The police just cancelled a protest march of about 5,000 people who were due to parade through the village of Auchterarder to within 600 yards of the steel fence which rings the five-star Gleneagles hotel, the G8 summit venue. Last night trouble broke out in Scottish city of Stirling and 60 people were detained, since they were trying to block the M9 freeway and railway lines. And because of likely unrest, and fear from Scottish villagers, the march has been cancelled.
While the organizers of Live 8 had their hearts in the right place, even if their economics was wonky, most of the marchers, and all of the trouble makers, are so vacuous that holding opinions is not uppermost in what is left of their minds. They don’t appear to have any idea what they are protesting about, although they seem intent on not being hemmed in by correct use of the English language--‘Stop Kapitalism Mow,’ was one of the more understandable slogans.
Meanwhile in London African business leaders are pushing a different sort of message, and one that makes a whole lot more sense. The BBC reported Pascal Dozie, chief executive of Nigeria's Diamond Bank as saying that “The key to eradicate poverty is wealth creation, and you can only create wealth through the private sector through investment and job creation…. But to thrive, Africa's private sector needs help to grow.”
There was enthusiastic support from the floor for Mr. Dozie who was addressing the Business Action for Africa summit in the City of London. The institutions of a free society were being discussed as though at some libertarian rally--notably that property rights must be protected and the rule of law must be respected. Other institutions being pressed upon a somewhat surprised media were that stable and democratic governments should focus on creating predictable environments for business to operate in. And beyond that, “the state should adopt a hands-off regulatory approach.”
Businessmen seem intent on telling G8 leaders that the way to help Africa is to allow it to help itself, since aid is no long-term solution. For Andrew Rugasira, chief executive of Rwenzori Coffee, a Ugandan coffee company about to start shipping its produce to the Waitrose supermarket chain in the UK, it is obvious that there is a better way. Mr. Rugasira is scathing about the way aid creates a chronic dependence which he believes stifles creativity. “Trade is the engine for growth,” he almost shouted.
Not quite believing what I was hearing but certainly ready for a cup of Ugandan’s finest coffee, I scurried away to Starbucks. But according to the BBC, Mr. Rugasira was not finished. “Although aid and debt forgiveness is necessary in the short term, the only way to secure economic prosperity in Africa is to open up western markets to African companies eager to compete,” he insists.
Perhaps the most encouraging repeated comment throughout the event was that all were demanding the removal of tariffs and agricultural subsidies in the West, and as importantly the removal of tariffs between African nations, which are often far higher than in the wealthy North.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have thrown down the gauntlet to France and Germany by saying they will scrap all agricultural subsidies if matched by the other powers, and now appear totally supported by African business.
Unfortunately with the media fixated on the know-nothing protestors the real focus on Franco-German agricultural perfidy may not take center-stage. That would be a tragedy, since Africa seems open and ready for business. I’m off for another Ugandan Americano.
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.