The CSS Blog Network

Against the Gospel of ‘Africa Rising’

Africa’s economy rebounds strongly, but jobs remain elusive

Africa’s economy rebounds strongly, but jobs remain elusive. Photo: Africa Renewal/Flickr.

Almost ten years ago, Binyavanga Wainana mocked the relentless bashing of Africa for what it is: ignorance. Nowadays, however, a new gospel could use similar deriding: “tell them six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa; drop names like Aliko Dangote and Isabel Dos Santos alongside Magatte Wade and Bethlehem Alemu; point to the 300 million middle class Africans; showcase the bustling cafes and glossy shopping malls with the latest products; spotlight the growing cities with towering structures; and always summon technology as your solution for everything. If they mention conflict, disease or poverty, chastise them for their antiquated colonial ways and refer them back to your points above.”

What’s the problem? In the interest of tackling the distorted and singular narrative of Africa as a continent of need, the “Africa rising” discourse is reinforcing its own one-dimensional story. Bolstered by recent advances in economic growth rates, Africa has been turned into a brand, a product to be packaged and sold on the merits of its financial worth. Its value is discussed and negotiated yet conversations too often exclude the context and implications of the current economic growth or the policies and institutions that sustain it. Africa is certainly rising, but how is it rising? And who is or isn’t rising with it? » More

The Pillars of Peace

Pillars of peace. Image: Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Pillars of peace. Image: Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

One of the major challenges facing the peacebuilding and development community today is how to balance short term humanitarian assistance with long term efforts to build capacity and resilience. We see this tension played out in many countries receiving significant overseas development assistance (ODA). Part of the problem is a lack of reliable data which, in turn, affects our ability to understand the effectiveness of the resources that international donors have channeled into peacebuilding efforts. This does not imply that these efforts are failing, but rather that we don’t know enough about their impact and the extent to which they are making progress towards building long-term capacity and resilience.

To help monitor and evaluate the long term progress of countries, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has developed a framework that analyzes data and attitudinal surveys in conjunction with current thinking about the long term drivers of peace, resilience and conflict. Recently launched in Geneva, the Pillars of Peace report identifies the attitudes and structures that typically underpin peaceful societies. The report shows that countries which tend to be more peaceful have a number of characteristics in common. For instance, peaceful countries are more equitable, have lower levels of corruption and higher levels of human capital. This shows that development assistance needs to look beyond short term efforts to contain violence and instead focus on the slow moving but underlying ‘Pillars’ that support peaceful societies. » More

How to ‘Do’ Economic Development in Conflict-Affected Contexts (Hint: It’s About Politics)

Two Afghan truck drivers stack bags of grain in Shorabak, Afghanistan

Two Afghan truck drivers stack bags of grain in Shorabak, Afghanistan. Photo: JBLM PAO/flickr.

The economic security of individuals and households is a major challenge for development interventions in conflict-affected countries. Once the conflict is over and humanitarian aid leaves, how do you feed people, secure livelihoods and improve markets and market access? An important finding from a major EU-funded research program on conflict analysis is that the answer to this question is closely linked to processes of institutional change that take place during violent conflict.

As the research conducted thus far as part of the MICROCON  project illustrates, violent conflicts kill and destroy. However, conflict-affected countries are also characterized by intense institutional change that needs to be better understood. Institutional change takes place when different actors contest and sometimes win over former state institutions, transforming social, economic and political structures, organizations and norms. » More

Realising the Dream of Greater Intra-African Trade

Border ferry between Zambia and Botswana.

Border ferry between Zambia and Botswana. Photo: Jack Zalium/flickr.

How to break the colonial legacy of exporting goods ‘overseas’ and raise the level of trade between African countries? This has been an issue the African Union (AU) has grappled with since it devoted its January 2012 summit to the issue of ‘Intra-African trade’. The annual Economic Development in Africa report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched in Ethiopia last Friday, 11 July 2013, gives interesting answers to some of the questions African governments and the AU have been asking. » More

The Detroit Syndrome

Construction Workers

Construction workers in China. Photo: Zhou Ding/flickr.

SINGAPORE – When the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy last week, it became the largest such filing in United States history. Detroit’s population has dropped from 1.8 million in 1950, when it was America’s fifth-largest city, to less than 700,000 today. Its industrial base lies shattered.

And yet we live in a world where cities have never had it so good. More than half of the world’s population is urban, for the first time in history, and urban hubs generate an estimated 80% of global GDP. These proportions will rise even higher as emerging-market countries urbanize rapidly. So, what can the world learn from Detroit’s plight?

As recently as the 1990’s, many experts were suggesting that technology would make cities irrelevant. It was believed that the Internet and mobile communications, then infant technologies, would make it unnecessary for people to live in crowded and expensive urban hubs. Instead, cities like New York and London have experienced sharp increases in population since 1990, after decades of decline. » More

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