AFRICAN countries must be wary of conditional foreign aid that poses future debt traps, renowned Kenyan speaker Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba has said.
Prof Lumumba said this during his keynote speech at the just ended 10th edition of the Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA) in Maseru.
The conference ran from 23 to 25 October 2019 bringing together accountants and key stakeholders from both the public and private sector to share ideas of mutual interest. This year the conference ran under the theme: Accelerating Public Sector Performance in Developing Countries.
It featured different prominent speakers from in and outside the country who presented on different topics.
Speaking at the conference, Prof Lumumba said foreign aid was not always what it seemed and leaders must find African solutions to African problems.
“If you take a flight to any part of Africa, you will find that a third of the passengers in there are Chinese,” Prof Lumumba said.
“I am not sure if they can be found here in Lesotho but I suspect they are here. I suspect they have built your parliament. I also suspect they have built a stadium for you. I suspect there are factories they are building for you.
“And there is an old English saying: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”.”
He said instead of blaming the Chinese, they must be applauded for having a clear vision on how to develop their country.
Prof Lumumba also spoke on the influence of Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in African countries.
“The World Bank and the IMF in their wisdom came to Africa and told African governments and civil service that these are areas in which the government must move out and let the private sector intervene… We went on a selling spree and sold everything.
“Several years down the line the governments discovered that the structural adjustment programme was not useful, it must have been an experimental idea of some young boy from America who wanted to see how this programme can work effectively among human beings in Africa. And it did not work, and I have no doubt in my mind that somebody nearly won a Nobel prize for this programme.”
He however, said Africans can learn from China which turned around its economy into global stardom. He said China was able to clearly define its vision and successfully implemented it.
“I have no doubt in my mind that all African countries must define what they want. Once you have done that, you must then work to achieve what you want.
“China, until very recently, was not a major economic power. During the 1980’s China made a deliberate decision that she was going to change…
“The question is, have we defined what we want? We haven’t and that’s why it gladdens my heart to know that Lesotho is now engaging in a conversation that asks the question the Lesotho that we want. Perhaps we should change it to the Lesotho that we need because people want very strange things even the things they do not need.
“We need a Lesotho where the education system works. We need a Lesotho where water is available at an affordable cost. We need that can produce food through proper agricultural policies. We need a Lesotho where the per capita income is not something on paper but actually is money in people’s pockets. We need a Lesotho where young men and women have employment opportunities and opportunities to innovate and discover.
“The day you define that, is the day Lesotho will begin to realise her potential. And I dare say that every other African country must begin doing that going forward. We can no longer afford the luxury of being defined by others.”
Prof Lumumba said Africans must start having faith in their own people and institutions instead of rushing to the West considering that the continent is has an abundance of professionals.
“The first thing is to decolonise our minds. It starts there, for us to believe we are capable of delivering for ourselves.”
He said it was unfortunate that after most African countries failed to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2020, another agenda has also been set for the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030.
“One would have thought that after the MDGs, the goals would be reduced. Instead, they have been increased…As long as African and African countries allow their agenda to be defined for them, our civil service will never realise its potential because those problems are not seen as our own problems.
“The day we begin to appreciate the problems we have must be solved by us, then I believe we will begin to move in the right direction. There is evidence to suggest that when you own your problems then you can deal with them a lot more differently,” Prof Lumumba said.