Sunday, December 28, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The central argument is one of Planners versus Searchers. Easterly's Planners are the proponents of the classical top-down development aid. This is particularly prevalent in the large bi-lateral and multi-lateral donor organisations. The Searchers are grass-roots implementers who try out and search for techniques and projects that work. Many grass-roots NGOs can be described as Searchers. Reform of development aid according to Easterly should involve a shift of power from Planners to Searchers. Easterly also tackles a range of other development issues such as accountability, recipient country participation and military intervention.
White Man's Burden is often seen as the antithesis to Jeffrey Sachs' book, End of Poverty. This comparison hardly does Easterly justice. The End of Poverty is a mostly anecdotal account with very little hard data to back up the core theses of the book. White Man's Burden bases its arguments on historical data, and uses anecdotal evidence only to complement, illustrate and occasionally complete when statistical data is insufficient. By comparison, I found The End of Poverty a weak and sloppy work that borders on populism.
I do however find one important weakness in the argument of White Man's Burden. Whilst results-oriented Searchers may indeed be able to offer direct solutions to straightforward problems such as school enrollment and mosquito bed nets, it is unlikely that more long-term projects such as private sector development or vocational training will work in the same way. Long-term projects tend to require people who can afford to worry less about immediate results. There is a balance to be struck.
This is an excellent book and an entertaining read.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
That started me thinking about any immoral activities that it could be fun to engage in whilst in the US. Is self-idolatry immoral?
Yes, Boris and I have been covertly trying to collect information on your ingenious political system in order to replicate it in the Congo.
I assume this means its ok if I detained a child from a citizen of another country?
I had to look up "turpitude". The first thing Wikipedia comes up with is that is is a legal term used in the Visa Waiver forms without proper explanation.
Am I morally turpit? Leave your opinions in the comments.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Back in 2006 Paul Kagame and other top Rwandan officials were indicted by a French judge for the shooting down of the former president's plane in 1994. This was a major trigger of the Rwandan genocide, but there is little evidence and many suspects in the case. The Rwandans responded by kicking all French organisations out of the country.
Under EU cooperation agreements, EU member countries are required to carry out arrest warrants of other member states. This, Germany did for one Rwandan official, Ms Kabuye, Chief of Protocol for the President, traveling through the country. This afternoon there were spontaneous government-ordered protests in the centre of Kigali and in front of the German embassy. (UPDATE 12/11: And the German embassador was asked to leave.)
On the arrest, the BBC writes:
Al Jazeera quotes the Rwandan Information Minister who confirms :
And in the Rwandan pro-government New Times:
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
- Word of the Day: development tourist - February 2008 - Vocabulary for the development industry
- Poor Kiyovu - August 2008 - Social engineering in the City of Kigal
- The problem with Africa's biggest solar plant - June 2007 - My critique of a big solar power plant
- Word of the Day: donor dumping - March 2008 - More vocabulary for the development industry
- Ruhengeri and surroundings (video) - October 2006 - The Rwandan countryside on video
- Adventures with petty criminals - June 2006 - Crime in Cape Town
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Not being a US voter, of course I don't get to vote. I feel strangely cheated, as I think I would do a better job of it than approximately 46.6% of US citizens. I feel that it should be in countries' interests to invite me to vote in their national elections to improve the quality of the outcome. Please send invitations via my profile in the right column of this page.
More seriously, I ask whether there isn't a case to be made for US "protectorates" like Afghanistan and Iraq to have a voice in who will run their domestic security and reconstruction projects. This doesn't necessary have to be by involvement in presidential elections, but perhaps of a ratification by direct suffrage of nominated American representatives in their country. By extension, should citizens in developing countries, whose social services are funded by foreign donor governments, not be allowed to hold those governments to account. Should they not be allowed to chose who their donors are, if they have such a huge influence on the development of their country? Just imagine a news announcement like: "In Rwanda on Saturday, a new World Bank country representative has been elected by the people of Rwanda. The incumbent, Victoria Kwakwa, confirmed that she would accept the election result and called on her supporters to peacefully accept the decision."
