Read My Lips

Africa and Globalization

Why might the G8’s focus on Africa also be a time for the continent to do some self-reflection?

Africa in the 21st century.

Takeaways


As the leaders of the world's eight most developed countries meet to discuss Africa's continued plight, the continent’s problems have taken center stage. But Africa's problems are both internal and external — ranging from agricultural protectionism by developed countries to debt to severe corruption. Our Read My Lips feature offers a view of the continent in its own words.

What lies at the core of Africa's problems?

"Here in a nutshell is why Africans are poor: Their leaders keep them that way."
(Robert Guest, Africa editor for The Economist, October 2004)

Do Africans agree that it is all their own fault?

"Africa has never had an opportunity to develop itself, as it had been a playground of various political interests over centuries."
(South African Deputy President He Jacob Zuma, October 2004)

What is the key message Africans have for the developed countries today?

“The rich countries have a choice. Either let Africa have real access to your markets — or acknowledge that you prefer to keep us dependent on your handouts.”
(Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, November 2003)

Why do Africans view the struggle against agricultural subsidies as a fight for survival?

"Agriculture is, for Africa, not just a source of food. It is the continent's major occupation, its economy and culture — and the key to its future."
(Alpha Oumar Konare and Peter McPherson, head of the African Union and former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, respectively, October 2004)

Is that opinion echoed by other African leaders?

"We ask that the world abandon its neo-mercantilism — its hoarding and protectionism. We ask for equitable access to the world's markets."
(South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, October 2004)

How did Brazil help Africa by taking rich countries to the WTO over cotton subsidies — and winning?

"Brazil was getting hurt by the cotton subsidies — but African countries were getting destroyed."
(Pedro de Camargo, Brazil’s former Deputy Agriculture Minister, May 2004)

What other factor has hurt Africa's development?

"The development of Africa has been stunted by its debt burden — and 99% of this debt is owed to Europe."
(Nigeria's Vice President Atiku Abubaker, September 2004)

Is debt relief the answer to all of Africa's problems, then?

"If on our side we don't perform, if we don't implement the right policies, then nothing will come of it. The ultimate responsibility is ours."
(Malawi's Finance Minister Goodal Gondwe, January 2004)

Has foreign aid had any real impact on Africa?

“Africa’s begging bowl is punched with holes. What comes as foreign aid and investment eventually leaks away.”
(George B.N. Ayittey, professor of economics at American University, July 2003)

What conclusion have some African countries drawn from their massive borrowing in the past?

"Our position is that the days of loan-based development are over."
(South Africa's Deputy President He Jacob Zuma, October 2004)

Is Africa's cheap labor enough to attract global companies?

"Manufacturers need smooth roads, reliable electricity and efficient ports. But too often in Africa, the roads are craterous, because someone has looted the maintenance budget — and the power fails because the state monopoly utility company is staffed with politicians' idiot cousins."
(Robert Guest, Africa editor for The Economist, October 2004)

Still, should Africans be wary of simple solutions?

“Africa knows the limits of relying on a free market alone to fight poverty.”
(Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, July 2003)

Why does Europe have a special responsibility?

“Remember, Africa is just 20 miles from Europe.”
(Clare Short, former British Secretary of State for International Development, October 2003)

Which tragic choice did too many African countries make?

“Africans chose war — rather than the ballot box — to sweep away the old dictatorships.”
(Aiden Hartley, author of “The Zanzibar Chest," July 2003)

Does Africa have the potential to end its many wars on its own?

“African-led diplomacy — combined often with African troops, backed up by the UN and now the United States — is the recipe for success.”
(Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, September 2003)

Can true democracy prosper in Africa?

"There will be a time when democratic transition will no longer be considered a miracle — but instead will be regarded as typical of the inclusive way in which the people of our continent are capable of resolving their deepest differences."
(South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, October 2004)

Why is South Africa such a potent symbol for the entire continent?

"South Africa is perhaps more of a microcosm of the world than any other country. We have the full spectrum of human development — from subsistence agriculture to a fully fledged first-world society. We have a broad spectrum of cultural and religious communities, speaking 11 official languages — and including four races."
(Former South African President Frederick W. DeKlerk, April 2004)

And finally, why aren't there more African entrepreneurs?

"For bright, energetic Africans, it is often easier to get rich by joining the government than by creating honest wealth."
(Robert Guest, Africa editor for The Economist, October 2004)

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