President Museveni opened the ADB's annual meeting by saying that it is now over 40 years since African countries gained independence and that over this period Africa has been both a failure and a big success. It has failed to transform itself into an industrialised continent. However in the area of decolonisation, Africa has indeed succeeded. Museveni went as far as to claim that Africa helped liberate Portugal which brought proud smiles to many people's faces.
"Now that Africa has succeeded in its task of decolonisation, the next challenge it faces is to transform itself into an industrialised state, and for this it requires machines and intellectual power.
"Africa", he stressed, "will only succeed through an intellectual revolution and where Africans use their intellect rather than their brawn to move the economy forward."
Today, more than four decades after independence, African countries had failed in the transition from the "third world to first world". This is fact, Museveni stated. "Countries are backward, whether in peace or at war, under single party, multi party or civilian rule." To loud laughter, he continued to say that stagnation was in some cases was seen as an achievement!
"Africa needs greater unity. This should start with the abolition of visas, or at least the facilitation of such time consuming barriers, as well as some kind of common currency which again would encourage multi-lateral business". The point is that African countries are too small to attract considerable investment and this is why we need to offer regional economies. He cited some countries doing well in Africa: Botswana and Mauritius for example. He saw them as unique; Mauritius is a relatively small country and Botswana began with the strategic advantage of possessing an abundant and plentiful mineral reserves of diamonds.
He attributed Africa's problems to two factors: Endogenous factors, within African countries themselves, but also exogenous factors, or external interference. He went as far as admitting that in 1978, Uganda and Singapore had the same per capita income. The difference since then has been that one had allowed private enterprise to thrive whilst the other had simply destroyed it. African countries have too often stifled the private sector through the misconceived policies of the nationalisation of foreign companies and those owned by immigrants.
The second endogenous factor was the excessive...