BBC World Debate - Investing in Africa: what's working?
What works in African development, was the question posed at the BBC World Debate held in Accra, Ghana as part of a landmark aid effectiveness summit.
Billions of dollars in aid and investment make their way to Africa each year. Emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and the Gulf States are now spending vast sums. Established donor countries and agencies continue to pour in aid money. But how successful are African governments, foreign investors and donors, and the traditional aid industry in improving lives in Africa?
Zeinab Badawi chaired a special debate featuring a high-profile panel of aid specialists at the National Theatre of Ghana in front of an audience of over 400.
It is a tragedy for mankind that the Doha round broke down. Trade provides a multiple of the benefits of aid
Angel Gurría, Secretary General, Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Managing Director World Bank, Angel Gurría Secretary General Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Kumi Naidoo Honorary President Civicus, Stefano Manservisi Director General Development European Commission, Anthony Akoto Osei Ghana's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Oh Joon South Korea's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade addressed the broad theme across three areas: trade, aid and investment.
Trade, aid and investment
Kumi Naidoo, honorary president of civil society umbrella organisation Civicus
, began by drawing attention to the role of trade rules that have traditionally hampered Africa's progress:
"Africa is poor despite being an incredibly rich continent in terms of its commodities and resources. Profits that are being made are not being directed to the poor but are helping the rich" he said
"It is a tragedy for mankind that the Doha round broke down. Trade provides a multiple of the benefits of aid", he said.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank
was in agreement:
"We can't stop because Doha hasn't worked. We need to help Africa trade internally. Much work is needed to support infrastructure. We also need to undertake work on standards adhere to global standards", she said
South Korea's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Oh Joon, offered his own experiences of the impact of successful development in his country over the last 40 years: "in terms of aid assistance ... we are trying to share what we learned from our own experiences" he said.
The importance of effective infrastructure support was a theme several panellists returned to whether in reference to building ports, constructing power supplies and roads or providing telecoms support.
Investment in and from the private sector was another hot topic both in the wider summit and within the World Debate discussions,:
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged investment from within. "We have to encourage our own private sector to invest in ourselves. Most jobs are not created by big countries. Small entrepreneurs are the most important people on this continent", she said.
"Aid can be a catalyst to help mobilise investment. We need to champion Africa's successes" she added.
Naidoo agreed, arguing that aid and trade must go hand-in-hand for effective development. "Aid by itelf won't work without trade justice" he said, "we need aid stripped of conditionality, along with investment in countries."
There note of pragmatism came from one of the panellists. Asked by Badawi if aid was in fact a Trojan horse by which donor countries could steal into developing nations, Ghana's Anthony Akoto Osei replied that "there is no such thing as a free lunch."
The debate format itself fed into an important theme across the 3 day summit; the importance of public debate and access to information within development strategies.
Head of Policy at the BBC World Service Trust James Deane has spoken and published widely on the topic and you can read his blog reports from Accra on the Communications Initiative policy portal
"Investing in Africa: what's working?" was broadcast on BBC World News across the weekend of 11 and 12 October 2008. It is available online here
This edition of The World debate was a three-way partnership between BBC World News, BBC World Service Trust, and the OECD.