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How Africa Can Own Its Resources: The Zimbabwe Example

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The country then divides the proceeds coming out of its 51 percent shareholding as follows: 10 percent goes to the community in which the business (say a mining company) is located. A further 5 percent goes to the workers in the company, and the remaining 36 percent goes into a sovereign national fund to be used for the total development of the country, especially the areas which have no companies based there. The communities getting the 10 percent shares decide what projects are needed in their areas and how to spend the money on the projects. Of course their activities are monitored by two government ministries the ministries of indigenisation, and environment. The workers who get the 5 percent shares in their companies are encouraged to put them in pension and other funds, so that from time to time they will get a lump sum each from that investment. So far, the communities  that have had money released from their 10 percent shares are doing well on projects such as building new school blocks, clinics,  roads, irrigation schemes, repairing dams,  drilling boreholes etc, while big companies  like Schweppes and Meikles have given 51 percent of their shareholding to their workers.

It has been a good start overall, especially in the extractive sector where existing companies have either complied with or are about to comply with the indigenisation law. If Zimbabwe does not relax or get distracted, as African governments are wont to do, and pushes indigenisation to its logical conclusion, in a decade or two from now the business landscape in the country will have changed drastically and other African countries will have a good example to draw on.

In fact, there is a huge potential for indigenisation to become a liberating force not only for Zimbabwe but also for the whole of Africa. This must be what drove ex-President Mbeki to make the passionate plea to Africans everywhere to defend the developments in Zimbabwe. In effect, Mbeki was saying: “Don’t let Zimbabwe fail, because there is something in it for all of us and our future generations.”  And Africa had better listen. Because throughout history, societies have changed through big ideas held and implemented by a few people at the micro level, which later became the norm. Such ideas were usually implemented on a pilot scale before being employed generally. In this context, Zimbabwe has unwittingly become Africa’s laboratory and sacrificial lamb; and the continent had better not look a gift horse in the mouth.

The Challenges:

All said and done, Africa must not expect anything to be easy on the “alternative” course. There is bound to be resistance and spoiling tactics by the metropolitan powers and their multi-national companies, which have grown used to getting African resources on the cheap. They will do everything in and outside the book to prevent Africa freeing itself from the shackles of the current world economic order. Which should inspire the Africans to question the motivation of these powers in helping countries such as Germany, Japan, south Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the others to rise from the ashes of the Second World War and the Cold War, while at the same time frustrating African attempts to be a Japan, South Korea, Germany, Taiwan or even miniature forms of them. Why do they resist or kill African attempts to be like these countries?

At the moment, there is stiff resistance by the metropolitan powers to indigenisation in Zimbabwe. A hefty US$1 billion was taken out of the country by investors before the recent elections, which is now making government finances difficult to handle. This is exactly what the Henry Kissinger-inspired American national security memorandum, NSSAM 200, of 1974, recommended.   Thus, if Africa should embark on an “alternative” way, it should not be surprised to find multi-national companies refusing to invest or threatening to pull out of Africa, a horror that orthodox economists and other like-minded Africans will recommend that the continent should avoid, especially in this day and age where capital has many places to fly to. But if Africa collectively stands its ground and acts in the manner suggested by President Jammeh and  Dr Tony Aidoo of Ghana namely letting the resources remain in the ground — the multi-national companies will come will nilly, if  indeed the majority of the world’s natural resources are in Africa.

 

By: Baffour Ankomah

 

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