Connectivity  – a key development priority

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Internet access must improve, says International Telecommunication Union.

Over 50% of the global population will have internet access within three years’ time, with mobile broadband over smart-phones and tablets now the fastest growing technology in human history, according to the 2014 edition of The State of Broadband report.

Released on September 21st in New York at the 10th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the report reveals that more than 40% of the world’s people are already online, with the number of internet users rising from 2.3bn in 2013 to 2.9bn by end-2014.

The lowest levels of internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with internet available to less than 2 % of the population in Ethiopia (1.9%), Niger (1.7 %), Sierra Leone (1.7 %), Guinea (1.6 %), Somalia (1.5 %), Burundi (1.3 %), Eritrea (0.9 %) and South Sudan (no data available).

“As we look towards the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that we not forget those who are being left behind,” said International Telecommunication Union (ITU) secretary-general Dr Hamadoun I. Toure.

“Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90% of people in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected… we need to make connectivity a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations. Connectivity is not a luxury for the rich – rather, it is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to bridge development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”

A video highlighting the work of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development since its launch in 2010 can be viewed below.

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Nigeria agrees Boko Haram truce

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Nigeria’s government has reached a deal with Islamic militant group Boko Haram for a cease-fire and the release of around 200 girls kidnapped six months ago from a school in the northeast town of Chibok, a presidency source said on Friday.

“The Nigerian government has reached two agreements with the Boko Haram group. Firstly a cease-fire agreement and then the release of the abducted Chibok girls,” the source told Reuters.

Read more

Nigeria: 230 schoolgirls “kidnapped by Boko Haram”

Nigeria: Boko Haram: 8 killed in military raid

Nigeria: Boko Haram fact-file

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Somalia has its first postal service in more than 20 years

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Postal service and cash machines return to Mogadishu.

Mogadishu, Somalia (Picture credit: TedX Photos)

Mogadishu, Somalia (Picture credit: TedX Photos)

Two recent developments illustrate how business confidence is slowly returning to the war-ravaged city. The Somali government has launched its first postal service in more than two decades, and has also introduced postcodes nationwide – a first for the country.

The reintroduction of the postal service – which fell into disuse after the Siad Barre regime collapsed in 1991 – is another sign that some semblance of normality is returning to Somalia. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mohamed Ibrahim said Somalis would now be able to receive letters from abroad. He said the next phase would be to enable them to send letters to friends and relatives living abroad.

The week before the postal service relaunched, the country first-ever cash withdrawal machine was installed in Mogadishu in late September, by Salaam Somali Bank in the upmarket hotel Jazeera Palace Hotel near Aden Adde international airport.

According to Justus Mulinge Kisaulu, the hotel’s general manager, “Most of the customers were not aware there is an ATM in Somalia. Local residents, most of them don’t have a debit credit or a credit card to use the ATM”.

While the machine is only available for customers with a MasterCard, Visa or American Express card, and there is currently no option for customers to withdraw money in currencies other than the US dollar, Moallim Abukar, marketing manager of Salaam Somali Bank, says such an option will be available soon.

Dahabshiil, one of the biggest international money transfer businesses in Africa with 286 locations in Somalia, plans to follow suit and open an ATM in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, but says these facilitates will not replace the need for its traditional remittance services.

According to the Africa Research Institute, a British think-tank focused on sub-Saharan Africa, more than $1.2bn is remitted to Somalia each year. This is more than half of Somalia’s gross national income, and also more than the total amount of international aid sent to the region.

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Uganda: Tackling corruption through a Smartphone app

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Pilot scheme allows users to blow the whistle on public institutions failing to match budgeted public expenditure spending.

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Douglas Buule, a teacher at Kiwenda primary, a government school outside Uganda’s capital Kampala, has a recurring problem.

“The money used to buy the chalk comes late, even towards the end of term,” explains Buule. “It is a big burden to keep on writing on a chalk board. So sometimes the head teacher buys chalk on credit or even uses her own money.”

Funds arriving late or going missing altogether also mean the school’s 529 students usually only take exams twice a term instead of monthly, said the teacher.

“There is lack of transparency in many government institutions on the funds that are supplied and used,” said Buule, complaining of the country’s endemic corruption. “That lack of transparency is affecting day-to-day learning.”

But now, a new project is shifting the balance of power.

Through the Action for Transparency (A4T) Smartphone app, being piloted in three Ugandan districts, communities are being armed with information allowing them to report anonymously when budget allocations for health centres and schools fail to match public expenditure.

