Monday, 22 March 2010

Collaboration between Public and Private Sectors

There is a growing consensus that the only way out for Africa is private sector led, with a minimal role for the public sector in achieving sustainable economic development and poverty reduction. In this article, I argue, however, that the role of the public sector is necessary to boost growth, notably public-private interactions are key.
A key impediment to growth on the continent is lack of infrastructure. Infrastructure is an umbrella term for activities including power, telecommunications, piped water-supply, sanitation and sewerage, solid waste collection and disposal, and piped gas. This also includes development of massive public works projects like the construction of roads and dams, and irrigation and drainage facilities; and transportation and communications network.
This deficiency is particularly greater in the area of sanitation (65% coverage for sub-sahelian countries against a total of 82% for developing countries as a whole), electricity (24% against 58%) and rural road access (34% against 90%).
Interactions with the private sector can take many forms:
·      Private operator under contract to the government;
·      Joint public-private ventures;
·      Franchises and concessions;
·      Build-operate-transfer schemes;
·      Deregulation; and
·      Volunteerism.
One of the key reasons I am an advocate of public-private sector collaborations is that despite the potential benefits in large-scale private investment in development projects, one of the drawbacks of private financing is that priorities maybe determined in purely economic terms without any consideration of social impacts.
Further another drawback associated with private financing is the diversion of domestic resources to lower-priority activities – to the extent that project selection criteria are distorted by the quest for leverage – so as to bring in foreign investment and make projects work.
Further, necessary ancillary investments by the Government can be significant. Private investors prefer to invest in existing high-demand areas instead of extending services to unserved areas, as revenue is surer, even though doing so may be against the best interests of a city or a region, thus requiring a high level of public sector investment to ensure services are created for those that require them the most.
Aside from infrastructure, regulatory reforms are also necessary to make it easier for companies to start and grow in the formal sector and thus attract greater levels of investments. The average ranking of African countries in the World Bank league table for the ease of doing business was 138th (out of 190 countries) – the worst ranking for any continent. The private sector has a limited ability in achieving regulatory reforms.
Weak governance institutions are key impediments to growth, economic competitiveness and private sector development (domestic and foreign investment). Stronger public sector institutions and improved country systems for managing public resources will contribute to improving accountability and transparency in public finances and procurement practices. This is the foundation for equitable development and also for a better business environment. Therefore it is imperative that there is a high degree of collaboration between the public and private sectors to induce growth.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Good Hair - Dispelling the myths

"Look at where you be in hair weaves like Europeans / Fake nails done by Koreans/Come Again/Come Again" (Lauryn Hill)
I recently watched the docu-film, ‘Good Hair’ by Chris Rock - he comically tackles the Afro-Caribbean obsession with impeccable tresses. Rock decided to make this production because his young daughter asked him why she did not have ‘good hair’. This sparked questions on culture and acceptance and ‘what constitutes good hair?’. My 'clich├ęd' response to this would be ‘healthy hair’.
For generations, some black women have fought with their natural hair; it has been permed, relaxed and teased incessantly. All for what? Is it so that they can look more socially ‘acceptable’ or is it simply for manageability purposes? While some people may argue that it is the former, on my part, it is largely the latter.
It seems to me that the general consensus is that conformists (to Westernized ideals of beauty) relax their hair, wear it in a weave, straighten it, whilst rebels, mavericks and Nubian queens alike chose to sport natural styles such as dreadlocks, afros or even a shorn head. I find these assumptions to be generalist, inaccurate and unfair. There was never a more evident case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’.
In the words of Lauryn Hill, ‘Look at where you be in hair weaves like Europeans / Fake nails done by Koreans/Come Again/Come Again’. Clearly, Miss Hill doesn’t advocate anything but the natural stuff and that is her prerogative.
It is easy to see why afro advocates believe that straightening or relaxing one’s hair equates I-Want-To-Look-Civilized-According-To-The-Western-Rule- book. According to the poll results on, 56% of voters weren’t ready for a First Lady with kinky hair. When Malia Obama wore her hair in twists in the summer of 2009, conservative America was revolted. Yes, revolted!
Looking at black, female celebrities who dominate the media, we have the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and Tyra Banks. If you ever read comments written about these women on black celebrity websites regarding their looks, these women are labelled as ‘bounties’ and ‘sell outs’ and have arguably become pariahs of black sisterhood. On the other hand, there are the likes of Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Angie Stone and India Arie who are constantly hailed as ‘soul sistas’ or are said to be more in touch with their ‘African-ness’. Notice a correlation?

