Your Friday African Round-Up

Democracy in Africa has constructed a tremendous resource for anyone interested in learning more about African political economy.  It is called “Decolonising the University: The African Politics Reading List” and contains many interesting sub-sections, including: African Political Thought, Pre-colonial Politics, Slavery and the Role of Traditional leaders,  the Politics of Ethnicity, the Politics of Religion, Agricultural Politics and Land Reform, amongst many others.

In other news, in what I would like to call “How is this Artist Still Alive?”, a Zimbabwean artist has created a statue of President Mugabe that has drawn widespread ridicule.  When I first saw the piece, I thought this artist better be on the lam.  But, no, the only person who seems to like the art (and thank goodness for that for the artist) is Mugabe himself.  Feast your eyes:

mugabe

 

 

Africa is two countries

Rur roh. I’ve used the term “Sub-Saharan Africa” both in teaching and in my research many times.  However, I just learned that the phrase is neither politically or geographically correct.  Yikes!

A recent Quartz article makes the following points:

First, the term isn’t geographically correct in some cases. For instance,  “The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as ‘sub-Saharan,’ [but] four countries included are on the Sahara, while Eritrea is deemed “sub-Saharan” but its southern neighbor Djibouti isn’t.”

Second, development agencies aren’t consistent in their labeling.  In its definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank includes the 46 countries as the UN Development Program  but also includes Sudan and Somalia.

Third, instead of treating Africa as a single country (sadly still commonplace in the media), we tend to treat it as two (Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa).

The article also delves into the history of the term, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa replaced the more politically incorrect terms “Tropical Africa” and “Black Africa” that were prevalent in early research.  Some argue that the new term is equally problematic:
Tatenda Chinondidyachii Mashanda, a politics and international affairs scholar at Wake Forest University argues that “[it] is a way of saying ‘Black Africa’ and talking about black Africans without sounding overtly racist.”

Brian Larkin, a  Columbia University anthropologist, would agree, arguing that dividing Africa into Northern African and Sub-Saharan Africa reflects “‘racist’ colonial theories that thought northern Africa more culturally developed.” 

Time to re-think how I will describe my data the next time I write a paper with African countries!

 

Land reform & violence in Mexico

The economic inefficiency of Mexico’s ejido system  (rural land that is held communally) led the federal government to implement serious land reform in 1992.  [Click here for a video I created for Marginal Revolution University about the creation of the ejido system].

In an interesting forthcoming paper in JEBO called Land Reform and Violence: Evidence from Mexico (here’s an undated working paper version), Tommy Murphy and Martín Rossi study the effects of the 1992 reform on municipal homicides.  In motivating the paper, they write that:

“Bandiera (2003) has convincingly argued that the lack of proper enforcement of land rights by the state played a crucial role in the rise of the mafia in 19th century Sicily. But violence not need be channeled only through organized crime, and it is indeed plausible that different land tenure systems lead to extreme forms of violent crime, such as murders.”

Indeed, the authors find for the case of Mexico “that clearly specified and consistently enforced land rights reduce gains from violence, leading therefore to lower levels of violence, as measured by the number of murders.”

 

 

In Chicago, the dead vote. In Zimbabwe, the dead (will) govern

President Robert Mugabe, 92 years old, frequently leaves his country for health care in Singapore and Dubai.  Given his advanced age, each leave elicits questions/hopes that maybe this is finally it.  Maybe he won’t be coming back to wreck further havoc on his country.

Mugabe crushed many hopes by reappearing Saturday after a prolonged absence.  And what did he have to say? Here’s the transcript:

“It is true that I was dead,” the world’s oldest head of state said. “And I resurrected. As I always do.”

“Are we speaking to a ghost?” someone asked him.

“Once I get back to my country, I am real,” Mugabe said.

Zimbabweans shouldn’t worry so much about his health though because Mrs. Mugabe told citizens that her husband “would rule from the grave.”  How reassuring! That’s gives new meaning to the phrase “president for life.”

For the person that has everything…

Just in time for early Christmas shopping, Hangzhou sculptors have created clay figurines of the G20 leaders, each on top of the world and with doves on their shoulder.

Here are some photos:

Chinese-artists-showcase-cultural-heritage-with-clay-figurines-during-G20-800x450figurines

Figurines Of G20 Country Leaders Made To Welcome G20 Hangzhou Summit

HANGZHOU, CHINA – AUGUST 28: Image shows the figurines of Russian president Vladimir Putin (L), Chinese president Xi Jinping (C) and American president Barack Obama on August 28, 2016 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. Folk artist Wu Xiaoli made the figurines of G20 country leaders to welcome the upcoming 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit. (Photo by Long Wei/VCG via Getty Images)

I’m curious who the sculptors chose as Brazil’s leader:  Dilma, Temer, Neymar Jr.?

h/t @ianbremmer

Misery loves company

As you probably know, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has invited Donald Trump to a meeting today in Mexico City.  It’s hard to fathom Peña Nieto’s motives for this invitation, except maybe to distract attention away from his plagiarism scandal.  The Twitter-verse has been having a field day with the news.  Here are some of my favorites from this morning (I’m sure there will be more):

Screenshot 2016-08-31 08.58.38

Screenshot 2016-08-31 09.00.12

Screenshot 2016-08-31 09.01.22

Screenshot 2016-08-31 09.02.12

Screenshot 2016-08-31 09.02.59

 

Central Banking Round-up

A couple of interesting papers on the evolution of central banking as well as a fun WSJ piece on how bombastic metaphors have taken over discussions of CB actions.

