Political pundits and commentators come in different shades, sizes and professional integrity. With more than 30 years as a journalist before becoming a public servant, I know this for a fact! An ingenious style of commentary is where the writer selects a number of words from an array of unrelated oratories, string these together into a single sentence and attributes such a creation, out of context, to their targeted subject. This is how I view Mr. Franklin Cudjoes commentary dated 7th November 2005 on Globalization Rocks, but African Leaders Fail to Understand It.
Referring to what he calls my honourably leaving office at the end of my second term as President of Tanzania (as required by our Constitution), he claims it is my view and I advise fellow African leaders that globalization threatens to exploit, denigrate and humiliate Africa.
As an African leader committed to the fate of my fellow citizens, I have for many years (and more recently as Co-chair of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation and as a member of the Commission for Africa), spoken on various aspects on globalization. The record is there in my various speeches over the years for all interested to view in detail and judge, [http://www.tanzania.go.tz/presidentialibraryf.html]. I will undeservedly, however, honour Mr. Cudjoe by assuming that he extracted the words exploit, denigrate and humiliate from the speech I made on 31st August 2005 to the African Union Commission, African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Let me quote some relevant paragraphs from that speech in which those words are included and present the full case and context in which they were applied. This is important because I believe passionately in the ideas presented and pray that these would become topics of urgent and serious debate among us as Africans, the honourable ones at least.
I said, in Addis Ababa, that:
As I prepare to leave office I should like to urge all my fellow Africans, and especially those entrusted with the leadership of our continent, to look back into our history, to evaluate the disadvantaged position we hold in todays globalising world, and to be sufficiently agitated to design and work for a better future for our continent and its future generations.
The September 2005 issue of National Geographic does not have a glossy photograph on its cover as always. It has, instead, on a white background, the words Africa: Whatever you thought, think again. This exhortation to think again is directed at non-Africans. But I believe that if we want a better future for our continent, we Africans also need to think again. And we should be informed by a Chinese proverb that says, A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood. Let us open our minds; and let us be sufficiently agitated to change Africa.
The first major exploitation, denigration and humiliation of Africa was the slave trade. This lasted almost 500 years. The second major exploitation, denigration and humiliation of Africa was colonialism which goes way back before the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. And colonialism prepared Africa for the third major phase of exploitation, denigration and humiliation that globalisation now threatens to be.
I argued further that:
In todays world of globalization, the economic ideas and foundation underpinning the then colonial policy still determine the extent and nature of Africas integration into the global economybasically as a supplier of raw materials and extractive industry commodities, mostly unprocessed. If we want a better future for our continent and its future generations, we must be sufficiently agitated to robustly fight the manifestly unjust economic relations in a globalising world.
In todays world of globalisation, the colonial era so-called far-reaching ideas of civilisation translate into what we now call the cultural dimension of globalisation, where, among other things, Western (mostly American) cultural values and ways of life predominate. They are fanned by global interconnectedness through migration and the Information and Communication Technology revolution that beams these ways of life to our living rooms and our computer screens, firing the imagination.
Secondly, we must strive to change the direction of our trade. We are too dependent on Europe and America as destinations of our exports. The European Union alone accounts for 52 per cent of Africas exports. The good political relations we have with Asia and Latin America are yet to translate into larger investment and trading opportunities. It is true Africas exports to Asia grew significantly in the 1990s. But between 1999 and 2001, only 16 per cent of Africas export revenues came from Asia.
I believe we need to think afresh into this strategy to ensure that we trade more with Asia and Latin America as a deliberate continental strategy to diversify our export markets and sources of investment. It is important to bear in mind that Asian markets have more complementarity with the existing supply base of traditional primary commodities that characterise our exports. The scope of value-added processing in Africa is still limited but by taking advantage of linkages with Asia, African producers and exporters could significantly benefit from expansion of traditional primary commodities
My conclusions were:
Firstly, I urge African leaders to think afresh about the place of our continent in a rapidly globalising world. We suffered during the slave trade, and we suffered through the colonial period, which ushered us into a global trading regime, not as equal players but as appendages of metropolitan powers. Now in the world of globalisation we find ourselves unprepared and incapacitated to play the role we envisage for ourselves as equal partners and players, and as beneficiaries. To change this unfavourable configuration, we must be prepared to strategize on how to break out of this institutional bondage that makes us almost irrelevant. In all the years I have been Foreign Minister and then President of my country, I have not seen us seriously and sufficiently strategizing on this matter. Very little time in our agenda is devoted to such matters, which ultimately will determine Africas place in the sun of globalisation.
