#ForesightAfrica: Mwangi Kimenyi Responds to Twitter Questions

Yesterday, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) hosted a public event previewing Africa’s top priorities for 2012 based on our recently released Foresight Africa report.

We asked those of you on Twitter to submit your comments and questions on what you thought were the top priorities for Africa in 2012 by using the #ForesightAfrica hashtag. Africa’s democratic elections, the “African Spring,” U.S. military involvement on the continent, and South Sudan received a lot of attention on our Twitter hashtag. Below are my answers to the questions from Twitter that we weren’t able to get to during yesterday’s event.

In the next few weeks, my AGI colleagues and I will be writing more blog posts on Africa’s challenges and priorities in 2012 and I hope you continue to comment on our posts using the #ForesightAfrica hashtag. Thanks to everyone who participated in the audience and online.

African Elections

Democracy – what will happen in DRC? Will there be a resolution to the electoral crisis in DRC? Will Zimbabwe have free & fair elections? Will Kenya be peaceful?
— @texisinafrica Laura Seay, a political scientist from Morehouse College

Competitive elections in Africa continue to be a challenge. This is primarily because of weak constitutions that are easily manipulated by some African leaders and also due to divisions along a variety of identities—ethnic, religious, regional, etc. Democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains difficult and it does appear that external intervention is warranted—for example by the African Union. For countries like Zimbabwe, though, there has been progress; more pressure is called for so that the electoral systems Africa become more transparent.

Will the elections in Kenya be successful in 2012?
— @andrewwestbury, Andrew Westbury

The 2012 elections in Kenya present a major challenge but a lot depends on the International Criminal court process. However, given what happened after the last elections, the government and other regional organizations are investing in the election process. Major reforms—the judiciary, appointment of an independent election commission—suggest that elections will be better managed this time around. But Kenyans must not be complacent and peace building efforts must continue.

An “African Spring”

Expects a growing divergence between countries that are getting things right and those that are ripe for explosion.

— @SlaughterAM Ann-Marie Slaughter, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton; former director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department

The divergence argument is well founded. However, in reality, what we see is that there are lots of neighborhood effects that can adversely impact on the reforming countries in Africa so that crisis and poor economic performance in one country impacts reforming neighbors negatively. The divergence will occur but not as pronounced as one would imagine.

Will we see mass protests topple leaders in Africa?
— @texisinafrica Laura Seay, a political scientist from Morehouse College 

There has been a marked increase in the frequency and scale of protests in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, these protests have generally focused on some specific issues, such as energy prices, food, etc. The fact that most of the population of Africa is rural and characterized by a lower penetration of modern technologies limits the organization and coordination of these protests—as was the case in North Africa. However, African leaders are taking note of the power of the people. So even if the protests do not necessarily topple governments, they will act to restrain the excess of the governments. Protests in Africa are certainly improving government accountability.

The U.S. Military’s Role in Africa

What is the US military’s focus this yr? Comments on African Standby Force, Somalia, Natn’l Guard in Africa?
— @hellenotii Hellen Otii

Will the US pursue further military engagements similar to that of training Ugandans to fight LRA?
— @jbancs Jonathan B

There is a role for the U.S. and indeed other developed countries to be involved militarily in Africa. However, such involvement must reflect African interests. For example, it would be more fruitful for the U.S. to engage in the training of personnel and the provision of technologies that would help countries deal with terrorist activities (e.g. surveillance technologies). Direct military intervention should be coordinated through regional organizations, in particular the Africa Union.

South Sudan

How will South Sudan manage its oil reserves and how would the South Sudan-Ethiopia-Djibouti pipeline open up oil products sales to the U.S.?

The management of the natural resources in South Sudan will be critical to the survival of the nation. A priority, as identified in Foresight 2012, is the need for South Sudan to establish institutions of governance in order to entrench transparency and accountability.

As of now, oil exports are piped through the Republic of Sudan, which has been problematic at times. However in the immediate future, South Sudan will have to rely on this existing pipeline. The U.S. Congress has enacted some new guidelines that will allow U.S. firms to operate in South Sudan even though oil is exported through the Republic of Sudan which is under U.S. sanctions.

Ethnic violence is major test for South Sudan’s government. How should the crisis be handled to ensure stability?
 — @morganlroach Morgan Roach, Research Associate at the Heritage Foundation

True—this is a real issue and poses a real danger to the very existence of South Sudan as a viable state—unless South Sudan puts in place institutional reforms that allow for inclusive participation, the country could fragment and risk state failure. South Sudan requires support from the African and international community to build its institutions.

Additional Questions and Comments
Priority summary spot-on, but overriding ‘must’ is good governance. How to motivate leaders?
— @JAJorgensen Jens Anker Jorgensen

Agreed—good governance is key. I think it is the responsibility of the people to hold their leaders accountable, which will motivate leaders to focus on good governance.
Retaining homegrown talent to bolster the economy so they don’t take their intelligence elsewhere
— @Livsforfashion Olivia Asiedu-Ntow

This is true and African governments are making efforts to improve the political and business climate which should make it easier for talented Africans to find jobs and stay in their home countries. However, African governments must also provide mechanisms for the Diaspora to contribute to development. Enhancing the role of the Diaspora in Africa’s development should be a priority in 2012.

Invest in agriculture (most farmers are women) so they easier can feed their families, earn higher incomes, become self-sufficient
 — @aminabech Amina Bech

There is no way that Africa can transform its economy without improving the productivity of the agricultural sector. Priorities should include investments in fertilizers, pest control, and adoption of other technologies such as draught resistant crops. Of course, investments in rural infrastructure, rural access to roads, and irrigation are essential as well. But all of these should be accompanied by better post-harvest technologies, storage, etc.

Top PRIORITY in most African countries: Address endemic MEGACorruption #ruleoflaw #GOODGOVERNANCE #establishstrongINSTITUTIONS
— @dgtlUbun2 ubun2

Corruption remains a major barrier to economic growth and human development. There has been notable improvement in this regard, and today African governments are more accountable. But there needs to be more reforms to combat corruption in African countries. Unfortunately, in some countries, improvements in governance are followed by reversals.

After a long and brutal civil war in Liberia, I want genuine reconciliation and closure
— @DaWarchild @ideasforafrica

The healing process is an ongoing project and what is crucial now is for Liberians to sustain the momentum. There have been setbacks, but overall the trajectory looks positive.