Thursday, September 18, 2008

Best books on Africa

I searched for the best reads on Africa. 

Here are the recommendations from: 
Amazon UK

As posted on, the 97 authors on the full list of  best 100 creative books are associated with the following countries: Algeria (3), Angola (3), Benin (1), Burkina Faso (1), Cameroon (2), Cape Verde (1), Congo (1), Cote d'Ivoire (3), Democratic Republic of Congo (2), Egypt (6), Ghana (7), Guinea (3), Guinea-Bissau (1), Kenya (3), Lesotho (1), Mali (1), Morocco (2), Mozambique (4), Nigeria (10), Senegal (10), Sierra Leone (1), Somalia (1), South Africa (19), Sudan (1), Tanzania (1), Tunisia (1), Uganda (3), Zimbabwe (5).

Interestingly most authors are from South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cap, auction, trade

Earlier experiments in Europe with carbon cap-and-trade systems have drawn wide critique for their limited environmental effectiveness.  The EU plans to start auctioning permits in the next phase, sending a real price signal to the market. 

Prof Lans Bovenberg wrote on VoxEU:

The EU plans to auction permits for the next phase of emissions trading, rather than giving them away for free as in the past. This column explains why the new scheme is a significantly better policy and proposes compensation measures to redress the complaints of industries opposed to the new climate change policy. Harmonised EU action may be required.

Read here for full article.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On the municipal price of water

Too low prices for water affects quality of service and have detrimental impacts on the poor. Lessons from India as discussed on Aguanomics:

Municipal water in India, for example, is priced so low that revenues rarely cover the operating costs much less the capital costs of drinking water supply. As a consequence, there is never enough incentive to conserve water and never enough money to maintain the water lines. Consequently, leakage rates (Unaccounted for Water Losses) frequently approach 70%. Ironically, the prices are kept low in the name of protecting the poor but the poor are rarely even connected to the water lines and they wind up gathering water from hydrants or vendors at costs per kiloliter 10 to 20 times as much as that charged to their wealthier neighbors.

Furthermore, while the low prices may seem like a bargain for the middle and upper income consumers, the combination of high leakage rates and poor service mean that most people only receive water for a few hours per day. 

Sinophobia is rive!

Fuel on the fire of sinophobia:

"In the greatest movement of people the world has ever seen, China is secretly working to turn the entire continent into a new colony."
Read the full story in The direction of change in China and the dire need for Africa's own rules of engagement is nowhere mentioned. Africa can play the poor beggar again and blame Chinese colonialism for anything that can go wrong or see the Dragon as an economic opportunity, fully realising that there are risks that can only be managed when Africa's own house is in order.  Two parties sign the deal. 

Image: bbc

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Africa, climate change = adaptation

Policy debates on climate change focus almost exclusively on a scientific understanding of climate change and the mitigation of greenhouse gases.  Adaptation, although officially part of the debate, has not really made an impact. This is changing - read the full article in The Economist.

A striking illustration in this same article depicts the inequality in greenhouse gas emissions: 

With the possible exception of a few large scale emitters,  adaptation is the name of the game in Africa. See earlier posts on the ability of African farmers to adapt in the face of climatic changes and that Africa is particularly vulnerable to climatic changes (see also here). 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Africa's elusive middle class

A recent blogpost on 'Africa is a Country' stating that Africa has a middle class of 300 million people seems somewhat optimistic.  Digging a bit deeper solved the mystery. The source article from the Washington Post on Africa's new middle income consumerism, defined these 300 million as: 

"...a modestly growing segment of sub-Saharan Africa -- upwardly mobile, low- to middle-income consumers. The group includes working Africans who make as little as $200 a month, a paltry sum by Western standards, yet hardly the $1 or so a day in earnings that describe life for about half the continent's population. Perhaps a third of all Africans, or 300 million people, fall into a middle category -- people struggling to put their kids through school and pay rent, but able to buy a cellphone or DVD once in a while."

According to an earlier article in the Wall Street Journal, posted on Yale Global Online:
The World Bank estimates the sub-Saharan middle class will be 43 million strong by 2030, up from 12.8 million in 2000. Though the bulk of the continent's middle-class consumers are in South Africa, growing markets in such countries as Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana are attracting attention from investors around the world.

$200 per month is poverty - even in Africa.