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Sunday, November 28, 2010

3rd Africa-EU Summit: Africa, EU Linking up Scientific Research Networks

Scientific research and technology have become the defining transformational forces of this century.

However, the scientific and digital chasm between Africa and the rest of the world is hindering Africa's full participation in today's globalized knowledge society.

The Africa-EU partnership hopes to bridge the divide through research funding, training and strengthening institutional capacity.

There are a number of activities in this partnership which focus on this issue, including a high level political dialogue and consultation on common positions in international conferences.

There is also a large project component, including:
• A €15 million pan-African scheme for research grants from the 10th EDF Intra-ACP Indicative Programme. This project will build the African Union Commission HRST (Human Resources in Science and Technology) capacity to launch, implement and monitor calls for proposals at the African continent level. This should contribute to strengthening Africa's research base. The first call is expected before the November 2010 Joint Summit, Global Arab Network reports according to a press statement.
• The Africa Call initiative (with a budget of €63 million) under the EU's Research and Development (R&D) Framework Programme. The call covers scientific research in the areas of health, environment, biotechnologies, agriculture, and food security.
• Africa Connect, which will link up all African National Research networks to the European GEANT (GEANT is the pan-European data network connecting the research and education community across 40 countries.) R&D network.
• GMES & Africa, which will provide state-of-the-art earth observation applications so that African policy makers can take informed decisions on phenomena such as desertification, deforestation and climate change.

Who will benefit from the partnership and how?
Many different categories of African citizens will benefit from the partnership. Examples include:
• Internet access will be boosted because broadband communication prices will drop drastically
• New applications specifically dedicated to Africa will emerge
• Employment will be created in the research, ICT and space sectors
• R&D will provide crops that are insect- and bacteria resistant so that fewer insecticides need to be used
• African indigenous plants will be increasingly used in the pharmaceutical sector
• European citizens will also benefit since medicines developed from African raw materials can and will be used in the North

Who are the main actors involved?
Actors involved include the African and European Unions and their Commissions, governments and civil society, including the private sector.

What has been achieved so far?
The partnership has led to a number of outcomes, including:
• The African Research Grants scheme
• The Kwame Nkrumah Science Awards
• The Framework Programme 7 (FP7) special Africa Call by the European Commission's Research and Development department
• Connect Africa, the African Internet Exchange project
• The GMES (African Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) & Africa process, setting-up an overall framework in Africa for earth observation applications
• The HIPSSA project (Support for Harmonization of ICT Policies in Sub-Sahara Africa) with 43 beneficiary countries. It should contribute to a level-playing field for the private sector to enter the telecom market, to lead to better service and lower costs
• The extension of the AVICENNA project of which the final objective is to create an online African virtual campus network for Science and Technology (S&T) education

What are the challenges for the future?
Any investment in S&T will see results only in 10–15 years' time, and there is also a fear to invest in the unknown. International organizations such as the African Union can help their governments with making good investment choices in S&T.

Whilst Europe is close to investing 3 % of its GDP in S&T, numbers for Africa are currently still much lower. So every year the scientific divide between the two continents widens. Intensifying the cooperation to narrow this gap is of mutual interest: in terms of security, safety, economic and social development and environmental sustainability.

Africa must step up to the plate. My worry is that national policy and vision statements do not reflect an appreciation of the pivotal role for S&T. They are all about trade, minerals, infrastructure and agriculture. It is not surprising that national science and technology budgets are shamefully low.

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Zain Kenya

Anti-HIV Pill Protects Against AIDS

For the first time, a study has demonstrated that an anti-HIV pill can protect uninfected people from contracting the AIDS virus through sex. The much-anticipated results show that an already approved drug can cut transmission rates nearly in half, which could provide a powerful new tool to curb the AIDS epidemic. "It's a game changer," says one of the dozens of clinicians who participated in the study, Kenneth Mayer of Fenway Health in Boston. But experts say the success also raises a dizzying array of complicated issues about human behavior, resources, risk, and public health.

The strategy, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, was tested in 2499 HIV uninfected men and transgender women who have sex with men. Half of the group received a placebo. In the treatment group, transmission dropped by 44%, despite the fact that many study participants in the trial frequently skipped doses. When the researchers analyzed a small subset of people who received the treatment and not the placebo, they found an astonishing 92% protection rate in people who had detectable levels of the drug in their blood—in other words, in those who took the drug regularly.