Using the GPS-enabled A4T app, a user can receive the location of a school or health centre, the number of staff allocated to them by both the government and the institution, and the amount of money approved and dispersed.

If they suspect money is being misused — for example if the government provides funds for an ambulance which then is nowhere to be seen — the user can simply click on the app’s whistle icon to send an instant report to the A4T website and their Facebook page.

“If it is a police case we’ll report it to the police,” said Moses Karatunga, the programme officer for Transparency International (TI) Uganda. “If it’s an advocacy issue we can take it up with the ministry.”

In the past year, Uganda’s corruption rating has deteriorated, according to TI. They are introducing the app along with the Fojo Media Institute, part of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF) and the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME).

Gerald Businge, the A4T project coordinator, said Ugandans feared blowing the whistle on corruption.

“They think they could get sacked, they could get victimised,” he said. “There is also that worry ‘I report and nothing is done.’ So we’re saying ‘take this to the public court’.”

But it’s hoped that through A4T, which has been funded by SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency, mismanagement of money can be prevented.

“When people know they’re being monitored they’re less likely to squander or misuse money,” said Businge.

Community monitors such as Twahah Musoke visit schools and health facilities in their area a minimum of two times in a quarter. The institutions and facilities can also access the app from the TI representatives.

Already Musoke has been to five schools, including Kiwenda primary, and three health centres in the Busukuma area, home to about 16,000 people, in Wakiso district.

Challenges related to monitoring money include financial committees not knowing how much government money is being sent, and information and money staying with one person, for instance a school headmistress, instead of a team, he said.

“We need to empower people to realise it’s their responsibility to access this information,” said Musoke.

Businge said phones were chosen for the project as “very many Ugandans have mobile phones and at least every family has a mobile phone”.

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Ibrahim Index of African Governance

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Mauritius tops the Index again, while Egypt and Libya slide.

The island nation of Mauritius has topped the African Governance Index for the eighth year running.

Mauritius has been ranked first in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2014 for the eighth consecutive year. Among the 52 countries rated by the Foundation, Mauritius scored the highest overall mark of 81.7 points. Cabo Verde was second with 76.6 points, with the average score for the continent being 51.5 points. In third, fourth and fifth places were Botswana, South Africa and the Seychelles, all of which were in the top five in 2013.

Southern Africa scored the highest regional average, with Namibia and Lesotho joining Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa in the top 10.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) provides an annual assessment of the quality of governance in African countries. It was established in recognition of the need for a robust, comprehensive and quantifiable tool for civil society to track government performance in Africa. Compiled by combining over 100 variables from more than 30 independent African and global institutions, the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance. The mammoth statistical undertaking collects tens of thousands of data points from 52 different African countries (excluding only Sudan and South Sudan, as their recent split means there is no available data).

The charitable foundation said it has moved back the date for awarding the $5m African leadership prize, in an attempt to keep attention focused on the index instead of the lucrative award.

The 2014 index, released on September 29th, reveals that in the past five years, the continent’s overall governance has improved only slightly, with an average improvement of less than one point, out of a maximum score of 100.

For the eighth consecutive year, volatile Somalia scored worst, with a dismal 8.6 points out of 100. Somalia’s government is more stable than it once was, but the country remains awash in weapons, reliant on food aid, and beset by the al-Shabaab insurgency and inter-clan clashes. The fragile East African country ranked lowest in all four categories of the Ibrahim Index: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

Central Africa had the lowest regional average, with Central African Republic coming in just ahead of Somalia in the overall ranking with Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Congo also among the 10 bottom-ranked countries

Those who improved most in overall governance were Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Zimbabwe and Senegal, while the situation deteriorated most in Egypt, Libya, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Mali.

“The greatest improvements in governance are happening in some very low ranking countries,” said Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecoms tycoon who founded the index. He singled out Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

“Those guys are very low in absolute ranking, but they are showing great improvement…What is interesting about these improvements is that it comes after a period of negative trends. These countries were going down, and then they started to move up somehow.”

This inevitably is conflict-related – all three states are recovering from conflicts of varying intensity. The Zimbabwean improvements came under the government of national unity which followed the 2008 post-election violence.

Ibrahim welcomed the fact that 13 out of 52 countries had improved in overall governance as well as political, social and economic governance over the past five years. However, he warned the highest performers to be on their guard to maintain their hard-won good governance gains.

In his foreword to the latest report Ibrahim said: “Over the past five years, every one of the top five ranking countries has deteriorated in at least one category, demonstrating that even the highest performers need to remain vigilant and retain an ongoing commitment to the governance agenda”.

