Friday, November 16, 2007

UN Spins Economics of Africa

There is a noticeable amount of chatter regarding economic issues of Africa lately. For how long has it been claimed that the poorest, most destitute group of people live in Africa. Or more accurately, the people living in Africa may represent some of the world's most needy populations until the UN is seeking money by using other examples. Then that part of the world is in the worst shape. But that is not really the issue of economics in Africa either. First, an excerpt from a current quote from someone from the United Nations on economics and Africa.

"What we are advocating is that these intellectuals give priority to Africa. If you go to the U.S., you go to other countries, there are outstanding African intellectuals and economists working in this context, in these institutions, and they are involved in a lot of global issues, and their voices are being heard," said Janneh. "We are saying, this is fine, continue to do so, but reserve a substantive portion of your intellect, or your attention, on African issues. Once you do that, I think it is fine. Do not leave this to outsiders."

What is the United Nations if not outsiders no matter where they are? And has economics become the current buzzword for their agenda? It seems that it was just moments ago they were describing the inhabitants of Burma as the most economically disadvantaged due to the financial rape by a military junta of a country with abundant resources. A situation allowed to continue fo decades. Another example of the impotent, incompetent or simply corrupt nature of the United Nations and their claim to be representatives of international cooperation.

So the United Nations once again is serving up sage advice for individuals with African roots to dedicate some portion of their skills and expertise to economic development of their home country even though they may no longer live there. And yet the very outsider influence typically sought by the UN is at least temporarily being rejected in the case of Africa. A continent the UN most often pleads for as a worthy recipient of food and medicine to cover the basic needs of impoverished citizens. In addition, the UN is not formally discouraging the outside influence they want native talent to replace.

Delegates to the U.S.-Africa business summit say Africa is open for business. Many sub-Saharan economies are growing by more than five percent per year. Wiseman Nkuhlu of Pan-African Capital Holdings says much of the continent has entered a productive era.

The first concern should be whether or not private sector involvement in Africa's economic development will result in common exploitation of vulnerable socieities plagued by corruption internally and externally. Not like the UN has been without the influence of corruption but the internal variety in the form of military dictators or the flux of near continuous civil war or the ravages of rebel militias are a constant risk to investment even if it is entirely benevolent.

The following is not an example of benevolent economic development but merely a common tactic to profit indirectly from investments that do not have the host country's best interests in mind.

China Invests $5.5 Billion in South African Bank
By Delia Robertson

In the largest post-apartheid direct investment deal in South Africa, the state-controlled Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, ICBC, has purchased 20 percent of Standard Bank, South Africa's largest lender.

Many reports coming out of Africa are suggesting various economies on the continent are emerging as competitive. At best, with countries like Zimbabwe yet in political turmoil and others simmering from recent widespread violence or devastation by disease or natural disasters, honest and effective development will certainly not come from the pathetic fiasco known as the Millennium Development Goals. That said, Africa's chances for avoiding scams from strangers bearing gifts may expose them to an equal risk. With the United Nations talking about African economic development that outcome is almost guaranteed. So Africa will have to survive more decades of abuse before they may emerge viable as an economic force able if not willing to attend to the needs of their citizens.

By Stanford Matthews
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