Kenya’s General Election: Why, for the good of the country, Raila Odinga must win

There has been a lot of negative coverage about the forthcoming gen elections in Kenya on 9th August 2022.

The Economist’s article below a few months back is typical:

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2022/04/02/kenyan-voters-face-an-invidious-choice-in-august

It fairly cites a lack of a viable choice and focuses on the cynicism of Kenyan politics; Where politicians change allegiances and political parties – usually one-election vehicles for whatever frontrunner is in current fashion – more often than they change their expensive imported Versace and Armani suits; Of which they can easily afford a warehouse-load on a Kenyan politician’s ludicrously-inflated salary when compared to even those in the most powerful countries in the west.

Sure, the curse of tribal politics is nowhere more visible than in Kenya on the continent. A curse that always comes at the cost of actual viable social and economic policies that are almost an afterthought and hard to discern between the two current frontrunners – Raila Odinga and William Ruto:

Both candidates aspire to “bottom-up economics”, whatever that actually means, and a vague promise of subsidies on fertilisers. Ultimately they both inspire nothing more than apathy in the Kenyan electorate.

But that is missing a trick.

Read more

As someone who witnessed the Kenyan election violence first-hand; Violence that broke out at the end of 2007 after disputed elections back then that were clearly stolen from Raila and that saw over 1000 killed, if the country is to ever begin to overcome its tribal strife, then Raila must rightfully ascend. And do so in free and fair elections.

Ruto, who comes from the fourth-largest Kenyan tribe – the Kalenjins – might cite Julius Nyerere as one of his heroes because of his success at largely ironing out tribal divisions in neighbouring Tanzania (a great achievement in and of itself, but done at the cost of failed, socialist-orientated policies such as nationalisations and forced farm collectivisations that destroyed the country’s economy) and hopes to do the same for Kenya, but a victory for Raila would do more in a split second than any lofty words (and probably only token ones at that from Ruto) ever could.

For as de facto leader of the third largest tribe in Kenya – the Luos who make up most of western Kenya – Raila symbolises that whole tribe’s frustrations at having been largely excluded from the highest echelons of power since independence. Something that has been exclusive to the largest tribe, the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins in President Moi from 1978-2002, .

More than any other politician that I saw while covering the election violence in 2007/8, Raila always seemed genuinely weighed most by the whole terrible affair.

There are continued misgivings amongst a wary electorate – especially by the largest tribe – the Kikuyus – that he will be dictatorial and attack the very democratic values whose erosion lead to his own exclusion from power. But in the lead-up to this election, he has bent over backwards to court and humble himself in front of the very people who have again and again treated him with suspicion. There is no evidence that he would lead in this way. In fact, out of the three politicians who have dominated Kenyan politics since the election violence, Kenyatta, Ruto and Raila, he is the only one not to have been prosecuted by the ICC for the violence back in 07/08.

Whether he wins them over remains to be seen.

By giving his approval, current President Uhuru Kenyatta took the first step in trying to break that cycle of prejudice that has forever burdened Kenya, since independence with essentially the sidelining of the entire west of the country.

In my (humble) opinion, it is now time for the Kenyan electorate to follow suit and help smash the vicious cycle of tribal nonsense once and for all. Raila has done more and suffered more than most politicians in Kenya – tortured himself under President Moi.

It is time to give him the chance that he rightly deserves at the top slot and in so doing, take one more positive step towards ending tribal conflict and prejudice in Kenya.

The Cape 1000 is Africa’s answer to the Mille Miglia

This article appeared in the U.K travel site Detour on 31st March 2022 – https://detour-roadtrips.com/home/the-cape-1000-is-africas-answer-to-the-mille-miglia

Inspired by Italy’s most epic rally, the Cape 1000 is four days of petrolhead perfection in beautiful wine country.

At the foot of the iconic flat-top Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, a group of excited, mainly male, sports and vintage car enthusiasts from all over South Africa gather at the V&A Waterfront Hotel.  The expansive dockside development is the scene for the inauguration of the Cape 1000, a first-of-its-kind vintage car rally inspired by Italy’s Mille Miglia, voyaging deep into Cape Town’s scenic hinterland.

Continue reading “The Cape 1000 is Africa’s answer to the Mille Miglia”

A conversation on Greece’s recent diplomatic foray into Africa on Pantelis Savvidis’s (ERT3) Greek web channel “Anixneusis”

Speaking yesterday (Sunday 16th January 2022) with esteemed colleagues, Pantelis Savvidis, Retired General Ilias Leontaris, Nikos D Kanellos, and journalist Sakis Moumtzis on the weekly Sunday morning podcast “Anixneusis” – the free-to-air Greek web tv channel, administrated by Pantelis Savvidis – previously on ERT3.

We spoke about the validity of Greece’s new diplomatic push into Africa. The historic ties between the continent and the Greek people and ultimately whether it was cause for optimism and a true renewal in relations or just another false dawn.

https://youtu.be/iN4goCTmSns

Continue reading “A conversation on Greece’s recent diplomatic foray into Africa on Pantelis Savvidis’s (ERT3) Greek web channel “Anixneusis””

A conversation with Shuaibu Idris, a development economist from Nigeria, about the future of infrastructure spending in Africa

On the 16th December 2021, I had a fascinating chat with Shuaibu Idris, a Nigerian development economist and MD of Time-Line Consult, a Lagos-based financial consultancy and management firm, about the state of infrastructure spending and general investment levels on the continent for an article for the weekday South African media outlet, Business Day ( https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2021-12-23-george-philipas-infrastructure-spending-in-africa-is-at-a-crossroads/ )… Thought I would share his insightful extended comments.

