The three-day 16th meeting of Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) which ended in Dar es Salaam on Friday has evoked serious thought on Africa future.
The experts’ warned the Eastern African countries that despite increasing reorientation of trade and investment patterns towards emerging partners, there was still heavy dependence on traditional markets in Europe, which have been hit by the euro zone crisis.
It said further that although some countries in the region have managed to reduce it, there was still high dependence on official development aid (ODA), receipts of which amounted to USD16 billion for the whole region n 2010.
The issue of traditional markets is indeed currently engaging the minds of EAC policymakers in trade negotiations with European partners. We therefore expect that the negotiations will reflect the interests of the people.
While the ICE experts focused closely on minerals, their observations on the need to promote best practices in the use of the resources, can very well apply to the huge tracts of untapped arable land, fresh water, forests and abundant sun, among others. If prudently developed, they can make a major difference for the continent.
For it is no secret that Africa’s people and their leaders have sometimes been their own worst enemies, by the way they have steered the development of the continent into the hands of donors.
For too long the focus and the themes on Africa’s development have put the cart before the horse by planning development based on aid.
So keenly have they been absorbed in searching for aid from various sources that they forgot they had all the means right before their eyes.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency pointed out this weakness in a recent interview in NewYork saying: “The problem is that many Africans spend too much of their time repeating what the Western media says about the continent …. that Africa is plagued by misery and ruled by inept and corrupt leaders who hardly give any thought to the greater public interest. When it comes to African issues, people tend to shun the more realistic approach because of the vision of Africa [inept] that is continuously being forced down our throats.”
“Africa has two major advantages: It possesses the most important pool of natural resources and has the youngest population in the world. It is the continent of the future.
And if we do not want Africa to play its role, the trick is to instill in the elites the idea that they are incompetent, corrupt and responsible for all the misery around. This is certainly not true.”
The extended quote is to register the fact that the task of taking concrete steps to change the ‘tune’ about Africa though tough is necessary in order to speed up the continent’s development.
African leaders and their people must always keep in mind that their biggest bargaining chip for development is their resource abundance. They must smartly play up this card in negotiating forums and desist from always brandishing the poverty, misery card to attract aid.
With improvements in governance, we should be seeing an enlightened approach to how Africa trades its resources for faster development of its people.