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Davos Global Agenda Council on the Future of Africa

I’m the newest and I suspect the youngest member of the Davos Council on the Future of Africa.   I’m headed to Dubai for my first meeting as a Council member.   It’s a terrific honor – other members include Mo Ibrahim , Sam Jonah, Graca Machel, Maria Ramos, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Christopher Khaemba, Nkosana Moyo, and Salim Ahmed Salim.

I have long argued that forums like Davos and G-20 need to be listening to the future of Africa and not the old guard or the Bonos.   Looks like all my noise-making paid off :-)

I am not sure how long I will last on the Council because I will err on the side of being open about my role on the Council and the Council itself, and because I feel that they have been cautious/tentative so far as far their activities given the massive leverage the current members have…but then maybe again it’s the nature of the beast…Davos lends itself more to discussion than action, I think.

In any event, it’s a great honor and I hope I will be able to do my best to represent an often unheard voice.

Kuweni Serious

Website of the week – young Kenyans speak out -  Kuweni Serious (hat-tip @afromusing).   It’s relatively new, hope they keep up the content.

….we at Kuweni Serious – we’re a bunch of kids ourselves – have decided to go out there and find out: how do Kenya’s youth feel about all the chaos around us? Are we proud to be Kenyan or are we secretly wishing we could get green cards and disappear forever? Where shall we raise our own kids? Are we happy?

We intend to seek out all the young people out there who are trying to make sense of all this, the youth groups, the activists, the people who read the news and get so annoyed that they write angry status updates on Facebook, the students, the guys and girls who’ve just landed their first job and have been hit hard by the realities of the economy. We want your opinions, we want your stories. We don’t know what we’ll find, we might step on a few toes, but we’ll do our best.

Mo Faya in Nairobi

A Kenyan musical written and composed by Eric Wainaina and directed by John Sibi-Okumu.

Starring: Eric Wainaina, Valerie Kimani, Atemi Oyungu and MÅ©mbi Kaigwa

Location:  The GoDown Arts Centre – Dunga Rd, off Lusaka Rd Tickets available at Silverbird Cinemas (Village Market, Junction and Westgate) and selected Uchumi outlets

Contact Info: Mo Faya 0720 492540 http://www.mofayathemusical.com

Dates: November 11th to December 20th: Wednesdays (1 ticket for 2) – 7.30pm – Sh300 adults, Sh300 students (13-18yrs) Thursdays and Fridays – 7.30pm – Sh600 adults, Sh400 students (13-18yrs) Saturdays – 2.30pm & 7.30pm – Sh800 adults, Sh400 students (13-18yrs) Sundays – 2.30pm – Sh800 adults, Sh400 students (13-18yrs)

DJ Lwanda’s voice rings out daily on local radio, leading and inspiring the Nairobi community of Kwa Maji. But Anna Mali, an avaricious real estate diva, craves the land beneath their slum. She seduces the fiery young DJ away with a job at a top nationwide station, and organizes a violent campaign to terrorize the people of Kwa Maji. When the government and media turn a blind eye to the decapitated bodies in the streets, DJ Lwanda must return home to expose the truth. But at what cost?

Financial Times Special Report on Kenya

The Financial Times has just put together a special feature report on Kenya.   The FT has done a number of great articles on Kenya this year so I’m looking forward to reading the report – includes articles on the wave of kidnappings to hit Nairobi (just heard from a person in the know that the incidents are actually seriously under-reported); the Mau Forest; and the dithering stock exchange.

Blog find of the week: Africa is a Country

Africa is a Country – as tongue in cheek as it’s title, and great links to African artistes.

On the Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership

Dear Mo Ibrahim,

If you were to ask me, I’d just scrap the prize altogether.

There’s been a lot of debate in the past week about the Prize Committee’s decision not to award a prize this year.   From those who feel that this says a lot about the dire state of leadership in Africa, to those wondering why Kufuor the former president of Ghana didn’t qualify for the prize and what this means as far as the idea that the prize is meant to serve as an incentive.

And lets not forget the brouhaha about the governance index and how (whether?) to “Africanize” it.   My two cents, while I’m at it, why not feed it to the Nepad African Peer Review Mechanism?   It’s still slow but most countries are cooperating, there’s a whole infrastructure supporting it, and there’s that slight advantage of you know – the data being compiled in places that are not Cambridge, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

But I digress.

