General News of 2004-07-14

Richest people in Africa are the heads of state -Ayittey

Here are extracts from, a debate, "Who broke Africa and who will fix it?", jointly sponsored by the Economist and the Royal Institute of International Affairs at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London.

George Ayittey: In Africa, it is the leaders that are the problem, not the people. Colonialism, the slave trade and artificial boundaries do not explain our current predicament. Nor is it just the West's fault ? the Arabs exploited Africans too.
The West is not the appropriate agency to solve the problem because they do not understand the problem ? just look at Somalia. If you ask someone else to help, they will try and solve the problem to their advantage, not yours. Eighty percent of US aid goes on American contractors and subcontractors. And colonial guilt means the West fears they will be seen as racist if they denounce African governments.
The richest man in the US is Bill Gates; he made his money by producing something and selling it. The richest people in Africa are the heads of state ? that is not wealth creation, that is wealth redistribution. If you want to make money, you should do it in the private sector.
I come down hard on one-party states, they are contrary to African heritage ? African people could oust their chiefs and these leaders did not take decisions by themselves. A state-controlled economic system is also contrary to African culture; it should be about free trade and free markets. African chiefs do not fix prices.
Many African countries do not have a government; they have a vampire state that uses the state machinery to enrich cronies. Those excluded from power can rise up and remove the vampire elites that damage Zimababwe, Zaire, South Africa, Rwanda and Burundi.
More African countries will blow ? Zimbabwe and Chad, for example. Other small areas will secede, like Biafra tried to break away from Nigeria. Other Africans will simply get up and move somewhere else ? this is why we have so many refugees.
Inclusion is important. The economic apartheid in Rwanda was the same as in South Africa. However, in South Africa, they brought in the politics of inclusion.
And less than eight of the 54 African countries have a completely free media. If the West wants to help Africa, they should concentrate on freedom of expression.
Western solutions will not solve African problems. Africans need to remove their vampire states and promote economic inclusion. Freedom of the press is key.
George Ayittey did list the five things an African country needs: an independent central bank, independent judiciary, independent media, independent electoral commission and neutral professional armed forces.