Monday, 23 November 2015

Building a centre right Muslim Democratic movement


By Syed Kamall

As we continue to absorb the tragedy that unfolded in Paris last Friday and seek answers to how young men of North African origin raised in France and Belgium could equate their faith with such violent acts, there have been the inevitable statements about the incompatibility between Islam and western values of liberal democracy.
Last week, politicians representing centre-right parties from the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa gathered at the Conservatives and Reformists International Summit in Tunisia to reflect on the challenges faced in today’s world.
We wanted to show how the centre-right movement can provide a balanced response that respects the practices that are important to Muslim communities with a pluralist, secular state.
We gathered in the country where the tremors of revolution that has gripped the region were first felt, some five years ago. As the tremors have echoed across the region, the tensions and stresses that still beset other countries have calmed in Tunisia. The revolution has given way to reform, and reform has led to a transition to stable democracy.
In a region that needs success stories, Tunisia stands as a model which many of her neighbours may aspire to. Part of the reason for her success has been the recognition by the people of Tunisia that the absolutism of secularism or religious fundamentalism is not the only path. As revolution takes hold, an exchange of one form of coercion for another is not the answer to a false dichotomy between volatility and autocracy.
The answer to a secular dictatorship is not a religious dictatorship. It is an open society, in which freedom of worship is accepted along with freedom of speech, assembly and contract.
Tunisia only has to look at Europe to see the parallels in their own political reform and Europe’s shift in the relationship between church and state. Towards the end of the 19th century, newly unified polities in Italy and Germany wrestled with the impact of secularisation, most notably in Germany with the Kulturkampf. 19th and 20th century Britain similarly grappled with the role of Christianity in a period of modernisation, punctuated by two World Wars. Our laws no longer restrict marriage, abortion or blasphemy as in the past, while regulation of Lord’s Day has been unwound as time has gone by.
Today, church attendance has fallen dramatically but self-affiliation with Christianity has not diminished. Personal identification with Christianity and other religions remains an important part of modern British life. Institutionally however, religious convictions are increasingly expressions of personal and societal values, rather than state-mandated orthodoxy. Whilst the state provides the conditions for religious practice, it is the person who puts their religion into practice. It is man who has a relationship with God, not the State.
This sometimes uneasy consensus recognises that the authority of God over man does not justify the authority of man over man. Virtue cannot be coerced. We must all make our own choices. And take responsibility for those choices. This is the corner- stone of centre- right politics.
Islam places great emphasis on personal responsibility. Perhaps that’s why, in its golden years, the Islamic world was also the centre of global commerce. Long before modern capitalism emerged in the northern Italian city states, and then in Holland and in England, secure property rights contributed towards Muslims creating prosperous societies.
From this central notion builds a wider truth: that the state does not have a collective identity. It can’t be devout or charitable or honest. It can only provide a context in which individual citizens can pursue those virtues.
The transition to democracy in the region must be grounded in those terms. Openness and pluralism ensure that there is a space for personal freedoms to take hold and society to flourish. To ensure that the state enables enterprise without crowding it out. That it secures property rights without encroaching on the private sector. That the law remains a mechanism for individuals seeking justice, not an instrument of state control. That religious laws or privileges are not required to recognise faith. Our job is to roll the rocks away so that the grass can grow.
Dr Syed Kamall is a Member of the European Parliament for London and leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, the third largest of the eight political groups in the European Parliament.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Poor getting richer faster than the rich

THE poor got rich while no one was looking. Their enrichment has been so hidden in plain sight that junkies goose-stepping to inequality messiah Thomas Piketty’s drumbeat think the poor are getting poorer. My new cellphone proves them wrong.

It all happened without any government initiating, funding or even foreseeing the silent revolution. Meddlesome bureaucrats never saw what was before their eyes, but they sensed that something was happening. That impelled them to implement anti-poor policies: controls that increase prices, reduce choices and retard innovation. If something moves, they tax it. If it still moves, they regulate it. If it doesn’t move, they subsidise it. If it still doesn’t move, they replicate it.

The miracle of market-driven poverty-relief was driven home to me when I bought a cheap cellphone last week. "You can have one for R300, or a smartphone for R499," I was told, "but it’s crude; not like a Galaxy Note 4." "Entry-level calls, SMSs and data cost R39, R25 and R29," he said. Having checked my usage, he said my monthly average would cost R150 "and it’s easy to top up on the phone, the net, or shops everywhere."

Far from being "crude", my newSmart Kicka is awesome. It does nearly everything high-end phones that cost forty times more do. It includes a touch screen, a calculator, radio, camera, GPS, internet, Wi-Fi, fax, hotspot, and too much more to mention.

Had grandparents of "the poor" been able to afford a R20,000 Encyclopaedia Britannica, they would have had only a tiny fraction of the information now in poor people’s pockets.

Poor grandparents never had telephones. Rich employers cranked handles on huge wall-mounted contraptions to get "operators" to "place calls". "Trunk calls" to other towns took hours to connect, and were so expensive that "the rich" were confined to truncated conversations. The modern "poor" make voice and previously impossible video calls to anyone anywhere at almost no cost.

"The poor" once communicated by posting letters in isolated "letter boxes" using expensive paper, envelopes and stamps. Since most were illiterate, they needed someone to write and read mail. Now e-mails and texts are exchanged without knowing a recipient’s whereabouts.

Expensive photographic and video cameras from the past are now contained in a device that offers poor people free "online" education, all of which would have cost their grandparents thousands of unaffordable rands.

There were no fax or photocopy machines. When they arrived, they produced blurred and fading analogue images on unwieldy paper. "The poor" now send and store perfect full-colour images.

Their teeny devices, curiously still called "phones", are computers, which were unknown to their grandparents. They convert handwriting and dictation to audio or text, for which grandparents needed secretaries or "copy typists".

Poor grandparents could not afford a crude crackling shortwave radio. "The poor" can now choose between thousands of FM radio stations from every country in every language. They play songs, books and movies. A GPS tells them where they are, where to go and how long it will take. They make free emergency calls, get medical advice, make reservations for cheap motorised transport their grandparents could not afford, and order pizzas. They shop for best prices and quality, and take indulgent "selfies".

Much of what "the poor" have in their pockets in a single device was too huge to carry, if it existed, and would have cost cumulatively R50,000 or more.

My tiny phone is a tiny example of a huge phenomenon: the extent to which, measured by what matters most, the poor are getting richer faster than the rich. It shows that, notwithstanding thoughtless and dangerous inequality disinformation, real wealth is not about nominal dollars, but real world access to the amenities of life.
• Leon Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation.

Source: BusinessDay Live

Thursday, 29 October 2015

2015 Tanzania Entrepreneurship Camp: Call for Applications

Application is now open to University students and young professionals in Africa interested in attending the 2015 Tanzania Liberty and Entrepreneurship Camp by Language of Liberty Institute (LLI), USA and African Liberty Organization for Development (ALOD), Nigeria at “Lodge Twitter Lodge” . Temeke Pile, Near Pile Bar/Pile Bus Stop Dar es Salaam- Tanzania from November 21-26, 2015.

To qualify, write an essay agreeing or disagreeing in 500 words on: “Regulation of trade by government kills employment and development. Discuss” 

Apply fast to benefit from the limited scholarship available Application closes by November 15, 2015 and only successful applicants will be contacted.

Email your essay or further inquiries to: Adedayo Thomas at

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Excessive Corporate Tax is Hurting Business Innovations in Africa

Africa in the last decade has not witnessed ample development as proposed in the MDGs and towards the implementation of the SDGs since governments have writhed in finding means for financing series of seemingly enormous development agenda, which has seen a great rise in international debt for most African countries. While most of these countries struggle with debt servicing and settlements, pressure grows on corporate taxation on the home front.

The Africa of today is in dire need to capacitate an ever-growing population, averaging about 5% annually. Governments will definitely need to increase spendings but should not be dependent on corporate tax. It will be consequentially grave for governments to raise tax rates considering the recent abysmal performance of economies across the continent, if latest performance indices are anything but valid. Rather than rashly increasing tax rates especially the corporate taxes as it trickles down negatively on the real tax revenue, focus should be on expanding the tax base.

One of the main ruins to investment in modern economics is high tax rates; it logically forces expanding businesses to invest locally accrued revenue in foreign markets with lesser tax rates. For example, in 2011 dozens of top earning companies left Nigeria for other African states where cost of operation was lesser and tax rates favourable, it dearly cost the Nigerian economy billions of nairas in revenue within a short period, part of why it is heavily shaken by recent fluctuating oil prices.

African governments hurt business innovations by proportionately attempting to feed everybody by excessively collecting from the capacitated few. It compels the majority to persistently depend on the revenue from the working few, making everybody to try to please everybody else at the expense of their own comfort. Just a perfect depiction of The Land of Gentlemen, an adaptation from Li Ruzhen’s Flowers in the Mirror, a 19th century Chinese novel where conventional welfarism eventually led to conflict and lack of consensus.

Evidently, when taxes become the highest budget on the ledger sheet, businesses will be compelled to raise prices of commodities to balance the book as no company wills to run on deficit. Jobs will be cut, prompting a pushof more figures into the labour market.Simply put, loses of jobs caused by high taxes leads to a drop in government revenue, as economic production drops then government raises tax rate to regain the cost revenue, production drops again and revenue drops even more.

The US was faced with a similar dilemma in its taxation system when unemployment was ravaging and incapacitating the economy in the 1980s. Prior to Ronald Reagan’s emergence as the US president in 1981, he advocated for a fundamental tax reduction policy. He argued that the most possible way to promote economic growth was to gradually reduce tax rates by at least a 30% over the period of three years especially the upper income taxes. Reagan adopted the ‘supply-side’ economic principle. The idea was that higher income taxes will be cut as to promote businesses capacities to increase investments and spendings: which means lower tax rate will translate into more revenue and more resource to grow, and effectively enlarge the economic base on the long-run by providing more jobs and of course more taxpayers.  

However, inflation did crept in at the initial as with most major reforms but after it was brought under control, the US economy witnessed rapid growth and around 21million jobs were created within the an 8year period through historic innovations averaging a 2.6 million annually while tax revenue and GDP averaged a 7% annually between 1981-1989.

Drawing a parallel between the ‘Reaganomics’ experiment and the current Africa might be enormous, but Mauritius’ tax policies prove it on the domestic. A 15% makes the lowest in Africa while it competitively ranks highest on the Global Competiveness Index for an African country placing a 46th globally. The secret here is there must be a relative stability for ratio of tax revenue to GDP regardless of the existing tax policies.
It is obvious taxes unfortunately add cost to economic dealings; they affect and hinder aggregate upward movement of the curve. If taxes are minimised more transactions will happen at a lower price point. Albeit, there are always capacities for governments to expand their tax base and until they have fully done that, it will be economically immoral to increase tax levies on potential expansionists.

With 60% of African population between 15 and 25 accounting for 45% of its labour force, employment capacities could still be expanded. African states should not be Bastiat’s “fictitious institution where everybody try to live by embody else”. Social welfarism is the old wisdom dismantling the Africa of today. Only attitudes about trade and innovation can hold it together not excessive tax levies.

-          Ibrahim B. Anoba writes via

Monday, 5 October 2015

Development Aid: Africa’s Dead End, and Africa Beyond the End

Source: 1africacnchild
Since the 1980s Africa has received billions of dollars in development related aids and consequently pays up to $20 billion annually in debt service. Sub-Sahara Africa alone pays about four times as much money as the countries in the region spend on education and health care annually. The result is that more than 50% of countries with most international debts are in Africa. 
The effects of civil unrests are hitting Africa hard. Up to 4 million people are at risk of hunger and starvation and more than a million people die annually from malaria, yet, huge amounts of government revenue are to be spent on debt repayment. Africa is in a socio-economic emergency no doubt. In light of this position, it is apparent that Africa needs immediate help and development aids seems imminent.  This will however effectively put Africa deeper in debt pit, a condition the continent cannot afford to find itself.
Is developmental aid a dead end?
Development aids have not effectively elevated Africa. Most African countries are still listed as poor despite a history of massive aid. The state of key sectors such as the economy, health and education in comparison with the inflow of aids are not harmonising. The IMF in its 2005 report on Africa, Aid in Africa, revealed that the influx of foreign aid into the African economy has not been met with tangible development, which is quite obvious, and that the billions of dollars in aid has not transformed into developments in the receiving countries with a 5.5% average growth.
Economically wise, developmental aid is actually a viable alternative but in Africa, it seems to be a dead end. For an example, the Marshall Plan was a defining step for Western Europe towards development after World War II; the European Recovery Program was aimed at rejuvenating Europe’s war-turned economy and to prevent the spread of communism.It was a major success primarily because ofthe well-structured development and recovery plans of recipient states and the desire of Europe to reposition its economic superiority. Africa on the contrary has received around 4 times an equivalent of the Marshall Plan since the 1980s, and a lasting legacy has yet to ensue,it is a disturbing fact since numerous factors hinder the translation of the billions of dollars into equitable development, factors such as endemic corruption, funds mismanagement and economic centralisation.
Corruption and funds mismanagement are a major reason aid has not lift Africa, corruption alone costs Africa over $150 billion annually. Funds intended for development are grossly mismanaged, this is not surprising since nearly every African government since 1985 has been indicted in at least a corruption scandal, corruption is a bane to any development agenda, and it cripples progression and nurtures uncertainties. Before the millennium, numerous African economies were much economically centralised especially as a legacy of the military swerve, presently, some aspects of Africa’s economy and business policiesare still structured around state ownership of means of production, an economic positioning that negates modern demands.
A rose flower from the nursery needs fertile not harried soil to thrive, likewise, development aid needs a diverse economy rich in entrepreneurial initiatives to capacitate its economic intensions.  In reality, governments cannot assure effective production in all sectors of the state since the basic functions of security and welfare are more comprehensive in the current world compared to previous centuries, nowadays governments worry more on national security, diplomacy and administration of justice, and business should not be inclusive.
Beyond the end
Africa is an ingeniously blessed continent. With dispersed abundant natural resources, millions of investment opportunities and over a billion populations, Africa logically should be the new frontier. African governments need to look inward. Agriculture is a sector analysts have echoed to be the oil well of Africa, a sector estimated to yield billions of dollars annually if well tapped but lies almost unproductive,only of recent that a few African governments has attempt innovative measures, agriculture aggregately suffer in Africa.
African governments should promote innate and indigenous business initiatives. With millions of Africa youthsunemployed and a convincing percentage of them embracing entrepreneurial innovations,governments can promote economic development through provisionsof incentives for entrepreneurs and by making capital available for small-scale businesses. Promotion of entrepreneurial ingenuities is a pathway to development for Africa if embraced. In substitution for development aids, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and an Open Market System could prove an alternative. Just as China, other established economies and lenders should invest massively in Africa’s key sectors; governments acrossthe continent should also enact investment friendly policies to attract private investors.
In appreciation of these propositions, progressions will ensure and Africa would in no time go beyond the end.
Anoba Ibrahim
writes at