The Mind of the African Strongman

The Mind of the African Strongman


>>Narrator: From the Library
of Congress in Washington, DC.>>Mary-Jane Deeb: Good
afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and thank you all for coming. We’re really delighted
to have you here in the African Middle East division. I’m Mary-Jane Deeb. I’m the Chief of the division,
and I’d like to welcome you all. I always begin with a little
statement about our division. About what it does, and
it’s — how it’s composed. And who the people are, etcetera. So I do it. This event is being webcast,
which means that eventually, if you want to let your
friends know about it — those that could not come — they’d be able to watch it
on the library’s website. So the African Middle East division
is made up of three sections. The African section. The Near East section
and the Hebraic section. And we cover together 78
countries of the world. And we collect in the vernacular. We collect in the languages
of the countries. And we’re custodians of
those collections which come from for Hebraic section,
from all over the world. For the African section also
from many parts of the world. But we have an office in Nairobi. For the Arab world we
have an office in Cairo. We also have an office in Islamabad. And those offices collect
the materials. Catalog the materials. And then send them to the library. We’re the only library in
the world that does that. So we’re very fortunate to be
able to collect these materials. The division does not only collect
the materials and catalog them and have them shelved, and
serve them in the reading room. But it also creates
exhibits with some of those materials to display them. Invite speakers as we have — as we are doing today to speak
on regions that we cover. We also go to conferences. Participate in conferences. We have smaller display. We do briefings for
government officials. Many of who come, again,
via the state department to the visitor’s program. They come to the library
to be briefed. Very often about their
own collections. I mean just now we just had the
Kalgeze [phonetic] delegation who is made up of young
parliamentarians. Where here, we’re delighted
to see that we’re collecting in their language,
materials, serious books and other publications here. And so — and then we have
of course the specialists. And the specialists
in this division, as they are in many other divisions of the library, are
themselves colors. They have published. They have written. They participate in conferences. And they know the cultures. They know the languages of many
of the countries that we cover. So each is — each member of
the staff is a treasure in and of himself or herself. Because it brings so
much to the connections. Without the people, it would be
very difficult to assist those who come are patrons, are
researchers who come here. And so without further ado, I would
like to invite one of our scholars; one of our specialists,
Laverne Page, who will introduce the
program and the speaker today. Thank you.>>Laverne Page: Thank
you Mary-Jane. And again, my name is Laverne Page. I’m one of four librarians in the
African section in this division. In this unit of the
library, we offer a variety of noon-time programs on
so many different subjects. And they relate in some way
to the collections on Africa that have been acquired
over decades and decades. So today’s program is a book talk
by someone whom I am very privileged to introduce to you,
Ambassador Herman Jay Cohen. Our speaker today, Ambassador
Herman Jay Cohen is the author of, “The Mind of the African Strongman;
Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures.” As an ambassador, advisor to
presidents, and a 38-year veteran of the Foreign Service,
Ambassador Cohen has known every first-generation African leader. During his tenure as
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during
the first Bush administration, and through his role at the
National Security Council in the Regan Administration,
Ambassador Cohen worked to bring about peaceful transitions of
power in South Africa and in Libya. And helped to end conflicts in
Angola, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. His curriculum vitae is extensive. Currently, he is President and CEO
of Cohen and Woods International. He serves on the board of directors
of Hyperdynamics Oil and Gas. And serves as a consultant on Africa
for Contour Global Electric Power. His background previously
held positions — from start to finish I’ll —
no, I meant to say I would start from the earliest and then
come to the most current. So he was Chief of Mission
in Kechasa [phonetic] in the DRC from 1968 to 1969. Director for Central African Affairs at the State Department,
1969 to 1974. US Ambassador to Senegal
and Gambia, 1977 to 1980. Principal Deputy Secretary
of State for Intelligence and Research, 1980 to 1984. And I should say, we received a lot
of publications here at the library from INRP during that period. He was Special Assistant to the
President, and Senior Director for Africa National Security
