03 January 2011

Response from Calestous Juma to 2011 Predictions

Calestous Juma, sent this comment, but for some reason I cannot post it. But it is so good I thought I should publish it as an entry in its own right.

"Lawrence, you have started the year with provocative predictions. I will risk some comments knowing that in the end we will get most of it wrong anyway. The future always has the last laugh. On some issues, I will not be the devil's advocate--I will just be the devil himself!

1. Governance

Contrary to your view, I do not think governance went away. It was just done badly, at least in Africa where it was equated with elections and personalized scrutiny of individual leaders. Little was done to build democratic institutions such as political party structures so we have returned to ethnic politics and shambolic elections. Many of these have been no more than medieval mob football where the referees and riot police show up after the game and ask everyone to work together.

In some cases like Ivory Coast those with opposing armies went to the polls with expected results. In world that is serious about governance, the ultimate outcome for places like Ivory Coast is eventually dismantle the military. Ivory Coast could re-invent the saved resources in education, health and infrastructure which would in turn reinforce democracy. It was done in Costa Rica with remarkable results and Africa could learn from their example. I have no illusions that this would be easy but anyone who is serious about democracy ought to be prepared for tough choices and actions with unpredictable consequences. Half-hearted approaches are likely to see the spread of blatant political marauders.

Democracy and technocracy are often contrasted. It was never a contrast with technocratic rule. In fact, I would like to see more expertise being brought into governance. For example, creating think tanks to help political parties craft platforms on which to complete would do more for African democracy than all the governance consultants put together. The latter have sprinkled a few good ideas here and there but they have not had the expected effect because of the lack of institutions to translate them into political programs. Governance was hardly served well by ideas. In the absence of such competence-building, the common practice of ranking leaders becomes no more than hollow self-righteousness. Such rankings are no more than an exercise in awkward numerology.


I fully agree with you on the growth of emerging economies. In fact, there are already quite a few de facto BRICS. But I would also watch regional integration bodies especially in Africa. They will not come in as BRICs but as "economic networks". They are laying the foundations for alternative forms of economic governance and are quite different from the EU model despite the seeming appearances. This year we will see for the first greater coordination among East African countries on foreign policy matters. They are building up a credible body of protocols that we make economic federation inevitable.

3. Africa

We are going to see stronger growth in Africa in the coming year. A large part of this will come from the benefits of communications technologies in a wide range of fields. We have not come to appreciate how this is affecting everything from governance to growth. I suspect that we will see more peace on the margins of functioning regional integration bodies as new countries seek to become part of larger entities.

South Sudan is a place to watch because it will want to be part of the EAC and cannot do while it is at war. And when it does, I suspect that northern Sudan might want to join as well. Even far-flung countries such as Central African Republic will be looking to be part of East Africa. And with Ethiopia continuing to grow its internal economy I suspect the region could be a surprise.

This could spill over into Somalia as well which might start to feel war fatigue especially as the northern regions continue to prosper and improve. I would watch what happens in Jubbaland (to the south of Somalia), which is entering into its second attempt to create an autonomous regions like its northern counterparts have done. I am tempted predict that we could new formations in parts of Somalia that could offer hope for the gradual retreat from clan-sponsored conflict. It is clear that they have tried violence and it is not working. There is one option left: a peaceful co-existence with growing economies in East Africa and Ethiopia.

You already mentioned Nigeria which I think will continue to grow. I can confirm the existence of strong will in a new generation of leaders to take their place as a regional economic force. The reforms that are underway energy will spread to other infrastructure services and Nigeria will slowly but surely repair its economic spine to be able to stand its ground as a serious regional and global player. It will take time but this is a formative year for the country. Another trend to watch in Nigeria is the determination of individual states to play their part. Lagos has been leading the way in this regard and it is serving as role model for others. Nigeria's diversity could just be turned around to become its strength.

4. Innovation, creativity and pragmatism

We are entering age of innovation in earnest and the influence of ideology is waning (thankfully). Innovation will continue to drive all economies around the world. It is the crucible around which the BRICs are resting and will play an even greater role in poorer countries. The major areas to watch include the spread of broadband technology. This could do for Africa what railroads did for western economies but with greater economic synergies.

This is where I would predict that if foreign assistance (the little that is still left) continues on its current ideological path, it will become largely irrelevant to the aspirations of even the poorest of nations. Also related to this will be a moment when African countries will start to pay more attention to the differences between "research and development" and "innovation". There will be more interest in funding activities that use existing knowledge to create wealth and less in funding basic research with the hope that it will one day lead to economic benefits.

The impetus for this new outlook will come from the telecommunications sector and will be led by countries such as Rwanda which are already incubating new start-ups and modernizing old enterprises using existing technologies. For example, age-old cooperative banks are pioneering in mobile services.

These trends pose new challenges for academic institutions. For example, educational programmes that assume that the poor need traditional relief may become new sources of unemployed graduates. They will need to be replaced with new approaches that stress local competence and problem-solving. The age of pragmatism will have less use for self-appointed spokespeople for Africa but much influence will come from men and women working quietly to transfer skills and share knowledge. Tools like digital mentoring will give new opportunities to those who want to share their knowledge without have to suffer the indignity of airport scanners and the drudgery of jetlag.

I would also predict that engineering sciences and law will become more in international cooperation and will challenge the dominance economics and politics. I have hinted at this in my new book, "The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa" (Oxford University Press, 2011) but will explain in more detail in a future book under preparation.


stephanie ojiambo said...

mmmmmmmh...da 'devil' hs got good stuff here...big up prof.

Dawn Green said...

It seems that regardless of the advancement in technology in airport, jet lag symptoms do not change.