Daily Champion (Lagos)

18 July 2005

South Africa: Empowerment to Reduce Poverty in Africa - Mbeki

Lagos — Deputy Chairman of the South African Institute for International Affairs at the Witwatersrand University, Mr. Moeletsi Mbeki, has blamed avalanche of poverty in the continent to lack of empowerment by the governments and elites.

He stated this in his observation in a study publication by the International Policy Network, made available to Business Champion.

He said in the study, "solution to Africa's poverty is empowerment through property ownership and free trade".

Mr. Mbeki, who is brother to the South African president, pointed out that there have been recent discussions of the harm to Africa's development done by corruption, but lamented, "little discussion about how to promote prosperity for all Africans".

He argued in the new study, that corruption and poverty in Africa are consequence of the invasive control over the African countries' economies exerted by some predatory political elites.

"Development in sub-Saharan Africa requires a new type of democracy - one that empowers not just the political elite but private producers," said Mbeki.

He further argued that since the end of colonialism, most countries in Africa have been besetted by political elites who see the state as a means to acquire personal wealth through taxation and regulation.

"The history of Africa since the 1960s is the history of groups of elites seeking the 'political kingdom' with the primary purpose of enriching themselves," he asserted.

As a result, he said, they have siphoned much of the continent's wealth and undermined the generation of new wealth.

To rectify this situation, therefore, he was of the belief that Africa's poorest people must be empowered through the institutions of the free society encompassing property rights and markets.

"It is necessary that peasants, who constitute the core of the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa become the real owners of their primary asset - land," he said.

To enable such ownership, Mr. Mbeki said, freehold must be introduced and the so-called communal land tenure system, which is really state ownership of land, should be abolished.

He also emphasised the importance of removing internal and external restrictions on the ability of Africans to engage in trade.

"Africa's peasants must gain access to world markets. The producers must be able to auction their own cash crops, including coffee, tea, cotton, sugar, cocoa and rubber, rather than be forced to sell them to state-controlled marketing boards," he declared.

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