Magazine article New African

Wade: 'I Won't Build My Politics around Foreign Aid'. (around Africa - Senegal)

Magazine article New African

Wade: 'I Won't Build My Politics around Foreign Aid'. (around Africa - Senegal)

Article excerpt

President Abdoulaye Wade may be 75, but his views are as refreshing, and sometimes highly controversial, as a young man's. Meeting a group of 30 journalists from across the world in the presidential palace in Dakar on 2 February, Wade said he had no illusions about the enormity of the problems facing his government and country.

"The African situation now is like Great Britain after World War II," he said. "It may take us about 50 years to get the infrastructure in health, education, roads etc, right. I am not against foreign aid, but I will not build my politics around foreign aid. We are not going to organise our lives around foreign aid. We will do it through our own resources.

He said he was in the process of organising the rural people in small villages to plant trees, because the country was being caught fast by the Sahara Desert. "Our target is five million trees a year. If I go to the World Bank and present this plan to them, they will give me the money just like that, because trees are good for the environment. But I won't go to them, I want to do it with domestic and private resources."

What appears to trouble Wade is the usurious rates and conditionalities that come with foreign aid. "There are countries," he explained, "that have to spend 110% of their gross domestic product (GDP) to service debts. How can they pay? And the lenders are lending the money knowing that nobody can use that much of his GDP to service debts and survive! I don't want to go that way."

And Wade has some big projects up his sleeves. For example, he wants to redesign the capital, Dakar, by widening the small roads and streets that are choke full of traffic, and also provide some pedestrian walks, drainage, public parks, water treatment, etc.

It is a huge project, but he would not go to the IMF and World Bank for the finance. He would do it through private finance (both domestic and foreign), by inviting private companies at home and abroad to join the project.

After meeting 150 local architects to solicit their views, he has now left the project in the hands of five of them who are now working on it. He expects to launch it "in the next few months".

On politics, Wade's views are even more refreshing. …

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