Nearly 30 large-scale HIV prevention studies have failed, making these results that much more heartening. The new study, called the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative, or iPrEx, cost $43.6 million and was conducted in six countries between July 2007 and December 2009. "The iPrEx study results are extremely important and providing strong evidence that PrEP can reduce HIV acquisition among a segment of society that is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS," said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at a teleconference for the press held yesterday. NIAID provided two-thirds of the funding for the study, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation covered the other third.

As reported online today in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study recruited people at extremely high risk of becoming infected with HIV: Participants reported an average of 18 sexual partners in the past 12 weeks, and about 60% said they had unprotected receptive anal intercourse in that time frame. Everyone received regular counseling about how to reduce their risks of becoming infected as well as condoms and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections. At the end of the trial, 36 out of 1251 people who received a pill that contained a combination of two anti-HIV drugs, tenofovir and emtricatbine (co-formulated as Truvada and made by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, California), became infected. Of the 1248 people who received a placebo pill, 64 became infected.

Robert Grant, a virologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), headed the study, which took place in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, the United States, Thailand, and South Africa. "I was overjoyed that we showed clear evidence that oral Truvada added protection to [men who have sex with men] receiving comprehensive prevention services," says Grant. "It's a robust result." Although some researchers feared drug resistance might surface or that people might increase their rates of risky behavior because they believed the drug provided protection, neither problem was seen in the study, he says.

But Grant emphasizes that the findings only apply to men and transgender women who have sex with men; other studies are underway to evaluate PrEP in heterosexual men and women and injecting drug users.

Several AIDS researchers not involved in the study told Science that they are impressed with its thoroughness and statistically significant results. But they worry how well the strategy will work in the real world. Although participants reported taking the drugs about 90% of the time, the researchers doubt this was accurate because of studies of drug levels in blood. "The questions that remain are more behavioral than biological," says Robert Schooley, a virologist at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Grant of UCSF suggests that adherence to the regimen may have been low because people did not know whether the drug worked or whether they were receiving placebo. Truvada did not cause any serious side effects, but many people complained of nausea and headaches, which also may have affected adherence. Grant is planning a follow-up study to explore these and other questions.

The results come on the heels of a widely celebrated positive finding from the so-called CAPRISA 004 trial in South African women, which this summer reported that a vaginal gel laced with tenofovir reduced infection by 39%. "This plus CAPRISA means we've crossed the Rubicon," says Mayer, who ran one of the two iPrEx sites in the United States. "Antiviral chemoprevention works, no question."

One major difference between the iPrEx and CAPRISA trials is that the gel is an experimental product and is not on the market. Truvada, in contrast, is a popular anti-HIV treatment, and can be prescribed for "off-label use" by any physician. But it remains unclear whether insurance companies will pay for this off-label use; costs run from $11 per month for a generic version to nearly $1000 per month for product made by Gilead.

Gilead says it wants to have "frank" talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other stakeholders before it decides to seek licensure for Truvada as a preventive. "We'll have, I imagine, a very interesting discussion about the potential risks and benefits associated with this kind of a modality, and I think that will govern what we choose to do," says Howard Jaffe, president of the Gilead Foundation, a nonprofit started by the company to help poor communities combat HIV and hepatitis B and C.

This new prevention success also raises fundamental questions about how to best spend money to thwart the AIDS epidemic. "For a country that has not yet reached the level of care in terms of providing antiretovirals to save people's lives, I think it's going to be quite a while before we'd start using oral antiretrovirals for prevention," says Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist a the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, who co-ran the CAPRISA study.

Another thorny ethical issue is whether vaccine and other prevention studies with men who have sex with men now should use Truvada as the placebo, which clearly offers more benefit than the standard dummy preparation. Fauci says NIAID will now examine this question in every prevention study they have planned or underway.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Zain Kenya

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Genetic Profile Guides Search for the Right Blood Pressure Drug

Essential hypertension is a complex, multifactorial disease associated with a high cardiovascular risk and whose genetic-molecular basis is heterogeneous and largely unknown. Although multiple antihypertensive therapies are available, the large individual variability in drug response results in only a modest reduction of the cardiovascular risk and unsatisfactory control of blood pressure in the hypertensive population as a whole.

