After the Storm

It’s only a handful of times that I have felt this. It’s what I call a Mandela moment – being aware of living through something historical and extraordinary.

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Ethiopia — Life’s Little Luxuries

What price life’s little luxuries? That’s not an idle question here in Ethiopia. As a landlocked country (Eritrea got the seaports) Ethiopia has just one way to the sea — through the seriously congested port of Djibouti. It seemed a like a good idea at the time to concentrate its export efforts on low-volume, high-value commodities. Read more

World Have Your Say from Coco Beach

Last night’s World Have Your Say was a tricky programme. Power surges and power cuts not to mention low-flying bats all formed hazards that needed to be avoided.

Still, we managed to get several Tanzanians on air at the Coco Beach bar and heard their views on the impending crisis. Special thanks to WHYS regular Adam who heard us on FM 104 — a local World Service rebroadcaster — and turned up to take part.

The podcast is here.

World Have Your Say live at Coco Beach.

Some of the contributors left to right: Emmy, Dina, Jacqueline, Salim and Ranjiv

And a massive thanks to the World Service business unit’s Rob Young who’s quick thinking with batteries saved our equipment from getting fried. Cheers Rob!

Rob young

Live from Tanzania II

It’s the concluding “conversation” here in Dar es Salaam. The moderator has asked for frank and feisty remarks. She must know Bob Geldof is in the audience.

11:05 A question has been posed: “Washington-lead governance is over? Do you agree?”

11:06 Not many in support of the motion which was posed by Jeffrey Sachs yesterday.

11:07 What is Tanzania doing to drive private entrepreneurship.. . . ? Asked to President Kikwete directly.

11:08 He seems a little fazed by the question . . . Trevor Manuel from SA has stepped in to help.

11:12 Same Q to Senegal’s Abdoulaye Diop.

11:14 Bob Geldof’s on . . . watch out: “Unless we pull the poor into the system it will not stabilise.”

11:16 Sir Bob: “Dar es Salaam is rife with corruption” . . . Kikwete’s response not recorded.

11:18 Sir Bob to President Kikwete: “You snigger instead of naming these thieves.”

>>>>>>>>>>> Click here to hear Sir Bob Geldof

11:19 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is on now, she is a strong speaker: “My continent is hurting . . . ”

11:26 Trevor Manuel on the IMF: “These organisations have a built in recalcitrance to change . . ”

11:27 Trevor Manuel re the USA financial crisis: “If that had been any African country the IMF would have been all over you like a ton of bricks”

11:29 Dominique Strauss-Kahn, MD of the IMF: “I’m hoping the G20 will give some answers. The crisis is the first in history that originated in another part of the world and which will affect Africa”

11:20 DSK: “We need to change the governance of our organisation”

11:34 Trevor Manuel: “The IMF is not a donor agency it’s a devlopment finance institution.”

11:35 Trevor Manuel: “We [Africans] are too weak to engage with the experts [from the IMF]”

11:35 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria: “We need to mobilise the diaspora to help . . let’s try and encourage them to come back home” Food for thought . . any Africans outside of Africa care to comment

11:36 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “I’m gonna give you fireworks. We want a change in global governance. Women — that’s an aspect that hasn’t been put on the table. Even on this table [APPLAUSE!]”

11:39 The moderator has a question for President Kikwete again “What are you doing?” You can’t deny, it’s a direct question . . .

11:40 President Kikwete “The issues are difficult to comprehend” Very true . . . very true.

11:40 President Kikwete: “The current crisis has not yet hit us. There is an impending crisis.”

11:42 President Kikwete “I’m trying as much as I can.”

11:43 Bob’s on again . .

11:44 Sir Bob: “We built a leveraged society and there’s no more leverage”

11:45 Sir Bob has calmed down a bit: “Whatever hopes DSK and Kikwete have about the IMf and Africa this is about a different relationship between Africa and the world. don’t go anymore with the attitude of being supplicants. We go into the G8. The G8 which has done so little . . forget the word PROMISE . . it comes with emotional issues. Why don’t Africans say WHERE’S THE MONEY” Echoes of Live Aid in 1985 which I’m sure many of you will remember. Actually, I don’t think he’d calmed down at all . . .

11:49 Trevor Manuel from South Africa is on again: “The impetus in wealthy countries tends towards nationalism in times like this. It’s the electorate that matters”


It’s been a dynamite Kikwete v. Geldof session. I’m posting a video of it soon.