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The European Election Observer Mission described the elections as relatively fair, peaceful and transparent. Congratulations to the government of Rwanda. Their preliminary statement is here. The only major objection they seemed to have was the absence of any opposition parties. Details, details ...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Suff White People Like: Comparing People to Hitler
Comparing people to Hitler is an easy way for white people to get a strong point across ... Everyone knows who Adolf Hitler was. And everyone knows that Hitler was very, very bad. ... No matter what your gut reaction may be at that point, do not disagree with that white person. Otherwise, well, you love Hitler.
It’s also critical that you avoid the fatal mistake of getting creative and comparing people you don’t like to other evil dictators, such as Joseph Stalin or Fidel Castro. With few exceptions, white people are actually fond of almost any dictator not named Hitler, ... oppressive dictators share a passion for many of the things white people love- such as universal health care, conspiracy theories, caring about poor people while being filthy rich, and cool hats. ...
The blog is a perfect parody of the Western liberal middle class. And I recognise myself in there all too often. :)
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Per capita energy consumption in Rwanda is one of the lowest in the world. Less than five percent of the population has access to electric power, with less than one percent in rural areas. ... the project will provide technical and business expertise to support the creation ... of ... [private sector] energy providers. ...
7,000 households, up to 350 small businesses, and institutions providing social services in six municipalities will be connected to local power grids. Six small enterprises are given support for the installation of small hydro power plants for electricity generation.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Indeed there has never been a shortage of stupid white people to meddle in the politics of other countries.
This is a view I can only confirm from conversations with Rwandans here. Of course, it doesn't apply to everyone. There are unfortunately still many Rwandans that would like to see the collapse of the present system.
True. But the conclusion of the article is poignant both for the attitude of Rwandans and the West:
Sunday, August 24, 2008
- The donor will assume that if the money is not spent, the work is not done, and therefore contractual obligations are not being fulfilled.
- The donor will assume that if the money is not spent, it has over-allocated the budget and will cut the amount of funding available in future years.
The development project will attempt to reach the (usually impossible) target of 100% of the maximum available budget being disbursed by implementing one or more of the following actions:
- Buying additional office equipment or project vehicles that may or may not be useful for future years.
- Assigning a consultancy contract for a study that is interesting, if unessential.
- Less careful spending on existing activities.
- Better budgetary planning.
An alternative definition of "Mittelabflussproblem" proposed here is : The problem of focusing on on fund disbursal rather than on project impact.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The conclusion is:
The study was done by E. Werker et al. is available here.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Needless to say the five year period has not yet elapsed.
The closing statement of the article is a disturbing insight into the mind of Kigali administrators. More evictions, more demolitions, until Kigali is the squeaky-clean showcase that the government wants it to be :
Saturday, August 02, 2008
It now looks like this:
Even the pro-government New Times reports on the views of the unhappy residents:
Last week, I spoke to my friend, K. (name changed), a musician who lived in Poor Kiyovu. The government valued K's house. K disagreed about the price, refused the payment and had another expert come to value the house. The second valuation was higher. One day, K's house was gone. It was demolished while he was away, he had not received any payment at all and he lost food and possessions in the house as it was demolished. He is still arguing with the MVK, the city mayoral office. The mayor responds to the New Times :
If only the pesky poor people would do as they are told.
It seems that the government wishes to engineer a city in which Kigali residents and delicate-stomached foreigners will no longer have to suffer vulgar displays of poverty in the city centre.
Its a loss for the city. These people were a major part of the life of the city centre. A much better strategy would have been for the city to have improved the property rights laws and infrastructure in poor Kiyovu to promote its development. Shame on the City of Kigali.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
It took me a long time to settle in here. When I arrived the culture, the political system and the country were opaque and almost impossible to understand. After about 6 months I felt that I at least understood how the "machinery" of the Rwandan government, society and economy worked. It took about a year for me to feel at ease with the people and come to love the country.
Rwanda is a unique place. From a state of collective trauma, the country is helping itself to emerge as an efficient and confident state. The post-genocide phase was a success. But as much as Rwanda inspires hope, it also causes dismay. There is little self-criticism, little open debate of the country's problems and much self-denial. The post-genocide phase was indeed a success, but the next phase in the country's development is overdue. Rwandans needs to accept that like any other country, Rwanda has problems; Like any other country, Rwanda has corrupt politicians; Like any other country, Rwanda's justice system is flawed; Like any other country, Rwanda has problems with racism; Like any other country, Rwanda has disadvantaged minorities, be they social, sexual or ethnic. Rwanda needs to match its political and economic courage, with social courage.
What luck for Rwanda that it has a small but growing number of hard working, well-educated and forward-thinking people. How unfortunate that the Rwandese culture is so unwelcoming to outsiders. It is easy to judge when a Rwandese begins to trust you: he/she will tell you the problems that every Rwandese knows his country has, his real opinion about the government, the real view about the genocide, will stop lying about minor personal facts, and if he/she really trusts you, you may just be invited to there home one day. Unfortunately, that kind of trust is rarely there. But perhaps, that is simply because it needs to be earned first.
Rwanda is certainly one of the most beautiful, fascinating and unusual countries that I will ever live in. I hope it realises its potential.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
In Kigali a litre of petrol retails at 892 Francs per litre. A bottle of Primus beer retails at 450 Francs for 0.72 litres, making it cost 625 Francs per litre.
A 0.65 litre bottle of Mützig (my preferred Rwandese beer) unfortunately still costs the equivalent of 1077 Francs per litre. Therefore, I expect the fuel price to rise a little further.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
A recent article by IPS comments on the recently rigged "elections" in the country. It describes elections dominated by fraud, intimidation and even killings.
Nonetheless the country receives huge amounts of military and financial support from the US in its war in Somalia (source: BBC). The justification is the war against Islamists. The result is that Ethiopia has overthrown the first government in decades that had a chance of stabilising the country. Famine, violence and civil war have followed. The country continues to meddle in a country in which it is hated and held responsible for many wars and deaths.
But the greatest tragedy is that Ethiopia, a regional military and economic power, is once again letting its people starve in a famine that could easily have been averted. And their reponse to the famine: is to ask the West to solve it.
The West finances Ethiopia's wars, support her dictatorship and feeds her people. Alas, its a well known story in Africa. Some things never change.
And because humour is the only way to stay sane in our age, I have added a poll on this issue to the top of the right column of this blog.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Anyone interested in coming to Rwanda for poverty tourism can look at New Dawn Associates who, despite my reservations, do appear to be doing some good work.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The UMUCO newspaper may be suspended for a year ... In a lengthy article in the current issue [the managing editor] Mr. Bizumuremyi wrote that like the Nazi leader - who was first held in great regard - only to be revered years later, President Kagame was also having his last days as the darling of the west. ... However, according to Prosecution, Mr. Bizumuremyi has no case to answer because the Ethics Committee is yet to hand them the dossier.
The paper has been suspended, despite no charges being pressed by the ethics committee? And this is even the official goverment position.
The article goes on:
Meanwhile, Mr. Bizumuremyi has not been seem since Monday raising speculation that he may be in detention, neither did he attend the Committee summon. His phone is also off and staff at the newspaper says they have not heard from him for days.
Compare that to the Amnesty International Report of 2007 which also mentions Mr Bizumuremyi:
Bonaventure Bizumuremyi, the news editor of Umuco, reportedly had his home in Kigali ransacked in January by four men armed with clubs and knives. Before this attack, Umuco had criticized the ruling party for ineptitude and for allegedly controlling the judiciary.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"Several people pointed out, rightly I think, that Westerners who spend even two weeks on a development project can give back, just not right away. Later it life, these people may give more time, thought, and money to important causes and decisions as a result. That is excellent, and important.
In that case, however, perhaps we should call these trips what they are: thoughtful and caring, but experiential, not charitable.I think what makes me uncomfortable is the tendency (for some) to frame or advertise short visits and contributions as a way to give back, or (worse still) to 'save' someone else. ... Saving, I would argue, is an impossible and ultimately harmful aim."
My sentiments entirely. Nicely put.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Donor-dumping not only leads to competition with local businesses. In cases where subsidies go to social infrastructure such as health centres and hospitals, donor-dumping can also lead to unfair competition with state-run infrastructure. In a heavily donor-funded state, this leads to a parallel state-system run by donor/NGO funding and management structures.
Almost all donor-funded projects have activities which can be classified as donor-dumping. This is a result or poor project design and the Mittelabflussproblem (the use of cash disbursement as the main success indicator for development projects).
Thursday, February 28, 2008
So how does one handle the rear view mirror situation in
I some strange way, everything seems to be under control here, and even petty crime has a clear system.
Of course, a controlled and ordered state is not necessarily a stable one. That is an entirely different debate.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
In my last post, I concluded:
So how do we create such independent exponential growth? Experience in creating sectors in Europe and Africa have shown that to “jump-start” a sector from the outside, you need to work through 3 development stages:
To illustrate this development, you could look at the development of the German solar energy market from the 1990s up until now. This market started with a small demonstration programme called “100 roofs”, then it the government introduced an even larger “1000 roofs” programme and finally the government introduced a law guaranteeing a fixed price for solar electricity to private and public operators. The solar electricity market took off and is now one of the largest solar energy markets in the world.
This model shows a logical progression, in which each stage prepares for the next one: Pilot projects in phase 1 test technologies and methods that could be used in a larger national programme in phase 2; Larger national programmes in phase 2 sensitise the population and create independent organisations, institutions and companies for phase 3. Finally, the independent sector development on a national level in phase 3 can create the exponential growth required for sustainable development.
A poorly designed development aid project would be one that counter-acts this development. For example, if a country has a growing private textiles industry (phase 3) and a donor brings in free clothes to distribute to the poor (phase 1), then this will damage or even destroy the local clothes and textiles businesses.
Sustainable development is hard to achieve. It is unclear whether such a complicated issue is within the abilities of a large, bureaucratic, inflexible and uncoordinated donor industry. Time will tell: If in the next 50 years we achieve as little development in Africa as we have in the last 50, we will once again have failed.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Whether it is the government, aid agencies or NGOs attempting to develop a country, the final aim is the same: to give an impulse to the development of independent sectors. Energy specialists try to create entire energy sectors, health specialists attempt to create a national health sector, economic development specialists try to create a whole range of vital economic sectors. The development of a new sector generally follows the following 4-stage profile (adapted from a product life cycle):
- demand has to be created
- cost high
- volume low
- no/little competition
II. Growth stage
III. Mature stage
- market is better established
- volume peaks
- increase in competitive offerings
- prices tend to drop
- differentiation, diversification of product or service.
- volume stabilises leading to a focus on efficiency rather than growth
- volume declines e.g. if a replacement product/service is introduced
- new growth stage can be triggered if changes in the market or the product create new demand
Development aid simply doesn’t have the resources or the mandate to guide the entire product cycle. For example, how can development aid hope to supply electricity to hundreds of millions of people in
The aim of development aid is to guide a sector through stage I so that the market and the government can take over an exponentially growing sector.
This is a key point in understanding the role of development aid. Understanding this principle, also allows us to better assess the sustainability of a development aid intervention. If indeed we are successfully guiding a sector through stage I of its development, we would expect to see:
- Exponential growth
- The creation of new independent market actors and institutions
Our new definition of sustainable development aid would then be:
This is an ambitious aim. And I would guess that less then 10% of development aid projects succeed in fulfilling this aim. Leaving behind a sector independent enough to continue the work after the end of your project is not easy.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
The buzzword of the decade is “Sustainable Development”: development that is environmentally socially and economically sustainable. The days of environmental exploitation, rollercoaster-capitalism and social exclusion need to end if we are to survive. We need to protect the environment, manage our economies better and help the poor.
What does sustainability mean for development aid projects? The answer of many of my colleagues in development would be something like this:
Sounds reasonable. If for example, we train 10 fishermen to fish better, those 10 fishermen continue to fish better after the training project has ended. Ideally, the fishermen pass on the better fishing methods to their children. And also, to ensure that their lake is not over-fished, they create a cooperative to manage fishing rights.
Unfortunately, things are not that simple in reality. The sustainability of the project will be threatened by three types of challenges:
- Maintenance: people will need to be retrained, cooperatives need to be revitalised and new fishing equipment needs to be maintained. An intelligently planned project can generally reduce this problem.
- Changes in the market: If the regional fish price collapses, if fishes migrate or people start eating less fish, the fishermen will have to respond to the changed situation. For many, this will mean finding a new occupation. Whilst the project might teach people to fish better, it doesn’t necessarily teach people how to look for vocational training by themselves.
- Population and demand growth: As the population and the economy grows, so will the needs of the people. People will need to further improve the efficiency of their fishing methods. But people will also need to find other occupations and create new industries. Basically, we don’t need to train fishermen, but micro-businessmen who will fish whilst it is profitable, and who will constantly look for new and better opportunities.
Our re-definition of sustainability could look something like this: