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Africa Page

The mumbers are staggering. How to read and how to understand it?

What is wrong?

The leadership, the government. Ethiopia is no exception.

For those who follows Ethiopian politics the last two years of war with Eritrea is an example of African mismanagement. Over 120.000 dead and over one billion wasted on military hardware. Future? Unknown.

Was there any place for diplomacy, which is the politics first choice of weapons?

There are not that many politicians in African politics. African politics are still conducted by the machine guns. There are no functional governments, because there are developed societies in African countries. They are nations in name only. In fact, without whatever governments are in place, it is difficult even to see what constitutes an African country. And there is the the curse of Africa: in order to develop the country more power is given to disfunctional governments, which are the problem in first place.

But where is Africa in terms of intellectial and ideological development? Read Ethiopian Marxism Page. That's where the real problem is -- the lack of ideas!

I posted the article from Gardian to demonstrate the point how low Africa on new ideas. I do not have time to write my commentary on African peacekeeping forces, OAU and UN role in Africa, but perhaps we should rethink the issue of governing Africa all together.

If indeed we are in the new phaze of global economy, maybe we should place Africa in the focus of the world and find new ways of the Global Development of Africa.

It's time to recognize that deconstruction of traditional societies, which Africa joined after the decolonization is natural and can be productive process if the changes are dictated by the need for building new social organization. "The United States of Africa" idea can't be modeled after USA or New Europe; in fact, African Unity can't be done without farming it within global context. If humanity is ready to govern as one family, Africa is there to strat this process. Instead of seeing African countries as charity recipients, the world should see Africa as continuation of all economies and think about PEACE-BUILDING, not peackeeping.

There will be no peace, no development, no future without prosperity. In order for African economies to work the rest of the world should WORK in Africa. Could it be seen as a return of the colonial "supervision"? I believe that the global (not national) direct involment in business of African countries will prevent any possible abuse.

I suspect that the same formula should be applied to Russia, which will have difficult time getting it together on her own. I advocate this idea since the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The world participation is required in this new postmodern era.

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new: Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People's Republic + Ethiopia : A Post-Cold War African State + Sweeter Than Honey: Ethiopian Women and Revolution : Testimones Oftigrayan Women + Among the Pastoral Afar in Ethiopia: Tradition, Continuity and Socio-Economic Change + What Is Your Name: Book of Eritrean and Ethiopian Names + Pillars in Ethiopian History (Pillars in Ethiopian History) + Revolution & Religion in Ethiopia: The Growth & Persecution of the Mekane Yesus Church 1974-85 (Eastern African Studies) + Impact of Economic Reforms on Rural Households in Ethiopia: A Study from 1989-1995 (Poverty Dynamics in Africa Series) + Remapping Ethiopia: Socialism & After (Eastern African Studies (London, England).) + Ethiopia: A Country Study + Ethiopia: From Bullets to the Ballot Box : The Bumpy Road to Democracy and the Political Economy of Transition + The Emperor's Clothes: A Personal Viewpoint on Politics and Administration in the Imperial Ethiopian Government 1941-1974 (African Series, No 3) + Ethiopia Foreign Policy and Government Guide + Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes
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African economies 'in reverse'

A new report by the World Bank says many African countries are worse off now than they were at independence in the 1960s.

The bank says the total combined income of 48 countries in Africa is little more than that of Belgium.

The World Bank report, called Can Africa Claim The Twenty-first Century?, says major structural changes are needed if Africa is to catch up with the rest of the world.

Africa's problems
Roads: only 16% paved
Telephones: 10 per 1000
Electricity: 80% lack access
Aids: 35m infected
Sanitation: inadequate for 75% of rural population
Source: Can Africa Claim the 21st Century

Even just to maintain current levels of poverty, African economies will have to grow by 5% because of rapidly growing populations.

But, the report says Africa has "enormous untapped potential and hidden growth reserves", if it can mobilise its human resources and improve its political systems.

Years of neglect

In the last 40 years, average incomes per person in Africa have stagnated while they have grown in most of the rest of the world.

Africa now accounts for only 1% of the total world economic output and 2% of world trade.

On average, African countries have economies smaller than a town of 60,000 people in a rich country.

And infrastructure is far less developed as well.

With only 10m telephone lines, half of them in South Africa, there is little chance of most Africans gaining access to the internet.

Africa has fewer roads than Poland, only 16% of which are paved, and only one in five households has access to electricity.

Two-thirds of rural Africans lack adequate water supplies, while three quarters lack adequate sanitation.

Investment in human capital

The World Bank also points out that Africa is under-utilising its human capital, particularly its women.

The average schooling for African women has increased by only 1.2 years in the last 40 years, the lowest gain anywhere in the world.

Instead, women typically work longer hours than men, collecting water and firewood, and lack access to credit, land, or educational resources.

Africa's human resources are also being decimated by disease, with Aids infection rates reaching 25% in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

And decades of civil war and conflict, which have affected at least 20 of sub-Saharan Africa's 48 countries, have increased poverty and violence.

The political system, even where there are elections, is generally based on a winner-take-all system that is not sufficiently inclusive of Africa's diverse ethnic groups.