12:02 DSK: “You need to have meeting where everyone is represented . . that’s the strength of the IMF and the World Bank. African voices may not be strong enough but there IS a voice.”

12:06 An unknown minister is on: “People have accepted that Africa is at the table. Will they listen?”

12:07 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “African leaders need to hold an alternative forum and invite the G20 to come [APPLAUSE]. We don’t know how to manage our own media relations. We should hold it in London.”

12:09 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “Africans developed Europe. With the resources taken from Africa Europe developed.”

12:10 President Kikwete “What Ngozi said is important. We may organise that meeting and they may not turn up. E.g. in the SADC region we have this annual consultation between SADC and Europe . . it is supposed to be at the ministerial level. . . and no ministers from Europe come except senior officials. And this is suppoed to be a consultative forum!”

12:16 Trevor Manuel is talking about ” . . . people in the IMF who write and look and behave exactly like each other. You need diversity to engage differently. The problem is there’s been one song sheet, one gospel . .. you were rewarded for taking the gospel to the heathens out there in Africa. The institution has to change”

12:20 Trevor Manuel: “We don’t have a banking crisis like the united States has. African countries have sound financial regulation.”

12:22 Trevor Manuel: “Between Zimbabwe and ourselves [SA] we probably have 90% of the world’s platinum. Same for DRC and Zambia re copper. If people don’t have money for jewellery it has an impact. It’s different from industries in Detroit that have surpassed their life.” A harsh message for car workers in the USA.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

12:30 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “President Kikwete is doing a wonderful job” Some support for the Pres at last . . .

12:32 Linah Moholho, governor of Botswana’s central bank: “The IMF is prohibitively expensive in technical assistance. Decision-making is still skewed in the direction of the Gs . . G8 . . G20.”

12:35 Mr. Akwetey of Ghana: “Kikwete’s approach is commendable but inadequate. We need to find methods of getting people to comprehend what is difficult.”

12:36 Sir Bob is putting his faith in the internet: “It’s not up to presidents or parliamentarians . . . the access to the web means they must engage with civic society. Who appoints the regulators . . .? We’re all the victims of this massive Ponzi scheme which everyone participated in.”

12:40 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “The NGOs have to get to gether to make sure the NGIs — Non Governmental Individuals –are put to one side.”

12:41 President Kikwete: “My friend in Ghana . . . I will give you the assurance that we have a civil society in Tanzania that is free.”

12:57 President Kikwete: “I’m going to London on the 16th to communicate to Gordon Brown our sentiments. We’ll try as much as we can to communicate this message to the G20. Thank you you’ve made us proud. It is an honour for us to host this meeting. Africa is the last frontier in man’s development. Something is being don but what is being done is not enough. Promises are not being kept. Keep the promise. Thank you for coming.”

13:10 Dominique Strauss-Kahn: “For some in Africa it’s not just about unemployment it can be about life a death. We need to act now. It’s time to keep promises — resources of course but all the other kind of promises too . . . fighting corruption. Advanced economies have to have in mind they have a responsibility to the citizens of the world”

13:15 DSK: “Advanced economies need to be less arrogant” . . . He’s including himself when he was French finance minister . . . “I can be proud of many things done by the IMF in the past.”

13:17 DSK: “We are your institution. You need to use us but you need to be confident that we are on your side. In the coming months and unfolding crisis we wil be able to found a new kind of partnership”

That’s it

Tanzania — the skills shortage

Like many east African countries Tanzania has a sizeable ethnic Indian middle-class. Ranjiv Kapur is a film maker who’s been living in Dar es Salaam for 9 years. He described the frustrations of getting staff and doing business in Tanzania during the economic crisis.

Click here to listen to Ranjiv (3 mins 37 secs)

Bob Geldof

Never one to mince his words, especially in front of world leaders, Sir Bob Geldof has just entered the debate here in Dar es Salaam. Click here to hear Bob (0 mins 43 secs).

“Africa is not forgotten but a lot of Africans are schizophrenic about aid. “

“Everyone is so frightened, everywhere, people are scared stiff. I’ ve just come from Ireland. It is catastrophic. The unemployment figures are going through the roof.”

“Berlusconi doesn’t give a crap”

sir Bob Geldof.

Sir Bob Geldof.

