Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

The two articles 'The political economy of regional trade agreements in Africa' and 'Africa needs action not words' (Pambazuka News 155, could be combined in one as they address the same issues from different viewpoints. The statement 'Africa produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce' lies at the core of its continued poverty. When I worked for a timber company in Holland in the sixties, we could easily import logs from Africa. When we needed Oregon pine and Parana pine from the United States we were asked to give the sizes we wanted, as they did not export logs but only planks, one side planed. Primary labour done in the US!

Commodity exports from Africa include billions of lost employment. South Africa ships tons of iron ore to Japan and other places, while we have the facilities to make steel in bars, sheets or any other shape or form. Gold leaves the continent in blocks instead of in the shape of coins or jewellery or any other pre-industrial shape. I wonder what would happen if the African countries would unite and tell the world: you cannot have our raw products, tell us how you want it and we will make it for you! And - by the way - if you want the raw product, this is the price. OPEC did it. Remember the shivers going through the world in the seventies when OPEC laid down the law for oil supplies? Why can Africa not do it?

Ben Laauwen, South Africa