Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Agreement on Agriculture: What’s the use?
We all know how the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) has faced some difficulties in the past and still at present. And the future is definitely not looking bright. Promises have not been delivered yet. The Doha meeting in 2001 is an example of these promises not being met. The reforms which have been discussed at this round have not yet been as extensive as anticipated.
President Thabo Mbeki once said what is “critical in this regard is access of our products into the food market of the developed countries, some of which continue to subsidise their own agriculture in a context that verges on intellectual, economic and social obscenity and brutal selfishness.
How can developed countries live with themselves when they know how African and other developing countries are battling as is, and yet they still subsidise their local farmers’ products, ignoring the fact that the main source of income in these countries depends on agriculture.
One of the major dilemmas in these countries is developed countries dumping their products on our markets. Obviously this disables out producers to compete with low subsidized prices. This eventually creates a vicious circle. Our domestic markets are destabilised, we start depending more on imports, and this in turn denies us our export opportunities. Developing countries do not have the time and money to be able to address these issues. And another problem, which is self-explanatory and very well-known, is the influence of transnational companies who dominate the world agricultural market due to continuous high tariffs.
Even at the recent Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005, no progress has yet been seen after the agricultural negotiations. There is still the argument by developed nations that they will continue to offer little with regards to better agricultural agreements and they still demand that developing countries open their industrial and service markets to developed nations. Where is the sense in that?
Hopefully one day the WTO will realise the realities of the global agricultural market. The AoA must appreciate that not all nations can comply with the same rules and liberalization policies. Agricultural policies need to be diverse in order to consider each country’s personal needs.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Internship at AICC
The project is about building partnerships between NGOs, government and business in order to create sustainable development for poor countries to alleviate poverty and create employment in order to empower SADC countries. The project is aimed at Southern African countries, I am excited to be working or assisting around this project since I have knowledge in this subject matter as I have done Corporate Governance at Honours level. On the first day the work that I had to do was already mapped out for me to last at least two weeks. So when I arrive early at the office atleast now I have work waiting for me.
AICC is about promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), I thought that this would be interesting for the WOW trainees since this is linked to our theme. One WOW trainee blogged about good governance being a luxury, this made me realise that AICC is one of the exciting NGO’s since it promotes good governance and corporate social responsibility amongst other things. Because of NGO’s like AICC good governance in the near future won’t be a luxury but a necessity, because of the clear policies that they have for promoting CSR and Corporate Social Investment (CSI).
Friday, May 26, 2006
South Africa is one country in Africa that has implemented a new economic campaign called, "Proudly South African" that encourages local production and consumption. Thus far it has helped to combat poverty, unemployment and has instilled a national pride amongst the community.Most South African's have embraced the idea of supporting South African branded products and services instead of Western brands.According to http://www.safrica.ifo/what-happening/news/features/proudlysa.htm, in order for a company to join in, it must meet the following criteria:
- The company's products and services must meet high quality standards;
- It must be committed to sound environmental standards;
- Must be committed to fair labour and employment practices and
- The company's products and services must incur at least 50% of their production costs.
The campaign has encouraged most South Africans to be innovative, to use their entrepreneurial skills and find a sense of pride in what they do. The rural communities have especially embraced the idea by producing handmade products and successfully selling it to tourists. On the other hand, large brand owners like Nkhensani Manganyi have started the clothing brand "stoned cherrie" with an aim of reclaiming South African's past.Other brands like "loxion kulca" meaning "township culture" started by Wandi Nzimande and Sechaba Mogale has grown tremendously and has in the process born two labels: Zweto and Deletso.
Tourists who visit South Africa have also been encouraged to buy South African products like biltong, beer and wine when abroad.
More is still being done to educate tourist about South African products and to endorse national pride in their production.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Is it all about trade?
So globalization is the buzz word on our team blog. There’s no doubt about the opportunities and challenges that have been facing our continent due to this rapid advance of technology, information and communication. And it fuels the discussions around our team blog topic, African development.
