End of What?

End of What?

africawhatisitAnything happen this year?

Sorry. Perhaps a poor attempt for just a bit of relief. End-of-the-year analyses are coming out. I sit in a little world of Africa news and things, but I expect all the little worlds feel the same thing I do: the universe is tanking. Now if you’re sitting at a big desk on Wall Street you see it otherwise, because the rich world is doing just fine. But time’s have changed. The world is starting to move as one, and how Africa or Taipei or the Ukraine or Latvia goes, so eventually does the whole world, even eventually the rich.

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Two Doth Tango

Two Doth Tango

donttellThere are multiple ways to distort news. One of the most effective is to get rid of the person who gathers it. It’s a harsher step than simply bellowing out untruths like Fox News but the latter often foreshadows the former.

Two weeks ago journalist Azory Gwanda was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since. He was a reporter for a Swahili-language Tanzanian media company that was often critical of the current president, John Magufuli.

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Paradise Hidden

Paradise Hidden

paradise hiddenThe lofty positions held by a number of Africans in both government and business is jeopardized by the Paradise Papers expose, and for exactly the same reason that Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is on the way out.

Nothing illegal is alleged in the Paradise Papers’ leaked business deals, mostly with Cayman Island banks. Nothing illegal is alleged in the Times’ expose of Apple’s tax havens in Britain and Ireland.

But legality isn’t the issue. Morality is. Wealth of this magnitude should not be held by so few.

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Live Free To Die

Live Free To Die

protecting democracyUltimately it’s a matter of whether the people in power are good or bad. Doesn’t really matter whether they won an election or ascended a throne, whether they’re an elected judge or an appointed one. They’re either good or bad.

But as multiple African countries show, today, there’s a lot of bad running democracies. Listen quick: I’m not saying authoritarian regimes are better than democracies. I’m just saying there can be just as much badness in democracy as in authoritarianism.

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Now or Never?

Now or Never?

tanzanitenoworneverTourists are going to be floored this season by how expensive Tanzanite has become.

The Tanzanian president’s sweeping dictatorial attempts to reduce corruption are currently focused on the country’s precious minerals. The fight is far from over, but so far he’s struck out with the biggest player, Acacia [Gold] Mining, so he’s set his sites on Tanzania’s small Tanzanite industry.

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Kenyan Conundrum

Kenyan Conundrum

courtannulselectionDiplomats and experts alike are hailing Kenya’s Supreme Court for its decision Friday annulling the national elections as proof that this dynamic emerging nation has firmly sided on the rule of law.

I see it differently: another example that democracy is growing self-destructive. With opposition candidates already declining to take part in the announced election rerun, the chances for widespread violence and major political disruption are now greater than ever.

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Zeus to the Rescue

Zeus to the Rescue

MagufuliZeusTanzania’s president doesn’t so often follow the law as make it. The public doesn’t seem to mind. “He’s reducing corruption,” I often hear in his defense.

I’ve seen local police cower from motorists who are increasingly challenging their road stops. Clerks at national parks are subdued: The normal “chai” that greased palms is in short supply. Everybody fears that Magufuli will show up, fire them or worse, jail them.

But when “Magufuli Justice” was applied internationally, recently, it didn’t go so well.

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Corruption Starts at Home

Corruption Starts at Home

wherecoruptionstarts“Etete can smell the money. If at nearly 70 years old he turn(s) his nose up at nearly $1.2 bill he is completely certifiable. But I think he knows it’s his for the taking.”

This is an email from a consultant to a top-notch, highly educated, church-going multinational Shell oil executive referring to the bribe offered a Nigerian oil minister so that Shell could get control of one of the largest oil fields on earth. It was published by BuzzFeed working with by Global Witness.

We call this market capitalism. When done with sufficient finesse it’s not even illegal in the U.S. This is how the world goes round. Details at the Secretary of State’s office.

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Kurudisha Tanzania

Kurudisha Tanzania

BringBackRomaA very dark cloud forms over Tanzania. The country is increasingly unsafe … for Tanzanians. Kidnappings, extra-judicial interrogations and intimidations against opponents of the regime increase day by day.

Last week a popular Tanzanian rapper, Roma Mkatoliki, was kidnapped. Social media went bonkers. Fellow rappers produced a video that by this morning almost 100,000 people had watched on YouTube. The government of Tanzanian can ignore this no longer.

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What Future?

What Future?

imfmozambiqueReset by the global recession, reconfigured by massive new production of oil and gas in the U.S. simultaneously with aggressive development of non-fossil fuels, Africa begins to collapse.

Nigeria, Angola, Egypt and Algeria, even Ghana and many countries not wholly dependent upon natural resources are in economic tailspins. The best example is Mozambique.

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Not So Hidden Wealth

Not So Hidden Wealth

TanzanianGoldAt least 54 billion cubic feet of helium has been found in Tanzania. Add the country’s enormous gold reserves, large uranium deposits, massive coal, nickle and platinum reserves, Tanzania is now one of the richest countries in the world!

Or not.

Helium’s not as sexy as gold or uranium, but may actually be worth more. Engineers worldwide are celebrating the discovery as relieving the critical shortage of the gas which has stressed markets and high-tech companies for more than a decade. Helium is so important that the U.S. stockpiles it just like oil.

For nearly 25 years Tanzania’s natural resource deposits have just grown in leaps and bounds: More of the Great Rift Valley lies in Tanzania than any other country, and this is the reason it’s so resource rich. Yet the country remains poorer than 150 of the 185 countries ranked by the IMF in 2015.

The World Bank has lamented this situation for years: “Tanzania sits on about 15 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, equivalent to approximately US$150 billion … or 6 times Tanzania’s current GDP,” the bank advised in 2012.

Four years since that announcement, no natural gas has been extracted. Do you know how popular natural gas is at the moment?

For more than two generations, Tanzania has been unable to benefit from its enormous natural wealth. I’ve often written about it.

There are several reasons. Corruption underlies all of them.

Mutinational mining companies like Rio Tinto — which has tried multiple times to work in Tanzania and recently announced plans to develop its coal after abandoning both gold and uranium contracts here — are no sweethearts to work with. Tinto’s North Mara gold fields were often criticized by human rights organizations for miner abuse, even of using children. That led to a number of worker revolts. Tanzanian mines are often closed.

Point here is that government regulationa exist against all such workplace practices, but officials choose not to enforce them. Why? I’ll let you guess.

While the government developed the cities and airports near the mines years ago, it has allowed maintenance to horribly lapse. Mines need electricity. Tanzania has almost as many blackouts as electricity. Mines need roads. Tanzania never builds roads; it lets foreign donors do that.

Current Tanzanian government contracts with the multinational mining companies concede some of the lowest royalties in the world. And worse, government budgets show less than half what the mining companies claim to pay. Where’s the difference?

In the end the Chinese have cornered the Tanzanian mining market. Chinese dominate the gold and uranium mines, and I expect they will dominate the helium ones as well. That has been disastrous for the Tanzanian environment as Chinese mining practices are governed from afar by a home authority that looks sideways on its own expressed environmental concerns.

Tanzania’s problem is manifold, but in the end it all comes down to corruption. Often that corruption is started by the multinational. Understandably if yet distasteful, it’s hard for a lowly official who has not been paid by his government for three months to refuse a bribe.

That’s the core problem, really. It isn’t that people are evil. It’s that corruption is now systemic. The regulator’s income is paid by the company he regulates.

The current president, John Magufuli, is on a crusade to right the ship and end corruption. Just like every other president for the last 40 years.