At an afternoon tea with Andrew Mwenda in Kampala Fang Fang restaurant, Uganda’s leading journalist on matters political and economic, talked of the failure of global leaders to stop subdizing favored farmers in rich countries at the expense of African farmers, most of whom rank among the worldâ€™s poorest. Why were Mwenda and I – who had not seen each other in months and had plenty of catching up do, especially about his fiery resignation from the Monitor newspaper — even dwelling on such trade distortions when the so-called Doha Round in trade liberalization is long dead? Perhaps because the meeting of Asian leaders with President George Bush this past week brought the international failure of trade reform back into the news, however briefly and furtively. Find hope for Africa elsewhere, I dare say. The so-called Doha Round in trade liberalization is essentially dead because of the refusal of Europe and the U.S. to sharply reduce tax-paid handouts to uncompetitive farmers. Though the biggest beneficiaries of these reductions will be already-rich farmers in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand and even China, the main moral case for removal of farm subsidies is that the action will raise prices on a range of farm products for Africaâ€™s poor and wealthy farmers alike.
I favor these cuts, even though I do not view changes in terms of trade as a panacea. For a farmer who lacks the funds to light his home or properly clothe and feed his children, even a penny on every pound of cotton sold, or a dime on every pound of corn or coffee, means a great deal. The poor measure their lives in the smallest of increments; perhaps nowhere is this truer than in rural Africa. So the objection that Africans will hardly benefit from trade reform is not persuasive. Which brings me to the two following quotes and my parting comment:
â€œEvery cow in the European Union is subsidized to the tune of two dollars a day, while between four hundred and five hundred million Africans live on less than a dollar a day.â€ â€“ Stephen Lewis
â€œIf you will not pay us reasonable prices for our exports, we will export ourselves.â€ â€“ anon. Zambian, quoted in The EastAfrican, Sept. 10.
The Zambian’s comment should not be viewed as a threat but rather a prediction of what is already occurring, albeit on a small scale. The exodus of the talented, enterprising and merely healthy younger-working-age people of Africa are what birth-dearth Europeans want and so obviously need. Black African immigrants are scorned today not because Europeans do not want them but rather because such forms of â€œsoftâ€ power are an instrument of social control. Europe wants black Africans but not at a price of social cohesion, or rather the illusion of cohesion.