I offer other questions, some background history and some very modest
advice in addition to Dr. Omolala's questions for the new President
of the World Bank.
Is this Africa-focus thing a sweet-nothing or some serious change of
attitude towards the Africa policymakers from Washington have kicked
around since 1949?
Was it not a couple of weeks ago [ in 2005] that we read on the
Dialogue about a pessimistic and dismissive US intelligence report
about Africa reminiscent of Friederich Hegel's opinions about the
I am very very skeptical of Knights who promise to make the continent
of Africa a Paradise Regained when they mount a new horse in
On 20 January 1949, President Harry Truman and his new
administration in Washington made the "development" of Africa the
centerpiece of what was called Truman's "Point Four" program.
The four points were:
1, pledging American support for international security through the
UN [THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED YET]
2, promising American financial assistance to rebuild war-ravaged
Europe [YES, IT HAPPENED THROUGH THE MARSHALL PLAN BECAUSE EUROPE
MATTERS TO POLICY WONKS IN WASHINGTON]
3, Committing the US to the containment of Communism [YES, IT
HAPPENED BECAUSE COMMUNISM POSED A THREAT TO THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM
AND THERE WAS A RESOLVE IN WASHINGTON TO DESTROY THE COMMUNIST SYSTEM]
4, putting America's economic and technical resources at the
forefront of a crusade against hunger and poverty in "economically
under-developed" countries and continents [A-A-H-A! THIS IS YET TO
HAPPEN BECAUSE THE COMMITMENT IS MORE IN THE RHETORIC THAN IN
In 1949, the Truman Administration wanted "democratization" or
"spreading democracy" [as America defined and determined it] to be
the condition for American assistance towards the development of
Africa. As Truman put it, "only free men, freely governed can make
the magic of science and technology work for the benefit of human
beings." Thus, Truman's fourth point presumed that ONLY the American
approach to nation-building provided the viable model for the
development of under-developed societies.
I hope Wolfowitz's pledge to Africa, in 2005, is not a revival of
Truman's Point Four program and America's traditional pledges to
Africa since 1949. The new Bank President would like to know that the
Point Four approach to development in Africa never worked---according
to the historical record. And W.W. Rostow's "modernization" approach
did not work too. So a new cooperative framework of engagement may be
The new President of the Bank might also want to review all the
Bank's activities in Africa since 1960 and find out how and why all
of them failed to accomplish the objectives set.
Finally, in his Presidential campaign speeches in the 1960s, J.F.
Kennedy referred to Africa 479 times over a three month period to
demonstrate his concern for Africa. Some analysts said at that time
that Candidate Kennedy wanted to make Africa and not Asia or Europe
the focus of US foreign policy. As President, J.F. Kennedy did not
put Africa at the center-stage of American diplomatic priorities. In
fact, in terms of funds, dedication, thought and concern, Africa sank
to the bottom of U.S. global policy.
Mr. Wolfowitz has long been a key architect of US foreign policy. I
hope he has a different image of Africa and affection for the
"over-developed"; "over-modernized" and "over-structured" yet
under-developed continent. As President of the World Bank, I wish him
well. On the Bank's Africa policy, he should surround himseIf with a
completely different breed of Africa-advisors in Washington. He
should consult with, and listen to Africans on the African continent.
They are in a better position to tell him what their needs are.
I hope his pledges for Africa are sincere and may not follow the
path of other pledges made before about Africa which dried up in the
air a minute after they were made. All of us would be watching. The
President of the Bank should make good on his commitment.
Those commitments should not turn out to be like Truman's commitment
to help Africa on condition that Africans marched lock and step
behind everything Washington and the Bank dictated.