Does Africa need whites to grow?

2009-11-13 13:06

IT SEEMS to make infinitely more sense to compare South Africa to other former “Dominion” countries such as Canada and Australia instead of Nigeria.

Instead of attributing South Africa’s exceptional fortune in having impressive infrastructure to the supposed inherent superiority of whites, it would perhaps be better to consider the role of JBM Hertzog’s Pact Government of 1924 to 1933.

The Pact Government introduced tariffs to protect local industry, pursued import-substitutionist policies and embarked on an aggressive programme of developing physical infrastructure.

This included the establishment of Iscor and Eskom to help in promoting the development of South Africa’s economy that now seems to dazzle Joe Igbokwe from Lagos.

But the crucial enabling factor, without which it is doubtful whether South Africa’s economic trajectory would have diverged from that of the rest of Africa, was the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of December 1931.

The Balfour Declaration emanated from the so-called Inter-Imperial Relations Committee, which was chaired by Arthur Balfour and, significantly, was inspired by among others Hertzog. These two interventions gave impetus to the independence of the former “Dominion” countries, allowing them a measure of autonomy to develop the infrastructure that in South Africa’s case Igbokwe finds so awesome.

However, the British were determined to ensure that their other colonies such as Nigeria and India remained utterly in thrall, perpetually weak and dependent.

Ironically, Igbokwe does not need to hanker for whites as oil multinationals are already entrenched in Nigeria and, like Western multinationals everywhere, have been complicit in shoring up the kleptocratic and dysfunctional Nigerian state.

Wella Msimanga,
Cape Town

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