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TEDxLakeComo 2009 - Paolo Sannella

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Good evening, everyone! I will talk to you about Africa. In my life I have mainly dealt with these two big problems, that have taken up my mind, with doubts, ideas and very few certainties. Two issues: development and Africa. I could sum up the African issue with three words. The first word is “poverty”. The second word is “demographic explosion”. And the third word is “state fragility”. Poverty. Africa has about one billion people. It’s calculated that 80% of African inhabitants are poor. According to recent studies, there are one billion of poor in the world. Of this one billion of poor 80% live in Africa. That is, 80% of Africans are poor and 80% of the world's poor live in Africa. This is a first fundamental fact. It is a much greater poverty than the one we know. It’s an absolute poverty, an extreme poverty, which is in contrast – and this is the paradox – with the huge wealth of that continent: wealth of human, natural, mineral, agricultural resources. At times this very wealth brought about wars, occupations, exploitation of Africa, in one word misery of Africa. The second fact: demographic explosion. The African continent is underpopulated: its population density is lower than that of Asia and Europe. But what happened? The African population, which was estimated around 290-300 millions people in the 60’s, that is at independence, is now one billion, and it’s calculated that in 40 years the African population should be two billions. A population growth rate like it never occurred elsewhere in the world. Demographic explosion. This means, on one hand, that the African population is made of young people. 60-70% of the population in some countries is younger than 16 years of age. Which, in turn, means an extreme difficulty to meet the demands of these young people, namely building schools and workplaces. But this demographic explosion – this is the other paradox, if you want – takes place while birth rates are decreasing. But in the last 40 years mortality rates have dropped so quickly as to break the traditional demographic balance and start this population explosion. This is one of the least discussed problems, for several reasons. Yet I believe it is the problem of all problems, it is the main problem of the African crisis and the African issue today: the demographic explosion. The African nations, caught in these tongs, absolute poverty on one side and demographic explosion on the other, did not have many chances to succeed, and it’s amazing that, in spite of these difficulties, Africa could keep up with economic growth rates of 5%, in the last years even greater than 5%, rates greater than those of demographic growth, which show the vitality and capability of this continent. And let’s now focus on the third of the three facts about the African issue: state fragility. The modern African states, which were born from the independence in the 60’s, are genetically fragile states, they are fragile at birth, because they are states that mimic the colonial structures, imported by the colonial powers, and overlap these institutions and structures to preexisting structures and cultures. A difficult graft, a graft which itself reveals the fragility of states, weak states, because they have a low popular legitimacy, a poor bond to African society. The African scenery appears like this: a wonderful nature on one side, very serious political, social and economic problems on the other, over a hard core. What is this hard core? The difficult relationship with Europe. And I use the word “difficult” as an euphemism. It is actually a tragic relationship, a centuries-old relationship, characterized first of all by the Trade, which destroyed the African society, the slave trade, which lasted a few centuries, during which millions of Africans were carried away, thus generating inner conflicts. Then colonialism, which was a violence to African culture and structures. On this base a third factor is inserted, which is that of development aid, the phase of cooperation for development. This phase is equally characterized by the imposition of models. We saw how the so-called social, humanitarian cooperation, that all of you fund and support, that our governments have supported, somehow, beyond all good intentions, is one of the causes of demographic explosion and therefore of the actual crisis of Africa. The problem today is a relation of great pain and suffering on one side, and very poor results on the other, this huge poverty, and, in perspective, a tremendous danger for world peace, a tremendous danger for international balances. We therefore think that a change of route, a change of politics is mandatory. I don’t think that we (and by “we” I mean us, friends at CREA, that met around this new idea of development and international cooperation) I don’t think we can say we have a formula. There is no formula. Those that believe in a formula are those that want to find a shortcut for problems that are extremely complex. But we believe that there are some tenets that can be summarized as follows. The first is that – contrarily to what is said today in some places – much more aid is needed. I say contrarily to what is said, because increasingly common rumors, even from Africa itself, ask us to stop aids. Recently a very successful book, written by a Zambian economist called Moyo, Dambisa Moyo, titled “The Dead Aid”, translated