We are swimming in a sea of options when it comes to treating high blood pressure; there are currently more than half a dozen different classes of drugs on the market for the condition. Yet there is little rationale for giving individuals one particular drug over another. Now, using a combination of key genes, researchers have developed a genetic profile that can identify at least one quarter of patients that react positively to the blood pressure drug rostafuroxin. The findings may help doctors avoid the trial-and-error process commonly associated with matching the right blood pressure drug to the right patient. Additionally, the "personalized medicine" platform may help to identify patients genetically predisposed to develop complications from certain blood pressure drugs. When blood exerts too much pressure on the walls of blood vessels, it's called hypertension, or high blood pressure. In 90 to 95 percent of hypertension cases the cause is unknown; but there are a few factors known to worsen high blood pressure, including smoking, obesity, consuming high amounts of salt, and stress. Here, Chiara Lanzani, along with Mara Ferrandi and colleagues found that two factors--variants of the Adducin family of genes and high levels of hormone ouabain--are related to high blood pressure.

See full article in http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Because the web belongs to you

Do you think I would miss the opportunity to share this?

You must read the rest of what is a long and very well written article in Scientific American. And I just love this...

The Web is critical not merely to the digital revolution but to our continued prosperity—and even our liberty. Like democracy itself, it needs defending"


“The Web as we know it, is being threatened in different ways.

Why should you care? It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community, your government and evidently, yours truly depend. And because the Web is yours.

The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium.

Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.”

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

Here is the long story http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=long-live-the-web&print=true

To give or not to give: Of Sachs, Easterly and Moyo

I think this is an incisive and dispassionate contribution to one of the most important challenges of our time – models and approaches for poverty eradication. I think Mathews Franklin Cooper has injected a rare tenor, one that is seldom heard in conversations on the topic of poverty in the context of the developing world.


Excerpts from Matt's Existential Musings http://existentialmusingsofmatt.blogspot.com/

“My profoundest apologies to my gentle readers for the terrible, terrible pun in the title, but I really needed to find a snappier and more appropriate way to vent my frustration at our required course content than ‘Jeff Sachs and Bill Easterly are both completely full of horseshit, and we would do well to give them each their fifteen minutes of infamy and move on to useful things for a change’. One unexpected benefit, I suppose, to having been overexposed to the Sachs-Easterly debate, though, is that it is helping me to realise just how deeply our own discourse has been pruned down………”.

“Sachs’ argument, in a nutshell, is that with better policies in place, better coordination, more efficient operations and more concerted efforts to solve multiple problems at once, we can overcome all the trials of poverty in one ‘big push’………….”
“There is a point on which I actually do agree with Easterly’s diagnosis in White Man’s Burden – such promises have been made before by governments, both national and supranational, of the ‘developed’ world, and they simply haven’t been fulfilled. Historically speaking, the grand schemes to rid the world of poverty have ended in varying degrees of tragedy and farce.

But that’s precisely where my agreement with Easterly ends, because – to put it as politely as I may without resorting to the invective common to such economic parlance – the man obviously hasn’t looked in a mirror and noticed the great honking plank in his own eye before groping Sachs’ face for a mote. The problem with Easterly is that somehow in all his hagiographical panegyrics of the ‘Searcher’ and vituperative scorn of the ‘Planner’, he fails to notice that of both Platonic ideals, he himself more closely resembles the latter rather than the former. He rebukes Sachs for promoting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to poverty, though his own solution falls squarely under the same rebuke. Though he claims not to be a ‘Planner’, his plan in actuality is indeed far broader and at the same time far more banal, unimaginative and unworkable than that he accuses Sachs of having: in short, to end aid as we know it and allow markets and free enterprise to take its place.

“Easterly’s arguments, needful though some aspects may be for the advocates of conventional aid measures, all very conveniently dodge the matters of historical record that aid money from the Western world has been for the vast majority of its history either a.) contingent upon the adoption of the very market-fundamentalist measures Easterly champions or b.) palliative care for the economic fallout upon the poor from those very same measures.”