Continue reading “A conversation with Shuaibu Idris, a development economist from Nigeria, about the future of infrastructure spending in Africa”

Infrastructure spending in Africa is at a crossroads

An edited version of this article appeared in the Opinions and Analysis section of Business Day (South Africa) on 23/12/2021: https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2021-12-23-george-philipas-infrastructure-spending-in-africa-is-at-a-crossroads/

The pandemic has certainly not been kind to investment prospects in Africa.  Lead by a slowdown in infrastructure investment from China, foreign direct investment (FDI), already heading south before the onset of the pandemic, fell by 18% in 2020.  More ominously, greenfield investment, investment in new projects, fell precipitously by 63% according to the Global Investment Trends Monitor released by UNCTAD in Jan 2021, the largest regional fall on the globe last year.  The proverbial onslaught culminated with the announcement earlier this month at the recent Forum of China-Africa Cooperation conference (FOCAC) in Dakar, Senegal that plots Sino-African relations for the next three years, of a vertical drop in investment from China from US$ 60 billion to US$40 billion. 

Continue reading “Infrastructure spending in Africa is at a crossroads”

Failure shows SA Companies should reconsider African strategy

An edited version of this article appeared in the daily weekday ed of Business Day (South Africa) on 18/10/2021:

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2021-10-17-george-philipas-failures-show-sa-companies-should-reconsider-african-strategy/

There has been a flurry of activity by South African companies on the continent recently.  From Vodacom’s successful bid as minority partner for the Ethiopian telecommunications license to the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) between South African Airlines (SAA) and Kenyan Airways (KQ) that is intended to sow the seed for a pan-African airline.   In fact, South African companies have made great inroads into Africa over the last two decades or so and seem to dominate the African business space.  According to a 2018 report by the Boston Consulting Group, South African companies make up 32 out of the 75 African multinationals active on the continent.  And according to a recent 2021 fDi Intelligence report, a leading research agency and a division of the Financial Times, South Africa is the second biggest investor on the continent from Africa or the Middle East, behind only the UAE. 

But there is another side to this unquestionable success, one punctuated by regular missteps and blunders that have been repeated to the great detriment of a significant number of South African companies in Africa. 

Continue reading “Failure shows SA Companies should reconsider African strategy”

SA must clean up its act in Africa – Its future depends on it

This article appeared in Sunday Times Daily (South Africa) in the Opinion and Analysis section on 31/08/2021:

https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times-daily/opinion-and-analysis/2021-08-31-george-philipas–sa-must-clean-up-its-act-in-africa-its-future-depends-on-it/

It has certainly been an active 18 months or so for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his foreign policy pivot to Africa.  As Chairperson of the African Union (A.U) last year and at the G20 summit in November, he championed decisive measures to counteract the impact of the pandemic on Africa as a whole.  Seeking debt relief, increased vaccine procurement and waivers on vaccine patents to encourage domestic African production.

And just last month, South Africa deployed 1500 South African troops making up the bulk of the multinational force under SADC command to counter the growing threat of an Islamic insurgency in northern Mozambique.  

Continue reading “SA must clean up its act in Africa – Its future depends on it”

A New Chapter in Greek-African relations or just a flash in the pan?

An edited version of this article appeared in Greek Business File (July/August 2021 issue):

A new chapter in Greek-African relations or a flash in the pan?

When Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias heralded a new chapter in relations between Africa and Greece to a gathered host of African ambassadors for Africa Day to mark the establishment of the African Union late last month, it hardly made waves.  Statements of good intention towards the oft-neglected continent are nothing new.  But a flurry of recent diplomatic activity, including a new diplomatic mission in Dakar, Senegal and the announcement that Greece will contribute to the French-led peacekeeping mission in the Sahel, would suggest that Dendias’s assertion might this time actually be backed by action.

Continue reading “A New Chapter in Greek-African relations or just a flash in the pan?”

Where have all the Greeks gone? The story of Greeks in Africa

A shorter version of this article appeared in the Sunday Cyprus Mail on 4th April 2021 and was re-published in Economia – the Greek business and finance media group on 27th April 2021

https://cyprus-mail.com/2021/04/04/where-have-all-the-greeks-gone-the-story-of-greeks-in-africa/

Today there remain only a few Greeks in Africa, mainly in the metropoles of South Africa. These last remnants only hint at a rich past that tied generations of Greeks to the vast African continent. There are some who still remember this prosperous past. Minis Papapetrou, a retired engineer who grew up in Sudan and now resides in Athens describes how he and around 200 members of the ‘Greek Community of Sudan’ still meet periodically in the Greek capital. Before covid disrupted life, they regularly gathered for Christmas and Easter, even though most, including Mr Papapetrou himself, left Africa almost 50 years ago. So powerful is the memory of the place that bonds them. “When we get together, or go to the club, our conversations are all about when we were back in Sudan,” he sighs. “Do you remember that? Do you remember when we went there? It’s a nice feeling to remember the country you were born.” Mr Papapetrou represents the last in a line of three generations of Greeks whose fortunes ebbed and flowed with those of the continent.

Continue reading “Where have all the Greeks gone? The story of Greeks in Africa”

Smart Cities in Africa. The Smart Move or another White Elephant that brings crushing debt

A shorter version of this article appeared in Business Day, South Africa on 23rd March 2020

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2020-03-23-sas-smart-city-drive-may-not-be-such-a-clever-move/

Last month President Ramaphosa in his SONA heralded the forthcoming construction of a new 5G-ready smart city around Lanseria Airport in the next decade.  With it, South Africa was belatedly thrust to the front of a Continent-wide rush to establish so-called smart and eco-friendly cities, seen as a means of jump-starting the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution powered by digital technology.

Continue reading “Smart Cities in Africa. The Smart Move or another White Elephant that brings crushing debt”