From an interview with Hillary Clinton on an African TV show, here was a question asked by the host:
MR. MAROLENG: Madam Secretary, one of the things around the African Growth and Opportunity Act is that it’s also based on the notion that conditionality around good governance will lead to foreign direct investment. But we’ve seen other players in the African continent, particularly within the economic sector, who don’t come in with these sort of conditions that you have attached to aid and trade. What’s your view on this?
The implication seems to be, your help comes with conditions, but others (such as the Chinese, although no one was mentioned by name) do things without trying to boss us around.
Here was the response:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our view is that over the long run, investments in Africa should be sustainable and for the benefit of the African people. It is easy – and we saw that during colonial times – it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders, and leave. And when you leave, you don’t leave much behind for the people who are there. You don’t improve the standard of living. You don’t create a ladder of opportunity.
We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa. We want, when people come to Africa and make investments, we want them to do well, but we also want them to do good. We don’t want them to undermine good governance. We don’t want them to basically deal with just the top elites and, frankly, too often pay for their concessions or their opportunities to invest.
Now, I live in the real world and I know that there are many different ways of investing. But my message to government leaders, and certainly this was my message to President Banda and the government here in Zambia, is that the United States is investing in the people of Zambia, not just the elites, and we are investing for the long run. So we just turned over this facility that we’re in, the Paediatric Centre of Excellence. We just turned it over to the Government of Zambia. We’ve spent many tens of millions of dollars working with the people of Zambia to combat HIV/AIDS. Are we doing that to make money? No. But we’re doing it because we want to see a healthy, prospering Zambian people, which we do ultimately think is in American interests. So you see, it’s – we have a slightly more long-term view, if you will.
Her view seems to be that the Chinese investment comes at a cost, and that it may not always be in the interests of the host countries. By contrast, U.S. efforts in Africa are beyond simple profit-making, and instead are aimed at trying to establish better governance and generally make Africa a better place.
MR. MAROLENG: Pennipher, one of the things that we have seen particularly here in Zambia has been the growing influence of China in terms of foreign direct investment and trade. We’ve heard the Secretary of State saying that what the American Government is looking to is a more sustainable form of investment.
In your view, do you believe that the participation of China in Zambia has been one that can be described as sustainable in other parts of the African continent?
MS. SIKAINDA: Well, Chris, you see Chinese trade with Africa remains a contentious issue and we all continue to ask the question whether it is actually benefiting the continent. But Madam Secretary, I’d like to get it from you. Do you think Africa (inaudible) actually a fair trade, and not just China but even the U.S., on a platform that has its benefits (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Pennipher, I do think so. And I think we are beginning to see more of that. Just in the last day, I have met Zambian business people who have been helped by American technical assistance to do business plans, to learn how to market into the American market. And our trade ambassador, Ambassador Ron Kirk, announced at the AGAO conference that we will be spending $120 million over four years in Sub-Saharan Africa to help more companies get their products ready for the American market.
There are certain standards, to go back to one of Chris’s questions, both for the EU and the U.S.. it’s odd; sometimes certain products get into the EU that don’t get into the U.S., and sometimes they get into the U.S. that don’t get in the EU. So we have to, between the U.S. and the EU, better standardize our requirements so that there’s not these differences. But ultimately, what we want to do is to help African businesses improve their ability to export.
It seems to me that "colonialism" is too strong a term for what's going on here, from either China or the U.S. But I wonder which has a more colonialist feel: Investment with no concern for the impact on the host country, or using trade and investment as a tool to influence how a foreign country is governed?
There was also talk about models for African countries to follow:
MR. MAROLENG: Let me follow up on that question, Madam Secretary, because one of the things that you pointed out is that the East offers a model in terms of an efficient form of governance. This raises the question around whether countries like China, in terms of their (inaudible) government, become an example for African states, as opposed to the notion of good governance which is largely seen in Africa as being imposed by the West. Do you believe that China is an important role model in terms of governance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: In the long run, the medium run, even the short run, I don’t. And I will explain why. No one will argue with the economic success that China is having. They have a top-down command economy, and it is certainly lifting tens of millions, hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. And I am the first to say we want to see China succeed.
But their culture is very different and their approach to how they solve problems is very different. And I believe that we’re beginning to see a lot of problems that you’re going to pay more attention to in the next 10 years.
The internet goes across all borders. They are doing everything they can to stifle the internet. I think the internet is one of Africa’s great opportunities, not just for freedom of expression but for trading information and networking about how to do better.
So are there lessons we can learn from what governments do all over the world? I think I would argue that there are more lessons to learn from the U.S. and from democracies, but I’m open to lessons from anywhere. But at the end of the day, in the 21st century, as we are seeing in the Arab Spring, young people in particular are not going to accept being told what to do. They want the freedom and the education and the opportunity. (Applause.)
And Africa is a continent of so much vitality, so much energy. When the earthquake struck in Haiti and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people were trapped, it was a young African entrepreneur who came up with the app that enabled the United States Government and the authorities in Haiti to actually locate people who had been lost. We ran a contest recently in Africa out of the State Department asking for apps for economic development. Unbelievably creative responses.
So, see, I think good governance unleashes human potential. Authoritarian regimes try to put everybody into the same mold: you’ve got to do this, that, and only it, because that’s what you’re told to do. I want to see an African renaissance that provides opportunities of all kinds for people, because I am confident you can compete with anybody anywhere.
Is it possible to pick and choose between economic and political governance models? Can there be economic governance that follows an East Asian-type model, while the politics are democratic and accountable?