Council, 1987 to 1989. Assistant Secretary of State
for Africa, 1989 to 1993. Senior Advisor, Global Coalition
for Africa, 1993 to 1998. And from 1998 to 2010 he
was a professional lecturer in African studies at
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has received many awards. And I won’t read them, but I
will just point out that one of the many awards that he received
was the Douglas Dillon Award for Best Writing on
Diplomatic Practice. And he received this in
20- in the year 2000. And so today we will
have the opportunity to experience first-hand
his diplomatic account. So thank you very much. Ambassador Cohan. [ Applause ]>>Ambassador Herman Jay Cohen:
Good afternoon and thank you for coming on this very wet day. As you can tell from
the introduction, I’m at an advanced age [laughs]. I just want to note
about President Regan. I worked for him for two years,
and he was a very curious guy. You know, I would be sitting in
my office and I’d get a call, “President Regan wants a
briefing on Mozambique. Can you come Thursday
morning at 9 o’clock?” He really liked to ask
questions about places. He just didn’t sit in his
office and wait for people. Why did I write this book? Well, one thing, the US — being a US diplomat in Africa
gives you a lot of access. The Africa leaders tend to
like to deal with Americans. You know, we had no
colonial history, so we didn’t have that
mark against us. And we had a tendency, even from
the early days of independence, to be very enthusiastic
about independence. We brought in a lot of
technical assistance, a lot of foreign aid
and that sort of thing. And we had some presidents,
like John F. Kennedy, who were very interested
in Africa and showed it. So it was very friendly. So we had a lot of access. So because of that I was able
to meet a lot of these first and second generation,
the heads of state. And the reason I wanted
to write about them was that they made the basic
decisions after independence that really set the pattern of
how Africa would react to the rest of the world, and how they would
engage in economic development. And I think it tells the story right out of their lips if
you read the book. Okay, so right after independence,
which took place between 1956 and 1963 or 1964, we as
junior diplomats would — opted to go to Africa. We had very strict instructions. Do not tell them what to do. You know, they’ve just
become independent. They want to make their
own decisions. So don’t start giving them a lot of advice unless they
ask for it, you know? Okay, so they came into power, and they had to make
some basic decisions. What kind of government
are we going to have? Well, on the economic side,
it was a time in the early 60s when the Europeans
were very socialist. You know, they had
the Second World War. They had the Great
Depression before that. And they said, maybe let’s
give Socialism a chance. So these African leaders went to
their friends in the UK and France, and said, “What do you
recommend on economic policy?” And these who were mainly socialist
party people said, “For you, trying to move quickly into economic
development, nationalize everything. All the major enterprises
should be government owned. Banks. Insurance companies. Plantations. Small industry. Transportation. Just take it all over and then move
ahead quickly with development. And that’s what they did. They just — and they
also did it correctly. They paid the owners. And the owners took their
money and just left quietly. So it was all done quite
correctly and democratically. Now on the political side, they
inherited the type of governments that — of their colonial powers. Especially the UK and France. Which was two-house parliament. Multi-party elections
and that sort of thing. So after they went through one
round of Western-style democracy, they started to get frustrated. They said, “This is not African”. Look at these British
and French parliaments. All they do all day is shout at each
other and they insult each other. Africans don’t like to do that. You know? We like consensus. You know, in the old days in the
village, if there was a big problem, the village chief would gather
everyone around the baobab tree — if you were in one
of those countries — and we’d talk and talk and talk. Maybe after a couple of days,
we’d suddenly come with consensus. And there’s no shouting
and yelling or insulting, we do it all in a very
quiet, friendly way. So how do we change
our political system? Well, they decided that there
would not be political parties. They would have a single party to
which all citizens would belong. And to which all institutions
would belong. Like the media. Like civil society. You know, we had a bar association
or women’s groups or youth groups. They would all be part
of this single party. And they called it the
African One-Party State. And many of the African
countries incorporated that in their constitutions. This will be a one-party state, and the party will be the
Kenya African National Union. Each one had their
own liberation party. Okay, so with this economic
