The Liberian information minister has acknowledged that the ebola outbreak ravaging his country is “overtaxing” the public health system; MSF drops the pretenses and claims the system is “falling apart” (BBC). There are two ways to interpret the current epidemic in the Mano Region: one could argue, as the minister does, that the scale of the crisis is due to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea being on the “frontline” of the disease; or one could argue, taking a step back, that it is the weakness of the Liberian state which has allowed this outbreak to become a full-blown epidemic (the same claim could be made about the inability of Nigeria‘s state elite to educate and protect its citizens in the North). There are many figures being thrown around in the current crisis: but what are the numbers that really matter?
Hollywood does not have a track record of accurate or sensible portrayals of Africa in film. But that does not mean they can’t make a preposterous romp that somehow touches upon the key dilemmas of political economy in Africa. My personal favorite in this category is, without a doubt, Sahara (2005).
Sahara stars Matthew McConaughey (before his current Academy Award-winning self but already in his “all-right, all-right, all-right” mode) as Dirk Pitt, the ultimate alpha male fantasy: ex-Navy seal, marine archaeologist, treasure hunter, classic automobile collector, charismatic, smart, irresistible to the ladies, and all-around good guy. Together with his inseparable pal Al Giordino – a crass, tech-savvy comic relief machine – Dirk follows the 140-year-old track of an old confederate ship believed to have sailed up the Niger river (you read right), and in so doing he manages to fight a warlord, help a doctor (Penélope Cruz with a thick Spanish accent) stop a plague, and thwart the plans of a shady European businessman.
Too much camp for you? Keep reading. Continue reading Pop Political Economy: Sahara (2005)
Outside Navrongo stands a huge white empty hospital, flanked by bungalows, erected at some fantastic cost, unfortunately in such a position that flood-water drains into, instead of away from, the building. The designs were drawn in Accra by persons who never visited the site until the hospital was too substantially in existence to be moved to a drier spot a little farther up the hill. Bare, bleak and out of scale with its surroundings, it stands there like some temple of the future, lacking gods or priests.
Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas (1954)
In appearance, Kwame Nkrumah is a slender man in his early forties, of middle height, with a mop of frizzy hair, big soulful eyes, a sultry, sensual expression and a trace of petulance, of prima donna touchiness, in his manner. He is, I am sure, a born actor, with all the magnetism, emotional sensitivity and panache of a good players. To say this is not to suggest insincerity. A true actor believes entirely in the reality of his characters. Nkrumah’s part is that of the savior of this people from foreign oppression. To give point to the part he has had to invent the oppression, but that was not difficult, nor in his eyes wrong. Nationalism is a passion, not an exercise in logic, and to passion’s servant all means are justified.
Last month I gave a presentation on ESID‘s project on political economy analysis at the workshop “Making Politics Practical II: Development Politics and the Changing Aid Environment“, which was held at the University of Birmingham. The presentation introduced my work with David Hulme on the organizational challenges that the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development face in introducing political analysis into their operational work. Thanks to the folks at Birmingham you can listen to it right here:
You can find the other presentations here.
A medida que he seguido en las noticias estos días los trágicos acontecimientos del ataque terrorista al centro comercial Westgate en Nairobi (la capital de Kenia), no he podido evitar que me venga a la cabeza una pregunta más abstracta y general, quizás más distante de esta tragedia concreta pero para mí y muchos conocidos y amigos bastante más preocupante: ¿ha dejado de ser África un lugar seguro para los occidentales? Continue reading Nairobi: África ya no es segura