French President Emmanuel Macron probably had the shock of his life while visiting Ghana recently. His host, President Nana Akuffo-Addo, did not mince his words when he, to the chagrin and consternation of his guest, uttered the following: “…our concern should be what do we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from being cap in hand and begging for aid, for charity, for handouts. The African continent, when you look at its resources, should be giving monies to other places…We need to have a mindset that says we can do it… and once we have that mindset we’ll see there’s a liberating factor for ourselves.”
For far too long since the wave of independence began in 1957, African countries have grown into becoming the virtual beggars of the world. With cap in hand, most African leaders have found themselves trooping to the capitals of Western nations to plead for assistance to develop their nations. Rather than looking within to unlock the full potential of their nations; and by so doing raise their people from the clutches of poverty and dependency, African leaders have instead looked without for outside help to do what they can and should be doing for themselves.
For decades, since the end of World War II, most African leaders have sought Western economic assistance for their countries—assistance which often comes tied with conditions demanding slavish adherence to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank policy prescriptions coined as Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are the recipients of 25% of global official development assistance.
From a review of the records, it can be observed that these SAPs, which are often imposed as conditions for assistance, have instead generated poverty rather than prosperity. In the truest sense, SAPs are imposed, resulting in debt repayment and economic restructuring to ensure that the debtor countries’ economies are arranged in a way that places low priority on spending for health, education and development.
Thus for instance, in the case of Liberia, Government run hospitals like the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital (JFK) are declared nominally free but, patients have to buy drugs from private dispensaries like the LUCKY Pharmacy to where JFK patients are often referred. In other cases, public education is sacrificed for private initiatives where public funds are used to support private (Western) educational profit seeking ventures.
The so-called “Bridge” partnership is one in which funding for public schools is directed into private owned ventures with no history or record of success in providing quality primary education to the public at low or little cost.
Another relevant example is water and its supply to the public, which this current government has sought to privatize at great expense to the public.
Another example of IMF/World Bank policy prescription is the privatization of electricity whose supply, like water, is intermittent and whose cost per kilowatt hour is about the highest in Africa. The result is that thousands are denied access to this essential commodity simply because they cannot afford the cost. It is little wonder, therefore, why power theft is high and rising. In real terms this means that the IMF and World Bank have demanded and are demanding that Liberia, like other poor nations, must lower the standard of living of their people.
This is why we share the argument of Dr. Thomas Jaye, Monday’s Liberia College Commencement Speaker, who declared that the IMF and World Bank are indeed barriers to development in Africa. Not only that; our national leaders have betrayed the cause of their people by aligning with and placing themselves at the service of greedy corporate interests. The case of Firestone, which has dominated the rubber industry in Liberia for nearly a century, comes readily to mind.
Aside from the fact that Firestone pays starvation wages and consistently enjoys Government support to quell strikes by aggrieved workers, the Government of Liberia has laws in place that prohibit Liberian farmers from exporting raw unprocessed rubber even across the border into the Ivory Coast where rubber fetches higher prices; yet it allows Firestone to do just that every day.
This indeed is a clear example of what unequal terms of trade means, such that fits consistently with World Bank/IMF prescriptions. When, for example, has the World Bank supported the building of a crumb rubber plant to help enable small rubber farmers to add value to their produce and increase income? This is unheard of and never will be until our national leaders can untie their umbilical cords of dependency on the West. This is the point so eloquently driven home by Ghana President Nana Akuffo-Addo and Liberian academic, Dr. Thomas Jaye.