policy and political policy, this is the way they launched their
newly independent states in Africa. Well, these decisions done
by the founding fathers, whom I write about in the book, they
had very [clears throat] excuse me. they had very important
consequences. On the economic side — okay, so you
take over all of these enterprises, and they make them government owned. Well, you have to run them, right? You have to run them in
order to make profits. To reinvest. To expand and that sort of thing. But unfortunately, most of the
African governments didn’t do that. Because there’s a tremendous demand
from the rural areas for jobs. So what they did is, they opened
up all of these enterprises and filled them with
people looking for jobs. And they overloaded the system. There were too many people. And after a while, most of
these enterprises started to become — started to lose money. Just to give you one example, my
first African post was Uganda. Which is on the east
side right next to Kenya. And you can see on the
map near the horn there. And they had an airline
called Uganda Airlines. They had three planes. And it was a very good airline. You can go all over the region. You can go to Nairobi. You can go to Tanzania; Zanzibar. It was a very well-run airline. But for three planes,
after they nationalized it, it had 5,000 employees. Now you don’t need 5,000
employees to run an airline with three planes you see. So this was happening all over these
countries that had nationalized. They had too many people. Okay, so what happens when
you have too many people and you’re losing money? You have to subsidize, and
you have to get the money from someplace else, right? So it comes out of healthcare. It comes out of infrastructure. It comes out of maintenance. Port structures and
that sort of thing. So they developed something
like a vicious cycle. Which, the more money that
they took away from services to run these enterprises, the
more services deteriorated. And people who still
owned businesses — especially the small ones — they were having a harder
and harder time to make due. Because if you don’t have
electricity 24 hours. If you don’t have water. If you don’t have a road to
the port, things go badly. So the economies of many of these
countries started to go backwards. Now on the political side, what happens when you
have only one system with no what we call
counter-veiling power? Who’s going to criticize
things if they don’t like it, or if things are going wrong? Well, you don’t do that. You all belong to the same party. And everybody follows
the party line. There’s no media that
doesn’t belong to the party. And all — most of my embassy’s
where I worked in Africa, there was only one Newspaper. That was the state-run newspaper. It changed much later. So there was nobody to tell power,
hey, things are going wrong here. We ought to try to change. But some people who are brave enough to start talking, they
were put in prison. It became more and
more authoritarian. And the single party became more
and more of a state within a state. It became a career thing. People joined the party
and this is my career. And this party started to siphon
of money that was in the treasury that should have been
used for other things. So the one party’s state became
more and more authoritarian, and the governance of
the country deteriorated. On the economics side you had a
lot of enterprises losing money. Therefore, the economy
was going backwards. There was one thing that helped
the Africans though between — the independence period
ended around 1978. That was — what they were
selling to the world, agricultural and mineral commodities
at very high prices. So they were making a lot of
money selling these things like palm oil and copper. And kolombite [phonetic] and
tantalum and that sort of thing. So this tended to cover some of the
difficulties on the economic side. And also, having good prices
for commodities allowed them to borrow money on
international markets. They would go to Citibank or some
banks in London and say, look, we’re producing 800,000 tons of
copper a year at $1.50 a pound. Lend us money on the money
we’re going to earn next year. And the banks were
quite happy to do that. In fact, it was Citibank — the president of Citibank
had a press conference at one of his quarterly stockholder’s
conference. And they said, “Aren’t you a little
frightened about lending money to a lot of these African
governments?” And he said, “Governments — sovereign governments
do not go bankrupt.” Well, he had some lessons
to learn a little later. Okay? Now in 1978, around
— between 1978 and 1990 — 1980, the market fell for
most of these commodities. There were other producers coming
on stream like Malaysia; Brazil. And they were undercutting
the prices for Africa. So by the time we get to 1979, 1980, a lot of these African countries
were in real difficulty. They owed a lot of money, and
the money they were getting for their commodities were way down. So they were real difficulty. But the United States — as I remember being instructed
as a diplomat — no criticism. No finger pointing. They’re making their own decisions. Okay? Just leave them alone. But when it came to around
1980, they were real difficulty. So we had to find a bad cop
who could tell them, you know, you’ve got to straighten up. And who do you think
the bad cop was? Any idea? It was the World Bank. The World Bank — I — remember,
I was US Ambassador in Senegal, which is on the west coast
here, all the way on the bulge. And all of a sudden
I saw the restaurants and the bars with strange faces. You know, Asians — people from
South Asia; from Latin America. And I would say, “What
are you doing here?” And they’d say, “We’re going to
straighten this country out.” And that’s what they tried to do. And they said to these governments
who were really deeply in debt, and couldn’t pay off
their debts, you know, it’s like what you see
on television sometime. “Is your credit card
debt much too high? Are you having problems? Just call this 800
number; we’ll fix it up.” Well it was the same
thing with the World Bank. They said, “Look, we’ll
take over your debts. And you’ll have to reimburse us,
but it’ll be only 1% interest. And you’ll have a 10-year
grace period. That’s free money. That’s terrific. So they all signed. They all signed. But they had some conditions. And the conditions were a
whole list of economic reforms that they had to undertake. Get rid of loss-making enterprises. Or at least make them profit-making
by lowering the population employed. Change your exchange rates, so that imports are more
expensive and exports are cheaper. There was a whole list of
things that they had to do. But they all signed. And they all went through
these reform periods. So by the time we reach 1995,
most of these African governments, which were really going
downhill had revived. And they were doing 3%
to 4% growth every year. Now that’s not enough for
becoming a really sustainable, economic development. But they were doing —
they were keeping afloat. They were keeping afloat. So the World Bank had
done a very good job. And on the political side, as
more and more Africans came back from universities, many
of them had gone abroad. Many of them had studied
in their own countries. More and more of them were saying
this single party system is not working. It’s authoritarian. No new ideas are being allowed. If we really want to move ahead,
we have to get some debate going. And the only way to do that
is to have multi-parties so that they can —
and also free press. So I would say between
1985 and 1995, most African governments
changed their political systems to allow multi-parties. To allow free media. So when I started out in
Uganda, I only saw one newspaper. There was only one TV station. By the time I left in
my last post in Senegal, there were many TV
stations privately owned. Media, privately owned. Civil society was flourishing. So things really were shaken
up, and there was a lot of fresh ideas floating around,
and things were moving ahead. Now US policy at the time
started to change also. We were thinking mainly of foreign
aid giving aid to the government so they could invest in infrastructure, or
education, or health. We started to think well,
we ought to change as well. And we started to —
President George H.W. Bush, he was the first president
to say, “Let’s spend money on promoting democracy in Africa.” And I was Assistant
Secretary for him. And we started spending
money promoting democracy. Multi-party systems. Teaching parliamentarians how to
be independent parliamentarians. And also, George H.W. Bush started to promote private
sector investments. This is something we had never done. You know, we said foreign
aid will do it. We’ll give money to the governments
and let them spend on development. But we reached the conclusion
that if people are not investing to start businesses; start
production facilities, then they’re really not
going to move ahead. So we started promoting that. And the way we did it was to
say you need the environment so that your own people
will invest money. We saw a lot of Africans who were
making money in various ways, putting their money outside
Africa and keeping it there. Because they didn’t have confidence that if they invest it
they would be able to — their investments would be safe. So we started promoting
investments, setting up a system where you can have the rule of law. Where your contracts could
be adjudicated correctly. So that you fail, that you didn’t —
your money was not going to be lost through nefarious practices. And that — this was our policy. Then President Clinton came in
and he started something new. He started the African
Growth and Opportunity Act. Which was whatever you make
in Africa, you could sell to the United States duty-free. This was a law passed by
Congress called the African Growth and Opportunity Act. And this told the Africans,
if you make it; we’ll take it. Which was a great advantage. Because if you made a lady’s
sweater, let’s say in South Africa, you could sell it more
cheaply to the United States than something made in Hong Kong. Because the Hong Kong sweater
