Saturday, December 26, 2009

FINAL PROJECT: Sustainable Development in Africa: Challenges to Growth

The list of challenges Africa faces is commonly heard of and virtually endless: political corruption; extreme poverty and starvation; violence; racial intolerance; unmanageable external debts; pervasive military intervention in national politics; excessive population growth; poorly developed economic infrastructures; a tremendous prevalence of AIDS/HIVS and other diseases. Although this list (which still excludes a number of other substantial challenges) is blatantly grim and harsh, it is also obvious it must be established as a reality and addressed more than superficially. Clearly, if a country, let alone a continent of over 50 nations, faces even one of these challenges, it becomes difficult to establish and enforce a viable solution. But when such a high number of systematic challenges are intertwined, the issue of answers to these problems becomes even more complex.
Although it is unclear exactly how and when these issues will be tackled, what is apparent is the extreme importance of good governance to promote sustainable development, as all of these challenges either directly or indirectly correspond to a lack of self reliance and solidity in Africa. Sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” according to Kingsley Amoako in his book, Transforming Africa: an Agenda for Action. “It is a pattern of development that ensures a steady enhancement of well-being over time. It requires structural changes that lead to enduring widespread improvements in the quality of life in a society…[and] requires a systematic, carefully coordinated, interconnected series of policies and strategies that will improve people’s lives,” (49). Scholars argue sustainable development is multifaceted and includes, but is not limited to, economic, environmental, and institutional sustainability. The concept of sustainability is gaining more attention in both industrialized and developing countries. However, it is clear it has theoretical weaknesses. This paper, therefore, will look into sustainability’s obstacles, specifically in relation to Africa and the main factors contributing to its practical inadequacies on the continent. For starters, one area of ignorance is approaching sustainable development using Western style solutions and problem-solving methods as opposed to using more local, grassroots approaches utilizing Africa’s unique cultures, languages and ideas. This challenge and others (bureaucratic corruption, lack of democracy, international pressures, poor urban planning, agricultural inadequacies, and HIV/AIDS prevalence) is highlighted in a series of essays compiled in Sustainable Development in Africa: a Multifaceted Challenge, edited by Okecukwu Ukaga and Osita Afoaku.

Bureaucratic Corruption

Africa has experienced a long history of bureaucratic and political corruption that has significantly impeded opportunities for sustainable development. Regardless of European colonizers’ claims of efforts to civilize the continent, it is clear their plan did not consist of promoting developmental progress. In fact, according to Afoaku in his essay, “Linking Democracy and Sustainable Development in Africa,” colonizers worked to handicap Africa’s economic future: “In an effort to advance their colonial agenda, colonial rulers discredited Africa’s indigenous state institutions and, in their stead, imposed a crude version of the European state model,” (27). This included enforcing policies aimed at separating cohesive social groups, dividing logical and well-established trading areas, creating geographical units that were landlocked or contained limited or no resources, and strictly controlling allocation of various resources (including land). Additionally, colonial rulers made an effort to stop independent entrepreneurship by enforcing mostly inefficient policies establishing who had to produce what and how. And unfortunately, colonizers’ unfair policies left a permanent mark, continuing beyond independence.
At the end of colonization, most “new” leadership on the continent consisted of African elites who still had (and continue to have) ties to Africa’s former rulers. According to Kwesi Kwaa Prah in his essay, “Catch as Catch Can: Obstacles to Sustainable Development in Africa,” these elites have significantly failed at providing effective leadership: “A great deal of blame for Africa’s dire economic straits can be put to the graft, corruption and mismanagement of local economies by unscrupulous elites…[resulting in] much of foreign borrowing being squandered,” (14). This has led to a cycle of little to virtually no investment in Africa by the majority of its citizens. As a result of this corruption, most African people have suffered and, because of their poverty, have been unable to invest indigenous capital. Therefore, investment in Africa is limited to African elites, whose money primarily comes from ill-gotten or looted wealth in foreign banks. Instead of supporting domestic economies with their capital, these elites use it in developed market economics. Of course, this imposes major costs on the development of African people, leading to an inequitable distribution of income, inhibiting indigenous entrepreneurship and wealth creation, and impoverishing the majority of the population. These same African rulers only construct generic development programs developed in the West with the help of people who have no genuine interest in poverty alleviation (19).
One main example of money squandering by these unscrupulous elites pertains to regional security issues. Oftentimes, security revolves solely around protecting the ruling class from external aggression or domestic revolts. According to George Klay Kieh, Jr. in his essay, “Regional Security and Sustainable Development in Africa,” African political leaders attempt to preserve their regimes or the rule of their political party by wasteful spending for unnecessary weapons as opposed to other heavily needed economic resources for sustainable development – basic human needs such as education, health, food and transportation (170). This has led to a militarized nature in national politics and a reliance of force used to intimidate those who oppose the ruling party into submission. In the worst case, this culture of violence becomes a breeding ground for civil wars involving the state. These authoritarian regimes still exist in many countries and continually work to terminate efforts of democratization (177). “While the traditional military-security issues are certainly an important consideration, they are not sufficient to promote stability in the continent,” writes Kieh. “Instead, there is a need for a new security approach that has sustainable development as its foundation,” (188).

