As the AMH Conversations Dinner with Trevor Manuel draws closer, NewsDay (ND)caught up with Trevor Manuel (TM)and below are the excepts from their conversation:
ND:What lessons emanate from the work of the SouthAfrican Planning Commission for Africa regarding the process of policy formulation and implementation?
TM:Policy-making must be based on evidence; on facts and not on opinion and conjecture. There is no shortage of policy in Africa (at country level). What we are lacking is implementation. For this region we have tended to hand over sovereignty, to outside agents. We need to learn from these failures and focus implementation, by pushing the boundaries of what is affordable, without walking the country into a debt trap.
ND:China has become a big player in Africa. How do African economies organise themselves so as to have a win-win relationship with this new factor on the continent?
TM:African countries must be bold in their engagement with China. We must organise ourselves, continentally, as part of the process of engagement. We must start from the understanding that China needs us, as much as we may need China. We must, therefore, find ways of leveraging our ownership of important natural and human resources. We are a continent of slightly more than a billion people. We should, therefore, not engage with China in supplication, but confidently on the basis of our strengths.
ND:How realistic is the current optimism around Africa’s growth prospects. And how sustainable is this leap from a “Hopeless continent” to one of the most promising places in the world?
TM:After very long period of tough economic reform the gains are hard won and have been consistent for a decade.Granted this is off a low base, but it has been consistent. What is lacking is the bridging between neighbouringcountries to improve more how we develop together.
ND:Will Africa’s leadership deficit allow the continent to fully exploit this newly found status?
TM:After a period of relative calm, stronger Pan-African leadership emerged. This year has particularly been difficult for African leadership. We lost President MelesZenawi of Ethopia, President, John Atta Mills of Ghana, Malawian Bingu wa Mutharika and the president of Guinea Bissau and Malam Bacai Sanha. There has also been asense of leadership instability in Kenya resulting from post-election violence 2008. Conflict in Mali, Mauritania andthe Democratic Republic of Congo are serious setbacks for the continent and place enormous demands and expectations on African leadership. It does not help that a number of star performers have to contend with the cheap thrills of newspaper headline writing.
ND:Is more foreign aid still the solution for sustained growth in Africa or there are other factors?
TM:There may be areas in which foreign aid can be helpful, but it should never be a crutch, nor should it be a substitute for domestic/national policy-making towards expanding our economies, creating jobs and integrating our efforts in the region.
ND:Are we anywhere near having an IMF and World Bank that fully accommodates the voices of the emerging markets via merit based appointments to the leadership of these key institutions?
TM:The Bretton Woods Organisations are themselves in the throes of change. There are, still, pockets of resistance in the organisations, mainly at the Executive Director level,but many of the issues of the past, including the failedStuctural Adjustment Programmes, no longer find resonance. What is important is that we strengthen our pan-African institutions so that we have continental reference point. We must use these institutions to our benefit. There is nothing to gain from opposing them, ideologically, or on the basis of some misguided notions of imperialism or neo-imperialism. We must raise our voices within these organisations and effect meaningful change in their work. We must do so as Africans – collectively.
ND:What has been the impact of the Euro crisis on African economies?
TM:One of the consequences of the crisis has been a shift in demand patterns, and the reverberations arising from the debt that has affected so many people in Europe. In parts of that continent, people who have enjoyed stable, comfortable and even prosperous lives, suddenly find themselves living in poverty. One particular concern for Africans is the new pressures on the demand and supply of commodities like metal.
We must, nonetheless, continue working among ourselves to strengthen our economies by closer integration, burden-sharing and, above all, expanding intra-African trade and investment, and investing in infrastructure development.
ND:Will the European Union and the Euro survive the current crisis? If not, what would be the implications of collapse on Africa.
TM:We should not allow speculation to determine our future. The world is changing. The centres of power and influence are shifting. We must be aware of this and exploit these changes. Africans cannot tie their futures to only Europe. The European Union will survive in some form or another. It’s hard to see the EU disintegrating. The region has strong institutions and there is a commitment to see the EU surviving.
ND:What should be the role of organised business in Zimbabwe in helping the country out of its current economic and political problems?
TM:Organised business have a vital role to play in expanding the economy, making gains from this expansion more inclusive and from investing in the country. We cannot expect foreign investors to bring their money into the country if we don’t show any commitment to our countries.One area in which we need to make significant changes is in establishing uniform, rational, consistent and predictable policies across countries. This is the sine qua non of integration and co-operation, and evidence from the most successful trade blocs, like NAFTA or ASEAN, has demonstrated the gains that can be made from more effective integration.
ND:There is a suggestion that Zimbabwe should adopt the Rand formally as its trading currency? Is this the right thing to do? If this happens, what incentives, if any, can be put in place for this to be of benefit to both countries?
TM:We cannot tell Zimbabwe what to do with its currency or domestically. There have been suggestions that Zimbabwe should join the SACU. This might be a stepping stone towards greater macro-economic convergence. But we are also aware that we have regional obligations beyond Zimbabwe – as do the Zimbabweans. These questions must be addressed in a regional context with a clear vision of a future that is based on our common destiny as Africans.
One of the main drivers of the BRICS group is increased harmonisation of policies; from reciprocity in trade to establishing investment mechanisms and instruments. We need closer integration on the continent and more purposeful behind-the-border harmonisation of policies.
ND:There is surplus capital in the South African market at the moment with reports putting excess liquidity held by the SA Banking system at almost R500billion. What are your suggestions to Zimbabwean businesses on how they can tap into this resource?
TM:Create a domestic political and regulatory environment that ensures foreign investors that their investments will be safe; that they will be able to repatriate profits, and that there is a skilled workforce.
ND:Conversely, what hurdles are South African companies facing in investing in Zimbabwe.
TM:South African firms face similar uncertainties as most companies: Uncertainties in the domestic political and regulatory environment; lack of adequate skills levels and dysfunctional or absence of hard and soft infrastructure like trade facilitation, customs clearance and reliable road and rail networks.