As a comment to : Refreshingly straight talk cuts through waffle» by Mr Jabulani Sikhakhane, Editor-in-chief of Destiny Man and a freelance writer, Email : mabheki65@mweb.co.za


Dear Mr. Sikhakhane

Thanks for your analysis, but a large part of it is not correct and fails to raise the strategic and fundamental issue of economic alternative for Africa.

As the lead consultant for CoDa (just recruited 4 weeks before the meeting took place), I was asked to prepare a paper and to speak 30-35 mn and spoke 42 mn. The 20 mn you referred to seems to be a last minute arbitrary decision (on the program) and unknown to me.

I am surprised that you did not mention that only a few participants red the background papers (Aide-Memoir) I produced available on (http://amaizo.info/2009/12/04/africa-s-alternative-response-to-the-global-financial-crisis/) in English and French and should be available on the ADB website (www.afdb.org) shortly… The full French version of 104 pages will be published in the forthcoming months as a book.

So without an appropriate homework done, it was of course difficult for the CoDa Chair to think in terms of alternatives. As a matter of fact, I did not really heard about any concrete alternative proposal from the CoDA Chair.

My job as a consultant was primarily to open the Dialogue, to give some strategic perspective to the issue and not to please the CoDA Chair or Mo Ibrahim as you seem to highlight it in your paper.

Above all, I am also surprised about your comments about Mo Ibrahim. With all the respect for the brilliant carrier in Telecom of Mo Ibrahim, I do not recall he had ever invested in “productive capacities in Africa”… Most of his governance index is prepared by non-African (Columbia University with World Bank background approaches…). The African Development Bank has no Department taking care of this fundamental aspect. The United Nations simply forgot about it in the Objectives of the Millennium Development goals, etc. This point was more fundamental and was clearly explained in my presentation. You fail to see it. Productive capacity approaches would certainly contribute to additional decent job creation, economic prosperity in Africa including South Africa. As a matter of fact, Africa leaders are fully supportive to Trade, but how do you trade in an interdependent world if you do not produce any value added products? Should Africa stay forever the hostage of both the Market and the development aid? So, please, let’s focus on the serious issues.

Talking “jargon free” does not mean that somebody is right, in the contrary. Nobody really questioned the Neoliberal strategy adopted by African Leaders including Mo Ibrahim which brought Africa into the present situation of economic growth without decent job creation.

Finally, I am very surprised that you fell into the usual trap of our African politicians who often think that making a simple “multi-criteria” analysis of Africa should be wrongly interpreted as “redesigning the world”. The over-simplification of Africa’s problem is one of the reasons of our difficulty in providing solutions, especially alternative solutions. You should move back to the terms of reference assigned to the financial consultant and avoid to reduce Africa to the reductionist and minimalist approaches often adopted by many of our leaders (both in public and private sectors). I do not think that this is the best way to understand Africa’s complex, changing and multi-criteria problems in a competitive world environment and to come out with a comprehensive approach in terms of alternatives.

The fact that none of the people seating as Chair came out with a concrete proposal in terms of alternative responses is for me quiet disturbing as a large number of the participants were expecting at least some “alternative proposals” from CoDA. The only proposal I got was from the African Development Bank President to increase the Bank’s concessional loans portfolio, a recurrent request before any ADB elections… So I fail to see the alternative approach. So instead to prize people including Mo Ibrahim for his interesting style, you better revisit the conference in highlight properly the effective alternative proposals made and check whether our leaders are prepared, interested and willing to move into that direction. You may think also about you own proposals in terms of economic alternatives.

Please, try to be fair and read the papers first and highlight the various alternatives responses or proposals made instead to focus on the so-language “jargon free style” which does not offer any alternatives responses to Africa.

Sorry, but I cannot let you reduce a conference and all valuable remarks and proposals made restricted to your suggestions to focus on “jargon free style”… As a matter of fact, participants were all high-level experts and did not really had problems with the presentation, nor with the paper, in the contrary… It is eventually, the follow-up in terms of work programs which might be necessary to move our present Dialogue into a more concrete approach. For your information, all concepts raised such as “smart partnership”, “contractual solidarism” are very concrete issues if Africa’s leaders accept the participative approach, institutionalized counter-power system of governance, peer review mechanisms and demonstrate real interest to promote accountability, legitimacy and democracy.

Finally, for Mo Ibrahim, I had made some interesting remarks on the Mo Ibrahim US$ 5 million prize for African Heads of States to leave office voluntary and peacefully. It works only for serious people and do not work for the majority of African Heads of States starting with Zimbabwe… May be, 5 prize of US$ 1 million each for active and effective Africans including the Diaspora could be more “effective in boosting Africa forward”… (See Gouvernance africaine : Mo Ibrahim ou le prix « Nobel » de la « Vérité » )… These are strategic issues and should be discussed with the serious it deserved. “Jargon free style” cannot be a palliative to “no alternative at all” in Africa.

I wish you a great day.

8 December 2009

Yves Ekoué Amaïzo, Ph D, MBA

Director of the Afrology Think Thank

THERE’s something very refreshing about Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese- born businessman and philanthropist who lives in Britain. I had the opportunity two Saturdays ago to watch him cut to the chase at a meeting of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) held in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.

CoDA, a joint venture of the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), describes itself as a forum for free discussion among nonstate and state actors.

On two occasions during the CoDa meeting Ibrahim just dismissed the verbiage of participants. In the first instance, Ibrahim was responding to a presentation, Africa’s Alternative Response to the Global Financial Crisis, by Yves Ekoue Amaizo, an international consultant.

Amaizo’s dense presentation took almost an hour instead of the 20 minutes he had been allocated. He proposed, among other things, that Africa should come up with responses to the global crisis which are not similar to those of rich industrialised countries. “There is (a) need to reinvent contractual solidarism in economics so as to better manage the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, ensuring monitoring and salutary anticipations. No solution will be sustainable if its prior objective is not to help Africa regain its economic sovereignty,” he said.

After Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana who chairs CoDa, opened the floor for discussion, Ibrahim prefaced his remarks by saying that he hoped his words would not upset anybody. He then told the speaker: “Frankly, I drowned, in too much information. You’re trying to redesign the world in what was supposed to be 20 minutes, and ended up being 50 minutes. If the message is focused, people understand it. A guy who speaks an hour has nothing to say. Let us not overload. I hope people accept this advice from an older brother in good spirit. We need to be very effective Africans.”

Ibrahim also attacked the basis of Amaizo’s presentation, saying Africa had not been hit by a financial, but by an economic crisis. “Let’s be clear what we are talking about before we redesign Africa again.”

Ibrahim repeated his performance during lunch when he took to the podium to respond to an address by Paulo Gomes, the founder and chairman of Constelor, a Washington- based investment group. Gomes was born in Guinea-Bissau. A former executive director of the World Bank, he spoke about why regional integration was so important for Africa’s economic development.

After a bit of name-dropping — he said he was the son and nephew of freedom fighters who worked closely with Amilcar Cabral, the Guinea-Bissau freedom fighter, and that he had spent time with the Kennedy family in Boston — Gomes cited the cost of Germany’s unification as a warning of what Africa will require to achieve economic integration.

Despite the multibillion-dollar investment to upgrade it to the same level as the west, Gomes said that the eastern part of Germany still lagged its western cousin in terms of unemployment and other development indicators. “It wasn’t enough to upgrade East Germany, a country already with some minimum infrastructural base and an educated population,” Gomes said, adding that Africa, for example, needed about 90bn to upgrade and build infrastructure.

After Gomes’s presentation, Ibrahim took the podium and demolished the argument that the reunification of Germany was a useful comparison for Africa.

“I hope you don’t use it again because it’s damaging,” he said.

“First, that was unification; we are not talking about unification in Africa. We’re talking about economic integration. There’s a difference between the two.”

Unification meant huge investment in the upgrading of East Germany to the same level of development as its western counterpart.

“In integration we are not talking about Chad becoming West Germany, or Malawi becoming the US. No, what we are talking about is (African) countries opening their borders to each other. That’s all,” Ibrahim said. “We have to be careful when we give examples because the examples we give destroy the case for regional integration.”

Debates on our continent would be greatly enhanced if more of its leaders emulated Ibrahim’s straight talk.

His approach is particularly remarkable because he is an enormously wealthy man and, by and large, successful businessmen speak just as much mumbo jumbo as their political counterparts. Ibrahim eschews waffle for clear, concise and jargon-free talking. We’d make a great deal more progress if there were more Ibrahims in our world.

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