Letter: West taken to task

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The Independent Culture
Sir: David Anderson ("Death of the African dream", 27 August) puts his faith in the United States and Western intentions and aims in Africa, what he calls the "African Renaissance".

He suggests that IMF/ World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) "have helped nurture the tree of democracy". This is questionable when one looks at the poverty and hardship that these programmes have caused in debt-ridden countries. They are not nicknamed "austerity programmes" by those in the non-profit development sector for nothing. This poverty, itself, can explain some political tensions.

The SAPs are intended to help these countries overcome their debts. But the third-world debt crisis is the result of amoral and foolish international loans made by the US and Western banks in the late Seventies. International banks have profited vastly by the interest on these loans.

The SAPs involve freeing the markets from government controls, allowing (Western) multi-national companies to make "investments" in poorer countries, where labour is cheaper, and safety regulations weaker.

Anderson suggested that the US and the West seemed to consider Kabila's victory in the Congo last year a good pointer to increased stability in Africa: "An African Renaissance was under way, and America was keen to usher it in". How ironic considering that US and "Western" backing kept Mobutu in power in Zaire for so long.

It seems to me that US and Western "hopes that a new age of stability was emerging in Africa" never existed at all; with so much more to gain from misery, debts and political conflict.

JOOST FONTEIN

East Cheldon, Devon

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