Lack of Democracy

The inept and corrupt leadership in Africa correlates to failing governmental systems postponing sustainable development. Although many African countries began their independence as “democratic,” post-colonial elites quickly shifted to dictatorships instead. According to Afoaku, the over-centralized state in post-colonial Africa dismantled institutional checks and balances, created personal rule networks and silenced civil society. Many African governments contained a one or no party system and gave no role or power to local government. Additionally, these dictatorships abused basic human rights, started civil wars, contributed to a massive mismanagement of waste by developing “outrageously ill-conceived” projects, and discriminated against peasant farmers and ethnic minorities (30). The 1994 Rwandan genocide is just one example of a state sponsored program defended by the fact that victims were supposedly from the wrong ethnic groups, regions or religions. “The credibility of the African state plummeted dramatically in the course of the post-independence period,” Afoaku writes. “Without doubt, the primary source of this crisis of legitimacy is the failure of the post-colonial state to promote sustainable development,” (33). Unfortunately, the most recent transition to electoral democracy has not improved Africa’s state much.
Afoaku, in fact, claims too much emphasis is placed on electoral democracy as opposed to what should be the main goal of improving Africa’s political state – neutralizing the political legacies of colonials: “The persistence of the colonial state in various forms has hampered the development of the local institutions necessary to meet the goals of sustainable development,” (50). Evidenced by the mass of electoral fraud still existent in Africa, the purpose of winning elections “democratically” oftentimes still remains the same – to amass wealth through the abuse of public office, as opposed to improving citizen’s lives through promoting fair public policy and sustainable development. As Afoaku writes, “Quite often, the short-term goal of holding elections to enable the countries to qualify as budding democracies have run counter to the long-term issues of representation and justice that are fundamental to reconstituting genuine democratic political order,” (41). As a result, only “semi-democracies” have emerged in Africa since the 1990s. These semi-democracies are exemplified by political leaders’ unwillingness to be transparent and held accountable for promoting an environment favorable to sustainable development. In Zimbabwe, for example, the Indigenous Business Development Center and black entrepreneurs have experienced hostility from the government because they are viewed as a danger to its state.
Clearly, the politics of democratic transition in Africa has not centered on reaching the countries’ developmental potential. Afoaku writes, “It is imperative that these countries create a normative environment rooted in the values of democracy and equity in order to bridge the staggering gap between Africa’s immense developmental potential and the dismal social and economic conditions on the continent,” (24). To do this, he advocates citizen participation and decentralization. Long range domestic programs of civic education addressing both partisan politics and public policy are crucial to helping Africa’s citizens understand and actually know what they need, which includes constitutional rights and the ability to seek remedy on any violations against them. Re-institutionalizing indigenous norms regarding the importance of placing community values before individual wants is also vital (52). In addition to the internal threat of poorly performing democracies to sustainability in Africa, external factors are also major problems.

International Indebtedness and Economic Pressures

Much of Africa’s income and export earnings are dedicated to international debt servicing, limiting the resources available for sustainable development. “Africa’s debt is so large in comparison to the continent’s income that it cannot be repaid,” writes Prah. “For as long as Western creditors refuse to cancel the debt, the latter constitutes a veritable albatross around Africa’s neck, and inhibits the scope of development…Expenditure for health, education and social welfare are reduced to zero,” (16). This becomes a cyclical problem, as development budgets are at least 90 percent reliant on external donor funding (24). African countries face a significant number of “conditionalities” and debt pressures, often referred to as a new form of colonialism, by being forced to abide by policies established by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They are unable to make their own domestic policies, instead abiding to global industrial leaders. Although the World Bank has established an initiative to alleviate some debt through its Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries program, the money saved through reduced debt does not have to be spent on sustainable development projects therefore subjecting more wasteful spending by unscrupulous leaders who should use the debt relief for other purposes (11).
International pressures become an even greater problem because African countries are still marginalized in the overall world of global division labor. According to Kieh, African workers are continually exploited by being paid “starvation wages” (179). The global system of economic relations of production, distribution and exchange is clearly inequitable. Industrialized countries are placing increasing tariff and non-tariff barriers (duties, quotas, subsidies, complicated regulations, etc.) on goods in an effort to protect themselves from Africa’s competitive prices on commodity products. Additionally, since colonization, the international demands for Africa’s natural resources have placed enormous pressure on the continent to comply with cash crop production and oil exploration, which result in ecological disasters and virtually no economic advantage to its citizens. African governments also lessen the chances for sustainable development in the arena of environmental protection. Toxic waste, including raw sewage, incinerated ashes, radioactive waste, contaminated oils, pesticides, and poisonous solvents, are only a few of the hazardous materials African governments are pressured to accept when shipped from developed countries due to their lack of foreign trade and hard currency (39).

