Monday, July 27, 2009


I head to Kampala, Uganda in a few weeks. Love flying in to Entebbe-so luxuriously green and yet ominous to this middle-aged, American traveler. I am presenting a paper at the Fourth Regional Conference for Higher Education Research on Sustainable Education in Africa. (HERPNET-KIU) My paper compares the actual definition of sustainable development as taught in Business law curriculum in the US and UK and asks what Africa can glean from that....
I stop in Michigan and London on the way there and back to check up on some mates and hopefully avoid swine flu!!

Meanwhile, I am focused now on this duty of care idea. I plan to post something shortly on whether there is a moral duty owed by the nations who created the recession that followed the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), to the countries suffering most from the recession i.e. many Sub-Saharan African nations. If a duty is owed, what does that mean? I think we can compare by analogy the duty owed to society by health care providers during global pandemics. Not a perfect analogy but a work in progress.

Here it is-can we pin a duty of care on those whom we depend upon to clean up the GFC similar to our dependance on global health care workers who help us attend to SARS and the H1N1 virus? Do the professionals who crafted TARP in the US and are planning new financial regulations in response to the GFC, as well as the now enlightened workers in the financial industry, owe a duty to the developing world, such that they must now consider how their actions impact it? Since the GFC created the recession can we ask those who are fixing things to a) admit that we are now all economically connected and b) due to the creation of this global economic society or community-we owe a duty to one another and c) that duty proscribes that we consider the developing world when we pass domestic legislation or create financial innovations that have potential for global economic impact.

How is this any different than the green agenda to make us all painfully (yet joyfully) aware that all we do on a daily basis is deplete earth's resources? Why cannot the same logic and political will be generated to protect the developing world from our economic excesses...?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Goldman and financial regulatory reform

Robert Reich puts it much more elegantly than I could, but Goldman doing well is a sign that NOTHING has changed on Wall Street.

Caveat Emptor!!

It is business as ususal because that is the only way that Wall Street can function. This is actually a good thing. We want NYC to recover and money to start flowing. What has hopefully changed since the crisis is that we have reordered our thinking. Perhaps getting rich quick is flawed as a life goal and perhaps we should, as we all grew poor together, begin to appreciate the plight of others. Finally, maybe what we collectively learned from the Global Financial Crisis will inform financial regulatory reform as well.

Goldman's large profits give us hope. The upcoming December 2009 African Stock Exchange Association (ASEA) meeting is entitled The Global Financial Crisis: Opportunities for the African Capital Markets. This is encouraging. There are investment and growth opportunities. New opportunities, ideally, will be vetted with our more experienced eyes. We now understand how interconnected we are and that the bottom can fall out from under us.

In terms of the law here and in Sub-Saharan Africa, financial regulatory reform, as a response to the GFC, must be critically scrutinised. We want laws that protect against future ponzi schemes without crushing financial innovation. We also need to somehow hold accountable the businesses that have the power to alter our individual economic futures. 'With great power comes great responsibility.' (Thank you, Uncle Ben!) Realistically, we will never get laws, any time soon, that stop Goldman from being number one at everything that it does. Goldman is the factory that perpetually churns out all of our future government financial advisors. Also, as time has passed, discussions about Anglo-American, predatory capitalism have died down-lost traction and momentum. In my opinion, that kind of dialogue has the best chance of yielding reform ideas that ensure we do not wind up here again.

For emerging markets in Africa, Capital Markets Authorities must continue to create hybrid approaches to financial, mostly securities, regulatory matters. Wholesale adoption of deveopled markets financial laws is no longer sound-if it ever was. Regulation must continue to be based on domestic needs and perspectives. Exchanges are not natural to many of the African economies that I consider in my research. The laws that govern them are a mix of Western and African. This hybrid can mature and develop as the exchanges grow.

Historically, Titans of Industry, monopolies and powerful financial houses helped America become an economic power albeit in exploitive and oppressive ways. Eventually, people grew tired of the disparity between the rich and poor hence labor and competition laws were passed. We are not tired enough of the disparities that have developed over the last quarter century in the states and globally. The sense I get is that Americans increasingly hope things quickly get back to 'normal.' Before THAT happens, I hope things change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Goldman sucks

Does the fact that Goldman Sachs had a record year bother anyone else but me?

How the heck do we get away with lecturing any country on corruption, accountability and transparency when we reward Goldman for being....what, insiders, well-connected, Made men?

Goldman is too big to challenge, I guess. They are the robber barons of this decade.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Obama’s speech disappointed some people. On the other hand, many seemed to be inspired by his visit to Ghana regardless of what he said. He is a politician, however, and makes decisions for political reasons. Why he chose Ghana and not Nigeria or Kenya to make his first Sub-Saharan visit as President was a political decision. Why he spoke to other politicians and not the people was a political decision. He is an excellent orator and spoke well but it was a missed opportunity I believe. It is not surprising that the new US administration is not deviating at all from business as usual in sub-Saharan Africa. Other than a new cult-of personality, little has actually changed in Washington, D.C.

Some people noted that there was a double-standard of sorts. Obama did not tell the Middle-East that their problems are their own. Americans are right in the middle of that mess. Obama has made it very clear to the ‘Muslim world’ that he was beginning a new chapter in US relations-a kinder, gentler, more understanding approach with admissions about mistakes of the past. He even mentioned past mistake to the Russians. There was only tough love for Africa.

This speech was symbolic and we could say it accomplished its goal and move on. Obama performed in Africa and then left the building. The standard lines were delivered and there was applause. Disappointingly, so much more could have been done.

To begin with, I am no expert in politics but I do know that anyone involved in politics in the city of Chicago, (born there, extended family from there) cannot possibly lecture on the ills of corruption. He is an elegant man and a fine public speaker but let us not be naive and forget what it takes to get to the top politically in the US.

Additionally, what would have been so bad about spending more time acknowledging the numerous mistakes America made in Africa over the years? If studies of dispute resolution and conflict have taught me anything it is that sometimes a heartfelt apology is all it takes to begin to mend the deepest of hurts. An apology may have put paid to complaints about past treatment. Obama has been traveling the world apologising for what Bush did, would it have been so hard to go a little further?

This was an opportunity for a new beginning in US-African interactions. I do not think enough attention was given by speech writers and policy wonks to the real possibilities of this visit. New things are possible because Obama is African-American and also because he is riding the tide of a new era. Americans are facing a much poorer future due to the GFC, more compassion and understanding should be forthcoming. That does not mean an automatic opening of the Aid wallet to assuage the developed world’s burden but some different thinking is in order.

I expected more. What I really hoped for was an effort to redefine how we approach Africa-a new understanding. That is not what we got nor is it what we will see during this administration I am quite sure. I think this illustrates a lack of leadership.

It is not because Obama is African American that African policy is important. African policy is important because while we were all borrowing to buy McMansions African economies were growing. Now that it has all gone to hell in a hand basket- those economies are now struggling desperately. So when Obama talks about how ‘America has a responsibility’, he should tie it to the GFC and not Darfur or Zimbabwe. The GFC has created a bigger global security risk than those situations combined. America is responsible and I wish Obama took that on board when making his historic visit. That would have been the start of something new.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The state of the State of California.

California IOU

This is terribly domestic but I just opened my mail and I have received an IOU from the State of California for a small tax refund....$18.60. Yes, the State cannot afford to pay me this amount.

This State contains all of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, many defense manufacturers and major tourist attractions such as Sea World, Disneyland and Venice Beach.....based on the number of Hummers and Rolls Royces in my town alone we should be able to cover the cost of running the State-somehow.

I ask forgiveness from my PG-13 readers but-

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Never Dreamed You'd leave in Summer

I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
I thought you would go then come back home
I thought the cold would leave by summer
But my quiet nights will be spent alone

You said there would be warm love in springtime
That is when you started to be cold
I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
But now I find myself all alone

You said then you'd be the life in autumn
Said you'd be the one to see the way
I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
But now I find my love has gone away

Why didn't you stay?

Lyrics: Stevie Wonder

Sung by Michael Jackson