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A catalyst is just that!

A catalyst is just that!

On the 11th June 2011 US Secretary of  State,  Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania warned of a creeping “new colonialism in Africa from foreign investors and governments interested only in extracting natural resources to enrich themselves.”  She warned that African Leaders must ensure that foreign projects are sustainable, and benefit all their citizens.  She asserted that the United States didn’t want any foreign governments or investors to fail in Africa, but wanted to make sure that they give back to local communities.  They want investors to do well, but also, to do good.  The USA don’t want investors to undermine good governance, or basically to deal with just the top elites, and frankly too often pay for their concessions or opportunities to invest.  Above all, she said that the USA wants a relationship of partnership, not patronage, of sustainability not quick fixes.  (Photo:  Winston Forde, author)

Africa is a vast continent with countries of varying sizes, and problems.  And  by this I include the whole of Africa, north of the Sahara, the sub-Saharan Region, and extending due south to South Africa.  It is telling that at the start of intervention in Libya the UK Foreign Secretary suggested that Col. Gaddafi could flee to Africa!  After treating Africa with almost contempt as the 3rd if undeveloped World there is little doubt that adverse events in the developed world have increased her prominence and economic importance in the future development of the World.  Our mineral resources, including oil are still vast, and mainly untapped, her infrastructure is widely lacking, and its millions of people have potential that will ultimately be released with education, and training, and some serious adaptation of its rich cultural customs and practices usually misunderstood.

Any organisation, therefore, that speaks for, and about Africa must embrace more than just 3 small countries, and recognise more fully the tasks of the road ahead for our great African continent.

As I have said before, after a series of weak, and disrespected Leaders we are moving into a new era when Africa can become a more effective member of the World.  There is work to do.  Reading the Sierra Leone Presidential Transition Team Draft Report of October 2007 it was evident that a keen analysis of our position,  and the way forwards had been made.  We were fortunate that after 2 exemplary Elections we now had a business-like President with a huge task ahead.  This was not a document on a shelf gathering dust, but the basis of a new and hopeful government.  In it, inter alia, there was a clear Mission Statement on Health and Sanitation to ensure that quality health services are available, and affordable to all especially vulnerable groups like children under five, school children, yes – pregnant and lactating women, and all women of all child bearing age.  Working closely with donors, and other major partners the MOH had ten strategies to achieve those objectives including the Development of the Health Policies for the sector as a whole as well as for the various areas, and also strengthening of Mental Health.  Counselling services as well as support to the physical, psychologically traumatized, and handicapped.  In this context, the launch of a free healthcare initiative for the under fives and pregnant women even when it becomes universally available must be seen not as a “quick fix”, but a vital step in the right direction, and but a small part in the much wider Mission of the MOH.  This provision is bound to prove ineffectual unless, and until most of the objectives, and enabling strategies identified by our government in 2007, and before were delivered.

Ingrid Fisher, African Programme Director of the CCA once acknowledged that there is no secret formula for quick success, and they have demonstrated what proper training with medium term determination will achieve in re-establishing Credit Union in Sierra Leone together with a suitable culture for lasting good.  I do not agree with the AGI view that modern government is not about traditional civil service but is about getting things done.  Africa cannot go on relying on other people, small catalyst teams of outside people to get things done.  We need a continuous and dynamic training programme to provide civil servants to do all that it takes to run and maintain government policy.  We were criticised in UK newspapers because our local councillors were unskilled, and ineffective.  As a past Councillor in local government in Bedfordshire, I am not in the least surprised as councillors in the UK could not do their job, even with all available systems, and support, without proper and relevant training, and they too expect remuneration for this work.  Equally, without the necessary education and training, those in the private sector could not participate fully in businesses and procedures flowing from international investment. For, make no mistake, unless our own qualified people were to be embedded in such industries, and commercial, ventures owned by investors from overseas we shall remain poor, and in need of aid with charity.

Finally, for democracy to be worthwhile it must be transparent and fair with widespread advantages accruing to all citizens of a country.  We cannot have a Government that is unable to take full and accountable credit for its achievements, or one that is dominated by a private charity rather than its dealings with other Governments, international organisations or the Commonwealth Foundation.  I would welcome a greater debate in the Sierra Leone Media about the role and work of the AGI as a dependable catalyst rather than having to depend on UK newspapers to provide a one sided point of view with unchallenged adulation, who will seldom publish articles by our own people.

By Sqn Ldr Winston Forde, UK

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