Category Archives: Britain

The reason for the collapse of the Zimbabwe Economy

Anonymous guest post. 

Land redistribution (or seizures) didn’t sink the Zimbabwe economy. In fact, a 2011 independent study, quoted at the time in the New York Times (it’s unlikely to get more sceptical than that) declared that the redistribution programme had actually worked – that Zimbabwe was not just more productive; its food security had also rebounded to pre-redistribution levels.

But many (especially Western) analysts politicize the economic crisis without properly comprehending it. They link the collapse of the currency with the collapse of settler production, which in turn is caused by misrule. Misrule is then metaphorised as a trust problem, which is then looped back into the economic crisis, this time as its very basis.

The land redistribution-economic collapse analysis was deliberately trotted out in the early 2000’s by both the British and the white settlers. It’s a myth, as carefully and boldly planned and executed as anything Goebbels ever put out. It’s the Big Lie Theory stunningly executed. The Big Lie worked on a very plausible assumption: given that the white settler control of agro-industry was the heartbeat of the Zim economy, it followed that dismantling it would trigger the disintegration of the economy. This was only true to the extent that the land seizures disrupted productivity so severely as to halt it altogether.

Herein lies the Big Lie: it was easy to assume that a change in land ownership would mean a collapse in agricultural production. This evidently (as the statistics demonstrate) was a manifestly racist assumption. For one, it failed to account for ongoing smallholder production. More to the point, a decade after land redistribution, agricultural production was at the same levels, if not higher than what they were prior to redistribution.

So: what accounts for the collapse of the Zim dollar? The simple answer is sanctions. In 2002, and at the height of the land redistribution programme, (then President) Mugabe refused to sign onto the second phase of the IMF ESAF programme.

In response, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Fund. At the same time, and in solidarity with the white farmers, Bill Clinton (presidency ended in 2001) and the US Congress instituted sanctions against Zimbabwe. The result: Zimbabwe lost ALL its major export markets. And as a follow-on, its hard currency reserves began to tank.

Those sanctions have still not been lifted. This makes Zimbabwe, after perhaps Cuba, Iran and North Korea, the biggest pariah country on earth. Attempts to lift sanctions and the IMF suspension over the past two decades have all been unsuccessful.

One last thing, which I think is at the core of the sanctions question: why haven’t they been lifted? I was at a press briefing in 2010 or thereabouts with (then Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy, Arthur Mutambara. These were clearly individuals who had been brought into Uncle Bob’s cabinet (at the instigation of Mbeki and the grand coalition peace deal) precisely on the calculation that they were acceptable faces to the West.

And the question they were asking was: why have the sanctions not been lifted now after the peace deal? Almost a decade later, the whole determination of the Emmerson Mnangagwa government to conduct a credible poll turned on the assumption that, following such credible poll, sanctions would be lifted.

In fact, one could argue that the current design of the post-election Commission of Inquiry is itself an attempt to convince Bretton Woods and Washington that Zimbabwe now has a ‘credible govt’. But still, there are no clear indications that even if the poll had been deemed credible, that sanctions would be lifted.

So one is now driven very close to the conclusion that Zimbabwe is being turned into the new Haiti i.e. that its punishment for daring to stand up to Western capital and threaten the very idea of white supremacy is going to be punished for generations to come.

Also, read the Guide to Harare, the work of the late Professor Sam Moyo.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Bethwell Ogot Footprints on the Sands of Time

My Footprints on the Sands of Time is an autobiography by Professor Bethwell Ogot (wikipedia),  an eminent academic scholar. It is a tale of a young man overcoming incredible hardships, and going through early schooling at Maseno, and later through winning scholarships and prizes, on to excelling at Makerere, St. Andrews (Scotland) and teaching with Carey Francis at Alliance High School. It also touches on his work and roles in the establishment of the University of Nairobi, and Maseno University, and at his travels to present papers and speak at prestigious conferences and other institutions across the world.

