What Africans need is Economic Democracyand Not Aid.
By Ezekiel Nwakwue
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston,CLASSmagazine
USAfricaonline.comand TheBlack Business Journal
As G8 countries concluded their meeting on July 8, 2005, inScotland, in Great Britain, the debate about how best the richcountries in the world can help Africans at this crucial time ofgreat poverty, wars andcorruption continues. The leaders concluded an economic summitagainst the background of the terrorism on London byoffering whatthey called an "alternative to the hatred" &emdash; a $50 billion aidpackage for Africa and up to $9 billion in additional support for thePalestinians over the next three years. AP reported same day that"with a last-minute pledge from Japan, Blair won a key victory,announcing that aid to Africa would rise from the current $25 billionannually to $50 billion by 2010. The United States did not make anyadditional pledges beyond Bush's announcement last week that he wouldseek to double U.S. aid to Africa by 2010." Britain's Tony Blair isin picture, right.
Many analysts and political types have suggested that rich nationsshould write-off 100% of debts owed them by Africangovernments. Others have suggested the rich nations shouldincrease the amount of aid given to African countries to help themfight corruption, poverty, disease and environmentaldegradations.
On the hand, I subscribe to the group which argues that Africansdo not need more aid from the rich nations; that what Africans needis economic democracy. Africans need freedom to chart their own future. Africansneed the freedom to decide how the vast mineral resources inthe continent can be marketed. The second largest continent inthe world is rich with abundance of natural and humanresources. If these resources are put in proper use, Africa will be self sufficient, and should not need any aidfrom any country or group of nations.
If Africans are allowed to set the price and market whatevercomes from African soil, the continent can rid itself of poverty, hunger, wars, corruption and disease. Africa is theway it is because there are outside forces playing greaterroles in shaping events that take place in Africa. It istrue that Africans cannot turn any raw material into a finished goods, however, should the foreign companies suck blood out ofAfricans in an effort to turn the vast raw materials intofinished goods? Foreign companies create all kinds of confusion and conflict in every area there is mineral resources thatthe rich nations need.
On a BBC news of June 11, 2004, oil giant Shell admitted that itfed conflict, poverty and corruption through its oil activitiesin Nigeria. This revelation led many Nigerians to ask: whoneeds a friend like Shell? Shell and other foreign companiesdoing business in Africa should encourage the people todevelop and not helping them destroy themselves. If richnations want to help Africa, they should teach Africans how to turnraw materials into finished goods. A Chinese proverbsays, "if you give a man a fish, you have feed him for a day, but teach a man how to fish, you have feed himforever."
Large of amounts of mineral resources that are produced inAfrica are consumed by rich nations. But who determines the fair market value of all these products? Theanswer is obvious. The rich nations that are busyproviding aid for Africans decide the fair market value ofAfrican products. The same rich nations that criticize Africans for not doing enough to alleviate the sufferings of itscitizens are the ones that under-priced everything produced inAfrica. Last month rich nations cancelled debts owe tothem by some African countries, while holding billions ofdollars African leaders stole and banked in the west. Richnations should give Africans economic democracy by returningstolen money African leaders stashed in their banks.
Rich nation should stop encouraging African leaders to stealmoney and bank in the west. Some corrupt leaders use the moneyto buy properties and business for themselves, their wives,children, girl friends and relatives alike. When thereis a change of government either by coup or an act of God inthe country from where the money was stolen, banks in the rich countries have always seized everything and never returnedsuch to that country from where the money was stolen.
If rich nations want to help Africa, they should allow Africans toset the price of their products. Is it fair thatthe rich nations decide how much Africans can sell theirproduct without Africans deciding for the west how much Africanare willing to pay for any product from the rich nations? Thisis the heart of the problems facing Africa. Africans needeconomic democracy whereby they are free to decide who buys itsproducts and at what price.