“While I agree that we do need aid-critical scholars, particularly in this most uncritical of times, can we find some more durable ones, please? The current model represented by Easterly and Moyo seems to have an expiry date of roughly 1815 – and I do consider it a market failure (or at the least a failure of common sense!) that they continue to be taken seriously. It is my hope that people continue to listen to the likes of Phillip Blond, John Milbank, Cornel West and Amitai Etzioni; it would be good to see some socialists, high Tories or real critical theorists come out of the corners and offer a more thorough alternative critique of current aid policies.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Of a Shepherd in sync with the flock

In a rare re-statement of a long-held policy view, Pope Benedict XVI has said that condom use can be justified to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Last year the Pope Benedict said that condom use contributed little to preventing the spread of AIDS, asserting that only abstinence and fidelity did. Considering that the Pope made these remarks ahead of his first Africa tour, I found this statement rather disturbing.

Pope Benedict maintains that condoms were not “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS epidemic But in a rare exception to a long-held anti condom use policy, Pope Benedict has said that “there may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”

Although limited, Benedict’s concession on condoms has cracked the door open for a wide ranging debate on the use of condoms as a critical tool in the campaign against the spread of AIDS among consenting heterosexual couples. In recent years, the Vatican has also faced criticism at some church-run health clinics in Africa. Health experts have noted that health care workers in church run health care facilities often ignore the teachings and distribute condoms.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lessons from Pirates and Insurgents for Business Management

economist.com/whichmba

Schools of management often cite and draw lessons from battle field strategists. But University of Reading’s Henley Business School professor David James thinks management styles of pirates of the Somali coast and insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan have invaluable insights for modern business management.

Somali pirates’ business model is impressive and their strategy is worthy of critical analysis. For instance, the pirates avoid “symmetrical” assault. They employ stealth and ambush, attacking their victims at their most vulnerable point. It is not surprising that a mere half a dozen sailors easily wrest control of gigantic oil tankers. This is a lesson that smaller companies that seek to take on large entrenched businesses could learn from.

Professor James cites the example of wonga.com. Wonga.com has taken market share by attacking banks' inflexible lending policies by offering loans for the exact amount and length of time the customer wants. It processes the loans rapidly and customers can obtain approval using an iPhone application.

That smaller, nimble competitors make stealth attacks on larger rivals is a well-known phenomenon. However, large companies are too slow to respond. For instance, by the time a captain spots the pirate’s inflatable it is too late because it take as large vessel too long to turn around. Lessons on rapid response can be learnt from the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Insurgent leaders do not micro-manage. Leaders of such movements are, in Professor James’s words, "brand agnostic"—they allow their brand to be adopted by autonomous local cells with little central control. The mistake big business makes is to try to protect the brand by making decisions from its headquarters or “central command”. But a corporate insurgent, like the Taliban allows allow local managers (militias) to respond quickly to local events.

Professor James goes as far as to suggest that companies set up “commando” forces; small units which work outside the traditional command structure of the company and which have a level of autonomy—“not holding the long committee meetings, not having the extended approval and budgeting process”. If a big business as a whole cannot act as a small, nimble player, these militias or business cells can.

A Letter of Gratitude From an Eminent Nephew

This is just brilliant!

"Pretty Good for Government Work" By Warren E Buffet. Published in the New York Times November 16 2010.

DEAR Uncle Sam,

My mother told me to send thank-you notes promptly. I’ve been remiss.

Let me remind you why I’m writing. Just over two years ago, in September 2008, our country faced an economic meltdown. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pillars that supported our mortgage system, had been forced into conservatorship. Several of our largest commercial banks were teetering. One of Wall Street’s giant investment banks had gone bankrupt, and the remaining three were poised to follow. A.I.G., the world’s most famous insurer, was at death’s door.

Many of our largest industrial companies, dependent on commercial paper financing that had disappeared, were weeks away from exhausting their cash resources. Indeed, all of corporate America’s dominoes were lined up, ready to topple at lightning speed. My own company, Berkshire Hathaway, might have been the last to fall, but that distinction provided little solace.

Nor was it just business that was in peril: 300 million Americans were in the domino line as well. Just days before, the jobs, income, 401(k)’s and money-market funds of these citizens had seemed secure. Then, virtually overnight, everything began to turn into pumpkins and mice. There was no hiding place. A destructive economic force unlike any seen for generations had been unleashed.

Only one counterforce was available, and that was you, Uncle Sam. Yes, you are often clumsy, even inept. But when businesses and people worldwide race to get liquid, you are the only party with the resources to take the other side of the transaction. And when our citizens are losing trust by the hour in institutions they once revered, only you can restore calm.

