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Africa must define its own development agenda

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It is almost over five decades since most African countries attained independence.

It is also almost half a century since the Africa Union (AU), formerly the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the first supranational national institution was established to unite Africa and protect the sovereignty of African countries from foreign exploitation.

But unlike most Western-based supranational institutions such as the European Union, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the United Nations and several others, the AU has not moved with time.

The AU seems stuck and blinkered on an old agenda of creating a politically unified state encompassing the whole of the African continent, an agenda that was first conceived during the epoch of the Scramble for Africa.

This was meant to harness the vast natural resources and huge amount of manpower Africa had to offer to the Western markets.

This lack of a real African agenda has exposed African countries to Western- conceived development models, which are mainly promoted as global agenda yet their interests is to continue maintaining control over African resources.

History shows us that none of the development models are favourable or beneficial to Africa. In fact the continent has been on the receiving end simply because continental and regional institutions have been playing a passive role when it comes to formulation of development policies.

Where attempts have been made to formulate a continental development policy, they have not been backed by adequate commitment.

Today, every African country is pinned down to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a framework that has been described as the world’s biggest development promise.

In fact every government talks and slaves towards achieving them as if they played a part in deciding the goals.

On close analysis, the MDGs were conceived and formulated by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Development Assistance Committee, all Western- based institutions.

These institutions then lobbied the United Nations to give them a global face and legitimacy.

The MDGs are of less relevance to those who authored the Western institutions, in addition to not speaking to African development priorities.

Too much focus on halving hunger by 2015 masks that fact the overall goal is to eliminate hunger, not halve it.

t makes it hard to imagine that if the world manages to halve people living in poverty, what would happen to the other half?

In fact, the MDGs confine addressing poverty to a single equation where it is assumed that external aid plus technological fixes and good local government equals to poverty reduction.

And for a country to access the external aid, it has to accept the conditions associated with aid.

History also shows us that these aid conditions only serve to reassert Western control over African resources.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, while he has been framed by Western media as a rogue, is actually not completely nuts.

In his assessment of the MDGs, he argued that they may look good on paper, “but we are living in a world in which the IMF and World Bank are still ordering neo-liberal policy prescriptions – austerity measures that never work, in any country.

In fact, they are so unpopular that they sent much of South and Central American back towards socialism. They do the same as the Free Trade agreements to the West, they concentrate wealth more and more in the hands of the social and political elite.”

He makes reference to Goal 8 of the MDGs, (a global partnership for development), which he argues, hands national resources over to transnational corporations, who don’t pay taxes or share profits, and are free to expatriate all profits.

At the same time, they undermine the rights of labour, in even the poorest countries. And most of all, they never see any problem in corrupt governments, until the day they stop doing exactly what they tell them to do, at which point they delegitimise them and start supporting the opposition.

As we draw closer to the Millennium Development Goals deadline in 2015, the only solution to African development is to break away from the global development policies and formulate their own development agenda which takes into account the African social, political and economic context.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa

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