As far as the motivations behind the prize, you have written:

I have faced some criticism, with people suggesting I am trying to bribe leaders to do their jobs, and therefore patronising them, to others asking me why I have not spent the money on bed nets and boreholes. The critics are failing to take into account how central governance and leadership are for Africa’s development. In addition, western leaders have a future after their time in office – they can sit on the boards of companies, take up speaking engagements or write memoirs. But what do decent, hard-working African leaders have to look forward to once they retire? This is part of the importance of our prize. It provides African leaders with the option of continuing a life in public service.

I don’t get how the prize enhances governance and leadership in Africa – the problem is that most African leaders today are thieving, corrupt, buffoons who spend their time in office lining up their pockets so deep that the Ibrahim prize is chump change and that issues of legacy are irrelevant (see e.g. “I have no regrets”Moi),  but I do get the part that decent leaders need a plan B – post retirement…although the fact is that most of them are voting themselves very nice “exit” packages anyway (see Mozambique, Ghana) .   But, rather than rewarding African leaders for doing what they should be doing as a matter of course, why not set up a fund where e.g. if they want to build a library, or write a book, or set up a business – they have to apply for the money.   So they have a plan B, it’s just not automatic.

Better still.   Just shift the foundation’s focus away from things that have a minimal impact on the future of African leadership…I mean the index and the prize are just as about as impractical you can get if you are serious about changing the face of African leadership…if you ask me.

What should you be doing then you ask?

Well, any organization that is trying to do any serious work around leadership in Africa has make young people the core of any programming.   Otherwise you haven’t looked the demographics of Africa yet and seriously thought about the implications.   Convincing the Mugabe’s of the world to step down, is only part of the problem – you have to ask who is replacing the old guard?  Is there a pipeline?  Are the replacements different?  Or are they just a younger, hungrier, more cynical version of the same (see Kenya’s parliament today).

I see that your foundation does offer scholarships to rising leaders, that’s a good start.   But if the intention is to grow leaders at home, I would offer scholarships to enable students to attend local institutions as well.

And scholarships are so inside the box.

How about a fund for young Africans who are running for office – they have to come up with a plan, sign a commitment to good governance, and commit to being open with their campaign and if they get elected with their voting records in Parliament, public declarations etc….sound a bit crazy?  Maybe.  But in comparison to a index of democracy…hhhm.

Or if that’s too political – a travel fund/scholarship for young Africans to travel within Africa and spend a month or 6 months or a year – living in a different country, doing community service, writing a book, taking pictures…whatever – the underlying idea being that they would have the opportunity to get to know their own continent, to expand their worldview in a different way, to network with their fellow Africans, and to start building cross-border relationships which are critical to the future of the continent (think trade, ease of travel, etc.).  Really, the AU shouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of opportunities for Africans to engage meaningfully.

Or, if that’s too wish wishy – an Africa corps then – sort of like a peace corps for Africans by Africans – open to those in Africa or the diaspora.

You get the point.   The Mo Ibrahim foundation needs to jazz it up and be more disruptive, if you are really serious about more Mandelas, and not Mobutus.



*KP readers, what you do differently?  Indulge me please.

Glad I dodged that bullet

A reminder of how grim Biglaw life can be.

Though I’m not so sure I’m under less pressure nowadays as a social entrepreneur in the tech space…the pressure to keep up and stay informed is intense.

Former Mayor of Bogota to speak at University of Nairobi

The Institute for Transport and Development Policy, Institute for Development Studies (IDS)*, at the University of Nairobi and the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD)* at Columbia University’s Earth Institute are honored to invite you to a public lecture by Former Mayor of Bogotá, visionary politician and urban strategist, Enrique Peñalosa.

What is a Good City: Public Space, Transport, and Quality of Life
A talk by Enrique Peñalosa

VENUE: Education Building, Main Campus, University of Nairobi

Friday, October 16, 2009

9AM – 12PM

During his tenure as mayor of Bogotá, Mr. Peñalosa was able to successfully transform a city defined as chaotic and hopeless into a city that is now an international model for urban development. Mr. Peñalosa will discuss how he championed this transformation through various efforts, including increased citizen involvement, creating a new and highly successful bus-based transit system, and turning a dilapidated downtown avenue into a dynamic pedestrian public space. Mr. Peñalosa will share the obstacles experienced, many of which are similar to those facing Nairobi, lessons learned during his tenure as Mayor of Bogotá, as well as the critical elements needed in urban development to achieve a higher quality of life.