Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An incentive to stem Presidential Plunder & Waste?

Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese born entrepreneur, who founded Africa’s mobile giant Celtel - a company he later, sold to MTC of Kuwait earning him a huge personal fortune. But unlike, other African leaders who easily get entangled, into lives of personal luxury and waste, Mr. Ibrahim is using his wealth for good. He has set up a database on African governance (Ibrahim Index on African governance) and now inaugurated the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The largest individual award in the world, it comprises:

• US$5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter

• Up to US$200,000 a year for 10 years towards the winner’s public interest activities and good causes.

The first recipient is Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique – Perhaps this will serve as an incentive to stop the plunder and waste of public money by African Presidents.
If only our presidents could stomach a simpler existence!

Here is a sample of African presidential extravagance-

Here's how the WaBenzi get around. Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi have motorcades that can extend a mile long. At the very minimum an African president needs at least 30 cars: the S600L for himself, perhaps a couple more identical vehicles to confuse assassins, outriders, ministers, yes-men and chase cars bristling with guns. Snarling police in advance vehicles force you off the road up to an hour before the big man zooms past……

When he's at home former Tanzania President Mkapa has his own motorcade, which in the last five years has been involved in three separate road accidents in which 22 people have died (including a child of three) and 47 others have been seriously injured. Most were pedestrians. Mkapa escaped this road slaughter without a scratch to himself, but no wonder he often chooses to fly in the £15-million presidential jet he used state coffers to buy in 2002…….

Last year King Mswati III of Swaziland went against the grain. He passed over Mercedes and went for a £264,000 Maybach 62 for himself plus a fleet of BMWs for each of his 10 wives and three virginal fiancĂ©es selected annually at the football stadium 'dance of the impalas'. Imagine if he continues buying BMW for his wives; his dad collected 50 spouses and 350 kids. In May southern Africa's Mr. Toad changed his mind about Mercedes and roared up to his rubber-stamp parliament in a new S600L limo. The total bill for his car purchases alone will be about £750,000, or three quarters of the annual figure for British assistance. Of the £14 million Swaziland gets in foreign aid, £9 million goes on the king's balls, picnics and parties - and cars. Yet 70 per cent of Swazis languish in absolute poverty and four out of ten have HIV/Aids, the highest rate in the world……..

Former Kenyan President Moi's package -
Monthly pension to amount to 80% of last salary
Six cars and seven drivers
34 workers
12-bedroom mansion
Three cooks and two housekeepers
Gym, swimming pool and sauna……

The judge reserved his most abrasive remarks for former Zambian President Chiluba, whose corruption trial in Zambia has been repeatedly postponed because of his ill health. He refused to give evidence to the court. Mr. Justice Smith singled out as "the most telling example of corruption" his $500,000 purchase of hundreds of suits and monogrammed shirts from an exclusive boutique in Switzerland, as well as 72 pairs of handmade, high heel shoes to extend his 5ft stature. "This was at a time when the vast majority of Zambians were struggling to live on $1 a day and many could not afford more than one meal a day. The people of Zambia should know that whenever he appears in public wearing some of these clothes he acquired them with money stolen from them."………

The International Crisis Group (ICG) says some Zimbabweans are in favor of a retirement package, which would be attractive enough for President Robert Mugabe to step down. It could include granting immunity to President Mugabe from prosecution while safeguarding his wealth……..

Yet, on and on he goes like a ...........

Sunday, October 21, 2007

To turn a leaf - Does climate impact innovation?

This is for Kashikulu is a life long quest and I will tread very, very carefully least I vilify or justify ill intent or injustice. But I have wondered why people of color all around the world never quite seem to turn the leaf on poverty and underdevelopment.
From the Aborigines in mainland Australia, the vast population in Africa, the inhabitants of the slim islands of the Caribbean to some of the inner cities of North and Latin America- people of color generally experience a life of poverty or underdevelopment.

The Bemba have a proverb uulwele pamala uwolwa necibi (necessity is the mother of invention).
In researching whether climate has an impact in motivating innovation, I found that except in limited instances of coercion or scarcity of land, people of African descent live in fairly favorable climatic conditions. Robert W. July in his book - The history of the African people notes that -

"The history of mankind has always shown the deep mark of environment; put another way, man’s development can be seen as a struggle for freedom from the limitations of man’s surrounding, that might control and direct his environment rather than suffer its restraints…
The geographic location of Africa has contributed to its tropical climate which is warm but extreme only in certain locations and which lacks the violent fluctuations in temperature found for example, in North America. More significantly, Africa’s geographic position affects the pattern of rainfall which in turn has a profound influence on African ecology and history

Is it possible therefore, that the climatic conditions in Africa, Australia and the tropical islands of the Caribbean served as a lesser motivation for the innovation to develop the means to alleviate living conditions such as better housing, agriculture, transport etc. in pre colonial Africa and Australia or even free Haiti (first independent black republic in the Caribbean that gained independence in 1804).
The earliest history available on Sub Saharan Africa shows its prominent figure Shaka Zulu pillaging with primitive weaponry at the same time that, Beethoven is composing his best symphonies in Europe. On the other hand, the Africans forcibly removed from Africa into North America; through slavery are the cornerstones of mankind’s most invaluable innovations such as the clothes dryer by G.T. Sampson in 1892, first open heart surgery by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in 1893, automatic traffic lights by Garret A. Morgan in 1923 etc.
And so, with the majority of people of color in Africa, Australia and the Caribbean yet to have a clothes dryer in most homes, a surgeon for every 100 people or a traffic light at every intersection, Kashikulu continues to wonder, would a hostile climate in these places have changed anything?