had to pay duty, you see? So more and more investors
were going into Africa to start these facilities. I would say the African Growth and
Opportunity Act created something like 3 million jobs in Africa. Still not enough for
real big development, but it was a good start. And I would say that
the most creative policy in the United States came
under George W. Bush. First of all, he started a major
program to end HIV in Africa. HIV was really of epidemic
proportions in Africa. And it was a major program
to help treat people; help prevent people from getting it. Secondly, he started the, what is called the Millennium
Challenge Corporation. Which rates countries
based on various criteria. Rated by outside people. Not by the American
State Department, but you know, the World Bank. Freedom House, and various others. Now which of the countries
are making the greatest effort to really achieve a
sustainable development. And the ones at the top of the list
would get major inputs of resources. And we would negotiate with them,
how do you spend that money? You see? So this has been
running now since George W. Bush, and it’s been doing
a lot of good stuff. For example, in the country of
Benin, who’s down on the bulge there in West Africa, they’ve just
redone their entire port system. And Ethiopia has used that to
really fix up its infrastructure. So this has been a very
constructive program. And President Obama has, in my view, really done some very good
work in a couple of ways. First, as a son of an African, he felt that he could speak
the truth to power in Africa. Unlike all previous US presidents
who said, “They’re independent, let them make their own decisions. We’re not going to criticize. We’ll be helpful where we
can, but we’re not going to point any fingers at Africa.” President Obama has pointed fingers. He says there’s too much corruption. There’s too much authoritarianism. You need better governance. We’re here to help you, but you’ll
not achieve development unless you pull up your own socks, you see? If you allow people to invest
money and keep it safe, Africans will invest money. We can’t do that for you. And he keeps saying,
“Development comes from within.” And he’s been very
blunt with the Africans. I’ve been in some of his
meetings with African heads of state representing the business
community here who invest in Africa. And he’s been very blunt. But he’s also had some
very good programs. For example, he has a program
called “Feed the Future”. The idea is that Africa
needs to develop agriculture so that they don’t have
to import their own food. You know, most of the money
that they make on commodities — and by the way, they had
a second commodities boom between the year 2000
and the year 2012. Because China was buying so much. This has ended now and they
have not taken advantage of all the money they
made to really diversify and start production facilities. So what Obama is saying, your
agriculture is very primitive. And unless you modernize
it, you’re not going to be able to get anywhere. Because you’re spending all of
the money that you’re making on commodities to buy food. To import food. So this program, “Feed the Future”
is bringing modern technology to the African farmer. Better seeds. Better storage. Better farm-to-market roads. And better communications
with the markets. And this is starting to take
hold in a number of countries. For example, Nigeria, which is also
on the south of the bulge there, is the — has the country with
the largest population in Africa. They are now the biggest producer
of cassava, or manioc in the world. And this is a product
that’s widely used, not only for food, but for industry. And more and more African
countries are starting to reach their potential in
agriculture thanks to US inputs. And the other thing
that Obama has done, is to start a program
called “Power Africa”. Only about 30% of Africans
have access to electric power. This is much too low. Because you really can’t build a
factory or do anything economic without steady, reliable power. So what President Obama is doing
is encouraging US companies to build power plants in
Africa and to sell the power. Now up until about 10 years ago, the Africans were building
their own power plants. And of course, with their economic
problems, they weren’t able to build sufficient amounts, and
they weren’t able to maintain them. So what the investors do — and I’m working with a company
called ContourGlobal [phonetic] — is invest in power, and then sell
power under long-term contracts. Which means that the African
governments don’t have to borrow money to
build power plants. And this is — and because
President Obama is in favor of it, US agencies are also helping,
like Export Import Bank. OPEC, are providing cheap
financing, low-cost financing. And more and more power
is being built in Africa. And that’s — there’s
still a long way to go. So generally speaking, the people I
wrote about in my book were the ones that made these early decisions. Nationalize everything. Have an authoritarian
and one-party state. If you read the book, you