in French as “The Fatal Aid” or “The Mortal Aid”, where aid is even defined as deadly, asks to cease aid. We say no, much more aid is needed, on the condition that this aid goes in a different direction. Which direction? The first direction is supporting the great productive, economic and social infrastructures. Africa needs conspicuous, large investments, above its possibilities, in the field of economical, social and productive infrastructures. I think, for example, to the immense need in the fields of transportation, communication and schools. These African cities today are mostly animated, populated by kids and youngsters, who were saved from death, but have no opportunity. They seek for schools that don’t exist, they search for jobs that aren’t there. The first necessary aid is in this direction: creating productive, economical and social infrastructures. The second is a direct aid to business, that is to all those that in Africa create income and, above all, employment. We therefore believe that the second priority is supporting business, which doesn’t mean supporting our business transferred to Africa – that too – but instead supporting mainly African business. We must reassess what was called the informal sector, or the off the records work or under the table work sector, which is the real strength of African economy, represents 70% of African economy. We must help small farmers, small dealers, small African business through innovative methods, that have to be effective and transparent at once. It isn’t easy. To these first two important sectors of intervention we must add a third essential one, one we Italians can understand better than anyone else: it is aid in strengthening institutions. those fragile nations must be supported, those fragile institutions must be supported. We, as Italians, must especially understand this, because we had… we have an underdevelopment problem here too: Southern Italy. In our investments in Southern Italy we have made mistakes that we are repeating in Africa, that is making welfare-type investments, rather than investments aiming to improving, upgrading, making administrations, states, institutions more efficient and transparent. So this is the priority: the international community must not make the same mistake that Italy made in Southern Italy. We know very well how investments in infrastructures and the industrial sector cannot be realized without governance recovery. No investment will ever work without a good governance. How many industrialists from Southern Italy leave Southern Italy, because they cannot hold out against a system of generalized illegality or inefficiency in public administration? This is the main problem. So we are thinking about a cultural revolution, which should lead to a political awareness both in Africa and in the international community to operate this change in cooperation and in addressing the international aid, which, as I said, is necessary, but needs to be redirected. It’s a cultural revolution, because for many of us aid still means the help the needy. This is certainly a very noble act – it’s not up to me to condemn it or however to regard it as useless. It is useful in that very moment, yet we need to know that it doesn’t stimulate nor support development. Consistent large-scale policies are necessary and they need to be adopted urgently, because in our opinion the only policy that can put a brake on the immigration problem is a well carried out cooperation for development policy. We have had and still have Chinese immigration, but these migratory flows from China are slowing down as China develops. There is actually a return of our Chinese immigrants back to China, because they are attracted by economic opportunities back in China. The same must happen in Africa: we must create better conditions to keep Africa’s children in Africa, to slow down this emigration flow that will however take place. We will have to revise our immigrant reception policies, but we also need to prepare their return by creating these economic conditions. This great revolution requires means, but, above all, it requires redirecting aid from welfare to supporting productive sectors. I believe that this message is not being sent only by Africa. Someone was telling me that this was the subject of the last Young Italian Industrialists’ convention in Capri, “From the Mediterranean to the Gulf: a new Axis for Development”. Their thesis was just this, the one we have to uphold also for the development of Africa: redirecting and reassessing international aid. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 15 minutes and 5 seconds
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Producer: TEDx
Director: Gerolamo Saibene
Views: 95
Posted by: tradottiinitaliano on Dec 12, 2010

Nato a Napoli, ha vissuto in prima persona i problemi dei diversi livelli di sviluppo economico e sociale che costituiscono il filo conduttore delle sue riflessioni e del suo impegno professionale. Dopo aver collaborato con il gruppo Nord-Sud fondato da Francesco Compagna, ha poi insegnato in vari sedi universitarie in Africa e in Italia. Diplomatico di carriera, è stato Ambasciatore in numerosi Paesi africani. Lasciata la carriera, ha fondato un centro di ricerche, CREA ( ) con sede in Costa d’Avorio, sui problemi dello Stato in Africa, che attualmente presiede. Il suo interesse principale ruota intorno all’ambivalente rapporto tra istituzioni e sviluppo economico.

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