By Julius Businge
President Yoweri Museveni has today, Nov. 23 urged the COMESA member states to support the integration process within of the COMESA bloc to enable it record positive achievements. Museveni advised member states to copy what developed countries did, especially China so they can have their economies in a better position to grow. Below is the president’s detailed speech.
I greet you and I welcome you to Uganda for this 16th COMESA Summit.
The greatest disadvantage Africa faced at independence, ever since 1957, when Ghana got independence, was political balkanization of this continent. The North American Continent has got only three countries ― USA, Canada and Mexico. The South American continent has got 15 countries including the Central American Isthmus and the three dependencies of Falkland Islands, French Guiana, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Australian continent has got one country, Australia.
The Indian sub-continent has got only six countries which are: Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. The huge Euro-Asian landmass, stretching from the border of Poland to the Pacific, until 1990, had only six countries which were: the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, China, Korea, Mongolia and Iran, if you excluded the Balkans and the Middle East. This was a land area of about 12 million square miles, bigger than the whole of Africa.
When the Soviet Union broke up, there are now more countries in that zone of the globe. When, however, it comes to Africa, there are now 54 countries. None of them is more than one million square miles or 200 million people. About 36 of them, even today, have got a population less than 15 million. At independence, some had as few people as less than one million.
This balkanization posed the following problems to the newly independent Africa:
Small economies on account of, not only the purchasing power of the population because of under-development and small incomes, but also on account of the small numbers of consumers even in absolute terms. Without consumers and adequate purchasing power, enterprises (businesses) cannot thrive. Profitability of these enterprises is undermined. If the profitability is affected, then, few enterprises (e.g. Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) will be attracted to these economies and few new ones will emerge.
Without enough number of enterprises emerging or being attracted in an economy, jobs will not be created, goods and services will not be available (or will have to be imported), technology will not grow, the tax base will not expand and, therefore, funding social services (health, education, etc.) and infrastructure (roads, electricity, etc.) will be very difficult, etc. The best example is to compare China with East Africa. Since 1978 when China started its open-door policy, US$ 1.232 trillion have been attracted into that country from outside as FDI.
Yet they are communists and do not have the fashion of multi-party democracy Africa has been engaged in ― they have a different system of governance which has served them well. East Africa, on the other hand, has only been able to attract US$ 19.1 billion in the same period in FDI. Yet we have been running free markets, running multi-party democracy, etc. China now is the 2nd biggest economy in the whole world, having overtaken the small but highly developed economies of UK, France, Germany and Japan.
What were the stimulus factors for this phenomenal growth and transformation of the Chinese economy and society? The stimulus factors were the size of the Chinese population (1.3 billion people), the size of their land area (3 million square miles) and, of course, the dynamism as well as a rich culture of their society. In other words, it was the absence of political balkanization of the Chinese race ― both political and geographical.