One of the broadest and most devastating economic issues currently is the food crisis. Not losing sight of the seriousness of the topic, it is still a source of debate between economic philosophies. Capitalist-oriented publications such as the Economist or the Financial Times weigh in on their perspective. FT.com The Economists’ Forum Food crisis is a chance to reform global agriculture. I will confess to basically following this philosophical perspective with perhaps a more liberal take on the issues. Liberal though can be a negative label from both ends of the economic/political continuum.
Of the two crises disturbing the world economy – financial disarray and soaring food prices – the latter is the more disturbing. In many developing countries, the poorest quartile of consumers spends close to three-quarters of its income on food. Inevitably, high prices threaten unrest at best and mass starvation at worst.
There is immediately though an undeniable point where the philosophical debates have to cease and we are dealing with real people. That point is exemplified by Africa and how the world will assist in its development. How effective we are going to be though will depend in large part on which philosophy we follow. This weblog has featured a number of articles from TED, MIT and other organizations on their efforts in Africa and other developing third world countries through social-entrepreneurship, again following a free enterprise approach to these issues.
Here are two views of what is wrong with what we are doing in Africa, but they come from two very different perspectives. One is European and supposedly neo-liberal and other African and anti-colonial. My initial reaction is that I am not comfortable with either one of them but see valid points with both. Further education in this topic might move me one way or the other, but it will have to be in the opposite direction of one of them or it will have to be a middle path of some type.
If you follow the reasoning of the United Nation's World Food Program, then Kenya is a unique region when it comes to hunger catastrophes. In this east African country, a popular vacation destination with 32 million inhabitants, UN workers hand out more food on an annual basis than they do in southern Sudan, which civil wars have ravaged for decades. But is Kenya really dying of hunger?
How Europe underdevelops Africa and how some fight backfrom Pambazuka News
From above, many African elites have succumbed to what Olukoshi terms trade-balkanisation, following the lead set by colonial pigs in the 1884-85 Berlin conference that so irrationally carved up the continent. Since 2002, the EPAs have supplanted the agenda of the gridlocked World Trade Organisation, just as bilateral trade deals with the US, China and Brazil are also now commonplace.
A united Europe deals with individual African countries in an especially pernicious way, because aside from free trade in goods, Mandelson last October hinted at other invasive EPA conditions that will decimate national sovereignty: “Our objective remains to conclude comprehensive, full economic partnership agreements. These agreements have a WTO-compatible goods agreement at their core, but also cover other issues.”
Those other “Singapore” issues (named after the site of a 1996 WTO summit) include investment protection (so future policies don’t hamper corporate profits), competition policy (to break local large firms up) and government procurement (to end programmes like South Africa’s affirmative action). These were removed from the WTO by African negotiators during the Cancun summit in 2003, but have re-emerged through EPA bilaterals.