Africa: Swedish Policy, 12/29/97

Africa: Swedish Policy, 12/29/97

Africa: Swedish Policy
Date distributed (ymd): 971229
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a speech presenting "Partnership with Africa," Sweden's new policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa. The policy was worked out beginning in October 1996, benefitting from two conferences and a series of working papers by primarily African participants. For more information about publications from the policy study, contact Press and Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gustav Adolfs Torg 1, SE-103 39 Stockholm, Sweden: tel: 46-8-4041000; fax: 46-8-7231176; e-mail:
+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Relinking Africa:
For a Genuine Partnership with Emerging Africa

Address at the Makerere University

by Mats Karlsson
State Secretary, Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
Stockholm, Sweden

Kampala, Uganda
14 November 1997

Students and faculty of the Makerere University,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The African renaissance has begun. The African renaissance not only needs to happen, it not only can happen - it actually is happening. Africa is leaving its post-colonial history behind. New generations are taking responsibility for the future.

Africa is not uniform. Violent conflict still ravages the lives of many. Stagnant poverty and stupid politics stunt the individual potential of millions more. But across the continent more open and more demanding societies shape the new Africa. A sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Africa emerges.

On that should be built a new generation of genuine partnership. Countries which take responsibility for the public good have a right to claim their share of what the world owes Africa - and what the world owes its own long-term interests. Relinking emerging Africa with the globalising world is in all our interest.

You who are here today bear a great responsibility for expanding the capabilities of Africa's people. I pay tribute to you, students and faculty at the Makerere University who carry and will carry that burden, in your communities, in your country and continent and in the world as a whole.

When I went to secondary school in the early 1970s, I took a great interest in Africa. One of my first written reports, I remember, was on the East African Community. And I remember well reading about the Makerere University. Today, when I travel in East Africa, I constantly meet people who studied together, here, in Dar es Salaam or Nairobi. Their experience really seems to have been special. I am honoured to speak at a university with that tradition, a university that after having seen so much tragedy during a quarter century, now again can contribute to fostering the highest quality leaders. Africa needs them.

If Africans are again to become the subjects of their own destiny, and not the object of somebody else's design, and if we are ever to approach equality in the still unequal relations between Africa and the world, then it is the capacity of African societies, their governments and people, to analyse, choose and shape that must be strengthened. Education is the key liberating factor.

The African societies are acutely aware of the choices they face. But is the outside world seeing and responding? Now that many countries are again showing substantial economic growth, what is required to sustain and increase that growth, make it really change the life opportunities of the poor and relink emerging African private business with the international economy? How can aid dependency be broken, the structural adjustment programmes be superseded, and sustainable modes of cooperation be shaped?

Not yet have Africa's partners provided a coherent response. But no surprise. This time around, the response cannot come from them alone. This time, the response must intrinsically build on the actions taken and answers given by African societies. More than ever, Africa's friends need to listen and reflect on what is actually said and done in Africa.

Allow me to quote one of Africa's foremost political scientists, Adebayo Olukoshi, a Nigerian at present with the Nordic Africa Institute at Uppsala, Sweden. In a book, that is part of our rethinking he says the following:

"There is a new generation which is emerging out of the ashes of crisis and decline in Africa. It is a self-assured generation that is prepared to engage the world on equal terms. ... That generation consists of people who are confident of themselves and are driven by a zeal to transform Africa. ... Its goal (is) the enthronement of developmental democracies in Africa. ... (T)he international community will be welcome in the task of rebuilding Africa but not on any terms or at any cost, least of all on conditions drawn up and imposed from outside in a one-sided manner. If need be, this generation is prepared to go it alone and the world should be willing to let it be - if the international community is not prepared to listen to and respect the self-articulated hopes and aspirations of these Africans, then it should, at least, not obstruct them."

That about sums it up. The Africans' liberation must be their own.

