Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,728,043 articles and books

When heresy becomes fashionable.

Long before the concept became fashionable, this magazine had been arguing that the only way Africa can improve the quality of life on the continent was through domestic industry and increasing intra-African trade.

Most of the time, it seemed we were whistling in the wind. Our theory was considered 'heretical'. The prevailing wisdom was that Africa's future lay in increasing the volume of its raw commodity exports.

We argued that bigger volumes of raw commodities meant lower global prices. Worse, exports of raw commodities do not create wealth or spread it around in terms of good jobs and incomes. There is no technology transfer, no innovation, no incentive for entrepreneurship.

But that went against prevailing wisdom which came from the developed world. It came packaged with loans, aid and grants. If you wanted loans, you had to buy the economic theory. The theory was excellent for the interests of the developed world; it was catastrophic for Africa.

Nevertheless. for decades we bought the theory, even though it made no economic sense. Africa has been exporting raw commodities since it was first 'discovered' by Portuguese sailors SAILORS. Seamen, mariners. Vide Mariners; Seamen; Shipping Articles. . It continued to export raw commodities during the colonial era and even today, it persists in exporting raw commodities.

The outcome: wealth for those who import the commodities and add value to them; poverty for us. Independence changed nothing as far as the unequal economic relations were concerned.

But the gods of economics, sitting in London, Washington and Paris had spoken and our leaders meekly meek  
adj. meek·er, meek·est
1. Showing patience and humility; gentle.

2. Easily imposed on; submissive.
 followed their prescriptions.

We argued that economic emancipation Ask a Lawyer

Country: United States of America
State: Maryland

I am 17 years old and would like to know if I would be able to file for minor emancipation.
 is not possible without economic control. We said that the size of the economic pie in Africa was outside our control. When the pie shrank shrank  
A past tense of shrink.


a past tense of shrink

shrank shrink
, as a result of lower global prices, there was less to go around. Inevitably, those most able to control the distribution of the pie, i.e. government and monopolistic businesses took the biggest slices and everybody else had to scramble To encode (encrypt) data in order to make it indecipherable without having a secret key to "unlock" it. The term came from the early days of cryptography which camouflaged analog transmissions with secret frequency patterns.  around for what was left.

Governance had little to do with political battles--the poor fight for their stomachs.

But now, fortunately, this magazine's 'heretical' ideas have become fashionable. Now we hear leaders talking about developing markets, expanding markets, adding value to our resources, mobilising capital. We are no longer looking outside for our economic salvation but to our own capacities and capabilities.

This movement, sad to admit, is not yet continent-wide. Many countries are still content to remain 'rent economies'--exporting commodities and importing everything else. They still shun Shun

In Chinese mythology, one of the three legendary emperors, along with Yao and Da Yu, of the golden age of antiquity (c. 23rd century BC), singled out by Confucius as models of integrity and virtue.
 intra-African trade. Nevertheless, the movement has started and is gaining momentum--I refer you to our interview this month with Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa Benjamin William Mkapa (born November 12, 1938) is a former President of the United Republic of Tanzania (1995 - 2005) and former Chairman for the Revolutionary State Party (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, CCM). He is a graduate of Makerere University.  (page 14).

While African Business, together with a number of African economists and thinkers, have provided the intellectual lead in this direction, the impetus has come from South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. .


Let South Africa lead the economic fight

South Africa, almost alone in the continent, developed its economy on the back of a commodity fuelled industry. Its value-adding mechanism is superb--on a par with the best in the world. South Africa has not asked for nor needed loans or aid. Its domestic market is vast and its African market is growing. But for the blight blight, general term for any sudden and severe plant disease or for the agent that causes it. The term is now applied chiefly to diseases caused by bacteria (e.g., bean blights and fire blight of fruit trees), viruses (e.g., soybean bud blight), fungi (e.g.  of Apartheid apartheid (əpärt`hīt) [Afrik.,=apartness], system of racial segregation peculiar to the Republic of South Africa, the legal basis of which was largely repealed in 1991–92. , it would have been one of the strongest economies in the world.

Therefore, when South Africa speaks, the rest of Africa and for that matter, the world has to listen. South Africa's message is: develop your home markets first and other good things will be added unto un·to  
1. To.

2. Until: a fast unto death.

3. By: a place unto itself, quite unlike its surroundings.

South Africa has the capital, the know-how and the will-ingness to develop the domestic markets of other African countries. It will not do so out of charity but because of good commercial sense. This is as it should be: business that cannot sustain itself is not business--it is pouring water into a sieve.

Unfortunately there seems to be a tendency of hostility to South African investments in the rest of Africa. Some countries seem to prefer investments from outside the continent, even if these are of dubious or no value to the country. This self-defeating attitude is born out of an unreasonable, churlish churl·ish  
1. Of, like, or befitting a churl; boorish or vulgar.

2. Having a bad disposition; surly: "as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear" Shakespeare.
 envy for South Africa.

African Business will now make another 'heretical' prophesy proph·e·sy  
v. proph·e·sied , proph·e·sy·ing , proph·e·sies
1. To reveal by divine inspiration.

2. To predict with certainty as if by divine inspiration. See Synonyms at foretell.
: Africa can leap-frog the technological gap and arrive into the 21st century without having to undergo all the stages that the developed world has had to. India has done so, China is doing so, Taiwan and Japan are past masters at it.

We too can utilise the new technology no matter what the current state of development may be.

But most African countries will need a nursemaid during the transition stage. The old nursemaids--the former colonial powers and other northern countries--brought us up to be only hewers of wood and diggers Diggers, members of a small English religio-economic movement (fl. 1649–50), so called because they attempted to dig (i.e., cultivate) the wastelands. They were an offshoot of the more important group of Puritan extremists known as the Levelers.  of the soil. We cannot trust them because their interests and ours are not the same.

South Africa has all the qualifications to be this new economic nursemaid--if only we will let it. We have nothing to lose but our poverty.

Hang on to this 'heretical' theory. It might become fashionable sooner than we think.
COPYRIGHT 2004 IC Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Editorial; African economy
Author:Versi, Anver
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Previous Article:AB guide to African currencies.
Next Article:Ben Mkapa: Africa's fight for economic independence.

Related Articles
In pursuit of excellence.
Crossing the digital divide; is owning a computer enough? Not anymore. (Tech News).
Numbers are up, but many staffs lack diversity: forty-four percent of newspapers report they have no minorities in any part of the newsroom....
African perceptions: make 'foreign' a foreign word.
The New African story: who better to tell the story of New African than our former editor, Alan Rake, who edited the magazine for 21 years and...
China good for Africa: development must be human-based.
Why target the Post-Dispatch.
Is diversity really a good thing?
The great debate.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters