The Commission for Africa was launched by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004 to come out with sustainable and far-reaching solutions to tackle Africa's grinding poverty and governance issues. On March 11th, the Commission issued a report particularly focusing on strategies to combat poverty, which it refers to as "the greatest tragedy of our time."
Professor Zabez Langely is Professor of African Studies at Howard University here in Washington. He says the Commission's report helps focus the developed world's attention on the key issues in Africa.
"I think it is a serious report and it has indicated what needs to be done in Africa within the context of good governance, what can be done in Africa to improve growth rates and to reduce poverty. As you know there are many other challenges. First of all Africa has to meet some of the Millennium development goals to 2015. From what we can see so far as Africa is concern nearly all the indicators are down in regard to the Millennium goals," he says. "We think the commission will create more ordinance and if they are to achieve sustainable development, I think that the commission for Africa report will form a good base for starting towards sustainable development making the effort towards sustainable development."
Professor of Economics George Ayete (Eye-e-tae) of American University applauds the commission's effort, but seriously doubts its benefit to Africa.
"Tony Blair wants to be seen. He wants to make the year 2005 the year for Africa and he wants to be seen to be caring about Africa and he wants to do something positive for Africa because everybody knows that Africa has been in dire economic straits for a long, long, long time," he says. "I mean that is all good, that is all noble and so forth, but there are some of us who are skeptical and cynical about this in the sense that is seems that every ten years we hear about a mega plan or some mega grand initiative to save Africa and when we hear about all these plans then two or three years later nobody hears about them again."
The Commission for Africa report notes the lack of political leadership in most African states. To that end Prime Minister Tony Blair has appointed certain African leaders such us Ethiopia's Melse Zenawei as promoters of good governance. But Professor Ayete says, by and large, leaders like Mr. Zenawei are not the sort of transformational leaders he would choose to foster good governance.
"Yes, I personally thought that the personal choice of President Melse of Ethiopia was rather poor. He’s a poor candidate to preach governance. You look at Zimbabwe for example, Zimbabwe is being been ruled by a tyrant for the past twenty years and that country is on the brink of economic disaster," he says. "The economy has collapsed and there are many, many of these other countries where corruption is rampant I mean look at Kenya for example, look at Tanzania and Nigeria is even hopeless so we have serious problems in Africa and the leadership is simply not interested in tackling these problems."
Howard University's Professor Langely agrees that corruption is a key roadblock to development in Africa, but he is quick to point out it's a problem for developed countries involved in Africa as well.
"First of all the developed countries themselves should tighten there oversight of their own company doing business in Africa. The Americans have a law for that about companies whom do corrupt activities abroad there is a law against that," he says. "So I think on both sides, the donors and the recipients, the African government themselves and the donors both I think should police their own side to avoid corruption."
Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources. Professor Ayete says if African leaders can proactively take charge of fostering good governance, they won't have to depend on outside aid.
"If these leaders get serious about reform and clean up their own houses and put their own houses in order they will find all the aid resources that they need right there in Africa they don’t have to go begging and reaching from other countries. The resources that Nigeria needs can be found in Nigeria, the resources Kenya needs can be found in Kenya," he says. "Every year Africa spends twenty billion to import food. The twenty billion is about the same amount of foreign aid Africa gets from all sources. If Africa can feed itself and back in the 1950’s and 60’s Africa was not only feeding itself, but also was exporting food," he adds. "If it can feed itself, it will be able to find the aid resources that is needs right there in Africa. Unfortunately, the leaders are simply programmed to always to be badgering the rich countries for foreign aid, badgering the rich countries for resources when the resources are right there in Africa."
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