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Removing the shackles: strategies to tackle Globalisation. (Reviews).

UNBINDING AFRICA MAKING GLOBALISATION WORK FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE

EDITED BY PHOEBE GRIFFITH [pounds sterling] The Foreign Policy Centre ISBN 1-903558-29-3

The editor of this book, Phoebe Griffith, runs the Foreign Policy Centre's (FPC) International Development in Foreign Policy Programme. The FPC, which although funded by the UK government is an independent think-tank organisation, has a remit to examine the impact of globalisation by developing a research agenda that explores the strategies needed to tackle global issues - focusing on the legitimacy and effectiveness of policy.

Unbinding Africa draws together essays from seven contributors, presented in three sections, who advance principles for donors, companies and NGOs to take the good governance agenda forward. Griffith's introduction to the book begins by describing the double-bind facing Africa today. The first challenge, she argues, is the result of a lack of democracy and rule of law in Africa -- with many African governing elites so weak that their main concern is to stay in power rather than improve the lot of their people.

The second challenge she identifies as the complex relationship that Africa has with the outside world. Consequently, the essays that follow ask how Africa can become unbound.

Three issues are identified. Firstly, the myth about Africa's relationship with the globalised world; secondly, the degree to which outside actors are a determining factor in African governance; and finally, a set of principals to guide key international actors - NGOs, companies and donors - to promote and drive the good governance agenda forward.

As an example of the influence that international actors have on African governance, she cites the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. A World Bank sponsored project, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline is often hailed as a 'new model' for the management of major oil projects. The central aim was to allow these two countries to benefit from major investment while counteracting the destabiising impact which large influxes of revenue might have.

The proposed solution was to ensure revenues would be managed largely by NGOs, in order to curtail any potential for mismanagement, and in a bid to target poverty alleviation. "In other words' she writes, "while these states were technically the benefactors of these investments, they had very little say in terms of how the money would be spent."

TRANSFER OF GOVERNANCE

While accepting that the 'transfer of governance' is in most cases driven by positive intentions in the face of urgent challenges, Griffith makes the point that this trend, whether described as transfer of governance or 'globalised dependency,' is serving to weaken African governance in the long term. She takes as an example the case of Uganda, dependent for 53% of its revenues on international aid packages - the clear implication being that the Ugandan government is today more accountable to donors than its own citizens.

"Handing over responsibilities to outside actors should be understood as a transitory and finite phase in African development," Griffith concludes. "Only once there is a more co-ordinated effort towards unbinding African civil society, governments and Leaders will these actors start to help Africa to develop its own policies of good governance.

Marina Ottaway, in the book's first essay, elaborates on this theme. She puts the case bluntly that the most aid-dependent region in the world, sub-Saharan Africa, cannot pretend that its citizens have a strong impact on policy decisions, regardless of the character of the political system. When a country's macro-economic policy is dictated by the International Monetary Fund, its education and health policies are negotiated with the World Bank, and domestic and foreign NGOs have more influence on revenue spending than government, the democratic process has little impact on policies.

"Democracy should be the ultimate goal for African countries," she says, "but it is not a good starting point in trying to help African countries extricate themselves from the present (economic) predicament." She seems here to be calling for administrative capabilities to be the primary goal - that strengthening the state must, in the short-term, take priority over economic or democratic reforms.

To illustrate this point she takes the case of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). It is only those states that possess the administrative capabilities to guide entrepreneurs through the maze of implementation rules and regulations that surround the Agoa act, she argues, that can take advantage of the removal of trade barriers. While South Africa and Mauritius can and do benefit, she points out, it makes no difference to countries like DRCongo or Burundi.

In the book's second essay, a better international deal - both through trade and through an 'enhanced partnership' model of development assistance - is what Alex de Waal insists is essential if Africa is to find the resources it needs. He adds to these measures the overriding priority of rolling-back the HIV/Aids pandemic (De Waal is programme director for the Commission for HIV/Aids and Governance in Africa).

However, he argues, this new consensus - articulated by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) - needs to be augmented by African integration which in turn demands a focus on the rent-seeking structures of African governance. And this, in turn, requires a further reform of the international aid system.

