HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsTwo leaders, one summit, one agenda, two views

Two leaders, one summit, one agenda, two views

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The UN Millennium Development Summit finally came to an end but with very little pomp, apart from a general admission by heads of states that a lot needs to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

The Iranian president stole the limelight by pulling out the US-bombed-itself card from the annals.

As expected, in the absence of the Blair-Bush-Brown alliteration, our speech was full of the usual dreary scapegoating platitudes.

The standing ovations that epitomised our previous speeches were of conspicuously lesser magnitude.

Indeed times have indeed changed. There are new kids on the block: Barack Obama, Nick Clegg, and David Cameron, all in their forties, exude a new aura and flair in the global development agenda.

Obama’s speech made it quite clear that the US government does not and will not take responsibility for countries that fail to achieve their development goals, no matter the reasons.

Perhaps in response to the assertion that Zimbabwe “fell short of our targets because of the illegal and debilitating sanctions . . . consequently, the incidence of poverty . . . remains high”, Obama encouraged developing countries to take responsibility of their own development.

“We want you to prosper and succeed — it’s in your interest.”

If South Africans managed to build a strong locally-driven economy when they were under real sanctions, why can’t we also do the same and stop whining about sanctions.

New development approaches put the empowerment of the masses at the centre of any meaningful and sustainable economic development.

I am not an enthusiast of the US foreign development policy simply because it doesn’t benefit anyone apart from American citizens and their business interests.

In fact, when we are busy calling our own successful black elites detractors, sell-outs, economic saboteurs, the US ensures that each dollar sent out to developing countries creates opportunities for its people.

Recently Tendai Biti wrote: “. . . every black person who has sought to graduate from petty intermediary capital to real ownership has been on the forefront of . . . attacks.”

Biti listed Strive Masiyiwa, Nigel Chanakira, James Makamba, Shingi Mutasa, Nicholas Vingirai, Julius Makoni, James Mushore, Mutumwa Mawere, Mthuli Ncube and Jeff Mzwimbi as just some of the examples.

Ironically, our bid to reboot the economy places emphasis on foreign investors discounting our own, despite glaring evidence of their aptitude and business acumen.

This approach is inimical to contemporary development thinking by young leaders such as Obama, who reminded the summit that countries are more likely to prosper when they tap the talents of all their people and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders.

Surely these business people had a lot more to lose than the British and foreign investors when things went wrong in Zimbabwe.

In addition, to treat everyone critical of Zanu PF or government policy as a detractor is counterproductive. Zimbabwe needs to get back work again, and for that, it needs its people more than it needs Zanu PF or US money.

Intrinsic in Obama’s speech is the belief that development must start from within the countries not outside, dispelling the rhetoric that “we have the resources”, but “we need support from the international community to . . . improve the lives of our people”.

Obama’s idea of transformational change is not a very new approach to development. It’s an approach whose trajectory many African countries, including Zimbabwe, are averse to pursue because their political DNA simply is redolent of power retention and therefore suffers from sound development agenda deficiency.

But here is a young and global leader, who is being candid enough to the world that the most powerful force in eradicating poverty is empowering the grassroots and creating an enabling entrepreneurial environment that promotes and protects local investors.

That is the only way developing countries such as Zimbabwe can move from being from recipients of aid to broad-based economic growth — and perhaps graduate to donors of aid.

Development is like a fruit plant. You nurture in order to grow it. The beauty of the flowers, the taste and maturity of the fruits are determined by the environment within which it grows.

The fruits of development should transform people from poverty to prosperity, thereby building their capacity to take care of their health, shelter, water, educational and energy requirements.

Development becomes a shared responsibility by the people. There is no way a government, matter how rich, can build toilets for every citizen, but if every citizen has economic means, they can take care of their own sanitary requirements.

This is a sure way to achieving the MDGs — rather than focusing on non-existent “detractors”.

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