Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|October 24, 2022|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Good intentions United States? Then give us your money!

The call came yet again this week. I am sure it passed most entrepreneurs by, but it is worth noting, or Googling it at least  a Marshall Plan for Africa. 

For those of you born in this century, it is worth recapping exactly what the Marshall Plan was back in 1948 when it dragged  Europe from the ruins of World War Two.

It was the brainchild of US Secretary of State George Marshall who had the idea of pouring billions in aid money into Europe so everyone from government agencies to entrepreneurs could set about rebuilding the shattered economies of Europe.

The idea was to avoid the kind of bitter hunger and turmoil that gave birth to the extremist and unsavory Nazis and Soviets. It worked pretty well if you look at how Germany used the Marshall money to invest in building itself up from a bombed-out shell into the most powerful economy in Europe.

How much did it take? About $13 billion (about $115 billion in today’s money) over four years. That built a lot of bridges and roads and paid for a lot of capital equipment that created jobs leading to the European prosperity of the 1960s and 70s.

Now US politician Ihan Omar has written in the Guardian arguing for a Marshall plan for Africa. She believes for too long the US has seen Africa as a security, risk rather than an economic and political partner. I agree.

It would be laudable, but I fear the idea is a bit of an old chestnut; I say old chestnut because think I first heard it at an African Union conference more than 20 years ago. Everyone thought it was a great idea then, but,, after a few headlines, nothing happened.

Now the politician believes it should be done and the US taxpayer should pick up the $115 billion, or so, bill. It would make perfect sense to create a prosperous Africa with people able to create wealth and a better world of opportunity for their children.

But it would take great courage for a US president a great deal of courage to tell voters – who may not be able to point out Africa on the map – that they are paying for its future.

A more prosperous Africa for its 1.3 billion people would not only be good for the stability of the rest of the world and deter the young and talented from fleeing the continent but also would leave it less vulnerable to the cheap neo-colonial harvesting of its rich resources by powerful outsiders.

But at what price? These days $115 billion, or so, would be chicken feed for Africa – if every penny was spent building across the continent – it would hardly touch the sides of a huge hole. The economists reckon it’ll more than $115 billion merely to make up the backlog of infrastructure in Africa – a trip along many of our roads will tell you why.

Marshall’s plan for Africa? Great idea, but maybe there are many reasons why it could be forgotten for another 20 years. Sad.

My response on behalf of the entrepreneurs of Africa? Give us your money! Steer investment – not merely aid -from the US to the bright and talented entrepreneurs of Africa and their hard work could do the trick. It is time for confidence and trust.