De Waal explains why, in his opinion, Africa's regional economic integration is so vital. Citing figures that show that Africa's gross continental product amounts to approximately $540bn, he compares that figure with Spain's GDP of $580bn, and that country's commitment to economic integration within the European Union. "These statistics are not just a striking illustration of Africa's poverty and economic marginalisation," De Waal claims, "they are an indication of the perverse logic of dividing its small economic space into more than 50 different sovereign entities."

However, he accepts the difficulty that integration poses in the face of vested interests -- not simply from African political elites, but the multi-nationals who prefer to negotiate deals with small countries rather than large ones.

MORE IN DEPENDENCE FOR AFRICAN NGOs

Ezra Mbogori's essay makes the case for a fresh, home-grown vision for development by African civil society. As executive director of MWENGO, a Harare based network of NGOs in East, Central and Southern Africa, he is well placed to make a critical analysis of the relationships between the 'welfarist orientation' of international NGOs (INGOs), and local NGOs.

African NGOs, he contends, are widely seen in Africa as just mirrors of their Western counterparts. One strategy he puts forward is to embark on medium and long-term pilot schemes allowing African NGOs to work without the intermediation of INGOs to better meet the needs and priorities which they identify at a local level and to build their capacities. At the same time, Southern-based foundations should be put in place to exercise leadership in supporting these experiments.

The role of information and telecommunication technology (ICT) in providing opportunities for Africa's economic and social development is the theme of this book's fourth essay by Ayisi Makatiani.

Makatiani is the co-founder of Africa Online, and he sets out some of the reforms and innovations required to spur technological development for the benefit of Africa. He is quite clear in calling for the private sector to act as the main driver for ICT development in Africa, while acknowledging that the issue of access relies on the implementation of active, government-inspired policies.

"African governments need to create a framework that takes into account a vision in the context of a rapidly globalising world" he writes, echoing Nepad's view that addressing the digital divide is a priority in addressing poverty and attaining sustainable growth and development. His argument is that one of ICT's principal roles can be to address Africa's brain drain by tapping into the skills of the African diaspora to further Africa's development process. He gives one concrete example -- a programme launched by AfriShare, part of the Digital Partners for Africa initiative -- which shares the skills, knowledge and resources of individuals within and outside Africa.

AN ANALYSIS OF AFRICA'S TRADE

Greg Mills, the national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), and Jonathan Oppenheimer, a director of De Beers and national council member of SIIA, jointly author the fifth essay which offers an analysis of Africa's trade performance and suggests strategies to achieve market competitiveness. They assemble data from various sources, such as the World Bank's World Development Indicators, UNCTAD, Agoa etc, and draw on various studies before examining the EU's Preferential Market Access Scheme in some detail.

Their conclusions are fairly predictable. Europe, which accounts for 70% of Africa's trade, needs to acknowledge the governance benefits that opening up trade markets and reducing subsidies provide. Here they make a subtle but Important point: it is not just a question of using access to markets as an inducement for governance reforms, but a recognition that without trade there is very little incentive to promote good governance in the first place. They also maintain that African countries must address their own supply-side market inefficiencies and stress the importance of government-business partnerships.

A TWO-PRONGED APPROACH

Dr Christopher Kolade, the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, provides the book's final essay. He sets out a two-pronged approach to the investment challenge that Africa faces, and upon which the continent's growth and prosperity largely depend.

Firstly, Africa's responsibility is to create a new investment environment to encourage companies to invest, create employment and increase productivity. Here he draws upon Nepad's framework document, reiterating the links between political, economic and corporate good governance in attracting foreign investment.

Secondly, he says the responsibility of potential investors in Africa is to ensure transparency, fiscal discipline, accountability and corruption-free practices in their operations.

Dr Kolade states: "The type of foreign investment that Africa requires is what John Hewko describes as 'institution building foreign investment' ... foreign investors should not shy away from the development agenda." However, his final remark is an important one. "The challenge is as much one for Africa as it is for its foreign partners."
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Publication:African Business
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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