can see the great dichotomy between the United States
and these early leaders. Here we were enthusiastic
about independence. We’re coming in to help you develop. But they had other priorities. Their priorities were, how do
we maintain our independence? How do we stay in power? How do we take care of our tribes? They really didn’t think
economic development. It took them a long time
before they reached that. Now you have the third and
fourth generation in power. People have been to
universities; have taken courses. For example, the president of Togo. Which is a very little country
on the south end of the bulge. He has a master’s — he has a MBA
from George Washington University. And he’s doing all sorts of good
stuff in his little country. And more and more of this third and fourth generation are
coming with these modern ideas. So overall, I’m kind of optimistic. There’s still a long way to go. There’s still a lot of countries where being an independent
business man is seen as a threat to power, and that has to change. And there’s not enough support
given to the rural areas. And so some countries are
still in the doldrums. But more and more countries like
Kenya and Nigeria, Botswana, they’re starting to
move ahead slowly. And I think in — within the
next 10 years we’re going to have about a dozen African countries
which will be the equivalent of the Southeast Asian tigers. Like Malaysia and South Korea. And I think it’s worth US
policy to continue pushing all of these reforms and this
technical assistance. I’ll stop now and see if you
have any questions or comments. Yes?>>[Inaudible] the energy
development that’s being encouraged and is very critical to the
development of their economy, is there a specific area
where that is being — type of energy development
is encouraged?>>Yeah. Well, the question is the
encouragement of energy development, is there a specific area
where this is being done? Well, we’re working with
all African countries. And secondly, we’re encouraging US
companies to go and negotiate deals. The company I am with,
ContourGlobal, we now have five power
plants in Africa. And we’ve signed long-term
power purchase agreements with these countries. And we sell to the utilities and they redistribute the electric
power to consumers you see. So we have power plants using gas. Using heavy fuel oil. We have solar. And one very, very
innovative power plant is in the country called
Rwanda, on Lake Kivu, which is in the very
center of Africa. Lake Kivu is a very deep lake. It’s about 1500 feet deep. And there’s methane gas seeping
through the bottom of the lake, and it ends up in suspension about
500 feet down from the surface. And it keeps accumulating
and accumulating. And there are a couple of
lakes like that in Africa. And about every 500
years these lakes explode and kill lots of people
and livestock. So what this company is doing,
they’ve figured out a technology to extract this methane gas
from the middle of the lake. You can’t just put a pipe
in there and suck it out. It’s a special technology, it
took them a year to develop. And they take it out and
they bring it to the land, and they burn it to
make electricity. So it has dual purpose. It brings power, and it saves people from getting a big
explosion [laughs]. So it’s very — to answer
your question, it’s varied. All types. In Ethiopia, right now there’s
a US company doing what they call geothermal. Where there’s heat deep in the
ground and you can tap that. The country that’s really used
geothermal a great deal is Iceland. They heat, and we have
power from this geothermal. So we — so the idea is bring
the power the best way you can, just do it instead of
worrying about how you do it. Any other? Yes?>>I was wondering what are
the Chinese policies in Africa, and does it help the
countries there?>>The question is, what are
the Chinese policies in Africa, and does it help the
countries there?>>China is very heavily
involved in Africa. And there’s been stages of
why they’ve been involved. But since the year 2000,
China has been very hungry for commodity inputs for
their vast economic expansion. So anything that Africa could
produce, China was buying. China was buying oil — there’s
a lot of oil produced in Africa. Copper. All sorts of minerals. And so the way the Chinese did this,
they would go to a country and say, “You have infrastructure needs. You need roads. You need dams. You need airports. Let’s make a deal. We will do the construction work
for you based on your priorities. And we will lend you the
money — soft loans — from one of our big
insurance companies. In return, we would like a guarantee of certain commodities
on a regular basis. For example, if you could guarantee
us 200,000 barrels a day of oil, that will be the reciprocity
for our work and infrastructure. And we’re going to pay for the oil. We don’t want a gift. We’ll pay at regular world prices. So China has done this
all over Africa. And it’s kind of like a barter deal. You know, we get the commodities;
you get the construction work. And they’ve done this in
