Events: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie @ Yale

A Reading and Discussion with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
the acclaimed author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and The Thing Around Your Neck
Thursday, April 5, 2012 4:30pm
Luce Hall Auditorium, 34 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven CT
Free and open to the public

Sponsored by the Council on African Studies, African Languages & Literary Studies theme group

Noted: Random bits

Business Insider reports that “Rich People are More Likely to Cut Off Other Drivers and Run over Pedestrians.” They link to a study out of UC Berkeley and U Toronto, published in PNAS that has this abstract:

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

Does the fallacy of division preclude us from thinking that the average American is less ethical than.. well, than most of the rest of the world? I hope so! I would like to think that such factors make us no more or less ethical…

Tom Devriendt at Africa is a Country linked to this terrific bit of “Soweto Soul”, the Baninzi music video by The Soil.

Noted: More reactions on the Mali Coup

First, an interesting point that is often not stressed enough in the news reports on the coup: President Toure wasn’t even running in the April presidential elections. He already planned to step down. So why be impatient?

Indeed, Gregory Mann seems appropriately skeptical of the coup leaders’ lofty goals for fighting corruption and promoting democracy (Africa is a Country). Brian Peterson finds a lesson in all of this: African leaders should take grievances seriously (African Arguments). I actually was unaware of the “war widow” protests in January that he mentions.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the potential routes forward continues to develop. First, the immediate consequences of the coup are still being sorted out. The US has joined other states in suspending aid to Mali (Reuters). Meanwhile, Tuareg rebels are reportedly advancing further into Mali (The New Yorker). Thinking more about the long term, Alex Thurston usefully considers whether past West African coups have lessons for Mali (Sahel Blog). I think his fourth point, “coup leaders who cause chaos are overthrown in coups”, might be prescient.

GEP Course Notes: Oil in Africa

Drilling Africa’s Arctic | Thought Leader.

The Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest Unesco World Heritage Site, is situated along the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

It contains more species of mammals, reptiles and birds than any other protected area on the continent. It has an exceptional diversity of landscapes stretching from the glaciers of the Ruwenzori mountains, to indigenous rainforests, savannas, rivers, and lakes. It’s also one of the last places in Africa where mountain gorillas still survive.

Apparently a number of oil companies want to explore for oil here. Don’t know enough about this, but I knew it might interest some of you.

Noted: The Facebook Empire

The Economist has an interesting chart up over at their website which they say demonstrates that Facebook connections mirror old empires. They have images for the former British, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires. They really seem to hold-up for the Africa examples. Of course, China blocks Facebook, which means that we can’t really test this for the possibility that those new connections are rising. (h/t to Walter Russell Mead).

Africa Notes: The Mali Coup

The recent coup in Mali is an important setback for Sahelian democracy. And the situation there is still fluid, as reports of a counter-coup (which may just be a rumor)surfaced today.

Here are some of the themes that are emerging:

Coup Causes

1. The North Africa Spring. As I hinted last week, we can trace back the recent coup–at least partly–to the events of the North Africa spring. The military officers who took over stated very explicitly that one of their reasons for their actions. Meanwhile, Afro-pessimist Walter Russell Mead has already used this as an opportunity to critique NATO intervention in Libya.

2. The military’s specific discontent with the government. Over at Baobab at The Economist, they mention the events most proximate to the coup:

The spark for the mutiny came during a visit to Bamako’s main barracks by Mali’s defence minister. For weeks, discontent has been building as ethnic Tuareg rebels—flush with heavy weaponry stolen from Libya, and better organised than at any time in the past—have launched a series of attacks, sacking beleaguered garrisons and inflicting heavy casualties on the demoralised Malian army.
When the minister failed to assuage soldiers’ concerns that the government had a grip on the insurgency, troops fired angrily into the air. Hours later they swept into Bamako, stormed the state broadcaster’s offices and laid siege to the presidential palace. A thousand miles to the northeast, junior soldiers placed their superiors under lock and key.

3. Was this an accident? Think Africa Press has questioned whether any of this might even be “accidental”. (h/t SahelBlog).

4. General dissatisfaction with the President. Some in Mali doubted the President’s commitment to overseeing free and fair elections this April and he is alleged to be involved in cocaine trafficking and a number of corrupt business deals. (Sources: Tesfay)

Coup Consequences

1. Mali is losing aid money. TheWorld Bank and African Development Fund suspended funds. The EU was next. The US has only issued threats about withdrawing aid thus far. Mali, of course, has been a key strategic partner in American efforts to counter Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). Also, while (now former) President Toure was an important part of that alliance, there are reports that one or more of the leaders of the coup received American training.

2. Delay in national elections. The elections were due next month but now no one knows when they may take place. ECOWAS has suggested they go on with the elections as planned, but that is way too optimistic. While the coup leaders say they will restore democracy, Mali historian Gregory Mann, at least, thinks that the coup was “not intended to secure democracy, but to prevent it”. (Sources: Tesfay, Gregory Mann, Reuters).
        [The Africa Report has a nice rundown on who the possible candidates for the election were prior to the coup.]

3. Greater “terrorism” risks. That is the phrase some have used. But as Townsend argues at African Arguments, it is likely that this coup will make it harder, not easier, to solve Mali’s “Tuareg Problem” (Sources: Tesfay, Townsend)

4. Greater risks for (especially) foreign enterprises. Tesfay at Executive Analysis argues that mining taxes and even expropriation might be a risk for a number of businesses operating in Mali.

5. Worse military-society relations. Not only was the public stunned by the military’s actions, but the military also apparently were involved in looting in the aftermath of the coup.

However, there are some optimists out there. Over at The Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten notes research showing that “since the end of the Cold War most coups are quickly followed by competitive elections and a restoration of democracy.”

We’ll see.

Too Awesome: Obama’s Nominee for World Bank President

Update: There is more out there on this guy and I just had to add it in…

This must be seen! I think Obama’s choice just might be a stroke of genius.

Obama Nominates Dartmouth’s Own Rapping Spaceman to Head World Bank > Dartmouth, Jim Yong Kim, world bank | IvyGate.

And, from Business Insider’s “10 Reasons… [Kim] is the coolest guy in the world”

Go to the second minute for the good bits.

He comes in at about 1:30 or so.