Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stephen keeps it real (video)

My friend and former work colleague, Stephen Forder, explaining global warming on the South African youth-oriented show, "Keeping it Real". Nicely done, Stephen.

The original post is on his website,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not a dictatorship

The (pro-government) New Times drew my attention to this recent story of Bonaventure Bizumuremyi. The following is taken from United Press International:

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

Development tourism revisited

My short cynical post on "Development Tourism" seems to have stimulated some discussion on other blogs, most notably in a post of a certain Chris Blattman. In particular though, I like the follow-up post in response to the discussion in which Chris says...

"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

Word of the Day: donor-dumping

donor-dumping (n.) - This is when a donor or development agency introduces products below the market price in competition with local businesses. Due to their financial resources, donors are able to out-compete local businesses and force them out of the market. Examples of products that are commonly “donor-dumped” on developing markets are: EU/US clothes donations, EU/US food aid, policy consultancy services, financial services and UNIDO infrastructure projects. Donor-dumping is widespread amongst all development aid organisations. In simpler, grass-roots development initiatives, donor-dumping tends to be directly visible in the form of goods or services sold at dumping prices. In more complex development projects, such as grants for infrastructure, donor-dumping can only be seen in the indirect effect on the price of services delivered by the subsidised infrastructure.

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).