Ogot narrates tales on growing up in Luo culture, seeing emerging economic changes e.g. he took a honeymoon trip to Uganda in 1959 traveling on first class from Kisumu to Kampala via Nakuru, a twenty-seven-hour train journey. Later, when his father died on August 30, 1978, this was the day before Kenya’s first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was to be buried, and it was a period when the sole broadcaster – the Voice of Kenya refused to publish any other death announcements, newspapers would not publish any other obituaries as a sign of respect to Kenyatta, and coffin-makers were not willing to make any other coffins.

He was close to former schoolmates, who were now in government and its leaders. Ogot was waiting to meet Tom Mboya for lunch at the New Stanley Hotel when Mboya was shot (his death was not unexpected to his friends), and Ogot had an encounter with Mboya’s killer who was fleeing the scene.  He writes of his work to establish and get government and financial support for the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology – RIAT and a delicate dance with community leaders including Oginga Odinga who was firmly out of government.

The book has a wealth of information on corporate governance and management from Ogot’s time at regional bodies, parastatals, international organizations, donor-funded ones, universities that were in slow decline and government. He writes of working in research and publishing, and struggling to document and publish African history. Also of his times at the East African Publishing House that published books on political science, history, geography and a modern African library with much opposition from British Publishers who controlled publishing and later from government officials who set out to shut down independent academic stories. They published Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino that some critics considered a terrible poem ahead of its publication but which went on to be celebrated and sell over 25,000 copies.

There are also stories of navigating the East African Legislative Assembly, travels around East Africa, interacting with leaders and observing actions that were either supporting or undermining the East African Community. Uganda’s President Amin spoke of supporting the community even as he launched Uganda Airlines that he said would only do domestic flights in Uganda. There was also the importation of goods for Zambia through Mombasa that undermined the Dar es Salaam port and the Tazara railway, so Tanzania banned Kenyans trucks with excess tonnage from using their highways, and Kenya retaliated by closing its border with Tanzania. Officials in different countries also tried to keep community assets from leaving their borders, and Kenya grounded planes and withheld fuel of East Africa Airways which owed money to Kenya banks in a move designed to hurt vast Tanzania the most.

The most shocking tales are from his time working at the Museums of Kenya and its spinoff that saw Ogot as the first director of The International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory – TILLMIAP (see an excerpt). It is a serious indictment of Richard Leakey who regarded TILLMIAP as his personal family fund-raising institution and who, with the support of Charles Njonjo in government and diplomats and donor agencies, warded off transparency and Africanization efforts – and was eventually to hound Ogot out of the institution.

Another tale is of when, as the candidate representing Africa on the executive board of UNESCO, he ran for the Presidency of the General Conference. But what should have been a formality of confirming his position became a long process after a surprise Senegalese candidate emerged to run against him – and France lobbied Francophone countries to only vote for a French-speaking African candidate, rules were changed, documents forged, and additional multiple election steps added before Ogot finally won.

The 500+ page book by Prof. Ogot does not have an index, but it’s worth reading all over again.

Arsenal Football AGM

Yesterday, Arsenal Holdings, parent of Arsenal Football Club held their annual general meeting (AGM) at Emirates Stadium, London. There were news reports about some tense moments and here a full recap of the AGM

Here’s a peek at their latest 67-page annual report (PDF)  for the year ended, 31 May 2017.

For 2017, Arsenal income was £432 million (up from £353M the year before) and this comprised £100 million from match day revenue (26 home games had average ticket sales of 59,886 attendees), £198M from broadcasting, £90M from ‘commercial’, £26M from retail and £7M from player trading.

Group profit before tax was £44M in 2017 up from £3M and the tax charge for the year was £9 million up from £1.2M. This was at a tax rate of 19.86% and this will go down to 17% from April 2020.

Arsenal Assets and Achievements in the last 5 years.

