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African Leaders on Globalization

What do Africa’s leaders say about globalization’s effects on their continent?

February 13, 2001

What do Africa's leaders say about globalization's effects on their continent?

The great “battles” of globalization have occurred in places like Seattle in Washington state and Davos, Switzerland. This is amazing, considering the subject of these clashes is ultimately the welfare of the world’s poorest people. In this Read My Lips, we present the thoughts of several African leaders on the global economy — and the effects of globalization on their countries and constituents.

What needs to be done about the poor countries’ debt load?

“It is no longer a question of what we should do. We all know what we should do. The question is do we have the political will? Do we have the moral ability?”

(Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo, July 2000)

Why is a solution to the debt problem so important?

“A hungry neighbor is a dangerous neighbor — and a third of the world is very hungry.”

(Daniel Yona, Tanzanian finance minister, September 1999)

And why has Africa not received much help from richer countries?

“Our so-called development partners are not really partners.”

(President Obasanjo, July 2000)

Will financial aid solve the problem?

“I have never supported aid. I always talk of trade.”

(Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, April 2003)

What about Africa’s place at the table in global trade negotiations?

“They have been treating us like animals, keeping us out in the cold and telling us nothing.”

(Munir Zahran, Egyptian trade negotiator, December 1999)

What do Africans think about the global economy?

“A new map of the world is being drawn up and an entire continent — Africa — is purely and simply being rubbed out.”

(Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, February 2000)

What about the impact of the financial markets?

“In the emerging world, there is a bitter sentiment of injustice. There is a sense that there must be something wrong with a system that wipes out years of hard-won development because of changes in market sentiment.”

(Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, February 1999)

How large is U.S. influence?

“I know of no other period in human history where one country had as much direct and indirect global influence as the United States does today, reaching even into the most remote villages on our own continent.”

(South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, May 2000)

How do Africans feel about it?

“Why does the United States behave so arrogantly?”

(Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, February 2003)

What explains the lack of U.S. involvement in African affairs?

“We don’t have oil or weapons of mass destruction.”

(Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, July 2003)

Who should take the lead in confronting global environmental problems?

“They have got the money, they have caused the problems — and now it is time for them to flesh it out.”

(Sani Zangon Daura, Nigerian environment minister and spokesman for the Group of 77, December 2000)

What will it take to get the African people to embrace globalization?

“Further support for globalization and deregulation can only be built if we have something to show our people in terms of concrete returns and rewards.”

(Tanzania’s President Benjamin Mkapa, January 2001)