Media statement on the passing of Oluseyi Bickersteth

05 MARCH 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Good Governance Africa is sad to announce the passing of its Nigeria chairman, respected corporate figure Oluseyi Bickersteth.

Mr Bickersteth, a former chairman of KPMG Africa, died in his sleep at his home in Lagos on Wednesday morning.  He has been GGA’s Nigeria chairman since the office opened in 2015.

He served on the boards of several corporate and other entities, but is perhaps best known for his involvement in Nigeria’s tax reform initiatives.

He chaired a working group that analysed and prioritised strategies to reform the tax system developed by a study group. The report was submitted to the federal government in March 2004.

Both reports provided the platform for the commencement of reforms of Nigeria’s tax system, work which is still ongoing.

An economics graduate of the University of Ibadan and York University, Canada, he spent his career as an auditor and management consultant and was a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA) and Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (FCTI).

GGA SADC chairman Robert Rose described Mr Bickersteth as an “exceptional person”.

Dr Ola Bello, Executive Director of GGA Nigeria, spoke of Mr Bickersteth as “simply humane”, a gentle, patient and methodical man who laboured daily with love, giving his invaluable time in enabling and nurturing.

One news organisation described him as a giant “who in his time shaped great minds, shaped economies, built organisations and impacted corporations”.

Ends

For further comment please contact info.nigeria@gga.org

Reading between the lines of #UgandanLivesMatter and the effects of poor governance

Media Release

Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, lays flowers during a prayer for the victims of the protest against his arrest at the headquarters of his opposition party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), in Kampala, Uganda, on November 21, 2020. – A Ugandan court on November 20 charged opposition leader Bobi Wine over an election rally which allegedly flouted Covid-19 rules, then freed him on bail, after his detention sparked violence that left 37 dead. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Our continent has had its share of despots in the post-colonial era. There was a time when it looked like they were on their way out. Sadly, for the citizens of Uganda and a handful of other African countries, despotism is again on the ascendancy. Despotism and autocratic consolidation invariably destroy good governance. At Good Governance Africa, we contend that this governance deficit not only leads to reckless (if calculated) brutality, but ultimately to insecurity for the despot himself.  

Harrowing scenes from Uganda shared across social media platforms show the human carnage behind the bland statistics that at least 28 people have been killed and 557 arrested, with scores more beaten, shot or maimed in protest action against the state over the weekend. Uganda goes to the polls in 2021. As the graph below clearly demonstrates, history is simply repeating itself. The cycle of electoral violence is mirroring, almost to a tee, the 2005 eradication of presidential term limits followed by extensive intimidation and repression of any form of opposition or protest in 2006. The 2016 elections were relatively peaceful by contrast.  

Museveni came to power in 1987 and is fast approaching the record for the longest-standing autocrat on the continent. Like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola, who ruled for 37 and 38 years respectively, Museveni has followed the careful script of eradicating internal opposition to his rule. External opposition has been a mere irritation in Museveni’s political calculus. At every opportunity, he has accumulated more power to himself and, in the process, minimised the probability of an internal coup being launched.

Each power-grab eroded the integrity of the internal power-sharing mechanism, reducing the probability that remaining members of the ruling coalition would band together and oust him from office. With increased personal access to power and rents, Museveni could calculate just how large he required his patronage network to be to avoid disrupting the equilibrium. The prospect of impending oil wealth simply deepens this scourge and intensifies the probability of ‘successful’ autocratic consolidation.  

Given this analysis, why do we contend that the resultant governance deficit is ultimately risky for the apparently ‘successful’ autocrat? Because Mugabe and dos Santos were both removed from their perch by bloodless coups launched by their own ruling coalitions, a relatively novel occurrence in our more recent context. Moreover, even though the Arab Spring did not produce lasting governance gains, autocrats do risk widespread popular grievance against their rule. This risk is increasingly concomitant with a rising risk of organised crime and terrorism proliferation.  

Extremist insurgents take advantage of local grievances. Local grievances are almost always a direct function of poor governance. In the absence of governance, public goods cannot be delivered, and broad-based economic growth cannot occur. In resource-wealthy contexts, unscrupulous extractive industry companies are often willing to pay short-term rents to politically connected gatekeepers to gain access to the relevant resource. This exacerbates local grievances. This matching of short-term politics and short-term business thinking is an explosive cocktail that destroys the long-term prospects for both.

Museveni will rue the day he neglected good governance (even before he destroyed presidential term limits) when terrorists start blowing up Uganda’s oil fields. That oil companies off the coast of Mozambique have started to employ private military companies to prevent terror attacks is just one example of the growing trend. Only a few weeks ago, the Islamic State Central Africa Province, mounted an attack on Mtwara in southern Tanzania.  

The best empirical evidence we have about the resource curse shows that natural resource wealth correlates with under-development in the absence of institutions that ensure good governance. What we don’t have evidence for yet, but that we strongly predict on the basis of the trends unfolding, is that the resource curse will no longer benefit elite insiders at the expense of the majority (the traditional resource curse), but instead destroy the prospects for the very autocrat who destroyed those governance institutions.  

