Friday, April 8, 2016

Patrice Talon of Benin: An African Obama?


There is something about Patrice Talon that catches and holds one's attention. He seems to be resolute about running his country in a different way. He is in his first few hours of Presidency and I just want to reflect on what appears



First off, appearances may be deceptive. Most often, they are. So I wont be surprised if they turn out to be deceptive in a few years time.

The first, and perhaps, earliest information I got on Talon was that he is a rich business person. The other key information is that his running for presidency did not please the incumbent president. So I got curious about the Bénin elections. In a country that has been touted to have a growing (and some times solid and vibrant) democracy, I wanted to see how things will play out.

The campaign was not a very “friendly” one as there were three “front liners”. The results of the first round was proof of how tight the race was. Over all, I kept my eyes on the Autonomous Electoral Commission and also kept faith. The results came as promised. Prime Minister Zinsou led with 28.44%, Patrice Talon with 24.80% and Ajavon came third with 23.03%. When Ajavon called to vote for Talon in the second round, the die was cast.

Two Days ago, Patrice Talon was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Benin. I love this photo shot of the first couple stepping out majestically.



I am intrigued. I am curious. I want to track this.
  • Who is this president who has decided that he can pretty well have a swearing in ceremony, himself, and just his people? The total number of “visiting presidents” to the ceremony was zero.
  • Who is this president that says he wont make appointments to “thank” people?
  • Who is this handsome rich “young” entrepreneur who wants to do things differently?
  • Who is this one that says he will only be in power for one tenure?
  • Who is this Claudine, his wife, he chooses to dress elegantly and beautifully with a sober made-in-Benin attire?
  • Who are these two who seem satisfied with who they are and do not seem to be looking for peer approval?

This question has been swimming round in my head.. and I think I should ask it:
Are we looking at an African Obama?

Only time will tell. For now, Talonism has been activated and is live in Benin.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A propos des subventions et l'industrie de financement de développement

Aujourd'hui, je reviens sur l'industrie de financement de développement. Je lis pour le savon anti-malaria qui ne trouve pas du financement. Plein d'autres "produits innovants et révolutionnaires" sont aussi dans la même situation.
Il est vrai que mon expérience ne dépasse pas 15 ans dans le milieu de développement, mais je souhaite partager ce qui suit:
1. Ce n'est pas parce votre project est innovateur et répond à des besoins qu'il sera financé
2. Chaque boite a une vocation, une ligne conductrice à lui confiée par ses fondateurs, conseil d'admin ou gouverneurs. Ainsi, pour un produit destiné pour un marché, c'est pas la peine d'aller à une organisation de l'ONU. L'UE est une organisation inter-gouvernementale et a pour principal bénéficiaire, ton gouvernement, ou les projets bénéficiant d'un aval/appui du gouvernement. Quand il s'agit des projets non-étatique, la conduite demande que cela se passe avec les ONG de l'UE en consortium...
3. Les Fondations qui mettent en place des subventions n'arriveront jamais à couvrir tous les pays du monde. Dans bcp des cas, les choix des pays se font sur les bases 100% politiques. Quand les USA décide que xyz est un "bon" pays et qu'il mérite qu'on y investisse l'argent.. c'est tout
4. Contrairement à ce que bcp des gens croient/pensent, les "bailleurs" ont une idée claire de ce qu'ils veulent faire avec leurs sous. Les Gestionnaires des subventions ont tout cela bien défini. Un projet a beau être alléchant, innovateur, "awesome".. mais s'il n'est pas dans le profil, on ne peut rien faire
5. Ton projet est beau, il est magnifique.. mais sachez que ce sont des humains qui prennent la décision de financer ou pas. Et quand il s'agit des êtres humains.. bcp de choses entre en compte: émotions, expériences passées, qui connait qui, qui a bien dîne avec qui etc
6. Oui, votre projet il est bon, mais chaque jour, il y'en a des dizaines, centaines, voire milliers d'autres projets qui font la demande.
7. Personne n'est là pour faire ton bonheur.. pour résoudre le problème de ton pays, pour régler tout le problème de l'autre. Non. C'est une industrie, chacun a un intérêt. Parfois, une subvention à xyz est en vérité un investissement pour le bailleur pour une chose plus grande qu'il recherche. Un industriel "offre" un hôpital pour "se faire valoir" pour une autre affaire. L'hôpital peut coûter 20 millions, mais l'affaire vaut 200 milliards!
8. Si tu cherches une subvention, ce qui est le plus important ne sera pas l'utilité de ton projet, mais l'intérêt de bailleur.