Mauritius, South Africa and the Seychelles slipped in the safety and rule of law category, Cabo Verde in human development and Botswana in sustainable economic development. South Africa also took a few steps backward on human rights.

“Africa is progressing but the story is complex and doesn’t fit the stereotypes. Even if the overall picture looks good, we must all remain vigilant and not get complacent,” said the index founder.

In terms of backsliding, the so-called Arab Spring has had a seriously negative impact on governance in Egypt and Libya, with Egypt dropping 14 places in the overall rankings (from 12th to 26th) and Libya dropping 15 places (from 27th to 43rd). The revolution in Tunisia does not seem to have had such dire consequences, as its indicators remained relatively stable and it is still in the top 10.

Ibrahim Index of African Governance Director Liz McGrath pointed out some highlights of the report: “So we have seen that at the continental level, the Ibrahim Index shows that overall governance has slightly improved over the last five years, but this rate of improvement has been slower than in the previous five-year period. And we have also seen that the drivers of governance improvement on the continent have changed over the past 10 years. So whereas sustainable economic opportunity was the main driver between 2005 and 2009, since 2009 overall governance has been driven by participation in human rights and human development,” said McGrath.

The rankings show an overall continental improvement in health indices, despite the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The data for this year’s report were collected before the first mass Ebola outbreaks were reported.

But McGrath says the index measures health through many variables, which include maternal health, immunizations, nourishment and sanitation.

“These indicators are not necessarily direct proxies for a crisis like Ebola. So it is important just to basically look at the fact that these things are improving on the continent, these measures are, definitely, perhaps in large part to the Millennium Development Goals, getting better in Africa,” she said.

The Index

The list below shows rank, country, score out of 100, five-year change 2009-2013:

1st — Mauritius, 81.7 (+1.3)

2nd — Cape Verde, 76.6 (+1.3)

3rd — Botswana, 76.2 (+1.3)

4th — South Africa, 73.3 (+0.5)

5th — Seychelles, 73.2 (+2.7)

6th — Namibia, 70.3 (+1.1)

7th — Ghana, 68.2 (+1.6)

8th — Tunisia, 66.0 (+2.2)

9th — Senegal, 64.3 (+4.6)

10th — Lesotho, 62.3 (+3.8)

11th — Rwanda, 60.4 (+4.6)

12th — Sao Tome and Principe, 59.7 (+4.4)

13th — Zambia, 59.4 (+3.1)

14th — Morocco, 58.8 (+2.9)

15th — Tanzania, 58.2 (-1.7)

16th — Malawi, 57.6 (+1.9)

17th — Kenya, 57.4 (+4.1)

18th — Benin, 56.7 (-3.5)

19th — Uganda, 56.1 (+1.0)

20th — Algeria, 54.4 (+1.4)

21st — Burkina Faso, 53.3 (-1.7)

22nd — Mozambique, 52.2 (-2.2)

23rd — Gambia, 51.6 (-0.9)

24th — Swaziland, 51.5 (+1.3)

25th — Sierra Leone, 51.1 (+3.9)

26th — Egypt, 51.1 (-8.0)

27th — Gabon 51.0 (+2.0)

28th — Mali, 49.5 (-5.7)

29th — Niger, 49.4 (+5.5)

30th — Comoros, 49.3 (+0.3)

31st — Liberia, 49.3 (+3.4)

32nd — Ethiopia, 48.5 (+2.1)

33rd — Madagascar, 48.2 (-1.1)

34th — Cameroon, 47.6 (+1.5)

35th — Djibouti, 46.8 (+0.7)

36th — Togo, 46.4 (+2.8)

37th — Nigeria, 45.8 (+0.6)

38th — Burundi, 45.3 (-0.1)

39th — Mauritania, 44.5 (+0.8)

40th — Ivory Coast, 44.3 (+7.8)

41st — Republic of Congo, 43.4 (+3.1)

42nd — Guinea, 43.3 (+6.5)

43rd — Libya, 42.1 (-7.4)

44th — Angola, 40.9 (+0.3)

45th — Equatorial Guinea, 38.4 (+0.1)

46th — Zimbabwe, 38.0 (+5.4)

47th — Democratic Republic of Congo, 34.1 (+0.8)

48th — Guinea-Bissau, 33.2 (-6.8)

49th — Chad, 32.3 (+2.5)

50th — Eritrea, 29.8 (-2.8)

51st — Central African Republic, 24.8 (-6.2)

52nd — Somalia, 8.6 (+0.5)

Note: Sudan and South Sudan remain unranked awaiting enough data following 2011 split.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) provides an annual assessment of the quality of governance in African countries. Compiled by combining over 100 variables from more than 30 independent African and global institutions, the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance.

The Foundation defines governance as the provision of the political, social and economic goods that a citizen has the right to expect from his or her state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens.

The IIAG assesses progress under four main conceptual categories:

  • Safety & Rule of Law
  • Participation & Human Rights
  • Sustainable Economic Opportunity
  • Human Development

More: The 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation

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Measuring Africa’s middle class

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Africa has experienced substantial growth in its middle class over the past 14 years, according to a study by Standard Bank of South Africa, the continent’s biggest lender.

The report looks at the size and growth of the middle class across 11 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most vibrant economies. The report also takes a future view to 2030, identifying where the greatest income growth will be and how economies are maturing to offer more diverse potential for investors.

The report, entitled “Understanding Africa’s middle class”, found that there are 15m middle-class households in 11 of sub-Saharan Africa’s top economies this year, up from 4.6m in 2000 and 2.4m in 1990 – an increase of 230% over 14 years.

The 11 focus economies are: Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, which combined account for half Africa’s total GDP (75% if excluding South Africa) and half its population. However, of the total number of households across these focal economies, 86% of them remain within the broadly “low income” band. The report also found that the combined GDPs of the 11 measured economies had grown tenfold since 2000.

The study uses a proven methodology widely employed in South Africa, says the Pan-African News Agency. The report, based on the Living Standards Measure (LSM), gives investors to Africa data on which to base their investment decisions. In the past, the conventional wisdom was that as many as 300m Africans were categorised as ‘middle class’. The report points out that investors using an unquantifiable assumption might find individuals they had thought were middle class were in fact highly vulnerable to lose that status in any economic shock.

Standard Bank senior political economist Simon Freemantle, author of the report, says the prospective boom in middle class households – those earning between US$8,500 and US$42,000 a year – is also likely to be complemented by a swelling in the number of lower middle class households that earn between US$5,500 and US$8,500 annually. This will create an expanding consumer market for items such as vehicles, insurance policies, property and health products.

“Between 2014 and 2030, we expect an additional 14m middle-class households will be added across the 11 focal countries, tripling the current number. Including lower-middle-class households, the overall number swells to over 40m households by 2030, from around 15m today,” Freemantle says.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest economy and has the largest African population, is leading the growth of new middle-class households with an estimated 7.6 million to be added in the next 16 years. Nigeria’s middle class grew by 600% between 2000 and 2014 giving the country 4.1 million middle-class households at present, 11% of its total population. Other countries expecting significant growth of the middle-class households by 2030, include Ghana (1.6m), Angola (1m) and Sudan (1m), according to the Standard Bank blog.

East Africa lagged other regions in the study, with more than 90 percent of households in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya defined as low-income, Bloomberg.com reported.

 

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African energy growth predicted

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An energy boom is on the cards if the continent can attract vital investment.


Africa’s energy industry could boom in the coming years, with Mozambique and Tanzania set to emerge as new frontiers, a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers said on September 3rd.

Six of the top 10 global discoveries in 2013 were made in Africa, with more than 500 companies now exploring across to the continent, according to the study.

Large gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania would make the world “take note of east Africa as an emerging player in the global industry,” said the report’s advisory leader, Chris Bredenhann.

The boom has brought investment opportunities, despite the lingering challenges of corruption, lack of infrastructure and regulation.

Transactions worth some US$1 bn occurred every 17 days in Africa’s oil and sector in 2013, the report said.

Still, the continent faces fierce competition for vital investment from other parts of the world, the PWC report cautioned.

“A huge obstacle to growth in Tanzania and Mozambique is the cost of the infrastructure required, which neither country can afford without help from foreign investors,” it said.

Nearly nine million barrels of crude were produced every day in 2013, more than 80% of which came from established players such as Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Angola.

In gas that is even more concentrated, with nine tenths of annual natural gas production of 6.5 trillion cubic feet coming from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.

Still, Mozambique could become a major player in the Asian market on a par with Australia, the United States and Papua New Guinea when it starts exporting gas, expected in 2020, the report said.

Already majors such as Eni, Chevron and BP have invested in its gas fields, some of the largest discovered in the past decade.

Demand for oil in Africa was also expected to “rise significantly” over the next 20 years, driven by population growth, urbanisation and the emergence of a middle class, the report said.

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