Aid and Trade are Not Enough
This past week and the weeks ahead are likely to be dominated by
on the future of Africa and the role that aid, debt relief and trade
can play in alleviating the devastating poverty in much of Africa. But
afraid that this debate will miss the main obstacle to growth and
development in Africa, which is weak and corrupt leadership.
In 1983 I traveled to Ghana to collect a debt. That alone caused much
amusement in Ghana itself - they thought it was a joke that I would
up over half the continent to try and collect a debt that could never
paid. The reason - Ghana had imploded, the International Airport had
trees growing in the runway and the hotel I stayed in had no water or
electricity. Passengers getting off the aircraft with me looked like
refugees carrying water and other "essentials". The famous local
looked as if it had been bombed, buildings vandalized and roofs stolen.
What had happened - nothing much. Aid had poured in; they had a
start at independence with good foreign exchange reserves, a
administration and rich resources. They had not fought a war for
there were no internal conflicts, only rotten, corrupt, self-serving
leadership. Ghana was a failed State - it scared me and I wondered,
this happen at home in Zimbabwe?
It could and it has. Zimbabwe was given every chance to succeed - open
access to global markets on a preferential basis, massive foreign aid
all quarters, technical assistance in whatever field was requested. We
started out with an educated elite - many of whom had lived abroad for
number of years. We had a diverse economy based on mining, agriculture,
industry and commerce. We were virtually debt free. The world was at
feet but we blew it.
Today Zimbabwe is a basket case - we cannot feed our people, we have
destroyed over half the formal sector jobs in the economy, our industry
in tatters, all other sectors of the economy either shrinking or
Our social services are a mess and life expectancy has halved. We are
than we were 30 years ago and there is no sign of an end to the decline
all pervading despair.
No amount of aid or debt relief or trade concessions are going to help
country get out of the hole it is in - only a radical change of
and leadership will do that and I am afraid that this same analysis
to many countries on the continent.
People talk of a "Marshal Plan" for Africa, failing to recognize that
countries like Zimbabwe have been the recipients of more aid per capita
was applied to Europe in 1945. People talk about debt relief - we are
servicing our debt at all at present, the US$7 billion in debt that we
is virtually free money anyway. Its not even trade - African countries
had access to European markets on an extremely preferential basis for
years and yet only a tiny minority have taken up the opportunities
Our collapse is self inflicted, its home grown, and until this sort of
nonsense is addressed by the global and the African community, there is
hope for countries like Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and so on.
are our own worst enemies and we must fix what is wrong here at home in
Africa, before we can make effective use of the generosity of the
world and the new global village that offers such marvelous
The question is how to effect such changes without running the risk of
accused of neo-colonialism? How to ensure that when leadership fails a
country, the people can change them without violence and mayhem? We
tried here in Zimbabwe for the past 5 years - we have insisted on no
violence, no guns, we have worked to secure a democratic, legal
power to new, popular leadership and we have not succeeded - why? It
been simply because African leaders pay lip service to the fundamentals
the rule of law and democracy.
When it comes to the wholesale theft of national resources and the
subversion of the rule of law and democracy, our leaders are in a
by themselves. We have become adept at manipulating the media and
governments and the multinational agencies such as the World Bank and
UN. To this long list we perhaps should now add the G8 leadership and
Geldof. We allow African leaders to strut across the platforms of the
stage as if they were acting in the real interests of their people and
acting simply as self-serving tyrants.
Quite frankly until African leaders themselves put their own houses in
there should be no talk of assistance of any kind. It is ridiculous
Ethiopia with its rich agricultural resources has been supported by
food aid for over 20 years. Just take a look at Nigeria - one of the
giants of the world yet threatened with instability and rising poverty
belies its wealth and status.
Development and poverty alleviation take discipline, honesty, openness
democracy in national political life. It takes hard work and commitment
the strict observance of the rule of law and the guarantee of investor
rights and business contracts. If African leaders applied these
to their own and their public lives they would bring prosperity and
to their countries.
It's got nothing to do with race, or discrimination, or unfair trading
practices or a shortage of resources - human and financial. Ours is a
homegrown crisis and it can only be resolved by home grown solutions.
not think that economic collapse and human suffering will by themselves
bring change - just look at North Korea and Myanmar for example.
The global community needs to completely isolate tyrannical regimes
above and the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and then demand that they
real reforms before they are allowed back into the world community. If
fail to address the issue of leadership in these countries then we
both those countries and their millions of people to hardship and
and human deprivation that can only be overcome by flight to another
which will offer a better life. Human migration on this basis simply
things worse in both the affected States.
Aid and trade are not enough.
Bulawayo 11 June 2005