When the crisis struck, I felt you would understand the role you had to play. But you’ve never been known for speed, and in a meltdown minutes matter. I worried whether the barrage of shattering surprises would disorient you. You would have to improvise solutions on the run, stretch legal boundaries and avoid slowdowns, like Congressional hearings and studies. You would also need to get turf-conscious departments to work together in mounting your counterattack. The challenge was huge, and many people thought you were not up to it.

Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic — and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective.

I don’t know precisely how you orchestrated these. But I did have a pretty good seat as events unfolded, and I would like to commend a few of your troops. In the darkest of days, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Sheila Bair grasped the gravity of the situation and acted with courage and dispatch. And though I never voted for George W. Bush, I give him great credit for leading, even as Congress postured and squabbled.

You have been criticized, Uncle Sam, for some of the earlier decisions that got us in this mess — most prominently, for not battling the rot building up in the housing market. But then few of your critics saw matters clearly either. In truth, almost all of the country became possessed by the idea that home prices could never fall significantly.

That was a mass delusion, reinforced by rapidly rising prices that discredited the few skeptics who warned of trouble. Delusions, whether about tulips or Internet stocks, produce bubbles. And when bubbles pop, they can generate waves of trouble that hit shores far from their origin. This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world.

So, again, Uncle Sam, thanks to you and your aides. Often you are wasteful, and sometimes you are bullying. On occasion, you are downright maddening. But in this extraordinary emergency, you came through — and the world would look far different now if you had not.

Your grateful nephew,

Warren

Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.

A crisis of global leadership

Going by recent major events, there is a very high likelihood that we are headed for a dangerous vacuum in global leadership. That foreign policy did not figure at all in the last US mid term elections is as worrying as it is informative. The US is obviously in decline, both financially and militarily. And most importantly, the moral authority of the US was severely eroded in the Bush years–the years the locust ate.

China and Germany are awash with money and seem to be riding the global recession with ease. I am not sure German wealth can substitute for the holocaust. The repressive communist regime in China as well as China’s tolerance of corrupt and authoritarian regimes abroad is more than a little inconvenience. France and England have a colonial past that is hard to put behind.

The UN is incompetent beyond comprehension. Global terrorism, China’s flagrant abuse of human rights, the atrocities committed by the US in Guantanamo and the genocide in Dafur are clearly beyond Mr. Ban’s pay grade.

As the US turns inwards–thanks to the tea party revolution–there is evidently a seismic shift in global power. It is however unclear how this will shape out in the months to come. The world does not need another super power bully. Neither do we need another cold war type brinkmanship.

It is unlikely that the contention for global leadership will be sought through military armament. That era is in my opinion gone, never to return. Economic domination and financial power is the canvass upon which new global power geography will be projected.

The US is not down and out. The US economy could emerge from the recession even stronger; but only if the American voting public that to happen. The American public must learn and accept that the recovery is going to be jobless. Construction and financial sector markets will not return in the hundreds and the hundreds of US mediocre liberal arts schools must begin to produce skills that are needed by a new kind of job market.

For China to lead, it must begin to act more responsibly on the global stage. It must decouple its trade and foreign policy. China must stop abetting rogue governments in Africa. China must make its voice heard emphatically on Iran and North Korea. China must joint the global effort to find peaceful resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. China must speak out on the war against terror. It not enough to wait out the conflict in Afghanistan and then pick up all the re-construction work.

And China must let Tibet go.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why "Development" does not work

Most of the development programming in my part of the world have a classical beginning. They often start with someone, often in some distant capital city in the west or a local urban-based NGO imaging a “problem” and an associated imagined “solution”. These problems, once imagined assume a critical crisis proportion. They immediately become an existential imperative. Similarly, the solutions are billed as universal panacea, the one intervention(s) that has to be implemented to save a child, a mother or a village or Africa.

More often, the statistics and the narrative form used in proposals or project implementation plans are obtained from “baselines”, “situation analysis”, or some “inception report”. These are often short, “expert-led” appraisal, expensive but woefully narrow and superficial. In clinical terms, this process is akin to bad clinical history and a misreading of symptoms of dis-ease.

What can you really expect from a doctor who takes bad clinical history and goofs on the symptoms? Obviously, the both the diagnosis and the prognosis will be wrong. At best, the patient realizes they are not getting better and seeks a second opinion. Or the patient suffers debilitating and permanent damage from misdiagnosis and mis-treatment, making an otherwise curable condition worse. Or the patient dies.

