Crossing Boarders

As a member I was informed about a Roundtable Meeting held on November  2008 at The Corporate Council on Africa in Washington.  Representatives from USAID came to CCA to discuss The President’s Global Food Security Response, a $130 million increase in development assistance to increase agricultural productivity of staple foods, stimulate the supply response and expand trade of staple foods.
The presentation went over  facts as they are understood today.
Now facts are facts and to see poverty come down from 60% to 54% in 14 years is a fact, not one to be proud of I would say.
The development process takes too long. In part to quote Jeffrey Sachs “because too many institutions are providing small parts of development assistance and as a result the assistance is too fragmented.
In part because the one size fits all approach that has been a practice for many years clearly does not bring the efficiencies that could be achieved if a more case by case approach would be implemented”.
With the economic crisis I am concerned that Africa may suffer from more delays to get out of the poverty trap because other priorities will prevail.
What strikes me here is another fact:
Initially 700 Billion dollars could be found in a week and it took another week to agree on the first set of terms and conditions to repair an industry sector that had gotten out of control while we need a few decades to resolve a problem that affects almost 1 billion people in Africa. A problem that deals with the most burning issues threatening human beings in all their outlook of life.
To quote Bono “Where we live in this world should not determine whether we live in this world”. The devastating impact of Malaria Tuberculosis and Aids can be addressed if only we want to.
Botswana is already starting to get hit by the crisis due to a drop of commodity prices according to a recent article I read.
This on top of the human hemorrhage that is taking place in the country as a result of AIDS leaving it without a labor force needed to fuel a sustainable economy.
The presentation addressed Regional trade which is a logical and reasonable proposition but why will this work in Africa if the EU has made insignificant progress to deal with their Agricultural issues for as long as they exist and EU Agriculture has been the biggest tax payers money waister to keep inefficient French and Italian farmers alive at the expense of inflated consumer prices due to imposed subsidies.
As long as a Ghanaian farmer pays 8% duties exporting raw cacao and 38% on cacao powder to protect inefficient production capacity in the west, the incentive for the farmer in Ghana is lacking let alone to try and share the market with his Ivorian neighbor… So without fair market access I see no significant change that will arise from regional trade while we maintain trade barriers.
Food shortage is a threat with the current world population projections where we are almost doubling the numbers in 15 years. So knowledge transfer to improve agricultural output is a priority in my opinion to avoid more hunger and famine. The presentation acknowledged this and that was a very positive point.
In today’s information age solutions are within reach if only we want to share our knowledge.
One slide  said that we have to recognize Agricultural related issues are a complex problem. I could not agree more to that. But it should say that we have largely imposed our problem on the farmers in Africa due to protectionism in the rest of the world.
Climate impact is another concern, and some of the biggest contributors to the global warming are outside Africa and Africa will again be one of the most hit victims.
According to the presentation only 3.1 M hectares are irrigated out of the 74 M agricultural land in Nigeria. I guess soon the cost to irrigate will increase since water will come in less abundance to the region. Ghana is suffering as we know from short rainfalls and Lake Volta was drying up, causing severe energy problems to the region as a result.
I drove from Ouagadougou to Bamako recently and back. It took me about 45 minutes to get through the border and this should be considered a record time. I made 6 stops in total each way between customs, passport control, laissez passer for the car etc. Trucks take hours to cross the border.
The procedures at the Ghanaian border are even worse because at times the language barrier kicks in.  Between Ghana and Togo the situation is not  any better.
Borders close at 22.00 hours between Mali and Burkina Faso. If you want to get to the border from Mali back to Burkina after 1800 hours you have to be in a convoy of 6 cars or accept two police officers to escort you to the border the last 90 km. They say it is for your safety.
You have to pay the officers for them to assist you.
How does this compare to cost of interstate transport in the US or EU. All of this op top of the fact that both Mali and Burkina Faso are landlocked countries that already suffer from excessive costs of transport in the first place.
On a positive note the roads are getting much better but there are still long stretches to be fixed with dangerous potholes.
How many people in Washington or Brussels realize what the transport corridors look like between Burkina and Mali ?
A major opportunity to use Information Technology to speed up the border formalities I would say.
I am not negative towards all the good efforts of the likes of USAID. All these efforts are most welcome. That said, Jeffrey Sachs estimates that the AID industry consumes about 8B US $ out of the ODA sums that are allocated to Africa just to keep itself operational. This amount is significant if you consider the debt service and other components that are coming out of ODA as well, leaving real cash to a stripped down number insufficient to deal with the burning issues nations are facing. As long as we have talk shows going on until pigs fly and the G8 continue to provide lip service I am not so sure that the MDG’s will ever be met, forget about 2015.
Why did I have to sign a petition sent to Prime Minister Gordon Brown asking him to ensure at least the presence of ONE African leader at the discussions concerning the economic crisis in the world.
So when are we going to have a slide that says
“The complex problem constitutes of the following”, and lets state the dry facts as they really are and put a solution to it.
If we want, any problem no matter how complex can be solved. If we really want that is…
© Desi Lopez Fafié

1 Response to “Crossing Boarders”

  1. July 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Great post! I’ll subscribe right now wth my feedreader software!

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