Poor Urban Planning

There are several problems related to the growing influx of citizens to urban areas in Africa. Cities are lacking greater control over their citizens, especially because their economic bases are not strong enough to support such a heavily growing population. In his essay, “Planning Sustainable Cities in Africa,” Geoffrey I. Nwaka writes that this is detrimental to Africa’s sustainable health. Although cities should be a main focus in alleviating poverty and promoting development, “the rapid pace of urbanization and the enormous scale of unmet needs are taking a heavy toll on the continent’s cities and urban populations, especially the urban poor who live and work in appalling conditions that threaten their health and undermine their productivity,” (119).
Infrastructure and service deficiencies are evident in the environmental problems cities face. Many residents live in “squalid” conditions that are, in some cases, more threatening to their health than those in rural areas. In regard to housing problems, over half of urban dwellings are crowded, structurally defective, and located on undesirable sites that do not provide adequate defense against diseases because they are built without any professional advice (123). Water and improper sanitation are other major challenges. The lack of safe water for personal and domestic hygiene as well as the absence of proper sanitation facilities (particularly in peri-urban areas) commonly lead to water-borne and filth-related diseases, attributing to cholera and other deadly outbreaks. Additionally, solid waste management and draining form a serious health risk. As much as half of city garbage stays in open dumpsites, making it easy for disease carrying insects and rodents to flourish. Food related health problems among the urban poor oftentimes lead to premature death. The widespread street foods industry, food poisoning in market places, lack of storage and refrigeration facilities to prevent spoilage and contamination are all contributing factors (124).
For sustainable development to prosper in Africa, it is essential its cities become better managed. As Nwaka writes, “The poor state of the urban environment reflects both the ineffectiveness of past approaches to urban management, and the enormous scale of urban problems in relation to the declining resources available to deal with them,” (126). He recommends the government should focus more on enabling others to be productive by decentralizing functions from large cities to smaller ones as well as from central to local authorities. This type of grassroots participation would facilitate a larger role for both the formal and informal private sector (130).

Agricultural Inadequacies

Problems such as soil erosion, landslides, mudslides and other impediments to environmental sustainability are the result of poor agricultural practices, which started in the colonial period. As Ukaga explains in his essay, “Overcoming Challenges to Sustainable Agricultural Development in Africa”:
Agriculture began to get progressively out of balance with people’s needs, the local environment, and resources available for…production. This lack of balance was largely due to colonial policies designed to benefit Europe at the expense of Africa. Farmers were pushed to produce crops that Europeans wanted instead of those Africans depended on. A significant amount of quality land was devoted to cash crop to meet external colonial desires, instead of using it to produce food for the local population (192).
Additionally, European farmers were granted the best land after it was confiscated from its African owners. Unfortunately, since independence, indigenous leaders have been ineffective at changing the poor agricultural conditions in Africa. In many cases, they have actually worsened. Lack of engagement in agriculture has led to deterioration in food supply for the population. This can be attributed to one of three factors hurting agricultural sustainable development: natural, structural, and human/socio-political.
Natural factors are mainly related to scanty and unpredictable rain, which drives agriculture in Africa and leaves most of the population extremely vulnerable to drought. Zambia, for example, suffered a severe drought in the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in famine and hunger-induced riots. Decades later, the country is still attempting to recover. In 1984, Ethiopia also suffered a severe drought, ultimately leading to the death of over a million people (194). In addition to having too little rain, parts of Africa are also susceptible to having too much. Rainfall can become so intense that it deteriorates the soil structure, destroys crops, and kills livestock. Floods also obviously make the agricultural problem worse by displacing a tremendous number of people, further misbalancing food supply and distribution.
In addition to natural factors, issues such as inadequate infrastructure for production, storage, processing, marketing and distribution pose a problem to agricultural sustainable development. Due to extremely poor transportation systems and roads, “up to 40 percent of farm produce in Africa is wasted, while people go hungry only a few hundred miles from where surplus crop may be rotting,” writes Ukaga. “Further, farm incomes tend to be relatively low in areas with poor access roads and transport systems. This not only serves as a disincentive for people in such areas to farm, but also limits the ability of those who do farm from generating enough income that can be re-invested in agriculture,” (196). Additionally, farmers have extremely limited access to relevant farming information and find it difficult to obtain the necessary credit to invest in proper tools. This means they oftentimes have to resort to basic equipment that results in lower productivity and decreased profits. And, as stated earlier, the inequitable rules of international trade are hurting many African farmers and communities, as poor policies and unfair structures force them to produce specific crops through corrupt and inefficient agents or marketing boards that minimally pay them. These structural agricultural factors ultimately leave Africa dependent on foreign aid and imported food despite the continent’s vast resources.
Human and socio-political factors, such as poverty, corruption, inter-ethnic conflicts, and civil wars also negatively impact agricultural sustainability. Instead of leaving room for investment in agriculture, these issues take the forefront and waste valuable resources as well as discourage entrepreneurship. Conflicts disrupt normal activities, turn farmlands in battlefields leaving them useless, condemn farmlands via land mines, and place burdens on countries that receive a flood of refugees who have been displaced. These agricultural disruptions have occurred numerous times in Somalia, the Sudan, Rwanda, Mozambique, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe. Finally, other human factors include the prevalence of debilitating diseases (malaria, bilharzias, guinea worm, intestinal parasites, HIV/AIDS) that reduce agricultural productiveness and reduce the level of funds available for development (205).
Solving these challenges of agricultural development in Africa requires a change in incentives to improve the productive capacity of farmers. According to Ukaga, a significant percentage of resources must be dedicated to establishing and maintaining infrastructures. This would increase farmers’ profit margins, as they would be able to make purchase of inputs and selling of outputs significantly easier and more efficient. Additionally, better access to credit would encourage farmers to invest in improved agricultural tools that yield greater profits.
Finally, African governments must, on the global scale, be adamant and negotiate persistently about reform to allow farmers to participate more advantageously in international trade (208).