"Political changes .. would do much to empower people and communities and help energise the development process," the report says

Debt burden

Africa is the world's most indebted and aid-dependent region, with 17% of GDP flowing out in debt repayments, three times what the Bank believes is a sustainable level.

But foreign donors are reluctant to give more control to corrupt and ineffective governments, and are insisting on strict conditions in return for debt forgiveness.

"Resolving the dilemma posed by aid dependence requires a radical rethinking of the relationships among Africa's civil society, governments, and donors," the World Bank says.

It has favoured giving more grants directly to non-governmental organisations who have roots in their communities, effectively by-passing those governments.

The report calls for four key steps to improve Africa's economic prospects:

Better government and fewer wars
More investment in people
Diversification of the economy
More aid from rich countries

The report comes at a sensitive time for the World Bank, which has been under attack from rightwing critics in the United States who would like to cut its funding radically.

They argue that the Bank has had little effect on poverty reduction, and in some cases actually helped corrupt governments stay in power.

The new report was produced in conjunction with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank - ironically, one of the organisations that some argue should replace the World Bank.



The Guardian - United Kingdom ; 03-Jun-2000 12:00:00 am

A wave of anomie, even a breakdown of humanity, is sweeping across the continent that must be particularly galling to those who so confidently trumpeted an 'African renaissance'. What we see today is the opposite: a reversal of the progress that seemed to have been signalled by the end of apartheid. At the heart of this reversal is the power syndrome. And it is destroying Africa, country by country.

Certainly, in Africa today the terrible suffering is not caused by external enemies, but from within. African leaders have created one another as their own worst enemies. And they are dragging their populations down into the abyss as they seek to establish their own individual domination. Look at the crude and vicious way that Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is fomenting racial division to stay in power, manipulating genuine racial grievances for political ends. For 20 years he has been in power, all the while doing nothing about land injustice. For that alone, he ought to resign as an incompetent leader.

But suddenly, when his power is threatened, his lagging sense of justice awakes! It is political opportunism of the most despicable kind, a total slap in the face to the South African spirit of reconciliation that was going to raise the continent.

Instead of choosing men like Nelson Mandela as an example, leaders like Mugabe would rather see their countries on fire than give up power. I have spoken extensively to both the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Privately, they tell me this war is not necessary. What, then, pushes them? Why don't they call off this war, even with the United Nations threatening sanctions against them? How can one explain this madness? I can't.

I further cannot explain the steep descent into barbarism of Africans against themselves. It was Belgian King Leopold of the so-called Congo Free State who started the practice of amputating the hands of the children of his enemies. This brutal method now seems to have spread like some psycho virus to warlords, including Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader in Sierra Leone. These men have indoctrinated their followers into the total abandonment of any traditional notion of man's humanity to man. What new kind of monsters have been born in Africa?

Despite what Africans are doing to themselves, the international community, particularly Europe, does bear some responsibility for the destruction of our societies wrought by colonialism and by power plays during the Cold War. From that historical perspective, the abandonment of Africa today is not at all justified. <> Further, what is at stake now in Sierra Leone is not just the rescue of the United Nations peacekeepers, but the rescue of the UN itself. Can we allow the UN to be abandoned, discredited and divested of moral influ ence? If so, the world will see only a cruel panoply of violently contesting forces, and not only in Africa. I do not envy the task of Kofi Annan in this rescue operation because it is against all odds.

Of course, this means that when the UN goes anywhere, it does not fool around with incompetent, lightly armed or underfunded troops. There is little point to future UN operations unless they will have what it takes to match the fighting forces on the ground and dominate the situation.

If Sierra Leone or the other UN peacekeeping failures point to any lesson, it is that it is foolish to rely on the goodwill of the warring parties, even if they have signed peace agreements. Not only is the UN the only entity concerned enough to try to do anything in Africa, it also should be that entity.

The idea of regional African peacekeeping forces won' t work. When the Nigerian army routed the rebels in Sierra Leone a few years back, the Organization of African Unity was euphoric at this specific success of regional peacekeeping. But the excitement was premature because it laid the seeds of the current strife.

Whenever a country goes it alone against another country, it becomes an emotive point. Indeed, the rhetoric of the rebels in Sierra Leone was exactly this: 'Look, we are being colonised by Nigeria.' So there was great pressure for Nigeria to leave. When I discussed this at the time with Boutros Boutros-Ghali (the former UN secretary general), who in turn discussed it with Nelson Mandela, we agreed that the departure of Nigerian troops could not leave a vacuum but must be filled immediately by a multinational force. Otherwise and this is what happened the rebels would use the anti-Nigerian sentiment to exploit any vacuum and try to seize power.

The point is that warring parties in Africa will see any regional African force with a big power like Nigeria involved as bent on pressing its own interests against theirs. Everyone in Africa knows which states are supporting which rebels in the neighbouring areas. Any such force, assembled by the OAU or otherwise, will be riddled with suspicions about the motives of the participants, thus only further muddying the already filthy waters.

If peacekeeping or peacemaking is going to work in Africa, it must be done by an impartial organisation with no stake in the local fight, that is committed to a global view of resolving crises, no matter where. It is not a matter of using any force, but of legitimate force. Only the UN can fill this role.

Wole Soyinka 2000. Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate
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