Political independence has not yet brought about the desired change in many African countries. By and large, many African nations have been dependent economically on either their former colonies or international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and others. Many have not yet been successful in standing on their own i.e. becoming self-reliant or competent in the international market. As a result, they have been suffering from a debilitating economy for many years.
It is a very sad reality that over 30,000 children die daily in Africa due to poverty, malnutrition and diseases. Generally, while the winds of change and development have already blown in many countries across the globe, the continent of Africa continues to suffer from natural as well as man-made catastrophes.
Conflicts and wars caused by territorial, ideological, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and many other differences have become part of the daily lives for millions of Africans. These conflicts and wars have brought not only hardship and insecurity to millions but also impoverished many African countries.
Many African leaders frequently depend upon their military might rather than seeking peaceful and democratic solutions to their internal as well as external problems. Instead of feeding their people, many of them spend a great deal of their budget to build and re-build their military might. Consequently, during the late 1980s and into the 1990s, conflicts and wars have caused loses of so many lives and forced millions of Africans to flee their countries in order to find peace in neighbouring and western countries.
Generally, Africa's immigrants or refugees live within neighbouring African countries consisting by and large, of rural migrants, moving over short distances. Recently, however, more and more African migrants and refugees, generally those with relatively better educational background and professional training have legally or illegally managed to enter industrialized countries. These people have lived and studied there; others have acquired skills that can be very useful for the economy of their country of origin.
International organizations such as the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), International Organization For Migration (IOM), The European Union and other international agencies working in collaboration with industrialized nations, mainly the G-8, have been active and have done a better job in mediating and helping resolve political problems many African countries face. They have also been assisting African countries financially from time to time, mainly to alleviate poverty and to address relief aid. However, generally their assistance has been inconsistent and not sustainable. Further, their assistance focussed on politics rather than economics. Therefore, it did not help tackle the unbearable economic problems and did not bring about significant change in either the economy or in the life standards of millions of Africans.
Recently, however, industrialized countries of the world, the G-8 have finally put their acts together and made the African issue their priority and by doing so, they seem to have developed the right economic approach to resolve the number one enemy of the continent: poverty and under development. The G-8 countries during their summit in Scotland made a big effort to reach at debt annulment; better trade relations and more funds to poor African countries mainly those in Sub-Saharan Africa. They made a buoyant move to allocate over $50 billion a year (on debt cancellation) in order to help poor African nations unravel their precarious economic conditions. There is also a belief that North-South cooperation will build bridge with the international community and help increase global support. This can also help create a conducive and enabling environment for the international community to create a positive setting for poverty eradication and livelihood improvement for millions of less fortunate people in many African countries. Further, this noble decision will help narrow economic disparities and increase global integration between the rich and the poor countries.
It is hoped that the G-8 leaders will continue giving due considerations to the predicament of poor countries in order to bridge the unfair economic imbalances between the North and South. Further, it is hoped that the initiatives taken by these G-8 nations to increase development fund, cancel the cumbersome debt obligations and provide equitable and favorable market provision for African products in the global market will have a positive impact on the economy of those poor African countries; therefore, African nations must get their acts together and do their home works in fighting rampant corruption and mismanagement and develop workable strategies in order to escape from the vicious circle of poverty and underdevelopment. It is also important for African countries to implement NEPAD to further embark on the issue of proper democratic norms, good governance and put every effort to achieve sustainable development.
Here, it is important to note that Africans in the Diaspora must do their part in order to help the economy of their country of origin move forward. Although the Ethiopian Diaspora have done a considerable job in that regard, considering their number and potential, a lot more can be done to help the economy of Ethiopia move forward. Despite political differences, I believe Ethiopians in the Diaspora can have one and same agenda on the developmental endeavors of their country of origin. Ethiopians in the Diaspora can agree to disagree on political differences; however, they can always agree on helping their country on many other aspects such as on economic issue. They should separate political differences with economic and developmental assistance towards their country of origin. It is when Africans help each other, care for each other and their homeland that industrialized countries such as the G-8 come to their door step to help.
It is imperative therefore, that the North-South cooperation continues to grow on a concrete and practical plan for partnership and for doing business. Since Africa has different levels of development and some have better leverage than others, the North-South Development Plan must consider among others, diversity of levels of development and different leverage for better implementation purposes. Although $50 billion a year is only 1/5th of the combined 1 per cent earning of the developed nations and thus, it may not go nearly far enough. However, the intention of the G-8 to make the African issue their agenda in their summit is indeed commendable. It is therefore a very good start that one can say: way to go G-8! However, the materialization of this very good intention is yet to be seen. Even though, the donors have to follow strictly whether the aid is benefiting the poor or not, the G-8 should not impose cumbersome conditional ties on poor countries.
On the other hand, the African nations have a lot to do in order for this pledge to be materialized and implemented. They have to act as partners and not simply as receivers from the other side. They have to direct along with the G-8 partners the right economic approach to their respective development strategic plan and display the highest degree of unity and solidarity in global issues towards a greater articulation of their concerns and interests. Further, African countries must strive for better representation of their national interests in the international trading system and must maintain great solidarity among them (South-South cooperation) in order to achieve these goals. South-South trade should also be enhanced and further market access from developing countries must continue to stimulate South-South trade, including through negotiations within the Global System of Preferences among Developing Countries.
A lesson can be drawn from the business they are doing with China in that regard. China is a big investor in many African countries and the result oriented strategy to transform the relationship between China and Africa has been working just fine. Africans must work hard to build their market economy and have a fair and equitable access within the western market. Whereas the G-8 nations way far from the continent have been concerned about poverty in Africa, some disgruntled African intellectuals in the US and Europe and few opposition party leaders from their sanctuary in North America and Europe have publicly opposed the G-8 debt relief and additional aid to their own countries of origin. Whereas Bob Geldof, Bono, J. Saches (a renowned Economist) and millions of people around the world are campaigning for debt relief and additional aid to Africa, few African opposition political party leaders are advocating just the opposite. What an irony and what a paradox. Isn’t that a crime against humanity?
BY YOHANNES GEBRESELLASIE (PhD)