Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Markets Around Africa

Africa's economic crisis persists

The ritual of internationally acclaimed economists and financial experts advancing theories intended to solve the world economic problems reached its peak last week in Washington where an estimated 12,000 bankers, ministers, officials and journalists attended the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

Noting that membership of these International Organisations has risen from forty four in 1947 to 147, their officials are expressing satisfaction at their performance. Indeed the IMF in its just released annual report commends itself for the handling of the global debt crisis which erupted in 1982 and describes itself as the 'world's lender of last resort, a bulwark against international collapse."

Growth in the industrial nations which is described by the Managing Director of the Fund, M Jacques De Laroisere in his opening address to the meeting is regarded as heralding the end of the crisis stage of the world debt problem.

In the midst of all this optimism, Mr A. W. Clausen, President of the World Bank found it necessary to make a plea for greater resources to help the poorest nations, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa. Mr Clausen's plea was based on the assessment that conditions in Africa, after the worst drought in 15 years are bleak and that per capita income has slipped to less than $410 a year while thousands face starvation.

He said: "the situation demands firm and immediate action on the part of all involved to reverse the decline." This was an obvious request from the World Bank President for stronger support for his bank's development agency and increased commitment of support from the rich nations to enable it to help Africa.

The World Bank however, does not dwell on the availability of foreign aid as the only way to avert an economic disaster in Africa. In a detailed report, toward sustained development: a joint programme of action for sub-Saharan Africa," the Bank notes, "donors are blamed for too many commercial and strategic considerations in aid decisions. Genuine mistakes and misfortunes cannot explain the excessive number of 'white elephants'."

It urges better use of investment by allowing market price incentives, depreciating overvalued currencies, encouraging private investment from abroad and greater emphasis on maintenance and rehabilitation instead of new projects.

The report which blames much of Africa's crisis on the continent's governments warns that unless individual African governments concentrate on the more rapid growth of their economies in the short, medium and longer terms, international assistance cannot do the job.

Whereas this report is viewed as a realistic appraisal of a continent whose people lack good drinking water, food, medical facilities, roads, decent housing, schools etc, the point must also be made here that most countries in Africa simply do not have governments on whom the World Bank or IMF can rely on to initiate and implement policies of any sort.

The area is so regularly and violently destabilised by the military that there is hardly a civilian representative government which stays in office long enough to pursue a meaningful programme.

If this problem which is seen as the root cause of poverty, mismanagement and chaos in many parts of Africa causes concern also to the IMF and the World Bank, perhaps subsequent meetings of the organisations will have the chance to listen to agents of the same African governments three or four years after the initiation of IMF/World Bank programmes to either find out from them what went wrong or congratulate them on their performance.

In short, until World Bank/IMF officials endeavour to find out that there are responsible representative governments in place before pumping money into Africa in the hope of improving the plight of poor Africans, then they will witness a further decline in the economies of third world countries.

Nigeria's promisory notes

Nigeria is ready to go ahead to offer six year promisory notes worth $2 billion to its insured trade creditors.

When the idea was first floated in July, there was considerable doubt as to whether Nigeria would implement it. Export credit agencies - led by Britain's Export Credits Guarantee Department, which has £450m worth of short-term debts insured has consequently taken the precaution of warning policyholders not to accept.

Nigerian finance officials have been told repeatedly that they could not open negotiations to reschedule trade debts without first agreeing an economic recovery programme with the International Monetary Fund, a process which has been stalled.

They are, however, to meet with all the agencies which make up the Paris Club, the official debt rescheduling organisation, in Paris on October 4 - and will not make any move until then.

ECOWAS summit in Togo

Nigerian Head of State, Major- General Muhammadu Buhari, has called on members of the economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) to appreciate one another's economic and security interests so as to enhance the solidarity of the organisation.

Receiving a special message from the Togolese President, General Gnassingbe Eyadema in Lagos, the Head of State said that Nigeria would always be concerned with the economic problems of member states because a healthy economic climate in those countries would boost the strength of the organisation.

He said that Nigeria shared the conviction of Togo that more efforts should be directed towards strengthen- ing ECOWAS and reiterated Nigeria's support for the holding of the next ECOWAS summit in Lome, Togo.

General Buhari said he was confident that attempts by member states of the organisation to implement its programmes would succeed.

He observed that there was a genuine attempt on the part of ECOWAS member countries to honour payments by member states.

The Togolese Minister of the Interior, Mr Kpofivi Lacle, who delivered the special message had earlier told General Buhari that President Eyadema was concerned about the success of the regional organisation.

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