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June 01, 2004

So Amazingly Wrong, So Amazingly Right

When the President of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, recently spoke to the South African Development Community, he railed against two things: imperialists who use African nations and instigate wars, and African complacency in the face of horrific acts within the community.


"Nobody will bring peace to Africa if we don't do it ourselves. Africa must stop living on handouts of imperialist countries", Nujoma told the opening of a parliamentary forum in the Namibian capital.

"Africa has more riches than Europe and America together", he said at the forum of the 13-nation South African Development Community.

"The imperialists take our resources or make us fight against each other", Nujoma added.

He singled out as an example the Democratic Republic of Congo where fighting re-ignited over the weekend, and criticised members of the forum for not speaking out against the violence there.

"The SADC Parliamentary Forum is a representative institution of the people of our region politically, but to my dismay, wrong acts, including the military invasion of a member state of SADC, the DRC, by some war-mongering countries a few years ago resulted in the genocide of more than three million persons, mostly women and children and the elderly", Nujoma said.

"However, in the face of these barbaric acts, SADC parliamentarians remained silent", he said.

While he unreasonably blamed the wars and the unrest on imperialists who want to have all of Africa's wealth to themselves, he also stated things that utterly need to be said. Namely, that African nations will never rise above their problems until they take the responsibility to solve those problems themselves. The handouts that he references are used to prop up failing economies far more often than they are used to put the systems in place to create long-term solutions to health, economic, and education problems, for instance.

It's not so much that the nations should stop taking the help that is being offered, though, it's that they should use that help more wisely. Of course, solutions from the West tend more toward Band-Aids than they do prevention--which I've discussed here before. Those Band-Aids, though, don't truly solve much; while I hate to resort to cliches, the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish really does apply.

The one area where the West really does need to take part, aside from targeting aid more intelligently, is in free trade. Africa is an immensely wealthy continent. In gems and minerals and in agricultural potential, in particular, some African nations should be easily self-sufficient. Things like subsidized farming here in the United States, though, makes agriculture a difficult place for any African nations to compete.

Intriguingly, though, one solution is to guide African nations away from trade with the West. Nudging the nations toward creating stronger trading blocks between regional groups would make far more sense than trying to become competitive in Western markets, but trade is usually subdued between neighboring nations. Part of the problem is a lack of decent infrastructure to support easy trade--things like reliable roads and rail systems are simply too limited to make those regional trade coalitions an easy thing to achieve.

Part of targeted aid to African nations from the West needs to address the infrastructure issues more directly, and the money spent would most wisely be directly administered by international agencies instead of being given as gifts to the nations themselves. Bureaucracies always have an amazing capacity for siphoning off funds, but international agencies with strict oversight would probably do far better than most national agencies within the developing nations themselves (the UN oil for food scandal notwithstanding).

Weaning African nations away from Western handouts is no easy task--but there are things that we in the West can do to make it easier and to target aid more effectively. It's good to see that some leaders in Africa feel the same way.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at June 1, 2004 03:53 PM
Comments

Nujoma reminds me of Mahatir Mohammed. He employed some excessive verbiage and overheated rhetoric (like blaming the Jews for everything), but he also made some legit points (ignored by the western media) about Muslim self-reliance and bringing themselves into the 21st century. Replace Jews with imperialists and Muslim with Africa and there are a lot of similiarities.

Posted by: Brian at June 1, 2004 04:15 PM

I didn't even think about it, but you're right. It really does sound pretty similar, doesn't it?

Posted by: zombyboy at June 1, 2004 04:16 PM

I agree with Brian's comment (Nujoma uses) "excessive verbiage and overheated rhetoric". He is a politician and this is how politicians talk.
Nevertheless Nujoma's and Zombyboy's point that Africa should start taking responsibility for it's resources and stop taking handouts is absolutely valid. We cannot ignore the historical impact of imperialism and colonialism but at the same time we cannot continue to blame the west. We should look to our own corrupt leaders who have exploited us, stolen our resources and sold themselves and thereby their countries and people to the West and the almighty dollar.

With regard to the comment"The imperialists take our resources or make us fight against each other"
again we should look to our own leaders for example in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian regimes including the present have done just that in partnership with western multinational oil companies such as Shell and Chevron. They have taken the resources of the Niger Delta, left the indigenous people with absolutely nothing and made the different ethnic miniorities fight against each other for the pathetic crumbs left on the table.

A final comment Africans should be even more alert to their leaders partnership with western imperialism and resource grabbing particularly in the case of oil now that they have managed to destabilise the middle east in their war on terror and consequently burnt their "Arab bridges" (oil) so to speak.

Posted by: owukori at June 5, 2004 01:53 AM

This is the first time I've come across this blog. I discovered it through AllAboutGeorge. First off, I'm glad this blog exist. Serious dialogue needs to take place about Africa and its sons and daughters living throughout the world. So I do indeed plan to book this site and return for a closer read.

However, reading this entry, I must disagree. Africa is not "living on the handouts of imperialist countries." Anyone who has read the history of colonialism would know that Africa is suffering from the cancer inflicted upon it by colonial, imperialist, and now neocolonial rule. We simply have not begun to appreciate what impact sustained and brutal colonial rule has had on a subjugated people. This is not to say that various African traditions and patriarchal and class divisions have not had an influence on its suffering, but its wombs run deep after so many years of Western and Islamic domination.

Writers like Walter Rodney (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) and Kwame Nkrumah (Neocolonialism: the Highest Stage of Imperialism) pinpoint how that suffering has come about.

The West owes a huge debt to Africa, but Africa's greedy, backward leaders and petty-bourgeois class help to insure that people of Africa will always suffer until they become organized enough to build a true revolution to overthrow these class divisions and build a united Africa that can be strong enough to stand up to the West and demand that it be treated with respect. So maybe hell will freeze over before all this happens, but it's vision the people of Africa must have its to ever heal itself.

Posted by: Amani at June 9, 2004 12:45 AM

Sorry I posted the wrong URL for Black Looks. This is the correct one.
thanks

Posted by: owukori at June 12, 2004 02:37 PM

I think "guid[ing] African nations away from trade with the West" is a huge mistake. Nations, especially poorer ones, benefit most from trading with those whose economic factors are least like their own. Africa's comparative advantage lies in industries based on its natural resources and cheap but largely unskilled labor. Trading these sorts of goods with each other is unlikely to be all that useful (with the partial exception of the few industrial areas like South Africa). Trade and investment with areas like the US, Europe and East Asia, areas with lots of capital and skilled labor, will be much more useful. This is why things like the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and liberalized trade rules in textiels and farm products are so importnat to most African nations. Increased economic activity that will result from trade with advanced economies will provide the resources and experience necessary to upgrade Africa's human capital and raise its standards of living.

Posted by: Kevin at June 16, 2004 05:02 AM

Nevertheless Nujoma's and Zombyboy's point that Africa should start taking responsibility for it's resources and stop taking handouts is absolutely valid.

Posted by: Ioioe at August 30, 2004 05:13 AM
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