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African Leaders Participate in Davos Forum - 2001-01-26

More than a dozen African heads of state and economic policy makers are participating in this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The African delegates at Davos hope their countries will soon be able to participate more fully in the new global economy.

Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa told the forum that wealthier countries too often pursue their own interests at the expense of closer partnerships with poor countries. But Mr. Mkapa made clear that he supports freer trade, deregulation and foreign investment - key components of the new global economy.

South African finance minister Trevor Manuel also embraces globalization. He says he disagrees with the youthful protesters from rich countries who believe globalization harms the poor. "It's an irreversible reality," he said. "It has been confirmed and will be confirmed again by African presidents. We have to engage with it. It's not inevitable that it will work against the poor. We don't have to feel helpless."

Mr. Manuel says economic growth resulting from increased trade and investment is the best way to assist the poor.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader in Zimbabwe, says his country's economy is declining mainly because of bad management but also because it is trading less with the rest of the world. By allowing landless people to seize farms in Zimbabwe, he says the government has undermined the stability of the country. Restoring the rule of law, he says, is crucial to winning investor confidence and boosting growth. "The lawlessness that is happening in the country must be stopped," he said. "People must feel safe. The judiciary must feel it is able to do its work. Political discourse must be undertaken in an atmosphere of tolerance."

Mr. Tsvangirai says without winning international confidence and good will Zimbabwe will continue to be a pariah state.

According to the World Economic Forum, Africa remains near the bottom of its index of competitiveness. A forum report says African countries must attack corruption, exercise budgetary discipline and promote trade and investment to get their economies going and increase their role in the global economy.