I spent Monday evening giving a lecture at Colorado College on the subject of poverty in Africa, its root causes and plausible steps towards amelioration. One example I gave, of the way European countries continue to dominate economically former African colonies, involves the curious popularity in Accra, Ghana of German-grown oats. I’ve eaten these imported oats myself and agree they are tasty. But not so tasty as to make me stop wondering how Germany manages to win over African consumers with a breakfast food that’s alien to their menus. For many European countries, including Germany, Africa represents an important market for their foods, even though Africans grow or make some of these foods on their own. Italians sell canned tomatoes in Ghana. The French sell cheese. The British sell chocolate, none of which uses cocoa, one of Ghana’s biggest export crops. European commercial interests in Africa are often overlooked, not the least because Europeans talk so much about the foreign aid they offer. In a rare break with this practice, the German government on Wednesday said that it plans to encourage private-sector development in Africa when it assumes the presidency of the G8 organization next January The G8 represents the world’s richest countries and the organization often tries to set standards or policy directions. The German government’s recognition of the importance of the private sector seems banal, or even suggests that development officials in Berlin have been asleep for decades are awakening only now. A more generous interpretation is that German officials are fully aware of the profits earned by European corporations in Africa and hope to encourage more penetration of African markets in the future. The lack of candor by German officials may simply be the result of embarassment over the trading surpluses that their country piles up with various African nations.
Oct 20 2006
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