Africa and The World Summit

The World Summit on sustainable development was held in Johannesburg, South Africa last September. 6,500 delegates from 185 countries discussed issues such as how economic growth could be encouraged in developing countries without further damaging the earth's environment. Topics such as improving poor countries' water and energy supplies and education systems were also discussed.

Agreements were made to halve the two billion people living without clean water by 2015, and to set up a fund to eliminate poverty worldwide. No targets were set, however, for the use of renewable energy. And the European Union and the United States did not agree to phase out their trade tariffs so the Third World could compete with them on an equal basis.

Talking the talk

In fact, nobody seems to be happy with the results of the summit. 100 of the world's top leaders were in Johannesburg (minus one) and the weeklong meeting cost an amazing $50 million. In Zambia, people have to survive on an income of less than a dollar a day. Life expectancy in that country is only 41 years. Only 64 per cent of people have access to clean drinking water. Zambia is geographically quite close to Johannesburg, South Africa. Critics of the World Summit ask whether some of the $50 million spent on the conference would have been better spent helping poor people like those living in Zambia. Others say that the Summit at least raised people's awareness of the desperate conditions Zambians and others have to live in.

Walking the walk?

In Zimbabwe, white farmers are currently being thrown off their land. White Europeans came to that country last century and called it Rhodesia. Africans finally got their independence from the UK only in 1980. Since then Zimbabwe has got poorer, not richer. The Zimbabwean government blames the whites for the continuing poverty there; the whites blame the Zimbabwean government.

In the next few pages we look at the desperate and difficult plight of Africa. Who is to blame for their continuing poverty? Is it the ex-colonialists who left the continent in a mess? Is it the multinationals that exploit the Third World so that they can get even richer? Or is it the corrupt and incompetent governments in those countries who are doing their own people no favours at all?