Franklin Cudjoe, Director of the Ghanaan think tank Imani, who has been visiting the UK in order to contest the nonsense being spouted about how to solve Africa’s problems by Live 8 etc., gave a fingerclickin’ good talk at my home on Friday. The fingerclickin’ being a reference to the amount of money stolen every second – $4,700 – by African governments. My thanks to Helen Szamuely for also reporting on this event.
Ghana sounds like a relatively prosperous and urbanised country, by African standards, and it was interesting to hear an African talking about the complications of airline deregulation and exactly how much members of parliament get paid per day (enough to keep them snugly on board the gravy train, no matter what they may have said at election time), rather than just famine, malnutrition, etc.
The anti-globalisation crowd say that multinational corporations are causing corruption in Africa. Actually, they often find it a huge barrier to trading in Africa. KLM wanted to run some flights from Ghana to neighbouring African countries, but the bribes demanded of them were too extortionate, and they pulled out. Travelling between countries in that part of Africa seems to involve choosing which bunch of state highwaymen you prefer to be shaken down by. It is understandable that, economically speaking, lots of colonial African countries used to look outwards, so to speak, with most of their trade being organised by their colonial masters. It is not so understandable why this is still the pattern.
I asked Franklin who in Ghana he thinks is doing the most to improve the place. His answer was the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development. What Africa needs is good government. And the way to start trying to get good government is to talk and write out loud with anyone who will listen – especially the next generation – about what that is and ought to be. There as here, in enterprises of this kind, the internet has helped
Franklin sounded a lot like Hayek – which is no coincidence, because he talked about how much Hayek had influenced his early thinking – in his insistence upon the intellectual struggle as the first step in trying to achieve anything more concrete. You get nowhere by nagging politicians direct. You have to change the assumptions within which they work. That takes time but it can be done, and by the sound of it he is doing his best.
Michael Jennings pointed out that all over the Far East, lots of those little upwardly mobile trading niches that used to be occupied by the Chinese diaspora are now occupied by the Ghanaan diaspora. Clearly there is nothing wrong with the talents of the Ghanaan people. They just need the right setting to flourish in.