If the rich nation wants to help Africans, they shouldremove rigid trade rules that make it difficult for Africans totrade with them; such as tariff and subsidies. Theyshould give Africans access to international market by allowingopen market system without setting harsh standards that makeAfrican dreams a nightmare. It is difficult to understand thatNigeria, the Africa's most populated country does not haveAirline that can transport Nigerians to America, Europe and Asia.Does it mean that Nigerian business men and women cannot afford tobuy transport planes? We know that stringent rules set bythe rich nations have made it difficult for Nigerians to havetheir own Airlines that can fly to America, Asia andEurope.
Furthermore, if the rich nations want to help Africans they shouldrecognize health problems affecting many Africans by giving themaccess to generic drugs no matter which company produces it.Twenty-eight millions of the world's 40 millions HIV-infected peoplelive in Africa. According to Health System Trust, GlaxoSmithKline and 38 other drugs companies sued South AfricanPharmaceutical Company, Aspen Pharmacare for manufacturinggeneric versions of three of anti-Aids drugs; AZT, 3TC andCombivir. On October 8, 2001 Aspen Pharmacare won theconcession from GlaxoSmithKline and 38 drugs companies, and was givethe patents to generically produce and supply anti-retroviraldrugs for the government health service and non-profit with awarning not to make profit. If rich nations want to helpAfricans, they should grant them economic democracy wherebyAfrican drugs companies can manufacture generic drugs forprofit too. They should place embargo on arms smuggling thathave continued to encourage and promote wars in many Africancountries. American, European and Asian military weaponsare causing too many deaths, orphans and amputees inAfrica.
From Angola to Liberia and Rwanda to Sierra Leone, thenews is troublesome. Most important, foreign companiesshould stop supporting corrupt leaders to remain in office nolonger than 8 years, and acting as their agents in moneylaundry. If rich countries want to help Africans, theyshould discourage oil bunkering. According to the oil giant,Shell, Nigeria loses over a million barrels of oil a daythrough oil bunkering. Who owns these ships used in stealingNigerian oil? Which company buys these million barrels ofoil stolen from Nigeria? If rich countries want to helpAfricans, they should report to Nigeria and other Africancountries the names and owners of ships involved in oilbunkering.
The west should not continue to criticize Africans for notdoing enough to help their situations while turning away from theroots of the problems. Africans do not manufacture gunsand bombs. Africans do not manufacture ships and planes, butthese things and foreign banks are used to destroy Africa.
If the rich countries want to help Africa, they should grantAfricans economic democracy by joining hands in fightingcorruption, placing embargo on arms smuggling, removing rigidtrade rules that make it difficult for Africans to trade withthe west, and most important, by giving Africans access togeneric drugs.
Nwakwue is based in Houston, and served as a panelist at theUSAfricaForumand Town Hall event organized annuallyon the first Friday and Saturday weekend of May inHouston, Texas (since 1992). The 2005 event focused on 'Nigeria andObasanjo's War on Corruption: window dressing or the real thing, whatnext?....' The full report and features of the Forum and the USAfricaBest of Africa 2005 awards and 13th annual anniversary will appear inCLASSmagazine on July 30, 2005.
POLICY INSIGHT: Africa,Blair and United Kingdom's commendable push fordevelopment assistance. The UK Planfor Africa grew out of the Tony Blair Commission for Africa, made upof prominent Africans, Britons and a former US Senator. TheCommissionrecently released a wide-ranging report of development needs inAfrica and articulated how best African governments and rich nationscan work together to dramatically reduce poverty and improvestandards of living in Africa. British Prime Minister TonyBlair commitment to Africa's development is not in doubt. Thehumanitarian role of British soldiers in ending the atrocities ofSierra Leone is well known. The Prime Minister has spoken on numerousoccasions on the need for greater development assistance for Africa.Mr. Blair has also pledged to increase the UK government's overseasdevelopment assistance as a percentage of GDP by 2012. Both TonyBlair and Gordon Brown have shown strong commitment toAfrican-related issues despite the strident national disagreementsbetween the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. The push by PrimeMinister Tony Blair and his government for massive but accountabledevelopment assistance to Africa is timely and commendable. However,the United Kingdom plan is generating some hostility, especially fromthe United States' presidentGeorge W. Bush. Excerpt from a Special report byUSAfricaonline.com contributing editor Chinua Akukwe
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