Calomiris, Charles ; Flandreau, Marc ; Laeven, Luc, “Political Foundations of the Lender of Last Resort: A Global Historical Narrative.” 

“This paper offers a historical perspective on the evolution of central banks as lenders of last resort (LOLR). LOLRs established prior to World War II, with few exceptions, followed policies that can be broadly characterized as implementing “Bagehot’s Principles” : seeking to preserve systemic financial stability rather than preventing the failure of particular banks, and limiting the amount of risk absorbed by the LOLR as much as possible when providing financial assistance. After World War II, and especially after the 1970s, generous deposit insurance and ad hoc bank bailouts became the norm. The focus of bank safety net policy changed from targeting systemic stability to preventing depositor loss and the failure of banks. Statutory powers of central banks do not change much over time, or correlate with country characteristics, instead reflecting idiosyncratic political histories.”

 

Anne Murphy, “The Bank of England and the genesis of modern management.”

“This paper focuses on the Bank as a site of precocious managerial development. It first establishes that the Bank, by the latter part of the eighteenth century, encompassed the complexities of a large-scale industrial enterprise. It employed a workforce of several hundred. Its workers operated in specialised and coordinated capacities. Its managerial hierarchy was diffuse and dependent on employed men, rather than the elected directorate.  It [the paper] will demonstrate that, although not always applied effectively, the Bank’s senior men did show managerial innovation and skill in training and organising the workforce and were able to make informed decisions which had the potential to improve some of the Bank’s processes.”

 

Jon Sindreu and Riva Gold, “Bazookas! Sinks! Aggressive Doves! Nobody Loves Silly Metaphors More Than Central Bankers,” WSJ, August 29, 2016.

“Since the crisis, an analysis of the Factiva media database shows, references in monetary-policy articles and blogs to artillery-related words—including bazookas, powder and firing blanks—rose to 7,300 in 2015 from 4,600 in 2010, although that’s down from more than 11,000 in 2011.” 

 

Time to find a new Tourism Minister

If I were the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, I would have little trouble advertising the country to tourists.  Kevin and I went there several years ago and for anyone who is a fan of wildlife, it is a true paradise.  We saw lions climbing trees, we trekked with chimps, we saw gorillas in the (awesomely and correctly named) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we saw an amazing diversity of birds and animals cruising the Kazinga channel.

One thing we didn’t see (thank goodness) was unhygienic mass circumcision of teenage boys.  That is the Ministry of Tourism’s great plan of how to lure more tourists to the country!  Seriously! Lions, no; chimps, no; gorillas, no; adolescent abuse, yes!

Here’s more information:

“The Uganda and Kenya Tourism boards are looking to turn the tradition into an attraction. They have agreed to jointly promote Embalu circumcision ceremonies in Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. President Yoweri Museveni himself has encouraged this ritual. He said it fits in well with today’s modern society where all men are encouraged to get circumcised for health purposes.”

This might be my favorite line: “Tourism experts intend to market the Embalu festivals across the world using Ugandan embassies in the hope that the ceremonies will bring in additional tourists.”

My take: time to find some new tourism experts!

Here’s a photo we took of our time there:

lion2_uganda

That would be a lot better for tourism promotion than the following:

circumcision

 

 

Mexican education reform should start at the top

ABC, in a news article yesterday, quoted Trump from January saying about Mexico “We send them practically nothing and Mexico is the new China. I hate to say it. The Mexican leaders are so much smarter than our leaders.” There is so much wrong with that statement that it’s hard to know where to start.  But it’s even more ironic given the recent news out of Mexico about President Peña Nieto plagiarizing almost one-third of his law thesis.

Here’s the Huffington Post on the scandal, “Of the 682 paragraphs that made up the 200-page thesis, titled ‘Mexican Presidentialism and Alvaro Obregon,’ 197, or 28.9 percent, were found to be plagiarized. In a statement, government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez sought to play down the accusation of plagiarism, instead calling the omissions “style errors.” He added that Peña Nieto met all the requirements needed to graduate as a lawyer from Panamerican University.”

I love the government spokesman’s excuse.*  I’ve only seen bits and pieces but as a professor with a lot of experience (unfortunately) of spotting plagiarism, I can assure you that we are not talking about “style errors.”  Nice try though.  I wonder what the higher-up at Panamerican University think about Sanchez’s last statement now that the plagiarism has been revealed!

Compare that to Obama’s educational pedigree (from Wikipedia): “Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School between 1992 and 2004.”

Now education does not necessarily equal smarts, but Peña Nieto was not exactly very smart in hiding his plagiarism**, so I’d have to give Obama the big advantage between the two.

*To his credit, he has had a lot to deal with lately (click here for the most recent corruption scandal that EPN is facing)

*See this story in the Atlantic for some examples.  Perhaps my favorite part is the fact that EPN plagiarized a former Mexican president, Miguel de la Madrid.  lol you can’t make this stuff up.