Mariette le Roux
November 25, 2005
Despotism hinders Africa’s development – PAP Corruption and despotism were highlighted during an introspective session of the Pan African Parliament on Friday as key stumbling blocks to the continent’s development. Along with ignorance, these had replaced the evils imposed on Africa by colonialism and imperialism, United Kingdom High Commissioner to South Africa Paul Boateng told a parliamentary sitting in Midrand. He said freedom fighters of old, including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, had been imbued with a spirit of determination and valour. “But, yes, things have not gone as we thought they would. Things did fall apart.” Africa should not allow the mistakes of its past to stand in the way of future achievement, Boateng said. Fighting the new evils,
he said, required the same valour, determination and clarity of vision and purpose employed in the continent’s freedom struggles. The sitting debated the report of the Commission for Africa, which under the chairmanship of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, recommended several remedies for the continent’s problems. These included debt relief, increased aid and fairer trade. But several members of parliament stressed that Africa should stop seeking the root to its problems elsewhere. “There is a tendency to put the blame on external issues,” said Ghanaian representative John Mahama. The real blame lay with bad management and despotic governments, he said. Some African presidents had more money than their national economies. “The time for playing the
blame game is over,” Mahama told the sitting. While international trade barriers were an obstacle to development, corruption and bribery hindered trade among African countries themselves, he said. “The bribes one has to pay to take a truck of pineapples from Ghana to Nigeria are exorbitant. “We can blame the developed world for trade imbalances, but
what about trade on our own continent?” One MP said Africa’s problems had more to do with corruption and bad management than a lack of resources. Another said the continent could not rely on outsiders to clamp down on corruption, conflict and bad governance. PAP justice and human rights committee member Princess Baba Jigida said it was time for African countries to fall in line and obey the rule of law – for their own sake. “If we don’t wake up, we won’t survive,” she told reporters at the conclusion of Friday’s session. Jigida said she wasn’t sure the Blair Commission report was on the right track. The continent has had many pledges before which never materialised. Money which did find its way to Africa made little difference to the lives of ordinary citizens,
while taxpayers in developed nations went to bed with a clear conscience, thinking they were “helping a starving child in Africa”.
The commission report was silent on the African brain drain, Jigida said. In his morning address, Boateng said there was a duty on countries responsible for colonialism and imperialism, including his own, to help Africa address its new challenges. To this end, he
emphasised the need for the next round of world trade talks to succeed. “We have got to right the wrongs imposed on this continent,” he told parliamentarians. “We need special measures for the poor.” These would include the elimination of agricultural subsidies and trade barriers, which Boateng acknowledged would not be easy to achieve. “But I believe
we can translate the will . . . into concrete actions that will benefit all.” A one percent increase in Africa’s share in world trade would benefit the continent by $70-billion – three times the aid increases agreed to at the recent Gleneagles summit of the Group of Eight (G8) developed countries, Boateng said.