Africa does not need Foreign aid but Committed Leadership

By Finnigan wa Simbeye, Paris

The Perspective
Paris, France

Posted May 10, 2002

RECENTLY a family of one of Africa’s most notorious military dictators, the late General Sani Abacha reached an out of court deal with Nigerian government by accepting to pay back $1bn in hard cash out of an estimated $4bn which the deceased ruler and his cronies embezzled from state coffers during five years in power between 1993 and 98.

Nigeria is one of the world’s major crude oil producers with over two million barrels per day, the highest in Africa. This has attracted Trans-national Corporations (TNCs) such as Chevron-Texaco, TotalFinaElf, ExxonMobil, Agip and Royal Dutch Shell. Royal Dutch Shell which is the world’s second largest oil company is jointly owned by Kingdom of The Netherlands and United Kingdom while TotalFinaElf is Belgian.

If Abacha and his cronies looted over $4bn from Nigerian state coffers in five years time, then one wonders how much did Ibrahim Babangida and his lieutenants make between 1985/93? And with such corrupt regimes exchanging power at will, how much have the Western corporations made over the years? This partly explains why resourceless Western countries like Belgium, The Netherlands and Britain give development aid to sleeping African giants like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola.

Africa’s chronic problem is not inadequate resources, no. Not even laziness or lack of expertise as some ruling hemisphere commentators argue. The world’s second largest continent and perhaps the richest in terms of natural resources’ main problem is poor leadership and too much interference in its affairs by resourceless ruling hemisphere countries whose economies are so dependent on what they have come to term as 'the dark continent'.

Nigerian military coups starting with that of Gen Yakubu Gowon in early 1960s against the civilian government of Nnamdi Azikiwe were directly sponsored by foreign imperialists such as France and Britain which encouraged ethnic rivalries to distabilise the oil rich country and exploit resource free of charge.

Western dependent economies which cannot survive without looting natural resources from Africa as they have done since the 15th century to the brutal days of Triangular Slave Trade (Europe, Africa and Americas), have kept interfering in the continent’s affairs by mobilising military revolts against popular visionary leaders like Patrice Lumumba of Zaire (now DRC) who was brutally killed by Americans and Belgian backed stooges. The late Lumumba's crime was to follow a Marxist line of governance that threatened imperialist interest in having their hands on Zaire's resources.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was also ousted by a military coup backed by Britain and the US who were so much afraid of his brilliant Pan African plans. Dr Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia survived numerous attempts to oust them from power during the Cold War, which provided balance of power in international affairs as the US and its capitalist bloc (west) confronted the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and east bloc countries.

Today, after over 10 years since the end of the Cold War following the collapse of USSR and east bloc, African countries are yet to find a way of having to elect or have their leaders without Western interference. The West want impotent selfish African Presidents like the late Dr Hastings Banda of Malawi, the late General Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, and those still in power like Omar Bongo of Gabon, Idris Derby of Chad and Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville who stash billions of dollars in foreign accounts in Northern countries, money which is obtained fraudulently in Africa.

"What I am trying to highlight in my book is also to inform the French public opinion that what is happening in Africa today is not merely about ethnic rivalries and tribal warfare but is pure and simply a case of politics," said leading French author François Xavier Verschave while commenting on his new book, "Noir Silence, Qui Arretera La Franceafrique" meaning "Black Silence-Who Will Stop France-Africa?"

The book, a landmark revelation of how unofficial French policy promulgated by former President General Charles de Gaulle prior to granting French colonies in Africa the much touted flag independence as it still exists today had provoked a wave of street marches by African immigrants and upright French nationals in Paris last year in support of Verschave following legal action against the author and his editor Laurent Beccaria by counsels of Presidents Bongo, Derby and Nguesso. .

The over 500 pages book explains how France’s unofficial policy in Africa plays a key role in putting puppets into power to serve Paris’ economic and political interests singling out Bongo, Derby and Nguesso as real modern day Africa’s Mobutus. The looting of Africa’s resources by the West is rampant and is done by corrupt stooges in collaboration with TNCs and international banking institutions.

Global Witness, a UK based international non-governmental organisation opposed to numerous African civil wars which are fueled by Western greed to take away Africa’s resources at will, released a report on Angola’s mismanaged petrodollars which singled out President Jose Edwardo dos Santos’ senior lieutenants and their Western bed fellows collaborators transfer billions of dollars abroad.

