Economists and legislators attending the 2008 Women’s Platform for Action in Africa currently taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa have criticised Africa’s development policies as being patronising, The New Times has learnt via email.
Citing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) signed between some African regional blocs like the East African Community (EAC) with the European Union (EU), most speakers, according to a press release, stated that the treaty, like many other macro-economic strategies including Poverty Reduction Strategies being implemented by many governments on the continent, were ill conceived.
“They are responsible for the breakdown of the education and other sectors in Africa,” said Professor Yassine Fall, a senior economic advisor on the UN Millennium project. Fall was presenting a paper on “The quest for Human Security-Macro Economic and Trade Policy.”
Professor Saad El Badawi, a member of the Sudanese and Pan African Parliaments said that the EPAs were forcing Africa back into colonialism.
She questioned the logic behind Europeans signing treaties with regional blocs which have member countries with differing levels of trade as equal members in negotiations for the treaties.
The EAC signed the EPAs with Europe in December 2007. The signatures of the treaty were criticised at the time they were presented by the EU for signing before it was due for revision by the end of that year.
EPAs are negotiations between the EU and African Union concerning trade relations between the two. They are part of interim agreements between African leaders and the EU in a meeting that took place in the Benin City of Cotonou in 1995.
In the agreements, African countries and their European counterparts committed themselves to opening markets for products to move freely from one continent to another. The treaty is supposed to be revised at five year intervals.
Fall stated that African governments have perennially lamented EU governments’ offering of subsidies to their farmers thus discouraging African products reaching Europe while European products are freely sold in Africa, sometimes cheaper than local produce.
She added that all the macro policies undertaken by Africa to get rid of poverty like the World Bank supported Poverty Reduction Strategies-PRPs, Aid Effectiveness, and financing for development have so far failed to have substantial reductions on the levels of poverty on the continent.
Ben Toorok, a South African legislator, said that African governments are working constantly under the pressure of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Organisation of Economic Development and the group of highly industrialized countries to implement policies that were obviously unhelpful to the African cause.
The Women’s Platform for Action in Africa was initiated by the South African Parliament in 2006. This year’s theme “Women and the quest for Human Security” was designed to emphasise the current food shortage crisis that is threatening 21 countries in Africa with famine. It is sponsored by German Technical Cooperation-GTZ.