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The World Trade Organisation And African Under-development (III) 

(From GATT To Geneva And, Now, To Equatorial Guinea) 

By: M. Ikomi Ngongi, Esq.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How many innocent children would it take to point out to our African “emperors” that they are parading their streets and palaces naked? In the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes,  the emperor needed only one true reminder from one innocent little child, not the many adult hypocrites who surround and fed off him, to accept and come to terms with the TRUTH that he really was parading the streets of his kingdom naked! Until then, all his “collaborators”, leaches and parasites, clapped their hands and commended a naked man for being well-dressed just to preserve their positions of privilege in the empire or Government. For how long would our ACP emperors continue to wait, in naïve or stupid expectation, for the invisible golden suits and cloaks to be sewn for them by the shrewd, crafty, savvy, foreign non-African, Caribbean or Pacific tailors?   

All this may sound harsh to some who might rightly say: “How dare you forget to lay blame on the horrific scars slavery and colonialism left in the African psyche?”  True.  Serious responsibility lies in the past, unjust, treatment Africa suffered in the hands of the colonialists and slave traders. But what have Africans done, in more than 40 years of independence, to mitigate the pain of that past and ongoing injustice? What is neo-colonialism about? Who are today accomplices to Africa’s current, ongoing plunder? Who rules and leads Africa today? Is it still the colonial master or is it African? 

When a people consciously refuse to take responsibility for their lives and relegate the responsibility to others, outsiders, they should not be surprised when outsiders dictate how they should live. Africa’s leaders steal billions of dollars from their own citizens every day, every month, every year and stash them in Western numbered bank accounts far away from home. Then, they turn around and, hat in hand, beg for pennies in the guise of development aid from the same countries in which they hide their ill-gotten, illicit booty.  

If this trend continues, African leaders may find themselves in countries with no subjects and lots of tombs of citizens who only return from exile, self-imposed or forced, in caskets. Have African leaders taken a moment to monitor the brain drain of their youth and future leaders all seeking refuge in the West? Do they want to end up as leaders of the dead in tombs kept company only by their own stone and cement effigies, monuments of their own pathetic and patent greed and foolishness?

It is truly ironical that the failure of the Geneva negotiations resulted from a disagreement on how to deal with food security issues. African leaders want to protect their “poor” and under-appreciated farmers and ensure increase of local food production. The Western countries, on the other hand, insist on perpetuating food importation dependence on Africans by dumping the excess food produced by their farmers who are highly subsidised by their governments.  This is where and when Africans say they are trapped. Trapped?  Trapped by whom? Trapped in their self-imposed, antiquated, pre-colonial and colonial agricultural laws and policies?  Who has prevented them from changing these laws and policies and showing more concern for their own poor food farmers?  Is it the World Bank or the IMF?  If so, and I doubt it, how could this be without the acquiescence of African leaders and so-called elites and intellectuals, themselves? When other countries and economic groupings like the US (NAFTA) and EU develop and implement their own national and/or regional agricultural laws and policies, which African country do they consult before adopting those policies? Or do they consult with, seek and obtain the approval of the World Bank and IMF? Of course not!  

Africans must already know this… that they are free to redesign and implement new, progressive, agricultural and development laws and policies that would ensure their own food security. They can begin with these very simple and practical measures. Now! Today! 

First, they must eliminate all unnecessary, expensive, imports from abroad, the Mercedes Benzes, the camembert cheeses, the fois gras, the caviar, the Dom Perignon and Crystal champagnes, the perfumed rice, the sugar coated biscuits and candy that cause our children’s tooth decay and feed our women’s breasts with cancer, the cigarettes that have been rightfully rejected in the West as a major cause of lung cancer and many other health problems, the Evian bottled water, the silk suits and ties, the expensive perfumes, and, oh!, the guns, landmines and sad collection of antiquated war arsenals from the West, which they use in killing their own fellow brothers and sisters, their own children. The list could go on and on.   

Second, they must start acting and living like Africans, not Europeans or Americans. They should re-discover their own lost, true, identity instead of the pitiful imitations displayed all over and around us. Africans are notorious for consuming what they do not produce and for producing what they do not consume. An elite African friend in a West African country once proudly told me that their locally produced “Irish” potatoes were inferior to the ones imported from France. So s/he only bought and ate imported Irish potatoes. This mind-set and inferiority complex must now change. Africans must start consuming what they produce and producing what they consume. Demand for imports must strictly respond to a country’s needs, not as a result of the fabricated appetites or the whims and caprices of a spoiled and unchecked handful of leaders and groups of so-called elites.  

Third, value must be added to all exports from Africa. For example, exports of raw timber logs must stop. Only finished wood products, furniture, must be sent abroad.

The export of raw iron ore must be stopped. Local steel industries must be developed to ensure Africa’s emergence as a manufacturing continent. All natural resources must be enhanced as finished products not exported as raw materials for the industries of other continents. Again take a page from the Chinese. They possess 95percent of all the world’s reserves of rare earth that is used for fabricating batteries. What do they do with it? They hoard and develop their industries to produce and export the finished product, batteries. To achieve this end, we must revise our educational systems inherited from the colonisers, to establish educational systems that produce functional citizens and not functional illiterates. Local artisans and entrepreneurs must be cultivated and supported by the states and their financial systems, not as they are today.

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