HIV/AIDS Prevalence

The challenges HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) bring to Africa impact virtually every problem associated with sustainable development on the continent. Once infected with AIDS, individuals become more susceptible to opportunistic diseases such as recurrent pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, invasive cervical cancer, malaria, and tuberculosis, which all create a greater threat to individuals whose immune systems are not working properly. According to William Ebomoyi and Afoaku in their essay, “The African HIV/AIDS Crisis and Challenges to Sustainable Development,” Africa has a disproportionate number of the world’s AIDS victims, yet is far behind on achieving the necessary resources to fight the problem. The majority of health care facilities, for example, are deficient in diagnostic tools to test for infection. Another problem is that even when facilities do have the tools, many Africans are reluctant to get tested and seek care because of the social stigma connected to the disease (223).
The impact of AIDS and its related opportunistic diseases is far reaching. According to estimates, it has left approximately 12 million children orphaned in Africa, as the continent houses 80 percent of worldwide children who have lost their parents to AIDS (The Problems Faced by AIDS Orphans). This leaves them unable to learn basic agricultural skills, production techniques, nutrition and health knowledge, as well as about their culture and customs. According to Ebomoyi and Afoaku, AIDS has significantly reduced the productive capacity of Africa and its prospects for economic growth and development, as it significantly reduces the labor force: “AIDS mostly devastates the productive age group of 15 through 50 years. It is expected that up to 25 percent of the agricultural labor force could be lost in countries of sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 unless the present trend in AIDS prevalence is reversed,” (230). Unfortunately, the reversal of this trend looks grim, as a variety of factors contribute to the prevalence of the deadly disease in Africa:
-Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): especially common among the growing population of female sex workers, poor sanitary conditions and lack of medical care.
-Multiple concurrent sexual partners: polygamy remains a common social practice among many societies. Additionally, men do not face serious social sanctions for infidelity.
-Commercial sex workers: especially susceptible to AIDS and infecting others due to geographic mobility and the migration of young female prostitutes to urban communities.
-Low condom use: still signifies a cultural resistance for safe sex practices.
-Circumcision, scarification and similar cultural practices: female circumcision is still common among some societies and involves heavy bleeding; local healers use surgical tools that are not sterilized to perform the act.
-Rapid growth of urbanization: cities are attracting young job seeks who are poor, illiterate, and less likely to be concerned with long-term implications of AIDS while fighting for daily survival.
-Breast feeding
-High fertility rates: limit available resources to fight epidemic. Additionally, having a youthful population increases concentration of sexually active individuals who pose high risk of infection.
-Ecology: sub-Saharan Africa’s tropical and ecological conditions are favorable for spread of many parasitic and viral diseases associated with HIV-related opportunistic infections (225-228).
-Cultural barriers/lack of education: limit public discussion about STDs and spread of HIV/AIDS, denying young people the chance to learn about the benefits of monogamy, sexual abstinence, condoms and other precautions. Additionally, African schools oftentimes lack instructional materials and textbooks and have poorly trained and unqualified teachers (222, 229-231).
Ebomoyi and Afoaku urge African governments to declare wars on prostitution, polygamy, child marriage, female illiteracy and other cultural practices that mitigate the burden of AIDS in Africa. Without increased resources effectively addressing the problem, Africa’s chances of sustainable development are severely limited.


The need for sustainable development practices in Africa is tremendous. If its countries do not begin becoming more self-reliant and meeting the needs of their people without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, it will continue on a downward path. However, as discussed, establishing effective sustainable development practices in Africa is not easy, as sustainable development has a number of theoretical weaknesses and practical inadequacies due to significant problems such as bureaucratic corruption, lack of democracy, great international and economic pressures, poor urban planning, agricultural inadequacies, and HIV/AIDS prevalence.
However, there is hope for sustainable development in Africa if its leaders begin to recognize the need for good domestic governance and promote grassroots efforts for change. Ukaga lists several ways this can happen. Among others, these include:
-Reconstructing the neocolonial state in order to revise its approach to dealing with political, economic, social and environmental issues
-Reflecting indigenous values, cultures and objective conditions in state policies and programs instead of the indiscriminate adoption and cheap mimicry of Western practices and paradigms that have little or no relevance to the African socio-cultural conditions and necessities
-Minimizing opportunism, rent-seeking and bad governance by establishing constitutionally limited governments and economic systems through well-structured democratic sets of rules that reflect and protect the interests of all stakeholders
-Paying more attention to the human dimensions and issues associated with immediate needs of survival and development in African cities and communities
-Developing new values and attitudes about nationalism, patriotism, ethnic and religious pluralism, political tolerance, gender equity…effective leadership, accountability, and so on, and transferring these values through a socialization process that involves all major societal institutions (238).
Therefore, sustainable development’s obstacles should not be viewed in isolation. Instead, leaders should underline the importance of entire systems that stress education and human capital formation through participatory and people-driven solutions. If this happens, Africa will become far closer to achieving at least a nearer sustainable development ideal.

Works Cited

Afoaku, Osita G. "Linking Democracy and Sustainable Development in Africa." Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Okechukwu Ukaga. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 23-56. Print.
Amoako, Kingsley Y. Transforming Africa: An Agenda for Action. Addis Ababa: Economic
Comissions for Africa, 2005. N. pag. Google Books. Web. 20 Dec. 2009.