The report, ‘All the Presidents’ Men’ reveals a $1.1bn bank account in British Virgin Islands, connected to a company supplying the Angolan military, whose signatories move amongst the highest levels of Angolan public life. International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that about $1.4bn went missing in Angola’s state coffers last year; most of such money emanates from oil revenue paid by major TNCs working in the war torn country. No wonder then that such TNCs which embroiled in the petrodollars scam in Luanda happen to be the same operating in Abuja.

Chevron-Texaco, TotalFinaElf, ExxonMobil, BP Amoco, Shell and Norsk are among them and Global Witness is putting pressure on regulatory authorities in the West to force these TNCs to declare in their annual statements how much they pay to governments in revenue so that the public should make such governments accountable. These companies publish full annual results minus what they pay in revenue to African governments back in their home countries as required by stock exchange regulators.

But one may think that TNCs and African leaders collaborate to siphon resources from the poor in the South to the rich in the North only when there is war, no. They are doing it even in peaceful countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia provided the ruling elite is willing to cooperate, which often it does!

In Tanzania, for example, the only country in the world where Tanzanite gemstones are mined, the government claims that it receives annual revenue of not more than $14m annually while the US alone which is a major importer of raw Tanzanite, dealers pay out up to $300m per annum.

But unlike in Angola and Nigeria where TNCs have taken centre stage, in Tanzania, a country which is struggling to build a market economy after almost three decades of socialism and self-reliance, the gemstone is smuggled into neighbouring Kenya and to India by a consortium of local dealers, Lebanese and Indians. The end beneficiary however is always the ruling hemisphere’s corporate shareholders.

Currently, debate is going on within the civil society think tank on Tanzania government’s wisdom to give a goldfield whose deposits are estimated at over $3bn to a Canadian TNC, Barrack Gold Mining to do commercial mining for 15 years and pay a paltry $75m in revenue to state coffers.

"While she has stated on numerous occasions, Barrack’s stockholders expect to reap billions of dollars during the 15 year life span of the mine, Tanzanian government will receive US$ 75m. This sum is nearly four times less than it cost Barrack to acquire Bulyahulu from Sutton Resources," Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT) President Rugemeleza Nshala said in a statement to the media last year while referring to former Canadian High Commissioner to Tanzania Verona Edelstein who played a key role in the negotiation process of acquiring the lucrative deal.

Tanzania which is ranked by World Bank as one of the poorest countries in the world with over half of its estimated 33m people living well below the poverty line spending less than a dollar per day, depends on external financing for almost the entire development budget. Donors finance over 50% of the annual budget.

Now African leaders today are all up in arms against Western media outlets for giving the continent a negative image and driving away foreign investors who according to Bretton Woods institutions have the money and technology to exploit the continent’s resources while the Abachas, Mobutus and their cronies are stashing billions of petro-dollars, mineral-euros in Swiss and British offshore banks which use the money productively and pay paltry interests annually.

When they go to international conferences today, the latest was in Monterrey, Mexico, African Presidents carry begging bowls and plead before the so called ‘donors’ who give back a small fraction of what they take away freely at will and some which they themselves and their families stash in foreign banks abroad while in power.

They waste lot’s of time condemning Mike Moore, the outgoing World Trade Centre (WTO) Director General for not bringing to an end agricultural subsidies which are said to amount to between $600bn-$800bn in the US and Europe as Oxfam International estimates that developing countries are losing ($100bn) per annum through trade imbalances, an amount which World Bank President James Wolfensohn says is needed as foreign aid annually from the developed world to the poorest of the poor regions if the target of reducing populations living under abject poverty by half when it clocks 2015, is to be met.

Africa badly needs the leadership of Nkrumah, Kaunda, Nyerere, Lumumba and Azikiwe today more than it was in 1960s when the struggle for flag independence was at its peak because this phase of the battle seeking economic liberation proves to be much more difficult than the former.

It needs personalities of Nelson Mandela who retire and live peacefully in Africa other than those who have been forced to seek refuge in exile or end up in jail at home for their dishonesty. No foreign investor will come to Africa so long as those who are already on the ground can take away freely vital resources to feed their dependent economies in the West with support of the continent’s corrupt business and political elite.

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