Is Change in Africa Really Possible? (Part 1)

I’ve been intrigued lately by coverage of African business insiders who think that change there is not hopeless.

One example is Mo Ibrahim, veteran of the telecom industry in Britain and Sudan, and co-founder of Celtel, one of Africa’s largest mobile phone operators, set up a foundation last year to promote good governance in Africa. According to the May 26, 2007 edition of The Economist, the foundation will award “an annual prize of $5m to retired African leaders who rule well and then stand down, rather than trying to cling to power.”

He’s in good company since Harvard is developing the scoring system to be used in the selection and Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, is chairing the selection committee.

His success with Celtel, which was sold to a Kuwaiti operator for $3.4 billion in 2005, demonstrated that mobile phone operators could work in 15 countries in Africa, without paying bribes. According to The Economist article, “Rather than charity, he insists, the way forward for Africa is investment.”

To help assess whether there is merit to this approach, readers will want to explore the latest discussions on "aid versus trade" at TEDGlobal 2007. Consider the comments of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Finance Minister of Nigeria. In a TEDGlobal 2007 video, she asks, "first, for the discussion to continue, and for it to grow more sophisticated, more nuanced. And she shares a gripping story that puts the aid-versus-trade debate into true human terms."

Much more to learn? Yes. Intractible situation? Maybe not. We'd love to hear more from the experts.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 1:58 AM, Aug 09, 2007 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Economic Development | Global Philanthropy | Permalink | Comment