Live from Tanzania

Krupa from WHYS and myself are at the Bank of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam. The IMF conference has just got underway. We’re in this press room tucked away from the VIPs at the back of the building. Nice coffee. Read more

Milking it

There’s no God-given right for small businesses to succeed but there are occasions when their failure to do so makes you wince. Such is the case with the Laiterie du Berger, which has been trying to make a go of it in the Senegalese dairy sector.

The company was set up in 2006 to try and exploit Senegal’s dependence on imported milk powder. The country had no effective industry as the hundreds of small scale producers struggled to sell to the wider market and, by and large, kept their milk for local consumption. And while their milk was drunk in the villages, the sacks of milk powder kept flowing into the ports in the capital, Dakar.

There was an opening there for an enterprising team to exploit and a group of young vets and entrepreneurs, headed by Bagore Bathily, decided to give it a go. They raised capital, some of it on the international stage, invested in a plant in the north of the country where the majority of the dairy farmers were based, organised the collection of fresh milk and processed it. The end products – milk, butter and yoghurt — were shipped south to Dakar and the other main urban centres.

As many as 600 farmers signed up, and began to benefit from having a proper partner who could do the hard work – getting their goods to market. For eighteen months all looked good. But the odds were stacked against them. The milk importers were given a VAT rebate on their foreign goods, while Laiterie du Berger had to carry the tax on its locally-produced product. With such a competitive disadvantage, it has been struggling in recent months to build on its original successes.

All sorts of issues are raised by protectionism. But almost all the experts I have spoken to over the past week, from management consultants to agricultural advisers, have told me that the African farming industry needs help in the face of international competition. Whether it be rice or onions or milk, the small-scale producers in Senegal need some breathing space to build from the subsistence level to the national level. And until Africa can feed itself, the continent will struggle to take the next step forward. All these issues remain on the table at the ongoing round of World Trade talks.

Ethiopia — Uncoupled from the world

Someone just came from London and gave me a copy of ‘The Economist’. SO depressing. Every single article seemed to about how bad things are. Don’t people in Britain these days think about anything else?

Here in Ethiopia you can forget about the recession for days at a time. True, the IMF has just slashed its growth forecast for Ethiopia — but from 11.2% down to 6.5%. European and American countries should be so lucky.

The first phase of the recession — the banking crisis — has so far passed Ethiopia by. The government might officially have declared Capitalism, but a strong whiff of communism still remains. Large chunks of the banking sector are state owned, and even the private banks don’t feel the need to oblige their customers.

There’s no problem of credit card debt, because there are no credit cards. There’s no toxic mortgage problem because hardly anyone gets a mortgage. For foreign residents like me, an overdraft is out of the question — I am not even allowed a cheque book. Exchange controls discourage Ethiopians from investing outside the country.

Most Ethiopians don’t have to worry about whether their savings are safe in the bank — if they have any savings, they are probably stuffed inside the mattress. Or people belong to savings clubs — what West Africans call ‘Tontines’. A young colleague of mine is part of a group of around twenty friends who were all at school together. Each month they meet and contribute part of their wages; they take in turns to go home with the ‘pot’. The money goes in and out on the same day — it doesn’t hang around to get stolen by rogue traders.

I get the impression people here actually feel better off than they did a year ago. This time last year we were in the throes of a drought — hard times both for farmers and city dwellers trying to afford rocketing food prices. Now the rains have been better, prices of maize and wheat have dropped, and markets are full of produce.

Meanwhile, for a country which doesn’t produce industrial raw materials, the crash in commodity prices is good news, not bad. Cheaper steel, cheaper cement, and above all, cheaper oil. Since the government has sportingly passed on at least some of the drop in fuel prices to the customers, we are all now feeling a little better.

I don’t suppose Ethiopia is going to get off scot-free. In fact Ethiopian Airlines — another state monopoly, but a profitable one — has just announced that it is reducing the frequency of some of its flights to China and the United States, although interestingly, not to the rest of Africa.

But the Ethiopian economy is still just about as isolated as it is possible to be in the modern world. Not perhaps a good idea in the long term, but distinctly comforting for the time being.

This is Africa

When I saw the Leonaro DiCaprio Film ‘Blood Diamond’ two years ago I thought it a pretty good depiction of some of the realities of Africa today — corruption, Western greed, African greed and a fair bit of violence. My South African friend Karnie scoffed at such naivete. Read more

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