That is according to David Lane speaking at the Pittsburg G-20 . He reasons that Africa has over 1 billion producers and consumers of services of goods. He calls for G20 to make Africa part of the solution to ending poverty in Africa and further more that the next G20 meeting should be held in Africa.

I must say that I agree with him on all accounts.

Yes  he is right in the first instance that Africa has an awful lot of consumers and suppliers.  Africa is also the producer of some of the high end/value products in the world such as diamonds, gold, petrol, coffee, cocoa etc but these products are merely extracted and taken to consumers elsewhere, and when returned the African’s almost always can’t afford them, and those that can often have to travel millions of millions to be able to consume these products. Does any of this make sense to you?

The next point – the next G20 meeting should be held  in Africa and the campaign has started and if you agree please add your name here

 

Africa is almost always part of the agenda at these summits with leaders of the richest countries in world pledging more help for the continent, however these meetings are never held in Africa, unlike  the COMMONWEALTH HEAD OF STATES

 
I can imagine that a lot of money is spent at these meetings, imagine therefore what such a meeting would do for the economy of a small central African country, like Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda, unless of course the organisers of such a meeting opted to fly in everything that would be used, including food service staff etc. But even then, there would inevitably be a trickle down of sorts.

 The economic benefits aside, if you have a matter to resolve with someone isn’t it best that you go to them and do this face to face. Some of the points that come out these meetings regarding Africa are , MAKE AFRICA LEADERS MORE ACCOUNTABLE, END CORRUPTION, IMPROVE GOVERNANCE,  and so on and so forth, but  if the leaders of Africa only ever here this on TV and radio, wouldn’t they be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with them,  a sort of hearsay, Afterall would you take anyone seriously who talked about you behind your back? The natural reaction is one of IF YOU HAVE  SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME,,,,,,

Obama and Clinton have led the way to going to the leaders of Africa and given them some tough love and I do hope that the G20 will follow in their footsteps. They are currently discussing how to lift the world out of the recession but surely the recession is worse amongst the bottom billion of Africa.

 Can the G20 ever see Africa as a key economic player and not a basket case that needs hand out? Is this indeed the solution to Africa’s  ending poverty? Can a whole continent be lifted  out of poverty by AID? Of course not treating Africa as  an economic partner,  a consumer and supplier of goods would go along way to resolving te poverty. food shortages etc experienced by its people.

 

If you have a view either way, I would like to hear from you as usual

I recently came across the Ethical Fashion Forum and I went along to their event on 18/8/9. This event was promoted as focusing on sourcing from Africa.

As the discussion got under way I could not believe some of what I was hearing, “these people need educating” was one of the statements made by a couple of speakers there was too much of “them and us” too. We in the audience could be forgiven for thinking that we were listening to a report from a 19th century Royal Geographical Society journal. It all sounded like “poor Africans we need to do them a favour” type of situation. The facilitator on the other hand was fantastic, he drew attention to issues of respect and the fact that the West can learn from Africa.

As I listened I felt myself increasingly getting angry and when given the opportunity to speak I let my feelings known. In my view the speakers had failed to draw attention to the ingenuity of Africans, especially the sort of women that I work with, who turn rubbish and utterly useless things into fashionable items. What about the men in Kenya who make sandals from old car tyres?

The fashion accessories at Ethnic Supplies are the African women’s designs and have been very well received by women here in the West. I was upset too that some of what was being said was reinforcing the negative views about Africa.

Fashion provides an opportunity to lift many African people out of poverty as VALUE can easily be added at source unlike some of the agricultural products such as coffee but I felt that this had not been highlighted either. It was interesting to note that a buyer from a large retail outlet felt that unlike their Asian counterparts Africans have not bombarded her with emails regarding their fashion accessories.

The challenge with this is threefold, someone in the audience felt that the people she works with in Tanzania earn a better income selling locally than they would if they had to sell to a UK retailer along with the hoops one has to jump through!

The other is African artisans tend to work in much better conditions and get higher wages than their Asian counter parts this coupled with expensive import/export duties and freight costs.

The last reason is the buyers have a perceived idea that the supply end in Africa is unreliable and are almost always unwilling to explore the fact that this could be wrong or that it can changed.

Don’t get me wrong, they are challenges working in Africa and sometimes the quality leaves a lot to be desired. The way forward is to alongside the artisans, in a collaborative manner and where necessary adapt their designs to suit the Western market. After all it would be insane bringing in products for which there is no market because of poor design and or quality.

As an afterthought it would have been good to include a discussion about the materials used as well as the production process to demonstrate the GREEN and sustainable element of African fashion.

In Madagascar for instance, wild (raw) silk is collected from the forests and woven into beautiful fabrics. These fabrics are for instance used in the making of this bag which starts life as a plain basket made from palm leaves. Palm leaves have no use unless value has been added to them.

Raw Silk basket

Raw Silk basket

Wild silk shawl

Wild silk shawl

In Rwanda sisal, a cactus like plant is used in the making of these beautiful baskets, the same material is used in the making of these silver sterling earrings. The bark cloth from Uganda is very environmentally friendly as its extraction does not involve the cutting down of a tree; simply the bark is removed, and is allowed to grow back.

Rwanda peace basket

Rwanda peace basket

rwanda earing

Rwanda Sterling Silver earings

In my mind’s eye African fashion offers a real opportunity for lifting many out of poverty, is mostly kind to the environment because of the African ingenuity of turning rubbish into fashion, as well as the use of naturally occurring raw materials and offers a real chance to REBRAND the continent.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a view about the issues raised here.

I came across this article over at The Guardian’s Katine Chronicles and it sums up what a Conservative government would do about International Development.

Of all the proposals /promises this is the one that caught my eye

setting up an independent aid watchdog to scrutinise the impact and outcomes of British aid – “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, says the paper, when it comes to cleaning up aid

The reason for this is that I strongly believe that without effective monitoring of where AID money goes whole chunks of the population in the developing world will continue to miss out. This has been pointed out several times in all sorts of publications and hopefully this is the start of things to come.

I recently became aware that whilst the British Government favours handing over money to the developing world leaders to allocate as they see fit the American approach differs in that it is project based, meaning that grants are paid to a specific project.

I am can’t quite make up my mind which of the systems is better for a number of reasons, the British way removes the paternalistic approach but then again is open to abuse as there isn’t any guarantee that it will be spent on the things that locals consider to be a priority.

On the other hand the US system, ensures that there is something to show for the money but I do wonder how the projects are decided on and how much of a say the locals have?

I would welcome your views on this!

Going back to the Conservatives, they have  been involved in Project Umubano down in Rwanda in fact David Cameron paid the folk on the ground a visit back in 2007 .  A little while ago I met  a Conservative Councillor that is heavily involved in this project and travels to Rwanda frequently.  I do hope hope that this experience has been used to inform their policy. As the only way to to learn about what works in the field of International Development is by working alongside the people at receiving end of the policy and AID.

Would a Conservative government draw on their experience in Rwanda when formulating their International policy?The jury is still out on this!