many, many African countries. Now I have never heard any
American officials say, “This is against US interest.” They say, “Well, it’s
helping Africa develop; getting more infrastructure,
that’s good.” But what I tell my
African friends is, “You have to manage
this a lot better. Because what do the Chinese do? They try to bring in their
own workers, you know? I mean the lowest level workers
rather than hire Africans. So that’s a negative factor. Secondly, when they hire Africans,
they don’t treat them well. I had a student at Johns Hopkins who spent the summer
studying China in Africa. And I asked her to give
a talk to the class. And she said, “Well, I went to this Chinese mine owner
— he owned a copper mine. And I looked around and I saw
it was very bad conditions for the African workers. So I asked them, ‘why can’t you
improve things a little bit?’ And he said, ‘Well,
we’re treating them just like we treat our own
Chinese workers.'” So that was a negative factor. And another thing is, they
don’t develop management. If you go to an American
oil company in Africa, you’ll see very senior
management people who are Africans. For example, if you go
to Chevron, you know, one of the big ones in Nigeria. And say, “I’d like to
meet the CEO here.” And you go in, it’s a Nigerian. Now he was not selected because
he had political connections, he’s been with Chevron for 35 years. He’s served in Kazakhstan, and
Canada, and various other places. He’s a pro in the oils. But the Chinese tend not to
develop senior management. And the final downside is, when they
send a Chinese company to do work, they bid it out to their
state-owned companies in China. And not every company is
as good as all the others. So sometimes you’ll get a company
that doesn’t do the best work. And I know several US construction
companies now that are getting work to repair what the
Chinese have done. You know, especially
airport runways. So in general, China is contributing
to African development in general. Now the — as you’ve
read in the paper, the Chinese economic
boom has slowed down. Therefore, they’re
buying less from Africa. And therefore Africa’s now
earning a lot less money. And they made the mistake
of not using that 10-year boom to diversify. To develop their own
production facilities. They just stayed with
— they just stayed with earning money from commodities. They didn’t do anything
for infrastructure, or for agricultural development. So a lot of African
countries are now suffering from the deep fall in
the commodity prices. Yes, ma’am?>>Thank you very much Ambassador
Cohan, and it’s very [inaudible]. But I wanted to ask you
about food sustainability. Is there a way of moving forward? [Inaudible] moving away from
dependency on cash crops in the private sector and
diversifying [inaudible] to be sources of food
[inaudible] other than maybe so dependent on imports?>>Yeah. If you didn’t
hear the question, it’s is Africa diversifying
its agriculture so instead of relying solely on cash crops,
which will be sold abroad, are they doing things to make sure
they become self-sufficient in food? This is very important,
and it’s one of the reason that President Obama started
his “Feed the Future” program. Africa’s arable land that is
still not cultivated equals 45% of the land surface
of the United States. It’s a tremendous amount of land. And with irrigation and
in other types of inputs, they could do a tremendous job, not
only of producing their own food, but of exporting a lot of food
to other places, including China. And really, they’re still quite
behind in attacking this issue. There’s always been a tendency for
Africans to favor the urban areas. And that’s why so many people
are moving into the urban areas, because that’s where you
can get some services. And the rural areas
have been neglected. So if they can get some
more irrigation in there, and better land tenure — and
land tenure’s another problem. In so many African countries,
a farmer cannot own the land. Now if you cannot own the land,
you can’t borrow against it and improve your facilities. So there’s a lot of hard work that
can be done, and that’s why I’m so happy that President
Obama has made farming, and improved technology
for farming one of his highest priorities
for Africa. Some countries are moving ahead. Especially Nigeria. I really have a lot of faith
in Nigeria, which is — has the biggest population. Kenya is doing very well. South Africa has always been very
self-sufficient in agriculture, and they’re getting better. But we need more and
more countries to use that arable land that’s
not being used. Also, the world population
is expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. And Africa’s unused arable
land is going to be vital to feed all of those people. Yes, ma’am? [ Inaudible Background Question ] Right. [ Inaudible Background Question ] Yeah, well that’s an
interesting question. The question is, we have — still have strong men in Africa
who have not adopted democracy, or not even moving
close to democracy. Very authoritarian. Not nice people, but are we able
