African Debt Relief Not a Cure-All

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK THE existing debt alleviation initiatives recently agreed upon by the G8 for the poorest nations will not solve Africa’s debt crisis especially that aid providers are the “corruptors” of the entire system, says Namibia’s political analyst Joseph Diescho. Speaking on the sidelines of the Debt Relief and Development in Africa Conference that concluded on Tuesday, Diescho, who spoke from a political perspective on whether Africa is rich or poor, indicated that foreign aid givers subsidise activities that do not necessarily contribute to the development of the continent. Economically, the continent is not poor considering its mineral resources that simply demystify the understanding of poverty. Though Africa is home to 50 per cent of natural resources in the world, the continent is politically poor and the leadership has worsened the situation. “Leaders are the weakest in terms of working with intellectual capital. They are happy when they are surrounded by incompetent people because they want to show their power,” he stated. In the same way, they give jobs to these incompetent people who are not the best or fitting building blocks in the system of economic development. In the process, the learned get frustrated and leave the continent. Echoing the words of Diescho, Women’s Action for Development (WAD) Executive Director Veronica de Klerk believes that though Africa is rich in mineral resources, it is poor in terms of developing those who should be utilising the resources. She says, “Africa was plundered, colonised and oppressed, simply because it allowed itself to be plundered, colonised and oppressed. That…encapsulates the reasons for the slow development of our continent.” She believes that the situation has been worsened by lack of aid. “Is it true that if all the important bodies such as the United Nations and all its affiliated bodies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, etc. would have (in the case of corrupt) governments called leaders to order with a firm hand long time ago, greater discipline and more progress would have prevailed in Africa?” However, in his contribution on why aid is so ineffective in Africa, Ross Herbert from the South African Institute of International Affairs stated that there is a frustration cause in Africa as the output of the aid flow does not reflect the input. Good governance has been pronounced as the key standard for development and unfortunately this has been lacking in Africa. He said more change could not necessarily be seen after a decade of heavy spending on activities that would enrich just a few. “How many BMWs have been bought with aid funds?” he queried. He however believes that this debt crisis is a shared responsibility. “The cold war has licensed corruption while donors are unwilling to enforce the conditions that would count.” Colonial guilt has also silenced criticism of African political systems and thus aid providers turn a blind eye to the wrong spending of funds. This situation, according to Herbert, demands a real constitutional reform that would ensure timely government audits and stronger fiscal systems, and impose transparency on aid, among others. From the time aid started flowing to Africa in the 1950s, no country could today declare transformation for the better. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Namibia Institute for Democracy facilitated the two-day conference.

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