Posted by: beninmwangi | June 22, 2007

Zambian Head of State Joins Africa’s Trade -vs- Aid Debate


I guess the bigger story for could be that the The Africa Report magazine, not to be confused with the TV magazine having the same name, might be the most complete African business coverage in the magazine universe right now. The Africa Report is published by Jeune Afrique. This publication is chocked with insightful information on the economic conditions of various nations around the African continent-both above and below the Sahara. There are so many stories in just one issue that you or I could probably make one month of different blog posts just based upon one issue of the magazine.

Here is a little background information on the publisher, Jeune Afrique, of The Africa Report:

“…For more than 45 years, Groupe Jeune Afrique has been building bridges between Africa and the rest of the world. It has developed high expertise in the fields of press, publishing, advertising and communication.

“Africa’s most widely read newsweekly “, dealing with current affairs, politics, economy and culture. Circulation of 100,000 copies per week…”

Since this whole Trade -vs- Aid discussion is just beginning to heat up around the blogosphere, I figured we could take a look at one particular article in the latest issue of The Africa Report. This particular caption caught my eye-both because these words belong to the Zambian President, Mr. Levy Mwanawasa but also because it speaks directly to the heart of this trade and aid discussion.

Now to the topic of today’s discussion, wow-it looks like this whole trade vs aid discussion is not going away. In that vein, while flipping through The Africa Report I found an opinion column with a very interesting author byline. It read by President Levy Mwanawasa. Can you believe that? And guess what he is talking about? Yup, infrastructure-China-trade-and aid! Not only that but his piece is very well written, it could have easily come from an Oxford Professor. In fact the only thing that might have been better than this would have been the Zambian President blogging his thoughts 🙂

Here is but a snippet of what Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has to say in an opinion piece entitled, Infrastructure Development Is the Basis of All Growth :

Aid vs Trade or is it Aid for Trade?

I commend those governments who encourage their
companies to increase investment in Africa. This is important
because it is investment and not aid that will bring about
sustainable growth and development in our economies.
is not to say that aid is not important, as it does help bring
about the requisite conditions for growth.
The continued
support and cooperation in social development aimed at
enhancing African countries’ capacity for self-development
is particularly helpful in this regard. The targeted training
of African professionals in various fields, assistance in
setting up rural schools, provision of scholarships to African
students, help in nurturing our medical care facilities, the
drive towards the Millennium Development Goals — all these
things assist us in investing in our children, and therefore in
our future.

On Chinese Investment

We cannot stress enough the primacy of relevant infrastructure to bring investment inflows into Africa and thus accelerate growth. Zambia’s lack of rural infrastructure has affected the pace at which investors have come in to develop some of the potential that our country possesses in abundance. Investors are generally loth to undertake setting up infrastructure for general usage because it is expensive and they prefer to exploit investment opportunities where the infrastructure is already in place. Rather than spend our time regretting the lack of a charitable impulse of foreign investors, who obviously have shareholders to answer to, Zambia is prepared to go
into public-private partnerships as a way of establishing the
required infrastructure, which would help investors to exploit various areas of the economy that have potential. It is here that our relationship with China is crucial.
In today’s world, a world where national economies are increasingly being integrated with each other, and thus cutting economic distances and barriers, a world where societies across the globe are increasingly becoming highly interdependent on one another, thus bringing down artificial boundaries and barriers, establishing a forum like the one created between China and Africa seven years ago could not have come at a better time.

My government applauds China’s opening up of her
markets to 28 African countries, and it is my hope that as we go
on, China will further open up its markets to the rest of African
countries and to more products. As we are all aware, trade
is the bridgehead for investment and therefore economic
development. It is in this respect that African countries need
to export more to foster the growth and development of their
economies. Needless to say that in most of our countries,
markets are already highly accessible to Chinese goods.
I wish to underline that for the efforts made by our
development partners like China to have an impact on our
ability to trade globally, leaders of African countries need to
do more in the area of infrastructure development. It is only
through increased investment in infrastructure quality that
African economies are going to enhance their competitiveness
on the global market. We applaud the Chinese for their pledge
for continued cooperation in the area of infrastructure
development in Africa.

In Zambia, private sector participation in infrastructure development is
very much encouraged, and I call on Chinese companies to come and invest in areas such as hydro-electricity generation, road construction, water reticulation and sanitation, among others…”

To The Africa Report publishers and staff, let me just say that this column was so good that I was very tempted to copy and paste the whole thing. However, the since the point is to let my readers know about your stellar work I was able to constrain myself! Seriously, I love the approach that the President chose to use to convey his message. His writing style is very representative of the editorial style of The Africa Report it is:

  • very open
  • honest
  • hopeful, without being overly bullish
  • most importantly practical

With that I hope that we in the realm of the Africa blogosphere continue to further address this topic on Aid vs Trade and Aid for Trade.