What better way to fight the negative impacts of globalisation than South-South cooperation. The reasons for South-South relations are simple: Growing tension between the South and the North should be restored; the South should no longer depend heavily on the North; and to promote southern economic development by opposing unjust political, economic and social international order in the 21st century.
Let me come to the point I’m trying to make. IBSA is one of the new forces to help do all of the things I mentioned above. IBSA is the India, Brazil, and South Africa Dialogue. This dialogue is a means to address various issues including trade and investment, science and technology, education, health, poverty, etc.
Some of the future targets of IBSA are the following:
- Establish sophisticated relations two enhance South-South cooperation
- Strengthen the southern voice in international organizations to make it more democratic and representative.
- Promote South-South trade (boost investments from +/- $4.6 billion to $ 10 billion in 2007).
- Cut down North tariffs and agricultural subsidies like that of the US and the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU.
But is it all about trade?
I think we should not look at only trade to determine the success of IBSA. It is plain to see that trade between these nations are not complementary. I have no stats to prove this but I have read that Mercosur’s exports to SA are almost five times bigger than ours. And even though we export basic commodities to Mercosur, their value-added products are starting to dominate our market.
(Just to be clear about Mercosur, it is the regional partnership between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay).
So I asked myself what should be the main determinant for the success of IBSA and what makes it so necessary? All three these nations have to stick together to prove that South-South relations is important for the well-being of the southern nations. Also, IBSA is an alliance to meeting the challenges of poverty and development, two major trends occurring in these three nations. Many assume the dialogue is purely based on trade. But IBSA has started a poverty plan for the three nations and for the rest of the southern countries who are in need. It is called the IBSA Facility for Hunger and Poverty Alleviation. All three IBSA members have committed $ 1 million each every year to be able to help the facility grow and be successful.
Many are skeptical about this partnership, and justifiably so. Because it’s such a young agreement, it is difficult to see the progress made. But in the end of the day, South-South cooperation has been a failure in the past and was in a haphazard state. IBSA is a new approach which can enhance the relations between southern nations, so why not embrace it.
Do people think IBSA is a lot of hot air? Some comments on this topic will be great. It will also be quite interesting to talk about the agricultural relations between these nations. Looking forward to some debating.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Thanks Cyrille for that blog on African development. It is one area I have always been interested in, specifically the international financial institutions and their effects on the world, especially Africa. They are the epitome of globalisation and how the West benefits most from this global phenomenon.
But I do find that the negative aspects of this topic are always prominent, and little is said about the successes which programs like structural adjustment policies have obtained. I’m also guilty of this subjectivity. And I must say these programmes have probably been more detrimental than anything else. But as with the implementation of any programme or initiative, the IMF (www.imf.org) experienced various degrees of success in Africa.
The IMF concluded that programmes like the HIPC Initiative (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) marked a major innovation in development finance and that the fundamental goal was to give a fresh start to the world’s poorest countries. The Initiative has resulted in increased spending on social sectors and pro-poor growth. I know this action is limited but it is better than nothing. I saw some stats that showed what has been done a couple of years ago.
- In 2002, Tanzania for example used the initial debt service savings to increase education spending and eliminate school fees for elementary school education. An estimated 1.6 million children have returned to school in Tanzania.
- Mozambique increased health spending by $13.9 million. Half a million children were vaccinated against tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria, increasing coverage to 80 per cent in two years; $10 million has been spent on electrification of rural schools and hospitals and rehabilitation of infrastructure following the floods; $3.2 million is also being used to increased the number of girls attending school and scores of new primary schools are being build.
In many cases, governments have engaged with civil society in the development of their anti-poverty strategies. Although this new process can create problems, in principle it is making governments more accountable to their electorates, and giving local communities a voice.
One significant design improvement in structural adjustment programmes over the years is that it retains flexibility to review a country’s debt conditions assesses whether additional debt relief is required to cope with unexpected increases in the burden of debt. So in some instances the social aspects of countries have been addressed. The Operations Evaluation Department (OED) of the World Bank has proven that 40 % of the IMF and World Bank (www.worldbank.org) projects have been in collaboration with a more social dimension than before, and that this has been to the benefit of most of the programs.