We should be aware, however, that this powerful insight may well be misused and perturbed into "Let the Africans take care of their own problems!". It would then become a cover-up for disengagement. And many in the North would be only too happy to disengage. Some in the North seem today to have the attitude that if things go well in an African country, they don't need our help, if things go bad they don't deserve it. Either way, you lose.

Development cooperation is not the only answer. But it certainly is a part. After years of working together, and tons of evaluations, we know that it can be effective, even decisive. That is why the rapidly falling aid volumes are so disturbing - and irrational. That is why the tortuously slow response to the debt crisis is a historic scandal. That is why the bad aid coordination is a threat to development.

If the African nations are now ready to deliver radically better governance - and that still requires a lot of change - their partners must not let them down.

Everybody speaks about partnership, but what should we mean? We should look both at quality and at methodology. First of all, look at the qualitative aspects of partnership. I believe the following five aspects are crucial.

1. A subject-to-subject attitude. There is need for a real change of attitude.

2. Being explicit about values. You cannot engage in a partnership without sharing values. And only sincerity will reveal them.

3. Transparency in interests. Even if interests diverge - and they may for no bad reason - common ground can be found and deals made. That requires openness.

4. Clear contractual standards. New contractual relationships should focus on the critical factors for success and avoid the plethora of conditionalities that today bedevils cooperation. But then there should be no backtracking by either party. African civil society tells us clearly, that indulging reluctant or corruption-afflicted governments is just another form of paternalism. "Never expect less of an African partner than what you expect of youself," tells us Angela, a Ghanaian academic, critically.

5. Equality of capacity. In entering a fair contract, both parties need to be in equal command of all the issues that go into the contract. The aid relationship may be inherently unequal - one has money, the other doesn't - but you can have and essentially must have equality in the capacity to analyse the terms of a contract. In a development partnership, that capacity has to be exercised broadly in society.

These partnership qualities deserve, I believe, to be made more explicit. We should develop a code of conduct, so that the way our partnerships work can be judged. It could further provide a basis for the new partnership modalities, under strong country leadership, that we desperately need. The World Banks's SPA, the UN system-wide initiative, the consultative groups, sectoral programmes all need a new footing through country-led coordination.

Or as one of Africa's grand old men in the humanities, Joseph Ki-Zerbo from Burkina Faso has said: "How can you help somebody you don't know?" and "The only conditionality I accept is that the Africans constitute themselves. Ki-Zerbo will in early December receive the Right Livelihood Prize, also called the alternative Nobel prize, in Stockholm.

Ideas of this kind have been advocated by many Africans. They inspired my Government to reassess its overall Africa policy. That policy will be based, not on another set of consultancy reports, but on an intense listening exercise with African policy makers, academics and civil society. "Partnership Africa" we have called it. We held a major conference in Stockholm in June in the presence of more than one hundred Africans, from civil society, government and academics. Your Vice President Specioza Kazibwe, and the Vice Presidents of South Africa and Botswana were some of our most prominent guests. So were the people I have just quoted. The first report is just out.

We will ask Parliament for a new mandate to guide our policy, not just an aid policy but an integrated policy covering trade and political cooperation, into the new century.

Three ideas to guide us seem to emerge: - change under African democratic control, - space and respect for African voices in the world, and - long-term, broad-based relations between our societies.

We feel confident about this approach. In confirmation, you might say, we have already achieved approval from Parliament to increase Swedish aid by 20 percent by the year 2000. Most of that will benefit Africa.

When my parents were born, around 1920, Sweden was a developing country. Agriculture dominated. Infant mortality rates were like East Africa's today, life expectancy like South Asia's. We had malaria. How could people create, during a period easily within living memory, the welfare of modern society? I see three factors:

- The poor organised to demand their rights. Civil society created a democratic culture. With us, that came first. - Capital and labour compromised around a social market economy. - Education unleashed the creative energy of the many, for the first time in our history. We actually had universal primary education, a decisive asset, but it was shallow and of poor quality. Take-off came when the poor gained access to higher levels. Adults got a new chance, not least through informal channels.

