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Research, exchange, and online portal
November 30, 2010 7:47 PM   Subscribe

The Africa Portal is an online knowledge resource for policy-related issues on Africa. An undertaking by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Makerere University (MAK), and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the Africa Portal offers open access to a suite of features including an online library collection; a resource for opinion and analysis; an experts directory; an international events calendar; and a mobile technology component—all aimed to equip users with research and information on Africa’s current policy issues.

A key feature to the Africa Portal is the online library collection holding over 2,500 books, journals, and digital documents related to African policy issues. The entire online repository is open access and available for free full-text download. A portion of the digital documents housed in the library have been digitized for the first time as an undertaking of the Africa Portal project. Facilitating new digitization projects is a core feature of the Africa Portal, which aims to improve access and visibility for African research.
The Africa Portal is part of the Africa Initiative project.

The Africa Initiative (AI) is a multi-year, donor-supported program, with three components: a research program, an exchange program, and an online portal. A joint undertaking by CIGI in cooperation with Makerere University (MAK), the Africa Initiative aims to contribute to the deepening of Africa’s capacity and knowledge in five thematic areas—conflict resolution, energy, food security, health, and migration, with special attention to the cross-cutting issue of climate change. By incorporating field-based research, strategic partnerships, and online collaboration, the Africa Initiative is undertaking a truly interdisciplinary and multi-institutional approach to Africa’s governance challenges. Work on the core areas of the initiative focus on supporting innovative research and researchers, and developing policy recommendations as they relate to the program’s core thematic areas.


Explore based on issues.
Or search the Library.


LRA: A REGIONAL STRATEGY BEYOND KILLING KONY [Full PDF]
The Ugandan army launched Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA, camped in the Garamba National Park in north-eastern Congo, on 14 December 2008. It was supposed to end the LRA insurgency in a matter of weeks. A surprise airstrike would eliminate the group’s
high command, and ground troops would quickly kill or capture what fighters remained.
....
Only by pooling intelligence and coordinating activities across the entire affected region can the Ugandan army, its national partners, the UN and civilians hope to rid themselves of the LRA. The Ugandan operation and UN missions, however, offer only temporary support to LRA-affected states. The latter need to put structures in place now to ensure they can cope with what is left of the organisation and its fighters when foreign militaries leave. Moreover, even complete victory over the LRA would not guarantee an end to insecurity in northern Uganda. To do that, the Kampala government must treat the root causes of trouble in that area from which the LRA sprang, namely northern perceptions of economic and political marginalisation, and ensure the social rehabilitation of the north."


Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa
[Full PDF]
We examine the growth of mobile phone technology over the past decade and consider its potential impacts upon quality of life in low-income countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. We first provide an overview of the patterns and determinants of mobile phone coverage in sub-Saharan Africa before describing
the characteristics of primary and secondary mobile phone adopters on the continent. We then discuss the channels through which mobile phone technology can impact development outcomes, both as a positive externality of the communication sector and as part of mobile phone-based development projects, and analyze existing evidence. While current research suggests that mobile phone coverage and adoption have had positive impacts on agricultural and labor market efficiency and welfare in certain countries, empirical evidence is still somewhat limited. In addition, mobile phone technology cannot serve as the “silver bullet” for development in sub-Saharan Africa. Careful impact evaluations of mobile phone development projects are required to better understand their impacts upon economic and social outcomes, and mobile phone technology must work in partnership with other public good provision and investment.


New Thinking on the Governance of Water and River Basins in Africa [Full PDF]
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region offers useful lessons about governance in transboundary river basins. Given the high number of rivers that cross international political boundaries in the region, combined with the fact that the SADC Water Protocol provides a regional legal framework around which to develop robust water resources governance systems, this report shows how institutions grow incrementally over time. The global norm is that most transboundary rivers that have more than two riparians are governed by a regime that does not include all riparian states. The SADC case is the opposite, where all of the transboundary rivers that were identified as being ‘at risk’ in a major study by Aaron Wolf and his team in fact have regimes that include all riparian states. This case study also shows that while instrumentalism leads to experimentation and failure on occasion, it also provides for the necessary adaptation needed to eventually produce a robust governance structure. The report discusses a number of water governance lacunae in the region and concludes by making specific policy recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of water governance in the SADC region, but which may also hold applicability to other regions of Africa.


"The story of Zimbabwe’s contested diamond fields is about many things… [Full PDF]
posted by infinite intimation (8 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is awesome. I do believe I'll be keeping an eye on the Conflict Resolution section as I consider my options for next year's visit...
posted by mykescipark at 8:24 PM on November 30, 2010


A great website, people interested in this may also like the Africa Online Digital Library. They have an excellent podcast.
posted by smoke at 8:26 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Thank you so much for bringing these links to my attention!
posted by frodisaur at 9:27 PM on November 30, 2010


It does seem to focus mostly on English speaking Africa though, doesn't it? Not surprisingly though. Aside from the amazing number of languages throughout individual countries, the regional/colonial "lingua francas" of the continent make it very difficult to communicate.
posted by iamck at 12:39 AM on December 1, 2010


This is both fascinating and completely misguided in that it doesn't include "corruption" in its list of focuses (conflict resolution, energy, food security, health, and migration, with special attention to the cross-cutting issue of climate change). I say that with absolutely no snark: corruption currently has a direct impact on every one of those areas, and any endeavor seeking to promote positive change in one, some, or all of them is completely naive and IMHO doomed to failure if it doesn't address the issues of corruption in governance in Africa, particularly from the perspective of promoting justice, accountability, and transparency in all levels of government.

...concludes by making specific policy recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of water governance in the SADC region, but which may also hold applicability to other regions of Africa.

The next major international wars in Africa are going to be over water, I fully expect to see at least one of them in my lifetime in northeastern Africa (Nile rights). There's gonna be more than just policy recommendations avert that scenario.

Anyway, this is a lot of fascinating reading to dig into, but my initial impression of the AI is in line with that of most initiatives I see on the continent: this is cool but it could be so much *more.*

Is it just me or does this seem better situated to help the rest of the world understand particular contexts in Africa rather than to help African leaders help their countries? I'm not sure there's a way around that: Africa hasn't really adopted the internet yet. Case in point: there was an article on the front page of both of Nairobi's major *newspapers* the other day about how the prices of the papers would be rising. This was of course semi-outrageous in the same way that newspaper costs being raised FIFTY years ago back in the US was semi-outrageous. There's no concept of Craigslist or Ebay or Gmail or Facebook or anything like that in Africa, really - adoption is so far behind the rest of the world that the continent really for most intents and purposes exists in an early or even pre-internet state. I'm not trying to be negative here, I like the overall idea, I guess I'm just skeptical as to how relevant they can make the Initiative at large to people who don't first see the value in the internet itself, let alone specific useful data for improving life for their people. In a place where even Internet is a subject of much corruption in and of itself, I might note.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:07 AM on December 1, 2010


Nice. I have a friend who will find this very interesting.
posted by ServSci at 5:10 AM on December 1, 2010


There are a great deal of resources in the library dealing with the concept of corruption; I suppose to me it seems like it was just not selected as a "guiding" theme (the goal being non-corruption) it is definitely addressed in the library, perhaps they took the idea that by accessing these other "human-life-impacting" themes, that would be the way to target corruption (corruption generally being a 'thing' that is hard to pin down, and point to, and say, this is how we stop it [besides some sort of armed force to stop corrupt officials] it seems a positive thing that they have chosen to attack the issues that allow corruption to occur, fewer will follow corrupt leaders if they don't depend life and limb on the corrupt leaders benevolence towards them as the themes selected point to). Corruption thrives so much more easily in a space where the issues addressed by the library are not examined/re-examined. (*just my take on that editorial choice)

English is quite important in Africa, sources (wikipedia and CIA world factbook) suggest 130 million speak as either a first of second language. In this map, the light blue represents nations where English is an Official, but not primary language.
Worth noting this is a new (November) portal and seems to be growing already. It does seem pretty useful for people outside Africa also, who may be intimidated by the seemingly insurmountable variety of issues African nations face (ex. Climate Change [Climate Change and Trade: The Challenges for Southern Africa], or indigenous rights, and resource extraction). Really finding much of interest here, exploring the tag system is very interesting. I like that so many of these articles are by African scholars. This will be very useful for the various Scholarly Centers of Africa.

Fascinating paper on IPR (intellectual property right) choices in developing nations (pull quotes do not do justice to nuance of piece).
As with patents, there is a need for balance. Too much protection by copyright may restrict the free flow of ideas on which further progress of ideas and technology depends. For developing countries, affordable access to works/knowledge essential for development such as educational materials and scientific and technical knowledge may be affected by unduly strong copyright rules, especially if they do not incorporate the TRIPS allowance into their national legislation.
....
All sectors in the economy make extensive use of IPRs. However, the application of IPRs varies from one country to another and from one sector and product to another, and specific sectors and industries largely depend on IPRs for their survival. This section of the paper discusses the application of IPRs in the pharmaceutical, information and communication technology (ICT), entertainment, clothing, wine and spirits, and agriculture sectors.
This one on China's role in Africa (China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation? [PDF]) is also interesting and very well sourced (the conclusion may sound squishy, but the meat of the paper is very in-depth covering the myriad angles involved.
China’s presence in Africa is complex and its impact on African development, given China’s appetite for natural resources and its growing economic power, will be profound. The Africa-China relationship is one that civil society organizations need to continue to explore.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worth noting this piece touching on the supply/demand aspect of corruption. And the international non-locality of corruption.
A lively debate on corruption and governance constituted the highlight of the third day of ADF IV.
Participants said that while corruption was a cancer eating away at African societies, the only way to find a solution was to address the problem from both the supply-side and the demand side.
The Attorney General of Lesotho, Mr. Lebohang Fine-Maema, explained how his country had tackled corruption by attacking both ends of the problem. The most high-profile cases have arisen from the multi-million dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), in which several western companies allegedly paid huge bribes to local managers in order to win contracts. The Attorney General said his country first successfully prosecuted the local director of the project, then turned its attention to the foreign firms. One Canadian firm was successfully prosecuted for paying US$ 2 million in bribes to local associates over the project. “The firm was convicted and fined a sum of US$ 15 million,” the attorney general said, to applause from the audience – adding that other European firms were still being prosecuted in relation to the project, including firms from Germany and Italy.
Most people had thought it unfeasible for a small country like Lesotho to take on such huge multinationals. Given the high cost of the process, few partners were initially willing to contribute funds to the litigation. However, in view of the success to date, a number of donors had come forward people. The project’s success has also had ramifications elsewhere, with the World Bank, for example, re-instituting its programme of barring corrupt companies from bidding for World Bank contracts.
Mr. Fine-Maema pointed to a number of lessons learned as a result of the Lesotho litigation: companies and individuals who solicit and receive bribes can be successfully prosecuted; corruption is clearly not just an African problem but also exists in industrial countries; those who bribe tend to stick together so it is difficult to obtain information; and it is important to get the cooperation of others. Lesotho succeeded in securing cooperation from Switzerland, which provided details of bank accounts where the illicit gains were deposited.

posted by infinite intimation at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


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