I personally choose not to leave my hair tabula rasa and I most certainly do not relax or straighten my hair because I want to look 'white'! I chemically straighten my hair it expedites the processes of washing, combing and styling. Sometimes, if I feel like it, I might even heat-blast it into submission. Am I 'less black' for doing so? What does 'being black' even mean? I feel that members of the black community need to get off that proverbial high horse and stop consigning people to 'sell-out' status simply because of their grooming choices. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Belinda Otas - All Mine

If I wan twist am, na my hair
If I wan lock am, na my hair
If I wan dread am, na my hair
If I wan put am for police cap, na my hair
If I wan thread am,
I say na my hair

And if I wan do am banana cane roll,
na my hair
If I wan fry am, na my hair
If I wan geritate am, na my hair
If I decide say na weave I wan wear,
Na my hair,
I pay for am

If I wan afrolise am, na my hair
(na afro I wan do)

And if I change my mind, put am gele
– abi na satellite dish –
Na my hair

And if na wrap I wan wrap am
Like my African sisters dey wrap their hair,
Na my hair
Na for my head im dey.
Abi your own loss?

They say I am doing damage to myself
I wonder if they knew that I had choices
I wonder if they knew that
I do not appreciate becoming the chips
With which they dissect my sisters
Under the banner of ideological
Or sociological reasoning
And culture

I wonder if they realise that before they started,
I had been set free to make choices
And was no longer under any form of
Ideological subjugation
And I don’t fit into any of the boxes
They would like to put me in.

I wonder if they realise that I am a grown woman
With a reasoning capacity
I know some of my sisters have
Gone to extreme lengths
To change who they are for acceptance
But I would like them to know that
All I have is mine
And nothing is synthetic
Which need not be

I don’t want the white girl flow
Than the white girl desires to have an afro
I don’t want to be subject of television shows
Which add nothing but patronise our imagination
We are not so dumb that we cannot see
Or tell that your ratings matter more
I hear you when you say I should be careful
But I also want you to remember
I have a right to decisions about my appearance
And what I look like without you dissecting me
Right down to the hair on my skin.
I am me and its all mine and I want to be left alone

And – in case you didn’t hear me the last time, I said "Na my hair, na my head im dey, abi your own loss?"

Otas is a London-based journalist, writer and blogger, and theatre fan. She is working on her first stage play.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Fashion: Asos takes on Africa

“Because fashion is so indicative of the political and social climate we live in, what we wear will always be a symptom of our environment” – Alexander McQueen

With increasing consumer focus on ethical issues, the growing trend of ‘ethical fashion’ has hit close to home, with online shopping haunt - ASOS, launching its ‘Africa’ line- a capsule collection for ladies inspired by and developed in Africa.

Ethical Fashion - The Concept

As defined by Ethical Fashion Forum (“EFF”), “ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment”.

This includes:
1.      Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption;
2.      Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights;
3.      Supporting sustainable livelihoods;
4.      Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use;
5.      Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components;
6.      Minimising water use;
7.      Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste;
8.      Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion;
9.      Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives; and
10.     Animal rights.

With the sole aim of supporting trade in Africa, the new range has been designed, sourced and produced alongside several small African communities, working with artisans and production groups to create a contemporary collection with traditional textures.

Asos in Africa features jumpsuits, dresses and emblazoned jackets, reworked using African Kangas, a traditional vivid multi-purpose cotton print worn in Eastern Africa. The majority of the clothing has been produced by SOKO, a non-profit organization based in Kenya. SOKO is a clothing production workshop for the export market, aiming to create fair employment, offer training and skills to local workers. The organization aims to develop a sustainable and long term solution to Kenya’s economic growth by promoting community driven, ethical and environmentally aware trade in fashion.

Asos in Africa presents an excellent opportunity for African culture to tap into the mainstream, whilst advocating a sustainable supply chain for local workers. From hand-crocheted tunics to organic cut-out detail tees; a rolled-sleeve blazer with matching cullots to high-waisted chino; and a neutral jumpsuit to a puff-shouldered beaded-band dress – prints are clashing, cross-referenced, and reinterpreted. Check it out and let i-Muse know your views -