Over five years, turnover has gone from £280M to £424M and profit after tax from £4.9 million to £35.2M. Over the same period, net assets have gone from £302M to £363 M and fixed assets are now £618M (up from £572M in 2016)

Operating expenses were £371M including £199 million on staff, £79M on other, expenses and £77M on amortization of players, (the increased amortization charge is a direct result of a record level of investment into the Club’s playing resources). Led by the acquisitions of Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez the Club invested £113.9 million in acquiring new players and to a lesser extent extending the contracts of certain existing players, for example Hector Bellerin).

Arsenal staff payments totaled £199M in 2017 to 695 employees who comprised 75 players, 117 training staff (the development of our own players through our academy remains a priority for our football club), 395 administration staff and 112 ground staff.

In 2017 Arsenal paid £111M for players compared to £66M the year before and received £9M (compared to £12M in 2016). The Club was fully compliant with the Premier League’s wage cap/short-term cost control regulations – The ratio of total wage bill to football revenues was reduced to 47.2% (2016 – 55.7%).

Arsenal directors earned £25,000 per year, but the total payment to directors was £3M with I. Gazidis (CEO – £2.6 million) and K. J. Friar (Club Managing Director – £664,000) earning the bulk, as one director, Lord Harris of Peckham, waived his director’s fee and donated it to charity. The accounts were audited by Deloitte who also earned £25,000 for this report.

The report lists highlight of the year;  how they did in tournaments, a win percentage of 63% (up from 52%,) and names individual players, goal scorers, and some transfers (we secured Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, our two primary targets for this transfer window)

Risks: These include the adverse impact of competing in the UEFA Europa League (they missed out on the 2017/18 Champion league), which is forecast to be £20 million. The full financial impact will depend on a number of factors including the actual progress made in the competition, as this impacts both performance and market pool distributions from UEFA. The Club has previously fully self-insured against a season’s participation in the UEFA Europa League within its cash reserves. Another risk highlighted in the annual report is from BREXIT the Group is monitoring the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. This weaker pound against the Euro has already made it more costly for them to get players from the European Union, but that the greatest risk is from an economic downtown in Britain which will affect their revenue from broadcasting and sponsorships.

Finances: Arsenal has approximately £200 million of debt most of which is long-term and which mature in over 5 years. For 2017, the fixed bonds were at 5.8% and the floating ones at 7.0%. As part of its bond covenants, Arsenal has to maintain a certain amount of cash in the bank – and had £103 million in 2017 (compared to £117 million in 2016). They owe £47 million from recent player transfers. Finance charges in the year were £14M, which included bond repayments of £11M. Arsenal has exposure to the Euro and the US dollar on currencies and uses interest rate swaps for its bonds.

Subsidiaries & Investments: The Arsenal group has about 20 subsidiaries in which they own 100% of and which are used to manage areas like property development, retail operations, ladies football, stadium operations, and data management. Arsenal has also invested £20 million in a company that runs the club’s portal – Arsenal.com has 25 million unique visits a year; the club has 10 million Twitter followers with 9.6 million others on Instagram.

Partnerships: Their main partnerships are with Puma and Emirates. During the year, there was an increase in commercial revenues of £10.3 million, driven primarily by secondary partnerships. There’s no mention of deals in Kenya, which may include Sportpesa and Wadi Degla.

Edit: On November 17, Arsenal welcomed WorldRemit as its first-ever official online money transfer partner. The partnership will support WorldRemit’s growth ambitions by helping them reach Arsenal’s 74 million followers on their official social media channels and 185 supporters’ clubs worldwide.

For Investors:

  • Over a five-year period, earnings per share have gone from £78 to £567 per share. There are 62,217 shares issued.
  • The ultimate parent of Arsenal is KSE UK (which owns 67.05%) which is wholly-owned and controlled by E.S. Kroenke.
  • The directors do not recommend the payment of a dividend for the year (2016 – £Nil).
  • See this on buying shares in Arsenal football club.