Thursday, 27 June 2013

Africa should embrace the Failed States Index and 'Move on'

The Foreign Policy Magazine has published the list of the "Failed States Index" which is prepared by the Washington-based think-tank, Fund for Peace. In a heading "Postcards from Hell", FP Magazine gives a pictorial chronology of the 54 "most failed states" in the world. Living on the edge in the world's worst places in the world was the subtitle of the pictorials. The failed state index has not been received well especially in Africa. Many African political commentators have rubbished this index, with some terming it another neo-colonial concept of disregarding African states. The failed state index, just like many other statistical indices, has used scientific statistical indicators to produce a ranking of 178 countries. The FSI focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports that are processed by a CAST Software from electronically available sources. A number of crucial factors were used to draw up this list. Risks such as instability, insecurity, undemocratic elections were used amongst other indicators like infant mortality rates, literacy levels, availability of essential services such as education, health etc. 

The FSI just like many other statistical indices, is far from 100% accuracy, but the indicators used are worldwide accepted as factors of development and growth. Critics have however questioned the measurability of instability. They argue you can scientifically measure stability. Such detractors fail to understand that the indicators to this indices are numerically accounted for using modern statistical software that numerically determines the percentage and thus rank. I know some of these indices are based on perception, and could be biased to some extent. Detractors or rather "denialist" only look at the geographical outlook as presented by these data and say that it is another Western ploy to demean and profile the global south and more so African states. 

For African countries to successfully transform her economies, they need to accept some of these factual analysis and take them as reference points for planning for success. I believe in Africa and see the continent as the next frontier or as the Americans would love to say "The African Century". African countries still grapple with instability, institutional weakness, political fissures, ethnicity, resource conflicts, dictatorships, poor infrastructure, corruption and graft, greediness from political leaders, illiteracy and many other ailments. Of the ten most failed states in the world, according to the 2013 figures, seven are African, of the fifty most failed states, 32 are African. This is not surprising to me. Few African countries are realizing that they should not mourn over this figures but are making effects to remedy the shame. 

Africa needs to get it leadership and governance right. One African country still has a president who came to power when Jimmy Carter was US President. What will this type of leader offer that he hasn't offered for thirty years. Africa still has leaders who are dreaming of changing the constitution to run again for president and when they lose, they rig the vote and run the country with impunity. This is Africa! Africa should embrace the FSI data and remedy the appalling state of affairs.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Uhuru's new Foreign Policy Approach: Pragmatic or Precarious?

In one of his analysis of Kenya's new foreign policy approach under President Uhuru Kenyatta, Peter Kagwanja remarked that Kenya’s foreign policy is emerging and is reflecting an assertive new Africa-centred approach as the central plank of Nairobi’s regional and global policy. He was writing this in the regional paper, the East Africa soon after President Kenyatta took oath of office on April 9, 2013. Kenya has historically been the 'hub' of the region, as evidenced by the international presence such as the UN offices in Nairobi. 

When Kenya gained political independence in 1963, it took a pure capitalist approach based on the Western model. Her relations with the West were thus strengthened by this. Kenya became the darling of the West and a close ally unlike her East African neighbors, Tanzania and Uganda. Tanzania had taken up the socialist model, Ujamaa, which President Nyerere described as 'Tanzania's unique model of socialism.' Uganda under Milton Obote also pursed a similar path. It was no wonder that Tanzania strengthened her relations with the likes of China, USSR, and Cuba, who were all communist states. Under President Daniel Moi, Kenya's foreign policy was quite pragmatic due to the Cold War at the time. However, Kenya maintained close relations with the West particularly US and Britain. However, since 2002 as my colleague puts it "the Kibaki administration had been keen on expand the pool of international partners. China was one such available partner". This has seen Kenya adapt an Economic Diplomacy Foreign Policy Agenda which focuses largely on trade, bilateral and multilateral business partnerships. 

Uhuru Kenyatta, during his campaigns said he would "look East" upon his ascension to president. Foreign policy commentators and media saw his move was instigated by his indictment at the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes committed during Kenya's Post-poll Violence of 2007/2008. Coupled with the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson remark that 'choices have consequences' warning Kenyans against electing an indictee president, Kenyatta administration was without doubt going to pursue a "look East" approach. 

US President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, has skipped Kenya from his latest African tour. He visits Tanzania instead, to the dismay of many Kenyans, who view it as a snob. Obama through the foreign department has explained that he visits Tanzania for economic reasons and most recently the White House explained that the ICC cases facing Kenya’s top leaders are the reason why US President Barrack Obama is skipping Kenya during his Africa tour which kicks off Wednesday next week. Outspoken critic of Uhuru Kenyatta, Makau Mutua reiterated this in his column on Sunday Nation stating that Mr Obama is simply giving Mr Carson’s truism a nod.

President Kenyatta will embark on a tour to Japan, Russia and China in a move seen by many as a counter-check to the Obama snob and reiterating his "look East" approach. Kenyatta has proven to be quite an astute politician who tries to balance Kenya's relations without necessarily being seen as an 'anti-West' leader. He has to trade like this since he still has a pending a case at the ICC.