Posted by: bklunk | September 18, 2006

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Let Business Lift Africa Out of Poverty

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5099990.stm

Written by Jon Cronin ( a veteran reporter for BBC news), reports on a current attempt to allow business to aid in Africa’s fight against poverty.  Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the affable chairman of Anglo American, a world wide group of companies founded in South Africa as a mining enterprise, responds to the constant critisim that comes with doing business in Africa.  While those critics believe that multinational businesses such as Anglo American, take out more from Africa than they provide, Stuart disagrees with the idea and states:  ” the only way you can overcome that mistrust is to try and be open.”  Being that Jon Cronin is a veteran reporter at BBC with a history of following stories of corruption, one can assume that this article was not biased due to the fact that it does not degrade what Anglo American is doing.  Stating that the company is looking to expan in to war-torn areas such as Congo, show that Anglo American (while still a business at the end of the day), is contributing to Africa as much as a non-charity organization can.  Paying people in Africa more than they pay their own shareholders, Anglo America does seem to be as helpful as a mining company can be.  One needs to remember that Anglo America is a business and not a charity.  However, if being a business in Africa deprives the region more than it contributes to it, the business crosses a very sinful line.

 This is an interesting piece, but it is not clear to me how much of it is quoting the BBC piece and how much of it is the author’s commentary.  Some of the assertions are worth attention, though.  For example, I think some people would not see the BBC as an unbiased source.  The key phrase may be “as helpful as a mining company can be.”  Extractive industries generally do not have a history of putting much back in to the places from which they take minerals out.  It would be interesting to see comment on what Anglo-American does that is different. 

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Responses

  1. This is not in direct reference to the piece, but it seems to me that, from this fairly distant observers viewpoint, the world community is not doing enough in the actual development of Africa. Though many countries contribute in delivering countless millions of dollars to the country, Africa needs a world community that will work with it to build stable governments and infrastructures that will ultimately enable the country to stand on its own. Ultimately, these countries need well-regulated economies. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is right when he says, “The long term solution has to be to grow business.” Again, I am fairly ignorant surrounding this issue, but it seems that Africa needs countries who are willing to work beside it in its development, and not countries who will simply write the checks.

  2. I completely agree with Jim that we should be working with Africa instead of just always handing them checks. It sounds like this business is trying to help by providing not only jobs but higher wages, which would definitly be great for the workers, but what if the business fails and they lose their jobs? What if this business is doing more harm than good? Is this a temporary solution that will help a few? I understand that there is no certainty, only hope, but maybe we should be investing in something that is going to benefit the workers, along with the others in the village/town/city etc.

  3. What I think is lacking is that there is no question of the fundamental assumption of the article, and that is that development of Africa is actually good. Is increasing the flow of capital necessarily good for African states? Clearly I would not argue that getting people out of poverty is bad, but I would question the way that we do it. Are the capitalist/materialist goals of the West going to creep into African society and destroy their cultural values? It ought to be an obligation for all multinational corporations to first question what ideals they will be spreading when moving into another nation. If these corporations can actually decrease poverty and preserve culture than it is good, if not it must be rejected.

  4. There are many different ways of approaching third world states, but there isn’t going to be one solution that works for all of them. Western societies can send food and aid, peacekeepers and relief workers, but how many of these things look at both the short term and long term recovery of the nation. The rising up of Africans to address the issues of poverty and development is crucial. While a few of the native population have managed to study in other parts of the world, only a portion will return. There has to be a way to curb the poverty within these states by providing a means of development to the most unsuspecting, like women. The approach that will be most successful will be that of those who build off of the foundational principles already established within the communities and villages. Since the foundational principles are different for each community or village, it won’t be a company or corporation that turns everything around. Forcing views and systems onto these areas will only increase the tension that already pervades some of these communities. Progress will will only happen with the painstaking hard work of individual people that take the time and resources to invest in a community and work with them to bring about the change that is needed to save lives.

  5. I think Brian makes an important point regarding the preservation of cultural values in Africa. The West should remember that capitalism can bring with it devils of its own. The gross excesses of American culture are not something that should be exported to the rest of the world. Africa needs bread, but it does not need the excesses of all sorts to which Americans have become accustomed. It should be remembered that though it is true that Africa needs economic development, economics can not solve every problem. Ultimately man is in need of much more than bread.


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