Farah M. Mohamed says that high charcoal exports to the Gulf States are steering Somalia towards an environmental calamity.
While the world has been debating whether or not the Somali arms embargo should be lifted, Somalia has been facing a little known, but hugely challenging, environmental disaster. Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalia has been a haven for many environmentally destructive illegal activities such as nuclear and toxic waste dumping, over-fishing and illegal fishing by international fishing enterprises, and the rapacious importation of Somali charcoal by the Gulf States. While all these activities have clearly impacted Somalia’s environment, the most damaging has been the Somali charcoal market, which is rapidly deforesting the country and wreaking havoc on one of the country’s most precious natural resources. Because of massive deforestation, the Somali ecosystem has been decimated and it will take hundreds of years to reverse the current situation.
Charcoal exports are destroying Somalia’s environment
A 2000 case[i] study shows that total charcoal production was estimated to be 112,000 metric tons. In 2005, the charcoal production increased to an alarming 150,000 metric tons and production has increased more than five-fold since then. Only 20% of the charcoal is for domestic use, while approximately 80% is exported to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. By far the largest importer of Somali charcoal is Saudi Arabia, bringing in over 80% of all of Somalia’s exported charcoal. Saudi Arabia uses Somali charcoal primarily as a luxury item and it is used for shisha pipes (hookah), cooking, particularly grilling, in upscale restaurants and homes, as camping firewood, and as a supplementary winter heating source. Continue reading
Steve Sharra asks whether the time is right for a complete overhaul of African universities.
Upon attaining independence, African countries’ expectations were that universities would be the primary institutions to produce leaders who would propel their countries to prosperity. According to Ghanaian scholar Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Africans expected their universities to build capacity “to develop and manage their resources, alleviate the poverty of the majority of their people, and close the gap between them and the developed world.” African countries hoped that universities would achieve these goals by providing a “home-grown leadership in areas in need of rapid material and social development.” The way to think of these goals was through what Sawyerr calls a “developmental university”, an institution of higher learning that was expected to contribute to a country’s development.
African universities suffered from World Bank anti-tertiary education policies in the 1980s
Five decades since independence, what have African universities contributed to the leadership of their respective countries? In this article, we will turn this gaze onto the Malawian leadership landscape and assess the extent to which our universities have produced, or failed to, the kind of leadership Malawians have always desired. Regardless of the fact that none of the four presidents Malawi has had thus far has been a product of a Malawian university, graduates from our institutions of higher learning are in various leadership positions in the public and private sectors. We discuss why the universities have fallen short of expectations, and what solutions are being suggested by some of Africa’s most prominent intellectuals.
As far as educating a new generation of Africans, Sawyerr argues that African universities have succeeded in fulfilling some of these expectations. He says had it not been for these universities, it is hard to imagine where African countries would have been today. But while African universities have made remarkable contributions to the addressing of African problems, these institutions have also failed their respective countries, particularly in the area of leadership both in the public sector as well as in the private sector. The causes of the failures are to be found in the political economy of dominant global ideology, within the institutions themselves, and in the political leadership of African countries. Continue reading
LSE’s Karl T. Muth explores the value of business literacy. This post originally appeared on Global Policy.
I have often been asked why Africa, after finding a few good leaders in the mid-twentieth century, has been subjected to a list of terrible leaders. Africa is accused of being the cause of its misery often, with varying degrees of subtlety. But one accusation within this family of accusations that is not made loudly or frequently enough, in my opinion, is that Africa is a continent not of dictators and thieves, but merely of bad managers.
Two things happened that prompted this blog post, neither of them revolutionary, but each of them contributory.
The first contributory thing: I recently finished re-reading Howard W. French’s excellent book on Africa, which is also (though unintentionally) a wonderful treatise on how (and how not) to be a correspondent in a remote place. French’s eye (and, often, ear) for a story is Hemingwayesque and one can immediately see how his career got fast-tracked at the New York Times. In his book, A Continent for the Taking, he reviews some of his favourite stories from his time on the Continent, often with new twists or a nod to aspects that may not have made it into the Times.
The last time I’d read French’s book was near the tripoint that joins Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya. At the time, that part of South Sudan was still united with its geographically contiguous but culturally alien neighbours to the north. As someone about to move to Africa as a full-time resident of Uganda, the stories of Idi Amin’s reign and Museveni’s savvy were captivating warnings. Flipping the pages of the book felt like climbing into a cinematic time machine, one that somehow displayed Africa’s future by displaying its past – the two often being depressingly similar. I highly recommend it, and doubly so for those who have lived in Africa. Continue reading
Ahead of the screening of the documentary, Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law, at LSE on 18 June, film-maker Lorie Conway describes her motivations in producing and directing this film.
When deciding how to produce a film about Zimbabwe several themes ran through my head. Some themes appeared to be narratives with a compelling storyline. But conferring with two colleagues who helped developed the film, we began a process of elimination on what could work. I was intrigued when the rule of law was suggested as the prism in which to tell the story of the country. But also initially confused. What did the rule of law mean exactly? How could a country like Zimbabwe even have a rule of law having been governed by a dictator for over thirty years? What was the relationship of the rule of law to Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy? to human rights? to democracy? Why had President Robert Mugabe amended Zimbabwe’s constitution 17 times? How could a film present a nuanced view of the rule of law?
Beatrice Mtetwa. That’s how
I learned about the courageous human rights lawyer and her efforts to uphold the law in Zimbabwe through Andrew Meldrum, a journalist and friend of mine who helped in the early development of the film. He got to know Beatrice while she was defending him for “committing journalism” in Zimbabwe, and although aquitted, he was forcibly deported by the government after living and working there for 23 years. Hearing Andy describe this brave attorney who showed up at midnight wearing a track suit and shining her headlights at the home of a client that was being raided by state police, Beatrice seemed bigger than life. Reading about her passion for the law and the risk she took to defend victims of Mugabe’s regime, it became clear–if Beatrice was willing to participate in the film, the rule of law would not only become a framework in which to tell the story, the film would have an extraordinary central character to make it real. Continue reading
LSE alumnus Waiswa Nkwanga argues that the African Union has failed in its objective of creating a truly unified continent.
The fiftieth anniversary of the African Union (AU) has generated a brief debate about the organisation’s performance. The verdict seems to be that it has been disappointing. However, there has been little discussion on the central and sensitive question: why do we need the AU?
The AU’s new headquarters in Addis Ababa was built with Chinese money
It is understandable that this question is often avoided. For one thing the AU remains the only continental organisation that brings all African states together. For another, despite its less than mediocre performance overall, the AU championed the independence of many African states, a not so easy task by any standard. It is this very important albeit time specific achievement that makes some Africans believe that it could deliver on the African unity dream too. Continue reading
Surveys are the main source of information about poverty, health, demography and many other indicators in Africa, making them vital for evidence-based policy design and planning. But have social scientists been ignoring the potential impact of interviewers on the data they collect? A new study, whose researchers include LSE’s Ernestina Coast, highlights just how much influence interviewers have over the data they produce.
Many social scientists analyse household survey data collected by others. Though this early stage of the research process is often out of our hands, we need to consider how the data were produced as it may have serious consequences for their interpretation. Our research identifies situations in the production of household survey data where the interviewer has considerable influence over the data collected.
Censuses and household surveys in Africa remain almost totally dependent on interviewers for data collection. Data quality is ensured by good quality training and supervision, along with comprehensive interviewers’ manuals. Nevertheless, the interviewer has significant power to negotiate access to respondents and influence the responses they provide. Ultimately, this matters because it affects the validity of the data; data that are then used to allocate scarce resources. Continue reading