Secondly, we have to restructure the content and direction of our trade and investment, finding new innovative ways to enhance South-South cooperation, as a means to develop the capacity to relate as equal partners with countries of the North.
And, thirdly, we must not be laid back, waiting for civil society in rich countries to do all the agitation and campaigning for more aid, fair trade, and debt cancellation for us. Right now they lead and we follow. We must resolve to lead, and let them follow so that they are not accused of waging a struggle with no roots and no ownership in Africa .whipping the appetites of our youth for what they believe is modernity and civilisation, which it not always is, and which for most of them is unachievable.
And in todays world of globalisation, the colonisers ideas of a political and patriotic sort appear now as defence of national interests at all costs even if such interests unleash untold suffering on other people. That is why it is said, with wry humour, that it is better to live as a cow in Europe getting at least USD 2 a day, than to subsist on less than USD 1 in sub-Saharan Africa as a human being. If we want a better future for our continent and its future generations we must be sufficiently agitated to lead unrelenting initiatives to redress such an unfair global trade and economic regime
With respect to trade which Mr. Cudjoe correctly said is important for Africa, this is what I said:
We have to fight our insignificance in world trade, for trade, in goods and services, is the currency of globalisation. There was once even a suggestion from some quarters that most African countries should be satisfied with aid, and in return agree not to participate in WTO trade talks. The argument was that we were too insignificant as players in the global market, and a distraction when the big players talk!
The first problem with regard to trade is about size. Africas share of global trade is hardly 2 per cent. But it is not only about size, it is also about content. Africas exports are largely primary, unprocessed, commodities which account for at least 66 per cent of total exports from our continent. Africa, therefore, bears the brunt of the fickleness of commodity market prices, and frequently deteriorating terms of trade and erratic weather conditions. We also suffer from the excessive appetite of the value-adding and trading multinational corporations
I went on to discuss the challenges African producers (NOT governments) face with regard to unstable international prices of raw agricultural produce, and the adverse consequences of the dumping of subsidised agricultural products from the developed world. I emphasised that for Africa to move forward in this respect:
...Two things are transparently necessary. First, Africa must strive harder to industrialise and venture into the service industry. Without value addition we are doomed. But, presently, I do not see us, as a continental organisation, going beyond words to strategy and action on this imperative. We speak about these injustices in meetings and conferences, but we do not aggressively develop and implement the necessary strategies to deal with them as continent.
To all my fellow Africans, including Mr. Cudjoe, the ideas above are indeed part of my hope for Africas future economic prosperity. We in Tanzania have (since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992) placed our development emphasis on implementing wide ranging economic reforms, with special focus on social and economic infrastructure, peaceful coexistence with our neighbours and peace seeking elsewhere on the continent. Our record in all of these areas is there for others to judge.
Personally, I do not have any Swiss or foreign bank accounts. Those who care to visit or seriously educate themselves on Tanzania will quickly find out that, among others, we are promoting girl-child education; we have put in place investor friendly economic policies; we are encouraging local entrepreneurship and we are investing in infrastructure.
We are busy sowing for the future and not, as Mr. Cudjoe claims, harvesting where we have not sown. I am proud as I leave office that Tanzania and Tanzanians no longer feel prisoners to any kind of rigid political philosophies.
From his commentary, I am not sure I can say the same about Mr. Cudjoe. There is rule of law and protection of private property in Tanzania and our parliamentarians pay for their mode of transport and accommodation as these are deducted at source from their income. Libertarians we may not be, and we make no apologies! We feel too free not to believe there is an economic system based exclusively on Free marketsalbeit even those who invented the concept are still in search of it! Mr. Cudjoes misrepresentations and sweeping statements hardly move us forward on what are serious and urgent matters regarding Africas future. And I believe The Independent Institute, as well as Mr Cudjoes audience and readers deserve better!
|Benjamin William Mkapa is the president of Tanzania.|