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Africa And The IMF

Africa And The IMF

When the first Deputy Managing Director of the IMF David Lipton said in an interview with our very own Umaru Fofanah that (a) resources cannot make us rich, it can only help and (b) we cannot attain middle income status in the next twenty (20) years.

I took his statement as admission their intervention has failed – albeit it’s a personal opinion. But in hinddsight, I think he was saying what some of us had expected long ago. The presence of his institution in an economy does not represent sound health – it’s like someone in a surgery with an undiagnosed ailment. The medics would go ahead with a procedure lacking certainty. The IMF has been around enough to get us out of the woods. Or may be their official reason for being here was just a smoke screen.

I joined some lobbyists early 2000 for debt cancellation because its weight was submerging poor countries like ours. Celebrities like the legendary Borno were pulling strings at the global stage. When we finally got the nod, the government was instructed to open a special debt servicing account at the central bank by the lenders. We were to implement certain projects using those funds – like a father being told to save money to take care of his family. I remember we formed a coalition to monitor the Highly Indebted Poor Counties Initiative projects known by its acronym HIPC. It was just about the same time we had NEPAD – New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Its governance outfit is the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) – to call out their errant colleagues and follow through on best practices.

Some six (6) years ago, I was looking at communities relocated for the extraction of minerals. A Nigerian from the Commonwealth Secretariat was directed to me as his local partner. We headed to the Africa Minerals mines in Bumbuna because he wanted to know what could have led to the alleged killing of a protester by security forces.

Three (3) communities Wondugu, Fodeya and Ferengbia were moved. Being the provincial I was, I couldn’t hold back my shock seeing the first ever village (s) with bacon (s).  The people will have to ask the land owners to give them a portion to bury their dead each time one of them passes on. They should not do anything outside the bacons without seeking their express permission. In simple terms, this is saying the people only had where their poorly constructed houses stood. The work was so poor there were visible signs of defects less than a year its occupants moved in. There’s absolutely no such village in the whole of Sierra Leone.

The company constructed a water holding tank in each community – a bouncer will fill it once every day. Imagine the implication for people who are used to visiting the stream/river for their water needs? A bus would be sent to pick up the kids and back everyday – none of the above would last. Visit these places today and see what has become of them. Are we resource cursed? Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical. When I went there again and asked them how they are faring following the closure (temporal) of the mines, they told me they wish they never come back. They said leaving their ancestral land on false promises will haunt them forever. I remember one of the elder saying *if passed generations had sold off like they did, they wouldn’t have been born* He was saying in plain language their action might have heralded the end of their lineage. They told me they were overwhelmed by some visible and invincible players during the negotiations. Harboring the thought of rejecting relocation was like a dope grows annihilated by fire. You’ll not report the incident even when you saw someone torching it.

Diamonds have been mined since 1930 – from an official point of view. There are no records till date of any big mine owned and managed by Sierra Leoneans. Our educational system has frustratingly refused to evolve – even with reality staring on. We’ve got a plethora of brains, but I’m not sure we are ambitious enough to go into large scale mining. The multi nationals owned and operated by non nationals will repatriate the concentrate, send back the finished with predetermined cost. It pains me to see us buying some essentials that would have been ten (10) times cheaper if we’d added value into it ourselves.

Now that the IMF envoy has spoken, I expect us to diversify, sequence our priorities, and go to work with all the energy we can muster. With a very strong political commitment, which I pray we’ll get, we’ll turn the corner.

By Ibraheem Daramy / Eric Cantona

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