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AFRICA AND THE GORDON’S ‘MARSHALL PLAN’

BY KORNEBARI NWIKE

Speaking in Edinburg, Scotland in 2005 on how to help African continent overcome poverty, Mr. Gordon Brown, now British Prime Minister asserted that, “This year … is our chance to reverse the fortunes of a continent and to help transform the lives of millions.” As Mr. Brown stressed, his proposition could be achieved through a ‘Modern Marshall Plan.’ Outlining his four point plan, Gordon points to the eradication of all debts owed by poor African countries to international organizations such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and African Development Bank. Use of 100% of debt relief to fund education and health projects in Africa. Provide extra money and increasing direct development aid. And also efforts to improve Africa’s export trade. Isn’t this a wonderful plan? Absolutely. One thing the plan lacked is how to block or checkmate African politicians in their kleptomaniac urge to siphon or elope with millions of stolen funds to oversea bank accounts particularly, Swedish and British.

The impact of total debt forgiveness to poor African nations including Nigeria would be wonderful. It would help African nations construct refineries, roads and other infrastructures, educate scientists, build railroads, build communication networks and modern hospitals among others. This beholding gesture would not only give direction to Africa but would help catapult it from its feeble and epileptic level to an enviable giant. One question is eminent though. Why do we think that the Brits and other powers like members of the G-8 and the Americans are now talking about debt forgiveness to Africa? The answer could be summed up in one word, OIL. Such overture is being mentioned for Africa because of the increasing cold war (if you like) between the super-powers. All the super powers of the world, including china has been increasing their defense spending, expanding their navy and racing to militarize space. Let us not forget that recently Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Sudan even though the world was condemning the genocide of the Sudanese government in Darfur. President Jintao not only gave an interest free loan to Sudan but forgave all the Sudanese debts. The loan is to be used in building a presidential palace. Why would china make such an overture to Sudan? It is obvious, oil.

Would Mr. Brown’s ‘Modern Marshall Plan’ work for Africa? Absolutely. The fact is although the competition for sources of energy is at rocket high between the world powers; debt forgiveness to African nations wouldn’t be willful unless vigorously pursued by African nations themselves. For this plan to actualize, African nations must pitch tent with Prime Minister Gordon. They must convince and bring members of the G-8 (namely, Britain, Germany, France, Japan Canada, Italy, United States and Russia), and the EU on board. They must honestly form a bloc, work together and above all communicate at levels never witnessed in African polity. In event such binding scenario emerges, we expect creditor nations’ and agencies like International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, African Development Bank, and Parish Club to comply and rally behind Prime Minister Brown to save Africa. One wouldn’t forget that Europe was rescued in 1947 by the United States Marshall Plan for Europe. United States gave $20 billion aid to Europe which no doubt helped Europe recover, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and importantly eliminated poverty.

Another serious matter (though not included in Mr. Browns Plan) is corruption. African nations should ponder on how to curb the heighten level of corruption that has enveloped the African society. From port of entry to the presidency of any African nation, the story is the same. Corruption stints in Africa. Africa unfortunately has lost trillions of dollars to corruption over the century. Tell me, if it weren’t that President Basra is corrupt, what on earth would make him accept a Loan for a presidential palace when Sudanese are roaming homelessly and starving in desert in Chad and Niger? To my mind, these waves of corruption and corrupt practices could be curtailed if the International community faithfully comments to intervene. First, all looted funds in overseas bank account belonging to African politicians and their friends domiciled abroad should be returned to their home governments. Such funds should be returned on condition that it be channeled towards specific projects (building of dams, water projects, health infrastructure etc), monitored by the International Community. Second, all petro-dollars from sale or excess sale of petroleum and other export trades should be monitored. Such excess funds should be channeled towards funding education and healthcare instead of lavishing it on politician’s apartment buildings (as it is case currently in Nigeria). Third, African nations should pass legislation ensuring that all political office holders declare their assets. Taming corruption in Africa would add meaning to Mr. Gordon Brown’s proposition and would stabilize Africa. 

If Africa would stand on its feet soon, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa must break rank with their territorial supremacy and lead other African nations in a concerted and collaborative effort with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring the Gordon’s plan to fruition. In the event that there is compliance, Africa shouldn’t accept aid in tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns, and rocket- propelled grenade. This wasn’t the terms of the European Marshall Plan. Now that Mr. Gordon Brown, the proponent of the ‘Modern Marshall Plan’ is Prime Minister, Africa should be up on its toes because, it is only when African countries stop paying unsubsidized, high interest loans that she could develop manpower to space, reverse Africa’s fortune and transform the continent.

KorneBari Nwike is President of the National Union of Ogoni Students (NUOS INTL,USA), Student member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Member, Kansas City Sister Cities International Foundation, Member, United Nations Association  – Young Professionals for International Corporation (UNA-YPIC), Member, MOSOP – USA.

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