Let Africa’s voice be heard at Davos

20 Jan, 2018 - 00:01 0 Views
Let Africa’s voice be heard at Davos

The Herald

A past session of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland

A past session of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland

Joram Nyathi Spectrum
ON Wednesday this week I posed a question, rather a sort of rhetorical question: Did ED promise an economic turnaround in 100 days?

This was caused by the noise we hear or read around, noise so loud one would think President Mnangagwa had in fact claimed to be a miracle worker who could work magic with the economy, and a myriad other challenges the nation faces.

Many readers responded with a plain “no”, to say ED never said that. A few said they were making inferences from the 100-project plan.

The most hilarious response came from one Ranga Mberi. First he merely said “no”. Then some criminals around his brain got the better of him, and came back to state; “Stop boring us with facts cadre.” I rarely laugh so hard as I did.

Mberi clearly had got my drift.

It’s been a euphoric two months since Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn-in as president of the republic on November 24, 2017. Since then there has been a sense of euphoria mingled with the surrealism of the miraculous.

That’s how I have interpreted what amounts to an epitaph to ED’s supposedly promised and failed economic recovery miracle in some local media.

What Mberi was saying, tongue in cheek of course, was don’t interrupt our reverie, our midmorning self-created fantasy. There are people so angry with everything Zanu-PF they will blame it for the erratic rains. So they will lie and distort what ED promised just to feed their anger against Zanu-PF.

That’s it about the humour and malice issuing from events since the launch of Operation Restore Legacy mid-November last year. There is also the more serious side to the euphoria.

There are many nations falling over each other to win favour with Zimbabwe. It is a most dangerous time and yet most promising for our nation; if we can play our cards wisely. There will be suitors of all kind, yet not so kind, not so well meaning, but taking advantage of our glazed look to make their hay.

It is a time when there is risk of dropping our guard in the interest of being accommodating and open for business to everyone that our eyes might skirt over the small print in trying to clinch fast deals. Hyenas are coming draped in woollen suits. The temptation to be pleasant to all is too great to resist.

We should therefore not be surprised that in trying to set apart President Mnangagwa from former president Robert Mugabe, the line of attack is the indigenisation policy. At the centre of that attack is the lie that the land reform programme was a mistake, that indigenisation is bad not only by implementation, but even in principle and therefore chases away investors. All this is founded on the racist lie that Africans are incapable of running a country, that they can’t produce enough to feed themselves, and that the only investment which makes an impact on an economy is FDI.

So when President Mnangagwa recently modified the indigenisation thresholds in respect of local investment, there were celebrations locally and abroad. The 49/51 ratio would now apply only to platinum group metals and diamonds.

Foreigners have every reason to be excited. They put the interests of their countries first, not those of foreigners, whether investor or tourist. We are talking here of people who think and plan long-term.

Not so Africa, the motherland. And that is why even those countries which gained their independence in the 1960s are not too far ahead of Zimbabwe in terms of economic advancement. The competition is about putting foreign interests first, then we pick the crumbs under Dives’ table.

I raise the red flag on indigenisation deliberately because that is one policy which puts the Zimbabwean at the centre of discourse, not on the periphery of job-seekers. It is one policy which allows us to negotiate fair terms of engagement for ourselves.

But there is an even deeper concern. While the terms for foreign investors have apparently been relaxed in all other sectors except platinum and diamonds, there is now almost incomprehensible silence on beneficiation and value addition. I am not hearing sufficient noise around that key area of the production chain. Is it because the subject is also inimical to foreign investors; that it’s ok for them to come and extract raw materials in Zimbabwe so they preserve industries and jobs in their own countries?

The point I am making is that while Donald Trump might be seen as a maverick, his fault is to verbalise a shared currency. Foreign investors put their country first, not just America.

A woman holds a sign with a portrait of Donald Trump during a protest against his planned visit next week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, in Bern, Switzerland

A woman holds a sign with a portrait of Donald Trump during a protest against his planned visit next week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, in Bern, Switzerland

When it comes to Africa, policy pragmatism means leaving the natives clutching at insecure jobs. Anything that seeks to put the almighty investor in his rightful place is attacked as populist. And so we remain a rich continent of poor natives. Let Africa’s voice be heard at Davos.

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