Most development work in Africa is analogous to a physician trying to diagnose and cure a disease whose symptoms they barely understand and whose root causes they would care less about.

My sense is that most development workers in Africa especially, are like bad physicians. A bad physician who does not know enough to even ask a question as simply and as necessary as why or what if. A majority of development types strut around with a messianic halo over their heads and feeling that only they can and must save Africa. They have no time to listen or even ask questions because they think they know the answers.

I am not sure what an Iowa farm boy for instance can say to a subsistence rice farmer in a remote village in southern Tanzania or central Kenya. But you can bet they will be moved with compassion by the poverty, malnutrition, disease burden and low levels of literacy and educational achievement among rice farming households.

I am sure you know the development programming drill around this kind of “problem”. It is Rural Development 101. For this one village of say 500 farm households, you would development “interventions” to raise household incomes, enhance dietary diversity by introducing “kitchen gardens”, distribute bed nets, initiate water and sanitation and introduce school meals to keep kids in school.

This is what most of the so-called development work is about. It is reactive and grossly wrong headed. Any grade school graduate understands that the issues that hold back the progress and prosperity of smallholder rice farmers are not malnutrition or low education or disease or poverty. These are symptoms of more complex and coupled socio-economic and ecological problem. Moreover, these symptoms as most of you very well understand, are correlated and interact in nonlinear ways, often generating complex feedback.

The interesting thing about the practice of development is that it is populated by a small group of people who hang out together pretty much of the time. The leadership and rank and file for the most part have worked in several similar institutions doing more or less the same kind of work. In terms of new ideas and innovation, there is not much, these communities are highly incestuous. So the flawed ideas, if you do not mind my saying so, are passed on from one misguided generation to another.

As an African and international public intellectual, I think donor funded development work in Africa is for the most part a shameful waste of resources. As a scholar, I might add that there is no evidence that development work as method or model of socio-economic development works.

Donor driven development was not the vehicle for economic growth and social transformation in the west. Evidently, donor aid is not what is lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians out of poverty. And the upsurge of the middle class in Lagos, Nairobi, South Africa and Dar-es-salaam is happening in spite of development aid.

To be fair to the good and noble men and women in development, they know not what they are doing. And we must forgive them.

With economies in the west floundering, we might just see the beginning of the end of development aid.

I can hardly wait.

Barack Obama gets it

The US mid-term election is now behind us. Like Bill Clinton and George Bush, Barack Obama has lost control of the House of Representatives. For Clinton it was the Gingrich Revolution. George Bush lost against the tide of the anti-war campaign from the left. And for Obama, Grizzly Mama and the Tea Party Revolution delivered a formidable resurgence of GOP.

In a press conference at the White House, Obama was truly outstanding. He admitted that some election nights are “exhilarating” and others are “humbling”. As the GOP leaders and pundits would put it, the American people have sent Barack Obama an unequivocal message. And I think Barack Obama unlike George Bush in 2006, get it.

Barack Obama understands that the number one issues for most voters is the economy, and the president takes responsibility for the failure to “repair” (whatever that means) America’s economic fortunes. Obama also understands the people’s frustration (especially the GOP) with too much government. He understands that there are provisions in the Obama Care that are burdensome to small business.

Obama also understands that America succeeds if its businesses succeed. He has promised to hit the “re-set button” with American businesses, and one would hope with Wall Street too.

On the deficit, Barack Obama is keen to seek bipartisan approaches to rein in the federal deficit and debt. However, Obama is mindful that the GOP and all the other entities might not “come to the table with an open mind”. On this the president hope for a serious conversation. Lets see what happens regarding the Bush tax cuts, especially in a GOP controlled House of Representatives.

Over the next year, I think we will see Obama as more pragmatic, centrist deal-maker. To this Obama I was drawn, right from his first convention speech in 2004 to his book The Audacity of Hope to. We will see a more reflective and engaged but less cerebral Obama over the next eighteen months.

Obama understands that he must extricate himself from the “bubble” of the White House. But he also understands that the burden of his executive brief can be numbing.

The outcome of the mid-term elections is overwhelming and there is no doubt that the Grizzly Mama has bite. But the president has a real chance to re-make himself in the image of Barack Obama, and yes he can.

Because Barack Obama gets it, he is still the man to beat in 2012.

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