By Joachim Buwembo
While it was heartbreaking for progressive minds to see four African countries – including “The Land of Honourable Men” (Burkina Faso) gratefully receiving a gift of food consignments at the just ended Russia-Africa summit, a ray of hope also shone in St Petersburg when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni made a bold proposal for radically transforming the trading terms between the continent and wealth nations – starting with Russia and China.
At a special session between Uganda’s delegation and the host government, President Museveni brought it to the host counterpart’s attention that the continued purchase of unprocessed raw materials not only impoverishes the African supplier nations, it ultimately denies the rich ones a bigger market as the poor Africans cannot afford goods manufactured by the buyers of their raw materials.
Citing the example of coffee, Museveni told President Vladmir Putin that its global market is worth $460billion, of which the producer countries only get $25billion and of this, Africa only gets $2.4billion. On the other hand, Germany get $6.85billion, more than all of Africa. The shocking figures, Museveni simply called this a “scandal”, made Putin’s eyes visibly widen.
Museveni then made the bold proposal: Let Russia and China discourage the buying of raw materials from Africa “by policy”, arguing that this would enable transform the continent’s countries quickly from low income to middle income status.
Museveni further disclosed how Europe perpetuates Africa’s poverty by importing raw materials at zero tax rate and instead imposing a 17% tax on imports that have undergone processing. He said that if African countries export processed goods, their incomes will be higher, providing a bigger market to the Europeans. Africa has the fastest growing market (by consumer numbers) of the world’s regions, but the low incomes make its demand lower.
Museveni illustrated Africa’s manufacturing ability by citing Uganda which is now making electric vehicles under a technology transfer arrangement with China. He then proposed that Russia provides Uganda with the technology to make Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries using the rare earth minerals it has including Lithium.
The Ugandan leader also sought Russian cooperation by providing satellite development technology which would create the capacity, among others, to find the minerals in the country.
Russia’s open handedness to African states was seen by analysts as a move to broaden and strengthen its alliances during the current standoff with Europe and America over the Ukraine conflict. But while the food gifts to four African countries made a lot of news, there were serious matters tabled for consideration, like the ones by Uganda’s Museveni to discourage the export of raw materials.
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