Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mafabi on United States of Africa

Mafabi on United States of Africa

David Mafabi of The Daily Monitor, Kampala, Uganda, wrote the following editorial in response to the African Union's proposal to form a 'United States of Africa.'

Will we ever witness a real United States of Africa? Or rather will our future generations ever do so? Learning about the United Nation's millennium goals got me thinking, why can't Africa write her own goals? It does not take a mathematician to figure out that Africa is the wealthiest continent on the planet. In every corner of this great continent there is an abundance of natural resources; minerals, oil, gas, gold, diamonds; which the developed world needs.

Any economist in any western country will gladly inform you that where demand exceeds supply prices are automatically higher. Not in Africa. Let me rephrase that: Western goods sold in Africa are naturally priced higher, but African goods sold here seem to go against the demand & supply rule.

At this juncture I am in the least bit interested in trade quotas or embargos simply because they were made effective a long time ago and were very well suited to the needs of colonial rulers. When our traders (not farmers) cry foul that United States and European farmers get subsidies - thus rendering our produce unsellable within their markets - I cannot help but think 'why send them our produce in the first place?' Isn't Africa starving to the point of extinction? Why should we spend sleepless nights at the thought of the United States not extending AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) when we can make use of the clothes, let alone the export revenue we could earn from other African States?

Wouldn't it be nice for Starbucks Coffee Company to beg countries up and down this continent to sell them coffee beans? Imagine the great British chocolate company Cadbury's pleading to buy cocoa pods from Ghana based on prices that Ghana sets, not the price that was set five or six generations back.

No doubt politicians may read this and pass it off (claiming) that I am talking rubbish since I do not know how prices are set in the first place. That may be true, but I know one thing; and that is that Africans cannot be forced into selling anything that they do not want to - or be forced to sell their products at a set price. What they can do is to find buyers of their products without a set price or better still use their own products. I advocate for the latter: The U.N.'s millennium goal number Eight.

Ours would just be one: Self Sufficiency. This, in my opinion, would be best achieved once we have a united Africa. Africa has the potential to become a food basket for itself and beyond. As the world gets more disenchanted with the use of chemicals in drugs and food we could supply them with organic produce. It could also become the world's biggest jewelry shop, selling and storing gold, diamonds and other gemstones.

Why send diamonds to Brussels and India when people from those countries can come here and buy them with a sticker on them saying 'Made in Africa,' thus increasing tourism? The list is endless. But I hear many of you saying this is not new news. The only message that is new is my message of becoming self-sufficient first, before thinking about exporting.

Businessmen and politicians may say that exports bring in more revenue, but I say 'no wonder the rich get richer.' If forefathers in developed countries did not sacrifice to build their nations patriotically then future generations would not be enjoying the wealth they have today. If we treated this continent like one big country, imagine what quality of life we would have. Imagine Uganda producing only vegetables, Kenya producing only wheat, Tanzania producing only maize, etc. A place for (all) gold, another for diamonds etc. A full-fledged railway line cutting across the continent, sorting out problems of the landlocked countries. We would soon become a China or India - a place where they export more than they import - places which dictate to the rest of the world the price and quantity they send to it. Imagine the development we would enjoy.

But will this ever be achieved? I do not know about you, but my hopes are dim. If within Uganda we can oppose our own Seeya's development plans then how do we expect to co-operate with our neighboring countries? Will we be able to relinquish some of our monopolies to the neighbors? Would we be able to abandon wearing designer clothes and choose to wear our own designed outfits? The East African Community is yet to become a reality. Will the United States of Africa ever see the light of day?

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