In this vein below are a few blogs and blog-influenced mediums that have already honed in on this tremendously immense conversation. So if you haven’t already done so or if you haven’t yet had enough please feel to get in on the conversation by writing a post on your blog about this very same topic! Sidenote: one topic that hasn’t been explored much is Aid for Trade or using the two together…

Related Links:

Jewels in the Jungle Contrasts the G8 Summit and TED Arusha
Hash Drops Bombshell on African Aid
Ethan Captures the Essence of the Debate in Mwenda vs Bono
That’s What I’m Talking About Ponders Deep Questions on Aid in Africa
Bono Answers Questions About Aid in Africa
Aid and Trade Are Nice Topics but What About Africa Embracing Research

Private Sector Development Organization Says Policy Trumps Aid and Trade
Annansi Chronicles on Trading Up to Development
How China Alters Africa’s Trade and Aid Discussion
Canadian Law Student Being Blunt About Trade
Emeka OkoforHighlights aid-vs-trade
Omodudu’s Father Enlivens Our Debate
James Shikwati and Spiegel Interview

Benin Mwangi on Trade and Aid in Africa

Small Towns in Kenya Highlight Differences in Trade and Aid
Angel Africa Discussion Group
Diverse in Opinion

Who Wins in This Tuggle Between Aid and Trade

Quote Courtesy of: The Africa Report



  1. A May 30th article in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and Spiegel International online (English language website) points out that the “infrastructure investments” by China in the country of Zambia are of practically no benefit to the people of Zambia but instead lines the pockets of Zambia’s political and business elite. I published and article to Jewels in the Jungle on June 19th titled Age of the Dragon: German press on China’s conquest of the “schwarze Kontinent”. I would be interested in the honorable President of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, address those charges as presented in the Spiegel article using transparent facts and figures vs. flowery praise about the benefits of doing business with his partners in Beijing. I would also be interested in him addressing the problem of Zambia serving as a transport route into South Africa for illegally mined gold, coltan, timber and diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This illicit trade is costing the DRC millions and millions of dollars per week in lost revenues from their natural recources. A lot of this illegal activity can be traced to Chinese businesses working in the DRC and in Zambia.

    If President Levy Mwanawasa could satisfactorily answer these questions then I may be interested in what he has to say about fair trade with the North America and Europe, the trade vs. aid debate, and direct foreign investment into an economy under his control. Read the Spiegel article and then ask yourself, “Is this guy for real or what?”

  2. This is a great post Benin! You are really touching on some key issues that all have to be addressed if we are to get a lasting solution to Africa’s development.

  3. […] the country would definitely be in alignment with President Levy Mwanawasa’s recent words in The Africa Report, regarding  investment and not aid that will bring about sustainable growth […]

  4. […] comments on blogging platforms in South Africa and Kenya. Benin gets the Zambian Presidents views on Aid vs Trade. Emeka brings another angle to the table on the same debate. And yet another word on the issue from […]

  5. […] Zambia’s president authors piece on trade. […]

  6. Bill:
    Thanks for the insightful comments, I did view the sites that you mentioned and was unaware of them.
    I think that something which is coming out of this is that strong and fair policy should precede a nation’s official position on aid or trade. Policies that are based upon wide-spread consensus, including all income strata are what I mean by strong and fair. And from what these articles seem to show is that this has been such policy has been somewhat absent from this administration. On an individual or micro level trade still has the power to empower individual business owners, but coupled with good policy it can empower a nation.
    That being said I think that in order for this discussion to be relevant to an entire population, like Zambia for instance, sound economic and governance policies would tend to be a prerequisite.

    BTW, Bill your post on Jewels in the Jungle on this topic was very thourough!

  7. Its time we Africans started looking at ourselves positively. the article by Levy is very refreshing but i want to bring also the leadership style of our own president Kibaki. from the beginning of his term, Kibaki embarked on wooing investors to the country. he got a lot of criticism about neglecting the masses etc. but only 4 odd years on and the results are there for all to see. the other thing kibaki and his administration did was to divorce from the traditional ‘development’ partners of UK and US. he instead went east to Japan and China for favorable trade terms. for instance, the country was able to get police vehicles at a very big discount compared to the land rovers which were used there before. Kibaki realized that the ‘AID’ that the west sung about was not aid at all but a bad loan loaded with very many negative conditions. for instance, we had to give the west carte blanche as far as trade was concerned. recently he again went to Libya and negotiated terms for oil that were very favorable to the country. this to me is the way to go for the African leadership. the next step also is to encourage intra-trade. i suppose that african countries can provide each other with enough market.

    We must also learn to be selfish and sell our goods at higher prices to the other continents. this will happen only if our leaders start believing in us and stop leading with a view of relocating abroad for retirement.

  8. Odegle:

    You made some good points, particularly interesting to me are intra-trade and selling goods at higher prices. I think we could add to intra trade, intra stock market listing and commodities markets too. Which will soon become more widespread throughout all of East Africa-thanks to EAC and very cooperative exchange managers trhoughout the region.

    So, Kenya and the rest of East Africa seem to be ahead of the game on that-with the formation of the EAC trade bloc. But then again ECOWAS and the regional trade union in southern Africa have some accomplishments as well. You know come to think of it, I think the way it has worked is that the African tariffs have hurt intra trade-but moreso along the lines of the old colonial lines. The African nations that speak French seem to do very little trade with those that speak English-and vice versa. But Rwanda seems to be bucking the trend. In fact I think they are joining the EAC also. And they have already started sharingt there expertise on processing premium coffee with some of their neighbors in East Africa.

    That would bring us to your other point-higher prices. This could be achieved if items produced in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent were marketed as premium, high quality, high attention to detail products. There seems to be a big push right now for more of these types of products-especially in the “green markets”. Like organic produce, organic tea, organic coffee, and handmade clothing, and furniture. But there are other areas too.

    And thanks again for your comments!

  9. […] Zambian Head of State Joins Africa’s Trade -vs- Aid Debate […]

  10. […] Zambia’s president authors piece on trade. […]

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