I looked, the JSE was the 9th largest stock exchange in the world. However;

...what could prove a stumbling block was SA's relatively low gross domestic product per capita, which falls below the FTSE standard of $10000. SA is likely to argue for flexibility, pointing to recent upgrades in SA's sovereign status from rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's.

Allan Greenblo, South African adviser to the FTSE, said SA was keen to avoid losing ground to China, which is to be upgraded to "advanced emerging" level.

"SA could be crowded out as China would eventually grab a larger share of the index tracking money available for advanced emerging countries," he said.

Another article by AllAfrica points out some of the rewards of being upgraded by the FTSE.

Annan: Global Funds Flow Wrong Direction

For the sixth straight year, net transfers of funds in 2002 flowed from poor countries to developed ones, not the other way around. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly that increased investment and development aid are needed to reverse the trend, which bleeds low-income countries of hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Wednesday, November 5

(Via Foreign Dispatches )

The Political Compass
My rating is:
Economic Left/Right: 0.00
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.26

A Centrist! For petes sake...

Posting has been light for the last few days as we have moved into our new house. We finally bought in Observatory, a "previously disadvantaged" area.

Observatory is surrounded by Woodstock to the north, Mowbray to the south and Salt River to the east. Groote Schuur hospital is directly west of our house and behind that is the mountain. The house is almost in the center of Obs, close to the station.

I like the house a lot, but it needs a little work. Crime is also a little worse, but then where isn't it bad? Rumour has it the house plot was laid out around the 1900's somewhere, and I suspect the house was built in the twenties. Still, people knew how to build houses back then, and I'd trust this house to still be standing a hundred years from now, when all the new developments have crumbled.

The area has been changing rapidly in the previous few years as the group areas act was abolished, and it probable one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the country. Some houses are still very dilapidated, but new people seem to be moving in all the time and fixing places up. Im not sure what the coloured people think of this 'invasion'. They probable feel the same way I do about the German invasion of the city bowl.

The University of Cape Town is also very close by, making the center of Obs very lively at night. There are a large number of restaurants, clubs, bars, and coffee shops in a short stretch of Lower Main Road. Some people are comparing the area to Melville in Johannesburg, but I like the area much more. It has more character for me.

Its also become a little touristy, and I think only more and more tourist will want to come here as the rest of Cape Town's tourist industry commercializes. Im not sure about street crime yet but its definitely a problem. Businesses in the area have banded together to hire private guards to patrol the streets, so it seems like criminals have moved on to Woodstock for now. Bergies (definition here, I think) are a common site, and even though they help to disguise the real criminals, they are as much a part of Cape Town as the mountain.

Still, the first thing I did was install a burglar alarm and sign up with a private armed response company. (For those of you who live in safe parts of the world, those are the guys in the bullet proof vests and assault rifles who rush to your house when you press the emergency button. Makes gun control laws seem kind of silly yes.) I'm also upgrading the burglar bars, and will probable build the front wall a bit higher and put up some wire at the back. Two Bergies slept in the front garden outside our bedroom window Saturday night. Fine by me, but I'd rather not make it a regular thing.

Call me paranoid, but I lived in Joburg for the first part of the nineties. Still, Cape Town 'is' generally safer then Joburg, so I wont install a machine gun nest. Love this town.

Tuesday, November 4

New South African Blog. WildSouth brings us the view from Cape Town.

What is it with Cape Town and blogging? Are we the Blogger Mecca of Africa?

Monday, November 3

Dire Food Shortages Predicted For Sub Saharan Africa

At a press conference to launch of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, scientists warned that many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa could face a future of increasing malnutrition and dependence on food aid unless steps are taken to address water scarcity across the region.

What a magnificent headline! An NGO Research group into water use, predicts that proper water use will be the key to saving the whole of southern africa from starvation.

That of course assumes that a water shortage is responsible for any current food shortage. Only, it isn't. Water supply, and droughts have little to do with starvation. It is logistics that the key to feeding society.

Modern agriculture produces more food now as a percentage to the world population then ever, even in Africa. It is a highly competitive market, where government subsidies are needed to keep unproductive producers in business.

Why then are so many people starving? We need to differentiate between people who are starving because they are poor, and those who are starving because they cannot find any food.

These two don't go hand in hand. There are people living in London, New York and Paris that are starving because they cannot afford to buy food. Been there, done that. Although subsistence farmers would possibly suffer personally because of a draught, they do not supply food to society (almost by definition). Should they be able to afford it, they would still be able to purchase food.

Lets look at the second group. Mass starvation. There is 'no' food. It is not a matter of not being able to afford food, but that there is simply is none.

Zimbabwe is a good country to look at. There is currently a drought, but not any worse then have not been experienced in recent history (the previous serious drought was in 1992). People are starving, and the government is using food aid a a political weapon on its opponent's. Across the border is SA and Botswana however, shop are stocked full. Zim government ministers regularly drive to Johannesburg to do their shopping.

Why are people starving? This is because the logistics of the economy of Zimbabwe has broken down. Zimbabwe cannot afford to purchase the food they need because the main source of foreign currency (and food), commercial farming, was destroyed. This has nothing to do with water, but everything to do with government mismanagement.

But blaming government mismanagement for starvation in Africa is certainly not PC. I'm sure better water management is the key to helping those poor starving Africans and CGAIR are just the people to do it!