Q&A with Mo Ibrahim

Dr. Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation sat down with The Globe and Mail’s Gordon Pitts for an interview in yesterday’s edition– which as you probably know by now, was guest-edited by ONE co-founder Bono and ONE activist Bob Geldof. The interview focuses primarily on issues of aid, the economy, and good governance in Africa.

A couple short excerpts below– full piece here

Do you agree with those who say aid is the problem, not the solution?

In most part, it is a silly discussion. Whenever there is disaster or famine somewhere, we cannot stand by and watch. On HIV, malaria, Darfur, or Somalia, we need to help our brothers and sisters. So there is not much discussion about humanitarian aid.

And we must really focus on developmental aid. We need to deliver better aid and untied aid. Actually, we need to deliver aid to end aid. Nobody in Africa loves to be a beggar, or a recipient of aid. Everywhere I go in Africa, people say ‘when are we going to stand up on our feet?’

Africa as a continent is rich, but Africans as a people are poor. The answer is governance. We really need to get our act together to improve the quality of life of our people. Developmental aid will speed up this process.

What about just borrowing more capital from banks?

That is just a fantasy. Unfortunately, our malfunctioning banking system doesn’t deal with Africa. They think Africa is too risky. You cannot rely on Goldman Sachs or whoever to really help – those guys just love subprime mortgages and all the other crap.

We should also support projects that help economic integration. Africa is disconnected. Internal African trade is about 8 per cent of the trade total. In Africa, we have 53 little countries and we are intentionally determined not to communicate and trade and move goods between each other. It’s stupid.

How do you convince people Africa is a place to invest?

People are too shy about Africa. All you see is 10 seconds in any news bulletin. After they talk about Darfur and [Zimbabwe President Robert] Mugabe, time is up. People have the impression Africa is troublesome, all about dictatorships and bad rule, but what they see is the bad examples. Of 53 countries, there are at least 29 or 30 democracies, and we have a good work force.

Around Christmas, what you see on TV ads for Oxfam and Save the Children is famines, terrible conditions, and that creates an impression. They think we are all sick or weak, but actually we have very healthy people. Just watch the Olympics – we run faster, we jump higher, we are excellent footballers. We are good people and we can be a good place to invest. According to World Bank reports, the highest returns on investment in the last few years were always in Africa.

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