Ebomoyi, William and Osita G. Afoaku. "The African HIV/AIDS Crisis and Challenges to Sustainable Development." Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Okechukwu Ukaga. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 221-236. Print. Kieh, George Klay Kieh, Jr. "Regional Security and Sustainable Development in Africa."
Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Okechukwu Ukaga and Osita G Afoaku. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 169-190. Print. Nwaka, Geoffrey I. "Planning Sustainable Cities in Africa." Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Okechukwu Ukaga and Osita G Afoaku. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 119-138. Print. Prah, Kwesi Kwaa. "Catch as Catch Can: Obstacles to Sustainable Development in Africa." Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Okechukwu Ukaga and Osita G Afoaku. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 7-22. Print.
"The Problems Faced by AIDS Orphans." Aids Orphans. Avert, 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 23 Dec. 2009. .Ukaga, Okechukwu. "Overcoming Challenges to Sustainable Agricultural Development in Africa." Sustainable Development in Africa: A Multifacted Challenge. Ed. Osita G Afoaku. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 2005. 191-220. Print.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two days ago, my class met on campus for our first seminar since returning from Mozambique. We all had giant smiles on our faces. Although we, at times, got frustrated and annoyed with each other during the trip (C’mon…Is it possible not to after spending 14 consecutive days together?), upon returning, there was definitely a different element of understanding among us. We all experienced a closeness classmates and faculty members in regular school settings just do not get. Our initial discussion was based on the best parts of the trip and areas that could use improvement. As we continued to talk, however, the discussion turned toward an even more meaningful reflection as we tried thinking of ways to present our experience to individuals outside of our class at Wayne State and to the greater Detroit community. As we discovered, this was a pretty difficult task. How does one (actually, how do more than a dozen people) capture and present such an experience to accurately and fully portray what we learned and saw? Personally, since returning from Mozambique, not a day has gone by without individual reflections of all I observed. In fact, I think it’d be impossible for anyone who went not to think – almost on a constant basis – about the experience and ponder what to do with the information gathered.

So, the task for this week is to do just that…begin analyzing what we studied in Mozambique. The undertaking is to reflect on the group project based on Culture & Religion and relate it to an overall perspective of the theme of democracy in Mozambique.

My group had the opportunity to meet with several influential people within cultural and religious groups. These included, among others, an evangelical pastor; Nazareth, a traditional healer; Dr. Cabula, another traditional healer; Zionist church members; Dinis Matsolo, Reverend of the Methodist Church; Bishop Sengulane of the Anglican Church. Each individual, unsurprisingly, contributed different perspectives on religion, culture and democracy. Overall themes, however, were apparent. It appeared the formal, institutional religions did not officially recognize or support any particular party, although they all claimed to encourage electoral participation and voting. As Bishop Sengulane put it, “Good Anglicans must be good citizens, and good citizens must vote.” The evangelical pastor, in fact, said he routinely encourages political participation in his messages to his congregation each week.

When visiting those who exercise traditional practices, however, support undoubtedly leaned toward the ruling party. Traditional healer, Dr. Capula, for example, recalled tragic memories from the civil war and how he still relates horrific events to the opposition party. When speaking with Zionist church members who performed spiritual and cleansing rituals, each individual’s support for Frelimo was also clear. The group members proudly held up their ink-covered fingers to display the importance of voting for the ruling party, which served as their savior during colonization. Below are images from our experience with these members:

Members also felt the current government was providing enough support, as they were affiliated with the Council of Churches run through it. Regardless of all the different beliefs we heard, each individual said he or she prays for spiritual guidance in who to support and vote for, displaying that religion and politics are, indeed, intertwined.
"A picture is worth a thousand words."

As I search for ways to capture my recent experience in Africa, this adage most accurately describes what I feel will best represent what I saw, learned, and most vividly remember.

October 22, 2009 - Johannesburg, South Africa: Before embarking on our journey to Mozambique, the group got a taste of South Africa. We took a tour with a memorable guide, who showed us parts of the City, including its downtown, SOWETO (South Western Townships), apartheid museum, one of Nelson Mandela’s homes, the Hector Peterson memorial, and new city developments, such as the 2010 World Cup stadium. This was clearly an ambitious agenda for a single day, one that opened my eyes to a completely different world.

October 23, 2009 – Maputo, Mozambique: The following day, Dr. Reid and Michael greeted us in style. The group had an amazing seafood lunch at Costa Do Sol, overlooking Maputo’s beautiful coast. But, perhaps, what was most exciting was the drive itself from the airport to the restaurant. Energy was running high on our bus, as we all immediately recognized how much culture and character Maputo has.

After lunch, we immediately hit the ground running. First thing on the agenda? Meeting former Mozambican president, Joaquim Chissano. Although this is something we all knew would happen, I don’t think we all really understood how much of a unique, amazing, inspiring opportunity this was until the moment he entered the conference room. Chissano gave us a background on Mozambique and its long history as well as an explanation of the progress the country has made. He patiently answered our questions ranging from topics such as democracy to health care to religion to education.

October 24, 2009: Next on the group’s agenda was observing the atmosphere and events taking place in the City, as Election Day was nearing quickly. We visited and interviewed the head of one of a total of seven Frelimo campaign headquarters. Outside, a group of children demonstrated who they wanted to win the election, as they repeatedly sung a memorable tune – “Vota, Vota Guebuza” – and lavished in the camera attention they were getting from our film crew.

October 25, 2009: Sunday was the last day for political parties to host campaign activities in Mozambique. The last two days leading up to the election were meant to give Mozambicans an opportunity to peacefully and clearly reflect on the important decision to be made on Election Day. We visited numerous political rallies, including ones for Frelimo and the newly-formed party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). The one shown here is for Frelimo, where there was a highly energetic and loud crowd of hundreds of party supporters who danced, ate and celebrated what they felt confident would happen soon.

