Edward Mensah defends Ayittey's position:
It has become customary to beat up on Ayittey any time he talks about Africa's
rampant corruption and criminal incompetence of its government officials. My
problem is that he is too blunt and too quick to dismiss the impacts of
slavery, colonial borders, the cold war,etc. But there is some truth to some
of his arguments.
I read somewhere that according to the World Bank African government officials
looted a sum of $200 billion out of the continent into Western Banks in 1992
alone. How did the World Bank come up with this number? At least they ought to
know where the money was saved.
The same source also said that Western governments provided aid to the tune of
$400 billion to African governments from 1967 to 1992 (?).( I am sure these
figures are from Ayittey's comments.) That is part of the problem. If only the
West can force, via public shame, these foreign banks to send part of the loot
to Africans, I am sure we may not need all that aid. The Swiss banks were
subjected to public shame and sued in American courts in connection with the
Jewish money and art looted during the WWII. Why should Africans rely on aid
when we all know that our money has been looted and saved in Western Banks.
On the other hand I am not sure that, even if we are able to repatriate all
the stolen funds to Africa our current unaccountable governments will not
simply do what they know best--waste the money on unproductive projects, and
in some cases, purchase more guns to suppress our own people.
We can beat up on Ayittey all we want, and he knows I have done my share in
the past. But the fact still remains that, after 50 years of independence, we
cannot point to more that one or two cases of democratic success stories in
Africa. With the exception of South Africa, and to some extent, Senegal, our
record in self governance has been a complete failure. With some luck and no
coops, Ghana may just make it.
Look at Ivory Coast now and its policy of Ivorite which overnight
disenfranchised fellow African's and precipitated a civil war.
The blame goes both ways. Yes, slavery, cold war are culpable. Equally
culpable is our inability to hold our governments to a high level of
accountability ( I do not know how you do it in Africa without being jailed or
killed in some instances).
Edward Mensah, PhD
Asociate Professor of Health Economics and Information Management
University of Illinois at Chicago