In Uganda alone, the governance deficit is clearly on display in the graph below. The country has not scored above 0 (where -2.5 is the worst possible estimate and 2.5 the best) since 1995, according to the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators. 

According to the Fragile States Index (powered by The Fund for Peace), Uganda has seen a near continuous improvement since its 2016 low (but with a preceding average deterioration from 2006 to 2016). In this instance, the past decade is a poor predictor of the future. 

On the Political Indicator Trends, similarly, the apparent improvement of public service delivery is undermined by a poor human rights record and a poor state legitimacy score. The country’s failure to improve its governance scores, combined with Museveni’s iron grip on power, has not only led to despair for millions of citizens but will increase the fragility of Museveni’s own position within his ruling coalition. Junior members of the coalition, with longer time horizons (and therefore lower discount rates) will possess increasingly stronger incentives to overcome their collective action problem and overthrow the ruler.

 This is especially likely to be the case if the risk of extremist activity proliferates. Given the current expression of citizen grievance, and brutal state response, over poor governance, this risk is evidently growing 

The bottom line is that abrogating good governance, while apparently a useful short-term bet for personal power acquisition, is likely to lead to longer-term insecurity for the autocrat. This is a lesson that all leaders across the continent should heed. It should also lead to stronger condemnation and action from regional bodies that seem impotently intent on allowing the status quo to continue ad nauseum.   

Auditor-General of South Africa Kimi Makwetu passing

It is with heavy hearts that we learned of the passing of the outgoing Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) Kimi MakwetuMakwetu was a phenomenal and honourable man who diligently and tirelessly served the country in upholding good governance  

His office worked closely with Good Governance Africa (GGA) on governance and service delivery projects that examined audit outcomes in municipalities.   

GGA would like to extend our condolences to Kimi Makwetu’s family, the national audit office and the nation at large for such a great loss. We are grateful for all the governance work that he contributed to during his time in office. We are the poorer for his loss but trust that his legacy will shine on as we continue the quest for better governance across our nation and continent.  

We would also like to wish the incoming Auditor-General, Tsakani Maluleke all the best in her mandate “to strengthen our country’s democracy by enabling oversight, accountability and governance in the public sector through auditing, thereby building public confidence”.  

Media Statement on the United States Presidential Election

US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winners of the presidential election. PHOTO Andrew Harnik /POOL/AFP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

09/11/2020

This month’s presidential election in the United States has highlighted the vexing and universal conundrum of how to govern in the presence of deep disagreements in society.

This governance challenge stems from sharp cleavages in society, that, while in historical terms are not new, remain real and entrenched.

The mandate president-elect Joe Biden has received after the greatest voter turnout in 120 years in the United States must be seen by him as a mandate to govern through co-operation with various constituencies, and as a way of addressing fundamental injustices through a transformative agenda.

It is a strong endorsement to govern by consensus rather than to dominate through centralised, authoritarian practices. This would be in stark contrast to his predecessor’s autocratic approach which failed to resolve grievances but instead exploited them through populist rhetoric.

In the midst substantive criticism about fragility in the US governance system, GGA would argue that this electoral outcome and the strength of institutions of governance, presents us with a converse argument: that the United States’ democratic parameters are indeed robust, and that its electoral system is characterised by strong institutions and processes that act as checks and balances against the vagaries of populist and autocratic administrations.

The country’s founders built this protection into the constitution precisely to safeguard the American people against autocracy and tyranny.

The key takeout for Africa is that it is by governing with an interest in addressing legitimate grievances that true consensus is formed, which leads to greater peace and prosperity amongst the people and those who would govern.

Chris Maroleng

Executive Director

GGA SADC Africa

For further comment please contact:

Chris Maroleng: + 27 (0)73 274 6501/ chrism@gga.org

Media statement on the arrest of Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chin’ono

20 JULY 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Good Governance Africa denounces in the strongest possible terms the reported arrest of Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono ahead of mass demonstrations against corruption planned for 31 July 2020.

News reports indicate that Chin’ono was taken into custody by Zimbabwean police this morning.

His attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, has described the arrest as an abduction by eight state security officials. Chin’ono himself recorded the incident on his phone and sent out a distress signal on social media.

Chin’ono is an award-winning international journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the Year winner. He is also a fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

His fearless reporting and effective use of social media to bypass state control of information has angered Zimbabwe authorities. He has written on the subject of media freedom in our special edition of our journal Africa in Fact on Zimbabwe’s constitution, available here.

From a governance perspective, GGA believes that shutting down the space for freedom of expression is unacceptable.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental right and GGA believes a free and independent media is an essential pillar of good governance.

We therefore call on Zimbabwe’s government to observe the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls on African states to recognise the indivisibility of press freedom and their responsibility to respect their commitments to African and international protocols upholding the freedom, independence and safety of the press.

Chris Maroleng

Executive Director

GGA SADC

For further comment please contact:

Chris Maroleng: + 27 073 274 6501 (chrism@gga.org)

Ross Harvey (Director of Research and Programmes) +27 071 771 2814 (ross@gga.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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