More breakfast reading..., of commentary generated during and after the recent TED Global 2007 conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Technorati has pointers of course, but the most prolific blogger is Ethan Zuckerman with almost verbatim transcripts of each session. And, the talk I found most interesting was that by former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.from Ethan Zuckerman:
... we’re seeing changes in Africa that we never thought would happen. We’ve seen annual growth of 5%, in some cases 6-7%, up from 2%. External debt has been massively reduced. Countries are building up foreign exchange reserves, shoring up their currencies. Private investment flows are increasing, remittances to Nigeria are skyrocketing, and there’s a net inflow of capital.
But Africa needs jobs. 62% of Africa’s population is under 24. We have to figure out how to make these people productive. Nigeria is now building an opinion research organization, a way of listening to citizen voices, which she notes is a rare thing on the continent. The top issue in every survey? Jobs.
Then after a heart felt story of saving her sister's life with help from a clinic sponsored by foreign aid,
Okonjo-Iweala tells us she doesn’t believe aid, even aid to save lives, in the sole answer. We have to use it well. Why has southern Spain developed? On the back of aid which was provided to build road and infrastructure. Ireland is one of the fastest growing economies in the world - they used aid to build infrastructure to build an information society. “They didn’t say no to aid - but if they can build infrastructure in Spain, why do they refuse to build the same infrastructure in our countries?”
The Chinese are so popular in Africa, she tells us, because they don’t shy away from infrastructure.
Thank you Ethan Zuckerman. I wish I could have been there.
And, I'll definitely follow the future career of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.