African politicians must scale backBy: DONWALD PRESSLY
AFRICANS needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and continental politicians must scale back extravagant lifestyles in solidarity with their populations, an outspoken business leader told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa on Thursday.
During an interactive session focused on economic nationalism versus an open market policy, Chris Kirubi, the chairman of Haco Industries in Kenya, received a round of applause - in the presence of South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies - when he urged African countries to “do what we ask others to do”.
He argued that African nations had to practise what they preached, which was a free and unprotected trade policy. “We need to open our borders.”
Kirubi, whose company produces ballpoint pens, plastics and product advertising, said there were a range of trade controls “and protectionism” from a number of “tiny countries in the north”, which were undermining the continent’s economic integration. “How do we become a big economy unless we integrate?” he asked.
He said some politicians on the continent were setting a bad example for their respective populations, which had to tighten their belts. These politicians behaved “as if they don’t live in the same economy”. Governments needed to stop spending three-quarters of revenue on looking after themselves.
In a discussion on the future of South Africa, Trevor Manuel, the National Planning Minister, took a swipe at both business and labour. He said there was “nobody representing the class interests of business, and when anybody from trade unions opens their mouth, they run like hell”.
Manuel appeared to have taken up a point raised by Ann Bernstein, of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, that business often supported positions along with labour, but at the dinner table business leaders told a different story in opposition to these positions.
Manuel said: “If we are going to have cowards in business, we are not going to get very far. There is no counterweight in society, and if there is no counterweight… you can’t have outcomes that advance and progress society.”