to work with these people in order to achieve other objectives, like
agriculture and what have you? It reminds me, when I was a very
junior person in Congo, you know, that’s that big country
right in the middle. It’s now the biggest country in
Africa since Sudan was split up. And I was there and they had a
strongman president named Mobutu. I write a whole chapter
about him in the book. And I was — I ran into the French
Ambassador who was very senior. He came from a distinguished family,
Casiasko Morrissey [phonetic]. His granddaughter’s now
running for president in France. So I said to him, Mr. Ambassador,
how can we work with this guy? He’s so corrupt and
he doesn’t do anything for the people, and what have you. He said, “Let me tell you young man, in our business we
work with what exists.” So we’re working with what exists. With the President
of Chad and all that. And our highest priority
is security, right? Where our highest priority
is anti-terrorism. And the fact that some
tribes get left out. They don’t get any
money or any resources. We’ve got to say, well, we’ll
take care of that later; we’ll work on that later you see. And their priorities. But my view is, you
work with everybody. I do not believe in
boycotting people. I would have an ambassador
in Tehran. I would have ambassadors
all over the place. I was very sorry we didn’t
have an embassy in Libya for so many years you see. You’ve got to work with what exists. Any other comments? I’ve exhausted you all. Yeah? Excuse me. Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t
see you there. [ Inaudible Background Question ]>>Yeah, the question is, as
Africa is trying to get unified, is there a strategy to work
sort of on the entire continent, rather than region-by-region
or a country-by-country? I think there is. One thing I didn’t mention
on the economic side. The Africans can make so much money
if they traded with each other. You know, you have a
billion people in Africa. Tremendous market. But yet only 10% of their
trade is with each other. You know, if they built factories,
they would have tremendous markets that could defeat China or anyone
else because it’s right there. Right next door to them. And they’ve had a problem
with internal trade in Africa. It’s hard to cross the border. Because somebody’s always
looking to make money from stuff crossing the border. There are a number
of African regions which theoretically
have open borders. For example, all of the
French speaking countries. The former French colonies,
they have the same currency. So it should be easy. You can sell next door and
don’t have to change your money. But it’s very hard — and
they have no terrorists. But it’s very hard,
apparently, to cross the border. There’s always somebody at
the border trying to do things to make it harder for you to
sell in the neighboring country. So we’re encouraging the Africans
to have regional integration. Open the borders, just — and
then, if you have a market — a potential market
of 50 million people, it’s worthwhile to build a factory. But if it’s only 10 million
people in a small country, it’s not worth it you see. So, you make a very good point. We need to get the Africans
to work more and more together and make money from
each other, you see. And they’re not doing that now. Yes, ma’am? [ Inaudible Background Question ] Oh the question is about
Cameroon, which is — you can see that towards the west. Just bordering with Nigeria. It’s in blue on this map. It’s fairly — what we call the
“armpit” [laughs] of Africa. And it’s always been a
very enterprising country. They do a lot of agricultural
exports. Cocoa. Coffee. And they have oil — they have oil. And they have some ethnic
groups there like the Bamileke, who are very enterprising. They set up banks in
neighboring countries. They do transportation. So it’s a very good country. Now their big problem in
Cameroon is minority rule. In fact, it’s a problem that
covers a lot of countries. Let’s say the army is
controlled mainly by — not controlled, but attracts certain
people from certain ethnic groups because they like being in the army. Cameroon, there’s an ethnic
group that controls power, and it’s controlled power for many
years that really represents only about 12% of the population. So a lot of people feel that
government is not for them. That they’re monopolizing
resources you see. And so this — it’s kind
of a sour mood there. Except for some of the enterprising
tribes, like the Bamileke who don’t give a damn
who’s in power. They’re out there making
money you see. But it’s ethnically divided among
— between Muslims and Christians. They get along very well. So it could be a great country. It could be a great country. But this minority rule, and
monopolizing of resources by a small group, this
is holding them back. Really holding them back. Anyone else? Okay, well thank you very much. You’ve been great.>>Mary-Jane Deeb: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Narrator: This has
been a presentation of The Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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