But here I start with my subjectivity again. Let’s forget about all the good things these programmes have done for certain African countries. Let’s look at who the REAL beneficiaries are of these initiatives.
I find that most of these programmes perplex the illegitimacy of most of Africa’s debt. As such, it fundamentally undermines the strong imperative for debt cancellation. Many of the loans being repaid by African countries today were disbursed for strategic purposes, to pop up repressive and corrupt regimes during the Cold War. Thus, not only do these programs fail to acknowledge the illegitimacy of much of these debts, it actually sanctions the exploitation of indebted countries by rich creditor nations and institutions.
I read a quote the other day and forgive me for not remembering the name, but this person said that the windfall of the programmes goes to the same governments that racked up the debt in the first place, many of which are weak, corrupt and authoritarian - hardly the best intermediaries to carry out a philanthropic agenda.
The argument is not so much that development assistance, like loans, is inappropriate, but rather that the IMF is an inappropriate institution through which to give it. Thus there should be even more possible improvements in the African debt programs that may help the future of African countries look a bit brighter, and the IMF look more humane. Any suggestions?
P.S. A good read will be the book of the author Cyrille was referring to: Peet, R. 2003. The Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and WTO. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
This book is for sale at www.kalahari.net. The specific address where the book is available is http://www.kalahari.net/bk/product.asp?toolbar=none&sku=26372457&format=detail.
Traditional Values, Innovative Ideas
I also listened to the presentation of Michael Pfaff. The culture of RMB came through strongly in his speech. He explained how RMB is a company who appreciates traditional values, and thrives on innovative ideas. It is everyone’s duty in RMB to care for an environment where intellectual capital can flourish and businesses can grow. Like Paul Harris, Director of First Rand Bank, says, “You owe it to yourself and the people around you to nurture and build the corporate culture, as this will ensure that this is a company you will be proud of and happy to work for”.
I made my own assumptions on what type of character belongs in RMB and what sort of character will get the job if applying at RMB. Five aspects of a person should be strong and prominent: A person should be smart, competitive, hard working, a self starter, and a person with set values.
It is great to work for a company with those types of ideas of what they want. Personally these are aspects I deem very important in my life. I believe in empowering myself, being confident in what I do, and taking pride in every aspect of my life. And to sustain these characteristics, I believe in the importance of care, dignity, and respect of one self and those around you.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Now that the wow 2006 team seems somewhat tired of blogging, I feel like reviving the debate by sharing my views on globalization, but still in line with the theme of African development. This is indeed a very controversial topic and I hope it may create an environment for opened debate.
Globalization is presented to us both as a competing discourse and as a contested project. Whatever the angle one may view it, there is more and more public awareness that we live in a world of transformation, affecting almost every aspect of what we do. For better or worse, we are propelled in into a global order.
Nonetheless, one of the things that always worry me about globalization is that whatever standpoint one takes, more and more people advocate its advent and mostly urge Africa to follow the successive Asian global integration. Very few, however, present to Africa how to share to its maximum benefits attached to globalization. My view is that, the fact that globalization is a dragging force no one can resist should not be used to make African countries blindly go along will all global trends. We all want and advocate to go global but mostly we should learn how to go global. A regrettable fact is that literature as well as many African initiatives emphasizes more on what Africa looses by being less integrated in the global economy.
Without being skeptical, what always matters to me is the portion of the poor in the globalization rhetoric. How can Africa reap better is more of concern to me than why Africa does not act globally?
This concern brings me to how does globalization affect our lives? This goes beyond TV, Internet, western books or computers we use. It gets us to policies our governments adopt nationally or regionally through bodies such as SADC, Nepad, AU, etc. Indeed, social, political and macroeconomic policies are fascinating grounds when it comes to looking at how globalization impacts nation states. In fact, the wave of global integration known as globalization affects our policies in various ways, both providing opportunities to its actors (nations) and promoting a particular set of economic interests such as neo-liberalism. IFIs such as the World Bank and IMF, through aid conditionalities can make countries adhere policies that may even contradict a ruling party ideology. One of the most striking examples is the Structural Adjustment Programmes- SAP- led by both the IMF and the World Bank and implemented in developing countries through the 1980s. Some African countries have not yet fully recovered from its disastrous effects so far.
The UN, and its policy directives are another illustration of molding nation state policies. Thus, the UN peace treaties are examples of how nations may be bound to a global ideology. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), another UN initiative, is now serving as a referential framework from which many nations design their anti-poverty policies. At least these are good examples of global governance.
To get back to the side of global policies hindering development prospects in some regions and countries, my first observation is that globalization has been more benefiting to certain countries, mostly western countries. As a result, those countries are the one to configure the political global governance. They make rules through WTO, IMF, and the World Bank and the rest of the world has no choice but to abide by those set of laws. Peet (2003) calls this triad [IMF, WTO, World Bank] ‘the unholy trinity’ and I think he is somehow right. With the blessing of some governments, international institutions are instrumental in determining the outcomes of globalization. Despite some good lessons (free and fair trade, good governance, democracy, etc) taught by these global institutions, they are fundamentally undemocratic. As a result, they simply enforce capitalism, exploitation of the poorer and the weaker. Unfortunately, Africa is the weakest link of this global system and its population simply bears the brunt. The fact is not only that the poorest countries are often the least able to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization but also that and they are the most vulnerable to the challenges and crises generated in the global system.
Besides IFIs, multinational corporations –MNCs- and capital mobility are the other way globalization influences our daily lives. As a result, we are all propelled into a process of international rule making and enforcement, which we cannot avoid. MNCs provide jobs, enhance competitivity of companies in recipient countries, true and great but in many other cases, they are associated with exploitation. By making these points, I do not ignore the need for an international financial system. Nor I am suggesting that IFIs should be blamed for poor performance in developing countries.
Despite all these disadvantages, Africa is not doomed to fail. Indeed, the African misery is not due to the system put into place by the ‘unholy trinity’, though they share some responsibilities, and the good news is that there is still some hope for Africa. The point I am trying to make is that, our focus should shift from how much we loose by being less global to how well we can maximize by acting global. How well can we make MNCs responsive to the well being of communities that host them?
As a continent, Africa must be aware that there are benefits attached to globalization. Africa should also know that the west and recently Asia are the maximizers of those benefits. But Africa can still find some opportunities or generate them.
Therefore, Africa should not oppose globalization, instead, our first task should be to identify some niches that constitute African potential and that can be used to reap the best of globalization. The recipe comprises both local and global initiatives to be taken.
At the local and regional levels, countries in Africa that are most likely to succeed will be characterized by:
- Successful shift of trade and export patterns (shift form labor intensive sectors such as agriculture and mining);
- Effective, stable and participative government;
- Efficient public administration that is responsive to the needs of the poor;
- Sound macroeconomic policies and legislation; as well as
- Reduction of instability, risk and cost of business in order to attract foreign capital; and
- A balanced regional and continental integration as well as a south-south dialog;
On the global level, initiatives should be orientated towards influencing bilateral and multilateral cooperation for the advent of democratic and just global governance as well as a fight for a fairer trade.
In the world of work
But now I'm busy like them and I'm enjoying it.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Roy Blumenthal blogs at Coffee-Shop Schmuck.
The post below is reproduced from Kathy Sierra's blog, Creating Passionate Users.
Nobody says they want to hire "yes men". They say they want employees who are bold, creative, self-directed, take initiative, and aren't afraid to speak up. But what managers say they want and what they actually want (and reward) can be very different...
In a post last year on teamwork, I wrote:
"In his book Re-imagine!, Tom Peters says, "We will win this battle... and the larger war... only when our organizations are chock-a-block with obstreperous people who are determined to bend the rules at every turn..."
