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Osama Bin Laden, Doha Trade Round and Africa

By Japheth Omojuwa and Franklin Cudjoe

 Thursday, May 05, 2011

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, we look to our various governments to think out of the box in order to allow for a more peaceful world..The fight against terrorism will never be won the same way it has been fought over the years. The fight will be won by the engagement of minds in creative thoughts and hands in productive work. More aid to the poor will not guarantee this – Al-Qaeda gives aids too- only free trade alone can

Osama bin Laden is dead (is not dead) is still the news the world over. Whether or not he is dead, we have a responsibility to ensure he does not get to be born again. Our challenge is not the fact that Osama bin Laden lives or dies, our challenge is to make the world difficult for the birth and evolution of more Osamas. By this, a literally thinking mind would focus on the war against terrorism, a more creative mind would think of engendering world peace. These are good efforts and ideals but they still leave more than enough room for the endless culture of an army of several Osamas. Terrorism will be ended when we press the button that activates the Doha Development Round. Therefore, a lateral thinker would think Trade. Free Trade.

Today’s exigency calls for the world to pick up the now dusty Doha Trade Rounds document and plug the world into its benefits by establishing its contents. When in November 2001 at Doha Qatar, the world looked to free trade as the solution to the world’s poverty and indeed socio-political problems, one would have been forgiven to imagine a peaceful and prosperous world by the year 2011. Instead of that, many world leaders foot dragged until the talks stalled in 2008. This means that many African countries still “enjoy” the “benefits” of aid instead of the engagement and prosperity of trade. It is said that “an idle hand is the devil’s work shop”, what would you call an idle continent? To put it more succinctly, an idle continent is Al-qaeda’s breeding ground! So ten years after, Osama has been killed (until proven not killed) and ten years after the Doha talks remain a document and nothing more. Aid and trade restrictions remain the global order.

If we write that, those who continuously call for more aid to rid Africa of its poverty are insane, many of such minds will consider us disrespectful. What would you call a man who continuously repeats the same act and expects a different result? You may have a synonymous name with our choice but we will both rove around the word “Insanity”. Aid has failed, we must accept it. The only social class aid to Africa has benefited and fed fat is the political class. The easiest money to misappropriate is the money unearned.

Every participating country agreed that free trade was the way to go, why then have we not put words to action some ten years later?

The world – and more critically Africa- will be better off with the implementation of the Doha Trade Rounds than we are today. A study by the University of Michigan found that if all trade barriers in agriculture, services, and manufactures were reduced by 33% as a result of the Doha Development Agenda, there would be an increase in global welfare of $574.0 billion. A 2008 study by World Bank Lead Economist Kym Anderson found that global income could increase by more than $3000 billion per year, $2500 billion of which would go to the developing world. Some other works show more modest economic gains but most agree that the developing world would be better served when traded with than when aided by aid to continuously grapple with poverty and economic inefficiency as is the case today and the bitter past of independent Africa.

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, we look to our various governments to think out of the box in order to allow for a more peaceful world. The fight against terrorism will never be won the same way it has been fought over the years. The fight will be won by the engagement of minds in creative thoughts and hands in productive work. More aid to the poor will not guarantee this – Al-Qaeda gives aids too- only free trade alone can.

Africa instead of positioning itself as a continent to be pitied must restate its position. We have the material and human resources to engage in competitive trade with the world. Franklin Cudjoe writing in the U.K’s Daily Telegraph puts Africa’s To Do List thus: “Establishing property rights would be an important first step; an effective, transparent and accountable legal system is another. Combined with respect for private property and the rule of law, these broad reforms would encourage entrepreneurship, trade, innovation and even environmental protection because they empower people – rather than the politicians.”

Depending on who we want empowered, we will choose between more trade and more aid. One empowers the culture of more Osamas and the fattening of already fat politicians while the other empowers Africa’s able yet poor population. Killing Osama is nothing compared with the need to prevent more of his ilk, you know the connection. Free trade is the way.

Japheth Omojuwa is an associate of IMANI, Franklin Cudjoe is President of IMANI, named among the top 25 most innovative think tanks in the world.

Written by iselorm

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