October 26, 2009: Another busy day for our group. First on the agenda was a meeting with the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, which served as a great resource of information and contacts we had the opportunity to make later in our trip. The group also had a meeting with the Community Economic Development (CED) organization, which explained the electoral and counting processes it is heavily involved in. Pictured here is an interview we had with MDM party campaigners, who were all former Renamo party members. We learned more about MDM’s vision for the future, one filled with change, hope and inspiring promises. Professor Krause is showing off his boom mic. skills, as we all simultaneously learned more about the filmmaking process.

October 27, 2009: This day was, undoubtedly, one of the most memorable highlights of my trip. My group traveled further into the countryside to explore traditional religion and healing. On our way, we were fortunate enough to spot Zionist church members performing cleansing rituals on the beach, which members do daily. They invited us to come to their church mass later that week.

As my group ventured further out, we visited two traditional healers, one of whom is shown here – Dr. Capula. He explained the different medicines used to heal people of certain illnesses, to help them find employment as well as to assist single individuals to find partners. According to Dr. Capula, the success rate of these medicines and his performance is 100%. This experience was life changing for me, as I realized such a unique opportunity like this may only come along once in a lifetime.

Here, Dr. Capula poses with my group. He said he would have offered us a goat if he had had more advanced notice of our arrival, which we all thankfully and graciously declined :)

October 28, 2009: This is the day we had all been waiting for: ELECTION DAY! Small groups ventured out to interview prospective voters, many of whom were willing to share their views on each of the political parties. Several people seemed to support MDM, as they appreciated their vision constituting change. Pictured here is one secondary school where voting took place. We even received the opportunity to go inside the polling station and observe the voting process – again, a once in a lifetime, extremely eye-opening opportunity.

Here, the group watches news coverage on the election and observes updates on each party’s progress.

October 29, 2009: Following the elections, the group was able to venture the furthest it had been outside of Maputo. We drove about 3 hours into Gaza Province and visited the town President Chissano had grown up in. Pictured here are children anxiously awaiting our gifts just outside of his former church.

Gaza was yet another eye-opening experience, as I saw Mozambique’s beautiful, vast landscapes with scattered homes built of wood and straw like the one shown here. I had never seen this type of living before. It seems that valuable day trip made us all question what we truly need in life and how grateful we should be for what we have at home.

October 30, 2009: This day, we visited the Zionist church members once again, who displayed rituals they perform for a variety of occasions, such as praying for the sick before they go to the hospital and praying for women during their pregnancies. The rhythm, song and dances we heard and saw were extremely powerful and moving.

October 31, 2009: A free day spent in Kruger National Park.

November 1, 2009: A day get-away to Beline beach.
November 2, 2009: This day was spent finishing up individual projects. I had the opportunity to visit Maputo’s Ministry of Planning and Development, Investment and Promotion Center, Chamber of Commerce, and also got to meet an economics officer from the U.S. Embassy. Sadly, this was also time to say good-bye. The group developed great relationships with our translators and drivers, who played such major roles in making our Mozambican experience so unique.
These pictures and stories only represent a sampling of what I saw, learned, and remember. As one can see, they really are worth a thousand (and more) words.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whew! Talk (or should I say write) about feeling down to the wire. Half-a-day and counting until my class is at the airport waiting for its departure. At this point, I should feel pretty good. I have officially finished packing; my vaccinations are all set; my automatic reply email and voicemail stating my “limited access” for the next two weeks are arranged; I started taking my Malaria pills on time; I had my last dinner with my family giving them all hotel/contact details; my ride to the airport confirmed a noon departure. Yet, despite the preparation, I’m feeling pretty anxious, a somewhat unfamiliar emotion I normally don’t experience prior to such a prepared trip. As I reflect on all I and my class have learned, though, since my first blog post only a month and a half ago – insights on Mozambique and its politics from our professors and from the country’s lead experts, survival Portuguese, basic filmmaking rules and techniques, to name a few – I realize why such nervousness exists. And, no, it’s not only there because of the day-long plane ride we have ahead of us. Just a couple of days from now, we are really going to put all of our lessons into practice. By doing so, we can reach both desired group and individual goals.

Beyond observing the overall themes of democracy and elections my whole class will study in Mozambique, my smaller group will focus on Religion & Culture. Our goals are mainly twofold: 1) to compare and contrast the major formal, organized religious practices in Mozambique to those in the states, and 2) to compare and contrast those formal, organized religions in Mozambique to those of indigenous and traditional religions simultaneously practiced there. To do so, we hope to attend religious ceremonies, speak to a variety of those who practice some form of religion (ranging from elders to the youth), and gain insights from spiritual leaders, or “healers,” who are willing to share their stories. Although my individual project is not yet concrete, I hope to find inspiration on how these religious practices influence Mozambican culture. Are the two completely intertwined? What differences are there when comparing practices in the City versus those in countryside? How similar are the people and their religions to those we experience at home? The questions are truly limitless. I think we’re all excited to have some of them answered soon.

In addition to asking these questions only others can answer for me, I also hope to acknowledge personal questions of my own. This trip will, to say the least, be a step out of my comfort zone. I want to fully appreciate that – to live in the moment, to try my best to connect with the locals, and to perhaps recognize or bring out my creative side that I know somewhere, deep down exists. Wish me luck – I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

Monday, October 5, 2009

It was only three weeks ago that my ADPM class consisted of an enlightening discussion with one of Mozambique’s lead experts – Anne Pitcher. Two days from now, we get another distinct opportunity to speak with Carrie Manning, author of The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992 – 2000 and professor at Georgia State University. So far, we’ve looked at her book and writings on semi-presidentialism. The next step is to gain additional insights from her in person, ones that may not be as easily translated or interpreted through text.

Reading The Politics of Peace in Mozambique, the chapter on the country’s 1999 election was of particular interest. Manning explained that this election was Mozambique’s true first post-transition general election, as the one prior to it focused more on the civil war’s end as opposed to democracy. At first, regardless of its technical difficulties, this election seemed to separate itself from problems normally associated with second elections in Africa – low voter turnout, opposition boycotts, etc. In fact, one of Mozambique’s positive democratic indicators was the symbolism behind the losing party’s contest of its results. Although this introductory information was consistent with other authors’ writings, the rest of the chapter opened my eyes to just how unexpected the 1999 election results were – and just how significant some of the problems that arose because of it became.

Manning wrote that the most surprising aspect of the election was undoubtedly the extremely close race for presidency. Much greater popularity for Joaquim Chissano was expected, partially attributable to his involvement in regional peace initiatives and his selection as the Southern Africa Development Community president. Renamo representative Dhlakama’s only title was “leader of the opposition,” which carried no specific responsibilities or authorities. Although Renamo’s alliance with multiple opposition parties was expected to give it a significant boost in the parliamentary race, its power in the presidential race seemed much more inconsequential than it actually was. In the end, Chissano’s margin of victory was smaller than the total number of ballots represented by polling station tally sheets. Renamo strongly contested the end results, also signifying how much mistrust still lied in the new electoral system.

This idea is similar to one Pitcher expressed when she explained that a common misconception about Renamo is its lack of strength. Although some literature has dismissed Renamo and its supporters as “bandits,” it has unjustifiably done so. Pitcher made it clear Renamo is still legitimate with a large voter base.

However, because a decade has passed since the 1999 election and a new party has since emerged – the Democratic Movement of Mozambique – what are the implications for Renamo’s strength? Will many of its supporters focus their efforts on the new party? Could this election symbolize the demise of Renamo? Also, does Manning predict as close of a race among parties like the one that occurred in 1999? What does this indicate regarding the future of Mozambique’s democracy?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

After Professor Pitcher visited class a couple of weeks ago, I paraphrased, in my blog, a comment she made revolving around the idea that nothing surprises her about Mozambique’s political system after observing what happens within America’s. She was referencing corruption within systems, particularly by certain individuals and parties only trying to get as much power as possible, as opposed to focusing on what really matters to the people they are supposedly representing. This comment/idea certainly has a negative connotation to it. However, it’s also clear that Pitcher and many Americans, in general, have deep pride in their country’s ideal system, the one that many of their ancestors fought and died for. Reflecting on this ambiguity of emotions toward the American political system that is so obvious in the U.S.’s society today, I wonder if Mozambicans have more clear-cut feelings toward the new political system they are facing. Although both America and Mozambique consider themselves democracies, what are the differences between the two? The similarities? Before experiencing how Mozambican citizens truly feel and view their system, our class is looking at the underlying structures, the formal institutional architectures, of both American and Mozambican democracy. More specifically, we have been reading about constitutional and electoral systems, which have high impact on issues related to governance, political stability and policy making. As we read Carrie Manning, Arendt Lijphart, and the IDEA National Handbook on Constitutions and Elections, we learn different electoral systems oftentimes produce diverse political results.

Manning’s work, Semi-presidentialism and the preservation of ambiguity in post-war Mozambique, describes the country’s experience with semi-presidentialism. Readers can contrast this with America’s presidentialism. Semi-presidentialism includes a president and a prime minister (defined as an auxiliary to the president who has limited powers). Manning compares the relationship of Mozambique’s president and prime minister to that of the relationship of America’s president and vice president. IDEA’s chapter, Electoral Systems, Institutional Frameworks and Governance, describes similarities between the two systems. Both presidential and semi-presidential constitutions elect presidents directly. Additionally, within both systems, the elected president’s position does not depend on maintaining the confidence of the legislature; he cannot lose his office solely based on policy grounds. In both systems, the president is head of government and head of state as well.

Differences, however, do exist when comparing the electoral systems of the U.S. and Mozambique. IDEA states that America is unique in carrying out its national presidential election by FPTP at the federal state level (FPTP is analogous to a plurality voting system, a single-winner voting system, or winner-takes-all system; the candidate with the most votes wins the election regardless of whether or not he gains an absolute majority in the election). This system can lead to an election winner who polled fewer votes than the runner up, as was the case in America’s 2000 election. Mozambique, on the other hand, uses a Two-Round System. By doing so, it avoids election of a candidate who polled only a small proportion of the popular vote. If no one candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes in the first round of elections, a second poll is held. During this “run-off,” the two strongest candidates from the first election compete. The winner of the run-off is then elected. According to IDEA, presidential terms are limited to two consecutive five year terms in Mozambique. However, after another five years, a candidate can run for re-election.

Although it is not protected under law, elections in the U.S. generally constitute a two-party system. Historically, this has also been the case in Mozambique (Frelimo v. Renamo), but its 2009 election shows an emergence of a third party – the Democratic Movement of Mozambique. The effects and significance of this third party are not yet clear.

