Thabo Mbeki, who is busy ignoring the deaths of a great many of his people, makes an important point in the Guardian:
The European Union … to ensure its own survival, it had to ensure the advancement of its poorest areas. Accordingly it set up a system of “structural funds” to transform EU regions that, because of their poverty, cannot easily come into the “market system”. The EU recognises that public capital must be invested.
Africa is much less developed than Europe’s poorer regions. It has greater need of non-private-sector capital. However, Africa’s development partners tell it that, for its own development, it must depend on private-sector capital. To add insult to injury, it is also expected to service the debt it owes to these countries, exporting capital it does not have; compete with their heavily subsidised agricultural products; absorb continuously adverse terms of trade; and finance the achievement of “standards” of behaviour set by capital with money it does not have.
Though Mbeki’s thinking in this respect is sound, he makes other statements that are worrying.
“Thinking people … agree that the first driver of growth and development is capital investment.”
Surely it is people who must be the first driver of growth and development? Capital will seek out with magnetic inevitability people who are taking the initiative, who are educated, or being educated; trained or being trained. But in the absence of such development, and in the absence of the basic conditions necessary to sustain life, capital investment will remain forever elusive.
Which brings us to the second of Mbeki’s worrying statements: “The African masses are watching and waiting.”
Mbeki here casts Africa’s people, yet again, in a passive role. So much for the vision of Nepad, that, “Across the continent, Africans declare that we will no longer allow ourselves to be conditioned by circumstance. We will determine our own destiny and call on the rest of the world to complement our efforts.”