When the rich meet, do we matter?

The Group of 20, a gathering of what can be said to be the most developed countries of the world, plus the emerging big economies met in London this week, as the global financial crisis continues to hit hard. And three African leaders attended the meeting for various reasons. 

The Group of 20, a gathering of what can be said to be the most developed countries of the world, plus the emerging big economies met in London this week, as the global financial crisis continues to hit hard. And three African leaders attended the meeting for various reasons. 

South Africa’s Kgalema Motlathe attended alongside Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi and the African Union Commissioner Jean Ping. Ping was there as a representative of the AU.

Zenawi was a special guest invited by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Montlathe was the only African leader who attended on account of the strength of his county’s economy.

And he never shied away from emphasising the point when he talked to the journalists gathered there. From this, it’s like he never wanted to come across as a beneficiary of “emancipation” by being allowed into the club of the economic power houses of the world.

All said, many commentators noted there was little for specifically African countries from the G20 summit. The summit agreed to inject $ 1trillion into the global economy through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The implication being that, African countries can continue to borrow from these international financial institutions. But we learn from history that African countries have benefited little from borrowing from the IMF and its sister organisation the World Bank.

At the same time, the conditionalities imposed by these institutions in doing business with most African countries still remain an obstacle.

The main benefit for the masses in our midst is as British journalist Dr. Henry Gombya (he used to be Ugandan) argued on Voice of America’s “reporters round table” on Thursday, is the end of the tradition of secret banking that was announced by the German Chancellor Merkel.

Most rulers that have turned African treasuries into their plaything must be scratching their heads, as regards where to stash their loot. 

This means that looters of national treasuries will have to look for alternative ways of keeping their ill gotten wealth. Maybe they will now be forced to invest in their own countries, where some citizens become unintended beneficiaries of what is after all supposed to be theirs.

This is because any investment whether from dirty money or not, may be of benefit to some. And if it is invested at home, then a casual labourer or a local contractor may get a chance of make some quick cash.

Businessmen who accept to work as fronts for leaders, who want to hide their money may also be in for a killing. It was said that Africa was hardly of any significance during the summit.

For it represents a negligible percentage of world trade, and hence in real economic terms it is still inconsequential to the goings on in the world economy.

The summit also in a way and other previous ones of world economic powerhouses showcased the new economic order. Emerging economies like the now mighty China and Brazil and India, have been able to flex their muscles as the west moves in a downward spiral.

These countries that have in the recent past been able to put their economies right are the new kids on the block. And they were there in London asserting their new found leverage.

China came with a proposal for the replacement of the dollar as the international currency, with a new currency. In a way this is aimed at sending signals to the Americans that their time is over.

I think these are the countries, where we in Africa should be looking for development partners. There is also the emergence of rich Arab money from oil. These are the people looking for investment opportunities in Africa.

Rwanda has already started doing business with these guys. There was a delegation of Indian investors in the country a couple of days ago.

So we are already on that path. May be it needs upping the momentum and urgency with which we seek Foreign Direct Investments.

frank2kagabo@yahoo.com