Thursday, June 04, 2009

Africa Agri-Culture: Non-Homogenized

I always come across the most interesting articles and blogs related to agriculture in Africa, but seldom get around to posting them here. I'm going to try and change this trend for the last few months we are here in Moz.

Speaking of Mozambique, here is an (optimistic) article on what could happen with agriculture in this country, assuming the critical constraints to development are addressed. Click through to the full article, "Mozambique Could Become a Field of Dreams".

I recently discovered a blog simply called African Agriculture, which seems to provide good news updates and opinion pieces. Click here to visit.

Finally, here is a link to a publication called "The Conversation Behind Closed Doors" that was prepared by senior associates of Baird's CMC. Apparently the report reveals the attitudes toward corporate investment in Africa among leading U.S. corporations -- according to senior officers of 30 American Fortune 100 corporations we interviewed. The fundamental question is: Why has Africa not attracted more interest from the U.S. business community?

I had a look at the executive summary of "The Conversation Behind Closed Doors" and it was intriguing. However, most of the points highlighted in the summary are the same ones on the Laundry List of Conditions for Development and Investment Promotion that any of us who have worked in private sector development for a reasonable length of time could cough up on command. I suppose these issues may be relevant for the CEO of a company not familiar with investing and operating a business in Mozambique or Nigeria or the Sudan, however these are most certainly issues that the governments of these countries, in addition to the people working on the ground to promote a many of the changes called for, are almost numbingly familiar with.

I asked the study authors to clarify who the intended audience is for this report. Is it the US companies who might potentially expand operations into Africa? Or is it the potential recipient countries of said US investment? I'd be curious to know, and see how that might change my evaluation of the report contents.

One final note on "The Conversation Behind Closed Doors", but this is just me being picky: along with all of the other choir-singers, I am tired of hearing Africa referred to as if it were one sad lump of a country, or one fabulous unified destination for investments.** The tagline for this study is "Inside the Boardroom: How Corporate America Really Views Africa." Isn't that just a bit pretentious? Assuming that the suited and tied occupants of the US Fortune 100 boardrooms could possibly have a view, much less a *real* one, on all of AFRICA?

Perhaps this seems petty, but it drives me nuts. Maybe it's just a bad day. Do any of you find this tagline bothersome?

Regardless, I'd like to read the full report so that I might make more meaningful commentary.

**Yes, I realize I'm fully in hypocrite territory because of my blog title. Africa's right at home on a list of two cities and a country! Despite my best efforts, it seems I was also guilty of referring to "Africa as a unit" prior to moving to Mozambique.

3 comments:

Mbini said...

Thanks Ali for this. I read the executive summary. Reading it was an exhausting exercise, I must say.

I've been asked in some countries if I know a certain "so-and-so" from Malawi because I am from Africa.

An even more interesting one is in an informal survey where ppl are asked about Africa. One guy says:

"I have seen South Africa on TV. It looks nice despite the word Africa in its name". And then the other one says "Africa means poverty, animals, AIDS and dying black people".

I no longer try to explain any meaning of Africa to the ignorant.

isabelle said...

The tagline bothers me too, but I think alone the title is telling: How does Corporate America view "Africa"? As a singular, whole entity -- they are not concerned with picking apart the individual regions, issues and influences, but instead focused on what applies or is useful to them.
So actually it is a quite accurate, useful tagline!

It's interesting, I find myself referring to the place I work as "Africa", or "West Africa" mainly to people I think won't recognize the names of the countries or know where they are, thereby doing my part in perpetuating this image of Africa as a specific category. Should work on that.
Thanks for your posts, Ali, I've really liked reading your blog.

Ellen said...

one of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk about 'africa' as if it were one country. Instead of one of the largest continents in the world! Or that a Morrocan has a similar culture to someone from Swaziland, or that someone in Cameroon speaks the same language as an Ethiopian! Even in the country of Sudan, nothern Sudanese often look different and have a different culture than those from south Sudan.
However, your blog title has never bothered me, because Ali-Africa, sounds better than Ali-Mozambique. Also, because you live there (and are an avid traveler), I would expect that you would not consciously or subconsciously consider all of Africa to be one country, or all African cultures to be similar.