Africa’s growth a result of peace: Guebuza

Speaking at the opening session of the 16th World Economic Forum on Africa, Guebuza said that Africans had never lacked the will to develop their countries and improve their lives. The obstacle had been a cycle of wars and conflicts which had devastated much of the continent, preventing African peoples from concentrating on producing what they needed for their sustenance and welfare. Once the causes of such conflicts were eliminated, argued Guebuza, there was no reason to suppose that the current growth rates could not be maintained or improved. The advent of peace, he said, was creating almost all the conditions needed to establish the bases to support development, since the key infrastructures would no longer be destroyed in armed conflicts. Guebuza repeated his frequent argument that, if African peoples could fight successfully for their independence against colonial regimes, then they should not falter before the current challenges they face. The other speakers at the opening panel, Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, backed up Guebuza’s points. Kikwete said that today’s generation of Africans is the first with the chance to live at peace and to be well governed. Mbeki declared “The story that we should be telling the world about the continent is indeed a story of great success.” The economic outlook for the continent was the best in thirty years, giving ample grounds for optimism. Mbeki cited Mozambique as a concrete example of the turnaround ‘ of a successful transition of war to peace, and of rapid economic growth. But the ensuing discussion had its sceptics, repeating time- worn arguments against foreign aid to Africa. An American economic lecturer, William Easterly, dismissed those academics active against poverty, such as Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs who have no problems in working with actors and pop stars. Presumably he thought he was being funny when he attacked Sachs for working with “another scholar named Angelina Jolie. You know their work from the scholarly journal MTV.” “There is no evidence that aid can achieve economic growth,” pontificated Easterly, though he was gracious to admit that it could provide “piecemeal relief”. “Growth in Africa is not going to come about as a result of actors outside Africa,” he declared. Kikwete defended a positive role for aid, pointing out “the truth of the matter is many of our countries don’t have the resources ‘ financial or technical ‘ to develop left on our own. Nobody is naive enough to believe that aid alone will do the trick. If you build a road but don’t encourage investment, ” Kikwete said, “at the end of the day, you come back and you find people as poor as they were when you built the road.” Mbeki insisted on thoroughgoing democratisation. “For many of our countries the big challenge is developing multicultural, multiethnic, multifaith, multilingual societies which don’t cohere naturally,” he said. “The best way to manage societies like these is indeed to make them as democratic as possible. You can’t hold societies like this together by force or deceit or deals among the elites. In the end, you’ve got to make sure the population participates in all of these processes.” Africans seem to share the optimism of Guebuza, Mbeki and Kikwete. As the Forum began, it released a Gallup International survey, showing that Africans are more hopeful about the future than the rest of the world. The poll was conducted in late 2005 in 61 countries, eight of them in Africa. More than 58,000 interviews were conducted and the findings claim to be representative of the views of a sixth of the world’s population. Despite the continent’s poverty, 52 per cent of the African sample were optimistic about the future, while only 48 per cent of the rest of the world believed that 2006 would be better than 2005. In Africa, Nigerians were the most optimistic (61 per cent), followed by South Africans and Senegalese (both on 60 per cent), and Guinea on 57 per cent. But the optimists accounted for less than half the sample in the other four countries: Gabon (47 per cent), Morocco (37 per cent), Cameroon (31 per cent) and Kenya (a mere 26 per cent). ‘ Angencia de Informacao de Mocambique MS.

June 2006
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