A bon entendeur.. salut

Monday, March 14, 2016

J'ai bien dormi… mais je me suis réveillée tôt

Hier, c'était le dimanche, 13 mars. Comme tout autre dimanche en Côte d'Ivoire, les ivoiriens : jeunes, enfants, aînés, familles, touristes, amis, convois… étaient à la plage. En Côte d'Ivoire « aller à la plage » n'a jamais rimé avec une vie d'aisance. Cela n'a jamais été une activité pour des touristes. D'Abidjan à Bassam, en passant par Krinjabo, Assinie et Noé à l'est ; et Sans Pedro, Sassandra et Tabou à l'ouest.. la Côte d'Ivoire ne manque pas des belles côtes, des belles plages.

Hier, les ivoiriens étaient à la plage comme d'habitude. Des jeunes, des enfants, des aînés, des familles, des touristes, des amis, des convois. Mais ce dimanche s'est avéré un de différent. Hier, c'était le « dimanche noir » en Côte d'Ivoire. Des homme armés ont fait irruption dans la sérénité et la joie des ivoiriens, semant la mort, la peur, le traumatisme et la désolation.

De 13 heures Temps Universel jusqu'à la tombée de la nuit.. le pays était sous le choc. D'ailleurs il l'est toujours. Quand à moi, je me suis couchée et j'ai bien dormi. Si si. J'ai bien dormi. 



J'ai bien dormi parce que j'avais une conscience en paix. Moi et ma conscience nous étions s
ereines. Pour les 18 ans que j'ai vécues dans la commune de Cocody, je n'ai jamais comploté du mal envers ce pays que j'aime. Je n'ai jamais aidé, ou contribué à verse une goutte de sang d'une personne en Côte d'Ivoire. Je ne le jamais fait. Je ne le ferai jamais.

J'ai bien dormi parce que, en quelque sorte, je m'estime rescapée. En effet ce dimanche après-midi, je recevais une quinzaine de personnes d'au moins 7 nationalités chez moi. Depuis un mois, on réfléchissait au meilleur endroit pour la réception. On s'était accordé pour aller à la plage. La décision de recevoir chez moi a été une décision de dernière minute. Pour cela, je remercie Dieu. Si non, l'histoire en aura pu être toute autre. Ca aura pu être moi.

Surtout, j'ai bien dormi car j'ai confiance dans les forces de maintien d'ordre et de sécurité de la Côte d'Ivoire. Malgré les possibles insuffisances, qu'on peut reprocher à la police de mer, la police de la terre, la police de l'air, la gendarmerie, ou à l'armée de la terre, les forces armées de ce pays font de leur mieux pour servir la nation. Depuis les attaques à Ouagadougou, au Burkina Faso, la sûreté partout en Côte d'Ivoire a connue une mise à niveau. Devant les supermarchés, les hypermarchés, les hôtels et dans beaucoup d'autres endroit. Je reconnaît que les forces de sécurité travaillent. Si non, c'est serait à Abidjan qu'un carnage aurait eu lieu.

J'ai bien dormi….. mais je me suis réveillée tôt.

Je me suis réveillée tôt pour pleurer la jeunesse ivoirienne. Cette jeunesse qui tente de se consolider. Cette jeunesse qui se bat pour vivre heureuse chez elle. Cette jeunesse qui, normalement s'organise par quartier, pour louer des cars.. afin de partir à la plage en convoi. La jeunesse de la Côte d'Ivoire aime bien vivre. C'est bien d'elle qu'est né le mot « enjaillement », l'ivoirisation de l'anglais « enjoyment ». Tuer des jeunes à la plage un dimanche, c'est tenter d’éteindre cette flamme de joie.. tuer l'enjaillement.

Je me suis réveillée tôt car j'avais mal pour le Président Alassane Ouattara et le gouvernement de la Côte d'Ivoire. Quand j'ai vu l'homme ce dimanche.. il m'a apparu sonné. Et j'ai noté sur mon mur Facebook : 



Malgré ce qu'on peut lui rep
rocher, ADO se bat, avec le gouvernement, pour repositionner l'économie du pays. En quatre ans, tous les paramètres de mesure vont en ascendance : Indice Mo Ibrahim, Doing Business, Indice de Développement Humain, Africa Business Prospect etc. Semer la mort en ce moment en Côte d'Ivoire.. c'est tenter de freiner cet élan. Ni la Côte d'Ivoire, ni son économie n'a besoin de cela.