And for the past half century we have benefited extraordinarily well from free trade and international integration, regionally among the Nordics, in Europe and globally. We know we depend on the multilateral system, with the United Nations at the core.

And that, by the way, is why you will always find us among those who want to strengthen and renew multilateralism, in security, in development, in environment. It is in all our interests that the UN reform pursued under Secretary-General Kofi Annan's leadership succeeds. And may I mention here the invaluable importance of the World Bank as part of that system, especially with its new leadership under Jim Wolfensohn. I know Africa has mixed experiences with the multilateral system. Yet it is the only system that in the long run can secure small countries their place in the world system.

Our experience was not unique. This century has seen so many countries transform. I believe Africa will do it early next century. The speed and complexity of global change makes transformation more challenging today. The trick, however, will be to make the new opportunities benefit Africa. Africa fears marginalisation in an interdependent world. I claim globalisation can work in Africa's favour - but there are many ifs. I will point to three choices.

First of all, to deepen or disregard the culture of democracy. Democracy has roots with all peoples. Progress over the past decade has changed Africa. More countries have had a second round of free elections. Some countries have had constitutional change of leadership more than once. But stable democracy is some way ahead for many countries, not only where ethnicity divides or an authoritarian legacy is heavy. Challenges to democratic progress exist even where, or rather precisely where, civil society has long been active. Backlash is possible. Stagnation is dangerous. To move forward is decisive.

Partnership will follow those who lead their countries to greater openness, respect for human rights and deeper democracies. Those who do not will see their legitimacy erode, and with it the basis for partnership. The world must understand the difficulties of Africa's history. Real democracy can only appear from within, in Africa as elsewhere. Yet the other side of the respect that this insight calls for is that African nations must actually persevere in their pursuit of democracy and human rights.

Africans don't have different individual rights from anybody else. The challenges may seem formidable to transform African nations into modern, open societies where the respect for human rights seems to come easy, but African governments must be held accountable for how they respect human rights.

Africa is undergoing a tremendous political revolution just now. It is the gender revolution. It belongs to the context of democracy and human rights. For long I thought I have understood these issues. We have since long tried to mainstream them in Swedish politics and also in our development cooperation. But it was only recently that I've come to realise the dimensions of what is going on. Women everywhere are actually taking the step out of "gender apartheid". This is happening on a major scale, not always recognised, and of course neither is progress easy or self-evident, but it is happening. And society will be better for it.

At the Partnership Africa conference in Stockholm, 40 percent were women. It transformed the discussion. Explicit anger and frustration combined with confidence, humour and readiness to act. It was like drilling for oil and hitting an artery. Or you are sailing on an ocean without wind and current and you are without direction. Suddenly, you strike an undercurrent and you are swept away. Leading the discussion was Ugandan Vice President Kazibwe. Seldom have I seen a meeting so galvaniized by the presence of the critical mass of self-conscious women.

Students and faculty within these walls deal daily with the key attributes of democracy: openness, critical understanding, tolerance, respect for the other, women's equal rights and opportunities, freedom of expression and of association. In the information age no country, no economy, will prosper in the long run without them. Teachers and students, academics, young or established, independent or in the public service, will often be the ones who stand on the fault line of democratic change. Your daily choices shape your society's choices as to your democracy's future.

Second choice, a social or a captured market economy. No longer is the choice between a free and a non-free market economy. That choice is made. We know that a free market with private enterprise gives more people more freedom, capacity and opportunity to create better lives for themselves and their societies. The real choice is whether to develop, temper and sustain that free market and give it a social and human-oriented character, or whether to let that market be captured by elites of various kinds.

An economy can be captured through too little or too much regulation, by elites, old or new, political, economic, family or military, through outright corruption or in more sophisticated ways. Both on moral and sustainability grounds such a market remains fundamentally flawed, even if free in the everyday sense.

The choice is most apparent where economies are in transition, Russia, South East Asia, Latin America, but is highly relevant also in the modern western economies. But Africa may be well be more vulnerable. Loyalties that stem from family, regional or ethnic ties are strong. The scope for non-price factors to influence demand and supply thus increases manifold. The micro-institutional basis for a market economy is poorly recognised. This is reality, with many societal institutions of value built-in. That has to be kept in mind as we wonder why the supply-side response is weaker than expected to structural adjustment.

These difficulties only require us to be more sophisticated in our approaches, not to cut down our ambitions. The anger in Africa today over the widespread corruption is one of the surest signs that we are not yet seeing a social market appear. I believe, contrary to what is sometimes said, that a social market economy is fully possible in Africa.

A social market integrates social policy into overall policy. It makes inclusion its basis. It is not an add-on or a safety net, and of course it cannot replace bad macro- or market economic policy. It nurtures the institutions at all levels which provide the framework for an efficient market. Thus it contributes to releasing productive potential. Capital will work more efficiently. And we may achieve the leap from bare per capita growth to the three or more percent that we need to make a difference.

A social market economy is the sustainable relationship between a free market and democracy.

In Africa, this insight translates into the whole development agenda. But there is one task that today stands out more clearly than others: rooting out corruption. The anger in African societies today over the scale and growth of corruption and the impunity with which it is carried out is volcanic. Dealing with it now is absolutely essential. Or else, the gains in democratic and market economic change may be lost. Your open press in Uganda is an asset, as is the debate in Parliament, but it has to be dealt with in practice, in courts, in everyday life. And as it takes two to tango, the corruptor must face his responsibility as well.

The third choice is whether to give education its priority or not.

We know the agenda. Universal primary education is a sine qua non. The Social Summit in Copenhagen not long ago committed world nations to achieve this target early next century. Basic education may be expensive, but not more so than the world can afford it. Maybe the most difficult issues will be assuring quality, teacher commitment, parent priority, and especially girl participation.

Basic education for young and adults provides a first ticket to modern society, it increases productivity and strengthens the ability of young women and men to plan their families. But education must be seen as a comprehensive system. We must discuss also the secondary schooling that allows young people to escape from low-productivity rural, or slum, life. Africa needs a new push in improving its secondary education.

And the universities: centres of excellence, and of national memory, breeding ground for just critique. African universities have suffered tragically over the past two decades. Societies need their universities. With so much African academic competence in Africa and around the world, an academic renewal should be possible. Sweden, through Sida, Sarec and the Nordic Africa Institute, will want to be part of that academic renaissance. You have to make it happen.

To end, I have three things to say to you here at the University:

One. Fight for the education budgets! Use what resources you have efficiently. Then challenge the ministers of economy and planning to prove that there are investments that have a higher rate of social return than education. If the ministers of finance still claim budgetary constraints and won't give you the money, demand that he be more efficient in raising taxes. And while you are at it, tell ministers of industry, customs and others to root out corruption. Public service needs its resources.

Two. Wire Africa! Information technology, internet, offers precisely the kind of technology which might allow Africa to relink, to leapfrog into modernity. Use globalisation, don't let it intimitate you.

Three. Don't settle for anything less than a full African renaissance! Education is the key to capacity. And capacity the key to sustained growth. And to Africa's place in the world. Education can lift that capacity faster than just waiting for growth to do its job. Education defines the social market economy. Education fuels the culture of democracy. Within a generation Africa can transform. To that Africa we want to be a reliable partner. We need each other.

Allow me to end by again quoting Angela Ofori-Atta. For our conference she wrote a letter, addressed to "Dear little brother Sweden!". At the very end she writes:

"So what is it I am saying, my dear little brother Sweden? Basically that we get to know each other better, get to like and respect each other more, work out a good partnership based on transparency of agenda, mutuality of need and build this on egalitarian principles.

"You do not need to come as a helper, only as a partner. This your people can understand and respect, and my people will applaud. We will welcome you and your expressed self interests. We will give and we will take, fully acknowledging the mutuality of the benefits we reap from each other."

Thank you!


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 10:12:19 -0500 Subject: Africa: Swedish Policy

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific