Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An incentive to stem Presidential Plunder & Waste?

Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese born entrepreneur, who founded Africa’s mobile giant Celtel - a company he later, sold to MTC of Kuwait earning him a huge personal fortune. But unlike, other African leaders who easily get entangled, into lives of personal luxury and waste, Mr. Ibrahim is using his wealth for good. He has set up a database on African governance (Ibrahim Index on African governance) and now inaugurated the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The largest individual award in the world, it comprises:

• US$5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter

• Up to US$200,000 a year for 10 years towards the winner’s public interest activities and good causes.

The first recipient is Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique – Perhaps this will serve as an incentive to stop the plunder and waste of public money by African Presidents.
If only our presidents could stomach a simpler existence!

Here is a sample of African presidential extravagance-

Here's how the WaBenzi get around. Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi have motorcades that can extend a mile long. At the very minimum an African president needs at least 30 cars: the S600L for himself, perhaps a couple more identical vehicles to confuse assassins, outriders, ministers, yes-men and chase cars bristling with guns. Snarling police in advance vehicles force you off the road up to an hour before the big man zooms past……

When he's at home former Tanzania President Mkapa has his own motorcade, which in the last five years has been involved in three separate road accidents in which 22 people have died (including a child of three) and 47 others have been seriously injured. Most were pedestrians. Mkapa escaped this road slaughter without a scratch to himself, but no wonder he often chooses to fly in the £15-million presidential jet he used state coffers to buy in 2002…….

Last year King Mswati III of Swaziland went against the grain. He passed over Mercedes and went for a £264,000 Maybach 62 for himself plus a fleet of BMWs for each of his 10 wives and three virginal fiancées selected annually at the football stadium 'dance of the impalas'. Imagine if he continues buying BMW for his wives; his dad collected 50 spouses and 350 kids. In May southern Africa's Mr. Toad changed his mind about Mercedes and roared up to his rubber-stamp parliament in a new S600L limo. The total bill for his car purchases alone will be about £750,000, or three quarters of the annual figure for British assistance. Of the £14 million Swaziland gets in foreign aid, £9 million goes on the king's balls, picnics and parties - and cars. Yet 70 per cent of Swazis languish in absolute poverty and four out of ten have HIV/Aids, the highest rate in the world……..

Former Kenyan President Moi's package -
Monthly pension to amount to 80% of last salary
Six cars and seven drivers
34 workers
12-bedroom mansion
Three cooks and two housekeepers
Gym, swimming pool and sauna……

The judge reserved his most abrasive remarks for former Zambian President Chiluba, whose corruption trial in Zambia has been repeatedly postponed because of his ill health. He refused to give evidence to the court. Mr. Justice Smith singled out as "the most telling example of corruption" his $500,000 purchase of hundreds of suits and monogrammed shirts from an exclusive boutique in Switzerland, as well as 72 pairs of handmade, high heel shoes to extend his 5ft stature. "This was at a time when the vast majority of Zambians were struggling to live on $1 a day and many could not afford more than one meal a day. The people of Zambia should know that whenever he appears in public wearing some of these clothes he acquired them with money stolen from them."………

The International Crisis Group (ICG) says some Zimbabweans are in favor of a retirement package, which would be attractive enough for President Robert Mugabe to step down. It could include granting immunity to President Mugabe from prosecution while safeguarding his wealth……..

Yet, on and on he goes like a ...........


Anonymous said...

In this case, you read Patrick Bond’s latest book “Looting Africa: The economics of Exploitation”book which the MMD online spin Doctor Bwembya on ZOL recommended last week. I have just read it and challenged. It is a mere 172 pages yet it serves a useful purpose for any person seriously interested in understanding our continent’s economical position in the age of globalisation. I don’t know how Bwembya got hold of it considering the fact that this is a thought provoking book?
In the book, Bond rightly notes that Africa has been exploited for centuries and this continues today. He is also absolutely right in his cynicism of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ‘Africa Commission’, whilst the Live8 concerts and the Make Poverty History campaigns, although they had good intentions, he argues that they had no impact.

Looting Africa is similar in writing to Bond’s other books (especially Elite Transition) and academic papers in tone, style and deliverance.

Patrick Bond, who is professor of Development Economics at the Kwa-Zulu Natal University in South Africa, elucidates proficiently on what he sees as the central problems that blight Africa’s economic and political environment, namely debts and an unbalanced financial relationship with the advanced world. He goes on to label this relation “Phantom aid”, because, he argues, it contains unfair trade, distorted investment and has been the cause of the continent’s brain drain and skill shortage.

Bond quiet rightly goes on to argue that neo- liberal reforms have stimulated the rise of the exceptionally dominant elites in Africa. In Kenya, the continuity of the Mois’, the Kenyattas’ the Odingas’ et al is blatant evidence of this. Whilst in Uganda, the Kaguta clan and his paid regiment stand out. Overall, Bond sees all these as exemplifying the ‘Looting’ of the continent. It reminds one of the beautiful fruit yet ugly term: “Coconut”.

Having said all that, there are a number of issues that the professor raises in the book, but fails to adequately address. For instance how do we attract Foreign Direct investment? Or how do we prevent Wanainchis’ (Africans) hard work benefiting others? It is now almost common knowledge that the money leaving Africa is more than what Africa owes (which according to the UN stands at $300billion). Bond is right when he argues that the debt, owed by the continent, should be wiped clean. The problem according to Bond is that those engaged in the serious acts of corruption, are still in power. And rightly so, if we look at Uganda we see examples of the mis-handling of the Global Aids Fund by some high profile individuals, in Kenya the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing scandals, those implicated have either been exonerated and are sadly still at the centre of government.

The research by bond raises another important question, given that there are over 100,000 African millionaires on the continent, worth more around $600 billion in total, how poor is Africa? I certainly agree with him that there needs to be far greater commitment to racking down and returning illicit capital flight from Africa, most of it stashed in here in London and Europe. . The book forces the reader to start asking rigid questions about the moral/ethical practises of the entire western banking sector. This is because clearly, they are seriously involved in the wholesome looting of our continent. Another problem that the book doesn’t address also is the lack of domestic hegemony in Africa. Within the majority of African political systems, those at the apex (the patrons) are unable to impose their hegemony and thus depend on periodic largesse to buy acquiescence.

Whilst Bond’s book points out at a great deal of valuable information and a compelling critique of Africa’s place in the world, it does not offer a clear set of alternative. Conclusively, it should be pointed out that Black Africa is currently experiencing a growth rate that in 2005 was equal to the overall rate of growth that the entire developing world has experienced since 2000. The grand question is, in spite of some elements of corruption, are we going to continue letting local collaborators and foreign agents continue to plunder and enjoy the hard labours of the mwanainchi?

Kashikulu said...

Interesting take, I will read the book.
Thank you for looking into this.

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