Nigerian NGO calls for US President Bush to Bring Real Hope to Africa
IPN Press release
Sunday, 6 July, Lagos -- As US President George W. Bush tours Africa in the coming week, he will see a continent ravaged by disease and poverty. Underlying this tragic picture are corrupt and incompetent governments, which have suppressed basic liberties for decades. For this reason, Africans stand behind President Bush as he demands the removal of two of the continent's - and the world's - most vile oppressors, Liberia's Charles Taylor and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.
In response to Bush's demand, Thompson Ayodele of the Institute for Public Policy Analysis in Lagos, Nigeria, commented: "African leaders must be committed to the rule of law, protection of private property and economic freedom. These are the engines for growth. Yet, most of Africa's leaders use the law for their own purposes, abrogate private property and prevent mutually beneficial economic transactions of all kinds. Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe are, however, far worse than most, and their removal can only be a good thing for the people of Liberia, Zimbabwe, Africa and the world."
Whilst embracing Bush's demand for Taylor and Mugabe to go, Ayodele stressed that change must come from within: "Until now, so-called foreign aid has often served to prop up dictators, encouraging corruption and undermining democratic accountability. Leaders who receive money from outside feel fewer obligations towards the needs and desires of their own people."
"We want help and hope. But we want real help and real hope. We want trade, not aid," said Ayodele.
Trade Not Aid
If countries open their borders to trade, the result would be a flourishing of entrepreneurial activity as people discover where goods are most desired and how best to produce those goods. The competition for supply would lead to improvements in production locally, investment, and technology transfer, with consequent benefits for everyone.
"President Bush promises to build prosperity and to improve African lives. Yet, in part because of America's huge farm subsidies, which reduce world-market prices for our goods, Africa has less than 2 per cent of the world's trade," said Ayodele. "Increased trade and investment, led by the private sector, is the best hope for combating poverty and disease in the continent."
Ayodele specifically calls on President Bush to remove agricultural subsidies in the US: "If President Bush really wants to help Africa, he should commit the US to eliminating subsidies in cotton, sugar, and dairy, which directly impoverish Africans. To do this would give the US government the moral courage to press for fundamental global reforms,"he said.
Wealthier is Healthier
Ayodele lamented the failure to negotiate the removal of agricultural subsidies at the WTO. While much of the blame for this lies with the EU, which has done everything in its power to distract attention away from the agricultural negotiations, he suggested that African governments should also be blamed for being sucked into a counterproductive negotiation on weakening intellectual property rules:
"Our governments were duped into thinking that weakening intellectual property laws is a sure path for Africans to have access to life saving drugs to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other deadly diseases. But cheap drugs are not what Africans primarily need to fight diseases. Even if the drugs were are sold at give-away prices, over 70 percent of Africans would not be able to afford them because of low level of income, poor health delivery, poor roads and other infrastructure problems," said Ayodele.
"Millions of Africans are today on the verge of starvation. Millions more are malnourished and millions die each year because they lack of clean drinking waterand good sanitation. All of these are ultimately the consequence of our poverty. The conclusion is obvious: If we are to be enabled to fight diseases, our incomes must rise," he continued.
"Unfree trade spells misery for Africa, where over 60 percent of the labor force are farmers who struggle to grow enough food to feed their families, much less generate an income. One way to increase investment is to increase demand. But demand won't increase unless agricultural income increases. This is how Africans can create wealth to fight various diseases and live decent lives."
The Institute of Public Policy Analysis (www.ippanigeria.org) is a non-governmental, non-partisan organization based in Lagos, Nigeria, which promotes market-oriented analysis of current and emerging public policy issues.
IPPA is a member of IPN's Freedom to Trade Campaign (www.freedomtotrade.org), a global coalition which calls for the removal of tariffs, subsidies and other trade-distorting policies.