Manning categorizes Mozambique’s system as a “highly presidentialized semi-presidential regime.” Since the president in Mozambique elects the prime minister himself, the position has usually been filled by someone who has a similar background and profile of the president and who benefits from his highest confidence. In other nations, this category of semi-presidentialism generally performs badly. What is most appealing about Mozambique’s system, however, is the fact that it hasn’t. Manning describes Mozambique’s experience as a unique, “surprise success story.” Since using the system, citizens have not returned to armed conflict, there has only been one episode of political violence, and three sets of effective and successful elections have taken place.

However, certain aspects of Mozambique’s system have proven less appealing. Although she agrees Mozambique is a unique, overall success story, Pitcher described some of the country’s challenges related to its elections during her class lecture. There has been no change of the party in power since 1975, party identities are polarized and fixed, voter turnout is declining, voters lack necessary information, and there is strong partisan loyalty.

Clearly, there are numerous similarities and differences between America’s and Mozambique’s political systems. After having studied the formal architectural structures of both, the next step is to hear opinions from Mozambicans themselves. Do they hold a similar ambiguity in emotions, both skepticism and optimism, regarding their system comparable to that of Americans? I hope our class discovers how Mozambique’s electoral system has encouraged different party systems, organizations, and citizens.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It was only the second week of class (Sept. 16) and, already, we had quite an impressive agenda – Anne Pitcher. The author of one of the course’s books, Transforming Mozambique: the Politics of Privatization, discussed a political and economic analysis of the country. Pitcher, through her countless travels to and research in Mozambique, is undoubtedly an expert on what our class is studying. Although I and my fellow classmates clearly have interest in her work, what is perhaps even more exciting, is that she has an equal interest in ours! Pitcher may even reconnect with us in Mozambique to participate in viewing the nation’s election.

As one can imagine, Pitcher had plenty of practical advice for first-time travelers to Mozambique: what medicine to take, interesting scenery to observe (i.e. street signs symbolizing particular liberation movement support), what cuisine is a must have – apparently, certain shrimp is to die for – and what chow generally doesn’t sit well with foreigners. The list goes on. Clearly, she gave our class plenty of “food for thought” – okay, okay; I’ll stop with the cheesiness. Thus, moving on to a deeper level, Pitcher made us question what clearly inspires some of her most passionate work: the meaning of democracy. How convenient for our “African Democracy Project” course!

What particularly surprised and interested me was Pitcher’s finding of similarities among democracies that, on the outside, appear extremely different from one another. As Pitcher said (disclaimer: I’m paraphrasing here), “Nothing surprises me in African politics after seeing what happens in America.” Regardless of the democracy one is in, politics will not necessarily always work for the people, but instead, work to hang onto or capture power. I hope I’m not making Pitcher’s view on democracy sound too pessimistic. She clearly has respect and appreciation for certain democratic movements, even in the states, but criticizes certain parties for opposing them solely for the sake of resistance – to capture power rather than support what is best for the people. I suppose I expected differences to be pointed out rather than this blunt similarity – I appreciated Pitcher’s honesty.

So….before I get into what democracy means to me, my goal is to recap other interesting information Pitcher emphasized. Some of it may be well-known, but my purpose is to reflect on it more before I give my own definition. Secondly, these facts will highlight what may be the most important issues regarding democracy for the people of Mozambique.

Pitcher mentioned “critical features of independence” post colonization that, in addition to low levels of literacy, skills training and lack of experience in governing, included little understanding of democracy, popular participation and civic engagement. This explains the core of what other developed nations take for granted – an education from early childhood that explains, although sometimes ambiguously, what a democracy is. Additionally, to add to Mozambicans’ confusion, it seems that with democracy (or any change in governance, such as a focus on socialism post independence), comes modernization, something Pitcher also explains in her book. A push for modernization brings with it a lack of cultural roots. Although her work in Nampula Province suggests citizens still remember their former clan names and cultural practices, research in other provinces, such as Zambezia, proves otherwise. Part of this can be attributed to new religious practices that Protestant and Catholic missionaries brought with them, particularly in southern regions. In the north, more traditional religious practices and indigenous cultures were maintained (Pitcher mentioned bride wealth as an example). Along with these “modernization” divides, came clear class differences that political parties attempted to focus on when recruiting supporters. Renamo, for example, claims that Frelimo is “too modernist.” Pitcher made a point to not dismiss Renamo supporters as “bandits” like some tend to do, however. This party is clearly legitimate and has a substantial number of powerful voters.

Moving on to more recent events that help define Mozambique’s democracy, Pitcher explained how unique Joaquim Chissano’s voluntary step down was after he served his term upon winning Mozambique’s second democratic election in 1999. In other African nations, a leader doing so is almost unheard of. Also unique in this upcoming election is a new party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique. Pitcher wonders whether it will represent the demise of Renamo or whether citizens will resort to violence to support it. Her list of electoral challenges currently facing Mozambique include no change of the party in power since 1975, the existence of polarized and fixed party identities, a decline in voter turnout, and lack of voter information.

After studying democracy in different countries – particularly observing their differences and similarities – the most important thing seems to be the power, particularly given through knowledge, of its citizens. In addition to granting basic rights, such as freedom and equality, it seems understanding of these basic rights is equally important. I look forward to more narrowly defining this definition in classes to come.