Andrew Mwenda at PostGlobal

Andrew Mwenda

Kampala, Uganda

Andrew M. Mwenda is an editor at Uganda's Monitor newspaper. He is also a founding member of ACODE, a public policy research think tank in Kampala, Uganda. He was born in Fort Portal, Uganda and became a reporter with Monitor Newspaper in Kampala. In 1999, he won the British Chevening scholarship and did an MSc in Development Studies at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. He is currently a John Knight Fellow at Stanford University. Close.

Andrew Mwenda

Kampala, Uganda

Andrew M. Mwenda is an editor at Uganda's Monitor newspaper. He is also a founding member of ACODE, a public policy research think tank in Kampala, Uganda. more »

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Africa Must Fix Itself (Writer Responds to Readers)

Africa must stop looking outside of the continent for solutions. It needs internal reform before it can benefit from the rest of the world - regardless of what China or anyone else offers.

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Andrew M. Mwenda: Top Commenter

I want to thank everyone for their comments. For those of you who have accused me of intellectual dishonesty, my request is that we should focus the debate on the issues, rather than attempt to shift it to the subjective motivations of the contributors. Otherwise we may degenerate into name calling.

In any case, anyone of you can Google my articles and find them in the Sunday Monitor newspaper of Uganda. Those articles were aimed at a purely Ugandan audience. The views I express in those articles were written long before I ever imagined I would come to Stanford. My views from years ago are similar to those on this interactive forum.

My argument is that the West, China or anyone else does not owe Africa anything. We should not be looking for the kindness of others for our own development. Instead we should be looking within Africa for the possibilities available to us. External influences work upon internal incoherences or coherences. The ability of any country to benefit from external opportunities depends on its internal dynamics.

Taiwan, S. Korea, Singapore, and now China, India and Vietnam are all developing rapidly within the existing international trading system. Africa is largely retrogressing. The EU and USA are all complaining about cheap Chinese exports which they say are destroying their textile (EU) and leather (for the USA) industries – all despite of the said barriers to trade.

I have not suggested that Western aid is good to Africa, or that Chinise aid is bad. My view is that nations pursue their self interest. The West and China are doing what is expected of them. For Africa, the challenge is how to fit itself into the game for the benefit of its people. International trade is not a zero-sum game where one's gain is another's loss. But alas, Africa has failed to take advantage even of the preferential trade arrangements granted to it under the Cotounou Agreement and under AGOA.

Aid is bad as aid - whether it comes from the West or from China or whether it comes with strings attached or not. It changes the incentives of recipients. Instead of developing institutions through which governments can negotiate with the citizens for tax revenues to meet their public expenditure needs, governments look to external patrons for money.

We all know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Governments that depend on outsiders for revenue will be more inclined to listen to them for the design of policies and for the structure of institutions the country will adopt. This way, aid makes it difficult for recipient nations to evolve policies and institutions that are relevant and sensitive to domestic needs, modes of conduct and beliefs.

Therefore, for Bernard: Africa cannot develop the appropriate policies and institutions when its leaders depend on outsiders for revenue to finance their political survival. Aid is an important political resource that governments use to stay in power by rewarding those who are loyal to them, recruiting new supporters and buying off the opposition.

The mistake people make is to project African leaders as hapless victims of World Bank and IMF manipulations. In fact African leaders are adept and manipulating donors to get money to sustain themselves in power without ever changing their ways. For as long as Africa remains dependant on aid, there will be less incentive to search for internal solutions.

African governments have run down universities. The mismanagement of Africa by Africans has chased the most promising brains out of that continent. The World Bank has offered a helping hand in this tragedy. However, governments in Africa have preferred to finance corrupt militaries, to house rulers in palaces than to invest in universities. We need to stop playing victim and blaming everyone else for our failures but ourselves.

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