Mais surtout.. je me suis réveillée tôt pour pleurer.. à cause des médias.. et de ces images. Nous avons vécus des crises, des guerres.. et des tueries en Côte d'Ivoire. Les plaies ne sont pas toutes guéries. Les traumatismes non plus. Alors que les pays pansent encore ses blessures, alors qu'il y a encore un ministère à part entier pour des victimes.. on se retrouve avec plus des victimes. Et nous voici de retour. De retour au moment où :
- les corps des ivoiriens morts sont affichés partout en ligne
- la RFI commence son journal avec l'heure d'Abidjan
- Les médias veulent un interview de moi.. une abidjanaise qui parle français et anglais
- on fait du sensationnalisme avec la vie humaine perdue
- une course effrénée s'engage, pour un bilan macabre, devenu plus important que la sécurité des personnes
- nos téléphones n’arrêtent pas de sonner.. car les amis du monde entier veulent savoir que nous allons bien 


Je me suis réveillée.. pour écrire. Je vais au travail. Le cœur lourd, mais j'avance. Les larmes aux yeux, mais je fonce. Je crois en une Côte d'Ivoire de paix. Une Côte d'Ivoire de joie. Une Côte d'Ivoire, terre d'espérance.

La Côte d'Ivoire est forte.
Bassam est grand.
Dieu est grand.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Changing Landscape of African Women: Thoughts on International Women's Day


Over the weekend I attended a very high level event. It was in honour of two accomplished women of African origin. Great food, good music and great styles. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think others did too. I noticed, however, that in this “high-level” circle, there is new type of “The African Woman”. Not entirely new, but increasing in number, in scope and in reach: the highly educated, financially-well off, independent African woman. The different type of “The African Woman”.

And it is this “different type” that is the object of my thinking on this International Women's Day. This type of African woman was born of parents who in most cases had basic education, but beyond basic education, also had a thirst to train their daughters. These parents educated these girls to know, understand and appreciate how education is precious. These women have “liberated” themselves from many societal “enslaving norms”. They have gone beyond the “Oh this is not for women” clichés. They believe in themselves, their intellectual capacity, their expertise, their ability to excel. 

The different type of Africa woman has scaled many hurdles: religious taboos, sexist barriers, cultural limitations, traditions dos-and-donts, professional chasms…..to be where they are. 


And that is the dilemma.


Since 1977, the United Nations have been celebrating International Women's Day. Emphasis has been regularly put on the need to better the life of women.. the life of African women. Literacy rates are rising, and more women are getting better lives and living standards. From the Millennium Development Goals to the current Sustainable Development Goals, there has been a shift in the lot of the African woman. Since Beijing.. the clamour for our rights, the constant push for equity.. and the increase in knowledge available to the African woman are paying off.
 

And that is the challenge. 

African men are having to “deal with” the “different type” of the African woman. No, she wont sit and wait to be married off. She will decide how many children she wants. She owns and operates her own bank accounts, cars, houses, and stock. She has a career. She hops planes, appears on TV, and pulls serious professional weight.


And that is the problem.

While the women's socio-economic landscape has been gently shifting.. not much has moved on the other side. Young boys continue to be socialised as they were 100, 60, 40 years ago! To look at the woman as the weaker sex, to think of her as needing help, to believe He is more intelligent than Her, to grow up thinking :

  • He has to provide for Her
  • He has to decide for Her
  • He has to teach Her
  • He has to protect Her
And that :
  • She has to depend on Him
  • She has to count on Him
  • She is waiting for Him to decide for Her
  • She has to “submit” to Him
And this is where we are.

 Our current situation, therefore, is that of more African men who do not know what to do  with the “new type” of African women. African men find themselves in this mix of fear, low self esteem, ignorance, wounded egos, fear of traditional and societal rock-solid norms, and societal givens that do not seem to change for them. While the girls were being encouraged to go school and achieve.. we may have forgotten to educate our boys on how to respect and share with educated girls. While we were happy that many more women are getting professional and leadership opportunities, we may have forgotten to train the men on how to woo, marry, and live with a financially-Independent intelligent  African woman.

And the future is scary.


 Because African women are not going to give up on their education. Neither will they give up on their careers. The Internet is opening up a gazillion opportunities for learning, networking, and multiple ways to better a woman's life. Life is looking up for the African woman.. and more and more of them are turning out to be different.

Where will  be in 2030? What will become of the African man? His ego? His handed-down traditions.  As we celebrate women today, you can do a thing or two:
 - Let a man in Africa know that it is okay for an African woman to be rich, intelligent and Independent.
- Dissociate the existence of a woman from the perceived roles of childbearing, care giving and that of a lesser being.
- Purpose to help both men and women accept and adapt to the changing landscape.

Have a wonderful International Women's Day.




Sunday, October 25, 2015

Abidjan - Dar es Salaam - Brazzaville: Of elections and national conscience

I woke up in Abidjan this morning. A few hours before the voting for the first round of presidential elections in Côte d'Ivoire opens. At this time, polls should be underway in Tanzania, since there is a three-hour difference. In Brazzaville, and across Congo, the population has been convened  to a referendum, whose results will determine whether Sassou Nguesso will continue to be President of the country or not.

While we do not know if Alassane Ouattara of Côte d'Ivoire will win the elections in the first round or after the run off, we are even more unsure if the ruling party in Tanzania will be returned to power. For Congo Brazzaville, like the blogger Anna Guèye said in response to a tweet of mine "I would not call it a vote".

Whether we are voting in Côte d'Ivoire, in Tanzania, in Congo or in any other part of the world today, election times are times of building a collective national conscience. And that explains why I am passionate about them, tracking them from Cape to Cairo, Dakar to Djibouti via Nairobi and Lagos... in this beautiful mother continent of Africa.


What I am passionate about is not necessarily who wins or who loses. Here are the 5 things I track:

The social audit
Election times are times for social audits. Political formations in and out of power take time to evaluate themselves. Citizens also evaluate leadership. It's the time for the big question "what has been done for the past xyz years?" The Nigerian election was one that got straight at me. The "Report Card" of Goodluck Jonathan was the topic in homes in Nigeria, in Nigerian homes in the Diaspora and even in many other spaces that are remotely Nigerian. By the time the election date itself drew near, the incumbent was desperate in trying to "make up" for mistakes made during his tenure. In Côte d'Ivoire, the government has gone ahead and published its own Report Card in a bid to prove to citizens that it did, indeed  move the country forward.

The mass education
Elections happen after every four or five years on the general.  At every election period, a new wave of voter is added. In most countries, 18 is the voting age.  For the new voters, it is  a rite of passage, a realisation of their political importance, and for some, a time to "test the political waters". What interests me the most is how the new voters are inducted into the system. Do they engage in a civil manner? Are they given all the information? Are they channeled into a one-party-system?  Whichever way, the need for education on electoral issues goes beyond the new voters.  In many countries the electoral agency begins an entirely new work of step-by-step education, sensitization and grooming of the citizens. Who can vote? Who can run for office? How and where to register to vote? When to pick up your voter cards. How to vote. How not to vote. How best to vote. Decorum for the period..

The citizen engagement
 Offline and online, this is the time that politically minded or interested people are obliged to listen to citizens, or at least, pretend to listen.  In many places, town hall-like meetings are held. During these meetings, candidates respond to questions from citizens. In some spaces, the national TV joins the game, creating "situation rooms", inviting  candidates, organizing live debates, taking  questions and generally dancing to the tune of the citizens. For those of us who "come from the Internet", the social media landscape is getting to be "the place" to be at these moments. It is a time for content creation, for analysis, for jokes and for serious engagement. Candidates are "tracked" and their speeches, dressing, governance plans and whole lives are meticulously dissected.  But beyond the candidates, voters also engage other voters, either as volunteers for one camp or another, or just as opinion bearers.

The Human Rights narratives
 The respect of fundamental human rights during elections periods is the yardstick with which I personally measure the process. Do opposition parties get air time? Does the ruling party bulldoze its way? Is the Election Agency autonomous? Are rallies free and fair? Are minorities allowed to show their support even when they are in the "stronghold" of their adversaries. How long is the campaign time?  How free is the media to do their work? Are citizens free and able to say exactly what they think of the power in place?   For me, once the human rights bases are covered, I am fine. Otherwise, frustrations are created, disenfranchisement follows and in many cases, the elections do not go down well.

The "Shift" after the polls

I still recall the major shift in Senegal when Abdoulaye Wade lost his third term bid, after all the "constitutional gerrymandering". The most recently is the ousting of PDP of Nigeria with Buhari's win. In Burundi, things have yet to go down as the killings are continuing. In the last edition of  Côte d'Ivoire's polls, it turned out into a full-scale civil war. 

Whether we look at elections from the political,  the engagement, the human rights or even the economics perspective, it is a time when a lot happens.  Except for the few African countries like Gambia, Eritrea, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea where authorities are doing all they can to suppress a national civic engagement while upholding the President as a demi-god,  this continent is gently changing, molting into a space of more regular social audits, massive increase in citizen education, web empowered engagement, and for a broader discourse on the rule of law. Elections are processes in national conscience building. It is  not so much about who wins  or loses at the polls, but whether the nation is more consolidated.

It is about moving forward or backward.