In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL5 candidate Carolyne Waraga looks at the challenges facing the Kenya President as he tackles corruption in his government.

Once again, Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has come under severe criticism for escalating levels of corruption. Recently, the Ministry of Devolution and Planning faced a second scandal in a span of six months that involved procuring pens at the price of $85 each. When the former Cabinet Secretary was questioned, she said she was neither aware of the transaction nor responsible for procurement issues in the ministry. This culture of ‘it wasn’t me’ has been thriving. Even some citizens seem to have accepted that corruption will always happen and have given up on demanding accountability from their leaders. Commenting on the latest revelations, a security guard summed it up this way: ‘even if leaders are to steal they should steal just a little’.

There has however been some internal and external pressure for the government to show commitment in fighting against graft. International donors, trading partners and the civil society have mounted pressure on Kenyatta’s administration. This comes after Barack Obama’s trip to the country when the US President declared corruption as a cancer that needs to be dealt with followed by a similar plea from Pope Francis during his recent visit in November 2015. In a bid to show commitment, Kenyatta has reshuffled the cabinet and removed all officials whose graft has been exposed. He emphasised that he wants a clean-hands government in order to encourage international companies and investors who have previously been deterred from doing business in Kenya as a result of corruption. Observers say that this reshuffle is a political move to secure the 2017 general election which is perceived to depend on the government’s performance.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.

PfAL 5 candidate Caroline Miring’u argues in the Africa at LSE blog that regular teacher strikes in Kenya are risking the future of the next generation.

Public school enrolment and attendance in Kenya has grown but as long as the system is plagued by unending teachers’ strikes, the future of our children’s education is in jeopardy. Kenya’s educational system has evolved over the last several years and, like most systems, there are private and public (or government) schools. There have been major reforms in the educational sector aimed at making the public system just as competitive as the private.

The introduction of free primary education in 2003 saw an explosion of the student-teacher ratio which rose from 30:1 to 60:1 against the UNESCO standards of 24:1. Due to this, public school performance plummeted and parents who could afford chose to move their children to the better-performing private schools.

Then, in 2014, entry into public secondary schools was changed from enrolment by merit across the board to priority being given to pupils from public primary schools. This gave the latter a higher chance of being enrolled in a good public secondary school. This caused panic among parents and led to a huge reverse shift of children transferring from private to public schools.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.

As the world becomes increasingly intertwined, PfAL 5 scholar Susan Poni Lado reflects on the role of mass media in spreading culture globally in the Africa at LSE blog.

In an age of globalisation, the culture of both people and mass media is fluid. We have the inclination to appropriate it, mis-appropriate it and dis-appropriate it all at once. But what of those who live in the bubble of third culture?

After reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – who presented a dystopian reflection of her time as a child in war-torn Zimbabwe, followed by an account about the rest of her formative years growing up in the USA and having to acclimatise to the culture while at the same time pulling at the memories and remembrances of her beloved Zimbabwe (which she playfully terms: paradise) – I was prompted, if not inspired, to reflect on how third culture kids (or TCKs) relate to the world and how the physics of social norms can create new cultures through norm proliferation made ever so easy through the zenith of social media.

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.

By PfAL 5 candidate Nyaguthii Maina (Africa at LSE blog)

LSE’s Nyaguthii Maina finds that Winnie Byanyima is hopeful despite the continuing challenges the African continent faces.

Is Africa’s growth trajectory overhyped? Is it as Omidyar Network’s Ory Okolloh call, ‘a fetishisation’ over some of the continent’s development achievements at the heavy expense of turning a blind eye to the weighty issues? As she concernedly asks, “will technology ‘save’ the continent from its poorly run resources, bad leadership and ineptitude?” Is Africa really rising? And if she is indeed rising, who are the beneficiaries? This was the subject addressed by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International when she spoke at LSE on 12 October 2015.

“As I prepared to come here to give my views on this topic, I promised myself I would not be an Afro pessimist,” she announced. “My job has me talking about poverty everyday but being an African girl, I can say that I am proud of what Africa has achieved. I am proud of my country, the continent and her people and at the grassroots especially, you see a true reflection of the resilience of her people.”

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.

As the El-Niño season in Kenya approaches and warnings systems are put into action, PfAL 5 candidate Shezane Kabura analyses the reasons for a failure by citizens to heed weather alerts from authorities.

While sitting in a Managing Humanitarianism lecture and reflecting on the failure of early warning systems with regards to disaster preparedness, I started to think about news back home in Kenya about the impending El-Niño floods and analyse the early warning systems in place there.

Over the past few months, there have been numerous warnings all over the country about El-Niño. The Kenyan Meteorological Department has warned that the rains will affect some parts of the country in October and has asked the residents to prepare for possible flooding. However, many Kenyans have ignored these calls to move saying they do not have the means and resources to relocate to safer areas.

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.

PfAL 4’s Martin Namasaka co-writes an article with Milou Vanmulken in the Africa at LSE blog, arguing that exploiting the stalled fertility transition to meet the SDGs in African countries is contingent on improving public health and education institutions and promoting the informal sector as well as agriculture.

Recent estimates of Africa’s population indicate that in less than three generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be African (Ibrahim, 2012). Proponents of population growth postulate that this could act as a dynamic engine for agricultural growth and technological innovation. In contrast, pessimists predict that impending doom is correlated with this population growth given challenges such as food insecurity, depleting natural resources, rising unemployment, political instability as well as heterogeneous limits to growth in the continent’s economic prospects. The underlying limitation in these claims lies in understanding precisely how Africa can transform this population boom into economic gains to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

First, African countries will only reap a sizeable demographic dividend, if fertility rates decline rapidly. In light of the East Asian miracle, conventional theory posits that socio-economic development is a key determinant of fertility decline (Notestein, 1953; Easterlin, 1975). This experience offers valuable lessons for African countries, to focus on socio-economic development as an initial condition towards fertility decline. By declining mortality as well as fertility, East Asia experienced a rapid demographic transition between 1965 until 1990, leading to growth of the working age-population, four times compared to the young and elderly dependants, which primarily reduced the dependency ratio (Bloom et al., 2002).

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.

On the 2015 International Day of Democracy, LSE’s Nyaguthii Maina examines the role civil society and women can play in politics.

Today, 15 September 2015, little or not so little fifteen year old Muteteli from Rwanda aspires to one day be Member of Parliament. She aspires to represent constituents from her region, help young children grow up to be the best they could possibly be; to live to their full potential. Young Muteteli aspires to assist farmers to produce more food for internal use and export, teachers be well qualified, hospitals to have well run facilities and to overall harness the energies and innovation of the promising Rwandan youth.

I will one day be Member of Parliament, I will make good decisions and I will make Rwanda proud,” she muses amidst a smile. Are her dreams valid? Very much so.

If one asks Muteteli whether she is aware of what a civil society organization is, she will quickly respond with a resounding yes. “They are the people who hold my Member of Parliament representative accountable and raise issues on what needs to be done more of.” If one probes further on whether she would want a civil society during her parliamentary tenure, the answer is also a resounding yes. “Just as my mother holds me to account on my wrongs, I too want people to tell me where I should focus my energies.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.

[PfAL4’s] Donnas Ojok gives a brief history of agricultural co-operatives in Africa and discusses the potential these organisations have for the continent today. 

The agricultural co-operative movement in Africa started around the late 19th century and early 20th century. It thrived during the colonial era – mostly because of the administrative support provided by colonial authorities to satisfy their own interests. This led to an exploitative relationship which was later challenged by a combination of African co-operatives and labour unions leading to co-op and labour reforms towards the end of colonialism. Post-colonial African governments also took deliberate efforts to strengthen co-ops. These were mostly formed by plantation and cash-crop farmers and they prospered, providing employment for thousands of people and offering better market opportunities for farmers’ produce. Unfortunately, the rise of African dictators in the 1970s and 1980s like Mobutu, Kamuzu Banda, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha to mention but a few led to a difficult time for co-ops as these leaders pursued policies which were, for lack of a better word, disastrous to the entire agricultural sector. Amin’s economic war in Uganda is a classic illustration of this point.

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.

By Mitchell Aghatise (PfAL candidate, Nigeria)

Today was different. For the past few months we have been scavengers awaiting our next meal. Sustenance has become something to dread, death has become appealing.

Aisha was not from Chibok, but she was Nigerian. Or so she thought. Aisha basked in dreams of achievement, working tirelessly for it. Despite the pervasive poverty that spotted her area, she thought education was her ticket out. She was wrong. Her environment decided not to relinquish its grip; the narrative chose not to change, despite her best efforts.

That day was different too. The moment she was thrown against the iron bars of the rusty Hilux, she knew. In one fell swoop, her dreams had been dashed. Boko Haram had struck. All hope for her survival, for rescue, slowly faded as the vehicle maneuvered deeper into the Sambisa forest. She saw herself in all the girls who had made this trip before her, now awaiting her arrival. Formally strangers, but sisters, under this bond of broken dreams, dashed destinies, and an uncaring state.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.

By Lola Adeyemo, PfAL@LSE candidate

Nigeria decided. The recent presidential election was the most competitive in the history of the Nigerian state. As was widely reported, General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the two-year-old opposition party, All Progressives’ Congress (APC), is now the President-elect. His victory over the incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the de facto ruling party for the past sixteen years, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is being hailed as a step forward for democracy in Nigeria and on the African continent.

However, this is not the first time that General Buhari has taken part in a contest for the privilege of managing Africa’s largest economy and most populous country. Before winning in 2015, General Buhari had made three failed presidential bids. The last of those was in 2011 with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party he founded in 2009. This time around, the former military leader ran for the top position in government in Nigeria with the recently-formed APC – a merger of a number of small opposition parties including his own CPC. Although some have argued that the ethnic backgrounds of the names on the APC ticket alone helped secure the win, the election results demonstrated a widespread desire across all Nigerian regions for alternative governance.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.