I reckon that most top-level managers would agree. They'd say that their company should take the bold whatever-it-takes person over the ever-compromising, risk-averse Yes Man. "If that person shakes us up, smacks us around, creates some creative tension, well that's just what we need to stay competitive", the CEO says. Yeah, right. While I believe most CEOs probably think this way, that attitude reverses itself dramatically the futher you reach down the org chart.
There's a canyon-sized gap between what top managers and CEOs say they want (brave, bold, innovative) and what their own middle management seems to prefer (yes-men, worker bees, non-boat-rockers). Of course I've never heard a manager say that... but you see it over and over again in their choices. When the tech downturn hit, consider who were often the first to go during the layoffs... "
Feeling the same way today, and inspired by Guy Kawasaki's Top Ten Lies of Engineers, I made a list of the things managers will often say, along with what some of those managers might actually be thinking.
(Yes, I'm aware this is generalizing, reinforcing negative stereotypes, and is completely biased toward non-managers. It's just for fun ; ) Really.)
"My job is to be a buffer between you and upper management."
"Your job is to make me look good to upper management."
"We value your criticism and ideas."
"If you're so smart, how come I'm a manager and you're not?"
"We set reasonable deadlines, and we never underbid our projects... so our employees don't need to work weekends."
"Since when is Saturday part of the weekend?"
"We provide our employees with the state-of-the-art tools they need to do their job."
"When I did this job, a Windows 98 box and a 640x480 monitor was plenty. You're just typing code for crise sake..."
"I know you're working hard now, but we'll make it up to you later."
"Hey, you're preaching to the choir here. I'm on your side. But upper management just doesn't get it."
"You just don't get it."
"We empower our employees to do whatever it takes for the customer."
"You gave that guy a refund?! What the #@&! were you thinking?"
"Nobody is getting a raise this year."
"Nobody at your level is getting a raise this year."
"My job is to hire good people and get out of their way."
"But so far, I've never had an employee that didn't need micromanaging."
"I won't tell you how to do your job."
"...as long as you do it exactly the way I would do it."
"We provide ongoing, comprehensive training for our employees."
"Joe will show you around this afternoon, and then you're on your own. Oh, and your first TPS report is due tomorrow."
"You've got upper management written all over you."
"Finally someone who does exactly what I tell him to without question."
"Don't hesitate to speak up during meetings."
"...as long as it's to compliment me on the great job I'm doing."
"I really went to bat for you, but upper management just wouldn't budge."
"Oh, yeah, like I would actually risk my job for you..."
"When this project is over, we'll talk about the promotion. I promise."
"I've already forgotten we had this conversation."
"We have a great career track for non-managers."
"Let's face it, programmers just don't have leadership potential."
[Note from Kathy: "I promise I'll balance this out soon with a post on the Top 15 Employee Lies. No, seriously. I mean it. Just as soon as my current project is over..."]
Got anything to add to the list? ; )
Posted by Kathy Sierra on May 7, 2006 | Permalink
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Obstacles to development
By registering with the local driving school I thought I would surely be contributing to the development of my community by helping Small Micro Medium Enterprises (SMME’s) to grow and be prosperous businesses, however the person who is in charge of the driving school spoiled it for everybody and took of with my money. I hate people who just think about filling their pockets and rob desperate people like me. The reason I registered with this driving school in the first place is that, I like supporting local businesses so that in the near future these businesses can also help contribute to our local communities, by employing local people, but after what I experienced I have serious doubts. I just do not think that they are capable of doing something so honourable.
At this moment I don’t know if I should go lay a charge of fraud or not, because the person who ran the driving school was the administrator and also the driving instructor. What upsets me is that I did not ask for a receipt, therefore I do not have proof of payment. I don’t think I’ll ever use the services that are available in my community and this is all because of one bad experience. I know it is wrong to paint every body with the same brush, but after going through this experience it is difficult to trust businesses that are still trying to establish themselves since they are not reputable yet.
Since I can’t even lay charges against this person, the only thing to do is to make sure that he does not do it to someone else again. Therefore I want to tarnish his reputation by taking my story to the local newspaper so that they know what kind of a person he is. What does every body think?