THE BLOG

Africa's Seat at the Table

At the UN General Assembly in New York in late September, President
Barack Obama invited sub-Saharan leaders to a private lunch and
informal chat at the Waldorf-Astoria. Following on his Accra speech
this summer, the president asked African heads of state to share
responsibility on global issues. I am just beginning to get to know
the President, but his approach impressed me as indisputably sincere.

Africa's concerns today are interconnected with those of the West -- and
solutions must come from all continents and sectors. Battling global
warming, the economic crisis, food and energy shortages, and AIDS and
malaria requires co-partners, not post-colonial relationships. The
U.S. and Europe have no monopoly on brainpower, and African leaders
must wake up to a new reality: We are finally being listened to by the
industrial world. In a separate conversation on the same day that
African heads of state met with President Obama, World Bank president
Robert Zoellick informed me that the bank has "borrowed" a number of
Africa's sharpest minds for missions around the world. African
expertise and global expertise are beginning to merge.

When international debate on stimulating a global but sustainable
recovery shifted to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh after the UN
General Assembly, the focus again was on boosting African
participation. At every international conference where the governance
of the planet is concerned, I continue to press five reform
recommendations:

Insist that rich countries respect existing commitments to reinforce
the message of shared responsibility and accountability.

In the 2005 Gleneagles G-8 summit, dubbed the "100% debt relief
summit," the G-8 committed to double aid to Africa and forgive the
debt, both neither commitment has been realized. Oxfam calculates
that these pledges alone could save some three million lives in
Africa. In the 2009 G-8 meeting in Italy, another $20 billion was
pledged for African agricultural development, but these funds too are
for the most part undelivered. Even funds promised to the World Bank
at the Rome meeting have been held up, hindering vital programs.

The Obama Administration now promises to lead by example and make good
on its $3.2 billion pledge to the fund. But the remainder of
international commitments should voluntarily and promptly be entrusted
to the World Bank. G-20 leaders should recommend the immediate
creation of a "payment follow-up committee" for unkept promises if the
message of shared responsibility and accountability is to be taken
seriously around the world.

Continue investing massively in infrastructure as a strategy for
development, security, and boosting self-sufficiency in Africa, while
moving away from unrestricted cash aid.

I've been preaching infrastructure investment for decades. The
Americans, the Europeans, and the Chinese now all agree. There will be
no end to poverty and the Millennium Development Goals will be
meaningless if nations do not reinforce their ability to efficiently
move people and products to market. Senegal's recent Millennium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact for $540 million for building
roads and an irrigation network is a tremendous step in the right
direction, but the African continent needs a lot more: a
transcontinental rail network, intra-national highways, bridges,
improved modern ports ... Think of what the US would have become had
the private sector not invested in the railroads, waterways, and
interstate highway system. If we increase mobility commerce will
follow. Without commerce, economic growth and poverty relief cannot be
expected. But Africa is not just looking for the West to throw money
at its problems.

Think agriculture to stimulate employment and economic growth in the
developing world.

Africa doesn't suffer from unemployment like the US or Europe; we are
burdened by millions of "insufficiently-occupied people". Western jobs
may need to be saved or recovered; African employment has to be
invented. In Senegal, 70 percent of our population relies on
agriculture to survive. Our home-grown GOANA initiative, a global
offensive for promoting food self-sufficiency and security, has
already created thousands of new jobs for people who have never worked
before.

Our youth do not seek to become become "peasants", but they take to
their new identity as modern farmers. Young adults with a fertile
piece of land to cultivate, are much less tempted by the risk of
illegal immigration. In our southern region of Casamance,
newly-empowered women will be stimulating the local economy by
transforming fruit production into juice and dried fruit factories.
Agriculture, reinforced with equipment and infrastructure, paves the
way for economic growth. I never stop repeating: Don't send Africa
money -- give us seeds and tractors.


Reinforce existing international structures for development.

World Bank president Zoellick, whose commitment to Africa has been
exemplary, deserves greater support and creative input from African
leaders. Like most international institutions, the World Bank is
imperfect. But it's the best mechanism Africa has to work with today,
and African leaders can help improve it by intensifying efforts to get
the bank's interest-free loan program, the International Development
Association (IDA), back on its feet.

Invite the private sector to play a much greater role in the African
economic renaissance.

Africa is open for business. Opportunity abounds in almost all sectors
of the economy. Senegal invites both small and large companies, as
well as its resident diaspora, to come develop our infrastructure. We
cannot create trans-national infrastructure without direct foreign
investment. The revised Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA)
paves the way, and we invite Americans to come create joint ventures
with us in order to export African goods to the US market. American
legislators can utilize these opportunities, as trade advocate Rosa
Whitaker has suggested, with tax incentives for revenues generated in
Africa.

Those are just five ideas. More will follow now in this "new era of
engagement based on mutual interest" -- to borrow President Obama's
words. But already, the days of "throw Africa a crumb" are over.